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First Name: Torbert

Last Name: MacDonald

Birthplace: Everett, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Hart

Date of Birth: 06 June 1917

Date of Death: 21 May 1976

Rank or Rate:

Years Served:
Torbert Hart MacDonald
'Torby, the Needle'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Torbert Hart MacDonald
Officer, U.S. Navy

Torbert Hart MacDonald was born on 6 June 1917 in Everett, MA. He grew up in Malden, MA, and after several years in public school, entered Phillips Academy in Andover, MA.

MacDonald attended Harvard University, where he was captain of the football team and the roommate of John F. Kennedy. They remained close friends throughout their lives, with MacDonald serving as an usher at then-Senator Kennedy's wedding and as an Honorary Pallbearer at President Kennedy's funeral. At Harvard, MacDonald earned his B.A. in 1940 and his LL.B. in 1946 from its law school.

He served in the U.S. Navy as a PT boat Commander in the Southwest Pacific from 1942-44 and was awarded the Silver Star Medal, Purple Heart, and Presidential Citation.

MacDonald was admitted to the bar in 1946 and commenced the practice of law in Boston, MA, as a partner in the firm of Stoneman, MacDonald & Chandler. He was a member of the National Labor Relations Board for the New England area from 1948-52, and a Delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1960, 1964, and 1968.

MacDonald was elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-fourth Congress in 1954. During his career, he served as Majority Whip, and as ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. He was often referred to as the "Father of Public Broadcasting," since he was one of the legislators primarily responsible for Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. He was also responsible for the "sports blackout bill" which provides for the broadcast of local sold-out sporting contests. Another focus was his effort to reform campaign broadcasting practices, addressing his concern that competent candidates were being priced out of the process, and others were buying their way in. While recognized as an active legislator, he was also justly noted for his high level of service to individual constituents and their problems. His sharp wit and sense of humor garnered him among his Congressional colleagues the nickname "The Needle." He was reelected ten times, and died in office.


He was married to the actress Phyllis Brooks from 1945 until his death. They had four children, the eldest of whom was President Kennedy's godson.

Death and Burial

Torbert Hart MacDonald died on 21 May 1976 in Bethesda, MD. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum in Malden, MA.

Honoree ID: 2792   Created by: MHOH




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