Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Born in Hyde Park, N.Y., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president to date to have been elected to four terms in office (though he died in his fourth term) is perhaps best known for his policies aimed at bringing the country out of its financial quagmire following the Great Depression and his staunch leadership during World War II. Roosevelt was a member of a prosperous and prominent Dutch family, graduated from Harvard and attended Columbia Law School. While he was at Harvard, his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, was sworn in as the 26th president of the United States, becoming something of a role model for the younger Roosevelt. On March 17, 1905, Franklin married Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore's niece, who would become a political force in her own right; the pair had six children. Roosevelt's first job was with a prestigious Wall Street law firm; however, by 1910, he had turned his sights to politics and public service. He launched an aggressive campaign for the New York State Senate, winning the seat as a Democrat, though the Hyde Park area in which he ran was staunchly Republican. As one of the leaders of the opposition to the Tammany, Roosevelt gained nationwide attention and became a popular figure among New York Democrats. His support of Woodrow Wilson's bid for the presidency resulted in an appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy when Wilson won. His bid for a seat in Congress in 1914 was not supported by Wilson's administration, however, and he lost. By 1920, Roosevelt was chosen as running mate for Ohio Gov. James Cox's presidential campaign. When Cox lost to Warren G. Harding, Roosevelt returned to New York to practice law. While on vacation in Canada in 1921, Roosevelt contracted polio. Paralyzed from the waist down, he refused to accept his fate and tried any new cure he could find, including hydrotherapy, even going so far as to purchase a resort in Warm Springs, Ga., where polio patients could receive treatment. From then on he was careful not to be seen in a wheelchair, and worked diligently to be sure his portrayal in the press did not highlight his disability. After a period out of the public eye, Roosevelt continued his work in politics, working for Alfred E. Smith's New York gubernatorial campaign against his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt Jr. When Smith was nominated for the presidency, Roosevelt was tapped to run for New York State governor. Though Smith lost the national office, Roosevelt won in New York, where he launched several new social programs. He handily won re-election, making him a strong contender for the presidential nomination in 1932. Accepting the nomination in person at the convention in Chicago, he promised "a new deal for the American people." He won, and was immediately faced with one of the worst periods in U.S. economic history -- millions homeless, unemployment high, a bank panic. Programs originating in this period include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal minimum wage, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the repeal of Prohibition, Social Security, and payroll taxes. During his time in office Roosevelt created more than 100 national wildlife refuges, established more than 25 national forests and 29 national parks and monuments. He easily won a second term, and in 1940 promised not to run for a third unless drafted - he was nominated 946 to 147 on the first ballot. Despite strong isolationist sentiment, Roosevelt began preparing for war in his third term. But the U.S. entered World War II the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 - a day, Roosevelt famously said, "which will live in infamy." As fears of attack on the U.S. mainland grew, Roosevelt signed an order authorizing the internment of U.S. residents, first of Japanese, then of Italian and German descent. Roosevelt worked with Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek to devise a plan to battle the Axis Powers on two fronts. He also initiated development of the world's first atomic bomb, and worked with other world leaders to create what would become the United Nations. Though he was elected to a fourth term as president, sworn in on Jan. 20, 1945, his ill health caught up to him and he died at his retreat in Warm Springs, Ga., on April 12, 1945. The war in Europe officially ended less than a month later; the war with Japan came to a close in August 1945.