Oral History Interview with
Matthew J. Connelly
Chief investigator for the Senate Special Committee
to Investigate the National Defense Program (the Truman Committee), 1941-44,
Executive Assistant to Senator and Vice President Truman, July 1944-April
1945; and Appointments Secretary to the President, 1945-53.
New York, New York
November 30, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Connelly Oral History
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
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) 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 It may not be published in full except by permission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 May 1969
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Connelly Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Matthew J. Connelly
New York, New York
November 30, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Connelly, at the end of our discussion Tuesday, we were talking
about the Cabinet and your duties in relation to the Cabinet, and there
are a couple of other questions I would like to ask you on that subject.
Today, don't want to get into the Cabinet appointments themselves, but
just about your duties on the Cabinet--to keep things in a chronological
order. Did any of the other members of the White House staff have occasion
to sit in on the Cabinet meetings, other than yourself?
CONNELLY: No, none of the members of the White House staff sat in on
those meetings, with one exception, John Steelman, who regularly sat in
on the Cabinet meetings.
HESS: What percentage of the Cabinet meetings would
he sit in on?
CONNELLY: Well, he sat in on practically all of them. He sat there as
a participant in the discussion, and I sat there as a reporter.
HESS: I see. So he didn't take notes or anything of that nature?
CONNELLY: Except when I was not available, and he would take the notes
in my place.
HESS: Did he give you those notes?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes.
HESS: Fine. So you have the complete set even from when you weren't there?
CONNELLY: They're all there in the Library.
HESS: Was there an agenda worked out ahead of time for the business that
was to be taken up at the Cabinet meetings?
CONNELLY: Well, Cabinet meetings were very seldom held with an agenda,
except the President might want to bring up some particular subject. Otherwise,
it was just an open meeting, and he handled that deliberately because
his predecessor, unfortunately, did not have a Cabinet (the members would
not talk in front of each other), and he was determined that he would
eradicate that procedure and have a real Cabinet and let each Cabinet
officer bring up his own problems and there would be discussion among
other members, if they agreed or did not agree with his position.
HESS: On September 23, 1945, the New York Times published a story
that in a Cabinet meeting Wallace had proposed that Russia be given the
secret of the atomic bomb, and according to a statement in the book Out
of the Jaws
of Victory by Jules Abels, Wallace said that the idea
was proposed by Henry Stimson, and he blamed you for that particular leak.
Do you remember anything about that episode?
CONNELLY: No, offhand, the only comment I recall Wallace making was that
the Russians would have the atomic bomb in seven years anyway, so why
should it be such a big secret. So, with reference to any leak from me,
I never heard of it.
HESS: This was one thing that I had run across in my background work,
and I wanted to bring that up.
CONNELLY: Well, I know that there was never any leak about Cabinet proceedings
from me in any event or in any discussion.
HESS: At a later date we will cover the Cabinet appointments them selves,
but right now I'd
like to ask one question that I should have asked in
our last interview. During the time that you were with the Truman Committee,
did you have any working relationships with Mr. Truman's private staff;
and the second part of that question: What do you remember about the various
members of that staff?
CONNELLY: Oh, certainly we had relationships because that was his principal
project at that time. Prior to that he was just a Senator from Missouri,
but even lower than that because the Senator from Missouri. in those days
was Bennett Clark, and Truman was not known publicly outside of the Senate,
except in the State of Missouri. But when you referred to the Senator
from Missouri, it was taken for granted that you were talking about Bennett
Clark, who was the senior Senator, and had been in the Senate for many
years. But Truman, before the Truman
Committee was organized, was not well-known.
HESS: What was the relationship between Senator Truman and Senator Clark?
CONNELLY: The relationship was very cordial up to a point. They had minor
differences, naturally, but Senator Clark seconded the nomination of Senator
Truman for Vice President. So they worked very closely together in the
interest of the State.
HESS: On Mr. Truman's private staff, who was there besides Victor Messall,
Harry Vaughan, Mildred Dryden, and Catherine Bixler?
CONNELLY: Reathel Odum, and Lauretta Young--that was the total staff,
until General Vaughan left for the wars in Australia, and then Bill Boyle
left the committee to act as secretary to Senator Truman in General Vaughan's absence.
HESS: Were those people particularly effective in their work?
CONNELLY: Well, the people in his office had very little to do with the
committee activities. Their work was principally Missouri business, and
there was never any direct conflict between his office staff and the committee
staff, because the committee was set up independently of his personal office.
HESS: When Mr. Truman became President, of course, Harry Vaughan made
the switch with him from his personal staff to the White House, but why
didn't the others? Miss Odum was the secretary to Mrs. Truman, is that
correct, in the White House?
CONNELLY: That's correct.
HESS: Mildred Dryden did not make this switch.
CONNELLY: Mrs. Dryden had left before he was sworn in as President. She
had other employment in Washington. Miss Bixler had other employment in
Washington, and the other girls, who had been with him for many years,
stayed with him. They were Reathel Odum, Shirley Green, and Lauretta Young,
and of course, General Vaughan. He had returned from Australia.
HESS: Taking April 12, 1945, as the date now, just what were the problems
relating to staffing, that presented themselves at this date? I have reference
to probably the decisions about which of the Roosevelt people to keep,
what other people to bring in. Were those problems during those days?
CONNELLY: Those problems were problems, but we decided that the best
thing to do was to keep as much of the Roosevelt staff together as possible,
because Senator Truman, myself or Harry Vaughan
knew nothing about how
the White House was operated. We had to keep these people together so
that we would have a continuity of the running of the Government. We purposely
made that decision because we needed them, and there should be no blanket-turnout
of people who knew what they were doing when we did not. So, those people
were largely kept because of that fact. Secondly, Steve Early, who had
already announced his retirement from the White House, stayed on to help
us in that transition, and to work out a blend between the White House
people of Roosevelt and the little group that Truman arrived with.
HESS: Did the President rely on anyone in particular to make these decisions?
CONNELLY: Those decisions were largely worked through me.
HESS: Through you?
HESS: Did he ask you to do this to take on yourself the responsibility
of looking out after the staff?
CONNELLY: He said to keep the ball game going.
HESS: Shortly after he became President, he left for Potsdam, of course.
Was this part of your duties when he was gone?
CONNELLY: Yes, he asked me to go to Potsdam with him, and I said, "No,
I think somebody should be here to take care of the store." So, I stayed
in Washington while he was in Potsdam, to coordinate the communications
between the White House and him in Potsdam, and of course, on route.
HESS: I have the names of several of the people
who worked in the White
House during Mr. Truman's administration. Some of these were holdovers
from the Roosevelt administration. Some of them came in sometime later,
but I'd just like to ask you a few questions about these various individuals,
and a little bit about what their backgrounds were, what their duties
were in the White House, how effective they were in those duties, and
things of that nature. Let's start with the gentlemen who were Special
Counsels to the President, the first one being Samuel I. Rosenman.
CONNELLY: Judge Rosenman had been counsel to President Roosevelt for
several years, and in the same theory of keeping Roosevelt's people together
because they should know what was being done in the White House, what
was required, Judge Rosenman agreed to stay on and help President Truman,
and did for several
months or years. I forget when he did leave.
HESS: He left on February 1, 1946. He was there a little less than a
year. What seemed to be his relationship with President Truman?
CONNELLY: It was a very close relationship. President Truman relied on
him for legal decisions and points that had the legality problem, and
he helped him on legislation, and he helped him on messages to Congress.
He had been formerly a speech writer for President Roosevelt, and I believe,
he and Robert Sherwood wrote most of Roosevelt's principal speeches. But
the Roosevelt style and the Truman style were two different things in
making a speech, because Truman would not be effective in using the Roosevelt
technique in speechmaking. They were two different people, two different
personalities. If he had copied Roosevelt he would have not come over
as being very sincere.
HESS: Tell me how Mr. Truman's speaking ability evolved and developed
during this time?
CONNELLY: Well, when I first worked with Mr. Truman on the Truman Committee,
the few minor experiences I had with him in speechmaking were pretty sad.
He had a great tendency to want to get things over, and you'd give him
a prepared speech and he couldn't wait until he got to the end of a sentence
so that he could get started on the next one. As a result, the delivery
HESS: He had a tendency to rush it just a little, is that right?
HESS: What speeches do you recall that he gave?
CONNELLY: He made very few, very few.
HESS: Do you recall any of the particular occasions
where you were present when he spoke?
CONNELLY: No. He made a speech at some kind of lawn party in Washington,
and it was a pretty sad situation. When he became Vice President one of
the first things I wanted to do was to try to correct that little fault
of his about rushing through a speech.
HESS: How did you go about that?
CONNELLY: We had a boy named Leonard Reinsch, who was a speech adviser
on radio, which was the media, of course, in those days; and he was from
the Cox Broadcasting Company. He had worked on the technical side of speeches
for Roosevelt, in presentation and engineering, and so forth. So, when
Truman returned to Missouri to prepare for his campaign for Vice President,
I brought Leonard Reinsch to Kansas City. Leonard Reinsch and I made
with a friend of Mr. Truman's, named Tom Evans, who owned a radio station.
He had a studio set aside at his station and we'd have Mr. Truman come
up there to work on the speech of acceptance that he was going to make
in Lamar, Missouri, his hometown. We had a text of the speech, and we
would have him come up to the studio every morning, and have him run through
it and record it, and we'd play it back to him and point out where the
bugs were. Eventually, we finally worked him down to completing a sentence
without running through it. So, he turned out to be much improved, and
as he went along, eventually he had more confidence, and he made a better
speech. But it took a little training.
HESS: Who worked with you on writing that particular speech? Did you
help write that acceptance speech?
CONNELLY: No, I don't believe so. I think that was largely developed
at the National Committee.
HESS: That was the speech at his birthplace when he was informed that
he was the official nominee of the party, is that right?
CONNELLY: Yes, a committee of Senators went out to announce to him that
he had been selected. We had a very funny experience. Tom Connally was
to introduce him, the Senator from Texas. We looked at Senator Connally's
speech, and it was too long. We made a very bad mistake, Reinsch and myself.
We just crossed out what Connally was not supposed to say in the speech,
but we didn't block it out, so when Connally got up to make his speech,
he ignored our markings and continued on and cut in on the President's
time. But that was one of those things, because Senators are not known
for terminal facilities.
HESS: We discussed Tuesday about a few of the speeches that were given
during the campaign and some of the people that helped in the writing
on those, but after Mr. Truman became President, who helped write the
initial speeches, who helped write the speeches that were given, let's
say, shortly after he became President?
CONNELLY: Initially it was George Allen, his man Friday, Eddie Reynolds,
who was a speech writer, and had several college degrees, a good writer.
HESS: Where had he come from? What was his background?
CONNELLY: He had been with George Allen for many years in private industry.
Judge Rosenman, I'm not sure that Clark Clifford was there. I don't believe
he had gotten to the White House at that time. And myself.
HESS: When did Clifford make his appearance at
the White House? When did he come in?
CONNELLY: He came to the White House with Commodore Vardaman, who became
Naval Aide to the President, shortly after we arrived at the White House,
he was brought back to be Naval Aide by General Vaughan, who had served
with him in World War I in the artillery.
HESS: This is Commodore Vardaman?
CONNELLY: In the Second World War Vardaman entered the Navy. He was in
Okinawa and General Vaughan brought him back to become Naval Aide to the President.
HESS: Then Vardaman brought Clifford.
CONNELLY: Vardaman then brought Clifford in as his assistant.
HESS: Where had he met Clifford?
CONNELLY: In St. Louis, Missouri. Clifford had been his lawyer in St. Louis.
HESS: I have it down that Mr. Vardaman came in on May 4th
of '45, shortly after. The first date that I have for Clifford is about
the same. In fact, it's about a month earlier. I'll have to check that.
I have an April the 4th date, and that's probably wrong.
CONNELLY: That's wrong, because I know that he did not arrive until Vardaman
picked him as his assistant.
HESS: So, he was assistant naval aide, probably brought in at the same
time--it's a typographical error.
Also, in Mr. Truman's Memoirs he states that Judge Rosenman helped
him write the twenty one point message that was sent to Congress on September 6, 1945.
CONNELLY: I believe that is correct, but I think the principal architect
in this speech was Clifford.
HESS: What can you tell me about that?
CONNELLY: I don't recall. I sat in on the discussion about the speech,
but my contribution to speeches were largely negative. If I knew something
didn't quite agree with the President's own thinking, I'd object to it.
If there was a word used, or a phrase used that you have difficulty in
delivering, I would object to that. When he first read the draft of a
speech, I always sat in and went through the speech, and he would make
changes, or suggestions, or he would want to say it his way, and then
when we got through with that discussion, he would take that draft home,
and he would have Mrs. Truman review it. And if she didn't like some phase
of it, she would
make corrections. So we would finally get together again,
and work out the final product. There are many instances, in fact, in
most, where the President himself made the changes or revisal to what
he wanted to say.
HESS: Was the President usually present at the first session when it
was first discussed what was going to be in a speech?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, definitely.
HESS: This would be before the wording had been decided upon.
CONNELLY: Right, he would say what he wanted.
HESS: This is the way it would originate?
CONNALLY: That's correct. And then there would probably be six or seven
of the staff in the White House work on the draft of a speech.
probably wind up with seven drafts before they would finally present it
to him. He would read it in front of the staff who had worked on the speech,
he would read it aloud, and then he would be interrupted from time to
time for changes.
HESS: Who were the principal speech writers?
CONNELLY: Clark Clifford, Rosenman--Rosenman originally--Charles Murphy,
David Bell, David Lloyd--there are a few more--George E1sey.
HESS: Did Charles Ross sit in?
CONNELLY: Charles Ross sat in, yes. He never participated in writing
the speeches, but he always sat in on the review of the draft.
HESS: What were his main contributions?
CONNELLY: Charles Ross?
CONNELLY: He was Press Secretary. He was the mouthpiece of the President.
HESS: But I mean when it came to writing the speeches? Was he...
CONNELLY: He was there as an editor, but he didn't have time with his
job to be a creator. But he would be an editor of every one of them.
HESS: Judge Rosenman left the White House in February of 1946, did he
play any particular role in White House affairs after he left?
CONNELLY: No, other than contributions of ideas for speeches or messages
HESS: But he would still make those contributions?
CONNELLY: Yes, he did, for quite a while. When there was a message to
Congress going up,
Clark Clifford, who had succeeded him, would call him
and ask him to come to Washington and sit in on the preparation of a draft
for a presidential message or a presidential speech.
HESS: Did he also help Charles Murphy in the same way?
CONNELLY: I do not know if he helped Charles Murphy. I think by that
time since Clifford left, I believe Rosenman did not contribute after that.
HESS: Clifford left January 31st of 1950.
CONNELLY: Well, I'm pretty sure that Judge Rosenman was long gone on
contributing to speeches.
HESS: Now, the Judge did come back and help some in 1948, isn't that
right, for the preparation of the convention, for the matters that went
on at the convention?
CONNELLY: That's right. I think he came back to help Clark Clifford prepare
the usual draft, which was not a speech, it was an outline.
HESS: How was that done?
CONNELLY: Well, instead of making a formal speech, we decided that the
best thing to do was to make an outline and let the President make the
best impression off-the-cuff, with guidance from an outline. He was a
much better speaker off-the-cuff than he was from reading a printed text.
HESS: Who helped set up that outline?
CONNELLY: I believe Rosenman helped on that with Clifford. The same group
that Clifford had working on the other speeches set up the outline.
HESS: Did the Judge go on any of the campaign
trips in 1948?
HESS: Why didn't he assist through the entire production, the convention
and the campaign? Why was he there just for the convention, do you recall?
CONNELLY: I'm not sure whether he was at the convention.
HESS: But his services weren't used through the campaign?
CONNELLY: Oh, no, no. He may have given some telephonic advice but he
didn't actively participate in the campaign.
HESS: Anything else about Samuel Rosenman that comes to mind?
CONNELLY: Well, he left the White House and went
into private practice of law.
HESS: Why did he leave?
CONNELLY: For money.
HESS: Wasn't making enough money in the Government, is that right?
CONNELLY: Oh, of course not.
HESS: And when he left there was a period of time from February the lst
until July the lst, when there was no Special Counsel. Was there any particular
reason for that lapse of time?
CONNELLY: That was because the President wanted to make sure that he
would get somebody who could follow in Rosenman's steps and knew what
the job would be about and eventually he settled for Clark Clifford.
HESS: Were there any others that were under
CONNELLY: There may have been in his mind, but these I wouldn't know about.
HESS: Had Mr. Clifford been active in any way in Mr. Truman's senatorial campaigns?
CONNELLY: No, not in any way, that I know of.
HESS: Was the role that he played as Special Counsel different in any
significant manner than that played by Judge Rosenman?
CONNELLY: Well, it was fundamentally the same. It was a question of examining
bills that came to the President for signature and also getting the opinions
of department heads, and making recommendations for signature or veto.
His position was largely legality of documents that the President had
to approve or disapprove.
HESS: Did he contribute any political suggestions,
any political advice
to the President, as well as legal advice?
CONNELLY: Oh, certainly, he gave him opinions and suggestions like everybody
on the staff did.
HESS: Was Mr. Clifford a good political adviser?
CONNELLY: I would say that Mr. Clifford was too academic to be a good
political adviser, because Mr. Clifford's experience in politics had been
nil, so from the point of practicality, I would not say he was a very
good political adviser.
HESS: Why did Mr. Clifford leave the White House in 1950?
CONNELLY: Mr. Clifford had an ambition to become Attorney General, and
when the President appointed an Attorney General to succeed Attorney General
Clark, Mr. Clifford was very
unhappy, and he told me himself that he was
under the impression that he would be the new Attorney General. We had
luncheon one day and I explained to him that it was a political problem.
There are little divisions in our country such as Catholics and Protestants,
and I knew that President Truman was going to be severely criticized for
not replacing Frank Murphy on the Supreme Court, who was a Catholic, by
replacing him with Clark who was not--Tom Clark. So, I told Clifford probably
what the reason might be. Mr. Truman had a little problem making that
decision, and there would be great reaction among Catholic groups but
by appointing a successor to Tom Clark as Attorney General who was a Catholic--I
knew I would get the brunt being one myself, but if the criticism came
to me I would have a complete offset.
HESS: This was when J. Howard McGrath was appointed?
CONNELLY: That is correct. And if they came to me I would say, "Well,
when did you have two Catholics on the Cabinet?" And there was no argument.
HESS: Did you discuss this with Mr. Truman at this time?
CONNELLY: Certainly I did. And he agreed with me. As a matter of fact,
I suggested McGrath.
HESS: Was there much of an objection raised at the time that Tom Clark
was appointed to the Supreme Court, to the effect that it should have
been a Catholic appointment?
CONNELLY: Oh, all over the country.
HESS: That's right.
CONNELLY: All over the country. Being a Catholic, I was the fellow who
got the heat from the Catholic groups.
HESS: What was Mr. Truman's attitude about this?
CONNELLY: He could care less. He had no religious bigotry at all. He
didn't care what you were if you could do a job.
HESS: Had Mr. Clifford discussed the possibility with Mr. Truman about
his becoming Attorney General?
CONNELLY: At one time President Truman--Mr. Clifford told me--offered
Mr. Clifford an appointment as Under Secretary of State and Mr. Clifford
told me that he didn't want that, but that someday he would like to be
the Attorney General. He told me that Mr. Truman said, "Well, I'll keep
that in mind."
When McGrath was appointed, Clifford, naturally, was upset, and that
was what brought about his departure from the White House.
HESS: And the day after he left, Charles Murphy
was appointed Special
Counsel to the President. What can you tell me about Mr. Murphy? What
was his background and how did he come to be a member of the White House staff?
CONNELLY: Charles Murphy had worked as legislative counsel to the Senate.
He had been there for several years and he was well-known to Mr. Truman,
and was highly respected up there. Charles Murphy is and was then a very
able lawyer. One time when we were trying to build up a new staff, which
could be Truman's staff, I invited Mr. Murphy to lunch. We had lunch,
and I told him that the President would like to have him in the White
House. He said, "Well, I would kind of like it too, but I've got to get
clearance with Senator Barkley," who was then, I believe, the majority leader.
HESS: About what time was this? Do you recall, '45 or '46?
CONNELLY: Probably late in '45 or early in '46.
So, he went back to the Capitol, and he talked with Senator Barkley
who was not very happy about the idea. Barkley wanted to know if the White
House was trying to steal his brains. Murphy called me and he said, "It's
no dice. Barkley won't let me go."
I'd say that within about a year later, Murphy called me and he said,
"Is that job still open? I talked to Senator Barkley today and he thinks
he's standing in my way, and I can take the job if it's still open."
I said, "You've got a job," which pleased Mr. Truman very much, because
he had very great respect for Charles Murphy.
HESS: He was Administrative Assistant from December of 1946 until February
the lst of 1950, when he became Special Counsel. Did he carry on the job
of Special Counsel in any different manner than
CONNELLY: I would say only in one way, because the same problems arose
for him that arose for Clifford. I would say that he was a little less
flamboyant. He was a very level headed fellow, his feet were on the ground,
and his main ambition was to do a job, where I believe Clifford's ambition
went a little beyond the job he was in. All of the time I was with Murphy
he never indicated in any way that he wanted to be anywhere but where
he was. I would say that that was the principal difference.
HESS: The gentlemen who held the job as Secretary to the President, your
name is first, we'll just skip that name, and start with William D. Hassett.
CONNELLY: William D. Hassett we inherited from
the Roosevelt administration
and we used to call him the "Poet Laureate of the White House." His job
was to write messages for the President's signature, write proclamations,
which the President also signed. But that's principally what his activity was.
HESS: What had been his background?
CONNELLY: He was an old newspaperman and one of the assistant press secretaries
to Steve Early under Roosevelt. We made him Correspondence Secretary technically,
but he was still Secretary to the President.
HESS: Did he ever help out with the speech writing?
CONNELLY: He sat in on them, but he contributed very little because he
was, I'd say, in the stratosphere. He was a literary figure. But as a
HESS: And for the last few months of the administration after the death
of Joseph Short, his wife was Correspondence Secretary.
CONNELLY: I made the suggestion to President Truman after Joe Short died,
because we had a very short time to go, that it would be a nice tribute
to Joe Short as a loyal and hard worker for Mr. Truman to appoint his
wife to that position. So that the President agreed with. But Mrs. Short
never had the real authority that her husband had, and after Bill Hassett
resigned, we put her in Bill's place and got Roger Tubby, formerly from
the State Department to become Press Secretary. That was close to the
end of the administration.
HESS: Why did Mr. Hassett resign? That was in July of '52.
CONNELLY: For reasons of health.
HESS: The White House press office: We start off with J. Leonard Reinsch.
Mr. Reinsch was in the press office for just a little while from April
12 to May 15. Why was he there for such a short time?
CONNELLY: Mr. Reinsch wanted very much to be press secretary, but the
White House press, even more so than today, was press, in other
words, newspapermen, and they personally resented what they called a radio
man. They didn't like the idea of a radio man being press man for the
President. That was very widely discussed between the President and myself,
and I made a suggestion to the President that I go to Steve Early who
was still at the White House and ask Steve to make a poll of the press
people at the White House (the White House correspondents) and to have
them recommend who should be Press Secretary. Because I wanted somebody who would
be respected by the press, and who could be accepted by the
President. So Steve Early took that poll. He came to me with two recommendations
and he told me that he didn't think the President would go for either
one of them. I asked, "Why?"
He said, "They both are with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch," which
had been very violently opposed to Senator Truman when he was Senator.
I said, "Well, those are the recommendations, let's give them to the
President. Let him make up his mind."
So Steve Early said, "Mr. President, these are the two top boys on the
list. One is Charlie Ross, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and the other
is Pete Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The President grinned and said, "You know, I was thinking about Charlie Ross myself.
Did you know he was a classmate of Mrs. Truman and myself
in the Independence High School?" which neither Steve Early nor I knew.
So Steve Early was flabbergasted, of course, but pleased. He said, "Well,
I'll get in touch with him."
Charlie was covering the United Nations in San Francisco at that time.
When he finished his tour of duty out there, he came back to Washington.
Steve Early set up an appointment to have him come over and see the President.
The President had left by the time that Charlie Ross arrived; he had gone
back to the Blair House, where he was living at that time. We went over
to see the President, and he said, "Charlie, how are you? I want you to
be my Press Secretary."
Charlie said, "I just can't turn that down."
He said, "Charlie, how are you going to be
on your retirement with the Post-Dispatch?
Charlie said, "I don't know, this is the first I knew about it."
He said, "Well, I want to know." So, he turned to me and said, "Matt,
get that no-good Pulitzer on the phone. I want to talk to him," which I did.
So, he told Pulitzer, the Post-Dispatch publisher, that he wanted
Charlie Ross for Press Secretary. Pulitzer said it was a great honor.
He said, "Mr. Pulitzer, I'm not through with you yet. Where's Charlie
Ross on his retirement? Is he going to lose it?"
Pulitzer told him, "No, no, we'll take care of that. He'll have his retirement."
He said, "O.K., I wouldn't accept him if he was going to be cut out of
his retirement." So, that was arranged.
We sat down again. Truman sent for some drinks to celebrate the occasion. We had the
first drink and he turned to me and said, "Matt, get Miss Tillie
Brown in Independence on the phone."
I asked, "Who's Miss Tillie Brown?"
He said, "Charlie and I know. She was our school teacher."
So, I finally got Miss Tillie Brown. The President got on the phone and
the President said, "Miss Tillie, who do you think this is?"
She said, "Well, I don't know."
He said, "This is Harry Truman."
She said, "The President?"
"Miss Tillie, who do you think I have with me?"
She asked, "Who do you have with you?"
"Charlie Ross. He's going to be my press secretary."
Well, it was such a touching scene. Steve Early was a pretty touch guy,
a hard-boiled newspaperman. But I can be very frank
and say that Steve
Early and I had little droplets when we heard that conversation. Steve
Early finally said when we left that day, "Boy, what a man. I'll never
forget it. I loved Roosevelt, but we have a President."
HESS: How was the problem of J. Leonard Reinsch handled?
CONNELLY: I suggested to the President that the gracious way to do it
was to call James Cox, who was the former candidate for President, and
was head of Cox Enterprises, and have Cox tell Leonard Reinsch that he,
Cox, could not afford to let him go, that he was too vital to his organization,
which was done.
HESS: What kind of duties did Mr. Reinsch undertake in behalf of the
White House after that time?
CONNELLY: Every time we had a broadcast we would
call Mr. Reinsch and
tell him to come to Washington, that the President was going on the air,
and we wanted him there to supervise the broadcasts.
HESS: He handled the technical arrangements of the broadcasts after that time?
CONNALLY: That's correct.
HESS: Charles Ross is next on the list. What kind of a Press Secretary
did Charles Ross make?
CONNELLY: Charles Ross was a very intelligent, quiet, but effective Press
Secretary. Charles Ross had the ability to exude confidence. And the press
corps admired him tremendously. And having been picked by them, or the
key members of that group, they naturally couldn't take any offense to
his appointment, because they had recommended him. Charles Ross, all during
his job in the White House, became an excellent
Press Secretary. He had
great relations with the responsible members of the press, and he made
a great Press Secretary.
HESS: During the 1948 campaign, did he make any of the trips?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, all of them.
HESS: What were his duties at that time?
CONNELLY: The same as they would be at the White House. He would brief
the press on what was going to happen, and what they should expect, where
the speeches were going to be, so that they were completely filled in
on all the activities of the day. If some event came up which came through
from Washington, he would inform them of any developments from the home
office. Every trip that the President made, Charles was there.
HESS: Mr. Ross died on the afternoon of December 5, 1950. I understand
that that evening was the evening when Margaret Truman was singing at
Constitution Hall and the next day, I believe that there was a letter
written to a critic by the name of Paul Hume. Is that right?
HESS: What do you recall about that?
CONNELLY: I recall it very well. I arrived in the office the next morning
and the President called me in and said, "I want you to read something."
He had this longhand letter and I read it and I said, "You're not going
to send this."
He said, "I knew you'd say that. It's already been mailed." He said,
"You don't like that?"
He said, "Wait a minute, I'll show you something else."
He reached in his desk drawer again. He said, "Here's the first draft."
So, I read that. I looked at it and I said, "All right, I'll settle for
the one you mailed."
HESS: The first draft was worse, is that right?
CONNELLY: Oh, brother!
HESS: I believe that when Charles Ross died, Steve Early was called back
for just a couple of days, wasn't he, two or three days, to act as Press Secretary?
CONNELLY: That's right. When Charles Ross died I called Steve Early.
John Snyder was at the concert and I was in the next box and at the intermission,
Snyder called me over and said, "Well, what are you going to do about Charlie
I asked, "Well, do you have any ideas?"
He said, "What about Bill Hillman?"
I said, "No."
He said, "Do you have any ideas?"
I said, "Yes, I'll call Steve Early when I get home from the concert,
and ask him to fill in until the President decides who he wants." So,
Steve Early agreed and showed up at the staff meeting the next morning.
The President said, "Steve, what are you doing here?" Friendly, of course.
He said, "Oh, Matt called me last night and asked me if I would fill
in temporarily until you decided on a successor to Charlie Ross. That's
why I'm here."
So, naturally, Truman expressed his appreciation because it took Steve
away from a private job. Until Truman made his decision on who he wanted,
Steve remained on the job.
HESS: What was Mr. Early doing at that time?
CONNELLY: He was with the Pullman Company--Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing
Company, railroad cars.
HESS: What was your objection to Mr. Hillman?
CONNELLY: Mr. Hillman had the same qualifications that Mr. Reinsch had.
He was a radio man. At that time he was a radio commentator. But he had
been helping John Snyder improve his public image. John, in those days,
was not received very well in the press. He was a number one target for
a fellow named Drew Pearson. So Bill Hillman was moved in to help him
with his press relations. Naturally, having that association with Bill,
it was the first thing that Snyder thought of in connection with the White House job.
HESS: How was Mr. Short chosen?
CONNELLY: Mr. Truman chose him himself. He had watched him during the
campaign--Joe Short covered the campaign--he covered the presidential
trips, and he impressed Mr. Truman.
HESS: He was from the Baltimore Sun, is that right?
CONNELLY: Baltimore Sun, that's right. He was a correspondent
for the Baltimore Sun at the White House.
HESS: Did he make an effective Press Secretary?
CONNELLY: Yes, he did, but of course, he was an anticlimax. Following
Charlie Ross, naturally, was a letdown for the press. But he made a very
effective Press Secretary.
HESS: Why was it a letdown?
CONNELLY: Because of the respect they had for Charlie Ross, he was a "dean," but Joe was
one of their own. You know the old story--prophet
without honor in your own territory.
HESS: Mr. Short died in September of 1952.
CONNELLY: I believe that's right.
HESS: September 18, 1952, and at that time, Irving Perlmeter and Roger
Tubby were both placed as Acting Press Secretaries for just a short while
until Mr. Tubby was made Press Secretary by himself in December of that
year. What kind of men were Mr. Perlmeter and Mr. Tubby?
CONNELLY: Well, Mr. Tubby had been information officer at the State Department,
and Joe Short regarded him very highly. Mr. Perlmeter, Short knew him
through, I believe, through Internal Revenue. But he had always been more
or less a Government information officer. He didn't have the wide connections
with the national press that Tubby had had with the
State Department and
that's why Tubby was selected over Perlmeter.
HESS: I believe Mr. Perlmeter also had a heart attack during the '52
CONNELLY: That's correct. I believe that was in Oregon.
HESS: So, he had health problems as well.
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: And the Assistant Press Secretary under Charles Ross had been Eben
Ayers. What do you recall of Mr. Ayers?
CONNELLY: Eben Ayers had been with Steve Early for many years, I believe,
prior to our coming to the White House. And then Charlie Ross took over,
he kept Eben Ayers on as his assistant. But Eben had very little opportunity
to front for him, because Charlie Ross
was always on the job. So Eben
Ayers was always more or less a second man.
HESS: Was he fairly effective in the job?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes. He had to be or he wouldn't have been there. Charlie
Ross ran his department. Nobody else in the White House interfered.
HESS: And as the gentlemen who had the post of Administrative Assistants,
I'll start off with--I have these by the date that they came to the White
House dating back into the Roosevelt period. The first few names are holdovers
from the Roosevelt administration. William McReynolds?
CONNELLY: William McReynolds was the personnel officer for Roosevelt
and shortly after we came into the White House we began to get a little
information about his activities, and he
was not the type of man who would
represent Mr. Truman's thinking about Government.
HESS: Such as?
CONNELLY: Well, number one, he was widely criticized for nepotism. I
believe he had about nine relatives on the Federal payroll, which did
not appeal very much to Mr. Truman. And shortly thereafter, he pulled
a few indiscreet acts as director of personnel.
HESS: What did he do?
CONNELLY: This I don't recall; there were minor things, but they were
important indications that he was not going to be Truman's man. So he
had a departure shortly thereafter.
HESS: He left May 31.
CONNELLY: It wasn't very long.
HESS: James M. Barnes?
CONNELLY: James M. Barnes was a very able fellow, a lawyer in Washington.
He was very well liked by the President, but Mr. Truman had an idea about
filling his particular spot. He wanted to get his own men, because you
can't operate an army or a family unless somebody is with the army or
with the family. James Barnes remained a very close friend with President
Truman, but President Truman thought he had someone else for the job he
wanted done. So it was an amicable departure.
HESS: Who did he bring in in his place, do you recall?
CONNELLY: I forget in what niche Barnes operated. Each one of the Administrative
Assistants had a certain function, but who succeeded him I couldn't say.
HESS: He left on July 10, 1945. The next name is Lauchlin Currie.
CONNELLY: Lauchlin Currie was administrative assistant on foreign affairs
and I believe he left and went over to the State Department.
HESS: He left on June 30 of 1945.
CONNELLY: The circumstances surrounding his departure I don't recall.
HESS: Jonathan Daniels.
CONNELLY: Jonathan Daniels had been appointed by Roosevelt to succeed
Steve Early as Press Secretary when Steve resigned, and he was Press Secretary
when we arrived. He was a very highly emotional fellow. He frankly went
pretty much to pieces after Roosevelt died. We knew that he did not have
the stability that the President would want in this job.
HESS: I have heard that Stephen Early made the announcement of President
Roosevelt's death and that Jonathan Daniels resented that somewhat, since
he was officially Press Secretary at the time. Is that correct?
CONNELLY: This I don't know.
HESS: He was Administrative Assistant to the President until May of 1945.
He did come back to assist in the 1948 campaign. Whose idea was it to
bring Mr. Daniels back to assist in the '48 campaign?
CONNELLY: I believe it was Mr. Daniels'.
HESS: How did he get this across?
CONNELLY: He just showed up.
HESS: He didn't have any particular connections in the White House?
CONNELLY: No, he was always friendly, the President was always friendly
with him, partly because of his father. The President respected his father
very much, Josephus Daniels, who was Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson.
HESS: Did Mr. Daniels make any of the campaign trips in 1948? 1 believe
there was one when they went down South, North Carolina...
CONNELLY: I believe that was the one. That was it.
HESS: And that is the only one that he went on.
CONNELLY: That I can recall.
HESS: Did Mr. Daniels ever express an interest to you in returning to
the Government in any capacity?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes.
HESS: What was his idea?
CONNELLY: Well, we were at Key West one time and the President invited
him down to visit with him while we were on this vacation trip, and Jonathan
approached me at Key West one evening, I remember it very well, and he
asked me if I would talk to the President about making him Secretary of
the Navy. I said, "Well, I'll talk to him, but these things he has to
do himself. They're not my appointments. All I can do is to tell him that
He asked, "Would you do that?"
I said, "Certainly." And I did. I didn't get a very loud response from
the President on the suggestion.
HESS: What was the President's attitude?
CONNELLY: Well, he listened to me and made no comment.
HESS: David K. Niles. What was David Niles' background?
CONNELLY: He handled minority group problems for Roosevelt, and we kept
him in the same job, because he was very effective. He was very effective
with the Jewish groups, Negro groups, Slav groups, in fact, all the minority
groups in the United States David Niles was effective with. And they had
great respect for him and they trusted him.
HESS: Did his responsibilities go outside the realm of minority groups?
HESS: Was he a very effective political adviser when it came to advice
on minority groups?
CONNELLY: Oh, very much so. Originally he was with Harry Hopkins and
Harry Hopkins was
administrator of WPA and David Niles was an assistant
to him. Then when Harry Hopkins came to the White House, he brought David
Niles with him.
HESS: Mr. Niles, I believe, died in 1951.
CONNELLY: That is correct. He was also very effective in the problems
we had in connection with the recognition of Israel.
HESS: What part did he play in that?
CONNELLY: Well, he used to get the sentiments from the Jewish groups
around the country. He used to get information that was not available
to the State Department. The State Department was not widely accepted
by the Jewish groups in this country. But he worked very closely with
me and with Clark Clifford in advising the President on the whole Israeli situation.
HESS: Do you recall a few of the names of the people with whom he had
contact in these various Jewish groups?
CONNELLY: All of them.
HESS: Who were they?
CONNELLY: Well, you can name your pick, David Dubinsky, Abraham Feinberg.
You name any leader in the Jewish faction, and he had intimate contacts with him.
HESS: What position did Mr. Feinberg hold at this time?
CONNELLY: Mr. Feinberg was in private business. He was the president,
I believe at that time, of the Kayser Company, who manufactured hosiery
and women’s wear. Then he later became a partner in Kayser Roth, which
is probably the largest in the business now. He later became chairman,
I believe he was
chairman of the executive committee of the American Trust
and Banking Company here in New York.
HESS: What was the basis of his connection with the State of Israel?
CONNELLY: Mr. Feinberg?
CONNELLY: He was intimately associated with the leadership to try to
get the recognition of Israel. And of course, clandestinely, I found out
later, he arranged for the shipment of armament to Israel during that
war they were having after the partition.
HESS: Was Mr. Max Lowenthal also one of Mr. Niles contacts?
CONNELLY: Oh, very much so, very much so. He was interested in the picture,
what was going on,
so being in the practice of law outside and having
no connection with the Government, he was in a position to get information
which would be helpful in resolving the whole problem. He used to report
to Mr. Niles and to me about what he had learned in various Jewish groups
around New York and from people who were financing the campaign around
New York. That information came to us primarily through Max Lowenthal
and through David Niles.
HESS: Did Mr. Feinberg continue to give advice after the death of David Niles?
CONNELLY: After the death of David Niles, I selected Abe Feinberg myself
as our point of contact, because we used to get requests from the heads
of different Jewish groups and not having knowledge of who was who or
what was what or what their angle was, I could call Abe Feinberg and ask
him about this
individual who was requesting an appointment.
He would say, "He's O.K." or "Don't bother with him."
HESS: And those duties he performed in an unofficial manner, is that
CONNELLY: That's right. That's after Niles died, because prior to that
time Niles handled everything of that nature. Philleo Nash followed Niles.
He had been an assistant to Niles, but he didn't have the contacts that
HESS: Mr. Nash had been in the White House from about '45 or '46 until
'51 when he was made Administrative Assistant at the time of the death
of David Niles.
CONNELLY: That's correct.
HESS: Was Mr. Nash particularly effective in his work?
CONNELLY: Yes, he was very effective, but he did not have the
experience that Niles had. What he had learned he had learned through
his association with Niles. But he was very effective.
HESS: Were there any tasks that Mr. Nash could carry out that Mr. Niles
would not? What I have reference to here is perhaps speech writing, or
messages to Congress--were there things that he worked on that Mr. Niles did not?
CONNELLY: Not that I would know of. If there were, they were very incidental,
maybe he would make a suggestion connected with something involving a
minority group which should be included in a presidential message. But
those were channeled through Clifford or Murphy.
HESS: When Mr. Niles was living, did he like for everything dealing with
minorities to be handled in his office? Did he want to know what was going
on in minority affairs?
CONNELLY: Whether he wanted to know or not I can't answer. But I know
that that was the duty assigned to him, to keep informed about what was
going on, what the opinion was, what their moods were.
HESS: The next name on the list is George J. Schoeneman.
CONNELLY: I believe he followed McReynolds. He had been with the Internal
Revenue Service. He was a career man, and he was in charge of personnel
records at Internal Revenue, so looking around for a successor to McReynolds,
Schoeneman was recommended by Bob Hannegan, who was then Democratic National
Chairman and who had been
previously Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
He recommended Schoeneman to take over that slot, which he did.
HESS: He was liaison officer for personnel management for awhile, and
then special executive assistant. Then he left in 1947.
CONNELLY: Yes, he left. The President admired him very much, and he appointed
him to a vacancy as Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
HESS: Raymond R. Zimmerman?
CONNELLY: Raymond R. Zimmerman was originally suggested by George Schoeneman.
He was more or less a career man in personnel around Washington. He never
cut the mustard, so he had a pretty short career.
HESS: He left early in 1947 also, but he wasn't particularly effective?
HESS: Richmond B. Keech?
CONNELLY: Richmond B. Keech was recommended by, I believe, the senior
judge of that time with the courts in the District of Columbia. And Richmond
B. Keech came in on legal problems. He was very able and gained the respect
of the President. When a vacancy occurred on the courts in Washington,
the President appointed him.
HESS: That was in October of '46 after being there one year, October
of '45 to October '46. And Donald Dawson came in in 1947.
CONNELLY: That's right. He was with the RFC, and he was director of personnel,
I believe at RFC. I had known of his activity, and I checked him out pretty
well. He was brought in then to take the personnel job, which he
effectively, and he gained the respect of the President.
HESS: Mr. Dawson later had a little trouble with his old RFC connections,
did he not?
CONNELLY: I don't recall if he did.
HESS: Frederick J. Lawton.
CONNELLY: Frederick J. Lawton was originally with the Budget Bureau,
and I believe he became chief of the Budget Bureau after the retirement
of--was it Jim Webb or Frank Pace. I've forgotten which.
HESS: I believe he came from the Budget, and then he went back to the
Budget after a short time at the White House. Do you recall why he was
brought in? He was there from April of '48 until September of '48. Do
you recall why he was brought in for this period of time?
CONNELLY: I do not recall offhand, unless it was connected with the preparation
of the material for the next presidential message to Congress, economic
report or something of that sort.
HESS: David Stowe came in in 1947.
CONNELLY: I do not recall who recommended David Stowe. David Stowe had
been active in labor relations, and he may have been suggested by John
Steelman, but he arrived at the White House and he turned out to be a
very effective, and a very efficient operator.
HESS: He was deputy to Mr. Steelman for several years, wasn't he, '47
to '49, deputy to The Assistant to the President?
CONNELLY: That probably is how that transition came about. And as a result
of his activities with Steelman, then he became an administrative assistant.
HESS: George Elsey.
CONNELLY: George Elsey was in the Navy when he first arrived at the White
House, and I think he was in the so-called Map Room--a secret room at
the White House--and he used to brief the President of secret movements
during the war. And I believe as a result of that, Truman or Clifford
recommended him--I believe Clifford probably recommended him as an administrative
assistant after the war was out of the way.
HESS: Mr. Elsey left in 1951. Do you know why he left the White House
at that time?
CONNELLY: Yes, I do. He had a little problem. He was talking when he
should be listening.
HESS: Any particular time?
CONNELLY: Well, there was information that sort of leaked out which was
pretty well traced back
to George Elsey.
HESS: What information was that?
CONNELLY: I don't recall. I know it was some inside material that shouldn't
have gotten out.
HESS: Stephen J. Spingarn.
CONNELLY: I don't know who recommended him. But he was there for awhile,
but he reported directly to Clifford. I had very little personal contact
with him except at staff meetings, but he operated pretty much under Clifford.
HESS: I believe he was brought in in early 1948 to help write the President's
message on civil rights, the so-called "Ten Point Message" of February the 2nd.
CONNELLY: That could be. Well, that would be Clark Clifford, I'm sure.
was, I believe, the first president of the NAACP.
HESS: His father and uncle, Joel and Arthur, were both involved.
CONNELLY: That's right, I believe so, I'm sure his father was one of
the first presidents, if not the first president of the NAACP.
HESS: He was called back during the '48 campaign, isn't that correct?
CONNELLY: Well, he would have been called back by Clark Clifford. He
probably worked on speeches.
HESS: Did he go on any of the campaign trips?
CONNELLY: He may have, as an assistant to Clark Clifford.
HESS: Do you recall him being present on the
CONNELLY: Offhand, I don't. He may have been, but off hand I don't know.
HESS: And then he left in October of 1950 to go to the Federal Trade
Commission. Do you know why he made that switch from the White House to
the Federal Trade Commission?
CONNELLY: I believe that would have been at the recommendation of Clark
Clifford. I was never very close to Spingarn because he reported directly
to Clifford and I had very little contact with him.
HESS: David Lloyd.
CONNELLY: David Lloyd came in principally as a speech writer, and I believe
he was recommended by Clifford. But I know he reported directly to Clifford.
HESS: He came to the White House staff shortly after the 1948 campaign.
He had been a member of the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee.
CONNELLY: That may well be. I don't recall. I never knew him until he
arrived at the White House.
HESS: Did he make an effective speech writer?
CONNELLY: He was very good as a speech writer, and also he was pretty
alert as a researcher. He worked very hard in setting up the foundation
of the Truman Library. And later, I believe, he became the Executive Director
of the Truman Library Corporation.
HESS: The corporation that was set up to build the building. David Bell?
CONNELLY: David Bell, I don't recall, but he was
discovered by Clifford--I'm
not sure--I think he was at the Budget Bureau.
HESS: He was brought over as an executive assistant at the White House
both in '47 and in '49, and was brought over from the Bureau of the Budget
during that time.
CONNELLY: That's right. I believe he was at the Bureau of the Budget--he'd
worked principally with Clifford or Charlie Murphy, but I know he worked
with the Counsel to the President.
HESS: Then he was administrative assistant on his own from December of
'51 until the end of the administration.
CONNELLY: That came about because his work had been admired by the President
during the time he had been assigned to the White House.
HESS: Was he an effective speech writer?
CONNELLY: He was an effective speech writer, and also a very brilliant boy.
HESS: Do you recall anything that he may have had a hand in that we haven't mentioned?
CONNELLY: No, no, your best information on that would have to come from
Charlie Murphy or Clark Clifford.
HESS: And the next name on the list is Clayton Fritchey.
CONNELLY: Clayton Fritchey was an old newspaperman and we thought he
might be helpful in connection with the campaign.
HESS: He was brought in in June of '52 and left in December.
CONNELLY: He was more or less a liaison man for the press between the
national committee and the White House.
HESS: And then I have a few people that I believe were on Dr. Steelman's
staff, Dr. John R. Steelman. And he had two titles, at two
as I understand. He was first Special Assistant to the President, from
December of '45 until December of '46, and then he was The Assistant to
the President. The first question is what had been his background and
how did he come to be a member of the White House staff? The second question
is why was he given the title The Assistant to the President?
CONNELLY: His background is that he had formerly been Director of Conciliation
in the Labor Department under Roosevelt. He was considered to be very
able and knowledgeable about labor matters, and I believe somebody talked
the President into bringing him in, because in those days after the war
there was considerable labor difficulty. And he came in as an adviser
to the President to give advice on labor matters. Now, I frankly didn't
react too well to it
because I tried to convince the President that he
would be overriding his own Secretary of Labor with that relationship.
But he thought about it and decided to do it anyway. So then he became
really the labor boy after that. And that was his principal function.
HESS: Did he do a very good job in that?
CONNELLY: He was very effective. He was very effective.
HESS: Did it create any problems between the White House and the Labor Department?
CONNELLY: Naturally, there was a little resentment initially, but it
was worked in such a way that the Labor Secretary was convinced that this
would be helpful to him.
HESS: How did he obtain the title "The Assistant to the President?"
CONNELLY: I'm not certain of this because it's merely hearsay with me,
but I believe he had a conversation with the President and convinced him
that in the interest of prestige that he would like to have that title.
Beyond that I don't know.
HESS: How did he get along with the people who held the job Special Counsel,
Clifford and Murphy?
CONNELLY: Well, I would say all right.
HESS: No particular enmity?
CONNELLY: No, not that I can recall because the President wouldn't stand
for it from the beginning, because he wanted each man to run his own show,
and he did not want any interference between them. If there was a question
of jurisdiction, he would decide, because he wanted a ball team.
HESS: Did any problems like that ever arise, things
CONNELLY: Minor ones, but they never got out of hand. The President would
never allow them to get out of hand.
HESS: I will just name a couple of the people who worked for him, there
were quite a few. Russell P. Andrews?
CONNELLY: He worked for Steelman. I don't know much about him.
HESS: William Bray.
CONNELLY: Bill Bray used to be secretary to Jim Farley when he was Postmaster
General and Bill Bray needed a job and he had done some favors for Truman
when he was Senator--through Farley, of course--as a result of that, I
talked to Truman and told him Bill Bray was not doing very well and he had
a political background and could be helpful to us and he put him on
the staff. I believe he worked under Steelman.
HESS: Did he go on the campaign trip in 1948?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, he came on as sort of an assistant to me. He would
greet the local politicians, because most of them knew him, having been
with Farley. He was very helpful in that vein, as he was in Michigan,
there was a state delegation that would ride from Detroit to the next
town where they were from, that sort of thing. He would greet them first
and make the arrangements to bring them in to meet the President on their
way off the train. We'd have them in one car and bring them through the
President's car and they would be able to get off at their own home stations
so the local people could say that they had seen the President, and they
got a handshake
with the President on the way out. They filed through
the door just like a receiving line so they could say that they saw the
President and had shaken hands with him and the local people could see
them off at the back end of the train.
HESS: Some people were picked up at one stop and were carried to the next stop.
CONNELLY: That's right, so they could say they rode on the President's train.
HESS: Those were the dignitaries of a little higher stature, the ones
that got to ride from one stop to the next, is that right?
CONNELLY: Well, they were picked by the local committees.
HESS: By the local committees?
CONNELLY: In the states--state committees. The
key figures in the party
in say a town like Lansing, well, they get off and they would say they
were on the President's train and people would say, "That's right. I saw
him getting off." It was just a political gimmick.
HESS: Who picked the people who do not get to ride from one station to
another, but just come in and walk through the car and then get off?
CONNELLY: The local committee.
HESS: The local committee picks both groups of people.
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: Was Mr. Bray on the campaign train in '52?
CONNELLY: I believe so.
HESS: The same job?
HESS: Well, there are several others here, James Fitzgerald, does that
ring a bell?
CONNELLY: He worked for Steelman.
HESS: Charles Jackson.
HESS: Dallas Halverstadt.
CONNELLY: I believe that was for Steelman, too.
HESS: These are all men who worked for Mr. Steelman, I won't read the whole list.
All right, here's a few people who held jobs as special assistant to
the President for various assignments. I won't read them all. How about
Edwin A. Locke, Jr.? Now, we mentioned him Tuesday, when we were discussing
the Truman Committee. Mr. Truman used him several times as his personal
representative of the President for China in 1945 as special assistant
to the President in 1946 and '47. Was there any discussion at any time
of bringing Mr. Locke in as a permanent member of the White House staff?
CONNELLY: I believe the President offered Mr. Locke that opportunity,
but he was doing well in outside business, as a matter of fact, I believe
he's now vice president of a bank here in New York. I believe Chase. But
he never wanted to get involved on a permanent basis. He was brought in
on special assignments, which he conducted very well, too.
HESS: Kenneth Hechler was special assistant to the President from '49
to the end of the administration. What was his background?
CONNELLY: Largely labor problems. He later became
representative in Congress
from West Virginia, but he reported sort of jointly, I believe, to Steelman
and Charlie Murphy.
HESS: Was he an effective employee?
CONNELLY: He was a very able fellow, yes.
HESS: Richard Neustadt was special assistant from 1950 until the end
of the administration.
CONNELLY: That's right. He was one of the top speech writers for the President.
He later became a professor, I believe, at Harvard.
HESS: There were some men that had the title of legislative assistants
that served on the White House staff, and they were brought in in 1949.
That brings up several different subjects, as well as just these men,
it brings up the general subject of congressional liaison. Joseph Feeney
and Charles Maylon
were brought into the White House staff in 1949 with
the definite title: Legislative Assistant to the President, but there
had been no one on the staff with that title until this time. How was
the business of legislative liaison handled before these men were brought in?
CONNELLY: Partly by me.
HESS: Could you give me an illustration of how that was done?
CONNELLY: Well, of course, every Congressman and every Senator wants
to talk to the President and if that happened there wouldn't be room for
anybody else, so it had to be done on a lower level. If they had a local
problem in their own state and wanted to call it to the attention of the
President, or they had some bill that they were interested in that
may have sponsored, or we may have had some bills that we wanted to get
down on the Hill, and to inform the right sources they could be done either
of two ways: Either at the meeting in what we called the "Big Four" with
the President, the leaders of the House and the Senate; at the lower level
I would handle it myself. Then it got to be too much because I had too
much to do, so I hired Feeney for the Senate because he had been liaison
man in the Senate for several years for the Navy, and Maylon had been
liaison man for the Air Force. So they both knew the Hill and the members
on the Hill because of previous favors they had done for Senators and
HESS: Did you pick these two men?
CONNELLY: I picked them, with the approval of the President, of course.
So they used to do the
leg work for me on the Hill which I formerly had
to do on my own, which I didn't have time for.
HESS: Now the "Big Four" meeting usually was on Monday morning, is that correct?
CONNELLY: Usually, yes.
HESS: Did they really discuss business--matters of congressional liaison
business during those meetings?
CONNELLY: Oh, always. That's what the meetings were for.
HESS: I have been told that it was sort of a social get-together.
CONNELLY: Oh, no, definitely not. No, they were there to do business.
HESS: Now, during the first administration this
was Barkley from '45
to '46--Senator Barkley, Sam Rayburn and Scott Lucas?
CONNELLY: Scott Lucas, I believe, was Senate whip at that time.
HESS: And who was the fourth man?
CONNELLY: And after Lucas was McFarland. He succeeded Barkley as majority
leader. From the House was Rayburn and McCormack.
HESS: Would the President conduct some of this liaison himself? If he
wanted to take something up with someone in the House, would he phone Sam Rayburn?
CONNELLY: Oh, surely.
HESS: Was Sam Rayburn the main point of contact in the House?
CONNELLY: He was the Speaker. McCormack was
HESS: But Mr. Rayburn was an exceptionally strong leader.
CONNELLY: Oh, definitely.
HESS: Whereas, in some administrations or under some speakers it might
have been all right to phone someone else on the Hill, but for Mr. Rayburn
wasn't it usually the accepted practice to centralize your phone calls
and phone him when you wanted something, is that right?
CONNELLY: That's correct. The President always believed in working with
the leader. Unless there was some particular Senator in charge of some
committee he wanted to get a message to where the bill was in that committee
and he wanted his views known to that chairman of that committee.
HESS: On the Senate side, was Leslie Biffle very influential?
CONNELLY: Very influential. He was secretary of the Senate and he'd been
there for a long time and he was respected by the members of the Senate.
HESS: Would the President ever phone him to try to implement legislation?
CONNELLY: Yes, he did. If he didn't, I would. As a matter of fact, we
had a direct line from his office to the President's office.
HESS: From Leslie Biffle's office?
CONNELLY: Yes. Leslie used to have about three phones in his office and
the White House phone was designated by a red, white and blue ribbon he
had wrapped around the telephone.
HESS: Now the meetings for the "Big Four" continued
on in the second
administration did they not?
HESS: So actually Feeney and Maylon were largely leg men, is that right?
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: Head counters more or less.
CONNELLY: Yes. They reported directly to me.
HESS: And then in 1951 John A. Carroll was also brought in, is that correct?
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: Was he brought in to take over from one of the men?
CONNELLY: No, no, he operated in different channels doing the same thing.
He had been in the Senate, as you know.
HESS: From Colorado.
CONNELLY: That's right. And then he was defeated, and the President liked
him and he needed something to do, so he would visit different Senators
he knew on a very close basis. He used his influence to get what the President wanted.
HESS: He was used in a little different manner?
CONNELLY: That’s right.
HESS: One list that I have found--I do not have it with me today--listed
as being an employee in your office or under your supervision was Franklin
N. Parks, one of the old Truman Committee men.
CONNELLY: Well, Franklin Parks I called in on a special assignment with
HESS: What was that assignment?
CONNELLY: They were brought in to prepare a case for General Vaughan
when he was appearing before a congressional committee, and they came
in at my request to work with Max Lowenthal in setting up testimony for
General Vaughan to give before the committee.
HESS: What was that particular testimony on?
CONNELLY: Oh, I forget now explicitly, but they were doing a little smear
job on the General. They brought up the old "deep freeze" situation where
Vaughan had arranged to get some deep freeze units for members of the
White House staff and other people in the official family.
HESS: Were there any other times when Parks and Maletz were used during
the days of the Truman administration?
CONNELLY: No, not that I know of.
HESS: The Military and Naval personnel: The Chief of Staff to the President
was Fleet Admiral William B. Leahy. He was there from April 12, '45 until
March, '48. What kind of a man was Admiral Leahy?
CONNELLY: Admiral Leahy was a very capable naval officer. He was also
a very intelligent fellow and he had been there under Roosevelt as a sort
of a White House contact with the Navy Department, in fact all the military,
and the White House. And he had two offices, one in the White House and
one in the Pentagon. He would report every morning to the President on
military and military secret problems, which I had nothing to do with
and wanted nothing to do with because if there was any leak, I would not
have a finger point to me. So all top secret information regarding military
matters was brought to the President every
morning after the staff meeting
by Admiral Leahy and usually the Naval Aide accompanied him.
HESS: For the Naval Aides, Vice Admiral Wilson Brown stayed around for
just about a month after April the 12th.
CONNELLY: Yes, he was a holdover from the Roosevelt days.
HESS: And then the first Naval Aide was Commodore Vardaman whom we have mentioned.
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: He was brought in on May 4, 1945. And Rear Admiral James A. Foskett?
CONNELLY: He succeeded Vardaman. He was recommended by the Navy Department
to succeed Vardaman when Vardaman was moved up to the Federal Reserve Bank.
HESS: Why was Mr. Vardaman moved up to the bank?
CONNELLY: Well, it was a fourteen year appointment. The President thought
that Mr. Vardaman had been a little cause of annoyance while around the
White House and getting into things that didn't belong to him or shouldn't
have, so it was suggested by the President that Mr. Vardaman take this
job at the Federal Reserve Bank and he could put his feet up on the desk
for fourteen years, and that if he kept his mouth shut he would get along all right.
HESS: And Rear Admiral Robert L. Dennison came in in January of '45 and
stayed until the end of the administration.
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: What kind of a man was Admiral Dennison?
CONNELLY: When we first met Admiral Dennison,
he was the captain of the
Missouri when we made a trip to Rio. On the way back Admiral Foskett
fell out of favor with the President because he wouldn't tend to his own
chores, he was a little too impressed with sightseeing. So he told me
he had to get a new Naval Aide. I called John Sullivan who was then Secretary
of the Navy and told him that I'd like to see him. He came over and I
told him the problem; so I said, "Will you go back and come up with three
recommendations and get the files for each of the ones you recommend,"
which he did. So he came back and among his recommendations were Captain
Dennison. So I said, "Well, I've got news for you, I don't think you have
to go much further." I said, "He made a very fine impression on the President
and on me on that trip back from Rio," because when we returned to Washington
from Rio on the Missouri,
Dennison was its captain.
So he said, "Well, I'll tell you, there's one thing I'd like to do."
He said, "The wife of the Naval Aide is very important, too."
I said, "That's correct."
"Suppose I set up a dinner at my house. Do you think the President and
Mrs. Truman would come out so that they could both take a look at Mrs.
Dennison?" I knew Mrs. Truman knew the Captain because she was on the
Missouri and she liked him, but they didn't know Admiral Dennison's wife.
So they had dinner at Sullivan's house, and the next morning the President
said, "We have a new Naval Aide." So Dennison came in, and Dennison stayed
on until we left. He was very capable, bright, conservative--never pushed
anything, but did a job.
He retained the respect of the President.
HESS: And Commander John Tyree, Jr. was Assistant Naval Aide to the President
for a short while.
CONNELLY: Was that under Brown?
HESS: Yes, it was and I think it continued under Truman for just a little
CONNELLY: Well, I believe he probably was there until Vardaman brought Clifford in.
HESS: And then Clark Clifford whom we have already discussed, and then
Commander William Rigdon.
CONNELLY: That's right. Ridgon had been there prior to Truman, but he
was sort of a junior officer. He never contributed anything to the policies
of the office. He more or less was the office manager for Admiral Leahy
and for the Naval Aide.
HESS: Was he also in charge of Shangri-La at
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: Was he in charge of the Williamsburg?
CONNELLY: Well, of course, the Naval Aide was really in charge, but Rigdon
did the work.
HESS: Did he do a fairly effective job?
CONNELLY: Well, he was very effective. He did very conscientious work.
HESS: And the Air Aide was Major General Robert B. Landry from 1948 to '53.
CONNELLY: He was recommended by the Air Force. The President decided
we should have a third aide, so Landry was recommended to the President
by the Air Force and he became Air Force Aide. That caused a little consternation.
HESS: In what way?
CONNELLY: Well, I recall that very well. I went out to lunch one day
after Landry had arrived. When I got back--we used to have a receptionist
in the White House lobby named Bill Simmons--when I got back from lunch,
he said, "Mr. Secretary, would you go in and see Secretary Ross? The poor
man has not been out for lunch."
I said, "What's the matter with him?"
"Well, you'd better see him. General Vaughan had a press conference."
And I said, "O.K." So I went in and Charlie Ross was at his desk, his
head in his hands. I asked, "What's the matter?"
He said, "Oh, that damn Vaughan has done it again."
"What did he do this time?"
"Well," he said, "he met the press in the lobby today and they wanted
to know what the situation was with the new Air Force Aide.
Well, he announced
he was going to be senior aide and the other two aides would be under him."
HESS: Ross told me General Landry came in and said, "To hell with this,
I'm going back to the Air Force."
And then Captain Dennison came and said, "To hell with this, me too."
I told Ross to forget it. "I'll take care of it."
So the President came back from lunch and I informed him, "We've got
a little problem."
He said, "What is it this time?"
"Your military aide."
He said, "Oh, what in the hell did he do now?"
"Well, he had a press conference apparently and he announced he was going to be senior
aide and the other aides would be junior to him. "
He said, "He did what?"
"Look, as a favor to me could I bring Charlie Ross in and brighten him
up a little bit?"
He said, "Yes."
So with that he picked up the phone and called General Vaughan, "Harry
get over here on the double."
So Charlie came in and Truman said, "Charlie, I'll straighten this out.
Don't worry about it. I'll correct that." He said, "You go back and announce
to the press there's not going to be any difference between the aides
at the White House. Each will have their own positions and equal rank."
"Can I tell them this?"
"Of course, you can tell them this. That's the way it's going to be."
So Charlie went back through my office, and Vaughan came in and inquired,
"What does he want? What does he want?"
I said, "I don't know."
So, I escorted him into the President and left. He came out with his
tail between his legs, walked through my office without saying a word,
and went back to his office. So that was the end of the seniority of Harry
Vaughan as chief of the aides.
HESS: And General Vaughan was also coordinator of Veterans' Affairs from
July of '46 until the end of the administration. Just exactly what did
that post entail?
CONNELLY: Well, he would call the Veterans' Administration if there was
somebody who wanted a transfer or somebody wanted to be upgraded or somebody
would try to get into a veterans hospital, things of that sort.
HESS: There were a few men who served as special consultants at various
times; George E. Allen was one.
CONNELLY: That's right. George Allen was the advance man for President
Truman when he was running for Vice President and occasionally we had
had contacts with Allen. I had worked with his assistant, a fellow named
Eddie Reynolds, in writing speeches. He participated in some of the speeches
when the President was Vice President and later contributed to some of
the speeches after he became President.
HESS: Was Mr. Allen in Washington at the time Mr. Truman was sworn in
on April the 12th?
CONNELLY: I am not sure. I believe--yes, I believe he was because he
worked on the first drafts of the speech that the President had to
to Congress and the speech that he had to make to the troops overseas.
Yes, he was there.
HESS: Who else helped on that particular speech?
CONNELLY: Allen and Eddie Reynolds, Hugh Fulton originally came in and
he wanted to take over the speech which didn't go over very well with
the rest of the boys. I expect toward the latter part, John Snyder may
have been there. He was in Mexico when President Roosevelt died. He and
Senator Symington may have been in on part of it. I believe Sam Rosenman
was in on part of it.
HESS: The first official duty I have for George Allen was Personal Representative
for the President for the Liquidation of War Agencies, and the starting
date on that is August 30, 1945, and that ran until January
of '46, about
six months, but was Mr. Allen at the White House between April and August?
CONNELLY: Yes, he spent part of that time on a study of the possible
reorganization of the White House setup, and he was accompanied by two
boys who were in the service. One was named Jim Windom, he was a commander
in the Navy and another one named Sam McIlwain, who is now a law partner
of Clark Clifford. Mr. Allen was, of course, senior, and these two other
boys worked on the possible reorganization of the staff functions at the
White House, probably streamlining them. And from that, I believe, he
later became director of the RFC.
HESS: Why was he chosen to send over to the RFC? Any particular reason?
CONNELLY: Because he had so much experience in the banking business and
insurance, and he was
considered by the President to be very capable in
HESS: And John Caskie Collett was Special Consultant to the President in 1947.
CONNELLY: That's right. That was just on some special function. He was
a Federal judge in Kansas City.
HESS: There are a couple of others; Harry Hopkins, Advisor and Assistant
to the President from '41 to '45, '46 to '47. The President used him right
after he came into office.
CONNELLY: I believe so. I believe he sent he and former Ambassador Joe
Davies to Russia to make a personal report to him on what they could find
out about what was going on in Moscow.
HESS: Why was the decision made to send those men on that mission?
CONNELLY: I don't believe I know. I think it was partly on the recommendation
of the State Department because Ambassador Davies had been Ambassador
to Russia prior to that time.
HESS: And Major General Frank E. Lowe was President Truman's confidential
observer in Korea. Do you recall anything about that?
CONNELLY: No, I don't know what that meant, you'd have to ask Harry Vaughan about that.
HESS: Now that, of course, doesn't cover everyone who was a staff member.
A name that I skipped earlier was Ed McKim. Why was Ed McKim added to the staff?
CONNELLY: Ed McKim happened to be in Washington at the time that Roosevelt
died, and he had been a friend of Truman's. He had been in his battery
in World War I. He was a successful insurance man in Omaha, and Truman
suggested that as long as he was in town, he might just as well stick
around and give him some help. So he was appointed an administrative assistant.
HESS: Now did he have the title of Chief Administrative Assistant?
CONNELLY: Yes, he first went to the Chief Clerk at the White House and
announced that he would be Chief Administrative Assistant, for which there
was no such title.
HESS: He gave himself that title.
CONNELLY: That's correct. So the Chief Clerk called me and said, "There's
no provision for a title like that."
"Well," I said, "I knew nothing about the title. As far as I know he
was administrative assistant, period, which he did revert to."
HESS: What were his duties? What were some of the things he did?
CONNELLY: Well, he didn't have any specific duties. He initially decided
he was going to make an investigation of the White House personnel, and
without any knowledge on my part or any knowledge on the President's part
that I know of, he requested the FBI to make an investigation of all the
White House personnel. So when that information got around--I believe
the FBI did start--and one of the staff who had been with Roosevelt came
to me and said, "They are beginning to grumble."
I said, "What's the matter? My job is to try to keep harmony between
our people and the old crowd until we find out where we're at."
He said, "People around here are beginning
to ask who came in here, Truman or Dewey."
I said, "Where did that come from?"
"From your friend Mr. McKim."
I said, "Well, I'll take care of it."
So I told the President about it and he said, "Well, he was a sergeant
in my battery once, I busted him and I can bust him again. That's a fine
way to make friends."
So to make it look good, he transferred him to another department and
later he faded out and went back to his own business.
HESS: Yes, he left in June of 1945.
This pretty well finishes the things that I have on the staff. Have
we left anyone out?
CONNELLY: Not that I can think of offhand. I think we've got it pretty
HESS: What about anyone that may have worked in
CONNELLY: Well, my senior girl was a girl named Roberta Barrows, and
when I first arrived at the White House, Steve Early introduced me to
her. She had been previously secretary to General [Edwin M.] Watson, who
was my predecessor with Roosevelt, and prior to that with Marvin McIntyre,
who was also a secretary of Roosevelt's, and she had been in the White
House since the time of Herbert Hoover.. So Steve Early brought me in
and introduced me to her and he suggested to me that if I had any sense,
I would keep her on that desk because she knew the ropes. So I said, "Well,
Steve, you should know."
He said, "Well one assurance I can give you beyond the fact that she's
the right girl for the job, she’ll be as loyal to you as she would be
to anybody else she has worked for."
I said, "Well, that's good enough for me."
So, I went out and I asked her if she'd like to have the job and she agreed. I said,
"I think you and I will get along well." She stayed with
me until I left, but she knew every point in Government. She was a complete
help to me, I frankly would have been lost without her there in the beginning
and she made a great contribution not only to me personally but to the
President himself. There wasn't any member of that White House staff that
I: know of who didn't have the highest regard and respect for her. As
a matter of fact, the staff was talking about her on one of our trips
to Key West about the way she handled the telephone and the President
was very much interested. So we came back and one day she was busy on
the phone and she was looking out the window alongside her desk, and the
President came out quietly and sat on the edge of my desk and just listened,
when she turned around and was very much flustered with him being there without her
knowing it. She popped to her feet automatically. He said,
"Now, sit down, young lady, I've heard about you and I came out here to
learn," which, of course, pleased her. But he found out what the boys
were talking about, and she made an amazing contribution to our effort.
I know that neither he nor I will ever forget it.
HESS: How were relations between the members of the White House staff?
Were there any conflicts that aren't generally known?
CONNELLY: No, because, as I said before, if any conflicts developed,
the President would take care of them automatically. He wanted no part
of that. He wanted a family.
HESS: On the subject of the President's staff meetings, or the staff
meetings of the White House staff, how did the President run those
CONNELLY: He had a staff meeting every morning. Originally he had them
at 9 and then later he put them off until 10, but at the staff meetings
the same personnel were there at each meeting.
HESS: Who attended?
CONNELLY: They were attended by the three secretaries: Ross, Hassett
and myself. They were attended by Steelman, and it varied in administrative
assistants depending on what subject was coming up, sometimes there'd
be three there or sometimes five, and also included, of course, was the
counsel, but the regular members were the secretaries, counsel, Military
Aide, Naval Aide, Air Force Aide and then additional administrative assistants,
sometimes the pattern would vary.
You probably want to know how they were
conducted. It was done the same
way every morning. Each member of the staff had a location around the
desk. It started first with Bill Hassett who was on Truman's left hand,
then it would go around in a semi circle. He would go around, Hassett
first; then it would be Clifford or Murphy, counsel; then it would be
one of the administrative assistants; then Dr. Steelman and then the other
administrative assistants would sit on the side. It was done that way,
and each one would bring up the problems of his own department, and if
there were any discussions, it was discussed openly with the whole group.
If there were any differences of opinion, we would bring it up then and
settle it. The President made that clear. That's the way he operated.
HESS: Did the President usually like to have a
solution presented at
the same time that a problem was brought up?
CONNELLY: You would make recommendations, but he would decide pro or con.
HESS: Was there a time in 1946 when it was thought that perhaps staff
meetings ought to be discontinued because of the "Kitchen Cabinet" objections
that were being raised in the press? Do you recall anything about that?
CONNELLY: I don't recall. It may have happened because the press always
has to have something to shoot at.
HESS: In the New York Times I found indications that that may
have been discussed.
CONNELLY: It may have been discussed but if it was discussed, it was
of short tenure. But it wasn't discussed by the President or members
of the staff.
HESS: Did you attend the President's pre-press conferences that were
held on Thursday before the press conferences?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes.
HESS: How were those conducted?
CONNELLY: Charlie Ross or Joe Short, whoever happened to be Press Secretary
at the time, would come in with a list of suggested questions that might
be asked at the conference and then we would hash out what reply should
be made to it, and the President would make the final decision on what
the answer to that particular question, if it came up, would be.
HESS: Who else would attend those meetings?
CONNELLY: Well, there would be the Press Secretary,
myself and, I think, maybe once in a while if some particular problem
might be coming up, one of the administrative assistants or two, and the
Naval Aide and the Military Aide and the Air Force Aide.
HESS: The press conferences were held in Mr. Truman's office until April
27, 1950 when they were moved from the President's office over to the
Indian Treaty Room.
CONNELLY: That's correct. In the old State Department building. It was
right across the street.
HESS: Did you stay in Mr. Truman's office when the press would come in
when it was held in his oval room?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes. All the key members of the
staff would be there.
HESS: And did you make the trip over to the Old State, War and Navy Building?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, always.
HESS: Do you recall anything of interest that might have come up at any
of the press conferences?
CONNELLY: Offhand--I know there are a lot of things that came up there
but I'd have to check the transcripts to really evaluate what I consider
to be something of magnitude.
HESS: A little while ago we were discussing Mr. Truman's speaking style.
How did he develop his extemporaneous speaking style? Some people say
that it showed great improvement during the trip that was taken in June
of 1948, would you agree with that?
CONNELLY: I would say definitely. He was not a natural public speaker
and did not like to make speeches. As a matter of fact, I believe that
in the Senate I doubt if he made more than a half a dozen speeches all
the time that he was in the Senate. He was not known as a speaker, and,
as a matter of fact, in my first association with him he was pretty terrible.
He was much more effective when he could talk off-the-cuff,--in other
words, extemporaneously, but reading from a prepared text, he always lost
something. He could not get it across from a prepared text where if he
went off-the-cuff and he was sure of his grounds, he could be very effective
and also very dramatic.
HESS: Why did the President decide to take that trip in June of 1948?
CONNELLY: That so-called nonpolitical trip?
HESS: That so-called nonpolitical trip.
CONNELLY: That was a good name for it, but actually, he had to get well-known
around the country, and that was a prelude to the campaign.
HESS: Whose idea was it to take that trip?
CONNELLY: I believe the idea originally came from the national committee.
This I'm not sure of because it was sort of thrown together in those days
and everybody had a hand in it.
HESS: Did you go along on that trip?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes.
HESS: What do you recall about the trip?
CONNELLY: What I recall mostly is it was a back-breaker. He made so many
stops, he covered so much territory and, as you know, he is an early riser
and he would be up at 5 o'clock
in the morning. If we were at a station
somewhere, he would be out on the back platform talking to the railroad
workers. He had the advantage of getting to bed early whereas I would
have a little problem of arranging the next day's events. I would be up
until 2 or 3 in the morning.
HESS: What were your duties on that trip?
CONNELLY: Coordinating with the advance people on the trip mostly or
greeting people that came in and we shook hands.
HESS: Who were the advance people on the trip?
CONNELLY: On that early one I'm not sure. I think Oscar Chapman did some
advance. He had contacts through the National Committee on who we should
expect to see in different states--the National Committee did a lot of
it. I believe Don Dawson did some advance work on that trip.
HESS: How does an advance man go about his business? What are the tasks?
CONNELLY: Well, he goes into a town ahead of the President and sets up
the arrangements--where the meeting will be held, how it will be held,
who will be there, who will introduce the President, who will be the people
on the platform with the President, where the location will be, what time
it will be, what broadcast facilities there will be, and coordinate all
the activities in advance of the President coming into town. The Secret
Service would also have to go ahead and make the security arrangements.
HESS: In Omaha that year they had a rather sparse crowd show up at the
meeting. What went wrong that time?
CONNELLY: Well, the thing that was very bad--we
left that pretty much
in the hands of Ed McKim who had just retired to Omaha to the insurance
business, but without knowledge or without experience the thing turned
out to be pretty much of a fiasco. We had the biggest hall in town and
it was almost a death knell for the campaign but fortunately we were able
to pull out of it. It was so widely publicized that it was a flop and
that there was no public interest, and following on what was happening
before the convention, it indicated that the president was not getting
anywhere, and the people wanted no part of it, and they wouldn't even
turn out to see him. So that was a great handicap but that was because
of local arrangements.
HESS: When the president passed through Carey, Idaho and dedicated the
airfield to the wrong person, do you recall anything in particular
CONNELLY: Yes, somebody gave Charlie Ross the wrong information on the
thing. The President left the hotel and we followed him out, I knew where
we were supposed to go but by that time the cavalcade had stopped and
the President was greeting, I believe, a private flyer or some woman,
I don't know. I didn't participate in it because it was just for a few
minutes and then it was time to pick up again. I didn't even know what
happened until we got to the next stop. It was wrong information given
to Charlie Ross,
HESS: Who wrote the speeches on that trip?
CONNELLY: That was organized by, I believe, Clifford who was then counsel.
I know he was. And Clark had a group picked from the staff, some of the
boys we had mentioned earlier, I believe,
as speech writers, David Lloyd,
Charlie Murphy. Some of these speeches referred to one phase of an operation,
say it was foreign affairs, we would get suggestions from the State Department
which would be forwarded to Clifford or Murphy who would incorporate the
ideas in the speech in the President's own way.
HESS: I believe at a luncheon that was held in Berkeley the President
was introduced by Dr. [Robert G.] Sproul who was in charge of the University
of California. Were you there at that time?
CONNELLY: Yes, I was.
HESS: As I recall, the introduction that he obtained from Dr. Sproul
was none too complimentary, is that right?
CONNELLY: That's correct. That was arranged by Ed Pauley who was on the
Board of Regents of the
University of California, so that's how that appearance came about.
HESS: Continuing on with information relative to the very eventful year
of 1948, what can you tell me about the background and the operations
of the Democratic Policy Committee in 1948?
CONNELLY: Do you recall who was on that so-called Policy Committee?
HESS: I believe Oscar Ewing was on that.
CONNELLY: I recall the group, Oscar Ewing, Leon Keyserling and I forget--I
think I went to two of their meetings.
HESS: Where were they held?
CONNELLY: In a suite at the Carlton Hotel. As a matter of fact, they
were just thinking and accomplishing nothing, so I didn't return to the
HESS: What were they trying to accomplish?
CONNELLY: Trying to develop a policy for the campaign, but my interest
was not so much in the strategy of perfecting a policy as in the strategy
of political practicality, that's what my field was, so I left it largely
to the eggheads.
HESS: Do you recall who else was on that committee?
CONNELLY: Well, there are two that I do recall. I only went to two meetings.
They were small. There were no more than four or five people there. Those
two I remember. Oscar Ewing established himself as head of this so-called
HESS: Was he a very good political adviser?
CONNELLY: Offhand I would say no.
CONNELLY: I don't think Oscar had ever been in a precinct in his life,
so he was trying to dictate policies from the top. I would much rather
get the opinions of the state chairman or a local committeeman than I
would the boys around Washington who were dreaming up policy.
HESS: On February the second of that year was when Mr. Truman sent his
ten points message to Congress on civil rights.
CONNELLY: Well, that was part of his inauguration speech. That was incorporated
in the message to Congress. That was largely drafted by Clark Clifford
and the boys in his group.
HESS: And in the October previous to that, the President's Committee
on Civil Rights came out with their report
To Secure These Rights,
and then the rather strong ten points message. Did the people in the White
House think such a
strong stand on civil rights might offend the Southern
States and cause a bold of the Southern States as actually happened during
CONNELLY: Oh, sure, that was a calculated risk. But the major point of
the thing was he had to make that statement in the interest of civil rights,
that these people should be entitled to franchise which they were being
denied, particularly in the south. That was a calculated risk.
HESS: Do you recall the president making any comments along these lines?
CONNELLY: Oh, he was for the program as he outlined it, and it knew that
he would get--having been partially southern himself--he knew what the
reaction would be in the south. It wasn't any secret to him that it came
HESS: Well, during the convention itself there were
two civil rights
planks that came into being. One was the so-called regular civil rights
plank and then the second one was the Humphrey-Biemiller plank that was
finally passed and put into the platform.
CONNELLY: That's correct, and that's what caused the setting up of the
HESS: Which of those planks did the President support? Didn't he support
the regular plank?
CONNELLY: Initially, because, I believe, the Humphrey proposals didn't
come up until it was brought up on the floor of the convention, but after
it was resolved by the platform committee, he stuck with the platform.
HESS: Looking back on those days of the Philadelphia convention in 1948,
what are your memories, what do you recall? Just start at the beginning.
CONNELLY: Well, in 1948 1 remained, naturally, in Washington and some
of the Cabinet officers, some of the people from the administration were
in Philadelphia. John Snyder, I know, was in Philadelphia, and we had
the train ready to go and John Snyder was to contact me when he thought
it was a propitious moment for the President to go to Philadelphia. We
didn't want to go up there before something was pretty much wrapped up,
so I blocked out appointments the afternoon of the last day of the convention.
The President and I watched the "ball game" on television in his office
and we watched the little moves the different people on the platform were
making and what you could read behind the scenes that the average fellow
wouldn't ordinarily watch. That gave us a little guidance of what was
going on up there. We finally got a call from Snyder and set out for Philadelphia,
we arrived there the plans had been changed. They were not ready
for us. So Barkley and the President, and myself and I think there were
one or two others, sat on the balcony outside to try to get some air--he
didn't get on that night, I believe it was pretty near 3 o'clock in the
morning. We did a little staging and brought him in as his introduction
was being started so when he came in, we held him in the wings until his
introduction was over. So, of course, there were very mixed emotions in
that auditorium, but shortly after he got into his speech you could see
things beginning to change. It was a very forceful speech and he worked
from an outline not a prepared text, and he really punched those points.
He had things pretty well swayed by the time he left there, and he got
an ovation, so a couple of seasoned reporters--I remember one very well,
Earl Godwin of Washington, came up to me and
said, "I never heard a better
political speech. This should do it."
And one of the other boys who was there, I forget which one now, came
up with similar comments about the speech. But, unfortunately, we were
off the air so that three quarters of the country couldn't hear it anyway,
so that part was missed because of the manipulations in the convention
which went awry but if we had gone on earlier as we planned it, we would
have had nationwide coverage which he never did get, so it was largely
lost. But the thing that came out most people remember is that he was
going to call Congress back, they called it the "Turnip Congress."
HESS: Whose idea was that to call the Eightieth Congress back into special session?
CONNELLY: His own.
HESS: Mr. Truman's own idea.
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: Could you tell me about the developments behind that idea?
CONNELLY: The details I can't remember now because it's been so long
ago. I know it was his own idea, in fact, he was the one that brought
up the name "Turnip Congress."
HESS: How important was that, do you believe, to his eventual success in November?
CONNELLY: It made some people pretty happy that he had guts enough to
do it. It made other people unhappy who had to go back to work, particularly
the members of Congress. So I'd say it was kind of a two-way story but
it accomplished nothing, and he knew it wouldn't; but he just wanted to
make the record that he
wanted the job to get done. So that was the reason for that.
HESS: Did you feel before this time, before the convention, that there
was a possibility that the party might not renominate Mr. Truman as its
CONNELLY: Well, I know it was not only a possibility but it was a threat.
Some of the leading people in the party, as a matter of fact, sent him
a telegram suggesting he withdraw, which came to me first and which I
gave to him, naturally, signed by some people like James Roosevelt and
Jake Arvy, who was the leader of Chicago, Bill O'Dwyer, who was then mayor
of New York, Joseph Casey, who was a member of Congress and there were
others who were not enthusiastic about his chances of victory.
HESS: Did they mention in the telegram who they
would like to have run?
CONNELLY: Yes, they suggested he step down and nominate Eisenhower, because
they thought Eisenhower would be a winner and Truman wouldn't.
HESS: I believe the Americans for Democratic Action were even backing
CONNELLY: I believe they were, yes. All the so-called liberals were backing
Eisenhower. Whatever liberals are, I don't know.
HESS: On the subject of the vice-presidential nomination that year, who
did Mr. Truman want to run with him on the ticket? Who was his first choice?
CONNELLY: First choice for Vice President? I believe his first choice,
I may be wrong on this, was Bill Douglas, but when Barkley started running
himself with the aid of Les Biffle, he was his manager, we could see that
on the television of the convention we were watching in the office, but
as a result of that we decided Barkley would be the best.
HESS: How was Leslie Biffle managing Senator Barkley there that you could
see on television?
CONNELLY: Buttoning and buttonholing the delegates on the stage. And
then he pushed Barkley in front of the cameras. There was no question
that Biffle wanted Barkley.
HESS: After Senator Barkley was notified that he might be nominated,
he referred to himself as a "warmed-over biscuit,"
CONNELLY: That's correct because he knew he was not the first choice.
HESS: Why do you think he wanted the nomination?
CONNELLY: For President.
HESS: For President?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, Barkley wanted to run for President.
HESS: He did not necessarily want to run for Vice President?
CONNELLY: No, that was not his intent at all. He was running for President.
HESS: Did he think he could take the nomination away from Mr. Truman?
CONNELLY: Every politician thinks he can win. Mr. Truman at that time
was at a pretty low ebb in popular opinion.
HESS: So his goal wasn't Vice President?
CONNELLY: Oh, definitely not, no. He was running for President. So was Claude Pepper.
HESS: Anyone else?
CONNELLY: I don't believe there were many at that convention who were not.
HESS: Well, moving through the convention and the nomination of Mr. Truman
and Mr. Barkley, anything else come to your mind before we reach the days
of the campaign?
CONNELLY: Well, between the convention and the start of the campaign
which officially began on Labor Day, I was not only kind of busy with
my own job but working with members of the National Committee to get the
show on the road, work on the itinerary, line up the people who we'd have
to meet in different states, who were the important ones and who were
not, and labor leaders and that kind of thing, all those things have to be done.
HESS: How is an itinerary worked out?
CONNELLY: It's worked out--now we'll say where is the key place to start?
Well, usually Democratic Presidents start Labor Day in Detroit, that's
the bid for the labor vote because the labor vote was usually Democratic
so that was the big thing, the President's big labor event.
HESS: Cadillac Square, usually.
CONNELLY: Yes. From there on it would go on usually out to the northwest.
Other times it would verge. It would start through the southwest and move
up the west coast and back east through the northwest and then the midlands
in Chicago, make special dates for a state like Iowa, they have a big
farm festival where they'd have about 300,000 people.
HESS: The National Plowing Contest.
CONNELLY: The National Plowing Contest. So that was probably the biggest
crowd we had in the
campaign. I believe we must have had over 300,000
at that plowing contest. They came in from all over the Midwest. Planes,
a lot of the farmers had their own planes and, of course, it was pretty
tough to figure out how these farmers could be so broke when they could
own airplanes, but that's part of the game. But it depends on what were
the key spots at the right time, if you can figure it out.
HESS: Do you recall the impression that the President may have made on
those farmers in Iowa that year? Was it favorable?
CONNELLY: It was favorable because he was one of their own. And when
they had that boner of the picture taken with Dewey and Warren standing
up against the farm gate which was upside down on the front cover of,
I believe, Newsweek. They showed the gate upside down and then every
farmer would laugh, of course.
But Truman got to them because he was forthright and down to earth and
they understood his language. They liked the way he looked. "He looks
like one of us." Dewey made a big mistake in this campaign.
HESS: What was that?
CONNELLY: Following Truman, He had practically the same itinerary. He
came in a day after Truman or two days after Truman and the contrast was
still in the minds of the farmers particularly. They'd see this city slicker
and they'd still have the memory of how the President looked like them.
That made a very definite impression.
HESS: Were there any other mistakes that the Republicans pulled that year?
CONNELLY: Well, Dewey pulled that famous one on the
who backed the train up by mistake and Dewey on the back platform over
the microphone made a few unkind remarks about the engineer and that took
care of the Railroad Brotherhoods.
HESS: How much of a threat to Mr. Truman's victory did you think Henry
Wallace and the Progressive Party would be in 1948?
CONNELLY: I knew it would hurt in New York particularly because there
are so many left wingers up there. The labor boys in New York, Dubinsky,
Alex Rose and that crowd, they were all Wallace men because he was farther
to the left than Truman and they were for Wallace naturally, and he did
prevent Truman from carrying New York.
HESS: What could have been done to have prevented Wallace from cutting
out such a big block of votes and keeping the state from going
If it went Republican just because of the Wallace block of votes, what
could have been done to prevent that?
CONNELLY: Well, very little because after Wallace declared because of
the financing, because a lot of these people don't think beyond New York
and they thought they could put him over, and, of course, they had Communists
in the act, and Paul Robeson, so that group you couldn't reach anyway.
They probably would not have voted for Dewey. They would have voted for
Truman because he was the only one left. They do it on that basis. But
they still thought that Wallace was a Messiah, so what could be done about
it, 1 don't know, except money. As a matter of fact, the last week in
the campaign I arranged to pump some more money in here but it didn't
do any good. Because the contributions were very
meager in that campaign.
We'd go into a town like Chicago, we wouldn't know how to get the train
out. We didn't have the money to pay for the freight, and I would call
Washington and talk to Louie Johnson, "Come on. Let's get going here."
He'd get on the phone and try to talk up enough money to get the train
moving. That's how tight it was.
HESS: Did that happen very often?
CONNELLY: All during the campaign. People didn't think that Truman was
going to win so why back a losing horse. So that's what happened. That's
why he didn't get any money. Nobody thought he was going to win. By nobody
I mean the big contributors. And these dollar contributions in a political
campaign don't mean a thing. You spend more money servicing those contributions
than you do by collecting them because you have to pay for clerical help and
acknowledgements, and what have you got left? So we didn't do that.
HESS: There were times too when the money was running a little short
when it came time to pay for air time, is that correct?
CONNELLY: Oh, surely.
HESS: Radio more than television, at that time.
CONNELLY: Surely. I'll tell you a story about that. Now at the start
of the campaign our first appearance was to be in Detroit on Labor Day.
There was a fellow named Levinson, I believe he was state treasurer or
something with the Democratic Party up there, and he had promised to raise
money to buy coast-to-coast radio time for that Cadillac Square appearance.
So about two nights before the convention, Roy Turner, who was then Governor
of Oklahoma, was in Washington at a little
cocktail party for some of
the people from the Democratic Committee at the Statler Hotel. One of
the girls from the Committee came in with a telegram in which Mr. Levinson
said he had not been able to raise the money and therefore could not arrange
the broadcast time. She showed the thing to me and I showed it to Roy
Turner, and he said, "Well, that broadcast is going to be made. How much is it?"
I believe we needed $25,000. So he takes his check book out and he said,
"That broadcast goes on."
He handed the check to the girl from the National Committee. So that's
how that broadcast was made, otherwise it wouldn't have been. That happened
repeatedly during the campaign because all during that campaign we operated
on a shoestring. But that's a typical example of what we were running
into. The fund raising was done by Louis Johnson at the
Colonel Louis Johnson, he later became Secretary of Defense.
HESS: Did he make an effective treasurer for the Committee?
CONNELLY: Well, he was a driver. It required something like that to get
the job done. We managed to squeak through it O.K. and then the day after
the election Johnson got offers of checks from other people he had written
to during the campaign. But after Truman won, of course, many of the people
who were out to lunch came in with checks. I remember one very particularly.
A fellow named Louis Rosenthal who was a chairman of the board of Schenley
Liquor, he had made a contribution of $25,000 to Dewey, and a day after
the election he called Johnson and Johnson called me. He said, "What do
you think I should do? The election is over."
I said, "You have to pay your bills, take it. Just make a little notation."
HESS: Of when it came in.
CONNELLY: Keep it in mind that he came in the day after the election.
HESS: They had some difficulty, getting a treasurer for that campaign,
CONNELLY: Yes, they did and nobody wanted it, so I sent for some of the
leading fund raising boys of the Democratic Party, and I set up a meeting
at the White House with the President one afternoon. I brought William
Pawley who was then Ambassador to Brazil; I brought back James Bruce who
was Ambassador to the Argentine; Stanton Griffis, I believe, was Ambassador
to Spain, so we held a meeting and William Pawley suggested that he would
act as a chairman with this group and they would raise the money.
Mr. Pawley started reading the Gallup polls and a few days later he announced
he was leaving for Spain on business and he was gone for four months,
but I think he began to think that the chances for him raising the dough
were a little dim and he didn't want any part of it. You don't run a national
campaign without money, and especially since the advent of television.
HESS: I understand in the campaign that Secretary Krug was rather scarce,
is that right?
CONNELLY: Well, frankly all the Cabinet members were a little bit scarce.
Of course, the Secretary of State couldn't get involved, Secretary of
Defense couldn't get involved, so the only two really fighting--or I'd
say three fighting Cabinet members in the campaign were Maurice Tobin
who was Secretary of Labor, Charles Brannan who was Secretary of Agriculture
and Oscar Chapman, Secretary of the Interior.
But the rest of them were not very active.
HESS: What about John Snyder?
CONNELLY: John Snyder was never on the front lines. He was the "Colonel
House," he thought, of the Truman administration, so he may have raised
some money behind the scenes, but he never appeared out front.
HESS: How much of a threat did you believe that J. Strom Thurmond and
his States' Rights Party was going to be?
CONNELLY: Well, I figured with a combination of Wallace and Thurmond
in the act, it would cut pretty deeply into Mr. Truman's bid, but it was
very doubtful to me after the civil rights position that the President
took that we would carry a solid south. Those "red necks" down there would
never go for anything that even
had the smell of civil rights. They'd rather stay home.
HESS: During the campaign did you have anything to do with the Research
Division of the Democratic National Committee--William Batt, Jr., Johannes
Hoeber, Kenneth Birkhead, Frank Kelly?
CONNELLY: I had contact with all of them. When they formulated something,
it was channeled through Bill Boyle or the chairman and then to me.
HESS: I understand that they were set up as an arm of the Democratic
National Committee but their main job was speech writing for the campaign,
is that correct?
CONNELLY: That's correct. Not only for the President but for the speakers
during the campaign throughout the country. All that
speech material was
cleared through Clark Clifford.
HESS: In Out of the Jaws of Victory, Jules Abels said in telling
about the differences between the Dewey and Truman campaign trains, "There
was a good deal of obtuseness in dealing with local politicians, who never
got the red-carpet treatment from Dewey's aide, Paul Lockwood, that they
got from Truman's aide, Matt Connelly."
CONNELLY: I believe that is correct. You see I know Paul Lockwood, as
a matter of fact, I think he was probably the most affable, friendly fellow
that Dewey had around him, but Paul Lockwood never had any experience
in national politics. Paul Lockwood was the assistant district attorney
when Dewey was a crime buster here in New York City, and then he became
his secretary when he became Governor, but Paul never had
the front line
political experience. He was a very able fellow, but he didn't know the
dirt farmers, let's put it that way, and they didn't know him. I had the
advantage because these people would come to Washington to see the President.
If they couldn't see him, they were in a spot when they went home. So
I would have the assignment of seeing National Committeemen, state chairmen,
sometimes a county chairman, if they were big enough, but make sure they
saw somebody, so they could go back and when people said, "Well, did you
see the President?"
"No, but I had lunch with Matt Connelly," or dinner with Matt Connelly,
or had cocktails with Matt Connelly, so they'd have something to take
home with them. As a result, these fellows got to know me better, naturally,
than they did the President, because I was the in between guy.
HESS: So when you went out in the field, you were known?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, definitely known.
HESS: What was Bill Boyle's role in the 1948 campaign?
CONNELLY: He was assistant to Bob Hannegan and he coordinated the activities
between the campaign train and the National Committee and he would forward
these things along to me on the train. We had telephone contact all the time.
HESS: There were three men that were called in to help on speeches during
the 1948 campaign. Could you tell me about those three men, why were they
brought in, and what did they do; David Noyes, Albert Carr and John Franklin Carter?
CONNELLY: Well, frankly they did very little.
We brought them in for fresh ideas and fresh blood and probably have
some concept of what the people expected to hear out in the country that
the people who were in our group wouldn't know. But their contribution,
I think, was very small.
HESS: Who brought them in?
CONNELLY: I suggested Noyes to Bill Hillman originally and Noyes had
been in public relations and he had been in advertising. He was formerly
with Lord and Thomas Advertising, and he was considered to be a pretty
bright boy. At that time he had become personal public relations consultant
to a lot of the key figures in Hollywood like Sam Goldwyn, so I thought
he might be able to provide something fresh as an idea man. As a formal
speech writer, no.
Albert Carr was more of a draftsman for
Noyes, but they never did come
up with much that was special.
I believe Carter may have come in through the National Committee or through
somebody who got to Charlie Murphy or Clark Clifford, but how he came
into the act, I frankly don't know. It was through one of those three channels.
HESS: How did those men get along with the regular staff? Did they have
any particular conflicts with the regular members of the staff?
CONNELLY: No, I don't believe there were any particular conflicts. I
think there was a natural pride of authorship among them which is bound
to exist but it never materially developed into anything serious. There
weren't any open rows between them; there may have been differences of
opinion about the material, but beyond that I'd say, no.
HESS: What comes to mind when you think about the campaign, the trip
that you took? Anything stand out--any particular stops, any particular
speeches--the speech in Harlem for instance?
CONNELLY: Oh, the speech in Harlem came quite as a surprise to the local
boys particularly the mayor of New York, Bill O'Dwyer. Because after he
saw that turnout for the President in Harlem, he saw the light and then
he got on the bandwagon with a bang because he would never have believed
that unless he saw it himself. Then he began to realize that in this part
of the woods this fellow Truman was going over with the little people,
which he did. The great thinkers were skeptical all the way, and they
had to be shown and they were.
HESS: When the train would pull into a station, would any of the staff
members get off and mingle with the people to find out what the
man standing in the back of the crowd may be thinking, may be saying?
CONNELLY: We usually had one or two of the boys rotating around in the
crowd to see what they were thinking and what they were saying.
HESS: And would they report back?
CONNELLY: They would report back to me.
HESS: And then did you report to the President?
CONNELLY: The President or to the speech writers to give them a cue on
what they were thinking in that part of the woods. But I was on the back
platform all the time--every stop. And then if I wasn't there, I had something
else I had to do like pick up a phone call from the National Committee,
they'd have to call while we were in the station, then I'd have Bill Bray
out there and then I had David
Stowe out there. He later followed and
did some of the same things that Bill Bray did, but there was always somebody
out there to see what was going on and make a personal observation on their own.
HESS: Many of the speeches given that year, of course, were the "whistlestop"
type speeches from the back platform. How were they written?
CONNELLY: They were written on the train. We'd get material from the
National Committee on what was to be identified with this town. Did they
have a paper mill or something they were kind of proud of, and what research
would be done by the National Committee and passed along to Clifford and
his crew. And we'd go into like Haverstraw, Iowa and there'd be something
of local interest that we worked in at the beginning of the draft. Usually they
were just outlines because they used to run twelve or eighteen a
day, so you couldn't have a prepared speech at every stop. The prepared
speech was for a meeting in some town at night or at a luncheon, but the
whistlestop speeches were largely outline speeches, or off-the-cuff completely.
HESS: Were the prepared speeches, the major speeches, written on the
train or back at the White House or at the Committee?
CONNELLY: Well, it was a combination of both. They would send drafts
out from Washington, from either the National Committee or the White House,
and they would go directly to Clifford and his crew of speech writers.
Then they would take them apart or if we had time between speeches--of
course, every major prepared speech was reviewed on the train. Truman
would do the same thing; he got his staff down
and would read it and if
there was something we didn't like about it, we'd cut it or something
he didn't like about it, he’d cut it, or some insert would be made, but
that would be done on the train. Then it would be mimeographed for press
HESS: Who was helping Clifford with the speech writing on the train?
CONNELLY: Murphy, Dick Neustadt, Dave Lloyd, I think Dave Bell was on a few of them.
HESS: Was George E1sey there?
CONNELLY: George Elsey was not there. But the usual crew that worked
with Clifford would be on the train, I mean, the major ones in the group.
HESS: In October of '48 the proposition of sending Chief Justice Vinson
to Moscow was discussed.
What can you tell me about the background to
CONNELLY: That was in '48?
HESS: Yes, October of '48.
CONNELLY: I remember vaguely there was some discussion, but I can't remember
enough details to be of help to you.
HESS: Well, quoting again from Out of the Jaws of Victory, "The
idea of the Vinson mission was attributed at the time to Clark Clifford.
Clifford emphatically denies that he was the source and says that the
idea came to the President from someone in the advertising world. But
Clifford got a stream of letters denouncing him. Apparently the idea came
to Truman through his aide, Matt Connelly."
What do you think of that quote from Jules Abel's book, Out of the
Jaws of Victory?
CONNELLY: Frankly, I wouldn't presume on a mission of that kind to have
anything to do with it, because I didn't think that was my department.
I never got involved in foreign affairs.
HESS: Since your name was mentioned in the quote, I thought I'd better
read it off.
CONNELLY: Well, yes, you can be factual about that because I know that
I would never presume to make any suggestions like that to the President.
HESS: In your papers at the Library there is a portfolio containing clippings
from the Houston Chronicle with notations concerning Jesse Jones
and it is entitled, "Top Turncoat 1948." What does that bring to mind?
CONNELLY: It brings to mind that Jesse Jones joined the parade and took
a run out on Truman.
HESS: Did you keep some clippings and things of that nature?
CONNELLY: Yes, I had a clipping service of my own. It was made from local
papers largely of clippings people sent to me, and in the process of moving,
somewhere along the line the damn things got lost including my own personal
press clippings, you know, pictures and that sort of stuff that's all
that was there. It got lost in moving somewhere.
HESS: I have heard that James J. Maloney who was chief of the United
States Secret Service is supposed to have gone with Dewey on election
night in 1948, do you recall anything about that?
CONNELLY: Yes, I recall it very well. James Maloney brought the White
House cars up to New York so that after the election results came in he
would be in a position to take over the new President. So the White House
cars were not out in Independence or Kansas
City. After we came back from
the election, I found out about Mr. Maloney up in the Roosevelt Hotel
in New York and not with the President, so it didn't sit too well. So
we decided in the interest of harmony that we should replace Mr. Maloney which we did.
HESS: Who was with the President that night?
CONNELLY: Jim Rowley, Frank Barry.
HESS: He went up in Excelsior Springs on election night.
CONNELLY: And the other agent, I believe, was [Howard S.] Anderson.
HESS: Were you out in Kansas City?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes.
HESS: Did you stay at the Muehlebach that night?
HESS: What do you recall about election night?
CONNELLY: Well, Bill Boyle was out there with me and we were both on
the phones all day calling different states, talking to people on the
National Committee or state chairmen and they would report what was going
on in their bailiwick, so we worked there through--I'd say it was about--I
guess we were on the phone until 6 in the morning. I recall one very well,
we had a state chairman out in Ohio, Ray Miller, we had talked to him
earlier and we had a little coffee table for the phones that you could
sit at and phone, drink coffee and eat sandwiches. We didn't leave that
damn room. Bill Boyle found out that Ray Miller was not at the headquarters
which kind of perturbed him a little bit, so he asked them where he was
and they said, "Well, he has gone home."
So we got him on the phone at his home and told him to get the hell back
to headquarters and keep score, which he did, and then, as you know, we
eventually carried Ohio, but Ray had given up early.
HESS: Wasn't there something about some misplaced votes there for a little
while in Ohio?
CONNELLY: Oh, in every election you run into misplaced votes or padded
votes, that's part of the game. They register names on tombstones, that's
all part of the game. It works on both sides. It depends on the alacrity
of the local officials.
HESS: Did you think Mr. Truman was going to win the 1948 election?
CONNELLY: Yes, I did. I probably was one of the few who admitted it on
the staff. They'd all say, "Well, of course, we're going to win,"
as far as taking a positive view on it, for instance I think we were going
into California and Dave Noyes was on the train at that time and he came
into my room and he said, "I want to talk to you."
I said, "Sure."
He said, "Do you really think that Truman has a chance?"
I said, "What do you mean, does he have a chance? He's going to win."
He said, "Well, I wish I could agree with you."
I said, "Now you're supposed to be the smart fellow, why don't you think
he is going to win?"
"Because he won't get enough votes."
I said, "The answer is smart, but you're operating on a false premise,
he's going to get the votes, and he will, get enough to win. It’s not
going to be a landslide, don't let
me kid you for a minute, but he is going to win."
I think I'm the only one on the staff besides Truman who thought he would.
HESS: Did you ever hear Mr. Truman make any observations during the campaign,
express any feelings of confidence?
CONNELLY: Yes, he always had confidence. He always had confidence.
HESS: Was there ever a time when the confidence might have slipped a
CONNELLY: He never showed it to me. As a matter of fact, on election
night--I think you know the story about what happened to him--he went
to bed. Every once in a while he'd wake up, go out to the Secret Service
boys and say, "What's happening?" So they'd give him the latest; they
had the radio, "Oh, we're doing
all right," and, go back to bed again.
So, finally he, got up and he says, "Come on boys, let's go; we're in."
That was, I would say, about 6 in the morning. He came prancing into
the hotel. We hadn't seen him since, oh, practically all election night
and he didn't even tell me where he was going, which was smart because
the press boys had been bugging me and bugging Charlie Ross, "Where is
he, where is he?"
No one knew.
HESS: What made you think he was going to win the election? What gave
CONNELLY: I thought that by the time he got through campaigning, particularly
through the west where he was elected--the way those farmers took to him,
I knew he had them. But my first tip-off on his winning was not Cadillac
Square because that was organized,
but we rode from there up to Pontiac,
Michigan and along the highway from Detroit to Pontiac I'd see people
alongside the highway, this was not organized and there were a lot of
them out there. That's the difference. This tells me what I want to know.
Because the Detroit thing was to impress people--it was organized, they
had to be there. So that was my first tip-off.
HESS: Were there other places in the campaign where you saw evidence of this?
CONNELLY: You could see it there in the Midwest. We went out to Iowa
for that plowing contest, so I got a pretty good indication from that.
The turnout there was not for the plowing contest, it was for the President,
but all the family came along in station wagons or their private planes,
and the response he got out there was really something to hear. So I
knew where it counted, he had them.
HESS: Is there anything that stands out in your mind about the vacation
in Key West after the victory in 1948?
CONNELLY: Yes, there is one incident I am reminded about. Charlie Ross
and I stayed in Washington to organize the mail after the election, so
we went down, oh, I believe the week following the President and his family.
When we arrived at the airport, the press crew was out to the airport,
and they had an open convertible and they escorted us from the plane to
the convertible and they had a parade going through downtown. When we
got to the naval base camp, at the gate they had a colored high school
band to lead Charlie Ross and me into the naval base. So out in front
of the presidential quarters was the entire family and the staff to take
a review of Charlie Ross and I. By the time
we got inside the base they
made us get out of the car and walk at the head of the parade. So that
incident I'll never forget.
HESS: They were making you review the troops?
CONNELLY: No, the President reviewing the troops--Charlie Ross and me.
HESS: Anything else about that time down there?
CONNELLY: Yes, the President made me an offer down there.
HESS: What was that?
CONNELLY: He called me aside and he said, "I know how hard you worked
in this thing and what you've done."
I said, "Well, it was hard but it was a pleasure."
So he said, "I want to ask you something." He said, "I don't want a snap answer."
I said, "Well, ask me. I don't know how to answer until I hear the question."
So he said, "How would you like to be Postmaster General and chairman
of the National Committee?"
I said, "The answer is no."
He said, "I told you to think about it."
I said, "That's right, you did. I did think about it, and the answer
is still no."
He says, "You know what you're turning down?"
I said, "Yes."
He said, "Why? This isn't offered to many."
I said, "Yes, I know why." I said, "With you I belong at the rat hole.
So I'll stay to protect you at that rat hole, I know the deal. That's
why my answer is no."
End of discussion.
HESS: Have you ever had any regrets?
CONNELLY: No, but I did know that that's where my value to him was, to
protect him from the interlopers.
HESS: Guarding the door.
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: On the subject of Key West, in the copies that we have of William
Rigdon's logs at the Library I found that you went down there on just
about all the trips, is that correct?
CONNELLY: That's correct.
HESS: What comes to mind when you think about the trips down to Key West,
other than the one that we have mentioned?
CONNELLY: Well, they were all pretty much the same. We'd have people
come down from
Washington on special critical matters that were coming
up at that time. He would fly them down to Key West to discuss this; they'd
probably stay a couple of hours; maybe occasionally one would stay overnight,
but very rarely longer than that. So as soon as they completed what they
came to. discuss, they'd go right back to Washington. But he had a pretty
set pattern down there. He would get up in the morning and go through
the mail; then he would proceed to the beach. I managed to make it out
once or twice, but that didn't appeal to me very much, so most of the
staff would go with him and they'd play volleyball or pitch horseshoes
or something. The party would come back for lunch, we'd all have lunch,
then he would go and take an afternoon nap, and at 4 o'clock he would
convene with the crowd again, unless there was some business that he had
to do, and they had a poker table set up
permanently on the porch of the
White House down there, so the members of the staff would get involved
in a poker game, and this happened every day at 4 o'clock, they'd play
until dinner and then go back and play again. There were occasional exceptions
for a movie, and they would play probably until 11 and break it up and go to bed.
I'll never forget when Admiral Dennison arrived on the scene, and I never
played poker, I don't know the first thing about it, so Admiral Dennison,
of course, being the official host was at that poker table at every session,
which he loathed, but he came to me one day and said, "You know you're pretty smart."
I said, "What do you mean, Bob?"
He said, "You don't get in these poker games."
I said, "I don't know anything about it."
He said, "You must have seen this coming.
You're smart. You never get
into one of them."
I said, "I don't play."
He said, "You're pretty smart." He said, "I bet you play, but you knew
what was coming. Here you go out on the town at night and I'm stuck."
I said, "That's right, Robert, but you're the host," because it was a Navy base.
But that intrigued Bob, how I had enough foresight not to get involved
in the poker games because Mr. Truman loved to play poker. Not for the
sake of winning, and he established this little thing which I thought
was very good. He made it very plain he wanted no gamblers around; you
could play for fun, there's a difference, but he put a ceiling on the
pot. If anybody got a little ahead, he had a poverty pot and they'd have
to throw their excess winnings into the pot and the other fellow could
draw on the pot, but nobody ever
got hurt in the game. The game would
go on for two weeks but nobody was ever hurt. Nobody ever made a killing;
nobody ever lost his shirt.
HESS: What was the limit, do you recall?
CONNELLY: No, I don't.
HESS: How was the work of the White House office carried on when you
were down there?
CONNELLY: Well, we always had our assistant key people. It all depends
on who went on the trip. If it was a top boy, like Clifford he would have
Charlie Murphy, but there would always be somebody at home to cover home base.
HESS: Did you usually spend part of the morning working and going over
mail and things of that nature when you were at Key West?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, or taking telephone calls from
HESS: In October of 1950 President Truman took a trip to Wake Island
to see General MacArthur, what do you recall about that?
CONNELLY: Well, when that decision was made to go--frankly I do not know
who suggested it or why he accepted it, but I happened to be in New York
that weekend and I got a call from Jim Rowley of the Secret Service asking
what I knew about the trip to the Pacific, and I asked him if he was out
of his mind.
"Well," he said, "you'd better get back here, something's going on."
Well, I was closed in initially, it was very foggy in New York, and I
finally got a plane and got back to Washington in time for the staff meeting
the next morning, which was on a Monday; so the meeting was on when I
got there and I walked in. "What's this stuff about
"Oh," Truman said, "that's all arranged. I want you and Donald Dawson
to handle the advance in San Francisco. I want a TV show, and you and
Don Dawson can handle that setup when we return from Wake Island."
I said, "What's this all about?"
He said, "Well, it's all arranged, it's been announced and everything
is worked out."
So I waited for the meeting to break up, and I went back into the room
and I said, "What's this I hear about you going to see MacArthur?"
He said, "Yes, that's what the trip is about."
I said, "Could I ask you one question?"
He said, "Surely."
I said, "When does the king go to the prince? I think this operation stinks."
He said, "Never mind, never mind, the decision is made. You and Don take care of
So Don Dawson and I went to San Francisco and made arrangements, got
the Opera House, got the TV set up, so they arrived back from Wake Island
and Don and I went out to the airport to meet them, went back to the hotel
and I said, "Got the speech for television?"
So among the speech writers on that trip were Dean Rusk and David Lloyd,
I believe, were the two top writers, so I read the draft and I went in
to him and I said, "Look, I still want to know why did you go to Wake
Island--this doesn't say anything--what's your reason? I've been booming
this thing out here in San Francisco to build up an audience for you. Are
you going to give them the State Department bromide?"
He said, "Yes, this is flat."
I said, "You're damn right it's flat." I said, "For God's sake, get these
boys to put
in something you can say, something you can tell the American
people why you went there."
So he called Dean Rusk and Dave Lloyd in and said, "You have to rewrite
it. Matt doesn't like the speech. He says it's not going to explain anything
as to why the trip was made."
So they worked all night trying to rewrite the speech and it came up
a little bit better, but I'd still like to know why he went.
HESS: Did you ever hear where the idea originated?
CONNELLY: No, I've got my own suspicions, but I could never prove them.
Nobody would ever admit that he suggested it. I know pretty well who suggested
it but I don't know enough to say who it is. It was not a member of the
White House staff, I can assure you of that.
HESS: Well, we're running low on tape. Shall we knock off?
CONNELLY: All right.
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Connelly Oral History Transcripts]