Title: Alan Lomax and Dr. William R. Emerson, director of the FDR Library, discuss Roosevelt's favorite hymns (part 1)
Date recorded: December 31, 1981
Date recorded: December 31, 1981
Subject(s): Roosevelt, Franklin Delano
Tape number: T3685
Track Number: 1
Archive ID: T3685a
Belongs to: Emerson/Lomax, 1981
Note: A discussion with Dr. William R. Emerson who was Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park on Roosevelt's favorite hymns: "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" (the Navy hymn)| "Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languid"| "Rock of Ages"| "A Mighty Fortress." Dr. Emerson: His favorites are wonderfully corny." Other favorite songs: "Anchors Aweigh," "Madelon" (a French WWI song), "Home On the Range," "Wild Irish Rose," "Yellow Rose of Texas." He recommends getting in touch with Roosevelt's cousin, who gave him the dog, Fala, and is the source of the favorites list. Lives in Rhinebeck. Roy H. Johannessen who lives in Poughkeepsie. His mother Nellie was brought to the US by Eleanor Roosevelt to run weaving project at Val Kill. Otto Bergie The young man Peter Kovler is responsible for the commemoration. Discussion of anecdotal books: Joe Alsop's book, he was a cousin on both sides. His memoir will be helpful. Simply the best single evocative essay on FDR. "Affectionately FDR," Sam Rosenman "Working with Roosevelt," and Tully's book. Alan's plans for the programs. In 1933, man who spoke into microphone Alan Lomax: Jimmy's Christmas story - my family did all those things including reading Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Alan Lomax: Did anyone ever record him being the ghost who scared Scrooge? Asks if anyone ever recorded the family singing carols. Josh White's widow Carol spent many Christmases with the Roosevelt. Tim and David Corcoran will sing the songs that Roosevelt loved. Dr. Emerson: Memories of Tom Corcoran as "almost a stage Irishman" always breaking into song. Would have come with his accordion and raised hell. Pity that he died suddenly. He was a wonderful, ebullient, almost a stage Irishman, telling stories and breaking into song from time to time. Alan Lomax: Was he a really close friend of FDR? When did the singing go on, at late night cocktail parties or when? Dr. Emerson: On the yacht, at conferences in White House, writing a speech, as recreation, resting from their labors. Tommy in the White House from 1934 to '39, then had a falling out. Alan Lomax: Did you ever hear song "We Cried About Roosevelt"? It's most affecting. Dr. Emerson: Have you checked Graham Jackson, a naval petty officer who used to play the accordion for FDR? Famous picture of him weeping as he played when Roosevelt died. Alan Lomax: Jackson playing "Going Home" might be more than anybody could stand. I'm getting a lump in my throat just thinking about it. I'm going to make the point that it was the ebullient and tolerant attitude of the Roosevelts toward anything American that made possible a renaissance in the arts - Sinclair Lewis, painters, etc. Dr. Emerson: At that time many Americans felt inferior to Europe. Dr. Emerson recommends a memoir by Olin Dows (not Olin Downes), who was in charge of the treasury department in the art field. Dows grew up next door to Roosevelt in Hyde Park and was brought up in the same way. It's a very evocative little book. His father was a good family friend. Two significant things from Joe Alsop's book: First: the the Roosevelts' style of life in the White House exemplified the best of a rather old-fashioned American "gentry" way of living that was completely unself-conscious (no interior decorators). I think you'll find Alsop's paragraphs the closest thing to what you are interested in - about their complete feeling of being at home with themselves and their background. The other thing that will be of interest to you is his section on the deep hatred that Roosevelt excited in members of his own class. According to Alsop, this arose from their intention his phrase "to include the excluded" - to reach out to other groups (non-WASPs). I think that would beautifully serve your purposes. Alan Lomax: Tex Goldschmitt (Arthur) an old family friend of mine said the Roosevelt's weren't so interested in the arts, but they were interested in the "po' folks" - you put it better. Anecdote: proposal to put huge statues on dam. Roosevelt how large? Three hundred 300 feet. How long is the penis? Thirty feet. Roosevelt said that would be too hard on Southern women. Emerson: An anecdote about Stackpole's statue. His change to Epstein style from classical. F.D.R. didn't like it so it is now screened by bushes so it is nearly invisible as Roosevelt wished. Alan Lomax asks if there are any recordings of FDR singing. Advises Dr. Emerson to stop smoking. Is he going to do a book? Dr. Emerson is at work on a book on the Italian campaign. A discussion of upcoming TV shows. David Brinkley's show on ABC sounds pretty good. Lomax would like to see about doing a TV show. Perhaps Burl Ives and Marian Anderson, both now hanging in the corner, would agree to participate if it were a TV show. Phone interview (only Alan Lomax can be heard): Alan's project is now a concert as it stands with reconstruct several scenes from the White House and Hyde Park. There is a film clip of Roosevelt listening to "Home on the Range" with purported pleasure. Phone interview with Bernard Asbell about Franklin Roosevelt and the arts. Two quotations from his May 10, 1939 radio address for the dedication of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City outlining plans for traveling exhibits to bring works of art to different parts of the country. (Speech written for him by Robert Sherwood or Sam Rosen). "A world turned into a stereotype, a society converted into a regiment, a life translated into routine make it different for art or artists to thrive. Crush individuality in society and you crush art as well. Nourish the conditions of a free life and you nourish the arts as well." Second quote: "Art in America has always belonged to the people. It has never been the property of an academy or class. The Great Treasury Projects through which our public buildings are being decorated are an excellent example of the continuity of this tradition. The Federal Arts Project of the Works Projects Administration is a practical relief project which also emphasizes the best tradition of the democratic spirit. In the future, we must seek more widespread popular understanding of and appreciation for the arts. Many of our great cities provide the facilities for such appreciation, but we all know that because of their lack of size and riches, the smaller communities are in most cases denied this opportunity. That is why a special emphasis is needed to giving these smaller communities the visual chance to get to know modern art. " Alan Lomax: That second quote is magnificent. That is the closest thing you'll find. But plenty from Mrs. Roosevelt. Asbell talks about the death of FDR and reads from his book. A report by Merriman Smith, AP reporter (from an interview) on the spontaneous gathering of crowds lining the tracks of the train taking Franklin Roosevelt's remains from Warm Springs, Georgia, to Washington, D.C. Three reporters sent down in extreme wartime secrecy, lifted on return journey. Smith said, "In Charlotte, North Carolina, a few ragged voices began a hymn, 'Onward Christian Soldiers' that strengthened to ten thousand voices." They were singing for themselves, really, because they were scared. UPI reporter Harold Oliver wrote that when the hymn ended, the Negroes (who were gathered in groups segregated from whites) began to sing spirituals, and that whites then joined them. They had not been allowed to vote for Roosevelt, but they came out late at night to pray for him. Mrs. Roosevelt from an interview at Val Kill: I lay in my berth all night, recalling "The Lonesome Train," the poem about Lincoln's death. I had always liked it so well and now this is like it. I never realized the full scope of the people's devotion to him until after he died. I couldn't go into a taxi cab subway in New York without people saying the way they missed the way the president used to talk to them: "He used to talk to me about my government." There was a real dialog between Franklin and the people. He always knew what the reaction would be to what he was doing. That dialog seems to have disappeared. Alan Lomax the next piece is going to be a song the blacks made up about him was "We Cried About Roosevelt." I am going to tell about walking down the streets of New York and seeing the people crying and then about how the blacks immediately wrote about him. Beverly will sing "The Man Who Couldn't Walk Around." Asbell remarks on Alan's memory and the fog when people's marriages are breaking up. They recall meetings in Georgetown. Songs sung. Mrs. Roosevelt heard them at a banquet. A call came to the United Federal Workers - it was Mrs. Roosevelt inviting them to the White House to entertain the soldiers. Alan Lomax: We sang "Sally Don't You Grieve," "A Dollar Ain't A Dollar Anymore," "Taking It Easy." Union songs not sung at White House: "Talking Union," "Roll The Union On," "Join The CIO," sung around the town. Asbell reads about Navy CPO Graham Jackson (recruiting officer for the Coast Guard) who had missed his chance to entertain the president the night before, stepped from behind a pillar as he saw the cortege. He played piano for the patients at Warm Springs. Trained went about 35 miles an hour, according to what Roosevelt preferred. Telephone interview with Marian Anderson, wishes her a Happy New Year Alan Lomax replies that he wants to talk about Marian Anderson's relationship with Mrs. Roosevelt. Marian Anderson had spoken to Lisa Fried from NBC who wanted to interview her, but she is too busy. Her husband is ill. Marian Anderson: There is a mistaken idea the president and Mrs. Roosevelt and yours truly had a great deal of contact, but that was not true. Alan Lomax: No, I wasn't under that impression. I know you were both very busy with your own lives. But I do think they [the Roosevelts] were doing the best they could in the face of a very ugly American opinion. Marian Anderson: You don't have to tell me about it. Alan Lomax: I am aware of it. I lived through that time, too. He makes an appointment to call her back on Tuesday at 2:30. Bernard Asbell tells an anecdote about Eleanor Roosevelt and bonus marchers (from the reminiscences of Rex Tugwell). When the bonus marchers marched into Washington in 1933 Roosevelt sent Eleanor to meet with them. She mingled with them and stood in line chow. They just loved it. One of them told a reporter: Hoover sent us the army, Roosevelt sent us his wife. Alan Lomax asks for a quote from Eleanor about integration. Taped call to Amagansett Public Library asking for books. "Affectionately FDR" by James Roosevelt, "The Dream and the Deal" by Jerre Mangione, "The FDR Memoirs" and "When FDR Died" by Bernard Asbell "FDR My Boss" by Grace Tully "Working With Roosevelt" by Sam Rosenman "Roosevelt Centenary" by J. Alsop "A New Deal For Artists" by J. McKenzie "Federal Relief Administration of the Arts" by William MacDonald "Roosevelt Centenary" by J. Alsop
Rights: The rights to the audio, photographic, and video materials contained within the Lomax Digital Archive are administered by various publishers, record labels, collectors, estates, and other rights holders. Any uses, commercial or not, must be cleared by the specific rights holders. For questions regarding the use of any material on the LDA, please contact Permissions.
About the session: Alan Lomax interviews Dr. William R. Emerson, director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, about Roosevelt's favorite hymns
Do you have something to add, or do you see an error in this record? We'd love to hear from you.