Tully, Grace

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Grace Tully (August 9, 1900–June 15, 1984) served Franklin Delano Roosevelt as one of his closest personal secretaries from 1928 until his death in 1944. Throughout this period, Tully shared the workload of the president's primary secretary, Marguerite (Missy) LeHand, until LeHand suffered a stroke in 1941, and Tully was elevated to the preeminent secretarial position.

A native of New Jersey, Tully worked as a secretary for the Archdiocese of New York until the Democratic National Committee hired her to assist Eleanor Roosevelt, who was busily preparing for the 1928 presidential campaign. That same year Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to the New York governorship, and Tully accepted an offer to work for him in Albany. By 1932 Tully had established herself as a devoted employee and an important member of the Roosevelt inner circle, but health problems prevented her from moving to Washington, D.C., and joining the rest of "the team" until early 1934.

Once she moved to Washington, Tully had virtually unfettered access to Roosevelt that few others in Depression-era Washington enjoyed. Tommy Corcoran, an influential presidential adviser, once remarked that anyone who wanted to see the president, "except Missy and Grace," had to clear it with the White House appointments secretary (Caro, p. 670). Tully's entrée to the Oval Office made her an important figure at a time when the president had been granted immense authority to dispense patronage as the result of New Deal legislation. Securing time with Roosevelt to discuss the direction of that patronage was nearly impossible, but for many Washington operatives a quick word with the president could be arranged through Tully's intervention.

In addition to her secretarial duties, Tully frequently participated in White House social events, including Roosevelt's late-afternoon cocktail parties, and she often accompanied him on trips to Hyde Park and Camp David (then called Shangri-La), where one of the outbuildings came to be called the Grace Tully Cabin. She was present in Warm Springs, Georgia, the day that Roosevelt died in April 1945, and she was one of the first people to rush into the room upon hearing of the president's collapse.

Roosevelt's death did not bring an end to Tully's time in Washington, and she went on to work for senators Lyndon Johnson and Mike Mansfield before retiring.



Caro, Robert A. The Path to Power, Vol. 1: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. 1982.

Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny. 1990.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Home Front in World War II. 1994.

Graham, Otis L., and Meghan Robinson Wander. Franklin D. Roosevelt: His Life and Times, An Encyclopedic View. 1985.

Christopher Brick