Charles S. Whitman

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Charles S. Whitman
Gov. Whitman in 1915
41st Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1915 – December 31, 1918
Lieutenant Edward Schoeneck
Preceded by Martin H. Glynn
Succeeded by Alfred E. Smith
Personal details
Born Charles Seymour Whitman
(1868-09-29)September 29, 1868
Hanover, Connecticut
Died March 29, 1947(1947-03-29) (aged 78)
New York City, New York
Political party Republican
Alma mater Amherst College
Religion Presbyterian

Charles Seymour Whitman (September 29, 1868 – March 29, 1947) served as the 41st Governor of New York from January 1, 1915 to December 31, 1918. He was also a delegate to Republican National Convention from New York in 1916.

Life and career[edit]

Whitman was born on September 29, 1868 in Hanover, Connecticut. He graduated from Amherst College in 1890. He then studied law at New York University, and was admitted to the bar in 1894.[1] In 1901 he was appointed assistant corporation counsel of New York City where his effective work won for him the post of city magistrate. In this capacity, he founded the Night Court for the immediate trial of all offenders arrested at night. In 1907 Governor Charles Evans Hughes appointed him a judge of the Court of Sessions, and in the following year deputy attorney general in the investigation of election frauds in northern New York. In 1909 he was elected New York County District Attorney on a Fusion ticket. In this capacity, he secured representation of the District Attorney's staff in the city magistrate's office, and was active in suppressing arson offenders.[1]

As District Attorney, he gained national fame in prosecuting New York City Police Lt. Charles Becker for the July 16, 1912, murder of Times Square gambling house operator Herman Rosenthal in front of West 43rd Street's Hotel Metropole, owned by Lower East Side Tammany Hall leader "Big Tim" Sullivan. Whitman's handling of the case was most effective in unearthing and reforming the relations between certain members of the New York City police and professional criminals.[1] Later, as governor, Whitman signed Becker's death warrant and presided over his electrocution. Whitman was a member of the Union League Club of New York and, fearing he was under surveillance, used the clubhouse to secretly interview witnesses during the Becker case.

The handling of the Schmidt murder case, the prosecution of the poultry trust and of election frauds won for Whitman high commendation. He was renominated for District Attorney in 1913 and elected almost unanimously.[1]

He served as the 41st Governor of New York from January 1915[2] to December 1918. His principal plank was the reformation of the state finances, which he proceeded to institute vigorously by a reorganization of state departments and a thorough investigation of the salaries of civil service employees.[1]

In 1915 he became a member of the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

In 1916, Whitman won re-election as governor against reform Democratic Judge Samuel Seabury. After his election, he sent to every enrolled voter a report of his first term as governor, containing also reports of the heads of other state departments. He also inaugurated a state constabulary, and after entrance of the United States into World War I he inaugurated a new state guard to replace the National Guard on service in France. In 1916, he was also elected chairman of the Republican National Convention, where he urged the nomination of former New York Governor Hughes for President of the United States.[1] In 1917, he commissioned the creation of the New York State Police and selected George Fletcher Chandler to organize and head the force.[3] In 1918, he was defeated for re-election by Tammany Hall Democrat Alfred E. Smith (then President of the New York City Board of Aldermen).

He died on March 29, 1947.[4] His portrait was painted in 1921 by the Swiss-born American portrait painter Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862–1947) and is the property of the New York State Capitol at Albany; Müller-Ury had previously painted a portrait of his baby daughter, Olive (the future Mrs Parsons), which was much admired when exhibited, and was given by her to the Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, where it now hangs at Green Animals.


His grandson, former First Gentleman of New Jersey John R. Whitman, married Christine Todd, who served as a Republican Governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. His son Charles S. Whitman Jr was a New York Judge.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert Slayton's biography, Empire Statesman: the Rise and Redemption of Al Smith, discusses Whitman's governorship and campaigns for the office against Smith.[5]
  • Whitman is a character in E.L. Doctorow's historical novel Ragtime (although he does not figure significantly in the later film based on the novel).


  1. ^ a b c d e f Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainRines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Whitman, Charles Seymour". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  2. ^ "The first Republican Governor of New York since Hughes". The Independent. November 16, 1914. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ "NYSP History: 1917 to 1929 The Formative Years". New York State Police. Retrieved 19 April 2017. 
  4. ^ "Death Takes Ex-Governor Of New York. Charles S. Whitman, Hanover, Conn., Native Was Elected in 1914". Associated Press in The Hartford Courant. March 30, 1947. Retrieved March 22, 2010. Charles S. Whitman, 78, former governor of New York, died tonight. 
  5. ^ Robert A. Slayton, Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith (New York, 2001: The Free Press; ISBN 978-0-684-86302-3), especially pages 116 to 121.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
William Travers Jerome
New York County District Attorney
Succeeded by
Charles A. Perkins
Political offices
Preceded by
Martin H. Glynn
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Al Smith
Party political offices
Preceded by
Job E. Hedges
Republican Nominee for Governor of New York
1914, 1916, 1918
Succeeded by
Nathan L. Miller