RIP Congressman Joe Early, Let’s Give Thanks For Having Had Politicians Like Him!

  - promoted by david

R.I.P. Joe Early. The former congressman, state rep., school teacher, college basketball star (white guy/set shot era) tough as nails with soft heart good guy from Worcester who passed away last week.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I bet most of you MA political experts who come from other parts of the country and now think you own the place never heard of “The Earl of Worcester”. (I just made that up, you like?)

Early served almost twenty years in Congress kicking ass on three fronts; constituent services for the most downtrodden in central MA, bringing home the bacon for his district, and as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee steering money to many causes that needed a powerful voice.

There is a reason U-Mass Med is in Worcester and one of the finest medical schools in the country. It’s Joe Early. On the national front the fight against cystic fibrosis received research dollars to a degree that had previously been lacking.

Early came from the great great city of Worcester. He could play basketball so naturally he ended up at Holy Cross, a basketball powerhouse at the time. (Right central-mass-dad?) He was on the 1954 team that won the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). At the time that was the prize.  Not the NCAA.

But really, who cares he was a jock? The guy was all about doing his job well by doing the right thing for his constituents, his district, and the country. He worked tirelessly while never missing an opportunity to hit the track. Not uncommon to see him with his face buried in a Racing Form on a Friday or Saturday afternoon at Suffolk.

As much as he was devoted to the job he was equally shy of publicity. He pretty much disdained it. Think a bizarro world John Kerry or Ed Markey. Early got things done without running to the press or putting on airs. He was Worcester through and through.

Worcester, one of the greatest cities in the western hemisphere. One of three cities of seven hills. Rome of course is one, but can anyone name the third? Bueller? Bueller? That’s right. Cincinnati.

A guy from Cincinnati told me that.

Anyway Worcester has produced more than a few boatloads of good people who became successful and Early was one of them. A real melting pot where a city kid like him could pay attention and get a solid education in life so when certain opportunities came he was there to take advantage.

Like many good men Early’s professional career ended when a “scandal” became the flavor of the week in 1992.

Up until that time congressman could draw from their pay check at the beginning of each month even though the books didn’t say they were paid until the end of the month. It was called a draw. Or something like that. I don’t won’t to sugarcoat it because at worst it was still harmless. It may have been considered an overdraft and they charged a fee. I’m not sure.

Early was a product of the Depression and World War II and had seven kids. You’re damn right he took advantage of this. Fuck yeah! Tuitions, mortgages, the track.

So in 1992 wise people used this “perk” to politically kill a few key people standing in their way. Down went Early as the pretty boys in the House squirmed and left him hanging.

Early took the House floor during the height of the controversy and accused most of his colleagues of being the weak kneed Ken dolls they were.

“They ran like rats!” was his infamous yell from the House floor to members describing the actions of his congressional colleagues when this meaningless and blatantly politically driven non-scandal-scandal was all over the news and late night monologues.

The upcoming election was the first after a major redistricting. Early’s district now snaked from Worcester down to Fall River. And the Republicans put up state rep Peter Blute to challenge Early.

Early beat Blute in Fall River and the new parts of the district but couldn’t fight him back in Worcester and central Mass. Blute won but missed out on the Congressional pension when a former Joe Moakley aide named Jim McGovern took him out four years later.

It’s a shame that most people like Joe Early couldn’t get elected today. They’re too honest.



7 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Tell em Rosty sent ya!

    No political science major at U Chicago could ignore the career of Dan Rostenkowski-old Chicago solon committed to constituent services until the end. He and Tip saved Social Security from Ronnie Reagan’s ax, passer immigration reform, and he helped with Tax Reform, and he kept a lot of bread and butter Democratic policy issues at the forefront during the worst years of Reaganomics. Sure he was an old school pro life Dem, too close to the Daley machine, and he bragged about trading a bad foreign policy vote to fund the Orange Line L train for his district, but he also was always pro immigrant, pro poor and pro Solidarity before it had many friends in Congress or the Whiye House. Also felled by a similarly innocuous scandal, commiting a crime I’m sure most Reps did (unused campaign funds as retirement grease-lookin at you Marty!). Incidentally his fall led to the rise of the far less effective or ethical Blagojevich.

  2. For the record...

    …the title Earl of Worcester has been created five times in the peerage of England.

    Never did completely understand the House banking scandal, though it was Marty Meehan who primaried Chet Atkins and saved the district for the Democrats. Not sure what the “retirement grease” comment from JConway is about either. I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to use campaign funds for personal use and as far as I know Meehan has not. The $5 million he’s sitting on is part of what makes him an attractive Senate candidate, notwithstanding the six positive votes Lynne’s pushback comment got on another thread. Meehan’s voting record was great, solidly with President Clinton, and made a name for himself with tobacco and campaign finance, so I stand by the idea that he is at/near the top of my list if he wants it, though he says he does not.

    • Clarification

      He definitely cannot now thanks in part to the Rostenkowski scandal. That said he could have used that money plenty of times to help fellow Democrats when they needed it, or give it to needed charities, instead he uses it every time he needs a raise by stating “look at my war chest, I could bolt this job at any time”. He made and broke term limit pledges and he had some terrible ideas for censoring and regulating the internet. He also voted for the Iraq War. A great record on campaign finance reform and most other important progressive issues, certainly someone I could vote for if Kerry retired from his seat, certainly not my first choice either.

  3. They are still running like rats!

    EB3: Thanks for this post. It’s a good reminder how easy it is for good politicians (and yes, there are quite a few I could name) can get pushed out by overblown and often orchestrated smear campaigns. Creating scandals where no scandal exists, stoking false and character killing rumors, dime-dropping adversaries who snuggle up to Pulitzer seeking reporters, Pulitzer reporters and their editors who snuggle up to US Attorneys and visa-versa…they all contribute to the loss of good people in politics. The likes of Rachel Cohen and Sean Murphy and Andrea Estes are in the business of selling papers and advertising and they need shocking headlines and explosive narratives (true or false, no matter) to do it.
    Don’t look for many of todays “Leaders” to come to the defense of pols like Joe Early….they are still running like rats!

    • Speaking of "creating scandals where no scandal exists" ...

      Can you say “Tim Murray”?

      The Globe continues its personal vendetta against Mr. Murray. They continue to repeat the “speed in excess of 100MPH” lie, in spite their own investigation that showed that it measured the speed of wheels spinning on ice. They have decided to lay the Michael McLaughlin scandal at Tim Murray’s feet as well.

      It leaves this Globe subscriber wondering who the Globe’s chosen candidate is, and why.

      • Have wondered that myself...

        when people ask me if they should run for office, I sadly now try to dissuade them from doing so…I say, “Look what they are doing to Lt. Gov. Murray…do you really want your reputation ruined by headline seeking reporters in an age of Gotcha news?” Facts be damned.

  4. This is how I would feel if Markey ran!

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Fri 28 Apr 2:31 AM