Skip
Navigation

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Visits
Charleston and South Charleston, 1940


Charleston Gazette
September 1, 1940

Presidential Tour Details Are Outlined

Far-reaching Precautions To Protect His Safety To Be Enforced Over Route

By Harry G. Hoffmann

Detailed plans for President Roosevelt’s official visit of inspection to the South Charleston naval ordnance plant, including far-reaching preparations to assure his safety, were outlined yesterday at a conference of secret service agents and state, county, city and other interested officials.

The president and Mrs. Roosevelt will arrive by special train at South Charleston at 9 a. m. Tuesday. Mr. Roosevelt will climax his two-hour visit with a drive up Kanawha parkway and across the South Side bridge to the C. & O. station, but the First Lady will remain in Charleston as the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur B. Koontz at their South Hills home.

As plans for the president’s reception were worked out, it appeared he might be accompanied by several high navy officials, including possibly Col. Frank Knox, secretary of the navy. No one, however, could say definitely just who will be in the presidential party.

To Visit NYA Plant

A visit to the National Youth Administration plant at South Charleston is also on the president’s itinerary and it was said that Aubrey Williams, NYA administrator, may be here to accompany him.

Harry Cooper, secret service supervising agent for this territory and executive aide to the service chief, Frank J. Wilson, went over preparations with local law enforcement and service officers yesterday and expressed satisfaction at the cooperation offered.

On hand to handle the crowd and look out for the president’s safety will be 400 national guardsmen from the Charleston and Huntington detachments, all available uniformed men of the Charleston and South Charleston police departments, state police, deputy sheriffs, naval reserves, marines, reserve officers and the usual number of secret service agents.

Police guards will be placed on and under the Patrick street and South Side bridges, and also on the C. & O. railroad bridge, under which the president will drive on his trip up the parkway.

Crowds Banned at Stations

Crowds will not be permitted around the South Charleston or Charleston railroad stations when Mr. Roosevelt arrives and leaves, and people will be permitted to line only the north side of the parkway for the procession of more than 25 official cars, which will be headed by an escort of 16 state motorcycle police.

Also in the way of precaution police will be on the alert for any suspicious characters entering the Union building, which overlooks the parkway at Capitol street, and tenants of the building will be cautioned to use care in permitting anyone to enter the offices to view the parade.

To avoid traffic congestion, state police will close U. S. Route 60 at 8:30 Tuesday morning and will route all traffic over the St. Albans-Nitro bridge to use State Route 25 through Nitro, Institute and Dunbar on the north side of the river. No toll will be charged on the St. Albans bridge during this period.

No parking will be permitted on the route the president will follow during his visit here and no traffic will be permitted on those streets.

In South Charleston the no-parking, no-driving restriction will include the vicinity of the railroad depot, First avenue from Central avenue to D street, D street to the mound, west of D street to Oakes drive and McCorkle avenue to the Patrick street bridge.

No Driving On Parkway

In Charleston, parking and driving will be banned on the Patrick street bridge, second avenue to Magnolia street, Magnolia street to Kanawha parkway, the parkway to Hale street, Hale street to Virginia and Virginia onto and across the South Side bridge.

Police on duty in the line of parade have been instructed to face the crowd and not the procession.

Strict orders have been given that no airplanes will be permitted to fly in the vicinity from 8:45, 15 minutes before the president’s arrival, until 11:15 a. m., 15 minutes after the special train’s departure.

To assure perfection in the plans, Cooper called for all those involved to meet at the South Charleston station at 11 a. m. tomorrow for a “rehearsal” and to go over the entire route.

When the president arrives Tuesday morning he will go immediately to inspect the $22,000,000 naval ordnance plant, which was built during the world war when Mr. Roosevelt was assistant secretary of the navy, and which is now scheduled to be doubled in size under the present defense program.

Capt. Roy Pfaff, officer in charge of the ordnance plant, said the president’s inspection there will take about 50 minutes.

Gov. Holt to Be in Party

Following study of the armor plant, Mr. Roosevelt is expected to go through the NYA plant and then will make the drive over the parkway to the Charleston C. & O. station.

Gov. Holt will be among those to greet the chief executive on his arrival, and he is expected to ride with him in the parade. The governor also has accepted an invitation to accompany Mr. Roosevelt aboard the presidential train as far as White Sulphur Springs.

It was said that U. S. Sen. M. M. Neely will possibly be aboard when the train arrives here, while Mayor Dawson of Charleston and Mayor Oakes of South Charleston will be in the official welcoming party.

A large crowd was expected to turn out to see Mr. Roosevelt, who has not been here since he was campaigning for Presidential Nominee James M. Cox in 1920. It will be Charlestonians’ first opportunity to see a president in their home town since 1932, when Herebert Hoover came here in his campaign for reelection.

Secret Service Agent Cooper, pointing out that the primary purpose of yesterday’s meeting at the ordnance plant was to provide protection for the presidential party, asked the assistance of “every man and woman to make this a proud day for Charleston, South Charleston and West Virginia.”


Charleston Gazette
September 2, 1940

Defense Officials To Accompany FDR

Recognition of Charleston District’s Importance To National Security Seen in Presence of Many High Authorities in Party Due Here Tomorrow

By Harry G. Hoffmann

President Roosevelt’s visit to Charleston assumed increasing importance yesterday when it was disclosed that high government officials, military experts and members of congress will be with him on inspection of the South Charleston naval ordnance plant tomorrow morning.

Arrives at 9 A. M.

The president’s special train is due at South Charleston at 9 a. m. tomorrow and Charleston made preparations for one of the largest turnouts in the city’s history for the first visit by a chief executive since Herbert Hoover’s campaign trip here in 1932.

Vital interest in the naval ordnance plant and the importance of Charleston’s great chemical center to the national defense program was seen in the fact that so many high authorities will accompany Mr. Roosevelt on his inspection of the $22,000,000 plant.

These include Acting Secretary of War William D. Hassett, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, Capt. Daniel J. Callaghan, naval aide to the president; Federal Communications Chairman James L. Fly; Federal Security Administrator Paul V. McNutt, and Bernard Baruch, New York financier and head of the war industries board during the World war.

First Lady, Mrs. Ickes Aboard

Also aboard the train as it rolled toward Tennessee, where the president is to make two Labor day speeches, were Senators Kennth McKellar and Thomas Stewart of Tennessee; Sen. Robert R. Reynolds of North Carolina, TVA Director David Lilienthal; Sen. Maloney of Connecticut; Rep. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee; Stephen T. Early and Gen. Edwin M. Watson, secretaries to the president, and Admiral Ross T. McIntire, White House physician.

There will be plenty of interest for the women, too, for in the presidential party besides Mrs. Roosevelt will be Mrs. Ickes, wife of the interior secretary, Miss LeLand, the president’s private secretary, and Miss Tully, her assistant.

Newsmen Show Interest

Advance interest in the president’s trip was manifested by the fact 16 Washington newspapermen were aboard and half a dozen more were getting on at various southern stops. Ordinarily, eight reporters accompany the chief executive on his travels.

When the special train is heading toward Charleston tomorrow morning, Sen. M. M. Neely and Arthur B. Koontz of Charleston, Democratic national committeeman, are expected to get aboard at Huntington.

On hand to greet the presidential party at South Charleston will be Gov. Holt and other state, county and city officials. The governor is expected to ride with Mr. Roosevelt during his inspection of the armor plant and the South Charleston NYA project, and over half of the $4,000,000 Kanawha parkway to the C. & O. Charleston station where Holt will board the train to accompany the president as far as White Sulphur Springs.

50 Minute Inspection

Mr. Roosevelt will spend 50 minutes inspecting the naval ordnance plant, which was built during the World war while he was assistant secretary of the navy and which is scheduled to be doubled in size under the present national defense program.

It is not yet definite whether Mrs. Roosevelt will ride in the parade of some 25 official cars over Kanawha parkway, but she will leave the presidential party here to remain as the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Koontz at their South Hills home.

Mrs. Koontz, who has been a personal friend of the first lady since 1920 when their husbands campaigned together through West Virginia, is planning a private luncheon in her honor at the Koontz home tomorrow noon.

Another purpose in the president’s visit to this section was seen in Rep. Joe L. Smith’s disclosure in Washington that he had recommended the president study the necessity of a strategic military road from the Ohio river at Huntington across the state through Charleston to the Virginia tidewater.

More than 400 national guardsmen, army and naval reserves, marines, state, county and city police, in addition to the usual number of secret service agents, will be on hand to handle the crowd and assure safety for the presidential party.

It was announced yesterday that no parking will be permitted in the city parking lot in the square below the Union building, and this will be the only point where people will be permitted to view the presidential parade from the south side of the parkway.

State police will close U. S. 60 from 8:30 to 11 a. m., and during this time traffic will be diverted over the St. Albans-Nitro bridge to use the north side of the river. No toll will be charged on the bridge during this period.

Parking and traveling will be banned all along the route of the parade, which will come over the Patrick street bridge from South Charleston, up the parkway to Hale street, over Hale to Virginia and then across the South Side bridge to the C. & O. station.

No airplanes will be permitted in the air from 8:30 a. m. until 15 minutes after the presidential train has left. It is expected to leave about 11 a. m.


Charleston Gazette
September 4, 1940

FDR Tours Plant Here, Hints Navy Plans New Outlay

Remark About Construction of Guns Gives Indication Area Due For More Than $20,000,000 Earmarked; Shell Factory will Be Altered to Make Defense Weapons For U. S. Forces

By Harry G. Hoffmann

President Roosevelt saw armor plate for new U. S. sea fighters in the making here yesterday and with a remark about construction of guns and projectiles gave indication that the Charleston area is due to get considerably more than the $20,000,000 already designated for expansion of the South Charleston naval ordnance plant.

Plant to Be Altered

The president inspected the ordnance plant and NYA project on the grounds, drove past cheering thousands along Kanawha parkway, and then disclosed that an old shell plant at the South Charleston works is to be changed over for the manufacture of defense weapons for the navy and possibly also for the army.

Under the navy expansion bill, $20,000,000 was earmarked for doubling the size of the South Charleston Armor plant and another $50,000,000 was appropriated for naval gun production.

Mr. Roosevelt’s statement yesterday that the old shell plant is to be reconditioned followed in line with a recommendation by Rear-Admiral W. R. Furlong during a debate on the defense bill and gave rise to the belief that at least part of the $50,000,000 appropriation would be spent here.

Urged Expansion Here

Furlong, chief of the navy’s ordnance bureau, urged that existing gun manufacturing plants be expanded and emphasized that such works should be located west of the Allegheny mountains. He specifically mentioned South Charleston at the time.

President Roosevelt’s visit to the ordnance plant and Charleston was one of inspection for the national defense program – not one of speech-making alone – although he did comment on his “sentimental journey” through the armor plate factory.

He noted that the ordnance plant was constructed in 1917, when he was assistant secretary of the navy, commented on the revival of work there after so many years of idleness following the World war, remarked abouthe “very wonderful” boulevard over which he drove and concluded:

“So I come to the end of this sentimental journey with the idea that what was started 23 years ago is now bearing full fruit.”

En route to Washington aboard his special train, Mr. Roosevelt said at a press conference that the navy would go right ahead expanding and reconditioning the South Charleston plant with the $20,000,000 appropriation before congress.

To Make Naval Guns

The old shell plant he said will be used to manufacture naval guns because there was a greater shortage of guns than of projectiles.

Mr. Roosevelt recalled that in 1917 when the country had started a large program of constructing battleships, cruisers and destroyers, the production of the three private makers of armor plate was too small and there also was a shortage of shell making facilites.

Going over briefly incidents which led to construction of the plant which started operations in 1918 the president noted that he saw on his inspection trip yesterday some experimental 18-inch shells produced two decades ago.

He touched on the closing of the plant after the 1921 disarmament conference and disclosed that the navy considered selling it two or three years ago but he vetoed the idea because he thought someday it might be useful again because of growing world discord.

Then, last June, three months before the war began in Europe, he said, he had ordered the plant put back to work on armor plate.

Reporters who packed every available inch of the tiny parlor for the press conference were given a hint that Mr. Roosevelt might return to West Virginia before long.

They were told that plans were tentative and indefinite but that the chief executive wanted to continue his series of inspections of defense installations with visits to New York City and nearby New Jersey areas, the vicinity of Pittsburgh, and points along the Ohio river as far as halfway down the state of Kentucky.

Might Go to Dayton

He might go to Wright Field at Dayton, O. the president said if the trip would not take him more than 12 hours, or an overnight train ride from Washington.

Aside from Mr. Roosevelt’s disclosure about the gun factory at South Charleston, his two-hour stop in the capital city gave little else to indicate West Virginia’s future in the defense plans.

Sen. M. M. Neely, who boarded the special train at Huntington, said he had mentioned the possibility that airplane plants might be located in the state but was told by Mr. Roosevelt that this was deemed inadvisable because they should be further inland.

Gov. Holt, who met the president at South Charleston and traveled with him to White Sulphur Springs said he had a “very interesting” conversation with the chief executive and talked about several matters, on which there would be no comment for the present.

Yesterday, marking the first visit here by a president since 1932, was a big day for Charleston and South Charleston, and a crowd estimated at well more than 50,000 persons turned out to cheer the nation’s chief executive and his party.

Arrives On Schedule

The presidential train, with a necktie-wearing engineer at the throttle, pulled into the South Charleston station on schedule at 9 a. m.

A porter, his white jacket spic and span, came onto the observation platform, carefully wiped the hand rails. High government officials began to alight from other sections of the train, among them Sec. of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, Federal Security Administrator Paul V. McNutt, and Col. E. W. Starling, chief of the White House secret service.

Others appeared – Sen. Neely and National Committeeman Arthur B. Koontz, who rode from Huntington, Gen. Edwin M. Watson and Stephen T. Early, secretaries to the President – but to the crowd that had turned out to see the president of the U. S., it seemed many minutes before he finally came smiling to the observation platform.

Shortly after the president appeared, Mrs. Roosevelt came into view to receive an ovation equal to that given her husband.

As Mr. Roosevelt made his way to his automobile, there was hand-shaking between Sen. Neely and Gov. Holt, who headed the delegation of state, county and city officials that greeted the president.

Ride With President

Then they walked to the presidential car, in which they rode for the inspection trip and parade, and Mr. Roosevelt expressed pleasure at having the company of “the present governor and the next governor of West Virginia.”

The presidential parade, headed by an escort of state motorcycle police and including many more than the 25 scheduled officials cars, traveled immediately through the streets of South Charleston to the ordnance plant.

Inside the gates of the ordnance property, the president was greeted by a marine detail and bugle salute. He and his party were taken on a swing through the north unity, where several 155 m. m. guns, relics of the World way days, stood silently and the experimental shells lay in their coating of protective grease.

Back onto the highway and then Mr. Roosevelt was taken through the naval reservation, a little community of well-kept homes and lawns where the officers live, and then to the south unit where the grinding of machinery and the crush of presses on white-hot steel ingots told of America’s preparations for defense.

Here the chief executive saw what was described as the world’s biggest armor plate press, huge saws and a giant pit planer biting into tough steel that will be turned into battleships and cruisers and destroyers.

Talks With Plant Chief

Mr. Roosevelt spent some time in this section of the plant, observing carefully and talking with Capt. Roy Pfaff, inspector of ordnance in charge, and other naval officials to get first hand information on the work. He was told that the plant is working three shifts – 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

With National NYA Administrator Aubrey Williams in the party, the chief executive was taken through the NYA project on the ordnance grounds where he saw youths working on another phase of preparedness – airplanes – and learning many other skills vital to national defense.

The tour of the ordnance plant was completed in the scheduled 50 minutes, and the president was started on the five-mile journey to mid-town Charleston – past thousands of cheering men, women and children.

He rode past smoking, dusty chemical plants – giants of industry as vital to national defense as the ordnance plant itself. The workers of these plants, whose skill some day might mean victory or defeat in war, laid down their tools to see the nation’s chieftain pass.

They came just as they were, some in powdery overalls, some in white collars – and sat on freight cars and oil tankers, or leaned from office windows to add their note of welcome.

Is Well Protected

All along the line of march over Patrick street bridge and up the $4,000,000 Kanawha parkway to the South Side bridge and the C. & O. station – the crowd was held back and the president was given protection by navy men in their spotless white, national guardsmen in the O. D. woolens and a full turnout of state and city police.

Two secret service men, sharply eyeing the crowd and windows of buildings, stood on the running board of Mr. Roosevelt’s car, and seven others rode standing in the car immediately following.

As he rode up the parkway – product of the New Deal-sponsored PWA – the president smiled and waved to the crowd, made occasional comments to Gov. Holt or Sen. Neely, and appeared to be thoroughly enjoying his trip.

At one point his smile appeared to change a little – as he drove past a small boy in ragged clothes holding a make-shift sign bearing the president’s picture and crude lettering that read “You Rose with Roosevelt, Why Wilt with Wilkie.”

All during the drive, a small cannon across the river was firing its 21-gun salute.

The crowd was concentrated in greater numbers in the downtown section along the parkway, where people stood 10-deep on the sidewalk and hanged from the windows of buildings to see the president and his party drive by.

Chats With Wife

At the C. & O. station, the president chatted briefly with Gov. Holt and Sen. Neely. Just as he was about to board the train, he and Mrs. Roosevelt talked quietly with each other for several minutes – not unlike the average American man and wife – and five minutes later the chief executive was speeding toward Washington.

Mrs. Roosevelt remained in Charleston until 4:21 p. m., when she left by plane for Washington.

During her additional stay here, she went to the state capitol where she shook hands with several hundred women in the governor’s reception room, spoke briefly on the steps of the capitol, and then went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur B. Koontz in South Hills for luncheon and an afternoon reception.


Charleston Gazette
September 4, 1940

Women Share Interest During President’s Visit

Mesdames Holt, Neely, Ickes and Koontz Accompany Mrs. Roosevelt on Tour and Capitol Visit; Luncheon Given at ‘Burkewood’

The feminine population shared the interest yesterday during the visit of President and Mrs. Roosevelt to Charleston.

The First Lady remained in the city several hours after her husband had boarded his special train, meeting and chatting informally with several hundred women.

Always ready for such unscheduled events as speeches, appearances or what ever seems necessary to make the occasion a real success. Mrs. Roosevelt accompanied by Mrs. Homer A. Holt, Mrs. M. M. Neely, Mrs. Joe L. Smith and Mrs. Arthur B. Koontz, made the official tour of the South Charleston naval ordnance plant, joined the parade up Kanawha parkway and told her husband goodbye at the C. & O. station, after which she went directly to the state capitol where she received guests in the state reception room and later spoke to a large audience gathered on the south portico.

After the talk, which was not included in her prepared itinerary, she was entertained at a luncheon given by Mr. and Mrs. Koontz at “Burkewood,” their home in South Hills. Among other guests were Mrs. Holt, Mrs. Neely and Mrs. Smith. Additional guests were invited to call in the afternoon to meet Mrs. Roosevelt. During the luncheon she informally removed her hat, smoothed her slightly graying brown hair which was parted on the right side and gathered in a roll at the back, and chatted pleasantly with groups of women until barely half an hour before her scheduled departure.

Speaking to a mostly feminine audience at the state capitol, Mrs. Roosevelt confined her remarks to topics of interest to women. She particularly stressed the fine work that was being done at the NYA work experience project at South Charleston.

Wore Purple Orchids

Joining Mrs. Roosevelt in the receiving line in the state reception room were Mrs. Holt, Mrs. Neely and Mrs. Koontz. The First Lady smiled pleasantly and spoke friendly greetings as she extended her hand to several hundred guests, mostly women.

She was smartly attired in a navy blue fitted dress of classic wool crepe, trimmed in white pique. Her shoulder bouquet was of purple orchids and stephanotis and her only jewelry was a two-rope strand of pearls that hung to the necklace neckline of her dress. She wore a sailor hat of white pique covered with navy silk cord piping and held in place with a grosgrain ribbon that tied in a medium-width bow at the back. Navy blue kid gloves, blue leather bag and glove-soft kid shoes completed her costume.

Mrs. Holt was especially becoming in a princess-styled dress with matching jacket, offset with whie collar and cuffs of pique and Irish lace. She wore a sailor hat of navy felt and a shoulder spray of yellow orchids and white stephanotis. She wore matching blue kid shoes, white flare-cuff kid gloves and carried a blue leather bag.

Returns in Afternoon

Mrs. Neely was particularly trim and attractive in a black grainy crepe dress with three-quarter length sleeves and a Homburg brim hat with delicate black veil. Her accessories were white and she wore gardenias.

For her morning appearance, Mrs. Koontz wore a black costume but changed into a blue silk print for the luncheon.

Mrs. Roosevelt boarded a plane at municipal airport at 4:21 p. m. for New York City. She was accompanied by her secretary, Miss Malvina Thompson.


Government and Politics

West Virginia Archives and History