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Mayor John F. Collins, 1960-1963, 1964-1967, undated

Identifier: 5210004_015_043

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

Photographs and other images collected by the Boston Landmarks Commission for reference use and for publications as well as photographs taken by the Landmarks Commission documenting their work and city neighborhoods.


  • Creation: undated


Biographical / Historical

The administration of John Frederick Collins during most of the 1960s led the city in development of "the New Boston."

Mayor Collins coined the term to emphasize the era of downtown redevelopment and a start on neighborhood urban renewal along with a check on spiraling real estate tax rates.

His two terms in office also saw some major reorganizations in combining the Health and Hospitals Departments; reorganizing the Assessing Agency; creation of the Public Facilities Department; and helping to pave the way for state assumption of the welfare burdens of Boston.

Physically, the Collins era produced the new City Hall building and several additions to the Boston skyline. Among them was Prudential Center, conceived by his predecessor, John Hynes, but helped to legislative implementation by the Collins administration.

In general, John Collins portrayed the image of a confident, articulate, strong-willed mayor. He had conquered the adversities of crippling polio to win the office and to govern from a wheelchair.

To carry out his urban renewal goals, Collins brought as his development administrator another strong-willed individual, Edward J. Logue. The development chief helped obtain some $200 million in federal renewal fund commitments to begin Boston's renewal "master plan."

Roxbury-born John Collins early seemed destined for public life. After graduating from Roxbury Memorial High School, he went on to Suffolk University to win his law degree cum laude, and became a practicing attorney at age twenty-one.

Soon afterward, World War II broke out and Collins joined the army infantry. Four years later on discharge he had become a captain in counterintelligence work.

Returning borne, he won election to the House of Representatives from Roxbury and Jamaica Plain in 1946, and the next year married Mary Cunniff. He served two terms in the House, two more in the state Senate, then as Democratic nominee for state attorney general, lost a bitter fight in 1954.

A year later he became a candidate for Boston City Council. A short time before the September primary a polio epidemic struck Massachusetts and other states. The four Collins children and then their father were stricken. The children recovered, but the father was almost totally paralyzed. However, he refused to quit the Council race and with the help of his wife, filling in as a campaigner, the bedridden candidate won and took his seat at the first Council session the following January in City Hall.

After a little over a year of service there, he was appointed to a vacancy as Suffolk County Register of Probate, virtually a lifetime job through reelection. He won election the next year, but in 1959 decided to challenge state Senate President John E. Powers, odds-on favorite to win the mayoralty. Collins ran second in the preliminary election, and went on to win in an upset in another bitter fight.

The new mayor set out on a belt-tightening "austerity" theme aimed at winning business confidence in a "New Boston." For four successive years he lowered the tax rate. His programs for renewal won national attention. He was elected president of the 15,000-member American Municipal Association.

Mayor Collins easily won reelection in 1965. A year later, resisting urgings that he go for the governorship, he set sights on the United States Senate seat vacancy, but lost the statewide Democratic primary. A year later he declined to seek a third term as mayor.

While serving at old City Hall, Mayor Collins helped win passage of the 3 percent limited state sales tax to help relieve the burdens of the localities. He also instituted the nationwide design competition for the new City Hall. He oversaw plans for Government Center design. The Model City agency was started under Collins. He also started an Office of Neighborhood Information. Collective bargaining for city employee units was accepted by the Collins administration for Boston.

Before leaving office, Collins urged a regional incinerator plan for Boston to help in solid waste disposal. He unveiled plans for a $400- million federally aided downtown renewal proposal. He was the first Boston mayor to be awarded an honorary doctorate of laws degree by Harvard University. After his service as mayor, John F. Collins joined academia as visiting professor of urban affairs, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Taken from "Boston's 45 Mayors from John Phillips to Kevin H. White," City Record, Boston, 1979.


From the Collection: 16.0 Cubic feet

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the City of Boston Archives Repository

201 Rivermoor St.
West Roxbury MA 02132 United States
617-635-1194 (Fax)