The Grace Tully Collection of FDR Papers

Written on: July 29, 2010 | 3 Comments

Yesterday I welcomed members of Congress to the National Archives to celebrate the donation of the Grace Tully Collection. After almost 30 years of effort, the National Archives and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library have obtained the papers that Grace Tully collected and maintained during her time as secretary of Franklin D. Roosevelt. My sincere appreciation goes out to Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Senator Tom Carper, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Representative Lacy Clay, and Representative Edolphus Towns, who all helped to make this happen. My thanks also to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Henry A. Waxman, who worked on this effort in the last Congress.

The collection consists of over 5,000 documents and includes: memorabilia, printed items, and framed pieces; the papers of Missy LeHand, who preceded Grace Tully as Roosevelt’s primary personal secretary and was her close associate and friend; and many documents and notes that FDR sent to his staff for action or information.

Below is one document from the Tully Collection, a personal letter dated October 3, 1939 sent from US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Joseph P. Kennedy to Missy LeHand a month after the outbreak of World War II. From this letter, it is obvious that there was a personal connection between Kennedy, LeHand, and Tully, perhaps because all three were devout Catholics and all had been with FDR during the 1932 presidential campaign.  In this letter, Ambassador Kennedy describes his views on the war, the social scene in London following the outbreak, and the loneliness of serving abroad without his family.

Letter from Kennedy to LeHand 1Letter from Kennedy to LeHand 2
Letter from Joseph P. Kennedy to Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, October 3, 1939.

The collection was represented in the Rotunda yesterday by this letter and additional documents, including instructions and notes from Grace Tully, Missy LeHand, and the President himself.

Grace Tully first came to work with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during the 1928 political campaign season, assisting Eleanor Roosevelt’s work on Al Smith’s campaign and working as part of FDR’s team campaigning for the governorship of New York.  Grace continued to work as FDR’s secretary in Albany and then in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Grace Tully on Inspection Train, 09/20/1942 (See citation below)
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Grace Tully on Inspection Train, 09/20/1942

Although her close friend Missy LeHand was FDR’s primary personal secretary, Grace was his “second,” assisting with dictation, typing letters and speeches, and maintaining office and speech files.  When Missy suffered a debilitating stroke in 1941, Grace assumed the role of primary personal secretary to the President.  In the early evening of December 7, 1941, Grace Tully took the President’s dictation of the first draft of the “Day of Infamy” speech.  She was with him in Warm Springs when he died on April 12, 1945.

When the collection is open to scholars in a few short months, it will give a window into the inner workings of the Roosevelt White House.  It will help fill a gap in the record of Roosevelt’s Presidency and give insight into the relationship between the President, Mrs. Roosevelt, and their two close associates Grace Tully and Missy LeHand.

The collection will also reveal for the first time how these two women so near the seat of power interacted personally and professionally with other Administration officials and dignitaries, including Justice Felix Frankfurter, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy.

This collection is a fitting tribute to the two women – Grace Tully and Missy LeHand – who gave the best years of their lives to serving a remarkable man at a remarkable time.

For Further Information:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/
  • Letter from Joseph P. Kennedy to Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, October 3, 1939.  Item from Grace Tully Collection, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park, New York.
  • “Franklin D. Roosevelt and Grace Tully on Inspection Train, 09/20/1942.”  ARC ID-197192, Item from Collection FDR-PHOCO: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Public Domain Photographs, 1882-1962.  Available at: http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=197192

Check out the Video “Inside the Vaults – The Grace Tully Collection” below:

3 Responses to “The Grace Tully Collection of FDR Papers”

  1. Oxa said:

    “there was a personal connection between Kennedy, LeHand, and Tully, perhaps because all three were devout Catholics”

    What a bigoted thing to say! They’re all Catholics, so they must all be buddies. There must be thousands of reasons for them to have been acquaintances besides that.


    (July 29, 2010 at 11:01 am)

  2. Ted said:

    Great work. Those papers belong in a muse–, er…the archives!


    (July 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm)

  3. David Ferriero said:

    Oxa, thank you for your comment. It is true, there could be many reasons as to why Kennedy, LeHand, and Tully were friends. While I did mention their religious faith as common among the three, I also offered their involvement in FDR’s 1932 presidential campaign as a reason for their friendship. Perhaps by reading the letters in this collection further, we can discover even more commonalities that could have lead to the evident friendship between Kennedy, LeHand, and Tully.


    (August 3, 2010 at 11:14 am)