Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
Twenty-sixth President, 1901-1909
When McKinley was shot, Theodore Roosevelt became the youngest ever president of the United States, at the age of forty-two. A popular war hero from the Spanish-American War in which he led the famous Rough Rider Regiment on the charge up Cuba's San Juan Hill, Roosevelt had a reputation for courage, boundless energy, and idealism, which he amply demonstrated as president. Despite his wealthy origins, Roosevelt felt that it was his duty to protect American workers from the power of wealthy business interests. When Pennsylvania coal miners went on strike for higher wages in 1902, Roosevelt supported the workers and threatened to close down the mines unless the owners agreed to negotiate; he brought both sides to Washington, where the miners won many of their demands. A strong believer in racial equality, Roosevelt was the first president to dine with an African American in the White House. His guest was Booker T. Washington, renowned educator and principal of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
In 1904 Roosevelt was decisively reelected to his second term, during which he continued to support workers and average Americans by crusading as a "Trust Buster" against the unfair price-setting practices of big business. He went after railroad corruption with the Elkins Act, endorsed the Pure Food and Drug Act, and encouraged the vigorous lifestyle he and his large family so enjoyed by doubling the number of national parks and adding 150 million acres to the nation's forest reserve. Although Roosevelt was fond of hunting wild game, his refusal to shoot a captured bear cub on a hunting trip in Mississippi inspired the stuffed toy known today as the teddy bear. Roosevelt's mediation of the Russo-Japanese War won him a 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.