Bulger begins life sentence as a relic of a vanished age
A hoodlum left with his notoriety and nothing else
The Mafia is a joke in Boston now, reduced to a few old Italian bookmakers trying to eke out a living on sports gambling. The Irish mob that Whitey once headed is dead, too. The working-class Irish kids who grew up in the Southie housing projects like Whitey did are mostly gone, replaced mostly by blacks and Hispanics and Asians. What’s left of the working-class Irish in Boston, including Southie, aspire to join the police and fire departments, not some gang of plug uglies who sell drugs and broken dreams.
Everything that Whitey knew is gone. He has his notoriety but nothing else.
Judge Casper noted with regret that because of his criminal career and his ability to corrupt the FBI and justice department so thoroughly, Whitey Bulger is one of the most famous, or infamous, people in Boston’s history. She put his infamy in terms that everyone in Boston could relate to: without specifically mentioning the Boston Marathon bombings or the improbable championship of the Boston Red Sox, the city’s beloved baseball team, she lamented that anyone might consider Bulger famous in this year of such tragedy and triumph in the city.
“You have in certain quarters become a face of this city,” the judge allowed, before quickly adding, “but you, sir, do not represent the face of this city.”
Instead, the judge said, the city’s face is captured in the jurors who convicted him in August, a mix of decent people of all races and demographics.
Bill Bulger, Whitey’s brother, was the longest-serving president of the Massachusetts State Senate. Despite his lofty position, he remained close to his gangster brother, and even joked about Whitey’s fearsome reputation, and later his fugitive status, while presiding over the St Patrick’s Day breakfast, while singing such ditties as The Wild Colonial Boy.
But Bill Bulger was forced to resign as the president of the University of Massachusetts after the Boston Globe reported that he had talked to his brother while he was a fugitive and told a grand jury he would never do anything to help get his gangster brother caught.
Earlier this year, a Dorchester woman named Linda Dorcena Forry, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, took over the senate seat occupied by white Irishmen from South Boston for nearly a century.
She looks forward to presiding over the St Patrick’s Day breakfast next March. She has a great singing voice and knows the words to, among many Irish songs, Take Me Home to Mayo. Maybe Judge Casper can drop in and sing a song, too.
Kevin Cullen, a Boston Globe columnist, is co-author of Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice.