OBITUARIES : Son of the 32nd President : Ex-Rep. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., 74

Staff and Wire Reports

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., a former congressman who looked, spoke and acted like his famous father, died of cancer Wednesday, his 74th birthday.

The third son of the nation’s 32nd President died at a hospital here. He lived in nearby Millbrook.

Christopher Roosevelt said his father died of lung cancer. “It was a very late diagnosis and very fast moving.”

Roosevelt, a liberal Democrat who came of age while his father was in the White House, began his own political career in 1949 when he defeated the Tammany Hall-backed Democratic candidate for New York’s 20th Congressional District seat. He served three terms in Congress, retiring in 1955.


Although Roosevelt bore a striking resemblance to his father and even shared a mannerism of throwing his head back when he laughed, he said in a 1954 interview with the Associated Press that his father did not train him in politics.

But in a Saturday Evening Post article, young Roosevelt remembered his father urging him to become a lawyer because it was good preparation for a political career.

He said one of the most valuable lessons he learned from his father was “not worrying.”

He recalled that his father “always did the best he could, and slept soundly at night. He never worried. Neither do I.”


When first elected to Congress, Roosevelt said his victory was “proof that we are experiencing a revolution in American politics” and predicted the end of “big-city party organizations formerly held by irresponsible clubhouse loafers.”

But Congress was the only race won from the powerful Tammany machine. He lost the Democratic nomination for governor in 1954 to W. Averell Harriman, who was supported by Tammany boss Carmen DiSapio.

As a consolation, he was nominated for attorney general but lost that race to the popular Republican Jacob K. Javits.

He left public office after that to practice law. In 1957 he was severely criticized by fellow Democrats for having taken Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo as a client.

In 1966 Roosevelt, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Virginia Law School, ran for governor again on the Liberal Party ticket, knowing he would lose but determined to force the Democratic bosses to open the nominating process to the voters in primary elections.

A close friend and ardent campaigner for John F. Kennedy, Roosevelt served as Kennedy’s undersecretary of commerce when the Massachusetts senator was elected President and was the first chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

At the time of his death, Roosevelt was chairman of the executive committee of the Mickelberry Corp., and chairman of the board of the Park Avenue Bank in New York.

His last public appearance was June 4 when he visited the ancestral home of the Roosevelt family in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands, which has been turned into the Roosevelt Study Center.


Roosevelt, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, was awarded the Navy Cross, Legion of Merit, a Purple Heart, a Navy commendation medal and seven campaign ribbons for meritorious service.

He was the fourth of the five Roosevelt children. His sister, Anna Roosevelt Halstead, the eldest, died in 1975, and John, the youngest brother, died in 1981. His father died in 1945 and his mother in 1962.

Two other brothers survive: James, who served six terms as a California congressman, and Elliott, a writer and rancher.

His other survivors include his wife, the former Linda Stevenson Weicker, five children from previous marriages and eight grandchildren.