The Now-Departed Whitey Bulger
Whitey, We Hardly Knew Ye
A conversation with Howie Carr, David Boeri, and Richard Marinick.
Jimmy Bulger, known as Whitey, was a nasty curse on the old Irish urban village of South Boston. At the same time, he was the gift that kept on giving to true-crime storytellers who never met him – to Hollywood, and movie stars like Johnny Depp, Jack Nicholson, Liev Schreiber. It’s still hard to believe: Whitey had been a street thug, a loan shark, drug overlord, serial killer, then a fugitive – for years under FBI supervision and always bonded by loyalty with his kid brother Bill, at the pinnacle of statehouse politics. And then in a last spasm of violence — on the receiving end this time, in a wheelchair, in his new Federal prison, Whitey Bulger was beaten to a bloody death, assassinated at the age of 89, himself finally The Departed.
The Bulger Brothers, Jimmy and Bill, have been the biggest Boston Irish family story since the Kennedys, a sort of nightmare rewriting of Boston politics that made the whole town feel meaner and smaller than it is. From the seventies through the nineties, William Bulger presided over the State Senate and then the University of Massachusetts; older brother Whitey was the killer boss of drug crime, loan sharking, organized violence in Boston and beyond. And the dreaded power of the Bulgers felt irresistible, mostly unspeakable, still unfathomable. Johnny Powers, who preceded Bill Bulger in South Boston politics and the Senate presidency, and who detested the Bulgers, put it to Chris once: “It’s as if Al Capone’s brother was president of the Illinois State Senate, and everybody pretended not to notice.”
The gruesome assassination this week of Whitey Bulger, in a Federal prison in West Virginia where he’d just taken up residence, marks one more bitter end of a long-gone era.
Boston Herald columnist and host of The Howie Carr Show
senior reporter at WBUR
Patrick Radden Keefe
Robert D. McFadden