Military Wiki
J. Joseph Garrahy
69th Governor of Rhode Island

In office
January 4, 1977 – January 1, 1985
Lieutenant Thomas R. DiLuglio
Preceded by Philip W. Noel
Succeeded by Edward D. DiPrete
61st Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island

In office
January 7, 1969 – January 4, 1977
Governor Frank Licht
Philip W. Noel
Preceded by Joseph O'Donnell Jr.
Succeeded by Thomas R. DiLuglio
Member of the
Rhode Island Senate

In office
Personal details
Born John Joseph Garrahy
(1930-11-26)November 26, 1930
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Died January 24, 2012(2012-01-24) (aged 81)
West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Margherite DePietro
Children 5
Residence East Greenwich
Alma mater
  • University at Buffalo
  • University of Rhode Island
Profession Politician
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1953–1955
Battles/wars Korean War

John Joseph Garrahy (November 26, 1930 – January 24, 2012), known to Rhode Islanders as J. Joseph Garrahy or just "Joe", was an American politician. He served as the 69th Governor of Rhode Island from 1977 to 1985.

Early life[]

Garrahy was born on November 26, 1930 in Providence, Rhode Island. Garrahy achieved the rank of Eagle Scout on August 25, 1947, at age 16.[1] He attended La Salle Academy in Providence,[2] and in 1952 he attended the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. In 1953, he attended the University of Rhode Island. Later that year, Garrahy joined the United States Air Force, where he served until 1955. After his military service, Garrahy married Margherite De Pietro with whom he had five children.[3] Garrahy embarked on a business career, primarily as a salesman with the Narragansett Brewing Company.[4]

Political career[]

Garrahy was elected to the Rhode Island Senate in 1962 as a Democrat, and served there until 1968. While in the Senate, he also served as Deputy Majority leader from 1963 onwards.

In 1968, Garrahy was elected the 61st Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, and served in that office until 1977.


In November 1976 Garrahy was elected Governor of Rhode Island, defeating Republican James Taft in the general election with 54 percent of the vote.[5] He took office in January 1977 and served as governor until 1985, after being reelected in 1978, 1980 and 1982. By the end of his four terms, Garrahy was immensely popular, and likely could have served longer if he wanted.[5] On his death in 2012, Garrahy was remembered as a "people's governor" and a friend of the working class.[5]


During his time as Governor, Garrahy:

  • Fought to clean up pollution in Narragansett Bay[5]
  • Worked to preserve open space for recreation[5]
  • Improved the care of children with developmental disabilities[5]
  • Championed programs for the elderly[5]
  • Worked to transition mentally disabled people from institutions to home care[5]
  • Led efforts to attract high-tech business to the state[5]

Blizzard of 1978[]

The defining event of Garrahy's governorship was the Great Blizzard of February 1978. The blizzard paralyzed the entire state with up to 56 inches of snow.[6] Grarrahy lived in his office at the Rhode Island State House in Providence for three days until the crisis was under control.[6] Garrahy was remembered for wearing a red and black plaid flannel shirt during the crisis.[6] The shirt became widely associated with Garrahy; in 2000, he donated the shirt to the Rhode Island Historical Society, where it was placed on display.[5][7] For years afterward, Garrahy would be asked about the shirt.[5]

Garrahy's response to the storm became a template for public officials reacting to similar situations. Garrahy's calm demeanor and pleasant personality provided comfort to many Rhode Islanders in distress during the blizzard's aftermath.

In 1980, Garrahy traveled to the Soviet Union as part of an arms control delegation.[citation needed]

Although Republican candidates in Rhode Island were largely successful in the 1984 elections, Garrahy was not seen as a primary factor in their success.citation needed Despite political reform being a major campaign theme for Republicans that year, there were no scandals associated with Garrahy.[vague]

Later life[]

In 1988, Garrahy was named to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. He served on the board of the Providence and Worcester Railroad since 1992. He was active in the Knights of Columbus, and was also an active Rhode Island Commodore. Garrahy summered in Florida, and died in West Palm Beach on January 24, 2012.[5][8] He was buried at New Saint Francis Cemetery in South Kingstown.[9]


  1. "Late R.I. Gov. Garrahy getting national Eagle Scout Award". Providence Journal 14 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  2. "Governor Joseph Garrahy '48 Dies". La Salle Academy. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  3. "J. Joseph Garrahy". NNDB. 
  4. Dee, DeQuattro (January 25, 2012). "Former Gov. Garrahy Passes Away, Remembered as a Legend". East Providence, RI. 
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 Baker, Joe (26 Jan 2012). "Garrahy is remembered as "the people's governor"". Newport Daily News. Retrieved 9 February 2017. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Boardman, Liz (26 January 2012). "Governor who led state in blizzard dies at age 81". The Independent. Retrieved 9 February 2017. 
  7. "50 objects Garrahy shirt". Newport, Rhode Island. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2017. 
  8. "Former RI Governor J. Joseph Garrahy Passes Away". ABC 6 News. January 25, 2012. 
  9. Obituary

Further reading[]

External links[]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph O'Donnell Jr.
Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Thomas R. DiLuglio
Preceded by
Philip W. Noel
Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Edward D. DiPrete

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).