Remembering Mayor Kevin White: The Funeral

By Emily Rooney, Jared Bowen & WGBH News   |   Wednesday, February 1, 2012
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Feb. 1, 2012

LISTEN: to the service in its entirety (2 hr 8 min)

BOSTON — Hours before Kevin White's funeral began on Wednesday, mourners lined up outside St. Cecilia's Church in the Back Bay. Then one by one, Boston's living political history made their way inside. Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. John Kerry, Gov. Deval Patrick, the Boston Redevelopment Authority's Peter Meade, former State Sen. President William Bulger, White's successor as mayor Ray Flynn — on and on it went. 

White, credited with revitalizing downtown Boston and shepherding the city through the court-ordered busing crisis in his four terms as mayor, died Jan. 27 at the age of 82 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Bagpipers led the funeral cortege. Arriving at the church, White's family cheerfully greeted his honor guard: a who's-who of the city's present-day founding fathers and mothers. White's widow Kathryn advised them to remember: This funeral was a celebration. 
White's lifetime companions were at his side as the casket rolled down the aisle and the church bulged with the family, friends and Everyman White had touched.

LISTEN: Mayor Thomas Menino's eulogy (7:55)

Boston mayor Tom Menino was the first to speak: "So much of what we love about our city began with him. The style, his wit, his big smile, he made us proud to be Bostonians. For those of us in public service, he showed us what difference one leader can make."
When he took the city's highest office, Menino said, "One of the first calls I made: 'Mayor White, it's Tom Menino.' To which he says, 'Wait a minute, hold it. I'm Kevin. You're Mayor Menino. I'm not Mr. Mayor. You are.' Which is when maybe I started to believe it myself."
But, Menino concluded, "on one point he was wrong. He will always be Mr. Mayor to us. May he rest in peace."

LISTEN: Rep. Barney Frank's eulogy (14:00)

Rep. Barney Frank — unscripted and off the cuff — remembered what it was like being one of White’s young aides.
"Let’s get this right about Kevin: He was a great political leader," Frank said. "But he wasn’t somebody who thought it was necessary for himself to work 12 hours a day on the phone. He understood the values of delegating, but he also understood that if you were going to delegate to people, first you had to pick the best people for the right job."
In physical and verbal gestures eerily reminiscent of his father, Mark White said that life was always filled with the unexpected. 

kevin white hearse
Kevin White's casket arrives at St. Cecilia's on Feb. 1. (Jared Bowen/WGBH)

"I remember one Christmas morning when I was 13. We were all downstairs, the lights were on, the fireplace is roaring, we’ve already opened our stockings and are halfway through opening our presents. Suddenly in this Norman Rockwell–like setting, my father jumps up with those piercing blue eyes and leads us out the front door to Mt. Vernon Street to an awaiting surprise for us all. And there standing on the sidewalk was a horse. And a bright red bow around its neck."
That kind of thinking had ramifications for the whole city, Mark White said: "When my father would come up with what seemed at their conceptions to be equally disturbing ideas, absurd ideas, like Summer Thing, Faneuil Hall, Tall Ships, James Brown concert the night of Martin Luther King’s death, First Night and so many others, most of you had the same initial reactions that the horse and my mother had that Christmas morning: Kevin, what are you thinking."

The son concluded, "He was quite simply the most interesting, imaginative, fun and loving father and friend a son shall ever have. I shall miss him dearly."
Lifelong friend Bob Crane, former state treasurer, brought the crowd to tears and a standing ovation for his tribute to Catherine White.


kevin white hearse
Pallbearers carry the casket into the church. (Sarah Birnbaum/WGBH)

"Back when you were Kevin’s wife, he made a promise in church that went something like this: in sickness and in health, until death do us part," Crane said. "I’m not sure how long it’s been — nine years, 10 years, 11 years, since his illness began to take him from us, but what I do know is that through every painful step along the way, Mary and I have watched you keep that promise with the love and devotion that touched our hearts in ways I can’t begin to describe."
And Crane addressed Kevin White as well: "My dear friend, thank you for everything. Thank you for everything you’ve meant to me and everything you’ve meant for everyone here today. Surely, goodness and mercy did follow you every day of your life and you dwell of the house of the Lord forever. God bless you, Kevin. The song has ended but the melody lingers on."
Following the funeral services, White's funeral cortege resumed to the strains of the bagpipers' "Amazing Grace" and to applause. It marked the final passage of an era marked distinctly by White's successor, Mayor Ray Flynn. 

Kevin White And The Toll Of The Tregor Bill

By Ted Canova   |   Tuesday, January 31, 2012
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Jan. 31, 2012

tregor bill

Boston mayor Kevin White, left, and Mass. Gov. Ed King faced off in 1982 over a bailout for the city. (WGBH Archives)

BOSTON — The wake for former Boston Mayor Kevin White took place Tuesday afternoon at the Parkman House on Beacon Hill. It's a fitting location, one that White loved, but also just steps away from where White faced a torturous political battle to save the city. 
It was a political standoff that pitted every conceivable stakeholder against one another. There was money, politics, gamesmanship and personalities.
… The City of Boston against the state.
… Teachers versus firefighters, police, and public works employees.
… The mayor against the City Council and the Boston delegation on Beacon Hill.
… And most of all, White against Gov. Ed King.
“It was a political battle that just would never end. It went on and on. The name Tregor still kind of gets me a shiver down my back,” said journalist Frank Phillips, who covered the story for the Boston Globe. "This was the end of White’s term. There was some arrogance." 

The need for a bailout
Boston was in dire financial straits: Firefighters and police were being laid off and the schools almost closed. White came to the State House for help. He needed the legislature to approve a bailout package, nicknamed the Tregor Plan, which he had spent months working out with the City Council.

> > Read an overview of the Tregor bill from the 1981 Christian Science Monitor. 

But the Legislature refused, largely because White all but ignored the Boston delegation at the State House. "He was willing not to deal with individual legislators, coming here to the leadership," Phillips said. "I think that was part of the problem: they undercut him and there were all kinds of battles after that.”

A clash of characters

One of White's many battles was with Governor Ed King, a fellow Democrat who froze property taxes and was facing a rematch against Michael Dukakis.
"Ed King had been executive director of Massport at the time when they were trying to get an extra runway. And White was mayor of the city and there was always a lot of tension that came out of that," Phillips said. Furthermore, "White came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, King came from the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, and I don’t think they trusted each other at all."
King refused to sign the Boston bailout, partly because it included a 15 percent parking tax.
White changes his plan

Then a pivotal moment occurred in April 1982. Coverage from WGBH's "Ten O'Clock News" shows a more humble White as he appeared before a State House committee and presented an amended fiscal plan for the members' approval. 
In addition to changing the city's "financial request," the mayor conceded power to the school board and City Council, which won significant budgetary oversight, scrutiny and review over the mayor's budget plans.
"These changes were made by way of compromise," White said. "Last year was a chastening experience … for my staff, for me and I think for all of us, and I hope in the long run has strengthened our relationships and enhanced the prospects of the passage of the bill."
With White conceding to many political forces, the Legislature passed the bill, which also led to the expansion of the Hynes Convention Center.

A compromise ... or a victory for the governor?
When King signed the bill in June 1982, political barbs flew, at first unnamed, and laughter rang out.

King signs the bill in a clip from WGBH's "Ten O'Clock News."

"That same high-ranking official who shall remain unnamed called me a political amateur. His political soulmate who shall also remain nameless is calling me a 'bleep' in paid advertising," he said.
Then, in what would seem unimaginable today by politicians who forged a compromise, King made it clear who won and who lost:
"When we began, the mayor wanted a 30 percent parking tax. There is no parking tax. The mayor wanted a new meals tax. There is no meal tax. The mayor wanted a new hotel tax. There is no hotel tax. The mayor wanted to borrow $90 million. We cut that in half," he said. "This bill is not the Tregor bill as mayor proposed it. It's not even a distant cousin … this is not a bailout."
King then took another swipe at White's next move: "Finally, before the ink is even dry on this bill, I'm told Mayor White is saying that he'll be back next year more state aid. … Since I plan on being here, he will need a lot of votes that he does not have."
After the dust settled, a 1983 Boston Globe editorial said this period included some of the "pettiest, meanest politicking the city has seen in some time."
That same year, White decided he had enough — and chose not to seek re-election to the office he held for 16 years.

Additional reporting by Sarah Birnbaum.

Insights Into Mayor Kevin White And His Era

By WGBH News   |   Monday, January 30, 2012
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Jan. 31, 2012

BOSTON — As the ceremonies for former mayor Kevin White continue — he will lie in state Jan. 31, 2:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m., at Parkman House on Beacon Hill, followed by a Feb. 1 funeral and motorcade in the Back Bay — a range of luminaries remembered White and his era.

"Greater Boston" examines White's legacy with Ted Landsmark, George Regan and former Boston mayor Ray Flynn, among other guests, and WGBH archival video.

TED LANDSMARK, president of Boston Architectural College; as a young lawyer he was attacked by anti-desegregation protestors in Boston City Hall Plaza in 1976, captured in a photo that went on to win a Pulitzer:

"There were many parts of that city at that point whether it was going to a sporting event at the Boston Garden or going to Fenway Park where African Americans were simply not welcome to go. … whatever the perception of his public face was, at the time it has to be remembered there was a lot of back-channel work that was going on, trying to work with the churches, trying to work with the police, trying to work with neighborhood leaders, trying to work together to bring some peace back to the city."

ted landsmark

BILL OWENS, former Massachusetts state senator:

"The mayor wanted some money from the Legislature. I think it was about $25 million. And I held that money up. … I wanted Deer Island, I wanted a black superintendent, I wanted Community Development Block Grant money and I wanted blacks raised up in the Fire Department into administration because there were none."

bill owens

KENNETH GUSCOTT, president of Boston's NAACP branch from 1963–1968:

"I couldn't get a taxi driver to take me from the airport into Roxbury … the climate was very tense and people were very much afraid that we would have a riot in the City of Boston similar to what was happening across the country. And when [city councilor] Tom Atkins pushed the issue with the mayor of having the [James Brown] concert down at Boston Garden, it took a lot of nerve on both their sides." 

kenneth guscott

Photos by Will Roseliep/WGBH. Listen to the full conversation with Guscott, Landsmark and Owens. 

MICHO SPRING was chief of staff and deputy mayor to White from 1976 to 1984.

"It was very usual to get a phone call for a Sunday-afternoon meeting at the Parkman House because the mayor had been thinking all weekend about something he wanted done on Monday morning.

And I remember being called up one Sunday morning and I arrived and the mayor announced to us that as of Monday he was reversing Charles Street to be the other way. ... We all looked at him and said, 'Without any community meetings?' And he said, 'I’m doing it. I’m just doing it. It’s the right thing for the neighborhood. People are just going by Charles Street to get to the other side. It’s destroying the sense of community we have and the small shops and I’m just going to do it. I’ve talked to a couple of storeowners. It’s the right thing to do. It’ll be a much better thing for Beacon Hill as a neighborhood and I’m just doing it.' And we were all like, 'No, Mayor, you can’t mean this.'

"And course, A, he did it, and B, he was totally right and it changed the character of Charles Street big-time and the neighborhood loved it. But who today, would think about doing something like this without processing it?" Full discussion with Spring.

Boston's School Desegregation Era

By Phillip Martin   |   Monday, January 30, 2012
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Jan. 30, 2012

BOSTON — Mayor Kevin White presided over a tumultuous time of race relations. We look at his actions at three different crisis points and how they're seen today.

Haymarket, April 1968

In April 1968, network television anchors took to the air to report that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, had had a concert long scheduled for the following night at the Boston Garden. The young mayor of Boston, Kevin White, was uncertain about whether the concert should proceed. But city councilor Tom Atkins persuaded White that the concert could be a way to keep people out of the streets.

Twenty-four hours after King was killed, with racial tensions rising in other cities, Boston stayed calm as White spoke at the Garden.

"I'm here tonight, like all of you, to listen to James. But I'm also here to ask for your help. I'm here to ask you to stay with me as your mayor and to make Dr. King's dreams a reality in Boston," he told the crowd.
"That was important that he listened to members of the black community about what he needed to do in that situation," said veteran community organizer Mel King on Jan. 29 at his weekly brunch in the South End. But King had a different opinion of the mayor’s role in the turbulent years over school busing:
"On the other hand, I don’t know where he was when we were having the people in South Boston and East Boston and other places who were railing out against the desegregation order. I think it's important for people to understand that the leadership in the white community was very scarce around this issue."

South Boston, September 1974
In 1974, White presided over a severely balkanized city: Public schools were divided along color lines in violation of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring school segregation unconstitutional. Mel King said, "Very frankly, the problem didn’t get solved until the courts made it happen."
The vehicles for change were yellow school buses. They rolled into traditionally Irish and Italian neighborhoods as Judge Arthur Garrity’s desegregation order started to be implemented.
Listening to the WGBH archives paints a dramatic picture of a pivotal moment in Boston history. Take this comment from an unidentified little girl in Roxbury:
"When we go up there we’re going to get stoned. It’s not fair to me 'cause why isn’t it the other way around when they come up here? When they come up here we won’t mess with them so why when we come up there they mess with us?"
Michael Patrick MacDonald's memoir "All Souls" is about his childhood growing up in South Boston. He wrote of the desegregation riots:
"Smash! A burst of flying glass and all that rage exploded. We'd all been waiting for it, and so had the police in riot gear…. More bricks, sticks, and bottles smashed against the buses, as police pulled out their billy clubs and charged with their riot shields in a line formation through the crowds. Teenagers were chased into the project and beaten to the cement wherever they were caught. I raced away about a block from the fray, to a spot where everyone was chanting 'Here We Go Southie, Here We Go,' like a battle cry."
In an interview with WGBH News, MacDonald said, "I was only 8 years old at the time … none of us kids knew what to expect. But I really feel in retrospect that the adults, all of the adults involved, all knew what was going to happen. Of course violence was going to break out and violence did break out."
But others gave White credit for attempting to mediate a very difficult conflict rooted in age-old racial divisions and for being resolute in carrying out the court order. At a press conference in September 1974, reporters pressed White on this issue, asking him what it would take to get people in South Boston to agree to go to school outside their neighborhood.

White replied that it would take "obviously, time and patience by us. A willingness to stick it out. A willingness to know that none of us like the situation, the least being the police. But the fact is, we’re faced with the law and we’re charged with implementing it, and no matter how long it takes, that’s precisely what has to be done in this city and we’ll do it. I can’t give you a timetable."

City Hall Plaza, April 1976

the soiling of old glory
Pulitzer–winning image "The Soiling of Old Glory" became the icon of racial tensions in Boston. (Stanley Forman/Boston Herald American)

It would take longer than many ever imagined. Over the next few months and years, violent protests against desegregation and bussing expanded way beyond the school zones. Fights, marches and often violent rallies spilled into the streets, onto Carson Beach in South Boston, outside of nightclubs in Kenmore Square and, most significantly, in April 1976, in the shadow of government itself.

On WGBH's "Ten o'Clock News," Pam Bullard reported, "Boston’s latest racial confrontation occurred yesterday in City Hall Plaza after months of building tension, a group of white youth viciously attacked a black attorney, Theodore Landsmark."
But it was the photo taken of the attack that made this incident stand out. The image — which would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize — showed Landsmark being grabbed from behind by one white youth while another lunged toward him with a long pole flying the flag of the United States of America.
Then–State Sen. Bill Owens spoke for many African Americans at a press conference following the attack, saying, "People of color are not safe to come here to Boston, and we’re asking people of color across the country to stay away."
Over three terms, White had led an infrastructural transformation of Boston, with new skyscrapers, high-rise condos, translucent office towers and a revitalized downtown commercial district. The Landsmark incident threatened to cast a permanent shadow over the mayor’s shiny "city on a hill." At that point many around the country were comparing it not to New York, but to Little Rock in 1957. 

"If Boston, state officials will not protect us, we must ask for federal protection," Owens said at that same press event. He accused White of allowing City Hall Plaza to become a venue for anti-busing rallies. And Owens declared, to applause, "I supported the re-election of mayor Kevin White. Today, I’m withdrawing that vote of confidence that I gave him in September and November."

The aftermath

Mayor White owed his first of four terms to a coalition of Italian, liberal and black voters. And African American leaders often reminded him of this. In the aftermath of the Landsmark incident, the mayor called for greater enforcement and tougher penalties against racial violence. Black and Latino leaders also pointed out that City Hall was largely devoid of people of color. That also began to change.

Donna Bivens, director of the Boston Busing/Desegregation Project, said White's legacy on busing is mixed:

"He’ll be remembered by different people affected by the crisis in different ways: mediator, as a politician, someone that’s expedient, sometimes someone who was caught in the middle," she said. "I remember him as trying to juggle a very complex situation that I don’t think that he totally understood at the time. But I don’t think that most of us understood the depths of systemic racism and how entrenched some of the things we were trying to change are, for people working for and people working against it. He did the best that he could at the time with what he understood."

The best that he could at the time with what he understood. It's a point, said Bivens, that was driven home by White in an address just days before the busses started rolling in September of 1974:

"I will employ every resource available to me to guarantee the well-being of these children. And I have a duty as mayor to give every child in this city access to school, and I will fulfill that responsibility, to the best of my own ability."

DJ Henry Coda: The Case Today

By Phillip Martin   |   Friday, October 21, 2011
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Oct. 21, 2011

Angella Henry with shirt

Angella Henry, the mother of DJ Henry, holds a tee-shirt she was sent by college students in support of her son. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)


BOSTON — In February 2011, when a New York grand jury did not indict anyone involved in the shooting death of DJ Henry, Henry’s family called for a federal investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez heads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“When these shootings occur, oftentimes you will have a local investigation and we monitor that investigation very carefully, and at the conclusion of that we will make a judgment as to whether or not the facts support a criminal civil rights prosecution,” Perez said.
When the division reviews a case, the team works with a series of experts that often include former police chiefs, Perez said. “So we can go in, analyze training policy and procedures, identify challenges and weaknesses, and correct them. We are able to play a very constructive role because our teams that conduct these reviews are teams that include not only lawyers but experts in effective policing.”
It is not known when the Justice Department will offer its opinion.
The Henry family has moved ahead with a $120 million civil lawsuit against two police forces in New York.
Aaron Hess, the officer who shot and killed Henry, recently sued a liquor store that he alleges sold alcohol to the underage football player. He claims it was alcohol that led to the incident.
Hess was also injured that night. His lawyer Mitchell Baker claimed the officer’s life had been turned “upside down” since the shooting.
“His knee is terribly injured. Several broken bones, broken kneecaps, torn ligaments, tendons. He has been out of work for eight months,” Mitchell said. Hess is undergoing rehabilitation; his ability to return to police work is in doubt.
In the broader culture, DJ Henry case has become a cause célèbre, inspiring a tribute from hip-hop artists Kanye West and Jay-Z, and postings on YouTube and Facebook

His hometown of Easton, Mass. has just named a sports field after him and his family has established the DJ Henry Dream Fund, a nonprofit providing resources for promising young athletes. 

Angella Henry said she thinks of her son all the time.

"I imagine him with us at the dinner table, coming to church with us, coming out of his room in the morning,” she said, her voice shaking. “I still think he’ll call at night. I think he’ll be home. There’s not a day that goes by where we don’t imagine him here.”

The Death of DJ Henry: Complete Coverage from WGBH News

By Phillip Martin   |   Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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The October 2010 shooting death of Danroy “DJ” Henry Jr., the Pace University football player from Easton, Massachusetts, has continued to stir controversy on a number of levels that go well beyond this single incident. 

As part of his ongoing coverage, WGBH News' Phillip Martin explored those issues in a special four-part series, DJ Henry and the Training of Police, that won a 2011 PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. You can read and hear all Martin's stories on the subject via the timeline on this page.

> > READ: The complete story lineup

Part 1: A Crowd, a Car and a Gun

The Henry family

Who was DJ Henry? And who was Aaron Hess, the former U.S. Marine who was on duty with the Pleasantville police force that night? Henry's best friend remembers October 17 and the events that brought the football player and policeman together — with fatal results. Read Part 1.

The Emily Rooney Show: A Family Still Searches for Answers, Justice

Hip-hop stars Kanye West and Jay-Z considered DJ Henry's case an example of another black man dying young of violent causes. They dedicated this song, from their 2011 album "Watch The Throne," to Henry.

Murder to Excellence (clean) - Jay Z & Kanye West by Imagem Creative

Part 2: DJ Henry, Eurie Stamps and Race

Henry's football helmet

A grand jury did not proceed with a case against Officer Aaron Hess. But some continued to question the role of race in Henry's death — especially after a retired MBTA worker named Eurie Stamps was shot by a Framingham police officer in January 2011. Read Part 2.

The Callie Crossley Show: DJ Henry, Race and Police

Part 3: DJ Henry and the Police Response

The Henry family

Some police experts say the force needs to train officers to de-escalate conflicts and increase sensitivity to racial stereotypes. The six-month training program for new Massachusetts police was created to prevent the kind of situations that may have led to the deaths of DJ Henry and Eurie Stamps. Read Part 3.


Coda: The Henry Case Today

After the end of the local criminal investigation, the Henry family asked the federal Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights review. We follow up on the tributes, the lawsuits and the lives that were forever changed. Read Coda.

Kyle Henry recorded a video message to supporters of the family. (KditaOtaku15/YouTube)


Complete Coverage

About the Authors
The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black. 
Phillip Martin Phillip Martin
Phillip W. D. Martin is the senior investigative reporter for WGBH Radio News and executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions. In the past, he was a supervising senior editor for NPR, an NPR race relations correspondent and one of the senior producers responsible for creating The World radio program in 1995. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1998. Learn more at


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