Owner of the Amherst Athletic Club and columnist for the Amherst Bulletin from 1991 to 2004, Larry Kelley is deeply involved with Amherst area relations and government. He ran for both Select Board and Finance Committee, and was instrumental in raising awareness about and banning the illegal sale of martial arts weapons in Massachusetts.
Included in the Kelley papers are over 100 newspaper clippings, either his editorials, letters to the editor, or guest columns, about issues ranging from the use of town safety services by Amherst College, his objection to the Civil Rights Review Commission's right to subpoena, his fight to fly commemorative flags in downtown Amherst both on the anniversary of September 11th and on the day Osama bin Laden is captured, to his objection over the Amherst-Pelham Regional High School's production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues.
The collection is open for research.
After immigrating from Ireland to Northampton, Massachusetts, the first generation of Kelleys moved across the Connecticut River in 1855 to settle in Amherst. Five generations and one hundred years later, Lawrence J. Kelley was born there. A local businessman, Kelley is one of three owners of the Amherst Athletic Club, and from 1991 to 2004, he was a columnist for the Amherst Bulletin and regular contributor to a number of blogs and discussion lists, offering conservative perspectives on issues affecting the typically liberal Pioneer Valley. He resigned from the Bulletin in 2004, however, after a dispute with the newspaper's editors over the content and direction of his columns. He currently writes a blog Only in the Republic of Amherst on local and national politics.
A long-time participant in civic affairs in Amherst, Kelley ran unsuccessfully for Select Board five times and for the Finance Committee once. He was instrumental in creating laws to stop the flow of illegal martial arts weapons into Massachusetts via the postal service. As a local activist, Larry Kelley has taken on a wide range of other issues, often running again the grain of local majority opinion, taking prominent stands ranging from his opposition to a local high school staging a production of the play the Vagina Monologues to his advocacy for flying the American flag in Amherst. Kelley, his wife Donna, and their daughter, Kiri Li, currently live in Amherst.
Larry Kelley's papers span nearly two decades, beginning in 1985 with the start of his fight to pass legislation to stop the flow of illegal martial arts weapons into Massachusetts via mail. The collection includes numerous newspaper articles and the correspondence Kelley maintained with Senator Edward Kennedy and his office about the matter. Kelley renewed his efforts in 1994 after the legislation failed to pass in 1985.
The remainder of the collection deals chiefly with local matters in Amherst, such as Kelley's support of a change to a mayoral government for the town and his campaigns for both Select Board and Finance Committee in 1994. Both campaigns are documented by numerous newspaper clippings from the Amherst Bulletin, among them his own editorials, published letters, and guest columns. Also included are over 20 letters of recommendation for Kelley's appointment.
Over the years, Kelley has raised several issues concerning the Amherst Fire Department, such as Amherst College's use of Emergency Services during a fire on campus. Kelley responded to the College by sending a mock invoice charging them for the services. He also led an organization called "Eyes of Life" to raise money for the purchase of thermal cameras for the Fire Department.
Kelley also supported the proposed smoking ban for Amherst restaurants in 1998 and 1999. He kept close track of the issue as it progressed, again collecting numerous newspaper clippings, EPA reports on the effects of second hand smoke, memoranda from the District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney concerning the issue, and his own columns regarding the ban.
Among other clippings in the collection are the article in Time magazine focusing on the controversy surrounding the Amherst-Pelham Regional High School's 2004 production of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues. Claiming the content was inappropriate for high school students, Kelley brought major media attention to the production. He appeared on NBC's Today Show and Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor to protest the production. The collection also documents a similar controversy that emerged when the same high school decided five years earlier to cancel a production of West Side Story. A 17-year-old Puerto Rican student started a petition to cancel the production claiming it portrayed Puerto Ricans in a negative light. Kelley opposed her objection to allowing the play to be performed, and led a fight to convince the school committee to reconsider, and veto the petition and the girl's request. The production was nevertheless cancelled.
Kelley also worked strongly against Amherst's decision to buy a Y2K generator, arguing that the decision was economically irresponsible, not to mention unnecessary, and he conveyed these opinions via his column in the Amherst Bulletin. To support his position, he obtained information on the improbability of an electrical failure from the North American Electrical Reliability Council and Solidago Foundation.
Finally, Kelley's papers include material on the Amherst board's decision to limit the number of days the town would fly its twenty-nine commemorative American flags throughout downtown. The decision was made on September 10th, 2001 to fly these flags only on designated holidays, which Kelley felt was insufficient. After the terrorist attack of September 11th, the board agreed unanimously that the flags should be raised, and they flew until November 26th. Once the flags were removed, Kelley selected one from among the 29 and brought it to Ground Zero the following week. On December 1st, Kelley, with the help of a New York City police officer, fought to raise the flag again, this time over the rubble at the site of the World Trade Center. The flag was then sent to Washington, where it was flown over the Capitol building, as well as to Boston, where it flew over the State Capitol, and now is in the hands of the Amherst Historical Society. The photograph that captures this moment has been autographed by Ted Kennedy, John W. Oliver, Jane Garvey, Jane Swift, and George W. Bush.
Acquired from Larry Kelley in 2006.
Collection was processed by Mary E. Fahey, 2007.
Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:
Larry Kelley Papers (MS 524). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.