Theodore Roosevelt, the second of four children, was born on Oct. 27, 1858, in New York City. As a child, he struggled against frailty, nearsightedness and asthma. His love for reading helped foster a love for nature and the outdoors. He also exercised vigorously and developed a lifelong interest in what he called "the strenuous life".
He entered Harvard at 18 with the intent of becoming a naturalist. As a senior he began work on a book, "The Naval War of 1812." TR graduated 21st in a class of 177 in 1880 and married Alice Hathaway Lee. After graduation, at the age of 22, Roosevelt joined New York City's 21 District Republican Club and was elected to the New York Assembly.
TR's mother died of typhoid in February 1884, and his wife died later the same day of Bright's disease (a kidney ailment) while giving birth to their daughter, Alice. TR left New York to regain his strength and confidence at the Elkhorn Ranch in the North Dakota Badlands. Returning to NYC in 1886, TR ran unsuccessfully for mayor. That year, he married Edith Kermit Carow, who would bear him five children. Political service to Benjamin Harrison won TR a seat on the Civil Service Commission in 1889. He gained national attention by staging a fight against favoritism. TR's position: Jobs should go to the most qualified applicants.
In 1895, Roosevelt took the post of NYC Police Commissioner and fought Democrats and Republicans to establish a merit system for appointments and promotions. TR was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897. He immediately began building the strength of the Navy.
Concerning an experimental steam-powered naval aircraft, TR wrote, " It seems to me worthwhile for this government to try whether it will work on a large enough scale to be of use in event of war." The war he was referring to was brewing with Spain over control of Cuba.
During the 1898 Spanish-American War, TR resigned to go to battle. He organized the First U.S. Cavalry Regiment "The Rough Riders" and saw action at San Juan Hill. Returning from Cuba a hero, Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York in 1899, and resumed his work for reform. He tightened control of sweatshops and pushed for government supervision of utilities and insurance companies.
TR angered the Republican bosses who were now torn between a desire to get him out of their hair and a wish to exploit his vote-getting vigor. Their solution: Bury him in the Vice Presidency. TR became the running mate of President McKinley in the 1900 election. His popularity increased McKinley's margin of victory. McKinley was mortally wounded by an assassin Sept. 6, 1901. A week later, TR was sworn in as this nation's 26th President.
In his first year as President, TR took action on his calls for reform by suing the Northern Securities Company, then trusts in the beef, coal and sugar industries. TR was also active in conservation. He set aside 150 million acres for national use, doubled the number of national parks and created 16 national monuments.
In 1902, TR moved to create the Panama Canal. He mediated a peace which brought an end to the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, and won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1907, TR sent 16 American battleships around the world. The Great White Fleet was, as TR remarked, "the most important service I ever rendered to peace." In 1909, TR left the White House but continued to live the "strenuous life." He began a Smithsonian-sponsored African safari, bagging more than 500 animals and birds.
He was back in politics for the 1912 election though TR's "Bull Moose" party never gained the support needed to bring him to the presidency again. TR stumped hard for the Liberty Bond drive after the outbreak of war in Europe. However, with the death of his son, Quentin, in 1918, TR's spirit began to wane. In the early morning of Jan. 6, 1919, Roosevelt died.
"Death had to take him sleeping," said Vice President Thomas R. Marshall. "For if Roosevelt had been awake, there would have been a fight." Roosevelt was the first president to fly and the first to submerge in a submarine, as well as the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he supported research and development in carrier aviation.
In naming CVN 71, former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman said, "(TR) was one of the architects of our modern Navy. His complete faith in the necessity for a strong Navy has been fully justified by most recent history."