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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Roxbury's John F. Collins, Mayor of Boston from 1960-1967

John Frederick Collins (1919-1995) served as Mayor of Boston for two terms, from 1960 to 1967. 

Born in Roxbury, his father, Frederick “Skeets” Collins was a mechanic for the Boston Elevated Railway.  Collins attended Suffolk University and served in World War II, and after the war married Mary Patricia Cunniff.

Elected to the House of Representatives in 1947, representing Jamaica Plain, Collins ran for City Council in 1955.  During that race, he and his four children were struck by the polio virus.  The children recovered, but Collins himself became paralyzed and never walked again.  He won the election and in 1959, when Mayor John B. Hynes announced he would not seek another term, Collins was a long-odds candidate against the popular John E. Powers, the state senate president from South Boston. Collin’s victory was considered a major upset, but it gave him the freedom to carry out his duties unfettered.

“I owed them nothing and they owned me nothing, so we could get right down to business,” he said about the city’s power brokers and wealthy executives.

In 1966, while still mayor, Collins ran for the U.S. Senate, but lost the contest to Massachusetts Governor Endicott Peabody.  Shortly after he retired from politics, Collins became a professor at MIT, where he taught urban studies at the Sloan School of Management for the next 13 years.  

Collins was admired for his courage in overcoming his physical affliction, and is best known for crafting a thorough urban redevelopment effort that helped rejuvenate city government and Boston’s business community.

In 2004 the City of Boston commissioned a mural of Mayor Collins, created by artist John McCormack, on the side of Boston City Hall, near the Government Center entrance.  

The City of Boston Archives has a photo collection of Mayor Collins in office. 

Collins was the 9th Mayor of Boston of Irish Catholic heritage. His grandparents on his father's side were both born in New Brunswick, Canada, while his grandparents on his mother's side were from Northern Ireland. 

Find out more about Boston's Irish history by visiting