How John O. Pastore helped shape Joe Biden's career12:37 PM Wed, Aug 27, 2008 | Permalink
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Joe Biden's speech at the Democratic National Convention tonight will undoubtedly show his passionate side; vice-presidential candidates traditionally are a presidential ticket's designated attack dogs.
Rhode Islanders of a certain age will remember another time that Biden spoke from his heart -- at the September 2000 funeral of the legendary Rhode Island U.S. senator and governor, John O. Pastore. After a masterful eulogy from Sen. Edward Kennedy, Biden told of Pastore's counsel in 1972, when he was first elected to the Senate from Delaware.
Between Biden's November election and January swearing-in as a senator, his first wife and daughter died in an auto accident on their way to pick up a Christmas tree. Biden was so distraught that he wanted to leave politics without even being sworn in.
Pastore went to see Biden, who then was only 30 years old. A blunt Pastore told Biden his life story, as a poor son of Italian immigrants who was raised in a cold-water flat on Federal Hill, which early in the 20th Century was a neighborhood of squalor and poverty.
A blunt Pastore told Biden that he was "an Irish Catholic kid from nothing'' who made it to the Senate and must take his seat. Biden took his advice and tonight he becomes his party's vice-presidential candidate.
Pastore died at age 93 in 2000. He rose from his poor beginnings on Federal Hill to become the first Rhode Island governor of Italian heritage and the first Italian-American elected to the U.S. Senate.
First elected to the General Assembly in 1934, Pastore built a political career that spanned four decades as he climbed the ladder from state representative to assistant attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor. In 1950 he was elected to the Senate and served until he retired in 1976. Republican John H. Chafee won election to succeed Pastore in 1976 and kept the seat until his death in 1999.