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5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Franklin D. Roosevelt

Credits: The U.S. National Archives

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States. He contributed many to the cure for polio, ensuring future generations would not suffer the disease’s paralyzing effects. FDR was also the sitting president when the United States entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

There was more this president than meets the eye. Despite being one of the most well-known, there a few things many do not know about him. Here’s a list of little-known facts about FDR:

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1. Concealed Handicap from The Public

President FDR was no stranger to presenting the image of a strong-willed man. While vacationing in Canada in the summer of 1921, Roosevelt felt extremely ill, spelling the first of many indications of his future polio diagnosis.

Roosevelt became paralyzed from the waist down, going through painful sessions of physical therapy, gaining only limited mobility with the aid of steel leg braces and a cane. Aside from walking with braces and holding the arm of a companion, the president spent most of his life in a wheelchair.

Thanks to a few old-school camera tricks, Roosevelt was able to keep under wraps just how bad polio affected his health. The most frequent images of him in public were either snapped of him sitting in a car or standing at a podium. And if anyone managed to snap a shot of the wheelchair, the film was seized immediately.

2. Elections were Landslides

The oddest thing about Franklin Delano Roosevelt is what he accomplished during the terms he was elected. A large group known as the “New Deal Coalition,” consisting of different cultures and socio-economic groups, stood united in their effort to ensure Roosevelt’s presidency for four terms.

At the peak of the Great Depression, FDR beat out his not-so-liked opponent Herbert Hoover with the electoral votes tallied at 472-59. The rest of the election were massive landslides as well: 1936 against Alf Landon (523-8), against businessman Wendell Willkie in 1940 (449-82), and then finally against Governor Thomas Dewey of New York in 1944 (432-99).

And the popular vote? 53.4% was always counted for Roosevelt during the elections he was a part of.

3. No President Will Ever Sit Longer

George Washington, in 1796 chose to bow out of the presidency after 8 years. For nearly a century, everyone adhered to an unwritten rule created inadvertently by the first president’s retirement from the position.

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Teddy Roosevelt made an attempt at running for as long, but it was his distant relative FDR who managed to hit a third term in 1940. With the Nazi Regime a threat that needed to be addressed, it seemed people accepted who was willing to do the job.

With Franklin D. Roosevelt having served over 12 years, talks grew for legislation to limit a president’s term, giving birth to the 22nd amendment of the Constitution.

The amendment was ratified in 1951 to include the clause “no person shall be elected… president more than twice.”

4. Supreme Court Member Increase?

During his time as president, Roosevelt did many things that people had mixed feelings about. He actually proposed a plan in 1937 meant to increase the number of justices from nine to a total of 15.

When it came to any justice over 70 who would not willingly retire, another justice would be added. Even the Democratic Party he was a part of did not support his plan.

FDR didn’t get his 15 justices but after his death, seven of the nine sitting justices were appointed by him.

5. He Had a Half-Brother

Not a whole of a lot of people knows (and I didn’t until today) that Roosevelt had a half-brother. The only child of his mother Sara Delano and James Roosevelt, his father had a son from a previous marriage.

James, named after FDR’s father, was born in 1854, making his half-brother and mother about the same age. “Rosy,” as his half-brother was nicknamed, had a family by the time FDR was born in 1882. He was so young compared to his brother, that he spent time playing with his biological niece and nephew, both close in age to him.

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Did you find the facts about the 32nd president interesting? Was it familiar or did you find out something new you didn’t know before?

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