Sunday, January 31, 2016

BIRTH | Jan. 30–FDR

FDR's First Cabinet. Will Woodin, Treasury
Secretary, is on his left. 
On this day in 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was born in Hyde Park, N.Y., near Poughkeepsie.

He grew up an only child, graduated from Harvard in 1904 and then Columbia Law School. In 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt, a niece of TR and a distant cousin.

FDR was elected to the NY State Senate, served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson, and in 1920 ran for Vice President on the unsuccessful Democratic challenge to Warren Harding. Despite being paralyzed by polio in 1921, he was elected Governor of NY, serving from 1929 to 1932. As Governor, he tried out social programs that were more successful than national programs to combat high (as high as 25 percent) unemployment attempted by President Hoover.

He was not financially well situated to run for President in 1932 because he had accumulated huge debts running his Warm Springs Foundation in Warm Springs, Ga.  Originally envisioned as a spa for himself, FDR brought in more staff and served other patients with the care he had been obtaining for himself, regardless, it seems, of the patients' ability to pay.

To allow FDR to run for President, Will Woodin, who as of 1928 was President or Chairman of two of the 20 companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average–American Car & Foundry and American Locomotive–raised the money to pay off FDR's Warm Springs debts, and then helped him raise the money for his campaign for the presidency.

FDR was elected the 32nd U.S. president in 1932. He appointed Woodin–one of only three Republicans in his first Cabinet–as his Treasury Secretary. It was an inspired selection. As a business man rather than a Wall Streeter, Woodin managed the pumping of greenbacks into the banking system, the closing of banks while the solvent ones were separated from the insolvent ones (which were closed), the ending of private ownership of gold in anticipation of devaluation (Woodin salvaged an exception for collectors  of gold coins), and the walling off of commercial banking from investment banking as the price of giving banks federal deposit insurance.
In 1933, Roosevelt embarked on his New Deal, which included, besides Wall Street reform (the Glass-Steagall Act and the Acts creating the SEC), the creation of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), the Federal Industrial Recovery Act and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The New Deal was controversial, but many of FDR’s reforms, including Social Security and the minimum wage, are now entrenched institutions supported by both major parties.
Roosevelt led the United States through the Great Depression and then through victory over Hitler and Mussolini in World War II. Roosevelt died in his beloved Warm Springs, Ga. in 1945, leaving Truman to end the war with Japan and utilize FDR's blueprints to build the United Nations.