Whitey Bulger — Billy Bulger

Billy and Whitey Bulger: The Brothers Follow a South Boston Tradition

The arrest of Whitey Bulger put South Boston on the front page of newspapers across the country. As a result, it caused renewed interest in the tale of the two brothers, Whitey Bulger and Billy Bulger. Furthermore, it showed how their story represents the story of South Boston.

Whitey Bulger, Billy Bulger Epitomize South Boston

The Bulger Bothers: Billy Bulger Ruled the State House — Whitey Bulger Ruled the Irish Mafia

The tale is fascinating because the destinies of the two brothers diverge so widely. Billy rises to power by following the rules, while Whitey by breaking them in very intelligent ways. On the surface, the Bulger story is one of good brother vs bad brother. That dynamic goes back to Cain and Abel in the Old Testament.

It’s a well-established tradition in South Boston, where it was often said that if a mother had three sons, one would be a politician, another would be a mobster, and the third would be a priest.

The Boston Globe Spotlight Series Sheds Light on the Bulgers’ Lives

Back in 1988, the Boston Globe produced an in-depth Spotlight series called The Bulger Mystique. It provides a very interesting look into South Boston and the lives of Billy and Whitey:

Part One— Senate President: A Mix of Family, Southie, Power

Part Two— As Two Brothers Begin to Flex Their Muscles, Busing Enters the Picture

Part Three— Law Enforcement Officials’ Lament About an Elusive Foe: Where Was Whitey?

Part Four— Image as Dictator, Tales of Revenge Obscure Bulger’s Charm

Eddie and Knocko McCormack

Before the Bulgers came the equally famous McCormack bothers from South Boston. John William McCormack had a successful career as a politician, serving as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1962 to 1971. He was a devout Catholic, a devoted husband and well respected in his community.

His brother was Edward Joseph ‘Knocko’ McCormack, bar owner and one of South Boston’s biggest bookies. In an interesting twist, Knocko’s nephew Eddie McCormack Jr. became Massachusetts Attorney General. In 1962, Eddie ran against Ted Kennedy in the Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat. He was defeated by Kennedy. The Boston Globe describes that race in its in-depth series about Ted Kennedy.

(Authored by Steve Burke)

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