National Press Club

NPC in History: FDR gets his Club membership card

October 28, 2018 | By Gilbert Klein | gilbert.klein@yahoo.com

FDR receives his National Press Club membership card from President Raymond Brandt prior to the black-tie dinner in 1933.  Former Club President Theodore Tiller of The Washington Times is on the left.

FDR receives his National Press Club membership card from President Raymond Brandt prior to the black-tie dinner in 1933. Former Club President Theodore Tiller of The Washington Times is on the left.

For its 25th anniversary bash on May 29, 1933 – the Silver Jubilee – the National Press Club invited President Franklin Roosevelt to be the guest of honor at the black-tie event less than three months after he was inaugurated.

As was customary, the Club wanted to present the new president of the United States with his membership card. Every president since Woodrow Wilson had been a Club member – and they all paid their dues, like any other member (a tradition that lasted through President Kennedy).

As you can see from the accompanying photo, Roosevelt accepted the special silver-engraved membership card while standing up, something painful for him to do as he often tried to hide his disability. The braces on his legs are clearly visible at his shoes, and he seems to have a firm grip on the arm of Club President Raymond Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Roosevelt was still standing, supporting himself on the back of a heavy chair, when a short British Pathe news clip recorded his quips.

“One of the speakers mentioned he was only a partway member because he wasn’t sure whether the check he drew was good or not,” Roosevelt said in his famously patrician voice. “I am not that far advanced in membership as that because the only complaint I have against the new Secretary of the Treasury is that I have had no salary to date and have drawn no checks.”

According to The Washington Post story the next morning, as part of the membership ceremony, FDR was “assigned” by Frank B. Lloyd, who was what we now call the membership secretary, to “cover” the White House.

Roosevelt was described as “the most promising cub reporter that ever came out of Hyde Park.” He was charged with the duty of being extremely courteous to his fellow newspapermen, “to report not only on the detailed doings of the President, but also to provide his fellow correspondents with carbon copies of every presidential pronouncement, and to be fully and frankly responsive to their inquiries.”

“The password of the tribe, Mr. President,” Lloyd told him, “is ‘Whatduyeno?’ and the response is ‘Nuthin, whatduyeno?’”

The video of Roosevelt speaking that evening can be found here.

This is another in a series provided by Club historian Gil Klein. Dig down anywhere in the Club’s 110-year history, and you will find some kind of significant event in the history of the world, the nation, Washington, journalism and the Club itself. Many of these events were caught in illustrations that tell the stories.