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Advance in Politics

In politics, the newly arrived immigrants moved ahead quickly. In 1874 Samuel P. Marin was elected city councilor, the first Franco-American in New England to reach this position. As their numbers increased and with the forming in 1885 of a naturalization club, voter registration increased. But, in order to encourage greater participation and to help explain the city’s political structure, a French Model Government was set up in 1896 with regular elections and meetings of the French council. Consequently, the Franco-Americans regularly elected both councilors and school committeemen at almost every election. In 1935, Atty. Dewey Archambault was elected the first Franco-American mayor of Lowell. Subsequently, he became director of the Division of Employment Security for the state of Massachusetts. Under Plan E, in 1952, the city council elected Harvard graduate and former director of the Massachusetts’ Civil Service Commission, Ulysses Lupien, city manager.

On the state level, Lowell has had many distinguished Franco-Americans elected to office, one of the most notable being State Rep. Henri Achin, who served from 1912 to 1937. His most famous accomplishment was, after three years of effort, having New Years day made a legal holiday in Massachusetts in 1917.

On the national level, Joseph Légaré, secretary for many years of Congressman Butler Ames, was named in March 1911, the first Franco-American postmaster of Lowell, a position he occupied until April 1913. A noted philanthropist and civic leader, he became president of the Appleton National Bank. In April 1922, Atty. Xavier Délisle, former secretary of Congressman John Rogers, was appointed postmaster of Lowell and remained in office until 1935.

Internationally Lowell born Edmond Turcotte, after serving as a reporter for the Lowell Courrier Citizen and as editor of L’Etoile moved to Montreal where he became a noted journalist and an accomplished diplomat. A member of the UNESCO delegation in Paris in 1946, he later became Canadian Ambassador to Switzerland, in 1960.

Patriotic fervor always ran high among the French population of Lowell, beginning with the first volunteers in the Civil War. During the Spanish American War, the Lowell hero, Georges Charette, by his heroism in June, 1898, in sinking the USS Merrimac in the bay of Santiago, merited the Congressional Medal of Honor. In WW I, 1,762 Franco-Americans from Lowell fought in the conflict and on Labor Day 1919, marched through the city on their return. A much greater number took part in WW II and the Korean conflict. The Ouellette Bridge on Aiken Street, dedicated in 1953, was named in honor of PFC Joseph R. Ouellette, who was killed in action in Korea on September 3, 1950 and posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1951. The First soldier from Lowell killed in Vietnam was the Franco-American, PFC Donald Arcand.