Samuel Irving Rosenman, the son of Solomon and Ethel Rosenman, was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1896. His parents were both Russian-Jewish immigrants. When he was eight years old, his family moved to New York City where he attended Manhattan public schools.
Rosenman left his university studies to serve in the United States Army during the First World War. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1919. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1920. A member of the Democratic Party, he was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1922.
Rosenman's work on the Assembly attracted the attention of New York’s Democratic leadership and he was appointed as the Democratic member of the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission. During this period he became friends with New York Governor Al Smith. In 1928, Rosenman helped Franklin D. Roosevelt in his campaign to become New York Governor. According to his biographer: "Two leading New York Democrats recommended Rosenman as an adviser who would familiarize Roosevelt with New York’s legislative and political history before the election. Roosevelt asked the young legislator to accompany him on the campaign, and was immediately impressed by Rosenman’s ability to process and present large amounts of information, as well as his remarkably consistent and sound judgement. As the campaign progressed, Roosevelt encouraged Rosenman to draft a number of speeches, and, despite his lack of experience, he soon became one of the leading speech-writers working for the candidate." After the election he was appointed Counsel to the Governor. In 1932 he joined the Supreme Court bench of the State of New York.
Franklin D. Roosevelt became the Democratic presidential candidate in the 1932 Presidential Election. Rosenman became one of his political advisers. Rosenman suggested that Roosevelt should recruit help from the universities: "You have been having good experiences with college professors. If we can get a small group together willing to give us some time, they can prepare memoranda for you. You'll want to talk with them yourself, and maybe out of all the talk some concrete ideas will come." Roosevelt took his advice and Rexford Guy Tugwell, Adolf Berle and Raymond Moley joined the team. Basil O'Connor, Roosevelt's legal partner, also became a member of what later became known as the Brains Trust. It has been argued by Patrick Renshaw, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt (2004): "Politically, Tugwell was on the left with Berle on the right. Moley chaired regular meetings of the brains trust, which Samuel Rosenman and Basil O'Connor also attended. FDR was not an intellectual, but enjoyed their company and was in his element at the free-wheeling discussions which hammered out the New Deal."
Roosevelt selected John Nance Garner as his running mate. Although Roosevelt was vague about what he would do about the economic depression, he easily beat his unpopular Republican rival, Herbert Hoover. William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963), has argued: "Franklin Roosevelt swept to victory with 22,800,000 votes to Hoover's 15,750,000. With a 472-59 margin in the Electoral College, he captured every state south and west of Pennsylvania. Roosevelt carried more counties than a presidential candidate had ever won before, including 282 that had never gone Democratic. Of the forty states in Hoover's victory coalition four years before, the President held but six."
Samuel Rosenman became Roosevelt's main speechwriter. Jean Edward Smith, the author of FDR (2008) has pointed out that: "Throughout his career FDR drew heavily on members of the Jewish faith for their skill and expertise. Judge Samuel Rosenman joined Roosevelt's staff in 1928 as his chief aide and speechwriter... Jews constituted roughly 3 percent of the population when FDR was president, yet they represented about 15 per cent of his top appointments."
Harry Hopkins also tended to work with Rosenman on these speeches. In 1940 they were joined by Robert E. Sherwood, one of America's most important playwrights. Harriet Hyman Alonso, points out in Robert E. Sherwood The Playwright in Peace and War (2007): "For the next four and a half years, Hopkins, Rosenman, and Sherwood worked as collaboratively as the five writers of the Playwrights' Company. Hopkins, who acted as Roosevelt's liaison on many European trips, worked on fewer speeches, Bob and Rosenman on more. It was Hopkins who usually approached Roosevelt initially, the one who lobbied for those words and proposals which the three thought most important; but Bob and Rosenman sat in on many sessions in which Roosevelt pondered world history and current events, discussing, debating, and generally working through the ideas which they then formed into a speech. Sometimes a speech needed to be drafted out in a short period of time; on other occasions the team worked for a week or more, planning, reworking drafts, consulting with Roosevelt, and rewriting again."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Earnest Brandenburg: "In preparing a speech I usually take the various office drafts and suggestions which have been submitted to me and also the material which has been accumulated in the speech file on various subjects, read them carefully, lay them aside, and then dictate my own draft... Naturally, the final speech will contain some of the thoughts and even some of the sentences which appeared in some drafts or suggestions submitted." Sherwood later pointed out: "The collaboration between the three of us and the President was so close and so constant that we generally ended up unable to say specifically who had been primarily responsible for any given sentence or phrase."
Roosevelt, Sherwood and Rosenman worked together on the speech delivered by the president on 28th October, 1940, in New York City. It included the passage: "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars. They are going into training to form a force so strong that, by its very existence, it will keep the threat of war far away from our shores. The purpose of our defense is defense." Sherwood later commented that "I burn inwardly whenever I think of those words: again and again and again."
In 1943 Rosenman was appointed as President Roosevelt's Special Counsel. Rosenman offered to resign when Roosevelt died in 1945 but Harry S. Truman asked him to stay on. In 1946 he was awarded the Medal of Merit “for exceptional meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the President of the United States and his country.”
In 1947 Rosenman returned to New York to practice law and later was elected president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. His book, Working With Roosevelt, was published in 1952. He also served as a director of the New York World’s Fair in 1964.
Samuel Irving Rosenman died in New York City on 24th June, 1973.
Like most busy politicians, Roosevelt relied on writers to draft his speeches. During his third presidential campaign this responsibility rested primarily with Samuel I. Rosenman and Harry Hopkins (when time permitted). A World War I veteran and graduate of Columbia University's law school, Rosenman practiced law in New York City until he was elected to a seat in the New York State Assembly, which he held from 1922, to 1926. In 1928 he met Franklin Roosevelt and started a long personal and professional relationship with him. A New York State Supreme Court justice from 1933 to 1943, he left the position to become the first official White House counsel, serving between 1943 and 1946. During the years leading up to and including World War II, Rosenman spent much time in Washington, D.C., writing speeches and advising Roosevelt, but in early October 1940 he informed Hopkins that he alone could not draft the many campaign speeches needed in the next month and suggested that they invite another writer to join them.
As the two men thought about possible candidates, Hopkins suggested Bob. Rosenman agreed to meet him. First, however, Hopkins quizzed Bob about what he thought the president should say about Hitler in his next speech. Bob later claimed that he was "somewhat flabbergasted" by the request but managed to blurt out his views. Before he knew it, he was in Rosenman's apartment. "At first," Bob later wrote, "I did not know why I was there but I soon found out that I had been pressed into service as a `ghost writer." Being recruited onto what became Roosevelt's final speechwriting team was a dream come true. What better way was there to get his own views across than through the mouth of the president of the United States, who shared those views? This was as close as anyone could come to inform¬ing world affairs without being a politician himself. As Sam Rosenman put it, presidential speechwriters were "in a peculiarly strategic position to help shape... policy."
For the next four and a half years, Hopkins, Rosenman, and Sherwood worked as collaboratively as the five writers of the Playwrights' Company. Hopkins, who acted as Roosevelt's liaison on many European trips, worked on fewer speeches, Bob and Rosenman on more. It was Hopkins who usually approached Roosevelt initially, the one who lobbied for those words and proposals which the three thought most important; but Bob and Rosenman sat in on many sessions in which Roosevelt pondered world history and current events, discussing, debating, and generally working through the ideas which they then formed into a speech. Sometimes a speech needed to be drafted out in a short period of time; on other occasions the team worked for a week or more, planning, reworking drafts, consulting with Roosevelt, and rewriting again. Bob once remarked that "when working for Franklin D. Roosevelt, his [the ghostwriter's] one purpose was to haunt the White House day and night, until a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt (and nobody else) had been produced...
After a hard day of writing, the team would sit down with Roosevelt in his study to hear his reactions. Because of his damaged legs, he mixed drinks from a tray while sitting at his desk, as by this time he could neither walk nor stand without aid. A limited drinker, he enjoyed these special moments of chatting, sipping bourbon old-fashioneds or martinis, and munching on small snacks of cream cheese or fish paste on toast. Bob sometimes felt sorry for Roosevelt because in their effort to offer the executive healthy foods, the White House chefs inevitably prepared tasteless dishes, and as much power as he held in the world, Roosevelt seemed reluctant to complain about the food or the service.