Anthony DiSilvestro was born in Philadelphia, May 15, 1904, the son of Giuseppe and Mary Calfano DiSilvestro. Tony emerged as the first Democrat to serve in Philadelphia’s First Senatorial District since 1856, at the urging of Philadelphia Mayor John Kelley. Anthony received his early education at Wilson Public and Central High schools. He later received degrees from the Temple School of Pharmacy in 1928, and the Temple School of Law in 1943. A member and president of the Pharmacy Alumni of the Temple School of Pharmacy, Tony received the “Temple Award” of 1938, and became president of the general alumni association in later years. After graduation, Anthony married teacher and pharmacist Mary Angela Perseo.
Senator DiSilvestro’s distinguished career extended thirty years, 1936-1966, serving during the Lawrence administration as Democratic president pro tempore, January 3, 1961 through 1962. DiSilvestro’s penchant for hard work and a timely joke cast the senator as an upper-house favorite. As a freshman, Tony voted the Earle-Democratic line for the McGinness Labor Relations Act, the Yellow Dog Bill, the Pennsylvania Labor Mediation Act, the Clean Stream Act, the Teachers Tenure Act, the 1937 Civil Rights Commission bill, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission legislation, the Poor Bill, the General State Authority initiative, and Governor Earle’s controversial 1938 grand jury laws. During World War II, he supported passage of the Councils of Defense and the Sabotage Prevention Acts, and in 1941, he pushed a bill through Charles Ealy’s Republican controlled chamber, addressing the increasing problem of food contamination. He comically referred to the measure’s short title as the “Rotten Egg Bill,” a piece of serious legislation that members of all political stripes could not resist passing.
While president pro tempore, 1961-1962, his legislative agenda included enactment of the Pennsylvania Fair Employment Practices Act, the Fair Educational Opportunities Act, and the Wage Payment and Collection Act. The latter measure, “An Act relating to the payment of wages or compensation for labor or services,” provided regular pay days and conferred supervisory powers on the Department of Labor and Industry to enforce the collection of wages. It assured weekly pay within a specified number of days, adding the same conditions for overtime, and prohibiting hold-out pay for resigned or terminated employees, especially those with industrial disputes. The legislation established a “prevailing wage law” based on geographical location and job classification. DiSilvestro mustered unanimous (50 members) passage. DiSilvestro presided over first session consideration (1962) of majority leader Charles Weiner’s “Project 70” referendum, amending Article IX of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Originally unveiled by state forester Dr. Maurice Goddard in 1959, “Project 70” called for a $70 million bond issue to enable state acquisition of park, reservoir, and “other conservation, recreational, and historical lands for preservation purposes.” Rural areas generally opposed the proposed constitutional amendment, while sportsmen associations, urban groups, and travel associations lauded its adoption. In other quarters, Senator DiSilvestro backed the 1963 Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency Act, the State Council of Education’s transformation to State Department of Education, and supported the rewrite of Senator Darwin Finney’s 1860 Penal Code, after remaining virtually unchanged over a century. The Honorable Anthony DiSilvestro retired from the Senate in 1966 due to illness. Tony assumed additional responsibilities as the 45-year proprietor of a pharmacy at 15th and Dickinson Streets. He served as an active member of the Italian-American community, holding memberships in the Union Abruzze, Lodge Iwo Jima #138, and served as vice president of the Order of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. The senator belonged to the Elks, Knights of Columbus, and the Pennsylvania Association of Retail Druggists. In addition to his civic, professional, fraternal, and legislative interests, Tony edited and published the Philadelphia-based Italian-American Weekly “La Libera – Parola.” The Honorable Tony DiSilvestro passed away in Philadelphia on May 3, 1969.