Farley, James A.

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James Aloysius Farley (May 30, 1888–June 9, 1976), postmaster general of the United States and chair of the Democratic National Committee from 1933 to 1940, was a shrewd political organizer and one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's closest political advisers during the Great Depression. Ideologically, Farley registered opposition to much of the New Deal program, but until he and Roosevelt parted company in 1940, they made a formidable team that benefited both men and the nation.

A preeminent New York politician who helped orchestrate Roosevelt's presidential landslides in 1932 and 1936, Farley was born in Grassy Point, New York. After graduating from Stony Point High School in 1905, he held various Democratic party offices, including town clerk. He later formed a business and served one term in the state legislature before becoming secretary of the New York State Democratic Committee, in which capacity he organized Roosevelt's successful gubernatorial campaigns in 1928 and 1930. In 1932 Farley arranged the deal that made John Nance Garner of Texas the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

The postmaster generalship provided Farley with immense patronage potentialities, making his position crucial for constructing the foundations of support for the New Deal. Farley knew personally most party leaders throughout the country, corresponding with them regularly and signing his name in green ink. These acquaintances and friendships enabled Farley to fortify and invigorate loyalty to the Democratic party and the administration. His outgoing personality, persuasive techniques, and political skills proved effective in securing congressional and state endorsements for Roosevelt's New Deal. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, with whom Farley enjoyed a constructive relationship, encouraged him to recommend appointments for women, who constituted 7,560 of the 28,092 postmasters commissioned between 1933 and 1938.

Although at first a moderate liberal, Farley, unversed with the economic ramifications that resulted in the Great Depression, exhorted the president in his second term to balance the budget and reduce public works programs. Farley's disillusionment deepened steadily. His presidential aspirations and strong opposition to Roosevelt's third-term nomination strained the relations between the two by 1940, when Farley submitted his resignation as postmaster general and head of the national committee. This ideological rift led the increasingly conservative Farley to assail New Deal policies. After his unsuccessful efforts to block Roosevelt's nomination in 1940 (when Farley sought the nomination himself) and 1944, Farley devoted attention to business concerns while maintaining interests in local, state, and national politics. He died in New York City, leaving a legacy as an astute campaign manager and political operative during the Great Depression.



Farley, James A. Behind the Ballots: The Personal History of a Politician. 1938.

Farley, James A. Jim Farley's Story: The Roosevelt Years. 1948.

Newquist, Gloria A. "James A. Farley and the Politics of Victory, 1928–1936." Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 1966.

Leonard Schlup