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Howe, Louis M. (Louis McHenry), 1871-1936

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Biographical Note:Louis McHenry Howe (1871-1936) was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and moved to Saratoga Springs, New York, where he attended the Saratoga Institute, a private day school. His father had purchased the Saratoga Sun in 1882 and Louis worked for him, eventually taking charge of the publication when his father became ill. He also assumed his father's supplemental position as local reporter for the New York Herald.

In 1906, Howe became involved in an attempt to reform the Democratic Party in New York State. As a newspaperman Howe was able to serve the anti-Tammany organization in many ways. In 1910 he met the young Senator from Dutchess County, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Drawn together by mutual political interests, the two became close friends. When Roosevelt was ill with typhoid fever during his 1912 campaign for re-election to the Senate, Howe carried the campaign to a successful conclusion. Howe went to Washington in 1913 as secretary and, later, special assistant to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt. He was mainly a "trouble-shooter" using his political acumen to cut through government red tape. The eight years in Washington were probably the most stable ones the Howe family ever enjoyed. When Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, Howe committed himself to the job of secretary, friend and confidant, which was to be his for the rest of his life. He was a nurse, business manager and morale booster for Roosevelt, encouraging him to make ship models, which were pitted against other models in challenge cup races. Howe wrote skits and poems and made up watercolor booklets about experiences he and Roosevelt had shared. One such story was "The Log of the Houseboat Larooco" (now in the Roosevelt Family, Business and Personal Papers). He also managed to keep Roosevelt's name before the public in anticipation of the time when Roosevelt would be ready to run for governor in 1932 and for the presidency in 1936.

The 1928 draft of Roosevelt changed the timetable but not the program. Howe managed Roosevelt's gubernatorial campaigns and acted as his secretary and chief advisor during the two terms as governor of New York State. In 1932 he and James Farley went to the convention in Chicago to secure the presidential nomination for Roosevelt. After the election Howe supposedly remarked that he had probably worked himself out of a job. To some degree this was true. Howe lived at the White House and had an office close to the President, but it was no longer possible for him to handle all the demands the job placed on a secretary. He established the first Press Intelligence Service, for which he was secretary and, later, executive director of the National Crime Commission and was actively involved in plans for the Civilian Conservation Corps and Subsistence Housing projects, particularly Arthurdale.

The heart condition and chronic asthma, which had plagued Howe most of his life began to take its toll. He was dangerously ill by April 1935, but even after he was hospitalized in August of that year, he continued to be involved in affairs of government and in plans for the 1936 campaign. He suggested the creation of a Roosevelt Good Neighbor League to organize "non-partisan" clubs throughout the country. This was an effort to involve Republicans who supported Roosevelt but did not wish to be labeled Democrats. Howe did not live to see Roosevelt re-elected. He died on April 18, 1936.
Source Note:NUCMC data from N.D. Inst. for Reg. Studies for Doyle, S.J. Papers, 1890-1940
(Louis Howe)
WwWA, 1943
(Howe, Louis McHenry, 1871-1936; secretary and adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt; s. Edward Porter and Eliza Blake (Ray) H.; m. Grace Hartley; with N.Y. herald (1888-1915); afterwards served Roosevelt in various capacities)
NUCMC files
(Howe, Louis M.; Howe, Louis McHenry, 1871-1936)

 

 
 

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