BOSTON--Massachusetts Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham '72 (D-Chelsea) is 47 years old and he still hasn't made a name for himself.
"In Chelsea, Tom is known as Agnes' son," said Gene O'Flaherty, the State Representative whose district includes the working-class neighborhood where Birmingham is now raising his two children.
Even as a former Rhodes Scholar, a Harvard Law School graduate, a Massachusetts labor lawyer and one of the state's top legislators, Birmingham hasn't traveled far from the Chelsea cradle in which he was born.
"He's one of us, he's a Chelsea guy," O'Flaherty says.
After spending 10 years studying on the manicured campuses of the world's finest academic institutions, Birmingham returned to the familiar streets of Chelsea in 1978.
Although he was part of a generation where saving the world was a top priority, Birmingham was not driven by a specific set of plans.
"It is not as though I had a blueprint from college or high school," he says. "I think that's healthier."
Much more significant has been Birmingham's background and accompanying set of political ideals.
Birmingham's approach to life has facilitated his rise through the ranks of state labor law and the Massachusetts Senate. But his uncharted approach also has kept him down to earth.
Michael A. Feinberg, Birmingham's partner in law, says that even with his hectic schedule, the Senate President is often found driving his children to school or watching one of their plays.
Feinberg says that while Birmingham brings to the Senate an important set of political goals, he also carries with him a refreshing new attitude.
"I don't think he takes himself as seriously as some of the other people in the same office," Feinberg says.
From Chelsea to Oxford
Like most first-year students living in the Yard during the spring of 1979, Birmingham didn't exactly lead the take-over of University Hall.
But also like most of his peers, Birmingham says that the events that year and throughout his career at Harvard permanently altered his political sensibilities.