Alfred Smith was born in New York City on 30th December, 1873. After a brief formal education he found employment in the Fulton fish market. He become a member of the Democratic Party and in 1903 was elected to the state assembly.
In 1911 he became a member of a commission investigating factory conditions. Shocked by what he found he became associated with those politicians such as Robert Wagner and Frances Perkins, who were attempting to persuade the government to pass legislation to protect industrial workers. A popular politician, he served as speaker of the New York Assembly (1913), sheriff of New York County (1915-17) and president of the Board of Aldermen of New York (1917).
Smith was elected governor of New York for four terms (1919-20, 1923-28). As governor he attempted to bring an end to child labour, improve factory laws, housing and the care of the mentally ill. Smith was a popular figure in the Democratic Party and in 1928 Franklin D. Roosevelt returned to politics in an attempt to help him become president. Smith was the first Roman Catholic to be a serious candidate for the presidency. It is believed that his religion, combined with his opposition to Prohibition, led to his defeat by the Republican candidate, Herbert Hoover.
In 1932 Smith supported his old friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his campaign to become president. However, Smith became disillusioned with FDR's presidency and supported the Republican presidential candidates in the 1936 and 1940 elections.
Alfred Smith died in New York City on 4th October, 1944.