Theodore Roosevelt: Biography, Major Facts and Notable Achievements
The popular saying, “speak softly and carry a big stick” was made by Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore was an astute politician with an interesting personality who despite the challenges life threw at him rose to win the Nobel Peace Prize (1906) as well as become the 26th President of the United States of America (1901-1909).
Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858 in New York to Theodore Roosevelt Senior and Martha Bulloch Roosevelt. He was born into one of the Old Dutch families. The young Theodore was the second of four children. Frail and sickly, Roosevelt wasn’t a strong child at birth and was diagnosed with asthma. His mother pampered him but his father was against this. His father wanted him to make an effort in fighting the weakness in order to grow into a strong man. As a teenager, he began weightlifting and boxing to help him overcome some of his health issues.
Theodore was homeschooled, and at 18 he entered Harvard University where he studied science. He juggled between his studies and sportsmanship. He also attended Columbia Law School where he later dropped out to pursue politics. In his free time, he engaged extensively in sports and writing. Roosevelt wrote many critically acclaimed books, notably in hunting and politics.
At an early age, Theodore developed an interest in zoology when he saw a dead seal in the market. Together with his cousin, he started a museum called: ‘The Roosevelt Museum of Natural Resources’. On his 22nd birthday, he married Alice Hathaway Lee. The couple was blessed with a daughter four years later. However, two days after his daughter’s birth, he lost his wife to kidney failure. Tragedy again struck the grieving Theodore when his mother died of typhoid fever eleven hours after his wife’s death. He was struck with so much grief that he handed the care of his daughter to his sister. Roosevelt later came back for her after she had turned three years old.
Theodore Roosevelt’s passion for politics was evident right from his twenties. He took part in several Morton hall meetings, and just at the age of 28, Roosevelt defeated the Republican state assemblyman in an election. He did not stop there. His meteoric rise continued steadily through the rank and file of the Republican Party.
Ultimately, he became the 26th President of the United States on September 14, 1901. Prior to that, Roosevelt had been Vice President of the United States for about 6 months. He assumed office when the then-U.S. President William McKinley died on September 14, 1901. President McKinley was shot by a crazy anarchist by the name Leon Czolgosz at the Pan American Exposition on September 6, 1901.
Roosevelt injected a lot of energy into the presidency and won a second term in 1905. He is regarded as someone that brought big economic and political changes to Washington D.C. One of such changes came when he became the first president to entertain an African American in the White House.
As at the time that he first took office in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt was 42 years, 322 days. This made him the youngest president of the United States of America. This is a record that he still holds even after a century since his death.
Major Achievements of Theodore Roosevelt
- As president, he had a lawsuit filed against the beef trust that controlled at least half of beef sales. He won the case and succeeded in destroying the beef trust.
- He played an instrumental role in the Elkins act of 1903. This act gave the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) enough power to sanitize the railroads and shipping industry.
- In 1898, Theodore Roosevelt along with Army Colonel Leonard Wood formed the first United States Voluntary Cavalry during the Spanish-American War. They were popularly known as the Rough Riders. Their efforts played a significant role in helping the United States claim victory over Spain. Roosevelt was praised for his brave actions and awarded (posthumously) the Medal of Honor in 2001.
- As U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt set up a fact-finding commission to handle the coal strike of 1902 by the United Mineworkers of America. The strike affected tens of millions of Americans. Roosevelt was able to amicably negotiate and get the mine workers to call off the strike. This was after workers had received a 10% increment and their working hours reduced by an hour.
- When the people were angry over the adulteration of food and drugs, Theodore Roosevelt pushed for the passing of the Pure Food and Drugs Act and the Meat Inspection Act in 1906. The Pure Food and Drugs Act banned impure products or food and drugs wrongly labeled from being produced, sold or shipped. It became a requirement that all active ingredients should be on the labels of products. The second law stopped meat and its products that were not well branded or were adulterated from being sold. It was also a requirement that meat slaughtering and processing took place in sanitary environments and conditions.
Theodore Roosevelt complained of breathing issues on the night of 5th January 1919. He was treated by his doctor, George. W. Faller. He went to bed feeling better. It is said that the last words he uttered were asking his family servant James Amos to put out the light. He died in the early morning in his sleep after a blood clot traveled from a vein into his lungs.
Interesting Facts about Theodore Roosevelt
- In Harvard, he was not very much like his peers. Though he was clever, he was rough and a bit loud. He’d shout out for a friend if he saw him across a distance. He’d also hit his hand across his palm to make a point. Regardless of all these, Roosevelt was not the type to shy away from making friends and being warm.
- After the death of his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, he married Edith Carow in 1886.
- He was a skilled writer. He wrote a number of books, including Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and a four-volume book titled winning of the west.
- As president, Roosevelt went virtually blind in his left eye after a boxing partner struck him really hard in a boxing match.
- Along with the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt’s face appears on Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota.
- His fifth cousin was the 32nd U.S. President and WWII hero Franklin D. Roosevelt. Theodore’s niece, U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, married Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Attempted Assassination of Theodore Roosevelt
On October 14, 1912, Teddy Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a mentally unstable man called John Schrank. The former U.S. president was on his way to give a speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rather than receive immediate medical attention, the former New York National Guard and hero of the Spanish-American War went ahead to give his speech, which lasted for close to one and half hours!
Medical examinations and x-ray scans showed that the bullet, which had lodged in Roosevelt’s chest muscle, failed to touch his pleura (the pulmonary pleurae) – two opposing layers of serous membrane (i.e. visceral pleura and parietal pleura) that overlie the lungs and the inside of the surrounding chest walls. The doctors decided it was best not to remove the bullet as it was much safer to have the bullet stay in Roosevelt’s chest compared to the risk involved in removing it. As a result, Teddy Roosevelt carried the bullet for the rest of his life.
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