The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

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Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary

[picture: cover of Flynn's book, You're the Boss]Edward Joseph Flynn was born on September 22, 1891 in New York City to well-to-do Irish Catholic immigrants. After he attended Catholic schools, he went to Fordham University where he received his law degree in 1912. Flynn was admitted to the New York bar in 1913. Flynn practiced law until he was elected as a New York state assemblyman in 1917. A member of Tammany Hall, Flynn rose in the organization to become in 1922 chairman of the Democratic party in the Bronx, a position he held until his death. He then became known as the "Boss of the Bronx." Flynn used machine politics to serve his constituents but kept his district free from the corruption that plagued Tammany elsewhere in the city. Flynn campaigned hard for FDR in the 1928 New York governor's race and in 1929 FDR named Flynn secretary of state, a position he held until 1939, even after FDR moved into the White House.

Flynn was forever a close supporter of FDR and the New Deal and became a dear friend to ER. Flynn introduced FDR to Jim Farley. It was Farley who led FDR's 1932 and 1936 presidential campaigns. During both these campaigns, Flynn worked alongside Farley and ER. Flynn appreciated ER's political organizational skills and the two developed a close, effective working relationship. In 1933, FDR appointed Flynn to be a regional administrator of the National Recovery Administration's public works program, thus gaining a spot for Flynn in the inner circle of FDR's political advisers. When Jim Farley refused to support FDR in a third presidential bid, Flynn stepped in and in 1940 FDR appointed Flynn national chairman of the Democratic party. Working closely with ER, Flynn would serve in this capacity from 1940-1943. Through Flynn's campaign leadership, he led FDR to his third and fourth presidential victories in 1940 and 1944. In 1943, FDR tried to appoint Flynn ambassador to Australia but the Senate refused confirmation due to Flynn's ties to Tammany Hall and the perceived corruption found there. After the failed confirmation, Flynn returned to the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

Flynn remained an FDR loyalist and accompanied FDR to Yalta. After FDR's death, Flynn finished out his career in the Bronx, dedicated to the machine, out to prove that big-city bosses need not be corrupt and that they could work successfully with New Deal welfare policies. In 1947 Flynn wrote You're the Boss. ER wrote the preface to this work. When Cardinal Spellman labeled ER an anti-Catholic bigot and unfit mother when she opposed federal aid to private religious schools, Flynn sided with ER and helped her rebuff the Cardinal's intemperate remarks. Flynn died on August 18, 1953.


The Concise Dictionary of American Biography. 5th ed. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997, 395.

Graham, Otis L., Jr. and Meghan Robinson Wander. Franklin D. Roosevelt, His Life and Times. New York: Da Capo Press, 1985, 140.

Lash, Joseph. Eleanor: The Years Alone. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972, 162-3.