Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

32nd President, 1933-1945

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Official Presidential portrait of FDR Artist: Frank O. Salisbury, 1947

Official Presidential portrait of FDR
Artist: Frank O. Salisbury, 1947

  • Born Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York.
  • Parents: James Roosevelt and Sara Ann Delano. Siblings: James (half-brother).
  • Home schooled before entering Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts at 14.
  • Entered Harvard College in 1900 and graduated in 1903.
  • Entered Columbia Law School in 1904 but dropped out after passing the bar exam in 1907.
  • Married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) on March 17, 1905. Children: Anna Eleanor (1906–1975), James (1907–1991), Franklin Delano Jr. (1909), Elliott (1910–1990), Franklin Delano Jr. (1914–1988), and John Aspinwall (1916–1981).
  • Began work at a law firm in New York City in 1908.
  • Ran for a seat in the New York State Senate in 1910 and won. He served from 1911 to 1913.
  • Appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913 and served until 1920.
  • Ran as the Vice President candidate of the Democratic Party in the 1920 election but lost.
  • After his defeat in the 1920 election, he returned to practicing law in New York City.
  • In 1921, he contracted polio while on vacation at his Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada. The disease left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
  • Elected Governor of New York in 1928 and served from 1929 to 1932. His term as governor covered the beginning of the Great Depression with the crash of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Nominated as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in the 1932 election. He won against the incumbent Herbert Hoover with 57% of the popular vote and a majority of the electoral votes.
  • Escaped an assassination attempt by Giuseppe Zangara in February 1933, weeks before he was to take his oath of office as President of the United States. The shots fired by the assassin hit and killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who was sitting near Roosevelt.


Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 Photographer: Elias Goldensky

Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933
Photographer: Elias Goldensky

  • Took his oath of office on March 4, 1933 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • Roosevelt was immediately faced with a country in the midst of the Great Depression. His New Deal package of programs was designed for the relief, recovery, and reform of the unemployed, the economy, and the financial and banking systems.
  • In his first 100 days in office, Roosevelt worked closely with Congress to enact many of the programs he had outlined in his New Deal package. These included the Emergency Banking Act, the Reforestation Relief Act, the Federal Emergency Relief Act, and the Federal Securities Act.
  • On June 16, 1933, the final day of Roosevelt’s first 100 days, Congress passed several bills. The most notable of these were the National Industry Recovery Act, which established the Public Works Administration to provide jobs through public works projects, and the National Recovery Administration, which worked to stimulate competition.
  • Through 1934 and 1935, Roosevelt signed into law several bills to stimulate the economy. These included the Gold Reserve Act, the Farm Mortgage Refinancing Act, the Home Owners Loan Act, the Corporate Bankruptcy Act, Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act, and the Federal Farm Bankruptcy Act.
  • Between 1934 and 1935, several Acts were also signed into law to create new government agencies. These agencies included the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Housing Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, and the the Social Security Board.
  • Roosevelt ran for re-election in the 1936 Presidential election. He won the election and would win again in 1940 and 1944, becoming the only President to serve more than two terms.
  • In 1938, Congress passed several Acts to further expand the role of the federal government to regulate commerce and insdustry. These included the Chandler Act, the Civil Aeronautics Act, and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
  • Adolf Hitler began his occupation of Europe with the annexation of Austria in March 1938 and Sudentenland in Czechoslovakia in September 1938. A year later, Germany would invade the entire country. Italy’s Mussolini, after his successful invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, invaded Albania in 1939. Roosevelt signed several Neutrality Acts during these events banning the sale of arms to “belligerent” countries.
  • The Second World War began when Germany launched its invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany, but Roosevelt declared U.S. neutrality. However, Roosevelt allowed aid to reach Great Britain and France.
  • As war continued to spread in Europe with Germany taking several countries, including France, Roosevelt prepared the U.S. for war. In July 1940, he requested Congressional approval of a $4 billion defense budget. Roosevelt also authorized a military draft for men between the ages of 21 and 35. Low public support for the war, however, prevented Roosevelt from joining its allies in Europe.
  • On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and officially declared war against the United States. The next day, Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war against Japan. On December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. Congress would, in turn, declare war on the two countries.
  • On January 1, 1942, the U.S. and 25 countries signed the Declaration of the United Nations. The signatories affirm their cooperation against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The Declaration had its beginnings in August 1941 when Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter.
  • Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 ordering the relocation of Japanese immigants to internment camps. When the U.S. declared war on Italy and Germany, Italian and German immigrants (those who had not become American citizens) were likewise interned.
  • In May 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill met in Washington, D.C. to formulate a plan for the invasion of Europe, beginning in Sicily, Italy. They would meet again in Quebec in August 1943 to plan the invasion of France. In December, both leaders met with the Russian leader Joseph Stalin in Cairo to formalize their plan of attack for Europe. The three met again in February 1945 in the Crimear to plan the Allies’ final assault on Germany.


FDR shown in wellchair, 1941 Courtesy Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

FDR shown in wellchair, 1941
Courtesy Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

  • On April 12, 1945 while vacationing in Warm Springs, Georgia, Roosevelt suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died.
  • Vice President Harry S. Truman was immediately sworn in as the U.S. President.
  • On April 13, 1945, Roosevelt, in a flag-draped coffin, was loaded on the presidential train and brought to the White House for a funeral service. He was then taken to his family estate in Hyde Park and buried in the Rose Garden.
  • The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington. D.C. was dedicated to Roosevelt and the era in which he led the country. It was dedicated on May 2, 1997 by President Bill Clinton.
  • A more modest memorial of Roosevelt was erected on the lawn in front of the Archives Building near the corner of 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, which is what he wished. The memorial was dedicated on April 12, 1965, the 20th anniversary of his death. It was attended by a small group associated with Roosevelt.
  • Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park was established as the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in 1945.
  • The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library is located within the Roosevelt National Historic Site. It was constructed from 1939 to 1940 under Roosevelt’s direction. It is the first Presidential library to be established in the United States.
  • Roosevelt’s retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia is now a museum operated by the state.
  • His retreat in Campobello Island, where he contracted polio, was renamed Roosevelt Campobello International Park in 1964 and is jointly maintained by the governments of Canada and the U.S.
  • The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is located on the southern end of Roosevelt Island, which is between Manhattan Island and Queens. The park was opened and dedicated on October 17, 2012. The four freedoms refer to the goals that Roosevelt articulated in his 1941 State of the Union Address. These four are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.