BRATTLEBORO — Timothy James O’Connor Jr., the first modern Democrat to be elected speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives, died Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., at age 81.
He was born Dec. 13, 1936, in Brattleboro, son of Timothy J. and Agnes (Gilbo) O’Connor Sr.
He graduated from St. Michael High School in Brattleboro in 1954, College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., in 1958 and Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., in 1961, the same year he attended President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.
He married Martha Elizabeth Hannum of Putney on July 8, 1961, and last year celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary.
Admitted to the Vermont Bar Association on Nov. 10, 1961, he worked as a lawyer a half-century — and as a municipal court judge early in his career — until his retirement in 2011.
First elected to the state House of Representatives in 1968, he won election in 1975 as the first modern Democrat to serve as its speaker, even though Republicans held a slight majority of the 150-member chamber. He won 77 votes with a campaign seeking “cooperation rather than confrontation.”
“He is a skilled politician who has mastered legislative tactics,” the Brattleboro Reformer wrote 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.”
He was re-elected to two more speaker’s terms in 1977 and 1979 before leaving the Legislature in 1980.
Returning to Brattleboro, he served in a variety of volunteer capacities, including town moderator for more than two decades until stepping down in 2013.
Survivors include his wife; a son, Kevin O’Connor of Brattleboro; two daughters, Kate O’Connor of Brattleboro and Kerry (Robert) Amidon of Vernon; three grandchildren, Daniel, David and Jacob Amidon of Vernon; and a brother, W. Brian O’Connor of Amherst, Mass.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, at 1 p.m. at St. Michael Catholic Church in Brattleboro, with arrangements organized by Atamaniuk Funeral Home.
The family requests no flowers. Contributions may be made to the St. Brigid’s Kitchen renovation fund in care of St. Michael Catholic Church, 47 Walnut St., Brattleboro, VT 05301.