Fala

Fala 86 votes (4.43/5)

FALA BIOGRAPHY
Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

BORN: April 7, 1940

DIED: April 5, 1952 and was buried in the Rose Garden next to the sundial near FDR on April 7, 1952

FDR’s Dog Fala

The Scottish terrier was given to the president by Mrs. Augustus G. Kellog of Westport, Connecticut through Franklin Roosevelt‘s cousin, Margaret “Daisy” Suckley. At first his name was Big Boy. Franklin renamed him Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, after a Scottish ancestor.

Fala had a bone every morning brought up on the president’s breakfast tray. Fala got a full dinner every night. During the day, Fala would beg for food from the White House staff. He was so cute that he was fed all the time and became sick. The staff was asked not to feed him extra food. At night, he slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed. Fala traveled with the president on long and short trips by train, car, or boat.

He , of course, met many famous visitors and entertained them with his tricks. He could even curl his lip into a smile for them.

Here are some trips and people that he met:

  • In August 1941, Fala was at the Atlantic Charter Conference in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland with the president and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of England.
  • In September 1942 and April 1943, Fala went on inspection trips of defense plants and visited Monterey, Mexico and President Camacho.
  • In August 1943 and September 1944, he went to the Quebec Conferences.
  • In 1944, Fala was with the President on a sea trip to the Aleutian Islands. Rumors spread that Fala was accidentally left on one of the islands. During the 1944 presidential campaign, the Republicans accused him of spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars in sending a destroyer back for him. The President answered the attack in his famous Fala speech while talking to the Teamsters Union. Roosevelt defended his Scottie, saying, that he, Roosevelt, expected such criticism aimed at himself, and that even his family expected negative talk about themselves. However, Fala had not been the same. Since the charge was made: “His Scotch soul was furious.”
  • There was another incident on a sea trip aboard the ship Tuscalosa in the West Indies. It was a hot day. The sailors were trying to cool off. They were lying on the deck stretched out in a row. Their bare feet were lined up. Fala caused quite a commotion by moving quickly along the row licking and tickling their feet.
  • And yet another time, Fala was with the President on a fishing trip to Florida. As the fish were caught, they were thrown in a pile on the deck. Quite a pile accumulated. They were all flip-flopping in the air as fish do. Fala began to flip-flop, too. It was such a fun game that he did it for several days.

In April 1945, President Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia. Fala attended the funeral. He went to live with Mrs. Roosevelt at Val-Kill. He never really adjusted to the loss of Roosevelt. Even so, Val-Kill was in the country. It was a great place to run, play, chase squirrels, and even cats sometimes. Mrs. Roosevelt brought his grandson, Tamas McFala to live at Val-Kill, too, and be Fala’s playmate. Sometimes they would run off together and get into trouble. They came home hours later covered with burrs and mud. By the end of such a busy day, he was an exhausted dog. Sometimes he slept on his back with his feet in the air.

He was so popular that he received thousands of letters from people. He even needed to have a secretary appointed to him to answer his mail. One letter dated August 5, 1947, was from a poodle named Abigail. Fala chased a skunk once, which was very unpleasant for everyone. The poodle scolded Fala for not acting with more intelligence and dignity. Abigail hoped that Fala would never, ever let that unfortunate incident be repeated.

In 1942, a movie was made about Fala and his life in Hyde Park. Children and other visitors who come to the Roosevelt Museum and Library in Hyde Park, New York still enjoy watching it today.

Fala is probably the only president pet to be memorialized in statuary. A statue of Fala stands next to one of FDR at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C.

Additional Resources

The following sources contain references about Fala:

  • The New York Times index contains many references to Fala from November 1940 to his death in April of 1952. An article in the Times appeared in January 11, 1942, VII, p. 11.
  • The Reader’s Digest, March 1941, in an article titled “Presents for the President,” states that Fala “is the only dog FDR has accepted and given the run of the White House…”
  • The most famous remarks made by FDR about Fala were in his speech to the Teamsters Union, on September 23, 1944, which is available in The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, edited by Samuel I. Rosenman.

Some books with references to Fala include:

  • Working With Roosevelt, by Samuel I. Rosenman. Harper Brothers, New York. 1952.
  • Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park, by Olin Dows. American Artists Group, Inc., New York.
  • Roosevelt and Hopkins, by Robert E. Sherwood. Harper Brothers, New York. 1948.
  • FDR, My Boss, by Grace G. Tully, pp. 128-132. Charles Scribner & Sons, New York. 1949.
  • Off the Record With FDR 1942-1945, by William Hassett. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey. 1958.
  • The True Story of Fala, by Margaret ” Daisy” Suckley. Scribner & Sons, New York. 1942. This volume may be purchased through the Museum Store at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.
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Comments

  1. I’m trying to determine if Fala the scottish terrier was in fact breed in lucas county, Ohio by the then sheriff Jim O’reilly who raised them.

  2. I have a little wooden statue of Fala that used to be my Grandmothers. I wonder how much its worth today. S

  3. It’s amazing how crazy the country was about Fala. My mother had some Fala items, including a handkerchief and a record set of a musical entitled, simply, “Fala,” by Monarch Records (c. 1946). It was dedicated to FDR and was geared towards children. FDR had read the script for this musical and had some suggestions.

    • Yes, Fala was and still is the undisputed most popular presidential pet, at least in our book. This dog was even made an honorary private in the U.S. Army during WWII. Thank you for your recollections. The record must have come out not long after FDR passed away.

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