Harry Lloyd Hopkins

Harry Lloyd Hopkins (1890-1946), American statesman, was a Federal relief administrator and personal confidant and emissary of President Roosevelt during World War II.

Harry Hopkins was born in Sioux City, lowa, on Aug. 17, 1890, the son of a harness maker. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1912. His first job was in social work, and he became increasingly committed to this field. Hopkins was a strong partisan of New York governor Alfred E. Smith and of Franklin Roosevelt. In 1931 Hopkins became chairman of New York State's emergency relief administration. When Roosevelt became president, Hopkins was appointed to head the Civil Works Administration.

In May 1935 Hopkins became administrator of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). He was a determined foe of "the dole, " insisting upon the principle that men should be given useful work to do, not subsidized in idleness. He showed remarkable administrative ability. Though he was compelled to attend to political considerations in appointing subordinates, the operations of his agency were carried out efficiently. In the course of his activities more than $8.5 billion was disbursed, and at the height of WPA more than 3 million people were on its rolls. Hopkins got highways, bridges, public buildings, and parks constructed and initiated important projects in conservation and public health. An important aspect of Hopkins's program was the employment of displaced musicians, artists, actors, and writers. An agency was established to resettle or provide loans for indigent farmers; a subordinate agency, the National Youth Administration, gave young people a chance to earn money to pay for part of their education. A rural electrification program was also enacted. In all, some 15 million people benefited from the program.

In 1938 Hopkins was appointed secretary of commerce, but in this office he accomplished little. In May 1940, after his wife's death, Hopkins moved into the White House with his daughter. After the 1940 election he became interested in foreign affairs and acted as Roosevelt's emissary on trips to Great Britain and, later, to the Soviet Union. He won the complete confidence of Winston Churchill, who described him as "Lord Root of the Matter." During his first trip to the Soviet Union he procured useful information on conditions there through personal conversations with Premier Stalin.

Though racked by severe pain, and the victim of a wasting disease, Hopkins outlived Roosevelt. His last public service was a mission to Moscow at the request of President Harry S. Truman to prepare for the Potsdam Conference of 1945. Hopkins died in New York City on Jan. 29, 1946.


Further Reading on Harry Lloyd Hopkins

Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (1948; rev. ed. 1950), contains considerable biographical material on Hopkins. For the political background see Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Roosevelt (3 vols., 1957-1960).