"Tip" O'Neill graduated from Boston College in 1936 and immediately entered into politics. Elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives the following year, in 1949 he became its first Democratic Speaker. In 1952 he was elected to the congressional seat vacated by Senator-elect John F. Kennedy. He served with long-time Massachusetts Congressman John W. McCormack (Speaker from 1962-1971), and Edward M. Kennedy who entered the Senate in 1962.
With powerful allies, O'Neill, an outspoken liberal Democrat, rose quickly through the ranks, gaining national attention with his early opposition to U. S. involvement in the Vietnam War and his support of the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. He sponsored the bill that created the Cape Cod National Seashore Park (1961), and as Speaker was instrumental in bringing the "Big Dig" to Boston. He served until his retirement in 1987—fifty years after he entered public service. In 1991 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His wake was held in Memorial Hall.