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Charles Poletti

In office
December 3, 1942 – December 31, 1942
Lieutenant Joe R. Hanley (acting)
Preceded by Herbert H. Lehman
Succeeded by Thomas E. Dewey

Lieutenant Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1939 – December 3, 1942
Preceded by M. William Bray
Succeeded by Joe R. Hanley (acting)

Born July 2, 1903(1903-07-02)
Died August 8, 2002 (aged 99)
Elizabethtown, New York
Political party Democratic
Religion Baptist

Charles Poletti (July 2, 1903 - August 8, 2002) was an American lawyer and politician. He was the 46th Governor of New York in 1942.



He was a justice of the New York Supreme Court.

In 1938, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of New York with Governor Herbert H. Lehman. Poletti served 29 days - the shortest term in New York history - as Governor of New York after Lehman's resignation in December 1942. Both had been defeated for re-election in November 1942. On January 4, 1943 he was appointed special assistant to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.

War efforts

Later during World War II, Poletti served as a U.S. Army civil affairs officer in Italy, rising to the rank of Colonel. As the commander of occupation forces in Sicily, his driver and interpreter was Mafia boss Vito Genovese, who had fled New York in the 1930s to escape prosecution for murder.[1] Later, he oversaw the civil affairs of a large section of post-war Italy. Poletti himself said that the Army selected him because, aside from his experience in state politics, the population would be more likely to respect someone of Italian ancestry.

Genovese was heavily involved in black market activities with other Mafiosi, such as Calogero Vizzini. In a 1993 interview for BBC TV, Poletti denied any association, whatsoever, with the Mafia during his time in command. "We had no problems at all with the Mafia," he said. "Nobody ever heard of it. While we were there, nobody heard of it. Nobody ever talked about it." Another Mafia boss, Lucky Luciano, once described Poletti as "one of our good friends."[2]

Back in the U.S.

Poletti was counsel to the state commission which recommended the creation of a statewide New York State Power Authority and worked in drafting the 1931 legislation which met that objective. Later he became a trustee of the Power Authority, serving from 1955 to 1960, the crucial period in which the St. Lawrence Project was built and the Authority’s Niagara Project largely completed. Poletti also had a role as a labor arbitrator and was the official responsible for foreign exhibits at Robert Moses' 1964 New York World's Fair.

The Charles Poletti Power Project (renamed in 1982 to honor him) is located in Astoria, Queens, across the East River from Manhattan in New York City.

Poletti died at the age of 99 in 2002; at the time of his death, he was the eldest living U.S. governor. Under protocol terms in New York State regarding the death of a former governor, flags flew at half staff for 31 days after his death, or two days longer than his governorship. He was interred at Calkins Cemetery in Elizabethtown, New York.


  1. ^ Antony Shugaar, "Forward" in Salvatore Lupo, History of the Mafia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. xiii.
  2. ^ Fighting the Mafia in World War Two, by Tim Newark, May 2007

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
M. William Bray
Lieutenant Governor of New York
1939 - 1942
Succeeded by
Joe R. Hanley
Preceded by
Herbert H. Lehman
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Thomas E. Dewey
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Harold E. Stassen
Earliest Serving United States Governor
2001 - 2002
Succeeded by
J. Strom Thurmond


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