A secret that was hidden from the public until after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death was actually captured on video during his lifetime, says a professor at an Indiana college. Ray Begovich, a journalism professor at Franklin College south of Indianapolis, said yesterday that he found an 8-second clip of FDR being pushed in his wheelchair while Begovich was 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.
Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921 at age 39 and was unable to walk without leg braces or assistance. During his four terms as president, Roosevelt often used a wheelchair in private, but not for public appearances. News photographers cooperated in concealing Roosevelt's disability, and those who did not found their camera views blocked by Secret Service agents. This film was shot as Roosevelt visited the USS Baltimore at Pearl Harbor in July 1944, and shows him exiting a doorway on the ship and being escorted down what is apparently a ramp; the wheelchair is not clearly visible because the view of the president is screened by a line of sailors, but Roosevelt's distinctive white hat can be seen gliding past the men at a lower level. Roosevelt, at 6-foot-2, was likely taller than most of the soldiers. (Read more FDR stories.)