Franklin Roosevelt's Obituary
page 1 of The New York Times, April 13, 1945]
[With grateful thanks to Michael
Elsner for transcription!]
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT IS DEAD;
TRUMAN TO CONTINUE POLICIES
By Arthur Krock
End Comes Suddenly at Warm Springs
Even His Family Unaware of Condition as Cerebral
Stroke Brings Death to Nation's Leader at 63
ALL CABINET MEMBERS TO KEEP POSTS
Funeral to Be at White House Tomorrow, With Burial at
Hyde Park Home - Impact of News Tremendous
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
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
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
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
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,
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.