Frank Goodwin’s Safety Campaign

Accession Number



PRATT, Subgroup Coppers


Frank A. Goodwin was the first Registrar of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts.* Appointed to the newly created position in 1919 by then Governor Calvin Coolidge, the hard-hitting Goodwin was a stern administrator as he led an 18-year long crusade to achieve highway justice. Chief William H. Pratt had three known encounters with Goodwin, each more fateful than the last. In 1925, when Pratt was a robust young member of the State Police Patrol, a Plymouth District Court judge dismissed drunk driving charges against a man that Pratt had arrested. Goodwin stepped in, going over the judge’s head to revoke the man’s driver’s license and ordered the removal of the number plates from his car. Pratt and Goodwin were on the same side of the law on this occasion but it ominously foreshadowed the second time their paths would cross. In 1936, Goodwin accused Pratt, now Chief of Police in Hyannis, of being on the “fix” (looking the other way in drunk driving violations) referring to Chief Pratt’s district as a “drunken drivers’ paradise.” Pratt called the charges “poppycock”** and the Barnstable Selectmen backed him up, saying the attack was “malicious in the extreme.” In the end, Pratt was forced to resign, though he cited health concerns (see PRATT.4.1937/SPECIAL ACT) as the reason for leaving his post. In 1941 Goodwin again caused trouble for Pratt, who was by this time the Chief of Police in Marshfield. Goodwin suspended Chief Pratt’s driver’s license with allegations that Pratt had altered a motorcycle registration plate and placed it on his own personal vehicle in order to use the machine to patrol the Marshfield Fair (see PRATT.5.1937/SCARPA). Three months later, Pratt resigned from his position as the Marshfield Police Chief and from police work in general (see PRATT.7.1942/FORE RIVER).

* Goodwin never drove a vehicle during his tenure as Registrar. He claimed the reason for this was that it would be too embarrassing if he had to revoke his own license for a violation. In the category of “ironic tragedies” Goodwin’s 3-year old grandson and namesake was struck and killed by a truck driver in 1927.
** Pratt defended his descriptive with hints that Goodwin had covered up a drunk driving incident for Boston’s notoriously scandalous Mayor Curley, who was known to be tight with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles


Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles official seal

Verification Reference

Daily Boston Globe


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“Frank Goodwin’s Safety Campaign,” Institute for Clew Studies, accessed March 24, 2019,