THE FUNERAL MARCH stretched for a thousand miles. The train, with the flag rippling from the engine, had come up from Georgia, past the old battlefields of another war fought 80 years ago. There was a great hush over the land. The people came and stood by the tracks as the long train rolled on, bound for Washington and then a quiet garden high above the Hudson. The president was dead.
The train moved slowly through the night. At Charlotte, N.C., a troop of Boy Scouts started to sing "Onward Christian Soldiers," and massed thousands took it up in a mighty chorus. Along the way people dropped to their knees in prayer. Bells tolled a requiem.
By countless thousands the people came to say good-bye to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Men in overalls, men with gnarled hands, women with shawls, kids, wet-eyed and solemn, lined the tracks and bowed their heads.
"There is the hope for the future," said the economist who had once had been a Brain Truster. "If Franklin Roosevelt's hopes and dreams are deep enough in the heart of the people, the people will make them come true."
There had been only one other pilgrimage like this in American history. That had taken place 80 years before, almost to the day, when a wartime president had been borne on a long trek to Illinois and a tomb that became a shrine. His name was Abraham Lincoln.
Across the silent countryside soft with spring, past the sprawling green fields of Virginia, Franklin Roosevelt came back to Washington. There in the Capital, shimmering in the hot sun, where he had four times come in triumph after presidential campaigns, the president rode again. The last campaign had ended for the man who once described himself as an "old campaigner who loves a good fight." Now he rode in a flag-draped coffin on a black caisson drawn by six-white horses.
At the Union Station and along the broad streets leading to the White House, where the president had ridden so often to the crowds acclaim, the silence was broken only by the muffled roll of drums and the muted dirge.
Five hundred thousand persons saw the coffin on the caisson and sensed that men would speak of this hour 100 years from now.
""Once when I was traveling on a campaign train with Franklin," said the senator, "a little boy came running up the tracks as the train started pulling out of the station. And the little boy yelled, 'Hey, Mr. President, thanks for our new WPA toilet and thanks for everything.' Franklin Roosevelt was the people's hero. The people were his hero. A long time ago he whipped infantile paralysis, and after that he wasn't afraid of anything. No wonder they called him the Champ."
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt had asked that no one send flowers to the funeral, yet in the stately East Room of the White House, where the closed coffin rested, flowers banked three sides of the room, high against the wall. There were flowers sent by kings and flowers sent by obscure people whom the president never saw. A little boy in Chicago sent a bouquet picked from his back yard. "I was sorry," he wrote, "that I couldn't come to the funeral."
The weather was sultry on this funeral day, much as it had been on April 14, 1865, the day Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theater. And in the East Room, where Lincoln had lain in state, the mourners gathered at the bier of Franklin Roosevelt. Great men of the world were there. Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden had flown to Washington from London. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had planned also to attend the funeral of this "cherished friend" but canceled his plans because of the urgency of the war situation.
Cabinet members and diplomats were there. Supreme Court justices, congressmen and men famous in literature were there. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt was drawn and tired, but her step was firm and her head was high. Harry Hopkins, closest of the presidential advisers, who had flown to Washington from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he had been ill, grasped the back of the chair in front of him so tightly that his knuckles gleamed white.
Near the Roosevelt family sat President Truman, his wife and daughter, Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and Crown Princess Martha of Norway. The new president and his family entered the room so quietly that no one had time to rise. He stared straight ahead, his jaw outthrust. In this hour of mourning, he seemed quietly confident, as though at this flag-draped coffin of his fallen leader he was gathering will of spirit for the task ahead.
The coffin was flanked by flags and rested on a cataflaque centered near the east wall.
At each corner of the coffin was a guard. Two GIs, a corporal and a pfc, and a marine and a sailor all stood rigidly at attention. The stillness was broken only by the gentle whirring of a fan. To one side of the room sat the president's wheel chair, empty.
And in the park across the street from the White House, where the people had gathered to talk in low tones, the old man said: "The greatest thing that Franklin Roosevelt did was teach people that this land is theirs; that the earth's abundance belongs to the people; that they need only the will to gain the power."
In the East Room, rich with history and heavily fragrant with flowers, the Rt. Rev. Angus Dun, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, prayed for "steadfast courage in adversity; for sympathy with the hungers and fears of common men; for trails met without surrender, and weakness endured without defeat; for underlying faith in the possibliity of a more just and more ordered world, delivered from the ancient curse of war."
The bishop, at Mrs. Roosevelt's suggestion, quoted the words with which Franklin Roosevelt on the bleak inaugural day more than 12 years before had restored a desperate nation's faith: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
The bishop closed with familiar words which ran through the long room: "Through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
The mourners left the White House. Outside, other mourners still stood, crowds of them. They had stood through a sudden dounpour of rain, and now their clothes steamed in the sun.
That night, again through hushed, crowded streets, the president's coffin was carried to the train for its journey to Hyde Park, N.Y. Twelve years before, Franklin Roosevelt had come the the White House at a time of crisis, with millions of unemployed roaming the nation's streets, and he had offered sympathy, hope and bold experiment. Now he was no longer untried. Twelve years before, he had reassured people with the solemn words that the "money changers have abdicated . . . the people have not failed." Now the people were telling him quietly and reverently that he had not failed.
"Some people compare him to Lincoln," said the professor who had once helped draft New Deal legislation. "And it's true that he was attacked and abused like Lincoln. But Franklin Roosevelt patterned himself after Jefferson and Jackson. He proved, as Jefferson did, that a man can be a great gentlemen and at the same time a great commoner. And he was tough like Jackson, a great fighter."
Once more the body of Franklin Roosevelt was borne through the night. And again the people in the villages and towns and farms waited in the darkness while the train rolled past.
Riding with the president on this last journey were men and women who had come to Washington 12 years before, eager to wipe out old laws and write new ones. This night they were tired and troubled. The New Dealers were getting old, and they had lost their leader. Secretary of Commerce (?) Henry Wallace and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes had boarded the train together, arm in arm. "Roosevelt's musketeers," said a man in the crowd.
The train moved through the night, and the dim lights of the towns etched the faces of the people standing near the tracks. Across one station there was a line of boys and girls -- boys holding caps in their left hands and girls with pigtails. They stood with chests thrust out at attention. A band played "Hail to the Chief." Some of the kids were crying.
Northward the train rolled, taking Franklin Roosevelt home. At the edge of a little town an old man was spearing waste paper with a pointed stick. In his right hand he carried a greasy blue cap. As the train passed, the old man put on his cap, drew himpself jerkily up and saluted. His heels were together, his chest was out. Clearly he had saluted before, maybe in some war long ago.
"I rode with him on all four of his campaigns," said the reporter. "A lot of people praising him the most now are the ones who fought him the hardest. That would amuse the old man. He always knew the pitch on those phonies."
At lonely crossroads and in great cities, the common people had come to say their own goodbye to this crippled man who once had taken a crippled nation and helped it walk once more.
The next morning was Sunday, April 15, 1945. At 10:15 a.m. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, four times chosen by the people as president of the United States, was committed to the earth of his beloved Hyde Park birthplace.
Against a 15-foot hemlock hedge surrounding the old garden which the president long ago had designated as his burial place; files of soldiers, sailors and marines stood rigidly at attention, their eyes fixed on the flag-draped coffin. A battalion of gray-and-white-clad West Point cadets was massed at one end of the garden. The cadets' crepe-hung drums rolled mournfully across the chill morning air.
The Rev. Dr. George W. Anthony, rector of St. James' Church of Hyde Park, quoted from "Requiescat" by John B. Dykes: Now the laboror's task is o'er; Now the battle day is past; Now upon the farther shore Lands the voyager at last. Father, in Thy gracious keeping, Leave we now Thy servant sleeping.
Three cadets fired deliberately spaced volleys across the president's grave. A bugler stepped forward and softly blew taps. A sergeant of the honor guard selected to carry the coffin lifted the American flag from the top, folded it carefully and handed it to Mrs. Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt, ashen-gray but dry-eyed, accepted it proudly.
"Last time I talked with him," said the neighbor, "the president told me he didn't know how history would record him as a president, but he said he knew for sure that he was one of the best doggonned tree-growers ever to come up the pike."
Within a half hour after the burial all the mourners left. Franklin Roosevelt was alone in the garden where he had played as a boy and where he had teased a childhood playmate called Eleanor. The only sound was the footbeat of sentries walking their posts.