02 August 2011

The Children of FDR

By Carrie Lofty

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had six children with his wife, Eleanor, although the first FDR Jr., born in 1909, also died that year. A second FDR Jr. would eventually be christened in 1914. Thus five of his children survived into adulthood, all of whom lived to advanced ages during a tumultuous century.

His firstborn, a daughter named Anna, emerged into the world only 14 months after her parents' marriage. During two marriages, first to a stockbroker and then to a newspaper editor, she was active in both writing and editing. As Eleanor Roosevelt began to take a more active interest in social causes, FDR invited Anna to move into the White House and serve as the official hostess. Thus Anna was preset at the Yalta Conference and for many of the major political functions during WWII. Eventually she and her third husband became active in labor relations, the Kennedy Administration, and various other political and public relations enterprises. She died in 1975 of throat cancer at the age of 69.

FDR welcomed his first son into the world a year after Anna. After attending Harvard and the Boston School of Law, James Roosevelt campaigned for his father's 1932 election. His business in insurance became so successful that he dropped out of law school and began working full-time for his father's administration in 1937, first as Presidential Secretary. He became a commissioned Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps, serving first as an attache to British forces before requesting an active duty post. He served with the controversially forward-thinking Marine Raiders and earned the Silver Star, eventually retiring as a Brigadier General in 1959. He also went to Hollywood, then served as a US Representative from California between 1955-65, during which time he actively spoke against Joseph McCarthy. He eventually published several memoirs, married four times, and fathered seven children. He died at age 83 in 1991 of Parkinson's, the last of FDR's children.

Elliott Roosevelt was born in 1910, eventually following in his older brother's footsteps by becoming an active member of the Armed Forces during WWII. He enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, the forerunner to the Air Force, and served as a pilot and commander. After flying over 300 combat missions, he retired a brigadier general upon the war's conclusion. He never achieved the same level of success in civilian life. He raised horses in Portugal, worked on a ranch in Texas, and lived on the property Eleanor bought on his behalf. He died in 1990 at age 80, after having been married five times. He fathered five children and adopted four.

FDR's third surviving son, name FDR Jr., contracted a serious strep infection in 1936 that was successfully treated with new sulfonamide antibiotics. Because of his father's fame, FDR Jr.'s recovery and the press that followed ushered in a new era of antibiotic acceptance among the US public, which greatly aided in wartime medicine. He eventually married five times and fathered five children, with his primary life's work revolving around politics and the law. He also imported cattle and Fiats, until his death in 1988 of throat cancer on his 74th birthday.

The last child born to FDR and Eleanor was John Aspinwall Roosevelt. He served in the US Navy as a lieutenant and received the Bronze Star. After marrying a woman whose father was staunchly Republican, John "defected" to the Republican Party, which caused considerable friction in his solidly Democratic family. That tension only increased as he actively campaigned for the likes of Eisenhower and Nixon. Despite his active interest in politics, he was the only of his brothers who never campaigned for public office. He retired as vice president of an investment firm in 1980, before heading up various charity organizations. He married only twice and fathered four children before his death in 1981 at age 65.

What I find most fascinating about the Roosevelt children is the participation in armed service. Can you imagine the children of any modern-era president serving on the front lines of a major conflict, or even being allowed to do so? Amazing, really!

SONG OF SEDUCTION's sequel from Carina Press, PORTRAIT OF SEDUCTION, is now available! Later this year watch for Carrie's new Victorian series from Pocket, as well as her "Dark Age Dawning" romance trilogy from Berkley, co-written with Ann Aguirre under the name Ellen Connor. "Historical romance needs more risk-takers like Lofty." ~ Wendy the Super Librarian