Edmund William Starling -, Sergeant, United States Army Secret Service White House Detail Chief

Army, Civic Leaders Attend Rites For Ex-Head Of WhiteHouse Secret Service
August 5, 1944

A funeral service for Colonel Edmund William Starling, former chief of the Secret Service detail in the White House, was conductedyesterday afternoon by the Red. George C. Hood, pastor of theMadison Avenue Presbyterian Churchin the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Church, Madison Avenue and Eighty-first Street.  Colonel Starling died on Thursday in the St. Luke's Hospital at the ageof 68.

In hia thirty years of service at the White House he was responsible for the personal safety of five President of the United States.

Among those at the service besides the Colonel's widow, Mrs. Ida Lee Starling, and her brother, Bradley Bourne, were Colonel S. V. Constant of the staff of Major General Thomas A. Terry, commandant of the Second Service Command, who represented President Roosevelt at the ceremony.

Others present were Rear Admiral A. B. Randall, James A. Farley, Howard Chandler Christie, Joseph A. Palma, Borough Presiden ot Richmond; George A. Hastings, administrative assistant under President Herbert Hoover; John McGrath, head of the Secret Service in New York; Robert Clarkof the State Department; Louis F. Costuma, First Deputy Police Commissioner of New York; John J. O'Connell, Chief Inspector of Police, and Colonel Joseph M. Hartfield.

An Army detail from Fort Jay, Governors Island, served as pallbearers and formed a guard of honor at the funeral.

The body was taken to Fresh Pond Crematory, Maspeth, Queens, for cremation.  The ashed will be sent to Washington today to be placed in a vault in Arlington National Cemetery.

STARLING OF THE WHITE HOUSE—as told to Thomas Sugrue by Colonel Edmund W. Starling—Simon & Schuster ($3).

The late Colonel Edmund W. Starling (of the Kentucky Colonels) might have spent a humdrum life in the South, stalking train robbers, pulling bums out of freight cars and convoying precious cargoes for the railway express company which he served as a detective. But his employers suggested cutting his pay to meet competition from parcel post. So young Starling flitted to the U.S. Secret Service.

Tall (6 ft. 2 in.), courtly (“You are certainly a good tucker,” said Edith Bolling Gait Wilson as he patted a lap robe around her), devout (he came to believe that the Secret Service acted directly under divine providence), and looking somewhat like one of the later Antonines, Colonel Starling soon found himself on the White House Detail. For almost 30 years, first as an “SS man” and later as chief of “the Detail,” the Colonel suffered the grave responsibility of guarding the lives of five U.S. Presidents from the homicidal reflexes of their fellow citizens. The result of his intimate observations of his charges (from Woodrow Wilson to Roosevelt) are these remarkably readable memoirs (written by Thomas Sugrue).

Though Colonel Starling kept a sporadic diary, in general he distrusted the written word. But his mother in Hopkinsville, Ky., treasured some 11,000 letters (one every day for 30 years) that her son wrote her. As the basis of this book, they provide a rich chronicle of White House life, a distillation of Colonel Starling's thoughts on politics, morals and religion.

Perils of Pregnancy. Of his Presidents, Starling cared least for Warren G. Harding and Herbert Hoover. Toward Franklin Roosevelt his attitude was respectfully correct. He has caught each of his charges in a memorable episode.

There is kindly, comfortable Warren Harding telling the newshawks at the Press Club: “It is a good thing I am not a woman. I would always be pregnant. I cannot say no.” There is kindly, uncomfortable Herbert Hoover being photographed with three groups of visitors whose identity he asked about. “Morticians,” Starling wrote on a card. With a typical fumble of the administration. Hoover was introduced to “five hundred bricklayers.” There is Franklin Roosevelt listening to Presidential Secretary Marvin Mclntyre and his White House quartet singing over the radio and then calling the station to offer Mclntyre a fat contract. “Who the hell are you?” asked the President's secretary. “I'm the advertising manager for Cascarets,” said the President of the United States.

Starling idolized Woodrow Wilson. His first exposure to Wilson left him “in a daze.”

Enter Mrs. Gait. The first Mrs. Wilson had just died. The President was encircled by his daughters, especially Miss Margaret, who was unmarried. “Miss Margaret ran with a crowd of liberals, and was apt to show up with all sorts of long-haired, wild-eyed persons as her guests. She also sang, in a soprano voice that was not too good. Often it flooded the White House with its questionable beauty, creating a strange tension among the members of the staff.”

Then Mrs. Gait appeared. “She's a looker,” said the presidential doorkeeper. “He's a goner,” said the presidential valet. Sometimes as the Colonel dutifully trailed the lovers on their walks, they would glance back at him, “she with the frank laughter of a woman who is enjoying the predicament of both men. She was having a wonderful time.”

Then on the honeymoon train Colonel Starling had a memorable early morning encounter with Woodrow Wilson. “I entered [the private car] quietly and walked down the narrow corridor flanking the bedrooms. Suddenly my ear caught the notes of a familiar melody. Emerging into the sitting room, I saw a figure in top hat, tailcoat, and gray morning trousers, standing with his back to me, hands in his pockets, happily dancing a jig. As I watched him, he clicked his heels in the air, and from whistling he changed to singing, ‘Oh, you beautiful doll! You great big beautiful doll. . . .' ”

The Little Fellow. Colonel Starling was a lifelong Democrat, but his great love was for wry, sly, spry Republican Calvin Coolidge. It began during his first walk in Washington with “the little fellow.” They stopped in front of a Martha Washington candy shop. “Here the President spoke for the first time since greeting me. I had presumed he was busy with deep thoughts. . . . ‘Do they make good candy here?' he said. Before I could pull myself together and reply he answered himself: ‘They must—my wife likes it.' ” Crossing a street the President yanked Starling's coattail. “Better be careful,” he said. “That was a woman in a Ford, and that's a bad combination. One of them struck me in Northampton and bruised my hip.”

Always Coolidge tried to sneak away from his guard. “On awakening in the morning he would walk across the upstairs hallway to the Lincoln Room in his long nightgown and slippers. There he would peek out the window to see whether I was on the lawn. … If he did not see me, he would have Brooks telephone downstairs to ask if I were in the building. . . . Sometimes he would tell the elevator operator to take him to the basement. Then he would try to sneak out the East or the West entrance, just to fool me. Everyone on the staff cooperated with me and tipped me off, so I was always able to catch him. One day I turned the tables on him and hid in the police box on the East side. He came out of the engine room, up the East steps, and passed right by me. I' fell into position behind him. When he reached the gate he turned around with a look of glee on his face. ‘Good morning, Mr. President,' I said. He turned and headed for F Street without saying a word.”

“He Kept My Nickel.” The funniest Coolidge story concerns his carefulness with money. Starling used to be his banker during their walks, doling him out dimes and nickels to buy roast chestnuts, peanuts or magazines. One day the President said: “I gave somebody a dime one afternoon to buy a Collier's and I didn't get my nickel back.” ” ‘It wasn't I,' I said. ‘I don't know who it was,' he said, ‘but somebody owes me a nickel.' ‘I don't owe you a nickel,' I said. ‘I didn't say you did,' he said. ‘I don't know who he was, but he didn't give me back my nickel.' ‘Well,' I said, ‘it wasn't I.' ‘Well.' he said, ‘I'm not going to do anything about it. But he kept my nickel. He didn't give it back to me.' ”

The most pathetic Coolidge story concerns his son, Calvin Jr. After the boy's death (from a foot infection contracted while playing tennis), Colonel Starling found a boy with his face pressed to the iron railings of the White House. He wanted to shake hands with the President. The Colonel took him in. Later, when they were out walking, Coolidge said: “Colonel, whenever a boy wants to see me, always bring him in. Never turn one away or make him wait.” Says Colonel Starling: “He was thoughtful, he was intelligent, he was sentimental, he was wise. There were times when he was irascible. . . . But I found him in the large and full portions of existence an admirable and satisfying man, a peaceful and pleasing and loyal friend. … I liked him as a man; I loved him as a friend.”


  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/03/1944


  • DATE OF DEATH: 10/13/1916

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