|46th Governor of New York|
December 3, 1942 – December 31, 1942
|Lieutenant||Joe R. Hanley (acting)|
|Preceded by||Herbert H. Lehman|
|Succeeded by||Thomas E. Dewey|
|Lieutenant Governor of New York|
January 1, 1939 – December 3, 1942
|Governor||Herbert H. Lehman|
|Preceded by||M. William Bray|
|Succeeded by||Joe R. Hanley (acting)|
|Justice of the New York Supreme Court|
|Preceded by||John V. McAvoy|
|Succeeded by||Felix C. Benevenga|
|Born||July 2, 1903|
Barre, Vermont, US
|Died||August 8, 2002 (aged 99)|
Marco Island, Florida, US
|Education||Harvard University (AB, LLB)|
|Civilian awards||Order of the Star of Jordan|
Order of Saint Agatha (Grand Officer) (San Marino)
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1943–1945|
|Unit||Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories|
|Commands||Military Governor of Sicily|
Military Governor of Naples
Military Governor of Rome
Military Governor of Milan
Military Governor of Lombardy
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Military awards||Legion of Merit|
Order of Saint Gregory the Great
Grand Cross of the Crown of Italy
Order of the British Empire (Officer)
Charles Poletti (July 2, 1903 – August 8, 2002) was an American lawyer and politician. He became the 46th governor of New York in December 1942, and was the first Italian-American governor in the United States.
Born in Barre, Vermont to Italian immigrants, Poletti graduated from Barre's Spaulding High School, Harvard University, and Harvard Law School, and became an attorney in New York City. He became active in the Democratic Party, and served as counsel to the Democratic National Committee, counsel to Governor Herbert H. Lehman, and a justice of the New York State Supreme Court.
Poletti served as lieutenant governor of New York from 1939 to 1942. He lost his bid for reelection in 1942, as did gubernatorial nominee John J. Bennett Jr. In December, Lehman resigned as governor in order to accept an appointment with the United States Department of State; Poletti succeeded to the governorship and served the final month of Lehman's term. After leaving office, Poletti served in World War II, initially as a special assistant to the Secretary of War, and then in the United States Army as a Civil Affairs officer responsible for rebuilding and restoring democracy in Italy following its liberation by the Allies.
After the war, Poletti practiced law, served as a member of the New York State Power Authority, and was an executive responsible for planning and overseeing execution of foreign exhibits at the 1964 New York World's Fair. After retiring, he resided in Florida and Elizabethtown, New York. He died in Florida at age 99, and was buried in Elizabethtown. At the time of his death, he was the earliest-serving living former governor of a U.S. state.
Early life and education
Aldo Charles Poletti was born in Barre, Vermont to Dino Poletti (April 28, 1865, Pogno, Italy—February 12, 1922, Barre, Vermont) and Carolina (Gervasini) Poletti. Dino Poletti worked as a stonecutter in a Barre granite quarry.
Poletti intended to manage a bakery after graduating from Spaulding High School in 1920, but was encouraged by his principal to attend college. He attended Harvard University on a scholarship, and worked a variety of part-time jobs to finance his studies, including waiting tables, washing dishes, and tutoring. In 1924, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics summa cum laude, was admitted to Phi Beta Kappa, and then studied at the University of Rome, the University of Bologna and the University of Madrid. Poletti later served on Harvard's Board of Overseers.
Start of career
In 1928, Poletti graduated from Harvard Law School with a LL.B. degree, cum laude. After passing the bar exam he joined the New York City firm of 1924 Democratic presidential nominee John W. Davis.
In 1928 Poletti was active in the presidential campaign of Governor Alfred E. Smith, and in 1932 he became counsel to the Democratic National Committee. In addition, he was appointed to a seat on the state Board of Social Welfare.
In 1933 Poletti was appointed on Felix Frankfurter's recommendation to be counsel to Governor Herbert H. Lehman. Lehman relied heavily on Poletti, asked him to move into the executive mansion, and assigned him tasks from drafting legislation and speeches to lobbying for passage of New Deal measures advocated by the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Election as lieutenant governor and succession to governorship
In 1939 Poletti was elected to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's board of directors. In 1940 he threw out the first pitch at a game between the New York Cubans and the New York Black Yankees, opening the season of the Negro National League with a speech advocating the integration of Major League Baseball.
Poletti, state Attorney General John J. Bennett Jr. and U.S. Senator James M. Mead were candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1942. When party leaders coalesced around Bennett, Poletti withdrew and accepted renomination for lieutenant governor. Bennett defeated Mead for the gubernatorial nomination. The ticket of Bennett and Poletti were defeated in the general election by Thomas E. Dewey and Thomas W. Wallace.
When Lehman resigned as governor on December 3, 1942, to accept appointment as Director of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations for the United States Department of State, Poletti succeeded to the governorship. He served 29 days, the shortest term of any New York governor.
World War II
In July 1943 Poletti was assigned to serve as a U.S. Army civil affairs officer in Italy, largely because as a first-generation Italian-American who had studied in Italy, was fluent in Italian and had served as a governor, he had an understanding of the local culture and sufficient stature to earn the Sicilian people's respect. Initially assigned to assist in restoring civil government in Palermo, he became responsible for rebuilding efforts throughout Sicily.
As the Allies continued to liberate mainland Italy Poletti's command followed to restore water and electricity, distribute food and water, and begin returning the formerly fascist country to democracy.
Some sources say that while Poletti served in Sicily his driver and interpreter was Mafia boss Vito Genovese, who had fled New York in the 1930s to escape prosecution for murder. Genovese was allegedly heavily involved in black-market activities with other Sicilian Mafiosi, including Calogero Vizzini. Another Mafia boss, Lucky Luciano, is also alleged to have once described Poletti as "one of our good friends." Poletti always said he had no connection to Genovese, Luciano, the Mafia, or black market activities. In a 1993 interview for BBC TV, Poletti said, "We had no problems at all with the Mafia. Nobody ever heard of it. While we were there, nobody heard of it. Nobody ever talked about it." In addition, the stories alleging a Genovese-Poletti connection fail to explain why Poletti would have needed an Italian language interpreter, given his fluency in Italian (including the Sicilian and Neapolitan dialects), Spanish, and German as the result of his heritage, his college studies, a job in his twenties working as a tour guide for college students visiting Europe, and his regular visits to his mother after she began residing in Italy following the death of his father.
After World War II
After leaving the Army as a colonel Poletti became the senior partner in a Manhattan law firm, which was reorganized as Poletti, Diamond, Rabin, Freidin & MacKay, and later became known as Poletti, Freidin, Prashker, Feldman and Gartner From May 1946 to June 1947 he carried out an appointment as an arbitrator assigned to resolve labor disputes in New York City's clothing industry.
Retirement and death
Poletti died at age 99 in his San Marco Island, Florida home. He was survived by his second wife, Elizabeth, and his children, Charles Poletti, Carla Tidmarsh, and Joanna Todisco. At the time of his death, he was the earliest-serving living former U.S. governor. He was interred at Calkins Cemetery in Elizabethtown, New York.
Awards and honors
Poletti received the Legion of Merit for his service in Italy. In 1945 Poletti received the Order of Saint Gregory the Great from Pope Pius XII. In addition, Italy's government named him a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Crown of Italy. Poletti was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1948. For his work at the World's Fair Poletti received the Order of the Star of Jordan. He also received the Grand Officer of the Order of Saint Agatha of San Marino. The Charles Poletti Power Project (renamed in 1982 to honor him) was located in Astoria, Queens, across the East River from Manhattan in New York City. In 2002 it was scheduled to be closed, and it was shut down in February, 2010.
- State of Vermont Death certificate, Dino Poletti
- 1920 US Census entry, Dino Poletti family
- Newsletter article, Eleonora Duse Fellowship, Italy America Society News Bulletin, Number 34 (May, 1924), page 6
- Annual Report of the City of Barre, Vermont. Barre, VT: Granite City Press. 1921. p. 102.
- New York Red Book: An Illustrated State Manual, published by Williams Press, 1940, page 19
- Italian Americana: Volume 25, Issue 2, page 138
- New York Red Book: An Illustrated State Manual, published by Williams Press, 1942, page 61
- Vermont History, Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society, Volumes 31-32, 1963, page 283
- Newspaper article, Harvard Board Chosen; Poletti is Among the Seven Named as Overseers, New York Times, June 21, 1940
- The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia, by Salvatore John LaGumina, 2000, page 271
- "Poletti Is Sure of Bench But Faces Fall Test". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. Eagle Bureau, Capitol Building. April 16, 1937. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Poletti Is Sure of Bench", p. 3.
- Newspaper article, State Ready to Speed Hauptmann Extradition, New York Times, September 23, 1934
- Newspaper article, Crime Conference Called by Lehman; Committee of Law, Prison and Parole Leaders Named to Plan 3-Day Session, New York Times, July 23, 1935
- Newspaper article, Lehman Aide Asks Help In Crime War: Poletti Rallies Support of Public for Governor's Parley Starting Today, New York Times, September 30, 1935
- Newspaper article, Lehman to Name Poletti This Week; Governor Will Ask Senate to Confirm His Counsel as Supreme Court Justice, New York Times, April 26, 1937
- Newspaper article, Judge Poletti, New York Times, September 25, 1937
- Newspaper article, Poletti Takes Oath; Sworn In for 14-Year Term on Bench in Simple Ceremony, New York Times, January 1, 1938
- Newspaper article, Democratic Ticket Nominated for State, New York Times, October 1, 1938
- Newspaper article, Lehman Ekes Out Win Over Dewey, Montreal Gazette, November 9, 1938
- Newspaper article, Asks All to Unite; Governor, at Inaugural, Calls for Public Welfare to Fortify Freedom, New York Times, January 3, 1939
- Magazine article, Poletti and Roosevelt elected to N.A.A.C.P. Board, The Crisis, February, 1939
- Black baseball's national showcase: the East-West All-Star Game, 1933-1953, by Larry Lester, 2002, page 140
- "Bennett gets Support Bid by Lehman". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, NY. Associated Press. August 28, 1942. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
- Newspaper article, Bennett's Nomination a Victory for Farley, New York Times, August 23, 1942
- "Bennett Nominated". Poughkeepsie Journal. Poughkeepsie, NY. Associated Press. August 20, 1942. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- Newspaper article, Poletti Defeated, New York Times, November 5, 1942
- Newspaper article, Poletti Becomes Governor As Lehman Quits Albany, New York Times, December 3, 1942
- Newspaper article, Obituary, Charles Poletti: Served as N.Y. governor for 29 days; 99, San Diego Union Tribune, August 11, 2002
- Newspaper article, Poletti Takes Post As Stimson Aide, New York Times, January 3, 1943
- Newspaper article, Stimson to Assign Tasks to Poletti, New York Times, January 8, 1943
- The Employment of Negro Troops, by Ulysses Lee, 1963, page 175
- Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1965, by Morris J. MacGregor, 1981, pages 59 to 60
- Newspaper article, Throw Out Hitler and Mussolini, Poletti Urges Italians by Radio, New York Times, December 28, 1942
- Newspaper article, Report Poletti Being Groomed for Sicily Post, Chicago Tribune, July 18, 1943
- Newspaper article, Poletti Serving as Civil Affairs Officer in Sicily, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 1943
- Newspaper article, Poletti Has Post In Sicilian Regime, New York Times, July 19, 1943
- Newspaper article, Poletti Says Allies Must Help Italy Get Organized, St. Petersburg Times, July 3, 1944
- Antony Shugaar, "Forward" in Salvatore Lupo, History of the Mafia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. xiii.
- How Capitalism Created The Mafia, Socialist Worker Online, January 22, 2008
- The Great Heroin Coup: Drugs, Intelligence, & International Fascism, by Henrik Krüger, 1981, page 24
- Newspaper article, Genovese Link Denied; Poletti Says He Did Not Have Gangster as Interpreter, New York Times, December 2, 1952
- The Godfathers: Lives and Crimes of the Mafia Mobsters, Roberto Olla, 2007
- Fighting the Mafia in World War Two, by Tim Newark, 2007, page 218
- Best of Sicily (1999). ""Battle" of Palermo". Liberation: The Sicilian Campaign - 1943. Palermo, Italy: Best of Sicily.com. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
- Tinney, Cal (August 8, 1943). "Man of the Week: Charlie "Amgot" Poletti". Nevada State Journal. Reno, NV. p. 12 – via Newspapers.com.
- Salvatore John LaGumina, The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia, 1999, page 271
- Salvatore John LaGumina, The Humble And the Heroic: Wartime Italian Americans, 2006, page 223
- Martin, Kyre; Joan, Kyre (1968). Military Occupation and National Security. Washington, DC: Public Affairs Press. p. 108.
- Bowman, Alfred Connor (1982). Zones of Strain: A Memior of the Early Cold War. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-8179-7731-3.
- Boyle, Harold V. (July 25, 1943). "One Man Yank Occupation Force Takes Over City With A Speech". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis, MO. p. 10A – via Newspapers.com.
- De Leeuw, Hendrik (1955). Underworld Story: The Rise of Organized Crime and Vice-rackets in the U.S.A. London, England: N. Spearman. p. 43.
When the World War II shooting was over, and his 'friend' Mussolini had been sent to Kingdom Come, Vito transferred his affection once more, said to have served as an interpreter for the Allied Military Government in Italy, a fact that has been vociferously denied by Poletti, who claimed that he did not know Genovese, that he had never worked for him, and that he had never been in need of an Italian-speaking interpreter, as he spoke the language fluently himself.
- J. T. White, The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume 55, 1974, page 559
- Newspaper article, Poletti Discharged From Army, New York Times, November 15, 1945
- Newspaper article, Coat, Suit Trade Chooses Poletti; Named as Arbiter, New York Times, March 20, 1946
- Newspaper article, Poletti Quits Post here, New York Times, June 3, 1947
- Newspaper article, Poletti is Named to Power Board, New York Times, March 2, 1955
- Newspaper article, Governor to Fill Job; May Name Westchester Man to Power Authority, New York Times, March 19, 1960
- Newspaper article, First 'Envoys' Leave for Europe To Promote '64 World's Fair, New York Times, August 15, 1960
- Newspaper article, Poletti Recipient of Many Gifts As Fair's International Officer, New York Times, June 13, 1964
- Newspaper article, City Adding an Extra Dash of Culture, New York Times, April 21, 1965
- Goldstein, Richard (August 10, 2002). "C. Poletti, Helped War-Torn Italy". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
- Social Security Death Index
- Newspaper article, Charles Poletti Dies at 99; Aided War-Ravaged Italy, New York Times, August 10, 2002
- Newspaper article, Col. Poletti Decorated, AMG Chief Gets Legion of Merit for Service in Italian Areas, New York Times, September 13, 1945
- Newspaper article, Poletti Decorated by Pope, New York Times, September 24, 1945
- Newspaper article, Italy Decorates Poletti, New York Times, September 28, 1945
- Newspaper photo headline and caption, Poletti Honored for Wartime Service, New York Post, July 6, 1948
- Newspaper article, Harness the Jordan, New York Times, June 5, 1971
- Who's Who in the World, published by Marquis, 1978
- Newspaper article, Poletti Power Plant to Close[permanent dead link], New York Daily News, September 6, 2002
- Newspaper article, Skepticism About Plan to Shutter Power Plant, by Ken Belson, New York Times, January 28, 2009
- Newspaper article, Astoria Power Plant Closes Under Pressure, New York Post, February 6, 2010
- Poletti papers at Columbia University
- National Governors Association biography
- Press Release, NYPA Trustees Honor Charles Poletti, New York State Power Authority, September 17, 2002