Monday, January 6, 2020
101 Years Gone - Theodore Roosevelt
"The old lion is dead."
- cable from Archie Roosevelt to his brothers serving in Europe, 01/06/1919
Theodore Roosevelt passed on January 6, 1919. He was only 60 years old.
The passing of the famously active and robust Roosevelt could be attributed to a few things. That bullet he famously took before he gave a speech actually did harm him and left him with ailments that worsened over time. His tour of the Amazon had left him with malaria and took much of the wind from his sails. The man of action who had made his reputation in the Spanish-American War, and who believed the manliest thing one could do was go fight in a war, took a post-presidential tour of Europe which forewarned him of the coming conflict and the scale at which is would occur. When the US finally entered the fray, he encouraged his sons to enlist. When he and Edith lost Quentin Roosevelt in air-to-air combat in July of 1918, it's said TR began to slide.
TR died before he could once again run for president, which he was, of course, considering. And which I think would have altered his legacy, win or lose. We never really saw a feeble TR, and the memory of the uncompromising figure TR was becoming as he aged is mostly forgotten, mixed with the blustery figure of his younger days. Still, he'd surprised the world at every turn since his youth, so who is to say what an octogenarian Roosevelt might have looked like?
The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and he'd defied death since his childhood as an asthmatic prone to long spells of sickness, been shot at, survived disease and exotic and dangerous adventuring. Blinded in one eye while boxing (during middle age) and regularly found ways to engage with life in ways I can scarcely imagine. At only 60, his life and legacy produced more door-stop-heavy books than most anyone in US History.
If all of us are contradictions, this is one more area where TR lived larger than life. And I won't dwell on it here - but he did leave a fascinating legacy and history in the multitudes he contained.