Rare 1937 Film Footage Shows FDR Walking
Jimmie DeShong was recording, and no one took his camera away.
May 16, 2014— -- The president, wearing braces on his legs, struggles up a ramp. He grasps an assistant’s arm, gripping a handrail for support.
The section of film is eight seconds long -- but it represents a notable historic find, only the second clip to emerge showing Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking.
The footage was unveiled by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Thursday. James “Jimmie” DeShong, a professional baseball player during the 1930s, captured the footage on July 7, 1937, at the All-Star Game at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Roosevelt had polio, and remained in a wheelchair during his presidency, a fact the Secret Service tried to hide.
“In some instances, they confiscated cameras and film to protect his image,” said Jim Vaughn, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. “They worked really hard for people not to think of their president as paralyzed.”
But DeShong, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native, was standing on the field with his camera rolling and no one took it away. DeShong shot footage of many famous baseball figures that day -- from Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx to Hank Greenberg and Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The footage was donated for preservation by DeShong’s relatives.
“This was home movies,” his grandson, Mike Savastio, told ABC affiliate WHTM. “We’d get together at my mom’s house and they would come over and put up a reel and we’d watch it in our living room.”
The footage will also be used by filmmaker Ken Burns in an upcoming PBS documentary, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”
“This eight seconds enriches our series and helps deepen the American public's understanding of the strength and fortitude this badly disabled man brought to the task of seeing our country through two of the worst crises in our history -- the Depression and World War II,” Burns said in a statement released by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.