The Man Who Rode the Tiger: The Life and Times of Judge Samuel Seabury

By Herbert Mitgang | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
"The Boy Friend"--Jimmy Walker

IN the summer of 1908, when Building Commissioner Walker's son, James, was a pointy-shoed character around Tin Pan Alley, resisting his father's efforts to send him to law school, he wrote a hit song, Will You Love Me in December as You Do in May? That same year, Dr. Seabury's son, Samuel, already sat as a justice of the New York State Supreme Court. Now another May was here, May of 1932, and the songwriter was His Honor the Mayor, a beloved man of fifty, with a subpoena in his hand. The subpoena had been served at the behest of Seabury, a respected but not universally beloved fifty-nine- year-old private citizen of New York, counsel for the state's investigation of the city. Up the Hudson, watching the investigation of Tammany's mayor, Governor Franklin Roosevelt maintained a judicious aloofness; what happened in the county courthouse could affect his chances for the presidential nomination. From the Bowery to Park Avenue, and across the cities of the nation, people wondered: Will Jimmy Walker still be mayor by December?

Judge Seabury and his staff began thorough preparations; even the prodigious power of Walker to charm was taken into account. "Don't look him straight in the eye when he's on the stand," an associate advised Seabury. "He has an uncanny ability to stare you down. Once he's caught you, you're liable to be stunned and confused." Seabury smiled and said that he had interrogated thousands of wit-

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