Franklin D. Roosevelt Bio
FDR’s dad was a whopping 26 years older than his mom! As an only child, he got to go on trips to Europe with his parents and was educated by private tutors instead of going to public school.
While he was attending Harvard University, FDR met his distant cousin Eleanor and fell in love with her brilliant mind. Even though his mom opposed the relationship and constantly interfered, the couple was married and had six children (tragically, one son died as a baby).
Polio & Politics
At 29, FDR became a U.S. Senator from New York. He ran for Vice-President in 1920 but lost. The next year a terrible thing happened to him. He became ill with polio, a disease that attacks and cripples the body. He became partially paralyzed. He fought hard to overcome the disease and regained the use of his hands, but he would never be able to walk again without help. Swimming in warm water seemed to help his legs.
Some thought his career was over, but after becoming governor of New York, FDR was elected President of the United States in 1932. The country was in an economic depression. People could not get jobs and families were suffering. Men stood in bread lines to get food. People lost their homes and farmers lost their farms.
Three weeks after he took office there was a banking crisis. People began to be afraid and drew their money out of the banks. The banks were running out of money. FDR declared a "bank holiday" and closed all the banks until the accounting books could be examined.
FDR knew he had to do something to help his countrymen survive the economic crisis. He implemented The New Deal, created jobs for people building roads, bridges and schoolhouses and even paid people to clean up the parks and do odd jobs. He started a program called Social Security to help people in their old age. Millions of Americans today depend on Social Security benefits for their retirement income.
On Air & Re-elected
Radio was the primary source of information in those days. FDR used the radio as a means of communicating with the American people through his series of 30 fireside chats. He would begin each talk with "My friends … ".
In 1936 FDR was re-elected by a landslide, winning in every state except Maine and Vermont.
In 1935 Congress passed the Neutrality Act, which prohibited the United States from furnishing weapons or supplies to any nation at war. But then Germany attacked Poland. What was America to do? Should she just ignore what was happening? Congress passed another Neutrality Act which allowed the sale of weapons, but nations buying the weapons had to move them on their own ships.
In 1940 the Democrats again nominated FDR to run for President. No man up to this time had ever run for a third presidential term, but there was no law against it. (In 1947 the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was proposed limiting a person to serving only two terms as President. It was ratified in 1951.) FDR was elected to a third term.
The world at this time was divided into two camps. On one side were the Axis Powers: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Empire of Japan. In the other camp were the Allies – those opposing the Axis Powers (Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister), FDR and Joseph Stalin of Russia.
America had been able to stay out of the war until December 7, 1941. That was the day Japan ordered an attack on the American Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor on the island of Hawaii. FDR and Churchill decided that Germany needed to be defeated. Since the war was continuing in 1944, FDR was again elected President. This would be his fourth term! He had already been President for twelve years. He wanted to retire, but felt it was his duty to continue to serve his country.
The Republicans said FDR’s health was too poor for him to run again. He would show them! He drove around in an open car for four hours in a rainstorm. He won the election, but he soon began to have one cold after another. This went on for a year.
Two days after his inauguration he met with Churchill and Stalin. They planned their strategy to defeat Germany. In April 1945 FDR was in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he collapsed and died. Millions of Americans mourned the death of their beloved President. The world had lost a great leader. The war would come to an end four months later.