The Knave Of Boston


In 1942 Coakley appeared at the State House to take out nomination papers as a candidate for the United States Senate. Several pals came up to congratulate him on his healthy appearance. “It’s because I have a clear and good conscience,” he told them. But his career was over. He dropped out of the Senate race—young Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, overseas in a major’s uniform, was in any case undefeatable.

By the war’s end Coakley had given up his Brighton house and was spending most of his time at Buzzards Bay. When he was eighty-one, he announced that he was writing his memoirs, “The Sparkling Past,” and had already signed a contract with a well-known publisher. He was setting down the unvarnished truth about Massachusetts leaders “from the Supreme Court down, in all their stark nakedness and Jacob’s robes—the most famous and infamous in the long and glorious history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” According to Coakley, prominent national, state, county, and city officials had already read extracts and had “predicted this book will be the classic of the century.” It would, he said, enable him to move for reinstatement to the bar. He did not plan to practice again, “but reinstatement will mean exoneration for me, and I want that before I reach the end of my road.”

“The Sparkling Past” never did appear. Nor did Coakley realize his dream of reinstatement. He lived on in his Cape Cod quiet for another five years, dying in 1952 at the age of eighty-six. If he did not die in the odor of sanctity, he at least died in the bosom of the church, being buried from St. Margaret’s, Buzzards Bay. In him the Boston Irish were dealt their knave. This would probably have amused him as an epitaph.