Samuel Irving Rosenman, one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most trusted speech-writers and advisers, was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1896 to Russian-Jewish immigrants. When he was eight years old, his family moved to New York City, where he attended Manhattan public schools and Columbia College. After graduating in 1915, Rosenman studied at Columbia Law School for two years before enlisting in the army in 1917, and then returned in 1919 to finish his LL.B at Columbia. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1920.
Rosenman’s political career began soon after his admission to the Bar when he ran for the New York State Assembly. He defeated the Republican incumbent and won successive annual reelections through 1925. His work on the Assembly attracted the attention of New York’s Democratic leadership and he was appointed as the Democratic member of the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission.
During this period, Rosenman worked closely with New York Governor Al Smith. In 1928, after the Governor decided to run for president and had convinced an unwilling Franklin Roosevelt to enter the gubernatorial race, two leading New York Democrats recommended Rosenman as an adviser who would familiarize Roosevelt with New York’s legislative and political history before the election. Roosevelt asked the young legislator to accompany him on the campaign, and was immediately impressed by Rosenman’s ability to process and present large amounts of information, as well as his remarkably consistent and sound judgement. As the campaign progressed, Roosevelt encouraged Rosenman to draft a number of speeches, and, despite his lack of experience, he soon became one of the leading speech-writers working for the candidate. Roosevelt won the governorship by a small margin of 25,000 votes, while Governor Smith lost the state by more than 100,000 votes. Once elected, Roosevelt wanted to appoint Rosenman as his counsel, but Rosenman was reluctant to leave his position at the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission. He was also aware that previous gubernatorial counsels had done little to assist previous administrations. A few days after Roosevelt had approached him, Rosenman read in the news that he had already been appointed Counsel to the Governor. When he called Roosevelt to find out who had made the erroneous announcement, Roosevelt told him, “I made up your mind for you.”
After four years serving as Counsel to the Governor, Roosevelt appointed Rosenman to the Supreme Court bench of the State of New York in 1932, later referring to the appointment as “cutting off my right hand”. Rosenman continued to work for the governor in his spare time, however, helping him with the Jimmy Walker hearings and actively working on his gubernatorial speeches. Rosenman again accompanied him when he entered the ’32 presidential campaign, and then proposed and organized the “Brain Trust”, a group of scholars brought together to help formulate the policies that would later constitute the New Deal. When Roosevelt won the Democratic nomination at the Chicago convention, he delivered a speech prepared largely be Rosenman; neither he nor Rosenman had paid special attention to the section of the speech that pledged “to a new deal for the American people”, but historians would later credit Rosenman for coining one of the most prophetic and important phrases in the history of the United States.
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Donor: The Elizabeth & Robert Rosenman Charitable Foundation
Source: The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute