Franklin Delano Roosevelt, commonly known as FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States, serving from 1933 until his death in 1945. He is most renowned for his leadership during the Great Depression, during which he implemented the New Deal, a set of policies aimed at addressing the economic crisis. This period marked a significant realignment in American politics, defining American liberalism for a substantial part of the 20th century.
Roosevelt's political career began in the early 1900s when he expressed a desire to enter politics. He ran for a seat in the New York State Assembly and, despite facing challenges, won a surprising victory in the 1910 elections. He later became a leader of the "Insurgents" group in the state senate, opposing Tammany Hall's influence within the Democratic Party. His involvement in the 1911 U.S. Senate election and support for Woodrow Wilson's presidential bid in 1912 enhanced his reputation among New York Democrats.
In 1913, Roosevelt was appointed as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, where he worked on naval reforms, oversaw civilian employees, and gained respect for his handling of labor disputes. He also ran for the U.S. Senate in 1914 but was defeated in the Democratic primary.
With the outbreak of World War I, Roosevelt supported the Preparedness Movement and played a crucial role in establishing the United States Navy Reserve and the Council of National Defense. After the United States entered the war in 1917, he coordinated the deployment of naval resources.
In 1920, Roosevelt sought the Democratic vice-presidential nomination and campaigned alongside presidential candidate James M. Cox, but they were defeated. Following his political endeavors, Roosevelt's life took a significant turn when he contracted polio in 1921, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Despite this, he remained involved in politics, supporting Al Smith's campaign and giving speeches at Democratic conventions.
Roosevelt's influence extended to advocating for the creation of a new world organization to replace the League of Nations, supporting various political figures, and engaging in political activities during the 1920s. In 1928, he was persuaded to run for the position of Governor of New York.
As Governor, Roosevelt implemented policies to address the farm crisis and the economic challenges of the 1920s. He became the first governor to publicly endorse unemployment insurance. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, he established an employment commission and proposed economic relief packages. His second term as Governor saw the launch of the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, which assisted a significant portion of the state's population.
Roosevelt also initiated investigations into corruption in New York City, particularly involving the judiciary, police force, and organized crime, leading to the decline of Tammany Hall. He supported reforestation efforts in New York and was instrumental in the Hewitt Amendment in 1931, contributing to the establishment of the State Forest system.
Roosevelt's actions as Governor of New York laid the groundwork for his future role as President of the United States and the implementation of the New Deal policies during the Great Depression.
During his first two terms as President from 1933 to 1941, Roosevelt faced the challenges of the Great Depression. His approach, known as the New Deal, included a combination of "relief, recovery, and reform" measures. In his "first 100 Days," he initiated a series of federal legislation and executive orders to address the economic crisis. These actions included stabilizing the banking system, creating programs to provide relief to the unemployed and farmers, and introducing major regulatory reforms in finance, communications, and labor. The end of Prohibition also marked this period.
Roosevelt's presidency saw the creation of key agencies and programs such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Act, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Social Security. His economic policies and government intervention aimed to stimulate recovery and alleviate the suffering of the American people.
In 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt won a landslide re-election, having improved the economy since 1933. However, the economy relapsed into a deep recession in 1937 and 1938. Roosevelt faced challenges, including his inability to expand the Supreme Court and the formation of a conservative coalition in 1937, which blocked the implementation of further New Deal programs and reforms.
Despite these obstacles, major New Deal programs and legislation survived, leaving a lasting impact on American society.
As World War II loomed, Roosevelt provided strong diplomatic and financial support to China, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union while the U.S. remained officially neutral. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he obtained a declaration of war against Japan and, shortly after, against Germany and Italy. Roosevelt worked closely with other national leaders in leading the Allies against the Axis powers. He supervised the mobilization of the American economy to support the war effort and played a crucial role in establishing a Europe-first strategy.
During the war, Roosevelt initiated the development of the atomic bomb and worked with Allied leaders to lay the groundwork for international institutions like the United Nations. He won re-election in 1944 but passed away in 1945, after his health had steadily declined during the war years.
While Roosevelt's legacy includes significant achievements, some of his actions, such as the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, have faced substantial criticism. Nevertheless, he is consistently ranked as one of the greatest American presidents in historical assessments.
Date of Birth: January 30, 1882
Time of Birth:
Place of Birth: Hudson Valley