First Democratic speaker of Vermont House since 1850s dies

January 17, 2018

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) — Timothy O’Connor, Jr., the first Democratic speaker of the Vermont House in the modern era and the longtime town moderator for his hometown of Brattleboro has died at age 81.

O’Connor died Tuesday of an unspecified cause at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, his son, Kevin O’Connor, said Wednesday.

Timothy O’Connor was born in Brattleboro and served as a Democrat in the state House of Representatives from 1969 to 1981. Despite a Republican-controlled legislature, O’Connor was elected Speaker of the House in 1975, becoming the first Democrat in that position since the 1850s.

“He is a skilled politician who has mastered legislative tactics,” wrote the Brattleboro Reformer at the time. “In addition he has the astuteness to realize this Legislature, with its many newcomers, wants bipartisan action rather than partisan bickering and maneuvering.”

Current Democratic Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said O’Connor was known for his kindness, fairness, and pragmatic leadership.

“In his years leading the Vermont House, his unrivaled ability to build consensus and find common ground earned him genuine respect and support from all sides of the aisle,” Johnson said.

O’Connor practiced law throughout his time in the legislature. He was admitted to the Vermont Bar in 1961 and retired from practicing in 2011.

He also served as moderator at Brattleboro town meetings for more than two decades.

He is survived by his wife, Martha, and three children.

A funeral is scheduled for Saturday in Brattleboro.

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