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This Day in Chicago History: Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak shot

Over at Politics Daily, executive editor Carl Cannon, a historian, scholar and journalist starts his daily story note with a look back at Feb. 15, 1933. With the Chicago mayoral election underway–the primary is Feb. 22 and early voting is ongoing–Cannon revisits the day where another Chicago mayor was big news– Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak took some bullets intended for President-elect Franklin Roosevelt.

Cannon writes:

Good morning, it’s February 15, 2011. Think our destiny is written in the stars? Think again. On this day in 1933, an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Zangara attempted to assassinate President-elect Franklin Roosevelt in Miami. None of the five shots hit FDR, but Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak was struck. On the way to the hospital in Roosevelt’s car, the wounded mayor reportedly told the president-elect, “I’m glad it was me instead of you.” Such words sound apocryphal to modern sensibilities, but at the time–as our nation faced the abyss the Great Depression–most Americans were in agreement with the implication of the dying man’s words. The country felt it did need Roosevelt.

Seventeen days later, FDR would deliver his stirring inaugural address in which he assured Americans that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself. But two days after that, Chicagoans would lose their civic leader, an Eastern European immigrant who had wrested the city’s politics away from the “lace curtain” Irish establishment, essentially creating the modern Democratic Party political machine that rules the city to this day.

As Anton Cermak lay in the hospital, the Chicago 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.” If he had lived, who knows if the Daley dynasty would have ever begun?