Lincoln Carter Almond: Rhode Island’s 72nd Governor
Lincoln Carter Almond, born on June 16, 1936, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was a prominent American attorney and politician who made significant contributions to his state and country. He served as the 72nd Governor of Rhode Island from 1995 to 2003 and was a member of the Republican Party. However, his political journey and public service extended well beyond his tenure as governor.
Early Life, Education, and Early Career
Lincoln Almond was the child of Thomas Clifton Almond and Elsie (Carter) Almond. He grew up in Central Falls, later moving to Lincoln in 1947. Almond’s early education took place at Central Falls High School, as Lincoln did not have a high school at the time. After completing his high school education, he pursued higher studies, earning a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1959. His dedication to education didn’t end there, as he went on to attain a Juris Doctor degree from the Boston University School of Law in 1961. Subsequently, he began his career as a practicing attorney in Rhode Island.
Almond’s public service journey began when he was appointed as the Town Administrator of Lincoln, Rhode Island, in January 1963. His exceptional leadership led to significant improvements in the municipal water system and the construction of essential infrastructure, including a high school, to accommodate the growing school-age population. He also played a key role in the construction of vital facilities such as a new police station and town hall in Lincoln. After his tenure as town administrator, Almond continued his commitment to development by serving as a director and later as the president of the Blackstone Valley Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that focused on industrial park development in Lincoln, Cumberland, and Smithfield.
Tenure as U.S. Attorney, District of Rhode Island
Before assuming the role of governor, Lincoln Almond served as the U.S. Attorney for the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. His tenure spanned multiple presidential administrations, including those of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. In total, he served as the U.S. Attorney for 21 years, making him one of the longest-serving U.S. Attorneys in the District of Rhode Island. During his time in this role, Almond focused on enforcing the law in areas such as organized crime, drug-related offenses, and white-collar crimes, including cases of political corruption.
His accomplishments included serving on an advisory committee of 15 U.S. Attorneys, established in 1970 by Attorney General Elliot Richardson, which advised on matters of resource allocation, civil and criminal priorities, and federal legislation priorities. Almond’s efforts led to significant drug prosecutions and drug forfeitures that garnered national attention. Furthermore, his tenure coincided with Providence, Rhode Island, serving as the base of the Patriarca crime family, which resulted in several high-profile prosecutions led by Almond. Additionally, he supervised numerous political corruption cases, primarily in Providence and Pawtucket.
Tenure as Governor
Although Almond faced an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Congress in 1968, his determination paid off when he experienced a comeback in Rhode Island’s political scene. In 1994, he won the Republican primary for governor, defying the odds by defeating the heavily favored Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Ron Machtley. This victory paved the way for his successful gubernatorial campaign, and he eventually secured a win against Democratic State Sen. Myrth York. Almond made history by becoming the first governor to serve a four-year term under changes to the Rhode Island Constitution, which also introduced a two-term limit. Prior to these changes, statewide terms of office lasted only two years, with no term limits in place.
Health Care and Human Services
During Almond’s administration, a strong emphasis was placed on health care and human services. Under his leadership, the state significantly expanded RIte Care, the public health care program for children. His administration implemented an aggressive childhood immunization program, expanded state-funded prenatal care programs, and reduced rates of low-weight births. Moreover, Almond increased the number of state-subsidized child care slots, raised standards for child care providers, and extended health care coverage to child care providers. As a result of these initiatives, Rhode Island boasted one of the highest percentages of residents with health insurance coverage.
Almond was a staunch advocate for higher education. He successfully advocated for the passage of a 2000 bond referendum that allocated funds for a new Newport campus of the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI). Almond ensured that CCRI remained affordable for lower-income students by freezing tuition rates for most of his time in office. Additionally, he directed funds towards improving buildings and dormitories at Rhode Island College (RIC) and played a key role in the construction of the Nazarian Performing Arts Center at RIC. As the first University of Rhode Island (URI) graduate to become governor, Almond made substantial investments in URI, renovating and modernizing its infrastructure, including dormitories, academic buildings, and the construction of the Ryan Center, a 7,600-seat sports and event complex.
Tax Policy and Regulatory Reforms
Lincoln Almond was dedicated to making Rhode Island more competitive by implementing tax incentives and regulatory reforms. Under his leadership, the state introduced a five-year plan to reduce the state’s income tax by 10% and began phasing out the tax on capital gains. A total of 45 tax reductions were enacted during his time in office, including one of the nation’s highest research and development and investment tax credits.
Capital Projects and Infrastructure
Almond initiated the Rhode Island Capital Plan Fund, which allowed the state to finance projects using current revenues instead of relying on bonds. This initiative led to numerous improvements throughout the state, including the renovation of the Rhode Island State House, which received recognition from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2002. Additionally, Almond played a vital role in planning and authorizing various infrastructure projects in Quonset Point, such as the construction of Rhode Island Route 403. He also worked towards building a third track along the rail line from Quonset Point to Central Falls, facilitating heavy freight rail connections to most of the United States. The Iway project, a major relocation of Interstate 195 (Rhode Island-Massachusetts), was initiated during Almond’s tenure.
Casinos and Lottery
Almond firmly opposed the expansion of gambling in Rhode Island throughout his eight years as governor, despite the presence of two major casinos in neighboring southeastern Connecticut. He consistently resisted attempts to introduce casino gambling in the state and urged the Rhode Island Lottery Commission not to expand video lottery terminals at existing gaming establishments.
In addressing environmental issues, Almond played a critical role in negotiating a safe dredging plan for Narragansett Bay following the 1996 North Cape barge oil spill. The dredging project aimed to enable direct delivery of petroleum products by ship to the ports of Providence and Fall River instead of using barges, which posed greater environmental risks. He also reached an agreement with the Narragansett Bay Commission on a funding plan and project scope for a significant project that involved collecting and storing stormwater runoff in the Providence area before treatment and release into Narragansett Bay. However, Almond faced controversy in 2001 for refusing to declare a state of emergency when the water in the town of Pascoag was contaminated with MTBE.
Following his tenure as governor, Lincoln Almond was appointed in 2005 by Governor Donald Carcieri to lead an investigation into the practices of the Beacon Mutual Insurance Company, a workers’ compensation insurer established by the State of Rhode Island in 1994. His thorough investigation resulted in substantial changes in leadership and practices within the company.
In 2006, the Rhode Island General Assembly approved a voter referendum permitting Harrah’s Entertainment to operate a casino in partnership with the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Almond led a coalition of opponents to this proposal, which ultimately resulted in the defeat of the referendum despite extensive advertising by Harrah’s.
Personal Life and Passing
Lincoln Almond and his wife Marilyn lived in Kingston, Rhode Island, and Wellfleet, Massachusetts. They had two children, including their son, Lincoln Douglas Almond, who became a federal magistrate judge in Rhode Island.
On January 2, 2023, Lincoln Carter Almond passed away at the age of 86. His legacy endures through his substantial contributions to Rhode Island’s development, education, and public service.