Philip Hart

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Philip Hart
Philip Hart (D-MI).jpg
United States Senator
from Michigan
In office
January 3, 1959 – December 26, 1976
Preceded by Charles E. Potter
Succeeded by Donald W. Riegle, Jr.
49th Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
In office
January 1, 1955 – January 1, 1959
Governor G. Mennen Williams
Preceded by Clarence A. Reid
Succeeded by John B. Swainson
Personal details
Born Philip Aloysius Hart
(1912-12-10)December 10, 1912
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Died December 26, 1976(1976-12-26) (aged 64)
Washington D.C.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jane "Janey" Hart
(1943-1976, his death)
Children 8
Alma mater Georgetown University
University of Michigan Law School
Profession Attorney
Awards Purple Heart
Military service
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1941–1946
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel
Unit 4th Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II

Philip Aloysius Hart (December 10, 1912 – December 26, 1976) was an American lawyer and politician. A Democrat, he served as a United States Senator from Michigan from 1959 until his death from cancer in Washington, D.C. in 1976. He was known as the "Conscience of the Senate."[1]

Early life and family

The grandson of Irish immigrants, Philip Hart was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, to Philip Aloysius and Ann (née Clyde) Hart.[2] His father was a banker who served as president of the Bryn Mawr Trust Company.[3] He received his early education at Waldron Academy, and then attended West Philadelphia Catholic High School.[4]

Hart studied at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he was the student body president and an award-winning debater.[5] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude from Georgetown in 1934.[2] In 1937, he received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School at Ann Arbor.[6]

Hart married Jane "Janey" Briggs Hart, the daughter of philanthropist and former owner of the Detroit Tigers Walter Briggs, in June 1943. Jane was an aviator of Mercury 13 fame and the couple met through her brother, who was Hart's roommate at Georgetown. They have four surviving sons and four daughters.[7] Hart's namesake, Philip Jr., died as a toddler and is buried in the family plot near his father.

Early career

Hart was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 1938, and became an associate in the Detroit firm of Beaumont, Smith & Harris.[2] During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel with the 4th Infantry Division (1941–1946).[6] He was wounded during the D-Day invasion of Normandy on Utah Beach when shrapnel from an exploding artillery shell damaged the inside of his right arm.[5] Following the war, he returned to Michigan and recovered at the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, where he became acquainted with fellow future U.S. Senators Bob Dole and Daniel Inouye.[5] He was decorated with the Bronze Star Medal with clusters, Arrowhead device, Purple Heart, and Croix de guerre.[2]

In 1946, Hart returned to Detroit and entered the general law practice of Monaghan, Hart & Crawmer.[2] From 1949 to 1951, he served as Michigan's Corporation Securities Commissioner.[6] In that position, his duties included the approving of stock issues of corporations in the state, licensing real estate brokers and builders, and collecting real estate taxes.[2] He was appointed state director of the Office of Price Stabilization in 1951, serving for only a year.[4] For his work in that office, he was named Outstanding Federal Administrator of the Year in 1952 by the Federal Business Association.[2] From 1952 to 1953, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.[6] He was later the legal adviser to Governor G. Mennen Williams, his former law school classmate, from 1953 to 1954.[4]

In 1954, Hart was the 49th Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, serving under Governor Williams until 1959.[6] His re-election in 1956 made him the first Democrat in Michigan to serve two terms as lieutenant governor.[2]

U.S. Senate

Hart was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1958, defeating one-term incumbent Republican Charles E. Potter by a 54% to 46% margin. He was reelected by overwhelming margins in 1964 and 1970. (His 1970 opponent was Lenore Romney.) There had been a call from conservatives in Michigan to recall Hart from office due to his stand on gun control and busing, with bumper stickers reading "Recall cures Hart attacks." The recall effort never got off the ground, because the United States Constitution does not authorize the recall of federal officials.

Hart remained in office until his death. He had decided not to run for reelection to a fourth term in 1976. That year, the Senate voted to name its new Senate office building after him: The Hart Senate Office Building. It would have been the first federal government building named after someone still living. The vote was 99 to 0, with Hart abstaining. Hart died of melanoma a few days later, just before his term would have expired and he would have retired. Donald W. Riegle, Jr., who had just been elected to the seat for the next term, was named to fill Hart's seat for the remaining days of the congressional session.


The third of the United States Senate office buildings, the Hart Senate Office Building, was officially dedicated and named for Senator Hart in 1987.

Other buildings named after Hart include the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in Battle Creek, Michigan; the Philip A. Hart Plaza along the Detroit International Riverfront; the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, Michigan; Hart Middle School in Rochester Hills, Michigan; and the Hart-Kennedy House in Lansing, the headquarters of the Michigan Democratic Party.

The Philip Hart Memorial Scholarship at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is a full scholarship established to carry on the ideals and goals of the Senator.[8]

The moot court room at Georgetown University Law Center is named in his honor.

In his bestselling book Inside Congress, author Ronald Kessler lauded Senator Hart as one of the few truly honorable men who served in the Senate. He pointed out an incident where the Senator refused even a box of chocolates as a gift from a lobbyist.

Hart is interred in St. Anne's Catholic Cemetery on Mackinac Island.


  1. "Senator Philip A. Hart Dies at 64; Was Called 'Conscience of Senate'". The New York Times. December 27, 1976.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Current Biography Yearbook. 6. New York: H.W. Wilson Company. 1971.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Madden, Richard L. (December 27, 1976). "Fighter for Civil Rights". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Philip A. Hart". West Catholic Alumni Association.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 O'Brien, Michael; Putman, Daniel (1998). Virtue and Politics: The Example of Philip Hart. 12. Public Affairs Quarterly.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "HART, Philip Aloysius, (1912 - 1976)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Finding aid for Jane Briggs Hart papers, ca. 1925-1996". University of Michigan.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. LSSU Foundation — Senator Philip A. Hart Memorial Scholarship

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Clarence A. Reid
Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
Succeeded by
John B. Swainson
United States Senate
Preceded by
Charles E. Potter
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Michigan
Served alongside: Patrick V. McNamara, Robert P. Griffin
Succeeded by
Donald W. Riegle, Jr.