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Torbert Hart Macdonald (June 6, 1917 – May 21, 1976), nicknamed Torby, was an American politician from Massachusetts. He served as a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives serving from 1955 until his death from internal hemorrhage in Bethesda, Maryland in 1976.

Torbert Macdonald
Torbert Macdonald.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1955 – May 21, 1976
Preceded byAngier Goodwin (8th)
Thomas J. Lane (7th)
Succeeded byTip O'Neill (8th)
Ed Markey (7th)
Constituency8th district (1955–63)
7th district (1963–76)
Personal details
Born(1917-06-06)June 6, 1917
Everett, Massachusetts
DiedMay 21, 1976(1976-05-21) (aged 58)
Bethesda, Maryland
Political partyDemocratic
Phyllis Brooks (m. 1945–1976)
(his death)
ChildrenTorbert H. Macdonald, Jr.; Laurie Macdonald; Brian Macdonald; Robin Macdonald
Alma materHarvard University, B.A., 1940; Harvard Law School, LL.B., 1946
AwardsSilver Star
Purple Heart
Presidential Unit Commendation
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Military service
Nickname(s)Torby, The Needle
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II

Macdonald was born in Everett, Massachusetts in 1917 and grew up in Malden, Massachusetts. After several years in public school, he entered Phillips Academy in Andover. 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.

Macdonald served in the United States Navy as a PT boat commander in the Southwest Pacific theater from 1942 to 1944 and was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and Presidential Unit Commendation. He was admitted to the bar in 1946 and commenced the practice of law in Boston, Massachusetts as a partner in the firm of Stoneman, Macdonald & Chandler. Macdonald was a member of the National Labor Relations Board for the New England area from 1948 to 1952, and he was 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 on May 21, 1976, in Bethesda, Maryland.

He married actress Phyllis Brooks June 23, 1945, in Tarrytown, New York,[1] and they remained married until his death. They had four children, the eldest of whom was President Kennedy's godson.

Macdonald was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts.

Torb Macdonald is portrayed in the 1993 movie JFK: Reckless Youth.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Marriages". Billboard. July 28, 1945. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Angier L. Goodwin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 8th congressional district

January 3, 1955 – January 3, 1963
Succeeded by
Ed Markey] (district moved)
Preceded by
Thomas J. Lane (district moved)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 7th congressional district

January 3, 1963 – May 21, 1976
Succeeded by
Edward Markey