Becoming JFK: A Profile in Communication

By Vito N. Silvestri | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The First Campaign: Stumping the
Neighborhoods

All politics is local.
Thomas "Tip" O'Neill

The Eleventh Congressional District was a gerrymandered arrangement of part of the West End of Boston, including Beacon Hill, the South End and Brighton, the North End, Chinatown, Cambridge, three wards of Somerville, and all of Charlestown. It was home to liberal and conservative Harvard intellectuals, and to dockworkers, longshoremen, fishermen, and factory workers; and it included a rainbow of ethnic Americans of Irish, Italian, Greek, Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian, Armenian, Chinese, and Lebanese descent. Most of the working-class population lived in crowded tenements or three-decker housing. Factories, smokestacks, grain elevators, oil tanks, dumps, and freight yards existed alongside neighborhoods often known for high crime rates, while other areas were staunchly family-oriented. 1

James Michael Curley had represented the district, but in November, 1945, at the age of seventy-one, he decided to run for Mayor of Boston, and he won. With the district seat open, Kennedy ran against nine other candidates for the nomination.

Kennedy began to organize his campaign in late fall, 1945. His father had started to put resources in place earlier that year, shortly after Curley announced he would vacate the seat. Joe Kennedy contacted his cousin, Joe Kane, who was knowledgeable about Boston politics, the Morrissey family, who were prominent in public life in Boston, and Joe Timulty, a friend of his and former police commissioner.

Kane offered advice about local politics, developed a campaign budget, and enlisted people to help with the operation. Francis Morrissey scheduled Kennedy for speaking engagements and supervised the Boston headquarters. Joe Timulty introduced Kennedy to influential leaders in the Boston area and helped to recruit people for his campaign office staff. Other political operatives like Mike Ward, Patsy Mulkern, and Billy

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