5 Things You Didn't Know About FDR

On April 12, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away after four terms in office, leaving Vice President Harry S. Truman in charge of a country. Here are 5 surprising facts about the only U.S. president to be elected four times…


His Handicap Was Largely Hidden From the Public Roosevelt was 39 in 1921 when he contracted polio, which paralyzed him from the waist down. With extensive physical rehabilitation, he was finally able to use leg braces and a cane to get on his feet. For the most part, however, he used a wheelchair to get around. The media over the years was cooperative by showing Roosevelt only standing or seated, so the public was unaware of the extent of his disability until after his death.

Roosevelt Had a Special Car Designed so He Could Drive Roosevelt owned a 1936 Ford Phaeton convertible that was specially equipped so he could drive it without using his legs. It also included an automatic cigarette dispenser that would have made NASA proud. Roosevelt preferred a convertible because it made it easier for him to interact with the public without having to stand up. After FDR died, his wife, Eleanor, drove the car until 1946 and then donated it to a museum with only 19,143 miles on the speedometer.


Roosevelt Won in Landslides Every Time He Ran for President Roosevelt was elected four times as president, appealing to diverse voting groups such as members of labor unions, Southern whites, Jews, Catholics, small farmers, and blacks. In his first election in 1932, as the Great Depression was in full swing, he defeated Herbert Hoover by an electoral vote of 472 to 59.  He then vanquished Kansas Governor Alf Landon in 1936 (523 electoral votes to eight), businessman Wendell Willkie in 1940 (449 electoral votes to 82) and New York Governor Thomas Dewey in 1944 (432 electoral votes to 99), winning at least 53.4 percent of the popular vote each time.

He Appointed 8 Supreme Court Justices Fed up with the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down several New Deal laws, Roosevelt in early 1937 proposed expanding it from nine to as many as 15 justices. Roosevelt attempted to “pack the bench” and bring more liberals onto the Supreme Court, but lost this power struggle against the other branches of government. Apart from former President George Washington, Roosevelt appointed the most justices to the Supreme Court. During his twelve years in office, Roosevelt appointed eight new members of the Supreme Court, and elevated Justice Harlan Fiske Stone to Chief Justice. 

FDR Showed His Gratitude Through Cufflinks If you were a man on FDR's good side, you were likely to walk away with a set of cufflinks – a tradition that began during his 1920 bid for the vice-presidency. As a way of saying thank you, he gave each man on the campaign a set from Tiffany's, then the tradition continued, and soon anyone who'd earned their accessories met up every year for FDR's birthday.