The 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is one of the most famous people to have ever lived on earth. While I strongly disagree with most of his political philosophy, I have always admired his resolve as our War President during WWII.
Interestingly, FDR also had a very strong connection to the west Georgia area. In Warm Springs, located in Meriwether County, he found the strength to resume his political career and a positive outlet for his own personal struggle with polio. He returned to use the therapeutic waters at Warm Springs every year, except 1942, from his first visit in 1924 until his death there in 1945. As president, he also carried on important official duties at Warm Springs.
In 1924, he heard of the story of a young polio victim’s recovery after bathing in the swimming pools at Warm Springs. FDR, the young politician paralyzed from the waist down in 1921 from polio, arrived at the resort on October 3, 1924 hoping to find a cure. The next day, he began swimming and immediately felt an improvement. For the first time in three years, he was able to move his right leg.
In 1926, he bought the resort property. Seeking medical advice and contributions from his friends, he organized the nonprofit Warms Springs Foundation in 1927 turning the property over to the foundation.
The Warm Springs Foundation created what became the first and for many years, the only hospital devoted solely to the treatment of poliomyelitis victims in the world. The organization became the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the sponsor of the “March of Dimes,” and was instrumental in promoting the development of a cure for polio. FDR continued for the rest of his life to be actively involved with the foundation.
Although never again able to use his legs fully, by 1928, he regained enough physical and emotional strength to return to his great passion, politics. After winning the governorship of New York, he went on to be elected to 4 terms as the president.
FDR was only able to go to Warm Springs for infrequent short visits during WW II. He returned to Warm Springs for the last time near the end of the war in March of 1945. Just back from the Yalta Conference, he planned to work on the address with which he would open the United Nations Conference.
On Thursday, April 12, he planned to attend an afternoon barbecue given by his Warm Springs friends. That afternoon, FDR seated in a favorite chair near the fireplace at “the Little White House”, posed for a portrait and suddenly suffered a massive stroke. He died in Meriwether County, GA that same afternoon.
Presently, Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute is a vocational rehabilitation center treating persons with head, neck, and back injuries, any type of joint or muscle disorder, stroke patients, arthritis, post-polio syndrome and a wide range of birth defects.
While deer hunting in Meriwether County, I sometimes wonder if he travelled some of the same paths that I have taken in that beautiful county in west Georgia.