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Q&A

Bill on Whitey: ‘I worry for him’

The following are highlights from the only extensive interview ever given by Senate President William Bulger about his controversial brother Whitey, who has been identified as a crime boss and reputed killer by the 1986 President’s Commission on Organized Crime.

Q. The neighbor’s memory of James is a little contrary to some of the things law enforcement would tell you. What’s your memory of your brother Jim, growing up?

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A. He was always a very good brother, and cared very much for his brothers and sisters. He was always very devoted to his mother, and generally whatever the rockiness was . . . occurred outside.

Q. Outside the family, outside the neighborood?

A. When he’d be in any kind of difficulty, it would be outside.

Q. Trouble was only seven blocks away from where you both grew up. Jim walked the seven blocks to Mercer Street and you went to BC High. Why such different roads taken?

A. I am not sure of all the answers to it. I really don’t know.

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Q. It’s clear he fell in with a tougher group.

A. Yeah.

Q. There was no Father (Leo) Dwyer of St. Monica’s taking a group of kids to the Blue Hills.

A. He missed that. I think that loyalty extends here to my being very prudent about this. I don’t have anything to say condemnatory. And I care very deeply about him.

Q. You worry about him?

A. Yeah. I do. I worry for him . . .

Q. Is it simply that Jim hung with a tougher group?

A. I think he had a more adventuresome spirit. So that, it didn’t always involve doing something wrong. The circus came to town, he went off with the circus. . . . Something like that looked like adventures. Off he went. . . .

Q. There is this notion of Jim as a very wily, very capable person in his own sphere. Do you agree with that?

A. He’s very bright. . . . I almost have to let the official version stand.

Q. Because?

A. Oh, I could quarrel with it, but it’s hardly worth it. The official version I think is erroneous. That’s my own view of it. That’s more than I ever say about it.

Q. The official version being what, in your mind?

A. These various descriptive nouns that they run. . . .

Q. The presidential commission?

A. Yeah. Whatever it is. They called here (Boston) and got somebody’s version, and an unnamed person said this, and then it becomes . . . and who wants to quarrel with it? (sigh) I dunno. It’s one of those things. It’s run in my stories all the time.

Q. Was it an issue when you first ran for office?

A. It was not an issue, it was there.

Q. Your dad was concerned about it, but people in the neighborhood said ‘’run.”

A. We never discussed it much; it was an unspoken concern. We never talked about it. My father, I think, didn’t want me to be hurt. I think he was relieved and gratified by the fact that there they were, the neighbors, supporting me. And I think he was pleased by that. Because no one knows what the perception is of things until some kind of evidence like that is provided.

Q. Did Jimmy help by driving a car in one campaign?

A. In one of the campaigns, he did, actually. . . . But I don’t think he would be, it requires a certain, you know, you have to be able to roll with it a little bit in campaigning. If you take it very seriously . . .

Q. Give and take was difficult for him?

A. I think so. Again, it is for almost anyone who is not involved in it. When you get into it, and the first time somebody fires a salvo at you, and you are not accustomed to it, you feel as though, “My God, this is devastating. I’m going to punch someone in the mouth, or something. . . .” You have done very well eliciting anything from me. . . . I am surprised at myself.

Q. How much do you see him?

A. He’s always welcome, but he doesn’t come exceedingly often.

Q. Holidays?

A. Yeah, sometimes. Actually, on formal occasions less likely.

Q. Because?

A. He just comes in, I think he’s just, I don’t know, I don’t inquire. Sometimes if he’s in a talkative mood, he might come by. Or if he has something like a warmup jacket for the kids, or something, that he thinks is good, for exercise, or something. He’s interested in that, encourages that.

Q. Is it painful to have this distance with your brother, given your respective positions?

A. I don’t create any distance.

Q. Do you think he does?

A. I think so. We’ve never discussed it, but I think he does.

Q. To protect you?

A. I think so.

Q. And your view?

A. I understand it, but I’d rather be, uh, I wouldn’t encourage it.

Q. You’d prefer to be closer?

A. Sure. . .

Q. Have you encouraged Jim to adopt a lifestyle more above reproach?

A. I try to wield an influence on everyone, for the better. I like to believe that wherever I’ve influenced, it’s been for the better. That’s not the case always, because some people have had to listen to me sound off on things. . . I try to be an influence and I hope it’s always for the better.

Q. Do you think your brother admires you?

A. Yeah.

Q. And you he?

A. There is much to admire, and . . .

Q. He’s supposed to be just the toughest guy . . . a very, very determined, formidable person.

A. I hope that the fact is that there is no reason for anyone who cares about him to be apprehensive. . . . I just hope that that’s the case. That there’s no reason to be apprehensive . . . so I am hopeful.

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