James "Whitey" Bulger: 25 Things You Should Know About the Captured Boston Irish Mob Legend

Categories: Gangsters

Free Whitey! (Just kidding.)
After Osama bin Laden's death, James "Whitey" Bulger was the Most Wanted Man in America. Then after 16 years on the run, the mythological South Boston ex-con was caught yesterday in California. Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed was loosely based on Whitey, in the sense that Bulger was both the Hub's most notorious gangster and most surprising FBI informant. But even beyond the drug-running, extortion, murder, money-laundering, snitching, and Scorsese, the nuances of Bulger's character are legendary. Noses bitten off, soiled pants, puppy tears--examples culled largely from Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill's Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob. File under: couldn't make this shit up.

1. James Bulger is wanted for involvement in 19 counts of murder and a shit-ton of other charges.

2. As a child, James Bulger ran away from home and briefly joined Barnum & Bailey circus.

3. Bulger was first charged with larceny at 13.

4. As a teenager from the South Boston projects, Bulger became best known as a "dangerous delinquent with a Jimmy Cagney flair, known for vicious fights and wild car chases." He ran with a gang called the Shamrocks and never graduated from high school, but "always had a car when everyone else took the bus."

5. Boston cops nicknamed the notorious James Bulger "Whitey" because of his lightning-blond hair. He hated the nickname and insisted that his associates (anyone who didn't want to die) call him Jimmy.

6. Bulger spent nine years in federal prisons for bank robbery from 1956 to 1965, beginning at age 27.

7. Bulger did time in Alcatraz. Officials sent him there after three months in the hole at an Atlanta jail--he was suspected of planning a prison escape.

8. After his maximum-security stint, Bulger briefly worked as a janitor, but ended up as a bodyguard for South Boston crime boss Donald Killeen. A gangland war erupted between Killeen's crew and their leading Southie rivals the Mullins, and in the process, a guy named Mickey McGuire got his nose bitten off his face.

9. Also during that crossfire, Bulger's acolyte Kevin Weeks recalls this story in a 2006 memoir:

"One day while the gang war was still going on, Jimmy was driving down Seventh Street in South Boston when he saw Paulie (Paul McGonagle) driving toward him. [Whitey] pulled up beside him, window to window, nose to nose, and called his name. As Paulie looked over, [Whitey] shot him right between the eyes. Only at that moment, just as he pulled the trigger, [Whitey] realized it wasn't Paulie. It was Donald, the most likable of the McGonagle brothers, the only one who wasn't involved in anything.

[Whitey] drove straight to William "Billy" O'Sullivan's house on Savin Hill Avenue and told O'Sullivan, who was at the stove cooking, 'I shot the wrong one. I shot Donald.' Billy looked up from the stove and said, 'Don't worry about it. He wasn't healthy anyway. He smoked. He would have gotten lung cancer. How do you want your pork chops?'"

10. Bulger was a peacemaker during the Boston busing crisis. Why? Police attention in South Boston was bad for his business.

11. Bulger struck a terrifying presence in South Boston. "When a resident accidentally bumped into him coming around a corner in Bulger's liquor store, the cold hard glare he got was enough to make him soil his pants."

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