Governor Herbert H. Lehman

Governor Herbert H. Lehman

The Herbert H. Lehman Suite and Papers was founded in 1971 to serve the Columbia academic community. At its dedication, Governor Lehman's widow, Edith Altschul Lehman, expressed her desire that the new facility would become a vital and important resource for young scholars. In 2004, Columbia expanded its mission and mandate and renamed it the Herbert H. Lehman Center for the Study of American History.

The Center honors the life and career of a man who experienced many years of business success with his family's financial services firm before leaving Wall Street in the 1920s to concentrate on public service. He served in the United States Army in World War I, resigning in 1919 with the rank of colonel, the title of address he preferred until he became governor.

Herbert H. Lehman served two terms (1929-1933) as lieutenant governor of New York State under the administration of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, who referred to him as "my good right arm." When FDR moved on to become President of the United States, Lehman succeeded him in Albany as Governor of New York, and he was elected for two-year terms in 1932, 1934, and 1936, and for the first four-year term in 1938. His most impressive reforms came in the area of labor legislation, the regulation of public utilities, and in his appointments, which were usually distinguished and which rarely smacked of .partisan politics.

During World War II, at President Roosevelt's request, Lehman became the Director-General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. After more than four years of work in the multitudinous tasks of relief of civilian suffering in wartime, and many accomplishments and frustrations, he resigned in 1946.

After running unsuccessfully for the United States Senate in 1946, Lehman then capped his career in 1949 by defeating John Foster Dulles, who had an interim appointment, in a 'special election for the other Senate seat in New York. He then served as "the Conscience of the Senate" until his retirement from public service in 1956. Mr. Lehman died in 1963 on the eve of a trip to the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The citation, which he never read himself, is perhaps his best epitaph: "Citizen and Statesman, he has used wisdom and compassion as the tools of government and has made politics the highest form of public service.


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