From: Chicago Tribune
Anton Cermak, who created Chicago's Democratic machine, is shot while talking with the president-elect. Cermak died within a month.
Two notable immigrants stood in the crowd when President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt emerged from a yacht in Miami on this date after a fishing trip in the Bahamas.One was Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak, a Bohemian-born politician who was the master builder of the city's Democratic Party.
The other was Giuseppe Zangara, an Italian immigrant with a ferocious hatred for politicians and their governments.
After a short speech, Roosevelt sat atop the back seat of a convertible and motioned Cermak to his side.
As the two spoke privately, Zangara raised a handgun and began shooting. He was aiming for Roosevelt, but he hit Cermak and four others. The crowd collapsed on Zangara, wrestling the gun from his hands and beating him.
Cermak was helped into Roosevelt's car, which sped to the hospital. During that ride, with Roosevelt at his side, Cermak uttered his famous line: "I am glad it was me instead of you."
Cermak died March 6. Zangara, who laughed when he was sentenced to die, was executed March 20.
Cermak, a man who once sold firewood out of a wagon, had worked his way up the political ranks, beginning in 1902 when he was elected to the legislature. He went on to win posts as alderman, municipal bailiff and Cook County Board president.
In 1931, he was elected Chicago's 36th mayor, defeating scandal-plagued Republican William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson and establishing a Democratic stranglehold on the mayor's office.
Cermak built the strength of the Democratic Party by bringing together diverse factions, using clout and patronage to punish and reward. He could be ruthless, but also conciliatory.
His rewards, it is widely held, came from real estate deals and bootlegging.
While Cermak was in the hospital after the shooting, the Tribune wrote: "We think he faced his problems courageously and did the best that was in him to put this punch drunk city back on its feet, to restore its reputation in the eyes of the world, to re-establish its credit, to relieve its taxpayers and to pay its debts."
Edward J. Kelly, president of the South Park Board, was selected to succeed Cermak by his fellow Democrats on the City Council. Kelly won his first full term in 1935 and, fully in charge of the powerful Democratic machine Cermak had bequeathed him, ruled City Hall for another 12 years.