William A. O'Neill

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William A. O'Neill
W A ONeill.jpg
84th Governor of Connecticut
In office
December 31, 1980 – January 9, 1991
LieutenantJoseph J. Fauliso
Preceded byElla Grasso
Succeeded byLowell Weicker
102nd Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
In office
January 3, 1979 – December 31, 1980
GovernorElla Grasso
Preceded byRobert Killian
Succeeded byJoseph J. Fauliso
Personal details
William Atchison O'Neill

(1930-08-11)August 11, 1930
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedNovember 24, 2007(2007-11-24) (aged 77)
East Hampton, Connecticut, U.S.
Resting placeConnecticut State Veterans Cemetery
Middletown, Connecticut
Political partyDemocratic
Nikki Damon
(m. 1962)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force
Years of service1950–1953
Battles/warsKorean War

William Atchison O'Neill (August 11, 1930 – November 24, 2007) was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as the 84th Governor of Connecticut from 1980 to 1991. He was the second longest-serving governor in Connecticut history, with 10 years in office.


O'Neil was born in Hartford, Connecticut son of Joseph O'Neill and Frances O'Neill, He was educated at Teachers College of Connecticut (now Central Connecticut State University) and the University of Hartford but did not complete a degree. He married Natalie Scott "Nikki" Damon in 1962.[1] He sold insurance for Prudential Insurance Company.


O'Neil served as a combat pilot with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. He was a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.[2] Upon his return, he ran the family business—an East Hampton tavern where residents and politicians often met and where he, by his own admission, learned to listen.[citation needed]

Elected to six terms in the Connecticut House of Representatives, O'Neil served as majority leader from 1975 to 1976 and 1977 to 1978. He was House assistant minority leader and assistant majority leader. He chaired the Coalition of Northeastern Governors and the New England Governors' Conference and was president of the Council of State Governments.[3]

O'Neill was elected the 102nd Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut in 1978 on a Democratic ticket along with Governor Ella Grasso. When Grasso resigned for health reasons in December 1980 (she would pass away the following February), O'Neill became Governor and was elected to a full term in 1982 and re-elected in 1986. He benefited from the economic boom Connecticut enjoyed during the 1980s when the state's job growth was at a recent historic peak. The state enjoyed large budget surpluses in this era. His large re-election victory in 1986 over Lowell Weicker ally Julie Belaga had an effect on the state legislature, which gained large majorities of liberal Democrats eager to expand state government, such as House Speaker Irving Stolberg.[citation needed]

The 1990 recession hit Connecticut very hard, with the real estate, banking and defense industries all faltering with resultant job losses and tax revenue losses. Facing plummeting approval ratings and a budget situation continuing to deteriorate despite the 1989 tax hike,[4] O'Neill decided in early 1990 to bow out of a re-election bid.[citation needed]

Death and legacy[edit]

O'Neill died from emphysema on November 24, 2007. He is interred at Connecticut State Veterans Cemetery, Middletown, Connecticut. A terminal at Bradley International Airport is named in his honor.[5]

He was eulogized by his fellow Connecticut politicians as Trumanesque. "I always thought the secret to his success was that he was genuine," said John Droney, who was chairman of the state Democratic party during O'Neill's last term. "He was honest. And he projected the image of an ordinary man called upon to do extraordinary things. He was, in my view, the Harry Truman of Connecticut."[6] Republican state chairman Chris Healy called O'Neill "a good and decent man who served his state and country with distinction."[7]


  1. ^ "William O'Neill". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  2. ^ "William O'Neill". NNDB Soylent Communications. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  3. ^ "William O'Neill". National Governors Association. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  4. ^ "William O'Neill". Connecticut State Library. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  5. ^ "William O'Neill". Connecticut State Library. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  6. ^ "Page Not Found - Hartford Courant". Cite uses generic title (help)
  7. ^ The Everyday Republican: Bill O'Neill - A Regular Guy, A Great Leader, ctgop.blogspot.com, November 2007; accessed May 11, 2018.

William Oneill

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Ella Grasso
Democratic nominee for Governor of Connecticut
1982, 1986
Succeeded by
Bruce Morrison
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Killian
Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Joseph J. Fauliso
Preceded by
Ella T. Grasso
Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Lowell P. Weicker