Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, one of the White House's longest-serving employees, died last weekend from COVID-19.
Photo: Tribune News Service
Photo: Tribune News Service

Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, White House butler who served 11 presidents, dead at 91

Wilson Roosevelt Jerman started working at the White House as a cleaner in 1957, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. 

Through the years, he developed friendships that helped propel him to doorman and then butler to President John F. Kennedy. 

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When Jerman retired in 2012 during the Obama administration, he had served 11 presidents over 55 years, one of the most enduring tenures at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

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At age 91, Jerman recently came down with the coronavirus and died last weekend, according to his granddaughter, who first shared the news Tuesday in an interview with WTTG Fox 5 DC

“He was always about service. Service to others,” Jamila Garrett said. “It didn’t matter who you were or what you did or what you needed, whatever he could provide he did.” 

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Jerman’s name was easily spoken by former presidents, including George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush, who issued a statement to NBC News on Wednesday. 

“He was a lovely man,” the Bushes said. “He was the first person we saw in the morning when we left the Residence and the last person we saw each night when we returned.” 

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Garrett recalled her grandfather being very close to the Bush family. 

“George Bush Jr. has a little trouble adapting to a new environment, some trouble sleeping. Well, my grandfather would actually sit with him in his bedroom until he fell asleep,” she told WTTG. 

Jenna Bush Hager also took a moment on NBC’s “Today Show” on Thursday to remember Jerman.

Garrett told the station that first lady Jackie Kennedy led the push for her grandfather’s promotion in the early 1960s. 

“Jackie O actually promoted him to a butler because of the relationship,” Garrett said. “She was instrumental in ensuring that that happened.” 

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A now-famous photo of Jerman with former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama on a White House elevator appears in the former first lady’s memoir “Becoming.” 

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Garrett described Jerman as a family man who devoted his life to serving others. 

“I want the world to remember my grandfather as someone who was really authentic,” Garrett told WTTG. “Always being yourself. That’s what he taught our family, that’s what thrives throughout our family. And that’s what we’ll continue to carry on, his legacy.” 

Jerman and his wife had five children, 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, according to WTTG.

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