Sunday, April 19, 2015

Arthur Godfrey and FDR

I'm not an FDR fan, but I'm surprised I didn't see/hear more on the 70th anniversary of his death/funeral this past week. Was I napping? Was the TV off? The recording of the funeral has now been added to the Library of Congress under the National Preservation Act of 2000.

"Following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death on Thursday, April 12, 1945, the national radio networks suspended regular programming until after his interment on Sunday, April 15. In its place, they ...aired a round-the-clock stream of reactions from home and abroad, including formal tributes, memorial services, and live coverage of the journey of the funeral train bearing the president’s body to Washington, D.C. On Saturday, April 14, a solemn funeral cortege made its way through the streets of the nation’s capital from Union Station to the lawn of the White House, with relays of radio announcers describing its progress.

Arthur Godfrey, a local broadcast personality with many years of experience covering public events in the area, was added to the CBS national broadcast team. As the last announcer on the route before the White House, he gave beautifully detailed and dramatic descriptions from atop a bank building at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue for nearly half an hour, with his tone changing from solemn and journalistic to personal and emotional. When the caisson bearing the president’s body came into his view, Godfrey was dumbstruck, finally murmuring "God help me to do this" and choking out a few more sentences before breaking down on the air, forcing CBS to return to the studio briefly before resuming coverage on the White House lawn. Godfrey, a veteran of 15 years in radio, was deeply embarrassed by this incident, but soon became one of the country’s most popular broadcasters when he started his national morning show on CBS. His emotional coverage of this event now helps to illuminate the depth of the nation’s grief over Roosevelt’s death."

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