Roosevelt House is pleased to present a discussion of historian Terry Golway’s new book I Never Did Like Politics: How Fiorello La Guardia Became America’s Mayor, and Why He Still Matters. In this vivid and entertaining chronicle, Golway illuminates the enduring impact and relevance of La Guardia’s mayoralty—and shows why, more than 75 years after his death, La Guardia is still widely considered the greatest of American mayors. The author will be in conversation with Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Roosevelt House Harold Holzer.

Thoroughly researched and insightful, I Never Did Like Politics delivers the history of La Guardia’s extraordinary career through the prism of four essential qualities: as a patriot, a dissenter, a leader, and a statesman. As Golway illustrates, La Guardia drew on all of these qualities as he stood against the nativism, religious and racial bigotry, and reactionary economic policies of the 1920s, and again when he faced the realities of Depression-era New York and the rise of fascism both abroad and at home in the 1930s. One of the 20th century’s most colorful politicians on the New York and national stage, La Guardia is also shown to be quintessentially American: the son of Italian immigrants who rose in society through sheer will.

Almost a century later, the country is once again grappling with issues that would have been familiar to La Guardia. As Golway argues, it’s time to reconsider the legacy of the man they called the Little Flower—and a critical moment in which remember what an effective municipal officer (as La Guardia preferred to call himself) can achieve.

According to previous Roosevelt House guest Derek Leebaert, I Never Did Like Politics is “Brilliantly entertaining .. a spot-on timely portrayal of the original ‘America’s Mayor’ who proved the government could deliver even amid the worst of depressions and wars. Full of hope, I Never Did Like Politics makes us yearn for such leadership and integrity.”

Terry Golway is a former senior editor at Politico and the author of several works of history, including Frank and Al: FDR, Al Smith, and the Unlikely Alliance That Created the Modern Democratic Party and Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics. He has been a columnist and city editor at the New York Observer, a member of the editorial board of the New York Times, and a columnist for the Irish Echo. He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Rutgers University and has taught at the New School, New York University, and the College of Staten Island. This is his second appearance at Roosevelt House.

Harold Holzer has served since 2015 as the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. A prolific author with more than 50 books to his credit, he won the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Prize and a 2008 National Humanities Medal. His most recent book is Brought Forth on this Continent: Abraham Lincoln and American Immigration.

Ms. Roosevelt speaking at dedication of Roosevelt House.

Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia (right) visits Hunter College on November 22, 1943, the day the school formally acquired Roosevelt House. At the podium, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reads a letter from President Roosevelt (who was traveling to a wartime conference in Tehran).

Terry Golway — I Never Did Like Politics: How Fiorello La Guardia Became America’s Mayor, and Why He Still Matters | Posted on April 1st, 2024 | Book Discussions, Public Programs