FDR and Warm Springs

FDR swimming in the pools at Warm Springs

Throughout his long friendship with Georgia, Roosevelt made it a point to get to know the people of rural Georgia and to become acquainted with their concerns. This helped shape his policies in the New Deal and showed the poor Southerners that the President had their concerns in his mind. During his visits to Warm Springs, Roosevelt would tour the countryside and talk with individual farmers, both seeing and hearing what they faced from day to day. It was here that he learned how to hide his disability, practicing stances and poses for photographs so as to keep concealed the fact that he was confined to a wheelchair.[1] Roosevelt in his convertible became a familiar sight for rural Georgians, and it is no surprise that Georgians appreciated his attention and concern for their well being. He truly showed his connection to Georgia during World War II when he still made the effort to not only take vacations at Warm Springs, but continued to tour the remote parts of the state. On one occasion, the President refused to postpone a tour of the Pine Mountain settlement despite bad weather conditions and his poor health, unsurprisingly contracting a mild case of pneumonia from the ordeal.[2] Such a level of commitment to showing Georgians that he cared about them cannot be overstated as having a great impact on Georgian’s high opinions of Roosevelt. It is no wonder that they saw him as a friend, adopted son, and beloved leader.

The Little White House

It was arguably Roosevelt’s frequent visits to Warm Springs which allowed him to become acquainted with the American South, and was why several of his New Deal programs were geared specifically towards helping the South. Georgia’s needs were different than the northern states as its economy was vastly different. He first visited Warm Springs in 1924, several years before he became well known in the national spotlight. He had been looking for a way to treat his polio and found the waters of Warm Springs to be very helpful.[3] Although swimming in the waters of Warm Springs could not heal his polio, Roosevelt made repeated trips to the town. It was from here that he began to learn about the South firsthand. He often took drives into the countryside and witnessed the devastation to farmland caused by the Boll Weevil.[4] When he was elected to the office of the Presidency, his retreats to Warm Springs occurred with less frequency as the demands of the nation received his attention. Nevertheless, Roosevelt did not forget about Georgia and its Southern neighbors.

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[1] Georgia Encyclopedia, Roosevelt

[2] Cope, “Robust Health,” Atlanta Constitution

[3] The New Georgia Encyclopedia, August, 2009., “Franklin D. Roosevelt in Georgia.”

[4]Ibid.

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