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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Interactions with FDR

While Strickland and his family lived in Warm Springs, Georgia, Franklin D. Roosevelt began coming there for rehabilitation. Strickland remembers that Roosevelt was very warm and approachable, and he relates several stories of his interaction with FDR.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LU ANN JONES:
Why did you decide to go to Warm Springs?
RALPH W. STRICKLAND:
Papa had an interest there at Warm Springs. He had a ginnery outfit. He run a ginnery. The gin over there at Chambers County burned up, and my sister Callie, she got sick. Papa had another gin down there at Warm Springs. We moved from Chambers County down to Warm Springs in 1921. Roosevelt come down there at Warm Springs in 1925. You know the reason he come down there? He begin to take those baths. At Warm Springs, that was a big public pool. Water pumped right out the foot of that pine mountain there. The government test is ninety degrees temperature, and the spring flowed at twenty-two hundred gallons a minute at ninety degrees temperature. It had a great big public pool there. Roosevelt, he come down there. At first, my brother Lee and Al Person, and Papa met that southern train come on from Atlanta. Little old private train run from Atlanta to Columbus, Georgia. Roosevelt come down there on that train. He was in a wheelchair, couldn't walk. He had steel braces on both legs. He had to go in a wheelchair. He began to take those baths, and they done him so much good, till he turned around and went back and got his mother Sarah at Hyde Park, New York, and they come back down there and bought Warm Springs from a fellow, old man John Davis. He owned that public pool and old colonial hotel up there on the side of the mountain. Four hundred acres of land, they gave old man John Davis eighty thousand dollars for that property. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy during Wilson's administration. He had this polio and got crippled. Anyway, that's the reason he come to Warm Springs. After he bought the place, he come on back down there and formed a stock company. Calloway, a fellow, a big cotton mill owner over at LaGrange, Georgia, that's when they built that Georgia Hall, and that's when they brought all those invalids down there, those polio victims. That was back there when they was having polio epidemics all over the country. He built that Georgia Hall. He was a regular "water duck." I seen him; I talked to him. My brother Lee worked for Roosevelt for eight years.
LU ANN JONES:
Doing what?
RALPH W. STRICKLAND:
Electrician. When I come out of the Navy in 1926, I went back down there. They were living there at Warm Springs. I helped my brother Lee, we wired the little White House there. He was an electrician and a plumber. We wired that little White House. Al Person, and Lee Strickland, and I done some help for them. I didn't know much about it, I just in the Navy. But my brother Lee was an electrician, and he put in all those fixtures and wiring, wiring that house. We's down there one time, I's digging a trench to run a underground line out, and Eleanor, Mrs. Roosevelt, Mr. Roosevelt was sitting there in the living room, sitting in there. My brother Lee was out there installing meter box on the back porch, and Eleanor come out there and asked him, says, "Lee, are we going get any lights in this house tonight?" Lee turned around and looked at her and sort of aggravated, I guess, says, "Mrs. Roosevelt, I got to go to Manchester. If I can find a part for this meter, you'll get light, but otherwise you won't." She sort of riled up there and said, "Well, looka here, I don't want no if's, and's, or but's, I want to know if we going get lights in this house tonight!" I never will forget that.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you think at the time that you were talking to the future President of the United States?
RALPH W. STRICKLAND:
Didn't have any idea, didn't have any idea about it.
LU ANN JONES:
What did you think of them? What was your impression of them?
RALPH W. STRICKLAND:
Roosevelt was the most brilliant man that I ever talked to or ever saw in my whole life. He was a perfect man, he spoke perfect English, and it's He knew all those people down there at Warm Springs by their given name. He had an old Model T Ford, and it was rigged up and he drove it with levers. He had levers on the foot board. He'd drive over there at Candy McCrea's drug store—had a little old drug store at that hotel there—Roosevelt would drive up there in that old Model T Ford, and had an old ragged shirt on. He was a regular old country man. He'd come down there, he was just one of the boys, that's all. He sit around there, holler out, "Hey, come here." Call them all by their names, say, "Come here," and buy them all Coca-Cola and sit there and go on, go on. After that, he'd drive on off, and go on back over there. That was way before he was Governor. That "Roosevelt for President" Club was started right there in Warm Springs. You take that Judge Revel there at Greenville—Greenville was the county seat—mayor of the county.
LU ANN JONES:
What was his name?
RALPH W. STRICKLAND:
Judge Revel. Susie knows him; my wife knows him. She can verify every word I say. Emmett Williams and my father, that "Roosevelt for President" Club was started right there at Warm Springs. It sure was. My father was the third man that signed that petition, that "Roosevelt for President" Club. Sure was.