Roosevelt was born at his family?s estate at Hyde Park, in Dutchess County, New York on January 30,1882. He was the only child of James Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt. James Roosevelt was a moderately successful businessman, with a variety of investments and a special interest in coal. He was also a conservative Democrat who was interested in politics. His home overlooking the Hudson River was comfortable without being ostentatious, and the family occupied a prominent position among the social elite of the area. Sara Delano, 26 years younger than her previously widowed husband, brought to the marriage a fortune considerably larger than that of James Roosevelt. The Delano family had prospered trading with China, and Sara herself had spent some time with her parents in Hong Kong. So, Franklin was born into a pleasant and sociable home, with loving wealthy parents.
Roosevelt?s parents sent him off to school in 1896. They selected Groton School in Massachusetts, which had a reputation as one of the finest of the exclusive private schools that prepared boys for the Ivy League colleges. Young Roosevelt was a good student, popular with his fellow students as well as with his teachers.
Roosevelt moved to New York City, where he entered the Columbia University Law School in 1904. Although he attended classes until 1907, he failed to stay on for his law degree after passing the state examinations allowing him to practice law. For the next three years he was a clerk in a prominent law firm in New York City, but the evidence is clear that he had little interest in law and little enthusiasm to be a lawyer.
Well before he finished his work at Columbia, young Franklin Roosevelt had married his distant cousin Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. They had been in love for some time and were determined to marry in spite of the opposition of Franklin?s mother. The bride?s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, was present at the ceremony in New York City on March 17, 1905. Five of their six children grew to maturity: Anna, James, Elliott, Franklin, Jr., and John. The chief problem faced by the young couple during the early years of their marriage was Sara Roosevelt?s possessive attitude toward her son. Eleanor?s forbearance mitigated this situation, but the problem remained for many years.
Roosevelt entered politics in 1910, when he became a candidate for the New York State Senate in a district composed of three upstate farming counties. Democratic leaders had approached young Roosevelt because of his name and local prominence?and because he might be expected to pay his own election expenses. The 28-year-old Roosevelt campaigned hard, stressing his deep personal interest in conservation and other issues of concern in an agricultural area and also his strong support of honest and efficient government. In the first good year for Democrats since the early 1890s he was narrowly elected. He was only the second Democrat to represent his district after the emergence of the Republican Party in 1856.
In the state capitol at Albany, Roosevelt gained statewide publicity as the leader of a small group of upstate Democrats who refused to follow the leadership of Tammany Hall, also known as the Tammany Society, the Democratic Party organization of New York City. In particular, they refused to vote for the rich politician William F. ?Blue-Eyed Bill? Sheehan for U.S. senator. Roosevelt?s group succeeded in blocking the election of Sheehan, which infuriated Tammany Hall. The dramatic struggle drew the attention of New York voters to the tall vigorous new state senator with the magic name of Roosevelt. He soon became a dedicated social and economic reformer, and a political independent. He was reelected in 1912, in spite of a case of typhoid fever that kept him from campaigning.
Even before his reelection to the New York legislature, Roosevelt had entered the national political arena by taking part in the campaign of Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey for the Democratic nomination for president. Once again the young state senator was a member of a minority group among New York Democrats. When Wilson won at both the convention and the polls in 1912, his early supporters were rewarded, and Roosevelt became assistant secretary of the United States Navy. Roosevelt resigned his state senate seat and moved to Washington, D.C., to take over the position once occupied by his cousin Theodore Roosevelt.
Franklin Roosevelt?s years as assistant secretary, from 1913 to 1920, taught him both how to get things accomplished and, just as important for an executive, how to avoid unnecessary trouble. He had the devoted assistance of Louis Howe, who came along to the nation?s capital as Roosevelt?s assistant. Roosevelt?s superior was Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, a North Carolina editor. Daniels was a close friend and devoted follower of Nebraska editor and former Representative William Jennings Bryan, three times the Democratic candidate for president and Wilson?s secretary of state. Like Bryan, Daniels was concerned about agrarian issues and was a progressive reformer. He was also an isolationist (someone who believed that the United States should avoid alliances with other nations), who hated the idea of war. Young Roosevelt, an energetic supporter of a bigger navy and soon a warm friend of most of the leading admirals, inevitably had many disagreements with his chief, especially during Wilson?s first term. Daniels had the confidence both of the president and of the most influential Democrats in the Congress of the United States; Roosevelt had neither of these. However, in time the two men came to have genuine respect for one another?s different talents, and they remained good friends.
Personal tragedy struck Roosevelt in August 1921, when he contracted what was diagnosed, after an unfortunate delay, as poliomyelitis. He had been plagued by illness of various sorts during the previous decade, and he had overexerted himself swimming and hiking at Campobello. In great agony and completely unable to walk, Roosevelt seemed to have reached the end of his active public career. Indeed, his mother wanted him to return to Hyde Park for the peace and quiet of the life of a country gentleman. However, backed by the determination of his wife and Louis Howe, Roosevelt decided to return to his work as soon as possible. In spite of the efforts of numerous specialists and of his strenuous exercises, particularly swimming at his ?second home? in Warm Springs, Georgia, he was never again able to walk unaided. He spent most of his working hours in a wheelchair, and he walked with leg braces and canes, usually with help. Through the worst years of his paralysis, Roosevelt was amazingly cheerful. Eleanor Roosevelt often acted as her husband?s eyes and ears, bringing him information and conferring with people he was no longer readily able to meet. Howe remained close by Roosevelt, assisting him in many ways and planning for his return to public life.
Roosevelt continued to busy himself with Democratic politics after his illness. And in 1928 Roosevelt made a run for the Governor of New York, and won by a narrow margin.
In October 1929 the economic prosperity that the United States had enjoyed for most of the 1920s came to an abrupt end. Following the stock market crash of October 1929 Roosevelt found himself a depression governor, with new problems to face. In 1930 he was reelected by the unprecedented number of 725,000 votes.
In 1932 there was a presidential election and Roosevelt got the Democratic nomination, but had a tough time doing it. Roosevelt had more difficulty in winning the Democratic nomination in 1932 than he had in defeating President Hoover. In spite of Hoover?s unprecedented efforts to use the power of the federal government to overcome the Great Depression, he was completely identified with the policies of former U.S. presidents Warren Harding and of Calvin Coolidge, since he had served as secretary of commerce in both administrations. Roosevelt?s task was essentially a simple one: to convince the American people that because the Republicans had claimed full credit for the prosperity of the 1920s, they should receive full blame for the depression. Roosevelt was spectacularly successful at this.
Not long after being in office Roosevelt started a new program, that would hopefully get the U.S. out of the depression called the ?New Deal?. After many great accomplishments in office Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936 to his second term, after this term most expected him not to run again in 1940, out of tradition that no president before him served no more than two terms, but he ran anyway and won by a fair margin.
In 1938 Hitler of Germany started WWII by invading Poland, and Roosevelt knew it wouldn?t be long until the U.S. was brought into the war, so he started supplying the Allies with weapons and ships on a ?lend-lease program?. Then on December the 7th 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the U.S. into the war.
Roosevelt did not live to see the end of World War II. During the war years he had not appeared often in public, but during his campaign for a fourth term in 1944 many who saw him said that he looked pale, thin, and old. The election, which resulted in his victory over New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, was a strain on the president, as was the long trip to Yalta. In the early spring of 1945 he went to Warm Springs, Georgia, in an effort to recapture his lost energy. There he died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945. Harry Truman took the oath of office to become president the same day.