Thomas William Mattingly – Brigadier General, United States Army

From contemporary press reports

Thomas W. Mattingly, 92, a retired Army Brigadier General and cardiologist who had served as a physician to Dwight D. Eisenhower during his presidency, died of congestive heart failure February 12, 1999 in a life care center in Davidson, North Carolina. He had lived in Davidson for the last 10 years.

Dr. Mattingly, a native of Charles County, served on active Army duty from 1935 to 1958. He then spent a decade as medical education director and medicine department chairman of Washington Hospital Center.

He was a highly regarded — but unknown to the public — Army cardiologist in 1955. When then-President Eisenhower had a heart attack, Dr. Mattingly, who was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, was the first cardiologist called to treat the stricken commander-in-chief, who was hospitalized in Denver.

As the nation held its breath, Dr. Mattingly not only helped direct the president’s treatment but also explained the treatment to both his patient and, via news conferences, to the nation.

The Washington Post reported then what it could find out, including the fact that his Army serial number was 020068. It helped reassure readers by quoting a D.C. Medical Society spokesman who said, “Anyone in Tom Mattingly’s care can consider himself in the best hands. He’s at the tiptop among cardiologists and one of the best known and most highly respected men in his field.”

Dr. Mattingly treated Eisenhower during all three of his acute bouts of illness during Eisenhower’s White House years and continued to participate in Eisenhower’s treatment until the general’s death in 1969.

After that, Dr. Mattingly compiled a detailed and authoritative medical history of Eisenhower for the National Archives at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas. It summarized what was known of Eisenhower’s health before his presidency, the precise nature of illnesses and treatments during the White House years and after. It has been a resource for scholars studying questions relating to presidential succession and medical disclosures.

Dr. Mattingly was a graduate of Georgetown University and a 1930 graduate of its medical school. He served his internship at the old Emergency Hospital in Washington and served a residency in pathology at Georgetown University Hospital.

He was called to active duty in the Army Medical Corps in 1934. During World War II, he served in New Guinea and the Philippines, where he commanded field hospitals and became executive officer of the armed forces chief surgeon in the Southwest Pacific theater.

After the war, he did advanced cardiology training under the legendary Paul Dudley White at Harvard University medical school and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Mattingly then helped to advance cardiology as a specialty in Army medicine, serving as cardiology chief at Fort Sam Houston, Tex., and then as chief of the  cardiovascular-renal division and medicine department chief at Walter Reed Army hospital.

In addition to his Army work, he had pursued his own cardiovascular research, including early exercise tests to determine coronary heart disease.

He also trained Army cardiologists and taught at both George Washington and Georgetown University medical schools.

During his years at Washington Hospital Center, he served as a consultant to the surgeon general, the White House and the State Department.

Dr. Mattingly was active in professional groups, including the American College of Physicians, the American College of Cardiology, the American Clinical and Climatological Society and the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart Institute.

His decorations included the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.

His wife, the former Frances Elizabeth Wannamaker, died in 1994. Survivors include four sons, Thomas Jr., of Charlotte, Michael J., of London, Patrick, of Providence, R.I., Frank, of Staunton, Va.; a daughter, Marie E. Weingartner of Blowing Rock, N.C.; a sister, Laura M. Mudd of Indian Head; and seven grandchildren.

His neighbors in Davidson probably knew little about Dr. Thomas Mattingly’s life — and that’s the way he wanted it.

But here’s a sampling: He was the cardiologist who treated President Eisenhower during many of his heart illnesses and cared for Eisenhower until he died in 1969.

He was sent by President Johnson — a Mattingly patient when LBJ was a senator — to treat the king of Nepal, who had suffered a heart attack while hunting tigers. Mattingly hiked miles into the jungle to find him.

He was dispatched to other countries, to Nicaragua and Tunisia, to look after the hearts of heads of state there too.

“I doubt many people knew all this about Dr. Mattingly,” said John Monahan, a resident of The Pines at Davidson, a retirement community where Mattingly lived for 10 years and where he died last Friday at age 92. His ashes will be placed at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington with full military honors.

“He didn’t seek accolades; he didn’t wear any of this on his sleeve. He was a gentle man. Even in his last days, he wasn’t demanding at all to the staff — there was never any “hey, listen here, I’m a big man.’ ”

He was born in Marbury, Maryland, and earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at Georgetown University. He joined the Army Medical Corps in 1934 as a first lieutenant and retired in 1958 as a brigadier general.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in late 1941, Mattingly was there. His younger sister, Laura Mudd of Indian Head, Md., remembers that the family worried for days until a military car pulled up to the family home in Indian Head with news he was fine.

During World War II, he commanded field hospitals in the South Pacific and became the executive officer for the chief surgeon in the Southwest Pacific. He was decorated with a Bronze Star.

In 1955, Mattingly was chief cardiologist at Walter Reed Army Hospital when Eisenhower suffered a coronary thrombosis vacationing in Denver.

Mattingly and his wife, Frances Wannamaker Mattingly (who died in 1994), were driving to her family home in Orangeburg, S.C., Mudd recalls. Suddenly, a military helicopter appeared and began to hover over them as they drove south. They stopped.

Mattingly was told the president had fallen ill. A military driver took Frances Mattingly to South Carolina, while her husband was flown to Denver. There, and later during Eisenhower’s other acute illnesses, Mattingly led the physicians providing the daily care.

Even after Eisenhower left the White House, Mattingly visited regularly to check him and his wife, Mamie.

“My parents never had much time just to get away,” said Mattingly’s daughter, Marie Weingartner of Blowing Rock. “Many times they’d be traveling somewhere and a police siren would pull them over. My mother would get nervous, thinking my father was driving too fast. But it was just a police officer with a bulletin to find him — some leader was hurt somewhere in the world. There was always a lot of excitement in their lives.”

After he retired from the Army, Mattingly became a consultant in cardiovascular diseases at Walter Reed, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and Children’s Hospital in Washington. He also became medical education director and a consultant at Washington Hospital Center and chaired the hospital’s department of medicine from 1962 to 1967.

Patrick Mattingly of Providence, R.I., one of Mattingly’s four sons, is also a physician. Another son, Thomas Jr., teaches chemistry at UNC Charlotte.

As a medical student at Georgetown, Patrick Mattingly remembers going on hospital rounds with his father.

“He was an old-school physician and paid enormous attention to the patient,” the son said. “. . . He’d take his students on rounds and sit there and talk to the patient and tell the students exactly what they’d find when they did all these fancy tests with all these fancy devices.

“To their amazement, he was very accurate. . . . I saw a whole new side of the man I’d grown up with.”

Though he was a consultant to the surgeon general and White House physicians through 1972, he never boasted — about that. It was always about the tomatoes he’d labored to grow each summer.

“He’d always challenge anybody in Washington to find a larger and better tomato,” Patrick Mattingly mused.

Even when the Mattinglys moved to The Pines, he continued to garden until two years ago and said little about his life with Eisenhower.

“He was very respectful about the privacy and the relationship,” Patrick Mattingly said. “He never sought or needed praise.”


  • BG   US ARMY
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 01/19/1907
  • DATE OF DEATH: 02/12/1999

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