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Oral History

Gerard Doherty Oral History, Attorney; Kennedy volunteer; friend of Edward Kennedy

Copyright 2016 the Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Knott

Thank you for giving us this time. I know it’s a holiday of sorts here so we really appreciate it. You know, we were here last October and you told us some great stories at the time and hopefully we can get you to recount some of those again. Could you take us back and tell us how you first became involved with the Kennedy family? Then we’ll kind of narrow it to Ted Kennedy.

Doherty

I first became involved in 1952 when John Kennedy was running for the Senate. He had been the Congressman from our district (Charlestown) and when he first started in 1946, the critical thing to him was that our district was a swing area. Kennedy ended up carrying my district. As a result of that, he ended up with six or seven people; one of whom was Dave Powers. Another one was Billy Sutton.

Knott

We didn’t get him, but I used to work at the Kennedy Library so I remember Dave well, of course, and Billy less so.

Doherty

So they got Billy Sutton, and they got another fellow I was particularly close to, a fellow by the name of Judge [Frank] Morrissey, who was John Kennedy’s first secretary. I had just come out of a tuberculosis sanitarium where I had been for two years. I had started at Harvard and I played freshman football. I banged up my shoulder and they kept fiddling with my shoulder and I found out I had tuberculosis. I was hospitalized for two years, and I had just come home from the TB sanitarium. TB at that time was a little bit like AIDS. Like a lot of people—

Knott

Yes, kept their distance.

Doherty

I was invited to go to a party in my district for John Kennedy. He was running for the Senate in 1952. I went and I was probably one of 40 or 50 and I said hello to him. My father was not a political activist; he went to third grade in school and was injured as a fireman. But before he got injured he was stationed in East Boston. He used to play handball with President Kennedy’s father, who at that time was working in a bank in East Boston. Kennedy and I talked about that for a moment, and that was the end of it. At a later point, I finished Harvard, and I ran for the legislature and got elected in 1956.

Knott

From Charlestown—

Doherty

At that time, John Kennedy was still the United States Senator and I went to some function. I felt pretty self-important. He kidded me and said I was a political anomaly from Charlestown, and because Charlestown, in those days was for the most part lower middle-class blue collar—heavy longshoremen, heavy Teamsters—when I was running, one of the jokes that was very prevalent was that having gone to Harvard and speaking Russian, I had the audacity from Kremlin on the Charles—Harvard—to want to represent Charlestown. 

 My entry into politics was an interesting experience because the wise-guy people on the street corners were very negative, particularly about my education—I probably went into 4,000 homes—but when I got inside the house, the same people were very positive. When I got elected I went to this function and he came over to me and shook my hand and laughed and said, You’re the great reformer! You’re one of those long-haired people but your hair’s not cut long enough. Anyway we bantered. So I became particularly friendly with Judge Morrissey, whose younger brother Bill was in my class at St. Mary’s Grammar School. 

A big concern in my district was always jobs. There were never enough jobs. Around Christmas-time the local Congressmen or the Senators could get people jobs working for the Post Office. I married Judge Morrissey and he was terrific. As an added bonus the Boston Navy Yard was in Charlestown and they had big Christmas parties for kids. So I got sort of a second helping of assistance from Frank Morrissey. 

Lacking charisma and a lot of other things, I had put together a very good organization, mostly because people I grew up with and I played sports with were helpful —we had some problems in our district with the waterfront people. There was a movie called On the Waterfront. It could have been written about our community. Anyway, in order to combat them I had to build my own group of supporters—the local mayor was always opposed to me so I built a very good working group. Frank Morrissey called me in 1958 and asked me if I could get a lot of signatures for the President. He was running for re-election and so I—

Knott

1958?

Doherty

Yes. Through these groups that I had, and I got some of my colleagues in the legislature to gather signatures—Senator John Kennedy called and thanked me. I think I bumped into him several times up to 1960 and he was very grateful. In 1960 I went to law school full-time days and was studying for the bar exam and did not get very much involved in the 1960 Presidential campaign. 

Knott

Where were you going to law school?

Doherty

I went to Suffolk. What I did was, once I got elected—this is sort of a digression—I went to my first meeting and a longtime member was sitting there as chairman and he asked me what I did. This was a big day for me. I had new shoes, a new shirt, and a new tie. I had to be important sounding, so I told him I was a Russian scholar. He said, You’re what? He looked at the roster and said, You’re Doherty from Charlestown? I said, Yes. He said, You’re not a lawyer? I said, No, and he looked at the clock and said, Come on. We went through all these corridors and we got in an elevator and went down the elevator into a basement and walked across the street. I still didn’t know where I was going. 

He ended up taking me to Suffolk University and he enrolled me in law school. On the way back, he said, Look, I’ll get you a place to study and— in those days it was before electronic roll-calls— I’ll send a page down to get you and I’ll tell you how to vote. I got very upset and I said, Nobody tells me how to vote. He explained that he came from Lowell and he had different issues than the issues coming from Boston. So, I really hadn’t been very much involved in the Presidential campaign of John Kennedy. I continued my relationship with Frank Morrissey.

The fall of 1961—also, as another digression, in 1959 there was a mayor’s fight. Mayor [John B.] Hynes, who had opposed my election, was not running, and there was a fellow by the name of [John E.] Powers, who was president of the Massachusetts Senate, who was running. I didn’t particularly care for Powers or his local people and so I ended up helping the candidacy of [James W., Jr.] Hennigan, who was a state senator from West Roxbury in that area. 

At this point I was into the big cigars and motorcar business and I was campaigning all over the city. One night I was walking by the local Knights of Columbus, and a guy rapped on the window. I went in to see him., I had gone to grammar school with his granddaughter. He said, You’re working for Hennessey or Harrigan, or whatever that guy’s name is? I said, Yes, and he said, You know, the last time that John Powers ran for mayor he carried this town by 4,000 votes. If you look around this town, you’ll see almost every house has a Powers sign on it. After Powers wins, the first guy that gets shot by him will be you. You oughta get your ass back here in Charlestown and make sure that Hennessey or Harrington, or whatever his name is, does well here. I listened to the guy. I worked my district heavily and in the primary, Hennigan got buried across the city and didn’t carry his own district. He lost my district by eleven votes. There was a columnist by the name of [George] Frazier who had an acid tongue. He wrote that I was the last of the political ward bosses, which was pretty funny! Judge Morrissey, from that point on, always would refer to me as the ward boss.

In probably early November of 1961 I got a call from Frank Morrissey, who, if he did today what he did then, would’ve been thrown off the bench. He asked me if I could get a group of my friends together, so I gathered members of the House of Representatives. The bait was to go to Locke-Ober’s. None of us had ever been there. The people who were there—one of them became the state treasurer, a fellow by the name of [Robert Q.] Crane. The other one became the attorney general, a fellow by the name of [Robert H.] Quinn. And one of the others who was there was a fellow who became the Senate President, Bill Bulger. It was rumored that Ted Kennedy was going to run for US Senate.

As an aside, by way of background, there was looming a very critical state nominating convention the following June, and the one sitting attorney general, Edward McCormack, had already announced his candidacy for United States Senate. Edward McCormack had a lot of experience. He was a graduate of the Naval Academy and served several times in the Boston City Council. He was speaker John McCormack’s nephew. As the attorney general he was very clever. In almost every town, he would make the young lawyers, assistant attorney generals, pay them a dollar a year so they could have cards made that referred to themselves as assistant attorney general. Then they all were required to be very active in their local ward committees or town committees, which meant that the first big fight was going to be at the convention. The Kennedys had, rightfully or wrongfully, a reputation of not being involved in local politics. So the problem was can we get some votes at a convention? 

Our group all went to Locke-Ober’s and we all were on our best honor. There was Frank Morrissey and about ten of us. We all had the cheapest thing on the menu, which was a sandwich. Let me digress. Bulger came from Congressman John McCormack’s district. Bulger and I were very friendly. He didn’t want to insult me so he talked to his friend and mentor, a Governor’s Councilor by the name of [Patrick J.] Sonny McDonough, who was sort of an old Cecil B. DeMille typecast guy who hated the Kennedys, and loved the McCormacks. Bulger said to him, Look, I don’t want to go, because I’m friendly with McCormacks, but I don’t want to embarrass Gerry. McDonough said to him, You go, and order the most expensive thing they make. 

Knott

He orders what, lobster?

Doherty

Yes, a lobster Savannah, which in those days was thirty-two dollars. We go around the table—Frank Morrissey acted as master of ceremonies. This was sort of the commercial part of lunch. Bob Quinn, I said, Can you get us some votes? And he said, Well, we have nine votes in my ward, which is where John McCormack lived. He said, I think I can get you—I’m sure I can get you six. I think I might be able to get the seventh. I can’t get the other two. Then we’d go to Crane and his response was similar, and we’re doing pretty good. Everyone else had favorable comments.

Bulger is eating his lobster Savannah, and we get to Bulger. He said, Well jeez, I don’t—You know I have a political problem with the McCormacks. I don’t want to get in a big fight. I was a little nonplussed as to what to do. I tried to have a graceful retreat. I’m about to say something to him and the bill arrives, which is another story that I’ll digress in a minute about. Up to that time, Teddy was using his sister Eunice’s [Kennedy] money. She counted everything. I say to Bulger just as the bill arrives, Well, can we at least keep talking? And Teddy looks up and says, We don’t want to keep talking. I just looked at the bill. We can’t afford him! When we came out of Locke-Ober’s we ran into Globe columnist Bill Lewis, and he wanted to know what we all were doing there. I gave some sort of Mickey Mouse answer and that was the end of it. 

About a week later I get another call from Morrissey. He said, Boy, they really liked that meeting and you had good results. Can you do the same thing again? We had a second meeting and it was less colorful but the results were about the same. As I was walking down the stairs, I run into Bill Lewis again and he said, What are you doing here? I said, I’m just trying to keep you in a job. Every time I come here, you’re here. I think you work here as a maitre d’. He said, Don’t be a wise-guy. He sees Morrissey and he sees the rest of these people. Up until this time, going back until 1958, I met Ted Kennedy once. I really didn’t know Ted Kennedy. The second meeting was Locke-Ober’s.

Knott

What were your initial impressions? Do you remember? I mean, he was pretty young.

Doherty

Well, my impression—I didn’t need any impressions. Frank Morrissey had been my friend and that was enough for me; I liked Ted Kennedy.

This was on a Tuesday. On the following Sunday—Lewis wrote a political insiders column and he featured an extensive piece about Locke-Ober’s and me and how the real question was, was I signing my death warrant, because it’s known that the McCormacks are heavy with the Teamsters, you know—Is this guy Doherty very smart to do this? 

Columnist Lewis wrote, in the column, that all the smart political people in the Democratic Party hadn’t really taken sides because they know that at some point Speaker McCormack and the President were going to have a cup of coffee, and they are going to decide that Edward McCormack will run for one thing, and Ted Kennedy will run for something else. So if you’ve got any brains, don’t get in the middle of a fight that you’re going to lose. Lewis had—it’s a long time ago and sometimes I make things up, too—he suggested I didn’t take the course in practical politics at Harvard, something to that effect. 

I have always been active in semi-professional football, and my town team was playing that Sunday so I went off to the—and when I came home, my wife—we don’t have any children, and she came from Pittsfield; she was a foreigner. She was always a little anxious about what the neighbors thought of her. When I came in the door she said, There’s some damn idiot who read that article and has been on the phone. He’s trying to imitate John Kennedy, or says he’s Ted Kennedy, and keeps looking for Gerald. ‘Is Gerald there?’ I don’t mind once, but he’s called three times looking for Gerald and I think it’s some smart-aleck guy. 

Just as she finishes, the phone rings. It was Ted Kennedy. I’m sorry that I put you in the middle. I didn’t want to hurt you. The article was pretty tough on you. My wife always used to say that I was a political sadist or masochist; if you punch me I’m better. So I said, Hey, I appreciate you calling. He said, Could you drop by tonight? And I said, Drop by where? He said, To my house. He lived at 3 Charles River Square, which was just off Charles Street. 

I went to his home and he proffered a long apology and he asked me if I could be helpful to him. That’s when I became actually involved. By this time it was early December of 1961 and I took him and Morrissey for their word. The legislature was much more evenly divided at that time. I think we had five more Democrats than Republicans so as a consequence you worked four days a week and everything from free love to the Hail Mary was contested. One of the advantages that I had was the House of Representatives was a hotbed of gossip and criticism: Ted Kennedy never worked a day in his life; he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth; he’s going to get his head handed to him when he gets in the big leagues; and, in the town of Holden, for example, there’s five lawyers on the Democratic Committee who have ties and McCormack had appointed all of them to their position and together they would bury Kennedy. 

The burgeoning campaign had opened up a little shop at 22 Bowdoin Street. He had there a fellow—Bill Evans, perhaps you interviewed him?

Knott

Not yet, no.

Doherty

He had been sort of Teddy’s duenna during the presidential campaign.

Knott

Teddy’s what?

Doherty

Duenna—guardian—you know, making sure he didn’t get into trouble and making sure his shirts arrived on time. He was the fellow who was running things in the early days of the campaign. The reason he was the guy who was running things is he was the one who reviewed all the bills. 

They had hired a fellow by the name of Larry Laughlin—obviously you can’t interview him; he’s dead. A very interesting fellow. He went in the war as a private and came out as a captain. Never finished school. He had some problems. He became a wonderful friend of mine. He worked for Teddy—he was a little insecure. He had a very socially conscious wife, but a wonderful guy. Then he hired—I think working for Larry was Barbara Souliotis, who I do know. She’s terrific. 

What I found—I’m not the brightest bulb on the block but I found that when I’d go to the legislature it was a fount of information. I’d ask for myself, Does he have a problem in Pittsfield? I’d talk to the representative and he’d say, Yes, he’s got a problem. He’s gonna lose all the left-handed midgets, he’s gonna do this, he’s gonna do that…. Over a period of time, I’d hear these stories about Adams or North Adams or Worcester and I began to get a pretty good sense of where this thing was going to. 

Bill Evans wasn’t the easiest guy. I had the bottom drawer in Larry Laughlin’s desk where I used to leave things. I’d go by there maybe every day for an hour or so. Bill never took me very seriously. I’d keep huffing and puffing and doing my thing. Then the first thing that started to happen was the preparation for the Democratic Convention—40 election districts based upon the 40 senators, and they vote in senatorial districts. It was my suggestion that you ought to start to keep a little file on each district, on who’s who and what can they do. Evans just didn’t really think it was particularly important. We then started going to regional meetings, and I can be somewhat assertive, I guess. I would wiggle my way into the car and say, Well, I know the representative from Greenfield. So we started to go around. Then we started to line up all these meetings. It was kind of touch-and-go.

Knott

What were you picking up? What was the—

Doherty

We’re still getting that Kennedy is going to get out of this thing. If you think I’m stupid and I’m going to get in the middle of this thing then you’re crazy. He was very unsure of himself. It’s natural, but to some people he had too much of a Harvard Square accent. 

Then, I think it was—I was in Southbridge with him. The Globe broke the story that he had been kicked out of Harvard for cheating and that was sort of a tough meeting. In the meantime, McCormack was very clever. When we were having regional meetings—it seemed to me he had all these bomb throwers with him who would say anything, do anything. A couple of times—I’m not [Marcus Tullius] Cicero—but a couple of times I would have to get up and battle. The meetings got sort of messy. I can’t tell you that it was going great. 

I still had the bottom drawer. What I did do was finally I compiled sort of a syllabus on the 40 districts. One of the great things I could do in a very short period of time was to go to the House of Representatives and get a survey or a sense of what was happening in the fourth Worcester district. I’d get to that point and I’d talk to the fellow from Leominster or I’d have some kind of a sense of it. But by this time I knew who the delegates would be, their background, their family. I put the all of this information together. Actually, it was a blue folder about that color [gesturing to present folder]. 

Easter arrived and just before Teddy went to Palm Beach I gave him the folder. He left maybe on a Thursday. Monday, I passed the bar and I had a lot of political criminal clients. I was busy between my law work and legislature. I was in court that Monday and mid afternoon I went to the legislature. I went sauntering over at probably about 3:30 and I thought that Bill Evans was going to have a baby. 

Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you. We’ve called you. I said, I do have a full-time job, you know. He said, Well, it’s important. Don’t laugh at me. I said, I’m not laughing at you but why were you looking for me? He said, You have to go to Washington this coming Friday. I said, For what? Don’t ask questions, he said. I said, Well, you get on the phone and call my wife and tell her I’m going. He said, The President wants to see you. I said, Bill, would you like to buy the Bunker Hill Monument? He said, Nope, the President wants to see you. 

One of the other people who was very good on the campaign and is a fellow you can’t interview was Maurice Donahue, who was the number two man in the Senate. We go to Washington on Friday and they give me tickets to go Friday and my name is John Smith. I said, Jeez, you screwed up my name! They said, You’re going under an assumed name, and will you take Maurice’s tickets to him? He’s going as John Jay. About this time there was a rampant rumor everywhere that Ted Kennedy was dropping out of the contest for Senator.

I said, I can go as Mickey Mouse and nobody knows who the hell I am, but he can’t go anonymously. We still don’t have the vaguest idea what was happening. 

The day before our trip to Washington, there’s a fellow by the name of Ed Toohey, who ended up doing something with the ABC and had a big job, but at that time he did political commentaries—He got on the radio and said that, Unimpeachable sources say that the President is going to yank Ted Kennedy out of the campaign because he’s doing so poorly. There we are under assumed names going down there. In Washington when we arrived at the White House, we go to the Oval Office. And the President has all the people—he had eight or ten Massachusetts people there.

Knott

Can you remember some of the other folks?

Doherty

Well, I think Dick Donahue was there. Kenny O’Donnell was there. I can’t remember who else was there.

Knott

OK, sure. Was Larry O’Brien there?

Doherty

Larry O’Brien was there. We go to this meeting and Maurice sits opposite the President, and I sat down two or three places from Maurice. Out comes the blue folder and the first district is Berkshire. And he said, Those bastards, they were against me; they’re against my brother; and Charlie Brown, Harry Smith, Peter Arliss…. He said to Maurice, What about this? Maurice said, I don’t know. What do you mean you don’t know? Maurice said, Well, Gerry did it all. He said, Well, Maurice, I thought this was yours. Maurice said, Whatever’s in there I’ll stand by, but I didn’t do it. I can’t remember, he had somebody sitting next to Maurice and he told them to change seats with me. We go through this thing and we get about half-way through the thing and he had anecdotes about—I mean, he knew them all—and he said, This is pretty accurate. 

At which point there’s a tremendous noise, and Prime Minister [Clement] Atlee was arriving on the lawn. He said, Jeez, I have to go. Can you fellows stay over and meet with Bobby? Maurice said, Sure, and I said, Sure. He then stood up and everybody stands up and he said, I’m excluding my guests, and let me remind all of you here in this room, if my brother doesn’t do well it will be an awful crack in the balls to me, so we understand that he’s going to do well. Maurice, thank you for coming. Gerry, thank you for coming. 

We splurge and go to a Chinese restaurant that night, Maurice and I. What is this all about? Shouldn’t we rehearse or…. Maurice said, Well the first thing I’d better do is I’d better read the report! So, we end up going to see Bobby.

Knott

Over at the Justice Department?

Doherty

Yes. We sit down and he pulls out the report and said, Well, how do you know Charlie Jones is not going to be with us? And I said, Bah-bah-bah-bah-bah. Now, Harry Smith—I know Harry Smith’s cousin. He said, You really know this, don’t you? I said, I don’t know, but I have an advantage. I can go to the statehouse and find out who’s lying and who isn’t lying and I can tell you which people I believe. He said, You go every day to the statehouse? I said, Yes, I go there. 

He said, OK. Maurice, you’re busy, aren’t you? Maurice said, Yes, I’m busy. I don’t want to bother you, Maurice. Gerry, I want you to run this thing. I said, Excuse me? He said, I want you to take control of this thing and if anybody gives you a hard time, you call me. Here are my numbers. He gave me three telephone numbers: his car phone, his office phone, and his secretary Angie Novello’s phone. Anybody gives you a hard time, you call me. We leave there and Maurice said, Well, you’re gonna have an interesting time. 

I came home late at night Saturday and I talked to my wife and I said, Jeez, I don’t know where it will go. Oh, he did say, I will send somebody up to help you. The following Monday morning, I was back to chasing ambulances, and doing some other stuff. I walk into 22 Bowdoin Street at about one o’clock. If Evans was apoplectic before, he was right on the ceiling about, Don’t you know you’re holding everybody up? I said, What are you talking about? He said, You’re in charge of this whole thing. I said, Well, I’ve got to go back. He said, You can’t go back. I said, I have to; we have roll calls. He said, Dave Hackett is going to be here at four o’clock this afternoon. I said, Well, I’ll be here. I’m not going to be that far away. I’ll walk back across. I’ll be here at four o’clock. 

I went back at four o’clock. Dave Hackett was there to talk about a political boiler room. Everyone told me to staff it, or he would. He did by getting me four women: a woman by the name of Nancy Thorpe, a woman by the name of Ursula Reidy, another woman who came and then left and came back again, and the fourth spot was filled by a Toby Cohen who was a junior at BU [Boston University] who had been hounding them ever since the campaign began. 

Then we started. Each woman was given ten senatorial districts. Every afternoon at four o’clock we would have a meeting and we would talk about them. They had to read the newspaper, they had to be familiar with local politics and individual people, and then I would start to build from that point on. We had about four weeks until the convention. Our strategy was something like the following: next Tuesday night, we were going to go to the fourth district. We would go there. The women assigned to the area would read the newspapers and find out that John Sullivan was going to have his fiftieth wedding anniversary; Ted Kennedy would send him a letter. We started to build this infrastructure in each district. 

 Steve Smith had been sort of around. Steve Smith had tested me with several questions. I got him information and some questioned my facts; I was crazy, but my information turned out to be true. One day he said to me, Well you’re it. Up and down with you. We’d like to pay you. I thought that I’d hit the lottery. I went home to my father, who was visiting, and I said, They want to pay me. He said, Do you and your wife have money problems? And I said no. He said, If you need any money, I’ll give you money, but don’t accept their money. Sometimes they won’t believe you because they think that you’ve got some sort of deal. So insist that you don’t get paid. I went back to Steve Smith and surprised him and said I don’t want to be paid. Steve Smith was surprised, shrugged his shoulders and I became his friend and not his employee. 

Knott

Were his strengths purely financial?

Doherty

No, no. He knew. He had been there. He would know precisely what was happening. He needed someone to make statements to the press. Some of them were not very kind. He felt better that a Doherty would make the statements rather than a member of the family. 

Then we went to Springfield. The vote on the Senator was for early Friday evening. We got there Wednesday, and by that time I had bonded with these four women in the war room. We had a big suite. We had a guard outside. The other thing that really, really impressed me is we had our own switchboard. I wanted to know what that was all about and they said, When John Kennedy ran for Vice President, they couldn’t find anybody; they had to go through switchboards. We got our own switchboard. 

Late Wednesday, they needed a couple of mailings to do something, so they got a couple of volunteers. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see one of the volunteers was the girlfriend of a Representative who was kicking the living daylights out of Kennedy, and she was put there as a plant. I uncovered her, so they thought I was really a smart guy!

Knott

You uncovered the mole.

Doherty

Friday morning of the convention the fellow who wrote a book, Murray Levin from BU, was in the suite, too, he was followed by a pollster. I’m going to really grab for a name. Alsop? Was [Joseph W.] Alsop a writer?

Knott

He was a writer, yes.

Doherty

I think he might also have been a pollster. They were in to see Smith in the morning and they left and he sent for me. He said, Those two guys, they’re gonna tell me what’s gonna happen. They’re very smart; they know everything. I asked them the one question, ‘Since you know everything, how is Ted Kennedy gonna do?’ They both gave Steve Smith this song and dance: If it snows, this will happen; if it rains, this will happen. But they wouldn’t tell him what he was going to do in terms of votes. I said, Well, that’s interesting. He said, Now, Gerry, you’re going to tell me what Ted’s vote is going to be like. I’m a slow thinker so sometimes I talk in parables and nobody knows what the hell I’m saying. He said, No parables.

Knott

He said, No parables?

Doherty

Yes. No parables. I said, OK, give me an hour. He said, I’ll give you an hour. I locked myself in the boiler room with these four women and we went over the whole thing. Then I went back to see him. Smith said, What’s going to happen? I gave him a number. He said, Are you sure of the number? I said, Yes, I’m up or down two, but that’s my number. He said, Because I asked these—he called them bastards—that were in here this morning to write a number and neither of them would write a number. I said, Well, they’re smarter than I am and they get paid a lot of money. 

I wrote the number and off we go. We had a control room and we were jiggling everything. We got about two-thirds of the way through and McCormack conceded. My number was off by two. From that point on—Smith asked me one day, Do you play the horses at all? I said, No, I don’t play the horses!

Anyway, we were all very happy and I stayed around the next day, which was a Saturday, when the Governor’s contest was tough. Then I went off—my wife is originally from Pittsfield —to stay with some people there. From about 9:30 on Monday morning I was in Pittsfield. I was pretty exhausted until the following Monday at 9:30. The phone rang. I didn’t bother to answer it. Then it rang again and I didn’t answer it. It was very insistent so I was concerned something had happened with my wife who had gone out. I picked up the phone. It was Angie Novello and she said, The Attorney General would like to talk to you. It was Robert Kennedy and he got on the phone. He said, Gerry, I asked you to do something; you did it. I will always be grateful to you. My family will be grateful to you. Anytime I can be of help, you call me. That was the end of it. 

The next week went into the summer and the next thing that McCormack would do— We opened up a headquarters, and McCormack opened up his headquarters right next to us. They started calling for a debate. Up to this time, Teddy wasn’t particularly eloquent. For example, going back a little bit, I can remember we had a delegate party at the Parker House. I guess the statute of limitations has gone by so I can tell the story. It was for half of the Boston delegates. Most of those delegates at this particular time were under McCormack’s control or at least appeared to be. Our meeting was at seven o’clock and I went to the Parker House. There was me and only the waiter; it was an obvious boycott. 

I told Ted we had the wrong hour and sent him away. Then I got on the phone and called my friends in Charlestown. I said, You all get dressed up. Bring your wives and your girlfriends. Don’t have much to say, just applaud at the right time. After about one half hour of phone calling I went downstairs and Teddy is just getting out of a cab. He didn’t have any money to pay the cabbie and he’s trying to tell him who he is, but the cabbie isn’t buying it. I pay off the cabbie and I said, Why don’t you go up to the office? I think they’re looking for you. The food people have a problem about setting up, so instead of being eight o’clock, it has to be nine o’clock. He came back at nine o’clock and the place is filled. He got a tremendous reception and he really felt great. 

Our headquarters were picketed with signs asking for a debate. They start to talk about the debate. Finally, we agreed to meet with those people. Steve Smith said, Now I know why I picked you. Because you can go and sit there and handle the debating arrangements. Except, knowing you, they won’t know what you’re saying, you won’t know what you’re saying, but we won’t make any decisions! The press will say at least we are in discussions.

Knott

This is you’re talking in parables again?

Doherty

Oh, yes. McCormack had his first assistant, who was very courtroom sharp, and he had a couple of other people. He also had his campaign manager, who was in the House with me, a fellow by the name of Sumner Kaplan. And they sent with me a fellow by the name of John C. Dowd, who was friendly with Teddy’s father and he ran a very good advertising agency. He looked like Brian Aherne. He was razor thin. He had a bowler hat and a little pencil mustache. He could be, without trying very much, the most arrogant, supercilious, superior person you’d ever want to meet. Between the two of us, I guess we went to five or six meetings. 

Knott

They being the McCormack forces?

Doherty

Because they were next door to us and they’d picketed outside.

Knott

Why won’t you debate?

Doherty

Yes. Steve Smith said, It’s your job to get rid of those little bastards out there. Two of these little nerds turned out to be former Governor Michael Dukakis and Congressman Barney Frank.

Knott

Wow, are you serious?

Doherty

Early in August we had scheduled another meeting. Steve Smith said, You go and agree today. I said, What? He said, You agree. Furthermore, agree that it’s going to be in South Boston. I said, You’re out of your mind. He said, Well, if we lose the debate we’ll say it’s hostile territory. It’s going to be in South Boston High School, where Eddie McCormack went to school.

We went to the meeting and Sumner Kaplan, said, Jesus, no. Just don’t go wandering around and rambling, Gerry. This thing will be over. I straightened up and said, Sumner, you’re right. We’re going to debate in two weeks at South Boston High School. Period. I’ve got to go now. And that was it. We went to the debate. I’m sure you’ve talked to other people about the debate.

Knott

Yes, it got a little rough. 

Doherty

It got rough and when he finished, I was the first one to Teddy. His jaws were sticking out. He said, Where is that bastard? I’m going to punch him. I said, Hey, that’s the last thing you can do.

Knott

He wanted to punch McCormack?

Doherty

Yes. And so we quieted him down. Most people who were there were sure McCormack won the debate. I think it was televised. In fact, on radio McCormack was the clear winner. On television McCormack snarled and appeared to be nasty, so we did pretty well. The second debate we had up in Springfield: the public at large thought Ted did very well. It was uneventful. I can remember—have you interviewed Milton Gwirtzman?

Knott

Yes, we talk to him all the time. He’s kind of a consultant with this project and we’ll interview him at some point.

Doherty

Milton was one of the preparers for the debate for Teddy. One of the questions or one of the major areas was residual oil. I don’t know what the hell that was all about, but that was Milton’s thing, to be strong on residual. This part gets a little delicate so I’m not going to get into it. The debate people were all very hostile people.

Knott

The media, the news people who’d be doing the questions?

Doherty

Yes. They had a columnist guy by the name of Abe [Michelson], who was the political editor for the Berkshire Eagle. They had the managing editor of the then Herald American, Eddie Holland, who was very caustic. I can’t remember who the third one was but they—

Knott

How did that happen that the panel got stacked with people who were hostile? The McCormack people, were they able to pull that off?

Doherty

It was a concession that we made, we gambled that both the writers would be belligerent and antagonistic to Ted, and we were right. I think if Holland told you that you won the lottery he would do it in such a mean-spirited way that you wouldn’t like him. And Abe was big. He had a raspy voice and it was calculated that he would not look good on television. Someone referred to him in a very unkind sense as looking like an unmade bed. 

Through other sources we were able to figure out what their pet peeves were. We put together a playbook. This is what they’re going to do; this is what you have to do. And the thing that we kept saying to Teddy was, Just don’t get mad. If they call you a son-of-a-bitch, just say, ‘I disagree with you, respectfully.’ 

The next several weeks the polls on our side grew and grew and grew. I think Ted beat McCormack maybe two to one. And he had [George Cabot] Lodge for the final election, and I think in that thing [H. Stuart] Hughes was an independent. Hughes had sort of a—I can’t remember if it was Hughes—He had sort of a funny guy who—he and I used to go on television together.

Knott

Did he improve as a candidate through that process?

Doherty

He started to get better. The thing that broke for him first was he quickly became a people person. Teddy’s personal attitude towards individuals was—he had this riveting way, How are you, Charlie Brown? Jesus, that’s a great looking tie you’ve got. Can I buy the tie from you? You heard all those stories about—the classic one is—and I was standing there with him when the guy said, Kid, they’ve criticized you; they say you haven’t worked a day in your life. Well, let me tell you, you haven’t missed anything. 

The other great one that went with it was one or two days later. In those days it was standard to go to factories at seven or eight o’clock in the morning. I was with him when a guy came by and Teddy went to shake his hand. Teddy said to him, Tough night, huh? The guy said, Yeah, I had to spend the whole night breathing. All the people around broke up and thought that this guy was sort of a smart-ass. You could see Ted’s public persona was maturing and growing from being sort of a Lord Fauntleroy to being a pretty good guy. The other thing that was around was he had enough money so he wasn’t going to steal any public money. 

I was with him another time—why we were there, I don’t know, but we were in South Boston, and we had a South Boston guy with us. Just as we’re getting in the car, our fellow who was driving came around and said, Right behind the house, hear that banging? Teddy said yes. He said, That’s Eddie McCormack’s father, Knocko [Edward J. McCormack, Sr.]. He’s out back. Why don’t you go out—? Teddy loved doing this. I was with him when 99 people in a room would applaud and somebody would boo him and he’d march over to the heckler. 

We went in the back, and there’s Knocko banging away. Then he started up and Teddy started talking to him. He said, Knocko, at least you could look up at me. You’re working very hard. Knocko said, I’m not working hard enough. Every time I bang a nail into one of these signs, I think of banging it right into your ass, so get the hell out of here!

Knott

Can I ask you a question? You had contact with the three brothers. You had contact with President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy as well, and obviously Senator Edward Kennedy. We’ve been told by a number of folks that they thought that Ted Kennedy was the best natural politician in the family. Would you agree with that assessment? 

Doherty

Yes. But first of all, the epithet of being referred to as a politician—to me it’s sort of offensive. I would like people to think I’m a hell of a guy and not a politician. He just likes people. He’d talk to telephone poles. Robert Kennedy was very terse: Yes. No. It would be an overstatement to say that I knew John Kennedy very well. Do you have any more questions for me? I can go on forever.

Knott

I do think this comparison question would be a great one if you’re willing to pursue it at all.

Doherty

The only other thing I can say about Robert Kennedy is—other than the meeting in Washington and the telephone call in Pittsfield. After Ted won the primary, Bob called me to thank me. Was it warm and fuzzy? No. It was like, I have a debt to you. Here, I’ve paid you. That’s the end of it. This might be disjointed but in 1964—Well, why don’t we get back to that in a minute? 

After Teddy won, he and the Kennedys had been criticized that they weren’t involved in state politics. About a week afterwards, I was cleaning out my desk and he was in the other end of the office and he sent for me. We had a new Governor who was [Endicott] Chub Peabody. He said, I just talked to Chub Peabody. We both agree that you’re going to become the Democratic State Chairman. I said, You’ve got to be kidding me. He said, No, you’re going to be it. So that’s what I did. Then doing that, in 1963—You know, one of the great things about Ted Kennedy was he was very loyal. I was his first choice and, right or wrong, he always supported me. I was in continual trouble with people around the President. Kenny O’Donnell and I didn’t get along at all.

Anecdotally—I don’t know if this gives you a dimension—First of all, you’ve got to get it from somebody else, but I’ve been told that Kenny was vehemently opposed to Teddy running. Then after Teddy started to run, Kenny was always criticizing. If I picked the blue one, it should have been the green one. Finally Teddy came in and said to me, Will you do something to get Kenny off my back? Will you get his brother, Warren [O’Donnell], involved? I wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about it but, you know, I also did what I was told to do. 

Warren was going to handle—actually he wanted to run the district where Holden is, next to Gardner. He insisted he knew everything. I had some other people we relied upon, but anyway, Teddy came in and said, Will you just get Warren off my back? Warren set up a tour of factories in Fitchburg and Gardner a couple of days after the Fourth of July. The day came and I came in to the office at about 9:15 and there are messages from an irate Ted Kennedy. Finally, I talked to him and he said, What the hell are you doing sending me to factories that are closed? I said, Wait, wait, wait. I didn’t send you there. You sent yourself there. He said, Well, god damn it, a two-year-old would know the factories here close for the week after the Fourth of July. I said, Teddy, you picked it because Warren had to set it up. I continually had problems with Warren.

Knott

Do you have any idea what Kenny O’Donnell’s difficulty might have been with the Senator? What was it that bugged him?

Doherty

Well, I became very friendly with his sister, the sister of O’Donnell. I gave her a place to stay for about six years. I used to take her out to dinner and one day she said to me, I don’t know why my brother didn’t like you, because you’re just like him. I said, I take that as a compliment. 

In November 1963, Teddy ended up having me run a dinner for John Kennedy and we ended up selling 7,000 seats at $100 apiece, which was a phenomenon. The day of the dinner, John Kennedy came. It was a Saturday night. They told me to be there around three o’clock in the afternoon. This gets back to the dimension of John Kennedy, I guess. I was around and he arrived at the Copley. I was told that I had to go see the President, so I went up to see the President—to have ice cream with the President. We had these enormous dishes of ice cream. He said, I hope you like ice cream, because I like ice cream.

He talked about Rogues’ Regiment, about all the people who had helped me on the dinners. Then he asked me who did not help. I said, I don’t want to get into it. He said, Well, I’d like to hear. So I told him about, again, Sonny McDonough. When I went to see Sonny, Sonny said, No, I want to do something on my own, something big next summer. He said, That guy. Then I talked to him about another guy. He said, I don’t believe it. He sent everybody and his brother after me to let him buy decommissioned Japanese destroyers and he ended up not even wanting to buy a ticket? I said, Well, you know, he wanted to do something big. He said, That’s a big crock of shit. 

But he had that very warm sense. That night we did very well, which gets back to the Kenny O’Donnell thing. We ran out of space, so I said to the President, I have an apology. None of your staff was able to eat dinner because I sold their tickets. He said, That’s good thinking. Even Kenny’s? I said, Even Kenny’s. He said, Well, he’ll like that, I’m sure.

Knott

What about in 1964 when the Senator had to run again and had his plane crash?

Doherty

We had a problem. The Lieutenant Governor ran for Governor—[Francis X. Bellotti]. Teddy was with Peabody; therefore, I was with Peabody. I went with Ted someplace late in May. There was a businessman named Dan Hogan who had a small plane and we flew—I can’t remember where we flew to but we flew someplace. Two weeks later we had the Democratic Convention. Dan Hogan and I were the ones who pleaded with Teddy to come. He came and got cracked up in the plane, as you remember. Ted’s back was broken.

For recovery, Teddy spent five weeks in at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton and then they moved him to the New England Baptist in Boston. I used to go Saturday nights to visit him—this is before VCRs—and I’d bring him films and ice cream and we’d chat. As a matter of fact, which is another dimension of Teddy: one night we were talking and he asked me about my hospital stay with TB for years in the early ’50s He wondered how families handle catastrophic illnesses. We talked a great deal about health insurance and helping people. There was a young girl that I had working first as a volunteer and then he paid her, who lived across the street from me. She was from a big family, and she had some kidney problems and he got involved in her case and got her some important help. 

The fall campaign, I was on the blacklist of Democratic nominee Frank Bellotti and a lot of other people were on the blacklist because they had been for Peabody vs. Bellotti—and I was still state chairman. Teddy was very concerned about my political welfare. He ended up making me Lyndon Johnson’s campaign manager, which kept me out of the Bellotti thing, which was fine. Then Bellotti put a duenna, the word I used before, in my office to watch me every single minute. We got along fine. I had all these people who didn’t have anything to do. They were all like me: street people who had started as an alderman or a selectman or representative or so on. 

When Robert Kennedy ran for the Senate, one day I went to see Teddy and he said, My brother has all these smart people around him, but they don’t have any street sense. He doesn’t have anybody in New York.

Knott

Somebody with real deep political roots?

Doherty

Yes. He said, He’s got Adam Walinsky and the other guy. Can you get me some people? I ended up getting Robert Kennedy about 90 people. Many stayed there for about a week or so. Incidentally, Joan [Bennett Kennedy] was marvelous in the campaign.

Knott

She sort of pinch-hit for him while he was hospitalized?

Doherty

Yes, I can’t say enough good things about her. After Teddy won, the day afterwards, he called me and asked me to come over because his brother would be there at three o’clock. When I got there, Robert says, Jeez, you sent me all these good people; everything is fine. 

Back to 1962, right after Teddy won the first time—this was about the time he appointed me state chairman—he came into my office and said, I’m going to expose you tonight. I said, What does that mean? He said, I’m having a meeting with some people and I want you to come. We went to a place opposite the Wang Center—it used to be the Bradford Hotel—to meet with Maya Plisetskaya, who was the prima ballerina at the Bolshoi. She was there; Ted was there along with me. Ted proceeded to say, My friend, he speaks Russian. 

All the Russians do this, they play this game. You talk Russian to them. You say something profound like, My father works in the factory. After about twenty minutes she turned to him and said, Your friend speaks very fine, educated Russian. So that was the end of putting the pin in me. He was pleased with his meeting, so much so that he invited the whole Bolshoi troupe all to experience a United States Thanksgiving on Wednesday at his mother’s house on the Cape. It was my duty to be on the bus with all the Russians. Their English was much better than my Russian. We went to his mother’s house and they all gave him the same thing about how thoughtful he was to have someone who spoke exquisite Russian. 

If Teddy were going to go sailing, I would not be one of the sailors. But if Teddy was going to get involved in politics in Khartoum or someplace, he’d call me and ask me to go. He had always compartmentalized people and I was in the political box. 

Knott

He keeps his political life separate from his personal life?

Doherty

Yes. As an aside, I’ve been married 50 years and my wife and I decided to have a party two weeks ago at the Kennedy Library for all of our friends who had helped us stay together for 50 years. We had a range of people I played sandlot football with, people I played in high school with, and a lot of political friends. Teddy came and a measure of his enjoyment is he stayed the whole night. Whenever I need him, he’s there. 

But since I’ve been so involved with him, I understand how important his time is to him. I had to call him this last Saturday. He couldn’t take the call at the time and then probably about 25 minutes later he called and we must have talked about various and sundry things for maybe an hour. 

I’m just trying to logically or chronologically figure out where we go from here. The next thing that was very significant, and this is very subjective with me. Are you familiar with the Judge Morrissey situation?

Knott

That’s where I was going to go next, yes. I want to know how—go ahead, tell us about that. I’m wondering if that might have strained your relationship with either man. You were close to both of them. You mentioned you were indebted to Morrissey earlier.

Doherty

Frank Morrissey played a very major role with Ted Kennedy. He was Teddy’s eyes and ears. It was early 1965—it could have been 1966, but I think early 1965. Supposedly what had occurred is that Joe Kennedy had a conversation with Lyndon Johnson. Are you familiar with that?

Knott

Just the general outlines of it. We haven’t really talked to anybody in any great detail about this.

Doherty

Well, supposedly they had a conversation and maybe it was after—

Knott

Joseph Kennedy had already had the stroke so I’m not sure he would have been able to talk to him.

Doherty

I don’t know who called whom but supposedly there was a telephone conversation between Joe Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon said, Is there anything I ever can do for you? Supposedly he said, What I’d like you to do is there’s a man who’s been a good and faithful friend—I’d like you to make Frank Morrissey a federal judge. Much to the chagrin of Robert Kennedy. 

Supposedly what happened when the President was running for the House, and then for the Senate and in the early Presidency when the focus was more on local politics, Frank Morrissey was the father’s spy and he would be not very complimentary to the group of young Harvard people; so supposedly, the Kenny O’Donnells and the Bobby Kennedys never were wild about Frank Morrissey. 

The President nominated Frank Morrissey. The first thing that Teddy did when he recovered from his broken back was to go to Vietnam with Dave Burke. You’ve heard the story about Profiles in Courage and that the person who was most instrumental was the publisher of the Herald; later that newspaper got a TV franchise: Channel Five. As a result, the Globe was always on Morrissey, I mean, hated Morrissey. They started really banging away at Morrissey. 

Depending upon your perspective, Morrissey had the right background to be Abraham Lincoln. He came from a big family. He used to sell newspapers at the local shipyard at three o’clock in the morning. He didn’t have formal education like us; he got a degree from the Staley School of the Spoken Word which was always ridiculed. He also went to law school at some place over a poolroom in Atlanta, Georgia. They started on him and they kept on him. I took it upon myself to go to Washington to try to help Frank Morrissey. I stayed there for two weeks. They brutalized Morrissey.

Knott

They being the Globe?

Doherty

The Globe and other newspapers, too. They couldn’t find anybody who went to law school with him. The law school had since closed in Atlanta; anyway, there were some tough pieces written. One of the people that Teddy had befriended was the Senator from Maryland, [Joseph D.] Tydings. In the middle of all this travail, while Teddy was in Vietnam, Tydings got up and gave this terrible tirade against Morrissey and pulled the plug on him. I was with Teddy when they had to withdraw Frank Morrissey’s name. I walked to the Senate with him, where he got up and withdrew his name.

Knott

What was he feeling? Was he angry at all this? Or was he just resigned to it at this point?

Doherty

He was—which is one of the many reasons I like him—I didn’t sense any great embarrassment on his part. I felt a great amount of compassion on his part towards Morrissey, which gave me a dimension that you hope is there, but I saw it first-hand. He really felt for him. Then he came back and worked away at the Senate. 

I’m trying to think of the next time that I really got very much involved with him. I would see him. As I said, I didn’t like to crowd him. The next time was in 1968 when Robert Kennedy decided that he was going to run for President.

Knott

Do you know what Senator Edward Kennedy’s attitude was about his brother running for President?

Doherty

No, to be honest with you. I presume that he knew—Sort of anecdotally, I was on Beacon Street where my office was—I never go to lunch, but that day I went to lunch and I was in the Parker House. The waiter came over and said, You have a very important telephone call. It was Ted Kennedy. The week before, maybe March 10th or 12th, when Robert Kennedy announced he was going to run for President, I called somebody in Teddy’s office and said, Whatever I can do to be helpful. Maybe the 19th or 20th of March I got this telephone call from Teddy, and he said that the first primary that Robert Kennedy would be eligible to run in was the Indiana primary, and did I have anybody who could go to Indiana. 

Teddy doesn’t demand, This is what I want you to do, or, I’m ordering you. He’s never done that. In the conversation, he started raising the questions about could they win in Indiana, and where were they? I said, Do you want me to go? He said, Well, that’s a little unfair, you’re just back to practicing law. I said, I’ll go. You’ve heard this whole story?

Knott

Well, if you don’t mind telling us this—

Doherty

No, no. I get embarrassed. My wife says, Since you don’t hear, you’re a non-stop talker.

Knott

We love that.

Doherty

I go home and tell my wife that I’m going to Indiana for a day or so. They wanted me to go to Washington, pick up all the information, to get all the dossiers, and all their volunteers. This was on a Thursday. They tell me on the following Thursday he has to file 5,000 signatures to clear his candidacy. I asked for the list of volunteers. They gave me three names. 

I flew to Indianapolis in a snowstorm, and was greeted by three Young Democrats. It was the first year that Indiana had ever had a Presidential primary. I was very unsure about how the hell we were going to get the signatures. There was this one fellow by the name of Michael Riley, who had been president of the Young Democrats. We went to his office, get there at about eleven o’clock at night. First I had to familiarize myself with the necessary documents, requirements, and procedures. 

Kennedy was going to run against [Roger D.] Branigin, who was Democratic Governor, the first in many years. At that time, Indiana is a state where you tithe. You give two percent of your salary to the party. Also, I was informed that Branigin had 33,000 patronage jobs. I said, where are all the rest of the volunteers? They said, Well, most of the people work for the state. They can’t lose their job on this thing. So we hunt and peck and finally I said to this guy, Can you get us one of Branigin’s petitions? I’m a hocus-pocus lawyer and I don’t want to put together a petition and find out that it is wrong—just get me Branigin’s petition and we’ll take his name off it and we’ll duplicate it. 

Then we start. As soon as daybreak comes we have, at this point, a list of all the seminaries. These three guys are working all night in this law office, getting things like lists of all—I think they had maybe 11 congressional districts and you couldn’t get more than a third of your vote in one district. I got them to go through the books and find where all the Catholic colleges were and where all the Catholic high schools were. About seven o’clock in the morning we started calling these people. Do you like Robert Kennedy? Yeah, I like Robert Kennedy. Would you like to circulate petitions? Some said yes and most said no. Then we started to bundle the necessary papers and send them out to anyone who agreed to help. 

My greatest coup was—we were in Indianapolis, and that was a place where we could get some signatures. Someone gave me a list of the high schools, and one of them was Crispus Attucks. Crispus Attucks, as you know, was shot at the Boston Massacre. I said, Get me the principal. I get the principal of the high school and I say, Robert Kennedy’s running for President and he’s going to accept his entrance into the primary next Thursday night at the State House. Because of Crispus Attucks and Boston and Robert Kennedy, he would like your high school band to lead him. The guy said, That’s terrific, that’s great, that’s wonderful. We’ll get the band. 

If you’re gonna be in a political fight, it’s the churches that count. We decide we’re going to be outside all the churches on Saturday night. Somebody said, That’s terrific, but how will you—I mean, the three of us? I then called back the Crispus Attucks principal and said, Jeez, Robert Kennedy is looking forward to it, but he might not be on the ballot because he can’t get enough signatures. Do you think your kids could get signatures? 

It was probably the most interesting weekend I ever spent because, first of all, I didn’t know geography. We would find some person who quickly said yes, and we’d send them off with a petition. We were using Greyhound buses to do it. Then they got on to us and everything we sent to the first district, which was up in the northwest—Gary, Hammond, Whiting—they were intercepting our petitions, so we had to drive people out. After Saturday night and Sunday I was amazed at how we were getting the petitions filled. 

I was asked to go back to Washington to give my observations, so I flew back on Monday. I still had the same underwear, the same shirt, the same everything. Also, my life was further complicated because, as we went around the clock all Thursday night and Friday, and Saturday morning I hadn’t eaten and we went to one of these Bickford’s restaurants and I had pancakes and I dropped the whole thing on my lap. So I had to walk around with a newspaper because I had—

Knott

Maple syrup all over your pants?

Doherty

Anyway, I went to this meeting in Washington there were a dozen people there. It was the strategy of the war council and the consensus was that Kennedy should not be in Indiana. They felt he could not win. I said, Look, I’m sort of a Mickey Mouse guy. I don’t know much from anything, but it just seems to me that I’ve been there and I know what the reaction is. To get this many people up off their tail working for a candidate tells me he’s got something going for him. 

In the room was Steve Smith, who, because of some of the things we talked about earlier, had to be supportive. We were still wrangling, and Robert Kennedy arrived. He asked a lot of questions and they told him it was the poorest northern state for John Kennedy, and they couldn’t afford to get whipped badly early. He turned to me and said, What do you say? I said, Jesus, you’ve got something going for you. I don’t know that they’re all good signatures, but right now we’re pretty close to 5,000 and we’ve got five more days to go, so I don’t think it’s a problem. He turned to them and said, We’re going to go on this. 

Moving ahead, after he won Indiana I mentioned to Steve Smith, Why were all our people so definite? He said, Because we had a poll that said he was going to lose to Branigin by 14 points. That’s how they were so definite! I said, Is that why none of them ever came? He said, That’s why none of them ever came, because they didn’t want—

Knott

They didn’t want to be associated with a losing effort?

Doherty

No. Kennedy came in led by the band and then the campaign frantically began. I set up a boiler room and we then started to go to the colleges, and recruited people there. One of the problems we had was that [Eugene] McCarthy was also running, and most of what you would think would be the college activists were all gone to McCarthy. We had to get second-string people, who turned out to be very good when given a little direction. 

The next insight into Robert Kennedy—Somebody put a lot of pressure on him to go to the first district. I said that I didn’t think it was advisable. They insisted on going. We did not agree on this. Late that night when he returned to Indianapolis he called me to his room. He started up and down criticizing, This is wrong, that’s wrong. I said, Where are you getting your information? He said, I rode in the car and met the county treasurer, a man by the name of Lou Karras, whose brother, you might remember, used to be on Monday Night Football, Alex Karras. He said we’re not going to do well up here at all.

Just before I went over for the meeting, somebody gave me a handbill from the chairman, of Lake County, [John] Krupa. It was a promotional piece for Governor Branigin. Robert Kennedy says blah blah blah. I said, Are you through? I’d like you to look at this. He said, Why the hell do I want to look at a promotional piece for him? I said, Why don’t you look and see who signed it? It was the same Lou Karras. Then he said, Well, OK. 

From that point on, it was sort of funny. It was like a Cecil B. DeMille movie. He spent a lot of time at the Hotel Marriott there. He would come in late at night and he would send for me. In his suite, he’d have all these sort of hangers-on and we’d be sitting in the corner and he said, My sense is that this thing is starting to go together. I said, If you’d just listen to me. Meanwhile I had imported about 70 people from Massachusetts who were in the districts.

Knott

These were people who had worked on some of Ted Kennedy’s campaigns?

Doherty

Yes, they were all there as volunteers. They all got ten dollars a day to eat and we got a hotel room in the Marriott. One of the most memorable days, around four o’clock in the afternoon I got a call from the Mayor of Indianapolis, who is now the United States Senator [Richard G.] Lugar. He said, Martin Luther King has just been shot. We understand that Robert Kennedy is going to be in the middle of a black neighborhood tonight, speaking. I said, Yes, he is. He said, For public safety reasons, I want you to cancel it. I said, I can’t cancel it. Robert Kennedy right now is in the air. When he arrives I will tell him about your reservations. 

When Kennedy arrived I called him, talked to him, and he said, No, we’re going to go ahead with it. One event was in the middle of a very congested municipal square in a very tough black neighborhood. We were on a platform in the square. There was a big crowd and he started to speak and they started booing, hissing, and yelling. He wasn’t a very booming speaker. Finally, he got through to them. He said, Look, it was a white man who killed my brother, too. Then they listened to him. He gave a very moving speech. 

Incidentally, after the thing was over I had scheduled a meeting with whatever black leaders we could find in Indianapolis. It was a time when they’d wear dashikis and funny little hats. I had about 20 of them. He came to the meeting at the Marriott and he sat in a chair that was about three times the size of this chair—I mean he looked like a dwarf in the chair. He started to speak. And they said, Well, you don’t know. You don’t know how bad things are here. It’s fine for you. You come in here and you give us all these speeches. 

He said, Wait a minute. I can almost quote him verbatim. He said, I left my house in Virginia at 5:30 in the morning and the sun was just coming up. I had to walk by my swimming pool. One of my young children said, ‘Why are you going away? Why don’t we go swimming?’ I give all that up to fly out here, and then I pick up the newspapers and the Indianapolis Star says I’m going nowhere because I’m too friendly with the blacks. Then I come here and I get this kind of reception? 

A couple of young fellows say, Let’s let him talk. So he talks and talks and he’s got them quieted down. He reaches the end and this big black guy says, That’s all right, Senator. I appreciate what you have to say. I remember the guy gesticulating. You fly in here on this big white bird, come in and tell us we’re going to do all these things, and then you get back on that bird and fly away and we never hear from you again. He said, I have my brother Edward’s dearest closest friend here, Gerry Doherty. If you have a problem, talk to him and it’s like talking to me. That quiets them down. 

They leave and we had to go to the other side of the hotel. We were walking down the corridor. He took out a cigar that must have been this long. He put it in and started to smoke. He said, Gerry, one of the things I’ve assured you of is the next couple of weeks here will be very interesting, haven’t I? He flicks the ashes. 

We got some of these black men to come back in again and from that point on it sort of came together. I think he ended up winning by about 14 points. We had every seminarian and every Catholic high school girl working for him. As a matter of fact, the picture in the middle is when he was making his acceptance speech in Indianapolis. That’s me standing next to him.

The problem was that he called me and asked me to get over there. I said, Well, I’ve got all these people from Massachusetts that I’ve got to talk to. He said, The other problem we’ve got is we don’t have any Hoosiers with us. I said, I don’t know anybody that’s with us. We ended up getting the district attorney of Terre Haute—I think he was a Vermillion County, Indiana, elected official from Terre Haute, a man by the name of Ralph Berry. Anyway, Kennedy ended up winning by 13 points. 

Some of the Massachusetts people that I recruited went on to Oregon, Missouri, Montana, and California. The Wednesday after the California primary, I was scheduled to go to New York and run the New York primary. Then my wife and I were watching the news when it was announced that Kennedy had been shot. That was pretty much all my experience with Robert Kennedy.

Knott

I do have a question, actually, moving into the seventies a little bit. In the early to mid-seventies, of course, busing comes to Charlestown, your old district, your old hometown of Charlestown. I’m wondering about the impact of busing on Senator Kennedy’s reputation in Charlestown, people that you know of for years.

Doherty

That’s interesting because very early, if you looked up the clips, you’d find that he got an honorary degree, I believe from Northeastern, at the Boston Garden on a Sunday afternoon. For some reason he had a busy morning. He liked my wife and wanted to see my wife, and also he wanted to relax. I remember going to one of my neighbors and asking if Ted could use her bathtub. He soaked in the bath, and it was sort of strange; I don’t think she washed it ever afterwards. Then I walked with him to the Boston Garden. 

He was talking about busing. I respectfully disagreed with him. I said, I think it’s wrong. As you know, he got into the busing thing. I never had a problem in my town. I kept my opinions to myself. As an aside, in 1976 he ran for re-election. He had three or four opponents in the primary. His best precinct, as I remember when he ran for the Senate, was my precinct. When he ran in 1976, he and [Thomas] Tip O’Neill were on the ballot in my precinct. Both of them lost the precinct. 

I had a fellow, who was sort of a young superstar, Sargent Shriver. In 1976, his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, had run in the primaries. I gave Shriver some money. I volunteered my office to him, a phone bank for his campaign. I had a couple of friends who were supporting Jimmy Carter. They were involved with him very early and they wanted me after Shriver got out. I said, Look, I’ve done enough of that. I don’t want to do that. My wife doesn’t want me to do it. My secretary doesn’t want me to do it. They kept after me, and kept after me. Early that summer, I had this young fellow, who was working for me, who was a very clever fellow, set up a poll on Kennedy in Massachusetts. For some unrelated reason—this would be in early August 1976—Kennedy called and he asked me if I would go to New York for Jimmy Carter. He said that Carter had been good to the President, I guess. I said to him—

Knott

I’m sorry, the him—who are you speaking to here?

Doherty

Talking to Ted Kennedy. I said to him, Oh, you did very well in the poll. He said, How did you get my poll? I haven’t seen it. I paid $26,000 for my poll, you’ve got my poll, and I haven’t even seen it. I said, Not your poll. It’s my poll. He said, I don’t know about any crazy poll you did, and off he goes. Anyway, I had this kid do a poll. 

About three o’clock that afternoon, he called me back. He said, I have my poll in my hand right now. What did your poll show? So I gave him some numbers. He said, There’s only two points difference between your poll and my poll. My poll cost me $26,000. How much did your poll cost you? I said, Maybe $300 for pizza. 

At that point I went off to New York to run Carter’s campaign. A couple of times I was in trouble in New York and I called him and he came down.

Knott

I’m interested in learning about this relationship between Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. Did it start off OK, or was there always some uneasiness there between the two? We’ve heard—

Doherty

I think Carter made a mistake. I remember distinctly Teddy telling me that Jimmy Carter had helped John Kennedy. I had sort of resisted going—also, into the mix at this point was—do you know Adam Walinsky? About that time, Adam called and he said that the Carter people were just moving into New York for the convention. He said he was out with the Carter folks and he was saying to them that he thought—

Just before the convention, in the last couple of states, Carter didn’t do well in, mostly industrial states. He said to them, I think you’re going to have problems in industrial states because you don’t have anybody with any urban or labor experience. They said, Like who? He told me, I mentioned your name. And there was Landon Butler who comes from Georgia who said he worked in the Robert Kennedy campaign from Kentucky. 

After I talked to Kennedy, I went down and was very difficult with the Carter people. I said, I don’t want to come. I don’t want to join a debating society. I’m highly opinionated. You’re going to have to do it my way and I’m sure you don’t want to do that. They agreed to everything. That’s how I got to New York. 

David Burke at that time was working for Hugh Carey, who was very helpful with the New York thing. I didn’t have a lot of emotional strain. I did the best I could but it wasn’t a friend of mine who was running. Everything worked out fine. Twice I asked Ted Kennedy to come, and twice he came. I think the Carter people made a mistake in not paying attention to him. 

Knott

We’ve heard that perhaps even at the convention in 1976 Senator Kennedy felt somewhat slighted by the Carter forces, not treated properly. Is there anything to that? I believe it was in New York City. We’ve heard this story. I’m just wondering if you know anything about this.

Doherty

No. It was after the convention, I think, when he called me. Walinsky had talked to him about me going. But I think they made a mistake in not getting him involved. Getting back to Ted in comparison with his three brothers, he doesn’t like to campaign; he loves to campaign. He’s very good and he’s got pretty good split vision about what’s happening around him. You know, You don’t have enough left-handed midgets. He’s done so much of this, he’s very good. He came to New York twice. That’s the only time he came and he could have been very helpful to Carter. 

Knott

Did you get to know Carter at all?

Doherty

Not really. Carter was very nice to me. [Patrick] Pat Caddell was very close to Carter. Labor Day in 1976, Carter was 25 points ahead and then he dove. The Friday before, Caddell called me and asked me how it was. I said, It’s touch-and-go. He said, If we carry New York, Carter gets elected. If we don’t carry New York, he doesn’t get elected. That’s all. 

In the New York effort, we played the game of how [Gerald] Ford had turned his back on New York and that turned the thing for Carter. What I was getting at is, the night in New York turned out to be a much longer night because about eleven o’clock, some of the reporters were predicting that Carter would lose New York, based upon the votes they had seen. Also we had an amateur historian who had told me that, going back to [William] McKinley’s time, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut all voted as one. Carter lost New Jersey and lost Connecticut, so….

What had happened was there was a fellow who had been the Democratic state chairman in New York and was also the Bronx County chairman, a guy by the name of Patrick Cunningham, who had got himself in some problems and he was sort of eclipsed. Like a lot of us, he had a pretty big ego. What had happened was he kept the vote out. About eleven o’clock, after they told me what was on television, I started looking at the votes and we had some individual reports that we were running very well. Finally, I called David Burke who got Hugh Carey to call Cunningham and so the votes came in. Probably at 1:30, when we were cleaning up, Carter called me. He said, I really appreciate what you did. Would you like to go to Washington? I said, No, I don’t want to go anyplace. I’m happy. 

He did two nice things for me. One of them—in 1977, Landon Butler called me and said, I had breakfast with the President this morning. I said, Oh? He said, Yes, he brought up your name. I said, Don’t give me that baloney. He said, Yes, yes he did. He said, Pope John Paul I has died. The President can’t go to the funeral. His wife is sick, so Miss Lillian [Carter] is leading a delegation to the Pope’s funeral. And the President said, ‘We didn’t have many Catholics. The only Catholic person I know is the Irish guy with the thick glasses from Boston. Ask him if he wants to go.’ That was really nice. Later he sent me to Russia. Housing is how I make my living, and I went on a trade exchange for two weeks to Russia to look at housing, especially new towns.

Fast-forward to September of 1979. A former Carter aide by the name of Tim Kraft came to my office and we exchanged hellos. Then they said to me, We know that Ted Kennedy is going to run for President. We just want you to stay out of it. I said, I have an inability to stay out of things. If he runs and gets one vote, it’s my vote. They said, You realize what you’re risking? I said, Sure. I’m a big guy. I’ve been a rebel my whole life so if he loses, here, cut my heart out. But maybe like a cat I’ve got nine lives. He’s my friend. I learned a long time ago, you stay with your friends. That was the end of that. 

Then Steve Smith called me shortly and he and I went to Chicago. I became very friendly with Jane Byrne. Then it was like being a washing machine with no water. It was the middle of the Iranian crisis and Teddy lost 39 points in one week in the polls. But I was there the whole time.

Knott

Why did he challenge Jimmy Carter? Do you have a theory on that or did you hear him talk to you about this? What was it about Carter that he—

Doherty

Well, he thought he was—you’ve heard enough pontifications from me today about things I only know a little bit about. I just think that the interest rates were high, everything was going wrong. As a footnote, after Carter got elected, probably March after he was elected, he came to Massachusetts, not far from Holden.

Knott

He came to Clinton, wasn’t it?

Doherty

Yes, he came to Clinton and had a town meeting. Before the town meeting his people were nice enough to invite me to go to a private luncheon. I think I was the only one there who was not in Congress. We sat around the table—it was about four o’clock in the afternoon—and talked about various issues. Somebody made the comment—there was a whole range of issues—I think it was Congressman [Edward] Boland. He said, Mr. President, you should be complimented. You’re very well-informed on these things. The President said, Yes, but it’s very difficult. When I first took over the office, I used to get to the office about 7:15; now for me to keep abreast of things I have to get there about 5:30. After he left, the conversation was, he’s doing everything himself and when it collapses, it collapses. 

I really don’t know why Ted ran. The only thing I could say that might cast some light on it is, after Robert Kennedy got shot, Teddy was in very bad shape. He wouldn’t talk to anybody. I think all he did was sail. One of my very good friends who’d been very good to Ted Kennedy was Bob Quinn, who at this point was Speaker. He had been very good during the Robert Kennedy campaign in that in the last ten days I might have had 20 members of the Massachusetts legislature out there. 

By coincidence they had a constitutional convention on Election Day in Indiana. It was a roll-call day where they had 20 roll calls—Are you in favor of motherhood?—so they couldn’t miss it. I talked to Speaker Quinn and Quinn walked in, brought the convention to order, and then recessed it so they all could stay in Indiana. I was very grateful to him. 

As an aside, when we started to put together delegates, I was no longer the state chairman, but they called me. A guy who became a colossal pain in the tail to everybody was John Kenneth Galbraith. He was denouncing Johnson all the time. He wanted to go to the convention, he and some others, as a delegate. Teddy called me and said, You know all these people. Can you get Galbraith elected? The state committee would pick delegates. I said, He’s not my cup of tea, but I’ll do the best I can. We jiggled and jaggled and we got Galbraith on the slate that they wanted. 

What then happened was that John McCormack, Tip O’Neill, and my friend Maurice Donahue all resigned as delegates. So the highest-ranking Democratic official was my friend Bob Quinn. This is another vignette of Ted Kennedy. I went to Quinn and said to him, Jeez, you’ve been terrific. Why don’t you become chairman of the delegation? He said, Let me think about it. He gave me a call and said, That’s great. Then I got a call from my successor, Lester Hyman, who is a good fellow but is not very good at back alley stuff. He asked me to go to breakfast with him. Have you interviewed Jim King?

Knott

No, we have not. 

Doherty

Jim King. We go to breakfast. Lester announces that he’s going to be the chairman of the delegation. I said, I have to be with Bob Quinn. He said, But I talked to Ted Kennedy and Ted Kennedy wants me to be chairman. I said, He wants you to be chairman, but you don’t have my vote. We ended up forming the delegation and we had to vote. I said the one thing I would do is I would not nominate Quinn, but I would second him. Why I said that, I don’t know.

Quinn won rather handily. Lester got a handful of votes. For the next four or five days my picture was put up on a wall and shot by all the columnists. They said I was an ingrate and you couldn’t trust me, and all the rest of the stuff. On the fifth day, just as I am getting used to it, it was 8:30 in the morning and I was eating breakfast with my wife when the phone rang. It was Ted Kennedy. He said, Gerry, I’ve been out sailing. I haven’t seen any of the newspapers. We just came in here to get some supplies and I’ve seen the newspapers. Let me make one thing clear to you: You have been my best friend, and you will always be my best friend. Whatever you do with your vote is your business. This gives you sort of a dimension of him. 

Then as we went to the convention—this is a bleak roundabout to Carter—Teddy called me and said, The chairman, Quinn, that you picked is much better than the chairman, Hyman, that I picked. He said, I don’t like [John, Jr.] Connally. I said, So you don’t like Connally. He said, I think he is a chairman, maybe, of the platform committee. I said, Ted if you tell me he is, he is. He said, I want the delegation to, whatever he’s for, vote against it. So, I went to my friend Quinn and Quinn said, Hey, I listen to you. So he was against everything. 

I had a very good friend who was in the legislature and also was a law partner of mine, David Harrison. He ended up in the Robert Kennedy thing. When I went to Indiana, he went to the Dakotas and ran the Dakota effort. He became very friendly with George McGovern. Teddy said, If he wants to be for McGovern, wish him good luck and get as many votes as you can for him. 

This is sort of rambling, but let me talk about a sore spot with me. I think we all like to be needed, like to be involved. Oh, one of the other things that I did right after the convention— Teddy called me and said, Larry O’Brien is after me. He wants you to go and take a state. I’m not telling you that you’ve got to do it, but I’d appreciate it. I went to Ohio and I was in Ohio for six weeks. 

All the time I’ve done this, going back to my father’s words, I’ve always wanted to be a volunteer. I got to know Ohio pretty well, because when you move into a state, in the first meeting you have with people they have their arms folded, So, you’re going to tell us what to do? They only have two questions: The first question is, Where is the money that you brought? If you say, I don’t have any money, their next question is, Tell us when you’re going to walk on water. When you tell us you’re going to walk on water, we’ll come back and see you. 

I was in Ohio and we went through all that. I was in a little tiny room and we had a staff of two people, volunteers and me. This is Ohio in 1968. I got to know Ohio pretty well and I kept saying to them, I think you have a chance. They said, No, you’re crazy. Finally with ten days to go, they called me and said, You’re right. We are close. They started dropping big bags of money in there but it was too late. [Hubert] Humphrey lost Ohio by 91,000 votes, which is almost 40,000 votes less than Kerry lost. 

We fast-forward to this last election, 2004, which gets back to Carter. You have people around a candidate who say, Well, we don’t need him (Kennedy). I honestly think that if they’d let Kennedy do his thing in Ohio, Kerry would have won. There’s no question in my mind. The blacks were way off. That whole Northern tier was off. 

Knott

If they’d used Kennedy effectively in Ohio it would have helped Kerry win the state?

Doherty

He would have won it. You know, he’s big with the ethnics. I don’t know much about much but I know enough about the Midwest. Kennedy is big with the ethnics and big with the blacks. I think that there’s some of the political psychosis of, I’d rather lose with my friends than win with my enemies.

Knott

You want to win it on your own. You want to win it all on your own.

Doherty

You get more people close to candidates, around candidates—that’s a whole other story. Somehow or other the guy who’s the most important person is the candidate’s barber, because he gives good haircuts; or his brother-in-law. I don’t think there was any estrangement but it was just, Hey, I can do this. Why don’t you let me play?

Knott

I don’t know how involved you might have been in 1994 when Romney gave him a bit of a scare.

Doherty

Oh, I was.

Knott

Please tell us about that, if you could. Do you think he was genuinely in trouble that year? Was he genuinely in political trouble that year?

Doherty

Yes. His nephew, Michael [Kennedy], was running the campaign and he just didn’t have a very good way with people. You could just perceive there were some problems. Romney, first of all, had enough money to do the job. Secondly, it doesn’t always follow but there’s some degree of likelihood that it will, when somebody’s got plenty of money, if they’re not very smart they can find somebody who’s pretty smart. 

It seems to me that it might have been June of that year when there were a couple of what I’d like to call rogues, who had been in the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party had been very good to them. Mayor Menino has a guy around him that I don’t care for who had a whole big piece about how Ted Kennedy is not Robert Kennedy and it wasn’t a very nice piece. Then there was another guy that I know who was a former state senator from the western part of the state. He authored another thing. There’s another individual, whose name escapes me, who gave up politics to become a movie producer. He wrote a piece about, It’s time for Kennedy to move on. Very early these things kept popping up. 

Sometime in May—it could have been June—there was a poll, whether it was good or bad, which showed Teddy about five points ahead of Romney, with all the ingredients, or whatever it was in the poll, of Teddy’s slipping and Romney going by him. I can be very much of an irritant to some people, but I’ve lived at this business for a long time, and I didn’t have a lot of assets other than having pretty good street sense. I haven’t done it for many years but for a good number of years I used to send Teddy memos of who’s on first, who’s on second, and the rest. I remember having sent a memo to Teddy, and his wife Vickie [Victoria Reggie Kennedy] called me and said, I got the memo. I talked to some of the staff people. They didn’t even know the questions, let alone the answers. I think we have some problems. I said, I think you do. 

Then they started to work at it, really work at it. I remember I used to talk to him about every three days. For some other reasons, I know the state pretty well. I know where the elderly are, mostly because I make my living building housing for the elderly. She started hitting those housing complexes and started calling. As an old hand once said to me, The best thing you can do is sweat in public. This is when I first was starting in politics. When you start going door to door, bring some soda water with you and put it under your arms and down your back. Well, that’s what Ted was doing. Once he gets wound up—some people get tired; he gets better. 

I remember him going into the debate. I didn’t want to bother him or get on his back but I reminded him how the first major debate he was ever in—how well he did in it and to just be yourself. Then I ran into a smart guy who I had a good relationship with and he said, Let me give you a tip. They’re gonna be at Faneuil Hall. I think it was late September or early October. He says, That place is awful hot. Your friend the mayor runs the place. I said yes. He said, Just an observation as a friend: turn the air-conditioning on the night before and make it the coldest place next to hell so that Kennedy’s not going to sweat in public. So, he didn’t sweat in public. And he did very well. He is like a sports analogy. There are some people who, when the circumstances are mediocre, they can be mediocre. But if it’s do or die, they can catch the ball behind their back. My experience is that he’s been able to do that, time and time again. 

Knott

Do you think he was seriously in trouble that year?

Doherty

Yes. This is going to get me in trouble. One of the problems that has been a constant point of difference that I’ve had with him over the years is that he is too dominated—you’re going to scratch your head and think I’m dippy—too dominated by his Washington staff. He has a very good woman who runs his office here, who I love.

Knott

Barbara Souliotis?

Doherty

Yes. They don’t pay a lot of attention to her because she doesn’t have a Ph.D. They are more concerned with dealing with the Danish Ambassador about cheese quotas than they are about busing. I think that, for too long, they had been away from what the real issues were and once he started to get into the real issues it was late.

Knott

Do you think he was hurt by the Willy Smith thing that had occurred a couple of years earlier, or is that overstated?

Doherty

I think that’s overstated. One of the other things is that it’s my sense that there’s a window of ten points, which go up or down. I think he could probably run against Jesus Christ and if he worked at it he’d get anywhere between 53 to 54 percent of the vote. If he ran against Jake the Snake [Roberts], he could get 68 percent of the vote. What you’ve got to do is you have to find out who the people are that make up that 15 percent. 

This is maybe too subjective. He was hurt by the busing thing. Although, getting back to—this is going to make me sound like Abraham Lincoln—when you were talking about the busing in 1976. I went off to New York and I was in New York from early August until after Election Day. My wife was by herself. We had a car and with my perverse ego I put a Kennedy sticker on my car. It was never touched. They left me alone, but I have friends who, interestingly enough, are really still upset at him over the busing thing. 

One of the things that he has done, which has astonished me and surprised everybody else, is he just works so damned hard and he’s on the right issues. There is a radio talk show personality here who is very polemical, Paul Sullivan. He thinks that Ted Kennedy is considerably less than great. About ten days after Kerry lost, Paul Sullivan was being interviewed by some reporters. What’s going to happen to Kerry? Paul Sullivan, much to my amazement, said, Well, he should look at Kennedy and see what Kennedy did after he lost for President. Ted worked at it. I don’t agree with many of the things that Kennedy does, but I’m certainly convinced that at this very minute he’s working for me. He’s really working at it.

He’s been on the right side of the health issue for the longest time. In the late ’60s or early ’70s if I went to a group of medical people, they thought that he was a Communist, and that he was going into socialize medicine. Now you talk to the same individuals and they think he’s the patron saint of medicine and bioscience. I keep saying to him, Everybody has concerns about their health, or their mother’s health, or their grandmother’s health, or their kids’ health, but you’re the only one that seems to be working at it. We talked very briefly the other day. I said, I’m amazed many of the people who would knock you to me are now saying, ‘Jesus, your friend Kennedy, I hate to say it, is right there with pensions. I don’t know what Gillette is going to do to me, but it’s great to have a guy like him fighting for me.’ 

Why does he worry about my neighbors’ pensions? It’s a dimension of him; he never seems to intellectually get tired. And his issues—I don’t agree with them all the time but— There’s a woman who I met in Teddy’s first campaign and I see her fairly frequently, probably once every other month. Probably two years ago she called me and said she had a nephew who has Hodgkin’s. The nephew’s father had Hodgkin’s and they arrested it, but the boy has the same problem. They tried everything; he’s been on some kind of demonstration drugs. His father had called this woman and said they just stopped giving him the drugs; they just stopped the experiment, in Corpus Christi. It’s the only hope this family had, the only hope this boy had. She said, Could you get Ted Kennedy to do something? I said, Let me try. I wasn’t going to call him; I called his administrative assistant. I explained the situation and how this woman had been a hard worker for him. 

About eight days later the woman calls me, all excited because her cousin called to say he just got a telegram. They’re re-instituting these things in Corpus Christi. I called [Gerard] Gerry Kavanaugh and said, You get blamed for things you don’t do and you may as well take some credit for something. He laughed. He said, That’s a funny story. I said, I like funny stories. Tell me a funny story. 

He said, The day you called—you make my boss very nervous because you’re the one who says to him he’s got halitosis, or his zipper is unzipped, and he wanted to know why you called. I had to take him to the airport. I had plenty of time so I told him you called. Last Friday the guy from the FDA [Federal Drug Administration] was in to see him about their budget. They’re in trouble and they needed some help and some other stuff. I was in the room with him and the Senator, with a straight face, says, ‘I’d like to help you, but boy, I’ve just been so busy with travel arrangements to get to Corpus Christi. I’ve got this friend who has a real problem.’ So Teddy tells the guy and they re-institute it. 

The point I’m making is that this is not the [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] Shah of Iran; this is just some simple person who got through to him and the thing that never amazes me is how he just keeps working. He could get on his boat and sail around the world and probably still get 52 percent of the vote. 

Knott

What do you think it is that compels him to do that? He’s not young anymore, but he’s still plugging away. What do you think it is?

Doherty

At first you say it’s a straight up and down ego thing. It isn’t. He really feels—this is a speech, but I don’t mean it to be a speech—that he can make a difference. I think I’m three years older than Teddy and I get tired; he does not. 

I’ll give you another classic example. There’s a fellow who’s worked for him in all the campaigns, a fellow by the name of Don Dowd, a wonderful guy. Suddenly, his daughter dropped dead; they didn’t know what was wrong. She was about 48 years old. She was being buried—it was a quick thing—on a Thursday. I can’t remember what the issue was, but there was some important issue that they were going to vote on in the Senate at five o’clock the day before, so he had to be down there. He got in the plane, flew up here to Hartford, took the half-hour ride to go to West Springfield, went in to visit with the family, got back on the plane again and flew back. I don’t know why. Friendship to him is important. 

I found out indirectly from somebody about five years ago that after I left the Democratic State Committee—I didn’t have a job. I went back to practice the law. I learned the difference between netting and grossing. I grossed $40 my first month back again. He used to call me about every four days, How are you doing? What I found out from this indirect friend of mine was how Teddy had called the Republican Governor two or three times in my interest about becoming a judge. If they gave me the job, I wouldn’t have taken it. 

Why does he do those things? He doesn’t have to. You read something in the New York Times and you think you’re the smartest guy in the whole world. Then you talk to him about it and he gives you another dimension. What I don’t understand is how he gets on a plane, flies up here, is familiar with the New York Times or the counter-proposal, and goes to Washington to do all these things. He could run a school for Energizer bunnies. I don’t get weepy—I’m somewhat skeptical—but what you see is what you get. I don’t know if that answers your question. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the right answer but it may not be the right answer for you.

Knott

We don’t have right answers; we just have questions. Did you ever consider going to work with him on his staff at any point, or did he ever offer a position to you?

Doherty

One of the other things he did for me was—after I left the State Committee and I grossed the $40 in the first month—he called me and said, Would you like to come to Washington? I said, No. If I’m as good as I think I am I’ll be able to make it. If not, it’s about time I found out. Then maybe I’ll be back to call you. Things worked out fine for me. 

In my opinion, I think you’re more of a help to him and of better service if you don’t work for him directly. This is a little unfair, but I think he feels that if you’re out doing whatever you do and doing well then you have a better perspective. Always there is a question in his head about whether his aides who are working for him could make it in the real world. Therefore, if you told him to do X and they tell him to do Y, then he has a tendency to agree with you. 

The other thing he does is if you come to him and say, My sense of it is that you should wear a red hat, put it on backwards, and skip down the street with a tennis racket under your arm, then argue the idea for an hour, usually the meeting has ended with, Gerry, you’re crazy. So, I’m crazy. About four weeks later I’ll run into some guy who says, Your friend Kennedy, I saw him skipping down the street with a red hat on backwards and a tennis racket under his arm.

He has this way of constantly forcing you to defend your position. At times—I have some psychological or emotional problems—I will go to a meeting and disagree with him. One of the things I learned a long time ago was, don’t just disagree for the sake of disagreeing. Have reasons. I went to a dinner about two years ago and they were talking about some stuff and everybody there sort of agreed. He said, Gerry, what do you think? I disagreed because I happened to know something about the issue; it had something to do with faith and credit of the Commonwealth. I knew it for a reason, which led into some other reasons. It was obvious that I was about as welcome as a skunk. They had one of these phones that somebody could call in and Vickie called. He said, Well, it was going fine until Gerry started talking to me with all the problems of the world and the meeting just collapsed! 

Many, many years ago I was in a room with him and some other people. They were talking about that same subject. He wanted to reminisce about his brother. He said, The President used to say, I can fill Fenway Park with all the people who agree with me. I’d like to talk to the people who disagree with me, because maybe they’re not wrong. A couple of times, in self-defense, I’ve reminded him of that story. 

Knott

Was the busing issue the issue that you had the most disagreement with him? Is that a fair statement?

Doherty

Yes, because I knew I was right and he was wrong.

Knott

Did it ever get heated between the two of you on that issue?

Doherty

No. I never said to him, You stupid S.O.B. I said, I think it’s wrong. 

Knott

Would he attempt to convince you of his position?

Doherty

Yes, but I’d say to him—and we got very much involved with angels on the head of a pin—I don’t have any problem with empty seats if they want to bus black kids into Charlestown. That’s fine. I don’t have any problem with that. The problem I have is taking a six-year-old girl from Charlestown and busing her across the city to put her into Roxbury. It just doesn’t make any sense. This is an area where the way out for a lot of low-income, middle-income Irish is education. The people who are a little better off financially can send their kids to private school, or to Catholic schools, and the ones that are left over have to go to the public schools. I could go on forever and ever. A book you want to read—Have you read Common Ground?

Knott

I read it a long time ago.

Doherty

We had a book club and I can’t remember how, but Anthony Lukas came to our book club. We had maybe 12 to 15 people like me, all college graduates. About eight of them had kids. It became sort of hot and heavy, but it all turned on this one theme: the way out for the Irish is education, and now you think that their education should come second to diversity. 

I think that when they started the whole thing, schools were probably about 20 to 25 percent minority and now the schools are 89 percent minority. What does that prove now? All you’ve got to do is take and match their MCAS [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System] test among other places. One of the things that happened through that thing that used to get hot and heavy—and maybe I’m being too free with you when most of the time I wouldn’t tell you that your coat’s on fire. I would go in 1977 and ’78 to some cocktail party for something or other. We’d be chatting and people would say, Where do you live? I’d say, Charlestown. They’d ask, Did you buy there recently? I’d say, No, I was born there. We would talk about various things and then in a couple of instances people would say, You don’t seem to be a racist. Then there were ones who were a little quizzical about whether I was or wasn’t.

I think it might have been 1972 or 1973 that I got a call from Kennedy and he asked me if I would go to Mississippi to help the Mississippi Freedom Party. So Jim King and I went, which was an interesting experience. We were guests of a fellow by the name of Aaron Henry. He was the first black elected to the Mississippi legislature. He lived in Clarksdale, Mississippi. 

There’s a fellow who used to write for The Globe, Curtis Wilkie. The first night Jim King and I were there we were staying with Aaron and that night there was a demonstration about the schools. After the parade, we went back to Aaron’s house and Curtis Wilkie was there. He was working for a newspaper that [William] Hodding Carter’s family had, the Greenfield Times. It was about nine o’clock at night. The demonstration and parade were over. It started raining. We were in the kitchen—there were probably 20 people in the kitchen, maybe six or seven whites and the rest blacks. Aaron went over to the door and stuck his head out the door. He said, I hope all you redneck bastards drown. He closed the door and came in. 

I said to Curtis Wilkie, What was that all about? He said, About three months ago we had a similar demonstration and Aaron, like tonight, led the parade. That night they tried to blow up his house. And so he says, You’re staying here tonight? Invariably, if I get somebody who really comes on strong that I’m a racist then I tell them, When was the last time you were in Mississippi?

Knott

One other touchy issue, of course, was Chappaquiddick and I’m wondering the extent to which that may have damaged him at all, politically, at the time. Were you called in to help in any such way in terms of staunching whatever political damage might have occurred?

Doherty

I think some damage was done. For a while, he ran on the support of friends who felt as I do that, right or wrong, You’re right because you’re my friend. I don’t want to get into the details. Let’s move on. I think the person it affects most is him, but I’m not going to get into that thing. 

The thing that continues to amaze me is how dedicated and how energetic he is to try to make things better, and where he gets the physical energy and emotional stamina to keep at it. I was a Mickey Mouse politician, very junior legislator, who he gave a chance to, so I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I think my situation is not dissimilar to what he’s done for a lot of people. For example, he got into the Americans with Disabilities Act. Why the hell should he get into that thing? It was no real skin off his nose. Time and time again, he’s into these issues that aren’t going to make my life any better but in general there’s someplace, someone, something, in society that is going to be better, and as a result it’s going to be helpful to me. 

Knott

Well, you’ve probably just answered my next question. If somebody is reading this transcript a hundred years from now trying to figure out why it was that Senator Kennedy was elected to the Senate for—right now it stands at 43 years but he’s probably going to win easily next year. He doesn’t even have an opponent yet. What do you think is the source of his appeal to the voters of Massachusetts? You’ve probably just answered the question, but is there anything else you could add?

Doherty

I think Paul Sullivan gave the reason—that right now he is doing something, somewhere, on the phone, or at a meeting, that is going to help me. I’m not even aware of it. I think people are satisfied that he’s on the level. I find a lot of people who disagree with him on some things, but I’ve also found more people who—a good illustration is the guy who ate the lobster Savannah [William Bulger]. He was red-hot on the busing thing. He and I are good friends. He’s come around to Kennedy. One of the things I kept doing is pushing Teddy to him and Bulger towards Kennedy. When Bulger got himself in a flap a couple of years ago and they all said—Romney came on him very strong and some other Democrats said Bulger should leave—Kennedy was the one who stood the tallest for him, which is all part of this whole web. 

Maybe he’s self-conscious about having been born with too many things and he wants to help people who haven’t. I think the unique thing is that intellectually—you know, a lot of people say he wasn’t first in his class, but he just is amazing. You ask him a question and he goes on for half an hour about Ethiopia. He knows more about Ethiopia and Haile Selassie—and then he just goes from that to something else. Why? Why does he want to do that? Why doesn’t he just sit around and look out the window? But he certainly doesn’t.

Knott

We’ve covered a lot today—

Doherty

I hope I’ve been helpful.

Knott

You’ve been extremely helpful.

Doherty

I know there’s a lot of things I can’t tell you about and I won’t tell you about, but—

Knott

You would tell me if my coat was on fire, though, right?

Doherty

I would, because I like you. 

Knott

Because I went to BC [Boston College]?

Doherty

The BC thing—I overlooked that right away. I was telling Mr. Martin how he [Teddy] sent me off to New Jersey after he lost the convention. He called me and he said he had just been talking to President Carter and President Carter had agreed to help raise some money for his debt. He said, He asked me for some people. Yeah? I said. He said, The only one he asked me for is you. He would like you to go back to New York. I said, I can’t go back to New York. He said, Can you go somewhere? I said, Yes, let me look at the map. I ended up going to New Jersey. Mr. Martin is from New Jersey. New Jersey was sort of an interesting place. 

Knott

It’s a prettier state than—I think it gets a bum rap a lot of times.

Doherty

The Governor at that time was Brendan Byrne who was truthful to you. We used to fly around in his helicopter all the time. Newark, Paterson—what’s the other place down where Campbell’s Soup is?

Martin

Camden?

Doherty

I mean, that place is—

Martin

Not the pretty part of the state.

Doherty

But, by helicopter it looks nice!

Martin

I’ve never tried that.

Knott

Thank you very much.

Doherty

Oh, I never told you. If you’ve got a minute I’ll tell you the story about the—this David Garth, I knew him when I got to New York. I called David and he said, No, I don’t want Carter. My advice to you is, don’t spend any money. You’re going to need it. About every three weeks I’d call David, and with about two weeks to go I called him and he said, Let me give you a little lesson in political geography: You’re going to have a real hard problem. The raw vote is down in New York City. Over the years the reason that the Republicans would carry this state is that they would build up about 400,000 plurality in the counties like Orange, Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk. That’s the number you’ve got to look at. Since the vote is down in New York you’re going to have a problem. 

I said, Now that you’ve given me the bad news, what’s the medicine I can take? He said, Let me think about it. He called me back in about two days and said, Go to Pennsylvania Station. Be there from seven o’clock to ten o’clock in the morning and you’ll see all the people streaming in from Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and Orange County. I said, What does that do for me? He said, They’re dependent upon New York. New York City goes down and they go down. What you’ve really got to do is appeal to them. 

The fellow who is at the Daily News when the President was here wrote a characterization and he had a cartoon. What we do is we get the cartoon and we alter it a little bit, which we did, and you change the headline a little bit. Then what you do is you get what they call ‘snipes,’ signs about this big. Then you also give out palm cards with the story on it, the whole thing stressing that if New York goes down, they go down. I said, I don’t know what else to do and I’ve still got this big bag of money, so we’ll do it. When the thing was finished, we carried those counties. The idea all came from a guy who didn’t like him! One of our attendant problems was that when we started with the palm cards it was when they introduced massage parlors. People thought—so we had to change the cards.

Knott

Thank you again.

Martin

Thank you very much.

Doherty

I hope it’s been helpful.

Knott

It has, trust me. Would you mind if we take a photograph?

Doherty

No.

This is one of the many interviews that comprise the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History. For more information about the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History, including links to all interviews, please click here.

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