- DEA/M. BORCHI/Getty
- A former White House butler who served 11 presidents, from Eisenhower to Obama, has died of the coronavirus.
- Wilson Roosevelt Jerman died on Saturday at Northern Virginia Medical Center. He was 91.
- Jerman started working at the White House in 1957, as a cleaner. He was promoted to the role of butler after forming a close relationship with the Kennedys.
- Former presidents and first ladies have been publicly expressing their condolences to Jerman’s family, which includes four children, 12 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.
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A former White House butler who served every president from Eisenhower to Obama has died of the coronavirus.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman died at the Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge, Virginia, on Saturday. He was 91. His death was first reported by Fox 5 DC.
Jerman was born in 1929, the son of a poor North Carolina farm-worker, according to The New York Times. He had to drop out of school after the seventh grade to help provide for the family, eventually moving to Washington, DC, where he catered events in Georgetown.
In 1957, he was invited to work at the White House by his best friend, Eugene Allen, The Washington Post reports. Allen himself was the inspiration for the 2013 film “The Butler.”
Jerman started as a cleaner, but rose to the rank of butler when the Kennedys took a shining to him.
“He had a very close relationship with Jackie O,” Jermans’ eldest granddaughter, Jamila Garrett, told the Times. “She trusted him with her children, and he would ensure they had everything they needed in the White House.”
Jerman was also close to Kennedy’s vice president and successor Lyndon B. Johnson.
When his first wife was dying of Lupus in 1966, Johnson sent his doctors to care for her, and gifted the family lobster and filet mignon from the White House kitchens.
Jerman initially retired in 1997, but came back to work at the White House in 2003, according to CNN. He retired for a final time in 2011, at which point he was working as an elevator operator and maitre d’ for President Barack Obama.
Following the news of Jerman’s death, former presidents and first ladies started releasing statements remembering the beloved White House worker.
“Bill and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Wilson Roosevelt Jerman at the age of 91 from COVID-19. Jerman served as a White House butler across 11 presidencies and made generations of first families feel at home, including ours. Our warmest condolences to his loved ones,” former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday.
Bill and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Wilson Roosevelt Jerman at the age of 91 from COVID-19. Jerman served as a White House butler across 11 presidencies and made generations of first families feel at home, including ours. Our warmest condolences to his loved ones.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 21, 2020
Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura called Jerman “a lovely man” in a statement to the Times.
“He was the first person we saw at the White House when we left the residence in the morning, and the last person we saw when we returned at night,” the Bushes said.
On the Today show on Thursday, former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager said Jerman was “someone I loved very much.”
She said the reason the White House felt like home was “because of people like him.”
“We loved him. He was beloved by my family, and he will be so missed,” he added.
Former first lady Michelle Obama, who included a picture of Jerman in her autobiography “Becoming,” said in a statement that he “helped make the White House a home for decades of first families, including ours.”
“His service to others – his willingness to go above and beyond for the country he loved and all those whose lives he touched – is a legacy worthy of his generous spirit,” Obama said.