Local professor finds rare footage of FDR in wheelchair

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FRANKLIN — It’s an unbelievable piece of history now released to the public, thanks to a Franklin College professor who happened to notice a never-before-seen video clip.

Professor Ray Begovich was doing research in the National Archives back in 2010, looking for shots of Hoosier journalist Elmer Davis during his time working for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

As Begovich watched hours of video shot by the Navy, during a trip FDR took to Pearl Harbor in 1944, he noticed a small clip.

“(I) took it home (and) watched it hundreds of times. Showed it to a few close colleagues and finally figured out what we had,” Begovich said.

What Begovich had was the first known video of FDR being pushed in his wheelchair. It’s extraordinary, because the President did not want the public to know he needed the chair and the media agreed not to film it.

“Back then there was a gentlemen’s agreement that we’re not gonna show the President in a wheelchair,” Begovich said.

It took Begovich years to verify the video and now that it’s gaining international attention, he still calls it a simple accident.

“It was just serendipity to come across and I’m very happy that people are interested in seeing it,” Begovich said.

He’s a Journalism professor and not an expert in the President at all, so Begovich said he hopes historians will check archives and try to find more film of FDR in that wheelchair. He also hopes that it will be a small push to a future where the country better accepts the disabilities of leaders.

“Someday, I just hope that it doesn’t matter a damn that a President’s in a wheelchair,” Begovich said.