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Carmine DeSapio on the cover of TIME Magazine, 1955

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 that was active in New York politics for 150 years, and dominated them for 80 years.



DeSapio was born in lower Manhattan. His father was an Italian immigrant, while his mother was of the second generation. He graduated from Fordham University in 1931.

He started his career in the Tammany Hall organization as an errand boy and messenger for precinct captains. Tammany Hall was the name given to the Democratic political machine that dominated New York City politics from the mayoral victory of Fernando Wood in 1854 through the election of Fiorello H. La Guardia in 1934.[1] He 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. 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. He gained notoriety from alleged involvement with organized crime, even though he fought to distance the organization from the unsavory days of Boss Tweed. In 1953 he earned new respect for the continuing power of Tammany Hall when he led the defeat of incumbent mayor Vincent R. Impellitteri in the Democratic Party primary by Robert F. Wagner, Jr., and Wagner's victory in the general election. Then in 1954, he brokered W. Averell Harriman’s victory as Governor of New York. He served in Harriman's cabinet as Secretary of State of New York.

DeSapio always seemed a personally modest man. Even though he operated out of four lavish offices, he lived for fifty years in a modest middle-class apartment on Washington Square with his wife Natalie and daughter Geraldine. 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. Democrats such as Wagner, who had once praised him, found it expedient to denounce DeSapio and Tammany Hall politics and seek reform.

DeSapio reached a low point in 1969 when he was convicted of conspiracy and bribery. 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 by his skill as a speaker. In 1992 Mayor Ed Koch described him with these observations:

"He is a crook, but I like him.... Most politicians still like De Sapio. He always gets the most applause when he is introduced at Democratic dinners."

Among his 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.

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


  • Kandell, Jonathan. "Carmine De Sapio, Political Kingmaker and Last Tammany Hall Boss, Dies at 95." The New York Times, July 28, 2004 (Metropolitan Desk, Late Edition - Final, Section C, page 12).
  • "National Affairs: Can A Catholic Win?" TIME, August 6, 1956.


  • [1] Fordham alumni notes

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas J. Curran
Secretary of State of New York
1955 - 1959
Succeeded by
Caroline K. Simon


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