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Robert Ferdinand Wagner, Jr., usually known as Robert F. Wagner, Jr. (April 20, 1910 - February 12, 1991) served three terms as the mayor of New York City, from 1954 through 1965.
He was born in Manhattan, New York, the son of United States Senator Robert F. Wagner. Wagner attended Yale University, where he became a member of Scroll and Key.
Wagner served in the State Assembly (1937 - 1941) and as Borough President of Manhattan (1950 - 1953). He served as delegate to conventions and was nominated for the Senate and the Vice-Presidency. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps.
His nomination and election as New York City mayor in 1953 caused a rift in the Democratic Party, and instigated a long-standing feud between Eleanor Roosevelt and Carmine DeSapio, Boss of Tammany Hall.
During Wagner's tenure as mayor of New York, he built public housing and schools, created the City University of New York system, established the right of collective bargaining for city employees, and barred housing discrimination based on race, creed or color. He was the first mayor to hire significant numbers of people of color in city government. His administration also saw the development of the Lincoln Center and brought Shakespeare to Central Park.
In the fall of 1957 after the Dodgers and Giants left the city of New York he appointed a commission to see if they could bring back National League baseball to New York. The New York Mets were born out of this committee .
After deciding not to run for a fourth term in 1965, Wagner served as ambassador to Spain from 1968 to 1969. In that year, he decided to run for a fourth term but was soundly beaten by Mario Procaccino in the Democratic primary. He also made a brief run four years later, but withdrew before the primary took place. In 1978 he was appointed by Jimmy Carter to be his representative to the Vatican, where the College of Cardinals had recently elected a new Pope, John Paul II.
He was married to Phyllis Fraser, widow of Bennett Cerf, from 1975 until his death. He died in Manhattan of heart failure in 1991, aged 80.
The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University is named in his honor, as is the Robert F. Wagner, Jr., Secondary School for Arts and Technology in Long Island City, Queens.
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