The Ascent of Fiorello La Guardia, New York’s First Italian-American Mayor

"I can't take off and I can't land, but I sure can fly." -bomber pilot Fiorello La Guardia, 1918

The following article, written by Jonathan Lewin, appears on

The Little Flower always knew he’d make a great New York mayor. By 1933 he’d been waiting years for the job.

As an anti-Tammany liberal Republican, Fiorello La Guardia attracted national attention in Congress, but he could never build a constituency in his own heavily Democratic town. Now, with Jimmy Walker deposed, civic leaders at last were looking for a fusion candidate with La Guardia’s previously unfashionable reform opinions.

There was only one problem. The one candidate they absolutely refused to consider was Fiorello La Guardia.

The future champion of urban immigrants was born in New York but grew up on Army bases out West; watching corrupt government agents run Indian reservations, he developed a lifelong hatred of hack political appointees. Accordingly, when he entered New York politics, he shunned the Tammany-controlled Democrats and became a Republican.

Soon after being elected the first Italian-American congressman in 1916, he enlisted in the World War as an airman. Upon his return, he was hailed across the country as the “flying congressman,” and his continuing interest in aviation eventually would put his name on a city airport. Continue reading at New York Daily News. 

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