Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Oral History Interview with
Eben A. Ayers

Seventeen year veteran with the Associated Press. Later news editor and acting managing editor of the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal-Bulletin, after which he served in the White House as liaison for the press-radio division of the Office of Inter-American Affairs. In January, l945, he became part of the White House staff as a press officer until he retired at the end of the Truman administration.

Washington, DC
April 19, 1967
Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Ayers Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed]

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened August, 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Ayers Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed | Top of the Page]

Oral History Interview with
Eben Ayers

Washington, DC
April 19, 1967
Jerry N. Hess


HESS: All right, Mr. Ayers, would you like to make a statement?

AYERS: Well, not exactly. I was going to say that any of this political material that I may talk about, I'd like to preface by saying: I was not a political appointee and I never was a politician, in the active sense. I was an observer of politics for a good many years as a newspaperman, everything from a ward caucus as a young reporter on up through, and I know a lot of politicians and I've seen a lot of politics, and in the course of my White House work, which was not in any sense a political appointment, I met a lot more. I did find myself at times rather close to the political activities, particularly in the 1948 campaign, and there are some things in the '48 campaign, perhaps, that I might shed a little more light on. I can only talk about what I had a part in or what I was close to and from what I saw and heard. I won't attempt to tell what others did--things I had no active part in. Some of them expressed their views to me and I might be able to register some of those. Only the things that I was directly connected with. Many of the things are pretty well covered in Mr. Truman's Memoirs; I suppose


you have the views and statements of others who have been recording for you.

HESS: All right, Mr. Ayers, to keep things in chronological order, can you tell me about the trip Mr. Truman took in June, 1948? Where did the idea for that trip originate? What do you recall about that trip and anything else you want to put down--dealing with the springtime of '48 actually?

AYERS: Well, I recall something about that trip, but I think I ought to go back just a little bit before that.

HESS: That's why I gave you the leeway of springtime.

AYERS: It was on March 8th of that year that it was announced by Senator McGrath, who was the Democratic National Chairman at that time, after meeting with the President that day in his office, McGrath and Gael Sullivan, who was the executive director of the committee, were in and coming out, McGrath was stopped by the newspapermen and he had a little statement; he said he had been authorized to say the President would accept the nomination if the Democratic convention named him, and that he'd run. Then that was followed, you know, on March 17th, by a trip over to New York on St. Patrick's Day for the parade and so forth, and in a speech that night at the Astor Hotel, he repudiated the support of Henry Wallace. Now that was on the


17th of March and two mornings later, that's on the 19th, at a staff conference he said that he'd been thinking about making a cross-country trip during the summer. He said he had been thinking about it and if he did it would end up in California just before the Republican convention.

HESS: Do you recall if anyone might have suggested that to him? The idea for the trip.

AYERS: Well, it would be purely speculation on my part. He had seen various people like McGrath and Gael Sullivan and, I guess, possibly some others, I haven't gone through all his appointments--somebody might have dropped the idea from the Democratic committee but I don't know.

HESS: For that matter it might have been his own idea.

AYERS: It sounded like his own idea the way he brought it out. Then again, I think it was, that was on the 19th and about a week or so later--it was about the 30th of March at the staff meeting--he brought it up again. He said his idea was that he could travel across country by train making speeches at various points, stopping at many places en route, in other words, it was a so-called whistlestop tour.

HESS: Before the word had been coined.


AYERS: And he again said it would wind up in California just before the Republican National Convention.

HESS: Do you recall any items of interest about that trip, or about the time that trip was going on?

AYERS: Yes, I can remember something about that. The plans for the trip were finally announced--I think it was around the 7th of May--and I believe that Charlie Ross talked to me about it at the time and he said the plans were working out, and he thought that I ought to stay in Washington so there would be somebody there in the White House to handle things, and he'd go with the President, and that was the way it was settled at that time. There was from time to time some concern about that.

HESS: Mr. Ayers, can you tell me something about the planning for the June trip, and also I want to put a note in here for historians that Mr. Ayers is consulting his very well-documented diaries, which I might add a note to Mr. Ayers, we would like to have in the Truman Library at some date in the future, but we're not too sure if we're going to have them.

AYERS: Well, consulting the diary, I find that on May 21st, which is only about a week or so before they were scheduled to start on this first western trip, I did make a note


showing some concern over the confusion that seemed to exist about the trip, and the arrangements for it, and the details, it seemed to me, were being worked out in a rather inefficient manner; and I know I wrote down in the diary at that time that few of the people, including Secretary Ross and others, seemed to realize what was entailed and I thought there was something of the same feeling on the part of those who had experience in the past with such trips. I did refer to Dewey Long, the White House transportation officer, as one who had some feeling about it. He was a marvel at planning those things; he'd gone through many of them and was an expert at it and I think he felt that really he wasn't too sure what was going to be done. Anyway, to go on from there, that concern that I was feeling kind of popped up again in my mind in the next few days. A friend of mine who had been over in New York and had run into a woman connected with the Democratic National Committee, had told me that he was disturbed because of the defeatist attitude which this woman had shown, and that led me to take some notes at the time. I said that it seemed to me that was the greatest danger to the President's campaign in '48. I'll quote a little from my diary if you want. I


don't want to duplicate if you're going to get these someday, but there are many slips between the cup and the lip.

HESS: Your summation is good and I'm sure your quotes will be good, too.

AYERS: Thank you. I said:

Well, polls show that his strength [that's the President's] is down now as compared with some of the possible Republican candidates and there is no reason he should not come up between now and next November, with the proper campaigning and adequate effort on the part of workers, but so long as such a defeatist attitude prevails, there is, I believe, little hope for success. You cannot win battles if you go into them believing you are beat.

Then I added:

I do not think, however, the President thinks he's going to be beaten.

Then I wrote again:

At the same time, however, I do not think he is getting the political advice and help he should have.

Now this is expressing my personal opinions and I am likely to be as wrong as anybody else and I may have been wrong, but this is what I thought at the time. I said:

Some of those who are acting for him politically seem to me to be amateurish, inexperienced, and inadequate. Men such as George Allen [although Allen actually was having no real part in the planning so far as I can learn] are no help. Allen is, in my opinion, chiefly interested in Allen and his fortunes. He has been close to


General Eisenhower. While this may be purely personal attachment, I cannot believe that Allen is unconscious of the efforts that have been made, and are still discussed, to get Eisenhower to become a presidential candidate.

Of course, you understand this was long before Mr. Eisenhower got into the political battle at all. Then I had another paragraph here and I was being a little critical I'm afraid:

I question, too, the political acumen of Clark Clifford. Clifford is without much practical experience, if any, and I have doubted the political wisdom of some of his suggestions and advice in the past. There are altogether, I feel, too many amateurs trying to run things.

Another paragraph I got in at that time--I'm putting down a lot that perhaps I shouldn't put on the record, but anyway, here goes:

Charlie Ross, despite his many qualities, is not always politically minded for a public relations man as he must be in his position as Press Secretary. He's often inclined to have little concern about small matters or some large ones that might prove valuable to the President. The great hope for the President in this coming campaign lies in his meeting people and in giving the people the opportunity to see him. While the coming trip to the west coast is detailed and provides many stops up to Los Angeles, no plans have been made for the return trip, and it seems to me advantage should be taken of the cross-country trip back as well as going. Yet, Ross is hopeful the President will come straight back--even flying.

Then I said:

Not many people see him when he's in an airplane a mile in the air.

Now, I believe, that he did come back by train.


HESS: Do you know why that decision was made to come back by train instead of fly?

AYERS: No, I don't. I don't recall. I may have known at the time but I don't recall that.

HESS: Because they did change their mind and he did make a few speeches on the way back, too.

AYERS: But that trip was marked by some unpleasant happenings from the political standpoint.

HESS: What do you recall about that?

AYERS: Well, I had some notes on the preparations for departure and in those there is a reference to the completion of the first two major speeches. That which was to be delivered before the Swedish-American celebration in Chicago the following night, and that at the 35th Division reunion in Omaha on the following Saturday night. And I wrote that the great bulk of the work on these was done by Philleo Nash, assistant to David Niles, George Elsey, assistant to Clark Clifford, and Charlie Murphy, administrative assistant. Then I commented a little again about what was written by newspapermen, magazine writers and columnists about the White House speechwriters. I wrote in my notes that:

Clifford is credited with writing the speeches and had a large part in many of them, if not most of those recently, but much of the work has been


done by others. Only today Time magazine had its weekly piece on the Presidency, in the course of which there was reference to the speechwriting being done by Clifford and Judge Sam Rosenman. could not refrain from commenting to the Time correspondent on the ability of the magazine to get things wrong. Rosenman had about as much to do with the preparation of these speeches as Jim Farley.

And then farther along in my notes at the same time:

George Allen is apparently doing about the same thing, taking the credit for anything that he could easily. His name appeared frequently in columns, and while he has been in and also participated in one or two sessions, he's playing no such part as he's being credited with. I believe, and so does Ross and others, that Allen's promoting much of this himself, but he's being helped by others.

That's about all that happened until the President was going to leave his office. He worked late that day before or that afternoon before he departed--late in the afternoon, I guess it was 6 or 7 o'clock. Don Dawson, administrative assistant, and I went in to say goodby to the President as he was leaving the office. He commented that he was leaving, "Hell bent for election!"

HESS: And as I commented a few minutes ago when the machine was turned off, that's a pretty good comment to make when a man is leaving on a non-political tour.

AYERS: Well, the next thing in connection with that trip that I had down was in reference to that Omaha speech. I noted


the newspaper stories about it and the visit of the President there in Omaha, and they said that there were fewer than two thousand people in a hall that should have held about ten thousand. It said:

The trouble appears to have resulted from the hurt feelings of the Democratic State Chairman, William Richey, a delegate in the national convention who announced Sunday, after the President left, that he would not support Mr. Truman for renomination. He made it clear that this was because of lack of attention given him in Omaha.

Now that's all I know about that.

HESS: Why they had such a skimpy crowd.

AYERS: I wrote at the time that:

Apparently some of this was due to the efforts to keep politicians out of the picture and the small attendance at the meeting and address by the President was attributable to the part taken by Ed McKim, the insurance man who came in as an administrative assistant to the President after the President took office, and lasted only a few months. He is supposedly at odds with the Democratic group in Omaha, and he was conspicuous in the events Saturday and introduced the President for his speech Saturday night.

HESS: He was co-chairman for the event.

AYERS: Was this Richey the other?

HESS: I'm not sure.

AYERS: I didn't have at that time any further information than what I picked up in the newspapers mainly; I may have talked to some newspapermen.

HESS: Did you ever hear anyone comment around the White House


about why the crowd might have been so skimpy?

AYERS: I don't recall whether I did or not. I may have after they got back, but I don't recall.

HESS: It's quite some time ago.

Mr. Ayers, during the time that the President was gone in June, did you have any dealings with Stephen Spingarn in the White House?

AYERS: I may have but they couldn't have been very prolonged ones or serious ones, because I have no recollection; I don't recollect his being around, but he must have been.

HESS: I think he came to the White House shortly before that, sometime in January or February, but he was there and I don't believe he went on the trip.

AYERS: No, I don't know just what his duties were supposed to be at the time--I suppose whatever the President assigned to him.

HESS: Just as a little aside, Mr. Ayers, can you tell me about the President's trip to Bolivar, Missouri in the summer of '48?

AYERS: Yes, I remember that quite vividly because I went on that trip and it was the hottest period of the summer; in fact, the President left Washington on the Fourth of July. A White House car came and took me at 7:15 in the morning down to the station. We got aboard the


train and there was a large crowd down there and the full train, fourteen cars, and everything. The party included the President of Venezuela and his wife, and his party who accompanied him from Venezuela, and there were members of the memorial foundation, foreign ambassadors from Latin American countries and other Latin Americans, and members of the press and everything--about two hundred and forty people. We left here at 8 o'clock. There were several places along the way where they changed engines or did something of that kind; the President appeared at those places on the platform, but he didn't make any speeches on the way. On the train was John M. C. Crane, he called himself Doctor Crane, and he was the promoter of this project. I don't know why and how he did it, but he did it, and he got a statue of Simon Bolivar and had it erected down there, and made all these arrangements, I think, and I won't go into all the newspaper stories that were written, but there was one quite long piece about Doctor Crane and his project, written by a New York Times man--appeared in the New York Times at that time. We got into Bolivar--I'm never sure how to pronounce that, whether it's the American way or the Spanish way or what--about 9:30 the next morning, and it was oh, hot, so hot, and


there were automobiles awaiting us; they took us through the streets of the town in a regular parade. The town had a population, I believe, of around three thousand, and they were all out, I think, lined up along the parade route. They had really quite a fine parade--a lot of horses and everything--it was quite colorful. Then they moved to this square where there was a platform set up for the ceremonies, and the President and Mrs. Truman, and the President of Venezuela and his wife and all these people got up on the platform--I know that I studiously avoided getting up on that platform because it was so darn hot. I know Mrs. Truman and Margaret were sitting there and Margaret looked down at me and nothing was said, but I felt sorry for her and Mrs. Truman; and there were speeches, you know--they said there was a crowd of fifteen, twenty thousand people gathered there--they must have come from all over that area--and several speeches concluded with the acceptance of the statue by President Truman. The heat was so great that even the Venezuelan President was on the verge of collapsing and Governor [Phil M.] Donnelly of Missouri did collapse afterwards. After this was finished--the ceremony--they moved the party up to the grounds of the Southwest Baptist College where there was a picnic lunch served, and it was right after getting there that Donnelly


was taken ill and Dr. Wallace Graham attended him. He came out of it eventually all right, I guess. It was awfully hot. About 2 o'clock we left there and got back on the train which was air-conditioned--everybody was tickled to death to get back there.

HESS: Who else from the White House made the trip, do you recall?

AYERS: Well, let's see, I know we, oh, by the way, the train stopped about 3:30 at a small station a few miles from Springfield, Missouri, and the Venezuelan President and his party left, they were driven to some nearby airfield where the President's plane, the Independence, took them aboard on to New York. About 7 o'clock we had dinner with the President in his car and those at dinner were the President and General Graham, General Vaughan, Captain Dennison, Colonel Landry, Admiral Leahy, and there was a Mr. Van Sant, you perhaps know of him (I think he's a banker from Fulton), and myself at the dinner. I know that Matt Connelly and Donald Dawson of the staff were on the train, but did not eat with us. I don't know who or what others there may have been on the train, but I think they were probably the only ones of the staff.

After dinner, the table was cleared and we played cards until we neared St. Louis where General Vaughan and


the Fulton banker left the train.

Although we did not know it at the time, one of the newspapermen on the train, Vaccaro of the Associated Press, received word as we reached St. Louis, that General Eisenhower had issued a statement declining to be a candidate. I learned of this the next morning, shortly after we passed Cincinnati. It seems Vaccaro, after getting the news, tried to get some comment from the President, whom he could not reach. He met General Graham and showed him the dispatch he had received. Graham took it and went to the President's car and supposedly to the President. He returned and told Vaccaro and other newsmen that the President had said, "General Eisenhower is an honorable man."

I went to see the President and talked with him about it and he said he had no comment and had made none. Some time later other members of the party appeared and some of us, including Connelly, Dennison and Admiral Leahy, gathered with the President and I asked him if he had made any comment and he said he had not. When I went to lunch afterward, I talked with some of the newspapermen in the dining car and told them there was no comment on Eisenhower or on political developments. During the afternoon I met again with Connelly and Dennison and we decided to say nothing further about what Graham had given the press and to


adhere to the "no comment" statement.

The President had invited us to have dinner with him again that evening and those who did were Admiral Leahy, Captain Landry, General Graham, Donald Dawson, Captain Dennison, Matt Connelly and I. We arrived back in Washington about 9:30 that night.

Incidentally, in my first talk with the President the next morning, I discussed the Eisenhower statement briefly with him and he showed some disgust at what the General had said, indicating he thought the statement was weasel-worded and he referred to Eisenhower in somewhat uncomplimentary terms.

During this period the President did show, at times, concern at political developments and the defection of some of the Democratic politicians and leaders. On one occasion when Matt Connelly and I told him of the action of Frank Hague of New Jersey, the President merely commented, "All right, let him go; I never did like him anyhow."

HESS: How did Mr. Truman develop his speaking style? Some people have said that they thought that he developed his, what might be called extemporaneous speaking style, during the June trip. What's your opinion?

AYERS: I don't know. I've always assumed that extemporaneous


style was his when he came into office as President. He had campaigned for Senator and I imagine he made probably many speeches at that time, I don't know though. The whistlestop campaign was conducive to that type of a speech because they were short, many of them only a few minutes long.

HESS: Do you think that he was as good at extemporaneous speaking in his early years in his administration as he was in, let's say, '48?

AYERS: Well, I don't know. I don't remember many occasions. I think from the first time I ever heard him speak extemporaneously at any length, I can't say exactly when that was, I was struck with how much more convincing and how much better his speech was. I know that after one of these, I said to him (I happened to be in with him alone--talking), "I wish you could write your own speeches . . ."

HESS: You thought his extemporaneous speeches were better than those that were prepared for him by others? Is that right?

AYERS: That's what I thought, and I know that I said something similar to that on two or three other occasions. I think others felt much the same way.

HESS: Did the people who wrote speeches for him try to


copy his style?

AYERS: Well, that's one of the things that I've often wondered. I don't think they did--there was no evidence of it that I could see--and another thing, I never thought that you could write a speech at a party, I don't mean a social kind of a party, but I mean you can't have a dozen sit around a table and write a speech and have it any good, and that's what too often happened. The speech would be drafted and finally the assistants who were working on it--under Clifford or Charlie Murphy--would get a speech together which they finally decided upon and submit it; and then it would be brought into the Cabinet Room, and about everyone that could would gather around that table--I attended a number of them and finally tried to avoid it, because they'd pick at little things, some of them, and he'd read it--he'd read a paragraph of it, you see, or a couple of sentences and then they'd make comments. Everybody wanted to get his own words in, I think.

HESS: Who would read it? The man who had . . .

AYERS: The President.

HESS: The President would read it.

AYERS: When they thought they had a more or less final draft. I never thought you could write a speech that


way and have it any good because the speech is reduced to the composite, lowest level of those participating.

HESS: When a speech had reached that particular plateau, shall we say, was it mainly just editing that was being done on it, or were they really taking substantive cuts into the body of the speech?

AYERS: Well, the bulk of it would, I would say, be editing, but there might be someone with a suggestion or objection. I attended quite a number of them but towards the end, I didn't. And I know I was talking to Judge Rosenman long after he left the White House, I think, or after he had been out for some time, one day, and we got to mentioning this, and I said that same thing, that I didn't think you could write a speech in conference and he agreed with me. You know Roosevelt's speeches were pretty good and, of course, he could deliver them well, and they were practically all written by two men.

HESS: Who were they?

AYERS: Judge Rosenman and, oh, the playwright, Bob--knew him well . .

HESS: Robert Sherwood?

AYERS: Bob Sherwood, yes, and Roosevelt, he might have some things that he thought out on notes and so on, but I think a large part of it--Rosenman was very good on the


factual material and that sort of thing and, of course, Sherwood was a fine writer and they could write a speech that fit Roosevelt, but I don't think any of those fellows realized--that were writing Truman's speeches--that they should try to write as Truman would speak. I think that towards the end, or I won't say towards the end, even before that in '48, I think that the bulk in the end was Charlie Murphy's product no matter who worked on it before that, but he went over and over it. I know that on the last speeches that were made in New York on that last week of the campaign or the last nights of the campaign when he spoke at Madison Square Garden, that that speech was not finished, and Charlie Murphy was working on that while the President was out, because I was there, too. Charlie was working on it trying to get it finished and I was giving it to the secretaries to be prepared for duplication and duplicated so that we had it ready for the newspapermen. Charlie was going over it and cutting it to pieces at the end. I don't think that President Truman ever had a chance to read the speech until it was already in the hands of the newspapermen--the last part of it anyway. So I think Charlie Murphy, in the end, was the main speechwriter, that is, I say, the main speechwriter, there weren't--


David Bell and David Lloyd did a lot of work on some speeches, Bell particularly, I think.

HESS: You mentioned the editing sessions. Did Charlie Ross like to attend those editing sessions?

AYERS: He usually did attend them. Charlie was a little inclined to bother with trivial corrections, they weren't corrections always except in punctuation--a comma here and a comma there. He had been a newspaperman long enough to know that didn't make much difference when that got into the hands of the newspapermen--whether there was a comma in one place or not.

HESS: I've heard he didn't like to use the word "presently" sometimes.

AYERS: I don't recall that. That's probably true. Charlie wrote well himself.

HESS: I've heard it said that he . . .

AYERS: But I don't think he wrote any speeches for the President.

HESS: I've heard it said that would make it that "presently" meant "in the near future" and not "now," and he didn't like the misuse of the word "presently."

Well, do we have anything else before we get into the '48 convention and campaign; now we're up to July the 14th and your trip to Bolivar, Missouri, in the heat of the


summer--is there anything else comes to your mind between...

AYERS: Yes, there are one or two things that do come to mind.

HESS: What do you have?

AYERS: I've got it right here, but I don't know whether you want any of this stuff. This is at the time of the nomination, the convention, the preparation. Well, do you?

HESS: Well, that depends on what it is. I do have one question on the convention. During his speech at Philadelphia, he called Congress back into special session. Do you know where the idea--what he called the "Turnip Day" session, he said out in Missouri that was the day they called "Turnip Day." Do you know where the idea for calling Congress back into that special session might have come from?

AYERS: I think that was his own…

HESS: Did you ever hear him making statements on that to the staff, or to you, in the privacy of the White House, so to speak?

AYERS: I don't see that I have a note on it.

HESS: When was that? Was that the 19th? I should have brought my book of the Public Papers up today, but I didn't do it.

AYERS: Well, the convention opened on July 12th in Philadelphia.


HESS: Did you go to the convention?

AYERS: I went down with the President. Now, this is the next day.

HESS: On the thirteenth.

AYERS: Yes. At the staff meeting with the President I wrote:

Last night's session--stories from Philadelphia speculating on vice presidential possibilities brought up most of the discussion at the staff meeting and morning newspapers forecast Barkley as a likely nominee--President agreed. After last night's convention developments, it looked like Barkley. He said that Senator McGrath, Democratic National Committee Chairman, who presided at the session until after Barkley spoke, had telephoned him from Philadelphia and told him there was going to be a demonstration for Barkley. He suggested that the President telephone Barkley but the President said he did not do so. The demonstrations which followed Barkley's keynote address last night had all appearances of spontaneity, but it was evidently not entirely so and credit was given by the President to Leslie Biffle for promoting it. Biffle was in evidence on the platform when it started and while it was underway. The President appeared willing to accept Barkley as a running mate, although he commented on Barkley's age--seventy--and said a Vice President should not be seven years older than the President. This led someone, I think it was Ross, to comment that one nominee, Henry Gassaway Davis, who ran as the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1914, was over eighty years old. This led the President to tell how Davis' son-in-law, Stephen B. Elkins, the power in Republican politics, alternated with the old man in holding a West Virginia seat in the United States Senate. Each was a power in politics: Davis was a Democrat and Elkins a Republican--one was out the other was in. Talking about the Vice Presidency, the President was saying he never did care much who was nominated to run with him. 'I stuck my neck all the way out for Douglas and he took the limb out from under me,' the President said.


This is all in his book is it?

HESS: And that was pretty well covered in the newspapers at that time, too, that he had asked Douglas to run and Douglas declined.

AYERS: The President commenting on the Barkley talk said, 'You have to be cold-blooded about these things, and as of now they can nominate Barkley and turn things over to him.' He indicated that he did not feel Barkley was the best candidate but that if the delegates wanted him, let them have him.

HESS: Did he mention any other names besides Douglas and Barkley during that staff meeting?

AYERS: I don't think so. There's no mention here of any. I don't think he did. We talked about the platform.

HESS: In the New York Times it mentions that Barkley knew that he was really not the first choice because he referred to himself as a "warmed-over biscuit."

AYERS: I didn't know that. Now, here:

The President is to deliver an off-the-cuff acceptance speech. He said he had made some outline of what he plans to say and he added that he was going up there to the convention, if he can keep the swear words out of it--tell them just what he thinks. He said he was going to wind up by calling Congress back for a special session on July 19th.

HESS: This is what he told the staff?

AYERS: That's what he told us that day.

HESS: Did he make any comments about . . .

AYERS: Said there had been some discussion of this in the



The feeling has been expressed the President probably would not call them back. Congressional leaders, after the adjournment under a resolution permitting them to come back on the call of the leader, generally agreed that they would not return until they came for the next regular session next January. The Republican nominee, Governor Dewey, expressed his opposition to the return of the Congress. The President said if he called the Congress back, he could then put up the Republican platform promises to the members and call on the legislation, he could show they were forced into it; if not, it would show them up. Putting it into swear words, he expressed his attitude about calling them back something like this, 'Now, you SOBs, come on and do your damnedest.'

HESS: That's what he said at the time in the staff meeting?

AYERS: Well, yes, he said, putting in the swear words, he expressed his attitude about calling them back something like this:

Ross said something about the people being for the President--he agreed that while that might be true you still have to get them to the polls to vote. He gave a small lecture in practical politics, telling how when he was a candidate in Missouri he had a man in each precinct who made a record of every voter, who saw to it that each Democrat got to the polls and voted. And that, he said, was the trouble with Ed Flynn, the Bronx boss. The Wallace congressional candidate, Isacson, won in a special election. Flynn, the President said, went away for a time and did not see to it that his people got out to vote. Discussing some of the events of the last two weeks, some of the political bosses attempted to dump the President and came out for the draft of General Eisenhower. The President commented that he could never understand about Arvey, Jake Arvey that is, the Chicago boss, Mayor O'Dwyer of New York and Frank Hague, who


joined this movement launched largely with Jimmy Roosevelt, now State Democratic Chairman of California. The President indicated he could not understand what these three expected to accomplish. General Harry Vaughan remarked Senator Sparkman and Lister Hill of Alabama had done the same thing, and the Presi-dent commented, in their cases it was a different situation. 'Oh, I didn't know that sons of bitches were geographical,' Vaughan cracked.

He said one of the troubles was that he was the first Democratic Vice President who ever succeeded to the Presidency by the death of a President and attempted re-election. Other Vice Presidents who were elected to the Presidency were Republicans Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge. He said for the Democrats to nominate him would set a precedent that the politicians did not want. He mentioned particularly in the case of John Tyler who succeeded William Henry Harrison, although Harrison was a Whig, Tyler was a Democrat or a Jeffersonian Republican. He said when Tyler became President, he fired Whigs who held high Federal office and then neither party would nominate him for President. This conference broke up and as we started to leave, the President commented we were going to have more fun in the next six months than we ever had in our lives.

HESS: Going to be a busy time.

AYERS: Well, now you see there isn't much there that you wanted. But now we were trying to find--what was it we were trying to find?

HESS: Anything else that came to mind before we reached the campaign?

AYERS: We took most of our office staff--all the girls.

HESS: Down to Philadelphia?


AYERS: "Moved to Philadelphia, and I had dinner in the President's car with Stanley Woodward, Sam Rosenman, Clark Clifford, Matt Connelly and Charlie Ross. Mrs. Truman and Margaret sat with us and had dinner."

That's about who went, I guess---Woodward, Rosenman, Clifford, Connelly--I suppose there were some others on the train along with the other people. Well, I don't have anything in particular about that. He did just what he said about calling Congress. He had said that, before that, and apparently that was pretty much his own idea, I think.

HESS: Did he ever make any statements like that? Did you ever hear him say where it came from?

AYERS: Well, no. He just said he was going to do it. He told them that's what he was going to do, and I don't think anybody knew it until he told them.

HESS: That was a surprise to everyone that was sitting there?

AYERS: I think so. See, they'd been discussing whether he might do it or not in the papers. They didn't think he would.

HESS: Had you heard any discussion among the members of the staff before that time? Do you recall?

AYERS: No, I don't recall.

HESS: Do you have anything else before we move to the


campaign? Does that pretty well take care of events in Philadelphia?

AYERS: Yes, that takes care of Philadelphia as far as I'm concerned, I think.

HESS: Anything else of importance that transpired between the convention and the campaign?

AYERS: The politicians coming in quite frequently and this discussion of the prospects. I know that it was decided that he would start the campaign on Labor Day, that is, the real campaign.

HESS: That's more or less traditional, isn't it?

AYERS: Yes, going to launch it at Detroit.

HESS: Cadillac Square in Detroit.

AYERS: Because of Labor Day. At one time in between there, before he actually got into the campaign, of course, the President was confronted with three things, really, that were, I think, the big factors in the campaign. One was the Wallace candidacy, with his Progressive Party, which Truman had repudiated back in March; then there was this southern revolt, and the other, but I don't know if there is anything else that was as strong as those two, but there were the defections by so many political bosses, if you want to call them that. They weren't supporting him very strongly. Men like Jake Arvey and Hague and some


of those people. Oh, along in August, at a staff meeting one day, the President said he'd like to issue some kind of a statement about the bad treatment that Henry Wallace was receiving in North Carolina, where he had some eggs and other articles thrown at him when he was trying to speak at his campaign meetings. The President decried such treatment--said it wasn't fair and it wasn't like the American spirit of fair play, and it was suggested there that he might do that at a press conference, but something came up and Charlie Ross had the conference and Charlie said it for the President. There's something I wanted to talk about, but I can't seem to find anything about it at the moment.

HESS: About what?

AYERS: It's about the staff that was going on this later trip and about . . .

HESS: Who went on that first trip, do you recall?

AYERS: That one in June?

HESS: No, the first one.

AYERS: In September?

HESS: Yes, the first campaign trip.

AYERS: Well, I think he wasn't starting out until September, when he made the Labor Day speech, and I have very little on that. I didn't pay too much attention to it at the


start of the campaign and all. I know Charlie Ross went along, Matt Connelly, Clark Clifford and some of the others.

HESS: Charles Murphy and George Elsey?

AYERS: I don't know, but I assume they did. I suppose somewhere there is a list of people who went on all those trips. You have those somewhere in the records.

HESS: A complete itinerary of who went and what stops were made. What were your duties during the campaign of 1948?

AYERS: You know, that's an awful hard question to answer. Because I covered every darn thing. If they weren't there--if Charlie Ross wasn't there--I got it all, and during the campaign, a lot of things came up that wouldn't have come up otherwise.

HESS: What do you recall that fits in that category?

AYERS: Well, there was a lot of activity over some foreign affairs matters having to do with the negotiations that had been in progress between the Western Powers and the Soviet Government, and there was an exchange of messages--I won't go into it--most of it was top secret; but I tried to keep the President informed. Lovett would call me and I'd call Lovett and we'd talk to the train, and that went on. I was tied up on the telephone, oh, constantly.


HESS: The train had a fully equipped communications car along with it, didn't it?

AYERS: Oh, yes, yes, in every major stop, at least--they'd be connected with the White House. I could get them anytime. The switchboard would know. They could call from there; just plug in the minute the train stopped--they'd be plugged in and connected so that we could always get them.

HESS: Did you have any responsibilities dealing with the mission of Fred Vinson to Moscow--the mission that didn't come off?

AYERS: Well, only that this Soviet thing kept Lovett and myself all tied up here for several days. There was something else that did come up, I might go into, before that . . .

HESS: Before the Vinson matter? What was that?

AYERS: Well, I got a call from Jonathan Daniels--he was on the train--I got a call from Jonathan asking me to call up the Secretary of the Interior, Krug, and he wanted me to call Krug and have him send the President a copy of his reply to Governor Dewey's speech in Denver the night before, the night after the President was there, and I told him I didn't think Krug was in town. He said that didn't make any difference. Krug had not said anything


and that was the point in calling him. Well, I called Krug's office and they told me he was in Montana somewhere, and I told her what I wanted and she said that Krug hadn't said anything and I left it with her. A little later she called back and she had been in touch with Krug's information man, who was Carl Skinner, and that the Secretary had been back in the mountains somewhere and hadn't even seen the Dewey speech.

HESS: That's an odd place for a Cabinet member to be during a campaign, isn't it?

AYERS: Well, I think that was the general reaction. I don't think he was heard from to any extent before election--as I recall--but my memory on that might be faulty. You asked me then about the Vinson episode. Well, that was after, of course, the President had gotten back from all these trips. Meanwhile, I had another experience with something of a brainstorm on my part.

HESS: What was that?

AYERS: Well, Walter Bedell Smith, who was Ambassador to Russia, came home on a brief leave while the President was on the trip. He reported to the State Department, but there wasn't any mention of his seeing the President, and after all, it's customary for an ambassador, supposedly customary, I don't know whether they always


do, especially one from Moscow because he would be expected to report to the President at some time during his stay in the United States.

HESS: It's a very important post.

AYERS: Yes, the ambassador of the President. So I was talking to Acting Secretary of State Lovett, and I asked him if Smith would see the President while he was here. Apparently it hadn't occurred to Lovett the ambassador should. He asked when the President would be back, and I told him October 2nd; and he said they could hold Smith here in Washington until then so he could see the President after his return to Washington. I had--no, I hadn't done anything about it before that, but it occurred to me that maybe Smith ought to go down somewhere and see the President on the trip, but I didn't mention it to Lovett at that time. Instead I wrote a memorandum and I sent three copies--I sent one to Charlie Ross, one to Matt Connelly and one to Jonathan Daniels on the train--I didn't address it to any one of them, and I said it struck me that if the President could ask Smith to see him at some point on this trip to report on the Moscow talks and so on, it would get a play in the papers. I suggested Smith could fly down there, you know, meet him at some point along the line if we knew. And


before I could get a reply to that, or before it could get there, it was, I think, when the President's train was coming into El Paso, I talked with Connelly on the phone--after the train got there--and he said he hadn't seen anything in the pouch that came down from Washington, so then I told him my suggestion and he said he'd take it up at once. I guess the President was speaking on the platform. Anyway, in a very few minutes, he called me back and told me the President wanted Smith to meet him in San Antonio on Sunday morning--the President's special was due to reach there Sunday--and I could say it was an order from the President. So I called Lovett over at the State Department and told him that I had been talking with the train and the President wanted Smith to be at San Antonio Sunday morning. "My God," said Lovett, "I don't know where he is." And he went on to say that Smith had reported to the Department, they talked with him and they let him go get some rest and he simply didn't know where. Well, he had no idea, he said, where he had gone, probably he was at some fishing camp and he thought he'd be back in on Sunday or Monday morning. I didn't think that Lovett was very happy about the whole thing, but, anyway, he agreed to get busy and try to locate him, and I tried too, but I couldn't find Smith


anywhere. Everytime I talked to anybody in the State Department, they didn't know where he was, they hadn't been able to find him and it went on like that until Sunday, I think. In the meantime, I was still having a lot of phone calls about this Russian situation, still we couldn't find the Ambassador to Russia, so it was Sunday, I had to go into the office again, I guess I talked to Lovett, I don't know if I talked to him then, but, anyway, I did talk with Connelly, wherever they were then. I guess they were then in San Antonio, and I talked to Connelly on the phone and told him we hadn't been able to find Smith. I was still at the office and just a few minutes after that the phone rang and the operator said Ambassador Smith was calling me, and sure enough, he came on the line. He said he had learned "from Brad" (I suppose that he meant General Bradley), that I was trying to find him and was looking for him. I asked if he had talked to Lovett and he said he hadn't, so he didn't know what it was all about. I told him why we wanted him, that he should go down and meet the President on the next day. That was all right, of course, with him. So I talked again with Connelly and told them, and then I arranged for the President's plane to take Smith down there. So the next morning he got on the


plane and he flew down there and he saw the President down in San Antonio and flew back to Washington and it got pretty good play in the papers. But that was one of the things I remember when you asked what my duties were--a little of anything that came along.

HESS: You mentioned Jonathan Daniels just a minute ago. Do you know why he was called back to help in the campaign? He had been a member of the White House staff for a good many years and he left, I believe, in '45 and here in 1948 he's called back to help during the campaign. Do you know why?

AYERS: All I know about it at the time was on the trip--anyway, it was the night before he started out on this other trip, and Jonathan came in to see me at the office, as we were great friends, and we left the White House and went over to the hotel where he had a room; and he told me then that the President called him in and wanted him to take over press relations in connection with the campaign--particularly the trips. Jonathan understood that it was to become effective on the coming trip and that he would take the place of Charlie Ross and he was trying to get all the advance information he could about it. He said he couldn't go all the way with the President on civil rights legislation, but I told him I didn't see that that would have


any effect on serving in the campaign, which was what he wanted to do; but the next morning at the staff meeting, or routine staff meeting, the President sat there and he was kind of quiet for a few moments and then he addressed himself, apparently, to Charlie Ross. He said he'd talked with Daniels and proposed that he come up and give some help on public relations in the campaign, so you see there was a peculiar situation for both Ross and Jonathan. He said there'd been some criticism of Jack Redding, publicity director of the Democratic National Committee, you know. Newspapermen didn't like Redding and he felt Daniels could be of help. Charlie asked if Daniels would be connected with the committee; the President said he would be.

HESS: Would be connected with the Democratic National Committee?

AYERS: Yes. Charlie said he could use Daniels. There was no mention of the coming trip, that trip that was coming up then or of any part for Daniels in the handling of press relations. And I made an effort after the meeting that day, I said that I knew that as the President had outlined it, the arrangement was not at all as Daniels understood it and it would be an impossible situation from his standpoint--it would affect Jonathan because


Ross had been handling all the press arrangements for this trip and I knew he wasn't going to give up going.

HESS: When Jonathan Daniels came though, as far as I can remember, he was not connected with the committee was he? Wasn't he connected with the White House?

AYERS: I don't think he was connected with anybody--he was on his own--he was back in Raleigh.

HESS: I mean when he did come back in September of '48.

AYERS: Well, I don't know, I never knew that he was connected with the committee in any way.

HESS: No, I didn't either.

AYERS: Of course, he eventually was the Democratic National Committeeman from North Carolina for a while. Anyway, I got Daniels on the phone, I think he was back in Raleigh, and talked to him and told him about how it was brought out, and he was much disturbed; he was going to talk with Matt Connelly to know what developed. Anyway, it was apparently straightened out enough so that Jonathan went along on the trip. I don't think I ever talked to him about it afterwards--I don't know whether we ever did or not--it was never very clear to me how it was adjusted, but probably through Matt Connelly. I suppose they smoothed it out someway. There was no real misunderstanding as far as I know. I never heard any complaint from Ross and although Jonathan didn't--I don't know if


he made any other trips or not.

HESS: I didn't know that there had been any discussion that when he came he would be connected with the committee.

Well, on the Vinson mission to Moscow . . .

AYERS: Now that's right along here, too. Here is something about an announcement that he made on the appointment of Richard Patterson, Jr. of New York, the Ambassador to Guatemala.

HESS: Did you have some dealings with that?

AYERS: Yes. Donald Dawson had been working on that. He called me up from New York about the announcement of it. He was anxious, and Patterson was, to have it given a send-off. He wanted the announcement to include a statement by Secretary of State Marshall expressing his pleasure. Dawson had also proposed that a letter the President wrote to Patterson expressing satisfaction that he was to take the post should be given out. I rejected that in itself as rather unusual procedure. Lovett told me, he said that he told Dawson his statement about the Secretary could not be made because it would stultify Marshall who had gone to the President when he learned that Patterson was being considered and had objected. Another man was recommended but was turned down by the President. Lovett said Patterson


had a very bad record as Ambassador to Yugoslavia--that he was ambassador for six hundred days and was away from the job four hundred and eighty. Although Lovett didn't mention this, I had heard before that he wanted to be commissioned a major general in the Army so that he could wear the uniform and go hunting with Tito. That was gossip I suppose. Now, I talked again with Dawson in New York and I learned that Patterson was with him; and then later when he was not present, the reason for the concern over the appointment was the desire to give him publicity. Dawson commented that it meant two $50,000 radio broadcasts in the campaign; in other words, contributions of $100,000. I still objected to release of the letter for fear it would prove embarrassing if given out by the White House, and it was agreed that I would announce the appointment and the State Department would produce some additional background material. But you see, we kept getting involved in these darn things, and when the President was away, you never knew what you were going to get into.

HESS: You get into a little bit of everything.

AYERS: Yes. Most of the time it was very calm and peaceful.

HESS: Then the roof would fall in.


AYERS: Now, you wanted to know about some of these things: Here was an amusing one that came up and that case came up only two days later--October 2nd. We had a staff conference in the President's office, and during the session John Steelman--I used to sit right next to John--and he showed me a memo he had written to himself, said he wanted to take it up with the President, whatever it was. A request was passed on by Under Secretary Lovett from John Foster Dulles, and Dulles was acting as the foreign adviser for Dewey in the campaign, and he asked for the use of the former presidential plane, that is, the so-called Sacred Cow, to bring him back from the United Nations meeting in Paris. He was coming back to report to Dewey, you see, and Dewey was, of course, the Republican candidate against Truman, and I blurted out a "no," and that was what Steelman had written at the end of his notes--that's one of those unfinished stories--I don't know what happened on that. I don't think I ever heard the end of it or ever thought to ask John Steelman whether he took it up with the President, but I could guess.

Oh, it was on October 5th when this Vinson thing came up. Charlie Ross called in the--this was the first I knew of it--called in the representatives of the four radio networks for a confidential conference, and I didn't


know what would develop until I got in there. He told them that the President was going to send Fred Vinson to Moscow to confer with Stalin and try to improve the strained relations and so on, and the President had talked--of course, all this is on the record anyway in Truman's book, but this, the other end of it--our end of it--and Vinson had agreed to go. There were some other details about it and he told the four representatives of the networks and asked for time for the President that night. They agreed and left us, and were going to settle on the exact hour. Ross told them the whole plan, said there was only one chance in a million it wouldn't go through. He was a little too quick on the trigger as it turned out. It was only a couple of hours afterwards when he called me in and said the thing was off. Well, that was off because of the conversation that had been held between the President and Marshall--I think that's all covered--but what happened was, then, if nothing hadn't leaked it would have been all right--when did that come, that leak--it was on Tuesday and it was on, I think, Friday that I began to get some telephone calls about a story which was appearing in the early edition of the Washington Times-Herald; it was written for the Chicago Tribune and it told of this effort made by the


President to get Vinson to go to Moscow. Then we got a call from the State Department's press office and from newspapermen asking about it--we could only say, "No comment?" Then Lovett called me and said they had been getting calls there in the Department on it, and he indicated that the story came from one of the radio networks. That's what we were inclined to think at first, because there were four men there representing those networks, and they, of course, had to start making preparations for the time, and it may have been somebody there, and that possibly may have been it although I don't know--we never knew. Then on Saturday the morning papers carried the story in detail and we, of course, got a lot of calls about it, but there was nothing we could tell them.

HESS: Who do you think leaked the information?

AYERS: I don't know. It would be pure speculation. We thought it was one of the radiomen and yet I knew those four fellows and they were four men that wouldn't themselves leak it. Their offices had to know, of course, if they wanted time; whether they told them all the details or not--probably some of them did tell them what it was for--it could conceivably have been one of them, although we began to feel, I think, I don't know if Charlie ever


voiced his any more than I did, I don't think we either one did to the other, but we thought possibly somebody from the White House--perhaps. Well, I don't know whose idea it was to begin with, but if it was, say David Noyes, and it might have been, and somebody suggested it might have been--I don't know--he might have leaked it out to see his plan go up in smoke. Charlie Ross--now I had a note saying he thought that it might have been someone in the State Department who would, of course, have to know and to call George Marshall.

HESS: In the book on George C. Marshall for the series on American Secretaries of State, the editor, Dr. Robert Ferrell, states that: ". . . two of Truman's speech-writers, David Noyes and Albert Z. Carr, apparently conceived the idea of sending Chief Justice Vinson to Moscow . . . "

AYERS: Well, maybe. I always had the idea that Noyes had something to do with the idea and for that reason might possibly have been responsible for the leak. Of course, it was true enough, the story was true enough when it did leak, so it came from somebody. Trohan represented the Chicago Tribune and Trohan is a good man.

HESS: What's his name?

AYERS: Walter Trohan. He's president of the Gridiron Club


right now, I think. He and, of course, you know what the Chicago Tribune was, it was very Republican, especially in those days when Robert McCormick was with it. Trohan got a couple of pretty good stories at different times from leaks some way that people fed to him, and I suppose they were probably in most cases, but probably not in this case, from some Republican who wanted to do any damage he could to the President, and I think Charlie felt that perhaps that's what happened in the State Department, one of those people might have leaked it--I don't know--I never tried to find out.

HESS: Did you ever hear anyone in the White House, at that time, say that it was Noyes' idea to send Vinson to Moscow?

AYERS: I don't know whether I ever did or not.

HESS: Why were those two men called in to help during the 1948 campaign, do you know--David Noyes and Albert Carr?

AYERS: No, I don't know other than that Noyes had worked for [Charles] Luckman. I think Carr had been working with Noyes, and I don't know much about Carr--his background Noyes had been, I believe, in public relations work in the Government at one time, and then he later went with Charles Luckman, and Luckman came into Government to head up the President's food saving campaign and it was conducted


with that typical Madison Avenue style--flamboyant campaign--and Noyes, I think, came in with him--in the White House. I think that's what brought him in the White House. I don't know how he came to be so associated with the President, but he did.

HESS: There was another man brought in at this time, John Franklin Carter. Do you know why he was brought in?

AYERS: No, I don't know who was responsible for his coming in. The only time I saw him, I think, I don't think I really knew him before that, was on the last campaign trip. You were going to ask me something about that.

HESS: That's the trip you took. Can you tell us about that trip? Start at the beginning.

AYERS: Oh, that trip? Well, that trip was the windup campaign trip, and it started on--when did it start--about a week before the elections--I think the first part of that week.

HESS: That's the one that went up through the Northeast, isn't that right?

AYERS: It went to Chicago--started in Chicago. It started in Washington on Sunday, the 24th of October, and we went out to Chicago overnight and we got in there Monday noon--oh, there were some stops before noon that day--one at Gary I think, and so on, but in Chicago there


was a big one in the evening. And now on the train on that trip: Charlie Ross was along, Matt Connelly was along, George Elsey was doing a lot of that work on the whistlestop thing, making little notes and so on--I don't know who else was on the train really; I don't need to say anything about the show there. There was a terrific crowd. Jake Arvey had come around and he had them out. Then we left Chicago and came east into Cleveland. There were whistlestops between Chicago and Cleveland and then from Cleveland we headed into New England, and we went through western Massachusetts out in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, Springfield, Massachusetts, Worcester, and into Boston--he was speaking in Boston that night. Arrangements were made for him to call upon the Archbishop about 7 o'clock, and Charlie Ross asked me if I'd go with him out to see the Archbishop, or out to the Archbishop's residence, because Charlie had a sister in Boston whom he wanted to see, and so we didn't tell the newspapermen about it beforehand at all. Matt and I were the only ones on the staff that went along, of course; I guess there were some Secret Service men. I know there was a whole string of roaring motorcycles, sirens and everything else. And the newspapermen didn't know about


it. Well, after we got up there, the President went into the Archbishop--nobody else with him--we waited outside--oh, yes, William Boyle and there were two Boston officials who accompanied us, I don't know who they were, whether they were politicians or what, but I assumed that they were local politicians, they went along. When we started back--well, the photographers were needed up there to take some pictures, but the newspaper reporters weren't there, and after we got back--Matt, I think, was riding with the President, and I think I was in a car in back of him. I don't know if there was anybody in the car with me, but when we got back, Matt said there was a good quotation from the Archbishop, a line out of what he had said to the President, and he thought I might get it and give it out. When we went up to the President's room, he said the Archbishop told him that he thought the President was making the greatest fight in history in the interest of the people, and he was for him. We discussed the wording of it a little bit and I told him I was a little skittish, I thought it ought to be checked back with the Archbishop before it was used. He finally agreed with me, and I think one of these Boston men finally called the Archbishop, called his residence, got him on the phone and the President talked with him and I stood next to the President


when he talked with him. The President told him and asked him if it was all right to use it and he said it was. So then it was okay, that was all I wanted.

HESS: What was the Archbishop's name?

AYERS: He's Cardinal Cushing today. It was Archbishop Cushing. So, I went down to the press room they had set up at the Statler Hotel where we were, and there was a group of reporters waiting there and I told them the President had been out and called on the Archbishop--they hadn't been told about it--and that he had a cordial visit with the Archbishop and that the Archbishop told the President--and I said, "You can quote this"--and I gave them the quote, that he felt the President was making the greatest fight in history in the interest of the people, and that he was for him. They asked a few questions, but I didn't add anything to that statement. Now that was all there was to that, at that moment. Well, Charlie, as I say, he was going to see his sister, and I had some old friends in Boston that lived in the suburbs--great friends of my wife and me--I hadn't seen them in years; I phoned them and they wanted me to come out and have dinner with them, so that was all okay, so I didn't go to the meeting nor did Charlie--I don't know whether Charlie did or not.

Well, I went out and had dinner with my friends and


we chatted until midnight, I guess it was getting toward 1 o'clock, and I called the hotel and Charlie answered the phone, and he said he thought I'd better come in; they were having quite a time over the Archbishop's statement. So I came in and went up to the room and found Charlie, Matt Connelly, Bill Boyle and these two Boston men that had been with us when we went up to see the Archbishop, and it seemed that some reporter from one of the local papers had talked to the Archbishop after the announcement came out and the Archbishop had said that the connotation, presumably political, placed on his statement was unwarranted, and this was something of a repudiation of what I had said, and then some bishop, I don't know what his position was, but he was sort of a press relations man for the Archbishop apparently, and he apparently had--I don't know whether he called the newspapers or whether they talked to him, but he was trying to get the story killed. There was one of the newspapermen on one Boston paper who had been a Washington correspondent--he had been in Washington, I think he was in the service, he came to the White House and I knew him well, of course; I'd been in Boston too as a newspaperman with the Associated Press, I know that he came and he thought we ought to do something. I said stick to our


guns--I was awfully thankful for having the President check back with the Archbishop before we did it--and so we did nothing about it.

There was an amusing, I say amusing now, little thing afterward. I never did see all the stories in the Boston papers the next morning, but evidently it was carried on the wires and we got down into New Haven, or somewhere down in Connecticut, oh, well, before that we left Boston and we went down--I went on the train--Mrs. Truman and Margaret stayed on the train, and I went down and stayed on the train when I got back instead of staying in the hotel and then I wouldn't have to get up so early in the morning to go down to Providence. Charlie went with the President and some of the others in cars, stopping at some of the places between Boston and Providence. So, I went on down to Providence and then from Providence we went on and the train stopped somewhere down in Connecticut--I don't remember just where it was, I don't even have it down here--I talked to the office from the train on the phone and I said, "Have the operator call my house so that you can switch my wife on when I'm finished talking with you." S

he came on and she was boiling over. She said, "I'm going to write the Archbishop."


I said, "Forget it, nobody cares; the Boss doesn't care."

HESS: What else comes to mind on that trip?

AYERS: Oh, I have talked enough about that trip. Well, we went to New York one day, overnight, and, of course, the President was out from the hotel touring around the next day. I didn't go on that. I stayed in--Charlie Murphy, I don't know if anybody else was helping, but Charlie was working his head off on those speeches--he had two speeches that night, and I stayed there and then we went in that parade and to those speeches over in Brooklyn--the Academy of Music--and the next morning they left for Kansas City.

HESS: Was that the time that he also made the speech at Harlem? Dorrance Brooks Square--was that the trip?

AYERS: I guess so. I think that must have been. He went up to Harlem I'm sure.

HESS: Did you go to Harlem?

AYERS: I didn't go anywhere during the daytime because we were working on that darn speech. Charlie would finish and then I'd take it and go through it, check it and edit it, you know, for any grammatical errors or anything like that, and then it would go to the girls and it would be mimeographed; and we got it out and had it ready, as I


recall, just about the time they got back. I don't know whether that was just the Madison Square Garden speech--there were two speeches that night--they were about the same. Then they left on the train to Kansas City and I came back to Washington. Douglas Cornell of AP and I came back together.

HESS: Were you in Washington on the election eve? Who else was back here at the White House on election eve?

AYERS: The only one I remember that was around the White House that night was Philleo Nash. There may have been some others somewhere, but we and our wives were practically the only ones there.

HESS: Your wives were there, too.

AYERS: Yes, my wife and his wife. We got in and had the television, I think, in the President's office and we had that on; we had the radio on. We watched the returns during the evening.

HESS: Did you think Mr. Truman was going to win that election?

AYERS: If you want what I thought, I think I expressed it somewhere after that trip. I can't say from reading that I was sure, that I would have sworn to it. I thought he had a very good chance--I thought he was probably going to win, especially after I went on that last trip, because if you've been around and watched crowds, I think you can



HESS: What seemed to be the tenor of the crowds?

AYERS: There were big crowds, huge crowds. The ones that impressed me particularly, I think, were the whistle-stop crowds like that at South Bend, Indiana. He stopped there and he spoke from the back of the train--I don't know where in South Bend at all, wherever that train stopped--the tracks were elevated--and the crowd just crammed the area. They weren't the kind of people that were howling or shouting but they were paying attention, listening to every word he said, and you noticed that with crowds everywhere that we saw. I didn't go to the meeting in Boston, but I came back--I know I said to my wife, "There is something happening; I think something's going to happen." I thought he was going to be re-elected but I couldn't swear that I was sure of it. I know Harry Oliver of AP was in talking to me one day. I said, "Harry, he's going to be elected." Harry looked at me rather sorrowfully.

HESS: He didn't think so?

AYERS: He didn't really think so, I guess, but there was one newspaperman who came in that did.

HESS: Who was that?

AYERS: Well, he's dead now, Bill Flythe; he was an oldtimer.


He came in and sat down one day while they were on one of their trips.

HESS: Who did he work for? Do you remember?

AYERS: I forgot. He was a Hearst man. And most of the newspapermen or White House men except the standby crowd were away. There weren't many people around and we sat down and we talked, and I know he said, "Don't worry," he said, "this man's elected," and he reached in his pocket and he pulled out his wallet. He said, "You see that? There's folding money in it. Don't worry," he said, "they've all got them."

And he was right. I think Joe Fox of the Washington Star, who was a White House correspondent for the Star at that time; Joe is an old time reporter--he talked with people. I know he came back from one trip--I've forgotten where it was, it seems to me it was Salt Lake City--instead of going with the rest of them to hear the President speak, he'd wander down the street into a lunchroom or something like that, or where there was a bar and talked to people and he came back . . . He was one who, I think, said the President would be re-elected. Most of these reporters afterwards, the good ones, they all agreed, they talked to each other instead of talking where they should have--they interviewed each other.


A lot of it right in the Press Club bar, you know, that's where some of them cover Washington from--I say that jokingly, but some of them don't move out of there much, and they didn't do a good job. I see somebody wrote a column just yesterday--whose was that--pointing out the similarity between the situation in this country today and what it was in '48 with Truman when he was way down in the polls.

HESS: During the 1948 campaign, did you have any dealings with the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee; with William Batt, Jr., and Dr. Johannes Hoeber?

AYERS: No, I don't recall that I did.

HESS: I think they helped to write speeches during that '48 campaign.

AYERS: They did?

HESS: Mainly whistlestops and background material, but I wondered if, as a member of the press office, you had any dealing with them.

AYERS: I don't recall any. I think if there were many dealings directly with the committee, they would have been limited pretty likely to the President, the chairman, Charlie, perhaps with Jack Redding.

HESS: Anything else come to mind on the '48 campaign?


AYERS: No, I think I've talked enough about it.

HESS: It's getting pretty well along in the day. Shall we shut it off?

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