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At 91, Jean McGuire fights off attacker who stabbed her multiple times at Franklin Park

Jean McGuire in 2016.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/file

Jean M. McGuire, a trailblazing educational leader in Boston, was walking her dog, Bailey, through Franklin Park Tuesday night when she was attacked by a man who stabbed the 91-year-old woman multiple times, according to police.

McGuire, a cofounder of Metco and the first Black woman to be elected to the Boston School Committee, was in the park near the athletic fields off Playstead Road around 8:30 p.m. when the assailant, whom McGuire described as a man, suddenly knocked her to the ground from behind, Jeriline Brady Mcginnis said in an interview Wednesday outside of McGuire’s house. Mcginnis described herself to reporters as McGuire’s sister, though a law enforcement official said the two women are not related by blood.

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Jeriline Brady Mcginnis was comforted by Breje Williams. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Mcginnis, who records show lives at the same address as McGuire, said that she was alerted by a Boston police officer Tuesday night about the attack, and that she has since spoken with McGuire at the hospital where she is recovering.

The attack on a legendary community luminary was met with shock and horror throughout the city. It came a day after another brutal instance of violence: the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old in Roxbury shortly after noon Monday.

“I’m disgusted and angry,” said Mayor Michelle Wu during a news conference Wednesday.

Wu called McGuire an inspiration and asked for anyone with information about the attack to tell law enforcement.

Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden said McGuire “did not get a complete view of the attacker.”

”I’m certainly outraged and I think we have to be at the point where we have an entire community that is equally as outraged and will not stand for this sort of random violence any further,” Hayden said.

Jean M. McGuire was walking Bailey when she was attacked.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

”On a positive note, Ms. McGuire is as spunky and as vibrant as ever, and is going to be just fine, praise the Lord. . . . The same Jean McGuire I’ve always known is the one I saw today,” he said.

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McGuire’s nephew Ron Mitchell said his aunt was “resting comfortably” Wednesday evening. He declined to share more details of her condition.

City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune called the attack “really tragic and really horrific.”

“Jean is Boston history and she has done so much for so many,” said Louijeune. “We do need to make sure that everyone feels safe in their neighborhoods.”

City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said steps need to be taken to provide better security in the park. He suggested better lighting, more call boxes, and more surveillance cameras.

City officials and local leaders gathered near the entrance to Franklin Park at the corner of Seaver Street and Walnut Avenue late Wednesday afternoon to denounce violence in the neighborhood.

“We will not be at rest as a community until the person who committed this crime is brought to justice,” said the Rev. Kevin Peterson.

Mcginnis, McGuire’s friend, said Bailey the dog, a Weimaraner, helped repel the attacker.

“[Jean] attacked this guy. She was kicking him in the nuts while Bailey was working him over. And he tried to run, and the dog chased him. And [the attacker] disappeared out of sight,” Mcginnis said. “Bailey stood up for her.”

Police would not identify McGuire by name, but said in a statement that a 91-year-old woman was stabbed multiple times Tuesday night. Police also said the attacker was apparently injured.

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In a report, police said McGuire was discovered by people walking through the park after visiting Boston Lights at the Franklin Park Zoo. She was able to ask for help and the people called 911, police wrote.

Members of the Boston Police Department investigated the scene in Franklin Park where 91-year-old Jean McGuire was stabbed while walking her dog.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

On Wednesday morning, a group of police officers wearing fluorescent shirts pedaled bicycles around White Stadium in Franklin Park as people strolled. A plainclothes officer took photos by a wooded area near an entrance to the park. Investigators could also be seen conducting line searches for potential physical evidence in a grassy area next to the stadium.

McGuire’s long history as trailblazer in Boston drew heightened attention to the attack.

She was the first Black social worker to work in the Boston Public Schools system. Finding that the School Committee of the 1960s was “totally unresponsive to Black students,” she helped develop a “Freedom School” curriculum that independently taught Black students and included Black history.

In 1981, she was elected to the School Committee as the first Black woman to serve on the panel, which she did for a decade.

McGuire helped found Metco, a groundbreaking program created in the 1960s that connected students of color from Boston, who would have had to attend substandard city schools, with suburban school systems.

Throughout her career, McGuire was a fierce defender of Metco and often did not mince words with officials who challenged the program. In the 1990s, when a Black city official suggested phasing it out, McGuire suggested the luminary was trying to “divide and conquer” people of color.

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She once compared suburban schools, with their majority white staffs, to plantations, but said that having Metco host families in those suburbs “gives the superintendents a little more gonads to do something.”

Executive director of METCO Jean McGuire was part of a panel that discussed racial violence in 1980. Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

McGuire led Metco for 43 years, until 2016, when she was 85. At the time, she told the Globe she was forced out by the nonprofit’s board of directors.

“She’s more than a legend, she’s a treasure, she’s a jewel,” said Louis Elisa, a longtime friend of McGuire’s. “Anybody who knows Jean McGuire knows her character.”

Elisa said McGuire had walked her dogs in the park at the same time for years, adding that he previously discussed the potential dangers of that routine with her, saying, “The park has changed.”

Indeed, a 1995 Globe article mentioned that McGuire enjoyed heading up School Master’s Hill in the park with her trio of Weimaraner dogs around dusk. She called it her favorite time of the day. McGuire said it was her way of letting out tension.

Elisa said he was deeply frustrated by Tuesday night’s violence in the park.

“This is preventable,” he said.

Dorothy Fennell, who lives across the street from Franklin Park, said Wednesday that the attack was “very sad.”

“Some neighbors who are regulars who see her were like, ‘Was that Jean?’ They’re a little concerned,” Fennell said. “Being in the park after dark is not unheard of. All summer long, people were going to Zoo Lights. Tons of families are walking through here. . . . It’s very busy with pedestrians.”

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Police investigated the scene in Franklin Park where McGuire was stabbed.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Mcginnis said McGuire parked on Walnut Avenue and then walked into the park.

“It’s something she’s done for years and something she feels like she can always do, was to walk her dog in the park,” Mcginnis said.

She said McGuire wants to leave the hospital but is unlikely to do so in the near future.

“She can’t wait, but she ain’t going nowhere. And she’s not going to that park again by herself. I’m not having it,’' Mcginnis said. “She means the world to me. I don’t have a problem backing her up at all. Against anybody or anything.”

As of Wednesday, no arrests had been made, and the investigation is active and ongoing, police said.

John R. Ellement, Mike Bello, and Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff and correspondents Bailey Allen and Nick Stoico contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this story identified Jeriline Mcginnis as McGuire’s sister, based on what she told a reporter. According to a law enforcement official, they are friends but not related by blood.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald. Christopher Huffaker can be reached at christopher.huffaker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @huffakingit.