Elliott Roosevelt dies at 80 president's son was author

October 30, 1990|By New York Times News Service

Elliott Roosevelt, World War II Air Forces general, breeder of Arabian horses and an author whose works included a series of mystery novels that cast his mother, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, as an amateur detective, died Saturday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 80.

The second child of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he began his writing career in 1946 with "As He Saw It," a best-selling account of his experiences at his father's side during five historic wartime summit conferences.

His trilogy of "tell-all" books about life behind the scenes in the Roosevelt White House and at the family home in Hyde Park, N.Y., caused a rift in the family in the early 1970s, leading his sister and three brothers to publicly disavow the books.

A book he wrote in 1983, "The Conservators," was a statement of his philosophy about the survival of the planet.

A year before the United States entered World War II, when the strapping, 225-pound son of the president received a commission as a captain in the Army Air Corps, critics charged that he was receiving special attention because of his father. But his actions in the war dispelled any shadow over that and subsequent promotions.

He flew 300 combat missions and commanded the 325th Photographic Reconnaissance Wing, a multinational unit that participated in the invasions of North Africa and Sicily and played an important role in the D-day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He was twice wounded and received decorations from the United States, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, as well as medals from Britain, France and Morocco.

Mr. Roosevelt married five times. Among his wives was the actress Faye Emerson. He was wedded in 1960 to the former Patricia Peabody, who survives him. In 1962, they moved from Minneapolis to Florida, where he served as mayor of Miami Beach and as the state committeeman of the National Democratic Committee.

The Roosevelts later moved to Portugal, where they raised Arabian horses, and to England. In 1973, his book "An Untold Story" detailed the intimate relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and his secretary, Marguerite "Missy" Lehand, and told how, after the birth of their youngest son, John, in 1916, his parents "never again lived as husband and wife."

Besides his wife, Elliott Roosevelt's survivors include his brother, James of Palm Springs, Calif.; two daughters, Chandler Lindsley of Dallas and Gretchen of Seattle; and six sons, David of Seattle; William of South Norwalk, Conn.; Elliott Jr. of Dallas; David of Westport, Conn.; James of Hollywood, Fla.; and Ford of Van Nuys, Calif.

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