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Oklahoma Memories

Theodore Roosevelt's Birthday

2010-10-23

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"I realized before I had been twenty-four hours at Sagamore Hill that nothing in my upbringing had in any way prepared me for the frenzied activity into which I was plunged. Something was going on every minute of the day. The house was always full of people. The telephone never stopped ringing. Conferences were held continually, and in the evenings, my father-in-law received the newspaper men."

That is the voice of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the daughter-in-law of the 26th President of the United States.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

We remember him today as the 26th President of the United States - a leader of the Republican Party and Progressive Party, Governor of New York, professional historian, naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier. He is most famous for his personality, his energy, his vast range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his "cowboy" personality.

It was on October 27, 1858, that Theodore Roosevelt was born. His youth differed sharply from that of the log-cabin presidents. He was born in New York City in 1858 into a wealthy family, but he too struggled - against ill health - and in his triumph became an advocate of the strenuous life.

In an interview recorded before his death, TR's son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., tells of his father's childhood.

"By the time he was only ten or twelve he was really actively [unintelligable]. There's a family story telling how his elder sister objected when she found he was keeping dead mice in the icebox. He's supposed to have remarked solemnly on hearing this that 'she was obstructing science."

In 1884 his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother both died on the same day. He later remarried. Roosevelt spent much of the next two years on his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota. There he mastered his sorrow as he lived in the saddle, driving cattle, hunting big game, and he even captured an outlaw.

Roosevelt had always been fascinated by naval history. Urged by Roosevelt's close friend, Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge, President William McKinley appointed a delighted Roosevelt to the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897. Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the Spanish-American War and was an enthusiastic proponent of testing the U.S. military in battle. When the Spanish-American War began, TR resigned his position with the Navy and accepted a Lt. Colonelcy in the Army and helped organize the first Volunteer Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Leonard Wood. Roosevelt came out to the Indian Territory and recruited cowboys and Indians from what would become Oklahoma to serve in his unit. A member of the first volunteer Cavalry, Henry P. Fletcher, recalls charging up San Juan Hill; the soldiers were on foot under heavy fire; Roosevelt was riding his horse.

"He was riding a little Bay horse, pony really, and one of the little Texans lying in the grass alongside there, said ""Well, Colonel, if you get off that damned horse we'll get along alright."" Colonel got off the horse, and after that he had to puff to keep up going with us because he wasn't quite as spry as some of us. However, we got up there, and very soon the thing was over."

Following the war, Roosevelt was elected governor of New York, where he gained a reputation as a trust buster. In 1900 he was placed on the Republican ticket as candidate for vice president with William McKinley. They easily won the election, but six months after taking office McKinley, while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, was assassinated. Following McKinley's death, Roosevelt became the youngest man to ever serve as president. In 1904, he ran for a full term as president again, easily winning. It was during this term as president that Roosevelt oversaw the admission of Oklahoma as the 46th state.

You can learn more about the Rough Riders and Roosevelt's influence in combining the Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory into one territory before statehood by visiting the galleries at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center. I'm Michael Dean.