Philip Hart
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Philip Hart

Philip Hart
Philip Hart (D-MI).jpg
United States Senator
from Michigan

January 3, 1959 - December 26, 1976
Charles E. Potter
Donald Riegle
51st Lieutenant Governor of Michigan

January 1, 1955 - January 1, 1959
GovernorG. Mennen Williams
Clarence A. Reid
John Swainson
Personal details
Philip Aloysius Hart

(1912-12-10)December 10, 1912
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Washington D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jane Briggs (1943–1976, his death)
Alma materGeorgetown University
University of Michigan Law School
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1941-1946
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel
Unit4th Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsPurple Heart

Philip Aloysius Hart (December 10, 1912 – December 26, 1976) was an American lawyer and politician. A Democrat, he served as a United States Senator from Michigan from 1959 until his death from cancer in Washington, D.C. in 1976. He was known as the "Conscience of the Senate".[1]

Early life and family

The grandson of Irish immigrants, Philip Hart was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, to Philip Aloysius and Ann (née Clyde) Hart.[2] His father was a banker who served as president of the Bryn Mawr Trust Company.[3] He received his early education at Waldron Academy, and then attended West Philadelphia Catholic High School.[4]

Hart studied at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he was the student body president and an award-winning debater.[5] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude from Georgetown in 1934.[2] In 1937, he received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School at Ann Arbor.[6]

In June 1943, Hart married Jane "Janey" Briggs, the daughter of Walter and Jane Cameron Briggs. Her father was by then a philanthropist and had owned the Detroit Tigers. Jane was an aviator who was the first female helicopter pilot in Michigan. She later qualified in the 1960s as one of the Mercury 13 group. The couple met through her brother, who was Hart's roommate at Georgetown. They have four surviving sons and four daughters.[7] Hart's namesake, Philip Jr., died as a toddler. He was buried in a family plot, followed decades later by his father nearby.

Early career

Hart was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 1938 and became an associate in the Detroit firm of Beaumont, Smith & Harris.[2] During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel with the 4th Infantry Division (1941-1946).[6] He was wounded during the D-Day invasion of Normandy on Utah Beach when shrapnel from an exploding artillery shell damaged the inside of his right arm.[5] Following the war, he returned to Michigan and recovered at the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek. There he became acquainted with fellow veterans Bob Dole and Daniel Inouye, both also future US senators.[5] He was decorated with the Bronze Star Medal with clusters, Arrowhead device, Purple Heart, and Croix de guerre.[2]

In 1946, Hart returned to Detroit and entered the general law practice of Monaghan, Hart & Crawmer.[2] He became politically active in the Democratic Party and, from 1949 to 1951, he served as Michigan's Corporation Securities Commissioner, a political appointee position.[6] His duties included the approving of stock issues of corporations in the state, licensing real estate brokers and builders, and collecting real estate taxes.[2] In 1951 Hart was appointed as state director of the Office of Price Stabilization, serving for a year.[4] For his work in that office, he was named Outstanding Federal Administrator of the Year in 1952 by the Federal Business Association.[2]

In 1952, he was appointed as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, serving for one year.[6] He next served from 1953 to 1954 as legal adviser to Governor G. Mennen Williams, a former law school classmate.[4]

In 1954, Hart ran for electoral office, elected as the 51st Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, on a ticket with incumbent Governor Williams. He served two terms, until 1959.[6] His re-election in 1956 made him the first Democrat in Michigan to serve two terms as lieutenant governor.[2]

U.S. Senate

Hart was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1958, defeating one-term incumbent Republican Charles E. Potter by a 54% to 46% margin. He was reelected by overwhelming margins in 1964 and 1970. (His 1970 opponent was Lenore Romney.) Some conservatives in Michigan attempted to recall Hart from office due to his stands on gun control and busing for racial integration, with bumper stickers reading "Recall cures Hart attacks." But the US Constitution does not authorize the recall of elected federal officials, and Hart was strongly re-elected by supporters.

Hart was the chief Senate sponsor of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler bill, which ended the discriminatory quotas that restricted immigration from most of the world since 1924.

Hart died in office. He had announced his intention not to run for reelection in June 1976 and was diagnosed with cancer a month later.[8] That same year, the Senate voted to name its new Senate office building after him, the Hart Senate Office Building.[9] It would have been the first federal government building named after someone still living. The vote was 99 to 0, with Hart abstaining. Hart died of melanoma a few days later, just before his term would have expired and he would have retired. Donald W. Riegle, Jr., who had just been elected to the seat for the next term, was named to fill Hart's seat for the remaining days of the congressional session.

Hart is interred in St. Anne's Catholic Cemetery on Mackinac Island, in a family plot near his namesake son, who died as a toddler.


In his bestselling book Inside Congress, author Ronald Kessler lauded Senator Hart as one of the few honorable men who served in the Senate. He noted that the Senator refused to accept even a box of chocolates as a gift from a lobbyist.

See also


  1. ^ "Senator Philip A. Hart Dies at 64; Was Called 'Conscience of Senate'". The New York Times. December 27, 1976.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Current Biography Yearbook. 6. New York: H.W. Wilson Company. 1971.
  3. ^ Madden, Richard L. (December 27, 1976). "Fighter for Civil Rights". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c "Philip A. Hart". West Catholic Alumni Association.
  5. ^ a b c O'Brien, Michael; Putman, Daniel (1998). Virtue and Politics: The Example of Philip Hart. 12. Public Affairs Quarterly.
  6. ^ a b c d e "HART, Philip Aloysius, (1912 - 1976)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  7. ^ "Finding aid for Jane Briggs Hart papers, ca. 1925-1996". University of Michigan.
  8. ^ a b LSSU Foundation -- Senator Philip A. Hart Memorial Scholarship
  9. ^ S.Res. 525, Designation of the Philip A. Hart Office Building

Further reading

Party political offices
Preceded by
Blair Moody
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Michigan
(Class 1)

1958, 1964, 1970
Succeeded by
Donald Riegle
Political offices
Preceded by
Clarence A. Reid
Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
Succeeded by
John B. Swainson
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Charles E. Potter
U.S. senator (Class 1) from Michigan
Served alongside: Patrick V. McNamara, Robert P. Griffin
Succeeded by
Donald W. Riegle, Jr.

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