MASSACHUSETTS: Hail to the Chief

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When he was sent to prison for mail fraud last June, Boston's Mayor James Michael Curley told the judge that he had at least nine serious ailments (gall bladder disease, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension, etc.). "You are sentencing me," he said brokenly, "to death."

Last week 73-year-old Jim Curley returned to Boston and his $20,000-a-year job (Boston had thoughtfully kept his pay going while he was in prison). President Truman had commuted his 6-to-18-month sentence at the end of five months,* one month before he would have been eligible for parole. Outwardly, the only sign of Boss Curley's ordeal was a small strip of adhesive tape under his right eye, to keep him from irritating his ingrown eyelashes. His health? "I come back ten years younger," said Jim Curley.

Outside his big Dutch Colonial house, a brass band serenaded him with Hail to the Chief, a number usually reserved for the President. Friends and ward heelers greeted him deliriously. Jim viewed with emotion a big white cake with red letters that spelled out: "Happy Birthday to Our Beloved Boss." The boss had already celebrated the occasion in jail.

The day after Thanksgiving, Curley went briskly back to City Hall and ousted Temporary Mayor John B. Hynes, who went gratefully back to being city clerk for life. Jim got right down to the business of spending $38,000,000 on projects which had been held up pending his return. Curley appointees had kept Hynes from spending more than was necessary.

Bored Bostonians raised no outcry, saw little that was reprehensible or even novel in Convict Curley's return to office. He had been in jail before; in 1903 he served 60 days for conspiring to defraud the Civil Service Commission. The electorate nevertheless had made him mayor of Boston four times, governor of Massachusetts once and U.S. Representative thrice. Political observers, knowing that Jim was pouting because President Truman took so long to let him out this time, figured that the boss might fold his hands and sit out the 1948 campaign.

* Also commuted: 4-to-12-month sentence of Donald Wakefield Smith, a former member of the National Labor Relations Board, who was convicted on the same charge.