Mourners share memories of former Boston mayor Kevin White

Memories of former Boston mayor Kevin H. White were plentiful among those in line outside the Parkman House, where his wake is being held today today.

Dick Flavin, White’s speechwriter during first election and his press secretary for the first year, recalled the meeting White had after his election with outgoing mayor John Collins.

When Collins’s wife offered White a tray of cookies and addressed him by his new title, “Mr. Mayor,” White said he would never get used to people calling him that, Flavin recalled.


At that point, Collins, leaned over and in what Flavin described as a stage whisper said, “’Mayor’ is not the real title. The real title is ‘Emperor.’”

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“In fact, Kevin soon realized it was true. When you are the mayor of Boston, you are an emperor. Everything goes through the mayor’s office,” Flavin said.

Catherine Sexton, 80, of East Boston, was not one of the political elite, but she was in line this afternoon just the same.

Some 30 years ago, she said, in the 1970s, the White administration showed up at her house and put a curb cut in front of it, which was a boon to her teenaged son who used a motorized wheelchair.

“They just rang our doorbell and told us that they saw we had a need. They came without being asked; it’s something I’ll never forget,” she said.


She said she had taken the Blue Line to the wake today, but “I would have walked here if I had to.”

Joe McAdams, 59, of Quincy, in his jeans and windbreaker, also stood out from the suits and topcoats of the politicians.

McAdams said he grew up in West Roxbury and lived in the South End for six years while White was mayor. He said he decided to come the moment he learned of White’s death Friday at the age of 82.

“I particularly appreciated his actions during the busing crisis. I think he tried to bring people together.”