James Michael Curley

James Michael Curley was born November 12, 1874 on Northampton Street in Boston's South End to immigrant parents from Galway. He grew up in mudflats behind the city hospital and when his father died suddenly, James, at age 10, worked odd jobs (delivered groceries, peddled papers, swept streets, and worked at the local drugstore, all while going to public school) to survive.

He often hung out at the local tobacco shop with older men who talked a lot of politics. He listened as their conversations and debates engrossed him. At the age of 20, after being heavily influenced by these men, Curley decided to go into politics.

Curley served four terms as Mayor of Boston: 1914-1918, 1922–1926, 1930–1934 and 1946-1950. His popularity even remained high during his felony idictment in 1943 for influence peddling, which came from his involvment with a consulting firm seeking to secure contracts. In 1945 he won a fourth term as mayor of Boston using his famous slogan “Curley Gets Things Done”.

In 1947 he was sentenced to 6-18 months in a fedal prison for mail fraud. While away, John B. Hynes served as the acting mayor during Curley’s absence. When Curley returned in 1949, Hynes decided to run against him in the mayoral election and defeated Curley.

Curley ran for Govenor of Massachusetts in 1934, and won. Over the course of his term, however, a series of scandals broke out including the involvement of his state limousine in several traffic accidents, the alleged sale of pardons to state convicts, and the appointment of scores of poorly qualified individuals to public offices.

After his one term as Govenor, Curley’s political career was faltering. The end of his serious political career came in 1951 after a failed mayoral bid. While in office, however, Curley built new libraries in West Roxbury, new schools, planned beaches, roads, tunnels, expanded parks, playgrounds, laid out miles of roads, highways, and parkways. Over his 40 year reign, he improved areas around Roxbury and Dorchester. Curley is remembered with two statues at Faneuil Hall. One shows him seated on a park bench, the other shows him standing, as if giving a speech, a campaign button on his lapel. A few feet away is a bar named for one of his symbols, The Purple Shamrock.