Named “the foremost statesman and political leader” of the 20th Century by Time Magazine, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is best known for being the only U.S. president elected four times and the leader who guided our country out of the Great Depression and through World War II. At the same time, his living legacy in Warm Springs is not something you will find much about in the history books.
An aristocrat from Hyde Park, N.Y., he had been both assistant secretary of the Navy and a candidate for vice-president by the time he contracted polio in 1921 at his family’s summer home off the coast of Maine (Campobello). Left paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 39, he spent three years searching for any means possible to walk again. Frustrated, with his promising political future all but over, he was desperate when a letter from his friend, George Foster Peabody, arrived and told him of the improvement a young man with polio was showing by swimming in the warm, mineral-rich waters at his Georgia resort, the Meriwether Inn. Despite his family’s objections, Roosevelt immediately left for Georgia.
The success he enjoyed in the warm springs, being able to stand on his own and the ability to strengthen his withered leg and hip muscles, attracted local and eventually national publicity, and other downhearted polio survivors, seeking similar results, began arriving from all over the country. When their presence proved incompatible with the other paying customers, Roosevelt purchased the resort and turned it into what became a world-famous polio treatment center -- the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.
By regaining his confidence and self-esteem, and through his new found appreciation for the problems of others, Roosevelt re-entered the political arena and successfully ran for Governor of New York in 1928. Four years later, with America in the midst of its worst financial collapse ever, he was a landslide winner for President and went on to be elected three more times before dying in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.