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Professor: Film shows FDR using wheelchair

Professor from Indiana college finds 1944 film showing FDR's concealed wheelchair

  • FDR-Wheelchair-Film

    This image from the film clip provided by the National Archives shows President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the U.S.S. Baltimore in Pearl Harbor in July, 1944.

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

FDR-Wheelchair-Film

This image from the film clip provided by the National Archives shows President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the U.S.S. Baltimore in Pearl Harbor in July, 1944.

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INDIANAPOLIS— A professor at an Indiana college says he has found film footage showing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt being pushed in his wheelchair, depicting a secret that was hidden from the public until after his death.

Ray Begovich, a journalism professor at Franklin College south of Indianapolis, said he found the eight-second clip while conducting unrelated research in the National Archives in College Park, Md. The National Archives and the FDR Presidential Museum and Library couldn’t say for certain if other such footage exists but both said it is at least rare.

Mr. Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921 at 39 and was unable to walk without leg braces or assistance. During his four terms as president, Mr. Roosevelt often used a wheelchair in private but not for public appearances. News photographers cooperated in concealing Mr. Roosevelt’s disability, and those who did not found their camera views blocked by Secret Service agents, according to the FDR Presidential Museum and Library’s Web site.

“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,” Mr. Begovich said.

Bob Clark, supervisory archivist at the Roosevelt library in New York, said he wasn’t aware of any other similar film.

“With respect to whether or not this is the earliest or only existing footage of FDR in a wheelchair, we cannot state that this is definitively the case, although such footage is certainly rare,” Laura Diachenko, a spokesman for the National Archives, said in an email.

The film shows Mr. Roosevelt visiting the U.S.S. Baltimore at Pearl Harbor in July 1944.

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