The Governor of Massachusetts is the head of the executive branch of Massachusetts' state government and serves as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The current governor is Charlie Baker.

Constitutional role

Part of the Second, Chapter II, Section I, Article I, of the Massachusetts Constitution reads,

There shall be a supreme executive magistrate, who shall be styled, The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and whose title shall be – His Excellency.

The Governor of Massachusetts is the chief executive of the Commonwealth, and is supported by a number of subordinate officers. He, like most other state officers, senators, and representatives, was originally elected annually. In 1918 this was changed to a two-year term, and since 1966 the office of governor has carried a four-year term. The Governor of Massachusetts does not receive a mansion, other official residence, or housing allowance. Instead, he resides in his own private residence. The title "His Excellency" is a throwback to the royally appointed governors of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The first governor to use the title was Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont, in 1699; since he was an Earl, it was thought proper to call him "Your Excellency." The title was retained until 1742, when an order from King George II forbade its further use. However, the framers of the state constitution revived it because they found it fitting to dignify the governor with this title.

The governor also serves as commander-in-chief of the Commonwealth's armed forces.


According to the state constitution, whenever the chair of the governor is vacant, the lieutenant governor shall take over as acting governor. The first time this came into use was five years after the constitution's adoption in 1785, when Governor John Hancock resigned the post, leaving Lieutenant Governor Thomas Cushing as acting governor. Most recently, Jane Swift became acting governor upon the resignation of Paul Cellucci. Under this system, the lieutenant governor retains his or her position and title as "lieutenant governor" and becomes acting governor, not governor.

The lieutenant governor, when acting as governor, is referred to as "the lieutenant governor, acting governor" in official documents.[3]

The Massachusetts Constitution does not use the term "acting governor". The Massachusetts courts have found that the full authority of the office of the governor devolves to the lieutenant governor upon vacancy in the office of governor, i.e., there is no circumstance short of death, resignation, or impeachment that would relieve the acting governor from the full gubernatorial responsibilities.

When the constitution was first adopted, the Governor's Council was charged with acting as governor in the event that both the governorship and lieutenant governorship were vacant. This occurred in 1799 when Governor Increase Sumner died in office on June 7, 1799, leaving Lieutenant Governor Moses Gill as acting governor. Acting Governor Gill never received a lieutenant and died on May 20, 1800, between that year's election and the inauguration of Governor-elect Caleb Strong. The Governor's Council served as the executive for ten days; the council's chair, Thomas Dawes was at no point named governor or acting governor.

Article LV of the Constitution, enacted in 1918, created a new line of succession:

When the governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the office of governor remains vacant for the rest of the 4-year term. The lieutenant governor does not succeed but only discharges powers and duties as acting governor. However, if a vacancy in the office of governor continues for six months, and the six months expire more than five months before the next regular biennial state election midway through the governor's term, a special election is held at that time to fill the vacancy for the balance of the unexpired 4-year term.[197]


The governor has a 10-person cabinet, each of whom oversees a portion of the government under direct administration (as opposed to independent executive agencies). See Government of Massachusetts for a complete listing.


The front doors of the state house are only opened when a governor leaves office or a head of state comes to visit the State House, or for the return of flags from Massachusetts regiments at the end of wars. The tradition of the ceremonial door originated when departing Governor Benjamin Butler kicked open the front door and walked out by himself in 1884.

Incoming governors usually choose at least one past governor's portrait to hang in their office.

Immediately before being sworn into office, the governor-elect receives four symbols from the departing governor: the ceremonial pewter "Key" for the governor's office door, the Butler Bible, the "Gavel", and a two-volume set of the Massachusetts General Statutes with a personal note from the departing governor to his/her successor added to the back of the text. The governor-elect is then escorted by the sergeant-at-arms to the House Chamber and sworn in by the senate president before a joint session of the House and Senate.[5]

Lone walk

Upon completion of their term, the departing governor takes a "lone walk" down the Grand Staircase, through the House of Flags, into Doric Hall, out the central doors and down the steps of the Massachusetts State House. The governor then crosses the street into Boston Common, thereby symbolically rejoining the Commonwealth as a private citizen. Benjamin Butler started the tradition in 1884.[6] Some walks have been modified with some past governors having their wives, friends or staff accompany them.[7] A 19-gun salute is offered during the walk, and frequently the steps are lined by the outgoing governor's friends and supporters.[8]

In January 1991, outgoing Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy, the first woman elected to statewide office in Massachusetts, walked down the stairs before Governor Michael Dukakis. In a break from tradition, the January 2007 inauguration of Governor Deval Patrick took place the day after outgoing Governor Mitt Romney took the lone walk down the front steps.[8]

Governor's residence

Despite several proposals for establishing an official residence for the Governor of Massachusetts, including the Endicott Estate which was once acquired for the purpose, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not have a governor's mansion.

In 1955, Governor Foster Furcolo turned down a proposal to establish the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury, built by royal Governor William Shirley, as the official residence.[9]

At one time, Governor John A. Volpe accepted the donation of the Endicott Estate in Dedham from the heirs of Henry Bradford Endicott. He intended to renovate the 19th-century mansion into a splendid governor's residence.[10] After Volpe resigned to become secretary of transportation in the Nixon Administration, the plan was aborted by his successor in consideration of budgetary constraints and because the location was considered too far from the seat of power, the State House in Boston.

Prior to their early-20th century demolitions, the Province House and the Hancock Manor[10] were also proposed as official residences.

Since the governor has no official residence, the expression "corner office," rather than "governor's mansion," is commonly used in the press as a metonym for the office of governor.

List of governors

The seal and flag of the Governor of Massachusetts

Since 1780, 65 people have been elected governor, six to non-consecutive terms, and seven lieutenant governors have acted as governor without subsequently being elected governor. Prior to 1918 constitutional reforms, both the governor's office and that of lieutenant governor were vacant on one occasion, when the state was governed by the Governor's Council.

Colonial Massachusetts

The colonial history of Massachusetts begins with the founding first of the Plymouth Colony in 1620, and then the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628. The Dominion of New England combined these and other New England colonies into a single unit in 1686, but collapsed in 1689. In 1692 the Province of Massachusetts Bay was established, merging Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, which then included the territory of present-day Maine.

Colonial governors of Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colony were elected annually by a limited subset of the male population (known as freemen), while Dominion officials and those of the 1692 province were appointed by the British crown. In 1774 General Thomas Gage became the last royally appointed governor of Massachusetts. He was recalled to England after the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775, by which time the Massachusetts Provincial Congress exercised de facto control of Massachusetts territory outside British-occupied Boston. Between 1775 and the establishment of the Massachusetts State Constitution in 1780 the state was governed by the provincial congress and an executive council.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1780–present

In the table below, acting governors are denoted in the leftmost column by the letter "A", and are not counted as actual governors. The longest-serving governor was Michael Dukakis, who served twelve years in office, although they were not all consecutive. The longest period of uninterrupted service by any governor was nine years, by Levi Lincoln Jr. The shortest service period by an elected governor was one year, achieved by several 19th century governors. Increase Sumner, elected by a landslide to a third consecutive term in 1799, was on his deathbed and died not long after taking the oath of office; this represents the shortest part of an individual term served by a governor. Sumner was one of four governors to die in office; seven governors resigned, most of them to assume another office.

Political partyNumber of governors
Know Nothing1
National Republican1
No party affiliation6
#GovernorPartyYearsLt. governorElectoral history
1 John HancockNoneOctober 25, 1780 –
February 17, 1785
Thomas Cushing
Resigned due to claimed illness (recurring gout).
A Thomas CushingFebruary 17, 1785 –
May 27, 1785
Acted as governor for the remainder of Hancock's term;
Lost election in his own right
2 James BowdoinMay 27, 1785 –
May 30, 1787
Lost re-election
3 John HancockMay 30, 1787 –
October 8, 1793
Benjamin Lincoln
Samuel Adams
4 Samuel AdamsOctober 8, 1793 –
June 2, 1797
Acted as governor for the remainder of Hancock's term;
Elected and re-elected in his own right until retirement
Moses Gill
5 Increase SumnerFederalistJune 2, 1797 –
June 7, 1799
A Moses GillNoneJune 7, 1799 –
May 20, 1800
Acted as governor for most of the remainder of Sumner's term;
Died ten days before its end
A Governor's CouncilMay 20, 1800 –
May 30, 1800
NoneThe council was headed by Thomas Dawes; this is the only time both the governorship and the lieutenant governorship were vacant.
6 Caleb StrongFederalistMay 30, 1800 –
May 29, 1807
Samuel Phillips Jr.
Lost re-election
Edward Robbins
7 James SullivanDemocratic-
May 29, 1807 –
December 10, 1808
Levi Lincoln Sr.Died
A Levi Lincoln Sr.Democratic-
December 10, 1808 –
May 1, 1809
Acted as governor for the remainder of Sullivan's term;
Lost election in his own right
8 Christopher GoreFederalistMay 1, 1809 –
June 10, 1810
David CobbLost re-election
9 Elbridge GerryDemocratic-
June 10, 1810 –
March 4, 1812
William GrayLost re-election
10 Caleb StrongFederalistMarch 4, 1812 –
May 30, 1816
William Phillips Jr.Retired
11 John BrooksFederalistMay 30, 1816 –
May 31, 1823
12 William EustisDemocratic-
May 31, 1823 –
February 6, 1825
Levi Lincoln Jr.
Marcus Morton
A Marcus MortonDemocratic-
February 6, 1825 –
May 26, 1825
Acted as governor for the remainder of Eustis's term;
13 Levi Lincoln Jr.NationalRepublicanMay 26, 1825 –
January 9, 1834
Thomas L. Winthrop
14 John DavisWhigJanuary 9, 1834 –
March 1, 1835
Samuel Turell ArmstrongResigned to become US Senator
A Samuel Turell ArmstrongWhigMarch 1, 1835 –
January 13, 1836
Acted as governor for the remainder of Davis's term;
Lost nomination; lost election as independent
15 Edward EverettWhigJanuary 13, 1836 –
January 18, 1840
George HullLost re-election
16 Marcus MortonDemocraticJanuary 18, 1840 –
January 7, 1841
Lost re-election
17 John DavisWhigJanuary 7, 1841 –
January 17, 1843
Lost re-election
18 Marcus MortonDemocraticJanuary 17, 1843 –
January 9, 1844
Henry H. ChildsLost re-election
19 George N. BriggsWhigJanuary 9, 1844 –
January 11, 1851
John Reed Jr.Lost re-election
20 George S. BoutwellDemocraticJanuary 11, 1851 –
January 14, 1853
Henry W. CushmanRetired
21 John H. CliffordWhigJanuary 14, 1853 –
January 12, 1854
Elisha HuntingtonRetired
22 Emory WashburnWhigJanuary 12, 1854 –
January 4, 1855
William C. PlunkettLost re-election
23 Henry GardnerKnow-NothingJanuary 4, 1855 –
January 7, 1858
Simon Brown
Lost re-election
Henry W. Benchley
24 Nathaniel Prentice BanksRepublicanJanuary 7, 1858 –
January 3, 1861
Eliphalet TraskRetired to run for president
25 John Albion AndrewRepublicanJanuary 3, 1861 –
January 4, 1866
John Z. Goodrich
John Nesmith
Joel Hayden
26 Alexander H. BullockRepublicanJanuary 4, 1866 –
January 7, 1869
William ClaflinRetired
27 William ClaflinRepublicanJanuary 7, 1869 –
January 4, 1872
Joseph Tucker
28 William B. WashburnRepublicanJanuary 4, 1872 –
April 29, 1874
Resigned to become US Senator
Thomas Talbot
A Thomas TalbotRepublicanApril 29, 1874 –
January 7, 1875
Acted as governor for the remainder of Washburn's term;
Lost election in his own right
29 William GastonDemocraticJanuary 7, 1875 –
January 6, 1876
Horatio G. KnightLost re-election
30 Alexander H. RiceRepublicanJanuary 6, 1876 –
January 2, 1879
31 Thomas TalbotRepublicanJanuary 2, 1879 –
January 8, 1880
John Davis LongRetired
32 John Davis LongRepublicanJanuary 8, 1880 –
January 4, 1883
Byron WestonRetired
33 Benjamin F. ButlerDemocraticJanuary 4, 1883 –
January 3, 1884
Oliver AmesLost re-election
34 George D. RobinsonRepublicanJanuary 3, 1884 –
January 6, 1887
35 Oliver AmesRepublicanJanuary 6, 1887 –
January 7, 1890
John Q. A. BrackettRetired
36 John Q. A. BrackettRepublicanJanuary 7, 1890 –
January 8, 1891
William H. Haile
Lost re-election
37 William E. RussellDemocraticJanuary 8, 1891 –
January 4, 1894
Roger Wolcott
38 Frederic T. GreenhalgeRepublicanJanuary 4, 1894 –
March 5, 1896
39 Roger WolcottRepublicanMarch 5, 1896 –
January 4, 1900
Acted as governor for the remainder of Greenhalge's term;
Elected and re-elected in own right until retirement
Winthrop Murray Crane
40 Winthrop Murray CraneRepublicanJanuary 4, 1900 –
January 8, 1903
John L. BatesRetired
41 John L. BatesRepublicanJanuary 8, 1903 –
January 5, 1905
Curtis Guild Jr.Retired
42 William L. DouglasDemocraticJanuary 5, 1905 –
January 4, 1906
43 Curtis Guild Jr.RepublicanJanuary 4, 1906 –
January 7, 1909
Eben Sumner DraperRetired
44 Eben Sumner DraperRepublicanJanuary 7, 1909 –
January 5, 1911
Louis A. FrothinghamLost re-election
45 Eugene Noble FossDemocraticJanuary 5, 1911 –
January 8, 1914
Louis A. Frothingham
Did not stand for renomination as Democrat; defeated as independent in general election
Robert Luce
David I. Walsh
46 David I. WalshDemocraticJanuary 8, 1914 –
January 6, 1916
Edward P. Barry
Lost re-election
Grafton D. Cushing
47 Samuel W. McCallRepublicanJanuary 6, 1916 –
January 2, 1919
Calvin CoolidgeRetired
48 Calvin CoolidgeRepublicanJanuary 2, 1919 –
January 6, 1921
Channing H. CoxRetired to run successfully for U.S. Vice President
49 Channing H. CoxRepublicanJanuary 6, 1921 –
January 8, 1925
Alvan T. FullerElected in 1920 (first two-year term);
Re-elected in 1922;
50 Alvan T. FullerRepublicanJanuary 8, 1925 –
January 3, 1929
Frank G. AllenRetired
51 Frank G. AllenRepublicanJanuary 3, 1929 –
January 8, 1931
William S. YoungmanLost re-election
52 Joseph B. ElyDemocraticJanuary 8, 1931 –
January 3, 1935
William S. Youngman
Gaspar G. Bacon
53 James Michael CurleyDemocraticJanuary 3, 1935 –
January 7, 1937
Joseph L. HurleyRetired to run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate
54 Charles F. HurleyDemocraticJanuary 7, 1937 –
January 5, 1939
Francis E. KellyLost renomination
55 Leverett SaltonstallRepublicanJanuary 5, 1939 –
January 3, 1945
Horace T. CahillRetired to run successfully for U.S. Senate
56 Maurice J. TobinDemocraticJanuary 3, 1945 –
January 2, 1947
Robert F. BradfordLost re-election
57 Robert F. BradfordRepublicanJanuary 2, 1947 –
January 6, 1949
Arthur W. CoolidgeElected in 1946;
Lost re-election
58 Paul A. DeverDemocraticJanuary 6, 1949 –
January 8, 1953
Charles F. SullivanElected in 1948;
Re-elected in 1950;
Lost re-election
59 Christian A. HerterRepublicanJanuary 8, 1953 –
January 3, 1957
Sumner G. WhittierElected in 1952;
Re-elected in 1954;
60 Foster FurcoloDemocraticJanuary 3, 1957 –
January 5, 1961
Robert F. Murphy
Elected in 1956;
Re-elected in 1958;
Retired to run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate
61 John VolpeRepublicanJanuary 5, 1961 –
January 3, 1963
Edward F. McLaughlin Jr.Elected in 1960;
Lost re-election
62 Endicott PeabodyDemocraticJanuary 3, 1963 –
January 7, 1965
Francis BellottiElected in 1962;
Lost renomination
63 John VolpeRepublicanJanuary 7, 1965 –
January 22, 1969
Elliot Richardson
Elected in 1964;
Re-elected in 1966 (first four-year term);
Resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Francis Sargent
64 Francis SargentRepublicanJanuary 22, 1969 –
January 2, 1975
Acted as governor for the remainder of Volpe's term;
elected in own right in 1970;
Lost re-election
Donald Dwight
65 Michael DukakisDemocraticJanuary 2, 1975 –
January 4, 1979
Thomas P. O'Neill IIIElected in 1974;
Lost renomination
66 Edward J. KingDemocraticJanuary 4, 1979 –
January 6, 1983
Elected in 1978;
Lost renomination
67 Michael DukakisDemocraticJanuary 6, 1983 –
January 3, 1991
John Kerry
Elected in 1982;
Elected in 1986;
Evelyn Murphy
68 Bill WeldRepublicanJanuary 3, 1991 –
July 29, 1997
Paul Cellucci
Elected in 1990;
Re-elected in 1994;
Resigned when nominated U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, but was not confirmed to the office.
Paul CellucciRepublicanJuly 29, 1997 –
April 10, 2001
Acted as governor for the remainder of Weld's term;
elected in own right in 1998;
Resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to Canada
Jane Swift
A Jane SwiftRepublicanApril 10, 2001 –
January 2, 2003
Acted as governor for the remainder of Cellucci's term;
70 Mitt RomneyRepublicanJanuary 2, 2003 –
January 4, 2007
Kerry HealeyElected in 2002;
71 Deval PatrickDemocraticJanuary 4, 2007 –
January 8, 2015
Tim Murray
Elected in 2006;
Re-elected in 2010;
72 Charlie BakerRepublicanJanuary 8, 2015 –
Karyn PolitoElected in 2014

Other high offices held

This is a table of notable government offices held by governors. All representatives and senators mentioned represented Massachusetts.

GovernorGubernatorial termU.S. CongressOther offices held
John Hancock1787–1793
Delegate to the Continental Congress (including twice as President of the Continental Congress)
Thomas Cushing1785 (acting)Delegate to the Continental Congress
Samuel Adams1793–1797Delegate to the Continental Congress
Caleb Strong1800–1807
Green tickYDelegate to the Continental Congress
James Sullivan1807–1808Delegate to the Continental Congress, but did not attend
Levi Lincoln Sr.1808–1809 (acting)Green tickYU.S. Attorney General
Christopher Gore1813–1816Green tickY
Elbridge Gerry1810–1812Green tickYDelegate to the Continental Congress, Co-commissioner to France, Vice President of the United States
William Eustis1823–1825Green tickYAmbassador to the Netherlands, U.S. Secretary of War
Marcus Morton1825 (acting)
Green tickY
Levi Lincoln Jr.1825–1834Green tickY
John Davis1834–1835
Green tickYGreen tickY
Edward Everett1836–1840Green tickYGreen tickYAmbassador to Great Britain, U.S. Secretary of State
George N. Briggs1844–1851Green tickY
George S. Boutwell1851–1853Green tickYGreen tickYU.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Nathaniel Prentice Banks1858–1861Green tickYSpeaker of the House
William B. Washburn1874–1874Green tickYGreen tickY
Alexander H. Rice1876–1879Green tickY
John Davis Long1880–1883Green tickYU.S. Secretary of the Navy
Benjamin Franklin Butler1883–1884Green tickY
George D. Robinson1884–1887Green tickY
Frederic T. Greenhalge1894–1896Green tickY
Winthrop Murray Crane1900–1903Green tickY
Curtis Guild Jr.1906–1909U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Empire
Eugene Noble Foss1911–1914Green tickY
David I. Walsh1914–1916Green tickY
Samuel W. McCall1916–1919Green tickY
Calvin Coolidge1919–1921Vice President of the United States, President of the United States
Alvan T. Fuller1925–1929Green tickY
James Michael Curley1935–1937Green tickYMayor of Boston
Leverett Saltonstall1939–1945Green tickYSpeaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Maurice J. Tobin1945–1947Mayor of Boston, U.S. Secretary of Labor
Christian A. Herter1953–1957Green tickYU.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Trade Representative
Foster Furcolo1957–1961Green tickYTreasurer and Receiver General of Massachusetts
John A. Volpe1961–1963
U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ambassador to Italy
Paul Cellucci1997–2001Ambassador to Canada
  1. Resigned as governor to take office

Living former governors

As of January 2017, there are five former governors or acting governors of Massachusetts who are still alive, the oldest being Michael Dukakis (served 1975–1979 and 1983–1991, born 1933). The most recent governor of Massachusetts to have died was Paul Cellucci (served 1997–1999 [acting] and 1999–2001, born 1948), on June 8, 2013.[2]

GovernorGubernatorial termDate of birth (and age)
Michael Dukakis1975–1979
(1933-11-03) November 3, 1933
William F. Weld1991–1997(1945-07-31) July 31, 1945
Jane Swift2001–2003 (acting)(1965-02-24) February 24, 1965
Mitt Romney2003–2007(1947-03-12) March 12, 1947
Deval Patrick2007–2015(1956-07-31) July 31, 1956

See also