Curley, James Michael

Curley, James Michael,

1874–1958, American political leader, b. Boston. He held many municipal offices, served (1902–3) in the Massachusetts legislature, and became a power in the Democratic party of Boston before he served (1911–14) in the U.S. House of Representatives. Curley—whose colorful personality and shrewd political manipulations steadily increased his popularity—served three terms as mayor of Boston (1914–18, 1922–26, 1930–34) before he was governor of Massachusetts (1935–37) and again U.S. Congressman (1943–46). After Curley was once more elected (1945) mayor of Boston, he was convicted (1946–47) of mail fraud. He served (1947) five months in prison before his sentence was commuted by President Truman. After he fulfilled his duties as mayor (1947–50) and was defeated (1949) for reelection to that post, Curley was given (1950) a full pardon by Truman.


See his autobiography (1957).

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Curley, James Michael

(1874–1958) mayor, U.S. representative; born in Boston, Mass. Selling newspapers to survive as a poor Irish-Catholic in Boston, he left high school, continuing his education in the public library. A powerful and colorful orator, he campaigned against Democratic political bosses, serving in the Boston common council (1900–01), then becoming an alderman (1904–09). Serving in the U.S. House of Representatives (Dem., Mass.; 1911–14), he left to run for mayor of Boston, defeating Rose Kennedy's father, “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald. As mayor (1914–18, 1922–26, 1930–34), he funded massive public works projects, draining the city's treasury to employ the poor. As governor of Massachusetts (1935–39) he championed social welfare legislation while bribery charges against him were investigated. Convicted in 1937, he received contributions from Bostonians to pay his fine. Indicted for influence peddling while back in the U.S. House of Representatives (1943–45), he left to become mayor of Boston again (1945–49), serving five months in jail midterm, until pardoned by President Truman. His political career finished, he wrote I'd Do It Again (1957), defending himself, and he inspired Edwin O'Connor's novel, The Last Hurrah (1956).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.