Zangara was born in Ferruzzano, Italy. He did a variety of menial jobs in his home town before emigrating with his uncle to the United States in 1923. At some point in his life Zangara developed a very painful ulcer that was never treated. Instead, Zangara, who had very little education, or money for doctors, was driven insane by the constant pain in his stomach. It was difficult for him to work due to both his physical and mental conditions, and in his fevered mind he developed the theory that the President of the United States was somehow supernaturally actively causing his pain. Zangara began plotting to assassinate the current president Herbert Hoover, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to replace him before Zangara could act on his plan.
On February 13 1933, FDR was giving a speech in Bayfront Park in the city of Miami, Florida where Zangara worked as a brick layer. Zangara took a .32 caliber pistol and joined the crowd. However, being only five feet tall, he was unable to see over other people and had to stand on a wobbly wooden chair to get a clear shot of his target. Due to his inexperience with guns and awkward firing position, he missed the president with all six shots, but one bullet managed to hit Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago who was touring with FDR. Four other anonymous members of the crowd were also wounded. Enroute to the hospital, Cermak allegedly told FDR, "I'm glad it was me and not you, Mr. President."
Giuseppe Zangara's last words were spoken to the judge present at his execution, "You give me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair! You one of capitalists. You is crook man too. Put me in electric chair. I no care!"