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Historical Voices

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) was the thirty-second President of the United States. He was President from 1932 until his death and is therefore the longest-serving President in history.

Originally from Hyde Park, New York, Roosevelt was educated at Harvard and Columbia Universities. After marrying Anna Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905, FDR passed the state bar examination and took a job practicing corporate law on Wall Street. Unfulfilled and drawn to Democratic politics, he ran for a seat in the New York Senate in 1910 and won. In 1913, FDR accepted a position as assistant secretary of the navy and moved to Washington, remaining there until after he lost a bid for the Vice-Presidency in 1920. In 1921, at age 39, Roosevelt was stricken with polio which resulted in the paralysis of his legs. Determined to fight against his physical circumstances, Roosevelt continued to undergo water therapy throughout the decade and was eventually persuaded by Alfred Smith to return to politics.

In 1928, FDR became the governor of New York and worked to institute numerous progressive measures that would provide the state's citizenship with some economic relief as the Depression deepened. As a result, Roosevelt obtained the Democratic presidential nomination in 1932, promising the delegates a "new deal" for the American people. During his first term as President, FDR called Congress into a special session and in the first "hundred days", as well as throughout 1935, proposed and passed a sweeping program aimed at providing economic relief and reform. Although his measures' successes were questionable, Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936, and despite attacking the Supreme Court as well as angering Congress during his second term, won again in 1940. Throughout his tenure, Roosevelt hoped to avoid war and achieve peace through the creation of the United Nations. Nevertheless, he continued to provide aid and supplies to the anti-German allies, and when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, neutrality became impossible.

Although FDR was re-elected to his fourth term in 1944, he was quite ill, suffering from hypertension and heart disease. He died, unexpectedly, on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia. He was 63 years old.

Audio Files:

Excerpt of acceptance of nomination at 1932 Democratic National Convention - Broadcast on CBS, 1932. Listen

First fireside chat - Broadcast on March 12, 1933 - Roosevelt talks about the banking situation in the U.S. Listen

Charles Dawes and FDR speak on Brotherhood Day, 1936. Listen

Franklin Roosevelt; fireside chat on reorganization of the judicial system, March 9, 1937. Listen

FDR asks Congress to declare war on Japan, 12/8/41. Listen

FDR - Pearl Harbor Day fireside chat; Dec 9, 1941. Listen

FDR reads first number of draft; mother in audience screams, 1941. Listen

Rexford Tugwell describes and plays tapes of FDR's first inauguration - Recorded by L.L. Carey, March 4, 1975. Listen