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Patrick takes historic oath of office

From left: Governor Deval Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, and Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi at the State House today.
From left: Governor Deval Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, and Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi at the State House today. (Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)

Deval Patrick, who grew up in a housing project on the South Side of Chicago, won a scholarship to Milton Academy, and rose to the highest levels of the legal and corporate worlds, took the oath of office today and became the first African-American governor of Massachusetts.

When Patrick placed his hand on the historic Mendi Bible at 12:20 p.m., he brought to end 16 years of Republican dominance in the corner office.

"I Deval L. Patrick do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance and will support the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," Patrick began, reciting the oath that made him the Commonwealth's 71st governor. "So help me God."

The state's first outdoor gubernatorial inauguration was watched by a crowd that gathered along Beacon Street under overcast skies with unseasonably warm temperatures hovering near 46 degrees. The State House gates were draped in red, white and blue bunting, and a dim sunlight glinted off the landmark Bulfinch dome.

The crowd included former Massachusetts governors Jane Swift, Paul Cellucci, William Weld, and Michael Dukakis, and L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, who became the nation's first black elected governor in 1990 since Reconstruction. Patrick today became the second.

Patrick delivered a booming inaugural address that conveyed a message hope and opportunity from his hardscrabble upbringing and storybook rise to the governor's office. He alluded to the historic nature of his election declaring, "my journey here has been an improbable one, from a place where hope withers."

"It's time for a change and we are that change," he said.

And then he held up his own life story as a model.

"To this kid from the South side of Chicago, Massachusetts is my shining city on a hill," Patrick said. "Let's rebuild this city on a hill and make it shine again."

Some who came to listen to the new governor seemed to share his sense that this was a new start for the state.

"I think that it was time for a change and voters said that exactly with their vote," said Jacquie Cairo-Williams, 56, of Roxbury. Asked what she meant by change, Cairo-Williams said "an economic equality."

Others were happy just to be a part of the ceremony.

"He's very good at making everybody feel that they're involved," said Kay Menand, 78, of Back Bay.

Worcester Mayor Timothy Murray also was sworn in as lieutenant governor by House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi. Murray will continue to hold both titles until Jan. 9, when he steps down as mayor.

In brief remarks, Murray said: "Today we affirm that we are one commonwealth. The concept of democracy and liberty that sprang Massachusetts and helped create a nation still lives and breathes in its purest form in city and town halls across the state."

The lieutenant governor added: "We must make Massachusetts an affordable place to raise a family, so we can retain the graduates of our schools and colleges and universities."

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, who decided against seeking a second term, did not attend the ceremonies, having left the building Wednesday night after taking a tradition-laden "lone walk" down the Statehouse steps.

Romney, who filed papers Wednesday to form a presidential exploratory committee, stayed at his Belmont home before heading into his new headquarters in the North End to work on his campaign for the 2008 GOP nomination.

The governor-elect started his day before dawn, continuing to work on his inaugural speech before making an unpublicized visit to Children's Hospital to visit ailing patients and their families.

"The governor-elect is very big on symbolism, just as he was on Election Day, when he finally spread the ashes of his late mother," said Patrick spokesman Steve Crawford.

Afterward, Patrick was whisked off in a motorcade escorted by State Police motorcycles to an interfaith service at the Old South Meeting House. The multidenominational service featured readings by ministers of various faiths, as well as a variety of music.

"I hope you can feel both the joy in this room and the sense of expectation that accompanies it," said the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, a religion professor at Harvard University, Patrick's alma mater. "You can't do what you are about to do on your own. You will need a lot of help."

Gomes also celebrated Patrick for heading up to the Statehouse earlier this week in an unsuccessful effort to lobby legislators not to hold a vote -- and essentially kill -- a 2008 ballot question proposing to ban gay marriage in Massachusetts.

"That was a great sign of things to come," Gomes said. "There is more to be done; this is why you have four years."

Patrick insisted on the outdoor venue both to accommodate more people than could fit inside the building, and to emphasize the inclusiveness of his new administration.

Afterward, Patrick scheduled a "youth inaugural" at the Shubert Theatre before capping the day with a tuxedo-optional ball at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The featured musical performer was renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Over the weekend, Patrick planned to attend five regional receptions or inaugural balls, beginning Friday night in North Andover.

On Wednesday, Romney literally handed over the keys to the Corner Office.

In keeping with the trappings of transferring power, Romney gave Patrick a pewter key to the governor's inner office as well as an 1884 Holy Bible, a set of Massachusetts General Laws and gavel in a box made from timbers from the USS Constitution.

"To serve another person is an honor. To serve a great people has been a great honor. To help another person is rewarding. To help many thousands of people has been immeasurably rewarding," Romney wrote in the Bible. "May God continue to bless the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

On his way out of the building, he paused to say goodbye to Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, whom Patrick beat in the gubernatorial election.

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Associated Press material was used in this report.

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