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James Michael Curley
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    (November 20, 1874-November 12, 1958)
    Born in Boston, Massachusetts
    Congressman from Massachusetts (1911-14,1943-47)
    Mayor of Boston (1914-18,1922-26,1930-34,1946-50)
    Governor of Massachusetts (1935-37)
    He won a race for Boston alderman despite having to campaign from jail after being convicted of fraud for taking the civil service exam for another man (1904).
    He made a fortune in office from bribes and kickbacks.
    Many of his speeches were plagiarized from the Congressional Record.
    His ambitious public works programs as mayor left the city on the verge of bankruptcy more than once.
    He broke with Franklin Delano Roosevelt after FDR refused to appoint him ambassador to either Ireland or Italy. When FDR offered the post of ambassador to Poland instead, Curley responded, ‘If Poland is such a goddamn interesting place, why don’t you resign the presidency and take it yourself?’
    His 1946 campaign for mayor of Boston was financed by Joseph P. Kennedy, who figured his son John would be able to easily win the open Congressional seat that would result after Curley resigned to serve as mayor.
    He tried to double cross the Kennedys, noting that there was no law preventing him from serving as mayor and Congressman simultaneously.
    Ultimately, he decided against running for reelection to Congress after he was indicted for mail fraud.
    He was convicted and served five months in jail (1947).
    During an unsuccessful fifth campaign for mayor of Boston, he griped about one of the crowds that turned out to hear him speak, ‘If they love me so much, why won’t the sons of bitches vote for me?’
    He outlived seven of his nine children.
    He turned his 1904 conviction into a positive, campaigning under the slogan, ‘He did it for a friend.’
    He was popular with Boston’s Irish working class population.
    The poor and unemployed would line up outside his house to seek his help in getting a job or a handout to get them through the week.
    He expanded Boston’s public transportation system and built schools, hospitals and parks.
    When his political enemies kept him from being named to the Massachusetts delegation to the 1932 Democratic National Convention, he managed to wrangle his way into the convention as a delegate from Puerto Rico, using the name ‘Don Jaime Miguel Curleo.’
    He received a pardon from President Harry S Truman in response to a petition signed by all but one member of Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation. (The lone holdout: newly elected Rep. John F. Kennedy)
    He was the inspiration for Edwin O’Connor’s novel ‘The Last Hurrah’ (and its film adaptation by John Ford).
    Over 100,000 Bostonians viewed his body as he lay in state.

Credit: C. Fishel

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