The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday August 23, 2013, was the site of the 53rd Annual Ceremony honoring Charles J. Bonaparte, the 46th Attorney General and founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in a program organized by Francesco Isgro, Chair of the Friends of Charles Bonaparte. The event’s Keynote Speaker, Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, spoke first about the importance of tradition in growing up in an Italian American family, and then pointed to the significant accomplishment of Charles Bonaparte in setting up an investigative force that evolved into the FBI. Luca Franchetti Pardo, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Italian Embassy delivered special remarks, noting the historic and continued cooperation between U.S. law enforcement agencies and their Italian counterparts. Also speaking were Judge Francis Allegra and Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis. Maria Marigliano, a senior official with U.S.A.I.D. opened the ceremony with the singing of the national anthems of the Republic of Italy and of the U.S.A. Fr. Ezio Marchetto, pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Washington D.C., gave the invocation. This year’s ceremony was supported by the Sons of Italy, the National Italian American Foundation, and the Lido Civic Club of Washington, D.C. Pino Cicala, founder of Antenna Italia in Washington, D.C., was recognized for having attended all 53 Charles Bonaparte ceremonies.
The Annual Charles Bonaparte ceremony was established in 1961 by the late John LaCorte, Sr., who was also the founder of the Italian Historical Society of America in New York. He worked diligently in his lifetime to help promote the accomplishments of Italian Americans, as a counterpoint to the negative perception of the ethnic group during that era.
LaCorte started his efforts in New York. After many years of lobbying and several set-backs, LaCorte finally succeeded in having a then-new bridge connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn named after a little-known Italian explorer of the New York Harbor—Giovanni Verrazzano.
LaCorte then came to Washington to promote the achievements of Charles Bonaparte. Bonaparte is the grand nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, whose parents were originally from Genoa, Italy. It is largely through LaCorte’s efforts that Charles Bonaparte has received his due credit as founder of the FBI.
When LaCorte first established the Charles Bonaparte ceremony in 1961, the late Judge Edward Re had just been appointed by President John F. Kennedy as Chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, an office established here at the Department.
Judge Re assisted La Corte in establishing that first ceremony, making him the First friend of Charles Bonaparte. Judge Re also gave visibility to the ceremony by ensuring that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was present at the ceremony.
On that occasion, a granite monument honoring Charles Bonaparte was presented by the Historical Society to the Department of Justice. The monument is now installed at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance of the United States Department of Justice.
(Pictured Judge Francis Allegra, Francesco Isgro, Luca Franchetti Pardo, David Margolis, Lisa Monaco – Photo courtesy Elissa Ruffino, NIAF)