Deval Patrick, the state's former chief executive, attended a bridge-naming ceremony in South Boston in 2007 to honor former Boston City Council President James Kelly.
Today, the former governor supports an effort to take the Kelly name off that bridge.
"In light of his reported comments about LGBTQ people, especially at a time of such virulent attacks on people who just want to live their lives in peace, I would support dropping his name from a public bridge," Patrick told NBC 10 Boston in an emailed statement.
The governor adds momentum to an effort started by Boston activist Jamarhl Crawford, who says he heard Jim Kelly use the N-word back in the 90s and believes the politician's record of intolerance stretches much further.
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"Now that we know that much of what he said was misogynist, racist, sexist, homophobic — I can't think of too many groups outside of his own that he was fond of," Crawford said. "I don't think that really represents the spirit of Boston. So now that we know better, it's on us to do better."
Current Boston City Council President Ed Flynn represents South Boston today, where the Kelly name is still revered. He does not support Crawford's effort to take down the honor that went up in 2007.
"Jim Kelly became a wiser and more empathetic City Councilor as years went on," Flynn said in a statement. "His evolution in politics and life included greater understanding and respect toward neighbors in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as communities of color."
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While Flynn raises an elected official's evolution as a mitigating factor, Crawford is not giving Kelly a pass. He sees Kelly's inflammatory words as disqualifying.
Patrick does too: "Kelly knows as well as or better than others that hateful words from public leaders can harm a whole community."
Before the James M. Kelly Bridge name is changed in any way, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation says it must receive official direction from the state legislature. Crawford intends to advocate his position on Beacon Hill next.
RENAMED BOSTON PUBLIC SPACES:
- Dudley Square in Roxbury was changed to Nubian Square. Limited evidence linked former colonial Gov. Thomas Dudley to slavery.
- Yawkey Way near Fenway Park was changed to Jersey Street. Some believe former Red Sox Owner Tom Yawkey was racist.