Late Boston City Councilor Supported Group Linked To Charleston Shooter

The cantankerous 'Dapper' O'Neil praised the group in 1999.

Dapper O'Neil

From left, Councilor Albert L. “Dapper” O’Neil, Councilor Maura Hennigan, and Mayor Ray Flynn (Photo via City of Boston Archives on Flickr)

The segregationist Council of Conservative Citizens, a group widely considered to be a backwards and racist southern organization, is back in the spotlight after a manifesto belonging to the white supremacist who shot up a black church in Charleston cited their ideas.

The group, virtually absent from the national news since the early 2000s when Mississippi’s Trent Lott was still a leader in the Senate, was originally formed in the 1950s as the Citizens Council to challenge the surging civil rights movement in the south. Even though the Council of Conservative Citizens has been primarily fixated on Dixie, the group has occasionally wandered into Yankee politics.

Late At-Large Boston City Councilor Albert “Dapper” O’Neil told the Boston Globe in 1999 that while he was not a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, he still supported them and their ideas after he was featured endorsing them in a pamphlet of theirs.

“I’m not a member of it, but they are a good group,” O’Neil told the Globe. He continued, “They are concerned about this country and what goes on in it.”

O’Neil’s ties to the group were raised when he was the lone vote on the council to oppose City Councilor Charles Yancey’s proposal to erect a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. near City Hall. O’Neil, known for quarreling with Yancey and other councilors, said he wouldn’t make deals and that he “vote(s) any way I want.”

O’Neil’s ties to the group came up again two weeks later, when Councilor Gareth R. Saunders of Roxbury inquired about them. A wheelchair bound O’Neil, according to reports in the Globe and Boston Phoenix, lashed out at Saunders in the council chambers, denying that he was a racist in any way with a long tirade: “I wish I could get up out of this goddamned chair. I’ll show you what you are.”

O’Neil, a longtime resident of Roslindale, joined the council in 1971 after Louise Day Hicks took off for Congress and remained there until 1999 when he lost reelection to his at-large seat to Councilor Michael Flaherty of South Boston. He died in 2007 and, in a rarity, brought the Globe and Herald together on something.