I first met Marsom Pratt in 1974. I was 24 and working in the state energy office and was assigned to be the staff person for a gubernatorial blue ribbon panel, the Public Power Corporation Study Commission. It was created by Governor Frank Sargent and kept going by his successor, Michael Dukakis, to evaluate whether Massachusetts should take establish a public authority to take over the power generating functions of the privately owned electric utilities.
This was done in response to a move by Congressman Michael Harrington to put the question before the public as a referendum. The question was ultimately defeated, in part because of compromise legislation enacted by the Legislature to enhance the authority of the MA Municipal Wholesale Electric Company to enable municipal light departments to build and finance their own power plants. That Governor's Study Commission report provided the rationale for this approach, versus the broader state takeover of the private utilities' power generating functions. (By the way, for the record, one of the members of the Commission was Stephen Breyer, later to become an Associate Justice on the US Supreme Court.)
For a young person right out of college, Marsom was good company and a good mentor. Plus, he was just the right commission chairperson for someone on a small salary: He would often take me out to Maison Robert, a fancy place located in Boston's Old City Hall, for a working lunch. His office on Court Street was just a few steps down from MR, and we would inevitably find ourselves walking over. He was a regular: "Good afternoon, Mr. Pratt," would say the maitre d'. I become one, too, learning to ask for the items that I liked that were not on the menu that day. And then, there was the famous upside-down apple tart served with fresh whipped cream. Heady experience for someone who usually brought in a peanut butter sandwich for lunch!
His wife's comment in the obituary is exactly on target: He was "unconventional, but he didn't directly defy convention." He was superb on public finance, and a gentleman who held our study commission together, notwithstanding strong advocates within that group. I had occasion to see him a few times recently when he was a patient in our hospital. A kind and gentle person who will be missed.