Rexford G. Tugwell (1891-1979)

Born in upstate New York in 1891, Rexford G. Tugwell would perform a variety of functions for FDR from 1932 until the president's death in 1945. Tugwell received his doctorate in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1922 and joined the faculty of Columbia University the following year. In 1932, he played a key role in FDR's campaign serving as his economic policy advisor and as a member of FDR's "Brains Trust." FDR subsequently made him the assistant secretary of agriculture in 1933, promoted him to undersecretary in 1934, and then tapped him to head the Resettlement Administration in 1935. During this time, Tugwell had a hand in crafting the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the National Industrial Recovery Act, and then under the auspices of the Resettlement Administration began work on the greenbelt communities--a quasi-utopian urban development project that sought to construct new self-sufficient cities from the ground up. As the Resettlement Administration's head, Tugwell had authority over the greentown community of Arthurdale, a project in which the first lady had also taken a serious interest. Although Tugwell and Eleanor Roosevelt clearly enjoyed each other's company and shared a mutual respect, their relationship was complicated by the first lady's special relationship with Arthurdale residents and her frequent attempts to intercede with Tugwell on their behalf. After FDR's first term, Tugwell left the federal government for the private sector, but by 1938 he had reentered public service when he assumed chairmanship of the New York City Planning Commission between 1938 and 1940. The following year, FDR brought Tugwell back into his services by appointing him governor of Puerto Rico, a position he held until 1946 when he left the government for good to pursue his academic career. Tugwell continued to write, publish, and lecture until his death in 1979.


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The Concise Dictionary of American Biography . 5th ed. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997, 1319.

Lash, Joseph. Eleanor and Franklin. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1971, 411-415.