Everyone said he was a millionaire, but the old boss never moved from the small, red brick row house at 306 Anoka Ave. where he lived for more than 50 years, even after it became part of a black glum. It was his political base, and a smart politician never leaves his base. Besides, he would say, "I live with the masses, not with the classes."
Actually, the masses passed by James H. Pollack, the last of the great political bosses of Baltimore, years ago. He was of the age and political persuasion of Daley, Curley, Crump and Hague. And, if he never gained theie national stature, Jack Pollack was of their breed, and he was as loved and hated in the political club houses of this city for a half century as they were in theirs.
They buried Jack Pollack, the exprizefrighter turned power broker, today in the sunshine on a gentle slope in a small Jewish cemetary in Northwest Baltimore.
They buried a part of the American political tradition with him; a tradition based on the political clubhouse, patronage, the backroom deal, favor trading and fielding large armies of paid workers on election day.
It was a tradition that crumbled long before Pollack's death, outpaced by television, urban migration, welfare payments, and a new breed of politician who scorned the methods of the old bosses.
"It was like a dinsoaur died," said former Baltimore Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro III, one of the estimated 700 who attended the funeral. D'Alesandro gave his first political speech in Pollack's Trenton Democratic Club in the city when he was only 8 years old.
Coupled with the passing of five other old-time bosses during the last 30 months, Pollack's death leaves a void in Baltimore politics and sets the stage for a restructuring of this city's Byzantine political structure - a restructuring that in part has already taken place.
"It's a new style of politics today," said D'Alesandro. "I don't believe there in a single area-wide strong precinct organization in the city anymore. Things are open for grabs. Today more depends on the candidates and the issues and not on precinct organizations or bosses."
All the oldtimers were there in their charcoal gray suits for the funeral, the men whose careers Pollack had made and bartered over: Gov. Marvin Mandel; former mayors Thomas (Old Tommy) D'Alesandro Jr., and his son, "Young Tommy," State Attorney General Francis B. Burch; Baltimore State's Attorney William A. Swisher; Judge Paul Dorf, Pollack's son-in-law; City Councilman Reuben Caplan, and a host of others.
In one corner of the Sol Levison & Bros. Funeral Home sat Irvin Kovens, perhaps the only remaining political figure in the city who could command the sort of power Pollack once did. "There is the new boss." one city councilman said as he entered.
But most of the smart political minds in the city today doubted whether Kovens - or any other single figure - will ever be able to put together the power Pollack once marshaled.
Actually, there's no shortage of politicians here claiming political power. A whole generation of this city's oldtime bosses have slipped into the obituary pages the last 2 1/2 years. They had colorful backgrounds and ethnic names: State Sen. William L. (Bip) Hodges, the South Baltimore powerhouse; State Sen. Joseph A. Bertorelli, the east Baltimore "brass knuckles politician"; former Mayor Philip Goodman; George Hofferbert, another east Baltimore boss; and J. Joseph Curran, a city councilman and patriarch of a large political family in Northeast Baltimore.
Each once dominated a part of the city, operating like Balkan princes, collecting and dispensing favors, and naming their own slate of candidates for local office. For decades, their slates won almost as a matter of course, closing the process to outsiders.
They've been replaced by a new generation of political leaders, who dislike the word "boss," but enjoy what the title connotes. "Today, you walk out of church and someone says, 'Hi boss.' and everyone waves back," "Old Tommy" D'Alesandro complained to an interviewer earlier this year. "In the old days, there was only one boss.
Pollack was Baltimore's first Jewish boss, and during the 1940s and 1950's the city's most powerful boss. Operating from a base in the northwest part of the city, he picked and elected candidates to the state legislature, City Council, judgeships and the judicial clerkships.
A huge, 6-foot-2 figure of man who fought as a light-heavyweight boxer in his youth, he wore bow ties and delighted in quoting Shakespeare. When someone would ask him what he was doing in Annapolis, he would quip, "Just watching democracy in action."
But first and always he was a hardball politician who could arrange a favorable zoning decision or a patronage job for his friends. His interest was the bread and butter of politics, not its ideology, and he would rather support a Republican than a Democrat who he felt had a Democrat who he felt had crossed him.
His wrath was to be avoided. He kept records of his promises and deals. When one of his candidates won election, he would demand the candidate write a letter of resignation, which he could dredge up if the officeholder crossed him. When Gov. J. Millard Tawes bucked him on a patronage appointment for his son-in-law, Pollack produced a tape recording that purported to record a Tawes promise for patronage favors and $5,000 in return for Pollack endorsing Tawes.
His rhetoric was tough, and sometimes alliterative. At one point, for instance, he called city comptroller Hyman Pressman a "publicity-pandering, pettifogging, pompous popinjay."
There was none of this talk today. Pressman and a host of other politicans who have done battle with Pollack attended his funeral.
The service, a traditional Jewish one, was short and simple. Rabbi Samuel Rosenblatt eulogized the old boss as a great American who gave generously to Jewish causes, and helped hundreds of persons in need during the depression through his ward heeling.
"I don't know if anyone will be able to take his place," he said. "But he leaves us all a great heritage"
"He always kept his promises," he added.
Then they took, Jack Pollack, political boss, to a hillside in the Shaarei Tfiloh Cemetery and buried him. His pallbearers were among the city's most powerful men: Gov. Mandel, formermayor D'Alesandro; State's Attorney Swisher and others.
There'll alwasy be politics in Baltimore." the older D'lesandro said outside the funeral home. "It just takes time for new leadership to develop."
But the central unanswered question in political circles here was: will the death of Pollack and the other old-time bosses cause little more than a realignment of machine politics in Baltimore, or will it open up the process to new political groups?
The bedrock of Pollack's power rested in his alliances with other bosses. To the end, he controlled seats on the City Council and little-noticed clerkships in the courthouse, and each day he would sit at a table at the Bickford Cafe holding court and picking up the checks for anyone who dropped by for lunch.
A new generation of political leaders has emerged from neighborhood organizations and civic groups during the last decade, operating outside the old political alliance structures. The most notable among them are U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Rep. Barbara Mikulski, and City Council President Walter Orlinsky.
But politics abhors a vaccum, and a half dozen figures may try moving into it. The real test won't come until the 1978 elections. But meanwhile several political figures arre already positioning themselves.
"I think you'll see a combination of different figures getting together to form a citywide group," said State Sen. Harry McGuirk, whose Stonewall Democratic Club is one of the city's most powerful remaining political organizations. Among these, he said, may be himself, State Sen. Rosalie Abrams, State Sen. Robert Douglas, and City Councilman Clarence H. (Du) Burns.
The big question will be whether this group, or any other group will be able to deliver votes the way Pollack and the other old bosses did.