Former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, Joseph Doorley, dies at 91

Former Mayor Joseph Doorley of Providence, Rhode Island has died at age 91, according to local reports on Monday. 

Doorley was born and raised in the city and had a law practice there and served on city council before becoming the city’s youngest mayor in 1965 at age 35. He served as mayor until 1975, when he was defeated by a Republican opponent.

Subsequent Mayor Joseph Paolino credited Doorley with major building projects that have created today’s Providence skyline.

“How you see the city, the skyline — the Textron Building, South Main Street, South Water Street, Orms Street and the Marriott, Cathedral Square — that all of that was under him,” said Paolino.


“The Civic Center probably meant the most to him,” said Paolino. “He got it passed in Providence” after voters statewide voted no on a statewide bond referendum to build it in 1968.

“He was a very good friend to me,” Paolino went on. “He was really the person that inspired me to get into politics. I met him when I was 10 years old. That’s 57 years knowing him.”

The Joseph A. Doorely Municipal building in Providence was named after Doorley.

Doorley made Providence one of the first cities to integrate its schools, and he also built low-income housing and fought for anti-poverty programs.

Corruption allegations

Doorley was sullied by corruption allegations surrounding the construction of his beloved Civic Center when its director was accused of soliciting a bribe from a concert promoter.

His 1974 opponent, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, was the assistant attorney general at the time and ended up using the investigation to taint Doorley with corruption.

By the time the election was held, enough Democrats opposed Doorley’s re-election that some threw their votes to Cianci and gave him the election.

Even so, many looked back fondly on Doorley’s tenure, and June 11, 2012 was declared “Joe Doorley Day” by the Rhode Island General Assembly.

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