Franklin Delano Roosevelt January 30, 1882 - April 12, 1945), commonly known by his initials, FDR, 32nd President of the United States (1933–1945), served for 12 years and four terms until his death in 1945, the only president ever to do so, and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic depression and total war. A dominant leader of the Democratic Party and the only American president elected to more than two terms, he built a New Deal Coalition that realigned American politics after 1932, as his domestic policies defined American liberalism for the middle third of the 20th century.
With the bouncy popular song "Happy Days Are Here Again" as his campaign theme, FDR defeated incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover in November 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression. Energized by his personal victory over polio, FDR's persistent optimism and activism contributed to a renewal of the national spirit. Assisted by key aide Harry Hopkins, he worked closely with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in leading the Allies against Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II. The war ended the depression and restored prosperity.
In his first hundred days in office, which began March 4, 1933, Roosevelt spearheaded major legislation and issued a profusion of executive orders that instituted the New Deal - a variety of programs designed to produce relief (government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (economic growth), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation). The economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937, but then relapsed into a deep recession. The bipartisan Conservative Coalition that formed in 1937 prevented his packing the Supreme Court or passing any considerable legislation; it abolished many of the relief programs when unemployment diminished during World War II. Most of the regulations on business were ended about 1975–1985, except for the regulation of Wall Street by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which still exists. Along with several smaller programs, major surviving programs include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which was created in 1933, and Social Security, which Congress passed in 1935.
As World War II loomed after 1938, with the Japanese invasion of China and the aggression of Nazi Germany, FDR gave strong diplomatic and financial support to China and Great Britain, while remaining officially neutral. His goal was to make America the "Arsenal of Democracy" which would supply munitions to the Allies. In March 1941, Roosevelt, with Congressional approval, provided Lend-Lease aid to the countries fighting against Nazi Germany with England, Scotland, and Wales. With very strong national support, he made war on Japan and Germany after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, calling it a "date which will live in infamy". He supervised the mobilization of the U.S. economy to support the Allied war effort. As an active military leader, Roosevelt implemented an overall war strategy on two fronts that ended in the defeat of the Axis Powers and the development of the world's first atom bomb. In 1942 Roosevelt ordered the internment of 100,000 Japanese American civilians. Unemployment dropped to 2%, relief programs largely ended, and the industrial economy grew rapidly to new heights as millions of people moved to new jobs in war centers, and 16 million men and 300,000 women were drafted or volunteered for military service.
Roosevelt dominated the American political scene not only during the twelve years of his presidency, but also for decades afterward. He orchestrated the realignment of voters that created the Fifth Party System. FDR's New Deal Coalition united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans, and rural white Southerners. He also influenced the later creation of the United Nations and Bretton Woods. Roosevelt is consistently rated by scholars as one of the top three U.S. Presidents, along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
One of the oldest families in New York State, the Roosevelts distinguished themselves in areas other than politics. One ancestor, Isaac Roosevelt, had served with the New York militia during the American Revolution. Roosevelt attended events of the New York society Sons of the American Revolution, and joined the organization while he was president. While his paternal family had become prosperous early on in New York real estate and trade, much of his immediate family's wealth had been built by FDR's maternal grandfather, Warren Delano, Jr., in the China trade, including opium and tea.
Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in the Hudson Valley town of Hyde Park, New York to businessman James Roosevelt I (1828–1900) and Sara Ann Delano (1854–1941). His parents were sixth cousins and both were from wealthy old New York families. They were of mostly English descent; Roosevelt's patrilineal great-grandfather, Jacobus Roosevelt III, was of Dutch ancestry, and his mother's maiden name, Delano, originated with a French Huguenot immigrant of the 17th century. Their only child was to have been named Warren, but Sara's infant nephew of that name had recently died. He was named for Sara's uncle Franklin Hughes Delano.
Roosevelt grew up in an atmosphere of privilege. (Reportedly, when James Roosevelt took his young son to visit President Grover Cleveland in the White House, the busy president told Franklin "I have one wish for you, little man, that you will never be President of the United States.") Sara was a possessive mother; James, 54 when Franklin was born, was considered by some as a remote father, though biographer James MacGregor Burns indicates James interacted with his son more than was typical at the time. Sara was the dominant influence in Franklin's early years; she once declared "My son Franklin is a Delano, not a Roosevelt at all." Frequent trips to Europe - he made his first at the age of two, and went with his parents every year from the ages of seven to 15 - made Roosevelt conversant in German and French; being arrested with his tutor by police four times in one day in the Black Forest for minor offenses may have affected the future president's view of German character. He learned to ride, shoot, row, and play polo and lawn tennis. Roosevelt also took up golf in his teen years, becoming a skilled long hitter. He learned to sail, and his father gave him a sailboat at the age of 16 which he named "New Moon"
Roosevelt attended Groton School, an Episcopal boarding school in Massachusetts; 90% of the students were from families on the social register. He was heavily influenced by its headmaster, Endicott Peabody, who preached the duty of Christians to help the less fortunate and urged his students to enter public service. Forty years later Roosevelt said of Peabody, "It was a blessing in my life to have the privilege of [his] guiding hand", and the headmaster remained a strong influence throughout his life, officiating at his wedding and visiting Roosevelt as president. Peabody recalled Roosevelt as "a quiet, satisfactory boy of more than ordinary intelligence, taking a good position in his form but not brilliant", while a classmate described Roosevelt as "nice, but completely colorless"; an average student, he only stood out in being the only Democratic student, continuing the political tradition of his side of the Roosevelt family. Roosevelt remained consistent in his politics; immediately after his fourth election to the presidency he defined his domestic policy as "a little left of center".
Like all but two of his 21 classmates Roosevelt went to Harvard College, where he lived in a suite which is now part of Adams House, in the "Gold Coast" area populated by wealthy students. Again an average student academically, Roosevelt later declared, "I took economics courses in college for four years, and everything I was taught was wrong." He was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and the Fly Club. While undistinguished as a student or athlete, he became editor-in-chief of The Harvard Crimson daily newspaper, a position which required great ambition, energy, and ability to manage others. While at Harvard his fifth cousin Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt, Jr. (1858 - 1919) became President of the United States; his vigorous leadership style and reforming zeal made him Franklin's role model and hero although he remained a Democrat, campaigning for Theodore's opponent William Jennings Bryan. In mid-1902, Franklin was formally introduced to his future wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 - 1962), Theodore's niece, on a train to Tivoli, New York, although they had met briefly as children. Eleanor and Franklin were fifth cousins, once removed. She was the daughter of Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt (1860 - 1894) and Anna Rebecca Hall (1863 - 1892) of the Livingston family. At the time of their engagement, Roosevelt was twenty-two and Eleanor nineteen. Roosevelt graduated from Harvard in 1903 with an A.B. in history. He later received an honorary LL.D from Harvard in 1929.
Roosevelt entered Columbia Law School in 1904, but dropped out in 1907 after he passed the New York State Bar exam. He however later received a posthumous J.D. from Columbia Law School. In 1908, he took a job with the prestigious Wall Street firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn, dealing mainly with corporate law. He was first initiated in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and was initiated into Freemasonry on October 11, 1911, at Holland Lodge No. 8 in New York City.
On March 17, 1905, Roosevelt married Eleanor despite the fierce resistance of his mother. While she did not dislike Eleanor, Sara Roosevelt was very possessive of her son; believing he was too young, she several times attempted to break the engagement. Eleanor's uncle, the president, stood in at the wedding for Eleanor's deceased father Elliott. (Eleanor had lost both parents by age ten.) The young couple moved into Springwood, his family's estate, where FDR's mother became a frequent house guest, much to Eleanor's chagrin. The home was owned by Roosevelt's mother until her death in 1941 and was very much her home as well.
Roosevelt had affairs outside his marriage, including one with Eleanor's social secretary Lucy Mercer which began soon after she was hired in early 1914. In September 1918, Eleanor found letters revealing the affair in Roosevelt's luggage, when he returned from World War I. Franklin had contemplated divorcing Eleanor, but Lucy could not bring herself to marry a divorced man with five children. However, the two remained married, and FDR promised never to see Lucy again, though their marriage from that point on was more of a political partnership. His mother Sara also told Franklin that if he divorced his wife, it would bring scandal upon the family, and she "would not give him another dollar." However, Franklin broke his promise. He and Lucy maintained a formal correspondence, and began seeing each other again in 1941, perhaps earlier. Lucy was even given the code name "Mrs. Johnson" by the Secret Service. Indeed, Lucy was with FDR on the day he died. Despite this, FDR's affair was not widely known until the 1960s. Roosevelt's son Elliott stated that Franklin also had a 20-year affair with his private secretary Marguerite "Missy" LeHand. Another son, James, stated that "there is a real possibility that a romantic relationship existed" between his father and Princess Märtha of Sweden, who resided in the White House during part of World War II; aides began to refer to her as "the president's girlfriend", and gossip linking the two romantically appeared in the newspapers.
The effect of these flirtations or affairs upon Eleanor Roosevelt is difficult to estimate. "I have the memory of an elephant. I can forgive, but I cannot forget," she wrote to a close friend. After the Lucy Mercer affair, any remaining intimacy left their relationship. Eleanor soon thereafter established a separate house in Hyde Park at Valkill, and increasingly devoted herself to various social and political causes. For the rest of their lives, the Roosevelts' marriage was more of a political partnership than an intimate relationship. The emotional break in their marriage was so severe that when Roosevelt asked Eleanor in 1942 - in light of his failing health - to come back home and live with him again, she refused. He was not always aware of when she visited the White House and for some time she could not easily reach him on the telephone without his secretary's help; he, in turn, did not visit her New York City apartment until late 1944.
The 1920 Democratic National Convention chose Roosevelt by acclamation as the vice-presidential candidate with its presidential candidate, Governor James M. Cox of Ohio. Although his nomination surprised most people, Roosevelt was considered as bringing balance to the ticket as a moderate, a Wilsonian, and a prohibitionist with a famous name. Roosevelt had just turned thirty-eight, four years younger than Theodore had been when he received the same nomination from his party. The Cox-Roosevelt ticket was defeated by Republican Warren G. Harding in the presidential election by a wide margin. Roosevelt returned to New York to practice law and joined the newly organized New York Civitan Club.
In August 1921, while the Roosevelts were vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, Roosevelt contracted polio, which resulted in permanent paralysis from the waist down. For the rest of his life, Roosevelt refused to accept that he was permanently paralyzed. He tried a wide range of therapies, including hydrotherapy, and, in 1926, he purchased a resort at Warm Springs, Georgia, where he founded a hydrotherapy center for the treatment of polio patients, one which still operates as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. After he became President, he helped to found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes).
At the time, Roosevelt was able to convince many people that he was getting better, which he believed was essential if he wanted to run for public office again. Fitting his hips and legs with iron braces, he laboriously taught himself to walk a short distance by swiveling his torso while supporting himself with a cane. In private, he used a wheelchair, but he was careful never to be seen in it in public. Great care was also taken to prevent his being portrayed by the press in a way which would highlight his disability. Only two photographs are known to exist of FDR which were taken while he was in his wheelchair; only four seconds of film exist of the "walk" he achieved after his illness. He usually appeared in public standing upright, supported on one side by an aide or one of his sons. FDR used a car with specially designed hand controls, providing him further mobility.
Roosevelt's strong base in the most populous state made him an obvious candidate for the Democratic nomination, which was hotly contested in light of incumbent Herbert Hoover's vulnerability. Al Smith was supported by some city bosses, but had lost control of the New York Democratic party to Roosevelt. Roosevelt built his own national coalition with personal allies such as newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Irish leader Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and California leader William Gibbs McAdoo. When Texas leader John Nance Garner announced his support of FDR, he was given the vice-presidential nomination.
Roosevelt won 57% of the vote and carried all but six states. Historians and political scientists consider the 1932-36 elections a realigning election that created a new majority coalition for the Democrats, made up of organized labor, blacks, and ethnic Americans such as Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans and Jews. This transformed American politics and starting what is called the "New Deal Party System" or (by political scientists) the Fifth Party System.
After the election, Roosevelt refused Hoover's requests for a meeting to develop a joint program to stop the downward spiral and calm investors, claiming publicly it would tie his hands, and that Hoover had all the power to act if necessary. Unofficially, he told reporters that "it is not my baby". The economy spiraled downward until the banking system began a complete nationwide shutdown as Hoover's term ended. In February 1933, Roosevelt again escaped an assassination attempt. Giuseppe Zangara who expressed a "hate for all rulers" attempted to shoot Roosevelt. He did kill Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak who was sitting alongside Roosevelt, but his attempt to murder Roosevelt failed when an alert spectator, Lillian Cross, who hit his arm with her purse deflected the bullet Roosevelt leaned heavily on his "Brain Trust" of academic advisers, especially Raymond Moley, when designing his policies; he offered cabinet positions to numerous candidates, but some declined. The cabinet member with the strongest independent base was Cordell Hull at State. William Hartman Woodin – at Treasury – was soon replaced by the much more powerful Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
When Roosevelt was inaugurated March 4, 1933, the U.S. was at the nadir of the worst depression in its history. A quarter of the workforce was unemployed. Farmers were in deep trouble as prices fell by 60%. Industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929. Two million were homeless. By the evening of March 4, 32 of the 48 states – as well as the District of Columbia – had closed their banks. The New York Federal Reserve Bank was unable to open on the 5th, as huge sums had been withdrawn by panicky customers in previous days. Beginning with his inauguration address, Roosevelt began blaming the economic crisis on bankers and financiers, the quest for profit, and the self-interest basis of capitalism.
Roosevelt's "First 100 Days" concentrated on the first part of his strategy: immediate relief. From March 9 to June 16, 1933, he sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily. To propose programs, Roosevelt relied on leading Senators such as George Norris, Robert F. Wagner, and Hugo Black, as well as his Brain Trust of academic advisers. Like Hoover, he saw the Depression caused in part by people no longer spending or investing because they were afraid.
His inauguration on March 4, 1933, occurred in the middle of a bank panic, hence the backdrop for his famous words: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The very next day he declared a "bank holiday" and called for a special session of Congress to start March 9, at which Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act. This was his first proposed step to recovery. To give Americans confidence in the banks, Roosevelt signed the Glass–Steagall Act that created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
Roosevelt tried to keep his campaign promise by cutting the federal budget – including a reduction in military spending from $752 million in 1932 to $531 million in 1934 and a 40% cut in spending on veterans' benefits – by removing 500,000 veterans and widows from the pension rolls and reducing benefits for the remainder, as well as cutting the salaries of federal employees and reducing spending on research and education. However, this was soon seen to be a mistake and most benefits were restored or increased by 1934. The benefit cuts also did not last. In June 1933 Roosevelt restored $50 million in pension payments, and Congress added another $46 million more. Veterans groups like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars won their campaign to transform their benefits from payments due in 1945 to immediate cash when Congress overrode the President's veto and passed the Bonus Act in January 1936.
Roosevelt also kept his promise to push for repeal of Prohibition. On March 23, 1933, he signed the Cullen–Harrison Act redefining 3.2% alcohol as the maximum allowed. That act was preceded by Congressional action in the drafting and passage of the 21st Amendment, which was ratified later that year.
After the 1934 Congressional elections, which gave Roosevelt large majorities in both houses, there was a fresh surge of New Deal legislation. These measures included the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which set up a national relief agency that employed two million family heads. At the height of WPA employment in 1938, unemployment was down from 20.6% in 1933 to only 12.5% according to figures from Michael Darby. The Social Security Act established Social Security and promised economic security for the elderly, the poor and the sick. Senator Robert Wagner wrote the Wagner Act, which officially became the National Labor Relations Act. The act established the federal rights of workers to organize unions, to engage in collective bargaining, and to take part in strikes.
While the First New Deal of 1933 had broad support from most sectors, the Second New Deal challenged the business community. Conservative Democrats, led by Al Smith, fought back with the American Liberty League, savagely attacking Roosevelt and equating him with Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. But Smith overplayed his hand, and his boisterous rhetoric let Roosevelt isolate his opponents and identify them with the wealthy vested interests that opposed the New Deal, setting Roosevelt up for the 1936 landslide. By contrast, the labor unions, energized by the Wagner Act, signed up millions of new members and became a major backer of Roosevelt's reelections in 1936, 1940 and 1944.
In the 1936 presidential election, Roosevelt campaigned on his New Deal programs against Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who accepted much of the New Deal but objected that it was hostile to business and involved too much waste. Roosevelt and Garner won 60.8% of the vote and carried every state except Maine and Vermont. The New Deal Democrats won even larger majorities in Congress. Roosevelt was backed by a coalition of voters which included traditional Democrats across the country, small farmers, the "Solid South", Catholics, big city political machines, labor unions, northern African Americans, Jews, intellectuals and political liberals. This coalition, frequently referred to as the New Deal coalition, remained largely intact for the Democratic Party until the 1960s. Roosevelt's popularity meant massive volumes of correspondence in need of reply. He once told his son James, "Two short sentences will generally answer any known letter."
In contrast to his first term, little major legislation was passed in FDR's second term. There was the Housing Act of 1937, a second Agricultural Adjustment Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which created the minimum wage. When the economy began to deteriorate again in late 1937, Roosevelt asked Congress for $5 billion in WPA relief and public works funding. This managed to eventually create as many as 3.3 million WPA jobs by 1938. Beyond this, however, the president recommended to a special congressional session only a permanent national farm act, administrative reorganization and regional planning measures, which were leftovers from a regular session. According to Burns, this attempt illustrated Roosevelt's inability to decide on a basic economic program.
The Supreme Court became Roosevelt's primary focus during his second term, after the court overturned many of his programs. In particular in 1935, the Court unanimously ruled that the National Recovery Act (NRA) was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the president. Roosevelt stunned Congress in early 1937 by proposing a law allowing him to appoint up to six new justices, what he referred to as a "persistent infusion of new blood." This "court packing" plan ran into intense political opposition from his own party, led by Vice President Garner, since it upset the separation of powers and gave the President control over the Court. Roosevelt's proposal to expand the court failed; nevertheless by 1941 Roosevelt had appointed eight of the nine justices of the court which began to ratify his policies.
In the November 1938 election, Democrats lost six Senate seats and 71 House seats. Losses were concentrated among pro-New Deal Democrats. When Congress reconvened in 1939, Republicans under Senator Robert Taft formed a Conservative coalition with Southern Democrats, virtually ending Roosevelt's ability to get his domestic proposals enacted into law. The minimum wage law of 1938 was the last substantial New Deal reform act passed by Congress.
The two-term tradition had been an unwritten rule (until the 22nd Amendment after Roosevelt's presidency) since George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796, and both Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt were attacked for trying to obtain a third non-consecutive term. FDR systematically undercut prominent Democrats who were angling for the nomination, including Vice President John Nance Garner and two cabinet members, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and James Farley, Roosevelt's campaign manager in 1932 and 1936, the Postmaster General and the Democratic Party chairman. Roosevelt moved the convention to Chicago where he had strong support from the city machine (which controlled the auditorium sound system). At the convention the opposition was poorly organized, but Farley had packed the galleries. Roosevelt sent a message saying that he would not run unless he was drafted, and that the delegates were free to vote for anyone. The delegates were stunned; then the loudspeaker screamed "We want Roosevelt... The world wants Roosevelt!" The delegates went wild and he was nominated by 946 to 147 on the first ballot. The tactic employed by Roosevelt was not entirely successful, as his goal had been to be drafted by acclamation. The new vice-presidential nominee was Henry Agard Wallace, a liberal intellectual who was Secretary of Agriculture.
In his campaign against Republican Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt stressed both his proven leadership experience and his intention to do everything possible to keep the United States out of war. In one of his speeches he declared to potential recruits that "you boys are not going to be sent into any foreign war." He won the 1940 election with 55% of the popular vote and 38 of the 48 states. A shift to the left within the Administration was shown by the naming of Henry A. Wallace as Vice President in place of the conservative Texan John Nance Garner, who had become a bitter enemy of Roosevelt after 1937.
Roosevelt's third term was dominated by World War II. Roosevelt slowly began re-armament in 1938, although he was facing strong isolationist sentiment from leaders like Senators William Borah and Robert Taft. By 1940, re-armament was in high gear, with bipartisan support, partly to expand and re-equip the Army and Navy and partly to become the "Arsenal of Democracy" supporting Britain, France, China and (after June 1941), the Soviet Union. As Roosevelt took a firmer stance against the Axis Powers, American isolationists (including Charles Lindbergh and America First) vehemently attacked the President as an irresponsible warmonger. Roosevelt initiated FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigations of his loudest critics, though no legal actions resulted. Unfazed by these criticisms and confident in the wisdom of his foreign policy initiatives, FDR continued his twin policies of preparedness and aid to the Allied coalition. On December 29, 1940, he delivered his Arsenal of Democracy fireside chat, in which he made the case for involvement in the war directly to the American people. A week later he delivered his famous Four Freedoms speech laying out the case for an American defense of basic rights throughout the world.
In 1942, war production increased dramatically, but fell short of the goals established by the President, due in part to manpower shortages. The effort was also hindered by numerous strikes by union workers, especially in the coal mining and railroad industries, which lasted well into 1944. The White House became the ultimate site for labor mediation, conciliation or arbitration. One particular battle royal occurred, between Vice-President Wallace, who headed the Board of Economic Warfare, and Jesse Jones, in charge of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation; both agencies assumed responsibility for acquisition of rubber supplies and came to loggerheads over funding. FDR resolved the dispute by dissolving both agencies.
In 1944, the President requested that Congress enact legislation which would tax all unreasonable profits, both corporate and individual, and thereby support his declared need for over ten billion in revenue for the war and other government measures. The Congress passed a revenue bill raising $2 billion, which FDR vetoed, though Congress in turn overrode him.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, destroying or damaging 16 warships, including most of the fleet's battleships, and killing almost 3000 American military personnel and civilians. Later that day, FDR called Churchill to confirm the news, saying "We are all in the same boat now." The President summoned his cabinet to assess events and to review a draft of his speech the next day to Congress. He rejected a suggestion for requesting a declaration of war against Germany in addition to Japan. Roosevelt, seeking a declaration of war against Japan, then delivered to Congress his famous "Infamy Speech" in which he said, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." Within an hour of the speech, Congress had passed a declaration of war, as Britain had just hours earlier.
In 1942 Roosevelt set up a new military command structure with Admiral Ernest J. King as Chief of Naval Operations in complete control of the Navy and Marines; General George C. Marshall in charge of the Army and in nominal control of the Air Force, which in practice was commanded by General Hap Arnold. Roosevelt formed a new body, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which made the final decisions on American military strategy. The Joint Chiefs was a White House agency and was chaired by Admiral William D. Leahy, but as the war progressed, Marshall increasingly dominated its deliberations. When dealing with Europe, the Joint Chiefs met with their British counterparts and formed the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Unlike the political leaders of the other major powers, Roosevelt rarely overrode his military advisors. His civilian appointees handled the draft and procurement of men and equipment, but no civilians – not even the secretaries of War or Navy, had a voice in strategy. Roosevelt avoided the State Department and conducted high level diplomacy through his aides, especially Harry Hopkins. Since Hopkins also controlled $50 billion in Lend Lease funds given to the Allies, they paid attention to him.
Roosevelt, who turned 62 in 1944, had been in declining health since at least 1940. Noticeably fatigued, in March 1944, he went to Bethesda Hospital for tests and was found to have high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease causing angina pectoris, and congestive heart failure. They and two outside specialists ordered Roosevelt to rest. His personal physician, Admiral Ross McIntire, created a daily schedule for the president that banned business guests for lunch and required him to rest for two hours each day. McIntire several times, however, denied during the 1944 election campaign that his patient's health was poor, for example stating on 12 October that "The President's health is perfectly OK. There are absolutely no organic difficulties at all". Roosevelt may have used his authority over the Office of Censorship to avoid press reports on his declining health before the election.
Roosevelt, aware that most publishers were opposed to him, issued a decree in 1943 that blocked all publishers and media executives from visits to combat areas; he put General Marshall in charge of enforcement. The main target was Henry Luce, the powerful publisher of Time and Life magazines. Historian Alan Brinkley argues the move was "badly mistaken", for had Luce been allowed to travel, he would have been an enthusiastic cheerleader for American forces around the globe. But stranded in New York City, Luce's frustration and anger expressed itself in hard-edged partisanship.
Party leaders insisted that Roosevelt drop Henry A. Wallace, who had been erratic as Vice President and was too pro-Soviet. James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, a top FDR aide, was considered ineligible because he had left the Catholic Church and many Catholic voters would not vote for him. Roosevelt replaced Wallace with Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman, best known for his battle against corruption and inefficiency in wartime spending. The Republicans nominated Thomas E. Dewey, the liberal governor of New York. The opposition lambasted FDR and his administration for domestic corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, tolerance of Communism, and military blunders. Labor unions, which had grown rapidly in the war, threw their all-out support behind Roosevelt. In a relatively close 1944 election, Roosevelt and Truman won 53% of the vote and carried 36 states. The President campaigned in favor of a strong United Nations, so his victory symbolized support for the nation's future participation in the international community.
Due to the President's health and the ongoing state of war, the President's fourth inauguration was held on the White House lawn.
During March 1945, he sent strongly worded messages to Stalin accusing him of breaking his Yalta commitments over Poland, Germany, prisoners of war and other issues. When Stalin accused the western Allies of plotting a separate peace with Hitler behind his back, Roosevelt replied: "I cannot avoid a feeling of bitter resentment towards your informers, whoever they are, for such vile misrepresentations of my actions or those of my trusted subordinates."
On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to the Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations. On the afternoon of April 12, Roosevelt said, "I have a terrific pain in the back of my head." He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom. The president's attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed a massive cerebral hemorrhage (stroke). At 3:35 p.m. that day, Roosevelt died. As Allen Drury later said, “so ended an era, and so began another.” After Roosevelt's death, an editorial by The New York Times declared, "Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House".
At the time he collapsed, Roosevelt had been sitting for a portrait painting by the artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, known as the famous Unfinished Portrait of FDR.
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