Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Early Years Before Springing Back Into Crime: Part Six

Spring In The
Salt Water Marsh

The year Whitey gets out of prison in 1965 saw the end of the so-called Irish Gang war sometimes called the Boston gang war. Legend has it that it began on Labor Day weekend at Salisbury Beach in 1961. Like the Trojan War, it was all over a woman.

It was a brutal affair of mindless street killings where dozens of gangsters were gunned down on the streets of Boston and surrounding communities. It involved a Charlestown group of hoodlums headed by the McLaughlin brothers and a Somerville group of like-minded individuals headed by Buddy McLean. Each group had other local area gangsters join in the shooting from time to time. The North End (Boston’s mafia group) closely watched the battle but mainly sat on the side lines happy that its competition appeared to be decimating itself.

The cops seemed singularly ineffective in enforcing the law, although it was believed one or two were quite helpful to one side or the other.  Again legend has it that FBI Agent Paul Rico set up one hit. He then let the person who did the hit live in his cellar until the heat died down.

Well known characters as Frankie Salemme worked on the side of the Somerville gang while also free lancing for the Raymond L.S. Patriarca, the head (Salemme called him a “king”) of the Patriarca Mafia Family in New England. He’d eventually become a king’s man and a king in the Mafia.  John “Murderman” Martorano and Stevie Flemmi also got caught up in this free-for-all.

The gang war died when it lacked sufficient combatants. Most of the men involved were dead and few targets remained. All the McLaughlin brothers were murdered so their gang disappeared. Buddy McLean was gunned down so the leadership of the Somerville group fell upon Howie Winter.  Howie would buy a garage in Somerville called Marshall Motors which was located on Winter Hill. His gang would be reconstituted from the survivors and would be named after that Somerville location.

Whitey missed all the fun. He can’t take the rap for any of the murders during that time. He returned to South Boston which he’d have called Southie. He’d find that for the most part it had little to do with the Irish gang wars even though it is the most Irish section of the city. In Boston criminal lore there seems to have been Southie,the North End, and everyone else.

Whitey having got out with 11 years of his 20 year sentence still hanging over his head meant he was on parole and had to come up with a legitimate occupation. Word has it that he began to work construction which a lot of  gangsters do after serving time because of the unavailability of other opportunities. His years in prison had smartened him up and made him more disciplined and hardened. The opportunity he took in prison to read about crime and combat made him smart to the way of successful gangsters.

Outwardly it looks like he is going straight but he was probably beginning to develop an association with the guys who were running the rackets in Southie, the Killeen brothers. He wouldn’t have been that heavily involved but would have made enough money from his legitimate work and Killeen enterprises to allow him to delve into the pleasure of female companionship.

I suggest the idea that he was a gay hustler or child molester are all false creations by people who see in Whitey parts of themselves. All Whitey’s gangster buddies, even those who came to hate Whitey believing he had ratted them out for many years, reject those allegations. He listed his address as 41 Logan Way in the Old Harbor Village where his mother lived. Sometime in 1967 or 1968 his brother Billy found him a job at the Suffolk County courthouse sweeping floors.

By the way, I happen to know a person who at that time worked with Whitey. I think of that because his birthday is today. He had served as a Marine Corps officer for three years and was attending law school full-time days. He was working nights to make ends meet having a wife and two kids. It was a tough grind.

His memory is that Whitey worked at the courthouse slightly less than a year. He said he and Whitey (he calls him Jimmy) were “a two-man team sweeping the 7th and 8th floors where the DA’s offices were.” 

He goes on to say they “got along very well.  I liked him. He was a good worker and I was sorry to lose him as a partner and co-worker. He told me that the two things he did in prison were to lift weights so he could fight off any physical attacks, and to read books.  I thought he was quite intelligent and well-read, but also a bit scary.  I wouldn’t want him as an enemy.  He was strong as hell, very muscular in a wiry way, and, in my opinion, he was a genuine tough guy.   I was glad we got along so well.”   

I’ve provided a first-hand account of a person with unimpeachable credentials who worked with Whitey. He went on to be a highly successful lawyer. The person remembers it as being in 1967. He saw him again once in 1968 when he was in Southie with his wife and kids. He never met him again.

One author who has Whitey engaged in sordid sexual activities said he had a no-show job. He’s just plainly wrong yet many believe him. I guess that’s how false legends are created.

Other than a brother trying to help his brother go straight, no one who knew  Whitey would think he’d be happy being courthouse custodian all his life. It shows you the power Billy had back in the late ‘60s which was practically nothing if the best thing he could do for Whitey was to get him a job sweeping floors where he had to actually show up. Yet some people in the media suggesting that when Whitey was in prison in 1956 he and Billy were bossing around Father Drinan, a law school dean.


8 thoughts on “Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Early Years Before Springing Back Into Crime: Part Six

  1. Very interesting, the story of Whitey holding down area job. I heard from a friend of a friend about a fourth grade girl who wrote to him in prison about a year ago. He wrote a nice letter back to her, encouraging her to work hard in school and to obey her parents. Sounded very grandfatherly, and his penmanship and grammar (reportedly) were impeccable. It sounds as if there is another side to the guy from what we usually read.

    1. Pam:
      When you come down to it the Christian religion was founded on the idea that we are all sinners and there is a possibility some of us can turn our lives around which means there must be some good in everyone even though in many it is well hidden. I’m sure Whitey’s siblings, nephews and nieces are totally shocked that the person they know is being accused of such horrid actions. I grew up with guys who have spent most of their lives in Walpole prison. Whenever I ran into them when they were on the outside I’d have a decent chat with them and for all the world I could not imagine them having committed the crimes they were convicted of. I recall around Christmas every year how many years ago I ran into my friend Muggsy in Jordan’s in downtown crossing. He was carrying an armful of Christmas gifts which I remembered thinking were quite expensive. He was giving them to his parents, siblings and girl friends. We talked for a while, wished each other a Merry Christmas and went our way. Muggsy I didn’t find out until later had robbed a liquor store about four hours before I ran into him. Human nature is strange because we can never tell what really is behind the mask a person presents to us.

  2. another great fact filled post. i think that was howie carr in the brothers bulger who wrote billy got him a no show job. glad you cleared that up.the first hand account of his co workers impression of whitey was interesting. perhaps at some point you may expand upon paul rico and his role in boston with the fbi for so many years. i think paul rico is a name people do not know say as well as say kevin weeks but he was the agent who turned steve flemi and was there at the beginning so to speak. regards

    1. Norwood Born:
      I hope to do a Rico post. He is the guy who created Stevie Flemmi and the one responsible for costing us taxpayers over a hundred million dollars for letting some guys go to jail for a crime they didn’t commit. Retired from the FBI with full honors. Your buddy Howie Carr has him engaged in a ménage à trois with J.Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson again without any evidence. Howie likes to knock guys by suggesting they are gay; he’s never grown out of a Fifties mentality.

  3. Matt,

    The fact that your friend worked with Whitey and knew him for almost a year is pretty amazing. There’s not too many people around who can say that. More interesting is the fact that your friend “got along well” with Bulger and “liked him”. As a Marine and a successful attorney, your friend fits squarely in the world of the legitimate, working person. This seems worlds away from Bulger. I’ve heard similar antidotes in the neighborhood about Bulger being very decent, likeable and helpful. I’ve heard it especially among the older folks who I believe did know him, like your friend. It’s interesting to note how hard the media and the government have attacked any suggestion that Bulger could make a distinction in his dealings between ‘legitimate’ folks and the criminal element.

    During his life on the run he seemed to have favorably impressed at least some people. The janitor at the apartment building in LA said he considered Bulger to be a friend and said Bulger was very nice to him. The family in Louisiana said they actually “loved” Bulger and Greig. I guess the fact that Bulger and Greig fit in all around the country as regular retirees suggests that Whitey had a civil, if not likeable, side.

    It reminds me that Eddie Mckenzie wrote a highly acclaimed book and is a resident expert about Bulger, but he can’t specify a time he was ever in Bulger’s presence. Even funnier is when Mckenzie is called as an expert on local television news broadcasts. I laughed my butt off when I saw Chet Curtis sitting across from McKenzie on NECN. Chet was awestruck by McKenzie, hanging on every syllable that came out of the con man’s mouth. I knew all along McKenzie was full of baloney because the Globe had already outed him as a conman. It’s more evidence that the news business has completed its transition to an entertainment business.

    1. Patty:
      My friend is totally on the level and what I like most about having talked to him is that he gives lie to so much that has been published about Whitey by people who didn’t know him. How can Howie Carr know anything about Whitey Yet it doesn’t bother him to totally demean him. Even recently I pointed out how Whitey was arrested in 1956 and ended up getting 20 years for protecting the girl who was with him on the robberies. The media couldn’t see this and called him an informant. It’s the first time I ever heard that a person who informs on himself (confesses) is labeled as an informant.
      Whitey has an evil side, he also has the other side. I happen to think his family just saw the good side and that’s why they find it so hard to accept that he is alleged to have committed all the murders he is accused of doing.
      Your story about Chet Curtis is so appropriate to what is happening. The media is in awe of these low lives. McKenzie rats out guys he is dealing with and then says he’s not a rat. Shea who was in Danbury with McKenzie had little good to say about him. One of the reasons I started this blog was because so much false information was being put out by people like McKenzie.
      Good to see you’re still around. Happy New Year

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