“Thousands Pay Tribute to the President,” November 29, 1935
(The following article is from the Nov. 29, 1935 issue of the Atlanta Journal.)
Thousands Pay Tribute to the President
by Ed H. Bradley
A cross section of southern Democrats, massed thousands upon thousands in downtown Atlanta and at Grant Field, Friday gave President Franklin D. roosevelt such a demonstration of loyalty and confidence in his leadership as will go on record as the most important event of its kind in the south’s history.
The city never saw a more spontaneous or heartfelt greeting from a grateful people than that extended the President when he visited Atlanta for the first time since his inauguration.
The tribute paid him by the enormous throng assembled at Grant Field to hear him promise still greater improvement in conditions, and the other uncounted thousands who, somewhat awed by the chilly weather, gathered around radios indoors or in more sheltered spots than the Tech Stadium, was of a nature to warm the heart of any man.
From the moment he arrived at Fort McPherson on his trip from the Little White House at Warm Springs, the President rode between walls of humanity that lined the curbs and called their greeting in response to the friendly wave of his hand and infectious smile.
Long before he reached Grant Field, that huge horse shoe stadium had been filled and the throngs unable to find seats in the stands massed themselves in the arena that contains the football gridiron.
It was such a crowd as has never assembled before within the gates of Grant Field.
The greeting was more than a formal reception to the holder of a great public office. It was glowing with affection and warmth of devotion to a leader whose humanitarian principles and policies have marked him as one of the great figures in world history.
Governor Eugene Talmadge, bitter critic of the New Deal and Roosevelt policies, was absent from Grant Field. He left Thursday night for his farm in Telfair County and did not remain in Atlanta to participate in the welcome to the President.
The governor a day or two ago sent a formal note of welcome to Mr. Roosevelt and in return received a brief message of courtesy from the President.
The crowd in the bowl had grown to more than 50,000 when the President entered.
He waved as the many bands blared forth a greeting.
The crowd stood on the entry of the chief executive.
Mr. Roosevelt was kept busy for a few minutes shaking hands with old friends.
Chairman Carl Vinson, of the House naval affairs committee, and others of the Georgia congressional committee joined the presidential party on the speakers’ stand.
For more than three hours, thousands of loyal southerners had been waiting in the chilly wind at Grant Field to pay their tribute to the nation’s chieftain, and when he appeared promptly on schedule time at 12:50 p.m., after his tour of the city, such a roar went up as fairly rocked the steel and concrete stands of the tremendous stadium.
Massed bands, almost a dozen of them, played “Hail to the Chief” as the President appeared on the speakers’ stand, escorted by his bodyguard, Gus Gennerich, and a corps of secret service men.
The multitude that not only packed the stands on both sides but also jammed most of the gridiron arena arose to its feet and shouted as the President waved his hat high in the air and smiled in thorough appreciation of the tumultuous tribute.
The President entered with his eldest son, James. With him were United States Senators Richard B. Russell, Jr., and Walter F. George, Mrs. Roosevelt, Dr. M.L. Brittain of Georgia Tech.
All the bands joined in the playing of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
After a few moments the program got under way, with Senator Russell presiding as master of ceremonies and introducing Senator George, who in turn presented the President to the huge throng.
Senator Russell cited the huge multitude as evidence of the “loyalty and devotion” of Georgians and their neighbors from other states of the “Democratic principles of our fathers,” and the crowd yelled its approval.
The audience cheered loudly when Senator Russell told the President that people had come from every section of Georgia to pledge to him their confidence and loyalty.
“The Democracy of Georgia cannot be taken by assault from without nor treason from within,” Senator Russell added.
Directly on the left of the President’s speaking desk flew the dark blue flag bearing the coat of arms of the United States. It was the President’s flag, the emblem flown over the White House on state occasions and displayed when he makes formal appearances such as the Atlanta home-coming.
Friday the flag came south for the first time. It had previously been displayed at Arlington and Gettysburg, but as it flew from the President’s stand at Grant Field, its appearance added a historical touch to the occasion that was unique.
Just at noon the University of Georgia band marched into the stadium, being greeted by the Yellow Jackets’ band with a rousing blast of “Rambling Wreck.”
The Bulldog band was headed by two drum majors, one petite girl in trim uniform, white fur shako and glittering baton.
Behind the collegians came the Savannah Fire Department band, headed by a delegation of Chatham County, and before their music had died away, along came the Savannah Police Department band, also blasting away in a martial air.
Still another musical organization, the Atlanta WPA Band, played directly in front of, and below, the President’s stand. Then came the Lanier High School Band, from Macon.
A battalion of Boy Scouts, most of them of Eagle rank, filed in and took seats just below the press box.
Before the President arrived, all the bands massed in front of the President’s stand and the stage where the distinguished visitors had occupied special seats.
The Atlanta Old Guard, famous military and serial organization, arrived about this time with its color guard, and occupied seats in the central section of the stage.
Right alongside them were the members of the American Legion Drum Corps, Atlanta Post, in their sky blue uniforms and glittering metal helmets. As an added feature they brought along a cowboy accordionist.
Throngs of people seated in the stands at the east and west sides of the stadium left their places and flocked down into the arena just in front of the President’s stand, in order to get a better point of vantage to see and hear him.
Loud-speakers brought news of the progress of the President’s party as he made his way through the downtown section of Atlanta and out to Piedmont Park, where thousands of school children pledged their allegiances to the flag and exchanged greetings with Mr. Roosevelt.
Every step of his progress along the route was pictured vividly over the radio to the huge crowd at Grant Field. When the strains of “America” broke forth from the loud-speakers that were bringing the incidents at Piedmont Park the whole crowd at he stadium hushed into silence and then heard the children make their pledge and listened to the President’s greeting to them.
Just before entering the stadium, the President ta button handed to him in his motor car, which unveiled a tablet dedicating the $2,875,000 federal low-cost project on Techwood Drive, a street which traverses the Georgia Tech campus.
As the parade neared the stadium, Macon’s Drum and Bugle Corps, and a Florida delegation, , carrying a banner reading “Florida Greets President Roosevelt,” joined the throngs inside the stadium. Behind the banner was Jacksonville’s Drum and Bugle Corps.
Governor Sholtz, of Florida, and Olin Johnston, of South Carolina, entered the stands. Governor Bibb Graves, of Alabama, went to the stadium after reviewing the parade from a portico of a hotel not far away.
Seeking to get nearer to the speakers’ stand, the crowd began pouring from the stands on the east and west on to the gridiron and banking behind the fence which runs around the field inside the stadium.
Loud-speakers brought information of the progress of the parade as it moved toward Grant Field.
As the radio brought the strains of “America” from Piedmont Park, where thousands of children sang it for the President, the great crowd in the stadium stood silently with bowed heads.
They remained standing as the children took the oath of allegiance to the flag.
The President reached the stadium 12:50 p.m., central standard time.
During the President’s address an elderly man in the mass of people in the arena fainted, but the incident caused no confusion as the stretcher bearers from the Naval Reserve unit quickly carried him to the Red Cross Hospital tent at one end of the big stands, where first aid treatment was administered.
By 10:30 o’clock the big Tech Stadium was beginning to fill up rapidly and about five thousand people were in their seats when the Georgia Tech band, in full uniform, stepped into the arena. They opened up with “Ramblin’ Wreck” and the crowd gave them a big hand.
A brisk wind blowing out of the northwest rather slowed up the influx into Grant Field, everybody coming equipped to withstand the chilly breezes. Most of the folks were in heavy winter attire, fur coats, lap robes and heavy scarfs being much in evidence as the crowd began to gather.
A strong detachment of regular Army soldiers from Fort McPherson was on duty in and around the stadium, along with a detail from the naval reserve unit here.
Gay Bunting and flags decorated Grant Field from one end to the other and more elaborate decorations had been placed around the speakers’ stand and the big stage for distinguished guests, both located at the south end of the big concrete horse shoe.
From the mast and spar atop the Tech Naval R.O.T.C. Armory floated a variety of signal flags.
News reel and sound-movie men occupied a high platform tower just west and in front of the stand from which the President spoke, and a battalion of newspaper photographers flitted about “shooting” from all angles and positions.
Two clusters of loud speaker horns had been erected on standards above and on each side of the President’s stand, so that his speech, and those of senators Russell and George, might be heard without difficulty throughout the arena as well as over the radio. Microphones hooked up with the field loud speakers and the radio broadcasting stations had been placed on the desk behind which the President spoke.
Through WSB, The Journal’s broadcasting station, and WGST, the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System carried the President’s address to every corner of America over coast ot coast networks.
While the crowd was waiting in the stadium for the beginning of the ceremonies, they were entertained not only by band music, but also by a series of brief talks and entertainment features broadcast from the studios of WSB.
President Roosevelt left Warm Springs at 9:17 a.m. for Atlanta, escorted by fourteen cars, paced by an Atlanta motorcycle detail of a dozen policemen.
A delegation headed by Edgar Dunlap met Mr. Roosevelt at Georgia Hall.
At Fort McPherson, streets were swarming with people by 10 o’clock and hundreds were massed at vantage points along the line of march through West End, with the greatest throngs at McCall’s Crossing.
At Whitehall and McDaniels Streets, also on the route of the presidential party, a huge mass of negroes began congregating early, lining the street and the windows of nearby buildings.
President Roosevelt and his party entered the Fort McPherson military reservation at 11:10 a.m.
A presidential salute of twenty-one guns was fired, after which the party proceeded to the quarters of Major General Van Horn Mosley.
The President’s party left Fort McPherson at 11:48 a.m., proceeding through downtown Atlanta.
At the intersection of Spring, Forsyth and Whitehall Streets, a dense throng waited patiently for a view of the President.
“Here he comes!” the cry went up shortly after noon. Thirteen motorcycle policemen were in the procession. Fire Chief O.J. Parker, a group of Army officers and the official welcoming committee, headed by Erle Cocke, preceded the President’s car.
A resounding cheer greeted the chief executive, and he responded with his world-famous smile, waving his hat to the enthusiastic men, women, and children who jammed the sidewalks.
As the procession entered the downtown business canyon of office buildings, confetti showered from the windows and a continuous wave of applause accompanied the chief executive’s car block after block. Five Points, every available inch of which was jammed, resounded to a prolonged cheer as the President’s car left Whitehall Street and entered Peachtree.
Coming as the guest of the Georgia delegation in Congress, President Roosevelt is the eighth President of the United States to visit Atlanta. The first event of its kind was in 1848, when Millard Fillmore visited here in the early days of Atlanta’s history.
Fresh from his annual Thanksgiving Day turkey carving at Warm Springs, Mr. Roosevelt and his party motored the seventy miles from the “Little White House” on Pine Mountain, pausing at Fort McPherson, then heading a parade through Atlanta to Grant Field for his address.
En route he stopped at Piedmont Park to receive the greetings of thousands of school children massed there, and paused again at North Avenue and Techwood Drive to unveil a marker at the Techwood housing project. After his Grant Field address he was to motor back to Warm Springs, stopping at Atlanta University to greet thousands of Negro school children and look at the University housing project.
By mid-forenoon, hotel lobbies were filled to overflowing and streets were rapidly becoming crowded.
A huge delegation from Dalton and Whitfield County,, led by Congressman Malcolm Tarver, reached the city about 10 o’clock, accompanied by a forty-piece American Legion band. Another band came with the Gainesville and Hall County group and a great motorcade from Americus and Sumter County gathered motorists in Ellaville and other cities along Highway Route No. 3, as it rolled toward Atlanta.
A motorcade from Burke County, with carloads from Waynesboro and Louisville, joined forces with a cade from Jefferson County and Sandersville, and another from Milledgeville and Washington County to form one of the largest delegations arriving at one time.
Georgia’s two senators were on the program at Grant Field, Senator Richard B. Russell, Jr., presiding and delivering a brief speech, and Senator Walter F. George presenting Mr. Roosevelt.
Decorators were busy all week bedecking the city in flags and bunting greeting the President in box-car letters. Huge likenesses of Mr. Roosevelt were placed on the fronts of downtown buildings and his portrait is in most show windows.
Although accustomed to welcoming Presidents, never before has Atlanta been so dressed up for a Presidential visit.
It was a hearty welcome, though, for President Fillmore in 1848 and a happy occasion when President Rutherford B. Hayes came here in 1877 - marking the end of a series of unfortunate conditions which had existed since the War Between the States. Hayes made a second visit in 1889.
Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic President after the war, made two visits, the first for the Piedmont Exposition in 1887 and again in 1895.
Theodore Roosevelt, whose wife’s ancestral home, Bullock Hall, still stands at nearby Roswell, was a visitor in 1905.
Other presidential visits were made by Benjamin Harrison in 1890, William McKinley in 1898, William Howard Taft in 1911 and Warren Harding in 1922.