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Presidential Press

Stephen T. Early was not a household name during the Depression or World War II, yet he was one of the most influential men in the mid-20th century.

As press secretary for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Early was responsible for getting FDR’s messages out to the press, employing print journalism, newsreels, and radio broadcasts. He helped the Harvard-educated, wealthy president communicate a robust strength and confidence in a language his fellow countrymen and women could not only understand but embrace.

Until now, little was known about Early. Linda Lotridge Levin, professor and chair of our Journalism Department, gives readers an unobstructed view of the man behind the president in her biography, The Making of FDR: The Story of Stephen T. Early, America’s First Modern Press Secretary, published in the spring by Prometheus Books.

Early’s role as press secretary and presidential image maker kept the president in the spotlight, which helped boost the president’s policies and popularity. Roosevelt became the longest-serving president in U.S. history.

Levin spent more than a dozen summers and winter breaks researching at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, N.Y., where Early’s papers are housed; at the Baker Library at Dartmouth College; the Alderman at the University of Virginia; and at local historical libraries in Virginia and Washington, D.C. She also interviewed Early’s daughter and grandson several times.

“The friendship between the two men made the book both fascinating to research and to write,” says Levin.

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