Former Hartford Mayor Antonina “Ann” Uccello is celebrating her 95th birthday today. Uccello is known to the tens of thousands of drivers for the I-84 highway signs that direct people to the downtown street in her honor, but many remember her trailblazing tenure at city hall that began 50 years ago this fall. Uccello was the last Republican elected mayor of Hartford, an electoral drought that has become a source of great frustration for the GOP.
Back in 1967, Uccello was not only the first woman elected mayor of Hartford or in Connecticut for that matter, but also the first woman elected mayor of an American capital city. The news was so significant, it made headlines around the world, even in Moscow. Many women
entered politics because of her, in fact former U.S. Representative Nancy Johnson once said she was inspired by Mayor Uccello to run for congress.
Among Uccello’s accomplishments: going into the north end to talk personally with rioters in 1968, thwarting developers who wanted to raze the Old State House for a parking lot (can you even fathom someone proposed that?) and encouraging planners designing the Hartford Civic Center to make it larger to perhaps one day house a professional team. The Whalers showed up in the mid 70s.
Uccello told me in 1970, she was an early favorite in the race for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by a then unpopular Thomas Dodd. The other Republican candidate was Congressman Lowell Weicker. On the urging of President Nixon, and after a meeting with Weicker at the Statler Hilton (“Weicker told me he really wanted to be a senator”) Uccello passed on the senate dream, and decided not to challenge Weicker, and instead run for congress. Nixon came to Hartford to campaign for both Weicker and Uccello, but it wasn’t enough. Madam Mayor lost that heavily Democratic first district race. Nixon promptly gave her a job in the Consumer Affairs Division of the Department of Transportation, a job she remained in through the Ford administration.
As the father of a daughter, I found a story Mayor Uccello told at her 90th birthday celebration to be very touching. Her father was disappointed he had all daughters because he was afraid the name Uccello would be forgotten.
Mayor Ann Uccello will celebrate her 95th quietly with friends and family.