Judge Luigi DePasquale 1892-1958, exemplifies the rapid political, social, and economic rise of Rhode Island’s first generation Italian-Americans. Born on December 13, 1892 in Providence to Italian immigrant parents, Antonio and Maria (Vitale) DePasquale, Luigi was raised in Milford, Massachusetts, where his father became an undertaker. He graduated from Boston University Law School in 1913 at the age of twenty. In 1914, Luigi returned to his native state to practice law. This precocious and brilliant attorney then entered politics and won election as a state representative from Providence in 1917 at the age of twenty-three, becoming the youngest member of the General Assembly.
Luigi became very active in Democratic party politics serving as treasurer of the Democratic State Committee from 1920 to 1922 and assuming the chairmanship of that body from 1924 to 1928. It would not be an exaggeration to state that he led Rhode Island’s Italian-American voters from their traditional Republican party allegiance into the Democratic party. When Alberic Archambault and Felix Toupin performed the same feat for the state’s Franco-Americans, a New Deal ethno-cultural alliance was formed that assured the Democratic party of political dominance for the next several decades.
De Pasquale was a delegate to the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Democratic national conventions and secured election to the state senate in 1934. Here he participated prominently in the famous “Bloodless Revolution” of 1935 and was rewarded with the judgeship of the influential Sixth District in June, 1935. The Sixth District Court included the City of Providence, and from its powerful bench Judge DePasquale presided over the minor civil and criminal calendars of the capital city for more than two decades.
His biographical profile in Bichnell’s History of Rhode Island states that Luigi was “a very conspicuous figure in the general life of the community, especially in connection with the interest and affairs of his fellow Italians here.” He married Marie Michard by whom he had three children–Marie, Beatrice, and Eva.
DePasquale died on May 3, 1958. Fittingly, the Providence City Council promptly changed the name of Balboa Street on Federal Hill to DePasquale Avenue. Then, Mayor Vincent Cianci orchestrated the conversion of that street into DePasquale Plaza–the centerpiece of his Federal Hill revitalization.
DePasquale’s legacy lives on not only through his memorial plaza but also through his grandson, Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. who became the mayor of Providence in 1984 and served the city with distinction for nearly seven years.
–Dr. Patrick T. Conley