As King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley was one of the most influential pop culture musicians and icons in history. As the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt led the country through the Great Depression and World War II and is considered one of our nation ‘s top leaders. What do these two men have in common? Presley’s history played an important part in Roosevelt’s history – the gate of his President!
Franklin Roosevelt Floating White House
Before the Air Force was the best mode of transportation for the presidents of America, our country leaders used presidential gates. Our senior officers used the naval vessels as the “White Floating House” between 1880 and 1977 when the last one was decommissioned.
During his presidency, Roosevelt, former Assistant Secretary to the Navy, traveled aboard the USS Potomac. The boat built in 1934 as a United States coastguard cutter.
It was commissioned by the United States Navy in 1936 and was used by Roosevelt until his death in 1945. The ship was a welcome opportunity for the President during the brutally hot summers of Washington DC.
Find it relief on board the ship, enjoying fishing, poker games, spending time with family, and working on his stamp collection. He also used it for official business, such as diplomatic meetings and hosting dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth and King George VI of Britain in the summer of 1939.
After Roosevelt’s death in 1945, the USS Potomac had a series of owners and was used to a variety of reasons. Formerly used by the state of Maryland, it operated as a ferry between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and sailed down the Panama Canal for display at the 1962 Seattle World Fair.
Elvis buys the historic ship
In 1964, the once powerful USS Potomac was in a state of disrepair and seemed destined to go into the waste system when the owners auctioned it off. When Presley’s mother, Gladys, found out, she was shocked, knowing the important part of the ship ‘s history. So in January 1964, Presley stepped in and bought the vessel for $ 55,000.
“Elvis feels the gate could be a strong source of donations in memory of the late Presidents Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy,” said Presley manager. Colonel Tom Parker, he said at the time.
Presley first wanted to donate the historic vessel to one of his favorite charities, the March of Dimes Foundation. However, the group was concerned about the costs of maintenance and upkeep, so they regretted their rejection of the offer. It didn’t take long for him to find another charity to accept his donation.
Elvis donates to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
On Valentine’s Day 1964, Presley he brought the USS Potomac to Danny Thomas and St Jude Children ‘s Research Hospital. The hospital then sold the vessel for between $ 60,000 and $ 75,000.
Presley was very generous, donating cars, money and jewelry to friends, staff, and strangers alike. This was not the first time he had helped a charitable cause. In 1961, he performed a winning concert in Hawaii that raised more than $ 54,000 for the USS Arizona Memorial Fund. Thanks to the publicity the event generated, more donations were made, and the memorial in Pearl Harbor was dedicated the following year.
Where is the USS Potomac today?
After St. Jude sold the USS Potomac, it went through many hands again. In 1980, the ship was involved in an illegal drug smuggling ring and captured by Federal representatives in San Francisco.
He was dragged to Treasure Island, where he sank. Just a few weeks later, the vessel was built by the U.S. Navy and sold to Port Oakland. Following a $ 5 million refurbishment, the vessel was opened to the public in 1995 in memory of Roosevelt.
It has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is open for walks in Jack London Square in Oakland, California.