PRESIDENTIAL FUNERALS: In the early afternoon of April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt was in his private cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, signing papers and sitting to have his portrait painted. Slowly he raised his hand to his head complaining of a debilitating headache. He then slumped forward, losing consciousness. At 3:35 p.m. he was pronounced dead.
The President’s sudden death at age 63 stunned the nation. FDR had been the Chief Executive for more than 12 years—young Americans had no memory of any other President. The timing of his death, when victory in World War II was at hand, added to the country’s grief.
Roosevelt’s health was in decline as he prepared for an unprecedented fourth term as President in 1944 and the impending victory and aftermath of World War II. A March 1944 examination by his doctors revealed a variety of heart ailments, high blood pressure, and bronchitis. Those close to the President—and even those who saw him speak in public—took note of his weak appearance, low energy, and his struggle with concentration and memory.
Most of the American public, however, was unaware of the President’s ailments because of FDR’s strong public addresses in 1944 that assuaged any concerns. Roosevelt’s victory in the election of 1944 and the diplomatic pressures of the Yalta Conference the following February, had put the President under immense strain. In April 1945, FDR returned to Warm Springs, a destination that had served since the 1920s as his favorite retreat. There, on April 12, he collapsed and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Vice President Harry S. Truman took the oath of office the same day
ABOUT THIS SERIES: Credit to the National Archives, FDR Presidential Library, Clinton Presidential Library, Library of Congress for information, photos, and video, The United States Marine Corps Band, The United States Air Force Band, and to the Taxpayers of the United States who paid for everything.