NYS Governor Martin H. Glynn- yup, new to me

Martin H. Glynn was a member of Congress, state comptroller, lieutenant governor, and became the first Roman Catholic governor in New York state history, even before Al Smith. At the same time, he rose from being a writer at the Albany Times Union, to becoming its editor, publisher and owner.


If I look at a list of New York State governors, many of them are familiar to me.

George Clinton – the mastermind behind the bands Parliament and Funkadelic
John Jay – first US Supreme Court Chief Justice
Daniel D. Tompkins – Vice-President under James Monroe
DeWitt Clinton – largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal
Martin Van Buren – 8th President of the US
William H. Seward – Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson; the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 was considered “Seward’s folly”
Samuel J. Tilden – should have been President instead of Rutherford B. Hayes after the 1876 election
Grover Cleveland – 22nd and 24th President of the US
Theodore Roosevelt – 26th President of the US
Charles Evans Hughes – Associate Justice, and later, the 11th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Secretary of State; Republican candidate in the 1916 U.S. Presidential election, losing to Woodrow Wilson
Al Smith – The democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928, losing to Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt – 32nd President of the US
Thomas E. Dewey – Republican candidate for President, losing to FDR in 1944 and Harry Truman in 1948, despite newspaper headlines to the contrary in the latter case. (Berowne wrote about the 1948 election recently.)
W. Averell Harriman – U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and, later, to Britain

The ones after that, starting with Nelson A. Rockefeller, who I met twice, I remember directly. Mario Cuomo flirted with running for President in 1992, and his son Andrew, the incumbent, has been mentioned for 2016.

Wait: I’ve just been informed that George Clinton was NOT the funk master, but was rather the 4th Vice President of the US, serving under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

But I was totally unfamiliar with Martin H. Glynn, who was a member of Congress, state comptroller, lieutenant governor, and, when William Sulzer was impeached for dubious reasons, became the first Roman Catholic governor in state history, even before Al Smith. At the same time, he rose from being a writer at the Albany Times Union to becoming its editor, publisher, and owner.

I finished reading Governor Martin H. Glynn: Forgotten Hero by Dominick C. Lizzi (2007, Valatie Press). Glynn grew up in Valatie, a small mill town in Columbia County, NY. His near ancestors came to the US after the Irish potato famine of the late 1840s. Martin’s story was a Horatio Alger story of rags to riches. He graduated as valedictorian of his class at Fordham University in New York City in 1894.

Glynn worked at several small newspapers, before joining the Albany Times Union in 1896. He studied law on his own, passing the bar in 1897. Due in part to similar backgrounds and education levels, he was supported by the Farrells, their wealthy in-laws the Bradys – various Farrells and Bradys lived on fashionable Willett Street near Washington Park – and party boss Packy McCabe, in his shockingly successful 1898 run for Congress, though for but one term. Martin Glynn married Mary Magrane on January 2, 1901, and moved to 28 Willett Street in Albany.

Glynn would pass back and forth between journalism and politics in a way that would likely be scorned now. He tried to minimize the influence of New York City’s Tammany Hall while trying not to antagonize them. This got him elected as comptroller in 1906 and lieutenant governor in 1912; his achievement in these posts you can read about here.

Sulzer’s impeachment, due to the forces of Tammany Hall, elevated Glynn to the governorship. Glynn fought for direct primaries, and he persuaded the Legislature to enact such law, going into effect in 1914. He also got enacted a workmen’s compensation law. He worked for other reforms as well. But he was defeated when he ran for governor in his own right.

Throughout his adult life, he was always in great demand as a public speaker, in the tradition of William Jennings Byran, who was an early mentor.

Possibly Glynn’s most important achievement was as the “Father of the Irish Free State,” which you can read about here.

Martin Glynn was almost constantly in pain as a result of a spinal injury sustained in his youth. He suffered great emotion pain as well, when his only child died in infancy. Returning from Boston after an unsuccessful attempt to relieve his intractable suffering, Glynn took his own life on December 14, 1924, a fact that was covered up until Lizzi’s book came out. Glynn was given a proper Catholic burial, with many notables lining the streets.

It’s a short, but interesting book, though it uses exclamation points about Glynn’s accomplishments far too often!

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “NYS Governor Martin H. Glynn- yup, new to me”

  1. Well, native New Yorker that I am, this fascinated me. Roger, you have a knack for enlightening me about all sorts of topics, and the tidbits of detail that make the stories all the more fascinating. Take his suicide being covered up so he could have a “proper” Catholic burial. We look back and say “WHAT?” but that’s how it was.

    Thanks to Gov. Glynn for direct primaries. That was an innovation, for sure. Wish you (and my adopted state of WI) still had lever-operated voting machines. His worker compensation achievements move him into the “hero” column for this old activist. And about those exclamation points!! Why do people DO that??!!!??? Hee hee. Peace, Amy

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