Thursday, January 13, 2011

FDR’s Death

This is an account of FDR’s death from Grace Tully, FDR’s private secretary of 17 years:
By the time I reached the house, both Bruenn and Fox [two physicians] were with the President in his bedroom. Miss Suckley [the President’s cousin] was in the living room, Miss Delano [another cousin] entered from the bedroom as I walked in. There were sounds of tortured breathing from the bedroom and low voices of the two men attending him. Miss Delano and Miss Suckley looked shocked and frightened; the former told me the President had finished some work with Mr. Hassett [an assistant to the president] and was sitting for Madame Shoumatoff [the artist]. At 1:00 o'clock the President remarked to the artist, 'We have only fifteen minutes.' At 1:15 he put his hand to his head and slumped backward in a coma. Prettyman and a Filipino house boy had carried him from his chair to his bedroom.

Hacky already had gotten Dr. McIntire on the phone in Washington and had put Bruenn on the line with him. At McIntire's instruction, Dr. James E. Paullin, a heart special­ist in Atlanta, had been summoned. Dr. Paullin made a desperately fast automobile trip to Warm Springs and ar­rived while we were waiting anxiously in the living room.

Almost within seconds of Paullin's arrival, Bruenn was called again by Dr. McIntire. While on the phone he was summoned back to the bedroom. Bruenn left the line open as he disappeared into the Boss' room. In a minute or so he was back. With a tragically expressive gesture of his hands he picked up the phone again. I knew what his message was before he spoke. The President was dead.

She also recounts Eleanor’s reaction and arrival:
". . . She was completely calm when she arrived. Miss Delano and Miss Suckley each embraced and kissed her. I did the same.

'You know,' I said, 'how deeply sorry I am for you and the children.'

She patted me lightly on the shoulder.

'Tully, dear, I am so very sorry for all of you.'

Before entering the bedroom she sat down on the sofa in the living room and asked the cousins to tell her exactly what had happened. She listened quietly and turned to me when they had completed their story.

'Were you here, Grace?'

I recounted my own schedule of the day, telling her what I had been in the house when he died. After a bit more conversation, Mrs. Roosevelt walked to the bedroom, entered and closed the door. She was inside for about five minutes - alone with her husband. When she came out her eyes were dry again, her face grave but composed."

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