I was saddened hearing of the passing of former Senate President Tom Birmingham who served the people of his senate district quite well. Always a vote and voice of his entire senate district which back in the 90s included Charlestown and Revere. I remember in 1990 when this unknown politician with both a Charlestown and Chelsea family pedigree was elected to represent a district that really needed someone just like him.
When he announced for the State Senate, he did it as a Chelsea guy who no matter how far he had traveled over his lifetime never forgot where he came from and straddled both those worlds quite well. As a political activist with strong Townie roots, I loved my Charlestown politics. I had moved out of Charlestown prior to Birmingham becoming its senator up on Beacon Hill but hit it off well with the new senator from across the bridge in Chelsea.
Both his parents came from Charlestown as did my mother’s side of the family. I remember when he ran for governor in 2002 and I supported him. We were kindred spirits politically. I remember chatting with him back in the 90s right after he became Senate President and we spoke of my published commentaries and he told me I was more than just a writer who represented my working-class roots growing up, and that I had myself straddled over to a wider audience too while still maintaining my local roots. He may have graduated from Harvard University, Harvard Law School and ended up being a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University but he was always more connected to his working-class Townie/ Chelsea roots.
The last time I spoke with him was over at the Knights of Columbus at a political function put on by today’s Charlestown state Senator Sal DiDomenico. It was good to see Tommy again. He was now wheel-chair bound but still had that glowing smile of his. We only spoke for a few minutes that evening but they were a good few minutes.
His funeral Mass was held at St. Francis de Sales Church up on Bunker Hill Street. I was there Saturday morning (January 28) to say good-bye to a very good friend. He will never be forgotten by me and so many others he served so well.