BOSTON (AP) — As a teenager growing up in Massachusetts in the early 1960s, Edward Markey remembered hearing how John F. Kennedy was too Irish, too Catholic and too much a product of Boston politics to be elected president.
For Markey, an Irish Catholic kid from Malden, Kennedy's victory was both a triumph and an inspiration.
"In his inaugural address, he said that public service was an opportunity to do God's work here on Earth," Markey said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "He not only inspired me but inspired a whole generation to think of public service."
Markey came from humble roots. His father drove a truck for the Hood Milk Co. Markey, who would be the first in his family to go to college, attended Malden Catholic High School and helped pay his way through Boston College by driving an ice cream truck.
Markey, who is facing off against fellow U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch in Tuesday's Democratic primary in the state's special U.S. Senate election, was in his third year at Boston College Law School when he decided to plunge into politics by challenging a longtime Democratic state representative.
"I was a much more liberal Democrat than the incumbent, and I think that made a big difference," Markey said. "There was a changing of the guard that was taking place not just in Massachusetts but across the country, and I was part of that."
Markey's stint at the Statehouse was relatively brief. He was elected in 1972 and sworn in the following January. But he would make good use of his time, positioning himself against a top Democratic powerbroker.
Markey was assigned to the Judiciary Committee and soon set his sights on ending a system that allowed Massachusetts judges to maintain private law practices while serving on the bench.
"The system was loaded with built-in conflicts of interest," Markey said.
He pulled together support for a bill that would abolish the system and give dozens of judges with law practices three years to choose between being full-time judges or full-time lawyers.
Despite the opposition of the powerful house speaker at the time, Thomas McGee, Markey's bill was approved and in early 1976 it was signed into law by former Gov. Michael Dukakis.
Markey would pay a political price, at least temporarily.
When McGee announced Markey was no longer on the committee, Markey and his backers responded by holding a press conference which further irked the House leader.
"Overnight we got a call to say that my desk was no longer in the Judiciary Committee, that they shoved it out into the hall," Markey said.