Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Oral History Interview with
Walter Matscheck

Director of the Kansas City Civic Research Institute from 1921 until 1936.

Kansas City, Missouri
April 30, 1963
by J. R. Fuchs

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

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

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

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened November, 1963
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

Oral History Interview with
Walter Matscheck

Kansas City, Missouri
April 30, 1963
by J. R. Fuchs


FUCHS: Mr. Matscheck, I understand youíre writing a history of the Kansas City Civic Research Institute, which you once directed in Kansas City, but before we go into that and your subsequent activities in the county and relationship with Mr. Truman, I'd like to go back to the early days and ask you where and when you were born.

MATSCHECK: I was born in the little town of Medford, Wisconsin, in 1890. Shortly after, when I think I was about two years old, my family moved to North Dakota. I stayed there until I graduated with a B.A. degree in economics from the University of North Dakota. The next two years I spent at the University of Wisconsin where I took a master's degree in economics. Then I worked in Wisconsin on a survey of the state normal schools and one of the state university--which was conducted by a man from the Bureau of Municipal Research of New York City. That sort of got me into this field of municipal research.


FUCHS: About what year would that survey have been conducted?

MATSCHECK: That was in 1913 and 1914. I stayed in Madison until 1916 when I went to Dayton, Ohio, as a staff member of the Dayton Bureau of Municipal Research. I was in Dayton until January of 1918, when Mr. John M. Guild, who was secretary of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, asked me to come here as secretary of the civic department of the Chamber. Mr. Guild, before he came here in 1917, had been general secretary of the Greater Dayton Association which was the chamber of commerce of that city. I knew him there and that's why he brought me here. Mr. Guild thought that the civic department of the Chamber of Commerce could be made into a municipal research bureau for the city of Kansas City. And it was with that in mind that he asked me to take charge of the department. However, after two years, we all agreed that an independent, fact-finding, non-partisan organization without any ax to grind, was not the type of thing for which a chamber of commerce was best fitted. And so, a number of people in Kansas City who had been active trying to improve government operations decided the time had come to organize a governmental


research bureau. These people had been particularly active in the charter movements which had preceded the 1920's, especially those in 1917 to 1918. Three men, Mr. William B. Henderson, Mr. H. D. Faxon, and Mr. Howard McCutcheon were the leaders in the new bureau and were supported in all their activities by Mr. William Volker. He now provided the funds to start the research bureau. When I came to Kansas City, and the civic department was organized in the Chamber of Commerce, these people had said, "Well, if the Chamber of Commerce can do it, that's fine. So let's wait a while." But, as I said, after two years, they found it wouldn't work in the chamber. The bureau they then started was called at that time the Kansas City Public Service Institute.

FUCHS: Why did they decide it wouldn't work?

MATSCHECK: Well, you see, a Chamber of Commerce is a business organization and has a business angle. The principles upon which they are based are business policies, business activities, and they're not completely objective. An institute or a research bureau of this type must be objective without any ax to grind; must be non-partisan and non-political; must not represent business interests


or any other interests. It must be as nearly independent, fact-finding, non-partisan, all that, as possible. Also a chamber of commerce is a committee type of organization. Committees meet and discuss problems, and very frequently the committee action is based on the opinions of the members of the committee rather than on purely objective fact. Then too, a chamber of commerce, even a civic department, perhaps particularly a civic department, has to take part in too many things. In anything of civic interest that came up the civic department had to participate. You can't do that if you're going to make detailed studies and particularly when you have practically no staff. There just wasn't time. All these factors made the people who organized the Institute feel that it wouldn't work there, and the Chamber of Commerce agreed. The board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce endorsed the new organization and wished it well.

FUCHS: This was in what year?

MATSCHECK: Organized in the fall of 1920 and actually started operation in the spring of 1921.

FUCHS: Was your staff increased from what it had been in the Chamber of Commerce?


MATSCHECK: Well, we started out in 1921--of course, I was the first staff--and then I had to build up what staff we had. The first man we hired was Ray W. Wilson, who was an accountant, who had been with the Akron, Ohio, Bureau of Municipal Research, young man with very good training and recommendations. So I brought him here as our first staff man and he remained with us several years. Later I recommended him to the Chamber of Commerce as the civic secretary for two reasons. First, it was a promotion for him--he'd get more money there. And, second, because I thought it would be awfully good for the Institute to have somebody over in the Chamber of Commerce who had our point of view and would be an ally to try to get the Chamber of Commerce to support the sort of thing we wanted to support. Of course, any organization has to use various methods of getting accomplished what it wants. One of the methods is to use other organizations. The Chamber could do things that we couldn't do. We did have very good support most of the time from the Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Wilson, incidentally, remained with the Chamber of Commerce until 1940, when L. P. Cookingham became city manager here, and then he was made administrative


assistant to the city manager. He remained there until 1950 when he became city manager of Phoenix and made a phenomenal reputation. The city of Phoenix was pointed out nationally as one of the best governed city manager cities in the United States two or three times. He retired a couple of years ago. And just recently, when Independence adopted its city manager government, it got Mr. Wilson out of retirement to come here for five months to get it started. That's a little off the subject but he's the type of man we tried to get. He was an accountant. The second man on the staff hired shortly afterwards was an engineer. That doesn't mean that he had to do technical engineering work but we had to have a man who understood public works, plans, specifications, engineering phases. Those two were always the basic staff.

FUCHS: What was his name, sir?

MATSCHECK: I think the first one was George W. Hall, and he remained also for a number of years. I think he remained almost until the time I left. Mr. Wilson left us, I can't remember the date, but it must have been the early thirties, or late twenties. When he went to the Chamber of Commerce, we employed a man named Jesse Seaton. And


he was our accountant for nearly all the remaining time I was here. He left shortly before I did and went to Washington and worked in various governmental agencies there.

FUCHS: He was an accountant primarily?

MATSCHECK: He was an accountant primarily. He was a very good man.

FUCHS: Are the fields of accountancy and economics considered the best background for work in this--is training in those fields considered the best background for work in municipal research bureaus--civic research institutes of this type?

MATSCHECK: No. Usually, particularly as this type of organization became more sophisticated (at that time it was still rather new), the best background was training in public administration. And there are schools of public administration now, of course, and people later on were employed from those organizations. But, generally I should say, that the earlier research bureaus employed people who were accounting men, preferably with some municipal


experience, and engineers, again preferably with municipal experience. But it wasn't so much the previous experience in that type of work as their ability to do objective research work and their interest. We wanted people who were interested in government. And that is very important, of course.

Now, I don't know what more I can say about my background. That was it. The Institute was founded, as I said, in 1921, and without going into details, we operated until I left in April, 1936 and then another director was selected, but he left about the end of the year. Then a third man was selected, in January, 1937, I think. He remained until about 1941 when the fourth director was selected. The first two men I didn't know, except that I had met them. The fourth director, Mr. Loren Miller, who was director from 1941 to 1944, was a man who had had considerable experience in municipal work and in governmental research bureaus. He started with the Detroit Bureau of Governmental Research, which was one of the outstanding ones of the country, and later worked in New York City with Dunn and Bradstreet on their municipal work. I think, at the time he came here, he was associate director of the Bureau of Governmental


Research of Newark, New Jersey. He stayed in Kansas City until 1944, and then he left to go back to the Detroit Bureau of Governmental Research as director there.

FUCHS: Do you remember the name of the gentleman who succeeded you?

MATSCHECK: Yes, Edward W. Harding, a man who had had very little experience in this type of work and was working for the Federal Government at the time he was hired. The man who succeeded him was Corbett Long. I don't recall his exact experience but it had been in some municipal work, and I think he had worked with the T. Coleman Andrews Company, a firm of certified public accountants in Richmond, Virginia. And he, I think had considerable experience; I had not known him before.

FUCHS: What was your knowledge of the situation in Kansas City while you were yet in Dayton, and had there been a comparable situation in regard to political organizations and so forth in Dayton when you went there?

MATSCHECK: When I went to Dayton, Dayton had the city manager plan. I went there in 1916 and they'd had the city manager plan since 1912. It was then the largest city with that type of plan and it was doing a remarkable job. They had a very good manager and the city was just doing fine.


Mr. Henderson, whom I mentioned previously as being one of the leaders there, in fact, the leader, and founded the Institute here, had gone to Dayton and had been there for some days and studied the plan. When he came back he was more convinced than ever that what Kansas City needed was a city manager plan and a municipal research bureau.

FUCHS: Had he acquainted you with the situation in Kansas City as far as machine politics and...

MATSCHECK: I didn't meet him in Dayton, I didn't meet him until I came to Kansas City. I suppose briefly that's the history of the Institute, at least, a broad sketch of who were the directors. Of course, during all that time we worked on almost every phase of city government, much of county government, some on schools and more on schools after I left. We didn't do much with the school system because we didn't have a person qualified to do educational work on the staff. And we did some on state government. I can remember that while I was still there, we wrote the budget law for the state which was adopted and finance provisions for the state which were adopted.


FUCHS: Were you apprehensive about how well a civic research or a municipal research bureau might work out in Kansas City in view of the Pendergast organization and, you might almost say, the violent conditions that prevailed here some times in regard to civic affairs. I might be over emphasizing the nature of that.

MATSCHECK: Well, at the beginning I wasn't apprehensive at all, because I thought it was just a normal situation. Kansas City was a city, which had an antiquated charter, an antiquated form of government, two houses of council modeled on Federal Government--all that sort of thing which was absolutely unfitted for city government. The city government was operating financially with deficits and didn't know it. The county system was so rudimentary that they didn't know where the money came from or how it went. That's stretching it a little bit, but they didn't know much about it. It was just a situation where a bureau would go in and try to learn all it could about the city government and then make suggestions. Now, of course, wherever possible, an organization of this type works with officials and that is a principle. .And we worked with the officials, particularly in the early


twenties--I'm talking about that period now. We worked with them, and we did make studies of city affairs. We confined ourselves to city affairs primarily, at the beginning, and the first thing we did after Mr. Wilson came was a study of city finance. We made a very thorough study of the city financial situation, and of its methods, organizations, accounting procedures, purchasing, and all that sort of thing, and wrote a rather extensive report and issued many issues of our bulletin Public Affairs. I perhaps should say here that another principle of an organization of this type is that you don't just make a study and then write a report and file it away. You endeavor to see that something is done about it, though you don't take part in any political campaign, you publicize your results.

FUCHS: You didn't deal in personalities?

MATSCHECK: We never dealt in personalities and, perhaps, as I shall indicate later, one of the few times we ever mentioned an official's name was when we mentioned the name of Harry S. Truman.

FUCHS: How often was your bulletin published?

MATSCHECK: Every week. All the time I was here and for some


time after that. I think it was in 1940 that they changed to a monthly issue, with interim issues as needed.

FUCHS: These were small bulletins?

MATSCHECK: They were small, four-page affairs, pocket size. The idea was something that somebody could read quickly. If you're writing a bulletin once a week, in several issues you can condense a report in all its major aspects. So, we dealt with city finance first, as I said, because finances are basic in any government. You've got to have money and you've got to know how it's handled, and you've got to budget it properly and all that, or you don't know where you're going or what you're doing. So, we started on finance and we quickly discovered that the city was operating on a deficit and had been for many years, and didn't really know it, because the accounts were so bad. By means of our studies, I think, largely by means of our studies and our publicity, and the fact that the newspapers always used our material and published very complete accounts of every issue of Public Affairs, and very often repeated them entirely, the officials and the public became aware of the situation


FUCHS: What was the distribution of these?

MATSCHECK: The distribution was limited. After all, it was very costly and we didn't have much money. The distribution was only about 1,000. It went to people, first, who were contributors to the Institute (it was privately supported); second, to all civic organizations, and civic and professional leaders, newspapers, the so-called makers of public opinion as far as possible. And through the newspapers, of course, you got the wide distribution of the information. That was, of course, a primary source. Then, of course we, particularly I, made speeches all over town for years and years--hundreds of them, everywhere. I'm not the type of person who likes to make speeches, but I had to do it and I made many, many of them. We had a lot of fun. After a couple of years, by 1923 or '24, city finance became an issue in the city. It was an issue in the city elections. The political parties would pick up this material and, of course, the out party naturally grabs everything it can but also, surprisingly enough, perhaps, some of the people among the "ins"--some of the politicians would come and ask for information. They'd go down to city hall and they didn't have the information and we had it and we, being completely


impartial, gave our information to anyone who asked for it. I would give it to a machine politician just as fast as I would to a so-called reformer and I did; and it was used. In 1924, Albert I. Beach was elected mayor. I believe, if I remember it (I'm quite sure of this one of his campaign pledges was that he was going to clean up city finance; and actually he did operate without a deficit, at least one year; I'm not sure that he did in both years he was there before the new charter or not.

FUCHS: He was a Republican.

MATSCHECK: Yes, and I suppose he was a reform Republican. However, he had difficulties, because they still had two houses of council. The one house was Democratic and the other Republican and it made it pretty hard to get much done. But he was a very sincere, earnest man. I say that not because he's a Republican, because it didn't make any difference to me whether a man was a Republican or Democrat, and I worked with all kinds of people, but because he was sincerely interested in good government and was very intelligent and capable. He tried to do a good job, but with the old charter, it was pretty hard. I agree with people who say that forms of government aren't all important; that you can have a


wonderful form of government and a very poor result. On the other hand, you can get a pretty decent sort of government from a poor form, if you have the proper people. It takes both. So, our objective was to help them get good organization, good procedures, good methods and hope people would elect good officials. But we couldn't help elect officials.

FUCHS: You did feel there was a basic need or remedy for the situation in Kansas City, however?

MATSCHECK: Yes, in those early years, back in the early twenties, aside from this finance study and some studies on public health and public works and other departments, we spent a great deal of time on city charter. In 1922, there was a city charter commission--I don't remember just how it was elected, but there was a commission to write a new charter for the city. The commission, was, however, a rather conservative group which didn't want much change. And they wrote a charter. At first, they were rather skeptical of the Public Service Institute and didn't want much to do with it. We had written a number of reports on charters in other cities and on forms of government, and we had given these to all members of the commission, and within a couple of months,


they asked me to be their executive secretary. So they had a change of heart and accepted us for what we really were, independent, and willing to work with them or any other commission. They did draft a charter, and they accepted, almost completely, two sections written by the Public Service Institute. One was on city finance, and it was a rather good provision for that day. Nowadays, there have been vast improvements, of course. And another provision was on the method of paying for public improvements, which was a rather complicated subject and I don't think it's worthwhile going into it. But the rest of it was still pretty much the old form of city government with, however, a one house council--the mayor-council form. And there were a number of boards, commissions, and so on.

Well, that charter was defeated. Before this charter commission was elected, there was still the old charter group that had worked on the 1917 charter (a group of citizens who wanted a city manager plan). After this charter was defeated, this Charter Committee, I think they called themselves, decided to start work toward electing another commission. And this time they were going to


nominate members of a commission by petition, which was permitted by the state constitution at that time (it was not when I first came here), and to pledge in advance the candidates that they nominated to certain principles that must go in the new charter. Among these were a single house council, the members at least in part elected by districts (that was a sort of compromise between those who wanted them all by districts and those who wanted them all at large); a city manager; non-partisan elections; a complete budgetary system; a new method of paying for public improvements; and one or two other basic principles. The commission elected was by a large majority these people who were thus pledged in advance. And so it was known in advance that they would write such a charter. Previous to that time, the board of trustees of the Institute, directed me as director of the Institute to prepare what they call a model charter, but which we made as suggestions to the commission, which covered nearly all phases of the new charter. The new charter commission immediately elected me as its executive secretary and the offices of the Institute were the offices of the charter commission. So I met with this commission in all its public and private meetings for a period of many months. They had enough


confidence in me apparently, that I was accepted as one of the group, and I was permitted to suggest anything I wanted to suggest and to argue for anything I thought should go into the charter. And the charter did contain nearly everything that we thought it ought to contain. There were a few exceptions of a relatively minor nature, For instance, I thought there should be a director of parks, They decided to stick with the old park board system because of its reputation and good record and so on, and a few other little things. But basically speaking, the charter was strictly in line with what we thought should be the charter. Well, that charter was submitted late in 1925, and it was adopted by a very large majority; and a new council under the charter was elected in November, 1925, (under the charter there was a primary in October and an election in November), and the new council took office in April, 1926. That was the beginning of the present charter of Kansas City. The new council was made up of men who we said, and I believe still, were of outstanding ability, generally. It was probably the best council the city had ever had. Yet, it was a partisan council. After the charter election, these people who had promoted the charter, and a number of the charter


commission themselves did not go through with the next step, which should have been to elect a non-partisan council to run the city. Instead, there's a long story involved there, but briefly, instead of that, the Republicans nominated a ticket of Republicans, and naturally, the Democrats nominated a Democratic ticket and the Democratic ticket won five to four. Mayor Beach was the candidate for mayor on the Republican ticket, and was elected with three councilmen. The Democratic organization elected five councilmen. There was a difference of only three hundred votes in favor of the fifth Democratic councilman. But a change of 150 votes would have elected a Republican ticket.

FUCHS: This is Beach's re-election then?

MATSCHECK: Yes, under the new charter. Of course, I don't know what difference it would have made if they had elected a Republican ticket, except that some of the non-partisan group were working with the Republicans, and it probably would have been not quite so partisan. I don't know--that I can't say.

Anyway, the new charter started out, and the council was given by provision of the charter from November when


it was elected, until April, when it took office, to get ready for the installation of the new form. That meant, that it had to write what was called the administrative


code--that is, the organization in the new government--the regulations, the procedures to be followed, the new accounting system and all that, to get ready for it; and to select a city manager. It immediately selected Henry F. McElroy, as city manager. And the Democratic majority and Mr. McElroy immediately announced that this was going to be a partisan administration and there was no non-partisan nonsense going to be in it; and it was.

FUCHS: Who were some of the council members you recall, especially those on the partisan Democratic side?

MATSCHECK: Lets see if I can remember who they were. There was A. N Gossett. He was a lawyer; he called himself a country lawyer, but he was very, very capable and a shrewd man. And an honest man. They were all, I think, honest men. I'm not disparaging their personal integrity. George L. Goldman, I think he's still here--still alive. I think Jasper Bell was one of the first members--these are Democrats.

FUCHS: Subsequently a congressman.

MATSCHECK: Subsequently a congressman, yes, in '35, I think--or something like that. I can't remember offhand the


others. On the Republican side, of course, there was Mayor Beach; Henry L. McCune, a lawyer--a prominent lawyer. I can't remember the other two. I hadn't thought to look those up, so I can't remember who they were. But you can see they were competent, capable people; very good people.

FUCHS: You characterize them primarily as honest men, and yet you would probably agree that they did sort of pervert the purposes of the charter to the wishes of McElroy and/or Pendergast? What is your comment on that?

MATSCHECK: I'm afraid I could go on for hours telling what happened in the next fifteen years. It's a very, very long story. Of course, they perverted the charter--the principles--they ignored the provisions of the charter. For instance, the merit system. There wasn't any such thing; they absolutely ignored it completely, even the basic principles. the most rudimentary things they ignored. They ignored the financial provisions and created deficits after a couple of years. The accounting system was shown up by audits in '39 as most rudimentary. In fact, the auditors said they couldn't understand why any city ever did such things. They spent money in unauthorized ways. Well, they did just about everything


you'd expect the most partisan type of government to do. You see, under the city manager plan the authority is concentrated in the city council and the administrative authority is from the council to the city manager. That is a basic principle. You have one group responsible to the voters and one man, and one man only, responsible to the council. In the old forms there are too many people. Like in your county government today, there are a dozen elected officials. To whom are they responsible? How are the voters going to know the qualifications of many candidates for many minor offices? In the council-manager plan you have one man, and if you get a good council and appoint a good manager, you're going to get good results. On the other hand, if you elect a political, partisan council and appoint a very, very partisan man as manager, who is strong willed as Mr. McElroy was (to say it mildly), you're going to get the kind of results that the council wants. And they, of course, had the power of the Democratic organization behind them.

FUCHS: Why did the council want this?

MATSCHECK: Now, you're asking me to get into a political argument or discussion. Because they were elected by the Pendergast organization; and the Pendergast organization wanted


to maintain itself in ,power and as years went on they wanted more and more power, more and more money, more and more people working for it, more and more people on the city payrolls, and all that sort of thing. The charter did have a provision, a positive provision that it was completely illegal for any employee of the city to take part in any way in any city election. And yet they all had to go out and vote under the administration. That was just common practice. They were assessed for political campaign funds--twenty percent of a month's salary for the lower paid, up to ten percent, I think, of a year's salary for the higher paid. That was illegal. I think I wrote an issue of Public Affairs once which I called, "What's a Charter Among Friends."

Then, of course, in the thirties there was a ten-year improvement program.

FUCHS: Well, after the charter had passed, then you felt you could devote your time a little bit more to county affairs?

MATSCHECK: No, not exactly. We certainly were very active in city affairs, because we had to keep up with what was going on and we issued many, many issues of Public Affairs about what was going on in city hall. We made many reports on


various activities of the city, those under the city manager as well as the police department which was not under the city manager. We wrote a long report on the police department, a very comprehensive report with the aid of an outside man who was the outstanding man in the country on police work. And we did all those things, but, by that time we began to get into county a little bit.

FUCHS: I believe you did support home rule for the police department. Now why was that? I think there are some that feel that that's rather a bad thing, for Kansas City at least?

MATSCHECK: We supported it first, when it first came up in our discussions, at least, in 1923 and we supported it every year while I was there and the Institute still supported it after I left I know; and the last record I see in the records I'm looking at was in 1944, before the Institute became dormant, and they were still supporting it. It's a city function, not a state function. And, if the people of the city are going to be responsible for the police department, they've got to have the same rights over the police department as they have over other departments, by which I mean that it should be responsible to the city manager and the city council. We worked for home rule


even when the city manager took over the police department by decision of the state supreme court making it a city department. The manager perverted it and it became a very, vary political activity of the city. Even then, I still was in favor of keeping it under home rule. My feeling at that time, and still is, that no matter how bad it got, the people had the responsibility and they could change it. Under state rule it could be bad and it was pretty hard to do anything about it. You have to go to the governor or the legislature, and it's much easier to get at the city council. And I still feel that way about it. And the Institute apparently kept that point of view all through its history. Incidentally, I saw an editorial in the Kansas City Star in a clipping I ran across here the other day, from the early forties, supporting police home rule. So I guess the Institute wasn't alone.

FUCHS: I wanted to ask you one question. The chairman of the committee in 1922 to draw up a charter approached you and asked you to be executive secretary (or what was the position?)...

MATSCHECK: I think that's what they called it.


FUCHS: ...of the charter commission. Now, there's an instance of an approach, so to speak from an official. Were most of the approaches to the Kansas City Public Service Institute made by officials of the city--did they come to you and ask you to consider their operation or was it something where you generally had, by your right of access to public records, to go in yourself and stir up the hornet's nest, so to speak?

MATSCHECK: Well, the preferred method is to have the officials come to you. But under the conditions that existed in the city government of Kansas City, particularly after 1925, they didn't come very often. They dad occasionally, and there were, of course, officials with whom we were very friendly, in spite of the fact that the administration as a whole wasn't too friendly, and at times was very hostile, but we did work with them, and very often they accepted our suggestions. And we made reports, and our records show that a great many things that we recommended were actually adopted. And there was a considerable improvement in the city government, in a broad sense, over what had been practiced before the new charter. It was the failure to grasp the opportunities the charter offered and the violation


of the actual requirements of the charter, and the injection of the extreme partisanship, which caused so much trouble. I shouldn't say this, because I don't know, but I was going to say it wasn't necessary, in my opinion, to go as far as they did go in violating charter provisions and wasting money and all that sort of thing. And I think that a reasonably good city government could have come from a politically elected council. I'm not saying that you can't get a pretty good government with such a council, it just happened that they were so partisan that they just didn't provide good government. It was defended at times, particularly in its earlier years and up almost to the middle of the thirties, in the newspapers because they said the government of the city was much improved. There was a better fire department; we had better health work, and in some respects, public works were better; streets were cleaned better; garbage was collected better, though they paid a higher cost or it. A lot of things were done better, but they were so completely inadequate compared with the opportunity, that you just felt that it was such a terrific waste all through, and then, of course, there was tremendous waste of money. And even, I suppose, judging from the audit reports later on, tremendous corruption in


the city government. We pointed this out all through the years, and nearly everything the Institute said regarding the finances of the city and in fact other things was corroborated when we had audits of a half dozen different phases of city government in 1939 and 1940. In fact, some of the things we had said all through the years looked rather tame compared to what the auditors found. You said, do we dig it up by having to go in because of our right to the records? We even had to fight to get access to records at times. We threatened mandamus proceedings and all sorts of things to get access to the records. And we always had trouble getting into the records during the years when the city manager didn't want us to know what was going on. But some how or other, we got enough of the records and always found out through various means what was going on.

FUCHS: I believe there were audits of a nature weren't there, prior to these of 1938-39, that you spoke of?

MATSCHECK: There was one audit in 1924, I think. I don't recall much about it, except it was an audit which showed up pretty much what was by then common knowledge, that the


city financial procedures were very bad; the accounting system was very inadequate; and the city was running deficits, etc. But I don't think there was any audit between 1925 and 19,39. There was one so-called audit of bond funds in the middle of the thirties, which was merely a statement, without any details or accurate information of any value whatsoever of what had been done with bond money. It was useless. It wasn't an audit, it was just a form.

FUCHS: In regard to the operation of your staff, in such matters as, for instance, when you were asked by the commission of '22 to draw up a model charter, which you indicated was primarily suggestions to them, did you bring in consultants, or was it you and Mr. Seaton, Mr. Hall, or Mr. Wilson, as the case may be, who sat down and worked these things out yourselves and then presented them?

MATSCHECK: Well, we didn't bring in consultants. But it wasn't that we dug it up out of our own heads. Cities throughout the United States, were working on these problems and we were familiar with what was going on throughout the country, and we knew what were the best practices and we wrote them up and suggested them to the charter commission--this is the


charter commission of '25 not '22 that I'm talking about.

FUCHS: Wasn't there an earlier charter commission?

MATSCHECK: Yes, we didn't draw any model charter for them.

FUCHS: Oh, you didn't.

MATSCHECK: We made some suggestions for the '22 commission.

FUCHS: While I'm talking of 1922, you know that was the year Mr. Truman was first elected to a county position, that of judge from the eastern district. When did he first come to your attention or when did you first meet?

MATSCHECK: About that time. My first recollection and the first record I can find about Judge Truman, was in 1923, and at that time, you'll find in one of the Public Affairs we issued, that we said that for the first time in many years the county was operating without a deficit. In fact, it had accumulated a surplus of a quarter of a million dollars and we commended the county court for doing it; and I think that was the first time that we publicly took any particular action in connection with county work, to the best of my recollection. I think from that time on is when we started work on county government.


FUCHS: How did they manage to do this when all the previous courts for many years had operated at considerable deficit?

MATSCHECK: Well, I don't know. I say that in all honesty, because I don't. Judge McElroy was western judge and Mr. Truman was eastern judge. A man by the name of Hayes, Elihu or something Hayes, was presiding judge. Judge McElroy and Judge Truman worked together and through their powers of persuasion or powers of something or other, they held the county costs down. It was a tremendous job, and we were very glad to see it done.

FUCHS: Were you acquainted with Mr. McElroy or Mr. Truman at the time, or both?

MATSCHECK: I became acquainted with them at that time, yes. In fact, in 1923--I have found here a record I'd forgotten about--Judge McElroy asked us to do something in the county government for him. I can't find in the records just what he wanted us to do, some statement he made indicates that they did ask us to work with them. I had great respect for Judge McElroy and tremendous respect for Harry Truman which grew during the years. I can't say much about the county or Mr. Truman during '23 and until about '27 or '28.


FUCHS: You have no recollections of direct contact or conversations or anecdotes?

MATSCHECK: I'm sorry, I suppose I met him as I met other officials at the time. He became presiding judge about 1927 and we had not been very active in county work before that time, just enough to know that the county was running deficits and the county government was kind of a mess. We printed bulletins, I guess it was later, about the absurdity of trying to elect a hundred officials, forty of them county, and a dozen in the city at that time, and many in the state and the school district. All together we said something about the absurdity of trying to elect--people trying to know a hundred different officials that they had to vote for. Well, you still have it in the county, I'm told. Of course the forty people in the county included judges but there were, I suppose, fifteen or twenty elective administrative officials of one kind or another. And that was what we were talking about when we were talking about county reorganization. We did not attempt to go into the courts.

FUCHS: You do remember that at that time, even knowing that Mr. Truman was, along with McElroy, elected by the grace of Mr. Pendergast, you do remember that you felt he was an


honest and a good administrator, as far as you knew?

MATSCHECK: Well, yes, certainly. As far as I knew, I thought he was doing a wonderful job, that he and Judge McElroy were doing the job down there; and I thought it was a very good job. I didn't know, and from any personal knowledge I don't know yet, why Mr. Truman was elected. I have read and this is hearsay or second-hand, that he was very, very popular throughout the eastern part of the county. And he also had the Pendergast support and was elected county judge. Now anything about the politics back of it, I don't know; I didn't pretend to know at the time and I don't know yet.

FUCHS: That was rather early in your career here. You didn't ponder why Pendergast would have supported this man who seemed to be putting things on a somewhat different basis than you would have thought Pendergast would have cared for?

MATSCHECK: No, I was only happy that he was doing it.

FUCHS: Well, that's natural.

MATSCHECK: Our job was to try to get something done.

FUCHS: I believe, you started out as the Kansas City Public Service Institute and the name was subsequently changed.


I wanted to bring that in here.

MATSCHECK: Yes; that was in the early thirties sometime; I've forgotten the exact date. The reason for the change was that the Street Railway Company was reorganized at the time, and they adopted the name the Kansas City Public Service Company. There was too much confusion as a result of that. We'd get telephone calls about where did this street car go and all that sort of thing; we'd get some of their mail and I suppose they got ours and, of course, we decided we couldn't ask a big company to change its name, so we just changed our name to Civic Research Institute. I think the name is a better one. Anyway, we liked it and we adopted it, and we now call it Civic Research Institute in all our discussions, but called it Kansas City Public Service Institute for the first, approximately, ten years of its history.

FUCHS: I noticed in one of your bulletins, Kansas City Public Affairs, that as early as December, 1922, you did go into the matter of county reorganization. I wondered if you would like to talk a little about that.

MATSCHECK: That was our first effort to find out anything


about the county government in Jackson County. As I said, we'd been working on the city, but we didn't want to confine ourselves particularly to the city and we had limited staff at the time; you will realize that with three people you can't do everything. We tried to do our work in as careful and scientific manner as possible and we couldn't afford to make mistakes. Our reputation was, that if you got your information from or through the Public Service Institute you could rely on it and that was the reputation that we held through to the end. We were always quoted as having correct information. People wouldn't believe what the city said, but they would believe what we said. And when the question often was whether we were telling the truth or the city, why, generally the newspapers and public said that the Institute was the one that had no ax to grind, and it's not partisan, it's non-political and it is a reliable, correct, scientific institution. And, so far as I can remember, and this was said in the newspapers (in the later years), we never were found to have made an incorrect statement on any important matter; and that of course, was fundamental. If we started giving out stuff that proved wrong, or if it was found that we started going out trying to help elect people, we were dead, that wouldn't have made any sense; we couldn't have continued. Because an organization of that kind depends on its complete


independence, its complete non-partisanship and non-political position--and its accuracy, and on always telling what it finds, regardless of whom it affects or whom it hurts, or whom it helps. We always tried through all the years to give credit to officials even when we were having troubles with the city administration, we always tried, and, I think, as I read the stuff now, I think we bent over backwards in trying to give credit for everything they did that we thought was good. In fact, if you read some of our stuff you'll think that they did an awfully good job in some of those years when we were criticizing them the worst.

FUCHS: Were you aware of any, so to speak, underground movement to denigrate the purpose of the Civic Research Institute; was there any covert attempt to get people to have :a lack of confidence in what you were doing?

MATSCHECK: No, except from, occasionally, and quite positively, in the thirties from the city manager. He challenged us and denied what we said and so on, but we took it in our stride; we knew we were, right and generally, I think, the public accepted what we said as correct and in the end we were proven correct. But our great difficulty all through the years was the inability to get adequate support for our


work. Now, I don't want to go into all the details of financing, but we depended on public support. And in the thirties, it was very, very difficult, particularly in the thirties for two reasons: first, of course, we were in a. depression period; and second, because of the hostility of the city manager which resulted in fear on the part of the business community to have anything to do with the Institute. People didn't want it known that they supported us. We never made lists of our subscribers public after the first few years. They were afraid of reprisals; and they were properly afraid of reprisals, reprisals were not uncommon in those days. It may not seem believable at present, but it certainly was a fear that was unequaled that existed in this city. And, of course, there is a large part of a business community that in one way or another had, at least in part, to depend upon the city for business or for keeping things going and for not being interfered with and not having inspections that would disrupt their work and all sorts of things. And so we had a hard time. But to come back again, we had Mr. Volker and he'd take care of our deficits. He'd take care of a large part of our expenses. We tried to keep down the amount we got from him because he thought and we thought we shouldn't


depend on one man. We did get a large part of our money from him all the time I was there, and in later years also.

FUCHS: Was he anonymous at that time?

MATSCHECK: Mr. Volker was anonymous always in the sense that no one ever knew, and I suppose no one ever knows yet, how much money he gave and to whom he gave it. He was a very retiring, modest man, quite inarticulate. He had said, I think he said it to me or in my hearing at least, that "my money is not my money, it's given to me in trust for the good of mankind." And he lived up to that; he was very generous, very kind, the type of philanthropist who was not doing it for his own glory but because he thought that's what he ought to do. And he gave away vast sums. He was a very easy man to see. I could go down to his office, which I did occasionally, not very often, and see him on a question. He sat out in the open and I walked in and talked to him. Once in a while--this happened more than once--he'd call me up in my office--he was way down at 3rd and Main and I was up around 10th Street somewhere--and he'd say, "Can I come up and see you?"

I'd say, "Mr. Volker, I'll come down and see you."


"Oh no...

"And he'd walk up to my office to see me--little me. That's the kind of a man he was. He did not participate in civic activities in the sense of belonging to a large number of committees. He didn't serve on Chamber of Commerce committees, he didn't serve on any committees of various organizations, except that he served on the charity committee always; I think he served on the big Liberty Memorial campaign, and he served on the Loose Fund trustees, I think he was on at first. There were a few very large things he would serve on. He would not ask other people for money except on very rare occasions for something very important. He said, "I don't want to ask somebody for money because if I do then I'm obligated when they ask me and I don't want to be obligated to anyone." That's the kind of man he was.

FUCHS: Your staff knew he was contributing, and all the trustees...

MA2SCHECK: Oh, everybody knew that.

FUCHS: Everyone in the city knew that he was?

MATSCHECK: It was not publicized, but it was common knowledge. Sure.


FUCHS: Well, to get back to the county, and county reorganization that we were talking about, did they make any direct approaches to you in '23 and '24--that court of Truman, Hayes, and McElroy?

MATSCHECK: I mentioned that Judge McElroy asked us to do some kind of study for him, but I don't remember what it was and the records that I have run across here don't show. There's just a note in the minutes of the Institute that Judge McElroy asked us to make a study.

FUCHS: You don't know whether that was on basic county reorganization or not?

MATSCHECK: I don't know whether it was or not. It may have been but I'm not sure. I shouldn't say--it may have been on finance. Finance was a very important subject with them at that time. They were trying to eliminate deficits, as I said they did in that year, but I can't remember what the study was. It was not until after Mr. Truman was elected presiding judge in 1927, I think it was, that we really started intensive work. I think it was in 1928 that we drafted a first draft of a county reorganization plan.


FUCHS: Well, to go ahead, there was a report you issued in 1926 regarding county roads. I wonder what you recall of the inception of that study and its presentation to the county court, and so forth.

MATSCHECK: I can't recall how we came to make that. County roads, of course, took the large part of the money of the county. We made that study primarily in an effort to find out just how they were building roads and how they were spending that considerable part of the county money. The report took up the organization of the highway engineer and surveyor's office, the methods they used, what the road system consisted of, how they were constructed, how they paid for them, how they maintained them and so on. But as I recall it, it was prepared in an effort to lay the ground work for giving the county court more control over the county road system. They had some control. I don't remember just how that works now, but the highway engineer was responsible for the county roads and he had a certain proportion of the tax rate that went into his office.

FUCHS: Do you recall who the engineer was at that time and if he asked you...


MATSCHECK: No, I don't have the slightest idea who he was.

FUCHS: Do you recall Mr. Leo Koehler, by any chance?

MATSCHECK: I recall the name now that you mention it, but I don't recall the man.

FUCHS: I was wondering if he had asked you to make this survey?

MATSCHECK: It's possible that it came about after a discussion with him. That frequently happened. Always before we would undertake any study we would talk with the people concerned, and very often, we would say, "Well, we'd suggest that we study this thing; we can probably help you, give you some information by making the kind of study that you'd like to make if you had time."

And it's very possible that he might have said, "Well, go ahead, let's look into this thing." I'm not sure; I really can't say.

FUCHS: That's understandable.

MATSCHECK: And I have no record of that, of the cause, why it happened, how it happened, I have no record that I can find around here that would help me on it. So I can


only say that we made the study--I think you said in 1926 and I'm sure that was the year--and we issued quite a comprehensive report on the thing; but I guess nothing particular happened since the county road system was not reorganized and a few years later, I think it was in July of 1927, the legislature passed a law creating a new highway commission to construct and maintain certain roads--"farm to market" roads they called them--which further diluted the control of the road system. They had a commission then, a highway engineer, and a court. All three of them were mixed up in it. We, of course, were not in favor of that; we opposed it, but it didn't help and it was passed. It was changed back later on. The indications are that it was. I haven't looked into the present system, so I don't know how itís run now.

FUCHS: Well, as you can guess, I was interested in this because Mr. Truman's reputation as a presiding judge was built very largely on his success as a county road builder, which came about largely through his appointment of a two-man, bi-partisan commission of General Edward Stayton and N.T. Veatch, in January of 1927. I was wondering if Mr. Truman had ever consulted with you or the Kansas City Civic


Research Institute about this report that they had made in 1926?

MATSCHECK: I can only say this. I can't recall such things, but I should be very much surprised if I didn't talk to him about it because they asked us for any help on it or whether they were interested in any help, I can't remember. I can only recall that we made the study and that the court did appoint the commission to study and I think that one of our recommendations, if I remember correctly, was that a commission be appointed to make a study and plan a road system for the county. The court did appoint these two men--you can call them the commissioners or whatever you want--to plan a road system. And then, as youíll recall, they submitted a bond issue in early 1928, I think it was. The bond issue included county roads for $6,500,000, hospitals and jails for $5,000,000, and a hospital at the county home for $500,000. I believe, as far as I can tell this is correct, that only the road issue passed.

FUCHS: I believe the county hospital passed. Those were the two out of four county issues but, of course, as you know, there were also city issues on the same ballot.


MATSCHECK: Oh yes, that's something else--I know there were some twenty issues.

FUCHS: Do you recall the position of the Institute on the bond issue of the county?

MATSCHECK: I think probably our position was not one of favoring or opposing. We told about them, gave the arguments for and against and so on and said, "Well, it's up to the people if they want this to vote for it." Generally speaking, we did not either favor or oppose bond issues. We did on a rare occasion, which was rather a departure from our practice, but we didn't even support the big ten-year plan bond issue. We helped a tremendous amount in drafting and preparing it. It was stated in the publicity for the bond program that as having the Institute helped in its preparations, but when it came to the bond issues themselves, we explained about them, told what they were, and what they would do and all the rest of it, but we did not take a position for or against.

FUCHS: I was wondering, did you not have time or did you attend, or did members of your staff attend, sessions of the county court in '23 and '24 when Mr. Truman was serving and then


again in '27 to '34?

MATSCHECK: Not regularly. Occasionally something important came up and we would attend, if we knew something important was coming up, but not regularly. Most sessions, you know, are rather dull. We didn't spend much time on them.

FUCHS: Do you recall Mr. Truman presiding, anything that stands out in your memory as to his conduct as an administrator?

MATSCHECK: Iím sorry I can't. My recollections of Mr. Truman are other than that. Remember that most of our contacts with. him were in connection with finance budgeting and county reorganization. Our first comments on county reorganization, other .than some early suggestions along the line, were in 1925 and '26, when we issued a number of Public Affairs on the need for reorganization pointing out the diffusion of responsibility, authority and all that, and the need for centralization. In 1927, and the following two or three years, when Judge Truman was presiding judge, there was active work started on the reorganization plans. We worked with Mr. Truman in drafting a reorganization plan and in 1929 a plan was drafted and submitted to the legislature. You'll remember that I


said we never mentioned names of individuals except very rarely. In 1929, October 17, in one of our bulletins, we commended Judge Truman for the fine suggestion he had made for county reorganization. The plan at that time was in line with the previous work that had been done and his comments were similar. Then he made a speech before some organization in which he explained county reorganization and went further than we ever did. He recommended including the judiciary, which apparently was not followed up very much because there was trouble enough to get the administrative portion reorganized, let alone the judiciary. That plan was submitted to the legislature; it was not passed, and I believe the new plan was submitted to every legislature thereafter for a number of years. I remember that in 1932 the Chamber of Commerce became interested in it, and a subcommittee of the local government committee of the Chamber of Commerce was appointed on county reorganization. I was chairman of the committee. Members were Judge Truman; Manvel H. Davis, a Republican; John H. Lathrop, a Republican; Cornelius Roach--he's the senior, not the present Cornelius Roach--a Democrat. It was bi-partisan except for me and I was not supposed to be either; I was the balancing member. And the committee


prepared a plan. Actually, of course, it was written in our office and we consulted with Truman, of course, all the time on the thing and would get his ideas and he ours and we got together and drafted a plan.

FUCHS: You did consult and work this out together? It wasn't something that he adopted after you presented it?

MATSCHECK: Oh no, we didn't work that way if we could help it. He was cooperating and naturally we worked with him and it was a job that we all worked on.. The committee was selected because of its interest, and they studied it carefully and finally approved it and the Chamber of Commerce board of directors approved it and it was submitted to the legislature. And if I recall correctly--and I think I do--Mr. Truman went to the legislature, appeared before committees on it. I think I went with him on occasion. We tried to persuade the committees and again nothing happened.

FUCHS: You went to Jefferson City with him?

MATSCHECK: I think so, yes. I can't recall specifically any occasion but I have the impression that I went with him on that. I think I went with him on some other matters


at times.

FUCHS: He frequently went to Jefferson City?

MATSCHECK: To my recollection, he did go to Jefferson City on anything that affected the county government. He'd appear before the committee; he tried to get them to adopt some kind of a plan that would be satisfactory. Of course, you know, when you go to a legislature you don't expect to get what you're after; you hope you get something that's acceptable. That plan was submitted in 1933; it was submitted again in '35, and again rejected, and it was submitted later on too, I suppose. I was gone then and Iím not familiar with the exact details beyond that. I remember one time after Mr. Truman became senator, we again mentioned his name in one of our bulletins. We said, "Why not adopt Senator Truman's plan for county government?" or words to that effect. I think, in fact, the reason I mention that we mentioned his name is to show you the confidence we had in the man, because we didn't mention people's names, even people that were supposed to be working right along with us; we just didn't mention names.

FUCHS: I noticed that in your bulletin.


MATSCHECK: We never mentioned names. We would talk about the city manager or the county court or the presiding judge or the county counselor or one, but we didn't mention names; that was to keep us clear of any taint of personal interest in any individual. And when we'd mention Judge Truman, as we did at least twice--I think twice--it was an indication that we thought "Now here's a man that's trying to do something." And my recollection of those years was that I saw Mr. Truman quite frequently, either going down to see him, or meetings of committees and so on; I felt that here was a man--I didn't care whether he was there because he was a member of the Pendergast organization or not--that here was a man who was sincerely and earnestly interested in improving the county government and that he was going to go just as far as he could go. In fact, he told me one time, "I'll go along with you on this just as far as I can. I can't go as far as you would like to go, but I'll go as far as I can." And he did. I always could rely on him doing what he'd say he would do. That wasn't always true of some other people that promised to do things, but you could depend upon him. I always felt that he was an outstanding official. And its for


that reason that I speak rather feelingly of him as a county judge. Now I say as a county judge; I didn't have any dealings with him later. I feel very much in favor of many other things he's done since and am very sympathetic, and I think he did a fine job, but that is outside of my scope, but I thought that about the thing that I knew about.

FUCHS: You can't say that you were entirely surprised that he did good job as, for instance, the chairman of the Truman Committee in light of what your observance was of him as a county judge?

MATSCHECK: I wasn't entirely surprised. I was a little surprised that he was able to do as much as he did, merely because I didn't know him well enough personally to know his potentialities. I think that was pretty generally true among people in Kansas City. They didn't realize the great potential the man had. And I frankly did not realize the great potential he had. I said, "Here is a very competent man and he'll do a good job at almost anything he undertakes." I couldn't predict what he'd do as senator and President and, of course, no one ever thought at that time--at least I didn't--and


most people I knew, never thought of him as President; it was too far in the future. But, to come back, he did do a fine job as county judge. He was on the court when they first eliminated the deficits; however, the records are clear that he did not continue to have no deficits. In 1933, the county and the legislature did not pass the reorganization bill, but they did pass the county budget bill that we had worked on and drafted. Following that, the county court adopted the first budget ever adopted in the county. The law was challenged by some of the other county officials, who would be limited on what they could do on expenditures by the law. And they challenged it in the courts and they tied it up until 1935 when it was finally declared constitutional. So that while he had a county budget in '33, he didn't have any power to enforce it because it was in the courts; it was actually no law.

FUCHS: That was prepared in '33 for the subsequent year, '34, is that correct?

MATSCHECK: I think so, yes. It must have been because it passed in '33--the law was passed in '33 and the legislature meets in odd years so it must have been for the


year '34, yes.

FUCHS: What would Mr. Truman's capacity have been in relation to the preparation of that budget?

MATSCHECK: Well, he was presiding judge and he and the court--I don't remember who the other members were at that time--and I suppose his financial advisers in the county government did the actual work; we didn't do it.

FUCHS: Was there any provision under the law for a budget office?

MATSCHECK: Well, he was the budget officer as they call it under the law, and in that capacity, he was responsible. I don't know specifically what the results were in terms of reducing county expenditures and eliminating deficits in that year. In 1935, the law was upheld by the Supreme Court and in that year they did draft a budget that was a legal budget, and it would have required a reduction in county expenses of over a million dollars. The courts and the recorder of deeds and the sheriff and all the rest of these county elective officers, as well as the appointive officers, were cut seriously. I don't have a record as to what happened specifically in that year or the following years;


however, there is a record that deficits did accumulate prior to that time and up to 1935 at least, I can't say beyond '35 because I have no record and was not here after about '36. But there is a record that in 1929 the county funded one and a half million dollars of accumulated deficit into judgment bonds. So that's a matter of record. They did have a deficit and they put them into judgment bonds, that's all.

FUCHS: In so many words, that reduced the deficit.

MATSCHECK: It reduced it by creating bonds out of it; it didn't exist as an obligation of the general fund except to pay off the bonds as they came due.

FUCHS: Was that a good procedure?

MATSCHECK: Oh yes, you had to do something about it. I had no objection to the procedure. I'm merely saying that there must have been deficits because they had to change them into judgment bonds. And in 1935 again, the deficit had accumulated to nearly another million and a half dollars. Then the budget law went into effect, and I presume that--well, in 1936 Judge Truman was no longer judge, so whether the following judges kept down the expense or what happened


I can't say from personal knowledge and I have no record of it. But I think this is probably a good summation of the deficits and financing situation in the county while Judge Truman was eastern judge and presiding judge, that for the first time they paid attention to trying to straighten out financing and for the first time--in '23--did operate without a deficit and they did get a budget law and they did straighten up finances when finally they were freed to do something. I think you can give Judge Truman credit for practically all of it. That's my feeling on the matter. Now I can't prove that, those things don't exist in the records, you know. But it may partly be based upon this bias that I said a little earlier I had toward Judge Truman. I was so convinced that he was an honest, earnest, sincere man that I was very strongly impressed by him. He attended meetings and he sat forward in his chair; he looked sincere--earnest--listened to every word and knew what was going on. He kept himself thoroughly informed. He knew all about the county, as he later did about other things. He always was informed. Here was a man you could talk to that knew what was going on, and knew what ought to be done about it. And we just took advantage of everything we could with him to try to get


what we thought, and he thought, generally, should be done.

FUCHS: You felt that there was definitely a contrast between his awareness of matters and the situation in the county and that of some other members of the court at times?

MATSCHECK: I can't even remember who the other members of the court were in 1927 and the early '30's.

FUCHS: The first year, of course, there was Barr, and there was Beeman and Purcell and Bash down through the years, Battle McCardle...

MATSCHECK: George Montgomery was a judge at one time--maybe that was later.

FUCHS: A little bit later. He ran against, in 1922, this Montgomery from Blue Springs, the banker. I believe it was E. E. Montgomery and then there was, I believe, subsequently, George Montgomery.

MATSCHECK: Well, in my mind at least, they must have been rather ineffective characters because I can't remember them at all; I can't recall them at all. Judge Truman was the one person who stood out and he was the leader.


FUCHS: I'm interested in that observation.

MATSCHECK: That's my feeling about it. I don't remember much else that we did in the county. We made a study of county welfare activities, issued a report on it.

FUCHS: I had some questions about matters you might not recall anything about, but we can put it in the record. One involves a rather early period and it involves the dispute, so to speak, in which McElroy and Mr. Truman tried to restore the jurisdiction of county institutions to the county. I believe the state had placed some of these institutions in the hands of circuit judges in 1919 and Mr. Truman felt this was unconstitutional; and I believe McElroy resented it, as a loss of patronage. Do you have any recollection of that?

MATSCHECK: No, now only that you mention it; I didn't think of it before. I have impressions of disputes of that type coming up at other times, that either the legislature got a bill to take some institution away from the county court and put it under some circuit court or juvenile court or someone, but I have no recollection of anything about it.

FUCHS: The county is sort of a localized state government in


a sense, is it not?

MATSCHECK: In part, I would say yes; but not in the administrative part. I think probably you can say that the courts, the circuit court is part of the state judicial system. But I don't think that the operation of the county hospital, the county farm, the operation of the recorder of deeds, the sheriff's office, and of the numerous minor activities of that nature are anything but plainly local, public activity, just the same as in the city government. Of course, we did, during the years, several times suggest and even prepared some reports on consolidating the city and county offices. That was the thing that we talked about year after year because of the duplication of offices--the administrative offices I'm talking about, not the courts but the administrative offices. I don't think, in my memory at least, Judge Truman ever came out in favor of that but I don't know whether he favored it or did not favor it. I don't know anything about that. But we felt that this was a local matter; this administrative part was local and should be local and there's no reason to have two separate governments operating within Kansas City. How would you. consolidate? There are various plans: (1) Put the whole county under


one government; (2) split the county; (3) regional government. There are all sorts of ways of doing it.

FUCHS: Well, in that regard, Mr. Truman, was at least President of--whether he organized it or not, as I believe he says in his Memoirs--a Kansas City Regional Planning Conference or Committee. Do you recall that?

MATSCHECK: I recall merely that it was done, but I can't recall that they ever were very effective or active.

FUCHS: Probably not, I believe they intended to take in two counties here and three in Kansas in the region. You didn't attend sessions or you didn't work on that?


FUCHS: What would you say is the prime source of opposition to county reorganization in the state legislature. Mr. Truman, of course, was a good party man and believed in patronage and so forth, and yet here he is supporting county reorganization which would do away--I believe I can say in all fairness--with a certain amount of patronage?


MATSCHECK: I suppose that was it. You do away with a considerable number of offices, you would consolidate them in the city and county and there would be fewer employees and less money to spend, and that isn't what an organization wants. I suppose that was the objection to it. Sometimes you can't tell why the legislature does what it does. If I want to go back, way back to 1918, I think I said that the state constitution at that time required two houses of council in the city government and that a mayor who was chief magistrate and so on; and that you couldn't draft a city manager plan with those provisions. One of the first things that the Chamber of Commerce did after I came here in the civic department was to circulate initiative petitions throughout the state to try to change that provision and provide a home rule charter provision for Kansas City. We did circulate petitions and we got it on the ballot and it was defeated--disappointing but then what could I expect. I was new here and all that. But the following year, the legislature itself re-submitted that provision and M. E. Casey, senator from Jackson County, and Tom Pendergast's man, introduced the bill and got it passed. It applied only to Kansas City so the rest of the state wasn't against it. But why did they do


that? I don't know. The people of the town were interested in that kind of change and the legislation thought it wouldn't hurt anything, so why not give them what they want--it's good politics.

FUCHS: Well, in thinking about this, one basic tenet of county reorganization is that if you reduce the number of elective offices and have more appointive officials under the court, as the chief administrative body, that ipso facto reduces the amount of patronage. Is that so?

MATSCHECK: Not necessarily. It didn't in the city after they got the city charter, but it could. It would make it possible. We were trying to get an organization whereby the county court would have the power to do it, and it didn't have the power. It just couldn't. How could the county court, particularly before the budget law--the budget law helped some--tell these elective officers, who are elected just the. same as the county court, how many people they're going to have unless the state law permitted them to do so. That's what we tried to get. You wanted the county court to be able to control these various administrative officers. In fact the reorganization laws would have eliminated many of the elective


offices and created several county departments, like the city departments: safety, public works, and highways, welfare, health and so on, and a director of each of them appointed by the county court. Also a county budget officer, a county purchasing agent, a county counselor, and a county personnel director, I think, were provided for in some of those early drafts. That concentrates your power in the county court and they can run the county, the administrative part of it then. But as it was then, and I suppose it still is, I don't know, the county court has absolute authority only over those few people whom they appoint themselves. You can't get good government that way. And we didn't say the adoption of a county reorganization bill would automatically mean that you would get a big reduction in personnel or expenditures or better government or anything else. We said it would make it possible for the county court to do it and I was pretty sure that if Mr. Truman were running the county court, was the primary influence in the county court, you were going to get better government. And I think he felt so too and that's why he wanted it.

FUCHS: I believe in Jackson County, as a county with a certain


number of inhabitants, the county highway board is composed of the three county judges plus the county highway engineer as an ex officio member, and they receive, the county judges, an extra salary as a member of this board. I've never seen it mentioned that Mr. Truman was drawing anything above his salary as presiding judge. But I did see this provision, do you know of that?

MATSCHECK: Are. you talking about now or back in...

FUCHS: Back in 1926-Ď27.

MATSCHECK: I don't recall that the county judges ever got anything extra and I don't recall Mr. Truman ever getting anything extra. I'm not saying he didn't; I just don't recall. He may have, I don't know.

FUCHS: I see. Was there a county accountant that you know of in those days, which I believe was provided for by the state constitution?

MATSCHECK: I presume there was someone who was in charge of the accounting office of the county under the county court, but I don't remember any man called by that specific title at least, not as a separate officer. There certainly, was and I can't recall the organization well enough now to know; there certainly was someone who kept the



FUCHS: Yes. Well, as I understand it, there was a right of the court to appoint a county accountant--I believe he was appointed by the court--who was to maintain a continuous check of finances and audit expenditures. You doubt if that was done?

MATSCHECK: That would or would not mean anything depending upon whether the county court wanted it to mean something, just as the city had finally organized, at least after the charter was adopted, a good department of finance under the city manager plan and it did horrible things.

FUCHS: The court announced in 1927--this was April, after they had appointed the board of engineers to plan a road program--that they would appoint a bipartisan commission to oversee the expenditures of funds if the subsequent bond issue was passed. Do you know if that commission was appointed?

MATSCHECK: I think that was when they appointed the two engineers Stayton and Veatch.

FUCHS: Well, that may have been. They were appointed for the survey and then they were subsequently appointed to oversee


the expenditures of the funds; but I thought there was going to be a larger commission.

MATSCHECK: No, to my knowledge there wasn't, or at least to my recollection. I know that Veatch and Stayton did oversee the expenditures of these bond funds and the subsequent bond funds that were adopted in 1930 in the ten year plan. There were some more road funds then to finish up the road system.

FUCHS: Yes, there was three and a half million in 1931, I guess it was.

MATSCHECK: And the county had about eight million dollars in that so-called civic improvement program and the city had thirty-two million. Veatch and Stayton again continued the plans for finishing the road system and oversaw the expenditure of those funds. It was my impression that these two men also supervised or checked on the expenditure of the other bond funds voted at that time for the court house and whatever the other things were that the county had. But Mr. Truman said the other day, when I talked to him, that it was only on roads that they acted. So I couldn't question it. I thought they did the other, too, but this is merely my recollection of it.


That brings up, though, a point that you might want me to mention; and that is that in the civic improvement program adopted in 1930, of 32 million dollars for the city and 8 million dollars for the county, the city spent its money--as I've indicated before--in such ways as to arouse very much criticism and, as the Institute pointed out over the years, disregarding provisions of the civic improvement program plans themselves and the purposes for which the bonds were to be spent; and disregarding requirements for contracts and bids and everything else and literally wasted large, large sums of money--some of which couldn't be traced even by the auditors--and at the same time, the county spent 8 million dollars. The bonds in the ten year program, were supposed to be spent over ten years, but the county spent its share in five. Now that was a violation of the plan, though the county court probably was justified in doing it that way because of the nature of the county program. I'm not challenging that or questioning it. Anyway, they did spend it in five years. But my point is, that no one, so far as I know, ever raised any question regarding expenditure of the county bond money. No one ever thought that there was any waste, any corruption; everything was done legally,


with specifications, bids, and contracts and the contractors had to deliver. We used to talk about the "pie crust roads" they used to build in the county. You've seen that expression. I think the roads that were built when Senator Truman was in the court, were never called pie crust roads. I imagine they're still in use, many of them. Judge Truman used to say, and I think I've heard him say it, that anyone who built roads for the county had to do it because they were the best bidders and after they got the bid, they either had to build them according to specifications, or they wouldn't get their money. And I think that is true. And I think that's the reason that the expenditure of the county bond funds had no taint of illegality or misuse. At the same time the city was doing all these other things. Even before that, I recall specifically that the county--it may have been in the earlier bond funds--the county had advertised for bids and permitted bidders from outside the county to offer bids, and did let contracts to other than local bidders because they were the lowest bidders. We commented and commended the county court for having thereby saved on that one set of bids alone, a quarter of a million dollars. Again this points out that I think that Truman was trying


to do and did do a good job, within the limits of the provisions of law and the organization of the county at the time. Now, of course, I suppose that Truman was held back to a certain extent by the fact that he belonged to a Pendergast organization; but there certainly was a vast contrast between the way he ran things under the same organization, and the way the city ran things under that organization.

FUCHS: Why do you think that was so?

MATSCHECK: I don't know. That's one of the mysteries that I have been trying to find out and figure out and I can only give two speculative answers and I probably shouldn't. One, is the personality of the city manager who had a tremendous greed for power and authority, who was very arrogant, who would listen to no one, and who wanted to do things his own way and he felt his way was best and he had no concern for legalities and all the rest of it. And the second thing that I would say was that the city had the tremendously larger sum of money, and it had always been more closely part of the political machine, or at least that the machine depended upon it more than on the county, which after all was the whole county


and had an eastern judge and all the rest of it, and was not so big. And that the Pendergast machine said, "Well, alright, we've got a man here who wants to do a job and we'll let him do it". Now that's speculation; I can't answer it; that's something you can only find out from the people who were in it, and I guess most of them are dead.

FUCHS: Well, I'm glad to have your views on it. It's an interesting observation. The Truman career as presiding judge has been commended because of the fact that he reduced the amount of interest rate that the county was paying. Do you have any memory of that?

MATSCHECK: I have a recollection that we did comment on that at on time, yes. But I can't give you any details. I just recall that some how he either sold bonds or refunded some bonds or something at a lower interest rate and saved money that way. But I can't recall anything else.

FUCHS: "The county under the budget law was required to go on a cash basis" is a statement I have read. Just what did that involve?


MATSCHECK: Well of course that meant that the county could not spend any more money--any more cash in a year that it took in. The county had, for many years, towards the end of the year, before the taxes were collected--all of them--run out of cash. Then it would issue what it called tax anticipation notes against future tax collections. These tax anticipation notes were paid but of future collections and the interest rate was six percent--that's rather high. Also, when the county ran out of money, bills came in to be paid and there was no money, so they issued a warrant--I'm not sure of the correct term--for that, which then became an obligation against the county bearing six percent and was paid whenever it could. Now it was some of those warrants that were funded into judgment bonds, as I mentioned before. As I remember it the budget law required the county to live within cash available. They could no longer issue tax anticipation notes and they couldn't spend money by issuing a warrant payable sometime in the future, which meant that they had to live within their income. Now whether they did or not, I don't know.

FUCHS: There was a little dispute at one time where Mr.


Truman appointed some justices of the peace which was supposed to have been unconstitutional, perhaps. I was unable to find my notes on that. I wonder if you would, by chance, recall anything on. that?

MATSCHECK: No, it just seems to ring a little bell, but I can't.

FUCHS: Did you have relations with Mr. Veatch anytime?

MATSCHECK: I knew N.T. Veatch very well, just as I knew most of the prominent engineers and other people of the town. I used to talk to Mr. Veatch very frequently during the expenditure of the bond money and would ask him how they were getting along and he would tell me what they were doing and so on; I never went into detail because I was satisfied. Mr. Veatch was entirely capable and a reputable engineer you know. He had a very good reputation in Kansas City. I think that was one reason why he was appointed. I know Mr. Veatch and his partner, Mr. Black, at that time. I don't know if they are here now or not.

FUCHS: Did you know General Stayton?

MATSCHECK: Yes, yes, but I can't say much about him. I thought that he was doing a good job with Mr. Veatch,


as I remember it, but I never had a great many dealings with him except to discuss things with him occasionally.

FUCHS: Did you ever meet Tom Pendergast personally?

MATSCHECK: No. It probably seems surprising that in all the years I was here that I never saw the man personally.

FUCHS: Did you ever see him?

MATSCHECK: I don't think I even ever saw him. I never, of course, would go around to see him and I know he wouldn't come to see me. I did know some of the other politicians, but not well; I met some of them. I knew Joe Shannon. Joe Shannon was more of the gregarious type that Tom Pendergast was supposed to be, but I didn't know Joe Shannon well or intimately. I remember during the charter campaign in 1925, we were actively advocating the adoption of the charter and I remember debating the charter with Joe Shannon at one time at some organization. But he was a very nice fellow, easy to get along with. Of course, we disagreed on everything--nearly everything--but he was a nice man to get along with..

FUCHS: What about Mike Pendergast?


MATSCHECK: I didn't know Mike; I'd met him but I didn't know him.

FUCHS: Have you any recollections of Mr. Truman as senator that stand out?

MATSCHECK: No, I did not see Mr. Truman after he left Kansas City. Perhaps I should have done so because I was in Washington shortly thereafter for some years, and people here who were friends of his and friends of mine urged me to go in and see the senator; but I felt, properly or improperly, that he was a very busy man, and that the work I was doing had nothing to offer him and why should I take the time of a very busy senator--particularly during the times of great world problems and stresses, and especially after the war started--so I never went to see him.

FUCHS You never saw him as President?

MATSCHECK: I never saw him as President. The only contact was by letter when he became President, I was living in Chicago at the time. I was working for Federal Government, and my associates there knew that I had known the President, urged me to write him a letter of congratulations. I


said I would be very happy to write a letter of congratulations to President Truman and I thought he would probably remember me, but that I was sure that he would get hundreds of thousands of letters and why just add another one that he would never receive; that was my feeling about it. On the insistence of these people and of my wife, I finally did write him a letter, which I tried to make a nice letter of congratulations and recalling briefly our association in Kansas City. And I said, "All right, there's the letter and that's the end of it." I think it was six weeks or two months later that a reply came. It was a form letter, not a mimeographed letter, but a type written form obviously, but it was addressed to "My Dear Walter:" and "thank you for congratulations," or words to that effect. It was signed "Harry S. Truman." But then to show that Mr. Truman did receive the letter, he had written a postscript in long hand. "My Dear Walter: You can understand that I have been very much flooded with correspondence since I have been here and will excuse my delay in answering your letter," words to that effect; I don't remember exactly. So that was the last contact I ever had with him until last week when I saw him out at the Library.


FUCHS: What did you do when you left Kansas City in 1936?

MATSCHECK: I left the Civic Research Institute and I suppose I must say, voluntarily, because the board did not want me to leave. I had a feeling that after I had been with the Institute for fifteen years--it would be good to get in some new blood; someone with some new ideas. I had been director for all these years and my ideas had been more or less dominating the organization all that time and someone else might come in that would give it new life. I also felt that I personally was getting into a rut, and if I was ever going to change, it was about time to do so. I was forty-six years old at the time and I couldn't wait much longer. So I wrote a couple of letters--three or four letters--to friends of mine around the country. Through mar work here I had become pretty well known in city governmental circles around the United States and I wrote a few letters and I--I'm proud of this--in the depths of the depression I had three offers of jobs out of four letters. So my thought was that I would probably go into a similar organization in another city. I had an offer to go to Washington with the Social Science Research Council--that's the organization, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, of social scientists throughout the country making


studies in the various social sciences--you may know of it. Two of .its committees had headquarters in Washington: one was the Public Administration Committee, which was headed by Dr. Joseph P. Harris, a political scientist from the University of Wisconsin. The committee was making studies in social security. He had been, in years before, a leader throughout the United States in the effort to get permanent registration. We worked from the early 1920's until, I think, 1938, to get a permanent registration law in this state, at least in this city. Of course it's nationwide now. And it was one of our major occupations. I brought Dr. Harris here one summer for a few weeks, to help us and got to know him real well. So he wrote me and asked me if I would come to Washington, work with him on his staff, and make a study of unemployment compensation in the United States. I thought that would be an interesting new thing and I said, "Yes, I'll come for a year since it will take about a year to make the study." I went there, and after a couple of months I found that they had started the study about a year too soon because there were only two states that had unemployment compensation and it didn't take long to study them. Well, I stayed three years. They sent me to Europe to study unemployment


compensation there and I studied all the states as they came in and had a lot of fun and gained quite a reputation as an expert in unemployment insurance. Also, during my stay in Kansas City there was a state commission appointed, I think by legislative act, to make a study of the state government and Theodore Gary was chairman of the commission. He was head of the independent telephone company--had its headquarters in Kansas City. He asked me if I would advise him on the appointment of a firm or organization to make a financial study of the state. I named several people and after consideration he said that he would appoint a certain firm if the Director of the St. Louis governmental research bureau and I would be their consultants, and if they would accept on that basis. So we all accepted. The man who was in charge of that study was a man named James Robinson. In later years when I was studying unemployment insurance, he was Director of Unemployment Compensation in the state of New Jersey. One day I dropped in to see him there. Later on he was made, in effect, the executive manager of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board. When he became that he wanted me to come over there and, after many letters on my part saying that I wasn't interested and so on, he finally persuaded me to come. So I went to the Railroad Retirement Board and became director of


research and stayed there until I retired in 1960.

FUCHS: Did you utilize your economics a great deal in that?

MATSCHECK: My economics was too out-dated by then. I had economists and statisticians, actuaries, public information people, sociologists and so forth on my staff. I had quite a large staff; quite a large job. Well, I wouldn't say it was a large job, but anyway I thought it was interesting and I had an interesting time.

FUCHS: You retired in 1960 and you're now living in California.

MATSCHECK: California.

FUCHS: What is the name of that town?

MATSCHECK: Mill Valley. It's just north of San Francisco-just across the Golden Gate Bridge.

FUCHS: You like it there?

MATSCHECK: Tremendously, yes.

FUCHS: Have you any other anecdotes that you recall about Mr. Truman over the years or any other personalities in Jackson County that might be of interest to history? Anything you


told me the other day or told Dr. Brooks that I didn't recall to bring out?

MATSCHECK: I don't recall anything I haven't already said this morning. I've been telling you practically everything I can think of, more things than I thought I knew.

FUCHS: You did very well.

MATSCHECK: No, I don't think there's anything further I can add about Mr. Truman.

FUCHS: Well, would you summarize his main traits of characters that, perhaps, aided his rise to fame.

MATSCHECK: Well, I would summarize first what I said before that I always thought him as a very sincere, earnest, man dedicated to good government and one who would study every problem that he got into until he knew it. That was what was important with us when we were studying county government. And I think those were some of the traits that characterized him as senator, as head of the investigations committee when he went into that so thoroughly and knew what was being done and going on. And from what I read, I think that was one of his characteristics as President.


FUCHS: I certainly enjoyed talking with you and appreciate your cooperation with our program.

MATSCHECK: I've enjoyed it too, thank you. It's been fun.

FUCHS: Thank you very much.

MATSCHECK: I hope that what I've said will help shed a little light--it's hard to get information on people before they became famous.

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

List of Subjects Discussed

    Beach, Albert I., 15, 20, 22
    Bell, Jasper C., 21

    Casey, M. E., 61
    Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City, MO, 2, 3, 5, 48
    County Government, reorganization of in Missouri, 58-63

    Davis, Manvel H., 48

    Faxon, H. D., 3

    Gary, Theodore, 78
    Goldman, George L., 21
    Gossett, A. N., 21
    Guild, John M., 2

    Hall, George W., 6
    Harding, Edward W., 9
    Harris, Joseph P., 77
    Hayes, Elihu, 32
    Henderson, William B., 3, 10

    Jackson County, MO:

      Bond issue, 1928, 45-46
      budget operations, 53-56
      county court, 31-33, 57-58
      county court, powers of, 62-63
      county government reorganization, 33, 35, 41, 47-51
      county road survey by Kansas City Civic Research Institute, 42-46
      deficit spending, 55-56
      road bonds, 1927 and 1930, 65-66
      road building program, 65-68

    Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, 2, 3, 5, 48
    Kansas City Civic Research Institute, 35, 76

      city officials, relationship with, 36-38
      financial problems, 38
      and Jackson County bond issue, 1928, 46
      and Jackson County roads, report on, 42-45
      staff members, 5-6
    Kansas City Public Service Institute, 16, 17, 27, 35-37
      audits of Kansas City Municipal finances, 29, 30
      city officials, relationship with, 35
      name changed, 35
      organized, 1920-21, 3-4
    Kansas City, MO:
      charter government, 11, 15-22
      city charter commission (1922), 16-17
      city charter, violations of by public officials (1926-29), 27-29
      civic improvement program (1930), 66-67
      Civic Research Institute, activities opposed by city manager H. F. McElroy, 37-38
      council-manager plan, 17-21
      home rule charter, 61
      municipal finances, audits of (1924-39), 29, 30
      municipal finances, study of, 11, 13
      municipal reform, political opposition to, 22-24
      municipal research bureau, plans for, 10-11
      Pendergast and the political organization, 11, 23-24, 69-70
      police department, home rule for, 25-26
      political corruption in, 23-24
      politics, 14-21, 23-29
    Kansas City (MO) Chamber of Commerce, 2, 3-5

    Lathrop, John H., 48
    Long, Corbett, 9

    Matscheck, Walter:

      biographical information, 1-2
      Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, joins staff of, 2
      Kansas City Public Service Institute, appointed chairman of (1920), 3, 4
      Kansas City Civic Research Institute, retirement from, 76
      Pendergast political organization, relationship with, 73
      Railroad Retirement Board, employed by, 78, 79
      Social Science Research Council, employed by, 76-78
      Truman, Harry S., character traits, summarizes, 80
      Truman, Harry S., correspondence with, 74, 75
      Truman, Harry S evaluation of ability as Jackson County Judge, 52, 56, 57
      Truman, Harry S., evaluation of as an administrator, 51, 52
      Truman, Harry S., first meeting with, 31
      unemployment compensation in the U. S. study of for the Social Science Research Council, 77-78
      Veatch, N. T. (Tom), relationship with, 72
      Volker, William, relationship with, 38-40
    McCune, Henry L., 22
    McCutcheon, Howard, 3
    McElroy, Henry F., 21, 32, 33, 34, 37, 38, 41, 69
    Miller, Loren, 8, 9
    Municipal research bureaus, 5, 6

    Pendergast political organization, Kansas City, MO, 11, 23-24, 69-70
    Pendergast, Thomas J. (Tom), 73
    Public Affairs, 12-13, 21, 31, 35, 47

    Roach, Cornelius, 48
    Robinson, James, 78

    Seaton, Jesse, 7
    Shannon, Joseph, 73
    Social Science Research Council, 76-77
    Stayton, Edward M., 66, 72, 73

    Truman, Harry S.:

      as an administrator, 51-53, 56
      character traits, 56, 80
      as county judge, 34
      Jackson County, Mo. bond funds, administration of, 67-68
      Jackson County, Mo., elimination of deficit spending by, 53-56
      Jackson County government reorganization, support of as county judge, 47-53
      Matscheck, Walter, correspondence with, 74-75
      Matscheck, Walter, first meetings with, 31

    Veatch, N. T. (Tom), 66, 72
    Volker, William, 38-40

    Wilson, Ray W., 5, 6

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