You knew when Kevin White was in the room.
Compelling, contentious, embattled, engaging, the man always had your attention.
The first time I saw him was in 1978 at the Jackson-Mann School in Allston. It was a meeting to drum up support for the Question 1 Classification campaign, a now-forgotten ballot referendum. The room was packed, the local machine had done a good job of getting out the troops but had also stirred up a lot of very concerned homeowners. If this initiative failed, residential property taxes would go through the roof.
The room went dark, a voice came over the sound system, and a screen began to show images of Boston. All pre- 1967, the year Kevin Hagan White was elected mayor. The images were all black and white, nothing but empty lots, gutted buildings, despairing faces, post-war Berlin couldn’t have looked worse. Then, suddenly, color arrives, parks boom with flowers, children and old people are smiling. But this will all end, back to the poor house for the kids and the elderly, if you don’t vote yes.
The screen went dark, a spotlight hit the stage, and on strides Kevin White. WOW. Lots of applause. I do not remember what he said exactly, except that he made his case, answered a couple of questions, and left.
When I walked out of the school, Union Square was full of reporters, tv trucks and more men on horses in one place since the end of the Civil War. WOW.
Mother of Gawd! Kevin, I never voted for you, but you left the city a better place.