Endicott Peabody, The Man With the Thickest Skin in New England

Endicott Peabody failed far more times than he succeeded, but he always lost like a gentleman.

Gov. Endicott Peabody

Gov. Endicott Peabody

Known as ‘Chub,’ he ran for Massachusetts attorney general in 1956 and lost. He ran again in 1958 and lost. In 1960 he ran for governor of Massachusetts. He lost. In 1966 he ran for U.S. Senate, and lost. In 1972, he ran in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary for vice president of the United States. He lost. Then he moved to Hollis, N.H., in 1983 and ran for U.S. Senate three years later. You know what happened. He lost again in 1992 when he ran for the New Hampshire state legislature.

He did win his bid for governor of Massachusetts in 1962 by fewer than 10,000 votes, but he lost his bid for re-election two years later.

Endicott Peabody was born in Lawrence, Mass., on Feb. 15, 1920, with an impeccable old New England pedigree. His ancestor John Endecott was a colonial governor of Massachusetts. His grandfather Endicott Peabody founded the Groton School and officiated at the wedding of one of his pupils, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Chub’s father Malcolm was an Episcopal bishop.

As you would expect, Chub attended the Groton School and then Harvard, where he was an All-American football player known as ’The Baby-Faced Assassin.’ During World War II he joined the U.S. Navy and wore his letter sweater when boarding captured vessels. On April 6, 1945, off the coast of Korea, Peabody and a boarding party shot a hole through the sail of a schooner and hopped aboard. The patrol’s report said, “The dignity of the boarding party was considerably shaken when Lt. Peabody landed in a pile of fish.”

Gov. Endicott Peabody at a groundbreaking with Mayor Collins and Cardinal Cushing.  Photo courtesy Boston Public Library.

Gov. Endicott Peabody at a groundbreaking with Mayor Collins and Cardinal Cushing. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library.

In 1944 he married Barbara Welch Gibbons, and they had three children.

After the war he graduated from Harvard Law School and soon began his eccentric foray into politics. He was a rare candidate, a Democratic Protestant Yankee – and a model of decorum. He first won a seat on the Massachusetts Executive Council in 1955. After losing his bid for reelection as governor he ran a gentlemanly campaign in 1966 against Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican, for the U.S. Senate. He seemed  pleased Brooke beat him.

His one big victory for governor in 1962 was helped along by the popularity of President John F. Kennedy in Massachusetts, who endorsed him, and the candidacy of Edward M. Kennedy for U.S. Senate. Still, Chub Peabody only squeaked by.

As governor he pushed for laws against housing discrimination and for drug addiction treatment. He strongly opposed the death penalty and vowed he wouldn’t sign a death warrant even for the Boston Strangler, then at large. On April 1, 1964, the governor’s 72-year-old mother, Mary Parkman Peabody, was arrested for participating in a civil rights protest at a segregated restaurant in St. Augustine, Fla.

During his terms as governor, detractors told a joke at his expense: Massachusetts liked him so much they named four places after him: They are Endicott, Peabody, Marblehead and Athol.

In 1972, he made history by running a quixotic race for vice president of the United States on the Democratic ticket. His campaign slogan was, “Endicott Peabody, the number one man for the number two job.” He argued the voters, not the party, should choose the vice president, who not infrequently became president. “I’m Chub Peabody and I’m running for vice president,’ he’d tell prospective voters. “Whatever for?” was a typical response.

Toward the end of his life, he waged a campaign to eradicate land mines, though he was battling leukemia.

He was no doubt talking about his own experience when he imparted this advice:

Remember things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heights – then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that.

Endicott Peabody died Dec. 1, 1997, in Hollis, N.H.

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