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Having earned a name for himself cracking down on organized crime as a special prosecutor, Thomas Edmund Dewey is elected district attorney in 1937. In his acceptance speech, Dewey promises to restore criminal justice to the city of New York.
Thomas Edmund Dewey was the Governor of New York (1943-1955) and the unsuccessful Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency in 1944 and 1948. As a leader of the liberal faction of the Republican party he fought the conservative faction led by Senator Robert A. Taft, and played a major role in nominating Dwight D. Eisenhower for the presidency in 1952. He represented the Northeastern business and professional community that accepted most of the New Deal after 1944. His successor as leader of the liberal Republicans was Nelson A. Rockefeller, who became governor of New York in 1959.
Dewey was born and raised in Owosso, Michigan, where his father owned, edited, and published the local newspaper. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1923, and from the Columbia Law School in 1925. While at the University of Michigan, he joined Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a national fraternity for men of music. He was an excellent singer with a deep, baritone voice, and in 1923 he finished in third place in the National Singing Contest. He briefly considered a career as a professional singer, but decided against it after a temporary throat ailment convinced him that such a career would be risky. He then decided to pursue a career as a lawyer. He also wrote for The Michigan Daily, the university's student newspaper club.
In 1928 Dewey married Frances Hutt. A native of Sherman, Texas, she had briefly been a stage actress after their marriage she dropped her acting career. They had two sons, Thomas E. Dewey, Jr.and John Dewey. Although Dewey served as a prosecutor and District Attorney in New York City for many years, his home from 1938 until his death was a large farm, called "Dapplemere", located near the town of Pawling some 65 miles (105 km) north of New York City. According to biographer Richard Norton Smith in Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, Dewey "loved Dapplemere as [he did] no other place", and Dewey was once quoted as saying that "I work like a horse five days and five nights a week for the privilege of getting to the country on the weekend." Dapplemere was part of a tight-knit rural community called "Quaker Hill," which was known as a haven for the prominent and well-to-do. Among Dewey's neighbors on Quaker Hill were the famous reporter and radio broadcaster Lowell Thomas, the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, and the legendary CBS News journalist Edward R. Murrow. Dewey was a lifelong member of The Episcopal Church.
New York prosecutor and District Attorney
During the 1930s, Dewey was a New York City prosecutor. He first achieved headlines in the early 1930s, when he prosecuted bootlegger Waxey Gordon while serving as Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Additionally, he relentlessly pursued gangster Dutch Schultz, both as a federal and state prosecutor. Schultz's first trial ended in a deadlock prior to his second trial, Schultz had the venue moved to Syracuse, then moved there and garnered the sympathy of the townspeople so that when it came time for his trial, the jury found him innocent, liking him too much to convict him. Following that trial, Dewey and Fiorello H. LaGuardia found grounds with which to try Schultz a third time, driving Schultz into hiding in Newark, New Jersey There, Schultz put into action a plan to assassinate Dewey. Crime boss Lucky Luciano, fearing that if Dewey was murdered, the FBI and federal government would wage all-out war on the Mafia, ordered that Schultz be killed before he had the chance to finalize his plans. Luciano's plan went accordingly, and before Schultz could finish organizing his plot to kill Dewey, Schultz was shot to death by a Mafia hitman in the restroom of a bar in Newark. Shortly thereafter, Dewey turned his attention to prosecuting Luciano. In the greatest victory of his legal career, he convinced a jury to convict Luciano of being a pimp who ran one of the largest prostitution rings in American history,
However, Dewey did more than simply prosecute famous Mafia figures. In 1936, while serving as special prosecutor in New York County, Dewey helped indict and convict Richard Whitney, the former president of the New York Stock Exchange, on charges of embezzlement. In the 1920's Whitney had been a prominent New York business tycoon and socialite. Dewey also led law-enforcement efforts to protect dockworkers and poultry farmers and workers from racketeering in New York. In 1936 Dewey received The Hundred Year Association of New Yorks Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York." In 1939 Dewey prosecuted American Nazi leader Fritz Kuhn for embezzlement, crippling Kuhn's organization and limiting its ability to support Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
Dewey was elected District Attorney of New York County (Manhattan) in 1937. By the late 1930's Dewey's successful efforts against organized crime - and especially his conviction of Lucky Luciano - had turned him into a national celebrity. His nickname, the "Gangbuster", became the name of a popular radio serial based on his fight against the mob. Hollywood film studios even made several movies based on his exploits one starred Humphrey Bogart as Lucky Luciano and Bette Davis as a call girl whose testimony helps to put him in prison.
Governor of New York
In 1938, at age 36, Dewey ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York against the popular Democratic incumbent, Herbert Lehman, Franklin Roosevelt's successor. He based his campaign on his record as a famous prosecutor of organized-crime figures in New York City. Although he lost, Dewey's strong showing against Lehman (he lost the election by only one percentage point), brought him national political attention and made him a frontrunner for the 1940 Republican presidential nomination. In 1942 he ran for Governor again, and was elected in a landslide. In 1946 he won a second term by the greatest margin in state history to that point, and in 1950 he was elected to a third term.
Dewey was regarded as an honest and highly effective governor. He cut taxes, doubled state aid to education, increased salaries for state employees, and reduced the state's debt by over $100 million. Additionally, he put through the first state law in the country which prohibited racial discrimination in employment. As governor, Dewey also signed legislation that created the State University of New York. He played a major role in the creation of the New York State Thruway, which would eventually be named in his honor. He also created a powerful political organization that allowed him to dominate New York state politics and influence national politics.
He also strongly supported the death penalty. During his 12 years as Governor over 90 people were electrocuted (including two women) under New York authority.
Dewey ran for the 1940 Republican presidential nomination, but lost to Wendell Willkie, who went on to lose to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the general election. For most of the campaign Dewey was considered the favorite for the nomination, but his strength ebbed as Nazi Germany swept through Western Europe in the late spring of 1940. Some Republican leaders considered Dewey to be too young (he was only 38) and inexperienced to lead the nation through the Second World War. Furthermore, Dewey's isolationist stance became increasingly difficult for him to defend as the Nazis conquered Holland, Belgium, France, and threatened Britain. As a result, many Republicans switched to supporting Wendell Willkie, who was a decade older and an open advocate of aid to the Allies. Dewey's foreign-policy position evolved during the 1940s by 1944 he was considered an internationalist and a supporter of groups such as the United Nations. It was in 1940 that Dewey first clashed with Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio. Taft - who would maintain his isolationist views and economic conservatism to his death - would become Dewey's great rival for control of the Republican Party in the 1940's and early 1950's. Dewey would become the leader of moderate-to-liberal Republicans, who were based in the Northeastern and Pacific Coast states, while Taft would become the leader of conservative Republicans who dominated most of the Midwest and parts of the South.
Dewey won the Republican nomination in 1944 but was defeated in the election by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the incumbent. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Theodore Roosevelt's daughter and a socialite well known for her wit, called Dewey, alluding to his pencil-thin moustache, "the little man on the wedding cake," a bit of ridicule he could not shake. At the 1944 Republican Convention Dewey easily defeated Ohio Governor John Bricker, who was supported by Taft he then made Bricker his running mate in a bid to win the votes of conservative Republicans. In the general campaign in the fall Dewey crusaded against the alleged inefficiencies, corruption and Communist influences in Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs, but avoided military and foreign policy debates. Although he lost the election, Dewey did better against Roosevelt than any of his four Republican opponents. Dewey was the first presidential candidate to be born in the twentieth century he is also the youngest man ever to win the Republican presidential nomination.
Dewey nearly committed a serious blunder when he prepared to include, in his campaign, charges that Roosevelt knew ahead of time about the attack on Pearl Harbor Dewey added, "and instead of being reelected he should be impeached." The U. S. Military was aghast at this notion, since it would tip the Japanese off that the United States had broken the Purple Code. Army General George C. Marshall made a persistent effort to persuade Dewey not to touch this topic Dewey yielded. (Source: Presidential Campaigns (1985) by Paul F. Boller, Jr.)
He was the Republican candidate in the 1948 presidential election in which, in almost unanimous predictions by pollsters and the press, he was projected as the winner. The Chicago DailyTribune printed "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" as its post-election headline, issuing a few hundred copies before the returns showed conclusively that the winner was Harry S. Truman, the incumbent.
Indeed, given Truman's sinking popularity and the Democratic Party's three-way split (between Truman, Henry A. Wallace, and Strom Thurmond, Dewey had seemed unstoppable. Republicans figured that all they had to do was to avoid destroying a certain election victory, and as such, Dewey did not take any risks. He spoke in platitudes, trying to transcend politics. Speech after speech was filled with empty statements of the obvious, such as the famous quote: "You know that your future is still ahead of you." An editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal summed it up:
No presidential candidate in the future will be so inept that four of his major speeches can be boiled down to these historic four sentences: Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. Our future lies ahead.
At one campaign stop, Dewey saw a large number of children among the crowd. He addressed them and said they should be glad he got them a day off from school to see him. One kid hollered, "Today is Saturday!" The crowd laughed.
Part of the reason Dewey ran such a cautious, vague campaign was because of his experiences as a presidential candidate in 1944. In that election Dewey felt that he had allowed Franklin Roosevelt to draw him into a partisan, verbal "mudslinging" match, and he believed that this had cost him votes. As such, Dewey was convinced in 1948 to appear as non-partisan as possible, and to emphasize the positive aspects of his campaign while ignoring his opponent. This strategy proved to be a major mistake, as it allowed Truman to repeatedly criticize and ridicule Dewey, while Dewey never answered any of Truman's criticisms.
Dewey was not as conservative as the Republican-controlled 80th Congress, which also proved problematic for him. Truman tied Dewey to the "do-nothing" Congress. Indeed, Dewey had successfully battled Ohio Senator Robert Taft and his conservatives for the nomination at the Republican Convention Taft had remained an isolationist even through the Second World War. Dewey, however, supported the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, recognition of Israel, and the Berlin airlift.
Dewey was repeatedly urged by the right wing of his party to engage in red-baiting, but he refused. In a debate before the Oregon primary with Harold Stassen, Dewey argued against outlawing the Communist Party of the United States of America, saying "you can't shoot an idea with a gun." He later told Styles Bridges, the Republican national campaign manager, that he was not "going around looking under beds. As a result of his defeat, Dewey became the only Republican to be nominated for President twice and lose both times. He is also the last presidential candidate to wear permanent facial hair, in his case a moustache.
Dewey did not run for President in 1952, but he did play a major role in securing the Republican nomination for General Dwight Eisenhower, the most popular hero of the Second World War. The 1952 campaign was the climatic moment in the fierce rivalry between Dewey and Taft for control of the Republican Party. Taft was an announced candidate, and given his age he freely admitted that 1952 was his last chance to win the presidency. Dewey played a key role in convincing Eisenhower to run against Taft, and when Eisenhower became a candidate Dewey used his powerful political machine to win "Ike" the support of delegates in New York and elsewhere. At the Republican Convention Dewey was verbally attacked by pro-Taft delegates and speakers as the real power behind Eisenhower, but he had the satisfaction of seeing Eisenhower win the nomination and end Taft's presidential hopes for the last time. Dewey then played a major role in helping California Senator Richard Nixon become Eisenhower's running mate. When Eisenhower won the Presidency later that year, many of Dewey's closest aides and advisors, such as Herbert Brownell, would become leading figures in the Eisenhower Administration.
Dewey's third term as governor of New York expired in 1955, after which he retired from public service and returned to his law practice, Dewey Ballantine, although he remained a power broker behind the scenes in the Republican Party. In 1956, when Eisenhower mulled not running for a second term, he suggested Dewey as his choice as successor, but party leaders made it plain that they would not entrust the nomination to Dewey yet again, and ultimately Eisenhower decided to run for re-election. Dewey also played a major role that year in convincing Eisenhower to keep Nixon as his running mate Ike had considered dropping Nixon from the Republican ticket and picking someone he felt would be less partisan and controversial. However, Dewey argued that dropping Nixon from the ticket would only anger Republican voters while winning Ike few votes from the Democrats. Dewey's arguments helped convince Eisenhower to keep Nixon on the ticket. In 1960 Dewey would strongly support Nixon's losing presidential campaign against Democrat John F. Kennedy.
By the 1960s, as the conservative wing assumed more and more power within the GOP, Dewey removed himself further and further from party matters. When the Republicans in 1964 gave Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, Taft's successor as the conservative leader, their presidential nomination, Dewey declined to even attend the Convention it was the first Republican Convention he had missed since 1936. President Lyndon Johnson offered Dewey positions on several blue ribbon commissions, as well as a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, but Dewey politely declined them all, preferring to remain in political retirement and concentrate on his highly profitable law firm. By the early 1960's Dewey's law practice had made him into a multimillionaire.
In the late 1960's Dewey was saddened by the deaths of his best friends Pat and Marge Hogan, and by his wife's long, painful, and losing battle against cancer. Frances Dewey died in the summer of 1970 after battling cancer for more than three years. In early 1971 Dewey began to date actress Kitty Carlisle Hart, and there was talk of marriage between them. However, he died suddenly of a heart attack on March 16, 1971, while vacationing in Florida. He was 68 years old. Both he and his wife are buried in the town cemetery of Pawling, New York after his death his farm of Dapplemere was sold and renamed "Dewey Lane Farm" in his honor.
In 1964, the New York State Legislature officially renamed the New York State Thruway in honor of Dewey. The official designation is, however, rarely used in reference to the road, and the naming was opposed by many Italian Americans, who are a relatively large and important demographic presence in the state. However, signs on Interstate 95 from the end of the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx to the Connecticut state line (and vice-versa) designate the Thruway as being the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway
Dewey's official papers from his years in politics and public life were given to the University of Rochester they are housed in the university library and are available to historians and other writers
In 2005, the New York City Bar Association named an award after Dewey. The Thomas E. Dewey Medal, sponsored by the law firm of Dewey Ballantine LLP, is awarded annually to one outstanding Assistant District Attorney in each of New York City's five counties (New York, Kings, Queens, Bronx, and Richmond). The Medal was first awarded on November 29, 2005.
Anniversary: Thomas E. Dewey, the Man Who Saved New York
Mr. Wingrove is a free-lance historical writer. He lives in East Lansing, Michigan.
Thomas Dewey is chiefly remembered as the man who didn't defeat Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential election. Although he failed to win the nation's top post, Dewey was enormously successful in fighting domestic terrorism during the 1930s.
As we mark the 100th anniversary of his birth in Owosso, Michigan, Dewey's techniques offer valuable insights to those developing America's homeland security. As we struggle against foreign and domestic enemies, it's worth studying how Dewey's team toppled New York City crime bosses during the Depression.
Dewey was a natural for the job, blessed with and an insatiable curiosity and a gift for building an organization. In a wonderful biography of Dewey, historian Richard Norton Smith described him as a"stalking panther in pursuit of facts."
That persistence came in while chasing after mobsters as a special prosecutor and district attorney in New York in the '30s. At first, few gave the young attorney any chance against the nearly impossible odds. Racketeers such as Lucky Luciano and Dutch Schultz intimidated other criminals as well as fearful business owners. If they gave an order, dozens of gang members could be killed in a single day.
Slowly but surely Dewey put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and built solid cases against these terrorists. Eventually Luciano, the mafia king of New York, was convicted and sent to prison. Many other criminals also ended up behind bars.
In Dewey's autobiography, Twenty Against the Underworld, several associates offer the main reasons for their success: a cohesive and talented team, massive research, and moral courage.
Dewey, confident in his abilities, developed a plan and then hand-picked the team to implement it. Even decades later, assistants recalled his clarity in giving directions and ability to retain information. He knew his men and was enormously loyal to them. They returned the favor and worked around the clock tracking down obscure details.
Throughout the cat and mouse game of prosecuting mobsters, Dewey used every trick possible to build an avalanche of evidence. No phone record or scrap of paper went unchecked. During one investigation, Dewey's crew picked up scores of prostitutes, madams, and pimps. Tidbits gleaned from these minor figures helped hook the bigger fish.
As he went about this dangerous work, Dewey had a mind entirely free of panic. Schultz reputedly put a price on the special prosecutor's head but was killed just two days before an assassination attempt on Dewey. On another occasion, Dewey's wife Frances received a call requesting that she come to the morgue and identify her husband's body. Despite the threats, Dewey was undeterred.
The city that Dewey saved decades ago has displayed similar courage during its newest crisis. Since Sept. 11, New Yorkers and other Americans are witnessing the perils of unchecked terrorism. In many respects, the challenge facing law enforcement officials today is similar to the difficulties Dewey had to conquer.
Certainly the threat is many times greater and the technologies available to terrorists are more deadly, but federal, state and local governments can still profit from the Dewey model: build a cohesive, courageous and coordinated team.
Little things still mean a lot. The room for improvement is obvious after we learned that the Immigration and Naturalization Service issued visa approval notices for two hijackers six months after they flew airliners into the World Trade Center.
But even Dewey understood that government couldn't tackle problems alone. He called for an"awakening of the public consciousness to the destructive power of crime and the need to eradicate it." This in turn, he said,"would require the leadership of civic groups, the contribution of the free press, and increasing participation by the people in the machinery of law enforcement." These goals seem relevant in 2002 as the Bush administration urges Americans to remain aware at all times.
Dewey remains a shining example of how an individual can mobilize others to stop wrongdoers. Perhaps Dartmouth College put it best in 1939 when giving Dewey an honorary degree for his legal accomplishments:"You have made yourself influential in turning the tide of public cynicism, and reviving the ancient concept of justice as a flaming sword." How quickly we grab that same sword of justice and how well we pierce our foes is the daunting task facing those who would follow in Dewey's footsteps.
Lisa Kay - 10/13/2008
This is a great, informative read. However, since you started off your story with reference to the current election, I do wish that you had offered more opinion on how the Truman/Dewey race compares to what's happening now.
Also, I must second the first comment about the correction needed to your statement that "60 years later" California remains "THE state that a political party candidate must win in order to become President." Not only did George W. Bush win twice without California (as the previous commenter noted), but Jimmy Carter (1976) and John Kennedy (1960) also became President without winning the state.
Regardless of this, your article gives great context to an election note that I never knew much about. I can't wait to share this with my child.
Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 8/12/2008
I think you will find President George W. Bush was elected twice without carrying the state of California.
President – Governor of New York and former District Attorney, Thomas E. Dewey
Vice President – Governor of California, Earl Warren
Secretary of State – Foreign policy adviser, John Foster Dulles
Secretary of the Treasury – New York Times financial writer, Elliott V. Bell
Secretary of War – Former Secretary of State, Governor-General of the Philippines, and current Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson
Attorney General – Former Chair of the Republican National Committee, Herbert Brownell Jr.
Secretary of Agriculture – Former Chairman of Cornell Board of Trustees and Federal Farm Board member, Howard E. Babcock
Secretary of the Interior – Former Governor of Colorado, John Charles Vivian
Secretary f Labor – Congressman and sponsor of the Taft-Hartley Act, Fred A. Hartley Jr.
Thomas E. Dewey was an American politician, three-term Republican governor of New York (1943-55), and unsuccessful Republican candidate for president in 1944 and 1948.
Full or original name at birth: Thomas Edmund Dewey
Date, time and place of birth: March 24, 1902, at approximately 7:45 p.m. * , at 323 West Main Street, Owosso, Michigan, U.S.A.
Date, time, place and cause of death: March 16, 1971, at 3:15 p.m., Sea View Hotel, suite 711-12, Bal Harbour, Florida, U.S.A. (Heart attack)
Wife: Frances E. Hutt (m. June 1928 - July 17, 1970) (her death)
Wedding took place at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Sons: Thomas Edmund Dewey, Jr. (b. October 2, 1932, New York City, New York)
John Martin Dewey (b. October 1935)
Father: George Martin Dewey, Jr. (a newspaper publisher) (d. June 19, 1927, of a heart attack)
Mother: Annie Louise (Thomas) Dewey (a homemaker) (d. November 23, 1954, Owosso, Michigan, of a heart attack)
Burial site: Pawling Cemetery, Pawling, New York, U.S.A.
* Governor Thomas E. Dewey was born in the apartment above his grandfather's general store on Main Street, in Owosso, Michigan, between 7 and 8 p.m. on March 24th, 1902. One source reports 7:49 p.m. as his precise time of birth, while others insist he was born at precisely 7 p.m. that March evening. 7:45 p.m. was the time of birth reported by Dewey's secretary in response to a 1938 inquiry.
Thomas E. Dewey was the only child of George and Annie Dewey. Tom's childhood nickname was Ted, due to his initials, as well as his rabid support of Teddy Roosevelt. His family, and the town into which he was born, were staunchly Republican.
After being admitted to the New York bar in the 1920s, Dewey joined the law firm of Larkin, Rathbone & Perry. He found the endless paperwork he was assigned to do, dull and monotonous. In 1927, he was let go, but was quickly hired as an associate at the McNamara and Seymour law firm. He found his new position, and the work he was doing on the side for various New York Republicans, much more to his liking.
Thomas Dewey served as chief assistant to the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York (1931-33). He came to national prominence as a special prosecutor in charge of investigating organized crime (1935-37) in New York City. Dewey was elected District Attorney of New York City in 1937, thanks in part to his popularity stemming from his vigorous crusade against crime and his phenomenal conviction rate. He was credited with the convictions of numerous mobsters, including Lucky Luciano.
Based on his strong record as a criminal prosecutor, Dewey ran for governor of New York in 1938, but lost the election. He was successful in his second bid for the office in 1942 and was reelected by a landslide in 1946. A third term followed his reelection in 1950. Dewey's three terms as governor of New York were notable for his honest, efficient administration, that cut taxes, increased state aid to education, and reduced the state's debt. It was Governor Dewey who recommended that New York create its own State University, and later, personally signed the legislation that created the State University of New York.
Dewey won the Republican nomination for president in 1944, but lost the election to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Four years later he ran against incumbent President Harry Truman. The polls, the press and nearly every political expert agreed Governor Dewey would easily win the election. Defying all odds, Truman won an upset victory in 1948. In one of the most famous erroneous headlines in American newspaper history, the Chicago Daily Tribune front page proclaimed "Dewey Defeats Truman." An iconic photograph of a jubilant President Truman displaying a copy of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" newspaper following Truman's upset victory, earned Dewey a permanent place in American political folklore.
Governor Dewey was one of the more prominent figures who repeatedly tried to convince a reluctant General Dwight D. Eisenhower to seek the U.S. Presidency. He was also instrumental in helping Ike secure the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1952, and was one of the key supporters who helped ensure Eisenhower's subsequent election.
Thomas Dewey retired from politics after serving his third term as governor of New York and returned to his law practice.
The most in-depth of more than three dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile, was the 1982 biography, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, by Richard Norton Smith.
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Thomas E. Dewey Is Dead at 68
BAL HARBOUR, Fla., March 16 — Thomas E. Dewey, Gover nor of New York for three terms and twice the Republican nomi nee for President, died about 3:30 P.M. today while alone in his room at the Seavlew Hotel in this resort town north of Miami Beach. He was 68 years old.
Mr. Dewey died less than an hour after having returned from an 18‐hole round of golf.
At the Miami Heart Institute, which Mr. Dewey visited yes terday, a post‐mortem examina tion revealed that he had suf fered “an acute fatal heart at tack.”
Mr. Dewey was to have been a guest tonight at the White House for a party marking St. Patrick's Day. President Nixon said: “The occasion is dimin ished beyond words for both Mrs. Nixon and me by his death.”
Role Was Influential
In national and state Repub lican party politics from the mid‐1940's to the mid‐1950's, Thomas Edmund Dewey played a powerful public and behind‐ the‐scenes role. And, because of his friendship with President Nixon, he was an informal White House counselor until his death.
Twice his party's nominee for President—in 1944 and 1948—Mr. Dewey also served three terms as Governor of New York. He closed out his formal political life in 1954, devoting himself to a lucrative legal practice.
A leader whom many found without the gift of flair or flamboyance, Mr. Dewey de pended for his appeal to a large extent on his excellent legal mind, his ability to mar shal facts and arguments. He also relied on his well‐earned record as a prosecutor to sug gest himself as the implacable foe of public malefactors.
However, Mr. Dewey did not endear himself to all Republi cans, and in some he inspired a degree of scorn. To Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth he resembled “a groom on a wed ding cake.”
And after his defeat in 1948, the tart‐tongued Mrs. Long worth, a daughter of Presi dent Theodore Roosevelt and the widow of House Speaker Nicholas Longworth, remarked: “We should have known he couldn't win—a souffle never rises twice.”
Backer of Eisenhower
Mrs. Longworth's assessment was not that of Richard M. Nixon, who owed his Vice‐ Presidential nomination in 1952 to Mr. Dewey. Mr. Dewey, who was a strong backer of General of the Army Dwight D. Eisen hower for the Presidential nomination, introduced Mr. Nixon to the general.
Mr. Nixon had first come to Mr. Dewey's attention for his role as an investigator in the Alger Hiss case, in which the former State Department offi cial was accused by a House committee of ties to Whittaker Chambers, a self‐confessed Communist agent.
According to insiders, Mr. Dewey saw Mr. Nixon as “a respectable McCarthy.” The al lusion was to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose anti‐Communist charges offended some political lead ers.
Mr. Nixon was grateful to his sponsor, and after his elec tion to the Presidency in 1968 offered Mr. Dewey the Chief Justiceship of the United States. Mr. Dewey declined on the ground of his age. How ever, he was a frequent White House visitor and adviser.
Mr. Dewey's defeat by Pres ident Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 was expected, but his de feat by President Harry S. Tru man four years later was one of the nation's greatest politi cal upsets. Mr. Dewey joined the little group of Presidential as pirants, which included Samuel J. Tilden and Charles Evans Hughes, who tasted the bitter ness of defeat after believing that their election was certain.
As was the case in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson de feated Mr. Hughes, Mr. Dewey's defeat by President Truman in 1948 was largely due to Repub lican overconfidence and to the defection of supposedly Repub lican states in the Middle and Far West.
At the time the Republican, Democratic and Progressive na tional conventions had made their nominations in Philadel phia, Mr. Dewey seemed sure of election, with Earl Warren, his running‐mate. The popularity of Mr. Truman, who had succeeded to the Presidency on the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was at its lowest. There had been opposition to his nomination by a powerful group of Democrat ic leaders who had tried un successfully to get General Eisenhower to be a candidate.
Moreover, a revolt of South ern Democrats, on adoption of a strong civil rights plank by the Democratic convention, had resulted in the nomination of Gov. J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for President on a States' Rights ticket.
An even more serious threat to President Truman's election was seen in the candidacy of Henry A. Wallace, former Vice President, who was nominated for President by the newly organized Progressive party. It seemed probable that Mr. Wal lace would draw heavily from left ‐ wing and radical groups that in at least the three preceding Presidential elections had voted for President Roose velt.
Mistake in 48 Campaign
As the 1948 campaign is viewed in retrospect, it is evi dent that Mr. Dewey and his supporters made the mistake of believing that his nomina tion was equivalent to election. Consequently Mr. Dewey and his campaign managers aban doned the aggressive strategy that enabled him to get a unanimous nomination on the third ballot at the Republican convention in favor of a cam paign designed to avoid giving serious offense to any large group of voters.
This policy apparently led many thousands of voters to feel that Mr. Dewey was seek ing to avoid discussion of vital issues. President Truman in his campaign made the direct charge that Mr. Dewey was evading issues, and Harold L. Ickes, former Secretary of the Interior, undoubtedly damaged Mr. Dewey's chance of election by describing him as “a candi date in sneakers.”
Because of the passage of the Taft‐Hartley Act by the Re publican 80th Congress, the main branches of organized labor—the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Railroad Brotherhoods — were against Mr. Dewey. This was known to the Republican high command.
What the Republican leader ship did not know and did not find out until after the votes were counted was the disaffec tion in the usually Republican farm states. This disaffection was caused partly by lack of governmental grain‐storage fa cilities that the 80th Congress had done nothing to correct.
Other factors entered into the defeat of Mr. Dewey. Be cause of Communist domina tion of the Progressive party, the vote for Mr. Wallace was only a small fraction of what originally had been expected. But the loss of the farm votes in such states as Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, which gave those states to President Truman, was deci sive, and insured the election of the President by 303 elec toral votes to 189 for Mr. Dewey.
Only the revolt of the South ern Democrats stood up as ex pected, and Mr. Thurmond re ceived the 38 electoral votes of Alabama, Louisiana, Missis sippi and South Carolina and the vote of one vote pledged elector from Tennessee.
Although Mr. Dewey con ducted a sober‐sided campaign, he had a sense of humor.
“One time I kidded him about being a New Dealer at heart,” a reporter said in 1948. “Mr. Dewey shot back, ‘If you read The Chicago Tribune reg ularly, youɽ know that I am a direct lineal descendant of F.D.R. without the personal charm.’”
It was The Tribune that “elected” Mr. Dewey over President Truman in an eight‐ column front‐page headline late on Election Day.
After, in the words of one wit, “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” Mr. Dewey proved gracious. Appearing at a Gridiron Club dinner of newspapermen in the capital that December, he recounted his campaign vicissitudes with pol ished humor. He reserved his aloofness for the public, a trait observed by a Collier's maga zine writer in the 1940's.
“Till he gets to the door, he may be cracking jokes and laughing like a schoolboy. But the moment he enters the room he ceases to be Tom Dewey and becomes what he thinks the Governor of New York State ought to be.”
Mr. Dewey's rise as a state and national political figure began with his appointment, in 1935, as Special Prosecutor to con duct what came to be known as the Rackets Investigation in New York County. It was spurred materially two years later by his election as District Attorney of New York County. He was the first Republican to be elected to that office since Charles S. Whitman, who also afterward became Governor of New York.
Within a year after taking office as District Attorney Mr. Dewey made his first and un successful run for Governor, losing to Herbert H. Lehman by 64,000 votes. It was Mr. Leh man, incidentally, who started Mr. Dewey up the political lad der by appointing him Special Prosecutor.
Although he lost the 1938 state election, his race had been so spectacular and the margin of defeat so small that he at tracted national interest. A con certed effort was made to get him the Republican nomination for President in 1940, and he entered the Republican National Convention that year with the support of more delegates than any other candidate.
But his youth—he was only 37 years old at the time—and an inability to inspire strong friendships weighed heavily against him. After a few ballots his delegates began to desert him and the nomination went to Wendell L. Willkie. The election was lost by Mr. Willkie to Mr. Roosevelt, who thus became the first third‐term President in the history of the United States.
Two years later, in 1942, Mr. Dewey ran again for Governor and was elected by a plurality of 647,395 over John J. Bennett Jr., Democrat. This margin Was sufficiently impressive to make him a leading contender for the 1944 Presidential nomination.
Mr. Dewey at first did not wish to seek the nomination for President, as he realized that it would be difficult to defeat President Roosevelt because of world conditions. However, un der pressure from supporters, he finally consented to become a candidate.
The 1944 campaign was waged against the background of a two‐front war, and Mr. Dewey faced the obstacle of a widely held belief that his election, in volving defeat of the nation's wartime Commander in Chief, would give aid and comfort to the enemy. He also had to tem per his criticism of the national administration's conduct of the war lest he impair homefront morale. Mr. Dewey was defeat ed by President Roosevelt, as he had expected, by an electoral vote of 432 to 99.
Record Majority in 1946
In 1946 Mr. Dewey main tained his place as a national figure by defeating James M. Mead, Democrat, by 687,151 votes in a two‐man race for the governorship. This was the largest majority ever obtained by a candidate for Governor in New York State, although both Mr. Lehman and Mr. Roosevelt had obtained larger pluralities, as candidates for this office.
This record majority put Mr. Dewey in the forefront of aspir ants for the 1948 Presidential nomination. This became virtu ally assured when it was an nounced that Senator Edward Martin of Pennsylvania, allied with Joseph R. Grundy, indus trialist, and G. Mason Owlett, National Committeeman and head of the Pennsylvania Manu facturers Association, would place him in nomination. This Pennsylvania support proved to be no asset in the election and was used by President Truman in his charges that Mr. Dewey was the candidate of the moneyed interests.
It was largely through the efforts of Mr. Dewey that Gen eral Eisenhower defeated Unit ed States Senator Robert A Taft of Ohio for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1952. General Eisenhower defeated Adlai E. Stevenson, Democrat, by 412 electoral votes to 89 for the Presidency.
There was little in Mr. Dewey's background when he was appointed Special Prosecu tor in New York County to sug gest that he would be the na tional figure that he became. At that time he was young, 33 years old.
The son of George Martin and Annie Thomas Dewey, he was born in Owosso, Mich., March 24, 1902. His father, before he died in 1927, had been for many years Republican county chair man, postmaster of Owosso and editor and publisher of a weekly newspaper, The Owosso Times.
Mr. Dewey's grandfather, George Dewey, is said to have been a charter member of the Republican party. Adm. George Dewey, the hero of Manila Bay, was the latter's third cousin. On his father's side Governor Dew ey was descended from English and Huguenot pre‐Revolution ary stock. His earliest American ancestor, Thomas Dewey, set tled in Massachusetts in 1634. His mother's mother was born in County Cork, Ireland.
In Newspaper Office as Boy
As a boy, Mr. Dewey did chores around his father's news paper office. At 13 he obtained the agency for several weekly and monthly magazines and hired several other boys to help him. From his savings and a month's work on a farm he paid his way through his first year at the University of Michigan, from which he was graduated with an A.B. degree in 1923.
Possessor of an excellent baritone voice, Mr. Dewey led his college glee club for two years, won the Michigan state singing contest and placed third in a national contest. Encour aged to go to Chicago and New York for voice training, he stud ied first at the singing school of Percy Rector Stephens the sum mer after his graduation from college.
It was there that he met his future wife, the former Frances Eileen Hutt, grandniece of Jef ferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. They were mar ried June 26, 1928, and had two children, Thomas Edmund Jr. and John Martin Dewey. Born in Sherman, Tex., Mrs. Dewey was reared in Sapulpa, Okla. A soprano, she played in several musical comedy road companies, but abandoned a singing career after marriage. Mrs. Dewey died last July.
Coming to New York to study voice, Mr. Dewey enrolled in Columbia Law School to have an alternative occupation to fall back upon and for a time was torn between singing and law as a career. He helped pay his law school expenses by sing ing in church and synagogue choirs.
While studying law he be came a Republican election‐dis trict captain. He finished the three‐year law course in two years, being graduated in 1925, and then toured England and France with a college chum in a battered automobile. It was on this summer trip that he first grew the mustache that later proved a boon to political car toonists.
On his return from this trip Mr. Dewey definitely decided to make law his career, and took a job in a downtown law office. After a year he obtained a junior partnership in the law firm of McNamara & Seymour, and his income began to rise. When his first period of private practice ended in 1931 he was making $8,000 a year.
In 1931, George Z. Medalie, then United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, appointed Mr. Dewey his chief assistant in charge of 52 other lawyers. He was then 29.
After Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President in 1932, Mr. Medalie resigned two days after the trial of Irving (Waxey Gordon) Wechsler, reputed beer runner, for income tax violation had begun.
No successor to Mr. Medalie had been appointed. The Feder al judges of the district ap pointed Mr. Dewey. He went on with the trial and won a con viction.
Mr. Dewey returned to pri vate practice on Dec. 27, 1933. He had won a reputation among lawyers as a trial counsel of ability. He later declared that his earnings during a year and a half of private practice were about $75,000.
In 1935, Mr. Dewey accepted appointment as Special Prosecu tor. The underworld leaders at first ridiculed him and looked upon him as a “boy scout.” They changed their minds after he had convicted Charles (Lucky) Luciano, for whose parole he later was to be criticized. He smashed rackets in the restau rant and trucking businesses. In a little more than two years he had convicted 72 persons, with only one defendant being ac quitted.
Mr. Dewey's success as Spe cial Prosecutor led to his nom ination for District Attorney of New York County by the Re publican, American Labor and City Fusion parties. Running with Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, he won easily.
His term as District Attorney was marked by many important convictions. He convicted James J. Hines, important Tam many district leader, for using his political influence to protect racketeers, and brought about removal of Hulon Capshaw as a magistrate. He also convicted Richard Whitney, stockbroker, and Fritz Kuhn, Nazi Bundist. He made charges of corruption against Martin T. Manton, judge of the United States Court of Appeals. Mr. Manton subse quently was convicted in Feder al Court of selling justice. One of the leading gangsters prose cuted for racketeering by Mr. Dewey was Louis (Lepke) Bu chalter, who later was con victed of first‐degree murder and executed.
In 1941, Mr. Dewey declined to run for re‐election as Dis trict Attorney. He succeeded in getting a bipartisan nomination for Frank S. Hogan, an inde pendent Democrat and member of his staff. He then had a year of successful law practice with Charlea D. Breitel, later to be come his counsel and a Supreme Court Justice, as his partner.
As Governor, during his first term, Mr. Dewey was responsi ble for a long‐overdue reappor tionment of Congressional and legislative districts in New York State, for placing the state on a pay‐as‐you‐go policy for capital construction, for increasing state aid for education and for establishment of the first state commission to eliminate re ligious and racial discrimination in employment. He also was re sponsible for liberalizing the unemployment ‐ insurance law and lightening the burden of employers, and for launching a concerted drive to wipe out tu berculosis in the state during period of 20 years.
In addition, he claimed credit for increasing New York's in dustrial contribution toward winning World War II, for pil ing up surpluses in the state treasury from $80‐million, which he inherited, to $615‐ million and which were ear marked, at his insistence, for reconstruction and rehabilita tion of state institutions and highways neglected during the war period. He also contended that the comparative stability of labor‐management relations during the war was largely due to the efforts of his adminis tration.
Backed by safe majorities in both houses of the Legislature, Governor Dewey reorganized many of the state departments, put through a revision of the tax laws and shook up the state police. Public works, including new housing, hospital and high way projects, were planned, the Workmen's Compensation Law was overhauled, mental‐hospi tal administration revised and veterans'‐aid legislation en acted.
When Mr. Dewey neared the end of his second term in 1950, he was reluctant to run again and announced his intention of returning to the practice of law. Joe R. Hanley, then Lieu tenant Governor, became a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Leaders of the party became convinced that Mr. Hanley would have little chance of election to the governorship and at a conference succeeded in getting him to consent to run for United States Senator. It was later disclosed that Mr. Hanley had written a letter to W. Kingsland Macy, then a Representative in Congress, from whom he had borrowed money, stating that arrange ments had been made to pay his debts and to assure him of a state job, if defeated for Senator.
Letter a Campaign Issue
This Hanley letter, which be came the subject of investiga tion by a United States Senate subcommittee, became an issue in the campaign and Mr. Dewey was charged by Democrats with having been party to an “iniq uitous” deal. Mr. Dewey, how ever, defeated Walter E. Lynch, Democratic ‐ Liberal candidate for Governor, by a plurality of 564,844, carrying with him the rest of the Republican state ticket. Senator Herbert H. Leh man, who a year earlier had de feated John Foster Dulles, Mr. Dewey's adviser on foreign pol icy, was re‐elected by a plural ity of 261,029 over Mr. Hanley.
In 1949 Mr. Dewey sought to get first‐hand information of conditions abroad by a trip to Great Britain and Western Eu rope. In 1951 he went to the Orient, visiting, among other places, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
In 1953 Mr. Dewey brought about legislation that compelled the Board of Estimate to accept a financial package that brought about creation of the Transit Authority and an in‐ increase in the transit fare to 15 cents.
Mr. Dewey faced serious trouble in 1953, when the mur der of Thomas F. Lewis, presi dent of a local of the Building Service Employes International Union, A. F. L., brought about an investigation that disclosed corruption in operation of the Yonkers Raceway. Mr. Dewey met this situation by appoint ing a Moreland Act Commis sion to investigate this and other harness race track scandals. Democratic leaders charged that political associ ates of Mr. Dewey were in volved in these scandals.
Almost simultaneously it was revealed that State Senator Ar thur H. Wicks, Kingston Re publican, had visited Joseph S. Fay, convicted labor extortion ist, in Sing Sing prison. Mr. Wicks was temporary president of the Senate and Acting Lieu tenant Governor at the time. After considerable maneuver ing, Governor Dewey forced his resignation.
Racketeering on New York's waterfront caused Governer Dewey to join with Gov. Rob ert B. Meyner of New Jersey in forming the Waterfront Com mission of New York Harbor in an attempt to curb crime and exploitation on the docks.
On June 16, 1954, Governor Dewey announced that his de cision not to seek a fourth term as Governor was “def inite and irrevocable.” The Republican State Convention was held on Sept. 23 and Mr. Dewey was influential in ob taining the gubernatorial nom ination for United States Sena tor Irving M. Ives. Senator Ives was defeated by the Dem ocratic nominee, Averell Harri man, in a close race.
During his three terms as Governor, Mr. Dewey's legal residence was in the Roosevelt Hotel, where he had a suite. His country home was on the 486‐acre farm at Pawling, N. Y., which he bought in 1937. There he studied milk‐production rec ords, played golf and visited his neighbors.
After leaving Albany, Mr. Dewey became senior member of the law firm Dewey, Ballan tine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood at 140 Broadway. He occupied a spacious suite with a grand sweep of the harbor and the World Trade Center, which he abominated.
His law firm had many inter national clients including the Government of Turkey, and as sociates said that Mr. Dewey compiled a formidable income. To visitors, he seemed perpetu ally tanned and relaxed.
After Mrs. Dewey's death, he shunned social engagements for a while, but in recent weeks he was seen at the theater in the company of Kitty Carlisle, the widow of Moss Hart.
Mr. Dewey was a member of the American, New York State and New York City Bar Asso ciations, the New York County Lawyers Association, the Phi Mu Alpha and Phi Delta Phi fraternities and the National Republican Club and had re ceived honorary degrees from many colleges and universities. He was an Episcopalian and a Mason.
Surviving Mr. Dewey are his two sons, Thomas of Chicago and John of New York, and two grandchildren.
Thomas Edmund Dewey
Thomas E. Dewey was born on March 24, 1902, at Owosso, Mich. In 1923 he received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan. After briefly studying music and law in Chicago, he entered Columbia University Law School. After his graduation in 1925, he toured England and France. Returning to New York, he entered the state bar, accepted a clerkship in a law office, and became active in the Young Republican Club. In 1928 Dewey married Frances E. Hutt they had two children.
In 1931 the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York appointed Dewey his chief assistant. In addition to fundamental honesty and natural courage, Dewey possessed a capacity for careful and deliberate case preparation and an amazing self-control that enabled him to remain cool under pressure. With the resignation of the U.S. attorney in November 1933, Dewey took that position—at 31 the youngest U.S. attorney ever. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed a Democrat to the position 5 weeks later, Dewey returned to private law practice. In 1935 he was appointed special prosecutor for the Investigation of Organized Crime in New York. His campaign against narcotics and vice racketeers obtained 72 convictions in 73 prosecutions. In 1937 he was elected district attorney for New York County.
In 1942 Dewey was elected governor of New York. He quickly established a reputation for political moderation and administrative efficiency, enjoying cordial relations with the legislature. Success as governor, added to his reputation in fighting New York racketeers, sent Dewey's political stature soaring. In 1944 he was the Republican party's presidential nominee. He ran well, despite Roosevelt's record as a war leader and Dewey's lack of experience in international affairs. Reelected governor of New York in 1946, he proceeded to ram a series of liberal laws through the legislature.
As the acknowledged front-runner in his second presidential campaign—against Democrat Harry Truman in 1948—Dewey refused to tax himself, made only a few speeches, avoided controversial issues, and scarcely recognized the opposition. He lost to Truman by a narrow margin. In 1950 he was elected to his third successive term as New York's governor.
At the suggestion of State Department adviser John Foster Dulles, Dewey visited 17 countries in the Pacific in 1951. In 1955 he reentered private practice with the New York firm of Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer, and Wood. By 1957 Dewey had been awarded 16 honorary degrees. His books include The Case against the New Deal (1940), Journey to the Far Pacific (1952), and Thomas E. Dewey on the Two Party System (1966). He died on March 16, 1971, at Bal Harbour, Fla.
Thomas E. Dewey
On March 24, 1902, in Owosso, Michigan, Thomas Edmund Dewey was born above his grandfather’s general store, the son of the local newspaper publisher, George M. and homemaker Annie (Thomas) Dewey. His perfect attendance, from kindergarten through graduation from high school in 1919, was characteristic of the tenacity and dedication that he exhibited throughout his life.
After graduating from Owosso High School, Dewey went on to earn his B.A. degree in 1923 at the University of Michigan. Furthering his education, he graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1925 and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1926. Dewey was an associate of the MacNamara and Seymour law firm from 1927 to 1931. He was married in 1928 to Frances E. Hutt.
Launching his governmental career, Dewey served as chief assistant to the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York from 1930 to 1933. When he became the U.S. Attorney, he also served as special assistant to U.S. Attorney General Homer Stille Cummings, and counsel to the Bar Association of New York. In late 1935, Dewey was appointed the special prosecutor for a grand jury investigation into vice and racketeering in New York City, initiated by Governor Herbert Lehman. From 1935 to 1937, Dewey gained national attention as prosecutor into the investigation of Organized Crime — he obtained 72 convictions out of 73 prosecutions.
Dewey's vigorous crusade on crime began with an attack on prostitution, gambling and loan sharks. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover labeled mobster "Dutch" Schultz Public Enemy No. 1. With Dewey leading the investigation, Schultz set out to convince his mob associates that assassinating Dewey should be their response. Word of the proposal traveled fast, reaching such top Mafia figures as Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lanksy. Even with a $10,000 reward on Dewey’s head, the mob's goon squad, Murder Inc., opted to get rid of Schultz instead. The syndicate's national board did not want the trouble nor the attention. Schultz and three associates were shot in October 1935 however, Schulz did not die immediately. While he lingered for two days, federal agents questioned him intensely, but to no avail. It was not until five years later that Dewey learned of the assassination plot to kill him.
With Luciano now exposed to the public eye, Dewey brought him to trial for running prostitution rings all over New York City. Luciano kept clean records, so it was not easy to convict him — like his counterpart, Al Capone of Chicago. Nevertheless, Dewey succeeded in convicting him on 90 counts of prostitution, and in 1936, Luciano was sent to prison for 30 to 50 years.
Following that mighty blow to the national crime syndicate, the electorate was impressed by Dewey's personal drive. Thanks in part to his popularity, he was elected the New York District Attorney in 1937. Dewey received credit for the convictions of numerous mobsters. With the help of assistant D.A. Burton Turkus, such mob members as Gurrah Shapiro and Louis Lepke Buchalter were sent to the electric chair. Continuing his quest to put an end to organized crime, Dewey ran for governor of New York in 1938, but lost the election.
In 1940, Dewey made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. While he was district attorney, many began to question his ethics. While he was responsible for putting away criminal Lucky Luciano for tax evasion, Dewey also approved his transfer to a less-secure prison, with eventual parole and deportation to Italy.
Rumors abounded, one being that the mob wanted Luciano out of prison so badly that they set up the sinking of the Normandie to show what could possibly happen to other ships in New York harbor. Word spread that Dewey and Luciano were working together with federal agents for the good of the country, to not only protect the docks and other ships from being sunk, but to also assist in liberating Italy from Fascism. In return, Dewey would set Luciano free. Another rumor circulated that Luciano had contributed $90,000 to Dewey’s campaign fund, which tarnished the latter’s immaculate reputation. Dewey's critics said he went from "Racketbuster" to "Racketbacker."
Not discouraged and more determined than ever, Dewey was elected governor in 1942. He ran a tight ship, providing a professional and businesslike administration. During his term, his accomplishments were many. He insisted on the first state law anywhere against racial or religious discrimination regarding employment, improved employment, and disability benefits. An effective labor mediation board and a large-scale highway building program were added to Dewey’s list of accomplishments. Keeping the Democrats on the defensive, and preventing any potential split of Republicans, were parts of his game plan.
By contrast, some believed that Dewey sent top-ranking syndicate member Louis Lepke to the electric chair in 1944 with a direct connection to a payoff from the mob. The Hearst New York Daily Mirror speculated that Lepke, in an attempt to save his own life, offered Dewey information that would link President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his cabinet members to several crimes — including one of murder. With this information, Lepke tried to convince Dewey that it would make him an unbeatable presidential candidate. Dewey granted Lepke a 48-hour reprieve, but with the consequences being too explosive, he did not make a deal, and Lepke was sent to his death.
As the Republican candidate for president in 1944, Dewey could not match the wartime incumbent’s reputation, and the nation reelected Franklin D. Roosevelt. Tenacious and unwavering, however, Dewey was nominated again in 1948, this time running against Vice President Harry S. Truman. His aggressive campaign and backing led his supporters to believe that he would be the next president of the United States. In a stunning upset, however, Dewey was defeated.
Dewey was a leader of the eastern Republicans at the 1952 national convention and played a key role in the nomination of General Dwight D. Eisenhower for president and Senator Richard M. Nixon for vice president.
Owing to Dewey's eventual lack of interest in, and avoidance of, crime cases, a federal investigative committee decided to question him. They had in mind the Luciano pardon, and also gambling issues in Dewey's state. His lack of response to the committee left more people to wonder about his dealings with the Mob. It appeared that the New York governor knew very little about crime in his own state. His third term as governor ended in 1955. Leaving the political arena at the end of his term as governor, Dewey quietly resumed his lucrative law practice.
Further tarnishing his character, it appeared to many that Dewey had suddenly begun to accommodate the gangsters and their gaming casinos. In the early 1960s, Dewey became a major stockholder in Mary Carter Paints, which held an interest in gambling in the Bahamas. In addition, Carter's chief assistant was none other than Meyer Lansky, who was directly associated with the mafia commission, thus leading to more suspicions about Thomas E. Dewey and his dealings with the Mob.
Citing his age, Dewey declined an offer from President Nixon to serve as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968. The author of two books, Journey to the Far Pacific (1952) and Thomas E. Dewey on the Two Party System (1966), Dewey died of heart failure in Bal Harbor, Florida, on March 16, 1971.
Dewey defeats Truman: The most famous wrong call in electoral history
President Truman laughs as he holds an early edition of the Chicago Tribune for Nov. 4, 1948. The newspaper’s headline jumped to an erroneous conclusion as early election returns came in.
(Frank Cancellare/UPI // Getty Images)
As a presidential candidate, Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York was not a glad-hander, not a flesh-presser. He was stiff and tended toward pomposity. “The only man who could strut sitting down” was the crack that made the rounds. But on Nov. 2, 1948, Election Day, an overwhelming sense of inevitability hung about the Republican nominee. The polls and the pundits left no room for doubt: Dewey was going to defeat President Harry S. Truman. And the Tribune would be the first to report it.
Arguably the most famous headline in the newspaper’s 150-year history, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN is every publisher’s nightmare on every election night.
Like most newspapers, the Tribune, which had dismissed him on its editorial page as a “nincompoop,” was lulled into a false sense of security by polls that repeatedly predicted a Dewey victory. Critically important, though, was a printers' strike, which forced the paper to go to press hours before it normally would.
As the first-edition deadline approached, managing editor J. Loy “Pat” Maloney had to make the headline call, although many East Coast tallies were not yet in. Maloney banked on the track record of Arthur Sears Henning, the paper’s longtime Washington correspondent.
Henning said Dewey. Henning was rarely wrong. Besides, Life magazine had just carried a big photo of Dewey with the caption “The next President of the United States.”