454 pages • 7.25” x 10”
375 photos & Illustrations
Reviews & Interviews
Photograph by John K. Robson
This fascinating, fast-paced memoir is an absolute delight. If you care about New Bedford, the Atlantic fisheries, the seafaring traditions of New England, and the bare-knuckle world of politics, you need to get yourself a copy of Hometown. A truly great read. Highly recommended.
—Nathaniel Philbrick, author of
In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower,
and Travels with George
Wonderfully illuminating, entertaining, and refreshingly honest, John Bullard’s Hometown is an antidote to pessimism about the ability of politics to promote the public good, and a crash course in the art of the possible. Politicians, bureaucrats, local organizers, and concerned citizens who want to improve their corner of the world would all benefit from reading Hometown.
—Eric Jay Dolin, author of Rebels at Sea:
Privateering in the American Revolution
Fittingly, John Bullard’s engaging life-story is something like a boat captain’s log of a remarkably successful voyage. Hometown takes us aboard as passengers and gives us the experience of a trying, adventuresome, productive learning experience through high seas and calm waters on the Ocean of Life.
—Everett Hoagland, inaugural Poet Laureate of New Bedford; author of Ocean Voices, This City and Other Poems, and Homecoming
John Bullard was the best kind of public official—someone who led with his heart, made the hard decisions even when they weren’t in his political interests, and was always willing to speak frankly, even to reporters, even when it could get him in trouble. Hometown is an elegant testament to a life given to service and focused on doing good.
—David Abel, reporter, the Boston Globe
Hometown is a state of mind. In this deeply moving and thoughtful memoir, John K. Bullard weaves a tale of a family legacy intertwined with the pitfalls and promise of New Bedford, a storied Massachusetts seaport whose past and future can be found in every gritty city struggling to survive and thrive. Bullard explores the meaning of public service, greater good, personal responsibility, and the ties that bind people to their hometowns. He grapples with immigration, economics, race, poverty, politics but also our innermost conflicts and ambitions as we make our way in the world.
Bullard’s story—and his sense of hometown—as he changes roles from a local to federal leader becomes more sophisticated but never loses sight of the importance of involving the people he is working with in the decisions that affect their lives. All politics is personal, acknowledging that community is nothing without family, friends, and yes, even rivals. Hometown is about what sends you into the world to seek your fortunes and what draws you home to enhance your life.
John Bullard’s memoir reaches beyond personal history to tell the fascinating tale of New Bedford, twice the richest city in the world but now a community that, against overwhelming odds, fights to retain its dignity and make its personality shine through the heartfelt work of its citizens. An ancestor of the city’s founding family, the author is the former mayor of New Bedford and the thirteenth in a succession of John Bullards to live in the city. In this account, he reflects on how his storied hometown has risen and fallen through its waves of immigration, its experience with abolition, its days in whaling and textiles, its struggles as a fishing port, and its fight for recognition on a regional, national, and international level.
In addition to his family’s connection to the past, John also plays a key role in the city’s recent history and future. After graduating from both MIT and Harvard, he comes home to New Bedford in the early 1970s to utilize his skills as an architect and urban planner during one of the country’s most devastating urban crisis periods—Urban Renewal. Remarkably, John’s skillset in urban planning, architecture, historic preservation and community development lent themselves to help a city suffering from economic decay. He led one of the most successful urban restoration movements in the country. Working with many other dedicated people in a core group known as WHALE (the city’s de facto historic preservation group), John led the charge to save the city’s suffering historic whaling district, develop its working waterfront, and establish a National Whaling Historic Park that encompasses nearly half of its downtown district. He has been directly involved in revitalizing theater, museums, businesses, and landmark buildings.
Serving three terms as mayor, John Bullard led an aggressive coalition of spirited men and women who helped make saving neighborhoods, culture, and the environment high priority. Later, John joined the Clinton administration to advance sustainable development nationwide and bring economic assistance to fishing families in New England, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. He also led SEA, teaching college students about the science and policies of the oceans. At NOAA, John managed all living marine resources in federal waters in the northeast to conclude his working career.
John’s contribution to the preservation of the Essex-built schooner Ernestina-Morrissey, his participation with Buzzards Bay Coalition to save the bay and watershed, and his dedication to promoting wind power and renewable energy are documented here and illustrated with more than 370 photographs, many of which have never been published before. These pictures, from portraits and panoramas to etchings and paintings, reflect the city’s amazing architecture, art, and celebrations. They help connect the reader to the city, its neighborhoods, and its people.
Preservationist, planner, and politician, John remains a leader in movements such as promoting wind and alternative powers and protecting the ocean against pollution.