Black History Boston: Royal Bolling

Royal Lee Bolling was born on June 19th, 1920, in Virginia. He moved to Framingham, Massachusetts, when he was eight years old. For his excellent oratory and leadership skills, he was elected class president of predominantly white Framingham High School, receiving attention from the governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Boston at the time. He was the first Afircan-American President to serve at Framingham High School.

Upon graduation, Royal enrolled at the Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Howard University. However, he was only there briefly, as he soon enrolled into the military to fight in World War II. When he returned from war, he moved to Roxbury, and continued his education at Harvard University, and later received his law degree from Boston University School of Law.

In 1943, he married Thelma Greene and they had twelve children. Two of their sons went on to pursue successful political and business careers: Royal Bolling Jr. served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives; Bruce Bolling became the first Black Council President in Boston City Council history.

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Royal authored over 200 initiatives in his extensive political career. In 1961, Royal Bolling was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In 1963, he proposed the original Racial Imbalance Act, which led to the desegregation of Boston Public Schools. It was signed into law by the Governor in 1965. Royal also was instrumental in the establishment of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. (METCO) and secured the initial funding for the Roxbury Community College. In 1982, he left the House to join the Massachusetts Senate. In 1985, he sponsored a bill to redevelop the area of Boston State Hospital, which led to mixed-income town homes being built on the site. He chaired the Hispanic commission and the Public Service committee.

Royal was also a member of the NAACP, the Urban League, and the Black United Front. From being a major proponent of school desegregation to procuring the initial funding for the Roxbury Community College to supporting the establishment of METCO, Royal's legacy and work has been instrumental in advancing the lives of the Black community of Boston. A true testament to this also lies in the impact and legacy that his sons have made to Boston. Thank you, Royal Bolling, for your incredible, transformative work!!

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