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Presidential funeral train: Recalling FDR’s last journey from Georgia’s Warm Springs

April 1945 -- An armed guard from Camp Sibert presents arms as the special funeral train bearing the body of President Roosevelt pulls into Atlanta's Terminal Station on its way from Warm Springs, Ga., to Washington, D.C.
April 1945 -- An armed guard from Camp Sibert presents arms as the special funeral train bearing the body of President Roosevelt pulls into Atlanta's Terminal Station on its way from Warm Springs, Ga., to Washington, D.C.

Credit: AJC File

Credit: AJC File

When a special funeral train was outfitted last year to carry former President George H.W. Bush from Houston to College Station, Texas, it was an echo of the funeral train that carried Franklin D. Roosevelt from Georgia after his death at Warm Springs in 1945.

Roosevelt, a frequent presence in Georgia, was visiting his Warm Springs retreat when he died on April 12, 1945.

A special funeral train carried the president’s casket from Warm Springs to Washington D.C., including a stop in Atlanta.

The president’s casket was carried in its own train car, with a military honor guard. Honor guards of military units and members of the public gathered along the route of the train, including at Atlanta’s Terminal Station.

The train traveled first to Washington for a small funeral service at the White House, then to FDR’s funeral and burial in Hyde Park, N.Y. In Washington, a horse-drawn Army caisson carried the casket from the train station to the White House.

Last return to Capital: Brought from Warm Springs, Ga., the flag-draped coffin bearing the body of President Roosevelt is transferred at Washington's Union Station from a special train. Guards arrange the caisson for the procession from the station to the White House, where private funeral services were held yesterday (April 14, 1945) From AJC Archives.
Last return to Capital: Brought from Warm Springs, Ga., the flag-draped coffin bearing the body of President Roosevelt is transferred at Washington's Union Station from a special train. Guards arrange the caisson for the procession from the station to the White House, where private funeral services were held yesterday (April 14, 1945) From AJC Archives.

A news account published in The Atlanta Constitution on April 15, 1945, described the train this way:

“The journey, with the casket under honor guard in the dimlighted presidential car that carried Mr. Roosevelt on so many triumphal travels, was an extension of the sorrowful trip here last night from Warm Springs, Ga., where the president died Thursday.

“Tonight, as then, honor guards of servicemen were stationed along the route. Just as last night, mourners high and low gathered along the route and at operating stops for a last glimpse of the only man to serve 12 years as President.”

President Franklin Roosevelt's train arrives from Washington D.C. at Warm Springs in the 1940s, where he spent time at 'The Little White House.'
President Franklin Roosevelt's train arrives from Washington D.C. at Warm Springs in the 1940s, where he spent time at 'The Little White House.'

Credit: KENNETH ROGERS / AJC FILE

Credit: KENNETH ROGERS / AJC FILE

Historic front page from The Atlanta Constitution

FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 1945 | PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT DIES IN WARM SPRINGS: The world's biggest news story hasn't always happened in The Atlanta Constitution's backyard, but in this case it did; or at least just down the street, 70 miles away in tiny Warm Springs, Ga. Franklin Roosevelt annually visited the therapeutic water of Warm Springs, but his sudden and unexpected death there on April 12 stunned the world, including the millions of Americans whom he led through the darkest days of the Great Depression and World War II. The only item on the front page that wasn't devoted to FDR's passing was the day's weather forecast.

From the AJC archives
From the AJC archives

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