Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Oral History Interview with
C. Girard Davidson

Attorney Tennessee Valley Authority, 1934-37; Bonneville Power Administration, Portland, Oregon, 1940-42, general counsel, 1943-46; consultant Office of Production Management, Washington, 1941-42; assistant general counsel, War Production Board, 1944-45; Assistant Secretary of the Interior, 1946-50; national Democratic elector, 1952; member of the Democratic National Committee from Oregon, 1956-63; chairman, National Democratic Committee on Natural Resources; chairman, Western States Democratic Conference, 1960-63; Member Oregon Educational Coordination Commission, 1972; Chairman, 1974-75; President Alaska Pacific Lumber Company, 1958-; Attorney, Portland, Oregon, 1950-.

Washington, D.C.
July 18, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Davidson Oral History Transcripts]


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

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

RESTRICTIONS
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 June, 1979
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Davidson Oral History Transcripts]



Oral History Interview with
C. Girard Davidson

Washington, D.C.
July 18, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess

 

[79]

HESS: Mr. Davidson, when we left off yesterday, we were discussing the Wardman Park group, and before we began this morning we went through a number of your scrapbooks and files looking at some items of particular interest. One of the clippings that we just looked at mentioned the Monday night meetings and listed a number of people who were present at those meetings. The first two on the list here are George Allen and Sam Rosenman. Were they ever in attendance?

DAVIDSON: No. Neither one of them ever attended one of the Monday night meetings according to my recollection, at least none that I attended. We tried to make it a point to be at all of the meetings that we possibly could, but, of course, sometimes we were out of town and they may have come to one when I was away.

 

[80]

HESS: Bill Batt, Jr. was also mentioned. Did he attend?

DAVIDSON: Well, Bill Batt was chairman of the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee, and I think on one or two occasions Bill did come to the meetings to explain the results of some of the research projects which he had carried on.

HESS: One other point of interest I found in the clipping mentioned that a bill for $150 for the food that evening was sent to the Democratic National Committee. Was that a common practice?

DAVIDSON: Well, I was under the impression that we were meeting at the behest of the Democratic National Committee to assist in Truman's '48 campaign, and therefore I was under the impression that the dinners were paid for by the Committee. I think Howard McGrath, Jack Ewing, and the others who were running the Committee, did not like the type

 

[81]

of advice that the President was getting from some of his Cabinet officers to try to outdo Dewey in being conservative, and this whole idea of giving the 70th Congress hell, I think, really came from this little Monday night group and was strongly supported by both Howard McGrath and Jack Ewing.

HESS: I found a clipping in your scrapbooks that said the idea of making the 80th Congress a political target came from you, personally, and came a year in advance of the campaign. Do you recall anything about that?

DAVIDSON: No, I really don't. I thought the 80th Congress was a good target, and one that should be attacked, but the way this got to the President, I'm sure, was from our Monday night group via Clark Clifford. I don't want to take any more credit for doing that than anybody else.

HESS: What made you think that the 80th Congress would

 

[82]

be a good target, what made it look like they were susceptible?

DAVIDSON: Because it had turned down all progressive domestic issues; it had done absolutely nothing to help the unemployment situation; it did nothing about wage and price controls, and both wages and prices were running rampant. And I think that the 80th Congress' failure to act on the President's proposal made them a natural target.

HESS: Now in the foreign field they weren't so uncooperative, as has been said. What Mr. Truman will be known for in history are the Greek-Turkish aid bill, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall plan, and those were passed by the 80th Congress. In elections, when there is no shooting going on, are domestic considerations more important than foreign considerations?

DAVIDSON: I think that's right. I think times have changed considerably from 1948 to today. Obviously,

 

[83]

today foreign policy and what's going on in Vietnam is of equal if not more importance in the forthcoming election than domestic policy, but that was not the attitude of the country back in '48.

HESS: To digress just a little bit, you mentioned that Bill Batt attended some of the meetings, and that he was head of the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee. That was set up about in June, 1948. Various people served on it: Johannes Hoeber was one, Philip Dreyer also. Was he from Oregon?

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: Did you have occasion to work with the Research Division?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I did. I used to work with them a good deal and would supply them with information in the power and the resource field, and in other fields. Bill Batt did an outstanding job as

 

[84]

chairman of that group, and he had some very bright young fellows working with him.

HESS: Dave Lloyd, also.

DAVIDSON: David Lloyd worked with Batt. You must remember, at that time, nobody expected the President to get reelected. The Democratic National Committee was broke; it did not have a large staff, and it just couldn't get its work done. These were dedicated individuals that helped a great deal. This little group o£ Bill Batt's became the forerunner of the Democratic Advisory Council, which was strongest in Paul Butler's administration of the National Committee. If you recall, Adlai Stevenson was chairman of that group, and when I was chairman of the Western States Democratic Conference I fought hard to maintain the Advisory Council in order to get research done, and this was over the objection of the people on the Hill. Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson felt that the Democrats on the

 

[85]

Hill should determine party policy, and some of us felt that this was too conservative a policy to represent the party.

HESS: Did you attend any of the Democratic Advisory Council meetings, that were held across the street in the LaSalle Building?

DAVIDSON: I was chairman of the Natural Resources Committee of the Democratic National Committee. You may remember that Mrs. Roosevelt was chairman of the Committee on Civil Rights, Dean Acheson on Foreign Policy, and I had Natural Resources. "Resources for the People", was the name of the publication which finally came out from my section and it lists the Governors, Senators, and others who were members of the committee. Rachael Carson, I remember, was a member of my committee. We had a number of sessions before we put that document together which was printed and used in the Jack Kennedy campaign.

 

[86]

HESS: After you had had your meetings and developed your material, just how did you try to put it into effect? Through the report?

DAVIDSON: Through the report "Resources for the people." Donald Balmer, a professor of political science at Lewis and Clark College, was the executive director of this committee, and he did a great deal of the writing himself. The two of us worked with the platform committee in Los Angeles when Kennedy was nominated. Our Natural Resources Committee had a great deal of input into the resources section of the platform adopted at the Los Angeles convention.

HESS: Did you know that Mr. Charles Tyroler still has that suite of offices in the LaSalle Building? He was the executive secretary of the Council.

DAVIDSON: Yes, we worked a great deal with him.

HESS: Not for the Council. He's off on other pursuits, but he's still in that suite of offices.

 

[87]

DAVIDSON: That type of work is essential if you're going to properly analyze the issues and the opposition. I've always believed in that type of staff work.

HESS: In 1948 the Research Division was used mainly as backup on speeches. Isn't that correct? Research for information...

DAVIDSON: Right.

HESS: Research for information to help write the speeches.

DAVIDSON: To help write speeches and to help dig up some of the record of the 80th Congress so that it could be attacked.

HESS: In one of the clippings I found that many of the statements on natural resources that were made by the President when he was in the western part of the United States were your ideas, or came from you. Is that correct?

 

[88]

DAVIDSON: When you say they came from me, I may have been the spokesman, because I made a lot of speeches, but I had a great staff at Interior. When Krug became Secretary and I went in as his Assistant Secretary, our philosophy was completely at variance from the way the Department of the Interior had been handled; from the way Secretary Ickes and Chapman, who had been an Assistant Secretary during that time had handled it. We believed in a more decentralized operation. When we were confirmed all the bureaus were headed up in Washington, D.C., and they had their direct channels out to the field. In the field the bureaus did not communicate with each other, and any coordination was supposed to be handled in Washington. There were no departmental programs in the natural resources field. Each bureau had its own program, and conflicts were not handled in the Department, but very often in the Congress itself.

 

[89]

We felt that there needed to be some coordination and consolidation of the various functions of the Interior Department inside the Department so that we would not have the Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, going over to the Hill objecting seriously to building a dam when the Bonneville Power Administration and the Bureau of Reclamation were over there arguing that they should build a dam. We felt that it was our responsibility since we had the duty of running these bureaus to try to get some reconciliation of those views before they got over to the Hill. This could not be done without staff help and research. As a result, very shortly after we arrived, we established what was known as a program staff. We brought in Walt [Walton] Seymour, who had been at TVA as head of the program staff, and Alfred Wolf as his deputy -- this was in the Secretary's office -- to try to help us coordinate the various bureaus.

 

[90]

We then established in each region a field committee to pull together the various bureaus of the Department so they would at least communicate and discuss their problems at one regional level. And at that time, we put a representative of the Department as head of those field committees to try to consolidate or coordinate those efforts, to try to settle many of these almost irreconcilable conflicts, before the fight came to Washington. If this was impossible, we in Washington would try to settle them before they went over to the Hill. This type of organization was met with a great deal of objection by some of the bureaus who, depending upon their political muscle, would prefer taking their own chances over on the Hill rather than having an objective analysis in the Department that would consider not only the input from the bureaus, but what seemed to be best for the country as a whole.

HESS: Did you have results along that line?

 

[91]

DAVIDSON: I think we did, but you can understand why the bureaus such as Reclamation, Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Mines, opposed us. The Bureau of Land Management was one of the worst as far as authority being centralized in Washington was concerned, but we finally got in a new director, Marion Clawson, and of course, there was considerable objection to him.

A little sidelight on that. When we came into the Department, Senator [Joseph C.] O'Mahoney, who was chairman of the Interior Committee, had one of his buddies as head of the General Land Office -- I've forgotten his name -- but Joel Wolfsohn, the assistant director, was the one that actually ran it. (We finally combined the Land Office with the Grazing Service and called it in the Bureau of Land Management.) This old man very seldom came to work. He was an alcoholic. He used to keep a bottle of liquor in his desk all the time.

HESS: For when he did come to work?

 

[92]

DAVIDSON: And he'd just sit there when he did. I was the supervisor of the Bureau of Land Management so I fired him and moved in Marion Clawson, who had been a regional director of BLM out on the West Coast. He was very aggressive, very articulate, and a good man in trying to reorganize the slow-moving operation of the Bureau of Land Management. Some say that this is where the name "red tape" came from, because all of the General Land Office files were tied up in red tape. I think I spent a year, or a year and a half, justifying my action before the Civil Service Commission for the firing of the drunk and appointing Clawson. In Government, one just can't do a thing like that. It would have been much easier to just promote him or put him up somewhere else.

HESS: To kick him upstairs.

DAVIDSON: To kick him upstairs rather than to fire him. But this was one of my experiences of

 

[93]

trying to get rid of a person and putting somebody else in the job.

HESS: Back to the Wardman Park group. Did Oscar Chapman ever attend any of the meetings?

DAVIDSON: No.

HESS: Why? The reason I mentioned that is that he is usually recognized by many historians as one of the "leading liberals" of the period. Why didn't he attend?

DAVIDSON: In the first place, I don't think he was ever invited to attend one. I'd be very interested in what Jack Ewing has to say about the subject, and why the group that was there was selected. Very few outsiders ever showed up at those meetings. They were not secret meetings, but it was a long time before anybody knew that this group met, and a much longer time before the meetings had any publicity at all. There were no leaks from these meetings.

 

[94]

HESS: Was it a conscious effort to keep the fact that the meetings were being held out of the press?

DAVIDSON: Certainly. It wasn't anybody else's business that we were meeting. It just never occurred to anybody to discuss it publicly or what we were doing. I think you know Oscar Chapman's reputation of having newspaper friends that he'd leak stories to, and this might have been a reason he was never asked.

HESS: Was there, perhaps, a view among the people who attended that too much emphasis had been made to preserve President Roosevelt's image, and that perhaps a new image, an image for Mr. Truman, needed to be brought to the fore? What I have reference to was in 1946, as you probably will recall, recorded speeches of President Roosevelt were sent around the Nation during the campaign. But was there any thought given by

 

[95]

the Wardman Park group to the necessity for creating more of a Truman image?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I think Clark Clifford felt rather strongly that the President should have a different public image created than just following the Roosevelt philosophy. He consciously made an attempt to see that this was done and, of course, he was the one closest to the President and had the most influence. All speeches, all public announcements, came through him.

HESS: I'm not sure what we covered yesterday about the political views of some of the people who were at the meetings. Take Donald Kingsley, for instance. What were his political views? And what were his contributions?

DAVIDSON: Well, Don Kingsley was a sociologist. He was very liberal in his views. He was an excellent deputy for Oscar Ewing, because their views coincided, and when Jack was not around to run

 

[96]

the Federal Security Agency, Don did.

And John Thurston was also present at the meetings. He was either Don Kingsley's assistant or next in command.

In the early days of the Federal Security Administration its direction was very definitely people oriented; they wanted to do everything they could to help the underprivileged to try to get housing, and to improve the quality of education, and to provide a decent standard of living for all. I worked hard to transfer the Bureau of Indian Affairs from Interior over to Health, Education and Welfare. I think Indians ought to be considered as people, not land or a natural resource. However, that became impossible because it so happened that Congressman [W.F.] Norrell of Arkansas, was chairman of the subcommittee for Interior appropriations, and he had an Indian reservation in his district, and any time you'd ever try to move the Bureau you'd hit a stone wall in Congress. I certainly would not have

 

[97]

been in favor of moving the Indians if I had thought that HEW was in the hands of the wrong kind of people.

HESS: Charles Brannan.

DAVIDSON: Well, Charlie was a faithful attendant at the Monday night meetings, and his forte was agriculture, but the specific specialty of an individual and the Department from which he happened to come, had nothing to do with his discussing any and all issues that came up. I guess we all assumed we were experts because in politics, everyone is expert. Out of the full discussion that occurred we usually arrived at some kind of consensus.

HESS: Just an opinion, what weight do you think would have been given to political expediency, and what weight would have been given to idealism, "We must do this because it's right," by the members who attended? How anxious were you to win the

 

[98]

election?

DAVIDSON: I think there was no inconsistency in the two, because the idealism which this group had, we felt also made for the best politics. Take civil rights. We certainly had the idealism and what we felt should be done. We also thought it was good politics. On the question of the recognition of Israel, certainly it should have been done from an idealistic standpoint, and it was also good politics. Based on the record of the 80th Congress, we could certainly combine our idealism with practical politics.

HESS: There are other members, but I think we should move on.

Here is a copy of the unsigned memo of June 29, 1948, entitled, "Should the President Call Congress Back," That is a copy of a document that is found in Samuel Rosenman's papers from the White House at the Truman Library, but also I believe there is a copy in Mr. Clifford's papers

 

[99]

that we have recently received. One thing I'd like for you to note, it sounds like a joint effort. If you'll note the lines:

Here are the objections to the special session planned and the answers as we see them.

The word "we" comes in.

DAVIDSON: Well, but that might have been an editorial we.

HESS: It could have been. Do you know who wrote this memo?

DAVIDSON: No, I do not, and I can't say whether this memorandum, as such, was ever presented at the Monday night meetings. There were very few, as I recall, written documents that came into the meetings. The ideas were discussed; for example, the pluses and minuses of calling the Congress into session. But the specific memorandum I just have no recollection.

HESS: Some authors think that it did come from the

 

[100]

Wardman Park group. Cabell Phillips writing in The Truman Presidency on page 226 says:

Late in June Clifford had put before him in a memorandum from the political strategy board which said, in part...

and then quoted a number of items from this particular memo. But as far as you can remember, you don't know if it came from the Wardman Park group?.

DAVIDSON: Phillips wrote that book quite some time ago, and the recollections of the people themselves may have been better then. This may have come as a result of the discussion. Charlie Murphy may have written it and presented it to Clark; or something of that sort.

HESS: Moving on from the Oscar Ewing group, or the Wardman Park group, into the campaign, in the election and the events of 1948, Mr. Truman took a trip out to the West in June of 1948. He went out to the University of California to receive an honorary degree. On his way he stopped up through Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Do you

 

[101]

recall anything about that?

DAVID SON: Was that the Truman train, when he had the train that was going through the Western States?

HESS: Yes, and that was the time that Robert Taft made reference in Congress to Mr. Truman stopping at every "whistlestop." So a new word was added to the political vocabulary.

DAVIDSON: Yes, I certainly do. I remember there was a great deal of work done getting ready for that trip. I joined the train, it seems to me, around Kalispell, Montana, somewhere around in there, where he hit the Pacific Northwest, which, as you know, was my assigned bailiwick in the Department of Interior. I knew the people in western Montana, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. At that time, I remember Charlie Murphy and Dave Bell. I think Dave Bell worked out basic speech drafts. By that time, I assume they must have had ten or fifteen speeches, and they were more

 

[102]

or less running out of material. It seems to me that the President dedicated a dam out there at that time. That speech was pretty well under control, but I worked with Bell and Murphy on the train getting ready for some of the WhistleStop and the local color.

HESS: He stopped by Grand Coulee Dam on this trip, but if I recall correctly, the time that they had a rededication of Grand Coulee Dam was in 1950.

DAVIDSON: He did not rededicate Grand Coulee on this campaign trip. It seems to me it was one in Montana, a smaller dam.

HESS: But was the June trip regarded as a tune-up for the campaign? A shakedown cruise?

DAVIDSON: I think that trip left the President very enthusiastic about his campaign. It was on that trip when someone yelled, "Give 'em hell Harry." He was watching the crowds at the back of the train. I remember the enthusiastic response he was getting.

Of course, the pollsters and the columnists and everybody said that this was so much of an uphill

 

[103]

battle that he couldn't possibly make it, and even though he jarred the West -- I think our little group felt the same way -- that he couldn't make it.

HESS: You felt he was fighting a hopeless battle, but still fighting.

DAVIDSON: But still fighting, and therefore, we were going to fight too.

HESS: This was in June of 1948. The convention was held in Philadelphia the following month in July of 1948. During that period of time before the convention, there were movements afoot to see that someone other than Mr. Truman was the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party during that campaign. One of the leading movements, one of the most vigorous movements, was by the ADA. What do you recall about that, as you were a member of the ADA? When did you join the ADA?

DAVIDSON: It was around that time, or possibly earlier.

 

[104]

I think I may have joined it in Oregon before I came here, because Monroe Sweetland was a very active member of the ADA, and he was a close friend of mine. After I got back here and Hubert Humphrey was in the middle of it, I joined about then. At this point, I believe it was -- I've forgotten who was head of the ADA but...

HESS: Leon Henderson.

DAVIDSON: Well, I didn't know Leon as well as some of the other people, but the feeling was that President Truman was going to get licked, and they were looking hard for somebody who they felt might be able to win the election. I think at that time General Eisenhower was one of their candidates, and they promoted him.

HESS: They certainly did. In your scrapbooks, we have a press release by the ADA in which they mention they would like to have a candidate like the following: General Eisenhower or William

 

[105]

Douglas, Supreme Court Justice Douglas. They didn't specifically say, "We want these men," but they said, "We would like a candidate like this." What do you think that the ADA knew about General Eisenhower's political stands at that time?

DAVIDSON: I think they knew nothing at all. He was just a public figure, and he, at that point, hadn't declared himself either a Republican or a Democrat, and they felt that he might turn out to be liberal, I think.

HESS: Isn't it strange for an organization that places such great weight on idealism to promote a man whose ideals they knew absolutely nothing about?

DAVIDSON: I agree. They certainly should have done some checking. But they didn't. Now, Bill Douglas would have been a different matter completely because his views were known based

 

[106]

on his opinions in the Supreme Court, and his public utterances. Douglas would have been a logical person for the ADA to support.

HESS: As you will recall, Justice Douglas was Mr. Truman's first choice to run as Vice President on his ticket once he was nominated. What do you recall about that?

DAVIDSON: Well, I felt that Justice Douglas should have taken the spot when it was offered by the President, as Vice President on the ticket. I recall rather vividly that my wife and I were at Capon Springs, West Virginia, with Abe and Carol Fortas, spending the weekend. And while we were there a long distance call came from Bill Douglas to Abe. They were very close friends and had worked with each other a great deal. And Bill phoned Abe and they must have had a half hour or forty-five minute conversation.

There was no phone in the room, there was a pay station, and he had to go over to it.

 

[107]

And Bill told him that he had been offered the job of Vice President.

I think Abe's feeling was that he should take it, but I don't recall that specifically. I always felt that one of the reasons that Douglas didn't do it was due to his physical location at the time of the call from the President. He was over on the coast of Oregon with Henry Hess, Leland Hess, Latourette and I think some others -- Democrats -- but conservative Democrats in Oregon. They urged that he not give up his position on the United States Supreme Court to run for an office which was going to go down to certain defeat. I think that probably had a good deal of influence on Bill's decision.

HESS: Do you think if he hadn't received that advice he might have given some consideration to joining Mr. Truman on the ticket?

DAVIDSON: I think he might have.

HESS: Have you ever heard him say anything in years

 

[108]

since then on that matter?

DAVIDSON: No I haven't. Some of these days I'll try to discuss it with him and find out. I think you ought to interview him or Justice Fortas.

HESS: We have written to him and have not received a reply.

DAVIDSON: How about Fortas?

HESS: No.

DAVIDSON: He would remember, because he was very close to Douglas.

HESS: I didn't know of his connection with the matter until now. We'll have to give consideration to him.

All right, the convention was held in Philadelphia. I know that you went. Would you tell me the circumstances surrounding that fact, and then what you recall about the convention in Philadelphia?

 

[109]

DAVIDSON: Well, to become a delegate to the convention from Oregon you have to run for the office, either statewide or in the district. I did not run for election. The person who was then state chairman of the party, Byron Carney, did run, was elected, and appointed me as his alternate. Since he was not able to take the trip, I attended the convention as the voting delegate. I recall that this was the convention where civil rights was the great issue, and the South walked out. I think that most of the activity around the convention related somewhat to that issue.

HESS: There were two planks offered. One, a so-called milder civil rights plank, and then the one that was put forward by Andrew J. Biemiller, seconded by Hubert Humphrey, and has since become known as the Humphrey-Biemiller Plank. I found a notation that you voted for that stronger Humphrey-Biemiller civil rights plank. Is that correct?

 

[110]

DAVIDSON: Correct, yes, that's right.

HESS: Why did you vote for that stronger plank, and did you have any knowledge at the time that Mr. Truman may have favored the milder plank?

DAVIDSON: I do not know whether I had any indication about Mr. Truman favoring the milder plank at that time. As I expressed on your tape yesterday, after coming out of the South and my rebirth on the civil rights question, I felt that the Humphrey-Biemiller plank was obviously the one that should be adopted; and also, to revert to the question you asked a little while ago, I thought it was the best politics. I thought that it was best to take a firm stand even though it might mean that the South walked out, because we had indications that some of the states would. We didn't know it would be that many.

HESS: Why did you think it was the best thing to do if the South was going to bolt?

 

[111]

DAVIDSON: Because what you lose in the South you make it up in the North. You would make it up in the heavily populated states. But I felt that it was the thing that ought to be done, not only as my personal belief, but also as a representative of Oregon, and therefore I voted for it. I don't think we knew at that time how strongly Mr. Truman felt one way or the other on that particular plank. We knew he had been getting advice from the conservative members of his Cabinet, and assumed they were advising that the stronger plank would be terrible, and he should not support it.

HESS: If he did feel that way and was supporting the more moderate civil rights plank, that information was not communicated to you as a delegate?

DAVIDSON: No.

HESS: Do you remember the walkout by the South?

DAVIDSON: Oh, sure.

HESS: Alabama was first, I think, then Mississippi.

 

[112]

DAVIDSON: We were wondering what was going to happen to Alabama at the Democratic National Convention that I just attended in Miami. Alabama was there taking almost the same stand it did in 1948. Of course, Mississippi now is in the forefront of the liberals -- and this just shows the tremendous change that has taken place in the last twenty to twenty-five years. Southerners are some of the most liberal of the delegations. Of course, in Florida and Alabama, the old time Southerners control the delegations; aid it will undoubtedly take awhile for these changes also. I think that this recent convention has been exceptional. Of all of the conventions I've gone to, I think this was the most fascinating and interesting, and I've been to practically all of them since the time that Roosevelt nominated Al Smith in Houston in '28.

HESS: I found a notation in your scrapbooks that you were planning on nominating Helen Gahagan Douglas

 

[113]

for Vice President, but as I mentioned, I looked through the proceedings of the 1948 convention and can find no indication that she had been placed in nomination. Do you recall anything about that?

DAVIDSON: No, I remember the discussion that we were going to, and I would have been a logical one to either second or place her in nomination, depending on whether there was somebody else better to do it than me.

HESS: Why?

DAVIDSON: Well, because I believed then, and still do, that women do not have a sufficiently prominent place in politics, and Helen Gahagan Douglas was eminently qualified. When I was general counsel at Bonneville I had a larger proportion of women attorneys on the staff than any other agency. When I was Assistant Secretary of Interior two of my assistants were women, and

 

[114]

at that point, women had not reached the position that they have today in politics.

Helen Gahagan Douglas was an outstanding woman, a very attractive, very articulate person, very progressive, and I thought she would have made a good vice-presidential nominee. Now why we didn't go forward with it, I don't recall, and that's something I'm going to try to find out from Helen.

HESS: You don't recall making a speech for her?

DAVIDSON: I don't recall making a speech, and I'm sure that she was not placed in nomination since you said you checked the record.

HESS: Everything I could find in your scrapbooks was before the event. The ADA was thinking of placing her name in nomination, and then we found a draft of a speech that you had written to either second or make the nomination, but I could find no indication that the nomination was made.

 

[115]

DAVIDSON: Well, if we have a subsequent interview I'll try to find out what happened.

HESS: What do you recall about Alben Barkley's keynote address, anything in particular?

DAVIDSON: No, I don't. This is one of the problems. It's been so long ago. I imagine there's something in the files.

HESS: I found something in the file that said, "Notes on Keynote Address," and it was sort of a critique of a keynote address, and as you and I both discussed when we hit that awhile ago, you couldn't remember if it was Barkley's or not.

DAVIDSON: I couldn't remember it, and as I said when we started the interviews, I have been trying to get in touch with my assistants who were working with me at that time: Paul Unger, Harriet Margolies, and Dan Goldy. We had a very close working relationship, very little was ever done without a full discussion, and they may have some

 

[116]

recollections and can refresh my memory on some of these things.

HESS: Mr. Truman did want the nomination, he wanted to be the party standard-bearer again, and as we have mentioned, there were various movements afoot to see that he was replaced. Just how difficult would it be to deny the nomination to an incumbent President?

DAVIDSON: I think it would be impossible, and that was why I paid no attention to the kind of thing that the ADA and the others were talking about, so long as the President wanted to run again. But you will recall it was a long time before he announced that he was going to run.

HESS: Were you contacted by ADA officials or others to get your views on what you thought about Mr. Truman's re-election? You were just a member, correct?

DAVIDSON: I was just a member. I was not on the

 

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national board.

HESS: It seems rather strange, but one of the members of the national board was Ronald Reagan.

DAVIDSON: That is absolutely fascinating.

HESS: That's what you call a 180 degree change, isn't it?

DAVIDSON: Kind of like Harry Cain. Senator Gruening told me that Senator Harry Cain has had a 180 degree turn. Let's hope that Reagan makes it 180 degrees.

HESS: What do you recall about President Truman's acceptance speech, anything in particular? His acceptance speech was delivered late at night. It was 2 o'clock in the morning. Well, I understand Mr. [George] McGovern's was around 3 o'clock in the morning, so if indeed Mr. Truman did hold the record (I'm not sure that he did), but if he did for delivering an acceptance speech late at night, it's now been broken.

 

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DAVIDSON: Which shows that the Democratic conventions just do not run on schedule. They can't make the prime time, which they should have.

HESS: In his acceptance speech he called Congress back into special session, his so-called "Turnip Day Speech." That's just what we were discussing with the unsigned memo. But at the time when Mr. Truman mentioned in his speech, "I'm going to call Congress back," was it a surprise to you that he had actually made that decision?

DAVIDSON: No. I think the only surprise was the actual date on which he was going to call Congress back. This came as a surprise.

HESS: From your discussions at the Monday night meetings you thought he would call for a special session?

DAVIDSON: We felt that it was going to happen.

HESS: Do you recall if that decision was cleared with party leaders, and with congressional

 

[119]

leaders? I'm thinking of Sam Rayburn on the Hill; Barkley at that time, of course, was the Minority Leader in the Senate, correct?

DAVIDSON: I would doubt it. I don't know, but...

HESS: This is very important. Before calling the Congressmen back from all over the United States, wouldn't the President have discussed with the leading Democrats in the House and Senate the reaction to such an action?

DAVIDSON: Well, I don't know that he didn't, but if he didn't -- let me put it this way: The President was a very remarkable man. If he made up his mind that this was the thing to do and decided that he was going to call them back, he might not have gone to the Hill and talked to them, because they would try to talk him out of it, and if they advised against it and he did it anyway, they'd be mad.

HESS: That was something that he wanted to do anyway.

 

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DAVIDSON: I can understand that if it was something he wanted to do, and it was something decided, that he would just go on and do it and then could say, "Gee, it's too bad. I'm sorry you don't approve, but I've already done it." But he would not have asked for their advice and then refused to take it.

HESS: Do you think that he didn't want to ask their advice?

DAVIDSON: I don't know whether he did or he didn't, but I can certainly understand why he might not have asked for it.

HESS: Just after the convention there were two important Executive orders released: One establishing a Fair Employment Practices Commission in the Federal Government, and the other one concerned with discrimination with the armed services. Do you recall anything about the formulation of those two Executive orders?

 

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DAVIDSON: That was a part of the complete program -- a part of his civil rights message. You recall that in that message he said that he was taking certain actions for the Executive Department and he was doing those things that were within his power as Chief Executive, and that there were a number of other things which the Congress should do.

HESS: All right, we've mentioned the Executive orders in July. Do you recall anything about their formulation? Now, in the message to Congress of February 2, the President had mentioned that he was going to take certain action. He also at that time mentioned that he was going to issue some Executive orders. The Executive orders that were formulated at that time were not signed, were not released, until late in July.

DAVIDSON: In July, this is in '48?

HESS: Right after the convention.

 

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DAVIDSON: Well, let's see, his message was in February, in which he said: "I have instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the armed services eliminated as rapidly as possible. The personnel practices and policies in this regard will be made consistent..." Now, I assume that several months later his instructions were not being put in effect as fast as he had hoped, and that those two Executive orders came out as a follow-up. I don't recall specifically whether I had a part in these or not. Did you notice anything in the files?

HESS: No, I did not.

Moving on, what do you recall about the campaign of 1948? I found references in your scrapbook to some speeches you had made out on the West Coast, also tearing into the 80th Congress about the same time President Truman was tearing into them.

 

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DAVIDSON: Well, I made a number of speeches, as you pointed out. I probably made as many speeches as anybody else around at that time, and of course, after the nomination and after the convention, we were all interested in trying to get the President re-elected. Therefore, I did make speeches every chance I'd get. I wanted to do something about it. I was a presidential appointee and therefore not subject to any of the Hatch Act limitations or anything of that kind. I had a great deal of fun making those speeches, because I was making them to audiences that usually didn't feel that Truman had a chance.

HESS: What could have been done to sway votes in that area? What I have reference to, I saw a notation where you thought that Oregon was going to go Democratic, but it did not. It went for Dewey. What could have been done to swing Oregon into the Democratic column?

DAVIDSON: Well, Oregon is a very difficult state.

 

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Oregon has not been in the Democratic column except when Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson, and again in President Roosevelt's first election. But I think that optimism is a typical expression of politicians before an election.

HESS: You have to say you think you're going to win, whether you think so or not.

DAVIDSON: You have to say you think you're going to win.

HESS: Now the difference was not very great between Truman and Dewey: A 17,757 vote edge for Dewey. So it was fairly close.

DAVIDSON: Very close.

HESS: One other man running in the election, Henry Wallace, got 14,978. That was Wallace's eleventh state as far as the number of votes. Of course, New York was his biggest. He got more votes in New York, and then California was Wallace's

 

[125]

second, but Oregon was well down on the list.

On the subject of Henry Wallace and his Progressive Party, what effect did you think that that would have on the campaign, and on the election?

DAVIDSON: It would take a lot of votes away from President Truman. I felt that the fact that the South had pulled out would probably help the Republicans.

HESS: Under J. Strom Thurmond and the States' Rights Party.

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: You felt that would help the Republicans?

DAVIDSON: Did Strom Thurmond start a third party at that time?

HESS: He certainly did. It was called the States' Rights Party.

DAVIDSON: How did the votes come out?

 

[126]

HESS: Governor Fielding Wright was Strom Thurmond's vice-presidential running mate, and Glen Taylor, from out in your area, was the vice-presidential running mate for Henry Wallace. I don't think Thurmond was on the ballot in Oregon.

DAVIDSON: How many states did Strom Thurmond carry?

HESS: Let's see. Thurmond carried Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and he got one electoral vote in Tennessee. Tennessee went eleven for Truman, one for Thurmond. But he carried four states outright and then the one vote from Tennessee.

DAVIDSON: I don't think you could really tell in '48 which candidate Thurmond affected more, because these were all Southern states, and Southern states at that time had never voted anything except Democratic. For them, in '48, to vote Republican would have been quite an upheaval because usually on those ballots you'd stamp the rooster at the top

 

[127]

and that would carry the whole ticket with them. However, as of today, obviously...

HESS: These votes would have ended up in the Dewey column.

DAVIDSON: This is probably correct.

HESS: Thurmond acted as a lightning rod to pull off conservative and Southern votes that might have gone not to Truman but to Dewey.

DAVIDSON: But there's no question, the Wallace votes would have gone to Truman. The way it worked out, Truman managed to make it in spite of this.

HESS: Wallace's main damage to Mr. Truman was in New York. A little over half a million votes in New York took the 47 electoral votes away from Truman and gave them to Dewey, but it was quite close.

DAVIDSON: Wallace got 509,559.

 

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HESS: Yes. What do you recall of Glen Taylor, Mr. Wallace's vice-presidential nominee, since he was from the West?

DAVIDSON: Well, Glen Taylor was quite an interesting character. As you know, he was the Senator from Idaho, and because of my interest in the Columbia Valley Authority, I worked closely with him. Of course, Glen was a very ardent advocate of the CVA and I knew him very well. I recall specifically after he had been chosen and was running as Vice President with Wallace, Glen's wife called me and said, "Debby, will you come over and talk to Glen? He is surrounded by a group who will not let any of his old friends talk to him, and they are giving him advice that is very bad. You can talk to him because hers known you for a long time."

I remember I did go over to see Glen and talked to him. But he was way up in the clouds then and he felt everything was wrong with the country, and I obviously could have no effect on him. I think afterwards he realized the error

 

[129]

of his ways, but I don't know what's happened to him. Where is he? The last I heard of him he was selling wigs in California.

HESS: I didn't know. I hadn't heard.

Did you attend any of the President's stops in the Pacific Northwest during the campaign? Now, we mentioned the June trip where you did get on the train.

DAVIDSON: I was on the train. I was on those stops.

HESS: Did you get on the train any time during the fall campaign?

DAVIDSON: Did that make the same stops?

HESS: Practically.

DAVIDSON: I don't know then which one it was that I was on. I've forgotten at this point, because I think I was on the train only on one of those trips.

HESS: Mr. Truman did visit the Pacific Northwest

 

[130]

fairly often. He went in June. He went back for the campaign in '48, and then in May of 1950 he went back out up for the rededication of the Grand Coulee Dam. He liked the Oregon, Washington, and Idaho area.

DAVIDSON: I was there for the rededication of Grand Coulee.

HESS: That was in May of 1950. That was the last year that you were in the Interior Department.

Do you recall any particular incidents that might ring a bell and help you to recall if you were with the President during the campaign?

DAVIDSON: This is a picture of Truman, Krug and myself when he was touching the button and turning on the juice? I thought that was at Grand Coulee Dam when he was starting off the second power house. But this was done here at the White House. Now, I do not recall that he rededicated Grand Coulee, but he did.

 

[131]

HESS: May of '50.

DAVIDSON: I'll have to check my records.

HESS: What seemed to be the prevailing attitude of the people in the Administration, Assistant Secretaries, Under Secretaries and Secretaries, here in town about Mr. Truman's chances for victory?

DAVIDSON: Well, I think Louie Bean was about the only one predicting that the President had a chance. All the pollsters and columnists, and they were supposed to be experts, felt he had no chance. I know I certainly felt it was an uphill battle. I didn't think he was going to be able to make it, although we were working hard. I wouldn't say that the entire Monday night group felt that way, but I would say that the majority felt that he would not make it. I know I was very surprised. I went out to Oregon the day after the election. I took the plane that morning. The final returns were not in, and I'd get off at every stop and

 

[132]

listen to Kaltenborn saying, "Just wait until the rural returns come in and it will change the picture." I think I was three-quarters of the way across the country going to Oregon before the final results came in.

HESS: You were here in Washington on election day, though?

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: What do you recall of the role played in the campaign by Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug?

DAVIDSON: Well, I think Secretary Krug played a much larger role in the campaign than he's given credit for.

You mentioned once before that the Democratic National Committee did not have very much money. It was therefore determined that Krug would be more effective being in the West as Secretary of the Interior, rather than as one of the campaign

 

[133]

speakers sent out by the National Committee.

If one is out West on official business, it means that the Government pays your expenses. Krug followed up Truman's visit and made a trip through the West. He made several trips to New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington, meeting with groups, explaining that the Republicans were making promises and said what they were going to do if elected, but their votes in Congress proved otherwise. Now, since these trips were not as widely publicized as some of the other people, the impression was given that Krug did not campaign for the President, but this was completely erroneous.

HESS: You mentioned the impression was given that he did not participate in the campaign. Shortly after the election there appeared several items in the newspapers to the effect that Mr. Krug had gone hunting and could not be found when the Democratic National Committee wanted to talk to him and solicit his aid. Who was behind those

 

[134]

stories?

DAVIDSON: There were a number of newspaper stories planted, a number of items saying that Krug was going to be out because he didn't campaign, that were placed in the various newspapers at that time, leaked to them.

HESS: Who leaked and who planted, and why, to the best of your knowledge?

DAVIDSON: I think this may be a part of the interview that I'd like to think about, and at least for the time being, I do not want to put it on tape.

HESS: You can close it for any length of time that you'd like.

DAVIDSON: Okay, then we can take a look at it. As I've pointed out from time to time during the interview, the difference between Krug's and my philosophies, on the way the Department should be run, and Oscar Chapman's and Harold Ickes',

 

[135]

was substantial. There was no question but that Oscar Chapman wanted to be Secretary of the Interior. He was close to Mr. Truman. He was his advance man on several of his trips, and I think that probably a number of the statements about Krug which were in the press, were probably inspired by Chapman.

HESS: Mr. Krug was replaced about a year later, and during that period of time there were several other speculations in the press.

DAVIDSON: Wasn't he replaced quicker than a year later? I thought he was replaced...

HESS: No, his resignation was November 10, 1949.

DAVIDSON: November 10, 1949.

HESS: And, of course, the election was in November of '48. The effective date of his resignation was December 1, 1949, the same day Mr. Chapman was sworn in.

 

[136]

All right, we've just been checking the scrapbooks and have found that right after the election there was a good deal of news in the papers that Mr. Krug was on the way out, even though it was a year later before he left. Who was responsible at this time for the stories that Mr. Krug was on the way out? The same man?

DAVIDSON: I think, as you know from other people who have been interviewed, Chapman had a very close working relationship with a number of members of the press. Drew Pearson, for example, was one of his closest friends. I think one of the Cabinet officers under Truman refused to attend any Cabinet meetings with Oscar because he said that what happened always ended up in Drew Pearson's column -- everything that was said.

HESS: I missed that. Who didn't want to attend the meetings?

DAVIDSON: One of the Cabinet officers. I've forgotten

 

[137]

which one it was. Who was Defense Secretary at that time?

HESS: Was this during Marshall's time?

DAVIDSON: No. Was it Forrestal?

HESS: Forrestal left in 1949, and then Louis Johnson came in.

DAVIDSON: Well, anyway, it was along in that period, and of course, if Krug was out of town, Under Secretary Chapman would attend Cabinet meetings in his place. This succeeded -- it was a constant needling operation -- and I think Oscar was very close or certainly gave the impression of being very close to the President during that time, and the President seemed to appreciate what Oscar had done during the campaign as advance man. So I think probably Krug's position during that year was just gradually undermined and became weaker, and so he decided that it was time for him to leave and submitted his resignation.

 

[138]

HESS: Going back just a little bit, but was there some talk back before the convention that Mr. Krug might join Mr. Truman on the ticket as his vice-presidential running mate?

DAVIDSON: It is my recollection or understanding, that Senator Barkley -- who was a Senator from Kentucky -- and you must remember that Krug was Public Service Commissioner of Kentucky before he came to TVA. He and Barkley knew each other very well, and it was my understanding that Senator Barkley once approached Krug to discuss with him the possibility of his running as the vice-presidential candidate with President Truman.

HESS: Did Krug ever mention anything about that to you?

DAVIDSON: Well, I don't. know where I got it from, if I didn't get it from Krug. It might have been Carl [Carlton] Skinner, who was his public relations man and very close to Cap. I know I had that impression. Now I wouldn't have picked it up just

 

[139]

out of the blue. But I have forgotten where it came from.

HESS: But if true, it sounded as if he was on the President's team and not the type who was getting ready to go hunting for two or three weeks, purposely, where he could not be notified and reached.

DAVIDSON: I agree, and Cap, was on the President's team. Of course, this was before the so-called pictures were taken.

HESS: What pictures?

DAVIDSON: Well, these pictures that were supposedly used for the same purpose as the newspaper leaks, in destroying Krug.

HESS: What were the pictures, and how were they taken? Who was responsible for the photographs?

DAVIDSON: I would not like to attribute that kind of activity to anyone.

 

[140]

HESS: These were the photographs showing Mr. Krug in various compromising positions with young ladies, is that correct?

DAVIDSON: I'd rather not discuss it.

HESS: All right.

DAVIDSON: I suppose a number of us feel that these newspaper leaks, the newspaper stories, that Krug had not taken part in the campaign -- that he had not done this or that -- and that Krug and the Boss were not getting along, were probably all a part of the same operation.

HESS: We will discuss Mr. Krug further when we come to the point in time of his resignation, but moving on from the election in November and then on January 20, 1949, Mr. Truman made his inaugural address on the steps of the Capital, and his fourth point in the inaugural address became known as the Point 4, technical assistance to underdeveloped countries. Can you tell me about

 

[141]

the development of that idea, how it came to fruition, and how that point got into the inaugural address?

DAVIDSON: No, I really can't. I have no recollection of that one.

HESS: I'll read what I got from one clipping in your scrapbook. This was an article by Ray Cromley:

Point 4 was suggested to Mr. Truman by Clark Clifford, his personal counselor. The idea had been given to Mr. Clifford, directly and indirectly, by several presidential advisers, including Secretary of Agriculture Brannan, Interior Department Under Secretary C. Girard Davidson, and State Department Assistant Secretary Willard Thorp.

They gave you a promotion in there.

DAVIDSON: That was done every now and then.

HESS: That appeared in the Wall Street Journal. But you recall nothing about the development of Point 4?

DAVIDSON: No, I really don't. Maybe when I go through my file I will find something that will refresh

 

[142]

my recollection on it, but it may also be one of the things that came out of our Monday night meetings.

HESS: The management of the Point 4 program was placed with the State Department. There was an interdepartmental advisory board set up to give advice, but the State Department had the final say on the allocation of funds. However, the spending of the funds was largely in the hands of the various governmental agencies responsible for such procedures. Agricultural projects were under Agriculture; power projects and power development in foreign lands were under Interior. There have been various views put forward that Point 4 would have operated better if it had not been in the State Department. There were efforts made to keep Point 4 as a separate entity and not place it under the State Department. Do you recall anything about that?

DAVIDSON: I really don't. I'll see if I can find anything

 

[143]

that will refresh my recollection of it. It's very difficult to try to remember what happened twenty-five years ago.

HESS: It sure is.

DAVIDSON: I remember the Morgenthau commission. I remember Henry Fowler was running something for Morgenthau. Now when was that?

HESS: It must have been pretty early, because Morgenthau was Secretary of the Treasury and was replaced early in the Truman administration.

DAVIDSON: Was that in '45-'46, because this was to try to do something to make Germany a pastoral state.

HESS: That's what was known as the Morgenthau plan. That was really developed during the war.

DAVIDSON: Henry Fowler, who had been in Treasury, headed up that commission.

 

[144]

HESS: Morgenthau left in July. Mr. Truman, of course, took over on April 12, 1945, on the death of Roosevelt, and Morgenthau was soon replaced by Fred Vinson.

DAVIDSON: I remember the meetings. I wonder...

HESS: On the Morgenthau plan?

DAVIDSON: Maybe it was because of my connection with the War Production Board or Bonneville. I just assumed that it was at the time I was Assistant Secretary. I'll see if I can find something on that, too.

HESS: What were your general observations on the feasibility of turning Germany and the Ruhr Valley, with its coal and steel and iron and iron ore, into pastureland?

DAVIDSON: Well, you know, there were great conflicting points of view. You have to realize that Germany wanted the iron and coal resources, but on the

 

[145]

other hand, you also realize that Germany had been responsible for the preceding two world wars, and this was a great problem. How were you going to let them have the tremendous resources and not have the same thing happen a third time? I don't think that problem has been solved, and it was the Morgenthau commission that wrestled with these problems, but couldn't come out with a satisfactory answer. I think only history will be able to tell.

HESS: Do you think it may have been a good idea?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I think it may have been. We've just come back from Europe, and when you look at the resurgence of the Fascist party over there both in Italy and Germany, and even the so-called National Renaissance Party in this country, it is frightening. But France isn't much better so I don't know what we could have done.

HESS: You have just come back from Europe?

 

[146]

DAVIDSON: Yes, we were in Europe about a month during May and June. We were there during the elections in Italy.

HESS: Tell me about the resurgence of Fascism.

DAVIDSON: The Fascists made considerable gains in the election, and I guess this is one of the things that makes me go back and wonder. I think it's foolish for us to continue to spend the huge chunks of money which we're sending to Europe now for protecting Germany and Italy and these countries' economies are better off than ours. Here we are, spending millions of dollars for them. But these Italian elections made us very conscious of the growing strength of the Fascists.

HESS: Did you go through Germany also?

DAVIDSON: No. This was primarily just in France, but we were in Italy for a time.

HESS: I have heard that the same resurgence is taking place in areas of Germany. Have you heard

 

[147]

that?

DAVIDSON: I'm sure that's correct, yes.

HESS: To begin this afternoon, Mr. Davidson, let's discuss the Columbia Valley Administration. What part did you play in the attempt to establish a CVA?

DAVIDSON: As I mentioned earlier, coming from TVA I felt very strongly that a Columbia Valley Authority would be the most sensible way to handle the governmental natural resource projects in the Pacific Northwest, as well as in the other large river basins. Even when I was general counsel of the Bonneville Power Administration before I became Assistant Secretary of the Interior, I was making speeches in the Pacific Northwest advocating a TVA type of administration for more efficient Government operations.

When Secretary Krug came to the Interior Department and I became an Assistant Secretary, we were both

 

[148]

oriented in the TVA tradition, and felt that the resources in the Columbia Valley as well as in the Missouri Valley and others, could best be handled by a decentralized agency located in the region itself. Accordingly, both the Secretary and I urged this type of administration whenever we could. President Truman agreed with this philosophy, and on January 13, 1949, directed a letter to Secretary Krug saying that he had recommended to the 81st Congress the establishment of a Columbia Valley Authority, designating Charles Murphy to act for him in developing the legislative program for the executive branch, and asking that the Secretary work closely with Mr. Murphy. The Secretary wrote the President on January 19, designating me as the Department's representative to work with Mr. Murphy and others in coordinating this project.

Then on March 21, the President sent another memorandum to the Secretary of the Interior asking Secretary Krug to take the lead for the executive

 

[149]

branch in presenting the bill to Congress, including arranging of supporting testimony. He sent copies of this memorandum to the Secretaries of Agriculture, Army and Commerce, as well as the chairman of TVA, so that those agencies would give any assistance which might be necessary.

Since I was designated as the individual in the Interior Department to handle its work, and the President gave Interior the duty of preparing the legislative proposals and taking the lead in securing testimony, obviously, I then was in a key position to go forward with this.

HESS: If the President supported this measure why weren't you successful? What went wrong?

DAVIDSON: It is a very, very long story. It's no news to you or anyone else that there are a number of bureaucratic jealousies in the executive department.

HESS: What caused you more trouble, jealousies in the

 

[150]

bureaucracy or the private power companies? Which would be the major obstacle?

DAVIDSON: They were both very formidable opponents, and I would assume that if we could have gotten the wholehearted support of the agencies without the undercutting, that we could have done it in spite of the power companies.

HESS: When you read the newspaper clippings of the period, the opposition of the power companies appears to be the main obstacle.

DAVIDSON: Obviously, when the President of the United States says he is for something and sends a memorandum to the chief opponents of his ideas, saying that he expects them to cooperate, they can hardly come out publicly and oppose it.

HESS: The opposition has to be carried on undercover, more or less?

DAVIDSON: Undercover, working with their friends on the

 

[151]

Hill, working with the congressional committees. You may recall that Congressman [William Madison] Whittington of Mississippi, who was chairman of the Public Works Committee of the House, and who had long been the Army Engineers' chief spokesman on flood control projects, was one of the chief opponents. Well, there was no question that he was furnished all kinds of materials from the Army Engineers, because they didn't want to give up their jurisdiction and authority to build dams, and handle navigation and flood control in this area. The same with the Bureau of Reclamation, even though this agency was in the Department of Interior. We never knew precisely who they were talking to on the Hill, but we knew that they could find receptive ears with Senators and Congressmen, like Senator [Henry C.] Dworshak of Idaho, who had always been the spokesman for the Idaho Power Company, so the agencies and the power companies worked jointly in defeating it.

 

[152]

However, I think we made considerable progress in getting the Columbia Valley Authority before the people, and a great deal of decentralization of government operations has resulted. TVA was created back in the dark days of the depression in the early days of the New Deal. The Army had objected strenuously to letting Muscle Shoals get out from under its jurisdiction, and it took George Norris years to finally get a TVA bill passed and Wilson Dam transferred to TVA. It took a depression to lick the power companies and the bureaucratic agencies. The idea of TVA has been exported successfully to foreign countries, but we've never been able to achieve the same thing in any of our other river basins.

Now, as you will note from not only the scrapbooks, but from the number of speeches that I made (which are in several volumes and will be given to the Truman Library), this was a very hot issue in the Northwest. We defeated Senator Dworshak in Idaho primarily on this issue, with

 

[153]

former Governor [Bert Henry] Miller, but unfortunately Senator Miller died about three months after he had taken office, and the Republican Governor of Idaho reappointed Dworshak, which was a blow to getting CVA through. This probably sounded the death knell of CVA as much as anything.

HESS: What was Secretary Krug's view on establishing a Columbia Valley Administration?

DAVIDSON: Well, Secretary Krug, as I said, had come from being chief power manager of TVA. He was thoroughly imbued and indoctrinated with the efficiency as well as the superior type of planning and management for resources which occurred with a basin type agency. He was thoroughly committed to the CVA principle and gave every assistance that he could along the way.

HESS: Was he a vigorous advocate? You were.

 

[154]

DAVIDSON: Let's put it this way: I had been given the authority by him and he thought I was doing a good job, so he didn't have to become as ardent and continuous a proponent as I was. I became the spokesman, I knew the bills backwards and forwards. I took on debates with Congressmen and Senators, people throughout the country, explaining what a CVA was all about; drafting and modifying bills along with Mr. Murphy, and Senator [Hugh Burnton] Mitchell of Washington, and the other sponsors of the legislation. When Krug was out West and made a speech or was asked a question about the CVA in a press conference, he would make a magnificent statement on its behalf because of his knowledge and background. He was a very strong advocate. As an Assistant Secretary, it depends a great deal on how much support you are getting from the Secretary. This determines the type of fight one can put on, since no one every likes to have the rug cut out from under him.

 

[155]

HESS: What was the view of the Under Secretary of Interior at that time, Oscar Chapman?

DAVIDSON: Let's put it this way.: The President was for the CVA, and had said that the CVA should be adopted. Therefore, technically and officially, I'm sure Secretary Chapman was also for it. However, as I mentioned earlier, there was a vast difference in philosophy of administration by those in the Department of Interior under Ickes -- and this is when Secretary Chapman came in -- as distinguished from the type of administration which Secretary Krug and I were interested in.

Our view was to obtain maximum decentralization. We felt that the closer Government agencies were to people involved, the better the decisions would be. Of course, they had to be made in a Federal context. You could not delegate to the states the Federal Government's authority over interstate waters. But on the other hand, Secretary Ickes, whom I think Chapman went along with, believed in

 

[156]

centralized administration; that decisions would only be proper if made in Washington, D.C. As evidence of this, when Krug, Gardner and I went into the top positions in Interior, we would have mountains of mail to be signed by the Secretary, because Ickes seemed to feel that the only honest person around was the Secretary; therefore, everything had to come to the Secretary for approval since he had found some Indian superintendent out on one of the Indian reservations taking money and supplies. As a result, we were having to pass on the question of whether a particular Indian could spend a certain amount for a house, or a Cadillac, or something of this kind. Our judgment was no good on this, as well as expensive and slow in reaching a decision. This was the type of responsibility that we were trying to get in the field so the decision could be made by someone much closer to the scene.

Chapman did not like controversy. He wanted always to try to smooth things out, and one could

 

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not carry on the same kind of battle when he was Secretary. I think you pointed out that after Chapman became Secretary, he redelegated authority and, I think, I ended up with the Bureau of Mines and the Geological Survey. I had been General Counsel at Bonneville, at TVA, and the attorney in charge of power at the War Production Board, and this was an integral part of the whole CVA fight.

HESS: Did you go in to speak to him about that?

DAVIDSON: I did. As I recall, I think I said, "What are you going to do about the CVA?" He answered: "Oh, yes, I forgot about that, but I'll put out a memorandum." So then he put out a memorandum saying that I was to continue with CVA.

HESS: Even though you hadn't been assigned to be in charge of public power?

DAVIDSON: That's right. He said I was to continue with the CVA. But he could hardly have helped

 

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doing this because, after all, I was the administration spokesman, and the White House would undoubtedly have questioned him had he not done this.

HESS: How much of an effect on CVA do you think your resignation had? Did it lose its main advocate?

DAVIDSON: When I finally resigned, the newspapers said that CVA was dead as a dodo.

HESS: How much of an effect do you think the Korean war, which came along in the last of June in 1950, had on such a domestic program as this, when we had to change the spotlight from domestic to foreign.?

DAVIDSON: When was this, June of '50?

HESS: June of 1950.

DAVIDSON: I think properly handled, it might have been a very good was to have the Columbia Valley Administration adopted as a more efficient means of getting power for needed uses.

 

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HESS: Did you stress that point at the time, do you recall? This was in June of '50 and you left last of that year? Did you see the Korean war in the context of an opportunity at that time?

DAVIDSON: I probably didn't at that time. You see I think there is a lot of background that maybe just as well go into now. After Mr. Chapman -- when was it that he was appointed?

HESS: December 1, 1949.

DAVIDSON: December 1, 1949.

HESS: The change in Interior took place about one year after the election. When Mr. Krug left, there were five men who were prominently mentioned in the press as possible replacement Harold Ickes was one; Senator O'Mahoney of Wyoming was another; Mr. Chapman was one; you one; and Mon Wallgren was the fifth.

DAVIDSON: Mon Wallgren was in Washington State at the

 

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time. He was a very close friend of the President's.

HESS: Yes he was, and had been for quite some time. Do you think that Harold Ickes had a good chance of getting his job back at that time?

DAVIDSON: I don't really think so.

HESS: Do you think it was mostly newspaper talk?

DAVIDSON: I think it was newspaper talk, although he did come in…

HESS: What about Mon Wallgren?

DAVIDSON: I think that was a possibility, because the President was very friendly with Mon, and he liked him. However, Mon was Governor then, and I think maybe he just decided that he'd rather stay out there.

HESS: What about the Senator?

DAVIDSON: I doubt it, although Senator O'Mahoney was

 

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also a close friend of the Presidents.

I've mentioned before that after Chapman became Secretary of Interior, there was no Under Secretary appointed until after I resigned.

HESS: Did you think you were going to get that job?

DAVIDSON: Yes: I had had lunch with Secretary Chapman after these newspaper stories had appeared in which these people were mentioned as possible candidates for Secretary, of which I was one. I never really considered myself a very strong contender for the position, because I thought that others had better connections with the President and were better known than I. But I remember Oscar had me for lunch in the Secretary's private dining room and said, in effect, "Look, Jebby, I'm older than you are, I've been in the Department longer. I'm entitled to be Secretary, and I wish you would pull off those who are pushing you, and if I get it, you'll be Under Secretary."

 

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So I said, "Okay, Oscar, I agree with you, that you're entitled to it."

He said, "I won't stay too long in the office, and then you can move on up," as I recall the conversation. But you know you lose out on details after twenty-five years.

So, anyway, Oscar was appointed, and I waited for my appointment to go through, which it didn't. Let's see, he was appointed in December. I expected it to go through right away, and it didn't.

Well, after a few months, various people who were my supporters over on the Hill (and I had a number of very good friends) would ask me why my appointment hadn't gone through. I remember on one occasion a group of Senators showed up at the Department -- I didn't know they were coming -- but Oscar felt, obviously, that I had put it together, because they were all sitting in his outer office and I got a buzz to come in the back way because my office was right next to the Secretary's office.

 

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I went in and he said, "There's a group of Senators waiting out there to talk about you as Under Secretary. I don't like this kind of pressure."

And I said, "Look, Oscar, they're my friends, I appreciate it, but I didn't know they were coming and I'm certainly not responsible for their being here."

Anyway, I left and they went in to see him. I remember some of them. There was Senator [Clinton P.] Anderson, Senator [Dennis] Chavez, Senator [Theodore Francis] Green of Rhode Island, Senators [Walter G.] Magnuson and [Henry M.] Jackson, Senator [Wayne L.] Morse, and it may have been Senator Young, but I've forgotten all of them. It's somewhere in the record. They said, "We are here to ask about Davidson being Under Secretary." Senator Morse gave me a report after the meeting.

And Oscar said, "Well, I'm all for Jebby, but the President will not approve of him, because he caused so much trouble in the desegregation of the swimming pools, and the President thinks

 

[164]

he's somewhat of a troublemaker, and he just won't appoint him."

Well, obviously, they took that at face value. But sometime later Senator Morse, who was a good friend of Truman's and also a good friend of mine, arranged an appointment with the President, and said, "What is it you have against Davidson that you won't appoint him Under Secretary?"

Truman said, "Nothing." He said, "I'd be very happy to appoint Davidson Under Secretary, but I have never received a recommendation from Oscar Chapman that this be done."

James Patton, of the National Farmers Union, and a friend of Chapman's, also had a meeting with the President on my behalf, and was also told that Chapman had never made the recommendation.

Thus it became obvious that Chapman's commitment to me had been only a political ploy which he had no intention of honoring. In addition, he took the bureaus I had been supervising away from me and gave them to Bill Warne.

 

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HESS: I found a clipping on that subject. It indicated that when Chapman took over he appointed William Warne Assistant Secretary in Charge of Water and Power Development, and you were in charge of Mineral Resources.

DAVIDSON: My background was basically not mineral resources. I'd always been in public power.

HESS: And Mr. Chapman knew that.

DAVIDSON: Yes. But you see, Bill Warne also was more traditional old line department. He'd come out of the Bureau of Reclamation, and Krug and I were the outsiders. The program staff and the people we'd brought in were firmly on our side. But Chapman's philosophy was different: he was trying to bring Interior back to the old department, not the new; and he didn't want people around who didn't agree. I still advocated CVA and was still pushing for it, the President was still for it, but Chapman's support was at most lukewarm, contrasted

 

[166]

to Krug's. I felt that with the support that I had on the Hill and other places, that Oscar couldn't appoint any other person Under Secretary as long as I was around, and yet I knew he would not voluntarily give me any position of real authority.

Thus stripped of assignments that would make my Government work meaningful, I decided to resign from Interior and work for causes in which I believed outside of Government.

HESS: Mr. Richard Searles was brought in as Under Secretary after you left?

DAVIDSON: Yes, after I left.

HESS: What had been his background, do you recall? He was brought in from the outside.

DAVIDSON: He was brought in from the outside, and I didn't know much about him. The President accepted my resignation by letter on December 21 asking me to do a study of power resources in

 

[167]

relation to defense needs, which I did, for a month or so after I got back to the Pacific Northwest.

HESS: Whatever came of that?

DAVIDSON: I turned it in. It was quite an exhaustive report, which recommended that we had to develop some strong advocacy for the construction of several additional dams and power plants in the Northwest. I turned it in to Secretary Chapman, and I don't know what happened with it. It did not see the light of day.

HESS: Do you think that was a parting shot on his part to give you an assignment when you left, and really not pay much attention to your report?

DAVIDSON It may have been, but I really don't know. I just know that the report didn't get anywhere.

HESS: Back on CVA, Michael Straus was Commissioner of Reclamation. What was his view about establishing a CVA?

 

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DAVIDSON: Well, if you recall, in yesterday's discussion, you asked me how I got into the Interior Department as Assistant Secretary, and I pointed out that the administrator of Bonneville, Paul Raver, and I had been ordered into Ickes' office to explain why we had been advocating a CVA, and the chief prosecuting witness was Mike Straus. Then several weeks later Krug went in as Secretary and I as Assistant Secretary. No one assumed that Mike had changed his position. He had to shut up because this was the Secretary's and then the President's program. I had no question but that Mike was feeding people over on the Hill information, along with the Army Engineers, to stop the CVA.

HESS: Because he thought his bureau would lose authority?

DAVIDSON: His bureau would have. We would have taken away Grand Coulee Dam, for example, which was under the Bureau of Reclamation. It would have

 

[169]

been administered by the Columbia Valley Administration.

I used the following as an example to show why we needed a CVA. A barge was going up the Columbia and got stuck on a sandbar. A discharge of water was needed from the Grand Coulee Dam to float it off. So the president of the barge line called the Army Engineers which controlled the flow of water in the river. The Army Engineers said, "We cannot promise water from Grand Coulee because it's under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Reclamation." He then called the Bureau of Reclamation and they said, "Well, we'll look into it and call you back." On returning the call the Bureau said, "Well, we can't do it, because if we discharge water, it will affect the dam of the Puget Sound Power and Light Company down the river and cause them to lose energy -- and the Comptroller General won't let us pay for that."

The barge continued to sit on the sand bar. Finally Bonneville Power Administration was

 

[170]

called and said, "All right, we'll agree to give back to Puget Sound the amount of power that is taken out." Four or five different Federal agencies were in the act while that barge sat there. It was this kind of problem we were trying to solve. If it had been TVA, they would have released the water and floated the barge and have the barge company pay for whatever the costs were.

Now, Mike and the rest of them wanted to hold on to their jurisdiction. I've felt that to a number of people in Government, jurisdiction, and his particular bureaucracy, is much more important than efficient government.

HESS: In one of the articles in your scrapbooks, I found an article by Richard Neuberger who said that there were many who believed that you would be CVA's first administrator if it was established.

DAVIDSON: As peculiar as that may seem, that never entered my head. I didn't have any money. I had had

 

[171]

to leave as Assistant Secretary to go back and try to replenish the till. I knew then that I had to go back and try to make enough money to support my family. During the time that I was Assistant Secretary I had to sell all the property I owned in Louisiana in order to pay the additional freight of holding the job. So, I don't think I could have afforded it. But that problem never arose.

HESS: Let's discuss the change of one word, Columbia Valley Authority to Columbia Valley Administration. Why was that change made, and whose idea was it to change that word?

DAVIDSON: I don't recall. The problem with the word "authority" was that we were batted all over the West by the power, companies and its related interests, the Reclamation Society and so forth, that an authority was synonymous with dictatorship. "Administration" was an easier word to sell. I didn't care what it was called. It was the results that we were interested in. And all along, we were always willing

 

[172]

to compromise, and the President recognized that we were willing to do that, but the power companies and the agencies were working hand in hand to keep their jurisdiction and the status quo.

HESS: On April 13, 1949, the President sent a special message to Congress recommending the establishment of CVA, Columbia Valley Administration, this was Item 77 of the 1949 volume of the Public Papers. Did you work on the President's message?

DAVIDSON: I'm sure I did. I worked on the bill and worked very hard with Charles Murphy and Dave Bell at the White House.

HESS: Did you sit in on any sessions at which Mr. Truman may have been present, either on the wording of the legislation or of the message?

DAVIDSON: No.

HESS: But with his assistants, with Bell and Murphy?

DAVIDSON: Always with the assistants.

 

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HESS: Do you know how much input Mr. Truman may have had into this message?

DAVIDSON: No, I do not.

HESS: But he was interested in the subject?

DAVIDSON: Obviously, or he wouldn't have sent the messages and sent the memorandum around telling Interior to take the lead. By the time he sent that memorandum around, I think I was already known as a pretty hard driver.

HESS: Did you ever hear of Mr. Truman's reaction to the fact that his wishes were not being carried out by the Administration? You seem to be one of the few people who was doing what Mr. Truman wanted done. Did you ever hear any of his reactions to that situation?

DAVIDSON: Not on this. After all -- and I guess if you put this in perspective -- with all of the problems that confronted the President, you can understand

 

[174]

why he couldn't spend too much time on CVA by itself.

I think if there had ever been any flagrant action such as one of his administrators going over and testifying against the CVA, or doing something like that, he would have heard from the President, but undercover work is hard to expose. It's not the kind of thing I mentioned yesterday about the recognition of Israel when an order was issued and it was not carried out. This time the President issued an order and it was carried out. A bill was introduced, the message was there, testimony was given for the bill, and I think even Mike Straus went over and testified in favor of CVA.

HESS: Even though he privately opposed the operation?

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: What was the main difficulty, you just couldn't get the votes?

 

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DAVIDSON: Well, I think the passage of a project of this kind depends a great deal on the sentiment in the region. That's why it was so important to defeat Dworshak in Idaho, because Idaho had been the chief state fighting it.

HESS: The main stumbling block?

DAVIDSON: The main stumbling block. As I said, Magnuson and Jackson of Washington were for it. By then, Wayne had really gotten neutralized, although before his election he said that he was opposed to it, but if you read his speech he could take either side. That's why he took fourteen pages in the Congressional Record explaining his position so he could pick out any way he wanted to go.

Now, with the Washington Senators for it, with Oregon split and Idaho vehemently opposed, with the exception -- I've forgotten whether Glen Taylor was still Senator. I guess he was. But Glen was ineffective after the Wallace campaign, so it had to

 

[176]

be somebody else. I think that the death knell of the CVA was the death of Senator Miller. His defeat of Senator Dworshak had changed the complexion in the Senate as far as Idaho's position on the CVA was concerned. We had Compton White in the northern district of Idaho who was strong for it. There was a Republican, John Carfield Sanborn, from southern Idaho who was opposed to it. Having two Senators and one Congressman from Idaho for it, rather than one ineffective Senator and one strong opponent, Dworshak, would have made the difference and the CVA would have passed.

HESS: I believe that most of the Governors were opposed, isn't that correct?

DAVIDSON: That's correct.

HESS: According to a clipping I found, Governor [Arthur B.] Langlie of Washington, Governor [Douglas] McKay of Oregon, Governor [Vail]

 

[177]

Pitman of Nevada, and Governor [Charles A.] Robins of Idaho, all opposed it.

DAVIDSON: Now, let's see, Nevada had practically nothing to do with it. There are no people in the watershed in the State of Nevada, so let's eliminate Nevada. Robins was a strong Republican and private power man. He was the one who reappointed Dworshak after Miller's death. Langlie was a strong Republican and opposed it from the State of Washington. McKay was a strong Republican, and became Secretary of the Interior under Eisenhower. So we had the Republicans completely against the CVA, and the Democrats were for it, and Truman was a Democrat.

HESS: You mentioned that one of the important considerations was public attitude in the area. How did you try to sway the public attitude? How did you try to present your program?

DAVIDSON: Well, from the list of speeches which you have there...

 

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HESS: Frequent appearances, is that right?

DAVIDSON: Yes, and I used to accept every invitation that I could, to the extent that I was criticized by Senator Harry Cain that this was all I was doing. I refute that, because when I made a speech, and even assuming that there was one at lunch and another one at dinner, which I didn't do often, I was attending to Department business for the balance of the day. Usually I was in centers, such as Spokane, which was the center of the mining industry; Boise, which was involved heavily in irrigation, or Portland, where Bonneville was located and also the head of my Pacific Northwest Field Committee. You must remember that I had the responsibility assigned to coordinate the Interior agencies in the Pacific Northwest; and in the Pacific Northwest Interior is the dominant Federal agency.

HESS: On the subject of the feeling and the sentiment in the area, I found a clipping dealing with the

 

[179]

question of holding a referendum among the people of the Pacific Northwest. Do you think that was a good idea or not? The clipping said you did not agree with it.

DAVIDSON: No, I did not, because I didn't think a referendum would have been productive. An issue of this kind, which did not change any of the activities in which Government agencies were engaged, but only proposed a different administrative method of handling, is not a proper subject for a referendum. I felt that this was a matter of Federal Government Administration on which the Senators and Representatives could and should take on themselves. It was up to the people to elect people who would be responsive to their wills on this and other issues. Federal action was required on handling the country's resources, and a referendum by the people of several states could be nothing but an expression of opinion. It would have been a waste of time, and not really productive of any good results.

 

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HESS: Do you recall anything in particular about the decision to locate an atomic energy plant at Arco, Idaho? There was some speculation in the press that David Lilienthal's decision to favor that location was because he wanted to build a large plant that would need great quantities of electric energy which would give a boost to the establishment of CVA. Also I note in another clipping, that Secretary Krug had brought suit against the Idaho Power Company to prevent them from building transmission lines from Bliss to American Falls. The speculation in the press was that this was in order to keep private lines away from the expected market at Arco. Do you recall that?

DAVIDSON: That's over near Idaho Falls, yes.

HESS: In other words, it looks to me like what they're trying to do here, according to the press, and that could have been a completely slanted view, was for David Lilienthal to go in

 

[181]

(he was head of the Atomic Energy Commission), to go in and build a large atomic energy plant and say, "Now, we need energy here. We need electrical power." But Krug is keeping private power lines from being built there, so it would seem that they were trying to create a need for construction of Government plants.

DAVIDSON: I think that all of this, and the motives attributed to Krug and Lilienthal were figments of the imagination of a hostile press. I do recall, because I was the general counsel at Bonneville at the time the atomic energy plant was built at Hanford, Washington, and that it was essential for the plant to have an extremely steady, reliable, and permanent supply of electricity, and we had to build in lines from various sources to give this reliability. Nobody knew why we were doing it at the time.

HESS: Did you know at the time?

 

[182]

DAVIDSON: No.

HESS: You just knew you were going to need a heck of a lot of energy?

DAVIDSON: I knew we needed a whole lot of energy, and I knew it had to be absolutely foolproof as far as the outages were concerned. I didn't know why, but we were doing it. We had orders.

Arco, over near Idaho Falls, was built at a later date. But the situation in Idaho was completely different from that in the State of Washington. The Idaho Power Company has always dominated the politics in Idaho. As such, they were successful in keeping any public lines out. We refused to grant any right-of-way over public lands to power companies that would not wheel Government power over their lines, and this was undoubtedly what was involved in the lawsuit. I've forgotten what the article said was finally worked out. What's the date of this?

 

[183]

HESS: I'm not sure. I didn't write the date down.

DAVIDSON: I think this is after '50.

HESS: It could well have been.

DAVID SON: I think it was after '50 and I was out of the middle of that, but I agree with the Government's position. If a private power company wants to build a transmission line over Government lands, it is proper for the Government to insert a provision in the right-of-way agreement that to the extent of any unused capacity in the line, the Government could transmit its power upon payment to the company of reasonable compensation.

HESS: What are some of the other methods that the private power companies used to keep CVA out, anything in particular, anything that we should put down before we nail the lid on this?

DAVIDSON: Well, they are well-heeled, well-financed, and were tough opponents. There was not an election that took place in any state where a

 

[184]

power company didn’t have a pretty active role.

HESS: What is the likelihood of an administration or an authority of this nature, CVA and MVA, being established at some point in the future?

DAVIDSON: Some point in the future is a long time. I would hope that it would not be necessary for us to go through another depression of the kind which occurred in ’29, '30, '31 and ‘32 to bring it about. When Roosevelt came in, he was able to bring some of the great social legislation which we have still on the books today: Social Security, the SEC regulations after the Wall Street debacle, Federal Deposit Insurance. TVA came in at that time. There are many progressive and good that should be done, and it is unfortunate that people are not sufficiently interested to force such programs through, unless you have drastic occurrences such as the depression. I hate to believe this, but it sure looks like that is what happens. Therefore, given another big

 

[185]

depression, and things move in a hurry, then you might get a CVA, but its scope now would be different. For example, I would think it should cover the entire energy field.

HESS: A newspaper headline in your scrapbook mentions a reorganization recommended by the Hoover Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. The Commission recommended that the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation be combined into a single, integrated Water Development and Use Service in the Department of the Interior. Did that cause a lot of flak in the Department of Interior at that time?

DAVIDSON: No, they were delighted, because you were taking the Army Engineers into the Department of the Interior.

HESS: All right, I should rephrase my question. How mad did that make the Corps of Engineers?

DAVIDSON: Oh, it made them very mad, no question about

 

[186]

it, but Interior was happy. They thought that was a great reform.

HESS: But nothing came of it?

DAVIDSON: Nothing came of it.

HESS: Was it because of the power of the Corps of Engineers?

DAVIDSON: The power of the Corps of Engineers, yes, and this was Roosevelt's, wasn't it?

HESS: Harry S. Truman did it.

DAVIDSON: Well, I remember that report. We used that report a great deal, calling attention to the examples it cited and saying that the kind of consolidation we were talking about in the CVA would remedy the problem. The Army was battling going into Interior so we said, "Let's create an independent agency," which could be the CVA.

HESS: Where on the scale of the lobbies, speaking of

 

[187]

the powerful lobbies of great influence in Congress, where on the scale would you place the Corps of Engineers?

DAVIDSON: Number one.

HESS: Number one.

DAVIDSON: Number one. I think it's probably the most powerful lobby.

HESS: Why are they so strong? Have they got a dam in everybody's backyard?

DAVIDSON: No, but they're part of the military establishment, and look at the appropriations that the military receives. Two-thirds of our budget is going to pay for past wars and future wars and supporting the military. I know one thing that used to gripe us was that the Secretary of Interior did not have a private plane, but when you got over into the military, even the assistants had their own plane to

 

[188]

run all over the country. Those same forces were at work over in Congress. The chairmen of the committees were really spokesmen for the military.

HESS: At the time that Mr. Krug left and your name was mentioned as a possible replacement, would you have liked to have moved into the top spot and become Secretary of the Interior?

DAVIDSON: Of course. I think anybody would.

HESS: Did you have any expectations along that line?

DAVIDSON: No, I did not. No, I would have liked to become Under Secretary, because in the Secretary’s absence the Under Secretary attends Cabinet meetings, and that is not the case with an Assistant Secretary, although I was the senior Assistant Secretary.

HESS: What is your overall evaluation of the handling of the Department by Secretary Krug?

DAVIDSON: I think Krug did a good job. His forte

 

[189]

was administration and he was good at this. He was not out making many policy statements, although I thought his views were great on policy. But as an administrator, I've never found anybody who was so precise and could lay out projects and assign responsibility to the individuals and say, "Have this back at such-and-such a time," and then analyze the various points of view and come out with a decision. I've found very few people who come anywhere close to the kind of analysis and decision making that Krug could do.

HESS: That was his strong point.

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: Did he have any weak points? If you had to name one, what would you name as a weak point?

DAVIDSON: Well, I suppose when one is in public life, the failure to use the media sufficiently is a weakness. One must be recognized sufficiently as

 

[190]

being on top of the heap to be able to stay there and to be able to bat down some of the opposition when it starts shooting at you.

HESS: In other words, he didn't have a very good press.

DAVIDSON: That's right, he did not. And you know, there are ways and ways of getting the press. Sometimes if you are particular pals with a guy and you let him get scoops, they become somewhat beholden to you. I don't think Cap ever played that kind of a game.

HESS: What would be your general evaluation of the handling of the Department under Secretary Chapman?

DAVIDSON: Generally in this discussion, I have indicated that we were in the process of decentralizing the agencies, trying to make them work with the program committee and the field committees. This gained ascendancy under Krug, but this program

 

[191]

lost ground under Chapman, so therefore, obviously I don't think Chapman did as good a job.

HESS: I noticed in the clippings that in late 1949, you were approached by certain Oregon Democrats on the question of running for the U.S. Senate against Senator Wayne Morse, correct?

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: Why didn't you run?

DAVIDSON: Well, I suppose two or three reasons: One, I guess I didn't think I could beat him; two, if I could needle him I was very happy. He made a speech that he was opposed to the CVA, and that, naturally, threw him in opposition to me.

HESS: Why did he take that stand?

DAVIDSON: I think that if you read his speech, it's no philosophical stand, it was purely political.

 

[192]

He was running as a Republican. He practically had to take that position, or he wasn't going to get the Republican nomination again. In later campaigns when he finally came to the conclusion that he could not be renominated by the Republicans, he shifted over to the Democrats' side.

HESS: Do you think that he felt that the majority of people, the majority of votes in Oregon, were opposed, and he was taking what in Oregon was a popular stance?

DAVIDSON: Wayne had two places to go: First, he had to go through a Republican primary, and he hard a lot of Republicans mad at him, and the Republicans were almost solidly opposed to a CVA. But if you read his speech, you will see that he was on both sides of the question.

HESS: So first he had to satisfy the Republican electorate, and then the general electorate.

DAVIDSON: Yes.

 

[193]

HESS: What is your view, do you think that more people in Oregon favored CVA?

DAVIDSON: Yes, the people, yes.

HESS: The people as a whole?

DAVIDSON: All elections on issues depend on the education of the electorate, and it depends on whether they know what they're voting on. And this is a problem. When a great deal of money is spent against a measure such as the CVA, and the fight is not only by various interests but by various bureaus, a great deal of confusion is created. Many people such as those in the Grange, some parts of labor, and a few other than myself, were making speeches to try to offset all of the innuendoes and all other things which had been put out. If we could have kept that up and the people would have understood what was going on, in my view, there would have been no problem if an election were held.

 

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HESS: At the time that you were asked to run for U.S. Senator, Mr. Monroe Sweetland was Democratic National Committeeman.

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: His name appears quite often in the records out at the Truman Library, he was a Democrat who was well-known. What do you recall about Mr. Sweetland?

DAVIDSON: At the time when President Roosevelt was in, Mr. Sweetland was National Committeeman, and both Senators and all the Congressmen were Republicans, including the Governor. So, Mr. Sweetland was the only contact with the President for the Democrats in the state. Mr. Sweetland was extremely articulate, aggressive, a: great individual, and he is responsible for the rebirth of the Democratic Party in the State of Oregon. He continued as National Committeeman for a number of years out there, and I think he deserves credit,

 

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much more than anyone else, in bringing strong Democrats into the Government in Oregon.

HESS: Just a few words about some of your involvement with some of the other units of the Department of Interior. You had mentioned earlier in the day that you thought that the Bureau of Indian Affairs should be transferred to the Federal Security Agency.

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: Mr. Oscar Ewing was in charge of FSA at that time, what were his views on the matter? Did you discuss that with him?

DAVIDSON: I sure did.

HESS: You saw him every Monday night.

DAVIDSON: Yes, he thought it made sense and the guys around there thought it made sense. But this is something that has to be done by act of Congress. The opposing argument was that Indians

 

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had lands and resources and a Government agency has to help the Indians administer these, and this was a proper activity for Interior.

HESS: The Indians have been under the Bureau of Indian Affairs for quite some time. What is your general view of the overall handling of Indian matters by the United States Government?

DAVIDSON: Maybe it was necessary for us to do it the way we have. I think the Government has tried, and it's very difficult to know which way the Indians should go. I felt that they should be integrated into the society, but there's such a strong sentiment by the American Indian Society, I think it is, that they should be preserved outside our society with a culture of their own. The Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of Interior has been more or less responsive to each of these points of view, and has been subjected to this tug back and forth, and therefore, nothing's happened. When we

 

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were in the Department, I thought one of the most bureaucratic, slow, and incompetent agencies was the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Warner Gardner, the other Assistant Secretary, and I used to toss that Bureau back and forth to each other, because neither of us wanted to fool with it. It seemed impossible to do anything. It shouldn't be a resource agency. Indians are people, and that is why I wanted that agency transferred to H. E. W.

HESS: At the time that you were there, the first Commissioner I believe was William A. Brophy.

DAVIDSON: Wasn't it Zimmerman when we came in? Brophy was an Indian, he was Indian ancestry, whom Cap appointed, but he got tuberculosis and he had to leave because he was sick. Now, Bill Brophy, we think, would have done a good job because he understood the problems, he was an Indian himself, or part Indian, but he had to give it up.

HESS: William Zimmerman came in as Acting Commissioner.

 

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DAVIDSON: Yes, he was Deputy. He had been there for a long time.

HESS: And then John Nichols.

DAVIDSON: Wasn't Myer there? When was Nichols? Brophy was the one I remember we brought in. John Collier had been there under Ickes. Zimmerman was his assistant.

HESS: John Collier?

DAVIDSON: I'm pretty sure it was John Collier. You see, Ickes wanted the job as Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

HESS: John Collier had been Commissioner for years and years.

DAVIDSON: Yes. He had been Commissioner for many years, and he was one that felt that the Indians should be preserved as a separate culture. Dillon Myer, that's who it was. Dillon Myer came in as Commissioner, maybe he was never

 

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confirmed, but he was appointed. And Brophy was the one that was finally made Commissioner, and we had great expectations from Bill Brophy, of really understanding the problem, being progressive and doing something about it, and then he got sick. Then it went back to the bureaucrats. You see, one of the problems, I explained earlier, was the problem of never getting rid of anybody. And on that next echelon under the Commissioner were people who had been there forever, who had Civil Service tenure, and they feel the best way to stay around is to go to work from 9 to 4 and do nothing -- "don't stick your neck out."

HESS: You really can't get anything done.

DAVIDSON: Correct.

HESS: Mr. Truman used to speak of it as "punching a feather pillow."

DAVIDSON: And this is what you really feel in an old time agency such as Interior. The only one

 

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that I think was any worse than the Bureau of Indian Affairs was Geological Survey, and it moved with glacial speed..

HESS: Perhaps they felt secure.

DAVIDSON: And a million years to them was as a day. I didn't exactly feel that way. I'd like to have gotten some surveys made all over the West, which has never been done. The West has never been surveyed.

HESS: Let's discuss some of the possessions and territories we had at that time. Mr. Warne was in charge of matters in Alaska, is that right?

DAVIDSON: Yes. I never really had Alaska, because you see Alaska and the Pacific Northwest are very often at odds with each other, so that was consciously done, one region or the other.

HESS: Why do they have that spirit of competition?

DAVIDSON: Because the Seattle Chamber of Commerce for

 

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so many years dominated the economy of Alaska. They were responsible for fishing interests, canning interests, for financing and everything else, and therefore, anybody who represented the Northwest...

HESS: The Alaskans didn't trust them?

DAVIDSON: No, and rightfully they didn't. I am in Alaska a great deal now.

HESS: You have a law office there, too, do you not?

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: You did go to Hawaii at times, didn't you, and the Governor there was Ingram Stainback. What was the problem of getting statehood for Hawaii and Alaska? This is a big problem. Now they have statehood. Why didn't Hawaii and Alaska obtain statehood during the Truman administration?

DAVIDSON: The old problem of whether they were going

 

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to come in as free states or slave states. This was it, basically; because of their anticipated votes on civil rights, the Southerners didn't want them. There would then be four more Senators who would vote in favor of civil rights. That's basically it. I would say that was the underlying consideration. Now they could find a lot of reasons; that Alaska and Hawaii are not contiguous to the other forty-eight; that Hawaii was going to vote Republican and Alaska Democratic, or vice versa. The two parties always jockeyed as to which one would come in first. But there were no merits to any of the arguments; there was really no good reason for them not to be admitted.

HESS: Did you have any dealings with Governor [Jesus T.] Pinero in Puerto Rico?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I knew [Luis] Munoz-Marin -- well, Pinero, yes. As you know, Munoz-Marin was always a dominant figure in politics. His father had been the one who had broken Puerto Rico away from

 

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Spain. Munoz was then running the Puerto Rican Senate, and Pinero was his choice to be governor. The first elected governor, of course, was Munoz-Marin himself.

HESS: Did you have any particular dealings with them at the time?

DAVIDSON: Well, I knew them, I remember I was there for the inauguration, and we used to talk a lot, but it doesn't seem to me that I had as much to do with Puerto Rico as I did with the Virgin Islands for some reason.

HESS: Did you have very much to do with the Virgin Islands when our first Governor was down there, Governor [William] Hastie?

DAVIDSON: No.

HESS: Any particular reason that you did not?

DAVIDSON: Well, I'll tell you why it was. The Virgin

 

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Islands went through the Division of Islands and Territories, and that bureau reported directly to the Secretary.

They went direct to Krug, and I really don't remember why I got involved in the Virgin Islands. I do remember we took a trip out into the Pacific. We stopped over in Hawaii on our way to Guam and Samoa. We were trying to get Guam and Samoa from the Navy into civilian control. And George Marshall was very helpful on that. He was Secretary of State then. He had been the Secretary of Defense, and he felt that Guam and Samoa ought to be taken out from military control. I remember a meeting with him over at the Blair House, and I could have fallen off of my chair when he said, "Yes, I agree that these should no longer stay under military domination." The Navy used to send their busted captains down to be Governor of Guam or Samoa.

HESS: A question on the so-called "Little Cabinet."

 

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Did you feel there was proper liaison between the Assistant Secretaries of the various departments? Did you have regular meetings between the Assistant Secretaries of Interior and the Assistant Secretaries of Commerce, and the other departments?

DAVIDSON: No, I've forgotten who it was who started these meetings. It might have been Dean Acheson -- I've forgotten who. But, anyway, somebody started having a monthly meeting of the Assistant Secretaries for lunch.

HESS: How long did that last?

DAVIDSON: There must have been about a hundred Assistant Secretaries. And we would meet an hour for lunch once a month...

HESS: Were they more of a social nature?

DAVIDSON: It was a social get-together, but we used to have somebody make a speech. You couldn't get to

 

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know the others very well that way. However, if you had a particular problem with another department, and you'd happen to meet its Assistant Secretary at lunch, you could find out who to talk to over in his department. But I think a great deal more could have been done in getting the sub-Cabinet together. I don't know whether anything's being done today. But it is helpful in trying to run the Government to let one department know what the others are doing. The way I found out more about what was going on in the Government, was through our Monday night meetings.

HESS: You say that those meetings were started by Dean Acheson?

DAVIDSON: For some reason, that's in the back of my mind.

HESS: What time did he start them? He was Assistant Secretary and then Under Secretary. He left the

 

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State Department for a couple of years, and then came back in 1949 as Secretary of State.

DAVIDSON: You'd better not take this as too accurate. For some reason I have that impression.

HESS: I was wondering if this was in Mr. Truman's first term or Mr. Truman's second term?

DAVIDSON: I'm not sure. I don't know.

HESS: As you mentioned, these were social meetings. Would it have been better to have a good, substantial business meeting between the Assistant Secretaries? Would that have helped the administration of the Government?

DAVIDSON: I think so. Any time you can get people together to discuss their mutual problems and the relationship of one agency to the other, it's to the good. That way you can avoid agencies going off in completely opposite directions. Therefore, meeting more often would have helped. But, you know, the Assistant

 

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Secretaries are pretty busy. You really end up with the workloads of the agencies, and particularly in Interior. During my time there, there were only two and later three Assistant Secretaries. But you've got your hands full. The Secretary is more on a different plane, he's going to social and more political functions and he has to attend certain meetings, so the workload of the Department falls upon the Assistants.

HESS: You're too busy for such meetings.

DAVIDSON: That was one of the objections to having them more often, since many thought you'd just go there and waste a couple of hours.

HESS: Moving on to the Cabinet, in your opinion, what did President Truman regard as the proper role for his Cabinet?

DAVIDSON: I wouldn't know this. My contacts with the President were not sufficient for me to have insight on that. I felt that, just looking at

 

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it from the outside, that our Monday night group was every bit as influential as his Cabinet.

HESS: Approximately how many times did you see or meet with President Truman during his administration?

DAVIDSON: Oh, undoubtedly, no more than three or four times.

HESS: The swimming pool matter?

DAVIDSON: The swimming pool matter.

HESS: Was that the first time?

DAVIDSON: I think this was the first time we were there for a discussion and for him to settle an argument.

I remember the time he was turning on the power for the Grand Coulee Dam.

I was over there for ceremonial occasions, and parties, receptions, and then in his office when some bill was being signed, things of that

 

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kind. But the swimming pool matter is one I remember since we were arguing positions.

HESS: Just as an opinion, which Cabinet members do you think had more influence with Mr. Truman? Of course, he had quite a few.

DAVIDSON: Yes he did, I always understood that Snyder had a great deal of influence. Forrestal had some. I don't know. I think it all depends on what subject we're talking about.

For example, would Mon Wallgren have more influence than members of the Cabinet, because he saw the President more often and on a more personal basis? They used to meet in the evenings, and talk. I wonder whether social occasions of this kind, where you can discuss issues on a more informal basis, aren't really more important.

HESS: Did you ever meet with the President, in Key West, or aboard the Williamsburg, or on any social occasions of that nature?

 

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DAVIDSON: No.

HESS: Even though it occurred after you left, when did you first become aware that President Truman did not intend to run for re-election in 1952?

DAVIDSON: I don't recall. I assume when he made the announcement.

HESS: At the time he took himself out of the race, who did you think was the best standard-bearer for the Democratic Party in 1952? That was in the spring of 1952.

DAVIDSON: That was Stevenson's nomination, wasn't it? Who were the others?

HESS: There were several others who would like to have had it. Vice President Barkley would liked to have had it. He was too old, according to labor. Kefauver would have been available.

DAVIDSON: As you know, at that time all the candidates

 

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came out to Oregon for its . primary, and they figured they had to win Oregon, or at least run a good race, if they expected to get anywhere at the convention. We were a little reluctant at that time to make up our mind. So if Mr. Truman wasn't going to run, then we'd take a look at someone else, and I really don't remember. Obviously, we became enthusiastic about Stevenson.

HESS: You attended the convention in Chicago that year, I believe.

DAVIDSON: Yes, I did.

HESS: Do you recall anything in particular and noteworthy about Governor Stevenson's speeches? He made a speech as host Governor, you know.

DAVIDSON: As host Governor, and we thought that was great. Was this the time of the vice-presidential fight between Kefauver...

 

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HESS: You're thinking of the Kefauver-Kennedy confrontation that occurred in 1956. John Sparkman was the vice-presidential nominee in '52, and as I understand, was not really Stevenson's first choice.

DAVIDSON: I've really forgotten.

HESS: Did you participate in the campaign in 1952?

DAVIDSON: I'm sure I did, but I've forgotten now precisely what I did. ’52 -- let's see, I think I first ran for national committeeman in '56. '56 to '60 and then '60 to '64. Those were my terms.

HESS: Mr. Truman put on quite an energetic campaign for Mr. Stevenson in 1952. He took another one of his train rides around the country, and went up through the Northwest. Do you recall seeing Mr. Truman in 1952?

DAVIDSON: I just don't remember. We could probably find in my daily diary or something just where

 

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I was and what happened.

HESS: When Mr. Truman went from Oregon into California, his first stop in California was at Davis, and Chief Justice Earl Warren (Governor Warren at that time), met him in Davis, California. Of course, they had been friends for a number of years.

DAVIDSON: Yes, the President was out there. I've forgotten just when it was, but now that you mention it, I'm thinking of a picture on my wall of the Attorney General of Oregon, President Truman and myself, standing there at the Portland airport. We had him in the room just talking, and we were there a half an hour before his plane took off. You have jogged my memory. I've forgotten what the occasion was, but he was out there.

HESS: He was out there several times.

What could the Democrats have done to win

 

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in 1952, anything at all, against General Eiseonhower?

DAVIDSON: I doubt it. He was a war hero.

HESS: What’s your opinion of the level of Mr. Truman’s administrative ability during the time he was President?

DAVIDSON: I thought he was great. He would make a decision and not go back on it come hell or high water; you didn’t feel that he was going to make one decision one day and another one that next. I think that is extremely important in an executive.

HESS: What do you see as his greatest achievements in the domestic field? Can you think of one? It’s been a long day.

DAVIDSON: It has.

HESS: What do you see as his greatest achievements in the foreign field?

 

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DAVIDSON: I assume Point 4 and the Marshall plan.

HESS: What in your opinion, will be Mr. Truman's place in history?

DAVIDSON: I think he will go down as one of the greatest Presidents we've ever had.

HESS: What's your favorite memory of Mr. Truman?

DAVIDSON: My favorite memory was when he decided in favor of us, on our civil rights fight on the swimming pools. This is very personal, but after all the arguments he said, "Desegregation of the swimming pools is right, this is the way we're going to do it."

HESS: What is your favorite memory of the days you spent in Washington with the Department of the Interior? What's a highlight of your public career?

DAVIDSON: Probably when I left. Oh, gee, I don't know.

 

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HESS: Is there anything else you'd like to add regarding Mr. Truman? I've come to the end of this list. It's about time, isn't it?

DAVIDSON: It's getting time, but not only that, I realize if I had reviewed some of this before this discussion, it would have been much more fruitful, but I need things to jog my memory.

HESS: After twenty-five years, we all do.

DAVIDSON: It's very hard. There are certain things which I said I was going to look up, and I think before we talk again, I'm going to try to have sessions with the various assistants which I had during my tenure who might jog my memory. So during these few months I'll try to do that.

HESS: Shall we shut it off for the day?

DAVIDSON: I think so.

HESS: Thank you very much for your time.

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