Harry Lloyd Hopkins was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on August 17, 1890. He was graduated, A.B. Cum Laude from Grinnell College, Iowa, in 1912. He then moved to New York City where he was engaged by Christadora House, a social settlement, to act as counselor at the summer camp in Bound Brook, New Jersey. This was to be the first stage of a distinguished career in social work. From 1913 to 1915, Hopkins was a work relief agent for the New York Association for Improving conditions for the Poor (NYAICP), where he eventually became executive secretary of the Board of Child Welfare. During World War I, he served with the American Red Cross, first as secretary to the general manager in Washington, D.C., then as assistant director of civilian relief and associate manager of the Gulf Division, headquartered in New Orleans, and finally as manager of the Southern Division. In 1922, Hopkins returned to New York to become assistant director of the NYAICP. In 1924, he was appointed director of the New York Tuberculosis (later the NY Tuberculosis and Health) Association.
Then in 1931, Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York State at the time, appointed Hopkins to the position of executive director of the New York Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), which led to his appointment as administrator of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), in May 1933. FERA was later superseded by the Works Projects Administration (WPA) of which Hopkins became administrator in April 1935. (FERA was officially renamed WPA in July 1939.)
Hopkins resigned from the WPA in December 1938 and entered Roosevelt's cabinet as secretary of commerce, which post he filled until September 1940. During these years he became one of Roosevelt's most intimate friends and advisors. He eventually resigned as secretary of commerce and during the Second World War resided at the White House performing many important and confidential political missions on behalf of the president. Among these was his heading of the board of strategy at the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago, 1940, to re-elect Roosevelt for a third term. In January 1941, Hopkins was U.S. emissary to Great Britain (pending the appointment of an ambassador) prior to taking charge of the lend-lease program. As a personal representative of Roosevelt, he conferred with Winston Churchill and Premier Stalin; and as a member of the president's inner cabinet, he attended the major war conferences at Washington, Casablanca, Quebec, Cairo, Tehran, and Yalta. After the war, Hopkins prepared the way to the Potsdam (Berlin) Conference (summer 1945), and was instrumental in launching the United Nations Conference in San Francisco (April 1945). Hopkins retired from a brilliant career in government service in July 1945. he died on January 29, 1946, at Memorial Hospital New York.