Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in 1882 on a Hudson River estate at Hyde Park New York, which was to be his lifelong permanent home. The second son of James Roosevelt, a lawyer, financier, and railroad executive, Franklin was the only child from his father’s second marriage to Sara Delano. The parents and private tutors provided the youth with almost all his formative education, which was heightened by his frequent travel and some study in Europe. He was an excellent student and enjoyed many sports.
In 1921, while at the family’s vacation home off the Maine, Roosevelt was stricken with infantile paralysis. In 1924, he resumed his legal career, and at the Democratic national convention made a dramatic appearance on crutches and nominated Alfred Smith in for the Presidency – although John W. Davis became the candidate.
After Republican Herbert Hoover’s campaign in 1928 and serving in New York, Roosevelt won the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1932. Although easily defeating Hoover, during the 4-month period preceding Roosevelt’s inauguration, the depression worsened. Industrial production plummeted, thousands upon thousands of factories closed, unemployment soured, breadlines lengthened, and bank failures became common.
Roosevelt made huge strides as soon as he assumed office. He at once ordered a 4-day closing of banks to cut down on depositor panic. To calm and encourage the public, he began a series of radio broadcastings that he was to continue as a means of explaining his programs and gaining public support.
Roosevelt also created many new agencies with the hope of raising crop prices and increasing wages. These agencies, including the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act, and Public Works Administration, created voluntary business and industrial codes geared toward increasing wages, maintaining prices, and reducing unemployment. Thankfully, legislation finally slowed during the rest of 1933 and in 1934.
However, soon after, Roosevelt introduced his most recognizable piece of legislature, The New Deal. Mostly due in part to this, Roosevelt won reelection in 1936, easily defeating Republican Alfred M. Landon, and, by lesser margins, would beat Republican candidate Wendel L. Wilkie in 1940 and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944. Roosevelt shattered the 2-term tradition, being elected to 4 terms and serving more than 12 years.
Elsewhere on the globe, threatening forces were on the rise. During the late 1930’s, European affairs grew ugly and the thought of World War II became a reality. The war itself began in 1939, but Roosevelt hesitated to enter the U.S. until the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Roosevelt mobilized the nation, declared war on the Axis Powers and created a hopes for lasting peace through the creation of the United Nations organization.
Roosevelt was cheered as the tide of war shifted decisively in favor of the Allies. He conferred with other Allied heads of state and stressed the need for unconditional surrender. Sadly, he did not witness the final victory. Only weeks before the war ended in Europe, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia, later to be buried in his original neighborhood in Hyde Park, New York.