Oral History Interview with
Oscar R. Ewing
Attorney, Hughes, Hubbard & Ewing, New
York, New York, and predecessor firms, 1919-1947; Assistant Chairman of
the Democratic National Committee, 1940-42; Vice Chairman, 1942-47; Special
Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, 1942 and again in 1947; Acting
Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 1946; Administrator of
the Federal Security Agency, 1947-53; and organizer and member of an unofficial
political policy group during the Truman administration, 1947-52.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
May 2, 1969
by J. R. Fuchs
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Ewing Oral History Transcripts]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry
S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee
but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember
that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced
for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission
of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened July 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Ewing Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Oscar R. Ewing
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
May 2, 1969
by J. R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Ewing, I thought that we would go ahead with a few more matters
concerning your administration of the Federal Security Agency and might
start by asking about an attack on you by Representative Daniel A. Reed,
a Republican from New York who, I believe, demanded that Mr. Truman recall
you from a London Health Conference. Do you recall anything about that,
EWING: Yes, I had gone to England and a number of other places in Europe
to get firsthand information about how their health services were functioning
and how well they were succeeding. In London I learned that the Medical
Society of Muncie, Indiana had been sending money to a group over there
that was opposing the British health service. At a press conference I
was asked questions about it and I said that I thought it was no business
of the Medical Society in Muncie, Indiana to be taking sides on the medical
problems of Britain. That apparently stirred up some controversy. Lord
Horder, who was the physician to King George VI, who was on the throne
at that time, got into the controversy
in some way. I don't recall the
details because the incident wasn't very important. After I returned home
I learned that Representative Reed had demanded my recall but I don't
think I even knew of it until I got back home.
FUCHS: What year was that, sir?
EWING: I think that was late in '48 or early in '49.
FUCHS: I see. The Social Security Act of 1950 was generally accorded
to have been one major Fair Deal accomplishment, and I believe you appeared
as a witness before committee hearings in regard to that. Do you recall
anything of that situation?
EWING: That was the bill where we were able to get Social Security benefits
extended to people who were permanently and totally disabled. That was
something that was very much needed. If a man died who was sixty-five
or over leaving surviving dependents, those dependents would get certain
benefits. But if he were twenty-five and became permanently and totally
disabled there were no benefits payable to him or to his dependents, yet
the man was economically dead, just as much as if he had been buried
the ground. We felt the law should be amended so that people who became
totally and permanently disabled could draw benefits, and if they died
their dependents should get certain benefits, too.
FUCHS: I believe that the state relief boards were against this rather
strongly. Do you recall anything of that and how did you overcome this
EWING: I don't recall.
FUCHS: In 1948 you worked out an agreement, I believe, in which Gallinger
Hospital in Washington, the municipal hospital, would be open to Negro
doctors and that they would be accepted for residency or internship. Do
you recall anything about how this came about? And the implementation
EWING: Oh, yes. At that time there were only two Negro medical schools
in the United States, one of which was Howard University in Washington
and that was within the bailiwick of the Federal Security Agency. Shortly
after I became Administrator, it was brought to my attention rather vividly
that there was a great shortage of doctors in the United States and a
necessity to find
ways and means to get more of them. But I was particularly
concerned when I learned that there was really an acute shortage of Negro
doctors. There were various counties in the South where there was not
a single Negro doctor and on the whole Negroes got short shrift from the
white doctors. For instance, examples were given me where Negro workmen
would go to a doctor for a shot of some kind and the doctor would give
him the shot right through his work overalls.
I conferred with Dr. Mordecai Johnson, the president of Howard University,
and also with the dean of the medical school at Howard to find out if
there was anything that we might do to increase the output of Negro doctors
by Howard University. Dr. Johnson told me that the output of graduate
doctors of Howard Medical School was severely limited by a rule of the
American Medical Association, that required a medical school to have a
certain number of clinical hospital beds for each student. He said that
in Washington the only teaching hospital for Howard medical students was
Freedman's Hospital, which was also under my jurisdiction. It wasn't a
large hospital so the result was that Howard Medical School could only
educate the number of students for which Freedman's Hospital
the required number of clinical beds. Dr. Johnson added that in Gallinger
Hospital, the great municipal hospital in the District of Columbia, the
teaching privileges were only given to Georgetown University Medical School
and the George Washington Medical School. Gallinger did not extend teaching
privileges to Howard professors. Well, I thought that was something I
might do something about. So, I first got in touch with the commissioners
of the District of Columbia. They were the governing body of the city,
and they recognized the problem but seemed reluctant to do anything unless
I could get the two universities, that is George Washington and Georgetown
Medical Schools, to agree to some change. I then discussed the problem
with the presidents of the two universities. I got the most cordial cooperation
from both of them and also from the dean of the medical school of George
Washington, but the dean of Georgetown was very much opposed to allowing
Howard medical professors having teaching privileges in Gallinger.
EWING: No, they weren't internships. It was a question of
not Howard professors could take their students into Gallinger and the
patients there could be used for clinical teaching.
FUCHS: Was not the privilege of interning there also involved?
EWING: It was. It was involved but it was more important to get this
privilege for medical professors at Howard University to take their students
into the hospital in order to have clinical cases to show their students.
It's an essential part of teaching in a medical school. And, as I say,
the dean of Georgetown was very much opposed to it.
EWING: He just didn't want Negroes in the school, it was a pure racist
FUCHS: In the hospital?
EWING: Yes, I mean in the hospital. So, I went back to Father Guthrie,
the President of Georgetown, and had no trouble whatsoever with him. I
simply said, "Father, this is a religious medical school. It is a medical
school run by a church. The dean of your medical school is opposed to
allowing Howard professors bringing their medical students into Gallinger
Hospital for teaching purposes. I just don't see how a Christian organization
can take that position."
"Well," he said, "I don't either." And he straightened that out in no
time so the Howard University Medical School was given the teaching privileges.
There was also a question of how the patients would be assigned. The
dean of the Georgetown Medical School argued that no white patient would
consent to having a Negro doctor. I took the position that that was up
to the patient, and not up to the dean of the medical school to decide
in advance that the patient wouldn't want a Negro doctor. I asked what
system they were then using in assigning patients between Georgetown and
George Washington Medical Schools. I was told that number one was assigned
to George Washington, number two to Georgetown and so on, alternately.
"Well," I said, "why don't you just include Howard as number three?"
That was finally agreed to and they had no trouble. I learned afterwards
that there were a few white patients
who did not want a Negro doctor and
some Negro patients who didn't want a white doctor. And it balanced out
all right. So, it's been a great help to Howard University. I think they
were able to increase their graduating class from seventy-five to a hundred.
That figure sticks in my mind, but it could be something different.
FUCHS: Now, do you know that Negro interns were accepted in 1948 at Gallinger
EWING: When you pin it down to 1948, I would say no, for the simple reason
that even after Howard got this right to take their medical students into
Gallinger, Howard made a very cautious approach. They started by taking
over services only in subjects where they had really topnotch teachers.
There were a few areas, I don't remember what they were, I just say pediatrics
for example, I don't know that that was it, where they would be weak and
they didn't take on that service until they got their own house in order
and had a strong faculty in the particular subject. I'm not sure just
at what point they began taking interns but it did come I'm sure.
FUCHS: The original agreement did provide that interns
would be taken
on, as you recall?
EWING: As I recall, yes. And residents, too. But Howard University handled
it very well. They were quite sure that they could do their part before
they undertook any service.
FUCHS: Yes. Well, I have a somewhat deep interest in this because of
the work one scholar is doing on civil rights and he was wondering about
some of the statements made about this and when it was actually implemented;
and your current biography in the 1948 issue of Current Biography
stated: "Washington's Jim Crow policy toward hospital doctors was ended
on February 16 , 1948 when Ewing announced Gallinger Hospital would be
opened to Negro doctors and that Negroes would be accepted for residencies
or internships. (They had accepted Negro patients.)" Then a recent book
by Constance Green called The Secret City, Civil Rights in the Nation's
Capitol, published in 1967, stated: "In 1951, the head of Gallinger
Hospital agreed to accept some Negro interns, but otherwise except for
a few half-hearted gestures..." and then it goes on to talk about integration
in Washington and I wondered if that were just simply an incorrect
Then there is a letter in the files dated November 29, 1948 from the corresponding
secretary of the Washington chapter of the Unitarian Fellowship for Social
Justice which complimented the President for the part he took in the negotiations:
"Which resulted in the admission of Negro interns from Howard University
Medical School to Gallinger Hospital. Previous arrangements were obviously
inequitable and impractical. We feel that much benefit to many will result
from the action taken." Now, I wondered if you had any comment about this
which was in November 1948, and also about the ' 51 date given by Miss
Green in her book?
EWING: Well, after I got the arrangements made, I more or less put it
out of my mind. The only thing I recall, two or three times Dr. Mordecai
Johnson, who was president of Howard University, told me that everything
was going fine. I really have no knowledge, after I got through with the
original agreement, I have no firsthand knowledge of what happened afterwards
other than what Dr. Johnson told me.
FUCHS: In regard to the statement that in 1951 the head of the hospital
agreed to accept some Negro interns,
would you say...
EWING: No, I think that date's wrong.
FUCHS: You commented earlier about the transfer of the Bureau of Employment
Security, which contained the U. S. Employment Service and the Unemployment
Compensation program, to the Department of Labor in June '49. The Bureau
of Employees Compensation functions were transferred to the Secretary
of Labor in May 1950 under the Presidential Reorganization Plan Number
2 of 1949 , do you recall anything about that or were you in favor of
EWING: I do not recall that at all because if the President wanted to
transfer something out of my bailiwick he had a perfect right to do it
and I would gladly go along. I wasn't trying to build an empire. I had
FUCHS: There was a controversy in 1951 regarding the making public of
records in regard to welfare in the states. Do you recall anything of
EWING: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: Would you care to go into that a bit sir?
EWING: Well, that controversy chiefly involved the State of Indiana.
I don't recall that any other state was involved. I've always been interested
in things that go on in Indiana because it is my native state and I have
a sister living there. Also I have a farm in Indiana and I am out there
once or twice a year.
In order to explain the controversy to which you refer, I will have to
give you some background. As originally enacted, the Social Security law
contained no provision regulating the inspection of relief rolls and therefore
anyone could look at them. In an election in Kentucky held in the late
1930s the Democrats got the names of all the persons on relief. These
persons were called upon by party workers a day or two before election
and were told that any person on relief who voted the Republican ticket
would be taken off the rolls. This was cruel and utterly unjustifiable
political pressure. It so shocked a Democratic Congress that they passed
an amendment which prohibited the inspection of relief rolls by anyone
except for official purposes. The amendment also provided that if any
state permitted inspection for any other purpose the Federal Security
Administrator must cut off further payments of Federal funds for relief
to the offending state.
During the late 1940s and the early 1950s two Indianapolis newspapers,
the Star and the News, were conducting a vicious campaign
against the relief program. The Star assigned to the job one of
its reporters who was an expert hatchet man. He traveled about Indiana
digging up cases in which relief was being given to persons who, in his
opinion, were not entitled to it. For example, one case which he blew
up to gigantic proportions was that of a woman on relief who had a fur
coat. He would have a reader believe that mere possession of a fur coat
was positive proof that that owner was illegally getting relief. It never
occurred to him that someone may have given the woman the fur coat.
As a result of this campaign of the Star and the News,
both of which were owned by Eugene Pulliam, a bill was introduced in the
Indiana legislature at its 1951 session, which if enacted would open the
relief rolls to inspection by anyone. My office warned the appropriate
officials of Indiana that enactment of the law would compel me to cut
off Federal relief funds to
the state. These amounted to about twenty
million dollars a year. The legislature , nevertheless, under the goading
of the Star and the News enacted the bill. This was a plain
act of defiance of Federal law and I promptly issued an order cutting
off Federal relief funds to the State of Indiana. The Attorney-General
of Indiana then filed a suit against me in the United States District
Court for the District of Columbia to compel me to release the funds but
the Court upheld my action. The Attorney-General took an appeal to the
United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia which
affirmed the ruling of the lower court. With the refusal of the courts
to overrule my action, Indiana then took its case to Congress. Senator
William Jenner, of Indiana, was able to get an amendment attached to a
bill which permitted inspection of the relief rolls under certain specified
conditions with which Indiana complied. With the approval of the amending
bill by the President, I promptly released the funds. This ended the controversy
insofar as the State was concerned, but not insofar as the Pulliam papers
were concerned. Their hatchet man reporter went down to Greensburg,
and visited my farm near there. His account of this trip included a number
of suggestive questions. Where had I obtained the money with which to
buy the farm? Where had the money come from that paid for all the improvements
I had made on the place? The obvious insinuation implied in these questions
was that I could not have come by the money honestly. They entirely overlooked
the fact that I had practiced law in New York reasonably successfully
for some twenty years. Even later Pulliam's papers continued to vent their
spleen on me. In a later Indianapolis municipal election they were making
a fight against the city installing parking meters in front of private
residences. They referred to this as arbitrary official action just like
that which Oscar Ewing had exercised when he cut off Federal relief funds
FUCHS: How was Jenner, and I believe Halleck was involved, how were they
able to marshal sufficient support to pass an amendment; your position
had been entirely legal?
EWING: Oh, yes, my actions had been tested in the courts. Jenner got
the amendment through some way. I don't
think we particularly opposed
it, because the amendment as they had drawn it did leave certain restrictions
on divulging these names. We felt that the restrictions were enough for
us to live with at least until we could see how they worked. As a matter
of fact, I got a report a couple of years after the amendment had been
in effect and in the whole state there had only been two applications
to inspect the welfare rolls. So, it was a rumpus that two newspapers
had kicked up over nothing.
FUCHS: In 1952, March, you appointed as an aide, Mr. E. L. Shainmark?
FUCHS: Was he brought in for a specific job, or what were his special
EWING: The man who was handling our publicity functions had resigned.
I say publicity functions because the Agency wanted to make public various
activities about which the public should know. And the man who had been
handling that resigned. It was quite a job.
FUCHS: Who was that, do you recall?
EWING: No. I don't recall his name. Mr. Shainmark had been a very successful
newspaperman. He had been employed in the Hearst chain of papers as managing
editor of one or two of its papers. I had called Bill Hearst to ask him
about Mr. Shainmark and Mr. Hearst gave him a very warm endorsement; and
it proved correct because Mr. Shainmark did fine work.
FUCHS: Donald Kingsley had served in 1948 to '49 as your assistant?
FUCHS: Then in 1949 he went to the International Refugee Organization.
How did that come about?
EWING: Oh, I just think he was offered this position and it was a job
that challenged and intrigued him, and he wanted to go.
FUCHS: You don't know who recommended him for that position?
EWING: No, I have no knowledge about it.
FUCHS: Dr. Scheele came up for reappointment in March of
1952. Was there
any thought about not reappointing him? Was there any problem involved
FUCHS: You addressed a memo to the President on February 19 referring
to a conference you had in which you recommended Dr. Scheele and pointed
out that the previous Surgeon General had served--I think the minimum
time was eight years--and he thought he needed more time. I wonder if
the President had considered, possibly, asking you to consider someone
EWING: No, I don't think so at all.
FUCHS: Coming back now to the 1948 campaign, although we've already discussed
the political strategy board, among other things, what part did you play
aside from the political strategy board, in the campaign?
EWING: Well, in early 1948, say January, I think President Truman was
in the nadir of his popularity, and those of us who believed in him and
wanted to see him re-elected, were doing what we could to bring about
his renomination and then the next step would be his election. But at
that time there were a lot of the Democratic
leaders who were openly opposed
to President Truman's re-nomination. Frank Hague of New Jersey, he was
the Democratic National Committeeman from New Jersey; Jack Arvey of Chicago,
he was Democratic National Committeeman from Illinois; and there were
a number of other Democrats influential in the party who felt that it
would be a mistake to re-nominate Mr. Truman, that he couldn't be elected.
I think of two sons of President Roosevelt, Jimmy and Franklin, Jr., and
I think Franklin, Jr. had come out publicly opposing Mr. Truman's re-nomination.
Mrs. Roosevelt, however, never wavered in her loyalty to President Truman.
Those of us who were interested in President Truman's re-nomination,
felt that we had to really get busy and do something about it. Howard
McGrath, who was a Senator from Rhode Island at that time, was also Chairman
of the Democratic National Committee. He and I were the two people who
I think were most concerned about getting the re-nomination of the President,
although there were others, too. But Chairman McGrath and I were the two
people who were perhaps in positions to do something about it. As a matter
of fact, he and I traveled about
the country extensively trying to get
these recalcitrant Democrats, these influential Democrats back in line.
FUCHS: You mean, you did early in '48 go to such individuals as Hague
and Jake Arvey, personally, and...
EWING: Oh, indeed. And there were many others because you often didn't
know what position the national committeemen would take, so we were doing
missionary work everywhere we could.
FUCHS: Do you recall any specific conversations, any objections say that
Jake Arvey might have given to Mr. Truman's re-nomination?
EWING: No. I think that in all instances it was a feeling that he couldn't
be re-elected. The argument that Howard McGrath and I used, was that whether
anyone liked it or not the Democratic candidates had to run on the Truman
record. The Democrats couldn't take the position that, "Well, we made
a mistake last time but give us another chance." This would be a confession
of political bankruptcy. If they didn't re-nominate the man that had served
as President for almost four years, they were just
making a Republican
success certain. I don't think that we converted Jake Arvey, to whom I
talked two or three times, or Frank Hague; but as February came along
and March came along, and April, the opposition to President Truman was
gradually diminishing. Then the President made his first cross-country
whistlestop speechmaking tour and that was really a great success. Truman
was a fighter and when he got out on those whistlestops and laid his facts
on the line, he created a warmth towards himself that had been lacking
FUCHS: Now, you're speaking of the so-called non-political tour of June
EWING: That's right.
FUCHS: Did the political strategy board have anything to do in recommending
that he make such a journey?
EWING: Oh, yes, we urged him to do it. We didn't have to do a great deal
of urging. He was delighted. I think it was on that trip that he went
to a plowing contest in Iowa. There was an enormous crowd of farmers present
because it had been advertised that the President would be making a farm
speech. It was
in that speech that he picked up and made an issue of a
matter that had been brought to his attention by Secretary Brannan. The
80th Congress, which of course, was President Truman's chief political
opponent at that time, had appropriated nothing with which to build storage
bins in which farmers' grains might be stored. The support program contemplated
that the farmer would store his grain in a Government bin and then receive
the support price. If the market price of the grain went above the support
price the farmer could retain his grain and sell it at the higher market
price and repay the Government loan. If the price of the grain went down
the Government could sell the grain without any obligation on the part
of the farmer to make up the loss. The President made the most of the
failure of the 80th Congress to provide the necessary storage space. I
remember his classic expression was that the 80th Congress had put a pitchfork
in the farmer's back. I know the President repeated this all through the
campaign and it did much to help him carry many western states on election
day. And that contrasts sharply with the 1968 election when Vice President
Humphrey really had no issue that particularly appealed to
defeat was largely due, in my opinion, to this fact. He lost too many
of those midwestern farm states that Truman carried in 1948. Had he had
a good farm issue, I think Mr. Humphrey would have been elected.
FUCHS: There just was none that could be picked up, is that the way you
EWING: Apparently not. I was not in touch with the campaign. I'm only
observing the results.
FUCHS: You told me yesterday that Oscar Chapman never attended any of
the strategy board meetings?
EWING: That's right.
FUCHS: But, as you know, he was very active in the campaign. What do
you recall of that and was he in touch in any way with your strategy board?
EWING: No. He did an excellent job as advance man for the President.
Oscar would go ahead of the President to places where the President was
scheduled to speak and would make sure the proper arrangements were made.
Then he would move on ahead of the President and do
the same thing at
the next place. He was a most efficient advance man.
FUCHS: There was a research division organized in the Democratic National
Committee. Do you know anything about how that came to pass?
EWING: Yes, I think Senator McGrath as chairman of the Democratic National
Committee had that organized, and, if I'm not mistaken, the head of it
was a William Batt, Jr. He had sat in on some of our strategy meetings
and, of course, it was very necessary for the National Committee to have
a research division. When the campaign came on there were a lot of matters
that had to be studied and researched that were outside the purview of
our strategy group.
FUCHS: Who was Bill Batt, and had he sat in on some of your strategy
board meetings before the research division was organized, and by whose
EWING: I think he had sat in with our group before the research division
was organized because he was in some position where he was active in politics.
I'm not sure but that he was employed by the National
that research division was set up. I just am not sure but he was the son
of William Batt who was...
FUCHS: You don't recall who suggested that such a division be set up
and who suggested Batt's name as potential director for it?
FUCHS: Did you personally recommend anyone for the staff of the research
EWING: I don't think so.
FUCHS: Did you become acquainted with any of the staff such as Kenny
Birkhead or--you knew Batt of course.
EWING: Batt is the only one I knew.
FUCHS: Johannes Hoeber?
FUCHS: Or Frank Kelly?
FUCHS: You didn't have personal contact with the research
FUCHS: What about the strategy board, was there any relationship there
after the research division got started?
EWING: Well, there was a great deal of contact with Bill Batt. I think
he sat in with us very often.
FUCHS: So, any recommendations to the research division would have been
made through Bill Batt?
EWING: Oh, yes. He would be the liaison.
FUCHS: The campaign was, as you know, largely oriented towards the issues
rather than personalities. Was this part of the recommendation by the
policy board and was there any one who felt it should be more personality
EWING: No, no. You see Governor Dewey was so confident that he would
be elected that his whole campaign pitch was to tell what the next administration
would be doing, and his campaign never really got down to the gut issues.
Mr. Truman, on the other hand, was pounding on the gut issues very hard.
I don't recall that any
personalities were involved one way or the other.
It was a very clean campaign in that respect.
FUCHS: You, as a member of a policy board, and the policy board as a
whole, felt that you should dwell on the issues rather than aiming at
Mr. Dewey and other members of the opposition?
EWING: Well, I don't recall that that question came up, it was just the
way those things go. Your campaign develops just naturally in a certain
way. Surprises come in and you meet those when they come because you haven't
anticipated them. I don't recall any discussion of personalities being
involved at all. I don't think they were.
FUCHS: The campaign involved two matters I'd like to dwell on a bit.
One was the Palestine, Israel question and, of course, civil rights. Taking
up the first to a degree, in 1948, March, Ambassador Austin in the U.N.
gave a speech rather unexpectedly putting the United States on the side
of trusteeship although earlier in '47 the U.N. voted for a partition
and we had favored that. I believe a meeting was held and, it
written that you attended this meeting. Do you recall anything of that,
after the Austin speech?
EWING: No, I draw a complete blank on that. I can tell you that whole
story if you're interested.
FUCHS: I certainly am.
EWING: For a proper background one must go back to World War I. Turkey
had ranged herself with the Central Powers and Lord Allenby headed the
Allied army that was fighting the Turks in Palestine. In the fall of 1917
the Allies were advancing rapidly and, on November 2 , 1917, the British
Government issued the famous Balfour Declaration, saying that they "view
with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish
people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement
of this object." In September, 1918, the Turks were finally expelled from
Palestine and the Balfour Declaration was incorporated in the Treaty of
Peace, having previously been endorsed by all the Allied Powers and President
Wilson on behalf of the United States. The victorious Allied Powers delegated
to the League of Nations the disposition of
the territories that General
Allenby had captured from the Turks. The League then designated Great
Britain as the mandatory power for Palestine. The powers of the League
of Nations were later vested in the United Nations.
Early in 1948 Albert Lasker, whom I knew well, came to me and said: "Jack,
unless the President gets this Palestine matter settled pretty soon, the
Jews will clobber him in the election this fall." Mr. Lasker talked so
seriously about the situation that I thought I ought to repeat his conversation
to the President. When I did the President said, "I know what Lasker says
is probably true. But I am in a tough spot. The Jews are bringing all
kinds of pressure on me to support the partition of Palestine and the
establishment of a Jewish state. On the other hand the State Department
is adamantly opposed to this. I have two Jewish assistants on my staff,
Dave Niles and Max Lowenthal. Whenever I try to talk to them about Palestine
they soon burst into tears because they are so emotionally involved in
the subject. So far I have not known what to do."
I then said, "Mr. President, the settlement of the
is completely outside of my bailiwick and I know what I read about it
in the newspapers, but if it would be any help to you I will be glad to
study the facts and tell you what I think."
"Oh," the President answered, "I wish you would, I wish you would. It
would help a lot."
The study proved fascinating. Being a lawyer, naturally I investigated
the legal claims that the Arabs and Jews respectively had to the land
in question. I found that under international law, when land is taken
by conquest, the conqueror can dispose of it as he wishes. For instance,
after the Norman conquest of England in 1066 , William the Conqueror granted
lands to his various lords and the titles to land in England today start
with these grants. Therefore, the grant of sovereignty given by the Allies
to the Jews of lands conquered from Turkey had the same validity as had
similar grants of sovereignty to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.
The claim of the Arabs that Palestine had been their land for thousands
of years was untrue. For several hundred years it had been Turkish territory
and with Allenby's conquest in World War I the territory became Allied territory
for the Allies to dispose of as they wished. When the title
of the Allies to a part of this conquered land was transferred to the
Jews, their title to it became indisputable; and I so advised the President.
At the close of World War II Great Britain found herself in a precarious
financial position. In order to curtail expenses, she began to withdraw
from many of her worldwide military commitments. She withdrew her troops
from India, Pakistan, the Middle East and notified the United Nations,
which had succeeded to the rights and powers of the League of Nations,
that she, Great Britain, would surrender the mandate for Palestine on
May 14, 1948. As a substitute for the military forces she withdrew, Great
Britain sought to establish close relations with Moslem nations of the
area in the hope that this would give her friendly allies from East Pakistan,
west across Asia Minor, the Middle East and on across the North African
littoral to the Atlantic Ocean on the West.
FUCHS: As you undoubtedly know, Mr. Truman in his public statements dwelt
mostly on the fact that, one, he was willing to leave the ultimate solution
of the Palestine
problem in the hands of the United Nations where the
British had dumped it. Two, he was mainly interested in achieving the
entry of at least one hundred thousand refugees from the persecuted Jews
in Europe very quickly into Palestine. How did this enter into your considerations?
EWING: Well, I don't recall exactly what his public statements were.
But as a practical matter vis-a-vis the State Department, the State Department
was urging him to capitulate completely to the Arabs, and our group advised
the President to take a position to the effect that he would not consent
to any modification of the boundaries as set up by the United Nations
as a successor of the League of Nations.
FUCHS: Under the partition plan?
EWING: Yes, that he would not consent to any modifications of those boundaries
except as it was agreeable to Israel.
FUCHS: Now this was after, you are thinking of after the creation of
the state in '48?
EWING: No, I'm thinking even before then. I think he didn't use the word
Israel, I think it was the Jewish Agency that was representing Jewish
interests at that time.
FUCHS: That is correct.
EWING: So that left things as they were, as the United Nations had determined;
and the Jews accepted the boundaries that the United Nations had fixed.
The Arabs refused to accept them. They said that they were going to war
unless those were changed. They went to war the very day that the State
of Israel was proclaimed and President Truman had recognized the new State
of Israel within a matter of hours after it was proclaimed.
FUCHS: What do you recall of Secretary of State Marshall's position in
EWING: Well, perhaps I could answer that if I continue this narrative.
As you know, in the war, where the Arabs attacked on May 16, 1948, the
Jews really crushed the Arab forces and expanded their own territory.
They captured territory in West Galilee and the Negev,
the November 29, 1947 resolution had given to Arab nations. Then a truce
was made under which Egypt was allowed a slice of land clear over to the
Dead Sea. This strip of land crossed a strip that was to be held by Israel
for access to the Negev. Of course, such an arrangement was bound to bring
FUCHS: Did the original partition plan of the U.N., November ' 47, give
the Negev to Israel?
EWING: No, it did not. The Israelis captured it in the first conflict.
Then the United Nations after a truce had been made, sent Count Bernadotte
of Sweden to Israel to try to come up with a peace arrangement that would
be satisfactory to everyone. He finally formulated his recommendations
which were very pro-Arab. They gave the Negev back to Egypt and the West
Galilee territory back to the Arabs.
EWING: Well, Trans-Jordan was divided up in the original assignment of
territories by the United Nations in their resolution of November 29, 1947.
FUCHS: In the partition? In '47?
EWING: Yes. And that proposal of Bernadotte's was completely unacceptable
to the Jews. But during this time emotions got out of control and Count
Bernadotte was assassinated. His immediate successor as mediator was Ralph
Bunche. Mediation got nowhere and in the hope of making progress a conference
was called of the Foreign Ministers of the states involved to consider
the Bernadotte plan. The Conference met in Paris in, I think, September
of 1948. President Truman was still maintaining his position that he would
consent to no modification of the boundaries of Israel except as was agreed
to by Israel. While the conference was going on in Paris the President
was making campaign trips every week out of Washington. He would return
on Thursday or Friday and we would all work over the weekend on his speeches
for the following week. On Sunday, October 17th, 1948, I had just started
from my apartment in the Wardman Park Hotel to go down to the White House
to work on the speeches for the following week. I was met in the lobby
by a Western Union boy who said that he had a cablegram for me. I. reached
out for it but he said, "There are collect
charges of $86 on this cable."
"Well," I exclaimed, "in that case you can keep the cable as far as I'm
FUCHS: I don't blame you.
EWING: Then he answered, "I can give it to you because the charges are
So, I opened the cablegram and saw that it was signed by Lillie Shultz.
Stupidly I didn't place Miss Schultz right then. I should have because
I had had previous correspondence with her. She was a correspondent for
the magazine The Nation. The publisher of The Nation was
Miss Freda Kirchwey. In the message Miss Shultz said that notwithstanding
the President's instructions General Marshall as chairman of the American
delegation to the Foreign Ministers Conference, was planning to agree
to the Bernadotte plan. I didn't know what to do but I went on down to
the White House, and at the first opportunity showed the cable to Clark
Clifford. Clark said, "I don't understand this but we had better wait
until we break up at noon and show the cable to the President." Which
is what we did. The President read it and said, "Why, I can't
this. I just can't believe that General Marshall would do that." After
a moment he said: "What do you suggest I do about it?"
I spoke up and said, "Mr. President, I have a suggestion. It is that
you ask General Marshall to submit to you for approval any statement that
he proposes to make before he makes it."
The President thought that was a good idea and replied, "Do you and Clark
mind drafting such a cable during the lunch hour and let me see it; we'll
get it in shape and send it off." When we convened after, lunch, Clark
and I showed the President our draft, he approved it and it was sent off.
That message read as follows: [Mr. Ewing, at this point in the interview,
referred to Volume II, page 167 of the Memoirs of Harry S. Truman.]
October 17, 1948
FROM: THE PRESIDENT
T0: THE SECRETARY OF STATE
I request that no statement be made or no action be taken on the subject
of Palestine by any member of our delegation in Paris without specific
authority from me and clearing the text of any statement.
That cable was sent and we assumed everything was under control. At least
I thought so because I was not in touch with everything that might be
going on at the
We now jump to the Thursday before the 1948 election. As you know, the
Democratic candidate for President always goes to New York that day, makes
a tour of the five boroughs and ends up in the evening making a speech
at Madison Square Garden. That day I again came down into the lobby of
the Wardman Park Hotel and was again met by a Western Union boy with a
cablegram--no collect charges this time. But it was again from Miss Shultz.
It said that notwithstanding the President's instructions tomorrow (Friday)
General Marshall will agree to the Bernadotte plan unless he receives
counter instructions. Well, I knew that President Truman was in New York
on his tour of the five boroughs. I knew Clark Clifford had gone up with
him. After thinking it over, I decided to hop a plane and go to New York.
I got there about two o'clock, went over to the Biltmore Hotel where the
President was stopping and where Democratic headquarters were, hoping
I'd find Clark. When I got there I was told that he and Mrs. Clifford
were out on a shopping tour. There was nothing I could do but sit down
and wait, which I did. Clark got back to the
Biltmore, I'd say around
five o'clock, and I showed him Miss Shultz's telegram. "Oh, that woman
is crazy," he said. "Marshall sent a draft of a statement that he proposes
to make and I thought it was all right." He suddenly added, "By the way,
I've got Marshall's proposed statement right here in my briefcase." He
got it out and read it over twice. Then he turned to me and exclaimed,
"Well, I'll be damned. She's right. This proposed statement starts off
'In line with the President's instructions' and so forth and I've got
to confess I was too busy to read it to the end, but the cracker is in
the end. He proposes to go along with the Bernadotte plan. There's nothing
we can do about it until the President comes back and we can take it up
with him." So we waited around and it was about eight o'clock before the
President returned to the hotel. You know, a President is always surrounded
by hangers-on who want to shake his hand or say something to him. It was
about half past eight before Clark and I were able to discuss the matter
with him. The cable upset the President very much and after a short silence
he asked, "What on earth can we do to prevent this?"
I said, "Well, Mr. President, I made a suggestion before, which didn't
work out too well, but I've got another one. Why not this time tell General
Marshall what to say."
"That's a good idea," he answered. "Do you and Clark mind missing the
speech at Madison Square Garden tonight and use the time to draft a statement
for General Marshall to make?"
"Of course," we said, "we'd be glad to."
So, we did. It wasn't hard because we were both so familiar with the
whole problem that we could do it very quickly.
The President was quite late in getting back to the Biltmore that night
because he went on the air at eleven o'clock, and it was at least half
past twelve by the time he returned to the hotel and got rid of the people
that wanted to see him. We were then able to show him what we drafted
and he thoroughly approved it. He asked that one word be changed. We had
put in the draft "You are directed to make the following statement." He
said, "Change that word 'directed' to 'requested.' I don't have to direct
With that I went off to bed and Clark had the job of calling the Under
Secretary of State, Bob Lovett, at his home in Washington and got him
out of bed. Apparently before an open window, Mr. Lovett took down Clark's
dictation of the message. Then the Under Secretary had to call the State
Department coding office, they had to code the message and get it on the
wire. Mind you, there was six hours difference in time between Washington
and Paris so it would be nip and tuck as to whether the President's message
would reach General Marshall before he had delivered his statement to
Well, I knew nothing about what happened in Paris after that except I
saw in the paper that General Marshall had made the statement we had drafted
It was several months later when my secretary came in and said that there
was a Miss Lillie Shultz and a Miss Freda Kirchwey outside who would like
to see me. I said, "Well, I would sure like to see them." So, they were
brought in with Miss Shultz saying, "Mr. Ewing, I thought you might like
to know what happened in Paris after the new instructions came to General
And I answered, "I certainly would."
"Well," she said, "I knew General Marshall was to make his statement
that Friday. I had awakened with a rotten headache and also felt terribly
frustrated. I thought I knew what was going to happen, that much of what
we were struggling for was going down the drain. About half past nine
I received a telegram from New York saying that new instructions had been
sent General Marshall." She went on, "I didn't know what the new instructions
were. But I got dressed hurriedly, grabbed a taxi and rushed to where
the conference was being held. The session hadn't started but the audience
was there and the delegates were up on the platform. I rushed in waving
the telegram and shouted out loud, 'Has the American delegation received
their new instructions?' This caused considerable consternation, as I
walked down and I handed the telegram to the person at the Secretariat's
desk. He read it over, walked over and gave the message to Ralph Bunche.
Then a thing happened that I understand never happened before and never
has happened since. The chairman of the meeting decided that the translations
that were being made should be made consecutively rather
than simultaneously. It was a beautiful filibuster to give the American
delegation time to get their new instructions.
The result was that General Marshall wasn't asked to make his statement
until after the instructions had been received. I'm perfectly sure that
this is what saved the Negev and some of the other territories involved
for the State of Israel. "
Just to add a little human touch to this. Several years later Mrs. Ewing
and I were invited to have dinner with some friends of ours in Scarsdale,
Jewish friends, and one of the guests was a man named William Epstein.
He was a Canadian, but he had been attached to the Secretariat's office
of the United Nations. When we were talking after dinner, I related this
story much as I have told it here. I noticed that Mr. Epstein was very
nervous as though he wanted to say something. When I finished he leaned
over he said, "Mr. Ewing, I was in charge of the Secretariat's desk of
the conference that day and it was I to whom Lillie Shultz handed that
telegram. And it was I who walked around and gave it to Ralph Bunche."
FUCHS: Did you ask Miss Shultz how she was so well apprized of what Marshall
was going to do originally and also how she received premature notice
that Marshall's instructions had been changed?
EWING: No, I didn't ask her. She was a newspaper correspondent and they
have their sources of information. She did not tell me from whom she got
the telegram but I'm pretty sure that I knew. Carl Sherman was the treasurer
of the New York Democratic State Committee at that time, and I saw a good
deal of him that day in the Biltmore. I'm quite sure I talked things over
with him. I noticed that after he knew what I was working on he stuck
very closely to me for the rest of the day. So, from that I simply assume
that it was Carl Sherman who cabled Miss Shultz. He knew Miss Shultz very
well and as he was Jewish he was naturally very much interested.
FUCHS: You said that Lovett took this message down in front of an open window.
EWING: In longhand. You see he was in Washington. Clark was in New York.
FUCHS: Why did you mention the open window?
EWING: Well, no significance other than the torture that it put to the
Under Secretary of State.
FUCHS: Oh, he didn't catch cold or anything?
EWING: Not that I know of, but I am sure he was quite uncomfortable.
I think he indicated that to Clark later and Clark told me.
FUCHS: Why did Miss Shultz, who had, you said, written you before, cable
you and why had she written you before and also what about Miss Kirchwey
having been in touch with you before?
EWING: No, Miss Kirchwey had not been in touch with me. You see, after
the President asked me to get into the Palestine matter and make a study
of it for him, I think this got noised about in Jewish circles and they
knew I was in touch with the situation. I'm sure they knew that after
my study I was in sympathy with their position, and they felt that it
was a direct means of contact with the President on this particular issue.
I assume that.
FUCHS: Was it in the press that you were advising on the Palestine situation?
EWING: No, I don't think so. I don't think so.
FUCHS: You originally went, you said, to President Truman in connection
with this as a political matter?
FUCHS: Had you knowledge of Zionism? Had you favored the Zionist position
prior to this?
EWING: No. I really knew nothing more than the casual newspaper reader.
I don't recall that I had any strong feeling one way or the other. It
was as a result of this suggestion of Albert Lasker's that I had my talk
with the President, and his saying that he was getting conflicting pressures
and wished he could get some impartial advice, that I offered my services.
The President welcomed them and I went to work and brought Clark Clifford
in on it.
FUCHS: How much would you say political consideration entered into your
final judgment as to the rightness of the two parties in the conflict?
EWING: I don't think any at all. I investigated the conflict as impartially
as I knew how because I wanted to give the President completely impartial
advice. I might have thought that one thing would have been better from
a political point of view but you don't consider that when you are advising
the President of the United States, and he didn't want political advice
from Clark or me.
FUCHS: Yes. It has been charged that much of the President's White House
position on Israel was based on politics, as you know that would be largely
in consideration of the large Jewish vote in New York and other metropolitan
EWING: Well, a President, I don't care what President, whether it was
Truman or someone else, if he took any stand in any controversy he'd be
accused of politics in some way or other. We tried to give him the most
unbiased advice of which we were capable. And that was the kind of advice
he wanted. He wanted complete justification, legally and morally, for
any position that he might take. He did not allow any political consideration
to influence his position.
FUCHS: We originally started this discussion by my asking you about the
meeting which was held, as I understand it, rather hurriedly convened
to decide what to do to counteract Austin's statement putting the United
States on the side of trusteeship whereas President Truman had just come
out giving Chaim Weizmann assurances that we stood for the U.N. partition
scheme and you don't recall that meeting; however, it comes to my mind,
and I'm not certain of this, that at least at one meeting, and I believe
that it was Secretary Marshall who pointed out that political considerations
were involved and he said to Clark Clifford--I'm not certain this was
Marshall, but someone said to Clark Clifford, "You wouldn't be here if
it wasn't political:" Do you recall anything of that?
EWING: Yes. I am sure General Marshall said that, but I am not sure whether
he said it in a meeting I attended or whether Clark told me what General
Marshall had said. I believe it was the latter. I think Senator Austin
made his statement without approval from the President and I'm quite sure
that the President was upset by it.
Your specific question was whether
I had attended a meeting, and I don't think I did.
FUCHS: What were your views of General Marshall as the Secretary of State
in general and in relation to Israel?
EWING: Well, number one, General Marshall was a great general. One of
the greatest that we have ever produced in this country. He temperamentally,
having come up through the military, handled everything by staff work.
The advice that would come to him as Secretary of State would come through
channels. That was the way he was accustomed to working. The State Department
itself was very pro-Arab. At that time the Near East desk was headed by
Loy Henderson, and Mr. Henderson was a very vocal protagonist for the
Arab cause. In all of our conferences, of which there were quite a few
with the President, it was General Marshall, Mr. Henderson and Dean Rusk
who represented the State Department while Clark Clifford and I would
be there defending the President's position.
FUCHS: These were in the President's office?
EWING: They were in the Cabinet Room.
FUCHS: Did he have Niles in attendance?
EWING: No. No, nor Lowenthal. As I have said that while he was very fond
of them and had every confidence in them, this was an issue in which they
were so emotionally involved that he felt their advice might not always
be the best.
FUCHS: Did Sam Rosenman enter into the...
EWING: I don't think he was involved in this at all.
FUCHS: Why do you think Mr. Henderson was so pro-Arab?
EWING: Well, I can only speculate but I can do that. You see, Mr. Henderson
was very pro-British and when the British had to pull in their military
forces from the Far East, the Near East and the North African littoral,
the British substituted for their military presence alliances with Moslem
countries across that same area. I think that Mr. Henderson's support
of the Arab cause was due to the fact that he wanted to help the British
in their alliances with the Moslem countries. Now that is pure speculation
on my pact, but I cannot explain it
in any other way.
FUCHS: What about Secretary Forrestal of Defense?
EWING: I don't recall that he was ever involved in these discussions.
FUCHS: Would you care to go on a little bit about your meetings with
Marshall and the others? We were talking, I believe of Marshall.
EWING: Well, you asked me what I thought of him. Marshall, as I say,
he wanted everything to come up through channels and he wanted everything
decided that way. If a proposition came to him, he referred it down to
the staff so that it would come back to him through channels. He said
several times in our discussions that there was to be no politics in the
State Department. He was inferring that our point of view was based on
political considerations. General Marshall overlooked one thing in this
attitude and that is that foreign affairs are simply the extension of
the politics of the Government into the external world. To attempt to
handle foreign affairs in a political vacuum is an utter absurdity.
FUCHS: You just can't stop at the water's edge?
EWING: No, it's carrying out your domestic policies.
FUCHS: Anything else about General Marshall?
EWING: No, no.
FUCHS: Would you say there was anything cynical about the statements
of the President in subscribing to a more or less tacit agreement with
the Arabs, that I believe started with President Roosevelt, that no unilateral
action would be taken in regard to Palestine that would change the basic
situation there. That he would consult both the Jewish Agency for Palestine
and the Arabs, and yet came out strongly for the admission of a hundred
thousand refugees. I just wondered if you would have viewed that as a
change in the basic situation?
EWING: I believe all that happened before I got involved in the Palestine
question at all.
FUCHS: Yes. Well, this was prior to '48 that most of these statements
were made. Of course, coming out for partition, accepting that, was a
change in the basic situation as it existed prior to Mr. Truman coming
into office; but, of course, he had said that
we would abide by the United
Nations and that was their decision. I just wondered if you had views
upon that. Getting back more directly to the '48 campaign. Do you know
anything of the reported and disputed story that Mr. Truman approached
General Eisenhower to take the nomination in 1948?
EWING: I understood it was true. I had no connection with it. At that
time President Truman had a very high opinion of General Eisenhower and
General Eisenhower's politics were not then known. No one knew whether
he was a Democrat or a Republican.
FUCHS: Cabell Phillips, as you may recall, in his book The Truman
Presidency said that Kenneth Royall was in conversation with Mr. Truman
and said that he couldn't support Mr. Truman if Eisenhower were available
and Mr. Truman asked Royall to go and make the bid to Eisenhower, which
was turned down; but Mr. Phillips does not give a source for this. He
said that the statement was submitted to the principals, Royall, Eisenhower,
and Mr. Truman when he was writing the book, and Royall said the account
was essentially accurate but he did not say that he could not support
Mr. Truman if Eisenhower were considered for nomination. Mr. Eisenhower
said that you would have to refer this to Mr. Truman, in so many words.
He didn't want to comment on it, and Mr. Truman said the story is not
true. Of course, this leaves the natural question, where did Phillips
get this story. As a responsible scholar he should be willing to identify
his source but he just slides over it. Did you ever hear this before about
EWING: No, I never heard about Royall. I read that in Phillips book,
but I have no knowledge of it except that it was generally understood
that President Truman had told General Eisenhower that he would support
him. Now if he says he didn't do it, why I would accept his word for it.
FUCHS: Well, this is not the first instance where its been recorded that
he said that he did not make an approach to General Eisenhower. Did you
ever discuss the Eisenhower potential candidacy with Mr. Truman?
EWING: I have a feeling that I did but I have no recollection of what
that conversation consisted.
FUCHS: Early in that year when you did visit some of these Democratic
leaders who were not looking too favorably on Mr. Truman as a candidate
did you ask them who they wanted for President?
EWING: Oh, no. I was selling a candidate. I was trying to line them up
for the President.
FUCHS: You never said, "Well, now that you don't want Mr. Truman, who
would you prefer?"
FUCHS: That would be a negative approach.
EWING: Well, I felt there was only one person that should be nominated.
FUCHS: Did you play an active part in the '48 convention?
EWING: I did somewhat but, you see, I was in office then. I was not a
delegate. I think I appeared before the Resolutions Committee on some
issue, I don't even remember what it was; but it was something controversial
and we felt that it was desirable for someone from the administration
to present the administration's view to the Resolutions Committee. I don't
remember for the life
of me what it was.
FUCHS: What about the platform making?
EWING: Well, that would be done by the Resolutions Committee.
FUCHS: Did you have anything to do with the civil rights plank?
EWING: I don't think so. I don't think so. I remember the controversy
over that very well, and that was when Hubert Humphrey made his minority
report--I am not sure whether it was a minority report or whether he just
got up and said that a group of liberals felt that the plank that had
been drafted by the committee was too mild. They were successful in getting
the convention to adopt the plank that they thought ought to be put into
the platform and a number of the Southern delegations got up and walked out.
FUCHS: Do you know how Mr. Truman felt about the two planks?
EWING: Yes, I think I do. Naturally, as the prospective candidate, he
wanted a plank that, if possible, would satisfy both sides of the controversy.
This was the
plank that had been drafted by the Resolutions Committee.
I think the draft that Senator Humphrey urged probably in the end was
more beneficial to Mr. Truman's candidacy than had he run on a platform
containing the plank that tried to give something to both sides.
FUCHS: Why do you think it turned out that way?
EWING: Well, the Negro vote turned out to be almost solidly for Mr. Truman.
FUCHS: Did you travel on the campaign train?
EWING: I was on two or three trips, but not all of them because I had
a job to do.
FUCHS: Any anecdotes that come to mind?
EWING: No, not particularly. The President was very effective as a campaigner.
He was not good at reading a prepared speech and our group, particularly
those of us who were working on speeches, urged him to speak from notes
or off-the-cuff because he was very effective that way. His personality
got over to the audience then, whereas when he was reading a prepared
speech--he never had good eyes and it was difficult for
him to read a
thing like a speech. Often the text would be so far off he couldn't see
it--but he was very effective when he talked off-the-cuff or from notes
FUCHS: You say your group did urge him, was that a message that was carried
to him by Clark Clifford?
EWING: Yes, oh, yes.
FUCHS: At the recommendation of your policy strategy board?
EWING: I think it was. It was a common feeling, but I think it was more
particularly the opinion of those of us who were actually working on the
FUCHS: Scholars are always interested in speechwriting. I wonder if you
could tell a little bit about how you entered into that in this campaign?
And the group of course.
EWING: Well, all of the speechwriting was done under Clark Clifford's
supervision. In other words it all headed up there. There were a number
of the President's assistants who made contributions, George Elsey, Dave
FUCHS: Wasn't he in the research division at this time?
EWING: I don't know. I know he helped us on the speeches. I thought he
was working in the White House at that time.
FUCHS: What about David Bell?
EWING: Dave Bell, yes, very much. And one or two other men who came in
when there might be a particular subject that someone from, let's say
the Interior Department, might have particular knowledge. If so, he would
be brought in.
FUCHS: Now, was Charlie Murphy involved?
EWING: Oh, I think he was, very much. He was assistant to Clark Clifford
at that time and I think he was very much in the picture.
FUCHS: Did Clifford travel on the train?
EWING: Yes, he did, because I know this, that as we divided up the work,
when they'd be out on the train, by and large if they wanted something
in Washington they would communicate with me, and I would try to
they wanted. It might have been a bit of information or it could have
been almost anything. They didn't always communicate with me, they might
communicate directly with someone else.
FUCHS: Did you participate in speechwriting sessions in the White House?
EWING: Oh, yes. We worked there practically every weekend, all through
the weekends of the whole campaign.
FUCHS: Where did you work?
EWING: In the Cabinet Room. There would usually be several of us there
working on a speech. Clark would make a draft, this was the usual course,
somebody else might make a draft, but by and large the draft that we were
presented with usually came from Clark. Often we had been given a copy
of the draft in advance so that we could come prepared with any comments
we might have. But I think more often the draft was given to us when we
gathered in the Cabinet Room, and then it would he read out loud. The
President always sat in on those sessions. It would be read out loud and
anyone would stop the reading if he had
any comment to make, and if they'd
make a change or eliminate or add to it this would be done right there.
FUCHS: Who would generally read the speeches?
EWING: Generally Clark. In fact, I think he always did. But it was always
the President who decided things and the speeches were always his speeches.
FUCHS: Saturdays and Sundays?
EWING: Well, it might be if the President got back on Thursday, it might
be Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. We just had to adapt ourselves
to his itinerary.
FUCHS: Now, your meetings Monday night in the Wardman Park continued
throughout the campaign?
EWING: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: No speechwriting sessions were held in the Federal Security Agency?
EWING: No. They were always held in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
FUCHS: The speech you gave before the National Urban
League in Richmond,
Virginia on September 10, 1948, I believe had a mixed reception. Do you
recall anything about that?
EWING: What was it about?
FUCHS: Well, you spoke largely about civil rights and the Negro vote.
That they should support President Truman, and as reported in the New
York Times: "When Mr. Ewing completed his speech there was mild but
brief applause from about half of the audience. The audience at no time
applauded any of Mr. Ewing's references to President Truman as the champion
of Negro rights." I thought that this was rather strange in view of the
nature of the National Urban League and this address being before three
hundred of its delegates.
EWING: I have no recollection of that.
FUCHS: Are there any things that stand out in your memory about any of
the speeches that you worked on?
EWING: There's only one incident that I recall. We were working on a
speech that the President was to make in Boston. I don't recall before
what audience. That particular speech had been drafted by someone who
not usually work with us. I don't remember his name, but I think he
was Jewish. The speech that he had drafted went completely overboard for
the Jewish cause. I felt that from the point of view of a candidate for
President that there was no sense in making extreme statements. We argued
that out. Those things that I felt were too extreme were eliminated. This
was a group that was all working for a common cause and there was the
best of feelings all the way around on it.
FUCHS: Do you recall any feeling between, say, the conservatives represented
by Snyder and the liberals represented by you and Clifford? Points that
EWING: No. As far as I know, I don't think Mr. Snyder was ever--in fact
I know he was never in on any speechwriting sessions. He may have talked
to the President about something in the speeches but he never sat in on
any of the writing sessions.
FUCHS: What about Sam Rosenman?
FUCHS: Jonathan Daniels?
EWING: I'm not sure that Jonathan was in the White House at that time.
FUCHS: No. Let me refresh your memory. He had been out of the White House
but he did come back on the train, I believe, but you didn't come in touch
EWING: Well, I may have. Jonathan was there at the latter part of President
Roosevelt's term, before he died, and I know that he came back afterwards.
I think he became President Roosevelt's Press Secretary when Steve Early
FUCHS: He came back as a consultant in the '48 campaign.
FUCHS: Traveled on the train, at least part of the time; and there was
another gentleman, J. Franklin Carter, did you come in touch with him?
EWING: If I did I don't recall it.
FUCHS: What about David Noyes at that time?
EWING: I don't think Dave was ever on the train. He could have been.
Dave was very helpful, but whether he was in on the speechwriting I am
not sure. I think he occasionally was or at least contributed ideas.
FUCHS: Did you ever come in touch with Sam Brightman in the research
EWING: Yes, Sam was at that time, I think, publicity director for the
Democratic National Committee. And he would obviously be in touch with
the research committee of the National Committee.
FUCHS: Do you recall a William J. Bray on any of your campaign trips?
EWING: That name's familiar.
FUCHS: Nothing stands out in your memory?
FUCHS: Mr. Ewing, do you recall the statement by Mr. Truman that he made
in his acceptance speech about recalling Congress?
EWING: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: Do you know how that came about. Who proposed that session?
EWING: I think Clark Clifford did, at least that was my impression at
the time. I think that the President very readily, instantly, saw the
political advantage in doing it, and it turned out very well politically.
FUCHS: Do you recall seeing a memorandum about the proposal to recall
Congress? We have a copy of it in the Library in, I believe, Sam Rosenman's
files which is unsigned and, of course, it wouldn't have necessarily have
been written by him.
EWING: No. I'm sure that it was Clark that told me about it. Whether
it was his idea or not I don't know. I knew about it before he made that
FUCHS: Did you ever hear the suggestion that Bernard Baruch had something
to do with it?
EWING: Oh, no. I wouldn't think that because he and Mr. Truman didn't
get along at all.
FUCHS: Do you know Bernard Baruch?
EWING: Oh, I know him very well.
FUCHS: Do you recall anything in connection with him in the Truman administration
that might be of interest?
EWING: After I became Federal Security Administrator, I know Mr. Baruch
came to see me a number of times with various suggestions. I don't recall
what they were, I just know he did. What had happened was that when the
1948 campaign started to get under way, I believe the President asked
Mr. Baruch to become treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, or
at least participate in fund raising, and that Mr. Baruch declined and
indicated that he would not be in favor of the President's candidacy.
I think the Presidential relations with Mr. Baruch up to that time had
been rather friendly. I gathered that the President felt Mr. Baruch's
refusal was a slap in the face, and after that Mr. Baruch's approaches
were more or less rebuffed by the President.
FUCHS: Did you know of this approach to Mr. Baruch at the time or just
from later reading or tales about it?
EWING: No. The President told me about it.
FUCHS: Did he ask for suggestions for...
EWING: I think Baruch's approaches were after the election. I don't think
Mr. Baruch's attitudes changed until after Mr. Truman had been re-elected,
and I know the President felt he was trying to get back on the bandwagon
again in coming to me and asking me to make certain suggestions to the
FUCHS: Did J. Howard McGrath attend many of your meetings, or any?
EWING: Yes, he attended a few and he knew what was going on all the time.
He encouraged us in our work.
FUCHS: You had a good relationship with McGrath?
EWING: Oh, it couldn't have been better.
FUCHS: Who did you favor for the vice-presidential nomination in 1948?
EWING: Well, the President talked to me about that. I may have brought
the subject up with him, but I know that I discussed it with him, because
he was giving real consideration to who would be politically the best
person to have
as a vice-presidential candidate. I would say, about two
weeks before the opening of the Democratic National Convention in 1948
, he asked a group to come over to the White House on Sunday afternoon
and discuss the whole question of who would be the best candidate for
Vice President. We sat on the south portico on the second floor that President
Truman had had installed. There must have been a dozen or fifteen people
there. Senator McGrath, Chief Justice Vinson, Clark Clifford, Oscar Chapman,
and quite a few others whose names I do not recall. We sat around for
quite awhile discussing various names and got nowhere, there was no consensus.
So, the President asked Howard McGrath, as chairman of the Democratic
National Committee if he would appoint a committee from out of the group
that was present that afternoon to give further study to it and try to
come up with a recommendation. When we broke up, I had my car there and
I asked Howard if I could give him a lift to his apartment. And he said,
"Yes." As soon as we got into the car he said, "Jack, about this committee,
I would like you to be chairman of it if you will. But," he added, "I've
heard your name urged and, of course, if you're interested in the vice-presidential
nomination, why, I should not appoint you as chairman of this committee."
And I said, "Well, Howard, forget that. I'm not interested at all."
Then he continued, "Well, then if you'll chairman the committee, why,
I'll appreciate it."
Our committee met. I forget who all were on it. Clark Clifford was, I
think Oscar Chapman was. I can't recall the others. You see, this was
twenty-one years ago. At the outset we put down on a yellow pad the name
of every person who might be given consideration, and discussed each person
on the list, the pros and cons. When we decided that the person being
considered would not do we would strike his name from the list. I have
that yellow sheet on which I wrote those names somewhere in my papers
but I've looked for it recently and can't put my hands on it. In any event,
we finally eliminated everyone except Mr. Justice William Douglas and
Senator Barkley. We finally decided that our first choice was Justice
Douglas. The controlling consideration in that decision was our concern
about the labor vote and we thought that Mr. Justice Douglas would have
more appeal to the labor vote than Senator Barkley.
FUCHS: Was this decision made in the one meeting? Where was the meeting?
EWING: I don't remember that. I have no recollection of where that meeting
was held, but I know I've got that yellow sheet and name after name was
stricken off except those two.
FUCHS: You came down to the two in that one meeting?
EWING: There was more than one meeting and then probably we telephoned
back and forth between each other, and anyhow when we got all through
we had narrowed the choice to those two names. President Truman said he
would accept our recommendation and he tried to get in touch with Justice
Douglas to ask him to run for Vice President. By this time it was oh,
probably the Thursday or Friday before the convention opened. The President
found that Mr. Douglas was out in the State of Washington on a hunting
trip, and wasn't able to get hold of him until, I think, Friday night.
Mr. Douglas said he'd like to think the matter over until the next day.
The next morning Mr. Douglas telephoned the President saying that he would
prefer to stay on the United States Supreme Court. With Douglas' refusal
of the nomination the President was perfectly willing to go along with
the nomination of Senator Barkley.
The Democratic National Committee gave a dinner in Philadelphia at one
of the hotels on the Saturday night before the convention opened. There
had been quite a buildup for Senator Barkley for Vice President among
his senatorial friends and that movement was led by Leslie Biffle. I remember
very well Mr. Biffle accosting me at the dinner as I was walking between
tables, and giving me merry hell because our committee had chosen Douglas.
He was violent. He didn't know that Douglas had refused. I didn't want
to say anything about it until the President had telephoned Barkley asking
him to run. Apparently the President had not talked with Barkley by the
time of the dinner or at least Biffle didn't know about it. But the whole
point of it was that we just stopped doing anything about trying to get
the nomination for Douglas.
FUCHS: How did Biffle know that you had decided on Douglas?
EWING: I don't know. He got the word some way. I have no idea how he
FUCHS: How did you mollify Biffle at the time?
EWING: I didn't mollify him. After he had spoken his piece he went on
back to eat. Many of Senator Barkley's colleagues were for him so that
when you had President Truman's approval for his nomination, why, there
was no problem.
FUCHS: Anything else that stands out in your memory about the convention,
perhaps in regard to the civil rights plank, or anything else that occurs
EWING: No, I don't think so.
FUCHS: It's been said that the campaign was aimed largely at four groups:
The farmer, the Negro, labor, and consumer. Would you agree with that
and did your policy strategy board have anything to do with zeroing in
EWING: Well, in a national campaign you've got to direct your efforts
at these great, large groups. Political management of a campaign means
trying to get just as many under the tent as you possibly can. Even though
they may be at completely opposite poles. We had made a real drive at
labor that started off with the President's veto of the Taft-Hartley bill..
We made a real
drive for the Negro vote that started off by the President
putting into effect all of the recommendations of the Civil Rights Commission's
report that could be done by executive order. The President also recommended
legislation to carry out all of the committee's other recommendations
that required legislation. We, of course, had the Jewish vote in mind.
What we did on that I've described in considerable detail already. There
was the farm vote, I've already described how President Truman appealed
to them on the things that the 80th Congress had not done. There were
various other smaller groups that I don't recall. There were some things
that we did in hope of gaining the support of the Mexican vote in the
Southern states along the Mexican border. I'm sure the Democratic National
Committee had a minority group division. I don't recall specifically anything
that they did but I'm sure they were working.
FUCHS: There were two executive orders issued that touched on civil rights
but they were not released until after the convention. The first, 9980,
was issued July 26, '48 in regard to fair employment practices within the
Federal establishment and then Executive Order 9981, establishing
the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in
the Armed Services. And it had been charged that these were ready for
release before the convention but were held up until after the convention
for obviously political purposes. If so, do you know if this is true?
EWING: Well, I know I worked on that executive order relating to the
armed services to require complete integration of the armed services.
I think I described that to you before.
FUCHS: This was the order establishing the President's Committee on Equality
of Treatment and Opportunity.
EWING: You mean in the armed services?
EWING: Well, there wouldn't have been two executive orders. That must
have been the one on which I worked, but I don't recall that it involved
anything but integration. It may have very well. Whenever we got those
executive orders in final shape, I think they were issued. I don't
recall that any of them were withheld.
FUCHS: You don't think that anyone said, "Well, let's wait till after
the convention and this will make a good splash or kickoff for the campaign
in line with our plank on civil rights."
EWING: No. I don't think so.
FUCHS: What about the finances of the campaign. Did you come into touch
with that? Have any remarks about the difficulty or non-difficulty of
raising funds? Or Mr. Louis Johnson who was appointed treasurer.
EWING: Well, about my only contact with money raising was that I was
asked to make a contribution and I did. Louis Johnson wasn't treasurer
that year was he? Well, he might have been. Ed Pauley was the treasurer
of the ' 44 campaign. That's right. Louis Johnson was treasurer in 1948.
I remember very well we were pretty hard pressed for money in the 1944
campaign and had accumulated quite a debt. When Roosevelt was re-elected,
Ed Pauley sent out telegrams to any number of people who hadn't contributed
anything previously in which he asked them to help make up the deficit;
and the money
just poured in.
FUCHS: This was in '44?
EWING: Yes, 1944.
FUCHS: What about in '48, then?
EWING: I really was not in touch with that. I don't know.
FUCHS: How did you originally meet Bernard Baruch?
EWING: I think he just asked for an appointment with me and came in to
see me, when I was Federal Security Administrator. I don't think I'd met
FUCHS: Were you acquainted with Louis Johnson?
EWING: Oh, yes. Yes, I had known him for some time. I don't remember
when I first met him. He was active in the National Committee before he
was treasurer. I think he helped raise money. I'm not just sure who was
treasurer before he was but I think he succeeded Ed Pauley. It's a little
hard to keep all the change of officers straight in my mind.
FUCHS: Was there anyone you recall at the time that you felt was dragging
his feet in regard to Mr. Truman's candidacy?
EWING: In '48?
FUCHS: Yes, sir.
EWING: There were a few people to whom Mr. Truman had been very good
that I thought were dragging their feet. But I'd rather not mention their
FUCHS: How did you feel about the press in regard to the party's efforts
EWING: I don't think the attitude of the press was any different in 1948
from what it is in almost every election. An overwhelming majority of
the press usually supports the Republican candidate. That is something
we Democrats just have to take in stride. I have always questioned how
much influence the press has. I think their influence is inclined to be
exaggerated. Voters generally vote emotionally and then they look around
for reasons to justify their emotional desires; and to a certain extent
I suppose the news media arouses these emotions but do not create
The press may stimulate them but I don't think they change many of them.
They stimulate those that are already there rather than change them.
FUCHS: As you know, the 80th Congress became sort of President Truman's
"devil" in the '48 campaign. Was this ever brought up as a concrete suggestion
or proposal in your policy board meetings, that you recall?
EWING: No, I think that was a thing that originated with Mr. Truman himself.
He really made a lot of this issue on his first whistlestop trip to the
West Coast, which was before the convention. At that time, of course,
the Republicans hadn't chosen their candidate and, since he had to have
an antagonist he used the 80th Congress. That was the only Republican
record that the President had to attack. After Governor Dewey was nominated
as the Republican candidate for President his campaign was so innocuous,
he was floating around in the upper stratosphere most of the campaign
and didn't make much of an object for attack. Mr. Truman had found the
response to his strategy of attacking the 80th Congress so successful
that he continued the attacks throughout the campaign.
FUCHS: In regard to, one, the Dixiecrat movement and the Henry Wallace
challenge, did your policy board have any suggestions how they might best
approach these two factors?
EWING: Well, as I recall, as far as the Dixiecrat movement was concerned,
we just felt we had to let that take its course. There wasn't much we
could do there without going back and retreating from our civil rights
positions, and I think we played it down hoping that the normal Democratic
majorities in the South would be adequate. Of course, they were not because
the Strom Thurmond Dixiecrat ticket did capture a few of those southern
states. As to Henry Wallace, we didn't know of anything more than had
already been done to attract the labor vote, which was where Mr. Wallace's
strength primarily lay. That didn't prove enough in New York; we lost
New York, but we felt there was nothing more we could do. But you see,
it was the farm vote in the midwest and western states that gave Mr. Truman
his majority even with the loss of New York.
FUCHS: What about the itineraries for Mr. Truman's so-called "whistlestop"
tours. Did you have anything to
do with the planning of them?
EWING: Nothing whatever.
FUCHS: Do you recall any specific responses suggested by your board during
the course of the campaign to certain things that Mr. Dewey might have
said or done?
EWING: I do not recall any. There probably were some but I don't recall
FUCHS: Did John Steelman play any part in the campaign that you recall?
EWING: I don't think so. John kept the homefires burning while the rest
of us were politicking.
FUCHS: Do you think the Jewish vote came across for Mr. Truman in New
York? Of course, as we know, you felt there was nothing more you could
do, and the Democrats did lose New York.
EWING: I feel quite confident that Truman got a very heavy percentage
of the Jewish vote.
FUCHS: By that time the State of Israel had been created and he had recognised
it immediately, and it seems logical
the Jews would have voted for him
although there were still disputes over there.
EWING: I think President Truman lost New York verv largely because of
the Wallace movement. Wallace had a great deal of support among labor
and based his whole campaign largely on appeals to labor. Not all laborers
supported him but many did.
FUCHS: What about the role of Gael Sullivan in 1948? Do you recall anything
that might add to the story about him?
EWING: Gael I think was executive director of the Democratic National
FUCHS: I believe that's correct.
EWING: I think he had that title, and Gael was a smart cookie and did
his job well. You see, Senator McGrath had his senatorial duties to do
and Gael stayed in National Committee headquarters and ran that office.
Senator McGrath couldn't possibly attend to all those details.
FUCHS: Did Mr. Sullivan ever meet with your group?
FUCHS: What about [John M.] Jack Redding?
EWING: He never met with our group.
FUCHS: You knew him?
EWING: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: In 1947 there is a memo to Mr. Connelly dated December 17th, from
the White House papers, which said that you had phoned to say that you
had just returned from a trip to the west and had various and sundry things
to talk with the President about as soon as you could see him. Do you
recall that trip or what you might have been bringing back?
EWING: What's the date?
FUCHS: December 17, 1947.
EWING: Well, I think it was on that trip that I talked first with Jake
Arvey about the President's re-nomination.
FUCHS: I just thought it might ring a bell.
EWING: I know that of all the people I talked to on that trip it was
from Jake Arvey that I first ran head on into opposition to the President's
FUCHS: There was a letter, on February 2nd, to you from
in which he forwarded a photograph and he said: "...also as a halo seems
to be a glistening above your brow, let me contribute this as my memento
in connection with your candidacy." And then you replied on February 4,
'48 thanking him for the picture of the President signing the proclamation
in regard to juvenile delinquency which he had forwarded to you, and you
said, "If you keep kidding me, I am liable to begin to take my alleged
candidacy seriously. Wouldn't that be awful!!" What were you kidding about?
EWING: I don't remember.
FUCHS: You don't think that was in connection with the potential vice-presidential
candidacy, might have been joshing about at that early date?.
EWING: I don't think so. There was considerable talk about the possibility
of my being the Democratic candidate for Governor of New York in '50,
and actually there had been talk about it probably before '48. Ed Flynn,
who was the undoubted Democratic leader of New York, had publicly stated
that he wanted me to be the candidate for Governor in '50. But mention
of my name in connection with the
Vice Presidency was some time after
February 2, 1948 so Matt must have been referring to the New York Governorship.
It was a few weeks before the 1948 convention that some columnist wrote
that I was being considered as a possible nominee for Vice President.
As a result a number of my friends spoke to me about it. I did not take
the suggestion seriously but I did decide to speak to Ed Flynn about it.
He was undoubtedly the most important Democratic leader in New York State
and any New Yorker's candidacy for national office would have to have
Flynn's support. When I broached the subject to him, he exclaimed: "For
God's sake, Jack, don't allow that to happen. Truman is going to be the
worst defeated man who ever ran for President. It will ruin you politically
and I want you to be the Democratic candidate for Governor of New York
in 1950." After that whenever anyone mentioned my being a possible candidate
for Vice President I just pooh-poohed the idea.
FUCHS: You went to New York on a trip with Mr. Truman to speak at a St.
Patrick's Day dinner in March of 1948 . Do you have any recollection or
anecdotes about that?
EWING: No, none that I recall.
FUCHS: When did you become confident, if you did, in 1948 that the President
was going to be successful in his bid for re-election?
EWING: Well, a couple of months before the election I became confident
that he would be re-elected. That was no particular feat of intelligence
on my part because I had some pretty sound bases for my prediction. At
that time the State of Maine held its state and congressional elections
in September. When you put the combined vote of the three Democratic congressional
candidates together in both 1946 and 1948 they showed marked increases
in the Democratic vote over what it had been in the 1944 election; and
if we held that same percentage of gain throughout the country we should
have carried the Congress in 1946. But what happened between the 1946
September Maine election and the November elections elsewhere, was the
extension of the draft and meat rationing. There was so much opposition
to those two things that we lost both Houses of Congress. In 1948 in the
Maine election in September, if you put the votes of the three congressional Democratic
candidates together, it showed a very sharp increase even over
1944. And those were real polls. They were real votes. It wasn't any Gallup
poll or anything like that. This was real.
FUCHS: It showed an increase over ' 46 , too?
EWING: Oh, yes, very much over '46. So. I had no hesitancy in feeling
that if nothing happened between September and November in 1948, that
the President would be re-elected. In 1948 we tried to be very sure that
nothing happened between September and November that would upset the applecart.
We succeeded in this and Truman was elected.
FUCHS: Did other members of your group share your confidence?
EWING: I really don't know. I'm pretty sure they did. I know India Edwards,
who was Vice Chairman of the National Committee and head of the Women's
Division, on the basis of the same reasoning, was quite confident that
Mr. Truman would be re-elected.
FUCHS: She a good friend of yours?
EWING: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: Do you feel she played a considerable part in the election?
EWING: Well, it's awfully hard to say, to answer that one way or the
other. I think that she contributed as much to Democratic success as any
chairman of the Women's Division could. It's awfully hard to say how much
a national committee or even a local committee contributes to an election.
Actually, take a county committee, the only two things that a local organization
can do to help win an election is to get Democrats registered and get
Democrats to the polls on election day. Political organizations change
very few votes, it's minimal. It's getting Democrats registered, and getting
Democrats to the polls on election day that counts.
FUCHS: Where were you election eve?
EWING: You mean when election returns came in?
FUCHS: Yes. The election night.
EWING: I was at my apartment at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington.
We had a few friends in, and I remember staying up all night. It was daylight
before I was sure, absolutely sure that President Truman had been re-elected.
FUCHS: Who was with you, do you recall? And when did you go see the President
EWING: I don't recall. Oh, there were a number of people at the apartment
with us. There was a cousin of mine, she was a commander in the Waves,
she was there. I think Don Kingsley and his wife were there, and I think
John Thurston and his wife. I don't recall who else. I'd say we had a
dozen or so people there.
FUCHS: Who brought John Thurston into FSA?
EWING: Don Kingsley brought him in, and then when Don Kingsley resigned
John Thurston became the assistant administrator.
FUCHS: There's a memo in the file, dated January 3, 1950 that you were
returning from your European trip about January 17th and on January 24th
you were going to speak to the National Press Club and were anxious to
see the President before you made this speech, and you asked for an appointment.
Do you recall that trip and have any idea what you might have wished to
take up with the President at this time?
EWING: I remember the trip, of course, very well and I remember this
speech. I couldn't tell you what I said but I remember making it. That
was--what was that date?
FUCHS: This trip was in January, 1950. Maybe you had left at the end
of '49 but you were coming back on January 17th. I just wondered what
that trip was, just a pleasure trip or were you on official business?
EWING: Oh, I'm sure it was official business. I'm trying to think.--I
think that was the trip that--well, I made two trips and I can't straighten
out in my memory what I did on each.
FUCHS: Well, there was one at the end of the administration when you
went to, I believe, Europe and then over to India and various places.
FUCHS: That was in 1952 with Wilbur Cohen.
EWING: Yes. Well, then this is the trip that I made at the end of 1949--it
was a rather extensive one. I was really trying to find out a lot of things.
I went to London, and it was there I tried to find out all I could
the British health service; and then we went to Ireland, and then to Scotland,
because Scotland had a little different setup on the health service than
England. Then I went to Stockholm to learn all I could about the Swedish
health service; and from there I went to Switzerland, then to Rome, and
then I went on to Israel. Israel had requested that we give them a lot
of help on some of the education and welfare problems that they had. The
request was such that I really had to know more about the local situation
if we were to act on it. I did go out there and it happened that the American
Ambassador to Israel at that time was a classmate of mine at Indiana University,
James G. McDonald, and he entertained Mrs. Ewing and me. We were guests
of his at the embassy. Mr. McDonald gave a dinner in our honor which was
attended by the entire Israeli Cabinet. Ben Gurion was there, Mrs. [Golda]
Meir, Mr. [Moshe S.] Sharrett, who was Foreign Minister. I don't recall
the names of the others but the entire Cabinet was there. This gave me
an excellent opportunity to talk to them. Then Mr. McDonald arranged for
us to go down to President Weizmann's home at Rehovoth for tea. President
Weizmann was very cordial. We had tea and then
he asked me to go into
his study with him. He had had quite a long letter prepared which he wanted
me to take to President Truman. He was greatly concerned about the way
Egypt and some of the other Arab countries wave rearming and--I forget
the details. I still have that letter and I'm sure that I asked for that
appointment with President Truman in order to deliver President Weizmann's
letter to him and also to report to the President other things from other
places which I would do verbally.
FUCHS: Is there anything that comes to mind about your speech before
the National Press Club?
EWING: No. I don't remember. I think that speech dealt largely with national
health insurance and telling what I had learned in other countries about
their health services.
FUCHS: Just about a year later in 1951, February, your secretary phoned
Mr. Connelly and asked for an appointment for you before the President
went to Florida, and said that you had a report ready to make on New York
judgeships and also the conversation you had had with
Wright of Mississippi. Do you recall anything of that? Incidentally, they
put a note on here that you were told to talk to Boyle instead.
EWING: My vague recollection is that the Democratic organization in New
York had made a recommendation for a Federal District Judge, to whom there
was considerable opposition. I think the Bar Association was opposing
the man who had been recommended by the New York Democratic organization
and the President or somebody had asked, I can't remember who did, somebody
asked me to come up with a new recommendation. I think I recommended Lloyd
Garrison if he would accept the judgeship. Mr. Garrison felt he could
not accept it for personal reasons. I don't even recall what they were.
Fielding Wright, Governor Wright of Mississippi, had come into my office
to talk about some Mississippi welfare matters and again I must confess
I don't remember details. But I was to be down on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi
making a speech. What's that city down there?
EWING: Biloxi, yes. Governor Wright heard that I would be
there and he
invited me to come up to Jackson and spend the night at the mansion. He
very kindly motored to Biloxi to pick me up and we rode back together
to Jackson. I spent the night in the mansion and we talked out some of
his problems on welfare.
FUCHS: Is there anything you feel I've overlooked about the '48 campaign
that we should discuss?
EWING: I don't think so.
FUCHS: The Korean war, of course, coming along in 1950 resulted in a
certain amount of upheaval in Government. How did it affect the Federal
Security Agency, if in any way?
EWING: Well, I think it would affect our activities in maternal health
and child care. We had a lot to do with those matters. Soldiers would
go away and leave their wives, often in pretty desperate circumstances.
And that was true if their babies were born while their fathers were in
service. There were a lot of chores that the Child and Maternal Welfare
Section had to do. Its workload increased quite a bit.
FUCHS: What about problems in connection with education?
EWING: Well, I'm sure there were some. I don't recall them.
FUCHS: Nothing springs to mind?
EWING: No, no.
FUCHS: How did you view Mr. Truman's differences with General MacArthur
in the conduct of the war? I don't know if you came into that in any way.
Your policy board didn't deal much with warfare, if any?
EWING: Oh, no, we didn't. I quite accidentally got involved, well, really,
not involved because I was nothing but a messenger. This was at the time
when General MacArthur was driving the North Koreans north towards the
Yalu River, which was the boundary between North Korea and Manchuria.
After the battle of Inchon, MacArthur's troops had advanced to the 38th
parallel. Advancing further into North Korea raised the possibility of
Chinese intervention. After a pause, MacArthur undertook to drive all
Communist troops out of North Korea. As his troops advanced up the peninsula
the likelihood of intervention by China became more threatening and
was repeatedly warned of this danger. All of his answers were to the effect
that he was confident from his own intelligence sources that the Chinese
were not going to intervene.
Bill Lawrence, who broadcasts now for ABC, at that time was in the New
York Times Washington bureau. One day he came over to see me and said
he had a message that Mr. Sulzberger wanted to be delivered to Mr. Truman
and would I be good enough to convey the message. I said, "Why, yes, I
would be glad to."
"Well," he said, "Mr. Sulzberger wants the President to know that every
source of information that the New York Times has in the area of
the Korean conflict tells us that the Chinese are going to intervene and
that General MacArthur definitely should be prepared for Chinese intervention
and should shape his actions with that in view."
When I repeated Mr. Sulzberger's message to the President he exclaimed,
"I know that. I'm very much concerned about it. I cabled General MacArthur
yesterday telling him virtually what you're telling me and here's the
answer that I just got from him."
The President then showed me the telegram from
MacArthur saying that
there was no possibility of the Chinese coming in; that his intelligence
all indicated that they had no intention of coming in and then there were
words to indicate that he knew the situation better than Washington, in
effect saying, "Keep your shirt on. I've got everything under control."
Actually, at that very moment the Chinese were already infiltrating over
the mountain between MacArthur's two columns. It was within a day or two
of when the Chinese struck. And as we know, it would have been a military
disaster had not General Matthew Ridgway been put in charge, and it was
he who was able to rally the American and other allied troops and contain
FUCHS: Did you by chance have prior knowledge that MacArthur was going
to be dismissed before it appeared in the paper?
EWING: No, I think I knew that the President was considering it, because
he was greatly disturbed about the situation, but I don't think I had
any actual knowledge that he had decided.
FUCHS: You say there was a proposal that you run for
Governor of New
York. Would you care to say a little about that?
EWING: Well, I don't know that there is much to say. As far back as 1942
Mr. Flynn talked to me about the governorship. He felt that if I were
to be a candidate I would need a public build-up. I think it was he who
spoke about it to Attorney-General Biddle and when the Justice Department
was seeking someone to be a Special Assistant to the Attorney General
to prosecute William Dudley Pelley out in Indiana I was given the appointment.
In 1947 I was again appointed Special Assistant to prosecute Douglas Chandler
for treason. These assignments, plus the fact that I was Vice Chairman
of the Democratic National Committee led to my appointment as Federal
Security Administrator in August 1947. When I told Mr. Flynn in early
1948 that some of my friends were talking to me about the vice presidency,
he heatedly urged me not to consider it, that Truman would be badly defeated
and if I were on the ticket with him I would be ruined as a future candidate
for Governor of New York for which he wanted me to run in 1950. Later,
when the fight for National
Health Insurance became so hot, I knew Mr.
Flynn was opposed to it. Two or three times he came to me and said: "Jack,
your fight for National Health Insurance is hurting you politically in
The New York Democratic State Convention in 1950 to nominate candidates
for governor and other state offices was held in Rochester. Right up to
the time of the convention Mr. Flynn was saying publicly that he wanted
me to have the nomination. My good friend Dan O'Connell, the Democratic
leader of Albany County had my name presented to the convention but Mr.
Flynn saw to it that the nomination went to Congressman Walter Lynch of
the Bronx. Years later I received a letter from my good friend, Theodore
W. Kheel, giving a sidelight on that situation. Mr. Kheel is probably
the outstanding mediator in labor disputes in the country and at this
point I would like to quote part of that letter:
It's...almost ten years...since that eminently astute politician, Ed
Flynn, made one of his major mistakes: his failure to support you for
the Gubernatorial nomination in 1950. Since this was the first time
in my career that I had anything to do with the great man and my experience
with him related to that "blooper;" I remember it very clearly.
Perhaps I told you about it at the time, but I'm not quite sure. But
it's worth noting for
the record in any event, so here goes.
In the race for the nomination that year, the labor leaders had announced
a list of five or six candidates whom they said were acceptable. You
were not only on that list but were in fact the number one choice and
somehow or other I was designated by the labor fellows to tell Mr. Flynn
privately that you ranked in that spot among their preferences. And
I did, and then listened as, with the wisdom that had come to him from
his years of experience, he explained to me why you wouldn't do. 'Jack's
a fine fellow,' he said. (I think he called you Jack, or perhaps it
was Oscar--I don't remember that too clearly.) 'But with that medical
issue, he just can't be elected.'
This was, I assumed, an observation born of careful study by the old
pro. But he continued. 'Why, I was talking to my druggist the other
day and he said to me, "Mr. Flynn, if you name that Ewing fellow for
Governor, by God we're going to vote against you."' Up to that time
I thought it was only amateurs like myself that based political judgments
on what the driver of the last cab I was in had to say. Ed Flynn apparently
used his druggist.
But there was more. 'Let me tell you the kind of a fellow who would
make a perfect candidate,' he said. 'Congressman Walter Lynch. He's
got a good voting record. Hasn't stepped on anyone's toes. And everybody
likes him. He can't miss.'
The nomination the Democrats made that year is, of course, part of
the official record, including Dewey's devastating observation immediately
after the nomination was announced: 'Who's Lynch?' he inquired, and
that was the end of the campaign.
I regretted the decision of Mr. Flynn all these years both because
I'm sure you would have been elected and made a great governor and also
because that campaign would have proven that the 'medical
the best one the Democrats could possibly have had.
I never held it against Mr. Flynn that he failed to support me for the
nomination for Governor in that Rochester convention. A political leader's
first responsibility is to win elections by an honorable means. No matter
what Mr. Flynn had said to me in the past, if, when it came time for the
nomination, he was convinced that I could not be elected and someone else
could, it would be his duty to support that other man. I am sure there
was nothing personal in Mr. Flynn's decision.
FUCHS: Did you ever run for any office, then?
FUCHS: Now, on May 31, 1952 Ed Pauley wrote Matthew Connelly and wanted
him to pass a letter on to the President that was to the effect that of
all of the potential candidates that had been in California assisting
the Pat Brown delegation and to carry on their own candidacy--and this
is a quote--"Jack Ewing made the most friends and the most progress. They
all liked him immensely and the liberal views for which he stands as well
as his forthright
manner. They all regret that his national candidacy
had not been more seriously considered up to this time." That referred
EWING: Well, I think some people had suggested me for nomination for
President in '52 . And as a matter of fact, my name was presented to the
Democratic National Convention. But I didn't cut much of a figure in that.
I didn't know Mr. Pauley had written that letter. It's very nice.
Perhaps I ought to explain how my name happened to be put in nomination
for President in the 1952 Democratic National Convention. After President
Truman had announced that he would not be a candidate for re-election,
naturally there was a lot of conjecturing as to who the candidate might
be. President Truman had offered Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois,
to support him for the nomination, but Governor Stevenson refused the
President's offer. Stevenson said he did not want to be President. This
was like a slap in the face to Mr. Truman--that any man would seriously
decline to be considered for the presidency. Personally, Mr. Truman was
a humble man but he had enormous respect for the office of President.
Stevenson's attitude left him
without a candidate. Obviously, he would
have more influence on the choice of the person to head the Democratic
ticket in 1952 than anyone else. In this situation, a number of men indicated
they would like to run. There was Avere1l Harriman of New York, as well
as three southern Senators, Richard Russell of Georgia, Estes Kefauver
of Tennessee, and Robert Kerr of Oklahoma.
In the midst of all this, Joseph E. Davies and I rode home together from
some dinner one evening. He had been active for years in Democratic politics
and had been American Ambassador to Russia for a time under President
Roosevelt. Out of the blue he began urging me to seek the nomination for
President. Evidently he had been giving this some thought because he presented
a number of arguments why I should do so. The principal one was his belief
that National Health Insurance could be made a winning issue. This was,
of course, heady wine for me and started me thinking. Then several other
friends of mine talked to me along the same lines. These were chiefly
members of our little advisory group.
As I thought the matter over I decided to discuss
the problem with two
close and experienced friends--Clark Clifford and Daniel P. O'Connell,
the Democratic leader in Albany, New York. (I did not talk with Ed Flynn
because he had told me that he felt the health insurance issue was political
liability.) Clark was already committed to support Senator Kerr but he
strongly advised that my name be presented to the convention because he
said the picture was so confused that no one could tell who would be nominated.
Clark was very close to President Truman at that time and I got the impression,
whether rightly or wrongly, I do not know, that the views he expressed
were those of the President.
After my talk with Clark, I went to Albany to discuss the matter with
Dan O'Connell for whose political acumen I had great respect. He too felt
that the situation with regard to the nomination was so confused that
nothing might happen and he would have my name put in nomination by Mayor
Erastus Corning of Albany. At the convention Mayor Corning made an extremely
nice nominating speech. However, after my talk with Mr. O'Connell the
tide began running for Governor Stevenson notwithstanding his reluctant
attitude and statements like "Pray let this cup pass." Stevenson was nominated
and I got a few votes from personal and political friends of mine.
FUCHS: You had a debate, apparently, with Senator Capehart in May of
1952, and a gentleman wrote the White House and said that, "...if the
Democratic party is as well equipped with other spellbinders in presenting
the facts to the American public, between now and November 3rd, we will
have no worries on Tuesday, November 4th, as to which party will be swept
into office." Have you recollections of that debate with Senator Capehart?
EWING: I just remember that I had one. I recall no details.
FUCHS: Was this on primarily, National Health Insurance or Social Security
EWING: No, I don't know what I talked about, but it was a campaign speech
rather than advocating a program.
FUCHS: Yes. Because this was prior to the convention, it being in May
FUCHS: What part did you play in the 1952 convention and
for various candidates, and so forth?
EWING: Well, nothing except that my name was presented. I was nominated
by Mayor Corning of Albany in New York, and got a few votes, but by the
time the convention had come, it was quite certain that Adlai Stevenson
would be nominated.
FUCHS: Was your group still operating then?
EWING: I'm not sure when we stopped. I know we stopped when Stevenson
was nominated, because he was inclined to disassociate himself from Mr.
Truman at that time.
FUCHS: Did you think that wise?
EWING: I don't think it's ever wise. I don't think any man who is taking
a nomination can succeed by repudiating his predecessor if his predecessor
was of the same party.
FUCHS: Do you recall when you first learned that Mr. Truman would definitely
not seek re-election?
EWING: No. I do not recall it. I think my first definite indication I
had of it was when the announcement came. I knew he was considering what
to do because he could if he desired, run for another term. The constitutional
amendment that limited the President to two terms did not apply to him.
FUCHS: Do you recall him making a statement after the election in 1948
that he would not seek re-election in 1952 when he would be sixty-eight?
EWING: I don't recall that. I know this, that I talked with the President
in probably March '52. We were talking politics and about who the Democratic
candidate might be. At that time, he very emphatically said he would not
support Adlai Stevenson for the nomination.
FUCHS: Who did he favor then?
EWING: He didn't know.
FUCHS: What part did you play then in the '52 campaign?
EWING: Oh, I think I made a lot of speeches but that was all.
FUCHS: At the end of your tenure you and Wilbur Cohen made a trip around
the world which was brought under some censure by a particular Representative,
H. R. Gross of Iowa. And I was wondering if you recall anything about that?
EWING: Oh, yes. I was asked to make that trip by the State Department.
The reason they asked me to do it was this: The Communists out in Asia,
particularly Southeast Asia, had a line of propaganda that was to the
effect that the Americans really weren't interested in people as people;
that they were only interested in making dollars and Hollywood movies
and various things of that kind, and that they were not interested in
education or welfare, or things that would help people. The State Department
wanted someone to go out there and make talks, particularly to the colleges
and schools because that was where the Commies were spreading their propaganda
and where it seemed to be having some effect. Secretary Acheson thought
that it would be a good idea for me to go and try to combat this propaganda
because I headed up the activities of the Federal Government in those
fields. So, I went out and the expense of my trip was not charged to the
Federal Security Agency at all but to the State Department. I haven't
any idea how many speeches I made. I know I made seven in one day, I went
to seven different schools and colleges. That was in Tokyo. In Delhi I
made several speeches a day, as well as in other places in India. Then,
also I had been invited to speak at an international conference on education
in Bombay, so we planned the trip for me to arrive in Bombay at the time
I had been asked to speak. Representative Gross--of course, he's a chronic
nitpicker--made a speech about this in the House of Representatives and
indicated that this was a misuse of Federal funds, and demanded that the
Controller General investigate my accounts and disallow the payments.
I got a telegram from the Controller General asking me to make a report
on the trip. I wired back that when I returned I would be delighted to
give him full details which I did when I returned to Washington. The Controller
General held that the whole trip and everything about it was entirely
proper. So that ended Mr. Gross' diatribes on the subject.
FUCHS: I believe you attended some Cabinet meetings?
FUCHS: What were they like? How did Mr. Truman conduct them?
EWING: Well, I didn't attend many. I was only asked to attend when something
was to be discussed by the
Cabinet that was within my bailiwick. I remember
one particular Cabinet meeting--and Jim Forrestal refers to it in his memoirs.
In the latter part of January 1948 there was a good deal of public discussion
about our military policy and there was a Cabinet meeting on January 30th
where the President brought up the matter for discussion. Secretary Forrestal
in his memoirs, rather his diary [Walter Millis (ed.) The Forrestal
Diaries (New York: The Viking Press, 1951), pp. 368-69.] has this
reference to that meeting of the Cabinet and I'm quoting:
The President invited discussion of universal military training. I
said the principal suggestion I had to make was that there be a concentration
in the National Military Establishment of responsibility for securing
suggestions for embodiment in the legislation from other government
agencies. I expressed the hope that there would not be too many of these,
because of my feeling that to get any legislation through at this session
was going to require steady effort and a good deal of legislative skill.
I was particularly gratified to have Oscar Ewing, the Federal Security
Administrator, say that he felt that any extraneous action such as social
training would weaken the chances for the bill, and that, therefore,
they should be excluded. It was his opinion that the bill could only
pass on the grounds of being a military necessity. I expressed complete
agreement with Mr. Ewing and said I hoped we would not be burdened with
any of the kind of suggestions that Mrs. Roosevelt had tried to promulgate
several years when the subject first came up--in the field of training
in its broad social sense.
FUCHS: Very interesting. Any other Cabinet meetings that you recall?
EWING: No. No, I don't.
FUCHS: What about the 1953 transition? Did any problems arise there,
do you have any thoughts about that, from the Truman to the Eisenhower
EWING: No. I took that trip around the world to which I have referred
and we returned to Washington January 15th, 1953. I had learned of Mrs.
Hobby's appointment as Federal Security Administrator by President Eisenhower
while I was, I think, in Istanbul. I had sent her a cable offering to
cooperate with her in any way I could. When I got back I found a very
nice note, but that was about all. I then sent to the President my resignation
as Federal Security Administrator effective on the termination of President
Truman's term and received an extremely nice letter from him regarding
my services. If I may I would like to put the text of that letter in this
recording at this point.
The White House
January 19 , 1953
In accepting your resignation as Federal Security Administrator, effective
January twentieth, I want to express my appreciation for your devotion
to public service and your contributions to the cause of health, education
Your administration not only has been dedicated to the highest ideals
of democratic process; it also has been marked by practical contributions
to good government. You have taken the initiative in promoting efficiency
and economy throughout your Agency and have blazed a new trail in regional
organization to improve your services.
In the past five years, the departmental stature of the Federal Security
Agency has been repeatedly demonstrated. If the departmental name is
still to come, you and I have the satisfaction of having laid the foundation.
In the past three years, social security has moved far toward the goal
for which it was enacted eighteen years ago. Millions more now have
the benefit of its insurance protection, and this protection has been
increased. Meanwhile, there has been a gradual and healthy reduction
in the number needing help under public assistance provisions and some
incease [sic] in their payments. In education, Federal aid to schools
in areas overburdened by Federal activity at least has helped these
communities to meet some of their worst emergencies. Meantime people
everywhere have been alerted to the school crisis confronting their
own children. Public health and related services have made marked advances
in medical research, control of chronic diseases, hospital construction,
and rehabilitation of the disabled. You have performed a real service
in strengthening food standards and in directing enforcement of the
law against dangerous drugs--a job which has become doubly necessary
in the current welter of new
scientific developments, both harmful and
One of your special personal contributions has been in identifying
what still needs doing--as, for example, in the continuing movement
to solve the problem of the cost of medical care. We are all indebted
to you for your insistent reminders that the job is far from done--for
children, for the aged, for the disabled, and for us all.
I know that you will find satisfaction in the assurance that you have
fought the good fight, along with all of those who believe that the
strength of the Nation lies not only in its armaments but still more
in its citizens.
You have my best wishes.
Very sincerely yours,
(signed) Harry S. Truman
FUCHS: You also, as sort of a capstone, received several awards for your
public service. Do you care to mention those?
EWING: Well, I received the Sidney Hillman 1950 award for meritorious
public service. And then I later received the Philip Murray award in 1953.
There were various others.
FUCHS: You received two awards, then, named after very prominent labor
FUCHS: And then, finally, Medicare or national health insurance of sorts
was passed under the administration of President Johnson. Do you care
to say something about that?
EWING: Well, by the time Mr. Johnson became President he supported Medicare
very strongly. The proposed legislation embodying Medicare had been considered
by the Ways and Means Committee in the House and the Finance Committee
in the Senate. These Committees had made some excellent improvements in
the bill and when it finally passed both Houses it was a much better bill
than the one I had originally proposed in 1952. It was more comprehensive
and did a better job. President Johnson was very gracious about one thing.
In view of President Truman's having, in his administration, been the
sparkplug that brought about the first introduction of the legislation,
President Johnson went clear out to Independence, Missouri to sign the
bill in the presence of former President Truman; and President Johnson
asked me to accompany him on the trip.
FUCHS: Did you have a conversation with Mr. Truman on that occasion?
EWING: Well, I just went down the line with the others, and he got up
and put his arms around me and he couldn't have been more cordial; so
was Mrs. Truman. But I had no time for any words. It was a long line .
FUCHS: You say that you did speak in 1952 on behalf of Adlai Stevenson.
EWING: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: Did these requests for you to speak come through his headquarters
or the Democratic National Committee in Washington?
EWING: It would be a request from the National Committee probably. It
might be that a request for me to make a talk had come to the National
Committee and they would ask me to take the assignment.
FUCHS: What about Samuel Rosenman. Did you have any relationship with
him at some time?
EWING: Nothing except that we were very good friends. I had a great admiration
for Sam, for his ability, and for him as a person.
FUCHS: What was the situation in regard to national health
under President Kennedy in his short tenure? Did you know President Kennedy?
EWING: Oh, yes. Actually I had known President Kennedy since he was a
little boy because the Kennedy family lived for a time in Riverdale, New
York and that was quite close to my home there. My older son and Jack
were classmates in the Riverdale country school. I didn't know him well,
I merely knew him as a boyfriend of my older son. But, actually, Jim,
my older son, had kept in touch with Jack. I don't recall having seen
Jack when he was in the House, but I saw him a number of times when he
was in the Senate, and after he was President, I saw him once. Governor
Sanford of North Carolina and I had an appointment with him.
FUCHS: Do you recall what that was about?
EWING: Yes, it was about getting the Environmental Health Center located
in the Research Triangle in North Carolina.
FUCHS: You wanted it located here?
EWING: Yes. It was to be one of the institutes of the Public Health Service.
Governor Sanford had asked me
if I would help him in his endeavors to
get it located in the Research Triangle; and I told him I would be delighted
to give him any assistance I could. I made several trips to Washington
and talked with the Public Health Service people about it. At first they
were very anxious to have the Center located in Washington and, of course,
we wanted it in the Research Triangle. I was completely convinced that
Washington was one of the last places that the Center should be located.
One of the reasons for urging the Research Triangle location was that
if there were a nuclear attack on this country it would be very important
that there be an environmental health organization functioning to help
solve problems that could not possibly have been foreseen. To have an
organization functioning that could perhaps find solutions for some immediate
unforeseen problems might save many thousands of lives. If there were
a nuclear war you know perfectly well that Washington would be much higher
on the target list of the enemy than Chapel Hill or the Research Triangle.
Finally, the Johnson administration, through Larry O'Brien, got Congress
to put a provision in the bill to the effect that the Center had to be
located at least
fifty miles from the District of Columbia. That necessitated
the Public Health Service re-appraising the problem of location, and they
came up with a strong recommendation for the. Research Triangle. I'm sure
they are very happy with that decision.
FUCHS: It has been located here?
EWING: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: Just what is the Research Triangle?
EWING: The Research Triangle is a body of land that lies in about the
center of a triangle consisting of the University of North Carolina of
Chapel Hill, Duke University of Durham, North Carolina, and North Carolina
State University at Raleigh. It's a body of about five thousand acres
of land. They don't permit any manufacturing there, it's exclusively for
research. All of the plants in the Triangle are engaged exclusively in
research. Some of America's great corporations have research facilities
in the Triangle. IBM has a big research center there, and also Celanese
Corporation, Hercules, and others. Although the park has only been going
about ten years, it's second in size in the
United States and is second
in the number of scientists that are employed.
FUCHS: Now is this--are these research institutions taxable?
EWING: Oh, yes. Well, what happens is, take IBM, they come in and buy
land. They've got about four hundred acres of land, and, of course, from
then on their operation is subject to local real estate taxes and other
local taxes. They're just like any other factory. Now the Research Triangle
Foundation, which accumulated this land, and is selling it off, liquidating
it, is not taxable for the simple reason that if they make any money or
any profits at all it goes to the three universities. The foundation is
a non-profit organization.
FUCHS: What was the purpose of setting up such a park? Provide jobs in
the area aid a tax base or just what?
EWING: No, back in the middle 1950s some of the leaders in North Carolina
were greatly concerned over the facts that the state's economy was based
on industries--chiefly tobacco and furniture--that were not moving
The state's industry was not involved in the new electronics technology,
or polymers or any of those things. A professor at the University of North
Carolina came up with the idea that the way to attract industry to an
area was to encourage topnotch research concerns to establish themselves
in that area and that production facilities would follow research into
the area. Also, it was believed that research activities would be attracted
to an area where they would have access to universities. This furnishes
researchers with a backstop for their own activities. This was proved
true. Very definitely, the Research Triangle has been a great success.
You know, a company like IBM wouldn't come to the Triangle if they didn't
think it was an advantageous location. Hercules has recently completed
a research plant here. I keep saying here, but I mean in the Research
Triangle. I happen to be a Director of the Research Triangle Foundation
and a member of its Executive Committee.
I'm also a member of the Research Triangle Regional Planning Commission.
That is a planning commission for the three counties: Wake County where
Raleigh is located; Durham County where Durham is located, and Orange County
where Chapel Hill is located. our Commission can only recommend
to a city council and the board of aldermen of these cities and to the
county commissioners, any one or more, of the three counties that they
do this or that. These municipal legislative bodies decide for themselves
on any action that may be taken. But it's worked out very well because
the mayors of each of the three cities are members of our commission.
There's another member of the commission who has been chosen by the cities
to represent them and we also have the chairmen of each board of county
commissioners as well as another member of each board of county commissioners
or a representative of them. Then there are three members at large who
are appointed by the Governor. That's the source of my membership. I was
chairman of the commissioners for four years. The original concept was
that the chairmanship should be rotated every year but the Commission
was good enough to ask me to serve for a longer time.
FUCHS: Is there compensation connected with these positions?
EWING: No, none. None whatever, for either position.
FUCHS: Did your connection with this have something to do
with your coming to Chapel Hill?
EWING: No. This all happened after I came to Chapel Hill. Mrs. Ewing
and I came down here, because we felt that we ought to get away from New
York City. Personally, I was very fond of New York City and still am,
but the noise and dirt got so bad we could not take it any longer. I had
retired when I got out of office in January of 1953.
FUCHS: You didn't go back to law practice after January 1953?
EWING: No. Mrs. Ewing and I discussed where we might go. She wanted to
go to San Francisco because she loves San Francisco, and I like it very
much; but my two sons were in the East and I didn't want to be quite that
far away from them. I wanted to be far enough away so that we didn't get
into each other's hair, but be near enough so if any emergency came up
we could get together quickly.
FUCHS: Where are they located?
EWING: The older son, James, is in Keene, New Hampshire. He and his partner
publish three papers in New Hampshire.
My younger son, George, is located in Canandaigua, New York, and he has
the local paper there. Both boys became newspapermen and neither had any
interest in law. I had always felt that I wanted to live in a college
town when I retired because there is always a lot of intellectual activity
around. We finally settled on either Charlottesville or Chapel Hill. Then
I finally decided that I didn't want to live in the same state with Harry
Byrd, so we came to Chapel Hill.
FUCHS: Did anyone influence you in coming here or was it just a selection
EWING: No, I knew it was very attractive, and it was a liberal university,
and the town itself appealed to me very much. There's no industry here
at all. The only industry is the university, and the servicing of the
university, so it makes it a very attractive community.
FUCHS: Your son, Jim, I believe you said, sat in on some of the meetings
EWING: No, it was George.
FUCHS: Oh, George, your younger son.
EWING: Yes. He was in Washington most of the time I was there and I just
asked him to sit in with us.
FUCHS: Did he participate?
EWING: No. No.
FUCHS: I heard a story that Cole Porter was a classmate of yours at Harvard.
EWING: No. He was a classmate of Paul McNutt's; and at Harvard one of
the professors was named "Bull" Warren. He was a little overweight, had
a big, thick neck, red faced--but he just scared the life out of his students.
On the first day that he met a first year class he'd say, "Now, gentlemen,
would you turn and look at the gentleman on your right. Now, would you
turn and look at the gentleman on your left. One of you three will not
be here next year." And he really put the fear of the Lord in your heart.
FUCHS: You had him for a professor?
EWING: Well, I'd had him in my first year at law school.
EWING: So, as Paul McNutt related it to me, he and Cole
Porter were attending
a class in Property I which Professor Warren taught. That particular day
Professor Warren called on Cole to give the syllabus of one of the cases
that was in the textbook and Cole wasn't prepared. So, he didn't make
a very good presentation at all and it irritated Warren very much. Finally
Warren leaned over his desk and said in a very supercilious way, "Mr.
Porter, why don't you give up the law and play the fiddle."
And Cole Porter got up out of his seat right then and walked out of the
room and never went back to the law school. But he didn't do so badly.
FUCHS: I did sort of get off the track when I asked you about progress
towards national health insurance under Kennedy. Did you have any reflections
EWING: No. I don't recall any particular efforts that were made during
his administration. I have no doubts that bills were introduced because
by that time a Senior Citizen's Council was becoming a political force
They didn't become really strong until President Johnson's administration.
FUCHS: I only have one remaining question and that's how
did you get
your nickname "Jack?"
EWING: Well, my father's favorite uncle was named Andrew Jackson Ewing,
and when I was on the way into this world my father and mother decided
that if the child were a boy they would name him Andrew Jackson Ewing.
About a month before I was born a cousin of mine, who was a lad about
eighteen years old and a great favorite in the family, died. His mother,
who was more or less a major domo of the Ewing family, was very insistent
that his name be carried on and that I have that burden. So, I was named
Oscar for this dead cousin. My middle name, Ross, was my mother's maiden
name. So that's how I got my name; but father from the day I was born
called me Jack and all my friends call me that. I never liked the name
Oscar, and when I first went to Indiana University I thought seriously
of using only the name Ross Ewing. But I didn't do it and I've managed
to bear my burden.
FUCHS: Very well. Anything that you can think of that I've overlooked?
I'm sure there's much but...
EWING: Oh, I think you've done an excellent job in your inquisition.
FUCHS: Thank you very much, sir. I certainly appreciate it and have enjoyed
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