The President at work
Harbingers of Ceremony, six photographers were ushered into Franklin D Roosevelt’s office on the afternoon that the Brazilian Trade Agreement was to be signed.
Five of them carried the usual equipment which they proceeded to set up in anticipation of the occasion. The sixth, Thomas D McAvoy, had a tiny camera containing film specially sensitized in an ammonia bath.
The President, ignoring the cameramen, continued with his work. He glanced at letters and orders. He squiggled his signature, doing his duty and eager to get it done (above) while Gus Gennerich stood ready with a blotter. Secretary Marvin McIntyre hovered helpfully in the background. The Presidential package of Camels lay open on the desk. All this time, Thomas McAvoy was snapping…
Mr McIntyre handed the President a document that amused him; he shot back a question; perused the paper; pursed his lips; stopped to slake his thirst with a drink of water; wiped his mouth with a handkerchief from his side pocket; finished reading; squiggled a signature. His desk was clear.
Then, he straightened up and turned on his charm to greet Ambassador Oswaldo Aranha (a great Roosevelt admirer) who arrived accompanied by Brazil’s Minister of Finance, Arthur Souza Costa.
The President smiled his most charming smile as he took Senhor Souza Costa’s hand. Then the agreement was spread on the desk in duplicate.
Senhor Aranha, sitting on the President’s right, and Secretary Hull, sitting at his left, put their signatures to it in the presence of a solemn gathering of diplomatic assistants. Last of all, the President turned to Ambassador Aranha with a parting quip.
As the photographers carted away their equipment they looked disgustedly at Cameraman McAvoy.
“In that light and in that box,” said one of them, “Boy, you could not get anything.”
He had snapped 20 pictures for Time. Thirteen of them, appearing herewith, were successful.
Although informal photographs of Franklin D Roosevelt are common, unposed shots showing the natural play of his expression are rare.
When Dr Erich Salomon, inaugurator of candid camera technique and brilliant practitioner of it abroad, was introduced to the US by Fortune, many a cameraman promised himself to carry on where the German left off.
It was two years later, however, when Cameraman McAvoy by smart thinking and long preparation succeeded in making the first adequate candid camera study of Franklin Roosevelt.
Presidential portrait: Franklin D Roosevelt
Powerful and controversial FDR died 25 years ago while President (1970)
By Merriman Smith — The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky) April 12, 1970
A college history major put aside his senior year paper on government and remarked, “The main thing most young people today know about Franklin D. Roosevelt is that his picture is on a dime.”
A high school senior, approached on the same subject, responded, ‘‘Actually, I think we heard more about Teddy Roosevelt in school — the charge up San Juan hill and things like that. At least, it seems that way to me.”
Those reactions may not be typical. But they do indicate that many young Americans apparently do not appreciate how greatly the innovations of FDR and his New Deal have influenced their day-to-day lives.
Twenty-five years ago, on April 12, Franklin D. Roosevelt died. He was the victim of a massive brain hemorrhage suffered at Warm Springs, (a, a resort and healing spa which he made famous.
Foe of Establishment
Roosevelt was one of the most controversial and person. ally powerful figures ever to hold the U.S. Presidency, He set a record by being elected President four times — defeating Republicans Herbert C. Hoover, Alf M. Landon, Wendell Willkie and Thomas E. Dewey.
For his time, Roosevelt was a rebel. A product of wealth and Eastern aristocracy, he would he regarded today as distinctly anti-Establishment. Many in his economic and social peer group despised him. They called him, bitterly, “That man in the White House.’ He scoffed at their fortunes, raised — their taxes and forced the country to think about the poor.
He first took office in 1933 when a stunned and despairing nation was at the bottom of a crushing depression. From this starting point, he was able to ram through numerous radical plans which ordinarily would have been entirely unacceptable to Congress.
One of the most far reaching of his proposals was assailed as Communistic when he advanced it, yet the program is now an accepted facet of American life.
Social Security author
In his State-of-the-Union message in 1935, FDR urged Congress to enact a social security program to benefit the nation’s aged. He coupled with it a federal plan for unemployment insurance and grants to states for dependent children and the blind.
The measure was enacted and signed into law on Aug. 14, 1935. It since has been broadened to include Medicare, a myriad of welfare programs and old age benefits for nearly 29 million Americans.
To counter the widespread hysteria over economic conditions, one of FDR’s first official acts’ was to close all national hanks and thus prevent depositors from adding to the disastrous pattern of mass withdrawals.
As economic confidence revived a little, Roosevelt’s then all-powerful New Deal produced the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which put Uncle Sam in the position of guaranteeing bank deposits.
The FDIC figures prominently in bank advertising today, although millions of Americans have no idea where the system began.
Saw need for service
The Peace Corps, Vista and other youth A-participation activities of the government today are regarded as new. Actually, they are similar to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps, which took thousands of young Americans off the streets and put them into camps to plant trees and clean up streams and rivers.
FDR also had an idea for applying the draft theory to peacetime America. He thought every American between the ages of 18 or 19 and 21 — male and female — should be required to devote at least one year to government service. His idea died in the tense days of World War II.
Had he lived out his fourth term, he might have been able to sell Congress on the plan, sparing succeeding Presidents the highly emotional issue of the military draft which grabs some young men and ignores others.
FDR and his top advisers produced another system which the government follows today under various names. In the Roosevelt era, it was called the lend-lease program for U.S. allies. Today it is known under the all-covering term of foreign aid.
Roosevelt was the first occupant of the White House to use modern communications to try to bring the Presidency close to the people. He invented the ‘fireside chat’ to bring his views to the voters by radio and invented the Presidential news conference as it is known today.
Perhaps the most lasting evidence of Roosevelt influence can be put under the generalized heading of liberalism. His wealthy contemporaries of the ‘30s called his a socialist for the way he recognized the American labor movement, protected the right of workers to organize and thus engendered a blur collar political blend with other so-called minority groups.
Even in the later years of his administration, FDR was able to overcome more conservative forces because of this fusion of ethnic, social and. economic minorities under the Democratic banner.
Power figure that he was, Roosevelt came close to losing control of the White House in the 1939-40 period when World War II was developing in Europe. He was faced with the politically unsettling decision of standing for an unprecedented third term. Pro-Communist forces were beginning to be felt at home with genuine impact for the first time in FDR’s political career.
The Democratic Party almost disintegrated as a result of his third-term decision. He was able to pull it off because labor and minority groups solidified behind him and because of ominous war clouds in Europe.
Willkie, an attractive, liberal Republican, came close to defeating FDR in 1940. Roosevelt said later to friends he could have told Willkie during the latter stages of § the campaign how to defeat him easily. But FDR kept this expertise in his political family, even to the point of stopping the White House doctor who wanted to give Willkie his formula for combating laryngitis (rum and honey).
War assured his win
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941 solidified the country behind FDR.
Programs which had attracted so much opposition — the draft and lend-lease — moved ahead swiftly.
To the dismay of critics — and some intimates concerned over his health — FDR ran for still another term, his fourth, in 1943. He easily defeated Dewey, the glamorous New York Republican prosecutor.
In the months that followed, Roosevelt bubbled with ideas for the future He was one of the architects of the United Nations and at the time of his death was drafting a speech for a meeting in San Francisco to establish the new world organization.
It was during this interregnum that FDR thought seriously about problems-to-come in the Middle East. At one point, he suggested a Sahara desert program of tree-planting to make the Arab world more viable. He tried in talks with old King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia to develop an atmosphere of Moslem acceptance of a new nation of Israel.
Planned for future
With ideas for the postwar world swirling in his mind, FDR died. Americans, even those who opposed him strenuously, suddenly felt naked without a powerful father figure leading them through troubled times.
New problems quickly emerged, however, and occupied the nation’s thoughts and energies. The problems which preoccupied FDR seemed to fade with the advent of the Cold War, the Marshall Plan, Korea, unrest behind the Iron Curtain and, finally, Sputnik and the dawn of the space age.
Roosevelt’s impact on America and international affairs remains a matter for historical assessment, of course. But young people who may not relate to FDR might have understood one central point if they had lived during his time. Possibly no modern President drove quite as hard against the establishment as he did.
Roosevelt rarely noted his crippling by Polio
The President of the United States between 1933 and 1945 was a cripple, unable to walk without help. It was no secret and, amazingly, it did not seem to make any difference to the American people or to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Roosevelt contracted poliomyelitis, then called infantile paralysis, in 1921, when he was 39. He was immobilized from the waist down for the rest of his life and needed heavy braces and crutches to stand.
Some historians believe FDR’s infirmity gave him the maturity and determination that made him into the most successful national politician in U.S. history.
But during his entire public career, from the New York governorship in 1929 to the presidency for three full terms and three months, Roosevelt mentioned his handicap publicly only once — when he apologized to Congress for sitting down while giving his report on the Yalta Conference just before his death in April, 19-45.
Roosevelt’s polio had another effect — it led to medical victory over the disease. Starting in 1934, with a President’s birthday ball to raise money for polio victims, millions of dollars were raised to find a cure for the crippling disease. In its first year, 1937, the “March of Dimes” raised $1.8 million.
But Roosevelt was dead 10 years before polio was conquered. In April, 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine was introduced to the public. As a major health threat, polio is gone.
‘Court packing’ Upset
On the hot afternoon of July 22, 1937, the U.S. Senate voted 70 to 20 to send S. 1392 back to its Judiciary Committee.
So ended Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s judicial reform, better known as the ‘‘court packing’’ plan. FDR proposed it to get around the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that had been placed before his new deal programs by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.
Roosevelt requested authority for each incumbent aged 70 or older. His idea was to overwhelm the conservatives who had been appointed by previous Presidents with liberals of his own choosing.
He unveiled the plan Feb, 5, 1937, flushed with the victory of his 1936 landslide re-election and the knowledge that the new Congress was overwhelmingly Democratic — 75 of the 96 senators were Democrats.
But it quickly became clear that this time FDR had overreached on a major issue. A number of congressional liberals were aghast at the proposal and some fought it openly.
The argument that Roosevelt should wait for the chance to put his own men on the bench was bolstered when conservative Justice Willis Van Devanter announced at the height of the battle that he was retiring. And, just a few days before the showdown, the key FDR supporter, Senate Democratic Leader Joseph Robinson of Arkansas, dropped dead.
Roosevelt lost the court battle, but still got to put a liberal majority on the court as death and infirmity thinned he ranks of the ‘nine old men.” But he never again was able to establish his dominance over a Congress that had been a virtual rubber stamp for the White House between 1933 and 1937.