Harry Hopkins: Wikis


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This article is about the politician, for the British tank named for him, see Light Tank Mk VIII
Harry Lloyd Hopkins

In office
December 24, 1938 – September 18, 1940
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Daniel Calhoun Roper
Succeeded by Jesse Holman Jones

Born August 17, 1890
Sioux City, Iowa
Died January 19, 1946 (aged 55)
New York City, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Barbara Duncan (died 1937)
Louise Macy
Ethel Gross (divorced)
Children David Hopkins
Robert Hopkins
Stephen P. Hopkins
Barbara Hopkins
Diana Hopkins

Harry Lloyd Hopkins (August 17, 1890 – January 29, 1946) was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's closest advisers. He was one of the architects of the New Deal, especially the relief programs of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which he directed and built into the largest employer in the country. In World War II he was Roosevelt's chief diplomatic advisor and troubleshooter and was a key policy maker in the $50 billion Lend Lease program that sent aid to the allies.


Early life

Harry Hopkins was born at 512 Tenth Street in Sioux City, Iowa, the fourth child of four sons and one daughter of David Aldona and Anna (née Pickett) Hopkins. His father, born in Bangor, Maine, ran a harness shop, after an erratic career as a salesman, prospector, storekeeper and bowling-alley operator; but his real passion was bowling, and he eventually returned to it as a business. Anna Hopkins, born in Hamilton, Ontario, had moved at an early age to Vermillion, South Dakota, where she married David. She was deeply religious and active in the affairs of the Methodist church. Shortly after Harry was born, the family moved successively to Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Kearney and Hastings, Nebraska. They spent two years in Chicago, and finally settled in Grinnell, Iowa.

Hopkins attended Grinnell College and soon after his graduation in 1912 took a job with Christodora House, a social settlement in New York City's Lower East Side ghetto. In the spring of 1913 he accepted a position from John A. Kingsbury of the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (AICP) as "friendly visitor" and superintendent of the Employment Bureau within the AICP's Department of Family Welfare. During the 1915 recession, Hopkins and the AICP's William Matthews, with $5,000 from Elizabeth Milbank Anderson's Milbank Memorial Fund, organized the Bronx Park Employment program, one of the first public employment programs in the U.S.[1]

Social and public health work

In 1915, New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel appointed Hopkins executive secretary of the Bureau of Child Welfare which administered pensions to mothers with dependent children.

Hopkins at first opposed America's entrance into World War I, but when war was declared in 1917 he supported it enthusiastically. He was rejected for the draft because of a bad eye.[2] Hopkins moved to New Orleans where he worked for the American Red Cross as director of Civilian Relief, Gulf Division. Eventually, the Gulf Division of the Red Cross merged with the Southwestern Division and Hopkins, headquartered now in Atlanta, was appointed general manager in 1921. Hopkins helped draft a charter for the American Association of Social Workers (AASW) and was elected its president in 1923.

In 1922, Hopkins returned to New York City where the AICP was involved with the Milbank Memorial Fund and the State Charities Aid Association in running three health demonstrations in New York State. Hopkins became manager of the Bellevue-Yorkville health project and assistant director of the AICP. In mid-1924 he became executive director of the New York Tuberculosis Association. During his tenure, the agency grew enormously and absorbed the New York Heart Association.[3]

In 1931, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt named R. H. Macy's department store president Jesse Straus as president of the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA). Straus named Hopkins, then unknown to Roosevelt, as TERA's executive director. His efficient administration of the initial $20 million outlay to the agency gained Roosevelt's attention, and in 1932, he promoted Hopkins to the presidency of the agency.[4] Hopkins and Eleanor Roosevelt began a long friendship, which strengthened his role in relief programs.

New Deal

In March 1933, Roosevelt summoned Hopkins to Washington as federal relief administrator. Convinced that paid work was psychologically more valuable than cash handouts (the "dole"), Hopkins sought to continue and expand New York State's work-relief programs, the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. He supervised the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Over 90% of the people employed by the Hopkins programs were unemployed or on relief. He feuded with Harold Ickes, who ran a rival program the PWA which also created jobs but did not require applicants be unemployed or on relief.

Although Hopkins denied saying "We will tax and tax, and spend and spend, and elect and elect," conservative critics thought the slogan fit the New Deal very well

FERA, the largest program from 1933-35, involved giving money to localities to operate work relief projects to employ those on direct relief. CWA was similar, but did not require workers to be on relief in order to receive a government sponsored job. In less than four months, the Civil Works Administration hired four million people, and during its five-months of operation, the CWA built and repaired 200 swimming pools, 3,700 playgrounds, 40,000 schools, 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of road, and 12 million feet of sewer pipe.

The Works Progress Administration, which followed the CWA, employed 8.5 million people in its seven-year history, working on 1.4 million projects, including the building or repair of 103 golf courses, 1,000 airports, 2,500 hospitals, 2,500 sports stadiums, 3,900 schools, 8,192 parks, 12,800 playgrounds, 124,031 bridges, 125,110 public buildings, and 651,087 miles (1,047,823 km) of highways and roads. The WPA operated on its own, and selected projects with the cooperation of local and state government but operated them with its own staff and budget. Hopkins started programs for youth (National Youth Administration) and for artists and writers (Federal One Programs). He and Eleanor Roosevelt worked together to publicize and defend New Deal relief programs. He was concerned with rural areas but more and more focused on cities in the great depression.

World War II

News photo of Hopkins departing for Britain, January 1941

During the war years, Hopkins acted as Roosevelt's unofficial emissary to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Roosevelt dispatched Hopkins to assess Britain's determination and situation. Churchill escorted Hopkins all over the United Kingdom, and converted him to the British cause. At a small dinner party before he returned, Hopkins rose to propose a toast. "I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return. Well I am going to quote to you one verse from the Book of Books ... "Whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." Hopkins became the administrator of Lend Lease.[5]

Hopkins had a major voice in policy for the vast $50 billion Lend-Lease program, especially regarding supplies, first for Britain and then (upon the German invasion) the USSR. He went to Moscow in July 1941 to make personal contact with Stalin. Hopkins recommended, and the president accepted, the inclusion of the Soviets in Lend-Lease. He then accompanied Churchill to the Atlantic Conference. Hopkins promoted an aggressive war against Germany and successfully urged Roosevelt to use the Navy to protect convoys before the US entered the war in December 1941. Roosevelt brought him along as advisor to his meetings with Churchill at Cairo, Tehran, Casablanca in 1942-43, and Yalta in 1945. He was a firm supporter of China, which received Lend Lease aid for its military and air force. Hopkins wielded more diplomatic power than the entire State Department. Hopkins helped identify and sponsor numerous potential leaders, including Dwight D. Eisenhower.[6] He continued to live in the White House and saw the president more often than any other advisor. Although Hopkins' health was steadily declining, Roosevelt sent him on additional trips to Europe in 1945; he attended the Yalta Conference in February 1945. He tried to resign after Roosevelt died, but President Harry S. Truman sent him on one more mission to Moscow.

Relations with spies

Hopkins was the top American official charged with dealing with Soviet officials during World War II and spoke with many Russians, from middle ranks to the very highest. He often explained to Stalin and other top Soviets what Roosevelt was secretly planning in order to enlist Soviet support for American objectives. As a major decision maker in Lend Lease, he expedited the sending of as much war material as possible to the Soviet Union, as Congress had ordered, in order to end the war as fast as possible. As was common in totalitarian societies, Soviets who spoke to Hopkins routinely reported the contact to the KGB, so Hopkins is listed as a "source" of information for Moscow, which indeed was his role. No one has ever identified any secrets that Hopkins gave away that he should not have, or any decision in which he distorted American priorities in order to help Communism.[7]

Death and remembrance

Hopkins, a chain-smoker, died in New York City in January 1946, succumbing to a long and debilitating battle with stomach cancer. His body was cremated and the ashes interred in his old hometown of Grinnell, Iowa.

There is a house on the Grinnell College campus named after him.


  1. ^ June Hopkins, "Harry Hopkins" (1999) p.61,67-69
  2. ^ June Hopkins, Harry Hopkins (1999) p. 128 online
  3. ^ June Hopkins p.139-41
  4. ^ Jean Edward Smith, p. 251.
  5. ^ Goodwin, pp. 213-213 and Meacham and History Boys Clothing
  6. ^ Dwight William Tuttle, Harry L. Hopkins and Anglo-American-Soviet Relations, 1941-1945 (1983) p. 160
  7. ^ Verne W. Newton, "A Soviet Agent? Harry Hopkins?," New York Times October 28, 1990



Secondary sources

  • Adams, Henry Hitch. Harry Hopkins: A Biography (1977)
  • Andrew, Christopher and Gordievsky, Oleg. KGB: The Inside Story, HarperCollins, (1990).
  • Hopkins, June. Harry Hopkins: Sudden Hero, Brash Reformer (1999) biography by HH's granddaughter.
  • Hopkins, June. "The Road Not Taken: Harry Hopkins and New Deal Work Relief" Presidential Studies Quarterly Vol. 29, 1999
  • Howard; Donald S. The WPA and Federal Relief Policy (1943)
  • Kurzman, Paul A. "Harry Hopkins and the New Deal", R. E. Burdick Publishers (1974)
  • McJimsey George T. Harry Hopkins: Ally of the Poor and Defender of Democracy (1987), biography.
  • Meriam; Lewis. Relief and Social Security The Brookings Institution. 1946. Highly detailed analysis and statistical summary of all New Deal relief programs; 900 pages
  • Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins (1948), memoir by senior FDR aide; Pulitzer Prize. Enigma Books (2008)
  • Singleton, Jeff. The American Dole: Unemployment Relief and the Welfare State in the Great Depression (2000)
  • Smith, Jason Scott. Building New Deal Liberalism: The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933-1956 (2005)
  • Smith, Jean Edward. FDR, Random House (2007)
  • Romerstein, Herbert and Breindel, Eric. The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's Traitors, Regnery Publishing, Inc., (2000).
  • Jordan, George Racey. From Major Jordan's Diaries, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1952).
  • "Harry Lloyd Hopkins". Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 4: 1946-1950. American Council of Learned Societies, 1974.

World War II

  • Allen, R.G.D. "Mutual Aid between the U.S. and the British Empire, 1941—5", in Journal of the Royal Statistical Society no. 109 #3, 1946. pp 243–77 online at www.jstor.org detailed statistical data on Lend Lease
  • Clarke, Sir Richard. Anglo-American Economic Collaboration in War and Peace, 1942-1949. (1982), British perspective
  • Dawson, Raymond H. The Decision to Aid Russia, 1941: Foreign Policy and Domestic Politics (1959)
  • Dobson, Alan P. U.S. Wartime Aid to Britain, 1940-1946 London, 1986.
  • Herring Jr. George C. Aid to Russia, 1941-1946: Strategy, Diplomacy, the Origins of the Cold War (1973)]
  • Kimball, Warren F. The Most Unsordid Act: Lend-Lease, 1939-1941 (1969).
  • Louis, William Roger. Imperialism at Bay: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire, 1941-1945. 1977.
  • Reynolds, David. The Creation of the Anglo-American Alliance 1937-1941: A Study on Competitive Cooperation (1981)
  • Thorne, Christopher. Allies of a Kind: The United States, Britain and the War Against Japan, 1941-1945 1978.
  • Woods, Randall Bennett. A Changing of the Guard: Anglo-American Relations, 1941-1946 (1990)

External sources

Political offices
Preceded by
Daniel C. Roper
United States Secretary of Commerce
Served under: Franklin D. Roosevelt

December 24, 1938–September 18, 1940
Succeeded by
Jesse Holman Jones


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Harry Lloyd Hopkins (1890-08-171946-01-29) was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's closest advisers. He was one of the architects of the New Deal, especially the relief programs of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which he directed and built into the largest employer in the country. In World War II he was Roosevelt's chief diplomatic advisor and troubleshooter and was a key policy maker in the $50 billion Lend-Lease program that sent aid to the allies.


  • Communities now find themselves in possession of improvements [resulting from the WPA] which even in 1929 they would have thought themselves presumptuous to dream of... [but] everywhere there had been an overhauling of the word presumptuous. We are beginning to wonder if it is not presumptuous to take for granted that some people should have much, and some should have nothing; that some people are less important than others and should die earlier; that the children of the comfortable should be taller and fatter, as a matter of right, than the other children of the poor.
    • Spending to Save: The Complete Story of Relief (1936), p. 184

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