Philip Hoff J.D. '51 died at 93 on Thursday. He has credited himself with helping Vermont transition from blue to red and was the first Democratic governor in Vermont in 108 years.

April 29, 2018

Philip Hoff, Cornell Law School Alumnus and Democratic Governor of Vermont, Dies Aged 93

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Philip H. Hoff J.D. ’51, a Cornell alumnus and a three-term governor of Vermont who as described in his biography “forever changed Vermont” by starting the state’s transition from Republican-entrenched to one of the most liberal, died Thursday April 26 at his home in Shelburne, Vermont. He was 93.

Hoff was born on June 29, 1924, in Turners Falls, Mass. He left Williams College in Massachusetts to serve in the Navy during World War II and completed a degree at Williams in 1948 after the war. He graduated from law school at Cornell University in 1951, after which he moved to Burlington.

Hoff served in the Vermont House of Representatives from 1960 to 1962. In 1963, he was elected as the 73rd Governor of Vermont, the first Democrat governor in 108 years.

“Vermonters have called for change, and their votes have made me the symbol of this demand for a new and fresh approach in the conduct of State affairs,” Mr. Hoff said in his inaugural address on January 17, 1963.

Over three two-year terms in office, he focused on environmental, social justice and educational causes. He targeted reducing pollution and cleaning up the state’s rivers and streams and on revamping the state’s judicial system, according to The New York Times.

Burlington Free Press also credited him for changing Vermont into a two-party state “with an activist government willing to adopt social, political and environmental reform.”

Hoff and New York Mayor John Lindsay co-founded the Vermont-New York Youth Project to raise awareness of racial justice from 1968 to 1970. Hoff said in an interview in 1989 that the project brought about “a profound understanding of for a white person … of what it meant to be black and poor growing up in an urban and curiously isolated community.”

“Phil Hoff forever changed the state of Vermont,” said Stephen C. Terry — a former journalist who co-wrote Philip Hoff: How Red Turned Blue in the Green Mountain State — to The Times. “His influence in the 1960s has molded and created the Vermont many of us know today.”

“Phil Hoff was a dedicated public servant and valued member of Vermont’s legal community,” said Peter Hall J.D. ’77, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and a lifelong Vermont resident. “His contributions to the State and the example he continued throughout his life to set for the Bar will long be remembered.  His was a life well-led.  He will be greatly missed.”