In the 1970s, there were two Bostons. One Boston was a staid, stagnant, lackluster place, a once proud city that had been left behind by the energy and modernity of larger, more exciting and sophisticated urban centers like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But there was also the emerging New Boston, an exciting metropolis symbolized by the new Government Center and Prudential Center developments and the redevelopment of Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The New Boston was led by a young and energetic mayor, Kevin White, who himself was emblematic of a new generation of political leaders focused on reform and change ambitious and talented men who were unwilling to wait their turn while the old guard remained stubbornly in office.
Massachusetts in 1978 was awash in the turbulence and discord that mark times of significant transition. A great political tug-of-war was taking place, a struggle between reformers and the established political leadership, and a larger struggle between two generations of political leaders. In 1978 three leading political figures the incumbent governor, the incumbent United States senator, and the incumbent district attorney of Suffolk County lost their respective bids for re-election, and the president of the Massachusetts Senate resigned amid a brewing scandal. In the midst of this turmoil Robert Bonin, the chief justice of the Commonwealth's Superior Court, was faced with a Hobson's choice: resignation or removal from office.
Beginning with Bonin's appointment as chief justice in 1977, a determined, entrenched legal and political establishment embarked upon an unrelenting effort to remove him from office. Their ultimately successful effort was one important victory in a war between cultures and generations a clash of aging political leaders holding on to power with an iron grip, and young reformers reaching for power and, having grasped it, unwilling to let it go without a fight.
The political and cultural forces that converged to create such a tumultuous political moment were complex and deep-rooted, and they illuminated much about what Boston had been, and what it would become.