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Charles Seymour Whitman

Lawyer/Governor of New York

Centurion, 1912–1947

Born 19 August 1868 in Sprague, Connecticut

Died 29 March 1947 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Westlawn Cemetery, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Proposed by Seth Low and John C. Spooner

Elected 3 February 1912 at age forty-three

Century Memorial

Charles Seymour Whitman. [Born] 1868. Lawyer, District Attorney, Governor of New York.

Within this week, the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the principle of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence that, except under the most vigorous rules of procedure, there is greater danger to a free people from conviction for crime than from the escape of some criminals from punishment. Hence it is that the testimony of accomplices is viewed skeptically and the rule is that such testimony is worthless to convict unless corroborated. It was this point—what constitutes corroboration—which was the battleground of the case of the People v. Becker. The names in the case are spectacular names—Baldy Jack Rose, Gyp the Blood, Lefty Louis, Dago Frank, Whitey Lewis and all the rest of the crew now all dead that had a hand in murdering no-good Herman Rosenthal—but it is the unspectacular, technical lawyer’s point, what constitutes corroboration, made good by Mr. Whitman for the People, which counts. It counts as another example of the adaptation of our law to the needs of the times—a process at least as old as the first lawyer at the courts of Westminster.

It was Centurion Mayor Seth Low who named Mr. Whitman a Magistrate and Centurion Governor Charles Evans Hughes who appointed him to the General Sessions Bench, from whence he went to the office of District Attorney, by election in 1910. Charles F. Murphy was boss of Tammany Hall and “outward order and decency” was the motto. What went on underneath was not to matter, but Mr. Whitman made it matter and the making made him Governor of New York.

The trait which impressed one most in the character of Governor Whitman was the force and drive of his personality. He possessed, also, determination, ability and personal courage. His success in the office of District Attorney was due almost solely to his own efforts. Yet he was a modest, simple and agreeable man of cheerful and affable manner.

He loved a fight, no doubt, but was just as ready for a frolic.

Source: Henry Allen Moe Papers, Mss.B.M722. Reproduced by permission of American Philosophical Society Library & Museum, Philadelphia

Henry Allen Moe
Henry Allen Moe Papers, 1947 Memorials