Franklin Roosevelt's Obituary

[From page 1 of The New York Times, April 13, 1945]

[With grateful thanks to Michael Elsner for transcription!]


End Comes Suddenly at Warm Springs
Even His Family Unaware of Condition as Cerebral Stroke Brings Death to Nation's Leader at 63
Funeral to Be at White House Tomorrow, With Burial at Hyde Park Home - Impact of News Tremendous

By Arthur Krock
Special to The New York Times
     Washington, April 12 - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, War President of the United States and the only Chief Executive in history who was chosen for more than two terms, died suddenly and unexpectedly at 4:35 P.M. today at Warm Springs, Ga., and the White House announced his death at 5:48 o'clock. He was 63.
     The President, stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage, passed from unconsciousness to death on the eighty-third day of his fourth term and in an hour of high-triumph. The armies and fleets under his direction as Commander in Chief were at the gates of Berlin and the shores of Japan's home islands as Mr. Roosevelt died, and the cause he represented and led was nearing the conclusive phase of success.
     Less than two hours after the official announcement, Harry S. Truman of Missouri, the Vice President, took the oath as the thirty-second President. The oath was administered by the Chief Justice of the United States, Harlan F. Stone, in a one-minute ceremony at the White House. Mr. Truman immediately let it be known that Mr. Roosevelt's Cabinet is remaining in office at his request, and that he had authorized Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr. to proceed with plans for the United Nations Conference on international organization at San Francisco, scheduled to begin April 25. A report was circulated that he leans somewhat to the idea of a coalition Cabinet, but this is unsubstantiated.

Funeral Tomorrow Afternoon

     It was disclosed by the White House that funeral services for Mr. Roosevelt would take place at 4 P.M. (E.W.T.) Saturday in the East Room of the Executive Mansion. The Rev. Angus Dun, Episcopal Bishop of Washington; the Rev. Howard S. Wilkinson of St. Thomas's Church in Washington and the Rev. John G. McGee of St. John's in Washington will conduct services.
     The body will be interred at Hyde Park, N.Y., Sunday, with the Rev. George W. Anthony of St. James Church officiating. The time has not yet been fixed.
     Jonathan Daniels, White House secretary, said Mr. Roosevelt's body would not lie in state. He added that, in view of the limited size of the East Room, which holds only about 200 persons, the list of those attending the funeral services would be limited to high Government officials, representatives of the membership of both houses of Congress, heads of foreign missions, and friends of the family.
     President Truman, in his first official pronouncement, pledged prosecution of the war to a successful conclusion. His statement issued for him at the White House by press secretary Jonathan Daniels, said:
     "The world may be sure that we will prosecute the war on both fronts, East and West, with all the vigor we possess to a successful conclusion."

News of Death Stuns Capital

     The impact of the news of the President's death on the capital was tremendous. Although rumor and a marked change in Mr. Roosevelt's appearance and manner had brought anxiety to many regarding his health, and there had been increasing speculation as to the effects his death would have on the national and world situation, the fact stunned the Government and the citizens of the capital.
     It was not long, however, before the wheels of Government began once more to turn. Mr. Stettinius, the first of the late President's Ministers to arrive at the White House, summoned the Cabinet to meet at once. Mr. Truman, his face gray and drawn, responded to the first summons given to any outside Mr. Roosevelt's family and official intimates by rushing from the Capitol.
     Mrs. Roosevelt had immediately given voice to the spirit that animated the entire Government, once the first shock of the news had passed. She cabled to her four sons, all on active service:
     "He did his job to the end as he would want you to do. Bless you all and all our love. Mother."
     Those who have served with the late President in peace and in war accepted that as their obligation. The comment of members of Congress unanimously reflected this spirit. Those who supported or opposed Mr. Roosevelt during his long and controversial years as President did not deviate in this. And all hailed him as the greatest leader of his time.
     No President of the United States has died in circumstances so triumphant and yet so grave. The War of the States had been won by the Union when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and though the shadow of post-war problems hung heavy and dark, the nation's troubles were internal. World War II, which the United States entered in Mr. Roosevelt's third term, still was being waged at the time of his death, and in the Far East the enemy's resistance was still formidable. The United States and its chief allies, as victory nears, were struggling to resolve differences of international policy on political and economic issues that have arisen and will arise. And the late President's great objective - a league of nations that will be formed and be able to keep the peace - was meeting obstacles on its way to attainment.
     Mr. Roosevelt died also in a position unique insofar as the history of American statesmen reveals. He was regarded by millions as indispensable to winning the war and making a just and lasting peace. On the basis of this opinion, they elected him to a fourth term in 1944. He was regarded by those same millions as the one American qualified to deal successfully and effectively with the leaders of other nations -- particularly Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Marshal Joseph Stalin - and this was another reason for his re-election.
     Yet the constitutional transition to the Presidency of Mr. Truman was accomplished without a visible sign of anxiety or fear on the part of any of those responsible for waging war and negotiating peace under the Chief Executive. Though the democratic process has never had a greater shock, the human and official machines withstood it, once the first wave of grief had passed for a leader who was crushed by the burdens of war.
     President Truman entered upon the duties imposed by destiny with a modest and calm, and yet a resolute, manner. Those who were with him through the late afternoon and evening were deeply impressed with his approach to the task.
     "He is conscious of limitations greater than he has," said one. "But for the time being that is not a bad thing for the country."
     How unexpected was President Roosevelt's death despite the obvious physical decline of the last few months is attested by the circumstances that no member of his family was with him at Warm Springs, no high-ranking associate or long-time intimate, and that his personal physician, Rear Admiral Ross McIntyre, was in Washington, totally unprepared for the news.

Personal Physician Surprised

     The Admiral, in answer to questions from the press today, said "this came out of a clear sky," that no operations had been performed recently on Mr. Roosevelt and that there had never been the slightest indication of cerebral hemorrhage. His optimistic reports of the late President's health, he declared, had been completely justified by the known tests.
     This ease of mind is borne out by the fact that Mrs. Roosevelt was attending a meeting of the Thrift Club near Dupont Circle when Stephen Early, the President's secretary, telephoned her to come to the White House as soon as possible. Mrs. John Boettiger, the only daughter of the family, was visiting her slightly ailing son at the Naval Hospital at Bethesda, Md., some miles away.
     While these simple offices were being performed by those nearest and dearest, the President lay in the faint room from which he never roused. A lesser human being would have been prostrated by the sudden and calamitous tidings, but Mrs. Roosevelt entered at once upon her responsibilities, sent off her message to her sons and told Mr. Early and Admiral McIntyre, "I am more sorry for the people of the country and the world than I am for us." When Mr. Truman arrived and asked what he could do for her, Mrs. Roosevelt rejoined calmly, "Tell us what we can do. Is there any way we can help you?"

Flag at Capitol Lowered

     As soon as the news became a certainty the White House flag was lowered to half-staff - the first time marking the death of an occupant since Warren G. Harding died at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, Aug. 2, 1923, following a heart attack that succeeded pneumonia. The flag over the Capitol was lowered at 6:30 P.M. Between these two manifestations of the blow that had befallen the nation and the world, the news had spread throughout the city and respectful crowds gathered on the Lafayette Square pavement across from the executive mansion. They made no demonstration. But the men's hats were off, and the tears that were shed were not to be seen only on the cheeks of women. Some Presidents have been held in luke-warm esteem here, and some have been disliked by the local population, but Mr. Roosevelt held a high place in the rare affections of the capital.
     The spoken tributes paid by members of Congress, a body with which the late President had many encounters, also testified to the extraordinary impression Mr. Roosevelt made on his times and the unparalleled position in the world he had attained. The comment of Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, a constant adversary on policy, was typical. "The greatest figure of our time," he called him, who had been removed "at the very climax of his career," who died "a hero of the war, for he literally worked himself to death in the service of the American people." And Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, another Republican and frequent critic, said that the late President has "left an imperishable imprint on the history of America and of the world."

More Than Mere Words

     These were not mere words, uttered in conformity to the rule of "nil nisi bonum." Mr. Roosevelt's political opponents did what they could to retire him to private life, and their concern over his long tenure was real and grew as the tenure increased. But ever since his fourth-term victory in 1944 they have felt sincerely that it would be best for the country if he were spared to finish the great enterprises of war and peace which the country had commissioned him to carry through. And when they called his death a national and international tragedy they meant it.
     But this tribute paid, this anxiety expressed, they and the late President's political supporters and official aides turned their hearts and minds again to the tasks before the nation. No one said "On to Berlin and Tokyo!" For Americans do not speak dramatically. But that is what every one meant, and it was the gist of what President Truman said and did after the ceremony that made him the head of the State.
     When the dignitaries were assembled with Mr. Truman for this solemn purpose, there was a slight delay until his wife and daughter should arrive. Then the Chief Justice, using a Bible borrowed from Mr. Roosevelt's office and speaking from memory, read the oath and the new President repeated it after him. Then he and Mrs. Truman called on Mrs. Roosevelt and, as the President said, went "home to bed."
     He wore a gray suit, a white shirt and a polka-dot tie. His face was grave but his lips were firm and his voice was strong. He said through Mr. Early that his effort will be "to carry on as he believed the President would have done." And he arranged to meet with the Army and Navy chiefs tomorrow, to assure them as tonight he did the people that his purpose is to continue the conduct of the war with the utmost vigor and to the earliest possible and successful conclusion.
     While these simple but dignified processes of democracy were in motion, preparations were being made to render fit respect to the memory of the dead President. It was decided that Mrs. Roosevelt, their daughter and other members of the family should fly to Warm Springs to accompany the remains to Washington, arriving Saturday.
     Meanwhile, it was announced that the nation-wide series of Jefferson Day dinners have been canceled, and similar honors of observance will be paid at the Capitol, throughout the United States and at many places in the world that looked to Mr. Roosevelt as its leader from darkness to the light.