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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Short Biography

Thirty-Second President of the United States

By Doug West, Ph.D.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Short Biography

Thirty-Second President of the United States

Copyright © 2018 Doug West

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author. Reviewers may quote brief passages in reviews.

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1 - Early Life and Education

Chapter 2 - Early Political Career

Chapter 3 - Governor of New York

Chapter 4 - First Term as President

Chapter 5 - Second Term as President

Chapter 6 - Third Term as President

Chapter 7 - Fourth Term as President and Death


Biographical Sketches

References and Further Reading


About the Author


Welcome to the book Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Short Biography. This book is volume 32 of the 30 Minute Book Series and, as the name of the series implies, if you are an average reader this book will take less than an hour to read. Since this book is not meant to be an all-encompassing biography of Franklin Roosevelt, you may want to know more about this man and his accomplishments. To help you with this, there are several good references at the end of this book. In addition, I have included a timeline to help you link the events of his life together in time and a series of short biographical sketches of the key individuals in the story. Thank you for purchasing this book, and I hope you enjoy your time reading about one of America’s most influential presidents.

Doug West

September 2018


Born into a wealthy family from New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt entered political life as a member of the Democratic Party and rose to prominence quickly due to his strong leadership skills, money, and family connections. During his first term as president of the United States, he introduced his “New Deal” domestic agenda to stem the tide of the growing national economic depression sweeping the country. Throughout the years, he managed to win a wide base of popular support thanks to his policies aimed at helping the most vulnerable American citizens, from poor farmers to jobless urban professionals. Roosevelt tried to bring economic balance to American society, making sure nobody was left behind. He supported labor and social welfare programs for the disadvantaged and emphasized the need for a fair wealth distribution in the country.

During his lengthy four-term administration, Roosevelt was the leader who helped the United States overcome a series of historical crises, from the Great Depression to the Pearl Harbor attack and World War II. His diplomatic tact and his resilience in the face of adversity put him in the pantheon of the United States’ greatest political leaders.

Chapter 1 - Early Life and Education

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or FDR as he would come to be known, was born on January 30, 1882, at Springwood, his family’s lavish estate in Hyde Park, New York. His father, James Roosevelt, a railroad executive, was from a wealthy New York family. He had a degree from Harvard Law School but never practiced law as he received a generous inheritance from his grandfather in his early adulthood. Franklin’s mother, Sara Ann Delano, was also from an old and wealthy New York family and twenty-six years junior to her husband. She was James’s second wife. Franklin spent his childhood between Springwood and the family’s second home in New York City. He had a happy and carefree childhood, despite the overprotective tendencies of his parents. His mother, especially, exerted a great influence on his life. Although she was very possessive, Franklin managed to appease her when she opposed his decisions, and they had a close relationship.

In his early childhood, Franklin received private education from tutors and governesses. The Roosevelt family also traveled extensively to Europe every year, which gave Franklin the opportunity to learn conversational French and German. In 1896, at age 14, he entered Groton School, a private boarding school in Massachusetts, where he escaped his mother’s overshadowing authority but found a different type of regimentation in the rigid environment of the school. He found there his first mentor in Endicott Peabody, the school’s headmaster, who remained a close friend and advisor over many years. In 1900, young Roosevelt enrolled at Harvard College, and in December of that year, his father died at the age of 72.

Figure – Franklin Roosevelt at age 11.

Although he did not excel as a student, Roosevelt became well-known among his peers at Harvard and had an active social life, cultivating close relationships with Boston’s elite. His strong leadership skills became evident when he was chosen as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Crimson, the daily campus newspaper. During this period, his fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, whom he greatly admired, became president of the United States.

While at Harvard, Franklin started to date one of his distant cousins, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, an intelligent and affectionate woman who had grown up in a wealthy family just as Roosevelt himself had. Their relationship progressed quickly, but when they started to consider marriage, Franklin’s mother fiercely opposed the idea. Despite Sara’s repeated attempts to break off the engagement, Franklin married Eleanor on March 17, 1905, in New York City. The couple had six children, one of whom died as an infant. Sara Roosevelt remained as possessive of her son as ever, and this caused discord in the family since the young couple had moved in with her at Springwood.

Roosevelt left Harvard in 1903, with a degree in history, and continued his studies at Columbia Law School in New York City. Although he did not particularly enjoy the study of law, he continued on this path long enough to pass the bar examination in 1907.

Chapter 2 - Early Political Career

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

After winning admission to the bar, Roosevelt began to practice law at a major Wall Street firm, specializing in admiralty law division. He had never expressed political ambitions, but as he gained a growing disdain for law practice, he started to seriously consider politics. Due to Theodore Roosevelt’s reputation as one of the most influential Republican politicians, the Democratic Party considered recruiting Franklin in an attempt to add to their prestige. Their idea was not far-fetched because, while he looked up to his cousin Theodore Roosevelt, he was more inclined to follow in the footsteps of his father, who had been a member of the Democratic Party.

In 1910, the Democrats came to Franklin and suggested he run for the state senate in his district. Roosevelt accepted the challenge, and even though his district was almost exclusively Republican by tradition and no Democrat had been elected in half a century, he won the election. Traveling throughout the district in an automobile during the campaign, at a time when personal cars were uncommon, Roosevelt attracted a lot of attention and managed to position himself as a promising politician. This first political victory pleased him immensely, and he took his new role very seriously, revealing from the early debut of his new career his independent spirit and assertive nature.

Figure - Eleanor and Franklin with their first two children in 1908.

By 1912, Roosevelt had already attained a certain level of influence within the Democratic Party, and he played a key role in getting the New York delegation to support Woodrow Wilson for president. Wilson won the presidency in the fall, while Roosevelt was also re-elected for the state senate, where he served as a chairman of the Agriculture Committee. Shortly after, the Wilson administration offered Roosevelt a position in Washington, D.C., as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Roosevelt gladly accepted. He was very interested in the Navy and had an extensive collection of books on naval subjects. Moreover, his cousin and hero Theodore Roosevelt had also held the same position fifteen years earlier. During his seven years in the Navy Department, Roosevelt managed to earn the admiration of both union leaders and the Navy’s civilian employees. Additionally, he gained extensive experience in crisis management, labor management, and logistics.

In 1914, American politics were disrupted by the start of World War I in Europe. Roosevelt strongly believed that the United States should join the fight against Germany and insisted on military preparations. He also sought a seat in the U.S. Senate but lost the Democratic nomination in New York and returned to his responsibilities within the Navy Department. The United States entered World War I in 1917, and Roosevelt expressed his desire to serve as a naval officer, but he eventually kept his position in Washington, where he became responsible for coordinating the mobilization and deployment of ships and personnel. He later wrote of the war period: “When the United States entered the war, I found that I would have to decide between doing my bit in keeping the Navy at the highest point of efficiency, and neglecting important work to keep run of matters political…I have literally not given the slightest thought or attention to anything but the work immediately before me since.” In 1918, he was sent to Europe to conduct naval inspections, and at the end of the war, he supervised the demobilization of the U.S. Navy.

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