MAY 16, 2012
ONIONS BURKE & THE 1956 CONVENTION IV
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we continue our report on Chapter 4 of the book by Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers with Joe McCarthy. It is published by Little, Brown & Company.
The title of Chapter 4 is Onions Burke & The 1956 Convention.
Kenneth O’Donnell writes that the JFK of 1956 who “went into the pits & fought Onions Burke & John McCormack for the….control of the Democratic organization in Massachusetts….was much tougher & more sure of himself than the….” JFK of 1952.
You might have asked yourself, as I did, when you saw the chapter title, “Who in the heck was Onions Burke.”
Kenny tells us that he was actually WILLIAM H. BURKE*, an onion farmer in the Connecticut River Valley.
Burke was a good friend of James M. Curley & devoted to Congressman John McCormack.
While Kenny & others were urging JFK to get involved in the fight for control of Massachusetts, Joe Kennedy was not buying in. The Ambassador said:
“Leave it alone & don’t get in the gutter with those bums up there in Boston.”
Kenny says they had to keep their political activities concealed from the Kennedy family.
JFK himself let his people know that Burke & McCormack also had to be kept in the dark about their activities to “get (his) people on the state committee.”
But in the end it was Jack himself who told a news reporter that he was planning to remove Onions Burke from the state committee.
To make a long story short, Burke went down to defeat to Pat Lynch, the Kennedy backed candidate for state chairman.
Kenny O’Donnell writes:
“Kennedy took command of the party in Massachusetts with a firm hand. He called a meeting of the delegation to the coming national convention & had himself elected as its leader.”
So now that we have learned who Onions Burke was, Kenny tells us he threatened to run to unseat JFK from the Senate in 1958 but “was not heard from” when 1958 rolled around.
*William H. “Onions” Burke was a former tavern owner & onion farmer who had served as the Collector of the Port of Boston. After Eisenhower’s election in 1952, Burke became chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.