Wilson Roosevelt Jerman was a former White House butler. Believed to be one of the longest-serving employees of the White House, Jerman served 11 United States presidents in a career spanning five decades. And last weekend he succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 91.
Working as a cleaner in 1957 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jerman’s White House career experienced remarkable takeoff when John F. Kennedy became president. He was promoted to a butler thanks to the good rapport and relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy, the then-first lady.
“She was instrumental in ensuring that that happened,” his granddaughter, Jamila Garrett, told Fox 5. “He had a very close relationship with Jackie O…she She trusted him with her children, and he would ensure they had everything they needed in the White House.”
After retiring from the White House in 1997, Jerman returned in 2003. He would leave again in 2012 as maître d’ under then-President Barack Obama, according to reports.
Jerman’s passing has rattled America including the former first families he served diligently in his more than five-decade career in the White House which began as a cleaner and ended as an elevator operator during the Barack Obama presidency.
“With his kindness and care, Wilson Jerman helped make the White House a home for decades of first families, including ours,” said Michelle Obama. “His service to others his willingness to go above and beyond for the country he loved and all those whose lives he touched is a legacy worthy of his generous spirit.”
Jerman died last Saturday at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge, Va. with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus which has infected 1,621,333 with 96,363 deaths.
In a joint statement to NBC News, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush said Jerman “was a lovely man.” “He was the first person we saw at the White House when we left the residence in the morning, and the last person we saw when we returned at night.”
Hillary Clinton also wrote: “Jerman served as a White House butler across 11 presidencies and made generations of first families feel at home, including ours. Our warmest condolences to his loved ones.”
Jerman was born on Jan. 21, 1929, in Seaboard, N.C., to Theodore Roosevelt Jerman, a farmworker, and Alice Plum. According to his granddaughter, Garret, he did not wear shoes and walked six miles to school when he was a child and dropped out at a point to work on a farm.
He later moved to Washington in 1955. “He never judged, he never complained, ever, because he went through so many tribulations,” Garret said. “He was the mechanic. He would fix your roof. Anything you needed — he was that person.”
“He was authentic. He was a quiet but stern man. Very giving, never fussed or complained. Always said he lived a blessed life,” Shanta Taylor Gay, who’s also Jerman’s granddaughter told CNN on Thursday.