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Return to FDR Oglethorpe University Commencement Address, May 22, 1932

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 6th Visit to Georgia

Sixth Visit

February 11 - May 12, 1927

Roosevelt was busy during this trip further organizing the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, overseeing the completion of his cottage, trying to raise funds, and of course exercising in the pools with fellow “companions” – the term victims of polio used to describe themselves. Roosevelt bought more land adjacent to a farm he had purchased the previous year. He used the farm for raising livestock, refusing to plant cotton in an attempt to show his neighbors that non-cotton farming could be successful in Georgia – a theme of his throughout his life. In April alone, Roosevelt wrote checks totaling more than $20,000 for the Foundation. In contrast, only $12,000 was raised through other means the entire year. But Roosevelt was not discouraged – the number of companions seeking treatment at Warm Springs grew from 33 in 1926 to 80 in 1927. Sometime during February, Roosevelt wrote the following letter to his mother back at their family home in Hyde Park, New York:

“Dearest Mama – It is good to get your letter and we shall think of you taking the boys to Hyde Park next Sunday. We are safely installed in the old cottage, not unpacked as we hope to move into the new cottage by early next week. The new cottage is too sweet, really very good in every way, the woodwork covering all walls and ceilings a great success, and the new furniture fits perfectly and is just the right color. Of course I am taking a good deal of stuff out of the hotel but there is much to buy and today Eleanor and Missy have gone to Atlanta to buy a stove and a refrigerator and a lot of small things, and they get back about six. This morning I have driven with Mr. Curtis and Miss Mahoney over the ‘Pine Mountain Scenic Highway’ – five miles long, out to the Knob, marvelous views all the way … . I’ve been in the pool each day and done all the exercises and stretching and feel finely. The weather is warm and bright, the peach blossoms coming out, everything is nearly a month early and the local people say we shall have a cold, rainy March to make up for it… .” Source: Elliott Roosevelt (ed.), F.D.R.: His Personal Letters 1905-1928, (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1950), p. 621.

The “Knob” in this letter refers to a plateau area on Pine Mountain which provided an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. It was a favorite place of Roosevelt’s, and as Warm Springs grew it became a popular place for the companions to hold picnics. When Roosevelt mentions driving to the Knob he was being literal – he had a Ford Model T (and later a Model A Convertible, then later a 1938 Ford Convertible) specially equipped with hand controls so he could drive himself around the area. He loved to do this, often stopping to chat with the local townspeople and farmers. In so doing he learned much about the plight of rural farmers during the 1920s. These visits and observations helped formulate the idea of many of his New Deal programs.

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FDR Statue on Dowdell's Knob
Source: Charles Pou

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View of Pine Mountain Valley from Dowdell's Knob
Source: Charles Pou

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FDR's 1938 Ford Convertible With Hand Controls
Source: Ed Jackson