|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Massachusetts's 1st district
January 3, 1959 - February 8, 1991
|John W. Heselton|
|Member of the Massachusetts Senate|
|Born||November 9, 1921|
|Died||February 8, 1991 (aged 69)|
|Alma mater||Boston College|
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1942-1944|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Silvio Ottavio Conte (November 9, 1921 - February 8, 1991) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for 16 terms, representing the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts from January 3, 1959, until his death in Bethesda, Maryland in 1991. He strongly supported legislation to protect the environment, as well as federal funding of medical and scientific research.
Conte was born to parents who were Italian immigrants in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He attended local public schools, including Pittsfield Vocational High School, graduating in 1940. He served as a Construction Mechanic  in the United States Navy SeaBees  during World War II from 1942 to 1944.
After the war, Conte went on to college, graduating from Boston College and Boston College Law School under the G. I. Bill. He was a member of the Boston College Eagles football and basketball teams. He earned his law degree (LL.B.) in 1949 and passed the Massachusetts bar.
He married Corinne Duvall in 1948 and they had four children together.
Conte returned to Pittsfield and immediately turned his attention to politics. He was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1950, serving from 1951 to 1958.
He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1958, defeating James M. Burns, a professor at Williams College. Conte was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, a seat that he would keep for all of his long congressional career. He served as the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee until the time of his death.
Conte was effective in taking care of his district, which covered most of Western Massachusetts. He helped to win defense contracts for the General Electric plant in Pittsfield. An avid fisherman and environmentalist, he introduced legislation to bring back Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River and worked to protect other natural resources.
He supported federal funding of research, and secured funding for a polymer research center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As he was a passionate advocate for federal funded health research through the National Institutes of Health, the NIH continues to honor him today with grants for neurological research awarded in his name.
Conte never lost an election; he was the only member of Congress who did not have an opponent in the 1964 election. He is somewhat famous for wearing a pig mask in a 1983 press conference, as a protest against pork barrel spending.
In 1966, along with three Republican Senators and four other Republican Representatives, Conte signed a telegram sent to Georgia Governor Carl E. Sanders regarding the Georgia legislature's refusal to seat the recently elected Julian Bond in their state House of Representatives. This refusal, said the telegram, was "a dangerous attack on representative government. None of us agree with Mr. Bond's views on the Vietnam War; in fact we strongly repudiate these views. But unless otherwise determined by a court of law, which the Georgia Legislature is not, he is entitled to express them."
A member of the Republican Party, Conte was part of what was then its liberal northern tradition. Conte voted against U.S. involvement in the 1991 Gulf War. On social issues, Conte's record was more Conservative, also reflecting his Roman Catholic faith; for instance, he was opposed to abortion. He encouraged a generation of young activists whom he hired as staff. For instance, Betty Boothroyd worked for him as a legislative assistant between 1960 and 1962; she later became Speaker of the British House of Commons.
Congressman Conte died at age 69 of prostate cancer in Bethesda, Maryland on February 8, 1991. He is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in his home town of Pittsfield. More than 5,000 of his constituents waited in line in 5 °F (-15 °C) weather to attend his wake at tiny All Souls Church, his childhood church, in Pittsfield.
His funeral was attended by four U.S. Cabinet secretaries, 100 members of Congress, and the sitting Vice President of the United States, Dan Quayle. He was eulogized by long-time political friends Tip O'Neil (former U.S. Speaker of the House) and Senator Edward Kennedy.