New York Governors

New York Governors:

Al Smith and Social Reform (Democrat, 1923-1928 ): Born and raised in the 4th Ward of the Lower East Side, Al Smith never graduated from high school. From his early job at the Fulton Street Fish Market, Smith would rise to become a four-term governor of New York.

He worked to protect industrial workers, enact child labor laws, and improve conditions for the poor and mentally ill. Against popular political opinion, he advocated repealing prohibition, arguing that prohibition had caused graft and organized crime to rise while people continued to drink alcohol.

Smith, the first Catholic to run for president, lost to Herbert Hoover in 1928. The campaign played heavily on anti-Catholic sentiments, insisting that voting for Smith was voting for the Catholic Church to take over America.

Watch a PBS video about Al Smith at

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat, 1929-1932): Before becoming President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt served as governor of New York. He tackled corruption, pushed for hydroelectricity¬† on the St. Lawrence River to help with New York’s growing need for power, and reformed the state prison system. When Wall Street crashed in 1929, he developed a relief system that would become the model for the New Deal during his presidency.

Other Governors:  Find governors of New York at