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Middletown Transcript
A blog 'for independent minds'
R.I.P. Barbara Gray
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Political Views
Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Rick Holmes
March 31, 2014 6:15 p.m.



Barbara Gray, who died Saturday, was a giant in Framingham politics and a trailblazer on Beacon Hill.

She was a northside mother who turned the Framingham  Townwide PTO into a political machine that matched, and eventually bested, Tony Colonna’s southside organization.  She was one of the founders of the town’s League of Women Voters. She wrestled the Planning Board away from the developers,  mobilizing a slow-growth faction in the PB and on Town Meeting, whose influence is written on Framingham’s landscape.

She was a champion of the poor and vulnerable, part of the network of local leaders that welcomed SMOC. In her famous barn in Nobscot, a group of activists founded Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in the ’70s, and WIN Haven shelter for battered women a decade later.

She was one of the first women elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, winning as a Republican in 1972. She served until 1996.  During that time, Massachusetts Republicans transformed themselves from good government moderates to irrelevant also-rans. Barbara epitomized this transition. In 1990 she was challenged in the primary by a more conservative Republican. Seeing a potential problem coming, she had enough friends write in her name on the Democratic ballot – there were no Democrats running for the North Framingham seat that year – that she easily won the Democratic nomination, and sailed to re-election with a new party affiliation.

I remember well her swansong, the great city vs. town fight of 1996-97.   Framingham’s legendary power-brokers squared off: Barbara was leader of the town forces on the Charter Commission, while Tony led the pro-city gang.  Both were showing their age, and the heavy lifting was left to subordinates like Debby Blumer and Jerry Desilets (town) vs Ed Burke and Jack Flinker (city).  Despite Rob’s work behind the scenes, and the only front-page editorial we’ve run since I’ve been at the Daily News, the city forces were swamped by Barbara’s gang.

What I remember most about Barbara was her sense of humor.  She found great joy in community work and in politics.  She loved it when commentators like Howie Carr, Jerry Williams or the MWDN’s Tom Moroney poked fun at her for advocating mandatory seatbelts or margarine instead of butter.  She loved a great fight, never backed down and never stopped smiling.  And, in the great tradition of the New England Town Meeting, she never forgot that those people on the other side weren’t your enemies; they were your neighbors.

Those are the kind of leaders Framingham – and every community – needs.

 

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