By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff
FALL RIVER, Mass. — If it wasn’t already evident that faith and family are two pillars in the life of Thomas M. Quinn III, there were clues peppered throughout his Inaugural Ceremony last week.
Quinn took the oath of office as the new District Attorney for Bristol County inside the auditorium of Bishop Connolly High School — where all three of his children attended — and before a packed audience that included a sizeable delegation of priests from the Fall River Diocese, including Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., who delivered the closing Benediction.
In addition to the many family members present, the master of ceremonies for the event was none other than Quinn’s brother, Andrew.
“He’s been a person who has been shaped by his family, he’s been shaped by his faith, and he’s been shaped by his friends and his community,” said longtime friend and Deputy District Attorney William McCauley in his introductory remarks. “Tom Quinn has been a man in motion his whole life and you can’t stop him. He’s motivated by service.”
“This is a big moment for myself, for my family and for the District Attorney’s office,” Quinn told The Anchor just moments before being sworn in by Gov. Charlie Baker. “I’m very happy to have the ceremony here at Bishop Connolly High School — it holds a special place for me. My faith is very important and I hope to rely on that in making the many important decisions I’ll have to make.”
Assuming the role of the chief law enforcement officer for Bristol County, Quinn takes over the office vacated when his former boss, Sam Sutter, was elected mayor of the City of Fall River during a recall election in December.
The naming of Sutter’s replacement became something of a political football in the aftermath of the high-profile recall election and was one of the first tasks to come across the desk of newly-elected Gov. Baker.
“It was very important to us that we not make a mistake here in a nascent administration,” Gov. Baker said. “We talked to police chiefs, we talked to mayors, we talked to city councilors, we talked to community activists, we talked to local officials — and the question we asked all of them was who would be the best person to serve as District Attorney of Bristol County. I just want you all to know that the overwhelming response we got back was that people felt Tom Quinn was the right man for the job.”
With his wife Sharon by his side, Quinn beamed when Gov. Baker called him up to take the oath of office.
“I have some idea about what it’s like to be the spouse of a public figure, because I’ve been married to someone who has said to me many times that she feels like she’s lending me to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Gov. Baker said.
“Sharon, I want to thank you for lending your husband to the people of Bristol County,” he added, joking: “Someday you can have him back.”
During his inaugural address, Quinn proceeded to thank his wife for “her strong support over the last 27 years. She’s been there for me and she’s been tolerant of the sacrifices that I’ve had to make and the time demands of a prosecutor. I certainly wouldn’t be here without her strong, quiet support,” he said.
Quinn also thanked his three children — Michael, Caroline and Brian.
“I’m very proud of the young adults they’ve become and of the support they’ve given me over the past few months,” he said.
He thanked other family members, including his six siblings, and singled out his mother, Jean, and aunt, Rosemary, who were present at the ceremony.
“They gave me the good, moral foundation that will assist me in the many important decisions I’m going to have to make as District Attorney,” he said. “This day is as much about them as it is about me.”
Quinn also dedicated the ceremony and gave special thanks to his late uncle, Judge James M. Quinn, who died 14 years ago.
“He was a great mentor to me and he provided priceless advice,” he said. “I would not be here without his guidance. I feel very blessed and fortunate to have had him involved in my life.”
A native of New Bedford who grew up in Dartmouth, Quinn graduated from Dartmouth High School in 1978 and went on to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He was named First Assistant District Attorney in Bristol County in 2007 and previously served as an assistant district attorney from 1988 to 1997.
Along with raising a family and practicing law, Quinn has been generous in giving time to serve his community and Church.
“He’s committed to this idea that he can make a difference,” McCauley said. “He recognizes his own blessings and he wants to share that with others.”
Quinn is a longtime and active parishioner at Holy Name Parish in Fall River, where he has served as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, a Religious Education teacher, a member of the Holy Name School Parent Council, and member of the Holy Name Parish Finance Council. He also serves on the Executive Council for Bishop Connolly High School.
“I’ve been involved at Holy Name Parish for many years — all my children went to the parish school — and it’s been an important part of my life,” Quinn said. “I know some of the parishioners are here today and I’m grateful for their presence.”
In joking about what he called “the process” of selecting someone to replace Sam Sutter after his winning the mayoral election in December, Quinn said he received a great deal of support over the last two months from his parish and the local community.
“I remember going to church and everyone was telling me they were supporting me and keeping me in their prayers,” he said. “I even remember going to Mass one time at St. Mary’s in South Dartmouth and a gentleman I used to play sports with came up to me and gave me a ‘thumbs up’ — that meant a lot to me.”
But it’s clear Quinn doesn’t take the responsibility of running the 180-person Bristol County District Attorney’s office lightly.
“I truly care about the citizens of Bristol County and their ability to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods,” he said. “As your lead prosecutor in Bristol County, I’m keenly aware of the awesome responsibility of my position and I’ve always respected the power of the District Attorney’s office.”
During his closing Benediction, Bishop da Cunha referenced the Scripture passage in which Solomon asks God for the ability to distinguish between good and evil, between right and wrong.
“Dealing with what’s right is always something Tom Quinn has known how to do,” said McCauley. “Tom has been the ultimate professional and getting to know (him) has been one of the many blessings in my life.”