The moments that made Frank Rizzo Philly-famous

As the debate continues over whether Frank L. Rizzo’s Center City statue should be changed or removed, here is a primer on the life and career of the “Cop Who Would Be King” of Philadelphia:

Birth: Oct. 23, 1920

Italian immigrants Rafael and Theresa Ermino Rizzo welcomed Francis Lazzaro Rizzo into the world on Rosewood Street in South Philadelphia. He was the oldest of four boys.

Enlisted: 1938

Rizzo quit high school and enlisted in the Navy. He was medically discharged 19 months later after being diagnosed with a rare illness related to diabetes.

Joined the police force: October 1943

He joined the Philadelphia Police Department at the age of 22. That same year, he would marry Carmella Silvestri. They had met at a party in Germantown.

Making his name: 1950 to 1954

He was promoted to sergeant, and then to captain, while making a name for himself by leading vice-squad raids on after-hours bars and nightclubs. He earned a nickname: “Cisco Kid.”

Rizzo rises: 1959 to 1967

He continued his meteoric rise, being promoted to inspector, deputy commissioner, and then commissioner. The Inquirer reported that more than 1,000 people jammed into Judge Joseph Sloane’s courtroom to see him take the oath as Philadelphia’s top cop. He was 46.

Reign as commissioner: 1967 to 1971

He increased the police budget by 50 percent, but incited anger from blacks and liberals for his harsh treatment of political activists. A famous 1969 photograph showed a tuxedo-clad Rizzo, with a nightstick jammed under his cummerbund, during a disturbance at a housing project.

Camera icon ELWOOD P. SMITH / Daily News
One of the most iconic photographs in Philadelphia history: Police Commissioner Frank L. Rizzo gives orders in a tuxedo, with a nightstick tucked into his cummerbund, in 1969.

Elected Mayor: 1971

He resigns as commissioner to run for mayor. Rizzo defeated then-Congressman William J. Green in the Democratic primary and Republican W. Thacher Longstreth in the general election under the campaign slogan, “Rizzo Means Business.” He was the first Italian mayor of Philadelphia.

Scrutiny: 1972

Rizzo came under scrutiny concerning his finances after he prepared to spend about $410,000 to buy and improve a new home. No wrongdoing was proved, but Rizzo never finished the house.

Lie detector: 1973

Bickering with Democratic Party boss Peter J. Camiel erupted into open warfare in which both men agreed to a Daily News reporter’s offer take a polygraph test to resolve the dispute. Camiel passed. Rizzo failed. And then Rizzo blamed the examiner.

Spying on political enemies: 1973

Rizzo was caught operating a 34-man special police squad to dig up dirt and spy on his political enemies, including Camiel and a close Camiel ally, City Council President George X. Schwartz.

Re-election: 1975

During his bid for re-election, Rizzo proclaimed he would “make Attila the Hun look like a faggot.” He was re-elected by a margin of 182,730 votes over independent Charles W. Bowser and Republican Thomas M. Foglietta.

Raising taxes: 1976

After promising to keep taxes down, he enacted the largest tax increase in city history to plug an $80 million budget deficit. Angry voters launched an unsuccessful effort to recall the mayor.

Tried for third term: 1978

Rizzo sought, but failed to win, a change in the City Charter that would have allowed him to seek a third consecutive term.

‘Crumb bum’ tape: 1980

Retired to his home in Chestnut Hill, Rizzo was recorded on video calling KYW investigative reporter Stan Bohrman a “crumb bum,” as well as “creep,” “lush,” and “coward.”

Failed comeback: 1983

Rizzo attempted a comeback to City Hall, but lost to W. Wilson Goode Sr. in the Democratic primary for mayor. He took a job as a security consultant for the Philadelphia Gas Works.

Switching sides: 1987

He switched his registration to Republican and, with backing from GOP boss William Meehan, defeated John J. Egan Jr. in the mayoral primary. He lost again to Goode in the general election by 17,176 votes.

Failed comeback Part 2: February 1991

Rizzo again announces his candidacy for mayor, becoming the first person to seek the office in three separate decades.  He won the Republican primary by 1,429 votes, defeating finance expert Sam Katz and former District Attorney Ronald D. Castille.

Death: July 16, 1991

Months before the general election, Rizzo suffered a massive heart attack at his campaign office at 1:23 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 2:12 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He was 70.

Statue talk: 1992

More than seven months after his death, a group led by Rizzo’s personal secretary and a retired policeman laid the groundwork for a bronze monument to be built in Rizzo’s honor.