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James Roosevelt
December 23, 1907(1907-12-23) – August 13, 1991 (aged 83)
James Roosevelt.jpg
BGen James Roosevelt
Place of birth New York City, New York
Place of death Newport Beach, California
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1936-1959 (USMCR)
Rank Brigadier General
Unit 2nd RaiderBn
Commands held 4th RaiderBn
Battles/wars World War II
Battle of Makin
Battle of Okinawa
Awards Navy Cross
Silver Star
Other work U.S. Congress (California)

James Roosevelt (December 23, 1907 – August 13, 1991) was the oldest son of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was a U.S. Representative, officer in the United States Marine Corps, aide to his father, official Secretary to the President, Democratic Party activist, and businessman.


Early life

Roosevelt was born in New York City at 125 East 36th Street. He attended the Potomac School and the National Cathedral School in Washington, DC, and the Groton School in Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1930.[1]

After graduation, Roosevelt enrolled at Boston University Law School. He also took a sales job with Boston insurance agent Victor De Gerard. Roosevelt was so successful that within a year, he abandoned his law studies. In 1932 he started his own insurance agency, Roosevelt and Sargent, in partnership with John A. Sargent. As president of Roosevelt & Sargent, he made a substantial fortune (about $500,000). He resigned from the firm in 1937, when he officially went to work in the White House, but retained his half ownership. [2]

Politics and the White House

Roosevelt had attended the 1924 Democratic National Convention where he served, in his words, as his father's "page and prop". In 1928, he and some Harvard classmates campaigned for Democratic Presidential nominee Al Smith. In 1932, he headed FDR's Massachusetts campaign; he made about two hundred campaign speeches that year. Though FDR lost the Massachusetts Democratic primary to Al Smith, FDR easily carried Massachusetts in the November election. James Roosevelt was viewed as his father's political deputy in Massachusetts, allocating patronage in alliance with Boston mayor James Curley.

In April 1936, Presidential Secretary Louis McHenry Howe died. James Roosevelt unofficially took over some of Howe's duties. [2]

In November 1936, just after the 1936 election James Roosevelt was commissioned as Lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps. He then accompanied FDR to the Inter-American Conference at Buenos Aires in December as a military aide. On January 6, 1937, he was officially appointed "administrative assistant to the President", on July 1, 1937, he was appointed Secretary to the President.[1]

James Roosevelt was considered among his father's most important counselors. TIME magazine suggested he might be considered "Assistant President of the United States". [2]

In July 1938, there were allegations that James Roosevelt had used his political position to steer lucrative business to his insurance firm. James had to publish his income tax returns. He resigned in November 1938.[1]


After leaving the White House, Roosevelt moved to Hollywood, California, where he accepted a job with motion picture producer Samuel Goldwyn. He was on Goldwyn's payroll till November 1940. In 1939 he set up "Globe Productions", a company to produce short films for penny arcades, but the company was liquidated in 1944.[1].

Military career

In October 1939, after World War II broke out in Europe, Roosevelt resigned the lieutenant colonel's commission he had been given in 1936, and was commissioned as a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserves. In November 1940, he went on active duty. In early 1941, the President sent him to the Middle East as a military attaché with the British forces. He travelled extensively in the area, and observed several important campaigns. [3]

In August 1941, he joined the staff of William J. Donovan, Coordinator of Information, with the job of working out the exchange of information with other agencies.[1]

After Japan's Attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt requested assignment to combat duty. He transferred to the Marine Raiders, the Marines' commando force, and became second-in-command of the 2nd Raider Battalion under Evans Carlson. His influence helped win Presidential backing for the Raiders, who were opposed by Marine traditionalists.

Roosevelt served with the 2nd Raiders at Midway, and in the Makin Island raid, where he earned the Navy Cross. He was given command of the new 4th Raiders, but was invalided in February 1943. He served in various staff positions during the rest of the war. In November 1943, he accompanied Army troops in the invasion of Makin, and was awarded the Silver Star by the Army. He retired from active duty in October 1945, with rank of Colonel.

He continued in the Marine Corps Reserves, and retired in 1959 at the rank of Brigadier General.[3]

James suffered from having flat feet, so while other Marines were required to wear boots, he was allowed to wear sneakers.[citation needed]

Postwar business career

After the war, Roosevelt returned to live in California. He rejoined Roosevelt and Sargent as an executive vice president, and established the company's office in Los Angeles. In 1946 he became chairman of the board of Roosevelt and Haines, successor to Roosevelt and Sargent. He later became president of Roosevelt and Company.

After retiring from politics in 1966, he became president of the International Overseas Services Management Company. [1]

Postwar political career

On July 21, 1946, Roosevelt became chairman of the California State Democratic Central Committee. He also began making daily radio broadcasts of political commentary. Roosevelt was prominent in the movement to draft Dwight Eisenhower as the Democratic candidate for President in 1948. When President Truman was renominated instead, Roosevelt stepped down as state chairman on August 8. He remained a Democratic National Committeeman until 1952.[1]

In 1950, Roosevelt was the Democratic candidate for Governor of California, but lost to incumbent Earl Warren by almost 30%.

In 1954, Roosevelt was elected U.S. Representative from California's 26th congressional district, a "safe" Democratic district. He was re-elected to five additional terms, serving from 1955 to 1965. Roosevelt was one of the first politicians to denounce the tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy. He was also the only Representative to vote against appropriating funds for the House Un-American Activities Committee.

In April 1965, Roosevelt ran for Mayor of Los Angeles, challenging incumbent Sam Yorty, but lost in the Democratic primary.

He resigned from Congress in October 1965, 10 months into his sixth term, when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him a delegate to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO). Roosevelt resigned from UNESCO in December 1966, and retired to private life.

Despite having been a liberal Democrat all of his life, James Roosevelt supported President Nixon's re-election in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.

His writings include Affectionately, FDR (with Sidney Shalett, 1959) and My Parents (with Bill Libby, 1976).

Roosevelt died in Newport Beach, California in 1991 of complications arising from a stroke and Parkinson's disease. He was 83 and was the last surviving child of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.


Roosevelt's first marriage was to Betsey Cushing, daughter of famed surgeon Harvey Cushing. They divorced in 1940. By the end of his life, Roosevelt had had four wives and seven children.


  • Sara Wilford (born Sara Delano Roosevelt, March 13, 1932)
  • Kate Roosevelt Whitney (born February 16, 1936)
  • James Roosevelt, Jr. (born November 9, 1945)
  • Michael Anthony Roosevelt (born December 7, 1946)
  • Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (born January 10, 1948)
  • Hall Delano Roosevelt (born June 27, 1959)
  • Rebecca Mary Roosevelt (born April 12, 1971)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g James Roosevelt Papers. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  2. ^ a b c "Modern Mercury". TIME. February 28, 1938.,8816,931070,00.html. Retrieved August 10, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES ROOSEVELT, USMCR". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved August 10, 2009. 


United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Sam Yorty
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 26th congressional district

Succeeded by
Thomas M. Rees


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