Herbert H. Lehman

A Political Biography

By Duane Tananbaum

Subjects: Biography, New York State Government, Jewish Studies, American History, History
Paperback : 9781438463186, 980 pages, December 2017
Hardcover : 9781438463179, 980 pages, December 2016

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The definitive biography of New York State's four-term Governor, US Senator, humanitarian, and Jewish liberal political reformer.


This new biography of Herbert Lehman—the first in a half century—fills the void left by historians and political scientists who have neglected one of the truly great liberal icons of the mid-twentieth century. Based on extensive research in archival sources, Herbert H. Lehman restores this four-term Governor of New York, US Senator, national and international humanitarian, and political reformer to his rightful place among the pantheon of liberal heroes of his era. By focusing on Lehman's interactions with Al Smith, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and John Kennedy, Duane Tananbaum shows how Lehman succeeded politically despite his refusal to compromise with his conscience. In his thirty-five years of public service, Herbert Lehman fought the Republicans in the State Legislature to provide economic security for New Yorkers during the Great Depression, and he battled the bureaucrats in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to feed the starving people in Europe and Asia during and after World War II. His efforts on behalf of "the welfare state," civil rights legislation, and immigration reform helped keep the liberal agenda alive until Congress, and the nation, were ready to enact it into law as part of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in 1964–1965.

Duane Tananbaum is Professor of American History at Lehman College, City University of New York, and the author of The Bricker Amendment Controversy: A Test of Eisenhower's Political Leadership.


"…a major contribution to American political history and biography…" — American Jewish Archives Journal

"Thankfully for us all, Tananbaum has published a magnificent biography which is as readable as it is comprehensive … an exemplary political biography which will be widely read and respected. " — American Jewish History

". ..[an] authoritative biography. " — New York Times

"Herbert Lehman served a distinguished career as governor, wartime relief administrator, and US senator. He built influential political alliances that spanned the era from FDR to LBJ, and stood resolutely against McCarthyism. Lehman has long deserved a substantial biography, and Duane Tananbaum's impeccably researched analysis admirably fills that need. " — Donald A. Ritchie, historian emeritus of the Senate and author of The US Congress: A Very Short Introduction

"Duane Tananbaum's exhaustive research and acute analysis make this book a definitive political biography that illuminates not only Herbert Lehman but also the many arenas in which he operated. The book is a significant source for scholars interested in New York State and Democratic Party politics, the United Nations' first operational agency, Congressional politics during World War II and the early years of the Cold War and the impact of one of America's leading Jewish politicians on issues ranging from the status of refugees from Nazi Germany to the recognition of the State of Israel by the United States. " — Robert Ingalls, University of South Florida