Beloved, longtime community leader headed ABCD East Boston APAC since 1970s
Legendary East Boston community leader John T. White Jr. died June 7 in Syracuse, New York,
at age 87, surrounded by his loving family. For more than 50 years he served as Executive
Director of the East Boston APAC of Action for Boston Community Development. John was often
referred to as the “defacto Mayor of East Boston.”
A graduate of Boston College who loved literature, he peppered his speech with Shakespearean
references, but was always down to earth. He was a kind and gracious man who connected
instinctively with those in need – single moms struggling to pay the rent, alienated teenagers,
seniors with multiple hardships. John didn’t leave the office until all seeking help received the
aid they needed.
He thought big – serving on the board of East Boston Health Center and making sure that
preventive measures such as safety devices to keep children from falling from the high windows
of Eastie three-deckers were in place and measures taken to spread the word of availability of
nutritious food, childhood vaccinations and senior services. He was committed to ensuring that
every eligible resident of East Boston received fuel assistance and housing aid, often helping
residents to fill out applications and picking up the phone to call government officials if any
bureaucratic issue stood in their way. He loved and supported ABCD’s East Boston Head Start
program, encouraging parents to sign their children up for one of the state-of-the art centers.
John’s wry humor was celebrated. When ABCD Public Information called, often with a press
inquiry, he was known to pick up the phone declaring “Hold page one!”
Ever the collaborator, he worked tirelessly with elected and public officials as well as business
leaders, advocating successfully for fuel assistance, child care, heat, health care and housing for
“We have lost a legend of community action and neighborhood vitality,” said ABCD
President/CEO John J. Drew. “John White was my friend and mentor for more than 50 years.
He fought the good fight for people and neighborhoods and never let up. He could have been
anything, gone anywhere in life, but he chose to make a difference in a once worn-down
neighborhood where residents struggled to make ends meet as planes from Logan flew low
overhead. With gentrification and the advent of high-priced condos, John and his team worked
to keep life affordable for longtime residents and new immigrants. He always saw the big
picture and never lost his passion to make things right.”
One tribute posted on eastboston.com said: “East Boston will never be the same. As one retired
pol said of John’s passing, ‘This one is hard to take.’”
Donations in John’s memory to the Monastery of St. Clare, 445 River Rd., Andover, MA 01810
would be appreciated. More information at macrathfuneralhome.com.
ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development) is Greater Boston’s anti-poverty agency. A nonprofit community action agency, ABCD provides under-resourced residents in the Boston and Mystic Valley areas with the tools, support, and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, the organization serves more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For 60 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in each neighborhood it serves, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential. For more, please visit bostonabcd.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2022