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John Pastore, statesman, dies at 93

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NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — John O. Pastore, a former Rhode Island governor and U.S. senator who made his mark with a gift for oratory, died Saturday of kidney failure. He was 93.

Pastore, a Democrat, had been in a North Kingstown nursing home for treatment of Parkinson's Disease.

The son of Italian immigrants, Pastore became one of the most respected senators ever produced by Rhode Island. His political career included four years as the state's governor and 25 years in the Senate — the first Italian-American to serve in either role.

A little man with a booming voice, Pastore's speaking skills got national attention when he delivered the keynote address at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Pastore launched a scathing attack on Lyndon Johnson's Republican rival, Sen. Barry Goldwater, and his fire and eloquence earned him a standing ovation.

Pastore rose from humble beginnings. His parents raised five children in a four-room tenement apartment on Providence's Federal Hill, the city's working-class "Little Italy." When he was 9, his father, a tailor, died of heart failure, and his mother got a job as a seamstress to support the family.

After graduating from high school, Pastore worked as a clerk at a Rhode Island utility company. But it was law that intrigued him, so he began attending classes two nights a week at the Providence YMCA conducted by Boston's Northeastern University. He eventually graduated from Northeastern with a bachelor of laws degree.

Pastore was elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1934, was re-elected two years later and served as the state's assistant attorney general from 1937-38 and 1940-44.

In 1944 he was elected lieutenant governor, and the following year, at age 36, he became governor when J. Howard McGrath resigned.

Pastore was re-elected governor twice before winning a Senate seat in 1950. He retired in 1976.

Pastore is survived by his wife, Elena (Caito) Pastore, son John Jr. Pastore, and daughters Francesca Pastore and Louis M. Harbourt.