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Most famously, he successfully prosecuted Mafioso kingpin Charles "Lucky" Luciano on charges of compulsory prostitution in 1936. He also prosecuted and convicted Waxey Gordon, another prominent New York City gangster and bootlegger, on charges of tax evasion.
Dewey almost succeeded in apprehending Jewish mobster Dutch Schultz as well, but not before Schultz was murdered in 1935 in a hit ordered by The Commission itself.
The New York State Thruway is named in Dewey's honor.
His mother, Annie (Thomas), whom he called "Mater," bequeathed her son "a healthy respect for common sense and the average man or woman who possessed it." She also left "a headstrong assertiveness that many took for conceit, a set of small-town values never entirely erased by exposure to the sophisticated East, and a sense of proportion that moderated triumph and eased defeat." One journalist noted that "[as a boy] he did show leadership and ambition above the average; by the time he was thirteen, he had a crew of nine other youngsters working for him" selling magazines in Owosso.
A biographer wrote that "the bent of his mind, from his earliest days, was towards debate", and his high school senior yearbook in 1919 gave him the caption "First in the council hall to steer the state, and ever foremost in a tongue debate." He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1923, and from Columbia Law School in 1925. Although Dewey served as a prosecutor and District Attorney in New York City for many years, his home from 1939 until his death was a large farm, called "Dapplemere," located near the town of Pawling some 65 miles (105 km) north of New York City.
While at the University of Michigan, he joined Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a national fraternity for men of music, and was a member of the Men's Glee Club. According to biographer Richard Norton Smith, Dewey "loved Dapplemere as [he did] no other place", and Dewey was once quoted as saying that "I work like a horse five days and five nights a week for the privilege of getting to the country on the weekend." Dapplemere was part of a tight-knit rural community called Quaker Hill, which was known as a haven for the prominent and well-to-do. It was in this role that he first achieved headlines in the early 1930s, when he prosecuted bootlegger Waxey Gordon.
Following his conviction, New York's poultry "marketplace returned to normal, and New York consumers saved million in 1938 alone." That same month, Dewey, his staff, and New York City police also led a series of dramatic raids that led to the arrest of 65 of New York's leading operators in various rackets, including the bakery racket, numbers racket, and restaurant racket.In 1944, he was the Republican Party's nominee for President. Roosevelt in the closest of Roosevelt's four presidential elections.He was again the Republican presidential nominee in 1948, but lost to President Harry S.Dodge, the District Attorney, was not aggressively pursuing the mob and political corruption. He recruited a staff of over 60 assistants, investigators, process servers, stenographers, and clerks. La Guardia assigned a picked squad of 63 police officers to Dewey's office. All the paraphernalia, the hideouts and tapped telephones and so on, became famous.Lehman, to avoid charges of partisanship, asked four prominent Republicans to serve as special prosecutor. Dewey's targets were organized racketeering: the large-scale criminal enterprises, especially extortion, the "numbers racket" and prostitution. More than any other American of his generation except [Charles] Lindbergh, Dewey became a creature of folklore and a national hero.