Monday, September 22, 2014


Georgia’s Healing Waters

By Doc Lawrence

FDR entertained at Dowdell's Knob
My great-grandmother, a daughter of the Civil War, sat in a rocker during her final years, kept warm by a nearby active fireplace. During the days spent with her, she never once spoke, silenced by the ravages of age as she lived well into her nineties. My enduring memory are the two framed images on the wall behind her: one of Jesus and the other of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The first visit to Warm Springs, Georgia was an introduction to FDR, a highlight of baby days: The gorgeous cars modified for driving with hand controls, the nice house where FDR died in 1945. But, it was a journey up Pine Mountain that still lingers. Dowdell’s Knob was one of Roosevelt’s favorite places to entertain. Local legend says he would have a picnic table set, give the go-ahead to start cooking on the stone grill and mix batches of martinis for guests.

The Little White House
The view is breathtaking.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt built the Little White House in 1932 while governor of New York. He first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for polio that had struck him. Swimming in the warm, buoyant spring waters brought him no miracle cure, but it did result in improvement.

FDR dominates everything in Warm Springs. The Civil Conservation Corps built roads, bridges and the recreational state park bearing his name. The research and rehabilitation center has his name and visitors flock to this small town, attracted by his legend. The critically acclaimed HBO film, “Warm Springs,” starring Kenneth Branaugh as FDR and Cynthia Nixon as Eleanor Roosevelt remains a good depiction of struggles with polio and how his days at what became known as “The Little White House,” were transformational for him and ultimately for America and the world.

The critically acclaimed movie
On April 10, 1945 President Roosevelt had his secret service men drive him to Pine Mountain’s Dowdell’s Knob, and leave him there in solitude. The rock outcropping overlooking Pine Mountain Valley’s 14,000 acres is located in the middle of FDR State Park, the largest state park in Georgia.

Roosevelt had picnicked on this spot with other polio victims and the rich and powerful.   This was also the place Roosevelt chose to savor Pine Mountain’s green beauty and meditate.

Two hours later, the president honked his horn for his Secret Service men to come back and take him home.  He died two days later of a cerebral hemorrhage.

While Warm Springs is an easy drive from Atlanta, it will always be like Norman Rockwell’s America. The charm, flavors and friendliness of a small town in the Deep South provide abundant hints about why FDR loved his time here.

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