by Kaye Lanning Minchew
On March 30, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt returned for the 41st time to his Little White House in Warm Springs. He came with friends, family and his dog Fala. He was exhausted when he arrived but staff thought Warm Springs would work its magic and revive the President. Over the next two weeks, he rested, handled correspondence, and went driving through the West Georgia countryside of Meriwether and Troup Counties. He slowly regained his strength and his complexion improved.
On April 12, he worked in the Little White House on correspondence while artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, a Russian immigrant, painted his portrait. About 1 p.m., he slumped over and declared he had a terrific headache. He was pronounced dead at 3:35 p.m. having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Roosevelt and his group were expected to attend at a barbecue with Warm Springs residents, instead the nation went into mourning.
Newspaper editors had a variety of stories on April 13, 1945. Editors of the Columbus Enquirer wrote that “Roosevelt was most certainly a casualty of the war in which all his sons are fighting and in which he had given magnificent leadership. His close attention to the duties of his office during more than 12 years sapped his strength.” Indeed, the day after his death, newspapers across the country carried their usual feature “Today’s Army-Navy Casualty List.” The first entry noted “Roosevelt, Franklin D. Commander-in-Chief.”
The Rome News-Tribune found reassurance in Roosevelt’s death. “Since under the providence of God the time of his departure had arrived, it is fitting that Franklin Delano Roosevelt should quit the scene in the little town of Warm Springs, Georgia which not only symbolizes his humanitarianism but will remain a perpetual reminder of his heroism in facing triumphantly a great physical handicap.”
Kaye Lanning Minchew was the executive director of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives for more than thirty years. Now retired, she serves as an archival consultant and lives in LaGrange, Georgia. A President in Our Midst comes out in May.