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Franklin College prof discovers rare FDR wheelchair video

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By Alec Gray

A Franklin College journalism professor discovered what may be the first known - or at least rare - footage of President Franklin Roosevelt being pushed in his wheelchair.

Professor Ray Begovich teaches public relations at Franklin College and is currently working on a biography on Elmer Davis, who served as Roosevelt's director of the Office of War Information.

"The FDR presidential library has three still photos of President Roosevelt in his wheelchair," he said. "This raw film clip may be the first motion picture images of the president in his wheelchair, and it was never meant to be shown to the world."

Begovich was looking for footage of Davis when he came across the 8 second clip of the president moving down a ramp on the USS Baltimore docked at Pearl Harbor in 1944.

Roosevelt contracted polio well before his time in the White House and used a wheelchair to get around. Many biographers agree that he worked hard to hide his disability from the public eye. Journalists refrained from reporting on or showing images of the president's wheelchair use.

"To me, the importance of this clip as historic media imagery, is that it reminds all of us that this president fought the Great Depression and World War II from a wheelchair. I think it's a tragedy that we haven't had many candidates for national office who use a wheelchair or guide dog or sign language," Begovich said in a statement.

"Media images matter, and I hope we can move toward a time in which policies, character and leadership become the focus of the media and public, and that the fact that a presidential candidate uses a wheelchair doesn't matter at all."

Begovich provided the film clip to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

The 8-second clip of Roosevelt being pushed in his wheelchair and three other clips may be viewed at www.franklincollege.edu.

Begovich hopes that more video of Roosevelt's wheelchair use can be found in the future.

"It's possible that more unknown footage of President Roosevelt in his wheelchair exists," Begovich said. "I hope this little snippet prompts scholars and archivists to search for more."

Alec Gray is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

Click the link to watch the video.

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