Relative of Ingeborg Brigitte Gastel
The 32nd President
of the United States
1882 (January 30) Born in Hyde Park, New York.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the son of James and Sara Roosevelt. He was his mother's only child, but his father, a widower, had a son by his first wife. James Roosevelt was a wealthy lawyer and railroad executive who had inherited a fortune. Sara was also from a wealthy family and had married the fifty-two-year-old James when she was just twenty-six. She and James's first son were both born in 1854.
Franklin lived a sheltered early life. He received his elementary education from private tutors and travelled frequently with his family to Europe. At age fourteen Franklin enrolled in Groton, a private preparatory school in Groton, Massachusetts. After four years there he entered Harvard University in 1900. Although Franklin did not have a distinguished academic record, he graduated in three years and became editor of the Campus newspaper. Roosevelt stayed a fourth year at Harvard as a graduate student of history and economics. He then studied law at Columbia frorn 1904 until 1907 but left without graduating when he passed the bar. A New York City firm hired him as a law clerk.
In 1910 Roosevelt ran for the New York State Senate as a Democrat from a traditionally Republican district and surprised Democratic party leaders when he won. He was reelected in 1912 but gave up his seat in 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson appointed him assistant secretary of the navy, a post once held by his distant relative Theodore Roosevelt. After war broke out in Europe in 1914, Roosevelt argued for greater military preparedness. When the United States entered the war, he twice asked Wilson to transfer him to active Service, but the president turned hirn down saying he was needed where he was. Roosevelt made several trips to Europe to inspect U.S. naval forces. Near the end of the war he developed a plan to hinder German submarine attacks. His "North Sea Mine Barrage," a 240-mile corridor of antisubmarine mines in the Atlantic, reduced allied skipping losses and helped hasten the armistice.
In 1920 Roosevelt resigned from the Navy Department when the Democratic party nominated him for the vice presidency on the ticket with presidential nominee James M. Cox. Democrats hoped that the promising young politician with the famous name could give the ticket a boost, but Cox and Roosevelt were beaten badly by Republicans Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
After the defeat, Roosevelt became a partner
in a New York City law firm and accepted a vice presidency in the Fidelity
and Deposit Company of Maryland, a surety bond firm.
On June 26, 1924, Roosevelt returned to national politics when he delivered the presidential nomination speech for New York governor Alfred E. Smith at the Democratic national convention in New York City. Smith did not receive the nomination, but Roosevelt's courageous appearance on crutches at Madison Square Garden increased Roosevelt's popularity and made him a leading figure in the Democratic party. Later that year Roosevelt vacationed in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he hoped to regain the use of his legs by swimming in a natural pool of warm spring water. He made numerous trips to Warm Springe during the rest of his life. In 1927 he founded the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, an inexpensive treatment center for polio victims.
Al Smith, nominated for president in 1928, urged Roosevelt to run for governor in New York to give the Democratic ticket a boost. Roosevelt at first declined, saying he wanted to concentrate on rehabilitating his legs, but he finally agreed to run when he was nominatel by acclamation. Questions of Roosevelt's physical ability to function as governor were dispelled by bis vigorous campaigning, often conducted from an automobile. Roosevelt won the election despite Republican presidential candidate Herbert Hoover's victory in New York.
As governor, Roosevelt gave tax relief to New York's farmers and lowered the cost of public utilities to consumers. He was reelected in a landslide in 1980. During his second term he concentrated on easing the suffering caused by the depression. Roosevelt's sucess as governor made him a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1932. He entered the convention with a majority of delegates, but he had fewer than the two-thirds necessary to win the nomination. After three ballots he offered to endorse rival John Nance Garner, the Texan Speaker of the House, for vice president, if Garner released his presidential delegates. Garner, recognizing his chance of being nominated for president were slim, accepted the deal and released his ninety delegates to Roosevelt who was nominated on the fourth ballot. The convention then nominated Garner for vice president.
During the campaign of 1932, Roosevelt exuded confidence and outlined his recovery program, which he called the "New Deal." Although he faced incumbent Republican president Herbert Hoover in the election, Roosevelt was favored to win because many voters blamed Hoover for the severity of the Great Depression. Roosevelt outpolled Hoover by more than seven million votes and won 472-59 in the electoral college. Before Roosevelt was inaugurated, he became the only president-elect to be the target of an assassination attempt. After Roosevelt had delivered a speech in Florida on February 14, 1938, Guiseppe Zangara, an unemployed bricklayer, fired six sbots from a handgun at Roosevelt from twelve yards away. The president-elect, who was sitting in an open car, was uninjured but five other people were shot, including Chicago mayor Anton Cernak, who was killed. Zangara, who had a pathological hatred for rich and powerful figures, was found guilty of murder and electrocuted.
Roosevelt took office at the low point of the depression. Most of the nation's banks were closed, industrial production was about half of what it bad been in 1928, and as many as 15 million people were unemployed. Roosevelt worked with the new Democratic Congress to enact rnany New Deal bills during the productive opening period of his presidency, known as the "First Hundred Days." He declared a four-day bank holiday to stop panic withdrawals, abandoned the gold standard, increased government loans to farmers and homeowners, and created federal bank deposit insurance. At Roosevelt's urging, Congress created the Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed tens of thousands of people on conservation projects and passed the Federal Emergency Relief Act, which provided grants to state and local governments for aid to the unemployed. Numerous other measures were passed during the First Hundred Days, which increased public confidence and stimulated the economy.
Business interests feared that the deficit spending required to finance the New Deal would lead to inflation, but injection of federal money into the economy eased the depression. Roosevelt promoted his politics through "fire side chats," radio addresses to the nation frorn the White House. A second wave of New Deal programs, including Social Security, unemployment insurance, and federal aid to dependent children, was passed in 1934 and 1935.
Roosevelt's New Deal successes made him a popular president. He defeated Kansas governor Alfred M. Landon in the 1936 presidential election in one of the largest land-slides in presidential election history. Landon won only Maine and Vermont.
In 1937 Roosevelt suffered one of the biggest defeats of his presidency and squandered political capital won in the 1936 election when he proposed to expand the Supreme Court from nine to as rnany as fifteen judges. Roosevelt had been frustrated by the conservative court, which had struck down several of bis New Deal measures. If the Court were expanded he could appoint judges who would accept his policies. Neither the public nor Congress, however, would go along with Roosevelt's court-packing scheme. Moreover, the episode hardened resistance to the New Deal from Republicans and conservative Democrats.
In 1940 Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented third term against the progressive Republican nominee, Wendell Willkie of Indiana. Roosevelt defeated Willkie 449 to 82 in the electoral college. His popular margin of victory narrowed from four years before, however, in part because some voters objected to Roosevelt's disregard of the unwritten rule that presidents should serve no more than two terms.
In September 1939 Adolf Hitler's Germany had invaded Poland, starting World War II in Europe. Despite strong neutralist sentiments among members of Congress and the general public, Roosevelt recognized that U.S. national security depended on Great Britain's survival. He promised to keep the United States out of the fighting but pressed for the authority to aid Britain and other allied nations in every way short ot going to war. In September 1940 Roosevelt violated two neutrality statutes in trading Great Britain fifty outdated destroyers for the right to lease certain British territory in the Western Atlantic for U.S. naval and air bases. In March 1941 Roosevelt persuaded Congress to pass the Lend-Lease Act, which gave the president the power to supply weapons and equipment to "any country whose defense the president seems vital to the defense ot the United States." In September of that year, Roosevelt ordered U.S. warships providing protection for supply convoys bound for Britain to attack German vessels on sight. Thus, Roosevelt had engaged the United States in an undeclared naval war months before the nation would enter the war.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The next day Roosevelt asked for and received a declaration of war from Congress. Roosevelt shifted his focus and national resources from New Deal reforms to winning the war.
Roosevelt oversaw the development ot military strategy and conferred often with British prime minister Winston Churchill. Roosevelt and Churchill met with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at Teheran in 1943 and Yalta in 1945. At these meetings, the leaders ot the three principal allied nations not only discussed wartime strategy, they planned for the postwar order. At Yalta Roosevelt secured a Soviet promise to enter the war against Japan when Germany was defeated in return for territorial concessions in Asia. The allies also set new Polish borders, scheduled a conference in 1945 to establish the United Nations, and agreed to allow occupied countries to construct new governments based on free elections after the war. Many historians have criticized Roosevelt for being too trusting of Stalin, who established Communist puppet states in Eastern Europe after the war.
Although the strain of the wartime presidency had weakened Roosevelt, he ran for a fourth term in 1944. In a fateful move he agreed to the suggestion of his political advisers to drop his third-term vice president Henry A. Wallace, who was considered too liberal. The Democrats nominated Sen. Harry S. Truman from Missouri for vice president in Wallace's place. Roosevelt defeated his fourth Republican opponent, New York governor Thomas E. Dewey, 432-99, in the electoral college.
In April 1945, after returning from Yalta, Roosevelt went to Warm Springs, Georgia, for a rest before the conference on the establishment of the United Nations scheduled for later in the month in San Francisco. On April 12, while sitting for a portrait at his cottage, Roosevelt suddenly collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage and died a few hours later. The same day in Washington, Harry Truman was sworn in as president. The world mourned the dead president as a train carried his body back to the Capitol, where it lay in state at the White House. The train then resumed its journey north to Roosevelt's Hyde Park home, where he was buried.
Roosevelt married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a fifth cousin, on March 17, 1905. Eleanor's mother and father died when she was a child, so she was given away at her wedding by her father's brother, President Theodore Roosevelt. The Roosevelts had one daughter and five sons, one of whom died in infancy. Eleanor is regarded as the most active first lady in history up to her time. Besides promoting numerous social causes, she served as her crippled husband's representative at many political and ceremonial functions. After the president's death Eleanor continued to fight for social causes. She died on November 7, 1962.