Silvio Ottavio Conte (November 9, 1921 - February 8, 1991) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from January 3, 1959 until his death.
Born to Italian immigrants in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, he represented Massachusetts's first congressional district for seventeen consecutive terms.
Conte attended Pittsfield Vocational High School, graduating in 1940. He served in the United States Navy from 1942-44, during World War II, then attended Boston College under the G. I. Bill, and went on to receive a law degree from Boston College Law School in 1949.
Conte returned to Pittsfield and immediately turned his attention to politics. Conte was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1950 and served from 1951 to 1958. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1958, defeating James M. Burns, a professor at Williams College. Conte was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, a seat which he would keep for his entire congressional career.
Conte was known for taking care of his district, which covered most of Western Massachusetts. He helped to win defense contracts for the General Electric plant in Pittsfield. An avid fisherman and environmentalist, he introduced legislation to bring back Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River .
The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Turners Falls, Massachusetts is named in his honor. He also secured funding for a polymer research center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at UMass Amherst was named in Conte's honor, as was Building 49 of the National Institutes of Health. The National Archives located on Dan Fox Drive in Pittsfield is named after Conte, and West Side Elementary School in west Pittsfield was renamed Conte Elementary School after his death.
Conte never lost an election. He is somewhat infamous for wearing a pig mask in a 1983 press conference, as a protest against pork barrel spending. Although a member of the Republican Party, Conte was known as a liberal. Conte voted against U.S. involvement in the 1991 Gulf War. The future Speaker of the British House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, worked for him briefly in the early 1960s.
Congressman Conte died at age 69 of prostate cancer in Bethesda, Maryland on February 8, 1991, and is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in his home town of Pittsfield.
He was survived by his wife Corinne, and their four children. John Olver, a Democrat, succeeded him in Congress.