Tributes from former US first families rolled in on Thursday in response to the news that a man who was a fixture in the White House under 11 presidents had died at the age of 91 after contracting COVID-19.
Wilson Jerman started working as a cleaner under then-US president Dwight Eisenhower and retired as an elevator operator under former US president Barack Obama.
“With his kindness and care, Wilson Jerman helped make the White House a home for decades of first families, including ours,” former first lady Michelle Obama said. “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 became a White House butler under then-US president John F. Kennedy, a role that then-first lady Jackie Kennedy was instrumental in landing for him, his oldest granddaughter, Jamila Garrett, told the local Fox News station in Washington.
“Jerman served as a White House butler across 11 presidencies and made generations of first families feel at home, including ours,” former US secretary of state and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote on Twitter. “Our warmest condolences to his loved ones.”
Former US president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush said that Jerman was a “lovely man.”
“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,” they said in a statement to NBC News.
Desiree Barnes, who worked in the Obama administration, said Jerman treated the staff kindly.
Barnes said that when she worked as an intern he would get her a meal if she had not eaten and that he even called her during a particularly rough snowstorm to make sure she was OK.
“It did not matter political party, he was there to serve,” Barnes said. “He had been there on some of the hardest days for a lot of presidents... Imagine being there when president Kennedy was assassinated and having to receive the first lady at the time. So, he was a really empathetic man. He just was a great listener.”
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