"No stauncher American, no abler and more disinterested public servant, and no finer natural soldier than [John] Purroy Mitchel was to be found in all our country."
— Theodore Roosevelt
John Purroy Mitchel (1879–1918 )
New York City Mayor
Columbia College 1899
An ardent foe of the Tammany Hall political machine, John Purroy Mitchel drew national attention for his reform efforts before and during his single term as mayor of New York. While in office Mitchel cut waste, improved accounting practices, and worked to professionalize the city's civil service by standardizing salaries and work guidelines for municipal employees; in doing so he laid the groundwork for further anti-Tammany reforms by future mayors, particularly Fiorello LaGuardia. The man widely known as the "Boy Mayor" (elected at age 34, Mitchel remains the youngest man ever to hold the position) also fought police corruption, instituted the nation’s first zoning guidelines for development, and appointed the first woman to lead a major municipal agency in any U.S. city. Mitchel was just five years removed from New York Law School when he initially made his name, leading investigations into a pair of corrupt borough presidents in 1906. Three years later, aligned with anti-Tammany forces, he was elected as president of the city’s board of aldermen, the forerunner to the modern city council. He gained the mayoralty on a reform ticket in 1913 but was defeated soundly by a Tammany-backed candidate in his re-election bid four years later. Soon after leaving office, with World War I still raging in Europe, Mitchel joined the Army Air Service. He was only 38 when he died in a bizarre training accident, falling 500 feet from his plane in Lake Charles, Louisiana.