FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Born January 30, 1882
Died April 12, 1945
Married Eleanor Roosevelt March 17, 1905
was born in January, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York, at the
family home, Springwood, which was one of the important
houses overlooking the Hudson River. Franklin’s father,
James Roosevelt, American country squire and peripatetic
traveler, taught Franklin to love Britain and to emulate
the lifestyle of an English gentleman. His mother Sara,
born into the wealthy Delano family, always thought of herself
and her son as American aristocrats.
Though Franklin was an energetic and happy child, Sara monitored
her son closely. Frighteningly blind to her autocratic ways,
Sara would later claim, "We never tried to influence
him against his own inclinations or shape his life."
After his father’s first heart attack when Franklin
was eight, Sara grew even more possessive of her son. Franklin
experienced social rejection at Groton prep school and at
Harvard. He was devastated when he did not receive an invitation
to join Porcellian, the exclusive social club that counted
among its members his father, James, and his idol President
Theodore Roosevelt. Underneath his buoyant sociability and
seductive charm, Franklin would always possess a sense of
himself as a socially inadequate outsider.
After graduating from Columbia law school, Franklin began
his career at a Wall Street law firm. Neither particularly
gifted nor interested in business or law, over the years,
he indulged in a number of ill-advised business schemes,
yet he always managed to emerge from them scandal-free,
his sunny and solid reputation intact. In 1910, New York
politicians took note when he won an upset victory over
the heavily favored and well-connected Republican opponent
in a battle for the state senate. Franklin’s astute
politicking in Albany brought him to the attention of Woodrow
Wilson’s new administration; in March 1913, he was
appointed assistant secretary of the navy. After America
entered World War One, he sailed off to Europe to see the
action, and make international political connections including
King George V in London.
In 1920, he was chosen as the Democrats’ vice presidential
candidate, running with Ohio Governor James Cox. The two
of them were trounced by Republicans Warren G. Harding and
Calvin Coolidge, but with his eloquent and vigorous campaigning,
Franklin had further advanced his claim to be the heir apparent
to the Roosevelt name and progressive political legacy.
In August 1921, Franklin Roosevelt sailed a yacht to Campobello,
his family’s summer home in Maine, for his annual
vacation, and promptly came down with poliomyelitis. With
extraordinary determination, Franklin experimented with
every possible cure and exercised constantly. He used two-thirds
of his personal money to purchase a rundown spa at Warm
Springs, Georgia, so that he and others could take its bubbling
waters that literally buoyed him into walking movement.
FDR continued his physical and political rehabilitation
for four more years, until he narrowly won the governorship
of New York in 1928. Two years later he won reelection overwhelmingly,
and considered a run for the White House. That Roosevelt
would win the presidency was almost a foregone conclusion.
Following the traumatic stock market crash in 1929, the
country had lapsed into what was being called the "Hoover
Depression." With Eleanor at his side, Franklin campaigned
vigorously to prove that he could be effective and vigorous
despite his disability. He carried 42 of 48 states.
With his "New Deal" policies, he and the First
Lady helped Americans regain a sense of faith and hope.
In his famous Inaugural Address, he told the American people,
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
In his first hundred days as president, FDR pushed an unprecedented
amount of legislation through Congress. The Emergency Banking
Relief Act put the banks and their reopening under federal
control; the Civilian Conservation Corps hired young men
to plant trees and restore areas ruined by forest fires;
and the Public Works Administration employed millions to
build schools, airports, hospitals, public buildings, and
roads, as well as funding the arts and adult education programs.
At the end of his first term Roosevelt created new reforms
including Social Security, controls over banks and public
utilities, and a work relief program for the unemployed.
In 1936 he was re-elected by a top-heavy margin. Feeling
he was armed with a popular mandate, he sought legislation
to enlarge the Supreme Court, which had been invalidating
key New Deal measures. Roosevelt lost the Supreme Court
battle, but a revolution in constitutional law took place.
In the late 1930s he foresaw the danger of the totalitarian
governments taking over Europe, and did his best to provide
support for the European democracies without alienating
the strongly isolationist U.S. Congress and populace. When
the Nazis attacked both England and France in 1940, he found
creative ways to give them aid without declaring war. His
lend-lease program provided U.S. destroyers to Britain in
exchange for lease of critical British naval bases.
He bucked tradition and won a third term in 1940 and a fourth
in 1944. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December
7, 1941, he skillfully mobilized U.S. manpower and resources
and guided them in a two-fronted war in Europe and Asia.
He also made plans for a United Nations, which would stabilize
the crucial relations between the United States and Russia
and mediate international differences. The effort of coordinating
the war and lifting up the American people during the war
years wore him out. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in
April 1945 while he was recuperating from his war efforts
at Warm Springs, Georgia. He was buried at Hyde Park.
Winston Churchill eulogized Roosevelt as "the greatest
champion of freedom who has ever brought comfort and help
from the New World to the Old" and a leader who "had
raised the strength, might and glory" of the United
States to a "height never attained by any nation in