Fiorello Henry LaGuardia - former mayor of New York City

Fiorello Henry LaGuardia Biography

Claim to Fame: Former mayor of New York City
DOB: 1882
Date of Death: 1947
Diabetes Type: unknown

Fiorello LaGuardia was the mayor of New York from 1934 to 1945. He was popularly known as "the Little Flower," the translation of his Italian first name. According to modern historians, LaGuardia is considered one of New York City's greatest mayors because of his role in leading New York during the Great Depression.

LaGuardia was born in The Bronx but spent most of his childhood in Prescott, Arizona. The family moved to Trieste, Italy after his father was discharged from his bandmaster position in the U.S. Army in 1898. LaGuardia served in U.S. consulates in Budapest, Trieste, and Fiume (1901–1906). Fiorello returned to the U.S. to continue his education at New York University, and during this time he worked as a translator at Ellis Island from 1907 to 1910.

He became the Deputy Attorney General of New York in 1914. In 1916 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he developed a reputation as a fiery and devoted reformer. In Congress, LaGuardia represented then-Italian East Harlem.

LaGuardia was elected mayor of New York City on an anti-corruption "fusion" ticket during the Great Depression, which united him in an uneasy alliance with New York's liberal bluebloods. Over the next twelve years he developed a reputation as an honest and efficient administrator. A supporter of the New Deal, La Guardia expanded the city's social-welfare services and began a program of providing low-cost housing. LaGuardia was the city's first Italian-American mayor, but LaGuardia was far from being a typical Italian New Yorker. He was Republican, Episcopalian, had grown up in Arizona, and had an Istrian Jewish mother and a Roman Catholic-turned-atheist father. He reportedly spoke seven languages, including Hebrew, Italian, and Yiddish. He declined to seek re-election in 1945 and, in the following year, became director general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

LaGuardia is famous for, among other things, restoring the economic lifeblood of New York City during and after the Great Depression. His massive public works programs employed thousands of unemployed New Yorkers and his constant lobbying for federal government funds allowed New York to establish the foundation for its economic infrastructure. He was also well known for reading the comics on the radio during a newspaper strike, and pushing to have a commercial airport (Floyd Bennett Field, and now LaGuardia Airport) within city limits. Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and LaGuardia Community College are also named for him. He was also the subject of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical “Fiorello!”

His wife of 2 years, Thea, died in 1921 of tuberculosis. In 1929, he married Marie Fischer and they adopted two children.

 

Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

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by Nicole Purcell
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