On April 15, 1993, the Massachusetts Chapter of the Catholic League held its Annual Award Banquet at the Sheraton Tara Hotel in Framingham. This year’s recipient of the League’s prestigious John W. McCormack Public Service Award was the Honorable Edward J. King, former governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Last year’s McCormack Award recipient, Senate President William M. Bulger made the presentation on behalf of the League to a public servant who remains an unwavering champion of Catholic values in American life.
In his acceptance remarks, Governor King told the more than 200 people in attendance, that Catholics were “losing ground” in the struggle to uphold moral values in public life.
Cardinal Law praised the work of the Catholic League and criticized those who would “render absolutely ineffectual any significant institutional form of religion in society.” In a lighter moment he called for the doors of the banquet room to be locked until all in the room had joined the Catholic League.
Chapter president Dan Flatley praised Governor King as a Catholic public servant who “in his public life displayed great courage, great integrity and great fidelity to principle.” He noted that King’s “defining characteristic” was “moral courage” the virtue – after faith – “upon which the Catholic League is founded.”
King, in his first try for elective office, defeated pro-abortion incumbent Governor Michael Dukakis in the September, 1978 Democratic primary. King went on to defeat a pro-abortion Republican in the November election to become the Commonwealth’s 66th governor. He served from 1979 to 1983.
Born in working class East Boston, King, a U.S. Navy veteran, graduated from Boston College in 1948 and later earned a degree in accounting from Bentley College. After a brief career as a professional football player with the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Colts, he became comptroller of the renowned Boston Museum of Science. He went on to become comptroller, secretary-treasurer, and later (for eleven years) executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority.
King’s tenure as governor was one of the most successful in recent memory. Taxes, state spending and public sector employment were reduced while employment and new businesses grew, especially in high technology. Massachusetts unemployment in the 1979-83 period was the lowest among the industrial states.
As governor, King introduced mandatory sentencing for violent crime, enacted into law the “Castle Doctrine” which allowed homeowners to forcibly resist burglars, and secured stiffer penalties for trafficking in child pornography. An outspoken opponent of abortion, he suppported the Doyle-Flynn Amendment which sought to prohibit public funding of abortion in Massachusetts. Authored by State Rep. James Craven (a Catholic League member), it passed the legislature in 1978 only to be overturned by the state’ s highest court in February, 1981.
Edward King’s upset of Michael Dukakis, his unflinching pro-life position, and his unapologetic Catholicism made him the target of media venom – most of it led by the Catholic-bashing Boston Globe – in a campaign of vilification that admits few parallels in contemporary American politics.
King’s stewardship of the commonwealth has enjoyed the vindication of history and his administration stands as a model of probity, fiscal responsibility and traditional values in contrast to subsequent administrations marred by corruption, mismanagement and social extremism.
Chapter executive director Joe Doyle thanked chapter president Dan Flatley and chapter treasurer (and dinner chair) Fred Kelley for their efforts which made the dinner such a great success.