James Farley

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James (Jim) Aloysius Farley (May 30, 1888–June 9, 1976) was an American politician who served as head of the Democratic National Committee and Postmaster General in the 1930s. He was a prominent Irish Catholic leader in the Democratic party. Farley managed the successful campaigns for governor of New York by Al Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Roosevelt's presidential campaigns in 1932 and 1936. Farley was most responsible for pulling together the New Deal Coalition of Catholics, labor unions, and big city machines. Farley was heavily concerned with party issues, not policy. Farley ran the administrations patronage machine helped to staff the New Deal via the Post Office and the WPA. In 1940 Farley opposed Roosevelt's breaking the two term tradition of the presidency, and FDR's refusal to support Farley's own presidential ambitions.

Early Career

Farley was born in Grassy Point, New York, one of five sons of Irish Catholic immigrants. His father was involved in the brick-making industry, first as a laborer and later as a part owner of three small schooners engaged in the brick-carrying trade.

Farley always had his heart set on a political career. In 1911, he officially began his service as a politician when he was elected town clerk of Grassy Point. After helping Alfred E. Smith become Governor of New York State, Farley served as port warden of NYC. Farley was later appointed Chairman of the NYS Athletic Commission and became Boxing Commissioner of NYS from 1923 until the early 30's. Farley also was named secretary of the Democratic State Committee in 1928. Introduced to Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) by Ed Flynn, FDR asked Farley to run his 1928 campaign for New York governor. Farley orchestrated FDR's narrow victory in the 1928 gubernatorial election, and his reelection in 1930. Farley helped bring to Roosevelt's camp the powerful newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst via Joseph Kennedy, and helped Roosevelt win the 1932 nomination and election. This was due to the Farley's ability to corral the Catholics, Unions, and big city machines into the New Deal Coalition. Farley repeated this process in 1936 and correctly predicted the states Roosevelt would carry.

New Deal Years 1933-40

FDR appointed Farley Postmaster General and chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1933. Farley also controlled patronage in the new administration and became very influential within the Democratic party throughout the United States. Farley was personally conservative but loyally used the patronage machine to line up support for the New Deal's liberal programs. He helped to bring about the end to Prohibition and the defeat of the Ludlow Resolution, a 1939 attempt by isolationists to limit the foreign affairs powers of the president. Farley's close relationship with FDR deteriorated in 1940 because Farley opposed FDR's pursuit of a third term and because of Roosevelt's "Purge" of Democratic Party regulars. In 1940, Farley resigned as Postmaster General and party chairman to mount an unsuccessful presidential bid. Eleanor Roosevelt flew to the convention to try to repair the damage in the Roosevelt-Farley relationship, and although Farley remained close to ER, he felt betrayed by FDR and refused to join FDR's 1940 campaign team. Farley also ran for Governor of New York in two unsuccessful bids.

Later career in business

In 1938, Farley wrote his autobiography, Behind the Ballots. After leaving the administration, Farley worked for the Coca-Cola Export Corporation until his retirement in 1973 and remained active in state and national politics until his death at age 88 in New York City. Farley was the last surviving member of FDR's Cabinet. James Farley is interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.


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