My friend and former editor Peter Kadzis has written a remembrance of the late Boston mayor Kevin White for the Boston Phoenix that is striking in its depth and nuance. Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich, a White admirer, makes a cameo as well.
Peter grew up in Dorchester and continues to live in the city. His intricate knowledge of Boston’s tribalism helps him negotiate the city’s complexities in a way that few others can match. For instance:
For most of his mayoral career, White was the candidate of middle-class aspiration. White was more than a politician; he was a symbol.
To those already in the middle class and to the far larger number of blue-collar families aspiring to that status, White validated the idea that social and economic mobility was real. A vote for White was a subliminal endorsement of the idea that each generation could expect to better itself.
In contrast, White’s mayoral rivals, School Committeewoman Louise Day Hicks and City Councilor Joseph Timilty essentially defined themselves by not being Kevin White. Hicks and Timilty offered no vision.
Kadzis reminds us that it was the Harvard economist (and Kennedy family intimate) John Kenneth Galbraith who stuck the shiv in White’s aspirations for the vice presidential nomination in 1972 — which, if it had become reality, might have led to a White presidential campaign four years later.
So I was thrilled to find the photo I’ve included here of White and Galbraith making small talk in front of a scowling John Silber five years later. (The occasion was Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler’s birthday.) Clearly White believed in keeping his friends close and his enemies closer.
Photo (cc) by City of Boston Archives and reprinted here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.