Unlikely Heroes: Franklin Roosevelt, His Four Lieutenants, and the World They Made.
By Derek Leebaert.
Feb. 2023. 496p. St. Martin's, $32.50 (9781250274694); e-book (9781250274700). 973.917092.
In the vein of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals (2005), political historian Leebaert illuminates the dynamics of FDR's consequential administration by focusing on four of his lieutenants: Harry Lloyd Hopkins, who supervised several relief organizations, including the Works Progress Administration; Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior; Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor; and Henry Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture. The quartet, like Roosevelt, was characterized by triumph over adversity, which Leebaert illustrates by fleshing out their individual backgrounds. He also highlights their cultivation of professional networks and their ability, like FDR himself, to marshal talent. All four were adept at managing the chaos of the administration, including budget gymnastics, the creation of massive public works programs, and the onset of WWII. Leebaert notes that these lieutenants had the types of positions that garnered enemies and a certain amount of fearlessness was essential to success. Perkins, for her part, opened "entire sectors to women." Leebaert sheds new light on FDR's managerial capabilities and ably demonstrates that the cultivation of diversified and resilient talent was essential to the administration's endurance.