Back in the Day: FDR Shooting Attempt at Bayfront Park

By | February 15th, 2011 | 4 Comments
Giuseppe Zangara Mugshot

Giuseppe "I don't like no peoples" Zangara, FDR's would-be assassin.

We haven’t done a BitD in a while, so we figured we’d reprise it for an event not many people know about. On Feb. 15, 1933, an unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara fired six shots into a crowd gathered at Bayfront Park to hear President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt give a speech. FDR had just delivered the speech from the backseat of his open touring car (to spare his disabled body the walk to a podium) when Zangara shouted “Too many people are starving!” and opened fire. His bullets missed the president-elect but hit five other people, including the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who received a mortal stomach wound.

An excerpt from “FDR escapes assassination in Miami” (history.com):

Several men tackled the assailant and might have beaten him to death if Roosevelt had not intervened, telling the crowd to leave justice to the authorities. Zangara later claimed, “I don’t hate Mr. Roosevelt personally. I hate all officials and anyone who is rich.” He also told the FBI that chronic stomach pain led to his action: “Since my stomach hurt I want to make even with the capitalists by kill the president. My stomach hurt long time.”

FDR comforted Cermak on the ride to the hospital. “Medical staff credited Roosevelt with preventing the mayor from going into shock, thus giving him a better chance at recovery,” according to u-s-history.com.

While the attack ended Cermak’s political career, it worked to FDR’s advantage, as his composure and compassion apparently gave the nation faith in his ability to lead them out of the Great Depression.

As for Zangara, he was initially sentenced to 80 years in prison for attempted murder. But when Cermak later died of his wound, the ineloquent bricklayer (“I don’t like no peoples”) was retried and sentenced to death. On March 5, 1933, Zangara fried in the electric chair.