Study Guide

Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Polio


FDR encountered his biggest hurdle in the summer of 1921. After swimming in the waters near his family's home in Maine, he contracted a crippling disease that left him paralyzed from the waist down. At the time, his physicians thought the disease was polio. More recently, doctors who have re-examined his medical records have suggested that Roosevelt's affliction might have been another disease, Guillian-Barré syndrome. Roosevelt's time in Georgia, as much as anything else in his life, may have helped him understand what it meant to live without, and to envision, a government that could play a more supportive role in ordinary peoples' lives.

Although FDR never regained use of his legs, he regained most of his ability to move the rest of his body. And in 1929—after sitting out for most of what had been a horrible decade for Democratic politicians due to his disease—he continued on the path he'd laid out 22 years earlier by becoming the 44th Governor of New York. Then, after only three years in that office, he announced his candidacy for his final goal: President of the United States.