Sunday, April 12, 2009
Anniversary of the Passing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, on this date, April 12th, in 1945. Sixty-four years have now passed since FDR went to his final rest.
The longest serving President in American history, Roosevelt was also a fixture in the Deep South. He came to Warm Springs, Georgia, in 1924, in hopes that the natural warm water flowing from springs near Pine Mountain might cure him of the paralysis he suffered following a battle with polio. The water did not cure Roosevelt, but the aquatherapy and exercise did improve both his strength and outlook. In 1927, with help from a philanthropist, he purchased the springs and a surrounding farm. It was the beginning of the organization we know today as the March of Dimes.
The Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute was the only such facility available for those recovering from polio in his day. The disease terrified many Americans and the people it affected were often ostracized from their family and friends. The work at Warm Springs, however, gradually changed such perceptions.
Although he came in search of a medical cure, Roosevelt soon fell in love with the beautiful scenery of Warm Springs and Pine Mountain. In 1932, while serving as Governor of New York, he built the Little White House at Warm Springs. It was the only home he would ever own. Later that same year Roosevelt was elected President of the United States.
The story of his association with Pine Mountain and Warm Springs is one of the most remarkable in American political history. The Little White House became a refuge for the President as he struggled to guide the nation first through the dark years of the Great Depression and then through the difficult times of World War II.
On April 12, 1945, as World War II entered its final months, President Roosevelt was sitting for a portrait in the Little White House in Warm Springs when he suddenly collapsed. Carried to his nearby bedroom, he died later that day.
It is difficult today to understand the impact that the death of President Roosevelt had on the people of the United States. He had been the determined figure that led the nation through some of its most difficult times. He had told Americans that they had "nothing to fear, but fear itself." And as a man with severe disabilities, he guided the nation through World War II with a will of iron. The outpouring of grief experienced across the country was perhaps the greatest explosion of emotion in American history. People from all walks of life and from all races mourned the passing of the man who introduced himself to his rural Georgia neighbors as simply a farmer from Warm Springs.
To learn more about the Little White House and other sites associated with President Roosevelt in and around Warm Springs, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/littlewhitehouse.