The Jan. 17 funeral at Our Lady of Presentation Church in Brighton for Rep. Birmingham was a who’s who of Massachusetts politics, the Brighton Item reported (Jan. 25, 1936, JMC Scrapbook, Vol. 261).
Leading the way was James Michael Curley, a political opponent of Birmingham who had been elected governor in 1934.
The honorary pallbearers were House Speaker Leverett Saltonstall, Reps. Anthony McNulty, James W. Hennigan, Timothy J. McDonough, Bernard Finkelstein, Thomas Dorgan, John B. Wenzler, Bernard P. Casey, Owen Gallagher, Albert F. Bigelow, Michael Jordan, Christian Herter, Leo Landry, Thomas Barry, Frank Kelley, Thomas Goggin, Frank Irwin, Peter J. Fitzgerald, David G. Nagle, and Daniel J. Honan.
Active pallbearers were Reps. Martin Hays of Brighton, Horace T. Cahill, Ernest H. Sparrell, Joseph N. Roach, Thomas P. Dillon, Augustine Airola, Patrick J. Walsh, and Edward J. Kelley.
Ushers were Herbert P. Jones and George Muldoon.
Also in attendance were Lt. Gov. Joseph L. Hurley, Atty. Gen. Paul A. Dever, State Treasurer Charles F. Hurley, State Auditor Thomas H. Buckley, Gov. Councillors Daniel H. Coakley and Frank T. Brooks, Adjt. Gen. William I. Rose, and Maj. Joseph Timilty. Election Commissioner Francis B. McKinney represented Mayor Mansfield at the funeral.
A solemn high mass of requiem was celebrated by pastor, Rev. James J. Murphy, with Rev. Daniel J. Donovan as deacon and Rev. John M. Gibbons as subdeacon.
Rep. Birmingham was buried in Holyhood cemetery in Brookline, where prayers were read by Rev. Donovan.
1936: Curley to Sign Bill Renaming Soldiers’ Field Extension as Birmingham Parkway
Gov. James Michael Curley was expected to sign a bill sponsored by Rep. Daniel Coakley Jr. to name the Soldiers’ Field Extension between Western Ave. and North Beacon St. the Birmingham Parkway in memory of Rep. Birmingham, who passed away earlier in the year, the Boston Globe reported June 17, 1936, p. 2.
The bill (No. 1715) provided for a tablet bearing the designation Birmingham Parkway at each terminus by the Metropolitan District Commission.
Soldier’s Field Extension was firm opened in November 1929. Shortly after it opened it become a magnet for auto accidents. Within six months of its opening, there had been 20 serious accidents on the roadway, according to the Globe (March 14, 1930, p. 16). This characteristic continues to this day.
The parkway was close to the Brighton Abattoir, where cattle were housed and slaughtered. Shortly after it was renamed, the Globe reported (Aug. 24, 1936, p. 15) that cattle escaped from the Abattoir and were grazing on the “succulent green grass” along the parkway. Brighton’s finest had to herd the cows back to the Abattoir because they were causing traffic problems.
Leo M. Birmingham Parkway was officially dedicated on Oct. 26, 1941. Around 5,000 people attended the dedication exercises and parade, the Globe reported (Oct. 27, 1941, p. 8). Paul Everett was chief marshall.
Participating in the exercises were members of the Brighton-Allston Post, A.L.; Alston Post, V.F.W.; Brighton Council K. of C.; Allston Council, K. of C.; Boston Fire Department Band; Massachusetts State Guard; and the Junior Police Corps.
Rep. Birmingham joined a group of legislators from Brookline and other parts of Boston to protest the removal of the Boston Elevated Railway Company’s emergency crew in Brookline Village, the Boston Globe reported (May 1, 1934, p. 10).
Birmingham and the other legislators appealed to General Manager Edward Dana, who promised a hearing before the Board of Trustees before final action was taken.
Rep. Birmingham opposed a bill that would authorize the city of Boston to borrow money for construction of a new road from Cambridge St., Brighton, to Soldiers Field Road, during a Feb. 18 hearing before the Legislative Committee on Municipal Finance, the Boston Globe reported (Feb. 18, 1929, p. 19).
The purpose of the new road was to provide a route from Harvard Square to Brookline.
Birmingham said the city could afford to build the new road without borrowing the money and that the road was unnecessary because the route through North Harvard St., Brighton, was “far superior” to the proposed road.
“Because Harvard College, which doesn’t pay a cent of taxes to the city, wants this route, everything must be put aside. Let Boston build within the debt limit, as it did the Exchange St. job, after the Legislature had refused for four years to allow borrowing,” Birmingham said.
The bill was put forward by the Metropolitan Planning Division and Boston Mayor Nichols. Testifying in favor of the bill, was Henry I. Harriman, representing the division, said the new route was needed and that it would cost $435,000.
Day Baker, representing the Massachusetts Automobile Dealers’ Association, testified in favor of the new route.
Rep. Birmingham urged an Aug. 8 rally of the Clemency Committee in Brighton to write letters to Gov. Alvan T. Fuller asking for clemency for the carbarn trio, the Boston Globe reported (Aug. 9, 1926, p. 1, 2). He also urged the audience to telephone and visit neighbors to write letters as well.
The carbarn trio – John J. Devereaux, John J. McLaughlin, and Edward J. Heinlein – were convicted in the murder of James H. Ferneau, a watchman on duty at the Boston and Middlesex Street Railway office in Waltham, during a 1925 robbery and were sentenced to death.
Clemency Committee Secretary Frank J. Manning told the rally that the committee had received assurance that the executions would not be carried out until after lawyers for the trio had been given an opportunity to argue the case before the state Supreme Court on Aug. 11. The executions had been scheduled for the early morning hours of Aug. 10.
“These boys are not going to the electric chair until a protest is made that will share this state,” he said.
Manning also told the crowd that the mothers of the three condemned men had left Brighton to make a personal appeal for clemency to Fuller at his summer home at Little Boar’s Head, N.H. The meeting did not change the governor’s mind, the Globe reported.
Rep. Birmingham spoke in favor of a bill to prevent the sale to minors of firearms, dangerous weapons, or ammunition.
The Public Safety Committee recommended rejection of the bill. However, the House on March 2 voted to refuse to reject the bill.
Rep. Abraham B. Cassin of Boston argued against rejecting the bill, saying that the bill merely added to the present law the provisions that it is limited to any minor who does not display a license to carry firearms.
Rep. George F. Brooks of Worcester declared that the bill would prevent a father from taking his son with him on a hunting trip.
Rep. Isadore H. Fox of Boston said that the safety of Massachusetts citizens was more important than the convenience of a father on a hunting trip.
Rep. Birmingham introduced a bill for the Metropolitan District Commission to take over and maintain three bridges over the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston—the River St Bridge, the Western Ave. Bridge, and the Larz Anderson Bridge, the Boston Globe reported Dec. 10, 1930, p. 17.
The bill would also provide for the extension of the approaches to the bridges on both sides of Charles River and including in Memorial Drive, Cambridge, and Soldiers Field Road.
Rep. Birmingham’s mother, Mrs. Mary E. Birmingham, died on Oct. 22, 1935, at her home located at 70 Hobson St., Brighton, from pneumonia, the Boston Globe reported (Oct. 23, 1935, p. 17).
Her death came just three months before Rep. Birmingham’s own death from cancer.
Surviving Mrs. Birmingham were her husband Michael J. Birmingham, sons Leo M., William H., and Raymond F., and daughters Eileen and Florence.
Funeral services were held at Our Lady of the Presentation Church in Oak Square, Brighton, and here internment was at Holyhood Cemetery, Brookline.
The state Senate voted by a razor-thin margin of 18-17 to approve congressional apportionment legislation consolidating the districts of Congressmen Robert Luce of Waltham and Frederick W. Dallinger of Cambridge, both dry Republicans, the Boston Herald reported (June 2, 1931, p. 1, 2).
Rep. Birmingham was a key member of a coalition of Democrats and dry Republicans who fought to defeat the measure, which had been reported to the Senate by a special legislative redistricting committee.
Two amendments to the bill put the cities of Lawrence and Revere into the new 7th district, which was largely represented by Congressman William P. Connery of Lynn. In the original committee report, wards 1 and 2 of Lawrence were placed in the new 6th district, while wards 3 and 4 or Revenue were included in the new 11th district.
The plan as approved by the Senate would send 11 Republicans and four Democrats to Congress, compared with 12 Republicans and four Democrats under the existing apportionment.
Senators John P. Buckley of Charlestown, Democratic minority leader, and James E. Warren of Lawrence were the only Democrats to vote for the redistricting plan.
Democrats who opposed the legislation favored an election-at-large, while Republican opponents wanted to save Luce and Dallinger from facing off in a primary challenge for the new district, with the prospect that a wet Republican would win the nomination.
The legislation as passed by the Senate would provide for a spread of around 90,000 in population between the smallest and largest districts.
The newspaper observed that the opposition of most Senate Democrats and Rep. Birmingham in the House puts Gov. Ely in a difficult position should the Senate passed bill make it to his desk.
Rep. Birmingham said that he intended to insist on an additional probe of the circumstances surrounding the Oliver Garrett investigation, and he would demand that former Police Commissioner Herbert A. Wilson be given a hearing if he requested one, the Boston Herald reported (May 6, 1930, p. 1, 6).
Wilson was dismissed as police commissioner on May 5 by Gov. Frank Allen, with the agreement of the Executive Council. In addition, the legislature’s Joint Rules Committee decided against letting Wilson speak at a May 6 hearing on the Warner report.
Wilson was fired following a report by Attorney General Joseph Warner into police department corruption. In particular, the report examined the granting of a pension to Garrett, the former leader of the vice squad who was removed in response to corruption charges.
“I want Atty.-Gen. Warner in there to tell us many things omitted in the report. I want to be sure that his hands are clean. When he issued an open invitation to the world for witnesses to come forward with any additional information having any bearing on the case why did not his assistant, Mr. Clapp, volunteer to go on the stand and tell the entire story of the opinion he wrote for Wilson to submit to the Legislature concerning the second medical examination of Garrett? I also am curious to know why it was written at the Yale Club.”
“I said in the Legislature at the time that the opinion was illegal and that it would not be upheld in any court of law. I understand that Representative Renton Whidden has a photostatic copy of that opinion written in Clapp’s handwriting. I want all these facts on it because if it is legal it has pinned Garrett’s pension definitely to the statutes.”
“Warner’s report did not go far enough. The supreme court, in an opinion given him, said that no legislative recommendations were required, but it did not say that he couldn’t make any recommendations. Are there some higher-ups being protected? If there are, we certainly want them exposed and the way to do it is to permit Wilson to come before the rules committee and tell his story publicly.”
Rep. Birmingham left a May 6 closed door meeting of the Joint Rules Committee an hour after it had begun in protest because he objected to the Garrett report not being discussed in a public hearing so that Wilson or anyone else could speak about it.