James L. McConaughy and James C. Shannon records
Scope and Content
Gov. James L. McConaughy and James C. Shannon's records are correspondence and subject files related to state agencies, commissions, legislative bills, and appointments among other topics. Also included are boards and commissions files.
- Creation: 1947-1949
Language of Materials
The records are in English.
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Restrictions on Use
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James L. McConaughy
Born: October 21, 1887 at New York, New York.
College: Yale, 1909; Bowdoin M.A., 1911; Columbia Ph.D., 1913; Dartmouth M.A., 1915.
Political Party: Republican.
Offices: Lt. Governor of Connecticut, 1939-1941; Governor of Connecticut, 1947-1948.
Died: March 7, 1948 at Hartford, Connecticut.
James McConaughy was one of several governors of Connecticut in the first half of the twentieth century who came from an academic background. Others were Bingham, Cross and Snow. What they shared with their university activities was a love of politics. McConaughy was born in New York City where his father, a minister, was an official in the Y.M.C.A. His family moved to Massachusetts and in 1901 he attended the Mount Herman School where his father had been on the faculty for ten years. McConaughy received college degrees from four universities and in 1918 was named president of Knox College in Illinois. He became associated with Connecticut when Wesleyan University in Middletown made him its president in 1925. He married Elizabeth Townshend in 1913 and they had three children.
When the new Republican Party of Connecticut emerged after the 1937 death of its long time party boss, J. Henry Roraback, McConaughy became one of its advocates. Known as a forceful speaker, he was one of several candidates being proposed in 1938 for the Republican nomination for governor. When Raymond Baldwin agreed to head the party's ticket that year, he consented to be nominated for the position of lieutenant governor. As with Baldwin, the small Union Party placed him on its ticket and this helped him win the election. McConaughy sought to serve two more years as lieutenant governor, but lost in the 1940 campaign. In 1942 he left Wesleyan to become president of the United Chinese Relief Fund during World War II. A year later he became part of the secret operations of the U.S. government's Office of Strategic Services (OSS). When the 1946 state Republican convention met, McConaughy was nominated for governor and he faced his former Wesleyan associate, Wilbert Snow, in the election. In winning the post, he replaced Snow as governor, who had served the last 13 days of Raymond Baldwin's term.
As governor, McConaughy pushed those programs that interested him, including education, reform in employment, housing needs, benefits for the elderly, and assistance for returning servicemen. To pay for these programs he urged passage of a state sales tax, which brought in more funds than were needed and had to be scaled down later. McConaughy also pushed for the integration of the state's National Guard so that Blacks would not be segregated into separate units. McConaughy suddenly died after serving a little over one year as governor on March 7, 1948. The state's offices, courts and schools closed in his honor. McConaughy was given a small private funeral in Middletown where his remains were cremated. A larger ceremony was held the next day at the Capitol Building in Hartford. McConaughy Hall at the University of Connecticut in Storrs is named in his honor, as is a building at Wesleyan University.
James C. Shannon
Born: July 21, 1896 at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
College: Georgetown, 1918; Yale Law School, 1921.
Political Party: Republican.
Offices: Lt. Governor of Connecticut, 1947-1948; Governor of Connecticut, 1948-1949.
Died: March 6, 1980 at Fairfield, Connecticut. The second Catholic governor of Connecticut, James Shannon, came from an active political family where both his father and uncle worked in local politics, and his grandfather, Patrick Coughlin, had been a Democratic mayor of Bridgeport in 1888. Shannon attended local schools in Bridgeport and graduated from Georgetown University in 1918. After serving in the U.S. Navy during the First World War, he earned a law degree from Yale in 1921 and returned to Bridgeport to practice law. Shannon served as the city's prosecuting Attorney for 1923-1931 and was a judge on its Juvenile Court for 1931-1935. In 1939 he became the counsel for the Connecticut Federation of Labor, and held that position until he became governor in 1948. Married to Helen M. McMurray in 1925, the Shannons had three children.
Until 1947 Shannon never sought office beyond Bridgeport. He had been approached in 1928 by the state Republican Party to run for Congress, but he refused to do so because of his family. At the 1946 state Republican Convention James McConaughy and Joseph Talbot sought the nomination for governor. In an attempt to avoid a battle among the delegates there, Talbot was urged by the party leadership to accept the nomination of lieutenant governor behind McConaughy. When he refused to do so and McConaughy was certain of victory, the leadership had Governor Raymond Baldwin telephone Shannon at his office in Bridgeport and ask him if he would like to be lieutenant governor. When Shannon replied, "Who wouldn't," he was told to prepare his acceptance speech and to be at the convention in the morning. He was elected to the office in November and when McConaughy died a little more than a year after his inauguration, Shannon became Connecticut's governor and immediately closed the state's agencies, courts and schools in honor of his predecessor. Although he was only in office for ten months, Shannon carried out McConaughy's programs. He did call the General Assembly into special session to face the problem of a lack of housing in the state. He had legislation passed that increased funding for housing and to assist people who faced eviction from their homes.
When the 1948 elections came, Shannon sought to be elected to a full term as governor, but he was defeated in a close campaign by the Democratic candidate, Chester Bowles. Shannon served on Connecticut's Superior Court for 1953-63 and on the state's Supreme Court for 1963-65.
He was active in programs of the Catholic Church, with the Boy Scouts, and with the Bridgeport Y.M.C.A. After his 1980 death he was buried in the Oaklawn Cemetery in Fairfield. His house in Bridgeport still stands and is privately owned.
21 cubic feet
Gov. James L. McConaughy and Gov. James C. Shannon's correspondence, subject files, and board and commission files.
Series 1. Correspondence.
Series 2. Subject Files.
Series 3. Boards and Commissions Files.
American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975. Stillwater, Minn.: Croixside Press, 1975 [CSL call number JK2447 .G53 1975].
Hartford Times, March 8, 1948.
Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978. Westport, Conn.: Meckler Books, 1978 [CSL call number GIRS Ref E176 .B573]. and
Connecticut. New York: Random House, 1961 [CSL call number Hist Ref F94 .V3].
Genre / Form
- RG 005:030, Office of the Governor: James L. McConaughy and James C. Shannon (1947-1949)
- Inventory of Records
- Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library Staff.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
Part of the Connecticut State Library Repository