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Crime The Canonization of George Brady

By John L. Powers

"I'M GOING TO TELL, the true story unless I'm going to be killed," George Brady said a few weeks ago. "and they say I'm going to be killed."

Brady had just mad his triumphant return to Boston after a six year absence and his fears fortunately, are groundless. Kill George Brady? Bostonians would sooner kill Robin Hood. Brady was not apprehended for purposes of crucifixion, after he allegedly stole 8784,468 from the Mass. Parking Authority in 1963. He was apprehended so that he might, in the best James Michael Curley tradition, be ... canonized.

But behind every political saint, there must be a treasured legend, and Brady's begins back in the early 60, when he was chairman of the MPA. which was supervising the construction of the public garage underneath Boston Common.

It was a golden opportunity for a massive kickback scandal, since whichever construction company received the contract would, of course, be quite appreciative. In addition, the dirt that the company would have to dig up in order to build the garage would make good landfill, and as Massachusetts politicians would say, "there's many a slip between the cup and the state treasury's lip."

It was at this point allegedly that Brady jumped in. The garage was built, of course, but people discovered that almost $800,000 of the cost had gone back to Brady as a present from the construction company, and perhaps a few other sources. Brady was arrested, indicted on three counts of c???spiracy and larceny, and ordered to appear for a competency hearing to determine whether he was mentally capable of undergoing trial. Anyone, one understands. who tries to steal $800,000, must be somewhat deranged.

Brady never showed up. He fled to Atlantic City. N.J., and stayed there, or thereabouts for six years, quietly preparing for his career as Boston's second political saint. And on November 13, 1969, it happened.

A reporter for a Boston newspaper spotted him in a cheap Atlantic City hotel, and he was arrested soon after. He was wearing coveralls and a leather jacket, and was carrying $5744. which he attributed to three different sources at three different times. Brady clearly was getting off on the right foot.

Boston has a reputation deserved or not for politicians who act in their own best interests. But there is a spi?itual plat?au a level above pett?, ward-heeling thi? very, that is reached rarely if ever, by mere mortals. It is the mystique of James Michael Curley.

Brady, of course. never had the flair the dash that Curley had. but Curley never pulled off a one-shot deal of such magnitude as quite a few people feel that Brady might have. Even if one does not have a Curley-like charis?na the alleged the? of $800,000 can qualify one perhaps to sit on Curley's right hand in political heaven.

CURLEY, who served as Boston's mayor from 1914-1918, 22-26, and 30-34, was convicted for attempting to cheat the Civil Service Commission before he even began his political career. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.

"Sure, I went to jail." he told campaign audiences. "But I went to jail for a friend." Bostonians wept, loved it, and elected him. The state after a while, began to be drawn into the Curley way of doing things elected him as governor from 1935-37, and sent him to Congress on three occasions.

But Curiev still needed the big move the impressive maneuver in order to qualify for deification. In July, 1947, as Boston's mayor again, he pulled it off.

He was arrested once more, this time on a Federal charge of using the mails to defraud. Now, his credentials were impeccable. Sure, he went to jail, but the Massachusetts legislature voted to pay him the remainder of his $20.000 annual salary anyway.

"In or out of jail sick or hale." Time shrugged, "Jim Curley still seemed to have official Boston by the tail." Curley, clearly had been enshrined.

Brady obviously has quite a bit to live up to, but his alleged larceny may have given him a good start. And his statements to the press last month, upon his return showed that he has some claim for canonization.

"Brady says he really wasn't hiding from police." the Globe reported. "He was just waiting for someone to tell the true story behind the garage scandal." Evidently, Brady was the only one who knew exactly what the story was and upon his apprehension in Atlantic City, he expressed relief that he could return to Boston and "get things over with."

So Massachusetts prepared the papers necessary to waive rendition, a process that would only have delayed canonization. But Brady refused to sign them, claiming that since he had been legally declared incompetent by the state, his signature would be invalid. There was a week's wait, and then, Brady, styling himself as the innocent being led to the slaughter, came back to the scene of his alleged caper.

THERE WERE no ticker-tape parades for George Brady. There were no speeches by his friends at the State House. Canonization does not work that way in Boston. It is a narrative process, achieved by legendary stories handed down through the generations. I first learned about Curley at my grandmother's knee. Brady may have to take the same route.

But he has began his career properly, with the necessary modesty.

"Brady insists that he never shared in kickbacks from a construction company awarded the garage contract," the Globe explained, "but he says that he knows who received the money, and says he'll name every name. Beautiful, It is quite similar to Julius Caeser, where the Great Man thrice refused the kingly crow. "each time putting it by gentler."

"Brady has described the garage scandal, in which four men served jail terms as symbolic of the Massachusetts political situation," the Globe reported later. "He has maintained that the real thieves have not been apprehended."

It is almost certain. however, that even if Brady absorbs full blame for the theft, his punishment will be scant. He is almost too old to begin a jail term, and, one understands. it is unromantic to punish Robin Hood. Brad, quite obviously, does not have the money, and even if he knows its whereabouts, has a slim chance of getting to it. So at the very least, he deserves political canonization as compensation. And if Boston is to remain true to its tradition, it will recognize its duty, and provide it.

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