George Rogers Truly Loved New Bedford [OPINION]
A lot of words will be used to describe George Rogers in the coming days. But "nice guy" probably won't be among the first words used by most.
George Rogers, the one-term Mayor of New Bedford, two-term State Representative and corrupt State Senator passed away on Saturday night. He was 84 years old.
While Rogers served his constituents in many capacities, he made his mark as a member of the New Bedford City Council. Rogers had a command of parliamentary procedure, the likes of which I've not seen before or since. In other words, he knew his stuff. Many a freshman councilor or cub reporter would be schooled by Rogers. I learned a lot from the man.
Ask anyone who had Rogers for a school teacher and they would probably confess to still waking with night sweats as a result of the experience.
Like most of us, Rogers had weaknesses, and those weaknesses, combined with some bizarre personality traits, made him a very vulnerable man who seemed to trust no one completely. Rogers was always alone when you saw him. He was never one to hit the bar for a drink with his colleagues following a meeting, and seemed always to be working on something.
Rogers had a strong base because he knew how important the little things are--the curb cuts, potholes, tree limbs. The things that get politicians elected. His base supported him in election after election, even after he served 10 months for three conspiracy convictions in the multi-million dollar Voc Ed scandal in 1977.
The Nashua Telegraph reported that prior to being sentenced Rogers, always the victim, proclaimed, "Over the past 18 months I have endured an agony that is beyond endurance. I don't know how I can be expected to endure much more." He promptly fainted and was treated at a nearby hospital for what was reported to be a case of over-medication.
His sentence served, Rogers was elected to the Massachusetts House and the New Bedford City Council.
George Rogers, while certainly accomplished, could have been a great man. While respected by friend and foe for his abilities, he was limited by an arrogance that seemed to mask a deep insecurity. While many respected Rogers for his talents, few seemed to genuinely like the guy.
Even long retired, Rogers longed to return to the arena of policy making. He ran unsuccessfully for office several times and was turned away. His time had come and gone.
I used to see Rogers from time to time at Market Basket. Sometimes he felt like talking. Other times, not so much. When he did speak to me, it was about what might have been. Had we listened to George Rogers, for example, New Bedford would have had a casino years ago.
I feel bad about George Rogers' passing. He may never truly be recognized for his contributions to New Bedford. Though sometimes a problem child, Rogers did care about the city and its people. For that reason, we are all better off for his having been here.
Goodbye, George. May you rest in peace.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.