Vincent R. Impellitteri

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Vincent R. Impellitteri
Impelliteri and BG crop.jpg
101st Mayor of New York City
In office
November 14, 1950 – December 31, 1953
Acting: August 31, 1950 – November 14, 1950
Preceded by William O'Dwyer
Succeeded by Robert F. Wagner, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1900-02-04)February 4, 1900
Isnello, Sicily, Italy
Died January 29, 1987(1987-01-29) (aged 86)
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Political party Democratic
Profession Politician
Religion Roman Catholic

Vincent Richard Impellitteri (February 4, 1900 – January 29, 1987) was an American politician, who served as the 101st Mayor of New York City, 1950-53. He was elected as a Democrat as president of the City Council in 1945, and reelected in 1949. When Mayor William O'Dwyer resigned in 1950, he became acting mayor. He lost the Democratic primary but was selected mayor on a new ticket, the Experience Party. His reputation among historians is negative, for he never could quite shake off the accusations of incompetence, corruption, and links to organized crime. He lost the Democratic primary in 1953, and became a judge in 1954.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Born Vincenzo Impellitteri[2] in Isnello, Sicily, and moved with his family to the United States as an infant in 1901. They settled in Ansonia, Connecticut, where Impellitteri spent most of his youth. He served in the Navy during World War I. He attended Fordham Law School, where he received his law degree in 1924. He married Elizabeth (Betty) Agnes McLaughlin in 1926.

He served as a state Assistant District Attorney from 1929 to 1938 before becoming a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Joseph A. Gavagan. He was a close associate of gangster Tommy Lucchese who helped Impellitteri's rise in politics.

In 1945, Mayor William O'Dwyer picked Impellitteri to run for President of the City Council on the Tammany Hall slate. In 1945 he ran on the Democratic and American Labor Party lines, but when he was up for reelection in 1949 he ran on the Democratic Party line alone.

On August 31, 1950, O'Dwyer, pursued by both federal and state investigators, was suddenly appointed by President Harry S. Truman as ambassador to Mexico, where he would be beyond the reach of officials who wanted his public testimony in several matters on which he preferred not to speak. Under the City Charter of the day, when O'Dwyer resigned, City Council President Impellitteri became acting mayor. The Tammany bosses did not think he was mayor material, and they refused to nominate him as the Democratic candidate for the special election in November 1950, which instead went to highly regarded New York State Supreme Court Judge Ferdinand Pecora, who was also given the Liberal line. Impellitteri ignored the machine and ran as an independent under the banner of the new “Experience Party”. He also popularized the phrase "unbought and unbossed" during his 1950 campaign.

Impellitteri was the first mayor since the consolidation of greater New York in 1898 who was elected without a major party’s ballot line, and his election was a populist uprising against the political system.

  • Impellitteri (Experience Party) 1,161,175 votes
  • Ferdinand Pecora (Democratic/Liberal) 935,351
  • Edward Corsi (Republican) 382,372
  • Paul L. Ross (American Labor) 147,578

Impellitteri’s inauguration, held on November 14, 1950, absent either a band or a platform, was both swift and simple. Outside City Hall, he pledged to “do my level best to justify the confidence you have reposed in me.”

Shortly after Impellitteri's succession, the Brooklyn District Attorney arrested bookie Harry Gross and launched a corruption scandal that ultimately caused nearly 500 police officers of all ranks to resign, retire, or be fired. This famous scandal caused Impellitteri to vigorously support the Brooklyn District Attorney, Miles McDonald, and fire everyone who had been associated with former Mayor William O'Dwyer.

Impellitteri is credited with trying to rein in the budget, raising the bus and subway fare to fifteen cents, establishing parking meters on city streets for enhanced revenue and increasing the sales tax. He aspired to be a new light in city politics, but his administration met with some resistance from the established order. At the time Robert Moses wielded significant influence; according to Robert Caro (in his Robert Moses biography The Power Broker), Moses provided Impellitteri regular advice and guidance behind the scenes, and Impellitteri deferred to Moses.

Impellitteri ran for reelection in 1953 but was defeated in the Democratic primary by then Manhattan Borough President Robert F. Wagner, Jr.. Wagner appointed him a criminal court judge in 1954. He served out his career in public office on the bench.

Impellitteri retired from the bench in 1965. He died of Parkinson's disease on January 29, 1987, at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kenneth T. Jackson, Encyclopedia of New Your City (2010) p 644
  2. ^ Birth record of Vincenzo Impellitteri
  3. ^ Mcfadden, Robert D. (January 30, 1987). "Vincent Impellitteri Is Dead. Mayor Of New York In 1950's". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-17. Vincent R. Impellitteri, an immigrant cobbler's son who defied the Democratic machine of Tammany Hall and became Mayor of New York from 1950 to 1953, died of heart failure yesterday at Bridgeport (Conn.) Hospital. He was 86 years old. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Levi, Carlo. Words are Stones (1951), esaay Part One, moving.
  • Lagumina, Salvator. New York at Mid-Century: The Impellitteri Years (1992), scholarly biography; highly favorable
  • Moscow, Warren. The last of the big-time bosses: The life and times of Carmine De Sapio and the rise and fall of Tammany Hall (1971), highly negative

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Newbold Morris
President of the New York City Council
Succeeded by
Joseph T. Sharkey
Preceded by
William O'Dwyer
Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
Robert F. Wagner, Jr.