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John Olver
John Olver, Official Portrait, 111th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st district
In office
June 18, 1991 – January 3, 2013
Preceded bySilvio O. Conte
Succeeded byRichard Neal (Redistricting)
Member of the Massachusetts Senate
from the Franklin and Hampshire district
In office
January 3, 1973 – June 15, 1991
Preceded byJohn Barrus
Succeeded byStan Rosenberg
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
from the 2nd Hampshire district
In office
January 1, 1969 – January 3, 1973
Preceded byDonald Madsen
Succeeded byJames Collins
Personal details
John Walter Olver

(1936-09-03) September 3, 1936 (age 85)
Honesdale, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Rose Richardson Olver
(m. 1959; died 2014)
Residence(s)Amherst, Massachusetts
Alma materRensselaer Polytechnic Institute (B.S.)
Tufts University (M.S.)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Ph.D.)

John Walter Olver (born September 3, 1936) is an American politician who was the U.S. representative for Massachusetts's 1st congressional district from 1991 to 2013. Raised on a farm in Pennsylvania, Olver graduated from college at the age of 18 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later taught chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for eight years.

He served in both chambers of the Massachusetts General Court, being elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1968, and the Massachusetts Senate in 1972. He ran in a 1991 special election to succeed 17-term Congressman Silvio O. Conte, who died in office. He was the first Democrat to ever represent the 1st congressional district.

Olver announced that he would not seek re-election in 2012, and retired at the end of his eleventh term in Congress after his district was dismantled in redistricting.

Early life, education, and career

Olver during his tenure in the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Olver during his tenure in the Massachusetts House of Representatives

Olver was born on September 3, 1936 in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, the son of Helen Marguerite (née Fulleborn) and Thomas Horace Olver. His paternal grandparents were of English descent and his maternal grandparents were German.[1] Olver grew up on his father's farm, where the two tended cows, while his mother ran a boarding house which served families from Philadelphia and New York City.[2] Olver graduated from high school when he was 15 and enrolled in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry at the age of 18. After earning his undergraduate degree, Olver went on to earn a Master of Science in chemistry from Tufts University in 1956, and a Doctor of Philosophy in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961.[2]

Olver taught chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for eight years, and later resigned to pursue a career in politics.[3] He served two terms as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from January 1, 1969, to January 3, 1973. He later served for nine terms in the Massachusetts Senate from January 3, 1973, until his resignation in 1991 to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.[2]

U.S. House of Representatives

Massachusetts's 1st congressional district, during the second decade of Olver's tenure. The district was a primarily rural district that makes up most of Western Massachusetts.
Massachusetts's 1st congressional district, during the second decade of Olver's tenure. The district was a primarily rural district that makes up most of Western Massachusetts.


On February 18, 1991, Congressman Silvio O. Conte died one month after taking office for his 17th term. That June, Olver, who had been sworn in for his 10th term in the state Senate a few months earlier, in January 1991, narrowly defeated Republican Steven Pierce in a special election for the seat, becoming the first Democrat to win the seat since it changed from being the 13th district in 1893.[2][4] Olver resigned from the state Senate on June 15 and was sworn in June 18.[4][5]

Olver won election to a full term in 1992. In 1994, the year which Republican took control of the House for the first time in 40 years, Olver ran unopposed.[6] In 1996, he defeated State Senator and future Lieutenant and Acting Governor Jane Swift by a 53% to 47% margin.[7] After 1996, Olver continually won re-election with high margins above 60%.[8]

On October 26, 2011 Olver announced he would not seek re-election in 2012, clearing the way for any potential Democratic primaries due to Massachusetts losing a congressional seat after the 2010 United States Census.[9] His district, which covered most of rural Western Massachusetts including Amherst, North Adams and Northampton, had been eliminated in redistricting. The bulk of his former territory had been merged with the Springfield-based 2nd district of fellow Democrat Richard Neal. The reconfigured 1st was geographically and demographically more Neal's district than Olver's, even though it retained Olver's district number. Olver's home in Amherst was drawn into the Worcester-based 2nd District (the old 3rd District) of fellow Democrat Jim McGovern.


CQ's Politics in America described Olver as "a staunch liberal who prefers to yield the spotlight to other similarly ideological members."[2] Olver has consistently high rankings from the progressive lobbying group Americans for Democratic Action, and consistently low rankings from its conservative counterpart the American Conservative Union.[2]

As a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Olver endorsed future President Barack Obama.[10] In a tribute to an outgoing Olver and Barney Frank, Ed Markey remarked that, unlike other elected officials who embraced superficial positions to curry public favor, the two were "happy to tell you [they] disagree with you" if they believed so.[11]

Objection to the 2004 Presidential Election

Olver was one of thirty-one House Democrats who voted to not count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election.[12] Republican President George W. Bush won Ohio by 118,457 votes.[13] Without Ohio's electoral votes, the election would have been decided by the U.S. House of Representatives, with each state having one vote in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Foreign policy

Olver has been a staunch opponent of the United States involvement in Iraq, and opposed a United States military presence in Iraq since the 2002 authorization for the use of force in Iraq.[14] Olver has advocated for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and has consistently voted against proposals to increase funding for military operations and increased deployment.[15] Olver stated that he believes that the United States should seek out a political solution in cooperation with the states neighboring Iraq, such as Iran and Syria, rather than pursuing a strategy based primarily on military means in order to create a stable and democratic Iraq.[14]

Olver has been critical of the United States lack of involvement regarding the genocide in Darfur. Olver was one of five members of Congress arrested April 28, 2006 after protesting the genocide outside the Sudanese Embassy.[16] Olver was arrested again in front of the Sudanese Embassy during a protest in 2012 along with other members of Congress and actor George Clooney.[17]

Domestic policy

Olver co-sponsored H.R. 676 which would introduce a universal health insurance program with single-payer financing. In addition to supporting different pieces of healthcare reform legislation in the House, Olver has also strongly supported allowing federal funds related to health care programs to fund abortion operations.[18] In addition to supporting the inclusion of coverage for abortions in healthcare, Olver has consistently supported pro-choice legislation in the House and has received favorable ratings from pro-choice interest groups such as the NARAL Pro-Choice America, which gave Olver a rating of 100.[18][19]

Olver supports efforts to reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States, but also believes in immigration reform so that qualified immigrants could more easily be granted entrance.[20] Olver also believes that illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States need to be provided with a pathway to citizenship, and that these immigrants should not have to return to their countries of origin before obtaining citizenship.[21]

Committee assignments

Party leadership

Personal life

The John W. Olver Transit Center
The John W. Olver Transit Center

Olver was married to Rose Richardson Olver, a Professor of Psychology and Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies at Amherst College, from 1959 until her death in 2014, and they had one daughter named Martha.[22] He has lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, since 1963.[23]

On May 4, 2012 a new central bus and rail station in Greenfield, Massachusetts was dedicated in Olver's honor. The building is the first zero-net-energy transportation facility in the nation, generating heat and power via geothermal wells, photovoltaic panels and sunlight.[24]

On October 27, 2017, the John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst was dedicated in Olver's honor. The building was the largest and most technologically advanced academic wood structure in the US upon completion. It was also the first in the US to use a wood-concrete composite floor system researched at the University of Massachusetts.[25]

On October 28, 2010 Olver was awarded the Soldier On Award presented by the veterans group, Soldier On. This award, created for Soldier On by sculptor Andrew DeVries, recognizes individuals whose leadership and actions have advanced the goal of ending veteran homelessness.[26]


  1. ^ "The Olver Family Tree". Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Duncan, Philip D., and Nutting, Brian (eds.) (2004). "Olver, John W., D-Mass." CQ's Politics in America 2004: The 108th Congress. Washington: Congressional Quarterly. pp. 480–481. ISBN 978-1-56802-813-2.
  3. ^ "Biographical Profile for John W. Olver". Vote-USA. Retrieved November 15, 2010.
  4. ^ a b John W Mashek (June 19, 1991). "Olver takes House seat after schedule snafu; freshman looks to future of 1st district". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  5. ^ "Olver resigns from state Senate". The Boston Globe. June 15, 1991. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  6. ^ "Biography". Review-Journal. 2002. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  7. ^ "Massachusetts General Election Results, 1996". Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth. 1996. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  8. ^ "Rep. John W. Olver (D-Mass.)". Roll Call. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  9. ^ Southhall, Ashley; Weaton, Sarah (October 27, 2011). "Two Massachusetts Democrats Say They Won't Run, Clarifying State Politics". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
  10. ^ Julie Bosman (June 3, 2008). "The Superdelegate Tally". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  11. ^ Ed Markey (December 20, 2012). "Congressman Richard E. Neal's Tribute to Congressmen John Olver & Barney Frank". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  12. ^ "Final Vote Results for Role Call 7". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. January 6, 2005. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  13. ^ Salvato, Albert (December 29, 2004). "Ohio Recount Gives a Smaller Margin to Bush". The New York Times.
  14. ^ a b "Project Vote Smart - Representative John W. Olver - Issue Position: Iraq". Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  15. ^ "Project Vote Smart - Representative John W. Olver - Voting Record". Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  16. ^ "US Congress members arrested at Sudan protest". Sudan Tribune. April 28, 2006. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  17. ^ "Reps. McGovern & Olver, George Clooney Arrested In Washington Protest". CBS. March 16, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  18. ^ a b "Project Vote Smart - Representative John W. Olver - Voting Record". Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  19. ^ "Project Vote Smart - Representative John W. Olver - Interest Group Ratings". May 14, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  20. ^ "Project Vote Smart - Representative John W. Olver - Issue Position: Immigration". Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  21. ^ "Project Vote Smart - Representative John W. Olver - Issue Positions (Political Courage Test)". Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  22. ^ "In Memoriam: Rose R. Olver". Amherst College. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  23. ^ "About John Olver". Progressive Congress. Archived from the original on January 2, 2013. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  24. ^ Fred Contrada (May 4, 2012). "Greenfield dedicates John W. Olver Transportation Center". The Republican (Springfield). Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  25. ^ "The John W. Olver Design Building at UMass Amherst". October 27, 2017. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  26. ^ "The 2010 Soldier On Recipient". Soldier On. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st congressional district

June 4, 1991 – January 3, 2013
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative

This page was last edited on 9 April 2022, at 16:41
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