Brian Murphy, Former Cambridge City Councillor and City Manager, Dies at 50

Obituary
Brian P. Murphy ’86-’87 passed away last Thursday at the age of 50. Friends and colleagues remember him as an intelligent, well-spirited person who dedicated his life in improving the lives of Cantabrigian during his tenure as a former City Councillor and assistant City Manager.

Brian P. Murphy ’86-’87, Cambridge’s assistant city manager for community development and a former city council member passed away suddenly on Thursday. He was 50.

Murphy, a Boston native, attended Roxbury Latin High School before graduating from Harvard College and going on to receive a law degree at the University of Chicago Law School.

Cambridge Mayor David P. Maher praised Murphy’s distinct sense of humor and loving spirit.

“He was [a] very intelligent, quick-witted, funny guy who was always able to bring a smile to people’s faces and was someone who deeply, deeply cared about the Cambridge community,” Maher said.

“He called himself a pragmatic progressive,” Maher added. “I think he just truly fit that title. He was somebody who always tried to work toward solving problems. There was an innate ability for him to listen to people.”

Murphy’s tenure in Cambridge city government began when he was first elected as a city council member in 2001, beginning a seven-year track that earned him the respect and admiration of his peers. Murphy left Cambridge politics to serve for two years as the deputy secretary for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation before settling back down as the assistant city manager for community development in 2011.

Colleagues admired Murphy’s work ethic and unparalleled dedication to various positions through the years.

“[Murphy] was on the clock 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi said. “He was a tireless worker. He had great collaboration skills, great foresight, [and] thought a lot about the community on a lot of levels.”

Ellen Semonoff, the assistant city manager of human services, said Murphy “humanized” his work in an effort to benefit the citizens of Cambridge.

“He had a very broad view and inclusive view of [who] needed to be involved in planning and of how planning needed to enrich the community,” Semenoff said.

Rossi said Murphy will also be remembered for his well-balanced life and commitment to family.

“He’s truly one of the great examples that you’d ever want to find of somebody who was totally dedicated to his wife and children and extended family,” Rossi said.

Murphy leaves behind his wife Katherine and two children, Molly and Joseph. Visiting hours are being held in his honor at Cambridge City Hall Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m., with a funeral mass to follow on Thursday at 10 a.m. in St. Paul's Church.

City Council member E. Denise Simmons wrote in an email that Murphy will be remembered by all those who were fortunate to cross his path.

“Brian Murphy impacted so many people, he gained so many admirers, and he made so many friends through the work he did and the way he carried himself,” Simmons wrote.

—Staff writer Forrest K. Lewis can be reached at forrest.lewis@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ForrestKLewis.

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