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Abraham Ribicoff

Summary Information

Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford
Abraham Ribicoff
Date [inclusive]
0.25 Cubic feet
Biographical/Historical note Abraham Ribicoff (1910-1998) was notable as the first Jew to become governor of Connecticut. Born into a very poor family in New Britain, Ribicoff began working at the age of eight to aid the family in addition to going to school. After graduation, he took a job with a manufacturing company that led to heading its Chicago office where he was able to run the office and begin college at the University of Chicago. There Ribicoff worked his way through two years of pre-law study and was allowed to move directly into law school, where he graduated with honors. Ribicoff returned to Hartford, opening an office on the same floor as John Bailey. This was a fateful day, as the young Bailey desired to take control of the local Democratic Party from T.J. Spellacy, and Bailey saw his friend Abe Ribicoff as the tool to make his move. Bailey and his friends successfully supported Ribicoff for an open slot in the State Legislature in 1938 and gained the control they wanted. Ribicoff served several years in the State Legislature and later was appointed judge of the Hartford Police Court and hearing examiner for the State Fair Employment Practices Act. His next major bid for office came in 1948 when he entered national politics with his election to the U. S. House of Representatives where he served two terms. Although he lost his bid for the U. S. Senate in 1952 when he ran against Prescott Bush, Ribicoff won the gubernatorial bid in 1954 and served two terms. In 1961, he took a cabinet position with President Kennedy as Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In 1962, Ribicoff again returned to Congress, this time as U.S. Senator. Although asked to be the running mate of George McGovern, Ribicoff declined. Following 18 years in the Senate, Ribicoff retired but continued to practice law privately. Throughout his career, Ribicoff was known for his candor, as in his famous speech at the 1968 Democratic Convention where he denounced Mayor Daley for the police attacks on protesters. Ribicoff was also known for standing up for what he believed to be the right course of action in spite of attempts at intimidation or threats of loss of support. For example, he sacrificed friends in the Jewish community when he led the fight to provide arms to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But one must never forget his "American Dream" speech that helped him to win the gubernatorial election despite being Jewish and his vital aid to Catholic candidate John F. Kennedy in winning the Presidency. Although Abe Ribicoff was the champion of a large body of beneficial legislation, perhaps his greatest achievement was opening up state and national politics to candidates of all backgrounds.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents note This collection is comprised largely of news clippings and articles by Ribicoff. It provides an overview of Ribicoff's career and valuable material for understanding his political stances, but is only a starting point for serious research.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information
Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford

333 Bloomfield Avenue
West Hartford, CT, 06117

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Collection Inventory

Series I: Records & Manuscripts
Awards and Honors/Columbia University Oral History, ca. 1993
Awards and Honors/Federal Building Naming, 1987
Awards and Honors/Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce, 1990 Charter Oak Award
Awards and Honors/Kopplemann Award, 1961
Awards and Honors/Miscellaneous
Awards and Honors/State Democratic Party Tribute, 1980
Awards and Honors/University of Bridgeport Raymond E. Baldwin Award, 1981
Civic Activities
Congressional Election, 1948
Constituent Newsletters, 1973-1975
Gubernatorial Election and Inauguration, 1954-1955
Gubernatorial Re-Election, 1958
Newspaper clippings
Political Stances
Professional Activities

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Series II: Artifacts
Campaign buttons, “Go with Abe”, 1974

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