An outspoken conservative who took on crime with a vengeance, New York’s 107th Mayor is as synonymous with verbal gaffes as he is with 9/11. Loved by many and mocked by others, Rudy Giuliani has yet to set his legacy.
A Love of the Uniform and the Law
Rudolph William Louis Giuliani grew up in East Flatbush in a large Italian-American household. His extended family had a multitude of police and firefighters among its ranks, but also its share of mob-connected relatives. Giuliani often remarked upon the many stories of bravery about police and firemen told at the kitchen table and on holidays that earmarked family gatherings. Surrounded largely by first responders, the young boy learned an early respect for the uniform and its sacrifice.
Succumbing to negative forces, Giuliani’s father Harold, was a one-time criminal who went to jail for armed robbery before his son’s birth. Upon returning home from prison, the elder Giuliani was determined to stave off negative influences. He moved his young family to Long Island specifically to distance his son from the reach of criminal activity. His father’s determination to not repeat past mistakes shone through to his son who acquired a deep respect for authority and order.
Fighting the Bad Guys
Giuliani showed a strong interest in student politics in high school. He eschewed the uniform for a law degree, attending New York University Law School and graduating magna cum laude in 1968. Several years later in Washington, D.C., he landed a job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and headed the police corruption cases unearthed during the Knapp Commission.
After a short stint in private practice, Giuliani again returned to Washington, this time to serve as President Reagan’s Associate Attorney General. In 1983 he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. There he would begin his defining battle against New York’s organized crime leaders and the violence and drugs plaguing its streets.
The Mayor is in the House
Giuliani’s first run for mayor as a Republican was against Democrat David Dinkins. He lost by a hair and ran again four years later against the now incumbent Dinkins, this time winning handily. Giuliani’s “take no prisoners” demeanor as a tough prosecutor was just the thing New Yorkers were craving after four years of an escalating crack epidemic and rising crime rates.
Giuliani would serve the city for two terms. During that time, the public would be riveted by lurid and unending headlines about his failing marriage, battle with prostate cancer and extramarital relationship with Judith Nathan, the woman he would eventually go on to marry.
September 11, 2001
Public opinion about the outspoken mayor would rise and fall many times during his tenure, but no one could dispute his unending, steadfast leadership during and after the 9/11 attacks. The seminal moment which would forever define his mayoralty to the world, Giuliani’s presence seemed to be everywhere. He arrived at the Twin Towers almost instantaneously and coordinated rescue operations credited with saving thousands of lives. His calm, reasoned voice promised healing at funerals of the fallen. Giuliani wanted New Yorkers to be shining examples of courage and he led the way, a stalwart, unwavering figure.
A Post-Mayoral Legacy, As Yet Undefined
Giuliani’s unwavering patriotism and love of justice is undeniable. A staunch Republican, he has been taken to task several times for remarks that some consider bold and others, outrageous. His embrace of Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin, struck many as less than informed. His recent comments on President Obama’s lack of love for America also set off a firestorm of criticism and generated death threats. As always, the strongly opinionated Giuliani continues to stand by his words.
Giuliani joined an international law firm, Bracewell and Patterson LLP in 2005. The firm’s name was later changed to Bracewell and Giuliani LLP.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.