Childhood & Early Life
James Roosevelt, the second child of six children born to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president of the United States, and his wife Eleanor, received his early education from schools in Washington, D.C.
Like his father, he attended the Groton School, an elite boarding school in Massachusetts. There, he excelled in rowing and football, and became a prefect in his senior year. He graduated from Groton in 1926.
Following in his father’s footsteps, he attended Harvard University. He was also member of the Signet Society, Hasty Pudding Club, and the Fly Club. He passed out of Harvard University in 1930.
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James Roosevelt began to study law at the Boston University School of Law, but gave it up when his co-owned insurance agency, Roosevelt & Sargent Inc., became successful, and he became its president.
He assisted his father at the Democratic National Convention in 1924. After passing out of Harvard, he led FDR’s Massachusetts primary campaign and acquired the reputation of being his deputy.
He became close to Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. who aided him in many controversial businesses including liquor importing, while he ensured Kennedy’s appointment as Ambassador to the U.K.
In the 1936 elections, in a controversial move, he received a direct commission to the Marine Corps. As a military aide, he escorted his father, the President, to the Inter-American Conference at Buenos Aires.
In 1937, he was officially appointed Secretary to the President, and coordinator for eighteen federal agencies. He resigned from his posts over allegations of misuse of official position to his insurance company’s advantage.
He went to Hollywood and worked for producer Samuel Goldwyn, till 1940. He established Globe Productions to produce short films. He also produced the James Stewart starrer, ‘Pot o' Gold’.
Controversy hounded him in Hollywood too. He was close to the movie tycoon Joseph Schenck who lent him money for his ventures. Schenck was jailed for his association with the Mafia.
In 1939, he was re-commissioned as a captain in the Marine Corps Reserve. Just before the U.S entered WWII, he was part of secret diplomatic missions to China, Egypt, and Greece.
When America entered the War, he asked to be assigned combat duty and became the second-in-command of the 2nd Raider Battalion. He saw action at Midway and Makin Island.
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Ranked as a colonel, he was released from active duty after the war ended, but continued in the Marine Corps Reserve until his retirement in1959, as a Brigadier General.
He became the executive vice president of Roosevelt and Sargent, its chairman after it was renamed Roosevelt and Haines, and the president of Roosevelt and Company, Inc.
He was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1966, as a delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He resigned from UNESCO after a year.
He became an executive of the Investors Overseas Service (IOS) in Geneva. IOS was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for irregularities. He resigned in 1971; no charges were brought against him.
Despite having been a liberal Democrat all his life, he joined Democrats for Nixon and publicly supported President Nixon's re-election in 1972. He also supported Ronald Reagan.
In the 1980s, his non-profit organization, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, came under the scanner for questionable money raising practices, and for mail fraud.
His books include ‘Affectionately, FDR’ which he co wrote with Sidney Shalett in 1959, ‘My Parents, a Differing View’ co-written with Bill Libby and the novel, ‘A Family Matter’ with Sam Toperoff.