In Memoriam: Alan MacDonald


Al MacDonald’s sudden death in 1989 from an aortic aneurism received front-page coverage in The Boston Globe and was also prominently covered by The New York Times. The obituary noted Al’s role as an FBI agent specializing in the sexual abuse of children and how he helped break up several rings of pedophiles.

The fact that Al’s dedication and service in the FBI was so newsworthy did not surprise those of us who were his friends in law school. Prior to law school he had considered becoming a priest and attended St. John’s Seminary. Al served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps and worked as a firefighter with the Swampscott Fire Department while in law school.

Al also loved to tease and play jokes on people. When the class of 1974 entered law school in 1971, Al quickly and accurately identified me as an easy target for teasing and playing jokes on and befriended me. We had some things in common including that we were both Vietnam veterans. Al played a significant role as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Marines while I was a draftee. I was very fortunate to be trained in a noncombat military specialty and serve my tour in Vietnam in base camps. Al frequently noted my status as a rear echelon soldier.

After law school, Al and I would visit each other while he was at the FBI Academy and then living in New York City. Al’s desire to give back to his community was reflected in his personal life. He participated in the Big Brother program mentoring a teenage boy who had never learned to read and write. He took this boy and his older brother who was also illiterate to visit me when I was living in Alexandria, Virginia. It was their first trip outside New York City.

Al used his skills and the resources available to him as an FBI agent to play elaborate and carefully planned jokes on me to ensure that I never got the better of him. He is someone that I still miss and wonder what this honest and decent man could have told me about the scandals with priest abuse in the Boston Archdiocese and in the FBI Boston office.

Ed Wirtanen

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