This page provides brief biographies of notable New Dealers. We are working up bios for all the people listed here, but if you think there’s an important name left off the list, write us!
For more information on any New Deal program mentioned here, please go to our New Deal programs page.
NOTE: After Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, New Dealers appear in alphabetical order.
Henry Alsberg (c.1880-1970)
Director of the WPA’s writing program (or “Federal Writers’ Project”), ca. 1935-1943.
Jacob Baker (1895-1967)
Assistant administrator in the FERA and WPA; a driving force behind the creation of Federal Project Number One; studied cooperatives in Europe as part of a presidential-formed committee (1936).
Hugh Bennett (1881-1960)
Director of the Soil Erosion Service, 1933-1935; Director of the Soil Conservation Service, 1935-1952.
Adolf Berle, Jr. (1895-1971)
Member of FDR’s “Brains Trust”; Helped develop New Deal policies.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1873-1955)
Director of the Division of Negro Affairs, National Youth Administration, c. 1936-1943; Member of FDR’s “Black Cabinet.”
Clara Beyer (c.1892-1990)
Labor Department administrator; adviser to Frances Perkins.
John Carmody (1881-1963)
Member of National Labor Relations Board, ca. 1935-1937; Administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration, 1937-1939; Administrator of the Federal Works Agency, 1939-1941.
Benjamin Cohen (1894-1983)
Worked with Thomas Corcoran to craft New Deal legislation.
Thomas Corcoran (1900-1981)
Worked with Benjamin Cohen to craft New Deal legislation.
Homer Cummings (1870-1956)
U.S. Attorney General (1933-1939); Member of the Committee on Economic Security.
George Dern (1872-1936)
Governor of Utah, 1925-1933; FDR’s Secretary of War, 1933-1936.
Mary Dewson (1874-1962)
Director of the Women’s Division of the Democratic National Committee, 1933-1936; Adviser on the Committee on Economic Security, c. 1934-1935; Member of the Social Security Board, 1937-1938; ; Close friend of the Roosevelts.
William Douglas (1898-1990)
Chairman of the SEC (1937-1939); Supreme Court Justice (1939-1975).
Francis Dryden (1891-1968)
WPA Administrator for Maryland, ca. 1935-1940; WPA Field Representative for RegionII, ca. 1936-1940; Assistant WPA Commissioner, ca. 1941-1942; Acting Director of the WPA, 1942.
Marriner Eccles (1890-1977)
Chairman of the Federal Reserve, 1934-1948.
James Farley (1888-1976)
U.S. Postmaster General, 1933-1940; Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 1932-1940.
Robert Fechner (1876-1939)
Director of the Civilian Conservation Corp, 1933-1939.
Hallie Flanagan (1890-1969)
Director of the WPA’s Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939.
James Fly (1898-1966)
Top attorney for TVA, 1934-1939; Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, 1939-1944.
Corrington Gill (1898-1946)
Assistant Administrator in FERA, CWA, and WPA (1933-1941); Frequently called for a permanent public works program for unemployed.
Harry Hopkins (1890-1946)
Head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, 1933-1935, Civil Works Administration, 1933-1934, and Works Progress Administration, 1935-1938; Secretary of Commerce, 1938-1940.
Louis Howe (1871-1936)
Close advisor to Franklin Roosevelt, during Roosevelt’s political career in both New York and D.C.; Also became a close advisor to Eleanor Roosevelt.
Cordell Hull (1871-1955)
Secretary of State, 1933-1944; Called “Father of the United Nations” by FDR; Awarded Nobel Peace Prize, 1945.
Harold Ickes (1874-1952)
U.S. Secretary of the Interior, 1933-1946; Head of the Public Works Administration, 1933-39.
Hugh Johnson (1881-1942)
Head of the National Recovery Administration, 1933-1934; Member of FDR’s “Brains Trust.”
Jesse H. Jones (1874-1956)
Chairman, Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1933-1945 (co-director, 1932); Secretary of Commerce, 1940-1945.
Florence Kerr (1890-1975)
Assistant Administrator in most New Deal work-relief programs, ca. 1933-1938; Director of the Division of Women’s and Professional Projects of the WPA, ca. 1939-1943.
Joseph Kennedy, Sr. (1888-1969)
Supported FDR’s 1932 presidential campaign; First SEC chairman (1934-1935).
Mary La Dame (1884-1972)
Associate director of the U.S. Employment Service; adviser to Frances Perkins.
James Landis (1899-1964)
Member of Federal Trade Commission (1933-1934); chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (1935-1937).
Marguerite “Missy” LeHand (1896-1944)
FDR’s secretary, adviser, and friend; helped shape the New Deal.
Katharine Lenroot (1891-1982)
Chief of the U.S. Children’s Bureau (1934-1951).
David Lilienthal (1899-1981)
Co-Director of Tennessee Valley Authority, 1933-1941; Chairman of Tennessee Valley Authority, 1941-1946.
Herbert Maier (1893-1969)
Architect; Regional director for National Park Service and Civilian Conservation Corps.
Maury Maverick (1895-1954)
U.S. Congressman, 1935-1939; Supported New Deal while pressing for even more progressive reforms.
Elizabeth “Lizzie” McDuffie (1881-1966)
Cook, maid, and nursemaid for the Roosevelts, 1933-1945. Advocate for civil rights, government unions, and FDR.
James McEntee (1884-1957)
Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1940-1942.
Raymond Moley (1886-1975)
Member of FDR’s “Brains Trust”; Wrote speeches for the President, ca. 1932-1936; Later became a critic of the New Deal.
Arthur Morgan (1878-1975)
Engineer; First chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority (1933-1938); See “The Visionary.”
Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (1891-1967)
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, 1934-1945; Helped shape many policies of the New Deal.
Thomasina Johnson Norford (1908-2002)
African American civil rights leader and activist; campaigned for FDR’s 1944 re-election.
George Norris (1861-1944)
United States Senator from Nebraska, 1913-1943; A leader in the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Administration.
Mary Norton (1875-1959)
U.S. Congresswoman (D-NJ); promoted labor issues and legislation.
Basil O’Connor (1892-1972)
Co-founder of FDR’s Brains Trust (also see Samuel Rosenman).
Culbert Olson (1876-1962)
California state senator, 1934-1938; California governor, 1939-1943; strong advocate of the New Deal.
Lawrence Oxley (1887-1973)
Chief of the Division of Negro Labor, U.S. Labor Department; member of FDR’s Black Cabinet.
Ferdinand Pecora (1882-1971)
Led public hearings regarding the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression; tenaciously exposed Wall Street fraud, opening the door for New Deal reforms; at the president’s side during the signing of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Frances Perkins (1880-1965)
U.S. Secretary of Labor, 1933-1945.
Sam Rayburn (1882-1961)
U.S. Congressman, 1913-1961; Supported New Deal legislation that constrained big business, as well as legislation that aided rural areas.
Lawrence Robert, Jr. (1888-1976)
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, 1933-1936; Supervisor of the Public Works of Art Project, 1933-1934.
Samuel Rosenman (1896-1973)
Co-founder of FDR’s Brains Trust (also see D. Basil O’Connor).
Nellie Tayloe Ross (1876-1977)
Director of the U.S. Mint, 1933-1953.
Hilda Worthington Smith (1888-1984)
FERA and WPA administrator; in charge of workers’ education and resident camps for unemployed women.
Nikolai Sokoloff (1886-1965)
Director of the WPA’s music program (or “Federal Music Project”), 1935-1939.
Robert Kenneth Straus (1905-1997)
“Associate” member of FDR’s Brain Trust; worked in the National Recovery Administration.
John W. Studebaker (1887-1989)
Commissioner of Education, 1934-1948; advocate for greater citizen participation in Democracy.
Helen Tamiris (1902-1966)
Chief choreographer of New York’s Federal Theatre Project; promoted racial integration on stage.
Charles Taussig (1896-1948)
“Associate” member of FDR’s Brains Trust. Chairman of the National Advisory Committee for the National Youth Administration.
Anne Treadwell (1905-2002)
Head of the National Youth Administration in California, 1935-1939.
Rexford Tugwell (1891-1979)
Director of the Resettlement Administration, 1935-1936; Governor of Puerto Rico, 1941-1946. Member of FDR’s “Brains Trust.”
Robert Wagner (1877-1953)
U.S. Senator from New York (1927-1949); Played an important role in New Deal legislation, e.g., the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Social Security Act, and the National Labor Relations Act.
Frank Walker (1886-1959)
Executive Secretary of the National Emergency Council, 1933-1940; U.S. Postmaster General, 1940-1945; Adviser to the president, 1933-1945. See “The Untold Story of Key New Dealer, Frank Walker.”
Henry Wallace (1888-1965)
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 1933-1940; Vice President of the United States, 1941-1945; U.S. Secretary of Commerce, 1945-1946.
Robert Weaver (1907-1997)
Worked in the Department of the Interior; adviser to Harold Ickes; member of FDR’s Black Cabinet.
Aubrey Williams (1890-1965)
Director of the National Youth Administration, 1935-1943.
Ellen Woodward (1887-1971)
Director of the Division of Women’s and Professional Projects of the WPA, 1935-1938.
Check out our latest map and guide to the work of the New Deal in Washington, D.C. It includes 500 New Deal sites in the District alone, highlighting 34 notable sites, and includes an inset map of the area around the National Mall which can be used for self-guided walking tours.
Take a look at our previous guides, equally comprehensive, covering key New Deal sites in San Francisco and New York City.