World War II Biographies: Harry Lloyd Hopkins (United States, 1890-1946)


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Parents


Childhood

Harry Lloyd Hopkins was born in Sioux City, Iowa, (1890).

Education

Hopkins graduated from Grinnell College (1912).

Social Work

Hopkins After graduating from Grinnell began as a social worker in New York City (1912).

New York Politics

Hopkins was active in Democratic Party politics. He was a strong supporter of colorful New York governor Alfred E. Smith. Smith was nominated for president by the Democrats (1928). This left the governmship opened and Franklin Roosevelt who had been struck by polio sought the office. Smoth was defeate in a Republican lsndslide, but Roosevelyvwas narrowly elercted. The Depression began soon after (1929) and ceconomic condictions streadily declined (1930). Governor Roosevelt appointed Hopkins xecutive director of the New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (1931). Because of his efforts fighting the Depression in New Yoek, the Democrats nominated Govenor Roosevelt (1932).

New Deal

Hopkins rose to national prominence during the New Deal. President Roosevelt after winning the 1932 presidential election brought Hopkins to Washington from New York to work on social welfare issues. Hopkins became one of President Roosevelt's closest, probably his closest, advisors. One of Roosevellt's actions during the First Hundred Days (1933) was to crerate the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. He appointed Hopkins its chief officer. This was just his first New Deal appointment. He directed the Civil Works Administration (CWA, 1933-34) and the Federal Surplus Relief Administration (FSRA). His most prominant appointment was tgo lead the Works Progress Administration (WPA, 1935-38). WPA became the center-pice of the New Deal relief effort. Hopkins favored creating jobs rather than direct financial assistance. WPA was a huge agency. It put Hopkins at the center of the New Deal relief effort. Hopkins in his first five minutes as director spent $5 million, quite alarge amount at the time. He told a friend, "I'm not going to last 6 months here, so I'll do as I please." The WPA at its peak was the largest employer in America, employing more than 3 million people. Hopkind found himself responsible for the building of highways, bridges, public buildings and parks. WPA not only oversaw public works, but found jobs foe artists, writers, and actors. Hopkins susequently worked as Secretary of Commerce (1938-40). The huge cost and breath of operation of WPA made it a focus of Republican crticism. This mean that Hopkins himself was criticised for overspending and boondoggling. President Roosevelt appointed Hopkins Secretary of Commerce (1938-40). As Europe spirled toward war, however, the President turned to Hopkins as an unofficial advisor on foreign affairs.

World War II

The Battle of Britain made a German cross-Channel invasion impossible in 1940. The triumphant German Wehrmacht, however, dominatd Europe. The Royal Navy was hard-pressed in the Atlantic. It was unclear at the end of 1940 if the British were prepared or able to continue the fight. The President while on a vacation cruise receive a letter from Prime Minister Churchill explaining that Britain was prepared to continue the fight, but was running out of money to purchase weapons and raw material. This letter would set in motion two actions. He decided to send Harry Hopkins o Britain. Second, he began to formulate Lend Lease. Before commiting America's defence to Britain, the President needed to know know just how determined Britain was. The American Army was still not equipped with modern arms. Should America provide the still limited production of armaments to Britain before its own military was equipped. Many around Roosevelt, including his closest adviser Harry Hopkins, were unsure how closely Roosevelt should tie American defenses to Britain. Roosevelt dispatched Hopkins to assess Britain's determination and situation. Churchill did not understand just who Hopkins was. His advisers told him that Hopkins was close to the President. Informed of Hopkin's WPA work, Churchill thought he was a social worker and began giving him statistics about loos (bathrooms) and electrity in British slums. Hopkin's interupted him. "Mr Churchill, I don't give a damn about your cottagers. I've come over here to find out how we can help you beat this fellow Hitler." Of course nothing could have pleased Churchill more. Churchill rose and said, "Mr Hopkins, come with me," and the two disappeared into Churchill's study. Churchill proceeeded to escort Hopkins all over the United Kingdom, from rhe Royal Navy Scappa Flow in northern Scotand to the Channel beach defenses in Kent. Hopkins was shocked by the ruins left by the Luftwaffe in British cities. They spent time together at Chequers, brcoming fast friends. Churchill called him "Lord Root of the Matter". Churchill completely converted him to the British cause. No one really knew what Hopkins would say in private to the President when he returned to Washington. At a small dinner party hosted by Lord Beaverbrook before he returned, Hopkins rose to propose a toast. "I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return. Well I am going to quote to you one verse from the Book of Books. ... "Whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people shall be by peple, and thy God my God." Hopkins then added in on ending, "Even to the end." Tears were streaming down Churchill's face. [Goodwin, pp. 213-213 and Meacham] Hopkins became the administrator of Lend Lease, the American program to supply Britain and the other Allies.

Final Years

Hopkins helped arrange the Potsdam Conference for Harry S. Truman in the closing days of the War. After this because of failing health, he retired from public life. He died in New York City (1946).






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Created: 5:16 AM 1/12/2011
Last updated: 5:16 AM 1/12/2011