Who was Jim Farley and why was he in Mississippi?

In describing the new offices of the Highway Commission and the large number of employees housed in the Plaza Building (later known as the Standard Life Building and constructed in 1929), the Jackson New Deal (20 October 1933, p. 3) wrote:

The only surprising thing about it will be that the Standard Life Building is strong enough to hold up as much weight as there is on that floor.

When you enter the building, you might think that Jim Farley had arrived.

Who was Jim Farley, and why would someone entering the Standard Life Building think he had arrived?

Maybe because he had.  Farley was in Jackson on October 17 to speak prior to attending the opening of the new Meridian federal building on October 18, 1933 (Hattiesburg American, October 18, 1933, p. 1).

meridian_post_office-courthouse

Meridian-Lauderdale County Post Office and Courthouse in Meridian, MS. Image by Dudemanfellabra July 2008, Creative Commons license. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meridian_Post_Office-Courthouse.jpg

But, who was Jim Farley, and why was he in Jackson and then Meridian?  And what did that have to do with whether the Plaza/Standard Life Building was strong enough to hold up all those people?  Well, in 1932, “Dashing Jim Farley” was described as “enormous and erect” by the Biloxi Daily Herald (June 29, 1932, p. 4) and James A. (Big Jim) Farley of New York was described as the “big, buoyant director of the Roosevelt nomination and election campaigns” and the Democratic Party chairman (Daily Herald, January 9, 1933, p. 4).  I was going down the bunny trail of the “strong enough” building and wondering why his size had anything to do with it.  A bit more research and I concluded the remark related to the large numbers of people present for his October 1933 visit, as apparently, a lot of Mississippi turned out to meet Farley as he was at that point no longer a mere speculation.

Jim Farley was appointed Postmaster General by newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Light bulb declaration: I have seen James A. Farley on any number of cornerstones I have photographed of New Deal era post offices, and it was like an “aha” moment when I put it all together.  During his time in the New Deal Administration as Postmaster General, Mississippi saw the construction of a number of post offices.

jim-farley

Retrieved from Biloxi Daily Herald, August 30, 1933, p. 3.

Some of the Mississippi post office cornerstones, up close and personal:



Categories: Architectural Research, New Deal

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2 replies

  1. Have there been two Standard Life buildings in Jackson? The Plaza building is not what most people in Jackson think of as the Standard Life Building. When I think of the Standard Life Building, I think of the corner of Pearl and Roach.

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    • That is a good question, and certainly one that stumped me researching Standard Life Building a few days ago. The Plaza and the Tower were both built in 1929, but the Plaza was completed first. It housed the Standard Life Insurance Company and their name was on a sign atop the building. During the mid-60s, (the first date I located was 1964), Standard Life Insurance moved into the Tower Building, put their sign up there, and it became known at the Standard Life Building. So yes, there were two buildings in Jackson once known as Standard Life Building.

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