Theodore Roosevelt

Born October 27, 1858 - Died January 6, 1919

Theodore Roosevelt was an American soldier, politician and President of the United States.

Roosevelt was born on October 27th, 1858 in Manhattan, New York. Roosevelt is the uncle of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. His father's fourth cousin is the father of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As the son of a socialite and a prominent businessman, Roosevelt was home schooled until he went to Harvard College. In his youth he traveled extensively with his father despite having an issue with Asthma. He discovered by pushing himself, his Asthma symptoms reduced and at his fathers encouragement begin exercising regularly. After a camping trip where two boys manhandled him, he found someone to train him in boxing. At Harvard, he won a boxing tournament. After graduating from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude, he briefly went on to Colombia University to study law. He left Colombia to pursue a career in the political arena.

From a young age Roosevelt was interested in conservation and the natural world. At the age of 9 he saw a dead seal at the docks. He acquired the animals head and taught himself taxidermy. He, along with friends, opened a natural history museum of sorts. He studied animals he killed or found and then prepared them for display. He even began studying insects and wrote a paper titled "The natural history of insects."

Roosevelt wrote a book while at Harvard. It was a study of the United States Navy during the War of 1812. The book later opened political doors for him, including getting him an appointment as the Assistant Secretary of War leading up to the Spanish American War.

On the state level, Roosevelt served as a State Assemblyman in New York. He got a reputation as a strong leader and someone who refused to back down in the face of political corruption. In fact through all of his political career and in all levels of Government he fought to make sure there was a level playing field. Later he was appointed to the Civil Service Commission, president of the New York City Police Commissioners board and eventually Governor of New York after the Spanish-American War. In all of the above position he fought the corruption he found. At the time Roosevelt became the president of the New York City Police Commissioners board, the NYPD was the most corrupt law enforcement agency in the country.

President William McKinley appointed Roosevelt as the assistant Secretary of the Navy. The current Secretary was a person who had no interest in the job and was in failing health, so Roosevelt was allowed to run the Navy largely as he saw fit. Roosevelt pushed with McKinley the idea the United States needed to get Spain out of Cuba for two reasons. First to allow Cuba to declare it's independence and second in support of the Monroe Doctrine. Ten days after Roosevelt pushed his idea, the Maine exploded. Roosevelt mobilized the Navy to get it ready for war. The Secretary of the Navy resigned and for only four hours, Roosevelt was the acting Secretary of the Navy. Roosevelt himself resigned and formed the First United States Volunteer Calvary Regiment, which is also known as the "Rough Riders." The Rough Riders trained briefly in Texas, Roosevelt, who briefly served with the New York National Guard, found his experience invaluable while training the Rough Riders. In Cuba, the Rough Riders most notable battle was the Battle of San Juan Hill (also called the Battle of San Juan Heights) for the control of two areas, San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill. Roosevelt led his men up Kettle Hill and they were able to take the hill, at a significant cost of life. Two hundred men were killed and 1,000 were wounded in the battle.

After his return Roosevelt ran for Governor of New York at the insistence of the GOP in the state. Once in office though he ruffled many feathers in the party. He did this by going after corruption in the state and in the process managed to upset people in the powerful insurance industry. It was decided, after McKinley's vice president had passed away from a heart attack, Roosevelt to fill the office. This was after McKinley refused to consider Roosevelt for Secretary of War, fearing Roosevelt's political aspirations. It was during his time as Vice President he uttered his famous quote "Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far." Roosevelt served as Vice President for only 6 months. In September of 1901, McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt was sworn in as President.

Roosevelt's Presidency wavered little from the rest of his political career. He fought against monopolies and other things he did not see as equitable. This included a fight with coal operators who, with a strike looming from coal workers, refused to negotiate until Roosevelt stepped in and threatened to bring in federal troops. The negotiations led to more pay and fewer hours for the workers and no union recognition for the coal operators. He also worked on conservation and continued his fight for the Monroe Doctrine.

After his Presidency, Roosevelt initially supported William Howard Taft for the presidency. When Taft decided he was going to be his own man when it came to decisions, Roosevelt became upset with Taft. The two had a widening gulf between them. In 1911, Roosevelt went up against Taft for the Republican nomination. When it looked like Roosevelt was losing, he formed the Progressive Party and accepted the Progressive Party nomination. In October of 1912, Roosevelt had an attempt made on his life, he was shot in the chest, since he was not coughing up blood (which meant the bullet had not gone into his lung) he decided to continue on with his speech. Roosevelt caused the Republican vote to be split and Woodrow Wilson won the presidency.

On January 5th, 1919, Roosevelt experienced breathing problems. After being treated by his doctor, the symptoms seemed to go away and Roosevelt went to bed. In the early morning hours of January 6th, 1919 Roosevelt passed away in his sleep. When his son sent word to his siblings he simply said "The Old Lion is dead." The sitting vice president under Wilson stated in regards to Roosevelt's passing "Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight."

Roosevelt was a member of Matinecock Lodge No. 806 in Oyster Bay, New York.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.