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Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

F.D.R., 1933

Order: 32nd President
Term of Office: March 4, 1933April 12, 1945
Predecessor: Herbert Hoover
Successor: Harry S. Truman
Date of Birth January 30, 1882
Place of Birth: Hyde Park, New York
Date of Death: April 12, 1945
Place of Death: Warm Springs, Georgia
First Lady: Eleanor Roosevelt
Profession: Attorney
Political Party: Democratic
Vice President:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882April 12, 1945), often referred to as FDR, was the 32nd (19331945) President of the United States. He was elected to an unprecedented four terms, and died in office — he remains the only U.S. president elected more than twice. His main contributions were the instituting of major economic and social assistance programs in response to the Great Depression (known as the New Deal), leading the country through a successful involvement in World War II, and helping in the formation of the United Nations.

Roosevelt's four election victories led to the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, which limits presidents to two terms.



Roosevelt was born on Monday, January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York to James Roosevelt and Sara Delano of the prominent Delano family. He died on Thursday, April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia, of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 63, leaving the famous Unfinished Portrait.

Education and Marriage

Roosevelt graduated from Harvard University in 1904, and from Columbia Law School with a J.D. in 1908 before taking a job with a prestigious Wall Street firm. On Friday, Saint Patrick's Day, 1905, he married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant cousin, who was the favorite niece of Theodore Roosevelt, his fifth cousin. They had six children:

  1. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Thursday, May 3, 1906 - Monday, December 1, 1975
  2. James Roosevelt , Monday, December 23, 1907 - Tuesday, August 13, 1991
  3. The first Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. , Thursday, March 18, 1909 - Monday, November 1, 1909
  4. Elliot Roosevelt, Friday, September 23, 1910 - Saturday, October 27, 1990
  5. The second Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., Monday, August 17, 1914 - Wednesday, August 17, 1988
  6. John Aspinwall Roosevelt , Monday, March 13, 1916 - Monday, April 27, 1981
FDR as Navy Secretary.
FDR as Navy Secretary.


Roosevelt suffered from polio from the age of 39, which left him with severe difficulty in moving his legs. He often used a wheelchair, but took efforts to hide this disability throughout his life. In fact, there are only two known photographs of Roosevelt in his wheelchair. However, a statue of Roosevelt sitting in a wheelchair was commissioned in Washington, DC in 2001 at the urging of advocates for the disabled.

From the age of one, through until 1936, Roosevelt spent his summers at Campobello Island, New Brunswick but because of his worsening polio, in later years he had to spend much of his time in Warm Springs, whose namesake warm springs provided him and others relief from their symptoms, and where he built the Little White House, now a Georgia state historic site . [1] He also created the town's Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation , which continues to help others with disabilities to this day. [2]

Government Service

Government Positions held by Roosevelt prior to his presidency include:

Roosevelt also was a candidate for Vice President of the United States, serving as running mate to Ohio Governor James M. Cox on the Democratic ticket in 1920. The Cox/Roosevelt ticket was defeated by the Republican ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Assassination Attempt

On Wednesday, February 15, 1933 after his victory in the 1932 election but before taking office, President-elect Roosevelt was nearly assassinated in Miami, Florida (the assassin did manage to kill Chicago, Illinois Mayor Anton J. Cermak - a fact which resulted in the shooter, Giuseppe Zangara of Chicago, being executed in the electric chair on Monday, March 20, 1933).

Presidency: 1933-1941

Roosevelt's Presidential campaign in 1932 saw the New York governor committing himself to battling the Great Depression, promoting a platform with "Three R's - relief, recovery and reform." He coined the term "New Deal" when he stated: "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people."

Great Depression

In reference to the Great Depression, Roosevelt proclaimed "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" in his inauguration speech on (Saturday, March 4, 1933). Roosevelt's first weeks in office were called The Hundred Days, as during the first part of his administration he authored and approved a flurry of Congressional acts to institute immediate change and keep the nation's economy from destabilizing. He insituted a four-day "banking holiday" two days after he took office: a four-day period in which all banks in the country closed, allowing the institutions a brief period to recover and reorganize. During this time of crisis Roosevelt addressed the nation for the first time as President on Sunday, March 12, 1933 in the first of many "Fireside Chats."

In order to end the 1930s general bank crisis, Roosevelt issued an executive order and, with the Emergency Bank Relief Act (March 1933) and the Gold Reserve Act (January 1934), outlawed the circulation and private possession of United States gold coins for general circulation, with an exemption for collector coins. This act declared that gold coins were no longer legal tender in the United States, and people had to turn in their gold coins for other forms of currency. This act took the United States off the gold standard, and it also effected the removal of the statement that United States paper currency could be exchanged for gold at any of the nation's banks.

Government Reforms

Of the various reform programs initiated by the Roosevelt administration, the most far-reaching and influential was the institution of the Social Security system, a form of welfare that was meant to provide support for low-income and elderly citizens.

In 1935-1936, the Supreme Court, which was dominated by conservatives with a narrow view of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, the basis of much New Deal legislation, struck down eight of FDR's New Deal programs.

In response Roosevelt submitted to Congress in February of 1937 a plan for "judicial reform," which proposed adding a justice for every justice over the age of 70 who refused to retire, up to a maximum of 15 total. This came to be known as his attempt to "pack" the Court. Up to this point in his presidency, no vacancy on the Supreme Court had arisen, despite him now being in his second term - an exceptionally unusual occurrance and one that presumably added to his frustrations. Though the plan failed in Congress, as a threat to the Court it may have had its desired effect. In a move cynically referred to as "the switch in time that saved nine," one of the conservative justices, Owen Roberts, inexplicably shifted his vote in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, changing the ideological balance of the Court. It wasn't long before time allowed Roosevelt to further have his way on the bench, as vacancies allowed Roosevelt to eventually fill all nine seats with his appointments--the most of any presidency except George Washington's.

Second Term

Easily winning re-election in 1936, Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to be inaugurated on Wednesday, January 20th in 1937, following adoption of the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Prior to this, presidents had been sworn into office on Thursday, March 4th.

Also in 1937, Roosevelt delivered "The Quarantine Speech" in Chicago. In it he compared the outbreak of international violence to that of a communicable disease needing to be quarantined. This speech began debates over just how much the United States should be concerned with international diplomacy. News media responded that the speech represented "an attitude and not a program".

Presidency: 1941-1945

Election to Third Term

In an unprecedented move, Roosevelt sought a third consecutive term in 1940. Unlike the 1936 election where he won the Democratic nomination uncontested, in 1940 he was opposed by several candidates, the most noteworthy of which was his own Vice President, John Nance Garner.

Roosevelt went on to defeat Garner for his party's nomination, then defeated Republican nominee Wendell L. Willkie in a landslide to win the election. Joining him as Vice President to replace Garner was Henry Agard Wallace.

World War II

Chiang Kai-shek, Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill at the Cairo Conference in 1943
Chiang Kai-shek, Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill at the Cairo Conference in 1943

Roosevelt said that he would not send American boys to fight in foreign wars. However, in 1941 the conflicting interests of Japan and the United States in Asia and the Pacific, especially in China, resulted in a breakdown of diplomatic relations to the point where war seemed inevitable (see entry for Hull note). Some have suggested Roosevelt had prior knowledge of the Sunday, December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and welcomed it as a way to get the U.S. into World War II. Others point out, that while U.S. code-breakers had broken Japanese codes in Washington, D.C. and knew something was about to happen, communication delays prevented the messages from getting to Pearl Harbor until 4 hours after the attack. At best though the conspiracies can only claim that FDR knew an attack by the Japanese was going to happen some where in the Pacific not that it was going to take place at Pearl Harbor.

On Monday, May 18, 1942, Roosevelt wrote a private letter to William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, in which he discusses that the USA and Canada agree on an unwritten plan aiming to disperse French-Canadians in order to assimilate them more quickly.

On Thursday, January 14, 1943 Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to travel via airplane while in office with his flight from Miami, Florida to Morocco to meet with Winston Churchill to discuss World War II. The meeting was concluded on Sunday, January 24.

In hindsight, perhaps the most controversial decision Roosevelt made was Executive Order 9066 which resulted in the internment in concentration camps of 110,000 Japanese nationals and American citizens of Japanese descent on the West Coast. Considered a major violation of civil liberties, it was even opposed at the time by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (who may have done it out of malice for FDR), Eleanor Roosevelt as well as many other groups. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Executive Order. Others have criticised him for failing to do anything to disrupt the Nazi operations in perpetrating the Holocaust despite having intelligence of the atrocity.

Roosevelt was the first President to regularly address the American public through the medium of radio. He instituted a tradition of weekly radio speeches, which he called "fireside chats." These "chats" gave him the opportunity to take his opinions to the American people, and they often bolstered his popularity as he campaigned for various changes. During World War II the fireside chats were seen as important morale boosters for Americans at home.

From left to right, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin.
From left to right, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin.

One speech he is famous for delivering was his State of the Union Address in 1941. This speech is also known as the Four Freedoms Speech. His address to Congress and the nation on Monday, December 8, 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbor entered history with the phrase, "December Seventh, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy."

Election to Fourth Term

Though seen by many in the Democratic Party to already be physically ailing to a point where it was unclear if he could serve another four year term, there was little question that, in time of war, "FDR" would be the party's candidate for a fourth term in the 1944 elections.

Vice President Henry Wallace had alienated much of the Democratic leadership during his four years in office, and was seen as far too agrarian (and by some, even communist) in his political philosophy. With this in mind and mindful of Roosevelt's health, they persuaded Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman to join Roosevelt on the Democratic ticket in 1944.

The Roosevelt/Truman ticket won the election, held on November 7, 1944, defeating popular Republican challenger Thomas E. Dewey.

Presidency: Cabinet

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1933–1945
Vice President John Nance Garner 1933–1941
  Henry A. Wallace 1941–1945
  Harry Truman 1945
Secretary of State Cordell Hull 1933–1944
  Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. 1944–1945
Secretary of the Treasury William H. Woodin 1933–1934
  Henry Morgenthau, Jr. 1934–1945
Secretary of War George H. Dern 1933–1936
  Henry Woodring 1936–1940
  Henry L. Stimson 1940–1945
Attorney General Homer S. Cummings 1933–1939
  Frank Murphy 1939–1940
  Robert H. Jackson 1940–1941
  Francis Biddle 1941–1945
Postmaster General James A. Farley 1933–1940
  Frank C. Walker 1940–1945
Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson 1933–1939
  Charles Edison 1939–1940
  Frank Knox 1940–1944
  James V. Forrestal 1944–1945
Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes 1933–1945
Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace 1933–1940
  Claude R. Wickard 1940–1945
Secretary of Commerce Daniel C. Roper 1933–1938
  Harry L. Hopkins 1938–1940
  Jesse H. Jones 1940–1945
  Henry A. Wallace 1945
Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins 1933–1945

White House portrait of FDR
White House portrait of FDR

Presidency: Supreme Court appointments

Roosevelt appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

Presidency: New government agencies


Ailing from the stresses of three and a half long years of war and worn down by polio, excessive cigarette smoking, congestive heart disease and other illnesses, Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemmorage while on retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945. Harry S. Truman, who had served just 82 days as Vice President was sworn in later that day to succeed him.

Other notes

Since 1946, Roosevelt's portrait appears on the obverse of the U.S. dime.

Related articles

External links

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Preceded by:
Herbert Hoover
President of the United States
Succeeded by:
Harry S. Truman
Preceded by:
Alfred E. Smith
Governor of New York
Succeeded by:
Herbert H. Lehman

Preceded by:
Al Smith
Democratic Party Presidential candidate
1932 (won) - 1936 (won) - 1940 (won) - 1944 (won)
Followed by:
Harry S. Truman

Last updated: 10-31-2004 02:14:09