Editor’s note: Last week, Palos Hills historian Don C. White looked at Abraham Lincoln, whose death occurred 150 years ago this month. This week, he looks at Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died 70 years ago this month.
Let’s turn now to our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He came from a much different back ground than Abraham Lincoln our 16th president.
Roosevelt graduated from Harvard,then studied law at Columbia University. He did not finish his studies at Columbia, but did pass the bar and worked for a while at a law firm in New York City.
He became interested in politics and ran for the state senate in upstate New York and won.
In 1912, FDR won re-election to the state senate, but did not serve out his term. He was asked to serve as assistant secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration and accepted.
Then in 1920 the Democratic Party tapped him to run as a vice presidential candidate with James Cox. They lost to Republican Warren Harding. FDR then took a job in the private sector as vice president of Fidelity and Deposit Company. During the summer of 1921 while on a family vacation at Campobello Island, Roosevelt came down with poliomyelitis – polio -- which in the 1920’s was a terrifying and rampant disease.
Roosevelt never fully recovered the full use of his legs and spent much of the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He never gave up hope and through years of painful rehabilitation he did regain some of his lost mobility. He learned to walk by using his hips to swing his atrophied legs forward. For the remaining 24 years of his life he would need the assistance of canes, leg braces, wheelchairs, his family and aides.
Throughout the rest of his life he never lost his zest for life or his confidence. He was back in politics by 1922 aiding fellow Democrat Alfred Smith, first with his campaign for governor of New York, then in his bid for president in 1924 and 1928. With Smith’s encouragement, Roosevelt ran for governor of New York and was elected in 1928 and again in 1930.