Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
This is the most common use of FDR. For other uses, see FDR (disambiguation).
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), often referred to as FDR, was the 32nd (1933–1945) President of the United States. He was elected to an unprecedented four terms, and died in office — he remains the only U.S. president elected more than twice. His decision to break George Washington's precedent of only serving two terms led to the passing of the Twenty-Second Amendment, which sets the limit at two terms.
His main impact was the institution of major economic and social assistance programs in response to the Great Depression (known as the New Deal), leading the country through a successful involvement in World War II, and helping in the formation of the United Nations.
Roosevelt's four presidential election victories led to the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, which bars anyone from being elected to the office of President more than twice (or once, if that person served more than two years of another president's term).
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a semi-distant cousin to the earlier President Theodore Roosevelt. As such, the two Roosevelts are the only confirmed pair of cousins to have both served as President of the United States.
FDR was also a member of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, better known as the Freemasons. He was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason at Holland Lodge No. 8, F. & A.M., New York, New York, the same Lodge in which George Washington, the Nation's first President, held honorary membership.
Roosevelt was born on Monday, January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. He died on Thursday, April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia, of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 63, leaving the famous Unfinished Portrait.
Education and marriage
Roosevelt attended Groton School, an elite boarding school in Massachusetts, and graduated in 1900. He then graduated from Harvard University in 1904, and from Columbia Law School with a J.D. in 1908 before taking a job with a prestigious Wall Street firm. On Friday, Saint Patrick's Day, 1905, he married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant cousin, who was the favorite niece of Theodore Roosevelt, his fifth cousin. They had six children:
- Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Thursday, May 3, 1906–Monday, December 1, 1975
- James Roosevelt, Monday, December 23, 1907–Tuesday, August 13, 1991
- The first Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. , Thursday, March 18, 1909–Monday, November 1, 1909
- Elliott Roosevelt, Friday, September 23, 1910–Saturday, October 27, 1990
- The second Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., Monday, August 17, 1914–Wednesday, August 17, 1988
- John Aspinwall Roosevelt, Monday, March 13, 1916–Monday, April 27, 1981
In September 1918, Eleanor Roosevelt discovered that Franklin had a romantic relationship with Lucy Mercer. The two considered divorce, but when Franklin's mother threatened to cut him off financially, he agreed never to see Lucy Mercer again—a promise it is known he didn't keep. Franklin continued to see Mercer whenever he was in the Washington D.C. area, and she was with him when he suffered the cerebral hemorrhage that killed him.
Roosevelt suffered from polio from the age of 39, which left him with severe difficulty in moving. He often used a wheelchair, but took efforts to hide this disability throughout his life. In fact, there are only two known photographs of Roosevelt in his wheelchair. Even as President, rather than be seen in his braces or in his wheelchair, Roosevelt walked with the aid of a Secret Service bodyguard. However, a controversial statue of Roosevelt sitting in a wheelchair was commissioned in Washington, DC in 2001 at the urging of advocates for the disabled.
From the age of one until 1936, Roosevelt spent his summers at Campobello Island, New Brunswick but because of his worsening polio, in later years he had to spend much of his time in Warm Springs, whose namesake warm springs provided him and others relief from their symptoms, and where he built the Little White House, now a Georgia state historic site .  He also created the town's Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation , which continues to help others with physical disabilities to this day. 
Government positions held by Roosevelt prior to his presidency include:
- State Senator of New York, 1911–1913
- Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 1913–1920
- Governor of New York, 1929–1933
Roosevelt also was a candidate for Vice President of the United States, serving as running mate to Ohio Governor James M. Cox on the Democratic ticket in 1920. The Cox/Roosevelt ticket was defeated by the Republican ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
Assassination and Coup d'État attempt
On February 15 1933, after his victory in the 1932 election, President-elect Roosevelt was nearly assassinated in Miami, Florida. Chicago mayor Anton J. Cermak was killed. The assassin, Giuseppe Zangara of Chicago, was convicted of murder and executed in the electric chair on March 20, 1933.
Roosevelt's Presidential campaign in 1932 saw the New York governor committing himself to battling the Great Depression, promoting a platform with "Three R's—relief, recovery and reform." He coined the term "New Deal" when he stated: "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people."
In reference to the Great Depression, Roosevelt proclaimed "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" in his inauguration speech on (Saturday, March 4, 1933). Roosevelt's first weeks in office were called The Hundred Days, as during the first part of his administration he authored and approved a flurry of Congressional acts to institute immediate change and keep the nation's economy from destabilizing. He instituted a four-day "banking holiday" two days after he took office: a four-day period in which all banks in the country closed, allowing the institutions a brief period to recover and reorganize. During this time of crisis Roosevelt addressed the nation for the first time as President on Sunday, March 12, 1933 in the first of many "Fireside Chats."
In order to end the 1930s general bank crisis, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 and, with the Emergency Bank Relief Act (March 1933) and the Gold Reserve Act (January 1934), outlawed the circulation and private possession of United States gold coins for general circulation, with an exemption for collector coins. This act declared that gold coins were no longer legal tender in the United States, and people had to turn in their gold coins for other forms of currency. This act took the United States off the gold standard, and it also effected the removal of the statement that United States paper currency could be exchanged for gold at any of the nation's banks.
- A number of economists today have argued that FDR's policies prolonged the Depression. They argue that the tariff barriers hindered free trade and thus made goods more expensive (while hardly any other nation encouraged free trade and deflation was the very problem); wage raises made it more expensive for employers to hire people, so more people were out of work (while starvation wages had led to falling purchasing power and unemployment); tax increases and constant rule changes greatly hindered businesses which in turn reduced jobs (while businesses actually welcomed FDR's coordination); subsidising farmers led to destruction of food while people were hungry, etc. 
Of the various reform programs initiated by the Roosevelt administration, the most far-reaching and influential was the institution of the Social Security system, a form of welfare that was meant to provide support for low-income and elderly citizens.
In 1935–1936, the Supreme Court, which was dominated by conservatives with a traditional view of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, the basis of much New Deal legislation, struck down eight of FDR's New Deal programs.
In response, Roosevelt submitted a plan for "judicial reform" to Congress in February 1937: As the constitution does not mandate how many justices must comprise the Supreme Court, Roosevelt would add one justice for each member over the age of 70 who refused to retire, up to a maximum of 15 justices in total. His proposal spawned both vehement support for his bold leadership, and simulatenously, a firestorm of controversy over a concentration of power in the executive branch which many viewed as unconstitutional. This came to be known as his attempt to "pack" the Court and caused such controversy and popular backlash that the president had to withdraw his program shortly afterwards. To rally support (and consequently, to put more pressure on Congress to approve his proposal), Roosevelt delivered a historic speech to the American public in defense of his action. Although Roosevelt was in his second term, up to this point in his presidency, no vacancy on the Supreme Court had arisen—an exceptionally unusual occurrence that presumably added to his frustrations. Though the plan failed in Congress, as a threat to the Court it may have had its desired effect. In a move cynically referred to as "the switch in time that saved nine", one of the conservative justices, Owen Roberts, inexplicably shifted his vote in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, changing the ideological balance of the Court. This episode is often referred to as the "Constitutional Revolution of 1937" and it ushered in a period wherein the Supreme Court largely abdicated its role in limiting the scope of federal power, in particular as regards economic intervention and regulation. It was not until the Rehnquist Court that the Supreme Court began to once again assert its power to over the scope of federal power. It was not long before time allowed Roosevelt to further have his way on the bench, as vacancies allowed Roosevelt to eventually fill all nine seats with his appointments–the most of any presidency except George Washington's.
Easily winning re-election in 1936, Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to be inaugurated after the adoption of the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Prior to this, presidents had been sworn into office on March 4th, but he was inaugurated on January 20th in 1937.
Also in 1937, Roosevelt delivered "The Quarantine Speech" in Chicago. In it he compared the outbreak of international violence to that of a communicable disease needing to be quarantined. This speech began debates over just how much the United States should be concerned with international diplomacy. Although this was a further erosion of the Isolationist attitudes of the turn of the century, News media responded critically that the speech had represented "an attitude and not a program".
Frustrated with the opposition to his proposals in his own party's conservative wing, in 1938, especially Vice President John Nance Garner, Roosevelt openly campaigned against five southern Democratic senators, including Georgia's Sen. Walter F. George, hoping to purge the Democratic party of its conservative wing. Roosevelt's efforts were unsuccessful, however, as all five of the targeted senators won re-election.
During his second term Roosevelt also made his first Supreme Court appointment, Justice Hugo Black. The nomination of Black was very controversial at the time and remains so to this day because Black was a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Election to third term
In an unprecedented move, Roosevelt sought a third consecutive term in 1940. Unlike the 1936 election where he won the Democratic nomination uncontested, in 1940 he was opposed by several candidates, the most noteworthy of which was his own Vice President, John Nance Garner.
Roosevelt went on to defeat Garner for his party's nomination, then defeated Republican nominee Wendell L. Willkie in a landslide to win the election. Joining him as Vice President to replace Garner was Henry Agard Wallace.
World War II
Roosevelt proclaimed that he would not send American boys to fight in foreign wars. However, in 1941 the conflicting interests of Japan and the United States in Asia and the Pacific, especially in China, resulted in a breakdown of diplomatic relations to the point where war seemed inevitable (see entry for Hull note).
On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 Japanese planes launched a surprise attack on the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, sinking several ships and leading to significant casualties. The following day, December 8th, Roosevelt addressed a shocked nation over the radio. Before Pearl Harbor, most Americans strongly opposed a US involvement in the war, mindful still of the losses of The Great War. Roosevelt's charismatic appeal changed millions of minds, plunging the US openly into World War II with the historic phrase: "December Seventh, 1941—a date which will live in infamy.".
There is some disagreement among historians as to why the Pearl Harbor attack came as a surprise to Pacific commanders. Analysts generally concur that the US had evidence of an imminent Japanese attack on the Pacific fleet in advance of the incident. Opinions diverge over the question of why military leaders in Pearl Harbor weren't notified on the morning of December 7th.
Some historians assert that Roosevelt had prior knowledge of the attack, but allowed it to happen in order to consolidate public support to join the Allies. Proponents of this theory claim that Japanese codes had been broken before the attack, so Japanese strategies should have been known in advance. Additionally, they point out that the British government had intercepted Japanese transmissions suggesting that an attack was imminent and notified the White House. Roosevelt's challenger in the 1944 presidential election, Thomas Dewey, even considered using this evidence as part of his platform, but backed down for reasons of national security. (Publicising that the US had broken Japanese codes would have informed the Japanese that their codes were no longer useful, hurting the war effort.)
While the evidence used to support the "prior knowledge" view is valid, critics point out several weaknesses as well. While the US had indeed broken Japanese codes prior to the attack, the codes were diplomatic, not naval; as such, it's unlikely the US would've had any precise military information in advance of Pearl Harbor. In addition, records show that Pacific commanders were notified by Washington to be ready for a Japanese attack prior to December 7th, though no details were given.
These historians point out that while it's probable that the US either knew, or should have known that an attack was imminent, there is no evidence Washington knew where or when the attack was to occur. Furthermore, records indicate that equipment malfunctions and other communication delays could easily have prevented the messages from getting to Pearl Harbor until four hours after the attack, even if the departure of the Japanese planes had been noticed in Washington. The Japanese fleet that attacked Pearl Harbor had been observing radio silence that morning, and some of the ships involved were believed by the U.S. Navy to still be at port in Japan.
Some have suggested an alternate theory, that Roosevelt was pursuing a systematic policy in the pacific rim that would make Japan feel as though it had to attack the United States first, or else face a pre-emptive attack.
On Monday, May 18, 1942, Roosevelt wrote a private letter to William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, in which he requested that the USA and Canada make an unofficial pact to pursue the dispersal of French-Canadians to expedite their assimilation.
On Thursday, January 14, 1943 Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to travel via airplane while in office, when he flew from Miami, Florida to Morocco for a meeting with Winston Churchill. The meeting, which had been called to discuss the war, was concluded on Sunday, January 24.
Shortly after the meeting, Roosevelt made one of the most controversial decisions of his presidency when he issued Executive Order 9066. The order called for the internment of approximately 110,000 Japanese nationals and American citizens of Japanese descent to camps on the West Coast . In a fashion characteristic of many of his policies, the order polarized national opinion, drawing critics even within the Roosevelt administration. While advocates of national security were jubilant, the policy also drew virulent criticism from civil libertarians, and also from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Even first lady Eleanor Roosevelt fervently and publicly opposed the internment. When the constitutionality of the order was challenged, it was upheld by the Supreme Court. Roosevelt has also come under attack by modern critics, who have asserted that Roosevelt knew about the Nazi Holocaust, and failed to do anything to prevent it.
Roosevelt also made use of a massive propaganda campaign in the US to boost Joseph Stalin's appeal. The idea was to legitimize, in the public mind, the addition of Soviet Russia to the Allies. Several years prior, Time Magazine made Stalin "Man of the Year," portraying him as an evil, murderous dictator. This soon changed. During the pro-Soviet campaign, Stalin was again made Man of the Year, this time portrayed as a loving leader with a fondness for children and a gentle demeanor. Numerous propaganda films were produced by studios such as Warner Brothers and MGM. Some of these films, such as Mission to Moscow, a film based on a book by former US Ambassador to Russia Joseph Davies , were made at the behest of Roosevelt. A review by the Office of War Information demonstrated their delight with the effectiveness of the film to "dispel the fears which many honest persons felt with regard to our alliance with Russia.". American philosopher John Dewey called it "the first instance in our country of totalitarian propaganda for mass consumption -- a propaganda which falsifies history through distortion, omission or pure invention of facts" (Ibid, p.31). A similar campaign was initiated in the United Kingdom by Churchill at the same time. Journalism was closely watched and controlled by both governments; any news exposing Stalin's oppressive tactics, such as the publically supressed Katyn Massacre, was kept secret in attempts to appease Stalin. Demands made by the Polish government-in-exile to expose these and other acts of genocide committed by the Soviets were ignored.
From correspondences with other leaders, primarily Churchill and Stalin, it is clear that Roosevelt had absolutely no interest in the fate of smaller countries. His vision of a post-war world divided the world into large empires, governed primarily by the US, the UK, China and the Soviet Union. This is contrary to the altruistic image that Roosevelt is often given. Zdzisław Krasnodębski , a Polish RAF pilot, once described allies such as the US and the UK as being able to talk about lofty values such as freedom and honor, but then able to turn around and do the exact opposite.
Contrary to common misconception, the fate of Poland was largely sealed at the Tehran Conference and not at Yalta. Roosevelt was particularly enthusiastic about meeting Stalin and discussing possible agreements with the United States. He was known for telling Stalin jokes at Churchill's expense. He made very clear from that start that he had no interest in Poland's future and guaranteed that Stalin would have free reign and influence over the country after the war. Stalin, knowing that the Molotov-Ribbentrop line connected him too well to his expansionist intentions and to his previous alliance with Nazi Germany, demanded that the Curzon Line (later modified to include Lwów) mark off the eastern half of Poland for annexation into the Soviet Union. The Curzon Line was nearly identical to the Molotov-Ribbentrop line, the only essential difference being that the former was named after Lord Curzon, an Englishman. Despite the vast amount of leverage the Allies had to oppose this demand (namely, the large shipments of supplies to the Soviets which were crucial in the Nazi defeat on Soviet soil), no attempts by Churchill or Roosevelt were made. On the contrary, Churchill, Roosevelt and Anthony Eden officially agreed to the new border, without ever discussing the issue with the Polish government-in-exile. Poland was instead used as a bargaining tool, and as a "guarantee" that Stalin shouldn't rekindle an old alliance with Germany.
Roosevelt was the first President to regularly address the American public through the medium of radio. He instituted a tradition of weekly radio speeches, which he called "fireside chats." Through the chats, Roosevelt was given an opportunity to take his opinions to the American people more directly than had been previously possible. The speeches regularly bolstered his popularity and rallied supporters behind his proposals for change. During World War II, the fireside chats were seen as important morale boosters for Americans at home.
Election to fourth term
Though seen by many in the Democratic Party to already be physically ailing to a point where it was unclear if he could serve another four year term, there was little question that, in time of war, "FDR" would be the party's candidate for a fourth term in the 1944 elections.
Vice President Henry Wallace had alienated much of the Democratic leadership during his four years in office, and was seen as far too agrarian (and by some, even communist) in his political philosophy. With this in mind and mindful of Roosevelt's health, they persuaded Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman to join Roosevelt on the Democratic ticket in 1944.
Presidency: Supreme Court appointments
Roosevelt appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
- Hugo Black (AL) August 19, 1937–September 17, 1971
- Stanley Forman Reed (KY) January 31, 1938–February 25, 1957
- Felix Frankfurter (MA) January 30, 1939–August 28, 1962
- William O. Douglas (CT) April 17, 1939–November 12, 1975
- Frank Murphy (MI) February 5, 1940–July 19, 1949
- Harlan Fiske Stone (Chief Justice, NY) July 3, 1941–April 22, 1946
- James Francis Byrnes (SC) July 8, 1941–October 3, 1942
- Robert H. Jackson (NY) July 11, 1941–October 9, 1954
- Wiley Blount Rutledge (IA) February 15, 1943–September 10, 1949
Presidency: New government agencies
- Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
- Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
- Public Works Administration (PWA)
- Works Progress Administration (WPA)
- Social Security Administration
- Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
- National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA)
- Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA)
- Civil Works Administration (CWA)
- Federal Emergency Relief Act (FERA)
- Glass-Steagall Act (FDIC)
- Wagner Act (NLRB)
Ailing from the stresses of three and a half long years of war and worn down by polio, excessive cigarette smoking, congestive heart disease, and other illnesses, Roosevelt died about three hours after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage while sitting for a portrait on retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945. He was only 63 years old. Harry S. Truman, who had served just 82 days as Vice President was sworn in later that day to succeed him. Roosevelt did not receive a state funeral as he thought it would be inappropriate while soldiers were dying in the War. He was buried in the rose garden at his Hyde Park home.
Less than a month later, on May 8, came the moment FDR fought for and died knowing it was going to happen: V-E Day. President Truman, who celebrated his 61st birthday that day, and many world leaders, including British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, dedicated the victory and its celebrations to the memory of Roosevelt, as a tribute to his commitment towards ending the war in Europe.
Since 1946, Roosevelt's portrait has appeared on the obverse of the U.S. dime. This honor was bestowed upon him for his many achievements, but the dime was a symbolic reference to the March of Dimes, an effort of find a cure for polio, which Roosevelt founded in 1938.
F.D. Roosevelt State Park near Warm Springs, Georgia is named for him and was once his favorite picnic site in Georgia. Roosevelt Campobello International Park was created in 1964 on Campobello Island, New Brunswick following a gift from the Roosevelt estate to the Canadian and United States governments.
Roosevelt's estate in Hyde park, Springwood, is the site of the Home Of Franklin D Roosevelt National Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service. Also on the site are his presidential library and museum, maintained by the National Archives.
A solitary railroad line at Grand Central Station in New York City was built considerably deeper than the existing terminal. (This construction was undertaken at the height of the Depression, presumably at great expense.) Its purpose was to provide a private and secure entrance for the president, who could arrive directly into his suite at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, via a freight elevator equipped to handle the weight of the armored car. In this way, Roosevelt could travel from the White House to New York in complete privacy and security.
- U.S. presidential election, 1920
- U.S. presidential election, 1932
- U.S. presidential election, 1936
- U.S. presidential election, 1940
- U.S. presidential election, 1944
- History of the United States (1918-1945)
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (Hyde Park, New York)
- Critics of the New Deal
- First Inaugural Address
- Second Inaugural Address
- Third Inaugural Address
- Fourth Inaugural Address
- Court "Packing" Speech March 9, 1937
- FDR Presidential Library Audio Archive
- IPL POTUS -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- Encyclopedia Americana: Franklin D. Roosevelt
- An archive of political cartoons from the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Warm Springs and FDR's Polio Treatment
- FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression ISBN 0-761-50165-7
- Dutch Martin's review of FDR's folly
|- style="text-align: center;"
| width="30%" |Preceded by:
Al Smith | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Democratic Party Presidential candidate
1932 (won), 1936 (won), 1940 (won), 1944 (won) | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Harry S. Truman
|- style="text-align: center;"
| width="30%" |Preceded by:
Herbert Hoover | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |President of the United States
March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Harry S. Truman
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