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“Tears, Hysterics Greet FDR News in Capital,” April 13, 1945


(The following is reprinted from the Atlanta Constitution, April 13, 1945, p. 9.)

“Tears, Hysterics Greet FDR News in Capital”

By Gladstone Williams
Constitution Washington Correspondent

Washington, April 12—The supreme tragedy of Pres. Roosevelt’s death today is that he could not be spared to live to see the end of the momentous world conflict in which we are engaged and from which he was emerging as the acknowledged leader of the moral forces of the world.

To have died a year hence, before the completion of his normal span and after the consummation of our military and peace objectives, would have been a tragedy, but it would have been less deep and dark than the circumstances of his present passing.

As it is, he is removed from the world scene at a time when we, the dominant nation of the world, are on the verge of achieving those ends, military and moral, which have been our unrelenting aim under the guidance of his great leadership.

Berlin is about to fall. The collapse of the once powerful German nation is close at hand. Japan totters. And while these major military developments are in the process of materializing there assembles at San Francisco less than two weeks from now a meeting of the United Nations for the purpose of drawing up the machinery for a world security organization—an organization to preserve the future peace of the world, in keeping with ideas promulgated by the American president.

The pity of it all is that Mr. Roosevelt could not have lived to see these objectives reached. His passing finds a tragic parallel only in the death of Lord Nelson at the climax of his greatest naval victory—Trafalgar.

Washington was stunned by the news of his sudden death. This great teeming city, throbbing with the administrative machinery of a huge war effort, was brought to a standstill by the information. An air of complete demoralization pervaded every government office and business house. On the streets people gathered in small groups to discuss the incredibility of the reports. A mantle of silence seemed to creep over the scene. Pedestrians walked more slowly.

It is impossible to conceive of news that could have been received with more demoralizing effect. Strong men wept openly and women went into hysterics after the full consciousness of the tragedy possessed them.

Here in the nation’s capital, where Mr. Roosevelt has been the dominant force and most powerful influence for a dozen years, the reaction was tremendous. It had the effect of shoving the war and other things completely into the background. All else was forgotten save the depressing news shouted by the headlines of the extras that “the President is dead.”

What happened at the National Press Club, meeting ground for newspaper men from all over the world, is typical of other sections of the city. When the first flash came over the ticker the club was thrown into turmoil. All services ceased immediately, the bar was emptied and card tables were abandoned. Active members rushed pell mell to their offices. The scene was one of catastrophe.

On the lower floors of the Press building, where the press bureaus and offices of individual newspaper correspondents are located, a similar wild scene was enacted. Newspapermen forgot all other chores of the day. Women rushing about screaming the news while a general pandemonium reigned.

Hovering over the ticker in the press club were many hardened newspaper correspondents who were seen brushing away tears from their eyes.

The startling news left its imprint on all, whether they were partisans of the President or not. Some of those who had been among his leading critics were the first to acknowledge the man’s greatness. All recognized that the greatest political leader of our times had passed on at a crucial and critical hour—the hour approaching his greatest triumph.

The same feeling was evidenced in the comment of public officials. For once it seems the Republicans outdid the Democrats in heaping praise upon the dead President. Read the statements of Sen. Vandenberg, of Michigan, and Sen. Taft, of Ohio, for example. Nothing could be more fitting. No more appropriate acknowledgment could be made of the position destiny has marked out for Mr. Roosevelt as leader of men.

One fact emerges already from the sad consequences of his untimely death. Roosevelt, by dying on the eve of accomplishing his greatest task of all—the task of bringing our Axis enemies to utter defeat—is certain to become a martyr. He is destined to go down in history not only as the first president to break the two-term tradition and to be elected four times. He is certain to be counted among America’s greatest. He will be enshrined over the centuries in memories and reverence equal to or exceeding those of Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln and Wilson.