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Dapper O'Neil
O'Neil (second from right) next to Boston mayor Raymond Flynn (second from left)
Boston City Councilor At-Large

In office
Preceded by Louise Day Hicks
Succeeded by Michael F. Flaherty
President of the Boston City Council

In office
Preceded by Christopher A. Iannella
Succeeded by Thomas Menino
Personal details
Born April 12, 1920
Died December 19, 2007(2007-12-19) (aged 87)
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Staley School of the Spoken Word

Albert Leo "Dapper" O'Neil (April 12, 1920 – December 19, 2007) was an American politician who served as a socially conservative member of the Boston City Council for twenty-eight years.[1] He served on the Boston Licensing Board and was an operative for the legendary Boston Mayor James Michael Curley.[1]

Early life

He graduated from Roxbury Memorial High School and attended Suffolk University Law School, but left before graduating to serve in the United States Army during World War II.[1] After the war, he graduated from the Staley School of the Spoken Word with a degree in oratory. He worked with a railroad company and was then employed by the state housing board.[2]

In a 1978 interview, O'Neil explained that he got his nickname because his mother was very meticulous about how her children dressed, and where he grew up (the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston) "everybody had a nickname."[3]

Political career

From 1948 to 1961 O'Neil ran for office five times, three times for state representative and one apiece for City Council and School Committee, losing all five races. He then chauffeured for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Endicott Peabody. After Peabody was elected Governor of Massachusetts he appointed O'Neil as his patronage secretary,[2] but his tenure in that capacity was short-lived. According to some reports, O'Neil was contacted by an aide to Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy and asked to provide a Kennedy supporter with a state job. O'Neil, not a fan of Kennedy's liberal policies, allegedly told the staffer to "go to hell."[citation needed] Kennedy's office demanded O'Neil's termination, which Peabody granted almost immediately.[citation needed] But in 1963, Peabody appointed him to the Boston Licensing Board. In 1967 O'Neil ran for mayor of Boston, finishing eighth with only 0.95% of the vote.

City Council

In 1971 he was appointed to the Boston City Council after the resignation of Louise Day Hicks, who had been elected to the United States House of Representatives.

O'Neil was a longtime supporter of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms; he was famous for carrying a loaded firearm with him at all times. He openly called supporters of integration "suburban liberals," and suggested they were "Communist dupes." He was fond of quoting the alleged saying of Nikita Khrushchev "We will bury you from within," reflecting his belief that integration or desegregaton was "a Communist plot against Boston." O'Neil was also an outspoken supporter of the white minority governments of South Africa and Rhodesia. At least in part because of his explicit rejection of race-based grievance and identity politics, he was much admired and praised by Boston columnist and radio talk show host Howie Carr.

While on the Council, O'Neil thrice ran for Suffolk County Sheriff. He lost the Democratic nomination to Thomas Eisenstadt in 1974, Dennis J. Kearney in 1978, and Robert Rufo in 1986.

In 1992, he was elected Council President after the death of Christopher A. Iannella.[2]

In 1999, O'Neil finished fifth (behind Francis Roache, Stephen J. Murphy, Peggy Davis-Mullen, Michael F. Flaherty) in an at-large race in which the top four make the council. In a story published in The Boston Globe after O'Neil's loss, Boston historian Thomas H. O'Connor wrote, "This is the last hurrah not merely for a man but for the politicking he represents." O'Connor went on to say that O'Neil's career endured "largely through the kinds of loyalties he built up over thirty years, from people for whom he'd done favors, and they'd never forget him, and they'd talk about him to their relatives. He built a political career on a system of local patronage."


Further reading

External links

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