Vincent Impellitteri
1950
Three Italian-born candidates run for mayor in New York City.


The 1950 race for New York City mayor was historic for several reasons –one of them the fact that each of the three main candidates was Italian-born and selected because of his nationality --the first time this occurred in history and undoubtedly the last. Sicily was the birthplace of Ferdinand Pecora in 1886, and Vincent Impellitteri in 1900, while Edward Corsi was born in Capistrano in 1896. None were scions of wealthy families and accordingly learned early in life that success would come only after hard work, sacrifice, self-confidence, and perseverance. The son of a shoemaker, Ferdinand Pecora, the oldest of the trio, was brought up in a non-Italian neighborhood of New York, but nevertheless met with derision because of his ethnic background as a youngster. The Pecora family also became Protestant and for a time Ferdinand, who was an excellent student, studied at a Protestant seminary. After obtaining a law degree from the New York Law School, Ferdinand, a Democrat, became an assistant district attorney and later counsel to United States Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. He headed the Special Investigating Committee that produced ample evidence of irregular practices in the financial markets that led Congress to enact the Security and Exchange Act. He was then appointed a New York State Supreme Court judge.

Edward Corsi was the son of Italian deputy and noted reformer whose death at an early age brought economic difficulty to the Corsi family that entered New York in 1907. When further tragedy afflicted the family and caused the death of his mother, an extra burden was placed on young Edward who not only persevered, but also became a promising student at New York's St. Xavier High School. He obtained a law degree from Fordham University and combined a career of law, journalism and social work. An active Republican, he served as Commissioner of Immigration under Presidents Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt as well as Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's Commissioner of Public Welfare in the 1930s.

Born in mountain town of Isnello, Sicily, Vincent Impellitteri (1900-1987), one of eight children, was brought to New York as an infant and then moved to Ansonia, Connecticut where his shoemaker father struggled to eke out a living for his large family. After graduating from high school, young Vincent succumbed to blandishments of patriotism, joined the Navy and saw action during World War I. He received a law degree from Fordham University, and became involved in Democratic politics. He served as counsel for labor unions, and an Assistant District Attorney of New York County where he demonstrated credible ability as a prosecutor in high profile cases. In a conscious effort to appeal to the Italian American voters, in 1945 the Democratic Party, chose him to run for what was then the second most important position in New York City government: City Council President. He won the seat with a huge plurality that was on par with the vote of winning mayoral candidate William O'Dwyer. The same ticket won re-election in 1949 as Impellitteri emerged as the greatest vote-getter in the Democratic party. When O'Dwyer resigned his office in 1950 to become ambassador to Mexico, Impellittteri stepped in as Acting Mayor to await the special 1950 mayoral election.

When the Democratic organization designated Pecora as its mayoral candidate, and the Republicans responded with an endorsement of Corsi, Impellitteri decided to buck his party's leadership to run on his own ticket –the Experience Party. The unusual phenomenon unfolded as the three well-qualified Italian-born men contested with each other for the big prize. Impellitteri won, much to the surprise of many, thus becoming the only Italian-born mayor of New York City. The Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman utilized Impellitteri's Italian birth to promote United States foreign policy goals of discouraging Italians from voting for the Italian Communist Party by sending the mayor on a good will tour in 1952. The tour was a huge success as more Italians greeted Impellitteri than any other Italian American political figure.

Next to the presidency of the United States, the position of New York City mayor is perhaps the most high profile and is frequently referred to as the second most powerful political position. Of the several Italian Americans who have aspired to mayor of New York City only Fiorello LaGuardia, Rudolph Giuliani and Impellitteri have achieved it. Impellitteri, less well-known than the other two, was a manifestly friendly and affable figure who presented the visage of order and agreeableness, a clean cut, amiable image who completed his career of public service as a city judge.




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