On a President’s Companion

Murray “The Outlaw” Falahill isn’t a name that you’ll recognize readily, but people who lived through World War 2 knew of this Scot. Murray was one of those secret presidential companions who always seems to be at the center of power but who also remains largely unknown by the public. Murray entered the orbit of President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1940. He was brought into Roosevelt’s orbit by one of Roosevelt’s cousins, and the two became fast friends. Today, history tells us things about FDR that the public generally did not know at the time; for example, his many extramarital affairs were kept secret for many years. The fact that Roosevelt was effectively paralyzed from the waist down was also not publicly known. And it makes sense that there will be private relationships that people in power have that transcend politics and public scrutiny out of necessity. We all need someone close to us who we can confide in and be ourselves around outside of the public eye. Very quickly, Murray became this relationship for Roosevelt.

Murray soon traveled everywhere with Roosevelt. When Roosevelt went to his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, Murray went along. Murray also accompanied the president to Canada when FDR met with Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, to discuss the progress of the war in Europe. He journeyed with the presidential entourage to the Aleutian Islands one time. That’s when some information about Murray’s close friendship with Roosevelt almost cost the President. Someone in the press heard a rumor that Murray had been accidentally left behind in Alaska when the president’s traveling party returned to Washington. The rumor was that FDR sent a United States warship to Alaska to pick up Murray and bring him back at the cost of several million dollars that the US taxpayers would have to pay for. Now, remember that Murray had no official title in the Roosevelt administration. He was not an elected official. He was just Roosevelt’s companion. So, if this rumor were true, it would be a fairly good-sized scandal that Roosevelt would have to explain. Quickly, Roosevelt addressed the issue before it could turn into a scandal. In one of his radio addresses, he squashed the rumor without going into great detail by saying that no member of the President’s staff or family had been left behind in Alaska and therefore that no expense had been wasted on going back and picking up any member of the traveling party. Besides, FDR said, any Scot worth his or her salt would be appalled at such an expense.

Murray pretty much moved into the White House. One of his proclivities was that he preferred breakfast in bed, so the White House kitchen staff was always ready to make Murray’s favorite morning repast. He was around Roosevelt so much that, invariably, photos were taken that show him near the President. You can see him in those pictures today, and, at the time, nobody questioned his being there. When Roosevelt died in April 1945, Murray was with the President. And he was crushed because the two had become so close over the years. Eleanor, who spent a great deal of time with and became attached to Murray herself in the years after Franklin’s passing, said that Murray never really recovered from the death. He himself lived only 7 years after his friend.

When a statue honoring Franklin Roosevelt was unveiled in Washington, D.C., it depicted the President seated. And, to his right, is seated Murray—known better as Fala—Roosevelt’s trusted and beloved Scottish Terrier.


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