Jon Meacham on Baruch, Churchill and the Roosevelts

Jon Meacham has a way with words, as I discovered first-hand on October 11th while he was visiting South Carolina. That morning he spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Florence Museum, and afterwards he took the time to talk with me in the museum’s library about Bernard Baruch, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.  Later that day I had the opportunity to hear his address to a gathering at Hobcaw Barony. Though he spoke for over an hour, his audience was captivated.

Meacham is primarily a biographer – his 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion, won a  Pulitzer – but he is also executive editor and executive vice president of Random House, a contributing editor to Time magazine and a former editor of Newsweek. He was a featured scholar in Ken Burns’ documentary The Roosevelts. In his talk at Hobcaw he spoke about the relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the subject of Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, which he published in 2004.

Both Churchill and FDR had ties to Bernard Baruch, and both men spent time at Hobcaw Barony. Churchill and his daughter, Diana, were Baruch’s guests in 1932, and in 1944 FDR spent a month at Hobcaw, resting and recovering his health. In the interview I did with Meacham he brought these great historical figures to life, based on his extensive research. I’ve shared some excerpts from the interview with here, with my questions preceding them, for context.

You have written a book about the friendship between Churchill and Roosevelt. Where does Bernard Baruch fit in?

How would you describe the relationship between FDR and Bernard Baruch?

How would FDR have spent his time while at Hobcaw Barony in 1944?

What were the world events that Roosevelt was grappling with during the time he spent at Hobcaw Barony?

As a young man FDR loved sports, but at 39 he contracted polio, leaving him unable to walk. Can you talk about how he coped with his disability?

Eleanor Roosevelt and Bernard Baruch were friends, and at times she arranged for him to see the President. Did she play the role of intermediary for others as well?

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