Reading Matters

Missy LeHand: FDR’s conscience

You’re in for a treat at 7 p.m., Thursday, at Park Road Books, when Kathryn Smith, a long-time reporter for the Anderson (S.C.) Independent Mail, talks about her new book, “The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency.”

LeHand was one of the most influential people in FDR’s administration. And, according to Smith: “Everyone in the White House knew one truth – if you wanted access to Franklin, you had to go through Missy. She was one of the most trusted advisors and lived on the third floor of the White House, where she was on call 24/7 – offering her unique perspective on the president that no one else could claim.”

Smith says that in everythng but name, LeHand was FDR’s chief of staff. But FDR, says Smith, identified an even more significant role for her in his administration and his life, often saying, “Missy is my conscience.”

FDR was a Hudson Valley blue blood, but Missy was a blue-collar girl from “a seedy part of Boston who never let her boss forget the people he had promised to champion.”

In 1941, after a full 21 years of “orbiting FDR’s sun,” LeHand suffered a disabling stroke, and the void she left in FDR’s inner circle was never filled. “She disappeared from the public consciousness after her stroke, leaving only the faintest of trails.”

Now Kathryn Smith has walked those trails and many others to bring us this portrait of the woman who had “a front row seat to history,” and died at 47.

UNCC professor Mark Wilson will moderate the event, which is free and open to all.