The original Southie bad boy with smarts and a heart of gold
Written by Anna White
Southie has many native sons and daughters that we all take pride in, but one of our most beloved is James Brendan Connolly. Born in Southie in October of 1868, Connolly was the sixth of John and Mary Connolly’s ten (!) sons.
Connolly, a member of the US Engineer Corp., was taking a special engineering course at Harvard when the revival of the Ancient Olympic Games was announced. Connolly asked Harvard for a leave of absence to compete in the games — which Harvard denied! In a move that totally could have come out of Good Will Hunting, Harvard later offered Connolly an honorary doctorate to which Connolly said thanks but no thanks to — badass.
On April 6th, 1896, Connolly competed in the first event of the new, modern Olympic Games in Athens and he wins the gold! The event was the triple jump, which was then known as the “hop, skip, jump.” Southie’s own James Connolly was the first Olympic champion in 1,527 years. He also placed second in the high jump and third in the long jump!
James Connolly later became a respected journalist and author. President Theodore Roosevelt liked him so much he gave him the authority to go aboard any American navy ship at anytime, in anyplace and stay as long as he wanted!
You can see a bronze statue of Connolly, created by artist Thomas Haxo, next to Saunders Stadium. You can also view his papers, writings and personal library at Colby College in Maine where a special collection is housed.