“The Death of a President, April 12, 1945: An Account from Warm Springs”
(The following article appeared in the The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. LXXV, No. 1, Summer 1991 and is reprinted with permission.)
<strongThe Death of a President, April 12, 1945:
An Account from Warm Springs
by William Warren Rogers, Jr.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy observed that “the only two dates that most people remember where they were when they heard the news were Pearl Harbor and the death of Franklin Roosevelt.” Indeed until his own assassination a year later added the only other comparable event in its impact on American memories, no other president’s death in the twentieth century so shocked and saddened the nation as did that of Roosevelt on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia. (1)Among the most shaken by his sudden and unexpected demise were the residents of Warm Springs itself, who had come to know and admire the president during his frequent visits to the small Georgia community over the previous twenty years.
The letter which appears in print for the first time here is a moving account by two of those residents of their observations and experiences both before and after the president’s death. (2) Though apparently never meant for eyes other than those of the single soldier to whom it was sent and in whose possession it has remained ever since, this very personal narrative was inspired by the recognition of its two authors of the historic significance of this most worldwide of local events.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, acting on the advice of several acquaintances, and his own unflagging hopes, visited Warm Springs, Georgia, for the first time on October 3, 1924. Three years earlier the nationally prominent New York Democrat had lost complete use of his legs after contracting infantile paralysis. Roosevelt’s determination to walk again led him to Warm Springs. Individuals with various ailments and vacationers had been attracted by the mineral waters and the nearby Pine Mountain altitudes since before the Civil War. But by the 1920s fewer visitors were arriving, and the “resort” consisted of a dilapidated Victorian hotel, various cottages in disrepair, and a large T-shaped pool. Warm Springs (formerly Bullochville) was small by any standards – only about five hundred people lived in the west Georgia town. (3)
Roosevelt immediately liked the setting. Stands of pine trees mixed with hardwoods, the Pine Mountain ridge, and the area’s pristine beauty impressed him. From the first contact – local citizens greeted the New Yorker at the depot on October 3 – he enjoyed the people. More important was the promise of the curative springs. On settling into the 85 degree-plus waters for the first time, Roosevelt experienced a new sensation, and exclaimed, “I don’t think I will ever get out.” He spent much of the next two weeks swimming and exercising. While in the small hamlet, the well-known politician was invited to dinners, social gatherings, and attended various functions. Shortly before leaving, Roosevelt wrote his mother, “I think every organization in Georgia has asked me to some kind of party… .”
Roosevelt returned for an extended stay the next year. In those early days at Warm Springs he established a ritual: mornings were devoted to exercising with other paralytics in the pool. His publicized progress had attracted numerous polio patients. Often, during the afternoons, Roosevelt took open-air car rides through the countryside. His wife Elearnor never shared her husband’s love for Warm Springs, but Roosevelt did not lack companionship. Included on those “motoring” excursions were local citizens or New York friends who had accompanied him south. In 1926, planning to revitalize the health spa and attract affluent vacationers, Roosevelt bought the resort. Even if interested in turning a profit, Roosevelt was more concerned with establishing a model treatment center for poliomyelitis. His efforts were central to the establishment of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation in 1927. (4)
In a supervising capacity – overseeing the layout of roads and various construction projects – and as a patient –carrying on his personal struggle – Roosevelt spent much time at Warm Springs between 1926 and 1928. He swam, encouraged other patients, and became affectionately known as “Dr. Roosevelt.” He later wrote, “every morning I spend two hours in the most wonderful pool in the world… .” His plans were realized in the years ahead. A staff of surgeons and physical therapists was hired, more patients arrived (but few vacationers), additional cottages were constructed, an orthopedic hospital was eventually built, and the foundation gained worldwide attention. (5)
In 1928 Roosevelt was elected governor of New York, and four years later, promising to alleviate the suffering caused by the depression, he defeated Herbert Hoover and became president. Warm Springs continued to serve as a therapeutic retreat (both mental and physical) during his thirteen years as president. Grace Tully, the presidential secretary who traveled to Georgia on many occasions, noted the chief executive’s “normal mood of gaiety at Warm Springs.” The Little White House, the simple cottage that served as his residence, was completed in 1932. Various structures – the chapel, a playhouse, and Georgia Hall, where Roosevelt annually presided over Thanksgiving dinner – were also added. Although the president increasingly exercised privately, he maintained a close interest in the patients and an enthusiasm for the foundation mission (6)
In the meantime, as the president’s New Deal programs eased the hard economic times, new problems arose. Aggression in Europe resulted in the outbreak of World War II in 1939 and two years later the United States became a participant. Priorities allowed Roosevelt less time in Warm Springs, but when he arrived at the familiar depot on March 30, 1945, the conflict’s end was imminent. Roosevelt had recently discussed postwar arrangements with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference. He was exhausted. The president’s weak and ashen appearance shocked many who gathered to meet him. Speculation about Roosevelt’s failing health had been widespread during the campaign of 1944. But only a few individuals, and not even the president, realized the seriousness of his heart condition.
Various activities occupied the executive during the first eleven days of April at Warm Springs. On Easter Sunday, April 1, he attended services at Foundation Chapel. In the new few days the president worked on a Jefferson Day speech and the remarks he planned to deliver at the United Nations Convention at San Francisco later that month. Yet, more than anything else, the sixty-three-year-old Roosevelt rested. Conversations with two cousins, Laura Delano and Margaret Suckley, offered a pleasant diversion. So did reading and his stamp collection.
An unusually busy shedule was arranged for April 12. The president would, as he had for the past several days, reserve some time to sit for a watercolor portrait being painted by Madame Elizabeth Shoumatoff. A barbecue was scheduled in the president’s honor that afternoon at Mayor Frank Allcorn’s cottage (about a mile from the Little White House). After the barbecue Roosevelt was to attend a minstrel show staged by the polio patients at the Playhouse. Hazel Stephens, a physical therapist and the recreational director, coordinated the production. Betty Brown, also a therapist who helped with the patients, assisted her. The curtain was set to go up at 5:30 p.m.
Well before that, unknown to Betty Brown or Hazel Stephens, tragedy had struck suddenly at the Little White House. At 1:15 p.m., while sitting for his portrait, the president suffered a cerebral embolism and collapsed. The efforts of physicians Howard K. Bruenn and James A. Paullin, the latter having rushed from Atlanta, failed to revive him. Franklin D. Roosevelt died at 3:30 p.m. on April 12 at the Little White House. (7)
Three days later, on April 15, the president was buried in the formal garden at the family home at Hyde Park, New York. That same day, at Warm Springs, Betty Brown and Hazel Stephens combined to write a remarkable letter. (8) Realizing the significance of their circumstances, they carried an old typewriter down to the staff outdoor pool. Seated outside in the pleasant spring weather that belied the aura of sadness, the two women began recording their impressions of recent events. The collaboration (Hazel Stephens did the typing) was not written for publication, and was mailed to William George Mackey Davis. He was a chief petty officer with the Seabees (Construction Battalion) in the South Pacific and a relation of Hazel Stephens. The letter provides the only known firsthand account of events at Warm Springs in the immediate aftermath of President Roosevelt’s death. As Betty Brown has stated, “we came to write the letter because we were in the midst of history making events… .” (9) Their collaboration serves as an eloquent and moving testimonial to Franklin Roosevelt and the Warm Springs Foundation that he cherished.
GEORGIA WARM SPRINGS
April 15, 1945
Dear Mackey Jr.:
blockquote>Here at Warm Springs, Georgia, in the past two days, history has been made and Betty and I will put our heads together and write you, as a representative of the GI’s the world over, a personal glimpse of what was going on among the patients and staff here when the news of our President’s death was brought to us about 5:10 p.m., April 12th.
The President arrived here March 30th about 1:30 p.m. We went to the station for his arrival. His party was quite large; secretaries, secret service men, two occasions, Misses Delano (10) and Suckley; (11) Fala (12) and Sister (13) (Sister belonging to Miss Delano), Dr. Brueen, (14) George Fox (15) (the President’s masseur), and many other that we and the Foundation have to come to know on the President’s many trips here. Mr. Roosevelt greeted us with a wave of the hand from the window at which he was seated on the train, then immediately was wheeled onto the observation platform and lowered to the ground on a tiny elevator. Mike Reilly, (16) of the Secret Service, wheeled him to his blue Ford which bears the license tag F.D.R. 1. The Secret Service men lifted him into the car. The car top was down, but this time the President did not drive the car himself to the Little White House. Mr. Fredericks (17) of the S.[ecret] S.[ervice], since Taft’s administration, drove. As has always been the custom on each of his many trips the the Foundation, the entire Presidential party drove around the circle at Georgia Hall where all the patients both wheel-chairs and stretchers, were assembled to greet him. The President was dressed in a navy blue suit and wore his hat. He looked very tired but not as bad as when he was here in November. His entire stay here this time was spent at the Little White House resting. He saw practically no one except his secretaries and two cousins. I believe his old friend, McCarthy, (18) was there twice. He did not even go to the swimming pool which he always enjoyed so much and did not drive the car, although he went for several long rides around the Foundation and to his old farm, which he deeded to the Foundation last year.
We had planned a special Easter service at the Foundation’s little chapel. It was a beautiful Easter morning, April 1st, 1945, in the South. Three different parties donated the flowers, all white, Easter lilies, carnations, gladiola. White candles were on the alter. The chapel was filled with patients, staff and a few guests. The President was wheeled in in a a small wheel-chair by S.S. men and accompanied by his two cousins and sat in a pew in front of the S.S. men. Everyone in the chapel was very much aware of his presence tho’ no one turned around or stared. The service started at 11:00 a.m. sharp. He was the last to arrive. As his cousins knelt to pray the President leaned forward as a gesture of kneeling. We are sure everyone in the chapel was moved as we were and immediately bowed their heads in prayer for him. He was wearing a grey suit which seemed to accentuate his pallor. He participated in the entire service – responsive readings, songs, and prayers. He was unusually nervous throughout the service and dropped his hymn book and his lasses at different times. He stared straight ahead the entire time and did not smile or speak to anyone on entering or leaving the chapel which was most unusual. The special music for the service was by a choir composed of patients, then Mr. Fred Botts (19) (present registrar of the Foundation), an old friend and former patient, sang a solo. Little did we know this would be the last time our President would worship in a church.
After reading over this page, it seems to insinuate that we realized the seriousness of his condition. We definitely did not. We understand now that the doctors here were worried about him, and when he was here in November and December his doctor took his blood pressure and used a stethoscope before and after he entered the pool. We realized he would be making frequent trips here to rest because the telephone people spent three weeks before his arrival laying under-ground cables and making everything permanent. He could talk to any spot in the world from here. He had been told he should not spend any more winters in the North.
No formal dinner was being planned. We probably would have had a luncheon. He was always concerned about patients’ activities. I had planned a real black face minstrel to be given while they were here. We started to work on it after the party arrived. On Monday this week Grace Tully (20) and Major Greer (21) stopped me and said, “‘The Boss’ would like to have a request performance of the minstrel on Thursday, April 12th at 5:30 p.m.” I said of course we would be happy to do it for him. Gee, the patients and those who were helping me certainly worked hard. It had been planned for Friday the 13th. The Major and his signal corps men made a two tier stage for me and put up mikes – five of them. It was an all patient cast except for three specialties; two dances from Atlanta and Graham Jackson (22) (the colored pianist who is so talented and who played for the President 23 times since has been in office). The costumes for the chorus were darling; white pants, pink shirts, green vests with large white buttons down the front, orange cardboard ties with black polka dotes, white top hats with green bands, and big white gloves (with faces painted on them) and large white cuffs. I’ll enclose a program. There was to be a barbecue for the President and his party at 4:30 given by Mr. Allcorn, (23) Mayor of Warm Springs, at his cabin on top of Pine Mountain. Mike Reilly came by the Playhouse to check on the chair that the President was to sit in for the show and told us where to place it. Mike was to have a Radio car out front, and as the President left the barbecue they would radio us and we would all be ready. We had invited all children patients, all children on the Foundation, and all patients who had never seen him and a few special guests to be at the Request performance.
I was making up the last member of the cast when Graham Jackson came running across the stage all made up for the show and whispered to me – tears rolling down his face – “Mrs. Stephens! He’s dead. The President is dead!” I automatically said, “Hush Graham!” He said, “It’s on the radio – N.B.C.” I called Mrs. Irwin, (24) the Chief Surgeon’s wife and a close friend of the President, who was helping me and told her. She screamed. There was some noise so only a few heard her. We rushed out as quietly as possible and with the Foundation accountant began to verify the rumor. We immediately realized there were no Secret Service men outside the Playhouse – which meant something was wrong. I went back to tell Betty who was at the door to continue to seat people and what we had heard. Then I went back stage to finish up with make up. The casts wasn’t aware of anything. By 5:15 – only about five minutes later – they were back and without any words I knew. His chair was in the middle of the aisle – the playhouse was full. I knew we must handle the situation carefully and in a dignified manner. My, what a responsibility. There happened to be a Methodist minister from Manchester – a Reverend Mize, (25) in the audience. I sent for him. I made the announcement to the black faced patient cast and the tears began to roll down the grease paint on their faces. He was their friends – everyone of them knew it too. Next I had two people draw the curtain made of old sheets with black faces painted on them and the minister and I stood before a large group of people who wondered why the leather chair had been moved from its place. It took everything I had to make the announcement. I said, “It is with a great deal of sympathy and regret on the part of the cast and the entire Foundation family that I make the announcement – the President of the United States of America is dead. He died at 3:35 p.m. If you will all stand we will have a minute of silent prayer and Rev. Mize will close the prayer.” My, what a shock and what could you do. We got the patients’ make up off and went up to the hall. The whole world knew it before we at Warm Springs did, since Mr. Hassett (26) released it to the White House correspondents immediately.
The night of the 12th was a long one. We went by the cottage the secretaries were staying in to see if there was anything we could do. They were a most pathetic group. They were very close to him. We made sure of the time the train was to leave Friday, so that we could have the patients at the hall. It was traditional that he always stopped at the hall on the way to the train.
I failed to tell you that Graham always brings the President red American Beauty roses. This time besides those, he brought an orchid – a lovely one for me because he appreciate my asking him to be here again when Mr. Roosevelt was here. I took it down to put on after I finished with make up. I never had it on. It is still in the box in the frigadaire. The American Beauty roses were probably the first flowers to teach the Little White House. Captain Ford (27) of the 4th Service Command, who also helped us with the show, took them up.
The train was supposed to leave at 8 a.m. so everyone was up very early. There was much going on all night but no noise. Three thousand soldiers and two thousand paratroopers to say nothing of the Generals and Admirals who arrived during the night. Mrs. Roosevelt (28) and Admiral McIntire, (29) the President’s personal physician, flew down from Washington during the night. The mournful sound of the black draped bass drum led the soldiers to their places at the Little White House where the procession started.
All patients and staff were at Georgia Hall the first thing in the morning of Friday the 13th. You will see them in the newsreels and newspapers. Several bands led the procession and after those were thousands of armed soldiers in battle dress – each man with a grave countenance. The blackdrums and the crepe on the American flag were so symbolical and then the dark green hearse bearing that great man’s worn out body. The pall bearers were young men representing each branch of the Armed services. The honor guard followed – all on foot. Mrs. Roosevelt and Admiral McIntire followed in a car and Miss Tully. Mr. Hassett, other secretaries and secret service men behind them. The hardest moment was when the hearse stopped in front of Georgia Hall by the patients – just as always, only he didn’t lift his hat and smile this time. Instead, the colored musician in the uniform of a Chief Petty Officer of the Navy played “Goin’ Home” very softly on the accordion. There wasn’t a dry eye – even Graham’s lips trembled and his eyes were closed as the tears streamed down his black face. At the flag pole – with the flag at half mast the hearse also stopped for newsreels and newspapers. We got into my car then and joined the procession to the train. Starting at the Gates to the Foundation there was an avenue of O.C.S. [Officers’ Candidate School] men and paratroopers lining the road on both sides, all the way to the train. There were about 4 feet apart and stood at attention with their guns. At the train – the flag draped casket was taken up a ramp and lifted into his car. As the band played softly, service men saluted, others bowed their heads [as] his special train silently and slowly left the place he established, for the last time. All of us felt that a personal friend had left us never to return.
Before leaving all members of the President’s Party expressed a wish that we would have the show we had planned on Friday night and dedicate it to him. It would be his wish they insisted. So after discussing it with every doctor and the higher officials and the cast we decided if that was what he would want the show would go on. It would have been easier to do anything but a minstrel and I was very much afraid they couldn’t make a go of it. We revised the script and I made the statement before the curtain was drawn, “Our show tonight instead of being a request performance will be a dedication, a dedication to the spirit of the leader who made Georgia Warm Springs Foundation mean what it does to you and to me. In the opinion of those who knew him best it would be his wish that we carry on with the precedent he established – and so now, with your help, we will carry on – courageously, smiling through.” The show was perfect. It was hard to do but everyone was so glad they had done it.
We spent all day yesterday planning a Memorial Service and decorating the chapel. The service was held at the same time the funeral was conducted at his other home – Hyde Park. There were no outsiders – just patients, staff and those who knew him well; no newspaper men or radio announcers because we purposely kept the time from the public. It was just a sincere Warm Springs Foundation memorial Service to our Commander in Chief, our President, our Founder and a great Humanitarian. The alter was decked with white carnations and two varieties of wild dogwood grown near the Little White House. The chapel couldn’t hold everyone who wished to attend, some were at windows and doors. I will enclose one of the programs. The anthem by the choir was the same one they did Easter Sunday for him. Dr. Huntington (30) is a polio who is an LLD and a PhD. He was president of Roberts College in Turkey when he took polio. Miss Plastridge (31) who made a short statement was once his physio[therapist]. Dr. Irwin (32) is the Chief Surgeon here and a personal friend (the President has been in his home and Dr. Irwin has been in both White Houses). He gave the most touching remarks of all. He is a large, handsome doctor and his eyes were full of tears – he would bite his lips and hesitate between sentences. When he finished and took his seat he cried. A doctor, a surgeon and the man that he is – being so moved because of the loss of a friend – was hard. The patients here dearly love Dr. Irwin. Mr. Botts, the other speaker, was the first patient here and another fine individual who personally feels the loss of this great man. The entire service was lovely and left us with the feeling that all of us will do our best to carry out to the best of our ability our individual jobs in order to carry on the great work which he started.
Somehow we feel we were privileged to be associated with this institution at the time we have been. The place naturally means a great deal to us, and more so now after these experiences. He certainly loved this place. He has a million dollar life insurance policy given to him by Edsel Ford and made payable to Georgia Warm Springs Foundation. The Little White House where he died will in probability become a National Shrine and probably the Foundation will be set up as a Memorial to him.
Very few people know that on Tuesday, April 10th he went up to what is known as the “Knob” (33) – a high point on Pine Mountain where we often go on picnics and, there, he spent two hours alone. Of course Secret Service men were in the woods but he was alone and very close to God – “The Knob” is just that kind of a place. You wonder what his thoughts were and if he had any premonition of what was to come.
How we do hope his plans can be carried out and a lasting Peace established – then his great sacrifice will not have been vain.
Betty and I have composed and typed this letter together here at the President’s Pool this afternoon – the afternoon of his burial. We hope it has given you a clear picture of the now historical events which occurred here these last two weeks. We are both pretty tired – physically and mentally – tomorrow is Betty’s day off so we’re going to Atlanta and try to relax. We will each write personally in the near future.
A fitting conclusion to this letter, we believe, are Mike Reilly’s words, “None of us will ever life long enough to know just how great a man he really was.”
Hazel & Betty
1 Quote from documentary film, “JFK: In His Own Words.” For comparative reaction to the deaths of Roosevelt and Kennedy, see William E. Leuchtenberg, In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan (Ithaca, N.Y., 1983), 115-18.
2 The author wishes to thank William Lewis Davis, Jr., of Tallahassee, Florida, who generously supplied him the original letter. He would also like to thank Betty Brown of Pine Mountain, Georgia, Hazel Stephens O’Connor Dillmeir of Garden City, New York, and Beverly Bulloch of Warm Springs, Georgia, for their cooperation.
3 All biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt necessarily examine his struggle with infantile paralysis and the treatment at Warm Springs, Georgia. See Frank Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Ordeal (Boston, 1954); James MacGregor Burns, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (New York, 1956). More recently, insight has been provided by Kenneth S. Davis, FDR, The Beckoning of Destiny, 1889-1928: A History (New York, 1972); Hugh Gregory Gallagher, FDR’s Splendid Deception (New York, 1985); Geoffrey C. Ward, A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt (New York, 1989). More popular treatments focusing on Roosevelt and Warm Springs are Turnley Walker, Roosevelt and the Warm Springs Story (New York, 1953); and Theo Lippman, Jr., The Squire of Warm Springs: F.D.R. in Georgia, 1924-1945 (New York, 1947).
4 Davis, The Beckoning of Destiny, 766, 769; Ward, A First-Class Temperament, 705-709, 715, 721-24, 744-46, 755-56; Freidel, Franklin Roosevelt, 194-95.
5 Ross T. McIntire (in collaboration with George Creel), White House Physician (New York, 1946), 39; Gallagher, FDR’s Splendid Deception, 40-41; Lippman, Squire of Warm Springs, 60; author’s telephone interview with Dr. and Mrs. Stuart Raper, Atlanta, Georgia, October 18, 1988.
6 Grace Tully, F.D.R., My Boss (New York, 1948), 248-49; Lippman, Squire of Warm Springs, 94; Michael F. Reilly (in collaboration with William J. Schuster), Reilly of the White House (New York, 1947), 225; interview with Dr. and Mrs. Stuart Raper, October 18, 1988. For Roosevelt’s input into architectural design at Warm Springs, see William B. Rhoades, “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Architecture of Warm Springs,” Georgia Historical Quarterly LXVII (Spring 1983), 70-87.
7 Jim Bishop, FDR’s Last Year (New York, 1974), 4-9, 485-88, 502-505, 509, 518, 521, 531-40; Bernard Asbell, When F.D.R. Died (New York, 1961), 14-15; Gallagher, Splendid Deception, 153. For local coverage of Roosevelt’s death, see Warm Springs Mirror, April 20, 1945; Columbus Enquirer, April 13, 1945; Atlanta Constitution, April 13, 1945. For Elizabeth Shoumatoff’s account, see FDR’s Unfinished Portrait: A Memoir (Pittsburgh, 1991).
8 Betty Brown, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, joined the Warm Springs staff in 1944. Her friend and co-author, Hazel Stephens, a native of Panama City, Florida, arrived in 1941.
9 Betty Brown to author, May 12, 1990; author’s telephone interview with William Davis, Tallahassee, Florida, May 31, 1990.
10 Laura Delano frequently accompanied the president to Warm Springs. A cousin of Roosevelt’s, she was talkative and enjoyed gossip. Neither did “Polly,” as Laura Delano was known, dwell on politics. The president was completely at east with her. She telephoned Eleanor first of Roosevelt’s collapse.
11 Margaret Suckley was another distant cousin whose company Roosevelt enjoyed. “Daisy,” as she was nicknamed, had given the president his beloved Scottie, Fala. She was the only person to hear Roosevelt’s last words, ” I have a terrible headache.”Asbell, When F.D.R. Died, 38.
12 Fala, the president’s Scottie dog, was well known to the public. Given to him as a puppy in 1940, Fala had recently made news. The pet became the focal point of controversy when Roosevelt left Fala behind on an Aleutian Island and supposedly sent a destroyer back to get him. In an early 1944 campaign appearance Roosevelt deftly and humorously turned the charges on his political adversaries. Michael Reilly described Fala as “the greatest little ham that ever walked on four feet.” Reilly, Reilly of the White House, 63.
13 Sister was Laura Delano’s Scotch terrier dog.
14 Howard G. Bruenn was a lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Reserve. A cardiologist, he had served as the president’s physician-in-attendance since 1944. Bruenn recognized the president’s precarious health, but had discovered nothing unusual when he examined Roosevelt on the morning of April 12. He fought to save the president’s life, but even Bruenn, who William D. Hassett felt “would inspire anyone’s confidence,” failed. William D. Hassett, Off the Record with F.D.R., 1942-1945 (New Brunswick, N.J., 1948), 328.
15 George A. Fox acted quietly and efficiently as the president’s masseur. Because of his expertise in physical therapy, Fox had been called upon to help with President Woodrow Wilson during his long convalescence. The lieutenant commander had served every president since. Well liked by Roosevelt, Fox was always part of the entourage and had recently traveled to Yalta with him.
16 Michael F. Reilly had protected the president as a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent since 1935. He was a likeable second-generation Irishman who Grace Tully felt “looked more like a movie actor than a security specialist.” Tully, F.D.R., My Boss, 206. A large and powerful man, who easily picked up and handled the incapacitated executive, Reilly was devoted to Roosevelt. As he would write, “I never believed he’d die, until he did.” Reilly, Reilly of the White House, 226.
17 Charles Fredericks, known as “Charlie,” was a long-time member of the Secret Service and often served as driver.
18 Leighton McCarty, a wealth Canadian corporation lawyer, was a personal friend of the president. Leighton’s son, a polio patient, was treated at Warm Springs first in 1928, and the McCarthys bought a cottage there. McCarthy was part of the group that arrived on March 30, 1945, with the president. The former Canadian ambassador eventually became a Warm Springs Foundation trustee.
19 Fred Botts was one of the first polio victims attracted to Warm Springs by Roosevelt’s progress. Soon after the frail young man arrived from Pennsylvania in 1925. Roosevelt taught him how to swim. Taking a characteristic personal interest in Botts, Roosevelt soon provided a prognosis: “He uses braces. When he came here [he] could walk only a few steps, yesterday he walked half a mile in them.” Ward, A First-Class Temperament, 728.
20 Grace Tully acted as one of Roosevelt’s chief secretaries throughout his entire administration. The president was drawn to the woman described by Dr. Ross McIntire as “gay, able, [and] charming.” McIntire, White House Physician, 70. As Grace Tully recorded in her lively recollections, Roosevelt was “literally a hero to those others who know so well the physical toll of infantile.” Tully, F.D.R., My Boss, 39.
21 Major DeWitt Greer, a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, was the chief of communication. He set up a short-wave operation in Frank Allcorn’s barn at the barbecue on the day of Roosevelt’s death.
22 Graham Jackson, a black recruiting officer in the Coast guard at Macon, Georgia, was Roosevelt’s favorite musician. He had performed for him on numerous occasions and was scheduled to do so again at the minstrel show. He was equally talented playing the accordion or piano. A moving photograph of a tearful Jackson with his accordion at the Warm Springs ceremonies was circulated worldwide.
23 Frank W. Allcorn was the mayor of Warm Springs and a friend of President Roosevelt.
24 Mabel Irwin was the wife of Chief surgeon Charles Irwin. She had no official position at the foundation, but was involved in many volunteer activities.
25 Benjamin F. Mize served from 1944-1945 as pastor of the First Methodist Church in nearby Manchester, Georgia.
26 William D. Hassett often filled in for Stephen T. Early as press secretary on out-of-town trips. He and the president liked each other, had much in common, and carried on long conversations. Less than a week before Roosevelt died, the erudite Hassett expressed fears about the president’s health to Dr. Bruenn. It was Hassett, described by Grace Tully as “a truly cultured man,” who officially announced the president’s death. Tully, F.D.R., My Boss, 156.
27 Captain Ford (first name unknown) was in charge of a marine detachment at the foundation.
28 Eleanor Roosevelt was in Washington when her husband died. Hearing of his collapse, she excused herself from a meeting and rushed to the White House. Dr. McIntire and Steve Early informed her of Roosevelt’s death, and she immediately flew to Warm Springs.
29 Vice Admiral Ross T. McIntire served as the Navy surgeon general. He had acted as the president’s personal physician since Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1933. A great admirer of the president, he praised from a medical perspective Roosevelt’s refusal to “accept invalidism as a rule of life… .” Although McIntire usually accompanied the president on all trips, he had promised to testify before a congressional investigative committee. Less than a year after Roosevelt’s death, McIntire wrote, “War Springs, to my mind, is the real monument to Franklin Roosevelt.” After all, McIntire continued, “it was his guiding hand and compassionate heart that built up a run-down health resort into a great national institution, offering treatment to five and six hundred patients a year, regardless of race, creed, or ability to pay.” McIntire, White House Physician, 5, 43-44.
30 George H. Huntington, acting as the vice president of Roberts College in Istanbul, was struck down by polio in the 1920s. Huntington sought treatment at Warm Springs and eventually moved there permanently with his wife, Elizabeth Dodge. The Congregational Church minister and the president socialized often.
31 Alice Lou Plastridge first treated Roosevelt at Horseneck Beach, Massachusetts in 1925. They took an instant liking to each other. Due to her efforts, walking with crutches became much easier for Roosevelt. He spoke enthusiastically of his Warm Springs plans during their sessions, and in 1927 Alice was hired. She soon became director of physiotherapy.
32 Charles Edwin Irwin, known as “Dr. Ed.” became chief surgeon and medical director of the foundation in 1933. He had graduated from Emory University medical School in 1932. During his lengthy tenure Dr. Irwin became world-renowned in the field of poliomyelitis surgery. Esteemed by Roosevelt, and “literally adored” by his patients, Irwin retired in 1955. See Bette Jane Synder, “Eulogy to Charles Edwin Irwin,” 1962, on file at Warm Springs Foundation Library, Warm Springs, Georgia.
33 Dowdell’s Knob is located six to eight miles south of Warm Springs on Pine Mountain. Its elevation, almost 1,400 feet, provides a panoramic view of the valley. It was the president’s favorite site. Betty Brown recalled, “He would spread a blanket on the rocks and thoroughly enjoy himself.” Betty Brown to author, May 15, 1990.