Walker, James John

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Walker, James John

James John Walker, 1881–1946, American politician, b. New York City. Dapper and debonair, Jimmy Walker, having tried his hand at song writing, engaged in Democratic politics and in 1909 became a member of the state assembly. After studying law at St. Francis Xavier College and at New York Univ. law school, he was admitted (1912) to the bar. He attracted the notice of several Tammany leaders and, under the tutelage of Alfred E. Smith, was elected (1914) to the state senate. In 1921 he became minority leader of the senate and effectively pushed through liberal legislation. With Tammany backing, he defeated John F. Hylan, the incumbent, and F. D. Waterman to become mayor of New York City in 1925. In office Walker backed the adoption of an extensive transit system, unified the public hospitals, and created the department of sanitation. Immensely popular with the electorate, he was returned to office in 1928, defeating Fiorello H. LaGuardia. As a result of several frauds exposed in the municipal government in Walker's second administration, the state legislature ordered an investigation headed by Samuel Seabury. Extensive corruption was revealed, and 15 charges were leveled at the mayor. Walker hastily resigned (Sept., 1932) before the hearings were closed and went to Europe, where he lived for a number of years. Later he returned to the United States and in 1940 was appointed by Mayor LaGuardia as a municipal arbiter for the garment industry.

See G. Fowler, Beau James (1949, repr. 1970); H. Mitgang, Once upon a Time in New York (2000).

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