William J. Coyne Papers

The Detre Library and Archives is home to records pertaining to a number of local politicians, including Mayor Thomas J. Murphy,  Pennsylvania State Representative Andrew T. Fenrich, and Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll. Recently added to that list are the papers of Congressman William J. Coyne, who represented Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District from 1981 through 2002.


Former Congressman William J. Coyne.

During his 22-year tenure, Coyne secured financial appropriations for Pittsburgh-area projects, such as upgrading transportation infrastructure; redevelopment of the Hays Munitions Plant; funding for the construction of the Children’s Hospital; technology research and development associated with Carnegie Mellon University; and improvements to waste water and sewage infrastructure to combat regional flooding problems.

Coyne was the sixth of seven children born to Philip Coyne, Sr. and Mary Ridge Coyne. The family lived on Halket Street in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, where Coyne spent a large part of his life. He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1954, served with the U.S. Army in Korea from 1955 through 1957, and earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Robert Morris College in 1965.

Congressman William Coyne's first newsletter (1981)

Rep. Coyne kept his constituents and colleagues informed of his positions through quarterly newsletters. Here, his initial newsletter from April 1981, during his first term.

In the family house, political discussions were common. Coyne’s uncle, James Coyne, had served as a state senator and was considered the unofficial head of Pittsburgh’s Republican Party, which dominated the city’s political landscape in the early 20th century. As a young man, Coyne’s own interest in public service was cultivated by volunteering on local campaigns for Pittsburgh Democrats.

Coyne’s first foray into public service was in 1970, when he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. After reapportioning of districts forced him from his seat in 1972, he ran for reelection and lost – the first and only time he would be defeated in an election. However, the following year, Coyne was elected to the the Pittsburgh City Council, a position he held for seven years. When the seat for Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District opened up 1980, Coyne campaigned and was elected to his first of 10 consecutive terms in the United States House of Representatives.

Letter from Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff (1993)

Rep. Coyne’s guidance in the House helped make industrial development bonds tax-exempt, expediting economic revitalization in cities like PIttsburgh.

During his time in Congress, Coyne was active in a number of policy areas and advocated for several pieces of federal legislation. With his support during the 104th Congress, the tax-exempt Industrial Development Bond program, which gave tax breaks to older cities like Pittsburgh to rebuild their manufacturing bases, was made permanent. In 1993, Coyne endorsed Congress’s adoption of language within a budget reconciliation bill that expanded opportunities for low-income workers to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit on a monthly, not yearly, basis. Additionally, Coyne served on the influential House Ways and Means Committee for much of his tenure.

Coyne retired from politics in 2003. The William J. Coyne Papers include materials he used in drafting or sponsoring legislation, correspondence, newsletters, speech transcripts, and voting records. The finding aid for this collection can be found here.


About Alex J. Toner

I’ve been a project archivist in the Detre Library and Archives since 2011, and started in the department in 2010 as a graduate assistant. Our project is aimed at reducing our archival backlog over the course of two years utilizing MPLP-based strategies. I’m tasked (among other things) with processing collections, creating access documents, and coordinating graduate interns. I earned my MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011, and received a BA in History from Kent State University. Contact me at ajtoner@heinzhistorycenter.org.
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