Theodore Roosevelt (pronounced /ˈroʊzəvɛlt/; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), also known as T.R., and to the public (but never to friends and intimates) as Teddy, was the 26th President of the United States.
A leader of the Republican Party and of the Progressive Party, Theodore Roosevelt was a Governor of New York and a professional historian, naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier.
Theodore Roosevelt is most famous for his personality: his energy, his vast
range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his "cowboy"
image. Originating from a story from one of Roosevelt's hunting expeditions,
teddy bears are named after him.
As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore prepared for and advocated war with Spain in 1898. He organized and helped command the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment—the Rough Riders—during the Spanish-American War. Returning to New York as a war hero, he was elected governor. An avid writer, his 35 books include works on outdoor life, natural history, the American frontier, political history, naval history, and his autobiography.
In 1901, as Vice President, the 42-year-old Theodore succeeded President William McKinley after McKinley's assassination by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. As of 2009, he remains the youngest person to become President. He was a Progressive reformer who sought to move the dominant Republican Party into the Progressive camp. He distrusted wealthy businessmen and dissolved forty monopolistic corporations as a "trust buster". He was clear, however, to show that he did not disagree with trusts and capitalism in principle, but was only against corrupt, illegal practices. His "Square Deal" promised a fair shake for both the average citizen (through regulation of railroad rates and pure food and drugs) and the businessman.
Theodore Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to call for universal health care and national health insurance. As an outdoorsman, Theodore Roosevelt promoted the conservation movement, emphasizing efficient use of natural resources. After 1906 he attacked big business and suggested the courts were biased against labor unions. In 1910, he broke with his friend and anointed successor William Howard Taft, but lost the Republican nomination to Taft and ran in the 1912 election on his own one-time Bull Moose ticket.
Theodore Roosevelt beat Taft in the popular vote and pulled so many
Progressives out of the Republican Party that Democrat Woodrow Wilson won in
1912, and the conservative faction took control of the Republican Party for the
next two decades.
Theodore negotiated for the U.S. to take control of the Panama Canal and its construction in 1904; he felt the Canal's completion was his most important and historically significant international achievement. He was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize, winning its Peace Prize in 1906, for negotiating the peace in the Russo-Japanese War, an interesting irony considering his promotion of national warfare as a useful tool.
Historian Thomas Bailey, who disagreed with Roosevelt's policies, nevertheless concluded, "Theodore was a great personality, a great activist, a great preacher of the moralities, a great controversialist, a great showman. He dominated his era as he dominated conversations....the masses loved him; he proved to be a great popular idol and a great vote getter." Theodore Roosevelt's image stands alongside Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. Theodore has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents. Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt were fifth cousins but were close and Theodore gave away his orphaned niece, Eleanor Roosevelt, in marriage to "cousin Franklin" in 1905.
This Theodore Roosevelt Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub