Alfred E. Smith photo biography collage

Alfred E. Smith Biography

The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation was established by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman, in 1946 to honor the memory of Alfred Emanuel Smith, New York’s renowned Governor and patron of the “Little People”.


Born on December 30, 1873, Alfred Emanuel Smith was destined to become a “man for the people.” His childhood playground, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, taught him much about diversity in as much as its population combined the immigrant cultures of the Irish, Germans, French, Polish, Italians, and Spaniards-to name but a few.

Governor Smith’s career in politics began in 1895, with an appointment on the basis of a recommendation from a friend in Tammany Hall, as an investigator in the Office of the City Commissioner of Jurors. When he was elected to the State Assembly in 1903, he quickly proved himself to be a skilled politician and an influential reformer. Service on a 1911 commission to investigate factory conditions and as a 1915 delegate to the State Constitutional Revision Committee further expanded Governor Smith’s vision.

The Governor’s political career began to truly flourish, however,with his 1915 Tammany Hall appointment as Sheriff of New York County and his 1917 election as President of the Board of Aldermen of Greater New York.

In 1918, to the surprise of many, he was elected Governor of the State of New York. Although he lost the 1920 election, he ran successfully again in 1922, 1924, and 1926 – making him one of three New York State Governors to be elected to four terms. While Governor, he achieved the passage of extensive reform legislation, including improved factory laws, better housing requirements, and expanded welfare services. Additionally, he reorganized the State government into a consolidated and business-like structure. Governor Smith won the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in 1928. During his campaign he continued to champion the cause of urban residents.