Erastus Corning 2nd

Erastus Corning 2nd

Mayor Corning in 1964
72nd Mayor of Albany, New York
In office
January 2, 1942  May 28, 1983
Preceded by J. Boyd Thatcher II
Succeeded by Thomas M. Whalen III
Member of the New York Senate
from the 30th district
In office
January 1, 1937  August 1, 1941
Preceded by William T. Byrne
Succeeded by Julian B. Erway
Member of the New York State Assembly from Albany's 1st district
In office
January 1, 1936  August 1, 1937
Preceded by John H. Cahill
Succeeded by George W. Foy
Personal details
Born Erastus Corning II
October 7, 1909
Albany, New York, U.S.
Died May 28, 1983(1983-05-28) (aged 73)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Platt
Children Erastus Corning III
Bettina Corning Dudley
Alma mater Yale University
Profession Insurance broker
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1944–1945
Battles/wars Second World War

Erastus Corning 2nd (October 7, 1909 – May 28, 1983) was an American politician. He was Mayor of Albany, New York for more than 40 years, from 1942 to 1983, when Albany County was controlled by one of the last two classic urban political machines in the United States. Albany's longest-serving mayor, the Democrat died in office in 1983. His great-grandfather, Erastus Corning, was an industrialist who founded the New York Central Railroad and served as Albany's mayor from 1834 to 1837. His father, Edwin Corning, was Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1927 to 1928.


Corning referred to himself as "Erastus Corning 2nd", preferring that moniker to "Erastus Corning II".[1][2]

Life and career

Corning was born in Albany, New York, the son of Louise (née Maxwell) and Edwin Corning. His mother was born in Cawnpore, India, where her father was serving as a missionary, to American parents.[3] He was educated at The Albany Academy and Groton School before attending Yale University. After earning his college degree, Corning started an insurance company and soon entered politics. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Albany Co., 1st D.) in 1936; and of the New York State Senate (30th D.) from 1937 to 1941, sitting in the 160th, 161st, 162nd and 163rd New York State Legislatures. He resigned his seat on August 1, 1941, to seek the Democratic nomination for Mayor of Albany.[4]

Corning won the first of his 11 terms as mayor in November 1941 – easily defeating the Republican candidate, Benjamin R. Hoff, by nearly 46,000 votes. Corning took office on January 1, 1942, and was re-elected in landslides for most of the rest of his tenure. The most notable exception was 1973 when a prominent businessman and reform candidate, Carl Touhey, ran a well-financed campaign and came within 3,200 votes of defeating the mayor. In 1977 Corning weathered a primary election challenge from State Senator Howard C. Nolan, Jr.

Touhey's campaign was not the first major challenge to Corning's administration. Shortly after his first term began, the newly elected Governor Thomas E. Dewey had the powerful Albany Democratic political machine, run by "Boss" Daniel P. 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 family machine in Chicago.

During Governor Dewey's investigation, Corning was drafted into the United States Army and served as a private in World War II; he did not seek to use his official status to avoid service or to get any favorable treatment. During his absence, Frank Harris, a councilman, served as acting mayor, appointed to this post by Corning.

At the New York state election, 1946, Corning ran for Lieutenant Governor of New York with James M. Mead for governor, but they were defeated by the incumbent Republicans Dewey and Joe R. Hanley.

Corning served ten full consecutive terms after his return from the war. His insurance firm profited from being the sole bidder on Albany County insurance contracts for many years. Corning defended this apparent conflict of interest by noting that he himself was not a county official.

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. He is interred in Albany Rural Cemetery.


The Erastus Corning Tower, the tallest building in Albany and the tallest in the state outside New York City, is named for him, as is the "Corning Preserve", a nature trail and fishing site on the western banks of the Hudson River in Albany. The tower is part of the Empire State Plaza, a 98-acre (400,000 m2), 11-building state government office and cultural complex. Some believe that the building was named after Corning because it has 42 floors (which is the same as the number of years he served as mayor), but the building actually has 44 floors with an observation deck on Floor 42. Completed in 1973, the skyscraper was dedicated to Corning upon his death in 1983.

Awards and honors

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands named Corning an officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, the country's highest citizen honor, in gratitude for his aid to Nijmegen following World War II.[5]


New York Assembly
Preceded by
John H. Cahill
New York State Assembly
Albany County, 1st District

Succeeded by
George W. Foy
New York State Senate
Preceded by
William T. Byrne
New York State Senate
30th District

Succeeded by
Julian B. Erway
Political offices
Preceded by
Herman F. Hoogkamp
Mayor of Albany, New York
Succeeded by
Frank Salisbury Harris
Preceded by
Frank Salisbury Harris
Mayor of Albany, New York
Succeeded by
Thomas Michael Whalen III
Party political offices
Preceded by
Charles Poletti
Democratic Party Nominee for Lieutenant Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Richard H. Balch
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