Roosevelt and Hopkins, an Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
Sioux City to Washington

Hopkins was born on August 17, 1890, in Sioux City, Iowa, a seemingly immeasurable distance from Hyde Park, New York. On his fifty-first birthday, he returned to Washington with President Roosevelt after the Atlantic Conference, previous to which he had flown to Moscow via London. A friend asked him about his first encounter with Stalin, and he said, "I couldn't believe it. There I was, walking up the staircase of the Kremlin, going to talk to the man who ruled 180 million people. And I kept asking myself—what are you doing here, Hopkins, you—the son of a harness maker from Sioux City—?" Whereupon the friend, who was a somewhat outspoken type, interrupted: "Now, for God's sake, Harry—don't give me that old line again. You told me when you first set foot in the White House that there you were, the son of a harness maker—and you said the same thing about your first visit to No. 10 Downing Street. Can't you ever stop boasting about your humble origin? It's the only sign of pretentiousness I've ever seen in you. And, anyway, there have probably been plenty of other harness makers' sons in the Kremlin. When you go in there, or anyplace else— all you ought to think about is that you're the personal representative of the President and, by God, you have a right to be there!"

Hopkins was impressed by this point. In 1945 when he returned from his final trip to Moscow, which was also his last mission in the public service, he answered a congratulatory message by saying, "It isn't so difficult to do a job like this reasonably well when you have the whole force of the United States Government behind you."

He was the fourth of five children born to David Aldona and Anna Pickett Hopkins. His brothers were Lewis, John Emory and Rome, and his sister Adah (who became Mrs. Frank Aime). An old friend of the family, Robert Kerr, has said, "To anyone interested in genetics,

-14-

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