Abraham Ribicoff dies – Today in History: February 22
Governor Ribicoff

Governor Ribicoff - Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library and Connecticut History Illustrated

On February 22, 1998, Abraham Ribicoff died. An American Democratic Party politician, Ribicoff served as Connecticut governor, a member of Congress and the United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to the John F. Kennedy administration.

Born in 1910 in New Britain to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland, Ribicoff attended local schools and, after graduation, worked in a New Britain buckle and zipper factory. Later, he attended New York University and then the University of Chicago where he received a law degree. Back in Connecticut, he practiced law and became involved in politics. Ribicoff served as a member of the state legislature from 1938 to 1942, was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1949 to 1953, served as the state’s 80th governor from 1955 to 1961 and was in President Kennedy’s cabinet in 1961 and 1962. He became a state senator in 1962 and served there until 1981.

In his public years, Ribicoff advocated for automobile safety and allied with Ralph Nader in creating the Motor Vehicle Highway Safety Act of 1966. In the years following his senate seat, he practiced law in New York City. He was, and remains, the only Jewish governor in Connecticut’s history.

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