Roosevelt, Theodore, Jr.


Theodore (Ted) Roosevelt, Jr. (1887-1944), was the eldest son of Theodore and Edith Kermit Roosevelt. Ted shared his famous father’s passion for hunting, exploration, and soldiering. He married Eleanor Butler Alexander, the daughter of a prominent New York family, in 1910. His family included four children, Grace, Theodore III, Cornelius, and Quentin II. Tired of living in various places, Ted and Eleanor built Old Orchard, now part of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, in 1937-1938, on land that Edith had sold them.

Bearing the name of a famous parent placed enormous strain on Ted. During his childhood Ted crumbled under the weight of his father’s lofty expectations. Like his Uncle Elliott before him, young Ted experienced frequent migraine headaches. Alexander Lambert, a family friend and physician, warned TR to stop pressuring his sensitive son.

After attending the Groton School in Massachusetts, Ted followed his father’s example by enrolling at Harvard. TR was concerned that Ted’s interest in football would hinder his academic performance, but Ted did well at Harvard and was selected for membership in the prestigious Porcellian Club. Following his 1909 Harvard graduation, Ted became a partner in the Philadelphia investment banking firm of Montgomery, Clothier and Tyler (the Tylers were Edith’s cousins). Although Ted enjoyed professional and financial success, he longed to serve in the military as an officer.  

World War I gave Ted the opportunity to realize his ambition, one that his father had previously discouraged him from pursuing.  Eleanor, eager to accompany her husband to France, left the children in Edith’s care, and assumed responsibility for supervising Y.M.C.A. female volunteers in the country. 

In 1918, while still recovering from a poison gas attack, Ted was shot in the left kneecap. Luckily, while Ted was under medical care, he received a visit from his brother-in-law Dr. Richard Derby. After examining the injury, Derby transported Ted to Blake’s Hospital (the same institution where Ted's brother Archie was convalescing). The move probably saved Ted’s leg and, quite possibly, his life.

After the war Ted served as an officer with the Army Reserves. In 1919 he was elected to the New York Assembly, a position he held until President Warren G. Harding asked Ted to become the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In 1924 Ted won the New York Republican Party’s nomination for governor, only to fall to the popular incumbent, Governor Al Smith. He later served as Governor of Puerto Rico (1929-1932) and Governor General of the Philippines (1932-1933). After leaving public service Ted accepted a position as vice president with Doubleday Doran, a publishing company.

During the next global conflict, Ted enlisted for service and was soon promoted to Brigadier General. His actions during the Allied landing at Normandy, on June 6, 1944, earned him the Medal of Honor. Sadly, General Roosevelt, the oldest officer serving in combat, died of a heart attack a few weeks later on July 12, 1944. He was buried in the American cemetery in Sainte-Laurent-sur-Mer, near Normandy. His younger brother Quentin, who died in combat during World War I, was reinterred next to Ted the following year.