Fiorello Henry LaGuardia (1882-1947), U.S. Republican Congressman from New York, three term mayor of New York City and Director General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). LaGuardia was born December 11, 1882, in New York City. He was the third and youngest child of Achille Luigi LaGuardia, an Italian Catholic, and Irene Luzzato Coen, a Jew from Trieste. His parents had immigrated to the U.S. only two years before his birth. In 1883 LaGuardia's father joined the U.S. Army, and the family was sent to remote outposts in South Dakota and Arizona. After graduating high school in Prescott, Arizona, LaGuardia, an outstanding linguist, joined the American consular corps in 1900. He served overseas in Budapest, Trieste, and Fiume before returning to the U.S. and settling in New York City in 1906. For the next few years LaGuardia worked for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children and the U.S. Immigration Service while attending New York University Law School. Upon his graduation in 1910, he opened up a small practice that provided much needed legal assistance to immigrant workers in the garment industry and won him many friends in lower Manhattan. By 1914 LaGuardia had become involved in Republican politics. Utilizing his command of five languages (including Yiddish), LaGuardia won the 1916 election campaign for Congress from the 14th district (Lower East Side of Manhattan), the first Italian-American to be elected to Congress. During World War I LaGuardia served in the U.S. Air Service on the Italian-Austrian front. Soon after his return to New York LaGuardia married Thea Almerigotti on March 8, 1919. Tragically, two years later she succumbed to tuberculosis. In 1922 LaGuardia ran successfully for a second congressional term, this time representing the 20th district in upper Manhattan. He continued to serve in this capacity for the next 10 years. During this period he was married again, this time to Marie Fisher. Defeated for re-election in 1932, LaGuardia made a successful bid for mayor of New York City the following year. In addition to his many contributions to the city's infrastructure and quality of life during his three terms of office, LaGuardia made a name for himself as an outspoken opponent of Nazism. His harsh criticism won him the opprobrium of the new Nazi regime, which frequently targeted him in its propaganda. In 1941 Roosevelt named LaGuardia director of the Office of Civilian Defense. In this capacity he was responsible for the creation of a national rationing program, as well as for the preparation of cities against air attacks. Much to his disappointment, this appointment did not lead to a higher-ranking government or military position. After LaGuardia declined to run for a fourth term as mayor, he was tapped to become Director General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in 1946. In this role he supervised the supply of food, clothing and shelter to the millions of European displaced persons after the war. At the end of that year LaGuardia was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died on September 20, 1947.
[Source: American Jewish Historical Society, "Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947)." Jewish Virtual Library, American-Israel Cooperative Enterprise. n.d. (29 December 2002)]