The Roosevelt Children: John (1916-81)

Figure 1.-

John was the Roosevelt's sixth and youngest child. Like his sinblings, he grew up on the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park. John was 5 years old when his father contracted polio, confining him to a a wheelchair for what proved to be the rest of his life. This meant that John had a different relationship than the older children with their formerly very active father. Eleanor was concerned that the younger children would miss out on the outdoor physical activities that the older children had enjoyed with their father. Eleanor Roosevelt as a result learned to swim and skate. She not only took John and Franklin Jr. (Close in age to John) camping and a trip to Europe. John was uncharacterically involved in a drunken brawl and an attack on the mayor in Cannes, French which raised eyebrows in the states (1937). John and Franklin, Jr. were very close to each other as they were only 2 years in part. The two younger boys were also closer to their mother than the older Roosevelt children had been. Historians speculate that by this time the once rather formal nd stand offish Elenor had mellowed and had become a mpre emotionlly open mother. Franklin's disability may have also been a factor. One hitorian writes, "John had grown up with less emotional connection with his parents than any of the others." [Collier] Family discussions seem to confirm that John was the son least like his father, perhaps because he had less time with him as he was so young when his father was struck by polio. This was reflected in many ways, including polio. His brother James who wrote in detail about the family wrote, that John 'had the smoothest, least exciting life of all of us.' James also said that John was 'the least close to father.' James also thought John 'the most thoughtful and businesslike of us.' [Roosevelt, James.] John attended private preparatory boarding schools (The Buckley School and Groton School). at the time his father was elected president, John was in boarding school. John then entered Harvard. While John was still at Harvard, the President found him a summer job working in forestry for the Tennessee Valley Authority--one of the New Deal's many projects. His supervisor subsequently wrote the Fiurst Lady privately telling her that John seemed convinced in 'the psychology of making one's way by influence and association rather than by hard work and personal achievement.' Historians are not sure wht to make of this. Many historiand think that this description was more desri[ptoive of John's brothers. [Collier, p. 361.] After graduating, john got a John at Filene's Department Store in Boston. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor then changed the lives of the Roosevelt children like other Americans. John initially wanted to rgister as a concientious objector. That os course would have caused a political firestorm. The family convinced him against that. He served in the Navy during World War II. He had a safe shore postig, but insisted on a combat role, serving ith desiction on the carrier US Wasp. He married twice, the first time to Anne Lindsay Clark. He had three children. After the War he became a retailer and investment banker. Politically he was the only Roosevelt son who never entered the political fray and sought public office. He became a Republican and supported Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan.


Collier, Peter with David Horowitz. The Roosevelts (Simon & Schuster: 1994).


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Created: 11:54 PM 2/15/2016
Last edited: 11:54 PM 2/15/2016