Harry Hopkins '12
Harry Hopkins '12 is one of Grinnell's most famous graduates. A two-year member of the Pioneer basketball team, "Hightops Harry" played a key role in a 17-16 upset of Missouri Valley champion Kansas in 1911. As a senior, Hopkinswas elected vice president of the Grinnell Athletic Union. A political man even in his youth, Hopkins served on the college council and was the senior class president. After graduating from Grinnell as a Phi Beta Kappa, Hopkins took a job in New York City at Christadora House, a settlement facility designed to alleviate conditions among the poor. In 1931 Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Hopkins as executive director of the New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. When Roosevelt became president he recruited Hopkins to implement his various social welfare programs. Hopkins worked for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and the Works Project Administration in the mid 30's. As head of the WPA, Hopkins employed more than three million people in an agency responsible for the building of highways, bridges, public buildings and parks. He also served as secretary of commerce. A close advisor on foreign policy, he was Roosevelt's personal envoy to Britain during World War II. Often called the most influential non-elected official in American history, Hopkins helped arrange the Potsdam Conference for President Harry S. Truman but retired from public life soon afterwards. Frances L. Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Roosevelt, said in her book, The Roosevelt I Knew, "Hopkins became not only Roosevelt's relief administrator but his general assistant as no one had relationship extremely easy as well as faithful and productive. Roosevelt was greatly enriched by Hopkins' knowledge, ability, and humane attitude toward all facets of life." Harry Lloyd Hopkins died in New York City on January 29th, 1946, five months after receiving the Distinguished Service Medal from Harry S. Truman.