Franklin Delano Roosevelt [FDR] is generally ranked as one of the top three U.S. presidents, only outranked by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He also is the only president who served for more than two four-year periods. At the time of his death on April 12, 1945, he had served slightly over twelve years as president during a period wracked earlier by economic depression and later by the world's most devastating war.
By whatever method you want to evaluate FDR, he served his country well, both during the economic depression and during the war years. He managed to do so even as he was handicapped by a major physical disability, poliomyelitis, which left him lame from the waist down. He was ably assisted during his presidency by his wife Eleanor who clearly had an enormous influence on him in creating policies to fight the economic depression. The influence she exerted on him in foreign affairs, during the war years, is not clear but it probably was much less than during the economic depression years.
FDR became president in the middle of an economic depression with unemployment soaring, factories being closed, farms being foreclosed and bank failures increasing. He faced the worst crisis in American history since the Civil War. To halt depositor panics he temporarily closed the banks. Then he worked with the U.S. Congress to pass recovery legislation which included the Agricultural Adjustment Administration [AAA] and the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC]. Other agencies established assisted both business and labor, insured bank deposits, regulated the stock market, subsidized mortgage payments and aided the unemployed. All of the above measures passed the U.S. Congress during the first 100 days of the FDR Administration. They revived the economy and restored trust in the banking system. Direct government relief saved millions from starvation. Two years later, in 1935, two other major historic pieces of legislation were passed by the U.S. Congress consisting of the Works Project Administration [WPA] and
the Social Security Act [SSA]. Although all of the new initiatives and agencies did not eliminate the depression, as a group they provided an enormous amount of relief to the entire country. Mobilization for war in the 1940's brought the country finally out of the depression.
World War II provided another challenge to FDR. And he must be given credit for the support he provided to Great Britain during the early part of the war when the U.S. support was most needed. During the 1939-1941 period, when the isolationist element in the U.S. Congress made it extremely difficult to provide direct support, FDR was able through lend-lease programs to provide equipment and other support to the British in their valiant efforts to keep the Nazis from occupying the British Isles.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor shook up the country but especially the U.S. Congress and the isolationists were no longer an obstruction for the U.S. Government in the support of the war effort on both the European and Pacific fronts.
What attributes made FDR such a great president? The answer to this is multifold. He was well-educated and he had an enormous amount of political and government experience. Also his disability strengthened him to surmount any problem he encountered. His wife Eleanor later stated, "I know that he had real fear when he was first taken ill, but he learned to surmount it. After that I never heard him say that he was afraid of anything". He also had a strong obsession to succeed and succeed he did.
FDR was born on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. He was the only son of James Roosevelt [1828-1900] and Sara Delano Roosevelt [1885-1941]. The family was well off and FDR was raised and educated during his first fourteen years by his parents and by private tutors. His mother dominated his life and influenced him during most of his life. She died only four years before FDR passed away. His father passed away when FDR was only eighteen. FDR attended the exclusive Groton Academy in Massachusetts from 1896 to 1900. He then went to Harvard where he studied history. Even though he spent most of his time as editor of the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, he still managed to graduate in three years. In 1903 he went to the Columbia University Law School, but before he graduated he managed to pass the New York State Bar Exam. He then started to practice law in New York City.
FDR first entered politics in 1910 when he was elected to the New York State Senate as a Democrat from his traditional Republican home district. He was reelected to the New York State Senate in 1912 and supported Woodrow Wilson's presidency at the Democratic National Convention. As a reward Wilson appointed FDR to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, a position he held until 1920. The experience in government and the armed forces provided experience for his future government responsibilities. It also must have helped him to get along with Winston Churchill during the war since Churchill also had spent considerable time as the Naval Secretary in Great Britain.
In 1920 FDR was nominated on the Democratic ticket for Vice President on the James M. Cox presidential ticket. However, the Republicans won under Warren Harding, and FDR found himself jobless. The following year he had the life changing polio attack, and began to focus on his recovery.
In the late twenties he reappeared again on the political scene when he won the governorship of New York State in 1928. The following year, in October 1929, the financial crash occurred and the resultant rapid fall into the economic depression. FDR implemented a number relief and recovery initiatives at the New York State level such as unemployment insurance, pensions for the elderly, limits on work hours, and a massive work program. These actions established his reputation as a liberal but also as a successful reformer.
By 1932 the depression had worsened and Roosevelt was elected the U.S. President by a landslide. In his inaugural address he coined the phrase that the people had "nothing to fear but fear itself". A statement he had earlier applied to himself when he was stricken with polio in 1921.
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were married on March 17, 1905. They had five surviving adult children consisting of: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt [1906-1975], James Roosevelt [1907-1991], Elliott Roosevelt [1910-1990], Franklin Delano Roosevelt [1914-1988], and John Aspinwall Roosevelt [1916-1981].
The 32d president of the United States passed away on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia. He is buried in Hyde Park, New York, his birth place as well as his final resting place.
Sites honoring FDR are the Home of Franklin Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York, The Roosevelt Campobello International Park in Campobello, New Brunswick, Canada, the Little White House Historic Site in Warm Springs, Georgia, and the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Roosevelts, Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor were all descendants of Claes Martenszen Van Rosevelt[?-1658] and Jannetje Toms [?-1660], who were both part of the original contingent of Dutch immigrants who settled in New Amsterdam in the 1640's. Their grandsons, Jacobus Roosevelt [1692-1776] and Johannes Roosevelt [1689-1750] became the forefathers of the two Roosevelt clans that produced the two U.S. Roosevelt Presidents. The Jacobus branch was called the Hyde Park branch and the Johannes branch was called the Oyster Bay branch.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the great great great grandson of Jacobus Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt was the great great great grandson of Johannes Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was a niece of Theodore Roosevelt. She was thus a fifth cousin, once removed, of her husband Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
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Ferris, Gary , "Presidential Places: A Guide to the Historic Sites of U.S. Presidents", Winston Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher
Pious, Richard M. . "The Young Oxford Companion to the Presidency of the United States", New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
APPENDIX: FAMILY TREE RELATIONSHIPS OF THE TWO ROOSEVELT FAMILIES
The Roosevelt families are made up of two branches which formed after the two grandsons of the original Roosevelt, an immigrant named Claes Maartenszoon van Rosenvelt, moved to America, then New Netherland, in 1649. He only enjoyed his adopted country for 10 years and passed away in 1659.
His son Nicholas Roosevelt [1658-1742] had two sons who each headed up their respective family branches. Johannes Roosevelt [1689-1750] headed up the Oyster Bay Branch, and Jacobus Roosevelt [1692-1776] headed up the Hyde Park Branch.
Below follows the family tree for the Oyster Bay Branch, followed below by the Hyde Park Branch.
Note that all darker printed names are listed in the PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS listing.
OYSTER BAY BRANCH
The first generation of the Oyster Bay Branch was Johannes Roosevelt [1689-1750].
The second generation of the branch was headed up by Jacobus Roosevelt [1724-1777].
It was followed by James Jacobus Roosevelt [1759-1840].
It in turn was followed by Cornelius van Schaack Roosevelt [1794-1871].
Next followed Theodore Roosevelt Sr. [1831-1878], the father of the first Roosevelt president.
Theodore Sr. had a brother named Robert B. Roosevelt [1829-1906].
Two branches followed from the Theodore Sr. branch. One branch produced the first Roosevelt president, and the other branch produced the father of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt [1884-1962].
The first Roosevelt president was Theodore [T.R.] Roosevelt, Jr. [1858-1919]. His younger brother was Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt [1860-1994], the father of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.
The final person in the Oyster Bay Branch was Theodore [Ted] Roosevelt [1887-1944]. He was the son of President Roosevelt.
HYDE PARK BRANCH
The first generation of the Hyde Park Branch was Jacobus Roosevelt [1692-1776].
He was followed by Isaac Roosevelt [1726-1794], the next generation.
Isaac was followed by Jacobus Roosevelt III [1760-1847], the next generation.
His son was Isaac Daniel Roosevelt [1790-1863].
Isaac Daniel was followed by James Roosevelt [1828-1900].
James Roosevelt’s brother, also a son of Isaac Daniel, was John Roosevelt [na] who was the father of Ellen Roosevelt [1868-1954], a famous United States tennis player.
The son of James Roosevelt was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Sr. [1882-1945].
The president, a member of the Hyde Park Branch, married Eleanor Roosevelt, a member of the Oyster Bay Branch.
The president had three sons who became prominent and are listed below in order of birth. They are: James Roosevelt [1907-1991], Elliott Roosevelt [1910-1990], and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. [1914-1988].