By Jane Feehan
A look back at the assassination attempt on Franklin Delano Roosevelt at Miami’s Bayfront Park shows how things have changed - or not – since 1933.
After a pleasure trip aboard Vincent Astor’s yacht, President-Elect Roosevelt planned to speak briefly to a gathering at Bayfront Park on February 15. His itinerary, published in newspapers, attracted the attention of 33-year-old Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara who had planned to target President Herbert Hoover months before until he realized his term was about to end. Suffering from what was later determined as gallbladder disease, he moved from New Jersey to the kinder, warmer weather of Miami. Zangara, now a naturalized citizen, blamed his loss of a job and health problems on rich capitalists, presidents and kings.
FDR had just ended a two-minute talk from the back seat of an open car at Bayfront when Zangara climbed a chair to better aim at him with a gun he had purchased at a Miami pawn shop. A woman standing nearby jarred his arm when the chair started to wobble. His shots struck five people, including visiting Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. FDR escaped injury. Zangara was immediately arrested saying he was “sore at the government.”
The would-be FDR assassin was brought to trial five days later in Miami and sentenced to 80 years. But on March 6, Mayor Cermak, who had been recovering, suddenly died. Zangara was brought to trial again and then sentenced to death.
Zangara died in the electric chair at Raiford prison March 20. His only regret: not having his picture taken in the chair. “All capitalists lousy bunch – crooks,” he reportedly said when hearing there would be no photographers.
Security for presidents has greatly improved since 1933 but unfortunately, nuts still abound. Arrest, trial and execution of Zangara all occurred in less than six weeks. Today, in most cases, justice has slowed to the speed of a Burmese Python’s crawl.
Brands, HW. Traitor to His Class: The privileged life and radical presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. New York: Anchor Books (2008), p. 277-281.
Miami News, Nov 2 1950, p28 at:
Palm Beach Post, Mar 20, 1933, p 1
Palm Beach Post, Mar 21, 1933, p. 1.
Tags: Florida history, FDR in Florida, FDR assassination attempt, Miami history,film researcher