PATIENCE AND FORTITUDE: Fiorello La Guardia by William Manners


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In the words of one municipal magistrate: ""It seemed as though the town had been invaded by an army of small, plump men in big hats; he was everywhere."" Patience and Fortitude--that was La Guardia's motto; he had a lot of fortitude, but patience was not the volcanic Fiorello's long suit. Manners' biography of La Guardia, the first in many years, engages and charms; and numerous readers--New Yorkers especially--will capitulate to memories of the Big Apple's healthier days. La Guardia came into office in 1933, the heart of the Depression, and the sputtering, shouting half-pint gave new heart to a city nearly broke and riddled with Tammany corruption. Charting the turbulent, highly ""irregular"" Republican's career, Manners revels in his verbal assaults and iconoclastic politics (a Progressive-Republican, he credited FDR with implementing some of his, Fiorello's ideas). As a Congressman during the drab Coolidge-Hoover years he had walked picket lines and railed against Prohibition; once he supported the mayoral candidacy of Norman Thomas. Manners realizes that the Mayor's rhetoric of reform far outran the achievement: still, La Guardia did restore the city's credit and, contemptuous of party loyalties, picked the best man for the job. One observer called it ""government by tantrum,"" but one has to agree with the author that the ""stormy letters from City Hall bore the joy of creativity."" Manners' affection for La Guardia is not uncritical--but how can you resist a mayor who, hatchet in hand like a warring Carrie Nation, went after the Evil slot machine?

Pub Date: June 18th, 1976
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich