This article was published in The Atlanta Constitution April 14, 1945.

Flags flew at half-mast in all Australia today as they flew, indeed, in the hearts of all freedom-loving people, when the news came that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had crossed over into eternity. Coming in from the airport after a long-night journey by plane, I had seen the lowered flags and wondered what great Australian might have died. It was when we stepped into the lobby of the hotel that I heard an elderly man say to a friend, “Isn’t it terrible about Roosevelt?” Knowing it in my heart, I, nevertheless, asked him what the news was.

Australia got the news at 8 o'clock this Friday morning when it was 8 o'clock Thursday night in America. Sadness fell on the hearts of all Australians as the news spread. Having traveled almost around the world and heard the talk and thoughts of people about Roosevelt; having answered their questions, I think I know that the peoples of the literate world are sad, save only those hateful ones whose Fascist poison has so sickened the world that it was forced into the greatest travail of war it has ever known. The peoples of Europe and Asia looked to the President and to America to supply much of the leadership and much of the understanding which is so vital to the peace and hope of the future. There are millions with sorrow in their hearts, not unmixed with some little dismay and fear. We must not fail them or ourselves.

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

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Credit: AJC File


There are many tributes flowing to Washington today from the great of the world, and I feel every one of them sincere. They perhaps are not as expressive as the first two I heard this morning. The boy who brought in the bags, seeing that we were Americans, said: “It is shocking about Mr. Roosevelt, isn’t it? You know, sir, somehow the world seemed to be more comfortable when he was in it.” The porter who came to get laundry and suits for pressing said: “I know you gentlemen are sad. We all are. The people of the world will miss him very much. He had done so much for them.”

An image from Ralph McGill's 1945 column after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. (AJC archives)

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The questions Australia asks are about Harry Truman, now President of the United States. Rarely has it been given to a man to assume so heavy a burden, but also rarely has it been given to be so great a success. The tides of greed and evil which tried unsuccessfully to undermine the late Franklin Roosevelt will begin to flow against him. I believe Harry Truman has more capabilities than is generally believed. If the prayers and integrity of the nation sustain him, he will come through.

Nostalgic note

To a Georgian far from home there was a sudden and bitter nostalgia for home at the news of the President's passing in Warm Springs. I could see the dogwood in bloom and the green of the trees. I knew that peach blossoms were out and that the warm Georgia sun had been like a benediction to the tired body of the ailing president. And I wanted to be home to be with my own fellow Georgians as they mourned him. It was said of Abraham Lincoln when death claimed him that a tree is measured best when it is down. So it will be of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The tree is down and the historians will begin to measure and will find what the hearts of millions of Americans and peoples of the world already knew, that here was the tallest man America has ever given to the world.

Ralph McGill was editor and later publisher of The Atlanta Constitution. He wrote a daily column that for many years appeared on the newspaper’s front page. The original headline on Ralph McGill’s column was “Australia Shared America’s Sorrow.”