Things You Didn’t Know about Boston Politics
by Scott Roberto (with additional reporting by Ulysses Lateiner and Diana Aramburu)

Boston’s history is full of rabble rousers, rascals and thieves—and that’s just our elected officials. “Colorful” only begins to describe some of the characters that have populated the State House, City Hall and the back rooms where Beantown politics really happen. And just as often, our fair city has hosted, at least temporarily, political figures that have gone on to fame (and infamy) in other parts of the country and the world. From the early days of the Republic to our present day, here’s a few salient tidbits to ponder as the 2004 Democratic National Convention adds to our political legacy:

  1. Before becoming our second President, Massachusetts native John Adams successfully defended the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre of 1770 in which five colonists were killed, earning acquittals for five of the seven soldiers involved.
  2. Revolutionary War agitator and future Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams (“Samuel” to his friends, “Sam” to his many enemies) actually was a brewer, although a failed one, before entering service in the colonial British government as a tax collector.
  3. Boston-born Benjamin Franklin was the only Founding Father to sign the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution.
  4. Former Mayor, Governor and Congressman James Michael Curley (see statue pictured below) was the “Rascal King” of Boston politics for nearly half a century. He served time in jail for mail fraud during one of his four mayoral terms in 1947 before being pardoned by President Harry Truman.
  5. Joseph P. Kennedy (father of President John F. Kennedy) allegedly entertained his mistress, screen siren Gloria Swanson, at his office at Boston’s Opera House.
  6. 50,000 people attended a reception at Fenway Park in 1919 for Irish revolutionary Eamon DeValera hosted by then-Governor David Walsh, the first Irish Catholic governor of Massachusetts.
  7. Future controversial, revolutionary political figures Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh both worked for a time at the Parker House Hotel as a waiter and busboy, respectively.
  8. Our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, was born just to the south of Boston in Milton, Mass. and attended high school to the north of the Hub at prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, as did his son, current President George W. Bush.
  9. Senator John F. Kerry has appeared in both an episode of “Cheers” (in 1982) and the “Saturday Night Live 15th Anniversary Special” (1989) as himself.
  10. Staunchly Democratic Massachusetts has been under Republican Governorship since 1991 and in 59 out of the last 100 years.