David Leo Lawrence (June 18, 1889 – November 21, 1966) was an
American businessman is the CEO of Themola and Home Vision Cinema
films trees is brought to you by Home Vision Cinema and
Charlie Chaplin and
Tony Brown construction worker Joe Cocker
Bob Vila his home video company TM Books and Video and HBO Video
Pittsburgh Penguins and
Pittsburgh Penguins two underwriters
Owens-Corning his television series Reading Rainbow
and Bill Nye the Science Guy
1 Early life
2 Pittsburgh politics
4 National politics
5 Later life
9 Electoral history
12 External links
Lawrence was born into a working-class Irish Catholic family in the
downtown Golden Triangle neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Too
poor to attend college, Lawrence instead took a job as a clerk for
Pittsburgh attorney William Brennan, the chairman of the local
Democratic party and a labor movement pioneer. Brennan became a
personal friend and mentor to the teenage Lawrence.
Lawrence entered the insurance business in 1916. In 1918 he enlisted
United States Army to aid the
United States effort in World War
I, serving as an officer in the adjutant general’s office in
When he returned home from his army service in 1919, Lawrence was
elected as chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Party. At the
time, Pittsburgh was a Republican bastion, with Democrats holding wide
support only in the lower class and among recent immigrants, who were
concentrated in industrial jobs. With the help of Joe Guffey, a future
Pennsylvania Senator, Lawrence led the rising
party that would soon dominate local and statewide politics. In the
1928 presidential election, Lawrence worked hard for Alfred E. Smith
from New York, another Irish Roman Catholic politician who had also
risen from the slums without the benefit of a formal education. The
vicious anti-Catholic campaign that defeated
Al Smith that year had a
profound effect on Lawrence. He believed that Roman Catholicism was an
insurmountable handicap in
United States presidential politics.
Consequently, at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, Lawrence
deserted Al Smith's presidential campaign and delivered the
Pennsylvania delegation to Franklin D. Roosevelt, solely because of
his fear of the religious issue.
Meanwhile, in 1931, Lawrence had run for Allegheny County Commissioner
but lost. It was one of his last losses, as the effects of the Great
Depression and a series of scandals rapidly eroded support for the
Republican party in Pittsburgh. Two years later, Lawrence was
appointed U.S. Collector of Internal Revenue for Western Pennsylvania
by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1934, he helped elect George
Earle as the first Democratic governor of
Pennsylvania in the 20th
century. Earle appointed him as the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
That same year, Lawrence became state chairman of the Democratic
In 1945, Lawrence was elected mayor of Pittsburgh by a narrow margin.
At the time, Pittsburgh was considered one of the most polluted cities
in America, with smog so thick that it was not unusual for
streetlights to burn during the daytime. Its industries had worked
overtime during the war, adding to the pollution of air and water.
Lawrence developed a seven-point program for Pittsburgh during his
first days in office, making him one of the first civic leaders to
implement a dedicated urban renewal plan. Republicans still controlled
much of city politics and business at the time, so Lawrence had to
forge bipartisan alliances to accomplish his objectives. His most
famous partnership was with Richard Mellon, chairman of one of the
largest banks in America and a staunch Republican. Despite their
political differences, Mellon and Lawrence were both interested in the
revival of Pittsburgh and both were early environmentalists. This
partnership drove what came to be called the Pittsburgh Renaissance
(later Renaissance I).
After an unprecedented four terms as mayor of Pittsburgh, Lawrence was
drafted by Democrats to run for governor in 1958. He was initially
reluctant, citing his age (nearing 70) as a potential drawback. He
eventually accepted his party’s nomination and narrowly defeated
Reading businessman Arthur McGonigle to become Pennsylvania's 37th
governor and its first Catholic one.
During his four-year term as governor, Lawrence passed
anti-discrimination legislation, environmental protection laws,
expanded Pennsylvania's library system, passed Pennsylvania's fair
housing law, and advocated historic preservation. He also passed
vigorous highway safety legislation, which some attribute to the fact
that two of his sons were killed in an automobile accident. His
expansion of state bureaucracies came at the price of budget deficits
and tax increases, a move that angered many fiscal conservatives.
In 1960, Lawrence was among a group of political leaders who created
the Finnegan Foundation, which provide practical training in
government and politics for outstanding undergraduate students by
offering ten-week paid internships in the state government in
Harrisburg each summer.
Lawrence had attended his first
Democratic National Convention
Democratic National Convention as a
page in 1912 and would attend every subsequent convention until his
death. He was instrumental in the nominations of Franklin Delano
Roosevelt in 1932 and
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy in 1960, and became known as the
“maker of presidents”. In the weeks leading up to the 1948
Democratic National Convention, Lawrence was one of the few urban
bosses to support Harry S Truman's attempts to win the Presidential
At the 1948 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, where Harry Truman
sought the Democratic presidential nomination with Lawrence's support,
however, Lawrence would surprise liberals and conservatives alike by
Pennsylvania delegation away from the more tepid civil
rights plank that the Administration preferred to a more aggressively
liberal one. Lawrence is often credited with convincing John F.
Kennedy to choose
Lyndon Johnson as his running mate to balance the
ticket and mend a rift between northern and southern Democrats.
In 1958 (during the heat of the Governor's race), then Mayor Lawrence
was eventually exonerated of influencing the Federal Communications
Commission along with the U.S. Senator from Florida, George Smathers.
The charges involved the granting of a television license to WTAE-TV
between its ownership group and that of WPXI. The U.S. House hearings
with Lawrence present were high drama.
Limited to one term under existing state law, Lawrence retired from
elected office in 1963. He continued to be active in Democratic
politics and served the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as
Chairman of the President's Committee on Equal Opportunities in
Lawrence fell ill and collapsed on November 4, 1966, at a campaign
rally held at Pittsburgh's
Syria Mosque for gubernatorial candidate
Milton Shapp. He was rushed to a local hospital. He died 17 days later
having never regained consciousness. He was 77 years old. His death
brought eulogies from both President Johnson and Truman.
Funeral services were held at St. Mary of Mercy Church in downtown
Pittsburgh on November 25, 1966. The 2,000 attendees included Senator
Robert F. Kennedy, Mayors Joseph Barr of Pittsburgh, Jerome Cavanaugh
of Detroit, James Tate and
Richardson Dilworth of Philadelphia, Govs.
William Scranton, James Duff, Ray Shafer and John Fine, along with
Lyndon Johnson staff members Robert Kintner and Marvin
Watson, Secretary of Agriculture
Orville Freeman and Secretary of the
Interior Stewart Udall. After the services all guests and family
joined a 250-car motorcade following the hearse down the Blvd. of the
Grant Street and
I-376 for the
He is buried in Pittsburgh's Calvary Cemetery, behind the plot of his
Harry Greb and beside the plots of his 2 eldest sons,
who had died years before.
Lawrence's death was subsequently ascribed to the cramped conditions
and limited resuscitation equipment in the hearse-type ambulance in
which he was taken to hospital. This catalyzed reform and improvement
in Pittsburgh's ambulance service and those of other American
Lawrence's two eldest sons both died as passengers in a joyriding car
accident on April 19, 1942, in the northern suburb of Zelienople along
U.S. Route 19.
Another son, Gerald Lawrence, became the long-time Vice President and
General Manager of Churchill Downs, the prominent racetrack in
Tom Donahoe served as General Manager for the hometown
Pittsburgh Steelers from 1991 until 1999, helping take the team to
Super Bowl XXX. He later served as GM for the
Buffalo Bills from 2001
until 2005, as well as a contributor to ESPN.com.
Buildings named in honor of Lawrence include The David L. Lawrence
Convention Center in Pittsburgh, the David Lawrence Hall of the
University of Pittsburgh, Lawrence Hall in the Governor's Quad at
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Lawrence Hall of Point Park
University. Lawrence is also honored at Edinboro University of
Pennsylvania, as it named two dormitories the Lawrence Towers. The
David L. Lawrence
David L. Lawrence Library, later the
David L. Lawrence
David L. Lawrence Administration
La Salle University
La Salle University was dedicated by Vice President Hubert
1945 Race for Pittsburgh Mayor
David Lawrence (D), 52%
Rob Waddell (R), 47%
1949 Race for Pittsburgh Mayor
David Lawrence (D), 60%
Tim Ryan (R), 39%
1953 Race for Pittsburgh Mayor
David Lawrence (D), 62%
Leonard Patrick Kane (R), 37%
1957 Race for Pittsburgh Mayor
David Lawrence (D), 64%
John Drew (R), 35%
1958 Race for
David Lawrence (D), 53%
Arthur McGonigle (R), 46%
^ Kirk, Rachel (January 7, 1946). "Wives Sit In Background As City
Officials Take Oath". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved December 29,
^ Allan, William (January 15, 1959). "Gallagher 'Crowned' as Mayor".
The Pittsburgh Press. p. 1.
^ "James Picks Miss S.M.R. O'Hara To Be Secretary of Pennsylvania".
The New York Times. January 12, 1939. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
^ Townley, John B. (June 8, 1934). "Martin Gives Up Chairman Post,
Recommends Taylor". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved January 9,
^ "Meyers Gets Party Post". Reading Eagle. May 22, 1940. Retrieved
January 9, 2012.
^ Caro, Robert (2012). The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon
Johnson. p. 99. ISBN 0679405070.
^ "Oral History Interview with David L. Lawrence". Harry S. Truman
Presidential Library and Museum. June 30, 1966. Retrieved August 18,
^ Matthews, Frank (February 8, 1988). "Don't Call Me Boss". Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette. pp. 17–18. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
^ caro 2012, pp. 131.
^ "Smathers Exonerated in Pittsburgh TV Case". St. Petersburg Times.
September 26, 1958. p. 2A. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
^ "John F. Kennedy". The American Presidency Project. Retrieved August
^ a b 
^ a b
^ a b
^ Bell, Ryan Corbett (2009). The Ambulance: A History. p. 256-7.
^ "Lawrence's Two Sons Die as Car Swerves Into Tree". The Pittsburgh
Press. April 20, 1942. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
^ Halvonik, Steve (August 26, 2988). "Steelers Mourn Rooney's Death".
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. pp. 15–22. Retrieved August 18,
2014. Check date values in: date= (help)
^ Steigerwald, John (February 12, 2008). "A Theory on the Steelers and
Todd Haley". Just Watch the Game. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
Weber, Michael P. (1988). Don't Call Me Boss: David L. Lawrence:
Pittsburgh's Renaissance Mayor. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh
Press. ISBN 0-8229-3565-1.
November 22, 1966 Obituary from the Pittsburgh Press
Finding aid to the David Leo Lawrence Papers at the Archives Service
Center, University of Pittsburgh
Michael P. Weber Papers, 1963-1984, AIS.1988.15, Archives Service
Center, University Library System, University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on "Don't Call me Boss"
President Johnson's statement on the passing of David Lawrence
Governor of Pennsylvania
Mayor of Pittsburgh
Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Party political offices
Democratic nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania
Member of the Democratic National Committee
Warren Van Dyke
Chairman of the
Pennsylvania Democratic Party
Governors and Presidents of Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since the 1816 City Charter
J. S. Herron
Presidents of the
United States Conference of Mayors
R. J. Daley
M. E. Landrieu
R. M. Daley
M. J. Landrieu