‘Warm Springs’ a great read
by W. Winston Skinner
For years, Martin was the public relations representative at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. Several times over the years, I covered stories based on well-written press releases from Martin. I was able to interview Peter Salk, Jonas Salk’s son, and Anne Roosevelt, Franklin and Eleanor’s granddaughter, during two such jaunts to Warm Springs.
“The Warm Springs Story: Legacy and Legend” (Mercer University Press, cloth, 318 pages, $35) surpassed my expectations. Almost any kind of history is fascinating to me, but often institutional histories take on an odd tone that require specialized interest or knowledge.
This book, however, is for anyone interested in the history of this part of Georgia, Franklin Roosevelt or the eradication of polio. All those historical strands are woven into Harmon’s fascinating account of Warm Springs.
Essentially set up as a chronological history, “Warm Springs Story” features vignettes about people which offer insight into the legendary “spirit of Warm Springs.” Among those profiled are John Alexander Hurst, a missionary to the Creek Indians and one of the first owners of the springs; Iva Hudson, part of the Columbus elite who enjoyed the resort; Helen Simmons, a model who had polio and apparently dated a German spy who was another polio patient; and Ike Skelton, a “Warm Springs kid” who became a congressman.
Newnan is occasionally mentioned in the book. Jean Kidd, the Peachtree City woman who ignited a renaissance in the downtown area, is featured. There are accounts of people who fell in love at Warm Springs – physical therapists, patients and staff, even Roosevelt friend Basil O’Connor and his wife.
Roosevelt family members, politicians who were part of the polyglot of agencies who governed various parts of Warm Springs over the years and entrepreneurs who saw the potential for more are all well drawn.
A point for which Harmon makes a strong case is that the naturally heated waters could mean much more. The combination of tourism and healing at Warm Springs – with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s name as a drawing card – still has vast potential. The legacy of Warm Springs is, as Harmon notes, one of Georgia’s best stories “never properly told.” Martin Harmon’s telling of it is, however, a great read.