James Roosevelt was the oldest son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. He outlived all of his siblings and died at age 83 in 1991. He had had a rich and busy life. During his life he was a member of the U. S. House of Representatives for 10 years, chairman of the California Democratic Party for two years, secretary to the U. S. President for two years.
Roosevelt was in the military serving in the Marine Reserve and in the active United States Marine Corps for 22 years, and winner of the Navy Cross and Silver Star among others for his military contributions during the Second World War. In addition he was a lawyer, insurance owner and active politician.
Roosevelt was born in New York City, attended several private schools and finished his high school years at the Groton Academy. He received his undergraduate education at Harvard and attended the Boston University School of Law for two years. As a law student he started selling insurance part time and after two years of law school he dropped out and started his own insurance business which he ran quite successfully for five years. He resigned from the insurance firm when he went to work for his father in the White House.
While in Massachusetts, Roosevelt had been active in Democratic politics. In 1936, Roosevelt had taken over some duties in the White House. In that same year he also was given a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, ostensibly so he could be of assistance in the White House. He accompanied his father, the president, to the Inter-American Conference in Buenos Aires in December 1936, as a military aide.
In January 1937 Roosevelt was officially appointed “Administrative Assistant to the President”. Six months later in July 1937 he was appointed Secretary to the President, and became a White House Coordinator for 18 federal agencies of the United States. One year later, in July 1938, it was alleged that he had used his influence to steer insurance business to his insurance agency, from which he had resigned just a year earlier. He denied the allegations, but resigned from his White House duties in November 1938. That ended his White House career.
Following his Washington government career Roosevelt moved to California and established residence there. A year later in October 1939, after the Second World War had broken out he resigned his lieutenant colonel commission and was commissioned a captain in the Marine Corps Reserve. In November 1940 he went on active military duty.
In April 1941, his father, the President, send his son on a secret world-circling diplomatic mission to assure numerous friendly governments under threat that the United States would soon be active in the war. He met Chang Kai-shek of China, King Farouk of Egypt and King George of Greece. In that same year he joined the staff of William J. Donovan, Information Coordinator for the Federal Government.
After Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt asked to be assigned to combat duty. He transferred to the 2nd Marine Raiders, the Marine’s Commando force, and he became second in command. He served in that capacity at Midway and in the Makin Island raid where he received the Navy Cross. He was given command of the 4th Marine Raiders, but was turned to invalid status in February 1943.
Roosevelt served in staff positions during the remainder of the war. In November 1943 he accompanied Army troops in the invasion of Makin, and was awarded the Silver Star. After the war he was released from active duty with the rank of colonel. He remained in the Marine Corps Reserve and retired in October 1959 as a brigadier general.
In addition to the Silver Star and the Navy Cross Roosevelt also was awarded the American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp., the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, the Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon with one star, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with four service stars and the Philippine Liberation Medal with one bronze star.
After the War, Roosevelt returned to California. In 1946 he became chairman of the California State Democratic Central Committee, and remained a committee man until 1952. He tried for the California governorship, but failed dismally. In 1954 he managed to get elected to the U. S. House of Representatives from California’s 26th Congressional District. He served in Congress for 10 years from 1955 to 1965.
Although he had been a Liberal Democrat all his life in 1972 he joined Democrats for Nixon and publicly supported President Nixon’s re-election in 1972. Later he also supported Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.
Roosevelt’s first marriage was to Betsy Cushing but they divorced in 1940. In 1941 he married Romelle Schneider, his nurse. That marriage did not last and in 1956 he married his receptionist Irene Owens. Again the marriage did not last and in 1969 he married his son’s teacher, Mary Winskill.
With the four wives he had seven children. They were Sara Wilford, born in 1932, Kate Roosevelt Whitney, born in 1936, James Roosevelt III, born in 1945, Michael Anthony Roosevelt, born in 1946, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, born in 1948, Hall Delano Roosevelt, born in 1959 and Rebecca Mary Roosevelt, born in 1971.
James Roosevelt passed away in Newport Beach, California in 1991 from complications of a stroke and from Parkinson’s disease.
For more detail on his personal family relationships with the Roosevelt family see the appendix at the end of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s personal bio profile.
Various web sources including Wikipedia.gov, bioguide.congress.gov, gwu.edu, and NYT.com
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AUTHOR: C. Carl Pegels, Professor Emeritus, University at Buffalo