Philip H. Hoff

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Philip H. Hoff
Philip h hoff 20041012.jpg
October 2004
73rd Governor of Vermont
In office
January 10, 1963 – January 9, 1969
LieutenantRalph A. Foote
John J. Daley
Preceded byF. Ray Keyser Jr.
Succeeded byDeane C. Davis
Member of the Vermont House of Representatives
In office
Member of the Vermont Senate
In office
Chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party
In office
Preceded byLeonard Wilson
Succeeded byRobert Branon
Personal details
Philip Henderson Hoff

(1924-06-29)June 29, 1924
Turners Falls, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedApril 26, 2018(2018-04-26) (aged 93)
Shelburne, Vermont, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Joan Brower
Alma mater
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1943–1946
RankSeaman First Class
Battles/warsWorld War II

Philip Henderson Hoff (June 29, 1924 – April 26, 2018) was an American politician from the U.S. state of Vermont. He was most notable for his service as the 73rd Governor of Vermont from 1963 to 1969, the state’s first Democratic governor since 1853.

Life and career[edit]

Hoff was born in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, the son of Agnes (Henderson) and Olaf Hoff, Jr.[1] His father worked in the insurance industry and served two terms in the Massachusetts General Court. Philip was a star high school football player, scoring the winning touchdown in Turners Falls High School's 1942 annual game against rival Greenfield High School.[2]

Hoff attended Williams College, where he studied English, but postponed graduation for two years in order to serve in World War II.[2] He saw combat action during World War II aboard the submarine, USS Sea Dog, which took part in combat patrols throughout the Pacific Ocean theater.[3] He attained the rank of Seaman First Class with the rating of quartermaster (the Navy's term for a navigator), and was discharged in 1946.[4] He met his wife, Joan Brower, during his naval service and they were married in 1948.[5] He later attended Cornell Law School, graduating in 1951.[2]

The Hoffs moved to Burlington, Vermont, in 1951,[2] where Hoff began a law practice. He also became involved in local politics as a Democrat, and was a founder of the activist group Vermont Democratic Volunteers.[6][7] In addition to serving as a justice of the peace,[8] he was also chairman of the city zoning board.[9] Hoff was also an officer of the Chittenden County Bar Association[10] and a member of the Burlington-Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce board of directors.[11]


Poster from Hoff's 1962 campaign.

Hoff was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1960, and served one term, 1961 to 1963.[12] As a legislator, Hoff was a member of the "Young Turks," a bipartisan alliance of progressive and reform minded representatives and senators that included Republicans Franklin S. Billings Jr. and Ernest W. Gibson III.[13]

In 1962, Hoff was elected Vermont's first Democratic governor since the Vermont General Assembly selected John S. Robinson after no candidate obtained a popular vote majority in 1853.[14] Hoff waged an energetic campaign against incumbent Republican F. Ray Keyser Jr., and capitalized on local factors including a split between Vermont's conservative and progressive Republicans (the Proctor Wing and the Aiken-Gibson Wing).[15] Rather than support the conservative Keyser, many of Vermont's liberal Republicans opted to support Hoff on a third party line, which contributed to his narrow margin of victory.[15] Hoff was also aided by national factors, including the popularity of incumbent Democratic President John F. Kennedy, to whom Hoff was often compared.[16]

Hoff won reelection in 1964 and 1966. During his governorship, he pioneered unprecedented environmental, development, and social welfare programs, including the creation of the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women.[17] Concerned about racial justice, he joined with New York Mayor John Lindsay to co-found the Vermont-New York Youth Project, which brought minority students from the city together with Vermont students to work on joint summer projects at several Vermont colleges.[18] According to the Boston Globe, the program, which temporarily doubled Vermont's black population, "uncovered some latent bigotry that had not been visible before."[18] The poll tax was eliminated during his tenure as governor, and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, Legal Aid and Vermont Public Television were established.[19]

Hoff was the first Democratic Governor in the nation to split with President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War and later campaigned across the country to promote Robert F. Kennedy's effort to obtain the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination.[6] After Kennedy's assassination, Hoff endorsed Eugene McCarthy.[6] Democrats who opposed Johnson came close to nominating Hoff as a candidate for Vice President at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, but after some initial enthusiasm, Hoff declined to put his name forward.[20]

Hoff's endorsement of Kennedy and later McCarthy upset conservative Democrats and Hoff was also criticized for increases in state spending which some claimed led to hefty deficits.[21] In 1970, Hoff challenged incumbent U.S. Senator Winston L. Prouty, but Prouty easily won reelection.[21] During the campaign, Hoff announced that he had battled alcoholism in the past.[22] Had he won, Hoff would have been the first Democratic senator in Vermont history.[21]

In the 1980s he returned to elective politics, serving three terms in the Vermont State Senate (1983-1989).[21] He also served in various advisory and honorary positions and as President of the Board of Trustees at Vermont Law School as well as continuing his work as a lawyer in private practice.[6] In 1989, he co-founded the law firm of Hoff, Curtis.[21]


Hoff died at an assisted living facility in Shelburne, Vermont on April 26, 2018, at age 93.[6]


Hoff was the subject of a biography, 2011's Philip Hoff: How Red Turned Blue in the Green Mountain State by Samuel B. Hand, Anthony Marro, and Stephen C. Terry.[23]

In 2012, Castleton State College named its newest residence hall after Hoff, the first building to be named in his honor.[24]


  1. ^ "Can Hoff bring two-party government to Vermont?". The Bennington Banner (via March 3, 1962. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Hadad, Herbert (November 8, 1962). "Ex-Football Hero Hoff's Grit, Speed Win Vermont Upset". The Boston Globe. p. 7.
  3. ^ Lowrance, V. L. (May 4, 1954). "History of the USS Sea Dog (SS 401)". SCRIBD. Washington, DC: US Navy, Division of Naval History. pp. 1–5. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  4. ^ United States Department of the Navy (April 1, 1946). "U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949, Entry for Philip H. Hoff". Provo, UT:, LLC. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  5. ^ "Philip H. Hoff". NNDB Soylent Communications. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e Ring, Wilson (April 27, 2018). "Former Gov. Phil Hoff dies". Rutland Herald. Rutland, VT. Associated Press.
  7. ^ "Morrison to Speak at Democratic Meeting in Essex Jct". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT. March 4, 1958. p. 15 – via
  8. ^ "Directions for Voting". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT. November 5, 1956. p. 5 – via
  9. ^ "Stiff Opposition Greets Plans for Rezoning Shelburne Rd". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT. February 4, 1958. p. 7 – via
  10. ^ "Frederick Smith Heads County Bar Asasociation". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT. April 26, 1958. p. 15 – via Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  11. ^ "Chamber Votes by Mail to Name Nine Directors". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT. December 24, 1958. p. 13 – via
  12. ^ "Philip H. Hoff". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  13. ^ Guma, Greg (May 9, 2011). "Voting Equality and the Hoff Effect". The Vermont Way: Restless Spirits and Popular Movements. Burlington, VT: Greg Guma. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  14. ^ Duffy, John J.; Hand, Samuel B.; Orth, Ralph H. (2003). The Vermont Encyclopedia. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-58465-086-7.
  15. ^ a b "Voting Equality and the Hoff Effect".
  16. ^ Page, Candace (April 27, 2018). "Gov. Phil Hoff: A look back at 'The man who changed Vermont'". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT.
  17. ^ "Philip H. Hoff". National Governors Association. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  18. ^ a b Stewart, Richard (April 5, 1970). "Hoff hopes to be first Vt. Democratic senator". The Boston Globe. p. 24.
  19. ^ Democratic groundbreaker, former Governor Phil Hoff dies,, Kevin O'Connor, April 27, 2018. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  20. ^ Doyle, Mavis (August 29, 1968). "Hoff to be VEEP Candidate if Conservative is Tapped". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT. p. 16 – via
  21. ^ a b c d e Ring, Wilson (April 27, 2018). "Former Vermont governor who presided over liberal swing dies". ABC News. New York, NY. Associated Press.
  22. ^ Stewart, Richard (October 8, 1970). "Hoff says he's beaten alcoholism". The Boston Globe. p. 5.
  23. ^ Hand, Samuel B.; Marro, Anthony; Terry, Stephen C. (2011). Philip Hoff: How Red Turned Blue in the Green Mountain State. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. p. Title page. ISBN 978-1-61168-032-4.
  24. ^ LeBlanc, Deanna (April 29, 2012). "New Castleton dorm named for Gov. Hoff". WCAX. Burlington, Vt. Retrieved May 1, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Vermont Encyclopedia, J. Duffy, S. Hand, R Orth, Editors (University Press of New England, Lebanon, N.H. 2003)

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Russell Niquette
Democratic nominee for Governor of Vermont
1962, 1964, 1966
Succeeded by
John J. Daley
Preceded by
Frederick Fayette
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Vermont
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
Randolph Major
Political offices
Preceded by
F. Ray Keyser Jr.
Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
Deane Davis