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Franklin Roosevelt Thanks Alabama Friend for Compliments on “Forgotten Man” Speech
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FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. Typed Letter Signed, as Governor, to Samuel H. Tatum, April 14, 1932, Albany, New York. 1 p., 8 x 10½ in.

Inventory #24492       Price: $950

Complete Transcript






                                     April 14, 1932.

Mr. S. H. Tatum,

Roanoke, / Alabama.

Dear Mr. Tatum:

            Thank you for your nice note of April 11th. I am delighted to know that you so thoroughly enjoyed my radio talk.

            I am leaving here the 23rd of April for Warm Springs but will stop off on my way down at Richmond, Virginia, to attend the Governors’ Conference. However, I expect to be in Warm Springs the first part of May and I shall hope to see you all again.

                                                                        Very sincerely yours,

                                                                        Franklin D. Roosevelt

Historical Background

On April 7, 1932, Roosevelt delivered his “Forgotten Man” speech at Albany, which was broadcast via radio to the people of New York State. “These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten,” Roosevelt said, “the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” Roosevelt appealed to the “little fellow” among his hearers and readers, “Here should be an objective of Government itself, to provide at least as much assistance to the little fellow as it is now giving to the large banks and corporations.” Roosevelt concluded, “It is high time to get back to fundamentals. It is high time to admit with courage that we are in the midst of an emergency at least equal to that of war. Let us mobilize to meet it.”

The “forgotten man” image captured the public imagination and became a hallmark of Roosevelt’s successful 1932 campaign for the Democratic nomination over Alfred E. Smith and for the Presidency over incumbent Herbert Hoover. In 1930, Tatum did not own a radio, so it is likely that he read Roosevelt’s speech in a newspaper, many of which summarized or printed the speech.[1] Roosevelt went on to receive the Democratic nomination in July and win the general election in November with an overwhelming 57 percent of the popular vote and a 472-59 win in the electoral college.

On his way to Georgia, Roosevelt attended the annual Governors’ Conference, held in Richmond, Virginia, from April 25 to 27. Hosted by Governor John G. Pollard of Virginia, the conference welcomed twenty-seven governors and included visits to Charlottesville, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria. During the sessions, Governor Louis L. Emmerson of Illinois delivered an address on the “Duty of the State in Relieving Unemployment,” a subject of interest to all governors in the midst of the Great Depression. The conference also included a dinner at the White House on April 27, hosted by President Herbert Hoover. Hoover kept the governors waiting for half an hour after they arrived, much to the annoyance and discomfort of Roosevelt, who was wearing metal leg braces. Roosevelt nursed the grievance for years.

Roosevelt had written to Tatum from Warm Springs, Georgia, in December 1931 thanking him for an editorial and asking that he come over again the following April, when Roosevelt returned. Roanoke, Alabama is approximately fifty miles west of Warm Springs.

Samuel H. Tatum (1879-1966) was born in Alabama and was a farm laborer in 1900. He married Parrie Zachry in 1907, and was a merchant in Roanoke, Alabama, from the 1910s to the 1930s. He served as postmaster of Roanoke, Alabama from June 1934 to October 1935, when he was removed from office. In the late 1930s, he moved to Auburn, Alabama, where he was a salesman in an automobile company in 1940.

[1] See, for example, Morning News (Florence, SC), April 8, 1932, 8:4, reprinting AP story, and The Anniston Star (AL), April 8, 1932, 1:6-7, reprinting UP story.

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