James “Whitey” Bulger was called Jimmy or Seamus to his face, the Whiteman by his associates when they did not know if he would be around or not, and Whitey by those who heard of his reputation, especially the FBI which seemed to have a fondness for involving itself with criminals with nicknames such as “Pretty Boy.” “Baby Face,”and “Machine Gun.” When he first got out of prison he tried to go straight not wanting to be returned to the slammer so he took on some legitimate jobs such as in construction and as a court-house custodian. Despite what others have said about him, he did show up for the courthouse job and worked hard. I know that since my brother worked with him at nights. He was putting himself through law school. Among other places they cleaned were the district attorney’s office.
Whitey though was not made to work in a legitimate job with a set pay for his daily bread and eventually got involved with the action in South Boston. He would team up with another tough guy named “Billy O’Sullivan” who lived in Savin Hill a neighborhood that mirrored South Boston. They would become the muscle for the Killeen brothers who were involved in the gaming and other rackets. Younger toughs in Southie who had grown up like Whitey doing tailgate jobs and clipping from buildings were forming their own groups. One, consisting of guys who had been involved in the Vietnam war, was called the Mullens. That group sought to get its share of the illegal business in Southie which the Killeens were reluctant to relinquish.
Southie is a small peninsula. The guys who grow up there rarely venture out even into other parts of Boston. There is no need to do so. Anything you would want you can find in your own back yard with a beautiful beach by city standards, a getaway at Castle Island, huge fields for sports, a pub or club readily available,and tons of guys to hang out with. Because of this, all of them, both the older guys and younger guys all knew each other.
The first shooting Whitey is known to have been involved in was when he, Billy O’Sullivan and Dennis “Buddy” Roach, a Mullen, and others were sitting at a table having a friendly talk that turned very serious and O’Sullivan pulled out a gun and shot Buddy who ended up being paralyzed. The street talk was that when Whitey saw O’Sullivan pull the gun he grabbed out to stop him. That just directed the bullet away from where it would have killed him to another part of his body.
The Mullens had one member named Paulie McGonagle who had a brother Donald who was not involved in the dispute between the gangs. Donald apparently looked like Paulie. He was murdered while driving his car most likely by O’Sullivan in what is said to be a case of mistaken identity which is sort of hard to believe since these guys were not strangers.
A short time after that some of the Mullens learned that O’Sullivan had a package on so they waited for him outside his house in Savin Hill. Neighbors saw O’Sullivan running down the street being followed by three or four men; he tripped on a sewer cover as he ran toward the Woods where he would have gained surcease from his danger. While he lied on the ground he was pummeled with bullets.
That left Whitey naked against a group who had just shown that they meant business. They proved it even further when they went out to Framingham and murdered one of the Killeens. Whitey went into hiding for a bit and then arranged for a meeting, allegedly through Joe Russo one of the Mafia guys, with the leaders of the Mullens including Paulie McGonagle, Pat Nee, and Tommy King at a restaurant in the South End (not to be confused with Southie or South Boston) that was owned by Howie Winter and members of the Roxbury Group. Under the protection of the Mafia and Winter they came together and made peace. The illegal spoils in Southie would be divided half between Whitey’s group and half between the Mullens.
To this day no one can understand why the Mullens did not take all of it and how they snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. Some say their long-term friendship with Howie Winter made them respect his wishes; other say they were tired of the killing and figured half was better than the nothing they had been receiving. The “peace” was supposed to be guaranteed by Howie Winter.