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Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary

John Aspinwall Roosevelt, the sixth and last child of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, was a businessman, philanthropist, and, unlike the rest of the Hyde Park Roosevelts, a Republican. He was also the only one of ER's sons who did not have political aspirations.

John and his next oldest sibling, Franklin Jr., were much closer to ER than the three older Roosevelt children had been in part because by the time they were born, she was more comfortable as a parent and in part because of the polio that struck FDR when John was five years old. Conscious of her husband's disability and determined that the younger children should not miss out on the sports and physical activities that their older siblings had enjoyed, ER learned to swim and skate. She also took John and Franklin Jr. camping and to Europe and urged them to live boldly and self-reliantly.

Educated at Groton and Harvard, John worked at Filene's Department Store in Boston until World War II broke out in 1941. He served in the navy until 1946 and thereafter pursued a business career on the West Coast. In 1952, he became a Republican so he could support Dwight Eisenhower's bid for the presidency. John's defection from the Democratic party and his subsequent leadership of Citizens for Eisenhower caused family friction as ER strongly supported the Democratic presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson. The tension was exacerbated when John and his family moved into Stone Cottage next door to ER's home at Val-Kill that same year. He and his brother, Elliott, who lived at nearby Top Cottage, did not get along and Elliott left shortly after John and his family arrived. John subsequently acquired what remained of the Hyde Park property Elliott had farmed with ER. More importantly, the presence of John and his family enabled ER to live at Val-Kill until her death in 1962. She saw John's children often and was particularly close to Sara who died in a horseback riding accident in 1960.

In 1967, John joined Bache and Company. He retired as a vice-president in 1980. His philanthropic activities included serving as a fund raiser with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which FDR had founded, membership on the executive committee of the Greater New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and service as a trustee of the State University of New York.

Within three years of ER's death, John divorced and remarried. In 1970, he sold the Val-Kill properties. Thereafter, he and his second wife lived on an estate in Tuxedo, New York. He died of heart failure in 1981.
 


Sources:

Graham, Otis L. Jr. and Meghan Robinson Wander. Franklin D. Roosevelt: His Life and Times. New York: Da Capo Press, 1985, 372.

Cooke, Blanche Wiesen, Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume One, 1884-1933. New York: Viking Press, 1992. 327-329, 412-415.

Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt Volume Two, 1933-1938. New York: Viking Press, 1999, 22.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. New York: Touchstone Books, 1994, 635.