View Full Version : Murphy recalls Marines as best four years of his life

09-15-04, 04:04 PM
Murphy recalls Marines as best four years of his life
By David W. Smith/ Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Charley Murphy looked a bit out of place peeling off his socks while wearing a pressed shirt and tie, but his daughters were about to plunge into the wading pool at Simonds Park. He may have to plunge in after them and shoes, after all, are expensive.

"Do me a favor," he said to 7-year-old daughter, Grace. "Go walk out to the middle. Show me how deep it is."

Grace turned back and made a face. "Freezing," she said.

But the water was pronounced shallow enough for 2-year-old Amelia, and Murphy sat down by the fence to talk, keeping a watchful eye on the water.

"We come here quite a bit, actually," said Murphy, a four-term Democrat in the House of Representative, now campaigning against Republican John Cirignano for a fifth. "I used to work for the Recreation Department, and part of my job was maintaining the pool."

Murphy grew up in Burlington, the son of an attorney and member of a large family. He played in Simonds Park as a kid, worked in the summers and played three sports in high school.

"I was a very average baseball, football and basketball player," he laughed. "But I had a great attitude."

Murphy said he couldn't wait to get out of town when he left for Villanova University in Pennsylvania. But by the time he left the Marine Corps in 1994, he and his wife, Nan, decided to return. Burlington is a pretty average town, where he had a pretty normal childhood, said Murphy. But it's a great place to live, raise children, and he's enjoyed representing it's residents, along with constituents in Bedford and precinct 3 of Wilmington.

"As a state rep, you can still hit every door," he said. "It's a good chance to really help people. And the public policy part of it is fun too."

Murphy met his wife at a rugby game as a student at Vermont Law School. Following graduation, he decided to enter the Marines, he said, because he wasn't ready to sit down to a desk job straight out of school. The two of them were married after he finished basic infantry school, just days before he was sent on assignment in Newport, R.I.

He called the Marines the best four years of his life - despite its share of misery - and still counsels young people to try the military as a career path. There were lessons he learned about people that have stuck with him into his political career.

"You're on your own," he said. "If you're going to do [something], you've got to just do it."

For a while, he was stationed on a ship off the coast of Somalia after U.S. soldiers were attacked by anti-government forces. It was a very tense time, he said. His job was to instruct soldiers on the proper rules of engagement.

"We essentially paraded off the shore. There were seven ships in a row," said Murphy.

Readjusting to civilian life proved relatively easy. He was given a job in a New Bedford law firm, where he worked long hours learning about the practice of law in a non-military setting. After several years, he started his own criminal law practice, and also cast his eye on politics.

The idea to run for state representative, he said, had been with him since he was in high school, when he imagined his buddies helping him mount his first political campaign. When the time came, and Rep. Marianne Brenton declined to run again, his friends and family were there for him.

But it wasn't easy. The 1996 campaign was pretty grueling, he said. There was a three-way "knock-down, drag out," primary followed by a close election. He won, Murphy recalled, by about 250 votes. He never thought too much about what serving at the State House would be like, Murphy said, because he didn't think he was going to win. Many people felt the same way, he said.

"It took me two visits to my mother to get her to support me," he laughed. "She didn't want to see me lose."

His family, three brothers in particular, may kidded him as brothers do, he added. But they've always helped him campaign and will do so again in the upcoming election.

"At the end of the day, they did a ton of work for me," he said. "It's a lot of work, no question. A lot of detailed grunt work. But it's enjoyable."

As a four-term incumbent, Murphy said he's become a bit of a veteran at the State House. He still enjoys it, he said, particularly since he's had a falling out with the House leadership. A few years ago, Murphy published a letter criticizing the work of Speaker Thomas Finneran, suggesting that representatives were following his lead rather than pursuing healthy debate. This discord led to diminished assignments and a smaller office, Murphy said. But he feels freer to speak his mind.

"It makes it a more enjoyable job for me," he said.

In his spare time, Murphy said he plays a bit of golf and reads a lot, but likes to save his precious free time for family. To punctuate his point, Amelia, who was adopted by the Murphy's from Guatemala last year, walked up from the pool, stood between her dad's bare feet and demanded a towel. Murphy gently poked her in the belly and tried to explain there was no towel, and she'd have to dry in the sun.

"She's got a hot temper," he said.



08-19-05, 01:48 PM