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Robert Ferdinand Wagner

Wagner, Robert Ferdinand (wăgˈnər) [key], 1877–1953, American legislator, b. Germany. He arrived with his family in the United States in 1885 and grew up in poor surroundings in New York City. After he received his law degree, he became attached to Tammany Hall and was elected (1904) to the New York state assembly. In the state senate (1910–18), Wagner was noted for his investigations of factory conditions; as justice (1919–26) of the state supreme court, he did much to protect the rights of labor. He served (1927–49) in the U.S. Senate, where he was one of the chief leaders in directing New Deal legislation, particularly the acts establishing the National Recovery Administration (1933), the National Labor Relations Board (1935), social security, and the U.S. Housing Authority (1937). In the 1940s he sponsored bills calling for the extension of federal housing. He resigned from the Senate in 1949 because of ill health. His son, Robert Ferdinand Wagner, Jr., 1910—91, b. New York City, entered politics with his father's encouragement. He was a member of the New York state assembly (1938–41), and after service in the air force in World War II, he became successively New York City tax commissioner (1946), commissioner of housing and buildings (1947), chairman of the City Planning Commission (1948), and president of the borough of Manhattan (1949). Elected mayor of New York in 1953, he was overwhelmingly reelected in 1957. Wagner broke (1961) with the Tammany organization after long association and, after defeating the organization candidate in the primary election, won a third term as mayor. In 1965 he chose not to run for reelection. He was appointed (1968) U.S. Ambassador to Spain, but he resigned in Feb., 1969, and ran unsuccessfully in the New York Democratic mayoral primary in June of that year.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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