Former Longtime Boston Mayor And The Infamous James Brown Concert

Kevin White, who died on Friday, was the mayor of Boston from 1968 until 1984, overseeing a city in transition. When White was first elected, American cities were struggling; and Boston was loosing population — its days as a mighty seaport were well behind it.

Former Boston Mayor Kevin White outside Faneuil Hall in Boston Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006. (AP)

White is credited with leading a downtown renewal that forever changed the profile of Boston, from one marked by urban blight and decline to one defined by tall buildings, a thriving financial district and a vibrant waterfront.

But his record on the city’s greatest social challenge of that time is less clear-cut. During his tenure, a federal court order to desegregate the city’s schools led to racially charged violence in Boston’s neighborhoods. White led the city through the busing crisis, and some say he handled an intractable social challenge as well as it could be managed. Others say the downtown mayor turned his back on the neighborhoods in their time of need.

We consider his legacy during this difficult and defining period of the city. But first we hear a story from reporter Michael May about racial healing and one of White’s finest moments, which occurred the night after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., when White helped spare Boston the kind of racial violence that ripped other American cities apart.


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