Profile of New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman


Herbert H. Lehman was born on May 28, 1878, in Manhattan, New York, and was the youngest among the sons of Babbet and Mayer Lehman. He was a Politician and banker with a heart for charity and philanthropic endeavors. One of his notable works is with the non-profit agency, the ‘Henry Street Settlement’ that opened a great opportunity in health care, arts, and social services for the sake of thousands of people who are suffering from domestic violence, individuals with low income, and those who are physically and mentally challenged in the neighborhood on the lower east side of Manhattan in New York. Mr. Lehman was also involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that aims to advance justice for African Americans. 

Before the Politics

Before the Politics

Logo of the notable financial firm –Lehman Brothers, est. 1850

In 1899, Herbert Lehman graduated from William Colleges. He decided to work on a Textile Manufacturer for two years despite having a family business of a prosperous banking firm. It was in the year 1908 when his older brother, Sigmund, retired from the firm, making Herbert Lehman finally joined their family business –The Lehman Brothers. It was a banking firm that humbly began in Montgomery, Alabama, founded by his uncle, Henry Lehman, and co-founded by his other uncle, Emmanuel, and his father, Mayer Lehman. Thus, naming the firm “Lehman Brothers”.

It first became a top-leading commodity and cotton brokers before flourishing to a big, successful investment banking firm, in year 1900s. The Lehman banking firm rocketed and expanded from banking to asset management, and security management domestically and internationally (–but later on, faced their demise on account of bankruptcy in the year 2008). Two years later, after Herbert Lehman entered their family business, he married Edith Altschul –the daughter of a banker that has an affiliation with one of the top leading investment banks. Edith and Herbert Lehman had three children –Peter, Hilda, and John, that all participated in the US Military in times of WW II. 

Years as a Governor

Years as a Governor
Flyer of the American Labor Party supporting Lehman and Roosevelt’s campaigns in 1936

It was in the year 1920 when Lehman was appointed as the chair of the finance committee of the Democratic Party. From then on, he became active in politics, and in 1928, he was nominated as a Lieutenant Governor with the help of Governor Al Smith for being his avid supporter.

It was then when  Mr. Lehman finally resigned from their family business –The Lehman Brothers. Winning the 1928 candidacy as a Lt. Governor became an opportunity for Lehman to develop and implement policies and work closely with Franklin Roosevelt concerning the public works in the state. In 1932, after being elected, Lehman served four years in the gubernatorial position replacing Mr. Roosevelt who won the Presidential candidacy.

Lehman was once again re-elected for the Gubernatorial position in the year 1934 up to the year 1938. However, On December 2, 1942, up to the year 1946, Governor Lehman resigned in the Gubernatorial position to take hold of the position as the Director-General of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operation (OFRRO) of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) for the United States Department of States (DOS).

Mr. Lehman exerted a great effort and marked the history for directing a relief operation for the approximately 500 million victims of war and releasing million tons of foods, medical supplies, and clothes. He even extended his help anonymously to the homeless and children by donating a fair share from his money. It was also during his service in the UNRRA, when one of his son, Peter, died on a plane crash on his training fight. In the year 1946 of March, Lehman resigned as the Director-General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). 

Mr. Herbert Lehman in Senate

Mr. Herbert Lehman in Senate

In the year 1946, Gov. Herbert Lehman was nominated in the Senatorial position under the Democratic Party. Although he failed against a Republican candidate – Irving Ives, he re-ran for the Senatorial position in the year 1944 and won against John Foster Dulles by 2,000 votes. In 1950, even though he was running for the senatorial re-election, he voted against Senator Pat McCarran’s  “McCarran Internal Security Act” –Also known as the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950, which was still enacted as law despite his opposition and President Harry Truman’s veto.

The International Security Act allows investigating a person who is suspected as a spy or someone who allegedly commits an act of sabotage in times of war or when in an International Security Emergency, which Lehman viewed as an act that only protects the ones that imposed but does not protect the liberties of the people. 

When his term ended, Lehman declined to re-run in the Senatorial position but remained active in the late 1950s up to the 1960s, working with Eleanor Roosevelt and Thomas Finletter in supporting the reform Democratic movement. 

Before his death in December 1963, he spent the last two years of his life in New York and died at the age of eighty-five.

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