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FDR Funeral Train

On Thursday, April 12, 1945 at 5:47 PM, radio programming was interrupted to announce the death of the thirty-second President of the United -States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Only an hour earlier at 4:45 PM had the President passed after sustaining cerebral hemorrhaging while at his “Little White House” in Warm Springs, GA. President Roosevelt had retired to his home in Georgia since late March in an attempt to recoup from the exhausting wartime schedule. Although he had planned to return to Washington on April 20, he would be back in the nation’s capital on the 15th. However, it was Friday the 13th when the President’s body headed north, leaving on a special train from Warm Springs at 11:15 AM.

Along the journey back to Washington, Charlottesville was chosen to be one of the cities in which the train carrying the President’s remains would stop to allow for mourners to congregate and pay their respects for their former leader. FDR’s ties to the local community were through two individuals.  His son,¬∑Franklin, Jr. graduated from the University of Virginia in 1940 and at the graduation ceremony the President delivered his infamous “Stab in the Back” speech denouncing Italy’s entrance into the European war.  He was also connected by Major General Edwin M. “Pa” Watson, whom the President often visited at the military aide’s Albemarle County residence, Kenwood. The President’s last visit to Charlottesville, however, would be the morning of April 15th. Amid the early morning darkness, local residents made their way to the Southern Railway Station, lining the West Main Street overhead crossing.

At 6:20 AM the two-steam locomotive pulling the 11-car funeral train eased into the station. President Roosevelt’s body lay in a casket covered with an American flag in the illuminated final car filled with flowers and a guard of honor all standing at attention. After resting for three minutes, the train pulled away, eventually reaching Washington at 9:50 AM the next morning. That same day, President Roosevelt was buried in a rose garden of his Hudson Valley home in New York. Many Charlottesville residents joined in remembering their former President through Sunday morning worship. (Source: Maurer, David A., “Hundreds mourn as funeral train passes by.” The Daily Progress, 28 Feb. 1999.)

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