Other Free Encyclopedias » 21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia » 21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Romanesque art and architecture to Sadducees

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

war deal president nation

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano (1882–1945), 32nd president of the United States. Roosevelt was elected to four terms, more than any other U.S. president, and led the nation through two major crises: a severe depression and a global war. His flexible, experimental approach to politics enabled him to lead the U.S., with widespread support of the people, through one of the most formative periods in U.S. history.

Early life

Roosevelt was born into a wealthy New York family and brought up—as was his fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt—in a restricted social circle that was the closest to an aristocracy the United States ever had. Educated at home until age 14, he attended private school and Harvard, from which he graduated in 1903. Roosevelt entered Columbia Law School in 1904 and passed the bar in 1907. In 1905, he married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (known by her middle name), a distant cousin who was Theodore Roosevelt's niece. The couple had six children.


Roosevelt served as a Democrat in the N.Y. Senate (1910–13), then as assistant secretary of the Navy (1913–21), gaining a national reputation as a capable administrator. In 1920, he ran for vice president with presidential candidate James M. Cox. They lost to the Republican ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

While on vacation in Aug. 1921, Roosevelt suffered a severe attack of polio, which partially paralyzed his arms and legs. His mother urged him to retire, but his wife and his secretary, Louis Howe, encouraged him to work to regain some use of his limbs—and reenter politics. He did both. Roosevelt was elected governor of New York in 1928 and 1930. In 1932, he ran for president against incumbent Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt promised a “New Deal” to bring the nation out of its worsening depression, but it was Hoover's unpopularity that most helped Roosevelt win the election.


By the time Roosevelt took office in 1933, the U.S. economy was near collapse. More than 13 million people were unemployed, many farmers and city workers were homeless, and thousands of banks were closing daily. Two days after his Mar. 4 inaguration, Roosevelt ended a run on the banks by declaring a “bank holiday.” He closed all banks, then had the Treasury Dept. examine their books and resupply funds where possible. Public confidence was restored by the time the banks reopened. On Mar. 9, Congress met in a special session to pass Roosevelt's call for emergency legislation. On Mar. 12, he gave the first of his many “fireside chats” —radio addresses to the nation, explaining his policies. Four days later, he began sending his New Deal proposals to Congress, beginning the “Hundred Days” in which many new programs were established to rebuild the economy and put people back to work. Among Roosevelt's ground-breaking New Deal programs were the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), which paid farmers to voluntarily reduce production in order to raise prices; the National Recovery Administration (NRA), which included minimum wages and maximum hours for workers; the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which put young men to work in reforestation and other public works; and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a model for interstate conservation projects of the future. The New Deal also brought in the Wagner Act of 1935, which aided labor; the Work Projects Administration (WPA), a massive new relief program; and a tax-reform bill, social-security act, and youth administration act. In 1936, Roosevelt won reelection in a landslide. However, the economy was not yet under control. When the Supreme Court nullified some New Deal acts, Roosevelt attempted to “pack” the court with additional justices who would support him, but Congress denied him that power. Full economic recovery came only with the war. Until 1937, Roosevelt had paid relatively little attention to foreign affairs. Then World War II broke out in Europe in 1939. In 1940, Roosevelt was reelected to a third term, promising to keep the nation out of war. But on Dec. 7, 1941, Japan struck the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in a surprise attack. Four days later, the U.S. was at war with Japan, Germany, and Italy. Roosevelt, who directed the immense U.S. war effort and conferred with Allied leaders, was elected to an unprecendented fourth term in 1944. But he did not live to seethe war's end. He died suddenly on Apr. 12, 1945, of a cerebral hemorrhage.


Nicholas J. Roosevelt [next] [back] Eleanor Roosevelt

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or