Is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Assistant Louis Based on a Real Life Person? – ‘The First Lady’ chronicles the difficulties and successes of three great first women of the White House. The Showtime anthology series recounts the lives of Michelle Obama (Viola Davis), Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Eleanor Roosevelt (Michelle Pfeiffer) through three unique timelines (Gillian Anderson). The story, as promised, introduces a diverse cast of characters across several timelines.
Despite the first lady’s prominent position, there is much that the public is unaware of. Similarly, the show depicts other characters who perform important roles in the background. One such character is Louis, who looks to be Franklin D. Roosevelt’s go-to guy for everything.
Let’s see if ‘The First Lady’s’ Louis is based on a real person!
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Is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Assistant ‘Louis’ Based on a Real-Life Person?
Yes, Louis McHenry Howe is the inspiration for Jackie Earle Haley’s character Louis in ‘The First Lady.’ He was a journalist who transitioned into politics and became one of Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s most trusted and long-serving advisers. We first see Howe’s character in the show just before Roosevelt develops polio and becomes partially disabled.
In actuality, Howe had been a close associate of the legendary four-term President many years before and was practically a member of the Roosevelt family. Howe was born on January 14, 1871, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to a rich family that had suffered severe financial difficulties and had to relocate to Saratoga Springs, New York, as a result.
He started off as a journalist. Howe spent approximately a decade freelancing with the New York Herald and covering other topics after working for a little newspaper called the Saratoga Sun, which his father eventually owned.
In 1911, he met Roosevelt for the first time while covering the senate race between Roosevelt and Tammany Hall. Howe was impressed by Roosevelt’s perseverance and sincerity, and he seemed to recognise that his own experience may help Roosevelt’s energy and appeal.
Thus began Howe and Roosevelt’s alliance, which led them to the White House and earned the former journalist the moniker “king-maker.” Eleanor Roosevelt’s political career was also aided by Louis Howe, who advised her during her stint as First Lady.
Roosevelt’s campaign for the New York Senate and his vice-presidential campaign in 1920 were both aided by Howe. When Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio, Howe served as his public agent and eventually helped Roosevelt win the governorship of New York in 1928.
Howe was elected Roosevelt’s Private Secretary after Roosevelt won the presidential election in 1932, and he remained one of the President’s closest confidantes. Howe, on the other hand, died in 1936, just before Roosevelt’s first term ended. Roosevelt bestowed upon him the title “Devoted friend, adviser, and partner of the President” upon his death. As a result, Louis from ‘The First Lady‘ is based on a very real and powerful figure who shaped Franklin D. Roosevelt’s political career.
The actual Louis Howe, who remained out of the spotlight but was always close to the renowned politician, is the type of vital but lesser-known character that the show tries to depict. It’s worth mentioning that Eleanor Roosevelt credited Howe with most of her political education, making his role in ‘The First Lady’ significant.
You can watch ‘The First Lady’ episodes on Showtime.