His acting skills made him a success on the amateur theater circuit.
He became widely known, and developed the smooth oratorical style that characterized his political career.
After being approached by Frances Perkins, an activist to improve labor practices, Smith sought to improve the conditions of factory workers.
but Smith identified with the Irish-American community and became its leading spokesman in the 1920s.
His father Alfred owned a small trucking firm, but died when the boy was 13. James parochial school to help support the family, and worked at a fish market for seven years.
It also brought out the anti-Catholic vote, which was especially strong among white conservative Democrats in the South, although Smith was still successful within the states of the Deep South.
Many Protestants feared his candidacy, including German Lutherans and Southern Baptists, believing that the Catholic Church and the Pope would dictate his policies.
Their findings led to thirty-eight new laws regulating labor in New York state, and gave each of them a reputation as leading progressive reformers working on behalf of the working class.