PROVIDENCE – Lincoln C. Almond, who served two terms as Rhode Island’s governor, has died at the age of 86, Gov. Daniel J. McKee announced Tuesday.
“Susan and I are saddened to learn of the passing of former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Almond,” McKee said in a statement. “The first governor to serve a four-year term, Governor Almond often said his No. 1 goal was to make Rhode Island a place where people wanted to work and raise a family. Whether it was expanding the number of state-subsidized child care seats, increasing education aid, investing in Rhode Island’s institutions of higher education, creating thousands of good-paying jobs and laying the foundation for Quonset to be the economic engine it is today – Rhode Island was better off because of his eight years as governor.”
Almond died on Monday, according to an obituary posted at the Avery-Storti Funeral Home and Crematory’s website, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. No cause of death was provided.
Almond, a Republican who also served as U.S. attorney for Rhode Island, became governor in 1994 after his failed bid in 1978.
In his reelection in 1998, Almond – widely perceived as the “pro-business” candidate –defeated Democrat Myrth York by 9 percentage points. He distanced himself from York, in part, by neutralizing the impact of organized labor, traditionally a supporter of Democratic candidates.
During the campaign, Almond was consistent in calling attention to the economic- development initiatives and accomplishments that marked his first four-year term.
The Almond administration indeed succeeded in luring several financial services companies – most notably, Fidelity Investments – to the Ocean State.
In 1994 as governor, Almond led the push to turn the former Navy property at Quonset Point and Davisville into a large container port. A committee of state and local officials began planning the sites’ redevelopment. Two years later, the R.I. Economic Development Corp. unveiled plans to merge Quonset and Davisville into a single project – and Quonset Point Davisville Intermodal Inc. entered the picture.
The developer had one big idea for the site: a large container port. Then-Gov. Almond and the EDC were on board. But the proposal – quickly dubbed the “megaport” by critics – drew strong opposition for many reasons: the estimated $400- to $500-million cost; the prospect of big freighters in Narragansett Bay and big trucks on local roads; the need to dredge the bay, and its potential impact on marine life.
Nevertheless, Almond remained at least open to the port proposal, supporting an environmental impact study of the project. Then Donald L. Carcieri was elected governor in 2002 and killed the container port plan and steered Quonset’s redevelopment in a different direction. In 2004, Carcieri signed a law turning the EDC division that managed Quonset into a separate entity, the Quonset Development Corp. Later that year, the agency hired CB Richard Ellis–New England to serve as broker and leasing agent for the project.
Today, 228 companies with about 13,000 employees operate at the business park, including General Dynamics Electric Boat and Toray Plastics America.
Almond previously served as U.S. attorney for more than 20 years, receiving his original appointment to that post in 1969.
Prior to his service as U.S. attorney, Almond was appointed town administrator in Lincoln in 1963 and elected to full terms in 1963, 1965 and 1967. Almond is also the former president of the Blackstone Valley Development Foundation.
Almond was also a member of the National Governors Association, where he served on the Economic Development Committee. He also served on NGA’s Legal Affairs Committee, which advised fellow governors on whether the NGA should take legal positions on matters pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Almond was the 1998 chairman of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors and the 1997 chairman of the New England Governors’ Conference.
McKee has ordered flags at all state facilities and buildings to be lowered to half staff in honor of Almond.
Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio said Almond’s leadership helped transform Rhode Island, particularly with regard to economic development, infrastructure, and investment in our institutions of higher learning..
He led with humility, compassion and class, and he left our state a better place to live and work,” Ruggerio said.
House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said Almond always displayed dignity and compassion while working in a bipartisan fashion to accomplish so much for the people of Rhode Island during his eight years as governor.
“He was an outstanding town administrator in Lincoln and was nationally recognized as a U.S. attorney,” Shekarchi said in statement. “All of the members of the House of Representatives join me in extending our thoughts and prayers to the family of Gov. Almond.”
Allan Fung, a Republican who ran for Rhode Island governor twice, and state Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, said in a joint statement that Almond was a kind man and a leader who led the rebirth of Rhode Island’s higher education institutions.
“He was extraordinarily funny with a hearty laugh, and always had a great way about him in seeing the big picture and being a longterm thinker,” the couple said.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Marilyn Almond, as well as a son, daughter and five grandchildren.
Almond’s funeral arrangements are private.
(UPDATES throughout. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.)
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