Matthew J. Ryan
Born: April 27, 1932, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA. Died: March 29, 2003, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA. Member of the House: Delaware County, 1963-1966, and the 168th Legislative District, representing part of Delaware County, 1967-March 29, 2003. Affiliation: Republican.
Matthew Ryan graduated from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in 1950 and from Villanova University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business in 1954. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1954 and served as a first lieutenant until 1956. Ryan graduated from Villanova University School of Law with a Juris Doctor degree in 1959. After graduating, Ryan practiced law in Media, Delaware County, and taught Business Law at Villanova University. In November of 1962, Ryan was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and was re-elected for 20 more successive terms.
Ryan was well known as an advocate for welfare reform and tax relief. He sponsored legislation, Act 34 of 1979, which exempted the proceeds obtained by estates of Vietnam conflict veterans for the Inheritance and Estate Tax Act of 1961. In 1983, Ryan was the prime sponsor of a bill that reformed income tax, Act 29 of 1983, or the Public Utility Realty Tax Act, and changed taxes from 5 cents to 6 percent for cigarettes.
During his House tenure, he served 33 years in various leadership positions. He was elected Republican Policy chairman for 1971-1972, Republican Whip from 1973-1978, and Republican Leader in 1979-1980 and again from 1983-1994. On January 6, 1981, Ryan was elected the 132nd Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 1981-1982 session. He was elected to the Office of the Speaker 5 more times from 1995-2003.
He was well known for his support of the restoration and preservation of the State Capitol Building. As Speaker, Ryan cosponsored the legislation, which became Act 327 of 1982, which restored much of the State Capitol Building. To complete this as a bipartisan effort, Ryan worked with former Speaker K. Leroy Irvis. The two former Speakers have buildings named after them; the Capitol Annex is the Matthew J. Ryan Office Building, and the South Office Building is the K. Leroy Irvis Office Building. The State Capitol Building is now completely restored to its 1906 appearance.
Ryan was Speaker for 3 different Special Sessions of the House: Special Session No. 1 in 1995-1996 regarding crime; Special Session No. 2 in 1995-1996 regarding the blizzard of 1996, and Special Session No. 1 in 2001-2002 regarding property tax. In 2001, Ryan was the prime sponsor of House Resolution 362 and co-sponsor of House Resolution 291, two simple resolutions in the House to express condolences and support to those affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
On March 29, 2003, Ryan passed away while in office. He is interred at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He was the first elected official to lie in state since President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Today, a number of organizations named programs or buildings in his honor. The Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good is a program in the Political Science Department at Villanova University, Ryan’s alma mater. The Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is also named after the former Speaker, the first time a building on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus has been named for a state politician since Benjamin Franklin.
Ryan was married to Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Patricia H. Jenkins, and together they had 5 children and 12 grandchildren.
To view this Speaker's House Historical Biography, click here.