Harold L. Ickes graduated from the University of Chicago and went into law practice in 1897. He held progressive political views and spent much of his time working for reform causes he believed in, often as a volunteer. He worked for Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 presidential election and became a follower of Franklin D. Roosevelt after being impressed by the latter's progressive policies as governor of New York. In 1932, Ickes helped persuade many progressive Republicans to support FDR's presidential bid. FDR appointed Ickes as his Secretary of the Interior, a position he held for 13 years, from 1933 to 1946, the longest tenure of anyone to hold that office and one of the longest serving Cabinet members in USA history. He was responsible for running many of FDR's "New Deal" policies, including the Public Works Administration (PWA). Ickes was also a strong supporter of the civil rights movement and civil liberties. He wrote several books including New Democracy (1934), Back to Work: The Story of the PWA (1935), Yellowstone National Park (1937), The Third Term Bugaboo: A Cheerful Anthology (1940), Fighting Oil: The History and Politics of Oil (1943) and The Autobiography of a Curmudgeon (1943).
After leaving government, Ickes wrote a syndicated newspaper column and contributed regularly to the New Republic.