A mild manner man was Arthur Seligman, pioneer builder of his native state, New Mexico, one-time Mayor of one of its leading cities, Santa Fe, and since 1931 its Governor. His sudden and untimely death last Monday came as a shock to all who knew him.
Stately in appearance, democratic in demeanor, firm in his convictions, determined in his action, Seligman was not only New Mexico’s favorite son, but also an exemplary figure in American civic and political life. His rise to the highest position of honor and responsibility in the State where he lived virtually all his life, the state to which he contributed so many lasting monuments, was reflective of the esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens. Though always gentle, he invariably dealt emphatically with those who would practice abuse in public office. In the government of his state he had no time for those who would see in political activity an opportunity for personal gain. He viewed public service as a privilege coming with American citizenship and felt that every one should accept this service in the spirit of a sacred trust.
If he were to run a political campaign on a large scale, he once told this writer, he would do it along strictly educational lines. If the city or the state where he would be running for office would have say a population of about two million, he would prepare a campaign budget on the assumption that it would cost him approximately 50 cents per person in order to bring home to each citizen the fundamental issues involved. Based on this figure, he would ask his constituency for an appropriation of $1,000,000. This sum would be applied not for propaganda purposes as it is done in some places now, but for an educational program giving the voters an honest interpretation of the issues involved.
In this way, he felt, he would succeed in combating the efforts of the selfish politicians who are interested in greed only. It was by pursuing such a policy as this, he felt, he was able to achieve all that he did in a political way. The story of his career â€” how at the age of 12 or 15 he edited a newspaper, serving also as advertising and circulation manager; his clash with the Republican Party in his state and his ultimate triumph; his success in the field of clean government â€” is now a matter of public record. Suffice it to say that in his death the Democratic Party lost a pillar of strength in the South. So did clean government.
The history of the Seligman family is closely identified with the history of New Mexico. His uncle was among the first settlers and throughout his life was one of its most respected citizens. As a lad Arthur came to Philadelphia where he pursued commercial studies at the Pierce School and received his general education at Swarthmore College, adjoining Philadelphia. In Philadelphia his sister. Mrs. Eva Cohen, and other members of the family have lived for many years. Whenever he came North, invariably he spent some time in Philadelphia where he had a large number of friends.
Though distant from Jewish communal life. Seligman always evinced a deep interest in the affairs of his people. He kept in touch with Jewish activity and cooperated in many causes. There are only a handful of Jews in New Mexico, yet when he was candidate for the office of governor he had the Ku-Klux-Klan to deal with. These conducted a whispering campaign against him. This was his first encounter with anti-Semitism and upset him quite a bit. However, his standing in the community and his splendid record of achievement were too much for the Kluxers. His election â€” the first Jew to hold that office in New Mexico â€” also helped to crush the Kluxers in the State. His sudden death last Monday is a distinct loss for he was a credit to his country and his people.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.