Wagner, Robert F.

▪ United States senator
in full  Robert Ferdinand Wagner 
born June 8, 1877, Nastätten, Hesse-Nassau, Ger.
died May 4, 1953, New York, N.Y., U.S.

      U.S. senator and leading architect of the modern welfare state.

      Wagner arrived in the United States at the age of eight and settled with his parents in a New York tenement neighborhood. After graduating from the City College of New York in 1898, he went on to obtain a law degree from New York Law School in 1900. Later that year he was admitted to the bar and opened a practice.

      But Wagner quickly abandoned law for Democratic Party politics. Starting as a ward heeler for Tammany Hall, he moved up the ranks until in 1904 he won a seat in the New York State Assembly. Four years later he was elected to the state senate. It was in the New York Senate—especially as an outgrowth of his investigation into industrial working conditions in New York City—that Wagner first won renown as a leader in formulating social legislation.

      From 1919 to 1926 Wagner served as a justice of the New York Supreme Court. In 1926 he ran successfully for the U.S. Senate, a position to which he would be reelected three times. During his first term Wagner introduced legislation to assist labour and the unemployed, but his initiatives were rebuffed.

      Not until the advent of the New Deal did Wagner's legislative proposals become law. He helped draft the National Industrial Recovery Act (1933), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration bill (1933), and the law establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps (1933). An ally of President Franklin Roosevelt, Wagner firmly believed in the government's duty to take an active role in promoting the public good.

      In 1935 Wagner sponsored two major pieces of New Deal legislation: the Social Security Act (enacted 1936) and the National Labor Relations Act (better known as the Wagner Act). The latter bill established the National Labor Relations Board, guaranteed workers the right to bargain collectively without jeopardizing their jobs, and outlawed a number of unfair labour practices. In 1937 the Wagner-Steagall Act created the United States Housing Authority, an agency to provide loans for low-cost public housing.

      As the New Deal lost momentum, Wagner persisted. He presented national health care and anti-lynching legislation, but both measures failed to gain passage. More successful were his drives to expand housing and social security programs, and in 1945 a weakened version of his full-employment bill became law. Wagner resigned from the Senate for health reasons in 1949. He lived out his last years at his home in New York City, devoting much of his time to supporting the creation of the new nation of Israel. His son, Robert F. Wagner, Jr. (1910–91), served as mayor of New York City from 1954 to 1965.

▪ mayor of New York City
in full  Robert Ferdinand Wagner, Jr.  
born April 20, 1910, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died Feb. 12, 1991, New York

      American Democratic Party politician and mayor of New York City (1954–65).

      Wagner was named for his father, a U.S. senator and sponsor of the Social Security Act. After an education at Yale University (A.B., 1933, LL.D., 1937), Wagner served as an intelligence officer in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He launched his political career by associating himself with the powerful Democratic machine Tammany Hall, which had controlled city and state politics in New York for 150 years. Wagner was aided by his father and quickly advanced to the position of Manhattan borough president (1949).

      After being elected mayor in 1954, Wagner, a soft-spoken man, fortified his popularity with the voters for such acts as granting collective-bargaining rights to municipal labour unions, demolishing slums, and commissioning public housing. He also promoted the arts, helping to establish the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, engaging in the fight to save Carnegie Hall from demolition, and introducing free Shakespearean productions in Central Park. His civil-rights record was uneven; he appointed members of minority groups to government posts, but his administration pursued a policy of suppressing homosexuals and their gathering places.

      Wagner began distancing himself from Tammany Hall in 1958 and aligned himself with political reformers. By the time that he successfully sought reelection in 1961, the break was final. After leaving the mayor's office, Wagner was a partner in a New York law firm (from 1972) and served as ambassador to Spain (1968–69) and presidential envoy to the Vatican (1978–80).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Wagner, Robert Ferdinand — (1877 1953)    Robert F. Wagner was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1885. They settled in New York City, where Wagner attended City College of New York and New York Law School. He qualified in law in 1900… …   Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era

  • Wagner, Robert F(erdinand) — born June 8, 1877, Nastätten, Hesse Nassau, Ger. died May 4, 1953, New York, N.Y., U.S. U.S. politician. He immigrated with his family to New York City in 1885. He became active in Democratic Party politics, serving in the state legislature… …   Universalium

  • Wagner, Robert F(erdinand) — (8 jun. 1877, Nastätten, Hesse Nassau, Alemania–4 may. 1953, Nueva York, N.Y., EE.UU.). Político estadounidense. Inmigró con su familia a Nueva York en 1885. Participó activamente en política en el Partido Demócrata, se desempeñó en el poder… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Wagner,Robert Ferdinand — Wag·ner (wăgʹnər), Robert Ferdinand. 1877 1953. German born American politician. A U.S. senator from New York (1927 1949), he sponsored important social legislation during Franklin D. Roosevelt s administration, most notably the National Labor… …   Universalium

  • Robert Backfisch — Robert Wagner (* 13. Oktober 1895 als Robert Heinrich Backfisch in Lindach bei Eberbach am Neckar; † 14. August 1946 in Fort Ney, nördlich von Straßburg) war Gauleiter von Baden, „Chef der Zivilverwaltung“ im besetzten Elsass (ab 2. August 1940)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Heinrich Wagner — Robert Wagner (* 13. Oktober 1895 als Robert Heinrich Backfisch in Lindach bei Eberbach am Neckar; † 14. August 1946 in Fort Ney, nördlich von Straßburg) war Gauleiter von Baden, „Chef der Zivilverwaltung“ im besetzten Elsass (ab 2. August 1940)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Wagner (Politiker) — Robert Wagner Robert Wagner (* 13. Oktober 1895 als Robert Heinrich Backfisch in Lindach bei Eberbach am Neckar; † 14. August 1946 in Fort Ney, nördlich von Straßburg) war Gauleiter von Baden, „Chef der Zivilverwaltung“ im besetzten Elsass (ab 2 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert F. Wagner — Robert Ferdinand Wagner (* 8. Juni 1877 in Nastätten, Hessen Nassau, heute Rheinland Pfalz; † 4. Mai 1953 in New York City) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker. Der gebürtige Deutsche vertra …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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