About the Inductee
Framingham High Class of 1940
Bolling showed a talent for politics when he ran for president of his predominantly-white Framingham High class and obtained endorsements from Massachusetts Governor Leverett Saltonstall and Boston Mayor James Michael Curley. He became the school’s first African-American class president and was re-elected twice before graduating in 1940. He attended Howard University, before joining the Army in 1943. He joined the segregated 92nd infantry division of the U.S. Army (known as the “Buffalo Soldiers”), eventually rising to the rank of first lieutenant. He fought in German-occupied Italy, earning the Silver Star, Purple Heart, four Battle Stars, and the Combat Infantry Badge for “extraordinary leadership and valor under fire.” After the war, he continued his studies at Harvard University and Boston University Law School. While still a student he founded a real estate agency, from which he retired in the early 1990s. In 1961 he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he served six 2-year terms. He represented the 11th Suffolk District from 1961 to 1964 and the 7th Suffolk District from 1965 to 1968 and 1971 to 1974. In 1982, he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate, where he represented the Second Suffolk District from 1983 to 1988. Bolling authored more than 200 legislative initiatives in the course of his career. In 1963, he proposed the original Racial Imbalance Act, a version of which was signed into law by Governor John Volpe in 1965 and which led to the desegregation of Boston’s public schools. He was instrumental in establishing Boston’s METCO program. Bolling was an early advocate for gay rights, and chaired the Hispanic Commission, the state’s first commission on issues affecting Latinos. He also chaired the Senate’s Public Service Committee. Widely recognized for his diplomatic skills, Bolling was chair of the Special Legislative Committee on Foreign Trade and was hosted by heads of state around the world. He died in 2002 at the age of 82.