Joe Moakley was born in South Boston on April 27, 1927. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives the year that Tip O'Neil was elected to the U.S. House and John Kennedy was elected to the Senate: 1952. In 1973, Joe became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and served until his death in 2001. As chairman of the House Rules Committee, he was one of the most powerful members of Congress. His investigation of the murder of six Jesuits in El Salvador opened the way to a peaceful settlement between the rebels and the Salvadoran government.
In 2002, the John Joseph Moakley Chair for Peace and Reconciliation was established in his memory at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies. Padraig O'Malley is the first to hold the chair.