Kevin H. White(1929-2012)

Kevin Hagan White, a political figure who helped transform Boston into a world-class city during 16 often turbulent years as mayor, died at 7 tonight in his Beacon Hill home, according to a statement from his family. He was 82 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about a decade ago.

Mr. White was surrounded by his family, including his wife of 55 years, Kathryn.

A larger-than-life presence of his era, Mr. White had deep roots in the parochial old political culture of the city, but lightning instincts and a roving intellect that propelled him to national stature. Amid society-altering upheavals of the era -- the civil rights movement, Vietnam War, and Watergate -- he adapted and survived, at times reinventing himself.

From 1968 to 1984, Mr. White was chief executive of a fast-changing metropolis, which had emerged from decades of economic stagnation and insularity with an explosion of growth and construction downtown. But social change tore at the city's fabric. Racial tension and violence during court-ordered school desegregation in the mid-1970s stained Boston's image, perhaps indelibly.
Published in The Boston Globe on Jan. 28, 2012