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James "Jim" Aloysius Farley (May 30, 1888June 9, 1976) was an Americanmarker politician, business executive, and dignitary who served as head of the Democratic National Committee and as Postmaster General. James A. Farley is the first nationally successful Roman Catholic politician in American History. Farley was known as a political "kingmaker", and was responsible for Franklin D. Roosevelt's rise to the presidency. Farley was the campaign manager for New York Statemarker politicians Alfred E. Smith 1922 gubernatorial campaign and Franklin D. Roosevelt's gubernatorial campaign's as well as FDR's Presidential campaigns in 1932 and 1936. Farley predicted large landslides in both, and revolutionized the use of polling, and polling data. Farley was responsible for pulling together the New Deal Coalition of Catholics, labor unions, blacks, and farmers for F.D.R. . Farley, and the administration's patronage machine he presided over, helped to fuel the social and infrastructure programs of the New Deal. Farley opposed Franklin Roosevelt breaking the two term tradition of the Presidency, and broke with Roosevelt on that issue in 1940.

As of 1942, Farley was considered the supreme Democratic Party Boss of New York. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed Farley to serve a senior post as a commissioner on the Hoover Commission,also known as the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government Farley's work on the Hoover Commission would lead to the development and ratification of the 22nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, establishing our modern executive term-limit laws. This was viewed by many, including Farley, as vindication for his public opposition to FDR's third term, and his breaking of the Democratic Party's tradition of two Presidential terms which had been established by the founder of the Party, Thomas Jefferson.

The Landmark James Farley Post Officemarker (James A. Farley Building/former General Post Office Building) in New York Citymarker is designated in his honor and as a monument to his career in public service.

Early career

Farley was born in Grassy Point, New Yorkmarker, one of five sons whose grandparents were 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. Farley was elected Chairman of the Rockland County Democratic Party in 1918, and secured the upstate vote for Alderman Alfred E. Smith, north of the Bronx line when he ran for Governor the same year. The Democrats could not win north of the Bronx line before Farley organized the Upstate New York Democratic organization. By cultivating the neglected Upstate Democrats, Farley became a force in New York State Politics. After helping Alfred E. Smith become Governor of New York State, Farley was awarded the post of Port Warden of New York City . Farley would run and win the New York State Assembly seat in Stony Point NY (96th District, a seat he held for one term 1923-1924) in a solid Republican stronghold, a seat he would lose for voting "wet". Farley was appointed to the New York State Athletic Commission at the suggestion of Jimmy Walker in 1923 and Farley served as a delegate at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, where he became friendly with a young Franklin D. Roosevelt who would give his famous "Happy Warrior" speech about Al Smith.

Farley would later became Boxing Commissioner of New York State until the early 1930s. This is where Farley would get his first taste of national and global attention for his role in fighting for equal rights for blacks. In 1926, Farley threatened to resign his post as Athletic Commissioner if the boxing champion Jack Dempsey did not fight the mandatory challenger, a Negro fighter named Harry Wills. Farley banned Dempsey from fighting Gene Tunney and publicly threatened to revoke Tex Rickard's Madison Square Gardenmarker license if he ignored the ruling of the commission. This public stand for Negro rights would prove to be a valuable asset to the Democratic Party for generations, and would sow the seeds of the Negro block of the New Deal.

James Farley and Jimmy Walker, Paris, France 1933
At this time Farley merged five small building supply companies to form General Builders Corporation which would become the cities largest building supply company. Farley's firm was awarded Federal contracts under the Republican Hoover Administration to supply building supply materials to construct buildings now considered landmarks, such as the Annex of the James A. Farley Post Office Building in New York City. General Builders supplied materials for the construction of the Empire State Building as well. Farley was an appointed official and resigned his post from General Builders when he joined FDR's cabinet.

After some convincing from Farley and long time FDR confidant Louis Howe, Roosevelt asked Farley to run his 1928 campaign for the New York governorship. Farley orchestrated FDR's narrow victory in the 1928 gubernatorial election, Farley was named secretary of the New York State Democratic Committee and orchestrated FDR's reelection in 1930. Farley was named Chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee, a post he would hold until his resignation in 1944. Farley helped bring to Roosevelt's camp the powerful newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and helped Roosevelt win the 1932 Presidential nomination and election. This was due to the Farley's ability to gather the Catholics, Unions, and big city machines (while maintaining the Solid South) into the New Deal Coalition. Farley would repeat this process with dramatic fashion in 1936 when he correctly predicted the states Roosevelt would carry, and the only two states he would lose, so goes the adage "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont". This prediction secured Farley's reputation in American history as a political prophet.

New Deal years 1933-40

In accordance with political tradition, FDR appointed Farley Postmaster General, a post traditionally given to the campaign manager or an influential supporter, and also took the unusual step of naming Farley Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in addition to the cabinet post in 1933. Farley was constantly harassed by FDR's opposition for refusing to resign one of his these posts.

Farley worked hard to keep the Post Office going through the Depression and, through his expert stewardship, the once unprofitable Post Office Department finally began turning a profit.Farley was instrumental in revolutionizing Transcontinental airmail service, and reorganized the Post Office's Airmail carriers. Farley worked in concert with the Pan American World Airways' (Pan Am) president Juan Trippe to see that the mail was delivered safely and cost effectively. This was after a brief period of the Army carrying the mail, with service men killed flying in bad weather. Farley oversaw and was responsible for the flight of the first China Clipper.

Farley is remembered among stamp collectors for two things. One is a series of souvenir sheets that were issued at commemorative events and which bore his name as the authorizer. The other are twenty stamps known as "Farley's Follies." These were reprints, mostly imperforated, of stamps of the period, that were given to President Roosevelt and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, both collectors, as well to special friends of the Administration. (Farley himself did not collect stamps.) When ordinary stamp collectors learned of this they complained, and in 1935 many more stamps were reprinted for them. Today the souvenir sheets and single cutout reprints are not scarce. The original sheets were autographed to distinguish them from the reprints, and fifteen of them were displayed in an exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum in June 2009.

Farley controlled Federal patronage in the new administration and was very influential within Roosevelt's Brain Trust and the Democratic party throughout the United States. Farley used his control of the patronage to see that Roosevelt's first 100 days of New Deal legislation was passed. Farley was conservative in private, yet politically liberal and masterfully 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 Amendment, a 1939 attempt by isolationists to limit the foreign affairs powers of the president by requiring a referendum for a declaration of war without an attack. By swaying the votes of the Irish Catholic legislators in the Congress, Farley was able to bring about a defeat to the Amendment, which if passed, would have prevented the President from sending military aid to Great Britain. Many Irish legislators refused to lend aid to the British because of the potato famine, and would have rather seen the British empire destroyed by the Nazi's. Farley's family had immigrated a generation before the famine, and did not hold this same resentment toward the British people. Passage of the Amendment would have surely meant the destruction of Great Britain.

Farley's close relationship with FDR deteriorated as 1940 drew closer.Farley began seeking support for a Presidential bid of his own after FDR refused to publicly seek a third term, only indicating that he could not decline the nomination if his supporters drafted him at the 1940 Convention. As Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, this left Farley without a legitimate candidate. Roosevelt would publicly support Cordell Hull after privately telling Farley and others they could seek the nomination.

Farley also opposed the "packing" of the Supreme Court, yet in all instances, was continuously loyal and supportive of FDR's policies. Farley was asked by FDR to seek the Governorship of New York multiple times during his tenure in the Administration. He refused on every occasion.

In 1940, Farley resigned as Postmaster General and Party Chairman after placing second in delegates at the 1940 Democratic National Convention in Chicago where Roosevelt was "drafted" for a third term. Farley was the third Irish-American Roman Catholic to be nominated for the Presidency and was the first Irish-American Roman Catholic to achieve national success when FDR appointed Farley to his Cabinet as Postmaster General and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Eleanor Roosevelt flew to the convention to try to repair the damage in the Roosevelt-Farley relationship, and although Farley remained close to ER and Jimmy Roosevelt, he felt betrayed by FDR and refused to join FDR's 1940 campaign team.

Post-politics life and legacy

James Farley and the Vatican Guard.
1938, Farley wrote his autobiography, Behind the Ballots. After leaving the administration in 1940, Farley was named Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation, a post he held until his retirement in 1973. Farley would defeat a Roosevelt bid to secure the NYS nominee for Governor in 1942. Farley would once again become an important national political force when his old friend, Harry Truman became President with the death of FDR.

Farley would remain a prominent national figure and confidant to Pope's, dignitaries, and sitting Presidents until his death in 1976. Remembered as one of America's greatest campaign managers, politicians, business minds, and political bosses. Farley remained active in state and national politics until his death at age 88 on June 9, 1976, in New York City. Prior to his death, Farley had been the last surviving member of FDR's Cabinet. James Farley is interred at Gate of Heaven Cemeterymarker in Hawthorne, New Yorkmarker.
James Farley and John F. Kennedy at St. Patricks Cathedral 1963
It was Farley who, after Roosevelt's overwhelming victory over Republican Alf Landon in 1936, quipped, "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont." Farley, the former chairman of Coca-Cola export, was the only man to serve as National Party Chairman, New York State Party Chairman, and Postmaster General simultaneously. At the time, the Postmaster General was a patronage position. Was known as the "KingMaker", and "Mr. Democrat". Farley's respect crossed party lines. Towards the end of his career, Farley the elder statesman pushed for campaign finance reform, and less influence of interest groups and corporations in party business and political activity.

  • In 2007 James A. Farley was named by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York as one of its "Bicentennial People/Innovator" in commemoration of the Archdiocese's 200 year anniversary.
  • "The James A. Farley Award" is the Boxing Writers Associations highest honor, awarded to those who exhibit honesty and integrity in the Sport of Boxing
  • James A. Farley was also the first guest on NBC's Meet the Press, the longest running show in television history.
  • Farley is also known for his eponymous device, the Farley File.
  • In 1962, Mr. Farley received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York."
  • Farley's Law- Voters will decide the Presidential candidate they are most likely to vote for by mid October
  • As explained in the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Jim Farley was known for his ability to remember names and details of almost every person he met.
Jim Farley's grave


  • James Farley Post Officemarker, NYC Landmark, National Register of Historic Places
  • James A. Farley middle school, Stony Point, New York
  • James A. Farley memorial bridge, Stony Point, New York


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