Roosevelt, James


1983 TLS of FDR’s eldest son and White House aide, WW II Marine commando and Navy Cross recipient, California US Rep


Type: Letter
Description: (1907-1991) Eldest and last surviving son of Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt, businessman, US Marine, activist, and politician. He received the Navy Cross for heroism while a WW II Marine officer, a White House Secretary to his father, and a California US Rep (D).

After Harvard (1930), he began insurance firm, Roosevelt & Sargent. As its president in 1932, he made $500,000 ($9M in 2018 $). He left the firm in 1937 to work in the White House, retaining half ownership. In 1932, he led FDR’s Mass. campaign; FDR lost the primary but easily won the state in the election. James was seen as FDR’s political deputy there, allocating patronage with Boston Mayor Curley.

Close with Joe Kennedy Sr., he was instrumental in securing Kennedy’s appointment as Ambassador to the UK. In April 1936, FDR Secretary Louis Howe died and James unofficially assumed his duties. After FDR’s 1936 re-election, he was commissioned a USMC Lieut. Col. and went with FDR to the 1936 Buenos Aires Inter-American Conference as a military aide. On Jan. 6, 1937, he was named “administrative assistant to the President”; on July 1, he was named Secretary to the President and White House coordinator for 18 US agencies in October, seen as one of FDR’s most important counselors. In July 1938, there were allegations that he used his position to steer business to his insurance firm and resigned his White House position in Nov. 1938. He went to Hollywood to work for Samuel Goldwyn, staying to Nov. 1940.

In Oct. 1939 James resigned his USMC commission, accepting one as a USMC Reserve captain to enter active duty, which he did in Nov. 1940. In April 1941, FDR sent him on a secret diplomatic mission to assure foreign governments that the US would soon be in the war. After Pearl Harbor, he sought combat duty, joining the Marine Raiders in Jan. 1942, a new USMC commando force, and became 2nd in command of the 2nd Raider Battalion (“Carlson’s Raiders”). Served at Midway as a Major in early June 1942 and in the Aug. 1942 Makin Island raid, received the Navy Cross. In Oct., he got command of the 4th Raiders, hospitalized Feb. 1943. From Aug. 1943, he held staff positions, landed with the Army’s 165th Regimental Combat Team, 27th Inf. Div., in the Nov. Makin invasion, awarded Silver Star. Promoted to Colonel April 1944, released from active duty Aug. 1945, USMC Reserve to 1959, retired as Brig. Genl.

He returned to Roosevelt and Sargent, founding its LA office. Chairman of the Cal. Dem. Comm. 1946, lost 1950 election as Governor to Earl Warren. US Rep 1955-65, one of the 1st to denounce McCarthy. In April 1965, he lost to Sam Yorty in the LA mayoral primary. In Oct. 1965 LBJ named him a UNESCO delegate, left Dec. 1966 for Investors Overseas Service in Geneva despite SEC investigations; US charges later dropped against him. With Democrats for Nixon, backed Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1980 & 1984.

TLS on 11 x 8 ½ Chapman College (now University) letterhead as Executive Director of the Chapman Enterprise Institute, Orange, California, May 11 1983. Roosevelt thanks a Washington admirer for his interest in history and public affairs, sends his autograph.”

Condition: Very good, 2 mail folds

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