Thomas Philip “Tip” O'Neill Jr.

Thomas Philip “Tip” O'Neill Jr.

Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 5 Jan 1994 (aged 81)
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Harwich Port, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA
Memorial ID 9058 · View Source
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US Congressman. The son of Thomas Philip O'Neill, Sr., a former bricklayer turned local politico, and Rose Ann Tolan, "Tip" O'Neill was born on December 19, 1912 near Barry's Corner in North Cambridge, Massachusetts. The grandson of an Irish immigrant, O'Neill grew up in an old-fashioned Irish-American milieu; he claimed as an adult that he knew he was Irish before he knew he was American. Educated in local Catholic schools, he was graduated from St. John's High School in 1931. After high school, he began driving a truck and enrolled in Boston College in 1933. Truck driving helped him work his way through college, providing an income he supplemented by playing poker. He was a member of the Boston College class of 1936. O'Neill first became interested in politics in 1928 when at the age of 15 he campaigned for Alfred Emanuel "Al" Smith, Jr. Smith was a Democrat who eventually served four terms as Governor of New York and was the first Catholic and first Irish-American to serve as a major party nominee for the American presidency. As a senior at Boston College, O'Neill entered the political fray himself when he ran for a seat on the Cambridge City Council. Taking his local neighborhood for granted, he failed to campaign there, a mistake that lead to the only electoral defeat of his career. He later cited this mistake as one of the best didactic experiences of his political life, and said that it exemplified his father‘s post-election analysis: All politics is local. Within months of graduating Boston College, O'Neill was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In 1949, he became the first Democratic Speaker of the House in his home state of Massachusetts, a post he held until he ran for and won the 8th District congressional seat vacated by John F. Kennedy in 1952. During his long tenure in the House of Representatives, O'Neill served on the House Rules Committee, became House Majority Whip (1971), House Majority Leader (1973), and Speaker of the House (1977-1987). An unrepentant liberal Democrat, O'Neill believed in a government's power to cure social ills and make a difference in the lives of its citizens. Throughout his political career, he was a proponent of universal health care, jobs programs, energy conservation initiatives, and congressional ethics reform. He opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War, and supported the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon. In the 1970s and early 1980s, he worked with the governments of Britain and Northern Ireland to broker a peace deal between warring Catholics and Protestants. This peace initiative began with the St. Patrick‘s Day Declaration in 1977, and culminated in success with the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. In the 1980s, he served as a voice of opposition to many of the domestic and defense policies of President Ronald Reagan. O'Neill retired from politics in 1987 but remained in the public eye. He starred in numerous television commercials, including a famous spot for Miller Lite beer, had a 1983 cameo on the TV show Cheers, starred as himself in the 1993 film Dave, served as a narrator for the Ken Burns documentary series on baseball, and filmed educational public service announcements about cancer. In addition, O'Neill wrote a bestselling memoir, Man of the House (1987), and co-authored a political tome, All Politics is Local (published after his death in 1994). He divided his later years between homes in Washington D.C. and Harwich Port, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Near the end of his life, O'Neill battled colon cancer and diabetes. He died of cardiac arrest at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston on January 5, 1994 at the age of 81.

Bio by: Kathy Riley Williams

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 8 Apr 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 9058
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Philip “Tip” O'Neill Jr. (9 Dec 1912–5 Jan 1994), Find a Grave Memorial no. 9058, citing Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Harwich Port, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .