Bios

Franklin D Roosevelt

Franklin D Roosevelt was the US President famous for his New Deal who hid his disability from the world and didn't live to see the Allies' victory over Germany in WW II.

Roosevelt was born into a moderately wealthy family. He did not excel at school but did well and attended Harvard University.

It was at Harvard that Roosevelt met his cousin, Eleanor, whom he fell in love with and they were married in 1905, against his mother’s wishes.

After Harvard, Roosevelt attended Columbia University Law School. He practiced law for some years but nurtured a desire to enter politics. In 1910, Roosevelt stood as a democrat for the New York Senate and was elected.

Roosevelt was re-elected in 1912 and, in that same year, had put much effort into the election of Woodrow Wilson as president. This had caught the attention of those in the party, and Roosevelt became assistant secretary in Wilson’s cabinet.

When World War I broke out, Roosevelt openly favoured intervention, against Wilson and the official line, which created distrust between them.

Related: 10 things you didn't know about Roosevelt

Soon, however, America did intervene, and Roosevelt threw himself into a cause he believed deeply in.

With the war won, the American population returned a Republican president, Warren Harding, with a decisive victory. Roosevelt stood as Vice-President for the Democrats and, despite the result, his career moved forward as he created a public profile and became perhaps the leading democrat.

In 1921, disaster struck as Roosevelt contracted poliomyelitis. Due to a late diagnosis, he lost the use of his legs. It seemed to be the end of his career but Eleanor, with close friends, would not let him give up on his ambitions. In 1928, Roosevelt reluctantly stood for governor of New York. He won, but narrowly.

In 1932, Roosevelt stood for president. It was the beginning of the Depression and the population were unhappy with the Republican incumbent for his perceived inability to halt the rapid economic decline. In contrast, Roosevelt seemed bursting with ideas. He was elected.

The first 100 days of office for Roosevelt were a time of rapid activity. He set up numerous agencies to deal with various aspects of the Depression, from relief to employment. He closed all the banks and allowed them to reopen slowly once they were stable. This was Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Despite criticism and opposition for his actions and various programmes, Roosevelt was very popular and he was re-elected in 1936 with a landslide victory.

His second term was more difficult. He took on the Supreme Court and lost, in the process alienating many in his own party. However, in 1940 Roosevelt decided to run for the presidency for a third time. He won, but this time with only a narrow majority. Roosevelt’s third term was dominated by the Second World War and then war with the Japanese.

On 12 April 1945, Roosevelt suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and died.