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Guide to the Henry Walter Papers
 MS 3016

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on February 02, 2018
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Biographical/Historical Note

Henry (Hank) Walter (1927-2016) joined New York City Comptroller Abraham D. Beame’s staff in September 1970 as Assistant to the Comptroller for Public Relations. In this capacity he wrote speeches for Beame, as well as press releases and messages to groups, and handled select correspondence on public relations matters.

After attending St. Joseph’s College and Fordham University, and a stint in the Army, Walter’s professional career began in 1953 as a copy boy with the New York World-Telegram. He became a reporter for the newspaper, first on civil service issues, then covering City Hall. He left the  World-Telegram in August 1962 to become Press Secretary for gubernatorial candidate Robert Morgenthau. In January 1963, Walter became the first Director of Public Information for the newly-formed New York City Department of Highways. He left the Department in March 1964, joining WMCA Radio as Director of Editorial Research, and was later promoted to Director of Public Affairs for Straus Broadcasting Group, of which WMCA was a part.

Walter left WMCA in mid-1970 and was hired on to Beame’s staff by his Executive Assistant, Dominick R. Peluso, who was a former reporter himself and knew Walter from their years on the City Hall beat for rival papers. Peluso left Beame’s staff in January 1972 for a job with the Queens Public Administrator, and he was replaced by Ed Katcher, another former reporter. In November 1973, Beame won New York’s mayoral election, and Walter stayed on as a speechwriter for Mayor Beame with the title of Special Assistant to the Mayor. In this position, Walter reported to Press Secretary Sidney J. Frigand and worked with other speechwriters and public relations staff, including the future Lincoln scholar, Harold Holzer.

Abraham D. Beame (1906-2001) was a graduate of the City College of New York and a Certified Public Accountant who began working for the city’s budget bureau in 1946. Beame was first elected Comptroller in 1962. He left the office in 1965 to run for mayor on the Democratic Party ticket. He lost that election to John V. Lindsay, but returned to public service four years later in January 1970 upon his re-election as Comptroller. In the next election cycle, Beame again ran for mayor, winning this time. He was inaugurated on January 1, 1974. Although his mayoralty had moments of celebration, such as the events surrounding the 1976 Bicentennial of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, Beame’s tenure was marked more by fiscal crises (including the threat of bankruptcy), crime (including the Son of Sam serial murders), the failure to deliver basic services (including the power black-out of 1977), and other troubles. Beame ran for re-election in the mayoral campaign of 1977, but lost in the Democratic Party primary.

As Beame’s days in office came to a close, Walter transferred in November 1977 to work as a speechwriter for Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin, a position he held until 1989 when Goldin left the Comptrollership after a failed effort to win that year’s mayoral election.