Oral History Interview with
Assistant to the General Counsel of the War Production Board,
1941-43; Captain, United States Marine Corps, 1943-45; Special Assistant
to the Attorney General of the United States, 1945; Executive Assistant
to the Attorney General, 1945-48; Assistant Attorney General and head
of the Civil Division, 1948-50; Assigned to establish the Office of Economic
Stabilization, 1950; Acting Deputy Attorney General, 1950; Assistant Attorney
General and head of the Anti-Trust Division, 1950-52; and private law
practice in Washington, D.C., 1952-76.
H. Graham Morison
August 16, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Morison Oral History
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry
S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee
but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember
that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written
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indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the Morison
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 It may not be published in full except by permission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.
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Morison Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
H. Graham Morison
August 16, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess
Fourth Oral History Interview with H. Graham Morison, Washington, D.C.,
August 16, 1972. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.
HESS: To begin today, Mr. Morison, do we have anything more on antitrust
that we want to put down?
MORISON: Yes, Mr. Hess, there's one matter that I recall which was a
unique experience for me. When I was head of the Antitrust Division in
'50 or -- in '51.
HESS: August of '50 I believe according to my list.
MORISON: Sometime during that period, when J. Howard McGrath was the
Attorney General, he requested me rather than the Deputy Attorney General
(who I think at that time was Peyton Ford), to attend a Cabinet meeting
called by President Truman since it would relate to the issue of limitation
of foreign oil imports. I did attend. And there was Louis Johnson,
Secretary of Defense, lined by numerous
officers of the services; the Secretary of Commerce, a man from Ohio,
what was his name?
HESS: Charles Sawyer.
MORISON: Sawyer, who I had tangled with before; Oscar Chapman, who I
had known and been on fairly friendly terms with, and...
HESS: John Snyder, Secretary of the Treasury?
MORISON: I'm sure John Snyder and the other Cabinet members.
HESS: Was Dean Acheson there that day?
MORISON: I do not believe Dean Acheson was there, but an Under Secretary
was. As to most of the issues that came up, I felt in view of my role
that I should not comment or engage in discussions about such issue
until it had been presented by Oscar Chapman and the other members. Secretary
Chapman urged that the President authorize the Secretary of the Interior
to limit the amount of crude oil imported from foreign sources. He had
inherited from World War II the remainder of the Oil Policy Board set
up to see to the supply of oil for the war. The oil industry had worked
hard to maintain this advisory agency after the war because the oil industry
had its men well entrenched there. Secretary Chapman urged that because
of the distress that domestic oil companies were facing from foreign imports,
that he should be authorized to establish quotas and limitations upon
the import of foreign crude oil.
And I am sure by agreement this issue was then picked up by the military
representatives there who stated what their requirements were and that
authority was needed to establish import
quotas to assist in the stabilization of American oil and its availability
for the military. When
all of this had concluded, Secretary Sawyer said he also thought this
delegation of executive
authority was a good idea. The President then turned to me and said,
"Mr. Morison, as the head
of the Antitrust Division, and speaking for the Attorney General, I'd
like your views about this."
I thanked him and stated about as follows: "Well, Mr. President, to put
it bluntly, I think this suggested program is not only wrong, but
an outrage to our citizens. This oil policy setup that was authorized
by Congress and established in World War II might have been a necessary
instrumentality to see that we had enough domestic oil reserves to sustain
our naval vessels, our
planes, tanks and all the rest, and also to supply oil to Hawaii and
oil to Europe, and to
retain enough oil reserves in the United States
for the domestic needs of the country. But," I said, "now that the war
is over, there is no justification for quota limits on all imports. Oil,
like any other commodity, should be free of any restraint in seeking its
level of price based upon the worldwide supply available for import. The
proposals for you to authorize such quotas would mean the end of any competition
in the price of oil and oil products." I further said, "Mr. President,
it's often forgotten, but after the Harding administration and the Elk
Hills oil deals of Secretary [Albert] Fall, a quiet arrangement and agreement
was made, sparked by the major U.S. oil companies, for the oil producing
states using as the example the establishment of the Navy's Elk Hill oil
reserve, that each of these states enact laws to provide that an official
appointment by their Governors be responsible for oil and oil production
in such states and be
empowered to limit production of oil. Subsequently these states joined
in establishing an interstate oil compact to limit the amount of oil extracted
by each state. That plan was the creation of the major oil companies and
has persisted ever since except during the war. Annually these State Commissioners
meet and fix quotas as to how much oil should be extracted in each state
on the theory that such limitations are necessary in order to be sure
that the Nation will have enough oil in reserve to defend the United States
in time of war, etc." I pointed out that during the war, if that arrangement
had operated properly, then there would have been unlimited production
for the defense of the United States. But there was not full production
in our oil states. Thus, had it not been for the oil wells at Maricaibo
in Venezuela, we would have never been able to support our war efforts
in western Europe and in
the Pacific. I stated that "The interstate oil compact, in my opinion,
was established to keep the price of oil up and to avoid price competition
that the free importation of foreign oil would make possible and that
the taxpayers then and now who are consumers of oil and oil products have
been paying through the nose." As head of the Antitrust Division of the
Department of Justice, I concluded that these proposals, if authorized,
would be in direct violation of the antitrust laws. I have no doubt that
if the Department of Justice made a Grand Jury investigation, we will
find that the major American oil companies, the British Petroleum Corporation,
which is a Government-owned facility, the Shell group in Holland and the
other major oil companies, all of which are international in scope and
which include all of the major oil companies in America, that there is
a combination and conspiracy to limit
production and maintain a non-competitive price, and this proposal you
are asked to approve would support the high dividends of all those companies
at the expense of the consumer. We are supporting them in the limitation
of availability of oil which is the prime factor as to a competitive price.
In truth there is no competition in oil and oil products. I concluded
by stating, "Mr. President, for the reasons stated, I oppose .this program.
I think it is contrary to law and the public interest."
Well, Chapman interrupted to say, "Oh, this is not so," and so forth.
But, the President quickly ended further debate when he said, "Now, Oscar,
just wait a minute." Then he said, "Morison, I fully agree with your position
and such authority will not be granted."
This really amazed and pleased me -- that the
President would be so blunt. It took seven months of hard work by the
oil lobby using every pressure available to turn the President away from
this position so as to at least get some limitation on oil imports. But
for the President of the United States -- his stand called for the greatest
amount of fortitude to "buck" the most powerful lobby that exists
in our country.
HESS: How did they turn him around?
MORISON: I do not know the details after that because I was so deeply
involved in getting antitrust suits filed that had been lying "fallow"
in the Antitrust Division "off the gound," including the suit that I filed
against the international oil cartel in the Federal Court in New
York City. After years of litigation that case was lost because the British
petroleum interests plead "sovereign immunity" and would not reveal or
turn over to the Court, its records, which the
Court by law was compelled to sustain. The records of the British Petroleum
Company was the sanctuary where these international agreements were kept.
The British Petroleum Company, being an entity of the British Government,
we could not compel the production of these agreements and had to try
to prove the illegal agreements between all the companies by inference
and not by the actual written agreements we knew were there.
HESS: Why, in your opinion, did Oscar Chapman, as Secretary of Interior,
take the view that he did?
MORISON: I think that, as a political animal, he realized that he had
to "go along" with such a powerful commercial combine or he would jeopardize
his relationship with these giant companies. I thank that he was fearful
of that and felt
compelled to take the position he did. He was not a Harold Ickes. Ickes
made mistakes but he was never afraid to "buck" any business combine.
Oscar was -- as are most Interior Department Secretaries -- a politician.
HESS: Were the political parties tied closely to political contributions
from the oil interest industry?
MORISON: This I don't know. Logic would impel me to have a lot of suspicions
as to this factor, but I have no facts about that.
HESS: What did Secretary Sawyer say at that Cabinet meeting?
MORISON: He just said he approved. His taciturnity might well have had
a relationship to my profound disagreement with him and Federal Trade
Commissioner Lowell Mason and their inspired idea to "sell" to
the President the establishment of a review board on all antitrust complaints.
This, lacking an act of Congress, would not be legal and also it would
have purported to override the judgment of the Attorney General (and his
Assistant in charge of the Antitrust Division), as to whether the department
would bring an antitrust suit or whether the Federal Trade Commission
would handle the complaint, etc. When complaints came in, so I was advised,
it was proposed that no action be taken until a conference was held by
the Secretary of Commerce, the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission
and the Attorney General.
HESS: Do you recall if John Snyder had anything to say at that Cabinet
MORISON: No, as far as I recall, he said nothing but stated that he approved
the oil quota.
HESS: In your opinion, do you think that some of Mr. Truman's Cabinet
members were perhaps too
closely tied to the business community?
MORISON: I then had no opinion one way or another about them, I just
don't know. The only thing I did know, I think was that, for the first
time (possibly for the first time), except through memorandas maybe,
that's being sent to the staff at the White House, I verbally laid out
the guts of the problem, and put it pretty bluntly, and I was not the
favorite man at that meeting I must say.
HESS: Did anyone there speak up, besides the President, who said he agreed
with what you had to say?
MORISON: When he said that, everybody shut up.
HESS: They may have had other views, but no one spoke out after that.
MORISON: No one took exception. No one took exception to what I said.
Apparently I wrecked the plan
at least for awhile. And there was a degree of coolness after the meeting
broke up and we left, which I could expect, you understand, on the part
of some of them.
HESS: Okay, ready to move on?
MORISON: All right.
HESS: We are on page seven of the list I have prepared and our next subject
deals with Mr. Newbold Morris. He was brought in to head a probe of the
Government in 1952. What do you recall of the Newbold Morris episode?
Perhaps we should first say a few words as to why it was felt necessary
to have an investigation of the Government at that time.
MORISON: We were approaching a presidential election year, and this always
generates, usually in the Congress, attacks on the incumbent administration,
trying to find some way of achieving newspaper notoriety to discredit
the executive department. And the most useful one, of course, is to make
a charge that there has been fraud, favoritism, breach of official duty
and so forth.
For the life of me I can't remember all the details, but I think at about
that time was when the President fired Lamar Caudle, Assistant Attorney
General in charge of the Tax Division.
HESS: That's right.
MORISON: And I think this was seized upon as the center of a controversy
in which there was a demand for a clean sweep and there should be a full
investigation not only of the Department of Justice, but other departments
of the executive department, other agencies of the executive department
as to alleged improprieties. I am not privy to why, or who selected Newbold
but I'm sure others in the White House will know. This idea I'm sure
was brought to the attention of Attorney General McGrath, and that he
may have had conversations about it.
HESS: How did Morris and McGrath seem to get along in the first few days
of Morris' investigation?
MORISON: Well, I had briefed McGrath on Newbold Morris, because I had
known him in New York. He was a socialite, with money, and had been a
member of the City Council. He very much wanted to be mayor, and he was
looking for some opportunity (he was classified as an independent), some
opportunity to get enough notoriety somewhere that would give him
the basis for running for mayor.
HESS: Hadn't he at one time ran a similar investigation in New York City
or in New York State?
MORISON: I recall that he had headed an investigation of Tammany Hall
and its members and the relationship of its chief [Carmine G.] DeSapio
to city paving and other public works.
In any event, through a number of friends that I had in New York, one
who was a very wealthy man, who had been a member of the City Council
under LaGuardia and whose daughter married a classmate of mine, he had
expressed a very low regard for Newbold Morris as a man, and considered
him to be a man who had no real dedication to the public interest but
sought publicity for political purposes. Newbold Morris had no great following.
He had made a lot of noise, but had not been a stellar performer in the
city government of New York.
HESS: Had you met him in New York?
MORISON Oh, yes, I had met him, but we had never
been close enough to be friends, I had just met him. In any event I tried
to brief McGrath something about his background, and suggested to him
that he do a lot of listening and to welcome his advice, and then after
giving him full access to the Department I suggested that one of the staff
members in the Attorney General's office accompany Morris, to assist him
and so forth and to keep tabs on his interviews and press conferences.
HESS: Who was that, do you recall?
MORISON: For the life of me I cannot recall now who it was.
HESS: Do you recall why the decision was made to place this operation
in the Department of Justice? He was made Special Assistant
to the Attorney General and he was given office space there.
MORISON: I think the idea was that it had to be an operation, a legal
operation of investigation and that Morris should have a free hand, without
the need of subpoena to investigate, and to question and so forth, and
to make any recommendations to the President that he thought ought
to be done, this was the initial thing.
During this period, prior to Morris' coming, and because I had an affection
for McGrath, I had prepared as many as five memoranda stating to him the
internal problems that I saw developing, which in a presidential year,
were things that might cause difficulty and how I thought he should rectify
HESS: Do you recall what those problems were?
MORISON: No, I do not. But I remember working at home, late at night,
trying to prepare these things and submitting them to him, but he never
took any action on them nor did he call me.
On one occasion I came up the elevator and just went into his office
and he said, "I thank you for what you are doing," and that was it. He
didn't want to discuss it for some reason.
In any event, I was desperately busy at that time with some very mean
antitrust cases, and I had little or no time to really get into the middle
of this, and he didn't assign me any job. He said, "You're busy
enough with your antitrust, and," he said, "it's important." But it finally
got to a point that, at least in an oral conference with the Attorney
General, Morris in the style that I had anticipated told McGrath that
he would, made extensive demands which were just nonsensical.
HESS: What were his demands?
MORISON: Oh, he wanted every person, whether civil servant or appointment
under presidential authority, in the executive department, to file with
Internal Revenue Service, the Attorney General of the United States,
and in a public register to be maintained for the inspection of the public,
all of their sources of income, other than their Government pay.
HESS: That had to do with his questionnaire. Did you ever see Newbold
MORISON: I saw it. I saw it, and of course, it was...
HESS: We have a copy here.
MORISON: It was outrageous. Let's assume that there were four or five
rotten apples in a barrel, if you think of the barrel as a whole total
of all civil servants and appointed officials in the various agencies
and departments of the executive department, which were embraced, depending
upon what they were earning, this would have been an
outrageous invasion of privacy, this would have made everyone per
se suspect. And it was just administratively impossible,
it was under any reasonable conclusion, an impossible burden to impose
for what they were attempting to do. On truth, it was sound and fury meaning
HESS: One of the people that Mr. Morris brought with him was Mr. Harold
Seidman. Did you ever meet him?
MORISON: I had met Seidman, but didn't know him.
HESS: You met him at this time?
MORISON: Yes. This is the document that I recall.
HESS: That's right, fifteen pages...
MORISON: This goes to the present day proposition of snooping into the
privacy of the individual, which is now being raised by the knowledge
that banks are turning over to the FBI and agencies
of the Government the checks and records of deposits of bank accounts
of citizens. This is the kind of nonsense that was involved.
HESS: On February the 4th Morris announced that the Justice Department
would be the first agency probed. Do you recall that?
MORISON: Yes. We gave him a full and free hand. He never came
to the Antitrust Division.
I might say that he never talked to anybody in the Division because
I sent out word that I wanted to know (because I knew that this man wouldn't
come to me) if Morris, or his agents, came in to interview anybody in
the Antitrust Division, I wanted to be notified immediately to be on hand,
because these were my people and I felt an obligation to be present.
This was a great administrative mistake. Morris was not a man
seeking to do a dispassionate
job of investigation and recommendation, he was there to make Newbold
Morris a household name. It resulted in his being fired, he had
to be fired.
HESS: How did that come about, how was that decision arrived at to fire
MORISON: This I do not know,. except that I think from all departments
and department heads, the same problem that I have mentioned as to my
reaction to this, that this was a surrender of the executive department
to a non-governmental investigation of the operations of the executive
department of the United States, which would be publicized and made use
of to the detriment and damage of a multitude of faceless civil servants
in the higher brackets. And the whole panoply of career people who were
objecting, saying, "Damned if I will sign this thing. I'm not going to
make this out,
it's none of his business. It's nobody's business but my own."
HESS: Did McGrath fire Morris?
MORISON: No. Now this I'm not certain, whether the direction for it to
be done came from the White House. I'm reasonably confident that's so.
That they had come to realize not only from Justice, but from all of the
other departments of the executive department, you see, that there was
a genuine sense of outrage.
HESS: You say White House; do you think that President Truman thought
he should be fired?
MORISON: I have no actual knowledge one way or another. I'm sure that
if it was done, it was done with his approval.
HESS: In his press conference on April the 3rd. (that was the day that
Attorney General McGrath
resigned), the President was asked if Morris was fired with his knowledge,
with the President's knowledge, and Mr. Truman's answer was, "I saw it
in the paper. It was under discussion, but I wasn't consulted when it
MORISON: Well, the details of this I don't know. I'm sure that Charlie
Murphy will be able to tell you precisely what it is. Mind you now, I
didn't have the closeness of relationship with McGrath -- if I had been
his executive assistant I would have been in on all of this. I only came
in as a friend. I mean I was up to my ears going forward with antitrust.
This was a nonsensical thing in my view.
HESS: A11 right. How was the handling of the Morris matter tied up with
the resignation of Howard McGrath?
MORISON: Well, I think it was the start for there
was unfavorable publicity and editorials about the dismissal.
It was a very unusual thing. McGrath with such a magnificent record,
so well-regarded and respected by all, he just had an inertia about taking
any drastic steps, except the one -- as I said, if I came up with an antitrust
request for a Grand Jury, seeking to indict criminally under the antitrust
laws, or a civil action, laid it out, he just said, "Show me where to
sign." He never questioned my judgment, and he would defend it when it
But he was not an activist as an Attorney General. He had fewer conferences
than was usual in the past. Attorney General Clark was one that maintained
these, and during the interim, the Acting Attorney General, Phil Perlman,
who was Solicitor General. We would all convene and discuss the problems
of every department so that the acting, or the Attorney General, would
of what was going on. We tried to keep it briefly only to mention important,
significant things, but McGrath did not have those conferences. On one
occasion or a couple of occasions he had a dinner for all of the assistants
and their wives, but that was social.
HESS: Would you rate his administrative ability somewhat lower than Tom
MORISON: He had the administrative ability, but he didn't have the zeal
to do it for some reason, because I had seen him when he operated under
two hats, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and as Senator
from Rhode Island. And I know that even though he was not a scholar the
lawyers on the staff of the Solicitor General -- and you've got an elite
corps in the staff of the Solicitor General's office, when he occupied
that position, they had a high regard for him,
because he had a quick mind, and the view often expressed was, he wanted
to keep things quiet in anticipation that before Truman -- before the
end of the year, he felt that Truman would not run, that...
HESS: He did not think President Truman would run in '52?
MORISON: He didn't think so because he was privy to the fact that Truman
opposed any third term and he considered even though he only had part
of the first year of...
HESS: He had almost all of Roosevelt's fourth term.
MORISON: That's right, but this was his thinking, but the principle was
still there, it deteriorated, the party had deteriorated, the executive
department needed new blood. But he expected that a Supreme Court justice
(now I've forgot which member) would resign from the Supreme Court and
that he would be appointed to the vacancy. Oh, I know who it was, Murphy,
that he would be appointed as the Catholic member of the Court, that was
the kind of, you know, they made a division and this was what he was hoping
for and waiting for and therefore he kept a low profile, but it worked
against him. Now, whatever may have happened, I am quite certain that
Charlie Murphy or some of the others can fill in the details. I just can't
believe but that the Attorney General at least had said, if not to the
President, at least to the staff people in the White House, "Look, however
well-intentioned this may be, this is a 'Wrong way Corrigan,' and if I
was requested and did ask Mr. Morris to come down there, then presumably
I've got a right if I don't like what he's doing to get rid of him, and
I propose to do it." Now if that was conveyed to the President or not
don't know. But knowing Howard McGrath…
HESS: But was Morris brought in by someone else?
MORISON: Well, he was suggested, and the suggestion evidently emanated
from the White House to McGrath, and McGrath said, "I'll take anybody
you want." He didn't know anything about Newbold Morris, and then I boned
him up on Morris. But now I'm speculating on this, Jerry.
HESS: Okay, on April the 2nd, that was the day before the resignation...
HESS: ...the President was at the National Airport to welcome Queen Juliana
of the Netherlands, and it was reported in the press. There were photographers
there, they were not close enough to the official welcoming party to hear
what was said, but it seemed like there was an argument
going on between President Truman and J. Howard McGrath. This was the
day before the resignation. Have you ever heard what was being discussed
at National Airport, was it Newbold Morris?
MORISON: No. No, I do not. I know nothing of the details and I never
felt that I should intrude upon Howard McGrath to ask him. I was the first
one there, and then Perlman, to commiserate with him, and shortly after
that I arranged a dinner at my home for him and invited all of the assistants.
HESS: Just after his resignation?
MORISON: Within ten days after that. I invited J. Edgar Hoover and he
said he would come. And he sent out, for three days, FBI men going all
over that back country roads to see the route, the timing and everything,
and scared my wife to death, but he didn't show up.
HESS: What seemed to be Mr. McGrath's attitude the night of your party?
MORISON: One of fortitude and jocularity and, you know, saying that this
is the best antidote for a pretty heavy blow that I could have that I
have the confidence of you people who are my assistants, who really carry
the burden of the Department. And I have no animus about the President's
action, he's President of the United States, and I think it's unfortunate,
but that's neither here nor there, that's his prerogative. Let's be clear,
I have no bitterness about it and you must not have any bitterness about
it, and you must carry on that department, and he spoke to Phil, and said,
"Phil, you have these actions, and you can do it. You've got all of the
qualities of a good Attorney General acting until, the President appoints
one. I want all of you to, get a tight grip."
HESS: The President had already appointed McGrath's replacement.
MORISON: No, no, no, no. No, there was an interlude there. There was
an interlude in that time, before he came in...
HESS: There may have been an interlude in the time between when he was
appointed and when he came to town, but in the same press conference,
in the same paragraph practically, when Mr. Truman announced the resignation
he also announced McGranery's appointment.
MORISON: Well, you see, what had happened was, if my recollection serves
me right, in the first week of April this had been conveyed to McGrath,
probably by the President, McGrath went to the
White House and when he came back and told us. But it was not announced
until a day or so after that. In the interim and the moment he left, got
his papers and left, Phil Perlman moved over there as "Acting Attorney
General" and I had my dinner. Now by that time I think that the announcement
may have been made. But McGranery's nomination was not confirmed for several
weeks -- and he was not confirmed until late in May.
HESS: I have heard that Charles Murphy, your law partner, early can the
morning of April the 3rd, the same day as the press conference, was assigned
to go from the White House to the Justice Department and relay the message
to Mr. McGrath that his resignation was requested.
MORISON: That may be so, that may be so.
HESS: Have you ever heard Mr. Murphy make any comments on that?
MORISON: No, I've never discussed it with Charlie, but if he says it
is so, you can be sure it's right.
In any event, these are the sequence of events that I recall.
HESS: All right.
MORISON: I remember most particularly that dinner, and -- of course,
this blow was one, although he, Howard McGrath, maintained his outward
Irish pleasantry and outgoing character. It did him in, and it eventually
killed him, he just couldn't take it. He started the practice of law here.
HESS: That was the last major office that he held here in town, wasn't
it, before he moved back to Rhode Island?
MORISON: Well, he stayed here quite awhile, had a law office. Peyton
Ford was with him for awhile, and a couple of others. I would see him
as I could, but after I resigned there were far and few occasions when
I could arrange to see him. He no longer attended the dinners they used
to have at the Armory for the Democratic National Committee, or took any
part in things, it was a great tragedy.
HESS: Previously we have discussed Mr. McGranery. He came in in April
of '52, and I believe you left in June of '52.
MORISON: That's right. I have explained that his wife sat on his right
hand, and she was the determined hatchet woman and last word.
I had been trying to resign, you understand, from the Department after
the second John Lewis case, and as long as President Truman would get
on my blind side, I could never say no to him. I would have been happy
to resign, but I wasn't going to give up, because I knew of the McCarran
incident, which I have related to you, in which he said to McGranery,
"I'm the only guy that can get you confirmed."
HESS: To McGranery.
MORISON: Right, because the Pennsylvania delegation was just bitterly
opposed to McGranery. I had obtained for him this judgeship to get him
off their back, and out of twenty-seven opinions that he wrote, that went
up, three-fourths of them were reversed, and every Saturday he was down
here at the White House, and I knew that
HESS: That was during the time that he was U.S. District judge for the
eastern district of Pennsylvania.
MORISON: Yes. I knew that he came down here and sat outside the President's
office every weekend
and Rowena came with him, and how it occurred (Matt Connelly told me
that), and that he was determined that he had to pay back McCarran by
doing what he said, which was dismiss the RCA case and many other cases.
Well, it had gone to a point where it couldn't be dismissed. As to the
Dollar Steamship case I no longer had anything to do with; for it was
in the Civil Division the international oil cartel case, and there were
a couple of others. And he would call me to his office with Mrs. McGranery
there and say, "What about this case?" And say to me, "I don't think you've
got a case."
I said, "Well, Mr. Attorney General, I of course appreciate your view,
you've just come here, I'm sure you haven't gone over the records," but
in spite all the toughness that his wife was trying to instill in him
he didn't quite have the guts to direct me to dismiss these
HESS: Was she present most of the time?
MORISON: Most of the time. She would get up and leave, but she was there
when I came in, and maybe she'd say, "Excuse me for a minute."
HESS: Sort of in and out?
MORISON: So I pretty well began to see what was happening, and one of
the assistants came to me and said that he was persuaded that McGranery
was going to fire me. I was too much of an activist (I didn't tell him
about the other thing, about what I knew, that there were others he was
going to fire). And so before I got ready on that Saturday to go over
and turn my resignation in, I submitted plenary documentation on every
one of these cases, with underlinings to the citations of law of
the facts known, and said, "Mr. Attorney General, it is
conscience that will be bothered in trying to see that justice is done
in the United States as required by law. I hope your successor will equate
to this and take the action that properly should be taken."
HESS: How did you know about the conditions that Pat McCarran had told
McGranery that he would have to make to receive his support?
MORISON: A man who was one of the chief staff members of the Senate
Judiciary Committee became a good friend of mine. He had been in the Marine
Corps, as I was, and I'd ran through the Judiciary Committee many nominees
-- like getting Ed Tamm, who set the record straight for Edgar Hoover
as to Tom Clark's orders as to that Kansas City thing, on the bench and
many others. This senior staff man had been most helpful and useful to
me in the past. We were friends. He called
me and asked me to come up and have lunch with him, and I went out with
him, didn't go to the dining room there in the Senate building, we went
outside and he told me what he knew.
HESS: So that's how you found out?
MORISON: That's it.
HESS: All right, now moving on, although you had left the Government
by the time the political events of '52 got underway, the convention and
the campaign, let's just say a few words about them anyway. Now you have
mentioned that Mr. Truman did not want to run for a third term because
he felt it would be violating the spirit of the Constitution if not the
MORISON: That discussion came up when I wouldn't let Tom Clark send up
the first request for nomination as Assistant Attorney General of the
Civil Division, until I could tell the President about my participation,
my feeling for the third term, that is. This issue had stuck in my craw,
and by my studies and wide reading of constitutional law I felt that this
was a very basic thing overlooked by the framers of the Constitution.
HESS: One thing we overlooked on that pertains to the 1940 election.
You had been a law partner of Wendell Willkie before that
time, had you not?
MORISON: That's right.
HESS: Did you support Willkie?
MORISON: No, I did not, and I told him. I said, "I'm a registered Democrat,
now I'm not going to vote in the presidential election for the first time
in my life. I will not vote against you, even though I know you, Wendell,
are at heart a Democrat." Because he was a registered Democrat.
HESS: He had been for quite some time, hadn't he?
HESS: When did he join the Republican Party? That's well-known but I
can't recall it just now.
MORISON: Well, I would guess in the later thirties. He just came up at
the last minute, he adopted the Republican Party when he got a head of
steam. He had been making a lot of speeches and he -- it caught. Nobody
ever thought he could do it.
HESS: This wasn't too long before 1940 was it?
HESS: That's what I was thinking.
When did you first know that President Truman was not going to run in
1952? Do you recall? His public announcement was at the National Guard
Armory, at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner,
on March the 29th of 1952. Did you know anything solid and concrete before
then, or was that the first time that you ever heard him really say that
those were his intentions?
MORISON: That's the first time I ever heard him say, but I had told a
few of my confidants that if they wanted to make a bet, President
Truman would not permit his name to go up for another term, because
he considered it a third term.
HESS: Were you at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner?
MORISON: Yes. Yes, and it was no surprise to me. Now this was on principle,
because President Truman, if ever there was a scrapper who would face
any odds for principle he was it. This was not because he thought that
there was a deterioration and he would have an uphill fight. It was not
that. It was on principle that he felt that new blood of leadership in
is needed and "I must not." And he was probably influenced by
Miss Bess, his wife.
HESS: She wanted to return to Independence.
HESS: After he removed himself from the race, who did you see as the
most promising standard-bearer for the Democratic Party in 1952?
MORISON: Oh, I had some mixed feelings about it. But based on my long
friendship and high regard for Adlai Stevenson -- he epitomized to me
the man who had a scope of mind and feeling and understanding of a changing
world. I thought highly of him. He was sensitive to the injustices in
a democracy. And I think my feeling was that this would be the
man to be President of the United States. I didn't measure his candidacy
as to whether he could be elected.
HESS: What were your feelings about Alben Barkley? Mr. Barkley would
have liked to have had the nomination.
MORISON: Well, I had a strong affection for Alben Barkley and knew him
well. But I felt for the times, we needed a man like Stevenson (and this
goes in later to the two times that Stevenson ran), and I took into account
the difficulty he had of being able -- like Harry Truman -- to just speak
right straight from the heart and not worry about whether a speechwriter
had written his speech or not. He had this quality of polishing a speech
to literary quality, instead of realizing that it is the punch
on issues that are gut issues that are heard and understood.
Idealism is suspect, because after World War II and after World War I,
our people were soured on principles that had been considered
inviolate, and this was an erosive process that was going on. But I still
felt as to the character of a man that if he occupied the Presidency,
if he should be elected, we should have a man who would give his heart,
mind, body and soul to the principles I felt were right.
HESS: Did you go out to the convention in Chicago that year?
MORISON: Yes, that was '52. Yes I did. I went out there and my old friend
Gael Sullivan, who opened an office here for Estes Kefauver for Vice President.
He called me and I went down and tried to help him here and get some money,
and when I got out there Estes asked me to be his floor manager, which
I did. Paul Douglas also was a major advocate there for Estes but we got
Paul Douglas was a great guy. He was a great admirer of Kefauver, but
he picked a fellow
named Flowers, and I don't know whether Flowers was from Tennessee, Georgia,
or Alabama, as the nominal floor leader, and it was, in the beginning
like a "Chinese fire drill" I could never get a line of command and Flowers
could never be found. And Estes was very difficult to pin down, to say,
"Look, I can't be your floor manager unless I've got my representatives
on the floor who will take orders from me, because I know what's going
on, and I know the whos and whats of managing." But in any
event, by reason of that kind of a "Chinese fire drill," he was narrowly
defeated, although Paul Douglas made one of the greatest pleas to the
platform on a parliamentary issue that I ever heard. He was a powerful
man and he damn near carried it.
HESS: What was the issue?
MORISON: My recollection of the issue is that it involved the unit rule.
In one state, although
a majority of the delegation were for Kefauver under the unit rule, the
chairman of that state delegation voted for someone else, I've forgotten
who -- and cast the vote for the entire delegation.
HESS: Even though there was a unit rule?
MORISON: Right. So that aborted our effort. But the next time in Chicago,
I got him over the hump.
HESS: In '56. Were you his floor manager again that year?
MORISON: Yes, and then we had things in straight line. I established
offices out at the Cow Palace, and got it wired to the floor, and I picked
my own men. Gael Sullivan helped mightily being a Chicagoan, and either
one of us was there for any questions from any delegate or our floor people.
So we had a little better organization.
HESS: In '56 was the time that Mr. Stevenson left it up to the convention
to pick the presidential nominee and it came down between Kefauver and
Kennedy, is that right?
HESS: Did the Kennedy forces give you a tough time?
MORISON: No, they were not ready for an all out fight. Estes clearly
had the advantage over Kennedy because of his Kefauver hearings, the crime
hearings he had that had given a great deal of notoriety. This made him
the first kind of a "racketbuster," then he moved into the anti-monopoly
subcommittee of the judiciary and he was quite a guy.
He had a flare for publicity. He had a beautiful, red-headed Scotch lady
for a wife.
My great trouble with him was that Estes had a proclivity under the pressures
out with the boys and the gals and be gone for say 14 hours, and I couldn't
get with him.
I remember in '52, Walter Reuther, of the United Auto Workers, had given
him a report, they called a meeting at 2 o'clock in the morning at the
Palmer House and I went and Reuther was announcing that the United Auto
Workers were pulling out, they were not going to support him. And we got
into the most unmerciful verbal fight you ever saw in your life. I peeled
the hide off of him.
HESS: Why did he want to pull out?
MORISON: Because he had determined, "Kefauver can't win." You know, just
that realistic, and I said, "Oh, ye of little faith."
HESS: Who did he want to support?
MORISON: He wasn't sure. He didn't commit himself then, but he just wasn't
going to support Kefauver
because he had determined from his men that Kefauver couldn't get it.
HESS: In 1952 John Sparkman was nominated as the vice presidential nominee.
Who were the main ruling forces behind putting Sparkman on the ticket?
MORISON: He was noncontroversial. And the thinking was and you know,
"Why not just get him." Like that famous musical play Of Thee I Sing,"
he was considered kind of a "Throttlebottom."
HESS: Maybe to balance the ticket a little bit, since he was from the
MORISON: He was from the South, and he had been a good friend of Lister
HESS: All right, during the campaign of 1952 what in your opinion seemed
to be the relationship between President Truman and Governor Stevenson?
MORISON: They didn't have -- and I can understand it --
on ultimate issues, they would agree. Truman would say it very tersely
and Stevenson would rationalize very carefully and beautifully, and draw
upon history, draw upon all human experiences, and postulate the situation.
Truman was a direct man. He didn't want that stuff, he wanted to go right
to the issues. And he wanted to go to an issue that politically -- and
this comes from his beginnings in politics -- to determine what are the
"gut" issues that'll count; where are the American people hurting and
where must the Government help them, etc.
Well, Stevenson had a feeling for that, but he also had an idealism that
-- Truman had it, but hid it. But this was a thing that filled Stevenson's
mind. And it's a great quality in one respect, but not for a politician.
He had self-doubt. Truman never had any self-doubt. So they were just
at opposite polls in personality, background and understanding. Their
were not the kind of warm little sessions of "branchwater and bourbon"
where they could talk things over man to man very succinctly, and it was
hard for President Truman to communicate with Governor Stevenson. But
don't forget that despite the fact that Adlai Stevenson didn't have any
strong personal appeal to him, President Truman recognized that
he was an honest man, he recognized that he was an intelligent man and
he did his best in that campaign, don't you fool yourself.
HESS: Starting back early in the year, in January and February, Mr. Truman
had tried hard to get Stevenson to say that he would run and would be
the party's candidate.
MORISON: That's right, and this was one of the kind of alienating factors,
because this was self doubt on Stevenson's part, and the President
was a straight line thinker you know, "Get out in front now. You've
got this fine record as Governor. You have given fine government to the
people of the State of Illinois, which before has been corrupt in its
political management of the state, you've given it the first clean broom
it's had in many a year. Your grandfather was a vice-presidential candidate,
and you've got to get out front now."
But I remember going to a reception here, and I saw Adlai. I had seen
him off and on but hadn't seen him for some time.
HESS: Was that during the campaign?
MORISON: Oh no, before. Mrs. Merriwether Post gave a big "hoodoo" for
him here, and he had his striped pants on and I went with a dark suit
and it was pretty "posh" for me. He had a "clawhammer coat" as the President
would say, and striped
pants, and he held up the line in talking to me and to bring things up
to date that I'd missed in not hearing from him. He said something to
the effect, "I've kept in touch with your record when you were in the
Department of Justice." And I said, "Governor, get out now and let's keep
"Well, it's a hard struggle."
You see, he was having the trouble then of this wife, who was psychotic,
and he was an emotional individual, a sensitive man, and I think all of
these things had their part in this.
HESS: Did you play any particular role in the campaign?
MORISON: Yes sir, I sure did. I was Stevenson's campaign manager, first
for all of northern Virginia, and then I delegated that to somebody else
and took on the state without being asked,
because I knew that the Byrd machine was not going to do a damn thing.
And so I got my Independent Democrats together and we had...
HESS: So you were the campaign manager for the State of Virginia?
MORISON: Without title. I mean I left some of my subalterns here to run
northern Virginia. Henry Fowler said he'd take over most of that.
HESS: I believe we mentioned the other day that in 1948 was the last
time Virginia had gone Democratic in a presidential election.
HESS: What happened in 1952?
MORISON: What happened in 1952 was the -- you remember what the Virginia
delegation did at the convention, on platform issues? They threatened
to walk out again.
HESS: In '52.
MORISON: Yes. John Battle made another impassioned speech for solidarity
but the Byrd organization was solidly against Stevenson, they had nominated
Harry Byrd as a ritual. So the handwriting was on the wall, and what you
had to do was to go down to get the vote out, the vote that couldn't be
controlled through the State Compensation Board. This has always been
the trick in beating the Byrd organization as we did in '48. You see,
"Look, this fellow is for you for the first time, for God's sake get your
daggone poll tax paid, get there and get all your kinfolks there and vote."
Well, with the massiveness of the Byrd sympathizers staying away, with
the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Lynchburg newspaper, all opposed
to Stevenson, with no accommodation or offer of funds made to him by the
committee for the state where he could come and make a major address,
he just had to ignore the state. So we just did the best we could and
did better than anybody thought we could. We didn't win, but if we had
done nothing you would have had only a scattering of Stevenson
HESS: Of course, in '52 and again in 1956, he ran against a war hero.
HESS: Was there anything that the Democrats and Governor Stevenson could
have done to turn either of those elections around, '52 or '56?
MORISON: When he ran against Eisenhower the first time, if he had been
like a Harry Truman, he would have said the interest of the average citizen
in the United States, the poor impoverished employees who haven't got
jobs, this man who may have been a great general, he was picked
by General Marshall (who was my father's roommate), and he wanted more
than anything else to be the commander in chief in the battlefield,
but he picked him in self-abnegation, by saying, he was only quality,
he can get along with people. He can get all those poppin' jays and the
Joint Chiefs that are in the operational command, that is Mountbatten,
and what's the other British general, wore the...
MORISON: Montgomery, who was a poppin' jay, DeGaulle on the flank, Patton
and all the rest, he can get them to work together. He is not a strategist,
he never has been, he doesn't understand it. His idea is that the way
a command runs is, you have a good staff and they come up with the ideas,
and as long as the staff says this is what to do, then you just accept
it. You don't take any part in it. Now,
that's the way he ran the White House.
HESS: With Sherman Adams as the man calling the shots, who had literally,
the rug pulled out from under him, that rug he...
HESS: Maybe the "coat" pulled out from under him, the vicuna coat.
MORISON: The vicuna coat. But you know, if he had the guts to say, "Let's
look at this, you can't deify a man whose record is as follows..." And
biographies were out then that were, you know, saying this, and as a matter
of fact, I employed, through some of Stevenson's friends here, through
Ball who had been in the Department of State...
HESS: George Ball.
MORISON: George Ball, and another member of Ball's lawfirm -- a very
brilliant writer who had resigned
as the chief writer for -- he had to take the job which Admiral Strauss,
when he was in trouble at the Atomic Energy Commission and resigned, and
he made the proposal that he would leave the AEC and write a biography
and get it out in time.
HESS: Who was that?
MORISON: His name was Jim Aswe11. And at my request he was hired. He
was writing a biography making a comparison of Eisenhower's administration
and Ulysses S. Grant's to show the parallel.
A military man just does not have the capacity to run the
Government of the United States as its chief executive, because it's not
like an Army command in which nobody questions the superior orders.
HESS: Did he complete the book?
MORISON: He damn near got it completed and then they
junked it, they thought that it would backfire. I think they were wrong,
but that was the issue. I wanted it put out, but I couldn't get
it over, because essentially Adlai Stevenson was a very gentle man, he
was incapable of brutality.
He suffered under Johnson, which I was privy to, and under Kennedy.
After Kennedy was nominated I took Adlai Stevenson from his farewell to
our workers at the Paramount Building around the square after he made
a farewell talk to thousands and I said, "Now you've got to go Governor
and make our manners to the nominee." And I took him to see Kennedy at
his hotel across the square.
HESS: That was in 1960 in Los Angeles.
MORISON: Yes. I took him up to see Kennedy, and Kennedy was very generous
to him and said, "Adlai, if there is any position that you want, it's
yours." And he then turned to me and he said,
"Graham I know you, and I know your role in this, and anything that you
want in my administration is fine."
And the Governor just said, "This is very generous of you," and I said,
"Well, Jack, there's nothing I want," I said, "I'm practicing law now,
and I've had a long run in Government. As you know, I'm interested in
seeing democracy work in the way it is supposed to."
And he said, "Governor, you have the brilliance, the understanding, the
articulateness that is rare," and I was trying to say, "You ought to make
him Secretary of State," but he was not named. And you know everybody
at Kennedy's suite was saying you ought to stay out of there, but who
should come but Adlai's law partner, Willard Wirtz, who was named Secretary
of Labor, he's now a trustee of the Penn Central. He pushed in behind
us even though it was understood that just the two of us were going in
to pay our
respects to the nominee. And he'd made his "pitch" for a Cabinet post
and was named Secretary of Labor.
HESS: I understand that Mr. Stevenson at that time would have liked to
have been offered the position as...
MORISON: Secretary of State.
HESS: ...the Secretary of State, and didn't get it. He was offered the
Ambassadorship to the United Nations, but thought that that was sort of
second choice, is that right?
MORISON: I think that he felt that it was. That it put him in a secondary
roll in a sense as the representative of the United States at the United
Nations, heading its delegation. He had no independence as our representative.
He was hampered in this forum for he could not take a position he believed
proper and in the best interests of
the world community and the United States.
HESS: Did you get any opinions as to why he did not get the Secretary
of State job, and Dean Rusk did?
MORISON: It was a hatchet job of anti-Stevenson people. They said that
he didn't campaign as hard for Kennedy as he should. They said that he
was a visionary and a philosopher, he's too high and mighty for the task
of Secretary of State that you've got to inject into the government of
the United States. It was just pure political pressure on Kennedy by the
HESS: Is that everything we want to cover on '52 and '56?
MORISON: I think so.
HESS: Let's move on to 1960. What do you recall about President Truman's
activities that summer?
Here is a list of speeches that Mr. Truman gave in 1960 and one of them
that hits my eye in May the 2nd, of 1960, and mock Democratic convention
at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, your old alma
MORISON: Right. I was president of the student government at Washington
Lee. It was the first university in the United States to conceive and
stage as an educational experience for students, a mock presidential convention.
If the incumbent administration was Democratic, it would hold a Republican
convention, if the Republican was the incumbent, it would be a Democratic
one, and this had been established oh, back in about 1920, when the student
body was much smaller.
Well, as president of the student government and knowing my participation
in the party and the fact that I, with Wright Patman, had written the
constitution of the Young Democrats, I was asked by
the student council, of which I was chairman, and by the president of
the university, to run this while I was in college.
HESS: What year was it that you ran that? Do you recall?
MORISON: 1932, we nominated Roosevelt. They only missed naming the nominee
three times since 1920.
HESS: Is that right?
MORISON: And then neither candidate, either Republican or Democrat was
nominated, because in my time I divided the student body up and put them
into delegations by states. And the chairman that they selected had to
get in touch with the national committee, the state committee of their
state, and find out exactly what the sentiment was, what the trend was,
how it was shaping up, the ones that were favored in their minds for nomination
and so forth.
So, the president of the university in 1960 asked me if I could possibly
get President Truman to be the keynote speaker at the mock Democratic
convention. And I said that I would certainly try and that I thought he
would enjoy it. Well, I called him, I talked to Rose, his secretary, and
told her to tell him that I thought he would have a good time. He agreed
to come because he was going to combine this with some electioneering.
Dave Stowe had been asked by the President to set up the tour for him
to campaign for Luther Hodges down in North Carolina.
I had asked him to campaign in my old district, the ninth district of
Virginia, a mountain district, for Pat Jennings who is now clerk of the
House after having served eight terms, and now that I have the President's
speaking schedule in 1960 and the presidential year, I see that I am in
in stating that his acceptance to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic
mock convention held at my university at Washington Lee in Lexington,
Virginia, occurred in May of -- May 2nd of 1960, and that this was a single
event and after that the President presumably went back to Missouri, to
Independence, and from there the next engagement he had was a press conference
on May the 13th in Chicago concerning Stuart Symington.
In any event, the President, through his Secretary Rose, advised me that
he would attend and I decided I would try to make it as happy an occasion
for him as I could. And after consulting Dean Acheson and others, we agreed
that the best thing to do would be to drive down, at the proper time of
day. It was in May, and we drove near the Skyline Drive to Charlottesville,
Virginia and I had got in touch with Stanley Woodward his former chief
of protocol and Ambassador to Canada and
they invited President Truman and me to stay overnight there and said
that they would have in some friends of his in the Charlottesville area
that he would love to see and felt that the President would have a good
Well, we had a beautiful day. The spring flush was just about at its
height, and we had a nice leisurely drive down with an escort of the state
police and we got to the ancient colonial home that Stanley and his wife
owned up on a hill above Charlottesville, at about, oh, I'd say 4:30 or
5, and since I was -- Dave was not there, I insisted the Boss -- and spoke
to Stanley and his wife -- that he go in and shuck off his coat and pants
and have a little rest before dinner. And he was served a good cup of
bourbon with a little bit of ice and some mint in it, which he promptly
took out, and he went in and had a nap. He was a catnapper,
and in about 45 minutes he was up and outside and I never saw such a
gathering of beleaguered newspapermen waiting to see him.
So, he went out and had a brief talk with them, they were asking him
about the campaign and who is going to be elected and this, that, and
the other, and he engaged in his usual repartee, and they dearly loved
it. And he said, "I'll see you all in the morning now if you get up early
And they all said, "Oh, Mr. President, we'll be here, we'll be here.
We heard about those walks you go on in Washington."
And well, that evening we had a delightful dinner that Mrs. Woodward
provided and he'd invited Missy [Marguerite] LeHand, Roosevelt's secretary;
Admiral McIntire who was the White House physician for Roosevelt, and
one or two others who had retired and gone to Charlottesville, who came
from that area and who had known the
President while he was in office. And it was kind of a nippy night and
there was light rain but the Woodward's had a nice fire in the fireplace.
After a wonderful dinner, and it was one of the most joyous evenings you
ever heard of, because with telling stories, and I've related before Stanley
HESS: Not on tape.
MORISON: Oh, Stanley Woodward, among other stories that were told there,
said he felt impelled to tell this little coterie of devoted friends,
the story about the Russian Ambassador. And the President said, "Oh, Stanley,
now you can leave that out."
And he said, "No, Mr. President," he said, "they'll enjoy this, and I
know you won't mind."
And he said, "Well, go ahead. You'll probably tell it wrong."
Well, Stanley said as follows; that as chief of protocol after World
War II he suggested to the President, although he knew the President hated
social occasions, stiff collar things, that in order to aid in nourishing
the amenities with the representatives of governments from all over the
world, that the White House dinners for the diplomatic corps, which had
been suspended during the war, be reestablished.
And he said, "Stanley, that's a great idea and as much as I and Mrs.
Truman hate it, I think this is one of the jobs I've got to do." And he
said, "Well, you let me know about what you think of a date and so forth,
and I'll talk to Bess and get her views on it, and so forth." And finally
Stanley said, "I went back to my office to look over, this great idea,
and I suddenly realized that in World War II the missions and the representatives
from emerging countries that were in Washington had doubled the
size of the
diplomatic corps." And he said, "I found that you could only put at
best, chair to chair, 90 at the White House dining table, and there
were something like 200 that were classified to be of diplomatic status,
who couldn't be slighted." And he said, "I wrestled with how we were going
to do it. We finally came up with an idea. I went over to see the President
and said, 'Mr. President, this is our problem."'
The President said, "Oh, my Lord, what are we going to do?"
He said, "Well, I thought we'd do this. We will start off alphabetically
so nobody can be offended, and we'll take the first group and we will
have the invitations all prepared for date one, we will take the second
group and have them printed for a second date and they'll all be mailed
at the same time, and in that way, nobody should be offended, because
same announcement, but just for different dates."
And the President said, "Well, that sounds like a workable idea, I'm
sure that they'll understand what the situation is."
He said, "Well, I'm sure it will," but he said that the first batch of
invitations went out, and the Russian Ambassador and his wife fell in
the second group. He received the announcement, but he must have found
out through the intelligence agency that the first one was being held
on another date, prior to that. The first dinner went off fine, and we
then went to the second dinner and Hopkins, who was on duty, about, oh,
7:30 or 8 o'clock was still around the White House."
HESS: Bill Hopkins.
MORISON: Bill Hopkins, he'd answered a call from some "flunky" at the
Russian Embassy, saying that the Ambassador wished the White House to
know that his wife was indisposed and that they could not come, with
regrets, and he said, "As soon as the President got that message he called
me and he found out that the Secret Service who are always at the station,
Union Station, had reported that they saw this Russian Ambassador -- whom
the President insisted on calling Mr. Novocain -- whose name was Novikov,
and said, Mr. Novocain is a damn liar and that he had scheduled this thing
as a slight on the White House and on the President. Well, he said as
soon as I got this call from the President -- who just "blew his top"
-- and he said, "This just can't go by the boards, I'm not going to forget
this." And he said, "I want to see you first thing in the morning."
And he said, "I immediately called Dean Acheson and said, 'Dean, come
to the office early because we are going to be called to the White House."'
And I told him what the situation
was. We got there at 8:15 and he said, "The President had his teeth set
and his face was white." He said, "Dean, I want you to fire that fellow
Novocain right now. Send him home."
And he said that Dean, in his quiet and pleasant way, said, "Well, Mr.
President, I understand how disturbing this thing is to you, but I want
to remind you that we have probably one of the top men who is really an
expert on Russia, that is doing a splendid job in Russia and keeping us
well-informed, if you ask for the recall of their Ambassador, they will
promptly respond to that by calling for the recall of our Ambassador,
I think it was Chip Bohlen, and there we'll be, and we will lose a good
man in Russia at a critical time."
He said, "I know it, that may be so, but," he said, "you don't understand,
Dean, you can't hurt Harry Truman from Independence, who comes from a
farm family. I've got a pretty tough hide,
but this thing went out in the name of the President and Mrs.
Truman, my wife Bess, and this is a slight on her that I will not tolerate
it," and so he said, "we were just trembling as to what to do." And he
said, "Just at that critical moment, when I know that both Dean and I
were trying to think how we could get him away from this adamant position,
because we had learned when he set his teeth like a Missouri mule you
couldn't move him." And he said, "Just at that moment the white telephone
on his desk, his private line, rang, and he picked it up and it was Mrs.
Truman, who had gone to Independence to be with the President's mother
who was quite ill. She wanted to let the President know how she was, and
he picked it up and the course of the conversation we heard was; "Well,
Bess, I certainly am delighted to hear from you, and how's mother? Well,
that sounds much better, I'm sure that your being there
lifted her spirits and will you give her my love and tell her I'11 get
there as soon as I can, and that I wish that I could have accompanied
you, but I just could not." And evidently, Stanley said, "She asked him,
'Well, what are you doing, Harry? and he said, "Well, I've got some good
friends of yours here, Dean Acheson and Stanley Woodward. I'm just getting
ready, Bess, to fire that fellow 'Novocain,' that Russian Ambassador,
that we found out from the Secret Service, although he'd lied to Willie
Hopkins saying his wife was sick and they couldn't come to our diplomatic
dinner, they saw him and his wife get on a train going to New York." Then
he said, "Yes, but Bess, now wait a minute, honey you don't understand,
this invitation went out in my name and your name. Now I
don't mind anybody slighting Harry Truman, but I do resent slighting
the office of the Presidency, but more than anything else, any
slight upon you as my wife,
I won't tolerate. Well, Bess. Well now honey, you don't understand. Well...well...yes...well,
I guess you're right Bess, all right." And it was all over!
HESS: She talked him out of it?
MORISON: She talked him out of it, and Stanley Woodward said, "Dean and
I both had sweated down through our shoes. When she got back we called
on her and thanked her for saving us!"
HESS: She got them out of a mess didn't she?
MORISON: Yes, she did. And then there are many other stories that Missy
LeHand told about the White House days with Roosevelt, counterparts of
this, which they all enjoyed and, it was a delightful evening because
it was a comfortable one in which he was with people that liked him and
admired him and part of the Roosevelt tradition,
and he had a great feeling for Franklin Roosevelt, you know.
HESS: Did he drive on to Lexington the next day?
MORISON: Well, the next morning, I got up early, I asked one of the maids
there to awaken me, because otherwise I would have slept through it. He
got up at 6 o'clock and it was foggy and rainy and he had his cane, and
he had put on a raincoat and he started with that press corps, "at a clip,"
a fast "clip," and I'm telling you those fellow who were overweight, they
were puffing it, when they got back after puffing and blowing they were
ready for the steambaths, they were just done in, but they had a good
time with him!
We then at about 9:30 or 10, we had a good breakfast after he came back,
we had a fine country breakfast with cereal, Virginia country ham and
grits, fruits, pancakes, everything you could think
of, including a pitcher of buttermilk for they had heard that he might
want buttermilk in the morning. And we had a good breakfast and got packed
and got a police escort and by that time it had cleared and we drove from
Charlottesville across the mountains through Waynesboro down to
Lexington where Washington and Lee University is, and I took him to the
president's house, and they were all there en masse, the state police
had alerted them. The president and his wife were there to greet him.
And they let him go up and have a rest and then -- I was put up at the
president's house too.
So I heard him stirring and he had awakened, I took him on a little tour
around the campus. I took him down to the famous tomb of Robert E. Lee
where the -- one of -- supposed to be one of the two greatest reclining
pieces of statuary in the world. One's in Germany. The one at the Lee
Chapel was done by Valentine the great sculptor
from Richmond. I had -- the lady who ran the chapel and museum, Mrs.
Pournoy, and the mother of one of my professors when I was in college
and she was the custodian, and a great admirer of Harry Truman. And she
went to great lengths in opening up glass cases to let him see George
Washington's various items that had been given the university like these
surveyor's instruments, the sword that Lafayette brought from France to
give him after the Revolutionary War, a lot of Lee's papers and documents,
and he of course, being an avid history buff, was quite interested and
enjoyed it immensely.
And then the next morning we were up promptly and the students had arranged,
first, a parade through Lexington, the county seat of Rockbridge County,
with the President leading the parade in a rebuilt and refurbished Duesenberg
open top automobile, and that's a picture of the President and the automobile.
HESS: This is the picture hanging here on the wall?
MORISON: That's the picture. And I -- the crowds, country people from
all over Rockbridge County were there to see Harry Truman, and it was
like he was the President again, because they yelled and screamed
and you'd never seen such an out-pouring in your life as the country people
from that area and their admiration and affection for him.
Then from the Doremus Gymnasium, which had been set up like the Democratic
convention in miniature, with student stand-ins for delegates, and he
made a true off-the-cuff Truman platform address, and they roared and
interrupted him, the students just went wild. And it was my task, with
the help -- we had one Secret Service agent, and the state police, was
to keep the youngsters from rushing him, but he would say, "Now,
if you'll divide up a bit I want to shake your
hand and find out where you're from," and said that, "any boys here from
Missouri" he wanted to see them, and so he had a thoroughly good time,
in every respect.
And then after the convention was over which was on the 4th I guess,
his part of it was, he then -- we both went to Roanoke, he -- to the airport,
he took a plane there and I took a plane back to Washington. I even forget
who provided us the car that brought us down, but I didn't go back with
it, and my next contact with the President in that year…
HESS: Now just a couple of questions before we move on, this was before
HESS: At this time, Mr. Truman was supporting Stuart Symington.
HESS: Did he say anything about Symington's candidacy on this subject?
MORISON: He was a keynoter, he talked about the great issues of the day.
HESS: Did he say anything in informal conversations about his views on
MORISON: He had nothing to say about that at all, he kept exclusively
away from expressing any opinion.
HESS: Who did the mock convention pick?
MORISON: The convention picked the candidate, that was subsequently nominated,
Kennedy. Jack Kennedy.
HESS: All right, the one reason I mention that was not long after that,
in fact it was on July the 2nd, he held a press conference at the Truman
Library in which he said, concerning Kennedy, "Are you certain you're
ready for the country, or the country ready for you?" At this time,
two months before he had been supporting Symington, I just wondered if
he said anything about that?
MORISON: No, he felt, and we discussed it when we were riding together,
he said, "You know, the task of the keynoter is to speak to the issues,
to recall the past, to recall all of the contributions that the Democratic
Party, from its formative years in Jefferson and Jackson to Wilson and
Franklin D. Roosevelt.
HESS: The Jefferson-Jackson days?
MORISON: And all the way through the Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland,
how each Democratic administration has come to pull the country together
and to get a sense of cohesion and to get a sense of direction away from
the wrongs and evils of Republican rule. And he said, "This is what I
must do here."
HESS: Now that was his official duty, more or less, at Washington and
Lee. I was wondering if he, in informal conversation, while you were riding
along said anything about the upcoming convention.
MORISON: I didn't ask him, I didn't think I should. I might have mentioned
it, but certainly nothing that impresses me, it was a time of talking
about his administration and a lot of the things that I have related here
and I told him that I had been seeking, and that Luce Publications had
never provided me with it, a picture that appeared in Life magazine
of the President by himself near a piece of statuary or something, whether
on the White House grounds or not, in deep thought with his hand like
this, looking down, at the time of the Korean war, to exemplify the agony
and the problems of the chief executive, which I thought was a great picture.
I never have gotten that picture, it's one of the great ones.
HESS: That's one that was run in Life magazine about that time?
MORISON: Yes. During his incumbency.
And he said, "Well, Bess didn't like that."
"But I do, Mr. President," I said. Well, we talked about many things,
he asked a lot about my beginnings in the mountain country. We knew then
that I was going to meet him down in my mountain country later and I had
told him a lot about the area of east Tennessee and southwest Virginia,
I mean this schedule o£ his that came later to campaign...
HESS: He had made arrangements for that speaking trip?
MORISON: He had committed himself to Luther Hodges that he'd come down
to North Carolina and help him campaign, and while he was there that any
of the others that needed support, he would try to
lend them a hand.
HESS: All right, now let's move on to the days of the campaign, and after
Kennedy was the nominee, what do you recall about the days of the campaign
and helping Mr. Truman?
MORISON: Dave Stowe got in touch with me and said, "I need you and the
President has asked that you come and join us. We will finish up down
in North Carolina for Luther Hodges and then, at your request, we have
agreed to speak for Pat Jennings (who was running for Congress and heavy
Republican opposition for re-election from the ninth district of Virginia),
and will you set things up?"
And I told him that I would. I had the inn there at Abingdon, Virginia,
which used to be a "female academy" -- a girl's school, which now is a
fine old hotel serving good food. I got the best suite of rooms there
and I had had
my kinfolk and friends all around the area of east Tennessee, southwest
Virginia, and western North Carolina and even parts of Kentucky, to get
the word out to be on hand when his plane came in at the Tri-City Airport
near Bristol. And I prepared an address for him when he was greeted at
the airport. I knew these people would want something and he would want
to say something to them. And I reminded him of the great political romance
o£ past years in politics in Tennessee which was called the "war of the
A very famous and brilliant theologian by the name o£ Taylor, a graduate
of Princeton, came to east Tennessee as a minister and helped to found
a college near Johnson City. His farm was called Happy Valley and it was
on a river, a branch of the Watauga River and he had two sons.
The oldest one was named Alfred Taylor,
the younger one was named Robert Love Taylor.
Alfred, following his father, was a brilliant student, he was sent to
Princeton. Bob was jocular, full of fun, everything else, but also had
a penchant for oratory but was not a scholar. So, in Tennessee for the
first time, they had an open invitation for all candidates of either party
to address a great rally of both parties. You see, it wasn't long after
the War Between the States. And after that there would be the proper conventions
of both political parties.
Well, Alf was a favorite son of his father, and being a very erudite
man, he wrote a speech for Alf to be delivered as the Republican
So, Alf asked his brother, Bob, to go out on the river, under a sycamore
and having memorized the speech to recite it back and forth to his brother
and let him correct him on this speech. Well, they spent several days
doing that. Bob
had never even made any indication that he had any interest in Nashville
convention, but on the day and the occasion of the event in Nashville,
Bob showed up as one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination and
spoke before his brother Alf, and gave Alf's speech!
HESS: And stole his speech.
MORISON: Yes. And it followed that thereafter they turned out to be the
nominees of the two parties, and they traveled together in a buggy;
they slept together in the same hotel and oftentimes the same bed, and
Bob won! And this was called the "war of the roses." It was a great romance.
And so I put that in the speech. I have it somewhere. So President Truman
said in his talk -- remembering those early days in east Tennessee, and
remembering that this affected not
only Tennessee but other adjacent states who knew of it, "I'm glad to
be back on the ground where the famous war of the roses of the famous
Taylor brothers occurred."
Well, that just set them afire, that he would remember that, you see,
and my God, the speech went over big;
We then drove to Abingdon to spend the night, and the next morning at
"milking time," two old nieces of Bob and Alf Taylor way up
in years, had got their best Sunday dresses, had gotten somebody to drive
them to Abingdon, Virginia to be there at the Inn and they had
to see the President to thank him.
And I said, "Mr. President," I said, "these are the relatives of the
Taylor boys," and I said, "They've come all the way up here, they are
up in years, I think you ought to see them."
He said, "Of course I will." So he brought them right into his suite
and sat with them. I had boned him up on every detail and he recalled,
from memory, the story of how Bob Taylor pardoned from the Brush Mountain
Penitentiary this Negro farm worker for a crime, because he'd stolen a
hog. And ended up by saying, "And I will let you off for Christmas, and
I know you're going to have good ham hocks for Christmas dinner."
Well, he recounted that, and these old ladies were just in seventh
heaven. And it was in every editorial page of every newspaper in
the area, that here, Truman, the great historian who forgot nothing, had
remembered something that the younger generation didn't know -- about
the "war of the roses," and then they began to republish this. So he was
a great hit.
And then from there I took him the next day -- Pat Jennings the Congressman
(now clerk of
the House) was there, Sidney Kellum, the national committeeman from Virginia
came down from Norfolk, and the usual presidential press corps from Washington.
He went to bed early that night, he took a couple of drinks and went to
bed, but we then drove the next morning up to what had been Washington
County's poorhouse in the 1700s, and Pat Jennings had had it refurbished
to make it into a place for the AAA you know, meetings -- the young people's
agricultural thing, what is it?
MORISON: 4-H Club, and there in the field he made a rip-roaring speech
that I had written for him about the fighting ninth district, the heavy
hand of [Campbell] Bascom Slemp, who had ruled by corruption the party
in the ninth district of good Scotch-Irish people, and who was a handmaiden
of Calvin Coolidge and that the mountain district had been emancipated
by able and bold men including
George Perry, who became Governor of the state, by John Flannigan the
fiery orator who had won it, again from the Republicans, and by this young
man who came out of World War II with decorations who was the sheriff
of Smyth County, Virginia, whose record in Congress was already being
noted. And Hell's bells, they just elected Pat Jennings hand over fist,
it turned the tide, and it was a great speech. The President concluded
by stating that the old poorhouse was a product of Republican rule but
under Democratic Congressmen it was now a flourishing AAA center for young
HESS: Were you with him in Trenton, Tennessee?
MORISON: No, I was not.
HESS: That was five days later.
MORISON: No, I wasn't.
HESS: That was his next speech. Was Dave Stowe with
you when he was in Abingdon?
MORISON: Yes. Right. Right. Dave was with us all the way.
HESS: I think Dave Stowe was with Mr. Truman on each of the trips that
year, is that right?
MORISON: Right. Right, he went on them all.
HESS: I thought he did.
MORISON: And he said later, "I wish I had your help, because," he said,
"literally in this campaign for Luther Hodges in North Carolina, Luther
Hodges was ready for the hospital, couldn't keep up with Harry Truman.
He'd pull into these towns and make a rip-roaring speech and before you
know it he was gone to another one." Dave said he covered more than he
was supposed to, and that Luther Hodges was just "done in." He said, "The
image of that man just shakes you up."
HESS: That was after the convention. Did Mr. Truman say anything in favor
of the national ticket, John Kennedy, either during his speech or informally,
or was it oriented mainly to the local situation?
MORISON: It was local and directed to the particular candidates.
HESS: All right. In informal conversation did he say anything about Kennedy?
MORISON: Not that I recall.
HESS: All right, is that everything in 1960?
MORISON: That did it.
HESS: In your opinion, what were Mr. Truman's major accomplishments during
MORISON: I think, knowing his character and the allegiancies that he
had in the Senate, his
realization that he had made a mistake in making Byrnes Secretary of
State, the accommodation he made for Byrnes by nominating him to the Supreme
Court, but from...
HESS: Byrnes was on the Supreme Court before then. You see, Byrnes
was on the Supreme Court and left at President Roosevelt's request. He
served as Truman's Secretary of State.
MORISON: That is correct but he was fired as Secretary of State.
HESS: Well, more or less, yes.
MORISON: He was fired. This was hard for the President to do, but he
was doing it because he realized it was necessary. They went to Potsdam
HESS: You see Byrnes went back to South Carolina and later served as
Governor, but I don't believe he had any national jobs after that.
MORISON: Yes, and became virtually a Republican.
But the real contribution of Truman was an understanding and a great
deal of this relates to his close friendships, which was mutual, with
men of character -- with Dean Acheson; with George C. Marshall, whom he
admired, along with Omar Bradley; these were people that he equated with.
His determination that the Marshall Plan to restore the devastation of
the agriculture and industry of Europe had to be done in the interest
of not only world peace, but in the interest of the United States. This
was a great concept. It's in keeping in part with some of the things that
Woodrow Wilson, in his memoirs projected, and which were written about
him as to his concept of the League of Nations as an international forum
to avoid the devastation of war, and also the help which was never --
the Congress changed, and our membership in the League was never provided.
It killed Wilson. The concept of
international aid to the nations devastated by World War I. Although
the inceptions of the idea are still attributed to President Roosevelt,
but Harry Truman brought the concept to fruition under great difficulty
by never giving up the establishment of the United Nations. This was carrying
forward in his mind the idea of Woodrow Wilson that there must be an organization
of world governments to provide a forum for discussion and understanding
and this could only be done through some sort of an agency of this type.
President Truman worked ceaselessly and with detailed attention to the
establishment of the United Nations as a major project that must succeed.
HESS: On that point of our foreign aid, there's a school of thought that's
coming to the fore now that when we assisted the countries of Europe we
were doing it for selfish reasons, we were
merely trying to restore out prewar markets and that if Europe went under
our market would fail and therefore unemployment would result at home.
MORISON: Well, this could be the rationale of the bankers and so forth,
but I promise you that as far as -- and President Truman discussed this
one time in my presence after he had left office, with Dean Acheson, not
as in detail as I am saying it, but it verified my own conclusions about
it. This was never in my mind as far as I could see.
Let's assume the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of the Treasury,
the representatives of the American Banker's Association, the National
Association of Manufacturers, had come to him and said, "Do it for this
reason," I think he would have thrown them out of his office.
He had seen and knew from detailed reports as to massive devastation,
the poverty, the displaced persons problem which I dealt with when I went
to the Economic and Social Council, and he felt that a world could not
survive that didn't have as a victor, what all of history had shown had
happened, Genghis Khan and all the rest, did not have the compassion to
help restore the devastation and reestablish life and to give hope to
people who were hopeless.
People can rationalize in looking back a thousand times, but I'm
sure this was the thing that was uppermost in his mind and uppermost in
George Marshall's mind, and Dean Acheson's, who was, I believe, the author
of the Marshall Plan. Well, these stand out as two major achievements.
In many of the lesser important achievements, however, his basic humanitarian
understanding of what has been a misused word, the "common man" and his
significant place in our Nation, was as sensitive
as a very delicate musical instrument. He could feel and understand and
see, because he had been a poor man. And these were his great qualities
and they were reflected in so many of the things that were needed and
were done because of his intuitive feelings about our people and the clarity
of his leadership.
HESS: If you were going to list a shortcoming or two of Mr. Truman or
of the Truman administration, what would come to mind?
MORISON: Well, this is a two-faced answer. One, I understand and am drawn
to the man as a person, because he was a magnificent human being as well
as a man struggling to meet the duties of President of the United States.
The things that would arouse his "hair-trigger" anger, which was leavened
only by Mrs. Truman, was a human fault -- but the average man loved him
for this. I understand
that and it makes me feel closer to him. This was a failing and he understood
that he ought to think twice and be careful -- and he tried.
I wrote him a letter when I saw that article by [Paul] Hume criticizing
Margaret's first try at being a singer, and he wrote him a letter and
said he'd do -- he'd come down and "horsewhip" him. And I wrote him a
letter and said, "Don't forget that when the rotten press (and there were
hundreds of newspapers in Washington and Jackson's day), made aspersions
about Andrew Jackson's wife Rachel, he did go down with a horsewhip
and whip that editor. So, you've got a precedent, Mr. President, don't
worry about it."
I think probably these are the most important things. I did relate to
you about the [Harold H.] Velde thing didn't I, about the alcoholic number
two man on the House Un-American Activities Committee
who succeeded to the chairmanship, that subpoenaed him to appear before
HESS: Yes, that was after the administration, but we didn't put it on
MORISON: Oh! Well, after the President had left office, and his daughter
Margaret had married [Clifton] Daniel of the New York Times, his
first grandchild was born and he and Miss Bess came from Independence
to New York to see their grandchild. And while he was there, the chairman
of the House Un-American Activities Committee was a man named Velde, who
was a well-known alcoholic. For publicity he had a subpoena of his House
Committee served on the President, in New York, to appear and testify
with reference to the Dexter White case, the Bretton Woods Conference,
Morgenthau et al, and the effect of the Communist conspiracy that resulted
Judge [Samuel I.] Rosenman of New York who had been -- had acted from
time to time as counsel and an advisor for Roosevelt seized the opportunity
and said, "I'11 take over Mr. President." Rosenman issued a statement
to the press which was no more "Harry Truman" than a quotation from Disraeli.
It was stilted and terrible. Following that, Governor Dewey, who Truman
has trounced, saw his opportunity and demanded and got radio time and
television time -- I guess radio, maybe both, and made a scathing attack
on the President with reference to his failure to comply with this subpoena.
Well, Charlie Murphy was a partner of mine, we were then down in the
Pennsylvania Building and the call first came in for him, but Charlie
was away. So he asked for me and he said, "I want you. And when will Charlie
I said, "Tomorrow."
He said, "Well, I want you to immediately get in touch with Dean Acheson,
and you, and Charlie and Dean, get together and write me a speech about
five or six minutes long, no more than six, because I'm going to demand
equal time, and I'm going to go on radio and TV and answer that s.o.b."
And I said, "Mr. President, it will be done."
And so when Charlie came back the next day we went over to Dean Acheson's
office and were joined by Clark Clifford and we labored over each word
and each phrase. We drafted and redrafted and were getting it down in
some shape and the secretaries were coming in and out doing new drafts
and finally Dean said, "Let's take a break, get out of here and go across
the street and have a cup of coffee," which we did. And we were sitting
there and he got to reminiscing about President Truman for whom he had
affection. He said, "You know, I never will forget the President." He
said, "He didn't ask anybody's advice including the Cabinet. He didn't
call me," but he said, "you know about it Charlie, you were privy to it,"
(talking to Charlie Murphy) "when the Korean war came on General MacArthur
was making a grandstand play with his corn cob pipe just like his filmed
landing in the Philippines in World War II and he had had magnificent
offices in Japan, but he was pushing in Inchon and various landings like
this, that, and the other. And he was pushing further and further to the
boundaries of North Korea, and he had been told by Bradley and the Joint
Chiefs that he must limit his operations to the defense of South Korea
and not go beyond the 30th parallel. But knowing MacArthur's proclivity,
he wanted to get star billing. He didn't care about the fact that this
might draw the Russians right into the war, and we'd have a
major war on our hands." So he said, "The President was mad as hell,"
and shared his concern only with General Omar Bradley." He said, "Charlie,
you remember you and Reston of the Times and several others after
the President invited General MacArthur to meet him half way and you went
with him to Wake Island where they met."
And Charlie said, "I sure do remember it. The great man came in and he
fawned on the President with that eloquence of his, "You are the Commander
in Chief, sir, and I'm delighted to have you here, and to give me advice
And he said, "Well, General, I appreciate that, I know that you have
your hands full, this thing is a very great threat and menace to us and
to the world. But I want you not to make any military incursions beyond
the 30th parallel, and the reason for this is plain. If we do that we
invite at a critical time the Russians to come
to the defense of North Korea in their interest in that part of Asia.
They will say they are coming to the aid of their oppressed North Korean
friends. Thus we would have a major war on our hands and we just must
not have that."
MacArthur replied, "Mr. President, your word as Commander in Chief is
my order, and I shall obey it to the letter," and he thanked him and went
away. And he said, "Then upon the President's return to Washington MacArthur
had committed both Marines and the Army to go right into North
Korea and they were getting the hell clobbered out of them. The President
got all of the dispatches from Bradley at the Pentagon, who was chief
of staff, and he waited until 11 o'clock that night and he only called
one man, so I understand, and that was Omar Bradley. Some say he also
called George Marshall. And said, "Omar, I'm going to fire
MacArthur. Now, I figured I'd better first, though, touch base with you.
What do you think?"
He said, "Harry, you're right," he said, "he's been a thorn in the whole
military establishment because he will not accept the discipline
of a military line of command, his orders have been specific all along
by the chief of staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of our defense mechanism
is geared to those orders, and he has violated them time, and time, and
time again, without prior notification or approval." And he said, "You
know, Harry," he said, "Franklin Roosevelt wanted to fire him many times,
but he didn't have the guts to, he was afraid of him." He said, "His eloquence,
his wealthy friends has made him disregard orders. I think you're right,"
and the President promptly sent the cable to General MacArthur: "You are
relieved of your command and you shall report back to me as Commander
Chief, Harry S. Truman."
And then he said, the next day word went out about "milking time" to
all of the members of the Cabinet to be at the White House. The President
called the meeting. He said, "We all got there, and the President figured
he should see what the Cabinet had to say about it." He said, "Well, it
was like an 'Irish wake.' I'd never seen such a pall of gloom." But, he
said, "Finally Alben Barkley -- who could not stand a vacuum in conversation
-- started speaking in his inimitable style. He reviewed the whole globe
and all of the problems of the world. He came back to this situation and
said he, on measured understanding of the relationship of all world problems,
thought this action to be the right and necessary thing to do." Well,
he said, "With all that eloquence nobody thereafter said a word. It was
just a pall of
gloom." And he said, "I just couldn't stand it, it was just terrible
for the President. I felt that some of us should say to the President,
'Mr. President, we're with you,' and I decided the best thing to do was
to break it up with a little humor." I said, "You know, Mr. President,
this reminds me of my classmate at Yale. He's a banker in New York, and
he told me this not long ago." He said, "He lives out on Long Island and
he has a daughter who is about 19 or 20. She is a very beautiful young
girl and he told me he went home and dressed for dinner, and his wife
and daughter had dinner with him. He noticed that his daughter was very
quiet during dinner, for she usually was full of chatter. Well, he didn't
think anything about it, but at the end of dinner, she came by his chair
and said, 'Father, I'd like to have a private conversation with
you if you could after dinner."'
He said, "Well certainly, daughter, I'm sure
your mother would excuse you. We'll go into my library and have coffee
Well he said, "My friend went into the library and got a cigar and the
coffee tray was brought in and his daughter came in and said -- her spine
was as erect as a steel rod, and she shut the sliding doors and locked
them. And he could see that she was geting her courage up. She walked
right up to him and said, "Father, I'm going to have a baby!"
Her father said, "Whew, well, I sure am glad that's over." Well, he said,
"That kind of eased the tensions." But with that speech, which you may
remember, which he made over radio and television, the man that was hurt
the most was Thomas E. Dewey, and Congressman Velde. The members of Congress
were just peppered with telegrams for permitting Velde to do such a thing
and it was all over. Dewey was put in
his place and considered a "bad loser."
HESS: If I recall correctly there was some consideration at that time,
as to whether or not the President should accept the subpoena.
MORISON: Oh, there was a lot of controversy as to the legality of the
service of it and if an ex-President was compelled to respond. But the
President didn't want to fool with technicalities, if you know the President.
He wanted to meet it head on, which he did, and he destroyed this whole
issue and very quickly. The subpoena was withdrawn.
HESS: Okay. What is your estimation of Mr. Truman's place in history?
MORISON: I think one of the very great men in American history. We're
coming into a different age and a different breed of people, but he stands
clarity as to what I call the "water table" of the high mountains as
the best of our Nation's traditions in leadership, from the long line
of the great men who were chief executives of our country, from our earliest
days of independence following the Revolutionary War and up to modern
times. He was the right successor to the Roosevelt era (that nobody
felt he was) to pick up the tradition Franklin Roosevelt left and
to carry it on in a realistic way without fear. He was a man unafraid
and he faced into the awesome problems of that office with only the kind
of internal fortitude which a man of his upbringing possesses. My worry
today is, do we have counterparts somewhere for the leadership of the
future of that kind, because there is no office in any government in the
whole world as awesome in its responsibility as the office of President
of the United States. And this is accentuated in times of crisis, of
national crisis, so I put him with Jefferson, with Jackson, I put him
with Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt.
HESS: Do you have anything else to add concerning your service in the
Truman administration or regarding Mr. Truman?
MORISON: No, except that I can think of no experience in my life which
came to me only by happenstance that has been so much a remembered joy
-- in living life to its fullest in a commitment to the public interest.
I look back upon it, as probably the peak of a hoped for career, because
it gave me more reward, which is a reward of spirit, of feeling that you
are participating fruitfully in public events, and that you are serving
the public interest -- the needs of all our citizens.
HESS: Thank you very much.
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