This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, Jr. TR as he liked to be called was the 26th President of the United States, but really he was much more than that. He was a soldier, a lawman, an author, an explorer, environmentalist, and father. Although he enjoyed his years in the White House as president, he was truly happy when he was either outdoors or spending time with his family. For the kid in all of us, the famous “Teddy” bear is named after him. (Left: White House photo)
There was much more to this man than met the eye. He was born October 27, 1858 in New York City. At a young age he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He organized and commanded a volunteer cavalry regiment called the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War of 1898. He led a charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba and became a war hero. In 2001 he was belately awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry in that battle. He had been written up for his country’s highest military honor at the time, but politics got in the way. This was not an honorary award, but very deserved. He is the only president to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor. After he returned from the war he was elected Governor of New York state.
He married Alice Lee in 1880. After Alice gave birth to his first daughter in 1884, also named Alice, she died suddenly. TR was devastated with grief. He left his young daughter in the care of family and went west to North Dakota. There he actively ran his cattle ranch and became a lawman. As a lawman he once brought some outlaws to justice. He went 40 hours without sleep bringing them in. To keep awake he read a book. When he ran out of reading material, he resorted to a paperback one of the thieves had in his saddlebag. He returned to the east and married Edith Carow his childhood sweetheart in 1886. The had five children. (Above: Regular issue stamp depicting TR issued in 1955, Liberty Series)
President William McKinley selected TR as his vice-presidential running mate for the election of 1901. McKinley was re-elected to his second term and TR became vice-president of the United States. Many of the Republican party hated the choice because TR’s beliefs were not theirs.
On September 5. 1901 while visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, President McKinley was shot. It appeared he would recover, but he died on September 14, 1901. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. succeeded to the presidency at age 42. He is still the youngest person to become president (John F. Kennedy was the youngest elected president at age 43). He served out McKinley’s term and was elected by a landslide in 1904 to his own term as president. After the election for some unfathomable reason he announced publicly he would not seek another term. This became one of his biggest regrets. By announcing this he gave the green light to others to actively campaign for the presidency in the 1908 election. He served almost 8 years in the White House, most of McKinley’s second term and his own 4 year term.
After he left the presidency at a young age of fifty, he explored in South America and wrote books. He is the author of 35 books including his autobiography. He did run for the presidency one more time in 1912 under the Progressive party banner. The offshoot of the Republican party was nicknamed the “Bull Moose” party primarily because of its candidate, TR. As a result of the vote split, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected president.
(Right: American stamps saluting the “Teddy” bear.)
TR was seriously preparing for a run at the presidency in the election of 1920, but he died suddenly on January 6, 1919. His health had suffered from recurring bouts of malaria contracted during his African and South American explorations. He was only 60 years of age at the time of his death, but he lived life to the fullest by any measure.
TR is a fascinating man who lived a life filled with adventures and history. I will be posting more on his life and times.