President Franklin D. Roosevelt pictured in Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida in 1933. File photo UPI
MIAMI, Fla., Feb. 16, 1933 (UP) - The courage of one small woman, who pitted her strength against the determination of a crazed gunman, probably saved President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt from injury or death.
Mrs. W.F. Cross, wife of a Miami physician, who seized the pistol-arm of Giuseppe Zangara and grimly matched the muscles of her 100-pound body against him, today told how she was able to divert the anarchist's aim.
"My mind grasped the situation in a flash," she said. "I said to myself, 'He's going to kill the president.' I caught him by the arm and twisted it up."
Chance threw Mrs. Cross and Zangara together, on the same bench near the president-elect's automobile.
"So many stood up in front of me," she said, "that I couldn't see, so I stood on one of the benches, and this man stood up with me. The bench nearly folded up.
"I glanced up at him and saw he had a pistol. He began shooting toward Mr. Roosevelt. I grabbed his arm and pushed it with all my strength into the air, and called for help. A man named Tom Armour also grabbed his arm, and the next thing I knew some other men had reached him and were choking him."
In the excitement of the moment, Mrs. Cross said she could not tell how many shots were fired. The rapidity with which she acted was shown in the fact, related later, that in order to seize the assassin's arm, she had to transfer her handbag from her right to her left hand.
Zangara's gun, Mrs. Cross said, "was pointed over my right shoulder, directly in line with the president."
Giusepe Zangara's mugshot following his arrest in 1933. Photo by Florida Dept. of Corrections
"There is no doubt," she added, calmly, "that if his aim hadn't been spoiled, he would have hit Mr. Roosevelt."
So close was the heroine of the assassination attempt to the maniac, that members of her family found powder marks on her right cheek when she reached home. She is only 5 feet 4 inches tall.
Mrs. Cross gave a vivid description of the events of the dramatic minute.
"The shots made a terrific noise in my ear," she said. "He kept shooting and trying to force my arm down, but I wouldn't let go. I couldn't have held much longer, however, when Mr. Armour seized him.
"A second or two later the Legion boys came smashing through and we all went tumbling off the bench together. My breath was knocked out; but I wasn't hurt."
The only nervousness she experienced, she said, was when the shooting was over and Zangara had been rushed away to jail.
"I missed my husband," she said, "and didn't go home in the family car. But the police were very nice to me, and took me home in one of their machines."