Wednesday, 21 January 2009


Mayor Walker in 1926

James John Walker (!881-1946) or Jimmy Walker, sometimes known as Beau James, became Mayor of NYC in 1926 with the backing up of Governor Al Smith and Tammany Hall. An Irish-American, Walker grew up in Greenwich Village and served in the State Assembly, representing Greenwich Village's district, and then in the state Senate before coming mayor. His earl years as mayor in the 1920's were successful as the city grew prosperous during the Jazz Age, and his term coincides with the many speakeasies of the Prohibition era.

His residence at 6, St. Luke's Place, is perchance in close proximity to Chumley's, a favorite of the Mayor, (now undergoing extensive repairs following a collapsed wall last year) with a speakeasy past. Walker's girlfriends tended to be chorus and show girls, and when he left office he also left his wife, a vaudeville performer, for Betty Compton, a showgirl.

The mayoral residence at 6, St. Luke's Place

Jimmy Walker wrote songs, penning the words for the 1908 hit "Will You Love Me in December as You Do in May?". A supporter of public life, He backed the legalisation of boxing and opposed Prohibition. He liked going to the theater and staying up late at nightclubs. One potential issue, however, was that he didn't care all that much for showing up for work at City Hall. When the Depression deepened in the earl 1930's, the Mayor's response was casual, urging people to look on the bright side by going to cheerful movies.

When members of the state legislature decided to investigate city hall finances, they found that Walker routinely pocketed donations from businessmen seeking city franchises and licences. He resigned in 1932 before Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, could decide whether or not to remove him. The Governor would become the next President.

On Hudson & Clarkson Streets named to honour "Beau James"

After leaving office, Walker left New York to live in Europe for a couple of years in Europe with his second wife. Returning to New York only when he was sure that he would not be indicted for the improprieties committed whilst mayor, the couple adopted two children, and divorced eight years later. However, back home in NYC, he still enjoyed popularity with the public, often cited as the viable alternative candidate to incumbent LaGuardia.

His background, lifestyle and reluctance to engage in serious hard work might have rendered him unlikely to have become Mayor of NYC but it goes to show the potency of the Tammany Hall political machine at that time.

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