On This Day in History, March 26: He Bosses a Band of Angels
Curtis Sliwa was born in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn on March 26, 1954. He attended P.S. 114, St. Matthew’s, and Bildersee Junior High School. Because of a dress code violation at Brooklyn Prep, where he was president of the student government, he left in his senior year. He finished his formal education at Canarsie High School.
Sliwa had a newspaper delivery route when he was 16. He proved to be a young man with guts when he pulled several people out of a burning building in Brooklyn while on his route. That heroic feat earned him Newsboy of the Year honors and a photo-op with President Richard Nixon, who presented him with a tie clip and a pen.
In 1978 he won notice for starting an anti-litter campaign in Canarsie. That same year he got some publicity returning a lost wallet packed with $300. He pumped gas at a Shell station on Rockaway Parkway and while working as a night manager of a McDonald’s in the Bronx, he could not help but notice the huge volume of street violence and crime that went without arrest and punishment. Laws were not being enforced and ordinary citizens were either indifferent or too scared to do anything about the breakdown of civility and order.
In 1979 Sliwa formed the Magnificent 13, a volunteer patrol that rode the IRT at night — particularly the No. 4 train, known as the “Mugger’s Express.” By 1980 the 13 Magnificents had swelled far past 13. Sliwa rechristened his group the Guardian Angels, whose mission was to help combat crime and render service to the city’s harried citizenry.
The Guardian Angels are a group of dedicated young men and women who volunteer their time and services to patrolling crime-ridden neighborhoods.
Sliwa has organized bands of Guardian Angels in cities throughout the country as well as internationally. Starting in 1990 Sliwa hosted and co-hosted a talk show on AM radio station WABC, and in 2009 moved to WNYM.