Take City Hall: The Story of Mayor Thomas M. Whalen III — Part 1

Take City Hall! Mayor Tom Whalen and the Transformation of New York’s Capital to an “All-America” City, Daniel E. Button.

Dan Button has created a first-rate biography of Tom Whalen, storied Mayor of New York’s historical capital, who — to the amazement of everyone and the chagrin of more than a few — made an “All-America City” out of a place ruled for a century by clans, chieftains, and corruption, It’s a great tale, a winner!” — Vincent O’Leary

President-emeritus, State University of New York at Albany

“An engaging account of an unusual citizen-politician’s ten years as mayor of Albany. But what also makes it so compelling is Dan Button’s authoritative and often entertaining story of the half-century before Tom Whalen — when the city was dominated by the fabled machine of Dan O’Connell. Must reading for anyone who wants to understand how politics was played in America in the zoth Century!”

— Jack W. Germond Journalist and political commentator

“Dan Button has written a major installment in the history of modern Albany politics… The book gives Whalen, a reformer of grand proportion, overdue public justice for the political miracle he performed during his ten years in City Hall. Dan O’Connell and Erastus Coming were wizards at perpetuating power through the brilliant and irresistible chicanery of their political machine — yet Tom Whalen dismantled it with astonishing swiftness. Dan Button raises our awareness, and will also raise a few hackles, with his story of how the rebel Mayor delivered Albany into the exotic unknown of open government. It is a splendid gift to us all, and so was Tom Whalen.” — William Kennedy Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author

Take City Hall! reveals how Mayor Tom Whalen rescued his city in a struggle that Fiorello LaGuardia would have admired and Jimmy Stewart’s “Mr. Smith” would be proud of! An inspiring success story, Take Ciry Hall! chronicles Tom Whalen’s rise as heir of the legendary, longest-tenured Mayor in U.S. history, the “patrician” Erastus Corning. Whalen turned Albany’s colorful political world upside down, and before he was finished, he had lifted Albany to national “All-America City” acclaim.

“Moments come and go: Here is the time, seize it, do your best.” — David McCullough

The Organization finally was humbled by one of its own, a native son, 49 years of age when he took over, a family man of Irish descent, strong in the dominant faith of his townsfolk, with a very decent practice in the law, and a previously unblinking association with the O’Connell-Corning party, having previously refrained from offering question or objection, complaint or reformer’s zeal.

His intent was neither to wreck the Organization nor to change the party (though he affected both in major degree) but rather to save his city and its government from fiscal disaster; next, to install sound policies of administration, then to establish for it a reputation of honorable intent and performance. And ultimately to salvage its civic soul. As Mayor of Albany, he was described by a subordinate as a leader who “wanted a victory every day.”

Without announcing his personal tenets or an official creed, he swiftly set in motion a series of acts, initiating and carrying out a program of policies which implicitly renounced the concept of governing by fear and favor. And he governed long enough not merely to gain respect and admiration for his administration and its high achievements, but more importantly he restored the elements of civic self-respect to the citizenry, almost without its needing to note that fundamental changes had taken place.


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Thomas Whalen Iii

Thomas Whalen Iii

Thomas Whalen III of Albany, New York, functioned in a variety of elected public service roles dating back to his time as a city court judge in 1969.