Barney Frank Remembers Kevin White

Barney Frank

Kevin White

If openly gay Congressman Barney Frank is praising an Irish Catholic former mayor of Boston, you have to stop to take notice.

Indeed that is what Frank did the other day in a news story circulated by the Associated Press, and which I read on the website of The Herald News of Fall River, Massachusetts.  Kevin White, who passed away on January 27th, was the subject of Frank’s praise.

Describing White as “the first modern mayor,” Frank lauded him for his inclusive spirit:

” ‘City Hall was pretty much a Whites-only — almost an Irish-only — place,’ Frank told The Associated Press. ‘He opened it up, hired people of all races, genders’ and even embraced the gay rights movement.”

Most importantly, as Frank tells the tale, if it weren’t for the Catholic White, there would have been no “Congressman Frank:”

“ ‘He was an enormously important figure for the city, for many of the values I cared about and, in my case, really made a great difference in my life,’ Frank said.’I was still, when I met him, planning on an academic career, figuring I would dab in politics. He was the one who persuaded me to try fulltime government political work.’ ”

White had served four terms as Boston’s mayor, being elected for the first time in 1967 and serving until 1983.  Before this tenure, he had served as Massachusetts’ secretary of state three times.  The article also notes:

“White also was the first major state-level political figure to open up the political system to new people, including African-Americans and gays, Frank said.”

White’s funeral will be held at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, Boston.  This gay-friendly parish was in the news in 2011 when the Archdiocese of Boston told them that they could not host a Pride Mass during Gay Pride week in the city. The mass was re-schedule for one month later, after the pastor, Fr. John Unni, had preached a sermon of unconditional love and acceptance.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    This item caught my eye, having grown up in Massachusetts during the years when White was the mayor of Boston. While much has been written about what he did for the city and the changes that took place during his tenure, he was also regularly investigated for corruption. My father was an FBI agent in Boston at the time, supervising the squad investigating white collar crime and political corruption. White, I recall, was a subject of several investigations. White was indeed a very powerful man, and I’m sure he wielded that power in good and not-so-good ways. Like most of us, I suppose, White was a complex man, not easily categorized with a label of black and white, but more gray than anything else.

    • newwaysministryblog
      newwaysministryblog says:

      Thanks for this update, Tim. I had read in some news reports of White’s death that there were some ethics allegations made against him, but I was not aware of how extensive they might have been. What I found important about this story, and the reason I decided to write about it, is White’s early support of gay rights, and even more so because of his influence on Frank’s decision to enter government service. The fact that Barney Frank, one of the most prominent openly gay politicians in our country, entered politics because of the advice of a Catholic is something that pro-LGBT Catholics should celebrate. As for White’s possible ethical errors, you hit it on the mark by pointing out that he, alas, is human like the rest of us.
      –Frank DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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