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"No Wonder They Named an Airport for Him!" - by Rev. Weldon Bares

The much-loved mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression was Fiorello LaGuardia.

In one of his books, Brennan Manning told a story about the mayor showing up one cold evening in January of 1935 at a night court in one of the poorest areas in the city. The mayor told the judge that he could go home, and he took over the bench himself.

The first case concerned a poor older woman. The charge against her was stealing a loaf of bread. She told the mayor that her daughter’s husband had left her and that her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the owner of the grocery store would not drop the charges. He said to the mayor, “Look, she has to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”

The mayor paused, then said to the woman, “I have to punish you. That is the law. Ten dollars or ten days in jail.”

But then, he reached for his own wallet and said, “Here is the fine for ten dollars, and furthermore, I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat.” He then said, “Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The local newspapers said that $47.50 was collected and given to a baffled older lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, including fifty cents by the red-faced grocery store owner.

Then over seventy people in the courtroom, including small-time criminals, and people with traffic violations and some policemen, each of whom had just paid a fine of fifty cents, gave the mayor a standing ovation. (The Ragamuffin Gospel)

No wonder they named an airport for him!


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