LaGuardia, Fiorello Henry

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

LaGuardia, Fiorello Henry

Fiorello Henry LaGuardia (fēərĕl´ō, ləgwär´dēə), 1882–1947, U.S. public official, congressman, and mayor of New York City (1934–45), b. New York City. He spent his early years in Arizona with his father, an army bandmaster who had come from Italy to the United States. LaGuardia went to Europe while still a youth, and was employed by the U.S. consulates in Hungary, Trieste, and Fiume. Returning to New York City, he studied law while working (1907–10) in the U.S. immigration service, and was admitted (1910) to the bar. He ran for Congress on the Republican ticket unsuccessfully in 1914, but won in 1916 after a vigorous campaign against the Tammany machine. In Congress he joined in the successful fight for the liberalization of the House rules. He commanded (1917) U.S. air forces on the Italian-Austrian front in World War I. LaGuardia was president (1920–21) of the New York City board of aldermen and returned (1923–33) to the House of Representatives, where he fought for numerous labor reforms and sponsored the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which prohibited injunctions in labor disputes.

With the backing of Samuel Seabury, LaGuardia successfully ran (1933) for mayor of New York City on the Fusion ticket. As mayor he executed a vast program of reform. He reduced political corruption, forwarded the modernization and beautification of the city, brought about the adoption (1938) of a new city charter, introduced slum clearance projects, and improved health and sanitary conditions. "The Little Flower" (from his first name), a shrewd, nonpartisan, and uncorruptable spokesman for urban America, was reelected mayor of New York City for three consecutive four-year terms, but chose not to run again in 1945. LaGuardia served (1946) as director of the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. His courage, enthusiasm, and energy made him a nationally known figure.

See his autobiography (ed. by M. L. Werner, 1948, repr. 1961); biography by A. Mann (2 vol., 1959–65, repr. 1969); E. Cuneo, Life with Fiorello (1955); H. Zinn, LaGuardia in Congress (1959, repr. 1969); T. Kessner, Fiorello H. LaGuardia and the Making of Modern New York (1989); A. Brodsky, The Great Mayor (2003); M. B. Williams, City of Ambition (2013).

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