Senator Theodore Green (D-RI) and RI history
T.F. Green Airport History
THEODORE FRANCIS GREEN
By 1930, the Republican Party had dominated the Rhode Island General
Assembly for decades.
A majority of the general population were Democrats. But the old state
constitution allowed each town just one legislative delegate.
In 1934, a close election gave the Democrats a golden opportunity.
They challenged the election of two Republicans, thereby leaving a
balance of both parties in the Senate.
That meant that the lieutenant governor, a Democrat, would cast any
In a matter of hours, the Legislature passed dozens of bills that
abolished commissions and agencies, re-organized state government and
replaced all five justices of the state Supreme Court.
"Because these people would be the ones who would have to rule upon
the legitimacy of all of these things, and if it was a Republican
Supreme Court, they would then declare all the things the Democrats
were doing unconstitutional. But because the Rhode Island state
constitution said that the justices serve at the pleasure of the
General Assembly, they just wiped them out and replaced them," J.
Stanley Lemons, a history professor, explained.
A record of these events, written by an eyewitness and only recently
made available to the public, captures the mood of the times.
"The five Republican judges had received special invitations to attend
the inaugural exercises. Aware of their execution on the political
guillotine, they begged to be excused from attendance," the account read.
"I would call it a revolution. I suppose some Republicans would call
it a coup d'etat," Lemons said. "It's a revolution. It actually shifts
the power in the state clearly from the Republicans to the Democrats."
The central figure in what became known as "The Bloodless Revolution"
of 1935 was Gov. Theodore Francis Green.
Gov. Green seemed destined to make history in Rhode Island.
Born in 1867 to a family with roots deep in the American Revolution,
he taught Roman law at his alma mater, Brown University.
In the Spanish-American War, Green received a lieutenant's commission
and commanded a provisional company of infantry.
Careful investment and a frugal lifestyle made him a wealthy man.
Green made several unsuccessful runs for public office before being
elected governor of Rhode Island in 1932 at the age of 65.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1936, where he began a long and
"He was a real nice man to work for. He never got upset. He was very
appreciative of everything you did for him. If you went down at
lunchtime and brought him back a cup of tea or something like that, he
was very appreciative," recalled Helen Maroney, Green's secretary.
Green was a staunch supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the
programs known as "The New Deal" that he championed.
Green, who spoke five languages, was a member of the Foreign Relations
Committee, serving as its chairman in 1957.
He was appointed to special missions for both the United Nations and NATO.
A millionaire and a descendent of one of the state's oldest
established Yankee families, he was a staunch supporter of the working
And the senator wasn't afraid to voice criticism of what he thought
was a conservative bias in the nation's newspapers.
"Ninety-five percent, it's been estimated, of the newspapers of the
country are Republican, anti-Democrat, anti-administration," Green
In 1956, he became the oldest Senator to hold office in the history of
Constituents, friends and relatives were always impressed with his
grace, kindness and dignity.
"I knew him until I was about 14. I remember him as someone who hosted
our Christmas dinners every year. He showed interest in all of us.
There was always three generations there," Theodore Francis Green II,
a grand nephew, said. "My earliest memories of him are of his gold
pocket watch, which I would consistently ask him to remove from his
pocket and chime off the hours and quarter hours. He was nice enough
to remember me in his estate by willing that watch to me."
Committed to maintaining his health, Green felt that walking was the
Maroney remembers him walking five miles a day to work.
Green was always the consummate gentleman. But he knew how to handle
the rough and tumble of politics.
Those who underestimated this tireless public servant did so at their
Eventually, time caught up with this remarkable man. In 1961, Sen.
Green announced that he would not seek another term.
He remained active after he returned to Rhode Island. Drawing on his
years of experience, he volunteered to help the state celebrate its
His long record of public service had made him a beloved figure to the
people of the state.
It was a sad day in Rhode Island when the news broke that this gentle,
intelligent and gifted statesman had passed away.
Theodore Francis Green died at the age of 98. His funeral was attended
by hundreds of mourners from all walks of life.