John Foster Furcolo was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 29, 1911. He dropped the use of his first name in the late 1940s. Before becoming Massachusetts’ 60th Governor in 1957, Foster Furcolo was a lawyer, Naval Officer in WWII, writer and a Democratic politician. He was raised in Longmeadow where he attended public schools.
Furcolo’s mother, Alberta Foster, was one of 12 children of English and Irish immigrants. Furcolo’s father, Charles, emigrated with his family from Italy in 1900. Charles and Alberta were married in January 1909 while Charles was a medical student at Yale University. The family moved to Springfield when Charles started his medical training at Mercy Hospital. He eventually completed general surgical training and became a very successful attending surgeon at Mercy Hospital and Wesson Memorial Hospital. Dr. Furcolo was also an active leader in the Italian-American community in Springfield and became involved in local Democratic politics.
In 1919 the Furcolo family moved from Springfield to Longmeadow after having built a home at 187 Longmeadow Street.
Foster Furcolo’s childhood home at 187 Longmeadow Street
In Longmeadow, Foster Furcolo attended the Converse Street Elementary School and the Junior High School which was then located on the Green. As there was not yet a high school in Longmeadow, he would have attended high school in Springfield. Furcolo graduated from Yale University in 1933 and Yale Law School in 1936.
Furcolo married his first wife Kathryn Foran in 1936 and moved to Springfield and started his law practice. Eventually, they moved to Longmeadow where they raised their five children. They lived first at 609 Longmeadow Street, as seen reflected on his Draft Registration card, and then moved to 812 Longmeadow Street.
Home at 609 Longmeadow Street
During World War II, Furcolo served in the U.S. Navy as a junior officer on the USS Kershaw, an attack transport vessel in the Pacific, which was involved in the invasion of Okinawa.
Draft registration card
After the war Foster returned to his law practice and tried to launch a political career. He unsuccessfully ran for District Attorney in 1942. In 1946 he ran as the Democratic candidate for U.S Congress and lost but ran again in 1948 and won.
In 1951 while in Congress he was appointed to a special committee to investigate the mass killings of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest by the Soviet Secret Service in WWII. This work would inspire a novel he wrote and published in 1973, Rendezvous at Katyn.
Furcolo Home at 812 Longmeadow Street, purchased in 1951
Furcolo served in Congress until 1952 when he resigned to become Massachusetts Treasurer and remained in this position until 1955.
He was elected as the 60th Governor of Massachusetts in 1956 and served two terms from 1957-1961.
Mr. Furcolo was influential in the development of the Government Center and the Prudential Center in Boston. He established the community college system and expanded the University of Massachusetts.
Boston American, October 26, 1958
There were controversies and hints of corruption during his term. Two scandals involved the construction of a parking garage under Boston Common and collusion between state public works employees and land owners along proposed interstate highways. Furcolo was indicted on charges of having conspired to arrange for a bribe to be paid to members of the Governor's Executive Council in 1960. The indictment was dismissed in 1965 for lack of evidence. He lost his second bid for the U.S. Senate in 1960 and failed to get the nomination for State Attorney General in 1966. Furcolo returned to the private practice of law in eastern Massachusetts and taught at the Portia Law School and served as an administrative judge from 1975 to 1989.
A small gavel made of wood taken from the original White House during renovations between 1948-1952 was presented to Foster Furcolo by President Eisenhower. This gavel was presented to Williams Middle School in 1982 where it remains today.
Foster Furcolo died on July 5, 1995 and is buried in Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Contributed by Lenny Shaker, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member
Originally published July 7, 2022
Springfield Union News
New York Times