Vincent R. Impellitteri

Vincent Richard Impellitteri (born Vincenzo Impellitteri; February 4, 1900 – January 29, 1987) was an American politician and judge 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 for the nomination for a full term but was subsequently elected mayor on a new ticket, the "Experience Party". He lost the Democratic primary when he ran for reelection in 1953, and became a judge in 1954.[1]

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 byWilliam O'Dwyer
Succeeded byRobert F. Wagner, Jr.
President of the New York City Council
In office
January 1, 1946 – August 31, 1950
Preceded byNewbold Morris
Succeeded byJoseph T. Sharkey (acting)
Personal details
Vincenzo Impellitteri

(1900-02-04)February 4, 1900
Isnello, Sicily, Italy
DiedJanuary 29, 1987(1987-01-29) (aged 86)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
Resting placeMount Saint Peter Catholic Cemetery, Derby, Connecticut
Political partyDemocratic
Elizabeth Agnes McLaughlin
(m. 1926; died 1967)
EducationFordham Law School
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Years of service1917–1919 (active)
RankPetty officer third class
UnitUSS Stockton
Battles/warsWorld War I

Early lifeEdit

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 enlisted in the United States Navy for World War I and served as a radioman with the rank of petty officer third class on board the destroyer USS Stockton, which was based in Queenstown, Ireland and performed convoy escort and antisubmarine duty.[3] He left the Navy after the war and became a U.S. citizen in 1922. Impellitteri 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 two Supreme Court Justices, first Peter Schmuck, and later Joseph A. Gavagan. He was reportedly a close associate of gangster Tommy Lucchese, who helped Impellitteri's rise in politics.[4] On the other hand, a report in the New York World-Telegram indicated that Impelliteri opposed organized crime and corruption, and had failed to rise through the city Democratic Party's ranks because he had "the injudicious good taste to snub Frank Costello", the gambler and racketeer who was said to control the Tammany Hall organization behind the scenes.

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.

Mayor of New York CityEdit

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.

  • Vincent 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 Kings County District Attorney arrested bookie Harry Gross and launched a corruption investigation that ultimately caused nearly 500 police officers of all ranks to resign, retire, or be fired. Impellitteri opposed the corruption, vigorously supporting the Brooklyn District Attorney, Miles McDonald, and firing anyone in his administration 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 Moses biography The Power Broker), Moses provided Impellitteri regular advice and guidance behind the scenes, and Impellitteri deferred to Moses.[5] The mayor's 1950 visit to his birthplace in Sicily was documented by the Italian author Carlo Levi.[6][7]

Impellitteri ran for a full term in 1953 but was defeated in the Democratic primary by then Manhattan Borough President Robert F. Wagner, Jr..

Later careerEdit

After becoming mayor, Wagner appointed Impelliteri a judge of the criminal court. Impellitteri retired from the bench in 1965.

Death and burialEdit

He died of Parkinson's disease on January 29, 1987, at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.[8] Impellitteri was buried at Mount Saint Peter Catholic Cemetery in Derby, Connecticut.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kenneth T. Jackson, Encyclopedia of New York City (2010) p 644
  2. ^ Birth record of Vincenzo Impellitteri
  3. ^ Current Biography Yearbook. Bronx, NY: H. W. Wilson Company. 1952. p. 293.
  4. ^ Soffer, Jonathan (2010). Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-231-15032-3.
  5. ^ Caro, Robert (1974). The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0-394-48076-3. OCLC 834874.
  6. ^ Levi, Carlo (1958). Words Are Stones: Impressions of Sicily. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Cudahy. (Translation by Angus Davidson of Le Parole Sono Pietre: Tre Giornate in Sicilia, 1955.)
  7. ^ Scambray, Ken (August 31, 2017). "Words are Stone: Impressions of Sicily by Carlo Levi". L'Italo-Americano. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  8. ^ 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 readingEdit

  • Levi, Carlo. Words are Stones (1958), essay, Part One.
  • 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 linksEdit

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.