A former White House butler who served 11 presidents has died after being infected with the coronavirus, his family said.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman died last weekend of COVID-19, his eldest granddaughter confirmed to FOX 5 DC. He was 91.
Jerman began working for the White House as a cleaner in 1957 during the Eisenhower administration, and was promoted to butler during the Kennedy presidency, granddaughter Jamila Garrett told the station.
Jerman was one of the few White House staffers trusted to take the Kennedy children to different parts of the residence, she said.
“Jackie O actually promoted him to a butler because of the relationship,” Garrett told the station. “She was instrumental in ensuring that that happened.”
Born in Seaboard, North Carolina, in 1929, Jerman became one of the millions of African Americans who moved to Northern cities in the early 1950s in search of better work, pay and living conditions, according to NBC News.
Garrett grew up with Jerman, as well as her mother, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, in a multigenerational Washington, DC, household.
“Even our parties at home looked like White House parties,” she told NBC. “He would scallop radishes and make them look like swans. He would make animals out of watermelon scoops. He was very creative. Presentation was everything.”
Former President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush remembered Jerman fondly in a statement to NBC.
Wilson Jerman with the Bush familyJerman Family
“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.”
Hillary Clinton tweeted Thursday about Jerman’s passing.
“Bill and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Wilson Roosevelt Jerman at the age of 91 from COVID-19,” she 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 with the ObamasGetty Images
Jerman appears in a photo with Barack and Michelle Obama in “Becoming,” the former first lady’s memoir, according to NBC News.
Michelle Obama said in a statement provided to NBC News that the late butler “helped make the White House a home for decades of first families, including ours.”
“His services 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,” Obama said. “We were lucky to have known him.”
Jerman leaves behind four of his five children, 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
“I want the world to remember my grandfather as someone who was really authentic,” Garrett told Fox 5 DC. “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.”