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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 3rd Visit to Georgia

Third Visit

April 1 - May 15, 1925

April 1, 1925 - Roosevelt returned to Warm Springs, both to swim and fish in its special waters and to discuss means of improving the resort. But he was far from alone this time – news of his experiences the previous fall had spread nationwide. A number of other polio victims were present, hoping for relief from the waters of Warm Springs.

Roosevelt welcomed the newcomers and immediately began helping them. There was no physician at Warm Springs; Roosevelt had a local doctor check the patients for any other health related problems. Then “Dr.” Roosevelt took over. He began instructing the others on how to get into the pools, what exercises to do, and how to try to use muscles long left dormant by their disease. While “Dr.” Roosevelt did not have a medical degree, he knew as much as anyone about physical therapy for polio victims; he had studied them all over the past four years. Years later, when Warm Springs was fully established as a haven for polio victims and well staffed with doctors and physical therapists, Roosevelt jokingly told an audience of the spring he spent there in 1925, in which he said:

“these … physiotherapists don’t know anything about it. I invented it first.” Source: Theo Lippman, Jr., The Squire of Warm Springs: F.D.R. in Georgia 1924-1945, (Playboy Press, Chicago, 1977), p. 39.

There was some truth to that statement; Roosevelt did originate some of the physical therapies used in the Warm Springs pools, plus he developed charts to measure the growth of strength in muscles.

Roosevelt was doing much more than working as a pioneer physical therapist. He was busy with plans to expand and develop Warm Springs. He believed it could be both a resort and a haven for those stricken with infantile paralysis. New buildings and improved roads were a big part of his plan, and he was energetically discussing them with his friends, in particular Tom Loyless, editor of the Macon Telegraph and principal owner of Warm Springs (with the financial backing of George Peabody). Loyless was working with Roosevelt on the improvements to Warm Springs, while keeping up his column for the newspaper. When Roosevelt offered to lighten Loyless’s workload by helping with road building, Loyless offered an alternative – assume his column for a few weeks. Thus, central Georgia’s Macon Telegraph had a New Yorker and future president doing nine editorial columns during the spring of 1925!

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Roosevelt Fishing at Warm Springs, 1925
Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

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Roosevelt with three other polio patients, Warm Springs, 1925
Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library