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.