Alfred Emanuel Smith, Jr. (December 30, 1873–October 4, 1944), known in private and public life as Al Smith, was an American politician who was elected Governor of New York four times, and was the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928. He was the first Roman Catholic and Irish-American to run for President as a major party nominee. He lost the election to Herbert Hoover. He then became president of the Empire State, Inc. and was instrumental in getting the Empire State Building built at the onset of the Great Depression.
Smith was born to Alfred Emanuel Smith and Catherine Mulvihill, and initially grew up in the multiethnic Lower East Side of Manhattan, on Oliver Street, within sight of the Brooklyn Bridge, then under construction. His four grandparents were Irish, German, Italian and English, but Smith identified with the Irish American community and became its leading spokesman in the 1920s.
He was thirteen when his father, who was a Civil War veteran and who owned a small trucking firm, died. At fourteen he had to drop out of parochial school, St. James School in Manhattan located at 37 James Street, to help support the rest of his family. He never attended high school or college, and claimed that he learned about people by studying them at the Fulton Fish Market, a job for which he was paid $12 per week. An accomplished amateur actor, he became a notable speaker. On May 6, 1900, Alfred Smith married Catherine A. Dunn, with whom he had five children.