William Travers Jerome

Few men worked so diligently as William Travers Jerome in the fight against corruption in New York. Jerome, born in 1854, graduated from Amherst College and received a law degree from Columbia before starting private practice. In 1894 he worked as assistant counsel for the Lexow Committee, an investigation by the New York State Senate into police malfeasance in New York City. It was the first shot in the war against the Democratic Party machine, otherwise known as Tammany Hall, and Jerome played an important role, providing legal counsel for the reform organizations, most notably the Committee of Seventy, that sprang up in the 1890s. In 1895 the reform mayor, William Strong, appointed Jerome as a justice on the Court of Special Sessions. Jerome used his position to great effect, leading raids on gambling houses, closing down brothels, and prosecuting corrupt officials. In 1901 the reform movement won a landslide victory at the polls, electing Seth Low as mayor and Travers Jerome as district-attorney. Jerome won re-election in 1905 and, during his eight-year tenure, transformed the District-Attorney’s Office into an effective and impartial institution. Jerome returned to private practice in 1910 as a partner in the firm of Guthrie, Jerome, Rand, & Kressel. He died on 13 February 1934.