The Rise and Fall of the Little Guy by Aaron E. Haier
The Rise and Fall of The Little Guy
By: Aaron E. Haier
In the annals of Jersey City history,
The specter of Frank Hague looms large,
So oft overlooked
In our history books,
Is The Little Guy’s time in charge.
John V. Kenny, mayor-elect,
Took office in Forty-Nine.
Gave his old Boss a fight,
Perhaps out of spite
’Cause Hague’s nephew cut the line.
See, J.V. was Frank’s Number Two
And spent three decades by his side
As they ran a machine
Like has never been seen
With more cash than they could hide.
But Frank began to have some doubts
As his protégé gained power.
Kenny pledged to be loyal,
But Frank’s blood boiled,
And thus, the relationship soured.
In Forty-Seven, Mayor Hague stepped down.
(The Feds may have had a case.)
John was so disappointed
Hague’s nephew got appointed
To take his namesake’s place.
Two years later, Kenny struck back—
A drama fit for the Loew’s or Stanley.
Kenny challenged Frank’s heir,
And from Journal Square
Came news that Kenny won hand’ly.
Kenny campaigned as the anti-Hague,
A reformer on a mission.
And for the first time ever,
Irish and Italians, together,
Delivered a winning coalition.
Kenny resigned after a single term,
Even though re-election was certain.
He found it so freeing
As he much preferred being
The Little Guy behind the curtain.
Kenny proved to be no reformer;
It became clear in every vicinage.
Despite Hague’s defeat,
History would repeat:
Kenny rebuilt the machine in his image!
He was the pope of Jersey City
And his patrons were much obliged:
Ten percent got kicked back
On every contract,
And his cronies would collect the tithes.
Kenny believed he couldn’t be touched
As he ruled Hudson County from on high.
In fact, he once stated
That, if investigated,
He would spit in the prosecutor’s eye.
But 1970 was the start of Kenny’s end,
And there was no sense in running or hiding.
The Government pounced
And charged thirty-four counts,
With the Honorable Robert Shaw presiding.
Kenny was one of a dozen charged,
His co-conspirators all hitched.
A group of local leaders
Proven to be cheaters
Who used their position to make themselves rich.
Judge Shaw saw from Kenny’s appearance in court
That his health was in a bad state,
So he severed the Head,
Sent Kenny to bed,
And separately tried the “Hudson Eight.”
Kenny pleaded guilty to tax evasion,
And though he didn’t serve much time,
The Government made sure,
Unlike mayors before,
He was convicted of his crime.
The Little Guy is buried at Holy Name
On Jersey City’s West Side.
Hague is there too,
And Hague’s same-name nephew,
Their fates forever intertwined.