Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Whitey Bulger is dead

James “Whitey” Bulger died at the age of 89 after he was beaten so badly that he was unrecognizable to inmates, according to the New York Times. It may not be the most politically correct thing to say, but he finally got what he deserved. He ruined so many lives and changed the way that Bostonians felt about their hometown. The fact that it took this long is a little surprising.

“Whitey” was a folklore character when I was growing up. Because I’m from the area, I always knew what kind of damage he could do. I knew that he was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, but it seemed that everyone assumed he was dead or in another country. It became such a lost cause that people would sometimes crack jokes, saying they saw him walking around Southie. My dad made a joke recently that he saw Bulger a few times before he was caught. He was a scumbag, but he was Boston’s scumbag. He was the most famous mobster to come out of this city, so we all were, in a way, conditioned to make jokes about his whereabouts. There will be no more “Uncle Whitey” sightings after today.

After years of searching for the mobster, it seemed the leads dried up, and I forgot about him for a long time. This was until was until his capture in 2011. It seemed like a joke. No one really believed it at first. The pictures of Bulger that originally emerged looked strikingly different to the famous ones released by the FBI, which can be explained by his 16 years on the run with girlfriend Catherine Greig.

It was great to see him handed multiple life sentences for the crimes that he committed while leading the Winter Hill Gang. He was a lowlife who somehow was granted the ability to live his life far beyond the reaches of law enforcement for far too long. It was funny to see how small he looked when he was entering the helicopter after his court date. Just by looking at him, you wouldn’t suspect such an old, frail man would have ever been capable of doing what he did. For so many, his conviction was a relief many years in the making.

On a lighter note, it is known that Bulger hated the 2015 movie made about his life, “Black Mass.” I couldn’t agree with him more! That movie felt like a cheap cop-out. I went into the movie wanting to learn more about Bulger than what I already knew, and I walked out of the movie having learned absolutely nothing. That movie never should have been made.

His attorney, Hank Brennan, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Hollywood greed is behind the rush to portray my client, and the movie missed the real scourge created in my client’s case, the real menace to Boston during that time and in other mob cases around the country.” It’s a cocky thing to say, but it is totally true.

Bulger was feared all around the city of Boston, and that movie made him out to be a human being who could be reasoned with, which was definitely not the case. Every time I take the train home, we rumble by multiple grave sites where Bulger buried some of his victims. There is a near-perfect square cut out in a marsh heading toward Quincy that is said to be a site where some of the bodies were found. This despicable evil has left its mark on the city, and his presence is still felt when I take the train.

It’s often joked that if you’re from Boston, someone you know knew Bulger. It’s a scary thought that during his reign, you were only a few degrees of separation away from one of the most notorious mobsters in the country. That is no longer a fear. After all the people he murdered ruthlessly, Bulger finally got what was coming to him. Whoever did this did a service to the city of Boston. “Uncle Whitey” is no more.

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