Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lieutenant Governors of the 1960s

Another in a series of profiles of historical figures you’ve probably never heard of

Lt. Governor John Dempsey succeeded Gov. Abraham Ribicoff when the latter departed Connecticut to become John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Dempsey would serve just shy of ten consecutive years as governor, a feat of longevity exceeded by only a select few, including Jonathan Trumbull (1769-1784), Samuel Huntington (1786-1796) and William A. O’Neill (1981-1991). John Rowland (1995-2004) comes close.

Dempsey had four Lieutenant Governors during his time in office.


Anthony J. Armentano (D) of Hartford (1961-1963)

Anthony Armentano (1916-1987), like many Lt. Governors, would be better known for his work in other areas. Armentano was a lawyer from Hartford who had entered private practice shortly before World War II. He joined the Army during the war and served in the Pacific, attaining the rank of Captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps before his discharge at war’s end. He returned to Hartford to resume his law practice. He entered politics in 1956, when he mounted a successful run for the State Senate. Armentano became president pro tem of the Senate in 1959, which set him up to take over as Lieutenant Governor when then-Lt. Gov. Dempsey succeeded Ribicoff in early 1961.

There was a lot of confusion over the official status of both Dempsey and Armentano, owing to the vague language the 1818 Constitution, then still in effect, used to describe the succession. From Article Four, Section 14:

“In case of the death, resignation ... of the governor, or of his impeachment, or absence from the state, the Lieutenant Governor shall exercise the powers and authority appertaining to the office of Governor...”
Unfortunately, it states nowhere that the Lt. Governor would actually become governor. Succession was just as murky for the Lt. Governor’s position. According to the constitution, the Senate President Pro Tem was to, if both higher offices became vacant, “in like manner administer the government.” The problem had come up in 1948, when Gov. James McConaughy died and Lt. Gov. James Shannon took over (he was often referred to as “Acting Governor”), when Wilbert Snow took over for Raymond Baldwin in late 1946, and at two earlier points in 1925 (the resignation, after one day, of Gov. Hiram Bingham) and 1909, when Gov. Lilley died in office. Each time, rumblings about an amendment to the constitution were made, but nothing was done until the current constitution was approved in 1965. Armentano was often referred to as “Acting Lt. Gov.” throughout his tenure.

Armentano’s succession led to a strange opinion from Attorney General Albert L. Coles which stated, essentially, that Armentano was required to be both president pro tem of the Senate and Lt. Governor:

Artmentano, said Coles, is the lieutenant governor, but only by virtue of being president pro tem of the Senate. And he is president pro tem of the Senate because he is a senator. Therefore, Coles reasoned, to be lieutenant governor, Armentano has also to be the other two. (Zaiman)

Convoluted? Absolutely. Actually, Armentano didn’t seem to care much for the office of Lt. Governor. He didn’t even bring his family to his swearing in. His was an uneventful tenure (although in 1962 he was present for the opening of Hartford’s first fallout shelter), and he did not seek re-election to the Senate or re-nomination as Lt. Governor in 1962.

Armentano went on to have a much more interesting career on the bench. He was nominated by Dempsey to the Court of Common Pleas in 1963, and in 1965 became a Superior Court judge. He served from 1981-1983 on the state Supreme Court.


“Display Ad 51 -- No Title.” The Hartford Courant Sep 20, 1956.
Schonrock, Keith. “Doubt Cast on Parson’s Right to Title.” The Hartford Courant Mar. 31, 1948.
“The Honorable Anthony J. Armentano.” Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys As Printed in the Connecticut Reports. v.205, p. 815.
Zaiman, Jack. “At 12:30 ‘Twas Official; Lieut. Gov Armentano.” The Hartford Courant Jan 25, 1961.


Samuel J. Tedesco (D) of Bridgeport (1963-66)

Samuel Tedesco (1915-2003) was, for a brief period, Mayor of Bridgeport, chair of the Bridgeport DTC, and Lieutenant Governor at the same time.

Tedesco, a Bridgeport native, had earlier served as a state representative from 1940-1942. He served as a member of the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II from 1943-1946. He was elected to the State Senate in 1948, and served as Minority Leader from 1952-3. He returned to Bridgeport as a City Court judge, and defeated longtime Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy by a mere 169 votes in 1957.

Tedesco won re-election in Bridgeport several times, and continued to serve as mayor of that city despite his election as John Dempsey’s second Lt. Governor in 1962. Tedesco had also been elected as chairman of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee in May of 1962. The fact that he held these three posts simultaneously drew cries of protest from Tedesco’s enemies on the all-Democrat Bridgeport City Council, who accused him of “bossism.” Tedesco eventually resigned as head of the DTC in late 1963, but ran for Mayor again in 1963 and won. He continued to hold both jobs until 1965, when he declined to run for re-election as mayor.

Tedesco continued the tradition of the lieutenant governor’s office as being a highway to other, more interesting jobs by resigning to become a Superior Court judge in 1966. Tedesco made headlines later in his career by being convicted of a felony (falsely certifying an oath on a liquor license application for a country club owned by members of his family) and disbarred in 1976, only to have his conviction overturned in 1978. Despite the conviction and subsequent removal from the bench for two years, Tedesco had continued to draw a salary.

Tedesco returned to private law practice in 1980.


“Tedesco Asked to Resign by Council Head.” The Hartford Courant 11 August, 1963.
“Former Bridgeport Mayor Tedesco dies in California.” Connecticut Post 12 August, 2003.
“Judge Tedesco Back on Bench.” The Hartford Courant: Jun 28, 1978.


Fred J. Doocy (D) of South Windsor (1966-67)

Fred Doocy (1914 - ) seems to have been a much quieter lieutenant governor than either of his predecessors. Doocy was a banker with the Hartford National Bank & Trust Company. Doocy, a World War II veteran, was active in South Windsor town politics for many years, including three terms as town treasurer, before his election to the State Senate in 1958 (he continued to hold the position of town treasurer until 1959). He was elected president pro tem of the Senate in 1963. Doocy was also chairman of the Roads and Bridges Committee, which oversaw the expansion of Connecticut’s highway system during Doocy’s time in office.

Doocy took Samuel Tedesco’s place as Lt. Governor in 1966 when the latter resigned. There was some speculation that Doocy’s succession was something of a reward for loyal service—in any event, the move effectively ended Doocy’s career. He was not the nominee for Lt. Governor in the 1966 election—in fact, he was never expected to get the nomination. Democrats, wanting an ethnic balance to the ticket, nominated Attillio Frassinelli of Stafford Springs instead.

After leaving office in January of 1967, Doocy served on various commissions (including the Connecticut Development Commission in 1969), but by the 1980s and 1990s had largely disappeared from public view. I believe he is still alive and possibly living in Manchester.


“Doocy Appointed to State Position.” The Hartford Courant 10 December, 1969.
Kravsow, Irving. “Democrats Name Doocy President Pro Tempore.” The Hartford Courant 8 January, 1963.
Morse, Charles F. J. “It’s Lt. Gov. Doocy on Monday.” The Hartford Courant 13 January 1966.
Zaiman, Jack. “Resignation News Soon From Tedesco, Driscoll?” The Hartford Courant 10 September, 1965.


Attilio R. “Pop” Frassinelli (D) of Stafford (1967-1971)

Attilio Frassinelli (1908-1976) had a long career in state and local politics before becoming Gov. John Dempsey’s fourth and final lieutenant governor.

Frassinelli started his career in 1932 by serving on the Stafford Board of Education. He later became First Selectman of Stafford, a post he kept from 1946-1958. He was also a three-term state representative, a longtime member of the Democratic state central committee and the state’s first Commissioner of Consumer Protection. His name was being floated for lt. governor long before his predecessor, Fred Doocy, had even taken office. Great care was taken in selecting a lieutenant governor nominee in 1966, as this would be the first time the governor and lt. governor would appear on the same ballot line. Frassinelli was chosen not only because of his long service to the state and the party, but because he brought ethnic and geographic balance to the ticket. Dempsey and Frassinelli won handily.

Frassinelli’s candidacy was marred by allegations of not paying about $17,000 in taxes—which Frassinelli then paid near the end of the campaign. Perhaps the most interesting thing to happen, politically speaking, during Frassinelli’s term as lieutenant governor was his tie-breaking vote in the State Senate against a bill sponsored by the governor which would have allowed wire-tapping in several new types of cases.

Frassinelli left office when his term expired in 1971. He died in 1976.


“Attilio Frassinelli Dead: Ex-Official.” The Hartford Courant 10 February, 1976.
Zaiman, Jack. “Frassinelli’s Vote Kills Dempsey’s Bill.” The Hartford Courant 4 June, 1969.
Zaiman, Jack. “Frassinelli Leads for 2nd Spot.” The Hartford Courant 17 December, 1965.

Want more history? See
Lieutenant Governors of the 1950s or the Connecticut History main page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Stories I have heard was that Ella thought the last Dempsey Lt. Gov was hers. She was very bitter that Pops Frassinelli got the post. Years later when she was Governor, she took her anger out on the then budget director Gordon Frassinelli (son of Pops).