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Paul G. Kirk
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
September 24, 2009 – February 4, 2010
Appointed byDeval Patrick
Preceded byTed Kennedy
Succeeded byScott Brown
Chair of the Democratic National Committee
In office
February 2, 1985 – February 10, 1989
Preceded byCharles Manatt
Succeeded byRon Brown
Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee
In office
June 29, 1983 – February 1, 1985
Preceded byCharles Curry[1]
Succeeded bySharon Pratt
Personal details
Paul Grattan Kirk Jr.

(1938-01-18) January 18, 1938 (age 86)
Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Gail Loudermilk
(m. 1974)
RelativesWilliam Henry O'Connell (great-uncle)
Bill Cleary (brother-in-law)
EducationHarvard University (BA, JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1960–1968
UnitUnited States Army Reserve

Paul Grattan Kirk Jr. (born January 18, 1938) is an American lawyer and politician who served as a United States Senator from Massachusetts from 2009 to 2010, having been appointed to fill the vacancy created by the death of Ted Kennedy. From 1985 to 1989, he chaired the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

He served as co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, the chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation,[2] and a member of the board of directors of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.[3]

Early life and education

Kirk, one of five children, was born in Newton, Massachusetts. He is the son of Josephine Elizabeth (née O'Connell) and Judge Paul G. Kirk Sr., an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.[4] His father was of Irish and English descent and his mother was of Irish ancestry.[5] He attended The Roxbury Latin School and graduated from St. Sebastian's School in 1956, Harvard College in 1960, and Harvard Law School in 1964. In college, Kirk took part in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.[6][7] He received his commission as a second lieutenant in 1960 and served on active duty for six months to complete his initial training.[8] Kirk remained in the United States Army Reserve until 1968, when he was discharged as a captain.[7][9]


Kirk was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1965.[10]

Kirk is affiliated with the law firm Sullivan & Worcester LLP of Boston, Massachusetts, and was a partner from 1977 to 1990.[2] He is the chairman and chief executive officer of Kirk & Associates, Inc., a business advisory and consulting firm located in Boston. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., Rayonier, Incorporated, and Cedar Realty Trust, Inc. He was a board member of ITT Corporation from 1989 to 1997 and Bradley Real Estate, Inc. from 1991 to 2000.[2] Kirk is a trustee of Stonehill College. He also served as a trustee of St. Sebastian's School from 1992 to 2004 and again from 2006 to 2009. He is past chairman of the Harvard Board of Overseers Nominating Committee and is the chairman of the Harvard Overseers Committee to Visit the Department of Athletics.

From 1992 to 2001 Kirk was the chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.


Kirk with his predecessor, Senator Ted Kennedy

Kirk was a special assistant to Senator Ted Kennedy from 1969 to 1977. In 1983, he became treasurer of the national Democratic Party.[11]

In 1985 Kirk was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee despite opposition from Virginia Governor Chuck Robb and a group of southern state Democrats who went on to form the Democratic Leadership Council.[12][13] He caused a brief stir when he suggested means testing for Social Security, but he quickly withdrew his remarks.[14] In the 1986 mid-term elections, under Kirk's chairmanship, the Democrats regained control of the Senate, which had had a Republican majority since the 1980 elections. Kirk resigned shortly after Republican vice president George H. W. Bush's victory over Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election. He was succeeded as DNC chairman by Ron Brown. During his time as DNC Chair, he promoted and executed a successful plan to take over the planning of presidential debates.

On May 2, 2008, Paul Kirk formally pledged his superdelegate nomination vote in the summer 2008 national Democratic convention to Barack Obama.[15]

U.S. Senate

See also: 2010 United States Senate special election in Massachusetts

In August 2009, Senator Ted Kennedy died, leaving a vacancy in the Massachusetts Senate delegation. Five years earlier in 2004, the Massachusetts General Court had withdrawn the authority of the governor to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy by appointment, to prevent the then-Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, from appointing a fellow Republican to fill the remainder of Democrat John Kerry's Senate term, if Kerry were to win the 2004 presidential election. The legislation was enacted over Romney's veto.[16][17][18][19][20] At that time, Senator Ted Kennedy successfully made personal appeals to Massachusetts Democratic legislative leaders to pass the bill, which had been stalled prior to his request.[21] The new law called for a special election months later to fill the vacancy. However, Kennedy's death denied Democrats in the U.S. Senate the 60‑vote supermajority required to end filibusters. Given the urgency of and narrow partisan support for some legislation before Congress, most notably health care reform, Democratic lawmakers and liberal pundits called for an interim senator to be appointed so that Massachusetts would have full Senate representation until the special election; Kennedy himself had requested such a change before he died. In September, the General Court passed legislation restoring the governor's power to make interim appointments to serve until the special election stipulated in the earlier legislation is held, over multiple bipartisan concerns of hypocrisy.[22][23][24][25][26] Kennedy's two sons, Patrick J. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy Jr.;[27] and his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy,[25] had all expressed their preference for Kirk. On September 23, 2009, several national media organizations reported that Kirk was favored by the family of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy to be the senator's interim replacement, and that the family had communicated their preference to Governor Deval Patrick.[28][29][30] Governor Patrick announced Kirk's appointment the next day.[10][31][32] Kirk pledged he would not be a candidate in the special election, which was won by Republican Scott Brown.[33][34] Kirk was sworn into office on September 25, 2009.[35]

Vice President Joe Biden swears in Kirk, as Senator John Kerry looks on

On September 24, 2009, members of the Massachusetts Republican Party filed suit seeking to block the appointment of Kirk, saying that under commonwealth law, the law giving Gov. Patrick the right to appoint Kirk should not take effect for 90 days. A hearing was scheduled for the morning of September 25 to resolve the issue.[36] A Suffolk Superior Court judge dismissed the case the same day, and Kirk took the oath of office as senator that afternoon.[37][38]

On January 19, 2010, Scott Brown, a Republican state senator, was elected to serve the balance of Kennedy's term. Although Kirk was only appointed until his successor was elected,[39] he continued to sit, and voted on the Senate floor on January 20, 2010,[40] without any objection from Senate staff or Senate Republicans. This situation is analogous to 1993, when Kay Bailey Hutchison was elected on June 5, but Bob Krueger continued to hold the seat until she took the oath of office on June 14, but was different from when Ted Kennedy was allowed to be sworn into office the day after his special election to the Senate in 1962.[41][42] Kirk was present at his successor's swearing in ceremony on February 4, 2010.

Later career

Kirk supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[43] Kirk has written opinion columns for The Boston Globe.[44]

Personal life

In 1974, he married Gail Loudermilk. They reside in Marstons Mills, a village of Barnstable, Massachusetts. Kirk is a great-nephew of the late Cardinal William O'Connell and the brother-in-law of ice hockey player and coach Bill Cleary.[45][46][47]


  1. ^ Means, Marianne (February 21, 1983). "'Winds' in D.C." The Post-Star. Vol. 79, no. 72. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ a b c Goodnough, Abby (September 24, 2009). "Kirk Heads to Senate With Brief, Crucial Mission". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Kirk's the keeper". Boston Herald. September 24, 2009. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  4. ^ "Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court website". Massreports.com. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
  5. ^ http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~battle/senators/kirk.htm[user-generated source]
  6. ^ ""Listen and Learn in Order to Lead": The ROTC Commissioning Ceremony". Harvard Magazine. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Magazine Inc. May 27, 2010. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Congressional Directory for the 111th Congress (PDF). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office. December 2009. p. 126.
  8. ^ Knott, Stephen F. (2016). "Paul G. Kirk, Jr. Oral History (11/2005)". Kennedy Institute: oral History. The Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
  9. ^ Nolan, Martin F. (November 3, 2016). "The Boston Irish Honors 2016 for Distinguished Public Service: Paul G. Kirk, Jr". Boston Neighborhood News. Boston, MA.
  10. ^ a b Fletcher, Dan (September 24, 2009). "Paul Kirk Jr., Kennedy's Replacement". TIME. Archived from the original on September 27, 2009.
  11. ^ Wilkie, Curtis (June 29, 1983). "Kennedy ally to head Democratic fund raising". The Boston Globe. Vol. 223, no. 180. p. 16 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Waldman, Myron S. (February 2, 1985). "Democrats Choose a New Chief". Newsday. Vol. 45, no. 150 (Nassau ed.). p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ Rae, Nicol C. (1994). Southern Democrats. Oxford University Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-19-508709-3.
  14. ^ Love, Keith; Karen Tumulty (April 18, 1985). "Top Democrat Stirs Fuss on Social Security". Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Salant, Jonathan D. (May 2, 2008). "Former Democratic Party Leader Paul Kirk Backs Obama". Bloomberg.
  16. ^ "Chapter 236 of the Acts of 2004". Acts of 2004 (Session Laws). Massachusetts General Court. July 30, 2004.
  17. ^ Belluck, Pam (June 25, 2004). "Massachusetts Politicians Fight Over a Kerry Victory". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Zezima, Katie (July 2, 2004). "New England: Massachusetts: Senate Approves Interim-Appointment Bill". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Greenberger, Scott S. (July 31, 2004). "Romney veto overridden:Governor can no longer fill vacancies in the US Senate". The Boston Globe.
  20. ^ "Devil in the Details". The American Prospect. July 16, 2004. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved December 15, 2009.
  21. ^ Phillips, Frank (June 11, 2004). "Special election bill gets new life: Voters would pick successor to Kerry". The Boston Globe.
  22. ^ Viser, Matt; Phillips, Frank (September 24, 2009). "Kirk named to fill Kennedy seat". The Boston Globe.
  23. ^ Viser, Matt (September 17, 2009). "Mass. House approves bill that would fill Kennedy seat". The Boston Globe.
  24. ^ "Massachusetts Senate clears way for Kennedy replacement". CNN. September 22, 2009.
  25. ^ a b Viser, Matt (September 23, 2009). "All eyes turn to Patrick as he mulls appointee for Kennedy seat". Boston Globe.
  26. ^ Cillizza, Chris (September 9, 2009). "Kerry Pledges Support For Mass.-Senate Appointee". Washington Post.
  27. ^ Viser, Matt (September 23, 2009). "Senate OK's Kennedy successor bill". The Boston Globe.
  28. ^ Goodnough, Abby; Hulse, Carl (September 23, 2009). "Kennedy Confidant Expected to Take Senate Seat". The New York Times.
  29. ^ Viser, Matt (September 23, 2009). "Senate OK's Kennedy successor bill". The Boston Globe.
  30. ^ "Kirk is Kennedy family favorite to fill Mass. Senate seat". CNN. September 23, 2009.
  31. ^ "PAUL KIRK Tapped For Kennedy Senate Seat". The Huffington Post. September 23, 2009.
  32. ^ Phillips, Kate (September 24, 2009). "Kennedy Seat Appointment Is Imminent". The New York Times.
  33. ^ O'Sullivan, Jim (September 24, 2009). "Patrick circulates 'talking points' on interim Snate appointee". State House News Service.
  34. ^ Viser, Matt (September 24, 2009). "Kirk named to fill Kennedy seat". The Boston Globe.
  35. ^ Johnson, Glen (September 24, 2009). "Kennedy loyalist tapped as Senate replacement". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  36. ^ "GOP files suit to block Kirk". Politico. September 24, 2009.
  37. ^ Rhee, Foon (September 25, 2009). "GOP fails to block Kirk swearing-in". The Boston Globe.
  38. ^ Montopoli, Brian (September 25, 2009). "Paul Kirk Sworn In, Replaces Kennedy in Senate". CBS News.
  39. ^ "Kirk Can't Vote After Tuesday". The Weekly Standard. January 16, 2010.
  40. ^ "Roll Call Vote 1, Second Session, 111th Congress". U.S. Senate.
  41. ^ "Congressional Biographical Directory: Robert Krueger". Congressional Biographical Directory.
  42. ^ "Congressional Biographical Directory: Kay Bailey Hutchison". Congressional Biographical Directory.
  43. ^ "Former DNC chair backs Bernie Sanders". MSNBC. January 14, 2016.
  44. ^ Kirk, Paul. "Progressive thoughts for Super Tuesday - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  45. ^ Lockwood, Jim (September 25, 2009). "Remains of Cardinal O'Connell could be relocated". The Pilot.
  46. ^ Paulson, Michael (September 24, 2009). "Family ties: Kirk is heir to Boston cardinal". The Boston Globe.
  47. ^ Leary, Robert V. (December 4, 1960). "New Appointee to State Supreme Bench: Kirk Thrives on Hard Work". The Boston Globe.
Party political offices Preceded byCharles Manatt Chair of the Democratic National Committee 1985–1989 Succeeded byRon Brown U.S. Senate Preceded byTed Kennedy U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Massachusetts 2009–2010 Served alongside: John Kerry Succeeded byScott Brown U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byKelly Loeffleras Former US Senator Order of precedence of the United States Succeeded byScott Brownas Former US Senator