Sunday, February 15, 2015



Miami, Florida (JFK+50) Eighty-two years ago today, February 15, 1933, President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt was the victim of an assassination attempt at Bayfront Park here in Miami.

The President-elect, who would be sworn-in as the 32nd President of the United States on March 4, 1933,  had just completed his speech and was seated when shots rang out.

Five shots were fired from an $8 thirty-two caliber pistol at a distance of 25 feet from Mr. Roosevelt.   While none of the shots hit the President-elect,  one seriously wounded Mayor Anton Cermak* of Chicago, who was shaking hands with FDR at the time of the shooting.

Four others in the crowd were hit by gunshots, but only one, a woman, died later from her wound.

The suspect, identified as 32 year old Giuseppe "Joe" Zangara**, fired while standing on a wobbly chair.  After the first shot, Lillian Cross reportedly hit Zangara's arm with her purse throwing off the would-be assassin's aim. 

Sheriff Dan Hardie with Zangara

FDR remained with Mayor Cermak, who had been shot in the stomach, and cradled his head on his shoulder "all the way to the hospital."  FDR stayed with him for the next four hours.

Blaise Picchi describes Mr. Roosevelt as "unfazed, calm, (and) cheerful" throughout the ordeal.

Although the Mayor's wound healed, he died on March 6, 1933 of ulcerative colitis.  

Zangara was tried, found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.  He refused appeal and was electrocuted on March 20, 1933 at the Florida State Penitentiary.  This has been described as "perhaps the swiftest execution of the 20th century." 

*Anton J. Cermack (1873-1933) was born in Kladno, Austria-Hungary but was brought by his family to the U.S. the following year.  He grew up in Braidwood, IL and was elected mayor of Chicago in 1931.  AJC Died at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL.

Anton Cermak Monument
Kladno, Czech Republic
Photo by Kriplozoik (2009)

**Giuseppe "Joe" Zangara (1900-1933) was born in Ferruzano, Italy and served in WWI.  He emigrated to the U.S. in 1923 and became a naturalized citizen in 1929.  He worked as a brick layer and did odd jobs, but was hampered by chronic pain in the abdomen.  GZ said that he wanted to kill FDR not because of personal dislike but because he hated capitalists and "all national leaders."


"Assassination Attempt on FDR," by Jennifer Rosenberg,

"The Five Weeks of Giuseppe Zangara:  The Man Who Would Assassinate FDR," by Blaise Picchi, Chicago Review Press, 1998.