Monday, August 19, 2019

William Adams Richardson

Throughout the two terms Ulysses S. Grant spent as President of the United States, his administration was beset by various scandals. Several officials were accused of wrongdoing, with lax oversight contributing to the general air of corruption and wrongdoing.

Although it attracted less attention than some of the other Grant Administration scandals, the Sanborn Incident would ultimately end the Cabinet service of William Adams Richardson, the Secretary of the Treasury. While Richardson had enjoyed a sound reputation before this matter wasn't accused of directly benefiting the questionable actions in this affair, he was strongly condemned for failing to stop the scandal in its tracks.

Early life

Richardson was born on November 2, 1821, in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1843, and three years later he was admitted to the bar. He began practicing law from a firm he established in Lowell; he would move it to Boston in 1860.

Early in his career, Richardson dabbled in banking and politics. He briefly served as the president of a Wamesit bank, and held the role of director at other banks in the area. He was elected to the city council of Lowell in 1849, re-elected in 1853, and made president of the council a year later. Initially a Whig, he later joined the Republican Party.

Richardson also held a number of judicial roles, serving as a justice of the peace for Middlesex County from 1847 to 1854. He became a judge for the county's probate court from 1856 to 1858, and its probate and insolvency court from 1858 to 1872.

Richardson also found time to compile and publish the state statutes for Massachusetts, completing this project in 1855 and revising it annually through 1873. He would launch a similar undertaking for the legislation of the U.S. Congress, issuing supplements on these laws from 1874 until his death.

Treasury Department

In 1869, Grant named Richardson as Assistant Secretary of Treasury. The appointment was made at the request of Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell, a former Massachusetts congressman. Richardson had been offered a judicial role on the Massachusetts Superior Court, but turned it down in order to join Grant's administration. Richardson also briefly served as the acting Attorney General in 1870.

When Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts became Vice President on March 3, 1873, Boutwell resigned his post to fill the vacancy in the Senate. Richardson moved up to become Secretary of the Treasury, though he continued Boutwell's policies aimed at reducing the public debt and building up a federal reserve.

One of the most significant transactions Richardson handled while at the Treasury was the Geneva Award, which in 1872 transferred $15.5 million from British coffers to the United States. Several Confederate raiding ships, most notably the CSS Alabama, had been constructed in British shipyards during the Civil War and gone on to wreak havoc on Union shipping during the conflict. The "Alabama Claims" sought to collect damages for the British role in the matter, and the settlement was finally agreed upon after an international commission met in Switzerland.

The award caused some nervousness in the financial sector, since the transport of such an extraordinary amount of money over the Atlantic Ocean carried a good deal of risk. Richardson instead managed the transaction through a process of receiving and canceling bonds to move the money in a safe manner.

Richardson also played a key role in the federal response to the Panic of 1873. This recession occurred when the European stock market crashed, prompting a selloff of American investments. Railroad bonds were a particularly popular item in these transactions, and as a result the market was flooded with bonds. The railroad companies weren't able to find lenders willing to extend them loans, and many went bankrupt. In the United States, about one in four railroads (89 out of 364) failed.

An illustration of the Panic of 1873. (Source)

The full force of the Panic hit the U.S. on September 18, 1873, when Jay Cooke & Company in New York City collapsed. The bank had overextended itself, with heavy investments in railroads sealing its fate. Two days later, the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for the first time in its history after economic conditions failed to improve.

A day later, Richardson and Grant traveled to New York to meet with several prominent businessmen. The federal government had promised to buy $10 million in bonds to try to restore confidence in the financial system, and quickly increased this sum to $13 million. The businessmen said it wasn't enough; money was in tight supply, thanks to several commercial banks calling in their loans. To avoid plunging the entire nation into ruin, they argued, the government would need to increase currency in any way possible. Richardson was pressured to release the Treasury's entire reserve of $44 million in order to ease the money market.

Richardson resisted these calls, saying it was unclear if he had legal authority over the disposition of the reserve. He asked Congress to make a judgment, but legislators dithered on the issue. In the last two months of 1873, receipts fell below expenditures and Richardson was forced to act. Although he didn't release the entire reserve, he issued $26 million in greenbacks to help meet the budget.'

While the move was of questionable legality, Congress didn't intervene to challenge it. The cyclical expansion and contraction of the economy, with its accordant panics, would persist for several decades until the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

Richardson was generally praised for his action. The injection of cash into the economy was seen as helping to ease the crisis, while the decision not to empty the reserve was seen as a prudent way to keep the government from getting too heavily involved in the financial sector's woes. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish wrote him, "I assure you and he reached on Sunday last. I hear from every one, except those interested in speculative stocks or bonds, one universal approval of the 'heroic action of the President and Secretary of the Treasury.'"

Nevertheless, the economy would remain depressed for another four years. The bankruptcy of Jay Cooke & Company caused a nationwide run on banks, and more than 100 financial institutions failed. This caused a ripple effect of business crashes; about 18,000 closed their doors in the two years following the start of the Panic, with the unemployment rate reaching 14 percent. A collapse in farm prices hurt the agricultural sector as well, while skyrocketing interest rates made it harder for Americans to get a loan or escape debt.

The Sanborn Incident

One year before the Panic, Congress has passed legislation ending the practice of allowing private individuals to pursue the collection of delinquent taxes. However, Representative Benjamin F. Butler, a Republican from Massachusetts, managed to add a rider allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to employ not more than three men to assist the Bureau of Internal Revenue with its duties.

Four people had secured contracts under this rider, but they only managed to collect about $5,000 over a two-year period. Another private collector, John D. Sanborn, would be much more successful. Sanborn had been working as a special agent with the Treasury Department since 1869; a Massachusetts resident, he was personally acquainted with both Boutwell and Butler. He had also been an agent in Butler's cotton speculation around the time of the Civil War, and the congressman strongly supported his appointment.

Richardson was the Acting Secretary of Treasury when he approved Sanborn's contract on August 13, 1872, with a mandate to collect illegally withheld excise taxes and other revenue from 39 whiskey distillers and entities. Whiskey had a steep excise tax, but it was often evaded. In his work with the Treasury Department, Sanborn had been credited with helping to secure indictments against several tax dodgers, including a small whiskey ring operating in New York City, in the spring of 1872.

Sanborn started his work by pursuing the delinquent taxes recorded at the Boston office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. On October 25, he asked that his contract be expanded so he could go after 760 people who were delinquent on their estate or income taxes. This request was approved five days later, and in early 1873 this mandate was further enlarged with another 2,000 names. On July 7, he was approved to collect delinquent taxes from 592 railroad companies. As stipulated in his contract, he was able to keep half of whatever revenue he collected.

By entrusting Sanborn with tax collection on such a large number of people and entities, the Treasury Department had essentially flipped the intended relationship between private tax collectors and internal revenue authorities on its head. Instead of assisting the Bureau of Internal Revenue with its work, agents frequently found themselves helping with Sanborn's duties. This began to attract some negative attention among the agents, who feared that the scope of Sanborn's work had grown too large. They also noted that his work was essentially unnecessary, since they would have been able to collect the full value of the delinquent taxes without Sanborn's intervention; his involvement merely ensured that the amount going to the government would be halved while Sanborn would be able to enrich himself. A formal complaint was sent to the Treasury Department, but it was ignored.

Sanborn ultimately collected about $427,000 - a minor sum compared to the $102 million in total internal revenue in 1874, but a vastly greater amount than private collectors had typically been able to collect. Not all of the money had been collected in the most above-board way. He was often abetted by corrupt Treasury officials who encouraged those with tax liabilities not to pay up, giving Sanborn an opening to collect and take his fee. Sanborn also reportedly went after some entities that weren't actually delinquent at all.

The questionable practice eventually resulted in Sanborn's indictment for revenue fraud and the scrapping of his contract. The House Committee on Ways and Means opened an inquiry into the matter between February and May of 1874. The investigation was eagerly supported by Boston financiers and others opposed to Richardson's policies. The Treasury was nearly bankrupt at the time, and had allowed Sanborn's conduct to proceed unchecked; the sordid affair had the look of a conspiracy to defraud the government and enrich a select few. The incident offered the prospect that Richardson would be ousted and replaced with someone more in light with the financial sector's views.

The committee investigation included testimony from Sanborn himself. Since he was entitled to half of what he collected, he said he had received $213,500 for his work; however, he agreed that the citizens he collected from would have likely paid on their own, or that revenue agents would have collected the money as part of their regular duties. Sanborn claimed that more than $150,000 of his share went to Richardson, with much of the rest going to various campaign funds.

Richardson also appeared before the committee, but proved less than helpful. He said he couldn't recall signing Sanborn's contract, and admitted that he often signed documents without actually reading them.

The committee issued its report on May 4, concluding that the Treasury Department had utterly failed to supervise Sanborn's activities. Boutwell had followed the law in requiring that Sanborn set forth a written oath for each claim he proposed to recover, including the specific violation and the person or entity he wished to collect money from; he just hadn't enforced this rule. Richardson had been even more lax, demonstrating "an entire want of knowledge" on the laws regarding private collectors and their contracts. "His only connection, so far as he could remember, with these transactions, was in affixing his signature to the various papers presented to him as a mere matter of office routine, without knowing their contents," the committee declared.

Sanborn, meanwhile, had used his contract to go after a wide range of targets and bilk the country of revenue. The committee concluded that Sanborn's last contract was "substantially the entire list of railroads within the United States." He had simply gotten the 592 names from a register of railroad companies, and only 150 were actually delinquent on their taxes. Moreover, "a very large percentage, if not all" of the money Sanborn raked in would have been collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in their usual duties; as a result, the Treasury had gotten only half of what it should have received, with Sanborn pocketing the other half.

The committee was highly critical of Richardson as well as the Treasury Department's assistant secretary and solicitor. The three officials had essentially passed the buck among themselves. The assistant treasury also admitted that he signed documents without reviewing them, and said these had been prepared by the solicitor. The solicitor testified that he was simply a law officer acting on the directions of his superiors, which naturally would include Richardson and the assistant secretary. All three officials, the committee said, "deserve severe condemnation for the manner in which they have permitted the law to be administered."

The committee advised that any contracts made with Sanborn and the other private collectors should be revoked, and that no further claims should be made on them. It also declared the outsourcing of delinquent revenue collection "fundamentally wrong" and advocated that it should be stopped immediately.

The report stopped short of advising punishment for any of the Treasury officials, saying there was nothing "impeaching the integrity" of either Boutwell or Richardson. Sanborn himself would ultimately be acquitted, since he had been under contract to collect delinquent taxes and hadn't actually broken any laws in the course of this work.

Nevertheless, the assistant treasury secretary would resign and the incident brought swift calls for Richardson to be removed from the Treasury. Representative James Burney Beck, a Kentucky Democrat, declared the collection contracts to be "reeking and buoyant with corruption." Wilson wrote to Grant saying, "Since I have been in Washington the past few days, I have heard the strongest condemnation of [Richardson's] unfitness."

Grant was reluctant to dismiss Richardson, going so far as to appeal to individual House committee members in an attempt to keep them from issuing a report condemning the Treasury Secretary. Though he finally asked Richardson to step down, he also made sure that Richardson would have a soft landing. On June 1, just three days before Richardson's resignation, Grant nominated him for a vacant seat on the U.S. Court of Claims, a body settling claims against the United States. He was quickly confirmed by the Senate.

Later life

Benjamin H. Bristow, a Kentucky lawyer, succeeded Richardson as Treasury Secretary. Grant appointed him with some reluctance, since his opposition to inflationary policy and other monetary views were virtually opposite to Richardson's. However, he considered that the choice would help shore up Republican chances in the upcoming election.

It was not to be. Angered by the depressed economy and scandals in the Grant administration, Democrats more than doubled their presence in the House of Representatives in the 1874 midterm elections and regained a majority in the chamber for the first time since 1856; they would hold control of the House for another six years. The party also gained several seats in the Senate, although the Republican Party retained control.

Richardson would hold a seat on the U.S. Court of Claims for the rest of his life. In January of 1885, President Chester A. Arthur promoted him to the court's chief justice position to replace Charles D. Drake. He also busied himself with other work, including a plan for the enlarged jurisdiction of the Massachusetts probate courts which the state legislature subsequently passed. Between 1879 and 1894, he taught law at Georgetown University.

Richardson died in Washington, D.C. on October 19, 1896.


U.S. Department of the Treasury, The Miller Center at the University of Virginia, Federal Judicial Center, "The Panic of 1873" on American Experience at, "Discovery and Collection of Monies Withheld From the Government" report by the House Ways and Means Committee on May 4 1874, "Historical Perspective: The Unhappy History of Private Tax Collection" at the Tax History Project on Sep. 20 2004, "New York and the Panic of 1873" in the New York Times on Oct. 14 2008, The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register Vol. 53, The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal edited by George C. Kohn, Biographical Directory of United States Secretaries of the Treasury 1789-1995 edited by Bernard S. Katz and C. Daniel Vencill, Monetary Policy in the United States: An Intellectual and Institutional History by Richard H. Timberlake, A Sketch of the Life and Public Services of William Adams Richardson by Frank Warren Hackett, The Reconstruction Years by Walter Coffey, Grant by Ronald Chernow

Friday, June 21, 2019

Mike Lowry: Sexual Harassment Claims End Political Career of "Governor Mayhem"

While the #MeToo movement has recently spotlighted the issue of sexual harassment and encouraged victims to report it, a concerted effort to combat the problem began several decades earlier. Legislation in the 1960s prohibited employers from discriminating based on sex in their hires, and other laws helped codify sexual harassment and provide remedies for victims.

In the early 1990s, a memorable series of public service announcements marked an early effort to empower women to fight back against harassers. The videos show women enduring innuendos and lewd remarks from their boorish employers, but ultimately calling out the behavior as sexual harassment, adding, "And I don't have to take it!"

These PSAs were airing at approximately the same time that Governor Mike Lowry of Washington was under fire for sexual harassment claims. Several women accused him of unwanted touching and inappropriate remarks, although some did not want to come forward publicly.

While an investigation concluded that it was impossible to confirm the claims or exonerate Lowry, the accusations were enough to torpedo the governor's already ailing political career.

Early life

Lowry was born in St. John, Washington on March 8, 1939 and moved to Endicott as a child. He grew up in a family of "New Deal Democrats" who admired President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his relief efforts during the Great Depression.

In 1961, while attending Washington State University, Lowry signed up to join the Navy. He was rejected due to high blood pressure, and graduated from the university the next year.

Mike Lowry's senior year high school portrait (Source)

Lowry held a variety of jobs in the ensuing years, including brief stints working for a financial information company and a Seattle building contractor. He also spent three years working as a salesman for the textbook publisher Allyn & Bacon.

During the late 60s, Lowry volunteered on a number of political campaigns including Robert F. Kennedy's presidential bid and Karl Hermann's run for state insurance commissioner. He also worked on the gubernatorial campaign of state senator Martin Durkan Sr. While Durkan failed to win the office, he was impressed enough with Lowry's work to offer him a job on the senate's ways and means committee. Lowry worked as a chief financial analyst and staff director for this committee between 1969 and 1973.

Lowry also managed Durkan's 1972 bid for the governor's office, when he lost the Democratic primary. After leaving the state senate job, he served as the governmental affairs director for the Puget Sound Group Health Cooperative from 1974 to 1975. That year, he was elected to the Metropolitan King County Council, two years after an unsuccessful campaign for this agency. He was also elected president of the Washington State Association of Counties in 1978.


In 1978, Lowry won the Democratic nomination for Washington's 7th Congressional District and challenged Representative John E. Cunningham III in the general election. While the district leaned Democratic, Cunningham had captured it in a 1977 special election after the resignation of Brock Adams, a Democrat who resigned to become Secretary of Transportation.

The gay community of Seattle was starting to become a more powerful voting bloc, and Lowry's campaign wasn't averse to courting supporters at the city's gay bars. When the ballots were counted, Lowry had comfortably defeated Cunningham by about 7,500 votes out of nearly 127,000 cast.

Lowry's congressional portrait (Source)

Lowry would serve in the House of Representatives for the next decade, championing universal health care, the Woman Infants and Children program, and a variety of other liberal causes. Following up on a campaign promise, he introduced a bill to pay reparations to more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans and Aleuts who were imprisoned in federal camps during World War II. While this effort failed, it was credited with helping to launch the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. It also paved the way for a 1988 bill offering the former inmates $20,000 apiece and a formal apology declaring their imprisonment a "grave injustice."

The proposal rankled some who misunderstood the intent of the bill. Lowry was known for frequently holding community meetings in his district, as many as 50 a year, and at one such town hall he was confronted by angry World War II veterans. Staying more than two hours beyond the scheduled end time of the event, Lowry explained that his proposed bill would support Japanese-American citizens who had been rounded up as potential security risks and native Alaskans who had been evacuated in advance of a military effort in the Aleutians, not Japanese soldiers who had fought against the United States.

His visits to the district included also included an annual shrimp feed, which served as a Democratic fundraiser. It soon became a must-attend function for anyone hoping to seek office on the party's ticket.

Lowry's time in office roughly corresponded with Ronald Reagan's years in the White House, and he was a sharp critic of the President. He accused the White House of making budget cuts that he said would primarily harm the poor, criticized the administration's aid to Nicaraguan Contras, and opposed policies such as abortion restrictions and arms buildup.

In 1987, Lowry spearheaded a lawsuit joined by more than 100 congressmen against the Reagan Administration. The Lowry v. Reagan suit sought to compel the President to file a report under the War Powers Resolution after Reagan directed American ships to provide protective escorts to reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers during the war between Iran and Iraq. The case was later dismissed in federal court.

Lowry championed environmental initiatives for his home state, including the Washington Wilderness Act in 1984. He also supported legislation to establish the Cougar Lakes Wilderness, create a wildlife refuge at Grays Harbor, and designate the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary to forestall any attempt at offshore oil drilling near Washington. He opposed a proposal for a naval base at Everett, acknowledging that the development would be good for the region's economy but harmful to Puget Sound. Lowry was also part of a cooperative effort by the Washington and Oregon delegations that successfully contested the Department of Energy's efforts to restart the nuclear station at Hanford.

Since international trade was highly beneficial to Washington State, Lowry was supportive of measures that would assist it. He was credited with helping to save direct loans to buyers of international products, which were offered by the Export-Import Bank. These loans were especially helpful to Boeing, one of Washington's major employers, since the aircraft manufacturer was the bank's largest customer. However, the support also earned Lowry criticism among liberals who derided the loans as a form of corporate welfare.

At the same time, Lowry earned a reputation of having a strong commitment to his values, unlike other elected officials who were willing to sell them out for political expediency. He was one of just 16 Democrats opposed to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which allocated funding to fight narcotics trafficking and increased federal penalties for drug crimes. The legislation passed shortly before the year's congressional elections, in which the Democrats maintained their majority in the House and recaptured the Senate. Even some of the bill's supporters acknowledged that the legislation was not a viable solution to the problem of drug trafficking, but felt it was a good way to demonstrate that they were tough on crime. Lowry, by contrast, denounced it as "legislation by political panic."

Lowry was described as a "demonstrative politician," who engaged in various stunts to highlight certain issues. At one point, he hiked the Greenwater River to show how a proposed wilderness bill would exclude salmon spawning grounds. In another incident, he and a few other congressmen camped out on a D.C. subway grate to raise awareness of homelessness in the nation's capital.

On two occasions, Lowry sought to leave the House to move over to the Senate. His first opportunity came in 1983, in a special election called to finish the term of Democratic Senator Henry M. Jackson, who had died on September 1. Lowry lost to Republican candidate Dan Evans, a former Washington governor.

Evans quickly became frustrated with the job. In a scathing article published in the New York Times Magazine on April 17, 1988, he said the Senate "had lost its focus and was in danger of losing its soul." He announced that he could not "face another six years of frustrating gridlock," and so would not seek re-election.

Lowry again sought the seat. Unlike the special election, Lowry had to give up a more secure bid at holding his House seat in favor of a statewide contest. While he was leading in the polls in the days leading up to the election, a last-minute negative ad campaign against Republican opponent and former senator Slade Gorton backfired. Facing criticism and accusations of mudslinging, Lowry lost the race by about 40,000 votes out of 1.85 million cast.

Governor of Washington

After leaving Congress, Lowry took a job as professor of government at Seattle University's Institute of Public Service. In a show of bipartisanship, he joined with Evans in the summer of 1989 to help found the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. The men served as co-chairs of the organization, which has a goal of preserving wilderness and farmland in Washington as well as founding new local and state parks.

Mike Lowry, at right, with Dan Evans (center) and Elliott Marks, co-founders of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (Source)

Lowry re-entered the political scene in 1992, when he joined the gubernatorial race to succeed retiring incumbent Booth Gardner, a Democrat who had served two terms. Lowry easily won the Democratic primary, defeating state house speaker Joe King in a 337,783 to 9,648 landslide. Having learned his lesson from his Senate defeat, he refused to campaign negatively and instituted a self-imposed $1,500 maximum on campaign contributions. In the general contest, he earned 1.18 million votes and bested Republican opponent and state attorney general Ken Eikenberry by about 100,000 ballots.

As governor, Lowry quickly committed himself to a slew of reform efforts. These included expanding aid to low-income families, protections for migrant workers, and a universal health care bill. He frequently issued press releases to avow his support for liberal causes such as gay rights, environmental initiatives, and abortion rights. On June 27, 1993, he became the first governor to address Seattle's annual gay pride parade. There, he called on the legislature to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in housing and employment, declaring that "if one persons's civil rights are being abused, then everyone's civil rights are endangered."

The onslaught of policy earned Lowry the nickname "Governor Mayhem" as critics, including some from his own party, charged that he was moving too quickly, angering too many constituents, and depleting too much of his political capital to effectively make change. Yet he also earned grudging respect from foes for his energy and unflinching devotion to his ideals. "When Mike Lowry says something, you always know exactly where he stands," said Clyde Ballard, a Republican who would serve as speaker of the house during Lowry's term in office.

One of Lowry's most controversial moves was an effort to close a $1.8 billion state budget gap by raising taxes. He supported a state income tax, despite an economic recession and the failure of previous administrations to put one in place. Lowry also favored a gas tax to fund a light rail system aimed at alleviating traffic in the Puget Sound region, and sought to extend the sales tax to professional services.

The taxes provided Republicans with an easy platform to contest the governor at the next statewide election. In 1994, the GOP made the strongest gains in the state legislature in nearly 50 years. The following year, they began working to undo the governor's work, including a rollback of the tax increase that passed over his veto. The legislature also repealed the central tenet of the health care bill, the individual health insurance mandate, which effectively neutered the reform. Lowry's accomplishments soon became limited to what he could stop by veto, which included Republican efforts to bar death row inmates from eligibility for organ transplants or other medical assistance.

In 1995, Lowry named Annette Sandberg to head the Washington State Patrol. Just 33 years old, she was the first woman in the country to lead a state police force. It was a controversial pick; Sandberg vowed to reform the agency by breaking up the "good old boys" network, promising that some officers would be demoted or reassigned. Her term resulted in a number of accomplishments, including the introduction of a K9 program, efforts to combat racial profiling, and a commitment to increasing the racial diversity of the force. Nevertheless, she was blamed for a drop in morale among the agency's patrolmen. Sandberg resigned in 2000; Lowry would later stick by his choice, saying he thought she had done a good job.

Lowry's rocky time in the governor's office was further complicated by his strained relationship with the Democratic Party and its traditional supporters. Many Democrats in the state house had gravitated to the right in order to weather the Republican surge, and some declared their outright refusal to support parts of Lowry's agenda. State unions were outraged when he backed reforms making it easier to fire under-performing public employees, and when he supported contracting out some state services to private companies.

A review of Lowry's time in office by the Spokesman-Review acknowledged that Lowry's tax increases were made in tandem with efforts to cut government spending. The growth of the state employee payroll slowed dramatically under his watch, while the growth of state spending fell by more than half between the start and end of his four-year term. He made cuts to travel expenses and workers compensation insurance rates for state employees. Lowry even extended the austerity to his own expenses, slashing his salary by $31,000 and covering several of his own expenses, including groceries, the telephone service at the governor's mansion, and $100 a month of his vehicle's gas and maintenance costs.

The newspaper's analysis also credited Lowry with supporting business tax breaks and overseas trade that helped spur the creation of 174,600 new jobs in the state, scrapping the waiting list for state-subsidized child care, and extending health insurance to 140,000 adults and 195,000 low-income children. He had also backed a successful effort to build a new stadium for the Seattle Mariners in 1995 after fears that the decrepit state of their field would cause the baseball team to leave the city. In a 2002 retrospective, Lowry said he was proud that he had helped maintain social services and environmental commitments in the midst of budget difficulties, while also working to build up a surplus of about $500,000 by the end of his term.

Despite these successes, Lowry remained a fairly unpopular figure as the 1996 election approached. He had a contentious relationship with the press, accusing them of being "unwitting subsidiaries of the right wing of the Republican Party" after several stories on his tax proposals, and had stopped granting one-on-one interviews with the media. A poll by the Spokesman-Review and TV station KHQ-TV found that only one in four voters in Washington approved of his performance, with just 14 percent say they'd vote for him again.

By this time, however, Lowry was facing a new challenge: several women, including his former deputy press secretary, had accused him of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment accusations

On March 29, 1994, Washington State Patrol employee Becky Miner complained that Lowry had inappropriately pressed his body against hers while she took his fingerprints for security clearance to the White House. Christine Gregoire, the state's attorney general, reviewed the matter and concluded that Miner's claim could not be proven or refuted. She recommended sexual harassment training for the governor, which he completed in September.

Two months later, Miner's complaint became public after it was leaked to the press. Lowry's deputy press secretary, Susanne Albright, was reportedly so upset by the accusation that she went on medical leave. It soon emerged that Albright, who would opt to resign her position, had her own claims against the governor.

Albright said she had been subjected to routine harassment, touching, and groping during her time in Lowry's employ. She also said the governor made frequent lewd or offensive comments, such as asking if she had brought along a bikini during a business trip and answering one of her phone calls by questioning whether she was the Susanne "with the beautiful long legs."

Two former Lowry aides would also say they were sexually harassed during Lowry's time in congress, though they would remain anonymous. One said that Lowry kissed her on the mouth on one occasion "in a matter that she felt was clearly sexual;" a friend corroborated this account and said Lowry had kissed her as well. The aide said Lowry had also engaged in touching she found offensive, including an unsolicited neck rub, a hug that touched her breast, and rubbing her knees and legs.

The other aide made similar allegations, saying Lowry's behavior had included lingering hugs, kisses on the mouth, a neck rub, and rubbing her leg while she was driving. In response, she asked that her office be relocated to a more open location and that she not be assigned to chauffeur Lowry.

The women's attorney, Judith Lonquist, said a Lowry supporter told her during the gubernatorial campaign that the women might bring up their accusations. Lonquist said she had initially supported Lowry's candidacy, but opted not to vote for him after hearing from the former aides.

On January 17, 1995, Lowry's lawyer wrote to chief deputy attorney general Kathleen Mix saying it was unlikely that Albright would file a lawsuit. The letter also said that Albright had "consistently declined to make a complaint under our office policy." Nevertheless, Lowry ordered an independent investigation into the matter. Two days later, Seattle attorney Mary Alice Theiler was appointed to head the inquiry.

While the investigation was initially conducted in private, Lowry disclosed it after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer made a public records request regarding the matter. Albright said she had not intended for her allegations to become public, but stressed that she had left her job because of "a clear, and I repeat, very clear, and persistent pattern of unacceptable behavior toward me." Lowry denied that he had ever done anything intentionally offensive to Albright, and that she had never voiced any concerns to him.

On February 16, 1995, Lowry sat down for a televised interview in which he apologized to any women he may have offended. "I have learned that some people are uncomfortable. I feel bad about that," said Lowry. "I don't want anybody to feel uncomfortable with me. Whoever that might be, anybody I have ever made feel uncomfortable, I apologize to."

He was joined by his wife, Mary, would prove to be a staunch supporter; he vehemently denied that he had ever been unfaithful to her in any way. Lowry also denied suggestions that the alleged conduct may have stemmed from a drinking problem, though he conceded that this had once been a concern and he had cut back on his alcohol consumption about a decade earlier.

Theiler's investigation concluded on March 23, when she released a 51-page report detailing her findings. Lowry said he often hugged, kissed, or patted his employees in what were intended to be friendly gestures, and that he was unaware that they had sometimes caused offense. Theiler also noted that Albright's story changed over the course of different interviews, and that she may have had a grievance against Lowry for other reasons. Some employees in the governor's office recalled that when she discovered she was not getting an expected promotion, Albright threatened, "If I don't get this job, he doesn't know what he's getting into." Theiler concluded that there wasn't sufficient evidence to support Albright's accusations.

The women who had accused Lowry were quick to voice their displeasure with Theiler's findings. Albright said the investigator had downplayed some incidents, taken others out of context, and ignored the allegations of other women since the investigation had only been called to look into Albright's claims. The two congressional aides also said they were disappointed with Theiler's report, believing that she had largely ignored them.

In response, Theiler stressed that her report had not exonerated the governor. She had concluded that Lowry "touched [Albright] in ways she found offensive," and that he "clearly engaged in conduct that offended one valuable employee and likely others." Theiler also suggested that Lowry's temper may have prevented Albright from confronting him about his behavior.

The investigation led to some scrutiny of Lowry's character in press reports, where associates suggested that the governor's affable public persona concealed a more volatile private one. One social service advocate recalled that when they met with Lowry in 1993 and suggested that his health care reform excluded migrant workers, the governor became livid and berated them for bringing up the criticism, saying he had long advocated for migrant workers on other occasions. Anne Fennessy, his former press secretary, said Lowry was quick to anger but also had a good sense of humor and recovered quickly.

Walt Crowley, one of the governor's advisers, said he was passionate about his beliefs, and sometimes stubborn or impatient. Other associates said Lowry was most likely to express anger if his advisers tried to manage him or steer him away from his principles. However, this also led to criticism that he was too cloistered, ignoring input from his aides or hiring loyalists who wouldn't challenge him. "Mike's inner circle is Mike," one former aide declared.

The press also found that Lowry's drinking had caused some concerns in the past, and that he was more likely to lose his temper when he was not sober. Lowry's potential alcoholism was reportedly worrying enough to his 1992 campaign staff that they held a meeting to discuss it.

Lowry maintained that the actions that had prompted the sexual harassment allegations were meant to be friendly. "I want people to feel comfortable with me," he said. "I don't want people to think that I think I'm a big shot." Tricia Wilson, Lowry's executive assistant, said she had never been offended by the governor's actions but could understand how it would make other women feel uncomfortable. "It didn't bother me and a lot of people just took it as the way he was," she said. "But maybe the younger generation is more sensitive."

Albright's case was the only one which would be formally resolved. In an agreement signed on July 14, 1995, Lowry agreed to pay her $97,500 from his own personal funds in exchange for Albright's promise not to file a lawsuit. Albright said she was satisfied with the settlement, suggesting that the sum indicated that Lowry's behavior constituted "more than a pat on the back."

The fallout from the scandal made Lowry's re-election prospects even more daunting. Several women's groups publicly declared that they would not endorse him if he ran again. Two top female aides, Fennessy and chief legal counsel Jenny Durkan, resigned while Theiler's investigation was underway, although both insisted that their departures were unrelated to the sexual harassment charges. Fennessy said she had been thinking of leaving her position for some time due to the stress of a job "that never ends."

Nevertheless, the turmoil gave Republicans an easy opportunity to score political points. "If the governor cannot maintain a stable office and put ethical questions behind him, he should consider resigning rather than spending the next year and a half as a lame duck," advised Eikenberry, who had become the GOP state chairman after his defeat in the 1992 election.

On February 22, 1996, Lowry announced that he would not seek re-election, in part so he could help care for his elderly mother and father-in-law. While he initially denied that the sexual harassment accusations played a role in the decision, he later admitted that they had been a "major factor;" he said he didn't want his family to see the issue brought up again during the race.

Lowry's term ended in January 1997. The Democrats held the governor's office by a comfortable margin, with party candidate Gary Locke taking 58 percent of the vote in the general election.

Later life

Lowry is introduced during Governor Chris Gregoire's State of the State speech on January 15, 2013. (Source)

Lowry made one more political bid after his time as governor, running for state lands commissioner in 2000. The commission oversees approximately five million acres of state-owned lands. Lowry lost to GOP candidate Doug Sutherland by about 100,000 votes out of roughly 2.32 million cast.

The bulk of Lowry's post-political career was spent volunteering. He worked with Washington Agricultural Families Assistance to help build homes for migrant farm workers, as well as Enterprise Washington to support job creation in the economically depressed parts of the state. He was also active in organizations dedicated to ending homelessness.

Lowry retired to a small ranch near Kettle Falls. In 2003, he brokered a deal to convert a former sugar beet factory to an ethanol plant.

He died on May 1, 2017 in Olympia following complications from a stroke.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Michael Edward 'Mike' Lowry" on, "Governor Mayhem?" in the Seattle Times on Apr. 25 1993,  "Lowry Accused of Sexual Harassment" in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Feb. 4 1995, "Lowry Apologizes For Behavior" in the Kitsap Sun on Feb. 17 1995, "Spokeswoman Lowry's Third Aide to Quit" in the Kitsap Sun on Feb. 18 1995, "Mike Lowry's Other Side" in the Seattle Times on Feb. 26 1995, "Friendly Touch or Grope? It's Hard to Know For Sure, Lowry Investigator Concludes" in the Seattle Times on Mar. 24 1995, "Ex-Lowry Aides Say Incidents Ignored" in the Spokesman-Review on Mar. 28 1995, "Lowry Agrees to Pay Ex-Aide $97,500" in the Seattle Times on Jul. 14 1995, "Lowry Declares He's Out of Running" in the Spokesman-Review on Feb. 23 1996, "The Liberal Legacy of Mike Lowry" in the Spokesman-Review on Jan. 15 1997, "Controversial State Patrol Chief Resigns" in the Daily Herald on Nov. 20 2000, "Former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry, Table-Pounding Liberal, Dies at 78" in the Seattle Times on May 1 2017, "Mike Lowry, Proudly Progressive Ex-Governor, Dies Early on May Day" on on May 1 2017, "Mike Lowry, Ex-Congressman and Washington State Governor, Dies at 78" in the New York Times on May 3 2017, "Former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry Remembered As Proud Liberal, Quietly Generous" in the Seattle Times on May 30 2017, The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America by Naomi Murakawa, The Intersection of Law and War Vol. 126, Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging by Gary Atkins

Monday, February 4, 2019

Byron (Low Tax) Looper: Killing The Competition


Uncontested races for the state legislature were a common sight in Tennessee in the 1998 election. In nine of the 18 races for the state senate, candidates were running unopposed. Fifty-six people running for the state house had the luxury of being the only name up for consideration in their district, meaning more than half of the 99 seats in the chamber would go to people who had not been challenged in their election.

Tommy Burks, the longtime state senator for Tennessee's 15th District, was widely considered a lock for his seat even though he had an opponent. Burks had been in the legislature for nearly three decades. The Democratic candidate had built up a reputation as an honest, hardworking, "salt of the earth" kind of fellow.

His challenger, by contrast, had done little to endear himself to voters. Although Byron Looper had managed to get elected tax assessor for Putnam County two years earlier, his tenure in the office had been marked by chaos, litigation, paranoia, and incompetence. Looper had also been indicted on several counts of official misconduct, and was scheduled to go to trial a month after Election Day. Although he appeared on the Republican ticket simply by signing up for the race, the local GOP apparatus (which had opted not to field a candidate against Burks) had no desire to endorse him.

As such, Burks had spent little if any time campaigning to keep his seat. He didn't take out any political advertisements, and no debates with Looper were scheduled. Burks' friends weren't even sure if he had met his rival. Burks instead spent his time working on his 1,000-acre hog and tobacco farm near the town of Monterey.

On the morning of October 19, 1998, Burks began preparing the farm for a visit from local schoolchildren later in the day. It was an annual ritual, with youngsters getting a chance to enjoy a hayride and take home a pumpkin from Burks' pumpkin patch.

A farmhand working on a trailer would recall that the attack on Burks had happened quickly. A black car drove up to the side of Burks' pickup truck, at which point the farmhand heard a loud "pop" sound. The car then sped off, leaving the farm.

When the farmhand went over to the truck, he found Burks sitting in the driver's seat, dead. The 54-year-old state senator had been shot just above his left eye and killed instantly.

Police investigating the murder soon ruled out a number of possible motives. The farmhand and Burks' wife were quickly discounted as potential suspects. There was no indication that anything in Burks' private life, or any of his sometimes controversial political stances, had prompted someone to kill him out of revenge or anger.

A few days later, police asked for the public's help in locating Burks' opponent in the state senate race. The implication was clear: Looper had the most to gain from Burks' demise, and  may have taken matters into his own hands to ensure that his race would be an uncontested one.

Early life

Byron Anthony Looper was born in Cookeville, Tennessee, on September 15, 1964. He spent only a brief amount of time in the area. The family moved to Georgia when he was still a child after his father, a school superintendent, took a job there. Looper's parents divorced soon after.

Looper began attending West Point in 1983, but had to withdraw from the service academy after he fell from a horse and injured his knee. He was honorably discharged and finished his studies at the University of Georgia.

Soon after returning to Georgia, Looper became politically active. He joined the Young Democrats and was elected president of the group but, in an early sign of Looper's abrasive personality, he was later urged to resign. He made his first electoral attempt in 1988, running unsuccessfully for the state legislature at the age of 23. He then worked as a legislative aide for three years.

Looper's resume becomes somewhat muddled at this point. He reportedly enrolled in the Stetson School of Business and Economics at Mercer University. He spent some time in Puerto Rico, and one former member of the Georgia house of representatives recalled that Looper called him up in the early morning hours one day, saying he intended to sue a law school on the island because it refused to teach one of his classes in English. He settled the matter for a small sum. Looper would also claim that he worked for a Bear Stearns affiliate on Puerto Rico and as an assistant to the president of a university, although the latter institution proved nonexistent.

While Looper's political activities were more limited during these years, he still managed to work on the 1988 presidential campaign of Al Gore, then a senator from Tennessee. Four years later, he also worked on the successful campaign of Bill Clinton where Gore was the vice presidential pick. Looper's associates would later say that he was disappointed that he hadn't been rewarded for his work with a job in the administration.

Putnam County assessor

In the early 1990s, Looper reappeared in Cookeville, switched to the Republican Party, and immediately threw himself into local politics. In the 1994 election, he challenged incumbent state representative Jere Hargrove for his seat. Looper's campaigns would be characterized by blunt attacks and negativity; he frequently vowed to break up what he saw as a "good ole boy" clique of politicians, and publicly accused his opponents of crime and corruption.

At the same time, Looper made some efforts to try to ingratiate himself with these politicians. Hargrove claimed that despite Looper's "undignified" campaign, he later contacted the state representative asking for his help securing a job in the Farmers Home Administration or some federal agency in Puerto Rico.

Two years later, Looper set his sights on the assessor's office for Putnam County. At first, it seemed like another quixotic effort. The incumbent assessor, Bill Rippetoe, had been in office for 14 years. But Rippetoe was facing criticism for recent property reappraisals, and Looper's campaign efforts added raised further recriminations. Although the campaign did not include any public appearances or debates, Looper loudly accused Rippetoe of cutting deals for friends and vowed that he would lower taxes in the county. On Election Day, he earned about 800 more votes than his opponent to secure a narrow victory.

The voters soon discovered that not only was Looper unable to keep his campaign promises, he was also unable to effectively manage the office to which he had been elected. Despite his promise to lower taxes, he had little ability to affect voters' bills since he had no control over the tax rate. One former campaign worker recalled that Looper rarely showed up for work, and that he jetted off to Puerto Rico for a three-week jaunt shortly after taking office.

Others recalled that Looper was a biased, unlikable person in his official role. They said he talked down to Democrats, promised favors to Republicans, and treated the people of eastern Tennessee with a general condescension, acting like he had been sent there to save them from themselves. Employees in the assessor's office fared little better; Looper was prone to insulting them or terminating their employment if he suspected that they were disloyal to him. At one point, Looper became involved in a fistfight between a county taxpayer and one of the workers in the assessor's office.

Early in his term, Looper announced that he had uncovered $100 million in property that wasn't on the tax rolls. The county commission responded that this kind of backlog was not unusual and that the assessor should focus on doing his job instead of finding controversies.

Such grandiose announcements were not unusual for Looper. He had drawn up a list of hundreds of media outlets across Tennessee, and constantly fired off press releases to highlight the work of his office. These communications frequently railed against the alleged "good ole boy" network in the county and bragged that he was the "most educated" assessor in the state.

Looper also began to show signs of rampant paranoia. His employees recalled that he had a video camera installed to record visitors, and hired a security consultant to scour the premises for hidden microphones or listening devices. He also set up a barrier at the back of his office because he was worried that political enemies were recording his conversations. Forty employees were reportedly fired after Looper accused them of spying on him.

In his official capacity, Looper filed several lawsuits against other county agencies. He charged the Putnam County election commission with voting machine irregularities, a curious attack given his own electoral victory. He also sued to demand access to the phone records of the sheriff's office. Not surprisingly, Looper found himself targeted by litigation as well, including former employees suing for wrongful termination and an attorney who accused the assessor of libel.

Looper was also named in a paternity suit by a former girlfriend, who accused him of raping her and illegally transferring ownership of her home to his name by faking the deed. Looper responded with a statement deriding the woman, saying she "left me with heart palpitations, a small box of memorabilia, and a red G-string." When she threatened him with a $1.2 million lawsuit, however, Looper admitted that he was the father of her child.

In March 1998, an indictment charged Looper with 14 criminal charges including theft of services, official oppression for theft, official misconduct, misuse of county property, and misuse of county employees. Among other things, Looper was accused of arbitrarily reassessing the property of a person who refused to contribute to his campaign, soliciting campaign donations from developers in exchange for lower tax assessments, using county funds and workers for his incessant faxing of press releases, failing to assess some land parcels, and removing one taxpayer's property from the rolls in an attempt to make them ineligible for public office.

A trial was scheduled for December. Henry Fincher, a local attorney, immediately began an effort to remove Looper from office, charging him with neglecting his duties while pursuing a personal political agenda.

Murder of Tommy Burks

Tommy Burks had been in the Tennessee state senate for 28 years when he came up for re-election in 1998. He had long balanced his farming duties with his elected ones, waking up before sunrise to tend to his animals and crops before driving about 100 miles along Interstate 40 to the state capitol in Nashville. At the end of the day, he made the same trip home.

Fellow legislators remembered that Burks never missed a day in the senate, even when he had to navigate through treacherous snowstorms. The weather only prevented him from returning home on one occasion. After Burks' death, a stretch of I-40 would be renamed in his honor.

Although he was a Democrat, Burks had adopted a number of conservative positions which frequently put him at odds with his own party. He was opposed to gambling and the state lottery, and in 1991 sponsored a bill to criminalize abortion in cases where the mother's life was not in danger. He also sponsored a widely derided bill to dismiss Tennessee teachers who taught evolution as fact. Burks' less controversial stances included support for anti-drug programs, public television, and crime victims' rights.

Burks had also sponsored a bill which would publicly shame first-time offenders convicted of driving under the influence, requiring them to pick up roadside trash while wearing orange vests emblazoned with the message "I am a drunk driver." This may have rankled Looper, who had been convicted of DUI in Georgia in 1986 and 1987 and unsuccessfully tried to have the charges expunged from his record.

There was little reason to view Looper's challenge to the popular state senator as anything other than a farce. He had even taken the bizarre step of legally changing his middle name to (Low Tax), parentheses included, and proudly included this moniker on all of his advertising materials. Though he had filed to run against Burks, he had simultaneously joined the race to challenge Representative Bart Gordon, a Democrat, for his House of Representatives seat; Looper abandoned this race after finishing third in the Republican primary. He declared public service to be "the most noble of all pursuits" and voiced his opposition for "big government, high taxes, fast spending, and mollycoddling criminals."

Following Burks' murder, public attention quickly turned to Looper. As the case gained national attention, residents in eastern Tennessee questioned why he seemed to have gone into hiding. It was also considered highly suspicious that Looper hadn't bothered to call Burks' widow, Charlotte, to offer his condolences. The state senator's death had not only left Burks' three daughters without a father, it had also occurred on the birthday of his middle child.

State law spelled out a clear motive for the crime. If a candidate for office died within 40 days of the election, their name could not appear on the ballot. Since Burks had been killed within this window, his name would be removed and Looper's would be the only one legally eligible in the state senate race for the 15th District.

Soon after Burks' murder, local Democrats encouraged Charlotte to mount a write-in campaign to succeed her husband and ensure that Looper wouldn't win by default. Although Republicans needed to flip just two Democratic seats to take control of the state legislature, they backed Charlotte's candidacy and disavowed Looper. Brad Todd, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, declared, "We did not recruit Mr. Looper to run for state senate or any other office. We have not assisted his campaign in any material way, nor will we."

On October 24, after a four-day absence, Looper returned to his home. He was promptly arrested, charged with first-degree murder, and held on a $1.5 million bond.

Byron Looper's mugshot following his arrest (Source)

The arrest did not disqualify Looper from the race since he had only been charged with a felony, not convicted. To further complicate matters, he was still the Putnam County tax assessor. From his jail cell, he fired his deputy tax assessor, leaving the office with no one in charge. Two more ouster petitions were filed against him, and the state finally stepped in to remove him in January 1999 after he attempted to keep doing his job while incarcerated.

The strange circumstances of the election generated strong turnout on Election Day. When the ballots were counted, Charlotte had won in an overwhelming landslide: 30,252 votes, or about 93 percent of the ballots cast in the district. It was said to be the first successful write-in campaign in Tennessee.

Charlotte Burks speaking at a legislative breakfast in 2012. (Source)

Looper still managed to collect 1,531 votes, although some of these were no doubt early votes that had been filed before his arrest. However, some of Looper's supporters questioned the motives of investigators, noting that Looper had publicly attacked them in the past. The police were also releasing little information on how they had tied Looper to Burks' murder; this evidence would be presented two years later, when Looper went to trial.


In the lead-up to the trial, Looper changed attorneys eight times. Although the murder charge was eligible for the death penalty, the Burks family declined to pursue it; they felt a life sentence would offer more closure than the ongoing appeals a death penalty case would generate.

The trial got underway on August 14, 2000. In the opening statement, District Attorney Bill Gibson declared, "Byron Looper is obsessed with the burning desire for power and public office. He is also a man who knew he didn't have a chance of beating Tommy Burks." The state argued that the murder had been motivated by Looper's desire to gain Burks' position and power, and that Looper was the only one with a motive for the killing. Prosecutor Tony Craighead deemed it an attempt to "win this election with a Smith & Wesson."

One witness recalled that Looper had mentioned the possibility of eliminating his opponent in order to win his election. William Lindsay Adams Jr. said he contacted Looper after spotting an advertisement for the position of his campaign manager. Adams said that Looper asserted that the campaign could be run at minimal expense, especially if his opponent wasn't in the race or if something happened to Burks before Election Day. He opted not to take the job.

But one of the state's most crucial witnesses was Joe Bond, a Marine recruiter and high school friend of Looper's. Bond testified that several months before Burks was murdered, Looper called him to say he was running for office. He also said that he planned to kill his opponent so he could be the only person on the ballot.

Bond said that he passed the remark off as a joke, but became more concerned after Looper began asking him about firearms, including recommendations for guns with reliable accuracy that could be easily concealed. A few months before the murder, Looper visited Bond at his home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, saying it was imperative that he acquire a weapon since the election was fast approaching. Bond said he would do so, even though he had no intention of getting his friend a gun. Looper persisted, repeatedly calling Bond and even sending a $150 money order to cover the cost of the firearm.

On the evening of the murder, Bond testified, Looper had shown up at his home and confessed to killing his opponent. "I did it man, I did it," Bond recalled Looper saying. "I killed that dude." When Bond asked who he was referring to, Looper responded, "That guy I was running against. I busted a cap in that dude's head." Looper told Bond that he had purchased a gun in a private sale, and thrown it out the window of his car after driving for about 10 or 15 minutes.

In March 1999, a man working with a construction company along I-40 had discovered a 9-millimeter Smith & Wesson handgun and turned it in to police. A firearms expert later gave his opinion that this was the weapon used in Burks' murder.

Byron Looper during his trial (Source)

Other testimony focused on the car that had been spotted on Burks' farm. Wesley Rex, the farmhand who had seen the car drive up alongside Burks' truck, recalled that it was a black car with circles on the back. He had also identified Looper as the driver after seeing one of his political advertisements on TV on the evening of the murder. A worker at a local fast food restaurant said Looper had shown up at the drive-thru in a dark car on the morning of the murder, nervous and in a rush, and had become extremely upset about a mistake with his order.

Investigators had managed to track down the vehicle Looper had briefly owned around the time of the murder. Two days before Burks was shot, he had purchased a used 1987 Audi sedan from a private seller in Lilburn, Georgia. The vehicle make matched Rex's description, since the Audi symbol featured interlocking circles. A mechanic in Tucker, Georgia, a community about five miles from Lilburn, said a customer who signed his name as "Anthony Looper" had brought the car in for repairs, estimating that it was sometime between October 11 and 20, 1998, and asked to leave it at the shop for a few weeks. Looper later called to say that he no longer wanted the vehicle, and it was resold.

The Audi's tires raised one point of contention. Once the car was discovered, an analysis of its tires found that they did not match the tracks left at the Burks farm. A test of the tires on the Chevrolet Beretta that Looper had been driving when he returned to Tennessee also failed to yield a match. But the man who sold the Audi to Looper still had the receipt for its tires; once these were mounted on the Audi, they left tracks that matched those at the crime scene. Prosecutors posited that Looper had simply changed the tires after killing Burks; Bond said Looper had told him he planned to do so.

A good portion of the defense strategy focused on an attempt to discredit the story put forward by Bond. Looper's attorneys, former Georgia state legislator McCracken Poston and former California legislator Ron Cordova, tried unsuccessfully to impeach Bond as a witness. They instead accused him of seeking revenge against Looper since the defendant had made advances against his girlfriend (later wife) when they were teenagers. One witness said Bond didn't have a reputation for truthfulness. The defense also called Bond's mother-in-law to the stand to suggest that Bond didn't have a good enough relationship with Looper to host him in the fall of 1998, since he had asked Looper to leave his residence during a visit in the summer after learning that his wife was uncomfortable with the defendant.

Several years later, Cordova would suggest that Looper may have helped set up Burks' murder, but didn't carry out the crime. He said he did not think that Looper was capable of killing Burks on his own, but may have recruited Bond to do so; however, he stressed that it was only a theory and he didn't have any evidence to back it up. The defense never presented an alternate suspect at the trial, and the prosecution pointed out that Rex had seen only one person in the car fleeing the scene.

Both Cordova and Poston believed that there was reasonable doubt that Looper had killed Burks. They had Looper's mother present an alibi, testifying that her son had been staying with her at the time of the murder; however, she had last seen him on the evening before the murder and had not seen Looper during the morning.

Poston later said that Looper had helped to sabotage his own case by withholding information from his attorneys. But Cordova and Poston felt that Looper did not have a legitimate motive for killing Burks, since they believed he would have known he would be caught and that Charlotte would likely be recruited to run in her husband's place. "The evidence is going to show that Byron Looper knows how to win an election," Poston said in his opening statement. "The evidence also is going to show that he knows how to lose one and move on. Mr. Looper's weapon has always been words, and that's never changed."

The defense positions failed to impress the jury. After deliberating for just over two hours, they returned a guilty verdict. On August 23, 2000, Looper was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Looper was held in the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary until this prison closed in 2009. He was then transferred to the nearby Morgan County Correctional Complex. He never went to trial on the official misconduct charges, which the state opted not to pursue since Looper had already been condemned to a life behind bars.

Throughout his sentence, Looper maintained his innocence and occasionally tried to appeal his guilty verdict. His cell was strewn with legal papers, and he targeted a variety of entities with civil suits. He sued a TV station, saying they had misrepresented their intentions when interviewing him and aired a program that portrayed him in a negative light, as well as the Tennessee Department of Corrections, which he said had failed to adequately treat him and other prisoners for health problems.

On June 26, 2013, Looper reportedly struck a pregnant prison counselor on both sides of her head, knocking off her glasses. The incident occurred during a discussion between the counselor and a prison unit manager about a request Looper had made; he apparently became upset after learning that he would be transferred from solitary confinement into the general population, since he was worried that he was a high-profile prisoner and would be hurt by other inmates.

Prison authorities said that Looper was restrained with "the least amount of force necessary." Two hours later, he was found dead in his cell.

An autopsy determined that cardiac issues were the primary cause of Looper's death, as he had experienced high blood pressure and the hardening of his arteries. This health issue was compounded by toxic levels of antidepressants he had been taking.

Looper's family and attorneys were suspicious of this conclusion. Poston declared the circumstances of Looper's death to be "extremely suspicious," saying he had seen Looper's body and thought it looked like he had been severely beaten while hogtied. There were abrasions and contusions around his head, arms, and legs, some of which were consistent with injuries that would be caused by shackles and handcuffs. Another prisoner had written to his girlfriend on the day of Looper's death and mentioned that guards had beaten "some chubby white guy" to death while he was restrained.

Poston also alleged that authorities from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation contacted Charlotte to let her know about Looper's death, while Looper's mother did not find out until she saw a news report on her son's demise. He said Looper's mother was initially told that her son would be charged with assault after touching a counselor on her arm, but that prison authorities later changed their story to say Looper had slapped the counselor. Poston said a nurse had treated Looper for a head wound about an hour before he was found dead.

The Tennessee Department of Correction responded to the allegations by simply referring to the conclusions of the autopsy. Looper's family commissioned a second autopsy, which determined that Looper's heart was not abnormally large at the time of his death. Poston and Looper's family never issued a follow-up on any other findings.

Charlotte, meanwhile, had proved popular in her own right. She continued to serve in the state senate until opting not to run for re-election in 2014.


Tennessee Secretary of State, "In Tennessee, A Lawmaker Dies and His Rival Vanishes" in the Washington Post on Oct. 23 1998, "Tennessee Senator's Killing and Opponent's Arrest Upend Small Town" in the New York Times on Oct. 24 1998, "Tennessee Lawmaker Killed; Election Opponent Arrested" in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 24 1998, "Candidate Jailed in Foe's Slaying" in the Washington Post on Oct. 24 1998, "Suspect Relentlessly Ran For Office" in the Associated Press on Oct. 24 1998, "Suspect in Death of State Senator Obsessed by Foes" in the Chicago Tribune on Oct. 27 1998, "Ex-Tenn. Politician Begins Murder Trial" on CBS News on Aug. 15 2000, "Politician Goes On Trial For Opponent's Murder" in the Journal Times on Aug. 15 2000, "Guilty Verdict in Campaign Murder Trial" on ABC News on Aug. 23 2000, "Looper Found Guilty in Murder of Sen. Tommy Burks" in the Rome News-Tribune on Aug. 23 2000, "Convicted Murderer 'Low Tax' Looper Sues Prison Medical Manager Over Health Care" in the Nashville Post on Jan. 9 2002, "Prison Incident Report Shows Assault Before Byron Looper Found Dead" in the Times Free Press on Jun. 28 2013, "Byron Looper's Attorney Crying Foul in Death of Politician Turned Killer" in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Sep. 13 2013, "Byron Looper's Family Seeks Independent Autopsy After 'Heart Event' Death Report" in the Times Free Press on Jun. 29 2013, "The Death of Senator Tommy Burks and Byron (Low Tax) Looper" in the Nashville Scene on Aug. 16 2018, "Byron Looper" episode of Dying to Belong on Oxygen on Sep. 16 2018, "Way Back When: Looking Back in History" by Bob McMillan in the Herald Citizen compiled on, State of Tennessee v. Byron Looper, State Jones v. Looper

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

James Curley: Twice Convicted "Mayor of the Poor"

In many political scandals, a representative accused of misconduct has been in office for decades, cultivating enough popularity that they can weather the blow to their image. James Michael Curley, by contrast, had his first stint in jail when his political career had barely started. Instead of ruining his future in the field, however, Curley's first scandal helped boost his popularity.

On December 2, 1902, Curley sat down to take a civil service exam. A member of the Massachusetts state house of representatives, Curley was not taking the exam on his own behalf; instead, he was impersonating a constituent who was trying to become a mail carrier. On February 25, 1903, he was arrested and charged with fraud. Along with an associate named Thomas Curley (no relation) he was convicted on April 3.

Curley was sentenced to serve 60 days in jail, and began his sentence on November 7, 1904, after a series of unsuccessful appeals. In response, hundreds of citizens demonstrated in the streets of Boston to show their support for him. The civil service examination system had been criticized as setting unnecessarily high educational requirements for jobs, a major concern for the Irish population in the city that considered the system to be unfairly weighted against them.

While still in jail, Curley won the Democratic primary by a margin of roughly 1,200 votes of more than 3,200 ballots cast. He won the subsequent general election as well, and would serve on the board of aldermen until 1910. "He Did It For a Friend" became a campaign rallying cry which handily disarmed any criticism about Curley's criminal record.

A towering figure in Boston politics, Curley was well-loved by a populace that saw him as their personal friend and advocate. However, he also had more than one run-in with the law and lived long enough to see his influence and appeal slowly wane away.

Early life

James Michael Curley was born in Boston on November 20, 1874 and attended the city's public schools. His father, who had immigrated to the United States in 1865 at the age of 15, died after lifting a heavy curbstone when Curley was just 10 years old. The incident helped stoke what would be Curley's enduring hatred for Boston's political power players, since the boss for his own ward did little to help the family after their breadwinner passed away.

Curley's mother helped the family stay afloat by working as a cleaning woman. Curley, already contributing to the family income by working as a newsboy, started jobs at a marketplace and drugstore as well. He then became a delivery driver, continuing his education by attending night classes twice a week.

Curley also worked as a salesman with the bakers' and confectioners' supply firm Logan, Johnston & Co., and held jobs in real estate and the insurance business. He entered politics in 1898, unsuccessfully running for Boston's city council, before winning a seat the next year.

Following his successful jailhouse campaign in 1904, Curley served on the board of aldermen until 1910 before returning to the city council. In the midst of these campaigns, he married his first wife, Mary E. Herlihy, in 1906.

In 1910, Curley entered his district's congressional race. In the Democratic primary, he competed against incumbent Representative Joseph O'Connell as well as a former congressman, William McNary. Curley made humility a staple of his campaign. When he found that his opponents had bought up all of the billboards in the district, he simply adorned them with streamers reading, "Elect a Humble Man: James Michael Curley." Although he came under fire for his personal honesty, especially given his criminal record, Curley vowed not to run a negative campaign against his opponents.

The strategy worked. After winning the primary, Curley was chosen in the general election for a House of Representatives term starting in March 1911.

Curley vs. Honey Fitz

While his election to Congress was a major milestone, Curley's primary objective was to become mayor of Boston. In November 1913, while still in the House, he announced that he would run for this position.

The incumbent mayor, John F. Fitzgerald (grandfather of President John F. Kennedy), had privately promised Curley that he would not seek re-election. But when he was pressured by the city's Democratic bosses to run for another term, Fitzgerald gave in. Rather than abandon his campaign, Curley decided that he would challenge Fitzgerald in the Democratic primary. He spurned the support of the party bosses, even vowing to end bossism if he was elected.

John F. Fitzgerald, aka "Honey Fitz," at left with son-in-law Joe Kennedy Sr. and grandson John F. Kennedy (Source)

Curley found a source of leverage in Fitzgerald's extramarital activities. The discovery that "Honey Fitz" had been canoodling with Elizabeth Ryan, an entertainer and cigarette girl nicknamed Toodles, at the Ferncroft Inn helped torpedo the mayor's chances of an electoral victory. Curley stoked the sensational coverage by delivering lectures with titles such as "Great Lovers in History: From Cleopatra to Toodles." On December 18, Fitzgerald withdrew his name from consideration.

The mayor's withdrawal did not solidify support behind Curley. He was annoyed when the Boston city council, dominated by Democrats, endorsed the man chosen to run in Fitzgerald's place (city councilor Thomas Kenny) instead of him. He became more confrontational during the campaign. When hecklers disrupted one appearance, he denounced them as "second story workers, milk bottle robbers, and doormat thieves." Jeered at another appearance, he asked the audience if anyone wanted to come onstage to "make anything of it." He had reportedly already laid one heckler flat with a punch before issuing this declaration.

Curley was also not above unscrupulous tactics during his campaign. Among other tactics, he mailed out notices to areas considered to be Kenny strongholds giving them incorrect information on where to find their polling place. Curley is credited with coining the phrase "Vote early and vote often."

In the final vote, Curley earned 43,262 votes to Kenny's 37,522. He had resigned from the House, effective February 4, to take on his new duties.

"Mayor of the poor"

Curley would sporadically serve as mayor, or throw his name into consideration for the position, for the next four decades. But under the city's reform charter, he found himself wielding immense power during his first term. He ousted hundreds of officeholders appointed by Fitzgerald, and personally met with any citizen who came in asking for a job or favor.

Targeted by political bosses and the business community, which quickly realized that Curley would favor Boston's poorer citizens over them, Curley lost the 1917 election to Andrew Peters, a figure in President Woodrow Wilson's administration. The state legislature, alarmed by the extent of Curley's mayoral power, responded in 1918 by barring Boston mayors from running for re-election; while they would be able to compete in future elections, they could only serve one term at a time. The legislation would stand for 20 years.

Following his defeat, Curley ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 1918 before becoming president of the Hibernia Savings Bank in Boston. But he soon turned his attention back to the mayor's office. The race again proved bitter; Curley ran a brutally negative campaign against his opponent, a Catholic lawyer named John R. Murphy. He sent canvassers posing as Baptist supporters of Murphy into Catholic districts to help raise suspicion of the candidate, or had them spread a rumor that Murphy intended to divorce his wife to marry a 16-year-old girl. On December 13, 1921, he was elected by a narrow margin of approximately 2,500 votes out of about 146,000 cast. His second term lasted from 1922 to 1926.

During his term, Curley won acclaim as a "man of the people" or "mayor of the poor" for his efforts to provide Boston's impoverished residents with jobs or other benefits. During the early 20th century, Boston was a city in decline. Shipping at the harbor was not as robust as it once was, the downtown was in a depressed state, and industries were departing.

One of the first actions Curley took in office was to order long handled mops for the cleaning women of City Hall so they wouldn't have to scrub the floors on their hands and knees. He sought to connect those looking to work with jobs that would benefit the city, including raking leaves, shoveling snow, reseeding the grass at cemeteries, and cataloging books at the library. During his second term, he oversaw a number of public improvements including the construction of schools, the L Street Bathhouse complex in South Boston, 12 new parks, health care relief stations, and hospital improvements.

Curley also sought to make residential properties in Boston more affordable by keeping their assessments low while raising assessments on downtown properties. Naturally, the tactic of taxing wealthier neighborhoods to help poorer ones put the mayor at odds with the business community. The disdain was mutual; one story, perhaps exaggerated or apocryphal, holds that Curley berated the president of the First National Bank after he refused to loan money to the city, even threatening to open the city's water mains to flood the bank's basement and vaults if they did not comply.

Later analyses suggested that this strategy may have helped accelerate the degradation of Boston's downtown. Looking to escape Curley's onerous tax assessments, businesses fled to the suburbs and left empty storefronts in their wake. This urban blight would not be remedied until the 1960s.

Despite his image as an advocate for the city's downtrodden residents, there were also indicators that Curley found unscrupulous ways to build his own wealth. Despite earning a salary of only $10,000 a year during his first term as mayor, he managed to have an ostentatious neo-Georgian mansion built for himself on Jamaicaway. He moved into the residence, which prominently featured shamrocks carved into the shutters, in 1915.

Curley's Jamaicaway mansion (Source)

During one mayoral stint, Curley was charged with stealing from the city through a scheme involving bond sales and a friend he had appointed as city treasurer. After the case dragged on through 34 continuances, he was finally ordered to pay $42,629 back into Boston's coffers in $500 weekly installments, with interest.

Remarkably, this instance of malfeasance also failed to shake the faith of Curley's most ardent supporters. Some years later, he made a radio address appealing for assistance with the repayment, saying he was having trouble making ends meet. In effect, he was asking Bostonians to contribute their own cash to help him repay public funds he had stolen. His adoring followers answered in droves, visiting the Jamaicaway mansion to drop off what cash they could spare.

The Roosevelt years

In 1924, in the midst of his second term in office, Curley entered the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. But his popularity in Boston did not extend to the rest of the state as a whole. He was soundly trounced by Republican candidate Alvan Fuller, earning 282,000 votes to Fuller's 641,000.

This campaign would result in another physical confrontation involving Curley two years later. Curley had helped a publisher named Frederick Enwright to launch a tabloid newspaper in 1921, and Enwright had returned the favor by having the paper endorse Curley in the 1924 election - the only one of Boston's six dailies to do so. But the relationship soured as each man accused the other of owing money, and the newspaper's coverage of Curley quickly turned negative.

On October 4, 1926, Curley spotted Enwright having lunch in the financial district and surprised him with an uppercut. While Curley would later claim that he had acted in self-defense, Enwright said he had been sucker punched. His Boston Telegraph soon ran an editorial cartoon portraying Curley as an inmate and a drunkard who had learned to hit from behind as a street fighter. Curley promptly filed a libel suit, and the jury ruled in his favor.

Prohibited from running for re-election under the 1918 state law, Curley had to wait until 1929 for his next chance at the office. He was again voted in, tallying up 117,084 ballots against Republican challenger Frederick Mansfield's 96,626. The election was held just one week after Black Tuesday, the catastrophic stock market crash that marked the start of the Great Depression.

Curley's latest four-year term began in January 1930. His abrasive personality resulted in a clash with Governor Joseph Ely over how relief programs would be administered. Boston would be allocated 12,500 jobs under the Public Works Administration, a little more than half of what the city was actually entitled to.

In the lead-up to the 1932 presidential election, Curley opted to support Franklin D. Roosevelt over Al Smith for the Democratic nomination. This marked a strong departure from his constituency, since Smith, a former New York governor and the Democratic candidate in 1928, was the preferred choice of most of the city's sizable Catholic population. At the party convention, Curley somehow managed to attend as a delegate representing Puerto Rico and threw his support behind FDR.

Curley and FDR (Source)

Following FDR's nomination and subsequent victory in the general election, Curley expected that he would be rewarded with a plum political position. In particular, he was hoping to be named ambassador to Italy. Instead, the newly elected President offered him the less appealing role of ambassador to Poland. A disappointed Curley rejected the offer with a quote from Shakespeare's Henry VIII, pointedly charging that FDR "left me naked to mine enemies."

The tiff with FDR was short-lived. With enthusiasm for Democratic candidates running high, Curley was able to decisively win the 1934 gubernatorial election. About 736,000 Massachusetts residents voted for him, while 627,000 opted for Republican candidate Caspar Griswold Bacon and 94,000 went for third party candidate Frank Goodwin.

As governor of Massachusetts, Curley oversaw FDR's New Deal programs and bolstered them with his own state relief programs. He focused on infrastructure, spending large sums to improve roads and bridges. However, a later analysis suggested that he may have unnecessarily delayed New Deal programs in the state by squabbling with federal authorities over who would control the funding.

In the late 1930s, Curley's influence began to falter for a time. In 1936, while still governor, he ran for a Senate seat but lost to Republican candidate Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. He was also defeated in his attempts to return to the Boston mayoral office in 1937 and 1941, and in 1938 won the Democratic nomination for governor but lost the general election. However, he was successful in the 1942 race for the House of Representatives and won re-election two years later.

Fraud conviction

In the 1945 election, Curley was returned to the Boston mayor's office on a landslide count of 111,824 votes. It was more than both of his opponents combined.

This victory was all the more remarkable because Curley was under federal indictment at the time. His trial had even been postponed to allow him to run for office.

Curley had participated in Engineers Group Inc., a fraudulent organization that misrepresented its resources in order to win war contracts for clients. Curley's role in the scheme had been fairly minimal; he had simply let the organization use his name on their letterhead, and he would argue that he had been the "victim of a professional confidence man whose professions of honesty deceived me and others." But he had still collected $60,000 in government funds by attaching his name to the group. The scheme was uncovered during then-Senator Harry S. Truman's investigation into the U.S. national defense program.

In February 1946, just a month into his fourth term as mayor, Curley was convicted of 10 counts of mail fraud. Also convicted were Donald Wakefield Smith, a former member of the National Relations Board, and James G. Fuller, who had acted as the vice president of Engineers Group Inc.

Curley continued to serve as mayor as his case went through the appeals process. He finally ran out of options when the Supreme Court opted not to consider his arguments. In June 1947, he was sentenced to serve six to 18 months behind bars. In poor health, Curley disregarded his doctor's orders and traveled to the nation's capital to personally request that the sentence be suspended; a federal judge refused, and Curley began serving his sentence in federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.

While a criminal conviction is typically enough to get a politician to resign their office, Curley refused to step down. City Clerk John B. Hynes served as acting mayor during Curley's imprisonment; at Curley's direction, he collected the mayor's salary but donated it to charity. It is unclear just how much influence he continued to have from his out-of-state jail cell.

Similar to the public outcry in support of Curley after his previous fraud conviction, his latest plight inspired mass demonstrations among his supporters. Bostonians protested in the streets, and more than 172,000 people (about a quarter of the city's population) signed a petition demanding clemency "because of his health and other extenuating circumstances."

The entire Massachusetts congressional delegation also indicated their support for a pardon, with one notable exception: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who had succeeded Curley as a congressman and would go on to be elected President in 1960. The action was widely scene as a rebuke to Curley for how he had treated Kennedy's grandfather. However, other accounts suggested that Kennedy was skeptical about Curley's claims of illness, or did not want to give the mayor special treatment when he had turned down appeals by the families of other prisoners.

The day before Thanksgiving, President Harry Truman commuted Curley's sentence. The mayor had served five months of his sentence, just shy of its minimum term. The action was ostensibly due to Curley's poor health, including fears that he would die in prison if he wasn't released. However, it is more likely that Truman acted under pressure from Curley's constituents and the Massachusetts delegation. After all, Curley was able to quickly return to work after his release.

Despite receiving a warm welcome upon his return to Boston, Curley also doomed his future in the office with an off-the-cuff remark. Soon after resuming his mayoral duties, he quipped that he had accomplished more in one day than Hynes had done in five months. Offended by the remark, Hynes decided to challenge Curley in the 1949 election.

John B. Hynes (Source)

The restriction on running for re-election had been lifted, so Curley was trying to hold on to the mayor's office for the first time since 1917. He denounced Hynes as a candidate who would favor Boston's businesses over its people. Hynes fired back that Curley was out of touch.

By this point, Curley's influence had also waned considerably; an increasing number of voters knew him more for his fraud conviction than for his earlier advocacy for the poor. Despite garnering just over 126,000 votes, he lost to Hynes by about 11,000 votes.

Later life

Soon after this defeat, a dual tragedy struck the Curley household. On February 11, 1950, his 41-year-old daughter Mary suddenly died of a cerebral hemorrhage while talking to her 34-year-old brother Leo on the phone. Later in the same day, Leo collapsed and died of the same ailment after learning of his sister's death.

Curley was no stranger to this kind of loss. His first wife had died on June 10, 1930, and in 1937 he re-married to a woman named Gertrude Marion Dennis. Curley had nine children altogether, but would outlive seven of them. Five died before the age of 40, including twin sons who died shortly after their birth in 1921.

On April 14, 1950, Truman issued Curley a pardon for both his 1903 fraud conviction and his more recent conviction. It was essentially a favor, a way of offering Curley a clear slate; the charges hadn't included any lasting sanctions, since he could still vote and hold office under Massachusetts law.

Curley launched two more mayoral bids in 1951 and 1955, both unsuccessful. In 1957, he was appointed to the State Labor Relations Commission. His memoir, I'd Do It Again!, was published in the same year; he'd earlier published another autobiographical work, The Purple Shamrock, with journalist Joseph Dinneen. In 1958, the movie The Last Hurrah was released, based on a book written about Curley by Edwin O'Connor. Spencer Tracy played the lead.

Curley died in Boston on November 12, 1958. Following his death, he lay in state at the State House Hall of Flags; he was only the fourth person in Massachusetts history to do so.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Curley Gets Prison for Mail Fraud" in the Deseret News on Feb. 18 1946, "Truman to Free Curley Tonight" in the Lawrence Journal-World on Nov. 26 1947, "Truman Pardons Ex-Mayor Curley" in the Medera Tribune on Apr. 14 1950, "The Last of The Bosses" in American Heritage in June 1959, "Boston's Powerful Rogue" in the Christian Science Monitor on Dec. 29 1992, "How to Govern From Jail" on Slate on Dec. 2 2004, "The Mayor of the Poor" in CommonWealth on Sep. 22 2013, "The First Mayor of the New Boston" in CommonWealth on Sep. 25 2013, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga by Doris Kearns Goodwin, James Michael Curley: A Short Biography with Personal Reminiscences by William Bulger, John William McCormack: A Political Biography by Garrison Nelson, Rogues and Redeemers: When Politics Was King in Irish Boston by Gerard O'Neill