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[picture: Dewey Campaign Button, 1948]Thomas Dewey was born in Owosso, Michigan, on March 24, 1902. He graduated from the University of Michigan and went on to receive a law degree from Columbia University in 1925. Dewey's reputation grew with his appointment as special prosecutor of New York. He became known for breaking up organized crime. His success gave rise to a political career and he was elected the district attorney of Manhattan in 1937. Dewey continued to pursue his political career by running in the 1938 gubernatorial race. He promised to end corruption in New York politics; however, Dewey lost the election. Although he thought the New Deal excessive, Dewey believed the federal government had a responsibility to promote the public interest.

In 1940, he tried to gain the Republican presidential nomination, but lost. His success came in 1941, when he was elected governor of New York State. Dewey kept his promise by setting in place reforms, including the first statewide civil rights legislation in the nation, and an increase in aid to the New York State Education Department. In 1944, he won the Republican presidential nomination and campaigned vigorously against FDR. Although he lost the election, he won 46 percent of the popular vote, the highest Republican total since Herbert Hoover's 1928 victory. Reelected governor of New York in 1946, a fiscally conservative Dewey introduced progressive education, health, civil rights, and transportation policies while insisting upon a balanced budget. Dewey received the Republican nomination again in 1948 to run against Harry Truman after he defeated Harold Stassen in the Oregon presidential primary by attacking Stassen's proposal to outlaw the Communist party. Unexpectedly, Truman won with 49 percent to Dewey's 45 percent, in a four-party race. Dewey ended his third term as governor in 1955 and returned to private law. He died in March of 1971, still an active member of the GOP.


The Concise Dictionary of American Biography. 5th ed. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997, 304.

Graham, Otis L., Jr. and Meghan Robinson Wander. Franklin D. Roosevelt, His Life and Times. New York: Da Capo Press, 1985, 101-2.

Smith, Richard Norton. Thomas E. Dewey and His Times. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982, 393-542.

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