Bruce Bolling, Sr. of Roxbury, the patriarch of one of Boston’s most prominent political families died peacefully in his home this week at 12:51a.m. with his wife Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling and his son Bruce Bolling, Jr. at his bedside. An ardent advocate for civil rights and equality in the city of Boston, Bolling leaves a legacy of bridging ethnic and racial communities. He was 67 and lost his battle to prostate cancer.
His wife of nearly 20 years, Joyce-Ferriabough-Bolling and her son were visited by community leaders and elected officials this morning, including State Committeeman, Jeff Ross and Boston City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Charles Yancey and were on hand at the home this morning to comfort the family.
In a political career that hailed from what was known in Boston as the “Bolling Dyansty”, Mr. Bolling was elected to the Boston City Council in 1981 and served until 1993. Bruce Bolling’s father served in the House of Representatives for 12 years and six in the State Senate. His brother Royal Jr. served in the House in the 1980’s. Bruce Bolling, Sr. became the 1st black president of the Boston City Council in 1987.
Council President Bolling was a champion of gay rights, following in the footsteps of his father, Senator Bolling. It was a value that he was raised with and inherently understood. When he ran for Mayor in 1993, he was endorsed by the Greater Boston Gay and Lesbian Political Alliance. He always stood up for the gay and lesbian community in his words “sometimes against great odds, and many times standing alone.” He worked to build bridges between new Bostonians, Latinos, Asians, women, people of color, and the gay and lesbian community.
He stood up against members of his own community who took issues with the “lifestyles” of gays and lesbians and supported non-traditional family structures. “Mr. Bolling was a visionary when it came to creating alliances and breaking down barriers in Boston at a time when the cultural push among black church leaders was focused on the traditional family, because he understood that gay relationships were about love and not to be sexualized and objectified,” said State Committeeman Ross who was mentored by Bruce Sr. and his wife Joyce. “He saw marriage and adoption in the gay and lesbian community as a civil rights issue, taking Martin Luther King’s activism on equality a step forward.”
As a consensus builder, he charted the course for the passage of a bill to create the Fair Housing Commission and often found success as a consensus builder and a centrist. He sponsored the linkage ordinance which required developers to contribute funds to housing programs, and an ordinance encouraging developers to set aside 50 percent of construction jobs for city residents and, 35% for minorities and 10% for women, legislation which Councilor Ayanna Pressley strengthened in her first term in office. Mr. Bolling brought life to problems the government hadn’t dealt with before.
When Mr. Bolling left the Boston City Council, Mayor Tomas M. Menino, who called the family to offer support, recalled Bollingisms such as “commonality of interests,” “mosaic” and “vis-avis.” Mr. Bolling said when he ran for mayor that he would “work to heal the city’s racial divisions by bringing neighborhoods together around common issues.”
In addition to his legacy of leveling the playing field for equality, consensus building and bridging communities, Bruce C. Bolling leaves behind his son Bruce Bolling, Jr. and wife Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling, a long time political consultant.