Notes on collections at the RIHS
Born on July 6, 1912, Raymond James Pettine knew from an early age that he wanted a career in law even though his father wanted him to become a dentist. As a child in Cranston, he attended the Shaw Avenue School, where he experienced the discrimination and taunts common to the immigrant experience in the early part of the 20th century. After graduating from Cranston High School (now Cranston High School East), the future judge first attended Providence College and then Boston University, where he earned a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1937 and a Master of Laws degree in 1940.
Not long after he passed the Rhode Island bar exam in 1941, Pettine enlisted in the U.S. where he served in the Adjutant General Corps until 1946, attaining the rank of Major before he was discharged. Pettine remained active in the U.S. Army reserves and obtained the rank of Colonel in the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) as a member of the trial judiciary. He retired from active duty in 1966 when he was appointed to the U.S. District Court, Rhode Island only because he could stay not on active service as a member of the federal judiciary.
As a U.S. District Court Judge, Pettine demonstrated his commitment to good government and justice in his pursuit of bookies involved in illegal gambling that cost the state an estimated $70 million in lost tax revenue. He spoke out against the opponents of fair housing legislation in the state. In a speech given at a memorial service for John F. Kennedy, Pettine noted that “[Fair housing opponents] people forget their responsibility to the welfare of the state, which is greater than any motivating self-interest.”
Raymond J. Pettine was appointed to the U.S. District Court by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1966. Until his retirement from the bench in 1996 after suffering a stroke, Judge Raymond J. Pettine issued rulings in landmark cases that have reaffirmed people’s constitutional rights. In an interview in 1974, Judge Pettine defined his principles: “I know a lot of my decisions are controversial, but that cannot deter me from doing in good conscience that which is mandated by the Constitution.”
Judge Raymond J. Pettine died November 17, 2003 in Dallas, TX.
~Kirsten Hammerstrom, Director of Collections