Erastus Corning 2nd, the longest serving mayor of a major American city, was born October 7, 1909 into a wealthy and politically experienced family.
Corning's great grand-father, Erastus Corning, served as Albany's mayor from 1834-1836. His father Edwin served as Lieutenant Governor of New York State under Alfred E. Smith from 1926-1928 and his uncle Parker Corning was a US congressman.
As a child Erastus was educated at the Albany Academy for Boys and Groton School before attending college at Yale.
The Start of his Political Career
After earning his college degree Corning started his own insurance company, but soon entered the political arena with his election to the New York State Assembly in 1935. In 1937 he was elected to the State Senate.
Corning won the first of his 11 terms as mayor in 1941 -- easily defeating his Republican opponent, Benjamin R. Hoff, by almost 46,000 votes. Corning would be re-elected by major landslides for the rest of his career, except in 1973 when a prominent businessman, Carl Touhey, ran a well-financed campaign and came within 3,200 votes of unseating the powerful mayor.
Touhey's campaign was not the first major challenge to Corning's administration. Shortly after his first term began, newly elected NYS Governor Thomas E. Dewey had the powerful Albany Democratic political machine, run by "Boss" Dan O'Connell, investigated. The investigations proved largely unsuccessful and left Corning and O'Connell unscathed. This political machine proved to be one of the most durable in American history, even outlasting the Daley machine in Chicago.
During Dewey's investigation, Corning was drafted into the US Army and he served his country during World War II. During his absence Frank Harris, a councilman, served as acting mayor.
Mayor for Life
Corning served ten full consecutive terms in all. His last mayoral re-election came in 1981. During his last term he began to show health problems and, on May 28, 1983, he died of heart failure at University Hospital in Boston.