1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Smith, Alfred Emanuel

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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
Smith, Alfred Emanuel
See also Al Smith on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

SMITH, ALFRED EMANUEL (1873- ), American politician, was born in New York City, Dec. 30 1873. The son of humble parents, his father being a truck driver, he was educated in the St. James parochial school and for several years was employed in the Fulton Fish Market. He was very popular with his associates and at the age of 29 was offered the Democratic nomination for the N.Y. State Assembly by the Tammany leader of the district in which he lived. He was elected for 1903 and by reelection served for 12 years. In 1911 he became Democratic leader in the Assembly and was appointed vice-chairman of the Factory Investigating Committee which made a searching inquiry into industrial conditions in the state, resulting in remedial legislation. In 1913 he was speaker of the Assembly. In 1915 he was chosen a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention, taking an active part in its proceedings. He opposed the constitution as finally revised, one reason being that it contained a provision designed to prevent New York City from having a majority of legislators. He “stumped” the state against its adoption and it was overwhelmingly rejected. The same year he was elected sheriff of New York county, then a lucrative post because of the system of fees (later abolished), and in 1917 president of the Board of Aldermen of New York City. In 1918 he was elected governor of New York, defeating Charles S. Whitman. As a member of the Assembly he had been a strong supporter of woman suffrage, and in June 1919, as governor, called a special session which ratified the woman suffrage amendment to the Federal Constitution. In 1920 he was again the Democratic nominee for governor, but was beaten in the overwhelming Republican landslide of that year; he lost, however, by only 73,000 votes, whereas the Democratic candidate for president was at the same time defeated by a million votes in New York state — a remarkable testimony to his own personal popularity.