Essential Facts About F.D.R.

By Grace Taylor

Portrait of American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) as he sits behind the wheel of his car outside of his home in Hyde Park, New York, mid 1930s. (FPG/Getty Images)

He Was The Longest Serving President

It seems impossible today, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to serve four terms as U.S. president, although he died 11 weeks into his final term, bringing his total time as president to 13 years. While he was a popular wartime president, it was tradition to step down after eight years, as George Washington had done, and Roosevelt's long tenure was viewed by his opponents as "the most dangerous threat to our freedom ever posed." Two years after Roosevelt's death, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment, which formalized the two-term limit.

One Of The Greats

Despite his controversial extended stay in the White House, F.D.R. is consistently ranked by historians and the public alike as one of the greatest U.S. presidents in history, often falling just behind Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. His respect was hard won, as he led America through some of the greatest struggles of the 21st century, from the Great Depression to World War II. One of his most impactful accomplishments was enacting the New Deal, an unprecedented federal effort that created vast public works projects, regulations, and Wall Street reforms and paved the way for an era of progressivism that brought about safety nets like Social Security.

Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law, August 14, 1935. (Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

He Was Kind Of Related To Another Great

It's no coincidence that F.D.R. shared a surname with another revered U.S. president. Teddy Roosevelt—the 26th president, known for his own progressive movement, the Square Deal—was his fifth cousin, but they were arguably more closely related by marriage. Franklin's wife, Eleanor, was actually a Roosevelt by birth and Teddy's niece. F.D.R. was also distantly related to 10 other presidents: both John and John Quincy Adams, James Madison, Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, William Henry Harrison, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and William Howard Taft.

Rare photograph of Roosevelt in a wheelchair, with Fala and Ruthie Bie, the daughter of caretakers at his Hyde Park estate. Photo taken by his cousin Margaret Suckley, February 1941. (Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library/Wikimedia Commons)

He Greenlit The Manhattan Project

In 1939, few people understood the true potential of an atomic weapon, but Albert Einstein was certainly one of them. Having fled his homeland of Germany due to the rise of Nazism, Einstein worried about Hitler making the bomb first, so he and Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard urged F.D.R. to get on it. He agreed with little hesitation to create a military project which eventually became the Manhattan Project, a program so secret that Vice President Harry Truman didn't even know of its existence until he was briefed following Roosevelt's untimely demise on April 12, 1945 from a stroke.

He Really Loved Stamps

Did you know one of America's greatest presidents was also an avid stamp collector? He began collecting as a child, and at the time of his death, his haul boasted over one million unique stamps. In the time since his death, 80 countries across the world have honored his legacy by featuring his image on their own stamps.

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Grace Taylor