Former Mayor White dies; helped change JP

February 3, 2012
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Former Boston Mayor Kevin White, whose decentralized city government gave more power to Jamaica Plain, died at age 82 on Jan. 27.

“He was a great man,” said Larry DiCara, a JP resident who served as a city councilor for 10 years during White’s administration.

White spent part of his childhood in Pondside and attended the former Agassiz Elementary School, according to DiCara.

White served four terms as mayor, from 1968 to 1984. His administration was known for continuing the massive redevelopment of downtown Boston, and for navigating the school desegregation crisis that gripped the city.

But White also supported Boston neighborhoods in ways that continue to impact JP decades later.

White’s “Little City Halls” program put a municipal services office in every neighborhood, including at Curtis Hall on South Street in JP. His successors have continued that tradition of outreach, with former Mayor Raymond Flynn establishing the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, and current Mayor Thomas Menino operating a network of “neighborhood coordinators.”

White became an important opponent of a plan to plow a highway through JP on what is now the Orange Line and Southwest Corridor Park, DiCara said.

“That was politically unpopular” amid heavy lobbying from the road construction industry, DiCara said. “I don’t know what Jamaica Plain would be like today” with a highway, he said.

“He was the first mayor of Boston to acknowledge the Hispanic community,” DiCara added. “He understood that the business district of [JP’s] Hyde Square was different from the business districts elsewhere.”

Like virtually every modern elected official, White spent time at Doyle’s Café, the politically wired pub on Washington Street, and is commemorated in memorabilia there.