Franklin D. Roosevelt Biography

32nd President of the United States

Years Served as President: 1933-1945

Vice President: John Nance Garner, Henry Agard Wallace, Harry S. Truman

Party: Democrat

Franklin D Roosevelt painting

Age at Inauguration: 51

Home State: New York

Date of Birth: January 30, 1882

Died: April 12, 1945

Married: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt voting
Eleanor Roosevelt voting in Hyde Park, New York, 11/03/1936

Children: Anna, James, Elliot, Franklin, John, and a son who died in infancy

Nickname: FDR

What is Franklin D. Roosevelt known for?

Franklin D. Roosevelt is known for serving four terms, which is two terms more than any other U.S. president.

presidential elections

During his four terms, Roosevelt led the American people through both the Great Depression and World War II. He is widely considered one of the best presidents in U.S. history.

Early Life

Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in 1882 to wealthy parents in Hyde Park, New York. His parents were James and Sara Delano Roosevelt, and Franklin was their only child.

Theodore Roosevelt laughing
Theodore Roosevelt

He received an excellent education from private tutors and elite schools. He greatly admired his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, who was elected president in 1900.

The same year his cousin was elected president, Franklin began studying at Harvard College. He became the editor of the student newspaper, the Crimson, and declared himself a member of the Democratic Party.

Roosevelt then studied at Columbia Law School and began practicing law.

Harvard College
Harvard College

Family Life

While at Harvard, Roosevelt had proposed to Alice Sohier, a Boston heiress. She turned down his proposal, but Roosevelt soon fell in love with his distant cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

The couple got married in 1905, and President Theodore Roosevelt walked Eleanor down the aisle. Eleanor and Franklin had six children.

Woodrow Wilson bio
Woodrow Wilson

Political Career

Roosevelt entered politics for the first time in 1910, when he won a state senate seat. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson named him the assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy.

In 1920, the Democrats chose Roosevelt as the vice-presidential candidate on presidential nominee James Cox’s ticket. The duo lost to Warren Harding, and Roosevelt accepted a position as the vice president of a financial firm.

Warren G. Harding bio
Warren G. Harding

While on vacation in 1921, he became sick with polio and was partially paralyzed from the waist down. He spent much of the rest of his life in a wheelchair, but remained enthusiastic and determined.

Roosevelt was elected the governor of New York in 1929, the same year that the stock market crashed. He set up the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), which helped find jobs for the unemployed.

He served two terms as governor before deciding to run for president.

stock market crash and panic

In the 1932 presidential election, FDR decisively defeated Herbert Hoover, who many of the American people blamed for the Great Depression. FDR was seen as a symbol of hope.

In his inaugural address, he famously said, “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and prosper…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover

Presidency

Roosevelt started his presidency by closing the banks until Congress could pass reform legislation. He also held a series of “fireside chats,” speaking directly to the American people through radio broadcasts.

New Deal

Next, he enacted laws called the New Deal. These laws included programs like Social Security, the FDIC to secure bank deposits, aid for farmers, laws to improve working conditions, programs designed to create jobs for the unemployed, and more.

farming

Roosevelt also created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regulate the stock market and hopefully prevent future crashes. All of this was famously accomplished during the first 100 days of his presidency.

He continued to pass additional New Deal reform legislation throughout his first and second term.

World War II

Although a two-term tradition had been in place for presidents since George Washington, Roosevelt decided to run for a third term. This was partly because World War II had started.

presidential vote

Roosevelt won election to his third term by almost 5 million votes.

At first, he gave as much support to Great Britain as possible while still trying to keep the United States out of the war.

But when Japan bombed the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor with no warning on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt officially declared war.

He met often with the Allied Powers to help fight back against Japan and Germany. He also frequently spoke to the American people on radio broadcasts, just as he had during the Great Depression.

Great Depression
Great Depression scene

In 1944, as World War II began to turn in favor of the Allies, Roosevelt won the presidential election for a fourth time.

He helped lay the foundation for future peace by working to build an international peace organization that would become known as the United Nations.

Death

Around this time, Roosevelt’s health began to fail. In 1945, he was so weak that he had to sit down while addressing Congress for the first time in his presidency.

US Congress

On April 12, 1945, Roosevelt was sitting for a portrait when he collapsed and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. His last words had been, “I have a terrible headache.”

His vice president Harry Truman was sworn in as president later that day.

As Roosevelt’s body was transported by train to Washington D.C., hundreds of thousands of people lined the railroad tracks to pay their final respects.

Roosevelt was buried in Hyde Park, New York and is remembered with a National Memorial in Washington D.C.

FDR memorial Washington DC

Fun Facts About Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt met Grover Cleveland when he was five years old. Cleveland, who did not enjoy being the president, reportedly said, “I am making a wish for you. It is that you may never become president of the United States.”

Roosevelt became the first president to appear on television during a broadcast from the World’s Fair in 1939.

Grover Cleveland bio
Grover Cleveland

Encouraged by his wife Eleanor, FDR appointed more women to federal posts than any president before him.

Eleanor fought for equal rights for both women and black people. The FBI informed her that the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) had put out a $25,000 reward for her assassination.

women-right-to-vote

After Roosevelt’s presidency, the Twenty-Second Amendment was passed to limit presidents to two terms. 

Before Roosevelt, presidents had traditionally served two terms, even though there was no law preventing them from running for a third term.

US Presidents