Wilson Jerman, Longtime White House Butler, Dies at 91

To have had a conversation and coffee with this man!!

Wilson Jerman started working in the White House as a cleaner in 1957, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. But it wasn’t until President John F. Kennedy was in office that he got his first big promotion, to butler, thanks to Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy.

“He had a very close relationship with Jackie O,” said Jamila Garrett, Mr. Jerman’s granddaughter. “She trusted him with her children, and he would ensure they had everything they needed in the White House.”

In 1966, when Mr. Jerman’s wife, Gladys, was dying of lupus, President Lyndon B. Johnson flew his personal doctors to help treat her and sent lobsters and filet mignon from the White House kitchen to the family’s home in the Petworth section of Washington.

Mr. Jerman, who served 11 presidents as a cleaner, butler and elevator operator, died on Saturday at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge, Va. He was 91.

The cause was Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Ms. Garrett said.

“Mr. Jerman was a lovely man,” former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush said in a statement. “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.”

Wilson Roosevelt Jerman was born on Jan. 21, 1929, in Seaboard, N.C., to Theodore Roosevelt Jerman, a farmworker, and Alice Plum. As a child, he had no shoes and walked six miles to school, Ms. Garrett said. At age 12, he dropped out of school to work on a farm.

Mr. Jerman moved to Washington in 1955 and catered parties in Georgetown before being hired at the White House. He was intensely proud of his job, his granddaughter said, and he went to work every day perfectly groomed, with freshly polished shoes and suspenders.

“He never judged, he never complained, ever, because he went through so many tribulations,” she said. “He was the mechanic. He would fix your roof. Anything you needed — he was that person.”