The Senator And The Lady


She did not live to hear his American University speech in June, 1963, opening wide a route for negotiation with the Soviet Union, but she knew the way he wanted to travel. He wrote her in November, 1961, “I have no use for those who think that any negotiation is necessarily equivalent to appeasement.” On Christmas he and Mrs. Kennedy sent Mrs. Roosevelt a telegram wishing her a happy Christmas and a good year to come. Then on January 23, 1962, he wrote a handsome three-page letter nominating Mrs. Roosevelt to receive the Nobel Peace Prize without telling her anything about it. In the spring he went out of his way to associate himself with her causes, promising a televised introduction to her presentation on TV concerning the status of women in the United States, and he made a tape for the Eleanor Roosevelt Cancer Foundation telecast for April i. When she continued to press on the issue of employment opportunities for women, he wrote back on June 15, 1962, that he had directed the chairman of the United States Civil Service Commission to amend civil-service regulations to prevent federal appointing officers from listing positions for men only. By this time he was addressing his letters “Dear Eleanor.” On the next day he sent another “Dear Eleanor” letter, this one two and a half pages, in response to her criticism against high-altitude atomic tests.

By late summer, 1962, she was not feeling well. Her bone marrow had lost the capacity to form blood. Kennedy wrote that he hoped she would be feeling herself again soon. By November she was dead of tuberculosis, which had been activated by the treatment with steroids for the bone-marrow failure. The President directed that the American flag be flown at half-mast at all naval stations, embassy legations, consular offices, and all U.S. installations. He also appointed a committee of seventeen prominent citizens headed by Stevenson to create a living memorial for Mrs. Roosevelt and on April 23 signed a bill passed by Congress to charter an Eleanor Roosevelt Foundation, a singular expression of recognition to someone who had never held high elective office. When Pierre Salinger and Ken O’Donnell planned the President’s interview and television schedule for the spring of 1963, the one program Kennedy told them in advance he would be willing to participate in was a one-hour film on Eleanor Roosevelt called “Perspectives of Greatness.” Twelve months and fifteen days after she had breathed her last, he was dead, too.