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David H. Locke, former state Senate minority leader, dies at 92

Mr. Locke (left) laughed with then-Lieutenant Governor Paul Cellucci (right) and Governor William Weld during his political roast at Anthony’s Pier 4 after he lost his reelection.
Mr. Locke (left) laughed with then-Lieutenant Governor Paul Cellucci (right) and Governor William Weld during his political roast at Anthony’s Pier 4 after he lost his reelection. Yunghi Kim/Globe Staff/1993/Globe Staff

Known as much for his oratory on Beacon Hill as he was for his strong stands, state Senator David H. Locke marked the 10th anniversary of Massachusetts State Lottery sales with a reminder that his opposition to the lottery remained undimmed.

“Ironically, it’s the little guy, the lower-income citizen who can least afford it, who gambles the most with little to show for it,” Mr. Locke said in 1982.

“For every winner, there are thousands of losers,” he added. “State officials like to pose with the lottery winners and do a little jig, but you never see them consoling all the losers.”

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A longtime Wellesley Republican whose career in politics stretched for more than four decades, Mr. Locke died Thursday. He was 92, lived in Holliston, and was still practicing law in the firm he had helped found in 1955.

He had been a senator for 24 years and was the chamber’s minority leader when he lost a reelection bid in 1992 to Cheryl Jacques, a Needham Democrat. By that time, he had served in the Legislature as a state representative and a senator for 32 years — longer than his opponent had been alive.

Mr. Locke had been just as devoted to his law practice, though, and during his political career he stressed the importance of legislators keeping jobs in the community. Doing so, he said, could provide lawmakers more insight into the impact their votes and actions had on the people they were serving.

He also suggested that having an income separate from state government would make legislators less susceptible to pressure from lobbyists and campaign donors.

A shared profession was part of his bond of friendship with William Bulger, the Democrat who was Senate president while Mr. Locke was minority leader.

In the Senate chamber, and often for a receptive audience of reporters, the two could spar vigorously and even caustically, but they largely set aside those roles at the end of the legislative day.

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“We clearly have a respect for each other, and I would like to think that we have an affection for each other. I have the greatest regard for Mr. Bulger, but I want to point out that we are both professionals and we both happen to be lawyers,” Mr. Locke told the Globe in 1990, when he was minority leader and Bulger was Senate president. “A lot of non-lawyers don’t understand it, but we can fight like dogs in the courtroom, but you can still remain a close friend of your opponent,” Mr. Locke added. “He’s an honest, bright, sincere, conscientious person. I will not say anything to the contrary.”

The second of four siblings, David Henry Locke was born in Boston on Aug. 4, 1927, and grew up in Wellesley, a son of Florence Henry, who lived to 103, and Dr. Allen W. Locke, a physician who had served as chief of medicine at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Graduating early from Wellesley High School, Mr. Locke joined the Marine Corps during World War II and was stationed stateside when the war ended.

Afterward, he attended Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree.

“With each passing year the ever-increasing recognition of the privilege of having attended Harvard is constantly on my mind,” Mr. Locke wrote in his entry for the 50th anniversary report of his Harvard class.

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He graduated in 1954 from Harvard Law School, and the following year he was a cofounder of the law firm Dempsey, Jameson and Locke, in Wellesley Square.

The firm subsequently became Jameson, Locke and Fullerton, and now is Locke, Fullerton and Lundwall.

Mr. Locke’s son John, who has been a state representative, has practiced law with his father at the firm for nearly 28 years.

“The man was nothing short of an icon. He was the kind of fellow who meant so many different things to so many different people in so many different ways,” John Locke said. “He was the most talented guy that I’ve ever known, the smartest guy that I’ve ever known.”

John, who lives in Holliston, added that his father “was as deft a litigator as he was a senator. His primary vocation was being a lawyer, not a legislator.”

In 1949, Mr. Locke was elected as a Wellesley Town Meeting member and served for 40 years. He also had serve as a Wellesley selectman, including as board chairman, and first won a state representative race in 1960.

He served in the House for eight years and was elected in 1968 to the state Senate, where he stayed for 12 terms.

His first marriage, to Barbara Blood, ended in divorce.

They had five children, four of whom followed Mr. Locke into the legal profession. Along with John practicing in the firm their father cofounded, David of Natick is a District Court judge, Jeffrey of Wellesley is a Superior Court judge, and Jennifer of Milton is with the firm Goodwin Procter. Only Amy Hiam, of Putney, Vt., didn’t follow Mr. Locke into the family trade.

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Mr. Locke married Patricia Crane, an administrator in the medical and legal fields, in 1984. She died in 2001.

In addition to his five children, Mr. Locke leaves his companion, Marie Navin of Holliston, and 10 grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley Hills. Interment will be in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Mr. Locke, who practiced law until a couple of weeks ago and still had cases pending, “was a giant fan of Abraham Lincoln,” John said, and sometimes invoked the names of Republicans from years past to make a point.

When the state Lottery gained initial state Senate approval in 1971, Mr. Locke said the chamber’s portrait of former president Calvin Coolidge “seems to be wringing his hands,” and added: “If you don’t draw the line at a state lottery, is there anything the state cannot do?”

Mr. Locke also regularly focused public attention on plans by Democrats in the Legislature to increase taxes or fees. When one such proposal in 1983 was dubbed a “revenue enhancement” plan, rather than a tax increase, Mr. Locke pounced, saying it was akin to a vendor trying to pass off three-day-old fish as fresh.

“To fool his customers, he wraps it in sweet-smelling paper,” Mr. Locke said. “Describing these tax measures as something other than what they are might easily be construed to be in violation of our truth-in-packaging laws.”

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Though he and Bulger often tangled over the years, the Senate president praised his friend in November 1992, when the victory by Jacques ended Mr. Locke’s State House career.

Bulger called Mr. Locke “a good man. He will be missed.”

A little more than three months later, Mr. Locke surveyed the scene when Bulger served as a master of ceremonies during a testimonial dinner and roast for Mr. Locke Anthony’s Pier 4.

“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience,” Mr. Locke said that night of his legislative career. “I guess we never like to see the end, but I guess there’s a time to come and a time to go.”


Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.