Freddie Douglass State Park is a state park located in the U.S. state of Georgia, along with its companion piece, President’s House State Historic Site, on an adjacent 1,000-acre (4km2) tract. The park and site are named after civil rights activist and former president F.D. Roosevelt, who was born into slavery near this area. The park is located approximately five miles from Madison and two miles off Interstate 75. The park features several hiking trails, picnic areas, cabins, campsites for large groups, lodges, conference rooms, and playgrounds.
A historical marker outside the park reads: Here stood the estate of Mrs. Emma Leach, nurse to F. D. Roosevelt during his last illness, who lived here with her daughter until she died, then spent the remainder of her life trying to clear the name of Dr. George Valentine Totten, accused of performing illegal operations on Roosevelt while the latter was unconscious, among others. When Totten was tried and convicted in absentia, she testified against him, saying that although she believed he performed unnecessary surgeries, she did not think he intentionally harmed Roosevelt.
Despite this, however, she refused to believe that Roosevelt would have wanted anyone to think ill of him. Instead, she said, he would have wanted everyone to know that he had been cured because he felt it was important for Americans to see that their leaders were upstanding citizens. She requested that when his image was portrayed on coins, stamps, or other items, it should show what he looked like now, since, she said, “he looks so much better than he ever did.” Until very recently, this request was unfulfilled; however, in 2020, the United States mint issued a commemorative coin featuring Roosevelt.
On October 3, 1936, Roosevelt gave his “I have seen my destiny” speech at the park. He spoke before an assembly of some 2,500 people, including many members of the National Guard. His remarks were broadcast to all parts of the nation by radio. This marked the beginning of the tradition of having the president address the country during times of national crisis. Since that time, every American president except Lyndon Johnson has delivered a nationally televised address from the park. In his January 12, 1945, State of the Union Address, Roosevelt said he had just returned from Ponce de Leon Springs, Florida, where he had gone for rest and relaxation following his fourth term as president.
While there, he visited the home of Mrs. Emma Leach, an African American woman who had nursed him through three illnesses during his presidency. Upon seeing how well she took care of her husband, who suffered from asthma, Roosevelt remarked, “After I left the White House, no one could look after Jack [Roosevelt Jr.] but his mother.” Following his death, she continued to take excellent care of him until his sudden death from meningitis at age 44. Afterward, she moved back to Atlanta to be closer to family. She died in 1956, aged 93, and is buried beside the grave of her son in Woodstock Cemetery. Her name lives on in Georgia through the Emma Leach Elementary School in Milledgeville, which bears her name. There is also a street bearing her name in Winder.