Leone, Giovanni

   Born in Naples, Giovanni Leone was a convinced Fascist who fought bravely in World War II and campaigned on behalf of the monarchy during the 1946 referendum. An academic lawyer by training, Leone was a student of Enrico De Nicola, who was to be the first president of Italy. The young Leone took degrees in law as well as in political and social sciences and began his own academic career at the University of Naples in 1933 as a libero docente in criminal law and procedure. Attaining the rank of professor in only two years, he was given tenure in 1936 with an appointment at the University of Messina. His academic career subsequently took him to Bari, Naples, and Rome. In 1944, Leone enrolled in the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC) and served for a year as political secretary of the Naples section. In 1946, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly and, in 1948, to the first republican Parliament. In 1950, he was made vice president of the Chamber of Deputies. He replaced Giovanni Gronchi as president of the lower house when the latter was elected head of state.
   In 1963, Leone formed a government to steer the budget through Parliament. His first candidacy (in 1964) for the presidency of the republic was unsuccessful, although he was his party’s official nominee.
   The victor, Giuseppe Saragat of the Partito Socialista Democratico Italiano/Italian Social Democratic Party (PSDI), made Leone a life senator. In June 1968, Leone followed Aldo Moro’s third government, forming a monocolore cabinet (i.e., one made up entirely of deputies from a single party). It survived until November of that year. In December 1971, he was elected president of the Republic. In September 1974, he was the first head of state to be invited to the White House by President Gerald Ford.
   Inquiries in the U.S. Senate led to newspaper assertions that, like industrial leaders elsewhere in the world, several Italian ministers and President Leone had accepted bribes from the Lockheed Corporation to facilitate aircraft sales to the Italian Air Force. Leone resigned his office in June 1978 under this cloud of scandal, making way for Alessandro Pertini to become president. As a life senator, however, he retained his seat in Parliament. Leone died in Rome in November 2001.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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