Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Served 1933-1937, 1937-1941, 1941-1945, 1945 (died in office)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born January 30, 1882, at Hyde Park, New York, into one of the more famous families in America at that time. He was a third cousin, thrice removed to the 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt (pronounced “roe’-ze-velt”) — universally called FDR — married his fifth cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt March 17, 1905, and they had six children, one of whom died in infancy. Active in politics at a young age, Roosevelt served as Secretary of War under President Wilson, and run unsuccessfully for Vice President in 1920.
In l921, Roosevelt was stricken with polio, and his legs were paralyzed for the remainder of his life. Being wheelchair-bound did not, however, restrict his boundless energy or interest, including stamp collecting, swimming, sailing, playing poker, and bird watching. Over the next 10 years, he gathered political support and in 1932, won the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.
Roosevelt was elected by a landslide over incumbert President Hoover, who was unpopular due to the Great Depression. Roosevelt promised a “New Deal” and quickly, after his election, pushed for laws and created Government programs to help people. Some of Roosevelt’s agencies still exist, most notably the Tennesee Valley Authority, established to conserve soil and water, produce energy, and end drought. Some of his agencies ended or were declared unconstitutional, such as the Works Progress Administration. Some of his agencies became part of other organizations, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, whose resources became part of county Cooperative Extension programs. From the very start of his administration, Roosevelt stayed close to the American people with regular “Fireside Chats” on radio.
Roosevelt’s Vice President from 1933 to 1941 was John Nance Garner, who disdained the position.
By l940, America’s economy was improving. Paralleling America’s upswing, however, was a new force in Europe, growing out of post-World War resentments and privations. In 1938, Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler, annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia and allowed widespread attacks on minorities. On September 1, 1939, German forces attacked Poland with more firepower than had ever before been used — the Blitzkrieg (“Lightning War”). Meanwhile, Japanese forces invaded China and Korea. Under Roosevelt’s leadership, America stayed officially neutral, but provided resources to allies in Britain and Europe and enforced a naval blockage of Japanese forces in the Pacific Ocean. Roosevelt was re-elected in 1941, this time with Henry Wallace as his Vice President.
Roosevelt was the first President to appear on television, the first to appoint a woman to the cabinet (Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor), and the only President to serve more than eight years.
After an attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the U.S. declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy. Roosevelt guided the country through this most terrible period, and his strategy brought victory. In 1944, on the principle that even Roosevelt should not servce a fourth term, Wallace opposed Roosevelt for renomination, becoming the first Vice President to oppose an incumbent president. Roosevelt nonetheless was renominated and won, this time with Harry S Truman as his running mate.
Eleanor Roosevelt became one of the most active and popular First Ladies. She gave her support to many causes and later served as a founder of the United Nations.
Even Roosevelt’s dog, Fala, a Scottish terrier, became famous. He was born April 7, l940, and was given to Roosevelt by his cousin Margaret Stuckley. First named Big Boy, his name was changed to Murray of Fala Hill after a famous Roosevelt ancestor. The dog went everywhere with the President, sitting between the leaders of the world, including when Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter in 1941 aboard the U.S.S. Augusta in the mid-Atlantic. Fala also was the focus of a major speech the President gave during the 1944 reelection campaign.
The war years created a great strain on Roosevelt’s health. Less than three months into his fourth term, on April 12, l945, Roosevelt had a stroke in Warm Springs, Georgia, and died just before World War II ended. He was buried at his estate in New Hyde Park, New York. Fala later was buried near the President, and a book about his life is available.