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West Roxbury's homage to a flaming racist being replaced with a tribute to a Medal of Honor recipient

New mural honoring Thomas Gunning Kelley

The mural today. See it larger.

The Boston Ale House has painted over the part of its Hastings Street mural that long honored racist City Councilor Dapper O'Neil and his former employer James Michael Curley for a painting of Thomas Gunning Kelley, a longtime West Roxbury resident honored for his bravery in the Vietnam War.

The new mural section, still being painted, shows Kelley in front of the USS Thomas G. Kelley, a guided-missile destroyer.

Kelley was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on June 15, 1969. He was the leader of a squadron of river boats sent to assist in the evacuation of troops from one location on a canal in Kien Hoa province, when the troop carrier became disabled just as the Vietnamese began attacking from the other side of the river. Hit in the head by shrapnel - he would lose an eye - Kelley managed to organize a counter-attack and get the ships to safety.

The mural removal is the latest local erasure of O'Neil, who packed a gun, got into arguments with Black and gay councilors and famously made an anti-Vietnamese crack about the Dorchester Day parade. A granite memorial in Roslindale was uprooted when the Knight of Columbus chapter there shut down.

The mural retains the more bucolic side showing Centre Street when trolleys used to run down it.

The former mural, based on a photo in which Curley actually looked more like he was grimacing.

O'Neil mural

The mural is the last remnant of the West Roxbury Pub, where all the interior walls were decorated in murals about the life of James Michael Curley and which closed in 2014.

H/t Chadogramz.

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Comments

This irked me for decades. And “Eat With Jack O’Neil.”

No. How about throwing a plate of hot food in his face, though? Never once touched down there on principle.

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The "Read More" link from the main page goes to an article about the Orange Line, not the rest of this article.

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The perils of writing something on my phone.

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...., "How do you thank a guy for a million laughs!"
.....not with a mural I guess. :(

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Dapper and Curley did more for their constituents than all the Mayors and Councilors combined in the last 10 years. The recent crop does nothing but pander to layabouts and special interest groups, or stick their hands out for cash from developers and unions.

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even if it could be supported in a well sourced argument, that doesn't mean that one of them wasn't a vile racist nor does it mean that either are entitled to be a mural on the side of a privately owned bar.

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You long for a time when the Mayor could do favors for his friends, bypassing the normal approval processes.

That's a great system if you're friends with the Mayor. It's a horrible system if you aren't.

But there's some truth to the notion it didn't used to take as long for the city to get things done, at least the things the Mayor wanted done.

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*specific constituents at the expense of others

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When people knew where they belonged. When cops dispensed justice based on what they liked and their level of drunkeness. When sexual abuse of children was okay if done by a cleric.

Speaking of interest groups: Dapper and Curley were married to an interest group: the people who guaranteed money and votes for them.

As for cash from developers and unions? Dapper and Curley not receiving funny money is as true as the Easter Bunny laying pretty colored eggs for good boys and girls.

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They were people who only saw white people as their constituents. Doing more for white people specifically than anyone else isn’t the bold flex you think it is. Maybe it is for someone like you, but I am glad it’s seen as shameful by more and more of the city.

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I recall that Mayor Curley brought about a fair number of municipal improvements, such as the L Street bathhouse that now bears his name. He was also, to my knowledge, never accused of racism.

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You knew where they stood.

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That was Louise Day Hicks. The other racist. Wait, was she Dapper in drag?

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The patron saint of MAGA Parkway residents, Dapper O’Neil, was thrown out of a bar for using the N word. Gross.

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Never knew he was gay.

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Born in 1920, fought with Patton in the 3rd Army, he was a man of his times, you could have gone into Doyle's and removed most of the photo's if you use same criteria of removing his mural. Rather than try to understand history we can just erase it and pat ourselves on the back.
No forgiveness for those who tried their best, I guess it must be great to be perfect.

Our current President was a pal of Robert Byrd, yet he gets a pass. Oh well.....we slouch toward Gommorah.

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A mural being painted or a photo being hung does not entitle permanence.

Dapper will continue to exist in the history books and newspaper archives. That's actually how I know that he vocally supported a white supremacist organization in 1999. You brought up Byrd, I'm not here to defend Byrd but he expressed deep regret about his time in the Klan years before Dapper was giving his support to a similar organization.

But back to the mural: Did anyone ever look at that mural, on the side of a bar, and think "wow, this is a deeply complex man who held some horrible beliefs, we should unpack that?" or does that just not happen in reality?

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Ensuring a virulent racist isn’t honored in public isn’t the same thing as erasing history. In fact doing so is part of a push to actually grapple with the history of racism. It is those who want to continue to see bigots honored in public without any acknowledgment of their bigotry who actually seek to erase history.

I’m sure you feel the same way about confederate monuments.

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he was a man of his times

Those times are over. Grow up.

No forgiveness for those who tried their best

Show me the part where he tried his best, specifically with regard to his racism and homophobia. I'll wait.

And if that was his best, he didn't deserve his job, because he wasn't capable of doing it.

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In his time, the term was "confired batchelor".

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Please do NOT dignify Dapper O'Neil by calling him gay! :( He was a duplicitous, screaming closet case, who once objected to being seated next to gay activist Councilor David Scondras because he claimed he'd get AIDS. O'Neil was perhaps the most despicable bigot to sit on our City Council in the half century that I've been in Boston.

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Seriously?

How he got his dick wet was his business. It isn't like he chose his sexuality and his cultural milieu.

You cannot expect him to have been out AND have succeded politically.

Sexual preference does not come with values attached. That's for other humans to apply, to the benefit or detriment of those having that preference in society.

Political power sometimes runs great with dreadful views and behavior.
AND a great deal of public deception about one's true self.

Your true self likely won't align perfectly with your constituents.
Being true to oneself (lemme guess) only goes so far in politics.

Bitch about his supporters.
I bet some were closeted gay men.
Gay people are human.
Some humans are nasty hateful people with power. There is intersectionality.
Durable excrement.

I get it. Trump is cisgender white male as far as I know. So am I.
He doesn't bring shame to my sexual identity, even though he's a rapist and disgusting. There are disgusting gay rapists too. It sucks.

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How he got his dick wet was his business.

It was his own private business up until the moment he started using what power and authority he had, to make life worse for gay people

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can’t have it both ways. He could have been gay and a racist if you can believe that.

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They didn`t count his racism. They weighed it.

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was a resident of South Boston.

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About time for Tom K!
MOH awardee and former Secretary of Veteran Affairs for the state.

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No one is smiling in Hell today.

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Dapper is an icon of old Boston. Having met him on a number of occasions, including a wake where he was drunk, and heard him spew some rather vile slurs. He was as my father said not a racist he hated everyone equally, i.e., those nonwhite and non-Irish. Oh yes, he got stuff done, but his exploits were legendary. Everyone at the time had a story. All this does not give him a pass. The Old Boston is gone and we are better for it

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He was as my father said not a racist he hated everyone equally, i.e., those nonwhite and non-Irish.

So... a racist?

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It’s amazing that your defense of him is that he was racist and an ethno-nationalist.

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Mr. Kelley sounds like a badass and glad to hear his story, sounds like a dude worth a mural for sure.

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