AMERICAN NOTES: The Curley Cult

Before his death in 1958, James Michael Curley brought fire and fury to Massachusetts politics for more than 50 years. He was portrayed as the corrupt, flamboyant mayor in Edwin O'Connor's 1956 novel The Last Hurrah.

Curley grew up shanty-Irish poor and with a hatred of the Yankee establishment. The Brahmins groaned at his political record (elected four times as mayor of Boston, four times as a Congressman, once as Governor of Massachusetts) and at his jail record (two months behind bars in 1904 for taking a civil service examination for an illiterate friend, and five months for mail fraud in...