Alex Forman

Roosevelt, 26th, 1901–09

Theodore Roosevelt was an artist of power. Forty-two when he took office, he was the youngest of the nation's chief executives. He weighed 250 pounds. He built up his body and invented the strenuous life.

The public knew of his boxing, wrestling, jujitsu, tennis, hiking, and riding, but not of his sclerotic arteries or of the blindness in his left eye, injured in a White House boxing match. People were drawn by his energy and joy, qualities he possessed in quantities rarely found in persons over the age of eight. In 1912, Roosevelt's campaign manager wrote: "I have seen him eat a whole chicken and drink four large glasses of milk at one meal."

A newspaper wrote: "The president rode horseback ninety-eight miles in one day, and was able to sit down comfortably for a late dinner. What's the use of Congress trying to spank a man like that?"

His children said he longed to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.

Roosevelt said, "Our first duty, our most important work, is setting our own house in order. We must be true to ourselves, or else, in the long run, we shall be false to all others." When a friend advised him to rein in his oldest daughter, Alice, he answered, "I can be president—or—I can attend to Alice." It was, however, impossible to do both.

Roosevelt was the first president to have his life chronicled by motion pictures.

He was the first president to fly.

He had the family crest, Qui plantavit curabit, tattooed on an undisclosed part of his body.

At 10:30 in the evening, January 5, 1919, Roosevelt had the odd sensation that his heart and breathing had stopped. He knew they hadn't and he told his wife, Edith, "I am perfectly all right but I have a curious feeling." Edith recorded in her diary: "At four A.M., T. stopped breathing. Had had sweet sound sleep."

"Death had to take him sleeping," said vice president Thomas R. Marshall, "for if Roosevelt had been awake there would have been a fight."

The last words uttered by Roosevelt were to his servant Amos after he had retired, and they were: "Please put out that light, James."

d. January 6, 1919 (Sagamore Hill, Long Island, New York), at 60, from a pulmonary embolism.