FDR and the Lit­tle White House

The Covington News - - SCHOOL -

Our home­town in 1940, shortly be­fore World War II, was Of­fer­man, a tiny south Ge­or­gia com­mu­nity with dirt streets and rail­road tracks ex­tend­ing in four di­rec­tions.

My brother and I would of­ten stand and watch the huge steam lo­co­mo­tives, power plants on wheels, pulling their awe­some chain of freight cars. Dur­ing the night, we could hear trains come through at full speed; they were troop trains packed with hun­dreds of sol­diers on their way to camps in Florida.

This was the pre­lude to war, and the first time I ever heard the name of Franklin D. Roo­sevelt. I was 8 years old.

A few months later, my fa­ther moved the fam­ily to Savannah, where ha had a job as a gov­ern­ment car­pen­ter.

On De­cem­ber 8, 1941, the day af­ter the Ja­panese sur­prise air and naval at­tack on Pearl har­bor, Hawaii, I sat in a crowded as­sem­bly room of 38th Street School and heard the ra­dio broad­cast as Franklin D,. Roo­sevelt, the 32nd pres­i­dent of the United States, de­clared war on Ja­pan.

Then Ger­many and Italy de­clared war against the United States. Amer­ica’s in­volve­ment in World War II had be­gun: a war in which Amer­ica had a 1,068,370 ca­su­al­ties and 150,000 bat­tle re­lated deaths,

The war seemed to come as a sur­prise to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, but it shouldn’t have. Ger­many un­der Adolph Hitler de­vel­oped dreams of world do­min­ion, with Italy and Ja­pan join­ing the move­ment.

Roo­sevelt rec­og­nized the im­pend­ing cri­sis in 1940, shortly af­ter he be­came the first third-term pres­i­dent of the United States. Amer­i­cans were awak­ened to im­pend­ing dan­ger when France and other coun­tries were over­run. Af­ter meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Canada and Great Bri­tain to ne­go­ti­ate plans for “joint de­fense,” Roo­sevelt per­suaded Congress to ap­pro­pri­ate bil­lions for de­fense, which in­cluded draft­ing 900,000 men for mil­i­tary ser­vice.

The Lend-Lease Act in Jan­uary 1941 em­pow­ered the pres­i­dent to au­tho­rize the man­u­fac­ture of de­fense ar­ti­cles for any coun­try he deemed vi­tal. Af­ter Ger­many in­vaded Rus­sia, the lend-lease pro­gram was ex­tended to Rus­sia.

Amer­ica be­came “an arse­nal of democ­racy,” pro­duc­ing and dis­tribut­ing in­stru­ments of war. Ger­man sub­marines be­gan sink­ing Amer­i­can ships in the At­lantic Ocean; Pearl Har­bor was next, and a world war would now test Roo­sevelt’s lead­er­ship.

Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt was born in Hyde Park, N.Y., in 1882. The first cousin of Theodore Roo­sevelt, a grad­u­ate of Har­vard and the Columbia Law School, Roo­sevelt be­gan his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer by run­ning for the New York State Se­nate. Win­ning the elec­tion set the stage for per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant lead­er­ship of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury.

Stricken by an at­tack of in­fan­tile paral­y­sis in 1921, and left with a par­tially par­a­lyzed leg, he nev­er­the­less con­tin­ued his po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment. In 1928 and 1930 he was elected gov­er­nor of New York. In 1932, he was nom­i­nated for pres­i­dent of the United States by the Demo­cratic Party. He cam­paigned in a wheel­chair and de­feated Her­bert Hoover by an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity. At the time of his elec­tion to the pres­i­dency, the coun­try was suf­fer­ing from the stag­ger­ing ef­fects of its worst eco­nomic de­pres­sion. Seiz­ing vir­tu­ally dic­ta­to­rial pow­ers, Roo­sevelt moved swiftly to meet the cri­sis with what he called the “New Deal.”

As com­man­der-in-chief of the na­tion’s armed forces dur­ing World War II, his lead­er­ship was de­ci­sive.

Roo­sevelt had many homes, in­clud­ing one at Hyde Park and the White House in Wash­ing­ton. He also built a mod­est home in Ge­or­gia in 1933: the Lit­tle White House, a six­room house lo­cated in Warm Springs.

He vis­ited his hideaway in Ge­or­gia 41 times af­ter it was built; it was his ther­a­peu­tic home. He had found Warm Springs in the early 1930s and came back to en­joy the heal­ing wa­ters of the warm min­eral springs, and it be­came his sec­ond home.

Leav­ing Wash­ing­ton in April 1945 for a brief rest in Warm Springs, he died there on April 12, from a cere­bral hem­or­rhage.

The Lit­tle White House and mu­seum were opened to the pub­lic in 1947. The house is al­most the same as it was when Roo­sevelt died; it con­tains the now-fa­mous un­fin­ished por­trait of the Pres­i­dent. The mu­seum con­tains many of his per­sonal ef­fects.

This his­tor­i­cal site, op­er­ated by the state’s FDR Warm Springs Me­mo­rial Com­mis­sion, is Ge­or­gia’s link with Amer­ica’s most im­por­tant era in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury – an era which changed the course of his­tory.

Clifford Brew­ton


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