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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 437

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This is the grave of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr.

Born in 1914, the fifth child of FDR and Eleanor, Jr graduated from Groton in 1933, Harvard in 1937, and the University of Virginia School of Law in 1940, which without doing a ton of research is a hard law school to figure out for an elite like FDR Jr in the 1930s and I am going to assume he was no great shakes as a student. Further research may suggest a reason but I have actual things to do other than to investigate this. Interestingly, in 1936, he developed a case of strep throat so severe that it was seen as life threatening. But being the president’s son, he had access to the best in medicine, which at that time was Prontosil, the first commercially available sulfonamide drug. The success in curing him basically made antibacterials a thing in the U.S. Getting sick is undoubtedly his greatest achievement.

FDR Jr actually fought in World War II in a reasonably meaningful way, despite daddy bringing him to all the big international conference. He was a junior naval officer and was bombed at times and then commanded a small destroyed escort that brought down some Japanese planes. He won a bunch of awards; I’m not going to explore the details of them all, but I imagine with some confidence that some were received because of who he was and some because he did some legit things. Which makes him better than LBJ at least, not to mention W, Cheney, Rumsfeld, President Bone Spurs, etc.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t really believe in much in the way of ideology. He was a great president, perhaps for that reason. He was a practical man who did what was needed for political reasons. But despite Eleanor being an absolutely amazing person, Franklin had a lot more influence over the trajectory of the boys. So while Eleanor became one of the greatest liberals in the nation’s history, before during and after her husband was president, Jr and his brothers all came out for Eisenhower to dump Truman in 1948. He had all the charm and the magnetism of his father and none of the brains or savvy. He personally represented the loathsome murderous maniac Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo for the New York law firm he worked for. He was a good Democrat in the broader sense and served a few terms in Congress in the early 50s. But he received very little respect. Sam Rayburn thought he was a rich asshole, someone who was kind of bright, but not nearly so much as he thought and figured he was too good to do things like show up to committee meetings. When his brother James reached Congress, he told him to “not waste our time like your brother did.” Ouch. But that wasn’t really going to stop him–after all, he was FDR’s son. So he decided to run for the governor of New York in 1954. He was dissuaded from this very bad idea and given the attorney general slot instead, which he promptly lost to Jacob Javits, even as every other statewide Democrat was elected.

After an utterly pointless third party run on the Liberal Party ticket against Nelson Rockefeller in 1958, Jr managed to secure some sweet appointed positions beginning in 1961 thanks to being friendly with JFK. Kennedy named him Undersecretary of Commerce–the perfect position for a low achieving rich guy whose father is the greatest man in the history of the party. He was not nearly as close with LBJ, who didn’t like that kind of rich snob who couldn’t do anything for him, not to mention someone so close to Kennedy.

But he could be useful so Johnson named him head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1965. He only served for a year. I can’t quite recall where I read this recently, but I did read something about the EEOC and women under FDR, Jr, and just what a total disaster it was, basically because Jr. couldn’t take the idea of women facing discrimination on the job as a serious thing. They were women after all! Does it surprise you that he was also married 5 times? Again, see above about which parent was more influential.

Later in life, he did such rich guys things as run some of Jaguar’s car distribution and invest in horses. Then he died in 1988, on his 74th birthday, from another habit he picked up from daddy–smoking.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., is buried in Saint James Episcopal Cemetery, Hyde Park, New York.

If you would like this series to visit other presidential relatives, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Billy Carter is in Plains, Georgia and…Roger Clinton is still alive? Oh. Well…In that case, Robert Tyler, son of John and Confederate government functionary and victim of possibly the worst portrait of the 19th century, is in Montgomery, Alabama. Yes, this is a chance for you all to mention the fact that Tyler has living grandsons on a thread for only the 33,000th time. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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