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Mayor John F. Collins records

Identifier: 0244.001

Scope and Contents

Records of the administration of Mayor John F. Collins, 1960-1967. Includes correspondence, subject files, reports, briefings, speeches, photographs and memorabilia.


  • Creation: circa 1960-1967


Biographical note

John F. Collins served as Mayor of Boston from 1960-1967. The administration of John F. 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.

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 home, 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 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 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. he won election the next year, but in 1959 decided to challenge state Senate President John E. Powers to win the mayoralty. Collins ran second in the preliminary election, and went on to win in an upset. Mayor Collins easily won re-election in 1965. A year later, 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.

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. Mayor Collins passed away on November 23, 1995.


189.0 Cubic feet

Language of Materials


Guide to the Mayor John F. Collins records
Kristen Swett, Kayla Zaremski, and Caitlin Birch
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the City of Boston Archives Repository

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