So much for the legacy of Herbert Lehman, one of the first Wall Street millionaires to run for public office and the son of the man who founded the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers. Lehman served as Finance Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and was elected Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1928 running on a ticket with gubernatorial candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When Roosevelt ran for President in 1932, Lehman ran for Governor and beat U.S. Attorney Wild Bill Donovan, who would later become the top American spymaster during World War II, by a 57%-39% margin. Lehman was re-elected in 1934, defeating New York City master builder Robert Moses (58%-37%), and again in 1936 and 1938. In his last run for Governor, he narrowly won re-election, 50%-49%, over U.S. Attorney Thomas Dewey.
Lehman resigned as Governor in 1942 to join the Roosevelt Administration as Director of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations, and later as Director-General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
In 1946, Lehman returned to New York to run for an open seat in the United States Senate. He lost to Republican Irving Ives, the former Speaker of the New York State Assembly and the Dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, by a 53%-47% margin.
When four-term Demcorat Robert Wagner resigned from the U.S. Senate in 1949 for health reasons, Dewey, who was the Governor of New York, appointed lawyer John Foster Dulles to the seat. Lehman challenged Dulles in a November 1949 special election and won, 52%-48%. He won a six-year term in 1950, defeating Lt. Governor Robert Hanley by a 50%-45% margin.
Lehman retired from the Senate in 1956. In the contest for Lehman's seat, Republican Jacob Javits, the state Attorney General and former Congressman, defeated New York City Mayor Robert Wagner, Jr.