A presidential fascination

“When he finally told me that name…Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I thought ‘I better keep that name in mind.’”

William Leuchtenburg remembers the first time he heard FDR’s name. He was seven years old, sitting in school assembly. FDR was then governor of New York. Soon after Leuchtenburg’s parents would let him stay up to listen to the radio as FDR became the presidential nominee at the 1932 Democratic National Convention.

The American presidents—particularly FDR—have been a lifelong fascination for Leuchtenburg, now a 93-year-old scholar. He spent countless hours with Eleanor Roosevelt after FDR’s death, helped Robert Kennedy organize JFK’s historical archives, and, quite literally, was on the receiving end of a clumsy Gerald Ford crashing into him while waiting in a cafeteria line for lunch. His latest book, “The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton,” presents anecdotal accounts of the 20th-century presidents, each overflowing with wit and intrigue. And he has three more books in the works, one of which looks at the presidency from the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to 1900.

Read the complete Carolina Story from Endeavors…

This is story number 179 in the Carolina Stories 225th Anniversary Edition magazine.

William Leuchtenburg is the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at UNC-Chapel Hill. He taught history for 20 years there before retiring in 2002.

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