Robert E. Quinn, Governor

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Robert Emmett Quinn

Birthdate: (91)
Death: 1975 (91)
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Quinn and Mary Ann Quinn

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Immediate Family

About Robert E. Quinn, Governor

Robert Emmett Quinn, 1884-1975, a prominent Democratic politician who served successively as state senator, lieutenant governor, governor, associate Justice of the Superior Court, and Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Military Appeals. Quinn was the principle architect of the Bloodless Revolution of 1935 and a major protagonist in the Race Track War of 1937.

Robert Emmet Quinn (April 2, 1894 – May 19, 1975) was an American politician and the 58th Governor of Rhode Island.

Quinn was born in 1894 in Phoenix, Rhode Island. He graduated from Brown University in 1915. He then completed his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1918. He became the Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island from 1932 to 1937. He was nominated for governorship of Rhode Island when incumbent Governor Theodore Francis Green chose to run for a seat in the United States Senate.

He held the governor's office from January 5, 1937 to January 3, 1939. During his administration, Quinn advocated a merit system for state workers, a personal income tax, and exemption for the poor from real estate taxes. Nicknamed “Battlin’ Bob”, he set up a battle known as the “Race Track War” against the highly successful Thoroughbred racing venue Narragansett Park in 1937. From the first incident on September 2, the “War” would not be resolved until October 16. The National Guard was called out and men with machine guns blocked the front entrance to the track. Time Magazine reported the story nationwide in October 1937. Quinn won in the short-term, as Walter O'Hara was removed from his post as president and manager of the Narragansett Racing Association, and Judge James E. Dooley officially took control of the track. Quinn was unsuccessful in his re-election bid in 1938 after millionaire William H. Vanderbilt defeated him. Ultimately, the “Race Track War” was considered a national embarrassment.

Quinn returned to his law practice and won appointment to a Superior Court judgeship in 1941. During World War II, he entered the military as a Commander in the Navy’s legal branch. He served for four years, rising to the rank of Captain. He returned to the bench after the end of the war. In 1951, he was named Chief Judge of a new United States Court of Military Appeals, a position from which he retired in 1975.


Quinn died on May 19, 1975 at age 81.

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Robert E. Quinn, Governor's Timeline

Age 91