Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is one of the most admired Presidents of the United States. He served as President longer than any other man, for four terms, through the Great Depression and World War II. He is also known for his sweeping program of the change, the New Deal, which helped create the American welfare state and a strong executive branch.
He was born on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York, which is now a national historic site. His parents both came from money, and he was raised in a well-off and aristocratic home. Roosevelt attended a prep school in Massachusetts to prepare him for Ivy League colleges. He then obtained degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University Law School. Before graduating from Columbia, Roosevelt married his distant cousin Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. For a short while, he practiced law at a large New York City firm, but that line of work did not suit him.
In 1910, Roosevelt was elected to the New York State Senate and began his political career. He then took part in Woodrow Wilson's campaign for President in 1912, which landed him a position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a position once held by his distant cousin Theodore Roosevelt. Running as Vice President under Wilson, Roosevelt lost his position in politics when the campaign lost to Warren G. Harding in 1920. Roosevelt returned to the private sector after this defeat. It was at this point when he was diagnosed with polio, although symptoms had plagued him undiagnosed for over a decade. Through the help of his wife and family, Roosevelt managed to walk again, and won the position of New York Governor in 1929. This is, of course, the year of the crash that led to the Great Depression.
Roosevelt gained the Democratic Party nomination for President in 1932. He won the election by a landslide, only losing 6 out of 48 states. Roosevelt's confidence in the American people in the deepest days of the Depression gave them hope, and they trusted in his leadership. Roosevelt shortly called a special session of Congress to deal with the banking crisis and the economy. This was the Hundred Days period, where Congress passed, in number and in scope, the largest amount of legislation of any other Congress until the 1960s. Bills were even written by the executive in order to ensure legislation had the support of the president. Because of the widespread desperation of the American people and Roosevelt's strong leadership, Congress passed through most of what Roosevelt requested.
Some members of Congress felt that Roosevelt was not doing enough, fast enough. During 1933 to 1938, Roosevelt stepped up his economic plans with the New Deal, which consisted of legislature for relief, recovery, and reform. The Works Progress Administration was begun to help unemployment, but most of the legislation we are most familiar with was in the form of reform laws, including the establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission, minimum wage, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
In 1936, Roosevelt won reelection with over 60% of the vote, only losing Maine and Vermont. Middle-class support began to slip for Roosevelt as a result of labor strikes, the court packing plan, and another stock market crash in 1937. Roosevelt was again nominated for the 1940 election, breaking the tradition of Presidents only serving two terms, and won by a narrower margin than in 1936. Roosevelt was probably nominated because of the beginning of World War II in 1939.
As American involvement in World War II loomed on the horizon, Roosevelt got Congress to lift the embargo of munition sales, so that arms could be sold to the Allies. The Selective Training and Service Act was also passed, instituting the draft. He then strengthened his commitment to the Allies with the Lend-Lease Act of March 1941, which allowed military equipment (including food and clothing) to be sent to "victims of aggression," mainly to support the British and the Soviets.
With the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt became a wartime president. During this time he planned military strategy with Churchill and the Soviets, along with promoting wartime production in the United States without increasing inflation. In 1942 the tide of World War II shifted to the Allied nations, with the defeat of the Japanese navy at the Battle of Midway in the Pacific theater; the successful Allied invasion of French North Africa; and the Battle of Stalingrad, the beginning of the end for the Germans in the USSR.
However, Roosevelt did not live to see the end of World War II. Although he won reelection in 1944, he was strained by campaigning and the Yalta Conference with Churchill and Stalin. In the early spring of 1945 he went to Warm Springs, Georgia, in an effort recuperate and revive his energy. There he died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945. Harry Truman took the oath of office to become president the same day. America was greatly shocked by the sudden death of the president who served longer than any other. Roosevelt was buried in his family's estate in Hyde Park.
Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2005.
The White House.