|Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States|
1. Teddy Roosevelt was born in 1858 in New York City, to a wealthy family of Dutch ancestry. His niece, daughter of his brother Elliot, was future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor's husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a distant cousin to Eleanor and Teddy and shared their last name.
2. A sickly child who probably suffered from asthma, Roosevelt devoted himself from an early age to intellectual pursuits, particularly zoology and biology, and later took up sports, competing in boxing and rowing after enrolling at Harvard in 1876. After graduating near the top of his class and entering the New York State Assembly, Roosevelt published a scholarly historical account of the U.S. Navy in the War of 1812, which he began writing in college. It is still in print today and is considered one of the "standards" in the scholarly study of that war.
3. Roosevelt had married a woman named Alice Lee in 1880, having announced their engagement on Valentine's Day earlier that year. Four years later, Alice was pregnant and due around Valentine's Day 1884. The baby arrived on February 12th, while Roosevelt was still away at the capital. He returned home late on the 13th to find both his widowed mother - who lived at the family home - and his post-partum wife gravely ill. In the early morning hours of February 14th, his mother died, apparently of typhoid, and just a few hours after that, his wife died as well, from complications with the birth.
|Roosevelt's diary entry from February 14, 1884|
4. Over the next 15 years, Roosevelt spent time as a rancher, writer, a commissioner of the U.S. Civil Service, the Superintendent of the New York City Police Department, and also made a failed run for mayor of New York City. In 1897, he was named Assistant Secretary of the Navy by president William McKinley, but resigned the position after just a few months in order to serve in the Spanish-American War.
5. Roosevelt attained the rank of Colonel in the war, leading a regiment of cavalry that came to be known as the Rough Riders. They were heavily involved in the charge of San Juan Hill, one of the war's bloodiest and most pivotal battles. Roosevelt earned great fame and notoriety for his achievements, and was nominated for a Congressional Medal of Honor, but it was not bestowed on him until 2001 - making him the only U.S. president to ever win the award.
6. After returning to civilian life later in 1898, Roosevelt was elected governor of New York. Like his other jobs in the 1890's, he would serve in this capacity for only a brief time, before being added to the re-election ticket of president William McKinley in 1900. When McKinley was assassinated just a few months after taking office, Roosevelt was sworn in as president on September 14, 1901. At 42, he remains to this day the youngest person to ever hold the office of the presidency.
7. A major reformer as president, Roosevelt devoted significant time developing governmental oversight and regulation of big corporations, and fighting for the rights of workers. He was also instrumental in the completion of the Panama Canal. In 1906, following his efforts to negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese War, he was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. Together with his Congressional Medal of Honor in 2001, he is the only person in history to receive both his country's highest military award, and the world's highest peace award. After keeping the White House in 1904, he declined to run again in 1908, instead supporting the eventual winner, William Howard Taft.
8. During the ensuing Taft administration, Roosevelt began to regret his decision, and became one of Taft's biggest critics. Roosevelt ended up running for president again in 1912 on a third party ticket - the so-called Bull Moose Party, which effectively split the Republican vote and allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win easily. Roosevelt, however, became the only third party candidate in U.S. history to win more votes than a major party candidate. During the campaign, Roosevelt was shot by an assassin in the chest, but the bullet did not penetrate his lungs, lodging instead in the tissue of his chest, and it remained there for the rest of his life. Certain that the bullet had not done mortal damage, Roosevelt went ahead and gave the campaign speech he had been about to give, opening by casually telling his audience that he had just been shot.
9. Following his failed third party run, Roosevelt devoted the remainder of his life to supporting Progressive Republican politics, making expeditions into remote areas of the world, and campaigning against American neutrality in World War I. Roosevelt died in 1919, from a heart attack while he slept. He was only 60 years old, but his travels into the jungles of South America had ruined his health, a boxing accident during his presidency had rendered him blind in one eye, and he had developed inflammatory arthritis. He was buried near his home in New York.
10. Roosevelt's youngest son, Quentin, joined the budding U.S. Air Service during World War I, and was shot down and killed over France in 1918. During World War II, Roosevelt's oldest son, Teddy Jr., was a brigadier general who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day. Like his father many years later, he would also win his award posthumously - he died of a heart attack just a few weeks after the landing. Roosevelt's oldest child - Alice - from his first marriage, outlived all her younger half-siblings, dying at the age of 96 in 1980. She was a controversial figure who married a prominent politician, mothered a child through an affair with another politician, and, at the age of 90 in 1974, famously proclaimed on 60 Minutes that she was a "hedonist."