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Franklin D. Roosevelt: The President Who Led America Through Crisis

Full Name Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Born January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York
Died April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia
Buried Roosevelt Family Home, Hyde Park, New York
Parents James Roosevelt and Sara Ann Delano
Wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (m. 1905-1945)
Children Anna, James, Franklin Jr., Elliott, Franklin Delano Jr., John
Education Harvard University, Columbia Law School
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Party Democratic
Presidency 1933-1945

Franklin D. Roosevelt, commonly known as FDR, served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 to 1945. He led the nation through monumental crises like the Great Depression and World War II. His bold leadership and sweeping New Deal programs made him an icon revered by generations of Americans.

Early Life and Education

Born in 1882 to a wealthy New York family, Franklin enjoyed a privileged upbringing complete with private tutors, elite schools, and frequent trips to Europe. He attended Groton School, Harvard College, and Columbia Law School. An average student, he excelled socially, serving as editor of The Harvard Crimson and joining exclusive clubs. He gained a reputation as an inquisitive young man enamored by stamp collecting, model ships, and trains.

After passing the bar exam in 1907, Franklin worked as a corporate lawyer in New York City. He married his fifth cousin once removed, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, on March 17, 1905.

Rise to Political Prominence

Franklin‘s entrance into politics began with his election to the New York State Senate in 1910 as a Democrat. In 1913, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson, a position he held until 1920.

In 1920, Franklin ran as the Democratic vice presidential candidate alongside James M. Cox. Though the Cox-Roosevelt ticket lost to Republicans Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, the election gave Franklin national exposure.

FDR‘s Personal Life and Marriage

Franklin married Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905 and together they raised six children, enduring many personal hardships. In 1921, at age 39, Franklin contracted polio, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.

Eleanor transformed from a shy, insecure woman into an independent, politically active First Lady. She became one of FDR‘s most trusted advisors and a major force in reform causes like civil rights and women‘s issues.

Their marriage weathered FDR‘s rumored affair with Lucy Mercer in the 1920s. Eleanor‘s discovery of their relationship proved a turning point, leading to a new arrangement as public partners pursuing shared interests.

Presidency and New Deal Programs

After returning to politics as New York‘s governor from 1929 to 1933, Franklin defeated Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover to win the 1932 presidential election. Upon taking office in 1933, President Roosevelt immediately addressed the Great Depression by implementing his sweeping New Deal agenda.

FDR‘s historic programs and reforms aimed to provide relief, recovery, and reform to struggling Americans. He established Social Security, the FDIC, SEC, and other agencies that fundamentally changed the role of the federal government. FDR‘s charisma and reassuring "fireside chats" comforted citizens through economic turmoil and inspired hope.

World War II Leadership

On December 8, 1941, FDR delivered his "Day of Infamy" speech to Congress, declaring war on Japan after its attack on Pearl Harbor. For over three years, he led the nation through grueling conflict in Europe and the Pacific.

FDR coordinated strategy with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. His wartime leadership united Americans and bolstered Allied forces, though he did not live to see victory. He died suddenly on April 12, 1945.

FDR‘s Enduring Legacy

Today, historians consistently rank FDR as one of America‘s greatest presidents. Scholar Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. praised FDR as "the most vital figure in the history of the United States in this century." His ambitious programs established a lasting social safety net and regulatory system. He expanded executive powers and redefined the government‘s role in citizens‘ lives.

The New Deal coalition that FDR assembled realigned American politics for decades after his death. FDR‘s legacy remains that of a courageous leader who shepherded the nation through crisis, reimagining America‘s future along the way.

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