Kevin Fitzgerald, who served as Jamaica Plain’s powerful state representative for almost 30 years, died Oct. 1 after a long battle with cancer. He was 57.
“He was a special man,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, who grew up knowing Fitzgerald and replaced him in the 15th Suffolk District seat in 2003. “He did a lot for a lot of people.”
Often known as “Kevin Fitz” or “Fitzie,” Fitzgerald was a Mission Hill native and most recently lived on Moss Hill in JP. He frequently referred to himself as “we” as shorthand for what he said was the community effort behind anything he achieved.
Entering office at age 24, he became a rising star and helped shepherd the district through tough times in the 1970s and ’80s into the desirable neighborhood it has become. Among other efforts, he was known as an effective advocate for affordable housing such as the Back of the Hill redevelopment.
Fitzgerald’s political career was sidetracked by a strange scandal in the 1990s where a judge ordered him to return an inheritance from a woman he helped rescue from a squalid apartment. He always denied wrongdoing.
After leaving office, Fitzgerald took the ceremonial post of State House sergeant at arms. He also served as director of the Division of Urban Youth Sports at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society.
“I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a doctor,” said Fitzgerald in a 2003 Gazette interview. “I was a social worker, a teacher, a coach. I said, ‘I’m going to try to bring life into this community.’
“I think we’ve done absolutely everything we could do to advance life and the quality of life.”