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slides: Central Mass Remembers Congressman Joseph Early

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Former Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Early passed away on Friday after decades of service in the State House and Washington. GoLocalWorcester takes a look back at his contributions to Central Mass.

All photographs are from the Collection of Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester MA.

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Early Days

Joseph Early was born in 1933 in Worcester and attended local Catholic schools all the way through college.

At the College of the Holy Cross, he was the captain of the basketball team during the 1954-1955 season.

After graduation, he enrolled in the U.S. Navy, serving two years aboard the U.S.S. Dashiel from 1955 until 1957.

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Tenure on Beacon Hill

After several years as a teacher at St. John's Prep in Shrewsbury and the David Prouty High School in Spencer, Early ran for State Representative and won his first election in November of 1962.

City Councilor Konnie Lukes said many new candidates running for office would recall Early's first race for inspiration.

"He won his first election by one vote," she said. "That always reminds some of us of the fact that you fight for every single vote and you don't give up."

Early went on to serve six terms in the State House of Representatives, including four years as Vice-Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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UMass Medical School


"He was a legendary figure in local politics, someone who changed the landscape of Worcester," said City Councilor and former Mayor Joseph O'Brien of Early.
"Perhaps most important was his spearheading efforts, along with Senator Kennedy, to bring the state medical school to Worcester."
During his time as a State Representative, Early was a key player behind the decision to make Worcester the home of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The med school and its related organizations employ more than 10,000 people in the area and helped spur the growth of the biotechnology industry in Central Mass.
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Early Goes to Washington

Early won his first Congressional election in the Fall of 1974, when he succeeded retiring Representative Harold Donohue to take the seat for the Third Massachusetts Congressional District.

During his first term in Washington, Early served on the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State, Commerce, Justice and the Judiciary, as well as the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.

In subsequent years, he would also serve on the Labor, Health, Human Services and Education subcommittee.

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The End of an Era

Early served in the U.S. House of Representatives until 1992, when he lost his reelection bid to Republican challenger Peter Blute.

"Joe Early was a good man and a great politician," said Blute, who held the Third Congressional District seat until 1997.


"He served our region very well for many years. People will remember him as a guy who loved Worcester, loved to see it grow and prosper. He did a lot of things to make it that way."
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McGovern Remembers


“Joe Early was an incredible public servant who fought tirelessly for working people," said Congressman Jim McGovern, who currently holds the Third District seat.
"From championing economic development to his tireless advocacy for medical research, Joe Early was a man who truly made a difference.
"Our community, our Commonwealth and our country are better because of him."
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A Legacy in Worcester


“My thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of former Congressman Joe Early," said Mayor Joseph Petty. 
"Joe had a strong dedication to public service and in particular to the people of the City of Worcester.
"Joe was an exemplary leader in our city for decades and his representation and work for and on behalf of the people of the City of Worcester will always be remembered. Joe leaves a strong legacy of public service and sense of community which his family continues to carry out.”
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Patrick Recalls Service

“My heartfelt condolences go out to the friends and family of Congressman Joe Early,” said Governor Deval Patrick.

“Joe’s dedication to public service and the people of central Massachusetts paved the way for many public servants who followed in his footsteps.

"His unwavering commitment to creating a better Commonwealth will be deeply missed by his former colleagues and constituents.”

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Murray Remembers

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Early family as we mourn the loss of former Massachusetts Congressman Joe Early,” said Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray.

“Joe was a tenacious advocate for both central Massachusetts and the Commonwealth, first serving in the state legislature then in the U.S. Congress.

"From his leadership in establishing UMass Medical School in Worcester to securing federal NIH funding to benefit health and science research in Massachusetts, today the Commonwealth continues to build on his successes and his legacy will never be forgotten.”

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Early Name Lives On

The former Congressman's son, Joseph Early, Jr., grew up in Worcester like his father and has remained an important fixture in the community as Worcester County District Attorney.

Early, Sr.'s family was grateful for the outpouring of support from the region following his passing.

"We'd like to thank all the people who have reached out to express their condolences at this time. We are very proud of our father's life work. He showed that helping people truly is a noble profession. "


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