Philadelphia Mayor. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1972 until 1980. Born Frank Lazzaro Rizzo, in the neighborhood of South Philadelphia, to Italian immigrants, his father was a police officer. He dropped out of high school and served with the United States Navy for a year, prior to returning home and working in the steel mill and construction industry. He followed in his father's path and joined the Philadelphia Police Force in 1943. Over the next twenty years, he rose through the ranks as he was elevated to inspector, deputy commissioner and finally appointed police commissioner while establishing himself as an imposing figure whom despised the criminal element. Rizzo received praise from many for his tough, rigorous methods of dealing with crime while others scorned him for his brutality. Regardless of what he was thought of, Rizzo was an enforcer of law and order and took pride in the fact that Philadelphia held one of the lowest crime rates of any major city in American during the late 1960s. While attending a black tie affair in 1969, he was photographed with a nightstick tucked in his cummerbund prior to responding to a riot with his police force. In 1971, Rizzo succeeded James Tate as Mayor of Philadelphia. During his first term, his continued popularity with his approached to crime caught the admiration of President Nixon whom invited him to the White House. His second four-years was marred with controversy as he issued one of the highest tax increases in the city's history. In August of 1978, his administration clashed with the radical organization M.O.V.E. for which resulted in the death of a police officer. In 1979, he was on hand to greet Pope John Paul II as he visited Philadelphia and other cities in America. Rizzo made an attempt to change the city's charter with a referendum in order to seek a third consecutive term but was unable to accomplish this. Former US Congressman William Green became mayor in 1980. Rizzo was however not finished trying to retain his former office. In 1983, he had an unsuccessful bid for mayor as he lost to Managing Director Wilson Goode and after changing to the Republican Party, he lost a second time to the incumbent Goode in 1987. Rizzo's final run was in the spring of 1991, when he defeated District Attorney and future Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille after a bitter campaign to secure the Republican nomination. On July 16th, 1991 while preparing his campaign to battle former District Attorney Ed Rendell for the general election, Rizzo suffered a fatal heart attack in his downtown Philadelphia office. Rendell went onto becoming Philadelphia's next mayor. A statue of him was erected in front of Philadelphia's Municipal Services Building. There is no doubt Rizzo left a larger than life legacy behind in the city he greatly loved.
Bio by: C.S.
Carmella M. Silvestri Rizzo