Kaye Lanning Minchew. A President in Our Midst: Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016. 280 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8203-4918-3.
Reviewed by Jeremy Richards (Gordon State College)
Published on H-FedHist (February, 2018)
Commissioned by Caryn E. Neumann (Miami University of Ohio Regionals)
Kaye Lanning Minchew’s A President in Our Midst (2016) is a pictorial history of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s life, both personal and political, in Georgia. As Minchew notes, FDR came to Georgia for the first time in 1913 on a tour of Brunswick in his capacity as assistant secretary of the navy. In 1924, after suffering polio, Roosevelt visited Warm Springs for the first time, loved the healing waters there, and became a part-time resident of the community for the next twenty-one years.
For a pictorial history, Minchew’s book is remarkable for its wide breadth of topics covering Roosevelt’s time in Georgia. The author sheds light on various aspects of FDR’s often complex relationship with his adopted state. Minchew deals extensively with more positive aspects of FDR’s time in Georgia, such as his therapy and exercise at the pools of Warm Springs, his interest in the Warm Springs Foundation that he helped establish, and his connections with both Foundation polio patients and average Georgia residents. Minchew’s efforts help to humanize FDR.
Minchew also looks at how FDR’s becoming president and his overseeing of America’s responses to, first, the Great Depression, and, later, World War II affected his relationship with Georgia. Minchew is no shrinking violet when it comes to exposing more contentious aspects of FDR’s time there, as when she delves into his bitter feuds with Governor Eugene Talmadge and Senator Walter F. George, and she even does some examining of FDR’s controversial Gainesville and Barnesville speeches, after which much of the Georgia public began to see the president as a meddling outsider.
Minchew also touches on some more personal aspects of FDR’s life, such as the relationship between the president and his mistress, Lucy Mercer Rutherford. Toward the end of the book Minchew examines various aspects of the legacy of FDR for the state of Georgia and the nation. As a pictorial history, Minchew’s book provides a wide-lens overview of FDR’s time in Georgia, and her use of sources is fairly extensive. On the downside, because Minchew’s coverage is much more wide than deep, readers who want a more in-depth examination of FDR’s relationship with Georgia will have to go elsewhere.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-fedhist.
Jeremy Richards. Review of Minchew, Kaye Lanning, A President in Our Midst: Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Georgia.
H-FedHist, H-Net Reviews.
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