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From the despair of the Great Depression to the international crisis of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the U.S. through the darkest periods of the 20th century. Despite his public centrality to the course of world events, Roosevelt presented himself as an approachable character through his inclusive fireside chats, while at the same time keeping his paraplegia hidden from the general public. His choices transformed the U.S. from an isolationist country into an international peacekeeper. The New Deal reforms expanded the role of the federal government through the creation of the first national welfare system.

But Roosevelt doesn’t only garner positive reviews. The American public has long been critical of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, mass internment of citizens and “extreme disregard for civil liberty” through executive overreach. Roosevelt and the ramifications of his choices continue to be reflected upon by politicians and historians alike.

The legacy of Roosevelt retains relevance in modern politics. President Barack Obama quoted Roosevelt in a 2013 address on Syria, where he put the modern crisis into historical context. Obama said that American “ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.” In the sixth Democratic debate, both Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the importance of Roosevelt’s legacy. Jeff Shesol, a speechwriter for former President Bill Clinton, claims the current Republican decision to block the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice is a constitutional crisis akin to Roosevelt’s conflict with Congress and subsequent attempt to pack the Supreme Court with additional seats. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz attacked fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s use of language, saying it stands in “fairly stark contrast” to oratory greats such as Roosevelt, Lincoln and Kennedy.

InsideGov illuminates facets of this legendary 32nd president with 25 facts from our presidential database. The list of figures is ranked from smallest to largest.

1 Year of Unemployment

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In 1944, Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly known as the G.I. Bill. It provided World War II veterans with programs that aided in education, training, health and loans for home or business investments. It also provided a year of paid unemployment for veterans.

1 First Dog

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Fala, short for Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, was a devoted Scottish terrier that accompanied Roosevelt during his duties in the White House and on trips. Fala ended up outliving Roosevelt and was buried near the president’s grave.

2.6 Percent Inflation

Over the course of Roosevelt’s presidency, the inflation rate averaged 2.6 percent. In 1933, the interest rate reached negative 5.19 percent, which reflected the stagnant economy during the Great Depression. The average indicates a balanced economy. According to the Federal Reserve, an ideal inflation rate is closer to 2 percent, which signals stability and protects a country from deflation.

4 Freedoms


In his 1941 State of the Union address, Roosevelt laid out what he saw as four essential freedoms: “freedom of speech and expression,” “freedom of worship,” “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear.” He said he envisioned a future world order founded upon these freedoms, in direct opposition to the Axis Powers’ “new order of tyranny.”

4 Years

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Before his time in the White House, Roosevelt served for four years as the governor of New York. During this time, he created the New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, which provided emergency relief to the unemployed through public works programs, a precursor to the New Deal policies.

4 Landslide Elections

Roosevelt led four successful presidential campaigns. He won the 1932 presidential election by a landslide and came into office with a Democratic majority in both the Senate and House. Four years later, he again secured a large majority in the popular and electoral vote. In 1940, Roosevelt broke from the tradition of presidents serving only two terms and won a third term. During the height of World War II in 1944, Roosevelt ran for re-election again and won.

5th Cousin, Once Removed

On March 17, 1905, Roosevelt married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, his fifth cousin, once removed. Former President Teddy Roosevelt, her uncle, walked her down the aisle. As a first lady, Roosevelt was active in philanthropic causes. Following the conclusion of World War II, she forged her legacy in human rights through her role as chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

6 Children

The Roosevelts had six children, one of whom died in infancy. All four of their sons served in the military during World War II. The Roosevelts had a total of 27 grandchildren.

7 States

In 1933, as part of the New Deal reforms, Roosevelt established the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The purpose was to bring electrical infrastruture and to control flooding and in the Tennessee Valley region, which includes parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The TVA is the largest public power provider in the U.S.

8 Supreme Court Nominations

Apart from former President George Washington, Roosevelt appointed the most justices to the Supreme Court. He successfully appointed eight new justices, and elevated Justice Harlan Fiske Stone to Chief Justice. Roosevelt attempted to “pack the bench” and bring more liberals onto the Supreme Court, but lost this power struggle against the other branches of government.

The Senate confirmed nine of Roosevelt’s appointments. Eight were nominated for the position of Associate Justice and one was elevated to Chief Justice.

10.8 Percent Annual GDP Growth

The GDP grew significantly during the Roosevelt administration, with an average annual growth of 10.8 percent, considered very high. Although some say the economy began to expand before Roosevelt came to office, this continued economic growth marked the beginning of the recovery from the Great Depression and the war-induced boom.

12 Years and 5 Weeks

On April 12, 1945, Roosevelt died from a cerebral hemorrhage. He spent 12 years and five weeks in office, the longest time for any U.S. president. Roosevelt will continue to hold this record due to the formalized two-term limit created by the 1951 ratification of the 22nd Amendment.

18th Amendment

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To some, one of Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishments was the repeal of the 18th Amendment, which instituted prohibition in 1920. On Dec. 5, 1933, prohibition was repealed with the ratification of the 21st Amendment.

30 Fireside Chats

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Roosevelt held a series of 30 informal evening radio addresses, called “fireside chats.” They started in 1933 and continued throughout his presidency, covering topics ranging from the banking crisis and the New Deal programs to the crisis in Europe. The American public began identifying personally with Roosevelt through these fireside chats.

32nd Degree Mason

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Roosevelt was a 32nd Degree Mason, the highest level of Freemasonry, at the Holland Lodge No. 8 in New York City. Freemasonry is a fraternal society with deep roots in American history. Thirteen other presidents were also Masons.

39 Years

At age 39, Roosevelt contracted polio, which paralyzed his lower body. Researchers, upon a reexamination of Roosevelt’s symptoms, determined his symptoms more closely resembled Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system. The Salk vaccine, introduced in the 1950s, led to the almost complete eradication of polio.

44 Hours

In 1938, Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law. This created a 44-hour work week, minimum wage and overtime pay, and ended child labor. It generally applied to “employees engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for interstate commerce.”

45.5 Percent Annual Debt Increase

Federal government debt ballooned throughout the Roosevelt presidency, with a total increase of over 1,000 percent. The yearly debt increase averaged out at 45.5 percent. In 1944, the federal debt reached 95.5 percent of the GDP.

52 International Trips

Roosevelt, a well-traveled president, was the first president to fly on an airplane as part of his diplomatic duties. This flight was to attend a meeting with British Prime Minister Churchill in North Africa during World War II.

105 Days

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During his first 105 days as president, Roosevelt called a special session of Congress where he successfully pushed through 15 bills for Depression Era relief. The action reshaped the role of the federal government at the time.

200 Stamps

U.S. Post Office / Wikimedia

Roosevelt was an avid stamp collector, even anointed the “Patriarch of Stamp Collecting.” During his presidency, he approved over 200 new stamps.

937 Refugees


The SS St. Louis disembarked in May 1939 with 937 passengers, many of them European Jews, on a journey from Germany to Cuba. Their plan was to seek asylum from Cuba, but the majority of passengers were rejected once they landed. The passengers requested entry into the U.S. but, with the yearly immigration quota filled, Roosevelt ignored the appeal. Americans expressed uncertainty their economy could handle the influx of refugees, and questioned whether Axis spies could hide among the group. Eventually, the SS St. Louis sailed back to Europe, where 254 of the remaining passengers died in the Holocaust.

120,000 Japanese Americans

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia

Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the relocation of people who could be a national security threat. This forced nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes and into a network of internment camps for the remaining years of WWII. Americans of Italian and German ancestry were also subjected to internment programs during this period.

3 Billion Trees

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia

The Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program, employed young men in natural resource conservation. From 1933 until its dissolution in 1942, it employed over three million men and planted three billion trees.

$5 Billion

Library of Congress / Wikimedia

The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, passed in April 1935, established a variety of federal programs that characterized Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. It created jobs for over 20 million unemployed Americans through public works. The total cost of the program came to nearly $5 billion.