By John R. Buckley, Sr., Historian
As prepared for the 75th Anniversary of the PCDL in 2010
Seventy six years ago the League was officially organized as a Democratic organization with the sole goal of working for Democratic candidates and promoting the Democratic party in Plymouth County.
Any success the League and the Party has enjoyed over the years is directly attributable to the several chairman from the first Chairman Thomas H. Buckley to the current Chairman, David H. O'Reilly, and to the active members who have worked long and hard over the years to bring success to Democratic candidates.
In the 1930’s Plymouth County was a hostile territory for Democrats, in the 1930’s a Democrat in Plymouth County was made to feel apologetic for his political allegiance.
Times Have Changed
In 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt swept the country losing only Maine and Vermont; Plymouth County supported Alfred Landon by a plurality of more than 11,000 votes. In Abington, hometown of the founder of the League and was elected statewide to the office of State Auditor, lost to the Republican candidate by 143 votes; FDR lost in Abington by 724 votes. It was tough country for Democrats.
But those kind of odds did not deter the League. The role of the League was to field Democratic candidates for county and legislative office and the names of those candidates form an honor roll for valiant duty to the Democratic Party; names such as William Bergan, Hull and Frank Manning, Brockton candidates for the State Senate; James P. Fitzgerald, Abington; George Kane, Brockton; Alfred Malagadi, Whitman; candidates for County Office, none of whom had any chance of success but offered their candidacies to further the prospects of the Democratic Party and to engender enthusiasm for the Party and County.
Electoral victory through the 1940’s and 1950’s was elusive but candidates recruited by the League continued to press their campaigns and further the cause of the Democratic Party at both the county and legislative levels. Candidates such as Helen L. Buckley, Abington; Albert Heath, Middleboro; James Frazier, Plymouth, William Ross, Wareham; John Troy, Rockland; Anthony Gawronski, Abington, Thomas McCann, Brockton; Henry Pomeroy, West Bridgewater; Leo Matilla, Abington; James Magner, Hingham; William (Corey) Barrett, Plymouth: Earl Gackell, Hull; Harold Kavanagh, Abington; George Correa. Mattapoisett; John McCormack, Scituate; Augustus Higgins, Hingham; George Duffy, Scituate; and many others who carried the banner of the Democratic Party through the 40’s and 50’s.
To give the flavor of the times, Paul Dever swept to victory in the Governor’s race of 1948 by a margin of close to 400,000 votes. - in Plymouth County Bradford best Dever by 6,200 voted. Harry Truman best Dewey but Plymouth County went to Dewey by 14,200 votes.
The 50’s were only marginally better - Senator John F. Kennedy sweeping to reelection still lost two towns in Plymouth County to Vincent Celeste.
Finally, as Plymouth County began to grow in the late 50’s and 60’s and buoyed by the enthusiasm of President Kennedy, the electoral landscape began to turn.
In 1964 John Franey, Abington, was elected County Commissioner and Rep David L. Flynn, Bridgewater, and Rep. John R. Buckley, Abington were elected to the House of Representatives.
But victories were still hard to achieve. Rep. William Spence, Hingham, was elected to the House in 1968. Finally in 1970, more Democrats were elected to the House than Republicans - 8 Democrats and 5 Republicans - as Alfred Almeida, Plymouth, and Robert McCarthy, East Bridgewater, joined the Democratic delegation in the State House.
County victories followed; Lawrence Marden, Abington, County Treasurer John D. Riordan, Abington, Register of Deeds; John Daley, Bridgewater, Register of Probate; Peter Flynn, Bridgewater; Sheriff. These stalwarts broke the ice as the efforts of the majority of county offices and legislative seats within the county.
That was Then and this is Now
In 2006 - Deval Patrick was elected Governor, and Senator Therese Murray of Plymouth is now Senate President.
John Walsh, past chair of the League, was Deval Patrick’s campaign manager who re-instituted Governor Micheal Dukakis’s Grass Root’s efforts and added computer technology to energize Democrats to perform door to door knocking at the precinct level. John is now the Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman.
The League still has work ahead, candidates must continue to challenge Republicans in the 1st Plymouth District, 2nd Plymouth Distinct, 6th Plymouth District, and Plymouth and Norfolk Senatorial District.
2010 will see many election campaigns needing help and there are still Republican county office holders to be challenged. The work goes on but because of the pioneer Democrats of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and to date, the task is now easier and more achievable.