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Former White House butler, 91, dies of coronavirus
May 21, 2020
A former White House butler, one who worked for 11 presidents in a career that spanned five decades, has died of coronavirus. He was 91.
It was Jackie Kennedy who noticed Wilson Roosevelt Jerman while he was working as a cleaner in the White House.
The former First Lady had him promoted, and from then on he worked as a butler.
“She was instrumental in ensuring that that happened,” his granddaughter, Jamila Garrett, told FOX 5.
Decades later Mr Jerman was commemorated by another First Lady, appearing in a photo in Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming.
He stood out to both the Kennedys, who were in the White House from 1961 to 1963, and the Obamas, who lived there between 2008 and 2016, and for others whom he met at the White House, according to Mr Jerman’s family members.
The years that he worked for the Kennedys and the Obamas were just two chapters of a long and storied professional life, one that spanned more than five decades.
He died with coronavirus last weekend.
Mr Jerman’s career began in 1957 during the Eisenhower administration. In his last position, he served as a maître d’ in the Obama White House.
He left his position in 2012, and Obama honoured him with a series of plaques, one that represented each of the presidents he had served, Mr Jerman’s granddaughter Shanta Taylor Gay told CNN.
He remains an important figure for those who study the history of African Americans and their role in political life.
Like other African-American men of his generation, says Ohio State University’s Koritha Mitchell, author of From Slave Cabins to the White House, he showed dignity while serving in one of the few positions that was available to him at the time.
She believes that he must have found it satisfying to end his career in the way that he did.
He was working for Mr Obama, “a dignified president who was also African-American”, she says, adding: “That must have felt like a victory.”