Fiorello H. La Guardia 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, who had been his secretary while he was in Congress; their
adopted children, Jean [ed. biological daughter of the sister of his first wife Thea], 18 years old, and Eric, 15, and Mrs. La Guardia's sister,
Miss Helen Fisher.
The three-time Mayor of New York had been in a coma
since last Tuesday night. Dr. George Baehr, his friend and personal
physician, knew late Friday that the end was approaching and remained
through the night. At 5 A.M. Mr. La Guardia's breathing became labored.
Shortly before 7:30 A.M. Dr. Baehr came to the door of
the La Guardia home at 5020 Goodridge Avenue, in the Riverdale section of
the Bronx, and announced to reporters who had kept the vigil with him: "Mr.
La Guardia passed away at 7:22 A.M. His family was at his bedside."
Underwent Operation in June
former Mayor's losing fight began last June when he underwent surgery at
Mount Sinai Hospital. The operation confirmed fears that the ailment that
had troubled him on and off for many years was cancer of the pancreas. It
had reached the incurable stage and his days were numbered.
A city of which he was as much a part as any of its
public buildings awoke to find the little firebrand dead. Its people had
laughed with him and at him, they had been entertained by his antics and
they had been sobered by his warnings, and they found it difficult to
believe that the voice he had raised in their behalf in the legislative
halls of city and nation, on street corners and over the radio, was stilled
Mayor O'Dwyer, his successor, expressed this feeling.
Although Mr. La Guardia's death was expected, the Mayor said, his passing
brought with it "a shock of awful finality."
"In his death the people of the city, the State and
nation have lost a great, patriotic American citizen," the Mayor said.
Fire Department Tribute Sounds
The Fire Department's 5-5-5-5 signal, repeated four
times, was heard in fire houses throughout the city at 8:06 A.M. It is
sounded as a mark of respect on the death of a fireman killed in line of
duty or on the passing of a high official. At 8:15 the announcement of Mr.
La Guardia's death went out over the police teletype system. Custodians of
all city buildings were directed to lower flags to half staff.
During the morning the facade of City Hall, nerve center
of Mr. La Guardia's multifarious activities for the twelve years he was
Mayor, was draped in black.
The body was removed to a funeral home. In the afternoon
it was taken to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 112th Street and
Amsterdam Avenue, where the funeral services will be held at 2:30 P.M.
tomorrow. At 3:40 P.M. yesterday it lay in state in the St. James Chapel of
the cathedral, where it was viewed by members of the immediate family and
present and former city officials, headed by Mayor O'Dwyer and Police
commissioner Arthur W. Wallander.
A throng of several hundred persons had gathered, and
they were permitted to view the body when the immediate family, which
included Mrs. La Guardia's mother, Mrs. Alberta Martin, left at 5:10 P.M.
It had been announced that the public would be admitted
beginning at 12:30 P.M. today. At 5:30 this afternoon the body will be moved
from the chapel to the nave of the cathedral, to which the public will be
admitted as long as there is a queue waiting. It will be on view again from
7:30 A.M. tomorrow until the time of the funeral.
Funeral services will be conducted by the Right Rev.
Charles K. Gilbert. Protestant Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of New York.
He will be assisted by the cathedral clergy and the Rev. Gerald V. Barry,
rector of Christ Church, Riverdale, Mr. La Guardia's home parish.
Burial will take place at Woodlawn Cemetery, it was
In a proclamation, Mayor O'Dwyer set aside tomorrow as a
day of mourning and directed that flags on all public buildings fly at half
staff for a period of thirty days.
Expressions of sorrow were voiced by President Truman in
a message sent to Mrs. La Guardia. Diplomats attending the United Nations
General Assembly paid tribute. Assembly President Oswaldo Aranha saying that
the world had lost "a champion of democracy." Trygve Lie, Secretary General,
said the United Nations would "miss the benefits of his remarkable
administrative efforts." A minute of silence, as delegates and spectators
bowed their heads in prayer, was observed by the Assembly.
Set Modern City Record
Fiorello H. La Guardia was the first man elected Mayor
of New York for three consecutive terms in modern times. He was the first
reform Mayor ever re-elected in the domain which Tammany Hall had ruled
almost continuously for many years until the fiery little man with the black
hat and the angry tongue crashed in to put the old-line politicians to rout.
He was probably New York's most colorful Mayor since Peter Stuyvesant.
Dynamite and aggressive, he appeared to be everywhere at
once, rushing to fires at times and at other times flying all over the
country by airplane. A fighter by nature he was always ready to take on all
comers, big or little, from Hitler to the man in the street.
He had told friends--and many students of politics
agreed with him--that he regarded as his greatest accomplishment an increase
in efficiency and honesty in municipal government throughout the United
States by force of the example of his administration in the nation's largest
This remained true even though he later became an
international figure as Director General of the United Nations Relief and
Rehabilitation Administration, a post he held from March to December, 1946.
In that capacity he led the fight against famine in many countries of Europe
and, characteristically, involved himself in numerous controversies.
In the first World War he was the pilot of a bombing
plane on the Italian front, and he kept on dropping bombs all his life--on
"reactionaries," prohibitionists and Ku Klux Klanners in Congress during the
Nineteen Twenties, and on Tammany Hall during his long Mayoralty service.
Son of an Italian father, Mr. La Guardia, when he took
office as Mayor on Jan. 1, 1934, had climbed higher on the political ladder
than any other American of Italian descent. Until that time Mayor Rossi of
San Francisco had held the distinction of being the only Italian-American to
be elected to a comparable position.
Belligerent in Independence
The man who routed Tammany from City Hall and sent that
organization, more than a century old, into a period of decline was only
about 5 feet 2 inches in height, a rotund little man with a swarthy skin and
a belligerent independence that often verged on irascibility. A forelock of
black hair invited comparison with Napoleon. His voice was high, and in
debate often became a screech. On the platform he illustrated his speeches
by act and gesture to emphasize his most telling points, an advantage denied
him in addresses by radio.
He was a glutton for work and acted as chairman of the
United States section of the United States- Canadian joint defense board
during the second World War and as president of the United States Conference
of Mayors, besides devoting his days and nights to his duties as Mayor of
the biggest city in America. For a time during the early part of the war he
also served as Director of the Office of Civilian Defense, but this was too
much even for him, and he had to give it up, although it was one of the
great disappointments of his life.
A crusader all his life in the interests of the
underprivileged and the oppressed, the "Little Flower" was a clever showman
whose campaigns were always spectacular and whose battles against corruption
and special privileges were usually successful. His enemies sometimes called
him a demagogue, but to his followers he was a latter-day St. George, bent
on slaying the Tammany Tiger rather than the fabled dragon. He was a New
Dealer even before the New Deal came into being and was associated with some
of the most progressive legislation in Congress, including the Labor
Anti-Injunction Act in the pre-Roosevelt days, and later the TVA Act.
Elected Mayor for the first time the year after Franklin
D. Roosevelt's first election as President, Mr. La Guardia proved much more
of a New Dealer than most old-school Democratic politicians. He sometimes
referred to himself as having been a "Socialist," and joined the American
Labor party when it was organized during the New Deal. His enemies often
accused him loosely as being a "Communist." But he refused to stay hitched
to any party line, right, left or middle-of-the-road, and was more of an
independent political force than anything else.
Although he professed disdain and contempt for
"politicians," calling them "clubhouse loafers" and "tin-horn gamblers," and
even using choicer bits from a vocabulary of invective surpassed only by
that of Harold L. Ickes among his contemporaries in public life, the Mayor
was himself one of the shrewdest politicians in the country. He was clever
enough at this great American game to play a lone hand and win against older
politicians with strong political machines behind them.
Partly because of his good relations with the New Deal,
Mr. La Guardia was able to get large amounts of Federal money for public
works, and his administration left New York with many improvements in the
way of parks and playgrounds, health clinics, public markets, bridges,
housing developments and other projects, including the La Guardia Airport
and the Flushing Meadow Park, on the site of the 1939-40 New York World's
Parents Came From Italy
Mr. La Guardia's parents came to the United States from
Foggia, Italy. The municipal archives there disclose that his father,
Achille Luigi Carlo La Guardia, married Irene Coen on June 3, 1880. The
elder La Guardia said he had no religion, but his bride professed the Jewish
Although he was born on the East Side of Manhattan Dec.
11, 1882, Mr. La Guardia was not a product of the city streets, as were
former Governor Alfred E. Smith and former Mayor James J. Walker. While he
was still an infant, Mr. La Guardia's father, a musician, became a
bandmaster in the United States Army and the La Guardias from that time
lived on government reservations, chiefly in the West. The future Mayor of
New York passed his boyhood days at Fort Whipple, Ariz., and finished his
boyhood's education when he received his diploma from the high school at
During the Spanish-American War the elder La Guardia was
sent to Tampa, Fla., with his regiment, and his family accompanied him.
While there, young Fiorello, then 15 years old, obtained a job as
correspondent of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. One of the items he sent to
the newspaper at that time was a brief notice of his father's death. The
elder La Guardia died from eating "embalmed" beef, issued as part of the
Army rations. The genesis of La Guardia's zeal in exposing official
corruption may be traced to this tragedy of his youth. While in Congress he
introduced a bill providing the death penalty for anyone convicted of fraud
in selling materials to the government in wartime.
Because of his father's service as bandmaster of the
Eleventh United States Infantry, La Guardia was made the only honorary
member of the Eleventh United States Infantry Association, 1898- 1902, an
organization of men who served in that outfit during the Spanish-American
A Consul in Fiume at 20
Soon after his father's death, young Fiorello
accompanied relatives to Budapest, where his mother's body is buried in the
Jewish Cemetery. There at the age of 19 he obtained employment in the United
States Consulate. A few months later he was sent to the consulate at Trieste
as interpreter. When he was 20 he became consul at Fiume, then part of
After a row with officials at Fiume because of his
refusal to line up emigrants for a reception to the Archduchess Josepha, he
decided to resign and to return to America.
Working his way home, Mr. La Guardia, through
his knowledge of Yiddish, German, French, Italian and several Croatian
dialects, obtained a job as interpreter at Ellis Island. He attended New
York University Law School at night, and eventually was transferred to the
legal department of the immigration service.
In 1914 Mr. La Guardia obtained the Republican
nomination for Representative in the old Fourteenth Congressional District
in lower Manhattan, a nomination for which he had no competition because the
district was regarded as overwhelmingly Democratic. He was beaten but cut
his Democratic opponent's plurality to a record low.
Turned Defeat Into Victory
Undiscouraged by his defeat, Mr. La Guardia established
a sort of one-man legal-aid bureau, often offering professional advice and
appearing in court without fee in behalf of those too poor to pay for legal
service. In this way he made many friends, and two years later he surprised
local politicians by being elected Representative in this district by a
As a new Representative, Mr. La Guardia aligned himself
with the liberal element in Congress, joining in a successful fight for the
liberalization of the rules of the House. Although his district was regarded
as strongly pacifist, he voted for war with Germany and for the draft.
Rejecting offers of appointment to several non-combatant
posts in the Army, Mr. La Guardia applied for admission to the training camp
at Plattsburg. Rejected as too short, he got his friend, Giuseppe Bellanca,
to teach him to fly and was commissioned in the Army Air Service with the
rank of lieutenant. He was sent overseas with a bombing squadron to the
The morale of the civilians and armed forces of Italy at
that time was at a low point as the result of a series of military reverses.
The young Italian-American aviator, who had risen to a place in the American
Congress, was chosen to deliver a series of "pep" talks and tos informed
that his speeches would receive official endorsement only if successful.
Mr. La Guardia was unbelievably successful as a
propagandist. He addressed mass meetings in Milan, Genoa, Rome, Turin,
Naples, Bologna and a dozen other Italian cities, and stirred up tremendous
enthusiasm. For his services as a spellbinder the Italian Government made
him a commendatore. His war service, however, did not consist entirely of
speech-making. He came home with two wound stripes, the result of crack-ups
while bombing the Austrian lines. He received the Italian War Cross and was
promoted to major. His observer on bombing expeditions was Major Negrotto, a
member of the Italian Parliamhe Italian War Cross and was promoted to major.
His observer on bombing expeditions was Major Negrotto, a member of the
Italian Parliament. The biplane they flew was nicknamed the Congressional
Headed Board of Aldermen
After his return home from the war he was drafted by
Samuel S. Koenig, then New York County Republican chairman, to run for
President of the old Board of Aldermen to fill the vacancy caused by the
election of Alfred E. Smith as Governor. He was elected in 1919 and for the
next two years engaged in frequent wordy controversies with John F. Hylan,
then Mayor, and Charles L. Craig, then Controller. He gave up the city
poepublicans who welcomed "the return to normalcy" of President Harding and,
in the days of Harding's successor, "keeping cool with Coolidge," joined the
"progressive" group in Congress. Denied a Republican renomination, he
supported the elder Senator Robert M. La Follette, Farmer-Labor party
candidate for President, in 1924, and was re-elected to the House as the
nominee of the Socialist and Progressive parties.
In the House, Mr. La Guardia was an active member of the
progressive group. He had favored woman suffrage and opposed child labor. He
was strongly opposed to prohibition and gained headlines in the newspapers
by making what he declared to be a legal beverage by pouringe was strongly
opposed to prohibition and gained headlines in the newspapers by making what
he declared to be a legal beverage by pouring together two-thirds of a
bottle of malt tonic and one-third of a bottle of near-beer with one-half of
1 per cent of alcoholic content.
Two Federal judges resigned under the fire of his
attacks and a third was censured. It has been estimated that he saved the
government millions of dollars by objecting to scores of small pork- barrel
bills and demanding proof of their need from their sponsors.
Beaten by Walker for Mayor
It was in 1929 that Mr. La Guardia first ran for
election as Mayor. Because he had been a bolter throughout his political
career, conservative Republicans showed no hesitancy in deserting him.
Attacked as a "Red" and characterized as "a sawed-off Mussolini" during the
campaign, his record in Congress as a chronic dissenter from Republican
policy was too much for residents of the "silk stocking" Fifteenth Assembly
District and Old Guard Republicans. He was beaten by Mayor James J. Walker
by a few votes short of a half a million.
Three years later, in 1932, he was defeated for
re-election to the House of Representatives in the landslide that saw the
election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Presidency.
If Tammany believed that it had put Mayor La Guafeat for
Mayor in 1929, both were doomed to disappointment. In the interim the
Hofstadter legislative committee, with Samuel Seabury as counsel, had
uncovered many instances of graft in the Walker administration and the
debonair Mayor had resigned while under charges, and John P. O'Brien,
Tammany Democrat, had been elected Mayor for the rest of the Walker term in
the Roosevelt landslide of 1932. Mr. Seabury had taken the position that he
would support only Mr. La Guardia for Mayor. Although a Republican-Fusion
committee had picked Major Gen. John F. O'Ryan as their candidate, General
O'Ryan withdrew, clearing the way for Major La Guardia's candidacy.
The campaign which followed was one of the most
hard-fought in many years. Tammany renominated Mayor O'Brien, and the
Roosevelt wing of the Democratic party, headed by James A. Farley, then
Democratic National Chairman, nominated Joseph V. McKee, Aldermanic
President, on the independent Recovery party ticket.
Mr. La Guardia, taking advantage of an opening given him
by Mr. McKee, at first regarded as the probable winner, revealed an article
which the former Aldermanic President had written eighteen years earlier
expressing a low opinion of the then rising generation of Jews. The charge
of anti- Semitism against Mr. McKee, coupled with the popular uprising
against machine-controlled politics, resulted in the election of Mayor La
Guardia by a plurality of 281,850 over McKee and a plurality of 259,469 over
From the beginning of his term as Mayor Mr. La Guardia
made it apparent that he was sincere in his determination to give New York
City an honest, non-partisan administration. His cabinet appointments were
mostly on a non-partisan basis. He went outside the city to get experts to
head the Health and Correction Departments. Head of the Hospital Department,
internationally famous in his field, was a brother of the law partner of
Edward J. Flynn, Bronx Democratic leader and subsequently Democratic
National Chairman. At the head of the Parks Department Mayor La Guardia
placed Robert Moses, whose work in rehabilitating the city's parks and in
building playgrounds came to be one of the major assets of the
administration. He retained John H. Delaney, a Democrat but an experienced
and efficient official in his particular field, as chairman of the Board of
Mayor La Guardia attempted--and even his opponents
credited the honesty of his efforts--to give the city an honest
administration, to eliminate graft and to rid the city payrolls of unneeded
Never did Mayor La Guardia swerve in his announced
determination to make New York a better place in which to live. He paid
unexpected inspection visits to city institutions. He personally
investigated complaints by citizens. He devoted long hours to mediation of
Settled Many Strikes
Although his peppery temperament brought some criticism,
Mayor La Guardia was instrumental in settling many strikes in the city,
notwithstanding he sometimes was charged with favoring the labor side of the
controversy. He repeatedly cautioned the police against using clubs or
pistols in dispersing groups of unemployed or striking workers, but
instructed police officers to maintain law and order and prevent violence by
He supported President Roosevelt for re-election in
1936, 1940 and 1944, voting as a member of the American Labor party, which
he was largely instrumental in organizing in 1936. He was a leader in the
successful campaign for a new city charter and adoption of the proportional
representation method of electing members of the City Council, which won on
a referendum in 1936.
He aided the drive for slum clearance and low-cost
housing through cooperation of the State and Federal Governments. He
improved the efficiency of the Police and Fire Departments, replaced General
O'Ryan, who had resigned as Police Commissn, ordered known gangsters
arrested whenever they appeared in public and conducted a continuous war
against slot machines and all gambling rackets.
Early in 1937, Mayor La Guardia created an international
incident by a speech before the women's division of the American Jewish
Congress in New York, characterizing Adolf Hitler as a fanatic menacing the
peace of the world and suggesting that he be made a central figure in the
World's Fair Chamber of Horrors. The German Embassy twice made formal
complaints at Washington, and Secretary of State Hull twice apologized.
Interested in music from boyhood, Mayor La Guardia
sought an anthem for this city, frequently attended the opera and concerts
and on occasions led symphony orchestras. He established a series of Summer
City Halls, at 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.
His reputation for conducting what a majority of New
York residents regarded as an honest administration stood him in good stead
in 1937 when he was made the Fusion candidate for re- election, despite
early Republican opposition. He won re-election easily, defeating Jeremiah
T. Mahoney, Democratic candidate, by 453,374.
A major achievement of Mayor La Guardia was purchase by
the city of the rapid transit lines of the Interborough Rapid Transit
Company and the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Company. This was accomplished in
June, 1940, at a total cost of $326,000,000 bringing about a unification of
these lines, which had been sought unsuccessfully for many years.
In 1941 Mayor La Guardia again was the Fusion nominee.
In a bitterly contested campaign, during which he was criticized for
intemperate speeches, Mayor La Guardia was elected for his third term by a
plurality of 132,283 over William O'Dwyer, the District Attorney of Kings
County, the Democratic candidate.
Long before Pearl Harbor, Mayor La Guardia foresaw the
probability of war with the Axis powers. In speeches and statements he
frequently assailed Hitler and Mussolini. At the time of the Japanese attack
on Dec. 7, 1941, he already had organized the air wardens and other civilian
defense agencies, and acted at once to put the city in readiness for a
possible air raid.
Started Civilian Defense
With Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President, who
was his assistant as Director of Civilian Defense, Mayor Ls desirable, and
probably overworked by his manifold duties, Mayor La Guardia was subjected
to some criticism and ridicule for his methods as Defense Director, and the
President replaced him with James M. Landis. It was the one job in his
entire career up to that time in which he was not successful.
Eager for a commission in the Army since the day that
the United States entered the war, Mayor La Guardia succeeded in bringing
about passage by the Legislature of the Ostertag bill granting him leave of
absence on his entrance into the armed forces. This bill, which was signed
by Governor Dewey, was passed without the larger number of the members of
the Legislature realizing its purpose, and, as it would have prevented an
election the following November, was scheduled to receive a court test of
At the time the bill was passed, it was believed that
Mayor La Guardia was scheduled to receive a commission as brigadier general
and would be sent to North Africa to be assigned as military Governor in one
of the occupied countries with considerable Italian population. Opposition
developed in the War Department, the high command of the Army and among
members of the Senate, to which a nomination for brigadier general must have
gone for confirmation.
First, President Roosevelt said at a press conference
that he had no plans to nominate the Mayor for a commission. Then Secretary
of War Stimson announced that Mayor La Guardia had offered his services to
the armed forces but that it was very difficult to find any place in the
Army in which he could be as helpful as in the mayoralty. Secretary Stimson
added that he felt the Mayor was rendering directly to New York and
indirectly to the nation service of great value.
Backed OPA Aims
As Mayor, Mr. La Guardia worked vigorously for the
maintenance of the Office of Price Administration ceilings on food, rents
and other necessities, but he frequently quarreled with the administration
of that agency. On several occasions he threatened to end the cooperation of
the city government with the OPA unless it adopted policies to his liking.
He came under fire from two powerful teacher groups for
alleged interference with the Board of Education. The National Education
Association and the American Federation of Teachers both accused him of
having injured the public school system by such activities, and the NEA,
after a series of public and private hearings, declared he had exercised
illegal influence over the schools. Mr. La Guardia retorted that the members
of the NECounty grand juries criticized the Mayor sharply in the autumn of
1943. In November the sitting grand jury condemned him for tolerating a
"most unusual and extremely deplorable state of lawlessness" in the
Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. A month later the July grand jury,
which had been held over while it carried on an extensive investigation,
declared in a presentment that he had failed to provide adequate police
protection to Brooklyn.
These accumulated criticism began to have some effect
and political observers speculated over whether the Mayor would run for a
fourth term in 1945. With his usual disregard for party loyalty, the Mayor
campaigned vigorously for President Roosevelt's re-election to a fourth term
in the fall of 1944, thereby further antagonizing the Republican party
organization, which had supported him in his three successful mayoralty
In the winter and spring of 1945 Mayor La Guardia made
two moves that turned out to be extremely unpopular and brought him
widespread criticism. One was his alleged intervention in the case of an
American Navy petty officer who had been accused of the seduction of an
Italian girl. The sailor's wife protested that her husband was being
condemned without a hearing. The case caused a wide furor, and the City
Council adopted a resolution censuring the Mayor for his part in it.
Defied Wartime Curfew
A more serious matter was his public defiance of the
midnight curfew imposed by War Mobilization Director James F. Byrnes on
bars, night clubs and other places of amusement in March, 1945. Mayor La
Guardia announced on his own authority that he would allow an "hour of
tolerance" to New York City establishments. This brought nation-wide
criticism on his head. In the end he was balked when the Army and Navy
forbade men in uniform from entering such places, and stationed shore
patrols and military police outside them to enforce the ruling. Virtually
all of the affected places decided that it would be unwise to remain open to
serve civilians, with men in uniform barred.
The death of President Roosevelt in April and the
accession of President Harry S. Truman, who had been sharply critical of
Mayor La Guardia when his appointment to a high post in the Army was under
consideration, was a severe political blow to the Mayor. In previous
campaigns he had been able to count on at least the benevolent neutrality of
the White House, but this was no longer true.
On May 6, 1945, Mayor La Guardia announced in the course
of his regular Sunday broadcast oveation in office and to personal
considerations. He added that it was his personal conviction he could be
elected "without any trouble," and without the backing of any regular
Many qualified observers of the political scene
concluded, however, that Mr. La Guardia had decided that it would be
impossible for him to obtain renomination by the Republican party, or to be
elected without it. The attitude of the Liberal party was a contributing
factor. It had been formed by right-wing dissidents from the American Labor
party, who were bitter at the Mayor for not having supported them in their
intraparty fight with the left wing.
Mayor La Guardia backed the campaign of Newbold Morris
for the Mayoralty on the No Deal party ticket. It was widely believed that
he had instigated it. In the three-cornered race that developed, O'Dwyer,
the regular Democratic candidate, won an easy victory.
On Dec. 31, 1945, Mr. La Guardia moved out of City Hall
after having served twelve years as Mayor. In that time he had drastically
altered the city in many ways. Its physical plant, its governmental
structure and its political and social patterns had all been changed
tremendously. A new city charter had been adopted in 1938; appointees of Mr.
La Guardia filled the board of magistrates and virtually every other
long-term appointive office, and the power of Tammany Hall had been reduced
to a shadow.
Began Radio Broadcasts
He began two series of radio broadcasts under commercial
sponsorship. In one of them, under a contract with a dairy concern, he
commented on local affairs; in the other, under the sponsorship of Liberty
Magazine, he discussed the national scene. This latter, however, came to an
abrupt end after a few months, when Liberty released him from his contract
for more than $100,000 a year because of alleged "reckless and irresponsible
Meanwhile, in January, 1946, Mr. La Guardia attended the
inauguration of Gen. Eurico Caspar Dutra as President of Brazil,
representing President Truman as his special Ambassador. Two months later,
on March 21, he was nominated to be Director General of UNRRA in succession
to Herbert H. Lehman.
Assuming the new post on March 29, Mr. La Guardia found
many nations of Europe were in danger of famine. With characteristic energy
he spearheaded an international drive to get food for the starving
countries. He traveled widely through this country and Europe in this
connection, conferring, among others with Marshal Stalin in Moscow, the Pope
in Rome and Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia.
He became engaged in several controversies in his new
role. The one that attracted most attention was his removal of Lieut. Gen.
Sir Frederick Morgan, a distinguished British soldier, as director of UNRRA
work in Germany, on the ground that Sir Frederick had inspired newspaper
stories of alleged Russian spying endeavors in the British and American
In December, 1946 Mr. La Guardia retired as Director
General of UNRRA, after it had become evident that the governments of the
United States and Great Britain, which had provided most of the money and
food for the organization, would no longer continue to support it. Mr. La
Guardia vainly argued for a $400,000,000 emergency food fund to be
administered through the United Nations.
On April 8, 1947, Mr. La Guardia was named as the winner
of the annual One World Award for press and radio.
Mr. La Guardia married twice. His first wife was Thea
Almerigotti. After her death he married in 1929, Marie Fisher, who had been
his secretary while he was a member of the House of Representatives. They
adopted two children, Jean Marie, now 18 years old and Eric, 15.
Said His Own Generation Lacked Courage, Vision
The last public appearance of former Mayor Fiorello H.
La Guardia at an official event was believed to have been as a speaker at
commencement exercises June 3 at the Horace Mann School for Boys in
Fieldston, the Bronx.
He told the graduating class:
"My generation has failed miserably. We've
failed because of lack of courage and vision. It requires more courage to
keep the peace than to go to war."
The former Mayor had been scheduled for eight lectures
on government and citizenship at Town Hall. The series would have started in
October. It was also announced that he would advise Congress this fall about
reorganizing the District of Columbia government