James Michael Mead
|United States Senator|
from New York
December 3, 1938 – January 3, 1947
|Preceded by||Royal S. Copeland|
|Succeeded by||Irving M. Ives|
|Chair of the Federal Trade Commission|
May 24, 1950 – March 31, 1953
|Preceded by||Lowell Mason|
|Succeeded by||Edward F. Howrey|
|Member of the Federal Trade Commission|
November 15, 1949 – September 25, 1955
|Preceded by||Garland S. Ferguson|
|Succeeded by||William C. Kern|
|Chairman of the United States House Committee on Post Office and Post Roads|
|Preceded by||Archie D. Sanders|
|Succeeded by||Milton A. Romjue|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from New York's 42nd district
March 4, 1919 – December 2, 1938
|Preceded by||William F. Waldow|
|Succeeded by||Pius Schwert|
|Member of the New York State Assembly|
from the Erie County, 4th district
January 1, 1915 – December 31, 1918
|Preceded by||Patrick W. Quigley|
|Succeeded by||Andrew T. Beasley|
|Born||December 27, 1885|
Mount Morris, New York, U.S.
|Died||March 15, 1964 (aged 78)|
Lakeland, Florida, U.S.
Alice M. Dillon
(m. 1915; died 1964)
James Michael Mead (December 27, 1885 – March 15, 1964) was an American politician from New York. A Democrat, among the offices in which he served was member of the Erie County Board of Supervisors (1914-1915), New York State Assembly (1915-1918), United States House of Representatives (1919-1938), and United States Senate (1938-1947).
A native of Mount Morris, New York, Mead was raised in Buffalo. He attended the public schools of Buffalo and began working for railroads at age 12. He rose through the Switchmen's Union's ranks to become president of the Buffalo local. From 1911 to 1914 he was employed as an officer with the United States Capitol Police. While working in Washington, Mead attended courses at the Georgetown University Law Center.
Mead began a political career in 1914 with election to Erie County's Board of Supervisors. He subsequently served in the state Assembly from 1915 to 1918. In 1918 he won election to the U.S. House, where he served from 1919 to 1938. In 1938 he was elected to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Royal S. Copeland. He served in the Senate until 1947. In 1946, he was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for governor of New York. He was then appointed to the Federal Trade Commission, on which he served from 1949 to 1955.
James M. Mead was born in Mount Morris, New York on December 27, 1885, a son of Thomas and Jane (Kelly) Mead. Mead moved to Buffalo with his family at the age of five. He attended Buffalo's grammar schools and began working at age 12. He was employed by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad; his career included jobs as a water boy, lamp lighter, section hand, spike mauler, shop mechanic and switchman.
Mead later worked for the Pullman Company as a mechanic on sleep car dynamos. He was subsequently employed as a switchman on the Erie Railroad, and was eventually elected president of the Switchmen's Union's Buffalo local. From 1911 to 1914 he was employed as an officer with the United States Capitol Police.
Start of career
Mead also continued his education during his railroad and police careers; he attended Buffalo's Caton School of Engineering and completed an engineering course of instruction at the Buffalo Institute of Technology. He also took courses at Canisius College and Catholic University. While working nights for the Capitol Police, Mead attended the Georgetown University Law Center during the day.
As a well-known semiprofessional football and baseball player in the Buffalo area, Mead developed a following that aided his entry into politics. In 1913, Mead was a successful candidate for a seat on the Erie County, New York Board of Supervisors and he served in 1914. In 1914 he ran for the New York State Assembly. He won the Erie County 4th District seat and won reelection in 1916. Mead served in the sessions of 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918. In the Assembly, Mead won a reputation as a champion of worker's rights, including passage of a "full crew" law for freight trains, a law requiring workers to be paid every two weeks instead of every month, and an act mandating improved safety measures in train engine cabs. Among his successes were laws to improve the conditions of women and children in factories and enhancements to the state's worker's compensation laws. Mead's affability and power of persuasion marked him as an effective legislator despite the fact that he was a Democrat in a body controlled by Republicans.
In 1918, Mead defeated incumbent Republican congressman William Frederick Waldow for New York's 42nd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was reelected nine times, and served from 1919 to 1938. From 1931 to 1938, Mead served as chairman of the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads. In Congress, Mead was a strong advocate for worker's rights, and received credit for aiding the passage of several labor measures, including the Railway Labor Act, Railroad Retirement Act, and Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. Mead was the author of a law mandating a reduction in work hours for post office department employees to 44 hours per week, and later to 40 hours.
While supplementing his education by taking college courses during his Congressional service, Mead was well known for staying in good physical condition by trotting from campus to campus. At 6 feet 2 inches and 200 pounds, he maintained the athletic build of his youth, and was known as the House's best baseball and softball player. After 28 of his colleagues died during one session, Mead recognized the need for a Congressional gym and took the lead in organizing it and bringing it into operation.
According to John W. McCormack, who served as Speaker of the House from 1961 to 1971, the House's Democratic leaders were grooming Mead to become Speaker. McCormack went on to say that the only reason he (McCormack) was placed on the path that enabled him to become majority leader and then Speaker was that Mead left the House when he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
In 1938, Mead defeated Republican Edward F. Corsi to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant after Royal S. Copeland died. He was re-elected in 1940, defeating Republican Congressman Bruce Barton.
In the Senate, Mead succeeded to the chairmanship of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (the Truman Committee) after Harry S. Truman was elected vice president in 1944. Under his leadership the committee continued Truman's effort to weed out wartime waste, corruption and inefficiency.
The committee's investigations under Mead's leadership resulted in Representative Andrew J. May's imprisonment for bribery and an extended debate on whether Senator Theodore G. Bilbo would be permitted to take his seat after winning reelection in 1946. The committee uncovered evidence that the racist Bilbo had sanctioned violence against African American veterans who attempted to vote in Mississippi's 1946 elections. In addition, there was evidence that Bilbo had accepted bribes from defense contractors in exchange for actions on their behalf during the war. The issue was resolved when Bilbo's credentials were tabled so he could return to Mississippi and seek treatment for oral cancer, an illness which proved fatal.
Mead was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1942. He was the Democratic candidate for Governor of New York in 1946, losing to Republican incumbent Thomas Dewey.
After Mead's defeat, he served on the Federal Trade Commission. Appointed in 1949, he became chairman six months later. He remained on the commission until 1955. From 1955 to 1956, he was the director of the Washington office of the New York Department of Commerce. Mead was also a New York delegate to the Democratic National Convention every four years from 1936 to 1952.
Retirement and death
- McCarthy, Max (May 31, 1992). "Jim Mead's Story Began in a Hut by Side of Tracks". Buffalo News. Buffalo, NY.
- "Ex-Senator Mead Of New York Dies". The New York Times. New York, NY. March 16, 1964. p. 1 – via TimesMachine.
- Malcolm, James, ed. (1918). The New York Red Book. Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company. p. 162 – via Google Books.
- Dulski, Thaddeus J. (March 17, 1964). Congressional Record. Vol. 110. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. p. 5468 – via Google Books.
- Current Biography: Who's News and Why. New York, NY: H. W. Wilson Company. 1944. p. 458.
- World Biography. Vol. 2. New York, NY: Institute for Research in Biography. 1948. p. 3174.
- American Law School Review. Vol. 9–10. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company. 1938. p. 333.
- Levin, Ruben (July 1, 1950). "Uncle Sam's Chief Cop: From Water Boy on Lackawanna to Chairman of Federal Trade Commission: "Jim" Mead's Great Record". The Train Dispatcher. Chicago, IL: American Train Dispatchers Association. pp. 286–289.
- Sweeney, Daniel J., ed. (1919). History of Buffalo and Erie County, 1914-1919. Buffalo, NY: Committee of One Hundred. p. 15 – via Google Books.
- "Index to Politicians: Mead, James Michael". The Political Graveyard. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Kestenbaum. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
- "Shoebox Libraries Are Well-Loved But Have Problems". The Buffalo News. Buffalo, NY. July 17, 2005.
- "Ex-Senator Mead Dies in Florida". Tallahassee Democrat. Tallahassee, FL. Associated Press. March 19, 1964. p. 18 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Funeral Service Set for Senator". Lake Sentinel. Orlando, FL. March 18, 1964. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Mead-Dillon". Buffalo Times. Buffalo, NY. August 25, 1915. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
- United States Congress. "James M. Mead (id: M000615)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- James M. Mead at Find a Grave
- A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with James M. Mead (September 3, 1952)" is available at the Internet Archive