KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It's not too often that many of us get to witness history and be on the scene when an historical event happens.
It's even more special if you were part of the event.
Harley Ferguson is a World War II veteran of the Army who was diverted near the end of the war to a small town in Georgia to take pictures at a funeral procession.
Ferguson was 19 years old in December of 1941 and he remembers clearly the events of Dec. 7, especially FDR's words before Congress a day after the attack, calling it "a day that shall live in infamy."
For four years, Franklin Roosevelt would lead the country through World War II.
In 1942, Ferguson joined the Army and by 1945 he was assigned as head photographer with the paratroopers at Ft. Benning in Georgia.
On April 12, 1945, when the president died unexpectedly in Warm Springs, Georgia, Tech Sgt. Ferguson was on furlough, but was called back and ordered by his commanding officer to report to the president's home with his camera.
"He said I was the highest-ranking photographer at Ft. Benning and I had been chosen to go to Warm Springs as the only photographer there," Ferguson recalled. "Everything outside was somber, everything was quiet. It wasn't like an ordinary assignment."
FDR's Georgia home was called the Little White House. Together with his commander, Sgt. Ferguson would be given complete access.
"I made some photographs in the house, one in the house and some coming out of the house and loading up on the train," he said.
When told about the train, he knew it was the picture he wanted.
"So that was my idea of getting the best photograph was in that train," Ferguson said.
He took quite a picture. Ferguson has seen it only once - in a history book. He took a good, long time studying it before speaking.
"I had to move this way enough to where I could see each of the service men," he said.
Ferguson remembers trying to get all four of the men in his shot. He also remembers jockeying around a film cameraman, who was shooting the honor guard around the casket.
Hundreds of people had gathered to see the train move out on its 24-hour trip to Washington.
Ferguson got off before the train moved out, and his commanding officer took the undeveloped film with him.
"I sent them back to Ft. Benning with Capt. Tookey. I never did get to see them," he said. "I was going on furlough."
Ferguson would go on to have a successful career as a commercial photographer in Knoxville, where he opened a studio in 1963.
His prize photo is now featured at the FDR library in Hyde Park, New York.
"I was part of history, yes sir, I was," he said. "I was a witness to it. I'm proud I had the honor to do that."
Ferguson still takes pictures, though not as often as he used to.
His last big assignment was a group shot of everyone at his independent living home in West Knoxville.
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