Roosevelt was the only US president elected to office four times and led his country through two of the greatest crises of the 20th century - the Great Depression and World War Two.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on 30 January 1882 at his family's estate in New York State. His father was a businessman. He attended Harvard and Columbia University Law School, but had little enthusiasm for the legal profession. In 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant cousin and niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. Five years later, Roosevelt was elected to the New York Senate, where he quickly came to national attention as a rising Democratic politician. From 1913 to 1920 - which included the years of World War One - Roosevelt was assistant secretary of the navy, where he achieved a reputation as a capable young administrator.
In 1921, Roosevelt suddenly fell ill with polio and was left unable to walk without braces or a cane. It seemed to signal the end of his career, but through his determination and the support of his wife, who often acted as his substitute at political meetings, he returned to work. In 1928, Roosevelt was elected governor of New York and in 1932 became the Democratic nominee for president, winning by a landslide. He came to power when the Great Depression was at its worst. He ushered in the 'New Deal' programme (1933 - 1938) to provide relief for the unemployed, and then jobs, as well as attempting to reform and strengthen the American economy.
Roosevelt won a second term in 1936 and an unprecedented third term in 1940. While initially keeping America out of World War Two, he provided financial assistance and equipment to Britain and its allies. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour brought America into the war and Roosevelt took the lead in establishing a grand alliance among the countries fighting the Axis powers. He also devoted time to the planning of the post-war workload, particularly the establishment of the United Nations. Full economic recovery, which had not responded to Roosevelt's efforts throughout the 1930s, was achieved as a consequence of massive government spending on war production. Roosevelt died in office on 12 April 1945, less than a month before Germany's unconditional surrender.
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