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Mon, 01.21.1929

Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, White House Butler born

Wilson Jerman

*Wilson Jerman was born on this date in 1929.  He was a Black Caterer and Butler.  

Wilson Roosevelt Jerman was from Seaboard, N.C., the son of Theodore Roosevelt Jerman, a farmworker, and Alice Plum.   His granddaughter Jamila Garrett said, “as a child, he had no shoes and walked six miles to school at 12; he dropped out of school to work on a farm”.  Jerman moved to Washington in 1955 and catered for parties in Georgetown.  

His White House career began in 1957 during the Eisenhower administration; he was hired as a cleaner at first.  “Jackie Onassis promoted him to a butler because of the relationship. She was instrumental in ensuring that that happened,” Garrett told the outlet of the former first lady.  His first wife, Gladys, died in 1966; President Lyndon B. Johnson asked his physician to treat her before she died.  Wilson Roosevelt Jerman was one of the White House’s longest-serving employees, remembered fondly by former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush.  “He was a lovely man,” the Bushes said. “He was the first person we saw in the morning when we left the Residence and the last person we saw each night when we returned.”  

In his last position, he served as a maître d' in the Obama White House; Jerman retired from his White House position in 2012.  He was intensely proud of his job, his granddaughter said, and he went to work every day perfectly groomed, with freshly polished shoes and suspenders.   Wilson Jerman, one of the White House’s longest-serving employees who served 11 different presidents, died at 91 on May 21, 2020, from covid-19. 

 Jerman is survived by four children, Joyce Garrett, Angela Davis, Linda Taylor, and Christopher Jerman, as well as 12 grandchildren, Ms. Garrett said. A fifth child, Dennis Jerman, died in 2011.  Garrett described Jerman as a family man who appreciated service, particularly service to others. A photo of Jerman with former president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama was included in “Becoming,” the former first lady's memoir. The photo of him in Obama’s book, combined with Jerman’s overall legacy, has helped the family cope with his loss, according to his granddaughter. “I want the world to remember my grandfather as someone who was really authentic,” Garrett said. “Always being yourself. That’s what he taught our family; that’s what thrives throughout our family. And that’s what we’ll continue to carry on, his legacy.” 


Image: Tina Hager, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

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