Senior Stories

Fiorello LaGuardia (The Compassion of New York’s Famous Mayor)

Fiorello LaGuardia Stamp, Mayor LaGuardia

The future Mayor of New York spent his childhood days at Fort Whipple, Arizona. He finished his education when he received his diploma from the high school at Prescott, Ariz.

After his father’s death, Fiorello accompanied his relatives to Budapest, where his mother’s body is buried in the Jewish Cemetery.

Cemetery at the End of the Road (Mary Jane’s Grave)

He was just 19 when he obtained employment in the United States Consulate. A few months later, he transferred to the consulate at Trieste as an interpreter. When he was 20 he became consul at Fiume, then part of Austria-Hungary.

It was in 1929 that Fiorello LaGuardia first ran for election as Mayor. He lost the election to Mayor James J. Walker by a few votes just off of a half a million. Three years later, in 1932, he lost the bid for re-election to the House of Representatives. It was a landslide victory that saw the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Tammany Hall believed that it had put Mayor LaGuardia on the political shelf by his defeat for Representative in 1932. Conservative Republicans believed they were rid of him by his defeat for Mayor in 1929. Both were terribly wrong.

LaGuardia’s Time as Mayor

Early in 1937, Mayor LaGuardia created an international incident. He made a speech before the women’s division of the American Jewish Congress in New York. He characterized Adolf Hitler as a fanatic menacing the peace of the world. Fiorello suggested that he be made a central figure in the World’s Fair Chamber of Horrors.

Interested in music from his childhood, Mayor LaGuardia sought out an anthem for this city. He frequently attended the opera and concerts and on occasion led symphony orchestras.

He established a series of Summer City Halls at the following locations:

  • the Bartow Mansion in the Bronx,
  • in the old Chisholm mansion in College Point Park,
  • and at the former Arrow Brook Golf and Country Club in Queens.

When the city purchased the Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it became the Mayor’s residence.

A majority of New York residents respected LaGuardia for conducting an honest administration. His reputation stood him in good stead in 1937. He won the Fusion candidacy for re-election, despite early Republican opposition. He won reelection easily, defeating Jeremiah T. Mahoney, Democratic candidate, by 453,374.

The death of President Roosevelt in April and the accession of President Harry S. Truman was a severe political blow to the mayor. Truman was critical of Mayor LaGuardia when his appointment to a high post in the Army was under consideration.

Mayor LaGuardia’s Career After City Hall

In 1945, LaGuardia refused to run for a fourth term as mayor. He was appointed director of the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense (1941) and director general (1946) of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

On Dec. 31, 1945, Fiorello LaGuardia moved out of City Hall after twelve years as Mayor. In that time he had drastically altered the city in many ways. Its physical plant, its governmental structure, and political and social patterns had all been changed substantially.

A new city charter had been adopted in 1938. Appointees of Fiorello LaGuardia filled the board of magistrates,  virtually every other long-term appointive office, and the power of Tammany Hall had been reduced to a shadow.

On April 8, 1947, Fiorello LaGuardia won the annual One World Award for press and radio.

Famous Mayor LaGuardia Death

Fiorello LaGuardia married twice. His first wife was Thea Almerigotti, and after her death, he married Marie Fisher in 1929. She had been his secretary while he was a member of the House of Representatives. They adopted two children, Jean Marie LaGuardia and Eric Henry LaGuardia. They were 18 and 15 when their father passed.

After Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s Death The New York Times wrote:

Fiorello H. LaGuardia died in his sleep at 7:22 A.M. yesterday. He was 64 years old. At the bedside were his wife, the former Marie Fisher LaGuardia, who had been his secretary while he was in Congress; their adopted children, Jean, 18 years old, and Eric, 15, and Mrs. LaGuardia’s sister, Miss Helen Fisher. The three-time Mayor of New York had been in a coma since last Tuesday night.

Many people described his passing as “a shock of awful finality.” The mayor was quoted, “In his death, the people of the city, the State and nation have lost a great, patriotic American citizen.”

To mark the passing of a high official, the Fire Department’s 5-5-5-5 signal, repeated four times. New Yorkers heard firehouses signal throughout the city at 8:06 A.M. At 8:15, the announcement of Fiorello LaGuardia’s death went out over the police teletype system. All city building custodians lowered their flags to half staff.

LaGuardia Remembered in Writing

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was one of the most important and dynamic political reformers during the 1930s. Just some of the books written by him and about him include:

Historians have continuously recognized LaGuardia as the greatest mayor in American history. He’s perhaps the greatest in New York City, with many experts calling him a match with Rudy Giuliani.

Fiorello LaGuardia Dedication

Mayor LaGuardia had such an impactful effect on others. Therefore, those he has touched have dedicated things to his name.

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