Coolidge and Al Smith: After Retirement

Even if opposing politicians do not forge a political bond, they seem to have a personal bond – common stresses, family issues and experiences. Coolidge and Al Smith lunching with their wives on Friday, July 16, 1926 at White Pine Camp at Paul Smiths in the Adirondacks is an example. (See the last post.)

Coolidge was born on the fourth of July, 1872 just eighteen months before Al Smith was born on Dec. 30, 1873.  Although nearly the same age, they had different world views that was reflected in their political beliefs, since the president was born in a small town in rural Vermont, and the governor was born on the teeming lower east side of Manhattan. Coolidge was a lawyer who graduated from Amherst College; Al Smith dropped out of school to help support his widowed mother and siblings during the eighth grade.

Their political education was similar. They learned on the job holding many of the same offices. Coolidge was a City Councilor, State Representative, Mayor, State Senator, Lt. Governor, Governor. Smith was Sheriff, State Assemblyman, president of the New York City Board of Aldermen, and four-term Governor.

After 1929, both Smith and Coolidge retired from public life, and they worked together for philanthropic causes. In early 1931, Coolidge was appointed honorary chairman of the National Red Cross fundraising drive to aid people suffering from the drought: Al Smith was one of four vice chairmen.

Conrad Hubert, a Russian Jewish immigrant, was the founder of the Ever Ready Company, which made flashlights and batteries. His will bequeathed about $8,000,000 to be administered jointly by a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Jew and given to organizations that served the general public welfare. Coolidge and Smith were joined by Julius Rosenwald, an owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company as trustees of this estate.

Al Smith came to Northampton, Massachusetts for Coolidge’s funeral in January 1933.  Smith is quoted as saying that Coolidge was distinguished for character more than for heroic achievement. His great task was to restore the dignity and prestige of the Presidency when it had reached the lowest ebb in our history…” (1)

(1). www. WhiteHouse.gov from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” Copyright 2006 by the White House Historical Association.

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