By Barbara A. Perry, co-editor of 42: Inside the Presidency of Bill Clinton
In the fall of 1955 President Dwight Eisenhower, once a four-pack-a-day smoker, had a brush with the Grim Reaper. While vacationing at his mother-in-law’s Denver home, Ike suffered a serious heart attack that landed him in an oxygen tent at Fitzsimons Army Hospital. For seven weeks he was confined to the facility, treated by a team of physicians, in consultation with famed Harvard-trained cardiologist Paul Dudley White, who flew in from Boston. Unlike his former commander-in-chief Franklin Roosevelt, at death’s door during the 1944 reelection campaign, Eisenhower insisted that the public know about his condition. “Tell the truth, the whole truth; don’t try to conceal anything,” the president instructed Press Secretary James Hagerty, who arrived on the scene from Washington the night after his boss was stricken. Following some confusion and misleading reports over the president’s condition in the initial hours of the crisis, Hagerty and Dr. White held informative news conferences to update the nation on the chief executive’s treatment and prognosis.