John Olver is married to Rose Olver, a Gender and Women's Studies professor at Amherst College. They have one daughter, Martha. The family has lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, where Olver has lived since 1963.
On February 18, 1991, 1st District Congressman Silvio Conte died just one month after taking office for his 17th term. That June, Olver, who had just been sworn in for his 10th term in the state senate, narrowly defeated Republican Steve Pierce in a special election for the seat, becoming the first Democrat to win the seat since it changed from being the in 1895. He won election to a full term by 8 points in 1992 and has only faced one truly serious challenge since, from future Acting Governor Jane Swift in 1996 (the same year Governor William Weld gave Senator John Kerry the closest race a Democratic senator has faced in Massachusetts in almost two decades). The 1st District had long been considered the most Republican district in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, but rapidly swung into the Democratic column in the 1990s. For example, in 1994, a year in which district after district fell to the Republicans nationally, Olver ran unopposed.
Olver is a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He announced his commitment to Senator Barack Obama on June 3rd, 2008. Olver made the announcement after Senator Hillary Clinton found it mathematically impossible to secure the nomination.
And while Democrats rebuff Republicans and their accusations of shutdown politics, the majority is throwing some brickbats of its own.
“They’ve been stalling,’’ said John W. Olver, D-Mass., chairman of the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee. “They are nihilists. They are jihadists.”
Republican and Muslim leaders expressed outrage at the statement.
On July 13, 2008, Boston Herald writer David Wedge began his Pols & Politics column by calling Olver a "good, old-fashioned double-dipping hack". Wedge broke the story that Olver, who has not been employed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1992, continues to receive a state pension and life insurance benefits. The practice of simultaneously receiving a public salary and public pension is known as "double-dipping" and is generally forbidden.
Greenfield journalist Christopher Collins, the program director at Air America Radio affiliate WHMP-AM, reported that Olver had confused a quote during a speech. Olver made a speech on Iran during February, 2008 where he buttressed a point with the line "...you keep your friends close but your enemies closer". Olver claimed that the words were spoken by Winston S. Churchill. Olver used Churchill's stature to support his desire for unconditional Iran-U.S. negotiations. Collins noted that those words were from the cult Mario Puzo movie The Godfather and were spoken by the fictional mobster Michael Corleone. In the movie, Michael Corleone quoted his fictional father Vito Corleone, not Churchill. Olver supporters were angered that Collins once again called Olver "The Nutty Professor", a pejorative Collins has used for over a decade.