Anton Cermak shot


February 15, 1933.

President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt had just returned from a fishing trip aboard Vincent Astor’s yacht Nourmahal to address a gathering in Miami’s Bayfront Park. Accompanied by Mayor R.B. Gautier, in the rear seat of a convertible, FDR made a short talk and had just finished shaking hands with Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak when an assassin fired upon the president.

Giuseppe Zangara was only five feet tall, and in order to see over other people, he stood up on a wobbly folding metal chair with a .32 caliber pistol he bought at a pawn shop. After the first shot, the people grabbed his arm, but he fired four more shots wildly. He missed Roosevelt, but five other people were hit, including Cermak.

Enroute to Jackson Memorial Hospital, fatally-wounded Cermak allegedly told FDR, “I’m glad it was me and not you, Mr. President”, words now inscribed on a plaque in Bayfront Park; their authenticity was dubious, for Cermak fiercely fought FDR’s nomination at the Democratic convention in Chicago months earlier, and the relationship between two men were frosty. Cermak died of peritonitis on March 6th, two days after Roosevelt’s inauguration.

It was often noted that Cermak, not Roosevelt, had been the intended target, for he posed a threat to Al Capone and the organized crime. Before he was put to death, Zangara himself told the police that he hated rich and powerful people, not Roosevelt personally.

In the above picture, W.W. Wood and L.L. Lee assist Cernak to Roosevelt’s car. The photo was taken by the only photographer present on the scene, International News Photos’ larger-than-life Sammy Schulman.

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