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Governor Thomas E. Dewey

Thomas E. Dewey was an American politician, three-term Republican governor of New York (1943-55), and unsuccessful Republican candidate for president in 1944 and 1948.

Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Thomas Edmund Dewey

Date, time and place of birth: March 24, 1902, at approximately 7:45 p.m.*, at 323 West Main Street, Owosso, Michigan, U.S.A.

Date, time, place and cause of death: March 16, 1971, at 3:15 p.m., Sea View Hotel, suite 711-12, Bal Harbour, Florida, U.S.A. (Heart attack)

Wife: Frances E. Hutt (m. June 1928 - July 17, 1970) (her death)
Wedding took place at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.A.

Sons: Thomas Edmund Dewey, Jr. (b. October 2, 1932, New York City, New York)
John Martin Dewey (b. October 1935)

Father: George Martin Dewey, Jr. (a newspaper publisher) (d. June 19, 1927, of a heart attack)
Mother: Annie Louise (Thomas) Dewey (a homemaker) (d. November 23, 1954, Owosso, Michigan, of a heart attack)

Burial site: Pawling Cemetery, Pawling, New York, U.S.A.

Error corrections or clarifications

* Governor Thomas E. Dewey was born in the apartment above his grandfather's general store on Main Street, in Owosso, Michigan, between 7 and 8 p.m. on March 24th, 1902. One source reports 7:49 p.m. as his precise time of birth, while others insist he was born at precisely 7 p.m. that March evening. 7:45 p.m. was the time of birth reported by Dewey's secretary in response to a 1938 inquiry.


Thomas E. Dewey was the only child of George and Annie Dewey. Tom's childhood nickname was Ted, due to his initials, as well as his rabid support of Teddy Roosevelt. His family, and the town into which he was born, were staunchly Republican.

After being admitted to the New York bar in the 1920s, Dewey joined the law firm of Larkin, Rathbone & Perry. He found the endless paperwork he was assigned to do, dull and monotonous. In 1927, he was let go, but was quickly hired as an associate at the McNamara and Seymour law firm. He found his new position, and the work he was doing on the side for various New York Republicans, much more to his liking.

Thomas Dewey served as chief assistant to the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York (1931-33). He came to national prominence as a special prosecutor in charge of investigating organized crime (1935-37) in New York City. Dewey was elected District Attorney of New York City in 1937, thanks in part to his popularity stemming from his vigorous crusade against crime and his phenomenal conviction rate. He was credited with the convictions of numerous mobsters, including Lucky Luciano.

Based on his strong record as a criminal prosecutor, Dewey ran for governor of New York in 1938, but lost the election. He was successful in his second bid for the office in 1942 and was reelected by a landslide in 1946. A third term followed his reelection in 1950. Dewey's three terms as governor of New York were notable for his honest, efficient administration, that cut taxes, increased state aid to education, and reduced the state's debt. It was Governor Dewey who recommended that New York create its own State University, and later, personally signed the legislation that created the State University of New York.

Dewey won the Republican nomination for president in 1944, but lost the election to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Four years later he ran against incumbent President Harry Truman. The polls, the press and nearly every political expert agreed Governor Dewey would easily win the election. Defying all odds, Truman won an upset victory in 1948. In one of the most famous erroneous headlines in American newspaper history, the Chicago Daily Tribune front page proclaimed "Dewey Defeats Truman." An iconic photograph of a jubilant President Truman displaying a copy of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" newspaper following Truman's upset victory, earned Dewey a permanent place in American political folklore.

Governor Dewey was one of the more prominent figures who repeatedly tried to convince a reluctant General Dwight D. Eisenhower to seek the U.S. Presidency. He was also instrumental in helping Ike secure the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1952, and was one of the key supporters who helped ensure Eisenhower's subsequent election.

Thomas Dewey retired from politics after serving his third term as governor of New York and returned to his law practice.


The most in-depth of more than three dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile, was the 1982 biography, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, by Richard Norton Smith.

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