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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 37th Visit to Georgia

Thirty-seventh Visit

April 19 - April 27, 1940

This visit was in the “calm before the storm” period of World War II. After overrunning Poland the previous fall, Germany had done little all winter, while the world braced for the next military action. It would occur soon after Roosevelt left Warm Springs.

Roosevelt arrived for a week’s worth of rest and relaxation, while recovering from a bout with intestinal flu. He only gave one speech while visiting – a radio broadcast to all the Young Democrats clubs throughout Georgia. It was a political speech, designed to encourage enthusiasm for the upcoming campaign, though he made no mention of seeking a third term as president. Speaking briefly of the international situation, he said “your government is keeping a cool head and a steady hand.” Source: Columbus Ledger, April 21, 1940, p. 1.

Roosevelt did sign some minor bills and meet with the Canadian Prime Minister at Warm Springs, but did devote most of his time to relaxation. He drove around the countryside with his son Elliott and his wife,also visiting the Pine Mountain Valley community. But while Roosevelt may have been avoiding politics, the Georgia Democratic Party certainly was not. On April 25, the executive committee of the Georgia Democratic Party elected seventy-two delegates to the national convention – all pledged to support Roosevelt for a third term. Governor Eurith D. Rivers was authorized to cast all of Georgia’s twenty-four votes for Roosevelt at the convention. The committee passed a resolution, introduced and read by Atlanta Constitution executive editor Ralph McGill. The resolution commended Roosevelt, his administration and the Democratic Party, then added that the President’s leadership was

“enabling this country to maintain the democratic ideals and the liberties and rights of the individual through the peaceable solution of our social and economic problems, in marked contrast with the leadership of Europe where failure to solve the same problems brought dictatorships, loss of liberty, and war… . t would seem as unwise to deprive ourselves of the asset of our army and navy or air force as to deprive this nation of the asset of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Source: Columbus Ledger, April 25, 1940, p. 4.

The resolution was sent to Warm Springs, but Roosevelt did not have time to respond. On the day it arrived, he departed for Washington, D.C., and events in Europe soon dominated the news.

May 10, 1940 - Germany launched a massive, simultaneous assault on France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. On this same day Winston Churchill was appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain.

May 26, 1940 - Many British soldiers were evacuated from the French port city of Dunkirk.

June 14, 1940 - Germany army occupied Paris.

June 22, 1940 - France surrendered to Germany.

July-August, 1940 - German planes bombed British cities and military bases on an almost daily basis. The British Royal Air Force fought desperately to re-gain control of the skies in what became known as the Battle of Britain.

September 16, 1940 - Military conscription began in the United States.

September 27, 1940 - Germany and Italy officially formed the Tripartite Alliance with Japan.

November 5, 1940 - Roosevelt was elected to his third term as President. At the time there was no constitutional prohibition against seeking more than two terms as President, though tradition did weigh against it. While there were some lukewarm attempts by Democratic politicians (including Vice-President Garner) to gain the nomination, Roosevelt was the overwhelming choice of most, especially in such perilous times. Wendell Wilkie was the Republican nominee, and to his credit did not make military conscription, or the war in Europe and Asia major issues. In fact he referred to Roosevelt as “the Champ!” After the election, Roosevelt brought several talented Republicans into his Cabinet to further the cause of bipartisanship.