Carmine DeSapio

Carmine Gerard DeSapio (December 10, 1908 – July 27, 2004) was an American politician from New York City. He was the last head of the Tammany Hall political machine to dominate municipal politics.

Carmine DeSapio
Carmine DeSapio
DeSapio on Firing Line, May 1, 1967
Secretary of State of New York
In office
January 1, 1955 – January 1, 1959
GovernorW. Averell Harriman
Preceded byThomas J. Curran
Succeeded byCaroline K. Simon
Personal details
BornDecember 10, 1908
New York, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 27, 2004 (aged 95)
New York, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Theresa Natale
(m. 1937; died 1998)
Alma materFordham University


DeSapio was born in lower Manhattan. His father was an Italian immigrant from Sicily, while his mother was of the second generation. DeSapio's father operated a trucking business.[1] DeSapio graduated from Fordham University in 1931.

He started his career in the Tammany Hall organization as an errand boy and messenger for precinct captains. DeSapio earned a reputation during his deliveries of coal and turkey on behalf of the local Tammany club by thanking recipients for their acceptance of Tammany handouts.[1] Tammany Hall had dominated New York City politics from the mayoral victory of Fernando Wood in 1854 until the election of Fiorello H. La Guardia in 1933.[2] DeSapio was first elected a district captain in 1939, but was rejected by the leadership in the struggle between Irish and Italian interests for control of the organization.[3] In 1943 he was accepted as district leader for lower Greenwich Village.

In 1949, DeSapio became the youngest "boss" in the history of Tammany Hall, succeeding Hugo Rogers. His Italian heritage signaled the end of Tammany's longtime dominance by Irish-American politicians, and DeSapio became the first nationally prominent Italian-American political leader.[3][4] Throughout his political life, DeSapio gained notoriety from alleged involvement with organized crime, even though he fought to distance the organization from the unsavory days of Boss Tweed,[3] and allegations of corruption. In 1951, Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee concluded that DeSapio was assisting the activities of New York's most powerful mobster Frank Costello, and that Costello had become influential in decisions made by the Tammany Hall council. DeSapio admitted to having met Costello several times, but insisted that "politics was never discussed".[3] These connections were examined by the Kefauver Commission.

Unlike many previous Tammany Hall bosses, DeSapio always made his decisions known to the public and promoted himself as a reformer. As boss of Tammany, he demonstrated liberal credentials when he diversified Tammany's leadership by naming the first Puerto Rican Manhattan district leader, Anthony Mandez, and backed Hulan Jack as Manhattan's first African-American Borough President. His ties with Costello also failed to halt his rise to power in the local political scene.[3] DeSapio reformed Tammany Hall's traditional sale of judgeships early in his role as Boss, reducing the cost of a position of judge from $75,000 to $25,000. This money was used to offset the cost of campaign expenses.[1]

In 1953, he earned new respect and public admiration when he turned against the other Democratic leaders in New York City and used the power of Tammany Hall to help ensure that the highly-unpopular incumbent mayor, Vincent R. Impellitteri,[3] was defeated in the Democratic Party primary by Robert F. Wagner, Jr., an outspoken pro-reform Democrat,[5] and then helped assure Wagner's victory in the general election. Following Wagner's success, DeSapio became a powerful and well-respected kingmaker in the New York political scene.[3]

DeSapio always seemed a personally modest man. Even though he operated out of four lavish offices, he lived for fifty years in a middle-class apartment on Washington Square with his wife Theresa Natale ("Natalie") and daughter Geraldine. As leader of Tammany Hall, DeSapio reveled in the limelight, attending charitable fund-raising events, making himself available to the press, and delivering speeches in highbrow venues that were thought off-limits to political bosses. In wielding his enormous political clout, he usually preferred extensive consultations and consensus-building to unilateral decision-making. His 16- to-18-hour workday began with pre-breakfast phone calls at home where, still dressed in pajamas and bathrobe, he received a stream of political associates. DeSapio would then visit his various offices for further meetings, and cram in a half-dozen public functions, including radio and television appearances and a late-night political dinner.[3]

DeSapio succeeded in shucking Tammany's notoriety and fashioning himself as a sophisticated, enlightened and modern political boss. He favored well-tailored, dark suits and striped ties, and always looked as if he had just stepped out of a barber's chair. The only incongruity was the dark glasses he was forced to always wear because of chronic iritis.[3]

However, it later became apparent that he was also selling out to benefit local mobsters such as Costello. DeSapio was accused of staffing New York City's government with clubhouse hacks. He followed the Tammany custom of selling judicial nominations, although he did cut the fee that would-be judges were required to pay.[3] He steered valuable city contracts for streetlights and parking meters to the Broadway Maintenance Corporation, a company that, according to the State Investigation Commission, cheated taxpayers out of millions of dollars.[3]

His leadership ended in 1961, and with it the dynasty that was Tammany Hall. It took several years of work by Eleanor Roosevelt to bring this about. She had vowed revenge because she felt DeSapio had derailed her son's (Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.) political ambitions by persuading him to abandon his run for Governor of New York in 1954 and instead run for New York Attorney General. After Roosevelt dropped out, DeSapio then got the local Democratic Party officials to accept former banker and diplomat W. Averell Harriman as the Democratic Party's nominee for governor in the New York state election. Harriman barely managed to secure victory as Governor of New York and Roosevelt would lose his bid to become the New York Attorney General. Following Harriman's victory, DeSapio served in Harriman's cabinet as Secretary of State of New York.[3]

In 1958, DeSapio's image was severely damaged after he successfully manoeuvred to have his own candidate for Senate, Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan, placed on the Democratic and Liberal ticket.[3] New Yorkers now saw DeSapio as an old-time Tammany Hall boss and Hogan lost the Senate election to Republican Kenneth Keating. Republican Nelson Rockefeller was elected Governor the same year as well. Democrats who had once praised DeSapio now found it expedient to excoriate him. In 1961, Wagner won re-election by running a reformist campaign that denounced his former patron, DeSapio, as an undemocratic practitioner of Tammany machine politics.[3] The same year, DeSapio lost the district leadership of his native Greenwich Village, a post he had held for two decades, to an upstart reform Democrat, James Lanigan, who was backed by nationally-known liberal Democrats such as Wagner, Eleanor Roosevelt and former Senator Herbert H. Lehman.[3] Following his loss, Eleanor Roosevelt told local journalist Murray Kempton, who published her remarks many years later in 1991 when he was a columnist for Newsday, "I told Carmine I would get him for what he did to Franklin, and get him I did."[3]

In 1963 and 1965, after Lanigan stepped down, DeSapio tried to retake his position as Greenwich Village district leader, but was twice defeated by another reform candidate, Edward I. Koch, who would later go on to become mayor.[3] DeSapio reached a low point in 1969 when he was convicted in a Federal Court of conspiracy and bribery after it was acknowledged that he conspired to bribe the former New York City water commissioner, James L. Marcus, and extort contracts from Consolidated Edison that would result in kickbacks.[3] He served two years in federal prison (1971–1973). After his release, he never re-entered politics, but did support many community, charitable, and civic causes. He regained some of his former popularity through his skill as a speaker. In 1992, former Mayor Ed Koch, his opponent in 1963 and 1965, whom DeSapio had now befriended and met with on occasions, said of him: "He is a crook, but I like him ... Most politicians still like DeSapio. He always gets the most applause when he is introduced at Democratic dinners".[3]

Among DeSapio's accomplishments were support of the Fair Employment Practices Law, the New York City rent control laws, and the lowering of the voting age to 18.[3]


DeSapio died at age 95 on July 27, 2004, at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan.[3] He was interred in a private mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens. He was survived by his daughter Geraldine A. DeSapio.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Allen, Oliver E. (1993). The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. p. 261,271. ISBN 0-201-62463-X.
  2. ^ Tammany Hall at the Wayback Machine (archived November 30, 2010) Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, archived November 30, 2010 from the original
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Kandell, Jonathan (July 28, 2004). "Carmine De Sapio, Political Kingmaker and Last Tammany Hall Boss, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  4. ^ Lubell, Samuel (1956). The Future of American Politics (2nd ed.). Anchor Press. p. 70.
  5. ^ James F. Clarity, "Robert Wagner, 80, Pivotal New York Mayor, Dies". Published: February 13, 1991. Correction Appended.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas J. Curran
Secretary of State of New York
Succeeded by
Caroline K. Simon
Arthur Levitt Sr.

Arthur Levitt Sr. (June 28, 1900 – May 6, 1980) was an American lawyer and politician.

Bernard Newman (judge)

Bernard Newman (October 28, 1907 – April 22, 1999) was a Judge of the United States Court of International Trade.

Calvary Cemetery (Queens, New York)

Calvary Cemetery is a Roman Catholic cemetery in Maspeth and Woodside, Queens, in New York City, New York, United States. With about 3 million burials, it has the largest number of interments of any cemetery in the United States; it is also one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States. It covers 365 acres and is owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and managed by the Trustees of St. Patrick's Cathedral.Calvary Cemetery is divided into four sections, spread across the neighborhoods of Maspeth and Woodside. The oldest, First Calvary, is also called "Old Calvary." The Second, Third and Fourth sections are all considered part of "New Calvary."

First Calvary Cemetery is located between the Long Island Expressway and Review Avenue. The cemetery's offices are located here, at 49–02 Laurel Hill Boulevard.

Second Calvary Cemetery is located on the west side of 58th Street between Queens Boulevard and the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.

Third Calvary Cemetery is located on the west side of 58th Street between the Long Island Expressway and the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.

Fourth Calvary Cemetery is located on the west side of 58th Street between the Long Island Expressway and 55th Avenue.

Carmine (given name)

Carmine is a male given name. Notable people with the name include:

Carmine Agnello, alleged mobster

Carmine Appice, American drummer

Carmine Coppola, American composer

Carmine Coppola (footballer), Italian footballer

Carmine Crocco, Italian brigand

Carmine DeSapio, American politician, Tammany Hall boss

Carmine DeSopo, American politician

Carmine Galante, Mafioso and drug trafficker

Carmine Giovinazzo, American actor

Carmine Infantino, comic book artist and editor

Carmine J. Marasco (1891–1960), New York politician and judge

Carmine Persico, alleged organised crime figure known as Carmine "The Snake" PersicoFictional charactersCarmine Falcone, a DC comics character.

Carmine Lupertazzi, a character from the show The Sopranos

Little Carmine, Lupertazzi's son

Carmine "The Big Ragu" Ragusa, a character from the show Laverne & Shirley

Carmine, Cerise Hood's pet dire wolf from the Mattel franchise Ever After High

Caroline K. Simon

Caroline Klein Simon (November 12, 1900, New York City – July 29, 1993, Manhattan, New York City) was an American lawyer and politician.

Ed Koch

Edward Irving Koch ( KOTCH; December 12, 1924 – February 1, 2013) was an American lawyer, politician, political commentator, movie critic and television personality. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977 and was mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989.

Koch was a lifelong Democrat who described himself as a "liberal with sanity". The author of an ambitious public housing renewal program in his later years as mayor, he began by cutting spending and taxes and cutting 7,000 employees from the city payroll. As a congressman and after his terms as mayor, Koch was a fervent supporter of Israel. He crossed party lines to endorse Rudy Giuliani for mayor of New York City in 1993, Michael Bloomberg for mayor of New York City in 2001, and George W. Bush for president in 2004.A popular figure, Koch rode the New York City Subway and stood at street corners greeting passersby with the slogan "How'm I doin'?" A lifelong bachelor with no children, Koch rebuffed speculation about his sexuality and refused to publicly discuss his romantic relationships. After his retirement from politics, he declared that he was heterosexual.

Koch was first elected mayor of New York City in 1977, and he won reelection in 1981 with 75% of the vote. He was the first New York City mayor to win endorsement on both the Democratic and Republican party tickets. In 1985, Koch was elected to a third term with 78% of the vote. His third term was fraught with scandal regarding political associates (although the scandal never touched him personally) and with racial tensions, including the murder of Yusuf Hawkins a month before the 1989 mayoral primary. In a close race, Koch lost the 1989 Democratic primary to his successor, David Dinkins.

Edward N. Costikyan

Edward N. Costikyan (September 24, 1924 – June 22, 2012) was an American Democratic Party politician who was notable for reforming the Democratic party in New York City. He was also the author of many books and articles on varied topics of public policy and political science.

Frank Hogan

Frank Smithwick Hogan (January 17, 1902 – April 2, 1974) was an American lawyer and politician from New York. He was New York County District Attorney for more than 30 years, during which he achieved a reputation for professionalism and integrity.

J. Raymond Jones

John Raymond Jones (November 19, 1899 – June 9, 1991) was an African American politician in New York City.

John H. Farrell

John H. Farrell (October 23, 1919 – April 20, 1995) was an American lawyer and politician from New York.

List of Italian-American politicians by state

To be included in this list, the person must have a Wikipedia article showing they are Italian American politician or must have references showing they are Italian American politician and are notable.

Louis DeSalvio

Louis F. DeSalvio (May 29, 1910 – August 17, 2004) served in the New York State Assembly for over 38 continuous years, longer than all but one other member in the history of that body. From 1941 to 1979, he represented districts that included the southern end of Manhattan (including the Lower East Side), Liberty Island, Ellis Island, Governors Island, and (after 1972) the eastern edge of Staten Island. From 1975 to 1978, he served as the Assembly's speaker pro tempore. In that capacity, he often presided over the body.

Noel Parmentel

Noel E. Parmentel, Jr., was a leading figure on the New York political journalism, literary, and cultural scene during the third quarter of the 20th Century.

Born in 1926 in Algiers (a part of greater New Orleans), Parmentel attended Tulane University after service in the Marine Corps, and migrated to New York in the 1950s. There he quickly became a prominent fixture in literary circles and in political journalism, "the tall, shambling New Orleans freelance pundit," known for his witty essays, usually targeting those he considered "phonies," be they of the left or the right. "Anyone who knew anything about New York then knew Noel," wrote Dan Wakefield in New York in the Fifties, describing Parmentel's making "a fine art of the ethnic insult," dining out on his "reputation for outrageousness," and savaging the right in The Nation, the left in National Review, and both in Esquire. He was "a respecter of no race or tradition or station," his style "that of an axe-murderer, albeit a funny one," in the words of his early protégé John Gregory Dunne; William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote admiringly of Parmentel's "vituperative art." In the New York of the day, though "phonies" were proportionately distributed among the political classes, the left was more numerous than the right; Parmentel thus had the reputation in some circles of being an arch-conservative, which in fact he was not. (Carey McWilliams, editor of The Nation, credited Parmentel with introducing the much-quoted line about Richard Nixon, "Would You Buy a Used Car From This Man?".) Those he respected as not "phonies" included such varied figures as the sociologist C. Wright Mills, the politician Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the Tammany Hall boss Carmine DeSapio, and Father James Harold Flye, mentor of James Agee.Among his most widely remembered essays were a piece on Young Americans for Freedom entitled The Acne and the Ecstasy, one called John Lindsay - Less Than Meets the Eye, and one on Henry Kissinger called Portnoy on the Potomac. In 1964 he and Marshall Dodge published Folk Songs for Conservatives, illustrated by the caricaturist David Levine and containing such lyrics as "Won't You Come Home, Bill Buckley," "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dewey," "D'Ye Ken John Birch", and "I Dreamed I Saw Roy Cohn Last Night", with a companion LP record of the songs purportedly sung by "Noel X and the Unbleached Muslims"; and he and Levine published a booklet of rhymes and caricatures of Johnson Administration figures called Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch.Parmentel was associated in several ventures with the novelist Norman Mailer (who said of him, according to Dunne, "I must love him, otherwise I'd kill him," but who spoke of Parmentel as "a marvelously funny guy.") He appeared in Mailer's films Beyond the Law and Maidstone; it was he and Village Voice columnist Jack Newfield who proposed to Mailer that he conduct his famous campaign for mayor of New York in 1969. Parmentel worked in Mailer's campaign, and contributed what The New York Times called a "witty article" to a collection of essays about that venture.Parmentel collaborated with his friend Richard Leacock, the pioneer in modern documentary filmmaking, on several films that became lasting classics, including Campaign Manager, following the activities of the manager of the 1964 Goldwater campaign; Chiefs, about a police chiefs' convention in 1968 in Hawaii; and the Emmy-winning Ku Klux Klan - the Invisible Empire, broadcast on CBS in 1965. He was involved in several feature film projects, none of which reached the screen, including a film adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's novel Night Rider; a film adaptation of Walker Percy's philosophical novel The Moviegoer, which was to have featured Blythe Danner; a film adaptation of Ole Edvart Rølvaag's classic Giants in the Earth; Mallory, about a character strongly reminiscent of Joseph P. Kennedy; and Missy, about a character strongly reminiscent of a prominent apostle of Women's Lib. The director Jim McBride borrowed Parmentel's surname, and some perceived personal characteristics, for the character played by Charles Ludlam in McBride's film The Big Easy.

Parmentel was noted for helping launch the careers of aspiring young writers of the 1950s and 1960s. John Gregory Dunne called him "as close to a mentor as anyone I have ever known. ... He taught me to accept nothing at face value, to question everything, above all to be wary. From him I developed an eye for social nuance, learned to look with a spark of compassion upon the socially unacceptable, to search for the taint of metastasis in the socially acceptable." Joan Didion first found an audience for her serious essays owing to Parmentel's recommendations; through his efforts her first novel was published (he is a dedicatee of that novel, Run, River); some aspects of the character "Warren Bogart" in her novel A Book of Common Prayer are modeled on Parmentel.The lively New York intellectual ferment of the 1950s and 1960s faded with the general decline of the city in the 1970s and 1980s, and Parmentel's activity fell off along with that of the other prominent figures of those golden years. In recent years he has published occasional essays, chiefly in The Nation.

Peter Johnson Sr.

Peter Johnson Sr. (1921 - December 3, 2012) was an American lawyer.

Johnson was the son of a longshoreman and a seamstress, and began working as a stevedore at the age of 17. A Marine during World War II, Johnson was wounded at the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. He worked his way through school as a member of the New York City Police Department, graduating from St. John's University in 1947, and from the St. John's University School of Law in 1949.In 1951, Johnson helped lead a wildcat strike by longshoremen against shipping companies and the International Longshoremen's Association, which had purportedly colluded to underpay workers and to demand kickbacks from their pay. In the same year, he organized slates of delegates to run against Tammany Hall leaders, whom he accused of corruption; Johnson himself ran against Greenwich Village's Democratic district leader, Carmine DeSapio, described as "Tammany's chieftain". Neither the strike nor the political campaign produced immediate results, but they led to a subsequent purge of the union's leaderhsip and to Tammany's adopting a more open mode of selecting its district leaders.Johnson co-founded the legal firm Leahey and Johnson. He advised New York City mayor Mario Cuomo, and served on mayoral commissions on justice and healthcare.Johnson died of pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 91.

Political boss

For the similar term, see Crime boss

In politics, a boss is a person who controls a unit of a political party, although they may not necessarily hold political office. Numerous officeholders in that unit are subordinate to the single boss in party affairs. Each party in the same ward or city may have its own boss; that is, the Republican boss of Ward 7 controls Republican politics, while the Democratic boss controls the Democratic party there. Reformers sometimes allege that political bosses are likely guilty of corruption. Bosses may base their power on control of a large number of votes. When the party wins, they typically control appointments in their unit, and have a voice at the higher levels. They do not necessarily hold public office themselves; most historical bosses did not, at least during the times of their greatest influence.

Robert F. Wagner Jr.

Robert Ferdinand Wagner II (April 20, 1910 – February 12, 1991), usually known as Robert F. Wagner Jr. served three terms as the mayor of New York City, from 1954 through 1965. When running for his third term, he broke with the Tammany Hall leadership, ending the reign of clubhouse bosses in city politics.

Secretary of State of New York

The Secretary of State of New York is a cabinet officer in the government of the U.S. state of New York who leads the Department of State (NYSDOS).The current Secretary of State of New York is Rossana Rosado, a Democrat.

Tammany Hall

Tammany Hall, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was a New York City political organization founded in 1786 and incorporated on May 12, 1789, as the Tammany Society. It was the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in controlling New York City and New York State politics and helping immigrants, most notably the Irish, rise in American politics from the 1790s to the 1960s. It typically controlled Democratic Party nominations and political patronage in Manhattan from the mayoral victory of Fernando Wood in 1854 and used its patronage resources to build a loyal, well-rewarded core of district and precinct leaders; after 1850 the great majority were Irish Catholics.

The Tammany Society emerged as the center for Democratic-Republican Party politics in the city in the early 19th century. After 1854, the Society expanded its political control even further by earning the loyalty of the city's rapidly expanding immigrant community, which functioned as its base of political capital. The business community appreciated its readiness, at moderate cost, to cut through red tape and legislative mazes to facilitate rapid economic growth. The Tammany Hall ward boss or ward heeler – wards were the city's smallest political units from 1786 to 1938 – served as the local vote gatherer and provider of patronage. By 1872 Tammany had an Irish Catholic "boss," and in 1928 a Tammany hero, New York Governor Al Smith, won the Democratic presidential nomination. However, Tammany Hall also served as an engine for graft and political corruption, perhaps most infamously under William M. "Boss" Tweed in the mid-19th century. By the 1880s, Tammany was building local clubs that appealed to social activists from the ethnic middle class. In quiet times the machine had the advantage of a core of solid supporters and usually exercised control of politics and policymaking in Manhattan; it also played a major role in the state legislature in Albany.

Charles Murphy was the quiet, but highly effective boss of Tammany from 1902 to 1924. "Big Tim" Sullivan was the Tammany leader in the Bowery, and machine's spokesman in the state legislature. In the early twentieth century Murphy and Sullivan promoted Tammany as a reformed agency dedicated to the interests of the working class. The new image deflected attacks and built up a following among the emerging ethnic middle class. In the process Robert F. Wagner became a powerful United States Senator, and Al Smith served multiple terms as governor and was the Democratic presidential candidate in 1928.Tammany Hall's influence waned from 1930 to 1945 when it engaged in a losing battle with Franklin D. Roosevelt, the state's governor (1928–33) and the United States president (1933–45). In 1932, Mayor Jimmy Walker was forced from office when his bribery was exposed. Roosevelt stripped Tammany of federal patronage. Republican Fiorello La Guardia was elected mayor on a Fusion ticket and became the first anti-Tammany mayor to be re-elected. A brief resurgence in Tammany power in the 1950s under the leadership of Carmine DeSapio was met with Democratic Party opposition led by Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Lehman, and the New York Committee for Democratic Voters. By the mid-1960s Tammany Hall ceased to exist.

Thomas J. Curran

Thomas Jerome Curran (November 28, 1898 – July 29, 1958) was a lawyer and politician in New York City.

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