William T. Hogan Jr., 90, led state’s correction, welfare, and human services departments
The state correction commissioner job had been vacant for about eight months in 1979 when Governor Edward J. King appointed a boyhood friend, William T. Hogan Jr., to the post.
“I know this will be the most difficult and challenging job of my life,” Mr. Hogan told the Globe after the announcement. “In fact, everyone I know tried to discourage me from taking it.”
It’s not surprising that his friends advised caution. In an editorial at the time, the Globe said overseeing the state’s prisons was “certainly one of the most challenging public jobs anywhere.” More than 20 inmates had been slain since 1970 in the state’s maximum security prison in Walpole.
At a September 1979 swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Hogan announced he would immediately convene a team of experts to find ways to improve safety conditions at the Walpole prison for correctional officers and inmates alike.
Mr. Hogan, who subsequently served as state welfare commissioner, state human services secretary, and as a district court judge in Dedham and Barnstable, died May 29 in his Naples, Fla., home of complications from a fall. He was 90 and previously had lived in Needham and the Popponesset Beach part of Mashpee.
At the time of his correction commissioner appointment, he had spent more than 23 years as a probation officer in Massachusetts, the last nine as chief federal probation officer.
“I’m tough on myself,” he said in the 1979 interview. “And I’m a tough administrator. I intend to exert a leadership role. I’m strict, but my method is to get everything out in the open where it is much fairer for everybody.”
His leadership and his ability to switch swiftly from one job to another were soon tested. Barely a year after becoming correction commissioner, Mr. Hogan was appointed head of the state Welfare Department. Ten months later, in July 1981, King appointed Mr. Hogan to serve as secretary of the state’s Human Services Department. In January 1983, as King’s term as governor drew to a close, he presided over Mr. Hogan’s swearing in as a Dedham District Court judge.
That last change marked an abrupt shift in responsibilities for someone who had grown accustomed to overseeing expansive departments in state government.
“He said, ‘I had 33,000 employees on one day and all of a sudden I went into a courtroom and I’m by myself,’ ” recalled his son Daniel Hogan, who is clerk magistrate of Boston Municipal Court.
Despite his string of high-profile jobs, “he was extremely proud of his East Boston roots,” said his son, who added that to family and friends, “he was always just Bill Hogan.”
The fourth of five children, Mr. Hogan grew up on East Boston’s Saratoga Street, not far from St. Mary Star of the Sea School, which he attended as a child. The Hogans lived in a three-decker that had an Irish-American family on every floor.
Mr. Hogan’s father, William T. Hogan Sr., was a Boston Fire Department deputy chief. His mother, the former Mary T. Crotty, was a homemaker.
“He was born and raised in a fire department family,” his son said, and Mr. Hogan instilled firefighter wariness in his own 10 children. “He said, ‘Wherever you’re going, you find those fire exits.’ ”
As a boy, Mr. Hogan lived a short walk from where Edward King grew up. The future governor and his future appointee walked to elementary school together and remained friends when they went to different high schools — Boston Latin for Mr. Hogan, Boston College High for King.
After high school, Mr. Hogan served in the Navy and returned home to attend Boston College, where he pitched for the baseball team. A talented, fastball-throwing righthander, he was offered a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. His father had other ideas.
“His father said, ‘No, I don’t think so,’ ” Mr. Hogan’s son Daniel said. “He said, ‘Your baseball is your baseball, but you’re going to continue your education.’ ”
Mr. Hogan was later inducted into the Boston Park League Hall of Fame and received the league’s Red Johnson Memorial Alumni Award. And one memento of his brush with a Phillies career remains. “I still have his contract on the wall,” Daniel said.
Instead of pursuing baseball, Mr. Hogan entered the social work master’s program at Boston College, where he met Dorothea Shea. They married on June 7, 1952.
Having completed his master’s, he became a probation officer in 1956. Simultaneously, he was studying nights at New England School of Law and helping to raise his ever-growing number of children. “He graduated from law school with five kids under the age of 7,” his son said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hogan supplemented his day job by pitching in on weekends with a relative’s roofing company. “That’s probably where he got the arms the size of my legs. He was always working,” Daniel said.
As a faculty member for the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C., Mr. Hogan also taught and helped train probation officials and wrote papers about presentencing procedures. He didn’t let his duties at home lag, though.
“He prided himself on having the cleanest diapers in the neighborhood. He would clean them and bleach them and hang them on the line,” his son said.
“Men didn’t do those things in those years. He was a trendsetter in that regard,” Daniel added. “My mother would say, ‘Some of the guys in the neighborhood are making fun of you.’ He’d say, ‘Let them. Tell them to come over and make fun of me in person because I’ve got the cleanest diapers in the neighborhood.’ He was proud of it.”
A service has been held for Mr. Hogan, whose daughter Ruth Kotler died in 2011. In addition to his wife, Dorothea, and his son Daniel of Canton, Mr. Hogan leaves six daughters, Mary Hogan Sullivan of West Roxbury, Patricia Henry of Chattanooga, Tenn., Joan Hayden of Naples, Fla., Brenda Shisslak of Needham, Margaret Nellson of Wilmington, and Jennifer Guinee of Pittsburgh; two other sons, William III of Needham and Michael of North Andover; a brother, Joseph of Farmington, Conn.; and 32 grandchildren.
Over the years, Mr. Hogan had also taught social work at Boston College, served on the state Parole Board, and chaired an advisory committee on the state Department of Correction. In 1993, he headed a panel to examine the operations of the state Department of Youth Services, after several teens were either killed or were accused of being involved with murders while under the agency’s supervision.
His varied career in state executive government, on the bench, and on panels drew him farther and farther from that day at the end of the 1940s when his father insisted he give up pitching. “It turned out that I got a sore arm shortly afterwards,” Mr. Hogan told the Globe in 1979, “so I guess my father was right.”