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The Governor And The Chairman

June 2024
1min read

Congratulations on Peter Quinn’s excellent article about the effect the famine had on both America and Ireland ("The Tragedy of Bridget Such-a-One,” December 1997); rarely have I read a more moving account of our Irish forebears.

At the risk of nitpicking, however, I do feel compelled to point out a minor error and a notable omission. In the photo caption of the men reviewing a 1939 St. Patrick’s Day parade, Al Smith is identified as a former mayor of New York City, and the fellow over Smith’s right shoulder, James Aloysius Parley, is unnamed.

Alfred Emanuel Smith’s career included stints as New York State Assembly speaker, president of New York City’s Board of Aldermen, and sheriff of New York County as well as governor for seven years and Democratic nominee for President in 1928. But, though he was often criticized (like Governor Cuomo in more recent times) for representing New York City more than New York State, he never served as its mayor.

Jimmy Parley, both postmaster general and chairman of the Democratic National Committee at the time of the photo, had organized the state for Franklin Roosevelt, found the convention votes to make FDR the Democratic nominee, and coordinated the massive and unwieldy job that is winning a presidential campaign. Brain truster Ray Moley described Parley thus: “In the universality of his love for people, sectionalism had no place.” This could serve as fitting epitaph for Governor Smith as well.

As an Irish-American and a politician, I cherish the spirit of community in the Irish-American experience. I thank your magazine for its thoughtful and enlightening stories; it is articles like Peter Quinn’s that make me look forward to seeing each new issue of American Heritage .

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