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William M. Bulger papers

Collection MS-2013-028: William M. Bulger papers


  • Creation: 1940 - 2013

Scope and Contents

The papers of William M. Bulger primarily concern the eighteen years that he served as president of the Massachussetts State Senate and his time as University of Massachussetts president. They also document campaigns, public relations, personal papers, the 75 State Street investigation, and a 2003 congressional inquiry on corruption. Materials include legislative papers, speeches and remarks, correspondence, clippings, legal documents, photographs, audio and video recordings, and artifacts and ephemera.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research.

Audio and video recordings have been digitally copied; all original media was retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room.

Biographical Note

William M. Bulger was born on February 2, 1934 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of James Joseph Bulger Sr. and Jane Veronica "Jean" McCarthy. Bulger was the third of six children and grew up in South Boston's Old Harbor Village Housing Development (known as the Mary Ellen McCormick Housing Development). His older brother was James Bulger Jr., also known as "Whitey." He attended Boston College High School, graduating in 1952, graduated from Boston College with an English degree in 1955 with assistance from the G.I. Bill, and earned a J.D. from Boston College Law School in 1961, earning him the title of "Triple Eagle." Bulger married Mary Foley in 1960 and they had nine children: William, James, Sarah, Patrick, Mary, Daniel, Kathleen, Christopher, and Brendan.

Bulger was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1960. In 1970 he was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, serving as Senate president from 1978 until 1996, the longest tenure in Massachusetts history. He opposed court-ordered desegregated busing, led efforts to write the first child abuse reporting laws, advocated for charter schools and public school choice, and advocated for funding for public libraries and other social assistance programs. In the 1990s he worked on welfare reform legislation. Bulger published a political memoir, While the Music Lasts: My Life in Politics in 1996.

In 1996 Bulger was appointed president of the University of Massachusetts where he increased private support, alumni activity, research funding, and the academic scores of first year students. He also launched a scholarship program and an award-winning television advertising campaign featuring prominent alumni.

Bulger's brother "Whitey" was a notorious criminal and murderer who was a fugitive from 1995 until 2011. Questions about Bulger's knowledge of Whitey's location as a fugitive were raised, eventually resulting in a 2003 congressional investigation in which Bulger testified in exchange for immunity from prosecution for obstructing justice. This led to Bulger's resignation as president of the University of Massachusetts in September of 2003.

Bulger is a past president of the Boston Public Library, Overseer Emeritus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a former member of the Massachusetts General Hospital Board of Trustees, Museum of Fine Arts Board of Trustees, and McLean Hospital Board of Trustees. He joined the faculties of Boston College and Suffolk University as a lecturer of political science in 2004.

Bulger lives in South Boston, Massachusetts.


UMass Office of the President. Past Presidents, University of Massachusetts. "William M. Bulger." Accessed on February 8, 2021,

Wikipedia. "William Bulger". Accessed on February 8, 2021,


17 Linear Feet (15 containers)

50 Gigabytes (4 files with approximately 1 hour and 21 minutes of audio and video recordings)

Language of Materials



Papers that document the professional and personal life of twentieth-century American politician and lawyer William M. Bulger in the Massachusetts legislature and as University of Massachusetts president. Materials include correspondence, clippings, photographs, legislative material, speeches and remarks, audio and video recordings, and ephemera.


The collection is divided into five series: I. Campaigns, II. Massachusetts Senate, III. Personal, IV. Public relations, and V. University of Massachusetts presidency.


Gift of William M. Bulger in 2013.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

William M. Bulger Papers
Alison Harris
March 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States