Christopher Del Sesto was a loyal and dedicated public servant throughout his adult life. Born in Providence on March 10, 1907 to Eraclio and Rosa (Geremia) Del Sesto, he graduated with honors from Providence’s Commercial High School and with cum laude honors from both Boston University and Georgetown University Law School. For many years he was the only lawyer who was also a certified public accountant.
He began his public service as chief accountant to the Rhode Island General Treasurer in the early 1930s, and by 1935 he had helped to design a plan that reorganized state government in a transformation that has been called “The Bloodless Revolution.”
For a time Mr. Del Sesto lived in Washington, D.C. where he worked in the Chief Accountant’s Office of the Securities & Exchange Commission. He also became a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General in the anti-trust division, specializing in prosecuting anti-trust cases. He was noteworthy for his work against milk monopolies.
During World War II, Del Sesto was the director of the Office of Price Administration for Rhode Island in charge of rationing foodstuffs and essential goods needed for the war effort. He received nationwide recognition for this work, and was one of twelve persons singled out after the war by the Providence Journal as having contributed the most on the civilian front. He later donated the bronze award he received, a replica of the Independent Man, to Rhode Island College. It is now in the form of a ceremonial mace, the “Del Sesto Mace,” carried at the head of each Rhode Island College graduation procession.
Mr. Del Sesto loved higher education. He was a founder-trustee of Johnson & Wales University when it became a college and served on the Board of Trustees until his death. Johnson & Wales named its clock tower at the Downcity campus in Providence in his memory.
Mr. Del Sesto had victory taken from him in 1956 after his first run for governor when the state Supreme Court invalidated 4,954 absentee ballots in the infamous “Long Count.” He ran again in 1958 and won easily. Serving as the state’s chief executive from 1959 to 1961, he modernized government services, making them more open to public scrutiny; hired highly professional journalists as public information officers; and made numerous speeches to explain government operations and issues to the people. His major achievement was to involve the state in the federal highway system, thus opening-up all of Rhode Island for development.
Del Sesto was the first Republican governor in the United States of Italian-American descent and the first certified public accountant in the United States to be elected governor. Fluent in Italian and Spanish, he became the unofficial spokesman for a delegation of governors that President Eisenhower sent to Brazil and Argentina in l960.
After losing the governorship to Democrat John Notte in the 1960 election, Del Sesto returned to the practice of law. His ability and vast experience prompted Governor John H. Chafee to appoint Del Sesto to a Superior Court judgeship in 1966, a position he held with distinction until his death in 1973.
Governor Del Sesto and his wife, Lola Elda (Faraone), had three children, all of whom earned law degrees: Christopher T. Del Sesto, Ronald W. Del Sesto and Gregory T. Del Sesto.
– John A. Worsley, Ph.D.