Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Oral History Interview with
Philleo Nash

Special Assistant for Domestic Operations, Office of War Information, 1942-45, and special consultant to the Secretary of War, 1943. Special Assistant to President for minority problems, 1946-52, and an Administrative Assistant to the President, 1952-53. Later served as Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, 1959-61, and as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1961-66.

Washington, D.C.
June 8, 1967
by Jerry N. Hess

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


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

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

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened October, 1973
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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



Oral History Interview with
Philleo Nash

Washington, D.C.
June 8, 1967
by Jerry N. Hess

 

[701]

HESS: To continue today, Doctor, we were discussing your association and your problems in dealing with Indians in the White House, and I have a couple of other questions: One, do you remember anything in particular that might not be known about the E. Reeseman Fryer incident, I suppose it may be called? In your papers, I found some evidence, he was an Indian serviceman who resigned his post in December of ' 50 after pressure was placed on him by Senator Pat McCarran in Nevada. It was something to do with water rights.

NASH: Yes, I remember it very well.

HESS: Anything in particular that's not well known about that incident?

NASH: I don't know how much of it's known and how much of it isn't. I can tell you briefly about the incident.

E. Reeseman Fryer, is a very well known career man in the Indian Service. He had been superintendent of the Navajo reservation, and there was charged with carrying out the Collier administration policy and the Navajo tribal council policy of reducing the livestock on the Navajo

 

[702]

reservation to the carrying capacity of the range. This was bitterly resisted by many of the Navajo, almost resulted in violence, and after carrying out these very difficult duties in a conscientious way, he was relieved and then placed in charge of another hotspot, the Nevada jurisdiction.

Here, in essence, the problem was a far too common one in Indian affairs. The Pvramid Lake Indians and others in Nevada had a very clear legal right to water, which they were not getting. The reason they were not getting it was that non-Indian stock raisers were in trespass, and were not being removed by the Government, and there was no cooperation from the State officials. Under State law they were held not to be in trespass. Although there was a Supreme Court decision on it. Senator McCarran regularly introduced S-1 in each session of the Congress, the effect of which was to void the Supreme Court order by giving the Indian lands to the stock raisers who were in trespass.

All of them, incidentally, were ethnic, they were mostly Basque, or Italian, but I think mostly Basque, great constituents of Senator McCarran. There were three

 

[703]

in particular, very large operators, who were occupying these Indian lands in violation I won't say in violation of the law but in denial of rights which had been held to be the Indians' by the court. Superintendent Fryer attempted to obtain the water rights for the Indians, and in so doing ran afoul of Senator McCarran, who called up the Interior Department and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and threatened to withhold the Indian Bureau appropriations if Fryer were not removed.

The Basques are an ethnic group that come from the Pyrenees Mountains and they are on the border between France and Spain. They are very famous sheep raisers. Many of the sheepherders in the West are Basque, and some of them got to be very large operators indeed, and three of them in particular were large and were doing so at the expense of the Indians.

There were some other water right problems there, it didn't only involve trespass, in a situation where the Indian held lands were made useless because the water holes were fenced off. In that country if the sheep can't get to water they can't eat the grass even if you've got access to it. So quite often, there were

 

[704]

key tracts which regulate the use of tens of thousands of acres, and whoever holds those, then, in effect, holds the key to all the rest of it.

In addition to that, there's another water right problem in this part of Nevada. The Indians hold prior rights on the Truckee River, but they are at the end of the water chain. Various diversions, some of them Federal, some of them private, all of them countenanced under state law and various adjudicated water rights, where the Indians' water rights were either denied or were subordinated to the others, take the water before it gets to the Indians. The result is that it's only in a very heavy period of runoff that any water at all flows into Pyramid Lake, although by law, the Indians are entitled to a very substantial portion of it, not all of it. Pyramid Lake is a very beautiful desert lake, and it is known to have dropped many feet during the period when this water was not coming into it. This is the only source of incoming water to Pyramid Lake.

Well, it so happens that Mr. Truman was in a big fight with Senator McCarran at this point over the McCarran Act, and he was about to veto the McCarran

 

[705]

Act, and the only way in which we could salvage the Indian Bureau appropriations -- they had already been hit by reduced appropriations -- was to sacrifice the superintendent who was putting up a fight for which he didn't have the adequate backing, and there hadn't been adequate backing for a number of years.

So this was just a case where Mr. Truman just didn't think he could take on two issues with one man all at once, and the McCarran Act involved a lot more people than the water rights, so as so often happens in history, the decision was made to give this lower priority, and I was handed the assignment of taking care of Mr. Fryer.

Since he was a very competent man and a great soil, conservationist, and was getting a very raw deal, in my opinion, from the executive branch, I didn't condone what was being done to him at all, I didn't think he exercised very good judgment in taking on this issue before he found out whether he had any troops behind him. But at any rate, I didn't see any reason for his getting hurt on that issue, if it had not been for the McCarran Act being up at that time, Oscar Chapman and Mr. Truman probably would have gone down the line for him, because

 

[706]

neither one of them had any love for Senator McCarran, and the Indian rights were perfectly clear in this situation.

So, the point 4 program was just getting under way, and Ambassador [Capus Miller] Waynick was the administrator, and I went over to see him, told him the whole story. I said I thought we had an exceptionally good man in Mr. Fryer. And he said, "We need a man like that in the point 4 program and I'll talk to Secretary Chapman," and so on. So, ultimately, within just a matter of a few days, Fryer transferred to the point 4 program where he served with a good deal of distinction, for about five years. In the Eisenhower administration, nearly all of those people who had come into point 4 from the Indian Service (and he brought a great many people with him from the Indian Service to point 4), were all thrown out. It was a very bad thing to have done. They were very competent people and they were replaced by essentially trade development types rather than community or resource development people.

Fryer continued -- oh, he went up in the organization. He got a couple of steps promotion -- a couple of grades in the civil service that put a little salve on his

 

[707]

wounds, and somebody else went in as Nevada superintendent, and nothing was done about water rights, or ever was.

Now, when I became Indian Commissioner, Mr. Fryer had been in the Middle East for several years. He stayed on there in private business after he left the point 4 program. He came back to this country about 1959 or '60, and was at liberty when I became commissioner. So by this time, he had had five years private economic development experience in the Middle East, five years with the point 4 program, many years in the Indian Service, plus wartime duty in Latin America in the economic development field, so I grabbed him and recommended him to Mr. Udall as assistant commissioner for economic development. And he headed the economic development program during all the five years that I was commissioner. His performance was outstanding; we got a housing program started; we got industrial development magnified many, many times; all sorts of improved resource development features of a new and more modern variety were put in under Mr. Fryer's direction. Unfortunately, the same bullheadedness and strong will that caused him to get into trouble in Nevada, plus a strong feeling of being

 

[708]

right when everybody else was wrong, interfered between him and me at the end of my service as Indian Commissioner. So, we were not on the best of terms at the time I left. He retired only seven or eight months afterwards. He was certain that very large plants were the answer to the poverty on the Indian reservation, and my feeling about that was that there's nothing wrong with large plants, but that a large number of small plants will be much better received by the Indians, would have more permanent effect, and that you can make haste too slowly. Besides he's very grandiose in his thinking and is today. To my mind, this is a handicap in dealing with Indians, and I think it has been a handicap to him all his life and it certainly did represent a substantial difference of opinion between him and me.

HESS: Regarding Senator Pat McCarran, what were your relations with Senator McCarran at the time that you were in the White House in dealing with Indians or any other matters?

NASH: None whatsoever.

HESS: On March 29, 1948, the President sent a letter to Secretary Krug upon signing the bill authorizing

 

[709]

distribution of capital reserve funds for the Klamath Indians. I merely picked this out of the Public Papers because I saw the Klamath Indians, your old tribe. Anything come to mind about that? I didn't know if you had any association with that or not.

NASH: I had nothing to do with it and it's only a ministerial act.

HESS: When I saw the words "Klamath Indians," I thought "Well, I'll xerox this and show it to Dr. Nash."

Do you have anything further to add on the subject of Indians?

NASH: No.

HESS: The next card that I have is dealing with Mr. Max Lowenthal. Doctor, what was Max Lowenthal's relationship to the President and to the White House staff? What do you recall about Max Lowenthal?

NASH: Well, Max Lowenthal was in and out of various people's offices. I used to see him in Matt Connelly's, occasionally around in the halls. I don't know exactly where else I ever saw him and not very often, but I had the impression that he was in and out a good deal, and of course he was an old friend of Matt's, and of the President's, because he'd been general counsel on

 

[710]

the ICC. Then when the President was a Senator and had the investigating committee, it seems to me he had some functions in connection with it, maybe just of an informal kind. You don't think he was ever counsel to the Truman Investigating Committee?

HESS: I'm not sure. I know that he was to the Interstate Commerce, but . . .

NASH: I sort of think he might.

HESS: He may have had some contacts, but I'm sure he wasn't counsel. You know, they had Hugh Fulton, the head counsel to the committee, and Charles Patrick Clark was on that, but I don't believe that Lowenthal was there.

NASH: Well, I had nothing to do with the Truman investigating committee. I didn't know the President at that time, I was occupied with other matters, and didn't even know the names of the people, and was therefore dealing with an impressionistic rumor. As I never had any individual dealings with him, none of his affairs touched any of mine, nor did Dave Niles, although Dave knew him. Because he wrote a book about the FBI, it's been rumored that he had a lot to do with individual security problems. If he did, it's news to me.

 

[711]

HESS: I have understood that he ran an operation somewhere in the basement of the White House during the 1950s, sort of an instant reply committee, more or less, to the accusations that McCarthy was throwing around at that time. Did you ever hear about that?

NASH: No, I certainly did not. We had an instant reply committee in the campaign of 1952, as we did in . . .

HESS: I just used the term, you know.

NASH: Yes, 1948, but I'm just not aware of that having gone on. Now, like a great many other things that took place at that time, if it didn't concern an assignment of mine, I made it my business to keep my nose out. The fact that I didn't know it doesn't mean that it's not true. It merely means that I didn't know it.

HESS: There was a man by the name of Herb Maletz who was down there with him during that particular time.

NASH: I never heard of him, and did not know about the operation.

HESS: Anything else about Max Lowenthal?

NASH: No.

HESS: All right.

 

[712]

Concerning the President's Commission on Internal Security and Individual Rights, the Nimitz Commission, that did not get off the ground, were you involved in any of the decisions to establish the committee or to staff the committee?

NASH: I was not involved in that in any way.

HESS: In any way. All right, fine.

The next card that I've had here for months: What did you do in relation to Puerto Rico, Samoa and the Virgin Islands?

NASH: Well, I had something to do with all three at various times. In 1947, the then President of the Puerto Rican Senate, Luis Muñoz-Marin, and his wife, Dona Ines Muñoz-Marin, came to Washington, and they came in an effort to get the Senate off the dime on the confirmation of Mariano Villaronga as Commissioner. I'm sure I've told you this story.

HESS: Yes, we've covered that.

NASH: All right, so there's no point in going over that again. Now, this led me to an interest in Puerto Rico, in fact, my wife and I had been planning a vacation into the American Southwest and the Muñoz-Marins persuaded

 

[713]

us to go to Puerto Rico and ultimately on to the Virgin Islands. And this, of course, was just about eighteen months before the election of 1948. William Hastie, now Judge Hastie, was the Governor of the Virgin Islands, so we saw a good deal of him and his family. This led me to an interest and also to some feelings about the President going down there, and what kind of a reception he'd get and what ought to be done and so on, and to a limited extent, the same thing was true of Puerto Rico. Consequently, when it became known that the President was going to the Virgin Islands rather shortly, and this meant, naturally, a stopover in Puerto Rico, I sort of asked for a hearing on some of my thoughts, and ultimately got the assignment of preparing various remarks which I think we've already asked about. This led to an interest in Puerto Rico, which has been continuous from that time still this. I don't know how much of this I've covered before, so in order to avoid repetition, let me ask you.

HESS: We haven't covered about the constitution of Puerto Rico. We put that off until now.

NASH: All right. Then we'd better tell about that now.

 

[714]

We eventually found it impossible to get the Senate of the United States to back off its views that Mariano Villaronga would be an unsuitable Commissioner of Education because he wanted to teach the children in the language of their own homes, namely Spanish. This raised the question in Mr. Truman's mind as to why he had any responsibility for appointing these people at all, and he said in that case we needed to modify the whole Puerto Rican Relations Act. So, he set about this and of course the basic work was done in the Interior Department. This was not a staff job for the White House. But I just kept an eye on it in terms of the President's interests and obligations. I particularly recall that he said if he couldn't change the constitution, at least he could appoint a Puerto Rican as Governor. And this laid down a policy which he followed as far as he could in all the territories and possessions, of appointing local people. And at that time the territorial delegate was Jesus T. Pinero, and I can recall Mr. Truman asking, who is the person that had the most votes, who has come closest to receiving a popular mandate.

And I said, "Well, there's only one island-wide race right now that would come anywhere near that description,

 

[715]

that is for the non-voting representative in the United States Congress. So he said, "Then that's the man I'm going to appoint Governor." So he did. But then he said, "I shouldn't be appointing Governors, I don't like it. They should choose their own. So, let's get that done." And again the Interior Department went to work on it, and eventually came up with a bill which provided for the election of Governor, and which left out the appointment by the President of many minor insular positions, among them Commissioner of Education. So, my friend, Muñoz-Marin, was then elected Governor, rather than appointed, in modern times. And, of course, he immediately appointed Villaronga as head of the education department, secretary of public instruction.

But the constitution was really still inadequate, and a lot of work was done on getting it remodeled. In the meantime, the statehood issue kept coming up, and it was interfering with the important work to be done in Puerto Rico, and Muñoz-Marin, who was a very brilliant operator, decided that the right thing to do was to take various statements that had been made in the Congress

 

[716]

of the United States at their face value and conduct a plebiscite and let people say whether they wanted statehood, independence or some other relationship. The first of numerous plebiscites was conducted. Statehood received a very small vote, independence an even smaller vote, and it was obvious that the Puerto Ricans basically liked their relationship with the United States, which had many advantages and still does. So, on the strength of this, Muñoz conceived the idea of a constitution which would be based upon a different constitutional relationship than had existed up to that time, between the island government and the United States Government. And so he developed and lobbied himself for the Puerto Rican Relations Act, which was. an amendment to the Foraker Act, which had regulated the relationships between the United States and Puerto Rico since about 1916.

Now, Muñoz was, and still is, of the opinion that this constitutes a new constitutional relationship. Constitutional lawyers that I know don't agree with him, and this is really a very serious matter, because you cannot alter the United States Constitution by an

 

[717]

act of Congress, but whatever is there and whatever has been done by an act of Congress could theoretically be undone by another act of Congress.

Nevertheless it's on the strength of this modification of the Puerto Rican Relations Act that the Puerto Ricans went ahead and convened a constitutional convention, and Muñoz-Marin was successful in getting the words written into the act "in the nature of a compact," and this is his foundation for saying that there is, in fact, a new constitutional relationship well there is a new statutory relationship, and Muñoz believes you can't back up on a compact. The United States Congress has frequently undone legislation that is done and when it creates these rights then if it takes them away afterwards, there may be a money responsibility, but it does have the power to take away the rights. Well, Muñoz says that money can't pay for rights like this. This is a non-monetary proposition, at any rate.

HESS: Did you work with Donald Hansen on the writing of the constitution?

NASH: Yes, by this time. Don Hansen had come aboard from

 

[718]

the Treasury Department to handle a number of legal matters, and he happened to get this particular one. What happened is that the Puerto Ricans convened the constitutional convention, rewrote their constitution, a most interesting document with many novel features in it, and the enabling act, like all similar acts, just set forth two requirements: That it provide for a republican form of government and that it contain a bill of rights. And then it called upon the President of the United States to review the constitution when it had been drafted and to submit it to the Congress with a report indicating that it did in fact conform to the statutory requirements, and that he approved it.

In 1952 in the spring, the Bureau of the Budget made the necessary review. They are sort of professorial and not necessarily working politicians, and they were somewhat alarmed by the provision of an accordion pleated legislature. They had several unique features in this constitution and the one that seemed to throw the Bureau of the Budget the most was the provision that in the event of one party receiving more than

 

[719]

two-thirds of the votes in the election, then the constitution would simply provide for the legislature to be enlarged to provide for enough minority representatives to get the majority below two-thirds. And this was to be done on a pro-rata basis depending on the vote for Governor in the election. So, they were sure this wouldn't work, and they were not sure the President ought to approve it, and it alarmed them, so we had a little discussion with the President about it, and he said, "Well, now, let me see, I don't know whether that would work or not, but how many precincts did the Bureau of the Budget carry in the last election?"

I said, "Well, I don't know, I don't think very many, Mr. President."

He said, "How did Muñoz do?"

I said, "Well, he took nearly all."

He said, "Well, in that case, we had better do what he wants, because he's more likely to know what it's all about."

So, we did it that way.

Now, the thing that really caused us trouble, the Bureau of the Budget just didn't notice, and I can

 

[720]

see why. It's no criticism of the Bureau. There was a provision in there which said, oh, roughly as follows: "It shall be the obligation of the commonwealth to provide employment for every able-bodied man who desires it within the limits of the economic development that has taken place at any given time." So, anybody reading this knows, well, that there ought to be work if there is work, is about what it means. And we transmitted the document to Congress with the appropriate executive communication. The House passed it; when it got to the Senate, they balked. And who balked was Olin Johnston. And he had a law and business partner who had had some trouble with the commonwealth government about some housing, and nothing was said about the housing, but Senator Johnston picked up this language and he said that it was communistic. By this time, we were getting fairly close to the time when they wanted to proclaim it. The anniversary of the landing of troops in Puerto Rico on the south side of the island at Guanica is in July, I think the 25th of July. This is a very important date to the people of Puerto Rico. They are very proud of their relationship to the United States

 

[721]

and this marks the day on which it began. So, it is a significant local holiday. They wanted to proclaim the Commonwealth on the 25th of July, but time was getting away from us. Senator Johnston was being very sticky and Senator 0'Mahoney, who had been chairman of the Senate committee, just said in so many words, he couldn't get it through with that language in it. So, Muñoz flew up to Washington and we had a little visit in my office and he said, "What's the problem?"

And I told him.

And he said, "Well, we only recessed the convention, we'll reconvene it and change the language."

I said, "Well, that might be the only way in which we could get it done, but I'm not sure that the President will want to back down. He's reviewed this; he didn't see anything wrong with it, he doesn't now, and frankly I don't think he believes that this is the real reason why Senator Johnston is opposing it. I think it's just out of pique because his partner had a fight with the island government."

So, he said, "Well, we can't let that stand in the way. You would put this in the preamble, we put it in

 

[722]

the body, that's the only difference. It's a statement of intent and we'll change it. It's very important that we have the constitution, and have it right away, and the language isn't worth it."

So, we went over to the Senate, and sat down with Senator 0'Mahoney and the territorial representative, Dr. [Antonio] Fernos-Isern, took part in some of the discussions, and we finally made it clear to Senator 0'Mahoney that the language could be changed and that it was not a positive obstacle and that it could be done very quickly. Muñoz and I had worked on some language and Fernos-Isern had that and he brought it in. It was his job to sell this to Olin Johnston. Now, he was aided in this by a draft letter which I had in my pocket which said, "Dear Mr. President of the Senate, Dear .Mr. Speaker of the House," etc. It said in rather Trumanesque language that he had found that it was a good constitution, that he didn't especially care for somebody taking exception to this on the basis of language and one House had already agreed to it and just, you know, just exactly what did they think they were doing anyway. I handed this at one point to Senator

 

[723]

0'Mahoney. We had to persuade him somehow that it was necessary to move, not that he was against it, but it was not very easy to deal with a member of the committee on a problem of this kind. I didn't say it was going to be sent. I said, "I hope this letter will not be sent."

He looked at it and he said, "Oh, we couldn't have that; that would be terrible."

I said, "Yes, I hope it isn't going to go."

Well, it wasn't going to go. It had never been on anybody's typewriter but mine. And I wouldn't have dreamed of submitting anything like that to the President, but I thought maybe we might nudge Senator 0'Mahoney a little bit if he thought Mr. Truman's reputation for letter writing was about to be glorified some more. So, with that letter in front of him, he shook his head a couple of times, picked up the phone and called Olin Johnston and said, "We've just got to do something." So, that did have the effect of pushing him over the edge. And he handed it back to me without a word, and of course the letter never went any further. It never was intended to go any further.

 

[724]

HESS: It had served its purpose.

NASH: It had served its purpose. But in the meantime, it turned out that if the language was taken out Olin Johnston wouldn't object, and then the other language, the subsequent language was put in, Muñoz flew back to Puerto Rico, twenty-four hours later the constitutional convention had amended the proposed constitution, the objectionable language was taken out, and the thing sailed through in a matter of three or four days. And at the end of that time they proclaimed the Commonwealth, as of 25 July 1952.

Now, on the matter of the Virgin Islands, of course, I paid quite a bit of attention to Virgin Island's affairs, during the time that I was in the White House, but mostly in connection with the Governor. Bill Hastie campaigned very hard for Mr. Truman in '48, and long before 1952, he had a desire to leave and Mr. Truman thought he was needed there, but he also wanted to make him a judge. He wanted somebody of Hastie's caliber, and who was a Negro, to be a top, presidential appointment. So, this was done and that left the governorship vacant, and in line with the policy that Mr. Truman had expressed,

 

[725]

he wanted to have a local appointment. Naturally, Mr. Truman insisted on good qualifications. We ran into the usual troubles, that is, this had always been a non-Virgin Island appointment, and the Negro politicians had come to think of it as an American Negro appointment. So, we had some rather hard times, but eventually Mr. Truman's wishes prevailed, and they accepted gracefully the idea that it would be a non-Negro appointment as long as it was a local appointment and there was a separate justification for it. Naturally, we accommodated the politicians' desires and found a suitable person who was acceptable to the politicians for the second job. So, you had a non-Negro, Virgin Islander for Governor, and an American continental Negro for government secretary, which is the number two job. Now, in subsequent years the Republicans reverted to the earlier practice, and appointed an American Negro as Governor. One of the first things that Jack Kennedy did when he got in was to go back to Mr. Truman's policy, and he appointed a Virgin Islander without respect to race, Governor [Ralph M.] Paiewonsky, who is the very successful Governor down there right now.

 

[726]

We had some serious economic problems, and one of my original interests in economic development grew out of, not only Puerto Rico, but out of the Virgin Islands. One of the instruments for economic development there that was available to us was the Virgin Islands Corporation, VICOR, and this was a Federally chartered economic development corporation, which attempted to be responsible for the economic development of the islands using as instruments some soft loans, the purchase where necessary of idle sugar lands converting them to other purposes, industrial development, tourism, and the like. Eventually it got to be a pretty good-sized corporation, carrying on a good many activities of its own, but when the Virgin Islands government became strong enough so that it could handle these things by itself, then the powers were transferred to it. But Mr. Truman's sponsorship of this Federally chartered corporation, as a means to encourage economic development is not very well-known and that's why I'm putting it on the record. I think that's about all.

On Samoa and Guam, here again we have to say a little bit more. Civil government in all the countries that were taken from Spain in the 1898 war have been

 

[727]

a kind of a headache to this country ever since, because we don't quite know what to do with them. The Philippines we held and administered and then gave independence in connection with World War II. Puerto Rico doesn't want it that way. Guam hasn't wanted it that way, and American Samoa hasn't wanted it that way, but the other things that went with it weren't very acceptable either and some of them are not very well understood. For example, I found out when I got this assignment (I had to do some research on it), that civil government in Guam and also in American Samoa depended -- we got them in different ways -- let's go back and only take Guam. Civil government in Guam depended upon an Executive order that was signed by William McKinley, as President. It was about a three line order and it simply said that until further presidential action that governance in Guam, recently captured from Spain, would be vested in the Secretary of the Navy. And right up until after the death of President Roosevelt, that was the basis for any kind of governmental action, courts, titles, whatever process there was was based on that three line presidential order. Well, this isn't a very good basis

 

[728]

if you're trying to protect individual rights and think highly of civil liberties and so on. Mr. Truman, when he found out about it, was some put out. So, he said, "That ought to be straightened out right away."

So, we began to develop organic acts for Guam, and then also for all the parts of the United States overseas, whether they were incorporated or unincorporated territories, that didn't have them, or which had weak instruments. Well, they all needed improving, so this is how we got into quite an extensive program of upgrading and updating the instruments that provided for government in all these offshore territories. We were not successful with the Canal Zone. This has been a sticky problem and some of the things that we've attempted to deal with unsuccessfully, were the cause of a lot of the friction with the Panamanians in more recent years.

You didn't say anything about the Trust Territories of the Pacific, but that also ought to be included in your list of questions because this was dealt with by the Navy as one package: American Samoa, Guam, and the Trust Territory, even though they came about in different

 

[729]

ways. The Trust Territory, of course, was the Japanese mandated territory, and then we took that from the Japanese in the Pacific campaign in the course of World War II. There was a strong feeling in quite a number of government departments, primarily in State and Interior, that these territories ought not to have a military administration, that they ought to be out of the military mission oriented department entirely. The State Department felt this way because they knew that the United Nations would be looking over our shoulders of our Trust Territory, although they had no right to do so on Guam; our jurisdiction over Guam is older than the League, let alone the United Nations. But the President felt it was one package, and a great deal of that was handled -- of course it was basically a State and Interior problem, but there was a coordinating committee and this meant that things were apt to fall between two or more stools, and the real operator on it was Admiral Dennison. He, of course, was Navy all the way, but he was a fine scholar, a fine gentleman, and was very careful to follow out the President's instructions, even though he could never see how anybody could possibly

 

[730]

have a better hospital than a Navy hospital, consequently, what was wrong with Navy rule, and it was sea transport, wasn't it, and the Navy understands that all the way. I was, to some extent, on the fringes of that side of that problem, but I thought it was related to the President's whole civil rights package.

The President's Committee on Civil Rights, made all these things a part of its recommendation, consequently, I didn't think it was right or proper to let any of this go just because nobody called me in and said, "You know, you're supposed to look after this." The general area that was defined by the Civil Rights Committee after 1948 increasingly became my area, therefore, I just made it my business to work with Admiral Dennison and with others on it. Of course, when we got into the Korean war, then right away Guam became a very important leaping off point, and it was necessary to restore military rule there for a while. So, this was done, but again, when the Korean war was over, the way was clear for the civilian rule and the first civilian Governor and so on, and it was done.

Once again, the reason I'm putting these on the

 

[731]

record is that these are obscure, there's no public for this type of activity in this country. All the Samoans in the United States added up together wouldn't you know…

HESS: They wouldn't be holding a rally in Lafayette Park.

NASH: They wouldn't be holding a rally in Lafayette Park, or any other one today. Consequently, unless somebody cares enough to put these things on record, they really don't get known. But this was a part of Mr. Truman's record as a civil rights President, because his instincts and intuitions led him to whenever there was the option, to civilian government versus military government, constitutions and proper organic acts, as against Executive orders, to elected popular officials against the wisest appointment that he knew how to make. He just didn't think it was his right to do it. And we really moved a long ways forward in all these areas as a result of his own feeling about it.

HESS: All right. All on that?

NASH: That's all.

HESS: I have a general question on pressure groups. In your files at the Library I found several letters and memoranda

 

[732]

from Herman Edelsberg, of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, and also many letters and memoranda from Jack Kroll, director of the CIO Political Action Committee, and I have just sort of a combination question: What types of political assistance came from such organizations and how effective do you think the pressure, if you want to use that word, influence, of these types of organizations, not just these two, but these types of organizations are on the operation of the White House, on the staff of the White House?

NASH: Well, you can't do your work on the President's staff if you don't have daily contact with organizations like this, because in certain areas, let us say in the field of agriculture, the Department of Agriculture makes it its business to have a relationship with the farm organizations, many, many different kinds: national, local, commodity, cooperative, and so on, whether they agree with their policies or not. The same thing is true of Veterans' Administration and veterans; of the Labor Department and organized labor; Commerce, and the business associations; of the Interior Department and

 

[733]

the conservationists; State Department and the Foreign Policy Association, etc. In the area of human rights civil rights and minority group representation -- there is no government department and especially in the days that we're talking about. You didn't have a Civil Rights Commission, you didn't have a Civil Rights Division, you just had a section in the Department of Justice, and so on. Many of the things that are done by hundreds of people today were being done very inadequately by Dave Niles and myself, you see, in the Truman era. So, among other things, we made it our business to keep contact with the organizations. In the civil rights field, the NAACP and the Urban League, this was before the days of CORE -- CORE existed but it' wasn't big enough to be influential. When Dave was handling matters connected with the independence of Israel, and the partition of Palestine, it was the Jewish groups. And since they've always been interested in civil rights, to the extent that they made common cause of the Negro organizations, then it was his and my business jointly to work with them.

Now, some of these groups are extraordinarily

 

[734]

effective, and some are effective in some ways, but not in others. But it's important to know what they're thinking; it's important that they know what you're doing. They are one of the major links with the constituency, and a President who is detached from them is short of information, and they are short of information about him. So the President can never afford to be cut off from these groups, however small, or apparently ineffectual. They're not always ineffectual just because they seem in certain respects to be that. Some of them are very large and very powerful, and they frequently get into matters that don't appear to be the direct concern of service.

HESS: What would you say would be an effective organization? What comes to mind when you think of the most effective organization of this type that you've dealt with in the days of the Truman administration?

NASH: Well, you mentioned Jack Kroll, the Political Action Committee of the CIO, was an extremely effective pressure group?

HESS: What makes an effective pressure group?

NASH: Well, in the first place, the fact that they are in

 

[735]

contact with the members, and that they are keeping the members informed, that they have a body of views, that they are familiar with the governmental programs, and their adequacy for reaching the program objectives that the pressure group has for itself; and that they have political capability. What gives the PAC its power, and this has been rather slow to grow, is its ability to do certain things that one might think of normally as the province of the party in power, which party isn't always good at doing, getting out the vote, for example, organizing registration drives. Voter education sometimes is done much better by non-party groups where the people who think alike get together. regardless of party. The effectiveness of groups like this varies with the nature of the program. The NAACP today is regarded as too conservative by many of the Negro people, but in my early days in Government the most frequent question I was asked was whether they were Communists, because they were militant -- in terms of the level of militancy in those days, they seemed militant, today they seem very non-militant. They are, of course, extraordinarily effective in court. Thurgood

 

[736]

Marshall, now the Solicitor, was then their general counsel and had a record of, oh, something like twenty-seven out of thirty Supreme Court cases that went his way.

HESS: Very effective.

NASH: Yes. This was the method they chose to work. The Anti-Defamation League has been developed over the years with a great deal of effectiveness when it comes to removing offensive references to minority groups from the mass media. This was what they were organized to do. When they got started, half a century ago, it was not considered bad taste to tell race jokes and ethnic jokes in show business; well, today this wouldn't be tolerated in the movie; television, on the radio, and it's only the cheapest and most vulgar media, in fact, some that deliberately attempt to be that, because they're prejudiced to start with, that do this sort of thing. Well, this is one of the measures of an effective pressure group.

Now, when it comes to political action, sometimes, you may have a program that is very important to put over, and one of the things that you have to do is make

 

[737]

an accurate head count, how many votes have you got and how many do you not have in the Congress, or in the committee. If you've got a very close count the pressure groups get to be very important. So then one measure of effectiveness is, can they get expressions, individual expressions from the members all over the country at the time where it's needed and addressed to the committee member or a member of Congress who isn't quite sure, and therefore who may respond either to persuasive arguments or maybe to the just sheer weight of numbers.

HESS: Is there any particular pressure group that was not effective? Which pressure group do you think was least effective?

NASH: Oh, this is an impossible question to answer. They vary at different times. It depends on what you want them to do.

HESS: That's right. Some might be strong in one point and weak in another.

NASH: Sure, or at some times, the symbol of one is so good that even a slight effort is enough for a particular purpose at a particular time.

 

[738]

HESS: All right, everything on that?

NASH: Yes.

HESS: Oh the general subject of public opinion mail, to what degree did the public opinion mail that came into the White House influence staff decisions?

NASH: Well, not very much, and yet, you always take account of it. In other words, I can't think of anybody that would recommend to the President that he follow a particular course of action just because the mail was against it. On the other hand, if you're doing something and the mail is for it, you're reinforced in the feeling that you're doing right. So, I think it depends a good deal on how secure you are in the course you're recommending.

HESS: Some time ago, in one of the interviews that we had, we touched on public opinion mail in relation to Palestine, and you said that you had some things, and we put that off until now.

NASH: Yes, I remember that.

Well, by way of introduction, do you recall whether I mentioned how we handled the FEPC mail? We took five thousand communications at random, and then broke

 

[739]

them down, pro and con, and percentage wise by the state of origin, and then matched that against the likelihood that a given number of communications would come from that state if the people thought proportionately exactly as the state in proportion to the country as a whole. And then some states were over and some were under and some were even. This was rather amazing how closely this matched the total sample. Well, this was the first use of sampling technique that I know of in the White House mailroom.

Now, the thing about presidential mail is that it's almost always one-sided. Suppose the President has indicated that he's going to follow course A. Well, if you favor course A, the chances are not too good that you're going to write him a letter and say, "I want you to be sure and follow course A." But, if you're for course B, you're going to try to get him to change his mind and write in and say, "I don't agree with you; I think course B is the only way to save the country." So, it tends to be one-sided, but the volume is indicative of how emotional people are. And this is quite often important to know. I'm not saying that it's vital, but

 

[740]

sometimes you just want to know it.

Now, in connection with the Palestine mail, at times that was very, very heavy. I imagine it's very heavy at the White House right now. And by heavy I mean as much as 50,000 communications daily, letters and telegrams. If my recollection is right, the heaviest we had at the time I was at the White House was over the relief of General MacArthur, and that I think ran around 50,000 a day.

The Palestine mail just never quits. It came in and it came in and I couldn't spend all my time with it, and a lot of it was postcards, and you do tend to discount postcards, especially if they all say the same thing. That's kind of a waste of time when it comes to influencing the White House staff. Of course, Dave and I were handling it, and we wanted the same things that the people writing those letters wanted. So we did different things with the mail at different times. If Dave was having a hard time over at the State Department, he was very likely to send over a roomful of mail sacks and ask for an analysis. He thought maybe that would help persuade them. When we were packing up to get

 

[741]

things out to Independence at the end of the Administration, it just hurt me too much to junk any kind of mail, we had this roomful of mail sacks that nobody had really ever looked at. Sometimes you weigh them you know, or you count a few and figure out which are pro and which are con, and then how many pounds of pros and how many pounds of cons. It gets to be a problem when it reaches a certain point. So I thought of what we'd done with the FEPC mail, and took random sacks and then we took random amounts from the sacks, in other words, we got as good a mix as we knew how, and then we filed them so that they were all in order. So it was three random mixes. I don't mean they were filed alphabetically, or filed by pro or con, they were just filed, so that you had so many feet of these things that had been scooped up out of different mail sacks.

Just as an example, let's say, `that that made up one full file drawer. Well, I didn't see any point in retaining for record purposes even one full file drawer on one day of one subject when it was perennial. So we then measured it in inches and took out one paper at each quarter inch, four to the inch, forty-eight

 

[742]

to the foot, and so if you had a four-foot file drawer, let's say, then you would have four times forty-eight documents. And then we analyzed those to see whether the sample was roughly comparable to the universe of which it was supposed to be representative. Here we couldn't count them all, but we counted enough more so that we determined that it was reasonably satisfactory. From there on, when I was asked, you know, well, the Palestine room was getting full. That meant that the mailroom where those sacks were stored was overflowing again and we would clean it out, follow that sampling technique and if there is propaganda mail in Independence on the subject of Palestine, the partition, independence, all the issues over Israel, that's the way it is supposed to be. Whether it was actually done or not, I don't know. That might be worth looking into. At any rate, if there is sampling there, that's the way it was done, because nobody was willing to monkey around with this kind of thing.

In this connection, we did have some contact at that time with the British Embassy. On the subject of Palestine, they were never very sympathetic to Mr.

 

[743]

Truman's views about Palestine. They particularly could not understand the force with which he pursued his objectives in Palestine. In the first place, this came, as I may have said in another one of these interviews that he was shocked to discover that the Jewish people in the concentration camps did not want to come to the United States. He assumed that that would be objective number one. When he found out they didn't want to, he wondered why, and he also thought it was important that they should have the maximum chance for whatever it was they did want. It was relatively few that wanted to go out of the camps into Germany, and they didn't feel safe anywhere except in a state that controlled themselves. They had just had too much experience with anti-Semitism and discrimination and all that, and therefore, they weren't having any. This got through to him, it really did. When the British couldn't seem to understand this, he had some rather vigorous comments to make.

I always had pretty good academic contacts with people at the British Embassy from the time of Geoffrey Gorer, the British anthropologist, was here, and when

 

[744]

their information man was the great philosopher, Mr. Israel. So, they asked me one time, "You say that, you know, we don't understand the depth of American opinion on this. How do you know?"

I said, "Come on over and read some telegrams."

So, as usual, I had boxes full of these things around. You could never get rid of them they came in so fast. So I said, "Read some of these and then report back." And I picked out a few that are considerably less than complimentary to their boss, Mr. Bevin. So they did and I think it had an effect, because they were shaken. They didn't realize that this kind of free, emotional expression had anything to do with the formulation of American policy. Well, it does and I'm sure it does still today, and I think it ought to. It's important that it should. It isn't very hard to separate the mail that represents the expression of organized propaganda, which also has its value, from the mail which represents a variety of feelings, a variety of expressions because there's a definite feeling.

HESS: Did the President pay very much attention to public opinion mail?

 

[745]

NASH: Well, I think he did institutionally. No President has the time to hear from the staff member: "Well, Mr. President, we had 9,999 yeas, and 10 nays today." I mean, he would soon get tired of hearing that, and it would interfere with the exercise of his judgment if he did. But institutionally, his staff has got to pay attention to that. For example, well, let's take a thing that happened the other day, because, I mean, we can reconstruct that scene pretty easily. The State Department in response to where do we stand in the Arab-Israel war says, quoting Wilson, "neutral in thought, word and deed." Well, now, this may be correct in international law, but you can imagine the response in New York. And, you know, you have to be a politician and be thinking of the next election for that to become important, and anybody that thinks that it isn't important, would probably wind up on the information desk at State. Because this is the type of person that gets over there, and they cause an awful lot of domestic problems. They always know, they're very sensitive of what other countries think.

This was why Dave felt it was so important, that

 

[746]

there should be somebody in the White House looking after the President's public relations interests in this sense, because he has said so often, and I agree with him, "There are plenty of guys in the State Department that attach exactly the right weight to whatever the division of sentiment is in France or Algeria or Brazil on any issue that's important to the President. But who's going to give him the same information about New York, California, Illinois, and upper Wisconsin and lower Mississippi. That was our job.

HESS: Is that all on that?

NASH: Yes.

HESS: On the general subject of conscientious objectors, what were your duties in relation to conscientious objectors?

NASH: Somewhere close to the end of World War II Mr. Truman wrote Dave Niles a memo, and there's probably one in his part of the files, and the general purport of it ran something like this:

"I am so unsympathetic to this point of view that I don't feel that I can deal with it, and yet I suppose somebody has to. Please look into it and tell me what

 

[747]

to do."

Dave turned it over to me and so I researched the whole thing for him. It didn't take very long to find out what anybody who was an expert in the field would know, which is that this has been a problem for every President in the United States starting with the first. There were some conscientious objectors in the American Revolution, and the question was what to do about them. The most acute problem, of course, was after the Civil War: What do you do with men who have not only forsworn allegiance but who have taken up arms when there were large numbers of them, and so on. World War I, my boyhood memory goes back that far, and it was a very acute problem that was actually not resolved until after 1933, so it took almost sixteen years from the start of World War I till the last objector was out of jail or had his pardon or whatever was involved there. So, Dave was anxious to avoid this kind of issue. He didn't want something to drag on for sixteen years, and the numbers were so great that it looked as though it probably would be worse than that. And Dave was brought up in the tradition of dissent. He didn't think dissent was the

 

[748]

equivalent of disloyalty, and he didn't think Mr. Truman really did either, but he recognized his unfamiliarity with this type of problem.

So he asked me to develop a scheme that wouldn't be criticized as being soft, that those who had gone out and fought could accept, but those who had as a bona fide matter of conscience done something else or somehow stayed out or maybe gone to jail for their beliefs would also find acceptable. So, one of the things that I did was to look over the files of a previous presidential commission. President Coolidge created a committee to deal with the question of some thirty men who were convicted of seditious conspiracy under the 1917 statute. Oh, we found quite a few familiar names in the records, I got from the Archives. I got the old files of the Justice Department on this subject and discovered that there was a young newspaperman in St. Louis who had done a very good piece, a very sympathetic piece about some of the men who were still in prison in the 1920s. His name was Charles G. Ross. I showed that to Charlie and he had forgotten about it. Then I was examining some old petitions and I thought

 

[749]

I saw a familiar signature and looked at it and it was my own mother-in-law who was very active in things like that in the 1920s; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and all that sort of thing. I wrote her a letter about that and told her I'd seen her name and in case she thought that her letter was unnoticed, it had been noticed.

So, what we ultimately did was to model a kind of a special hearing panel on the procedures used in the correction of military records, and this seemed to be acceptable because it was a military procedure. We decided first to recommend (and the President accepted all this), against any mass -- "and by Executive order the following classes of people are hereby . . . " This is contrary to our concept of individual responsibility and individual justice. On the other hand, how do you deal with, I think if my recollection is right, about 20,000 cases, more than twelve, and less than twenty-five, so in that vicinity. So what we did was to create a commission that operated in the Justice Department, not in the military, which had on it, three, it was a board, and then they created panels, hearing

 

[750]

examiners, as some of the regulatory agencies do. But instead of having one examiner, we had panels of three, somebody who had served in the war and two who had, I won't say who had not, two who were not there for military reasons: one a psychologist, or a psychiatrist or sort of specialist in individual behavior, and the third one, I think, was usually a penologist of some kind, a social worker, probation officer, something of that type. The board set up the general rules but the panels reviewed the individual cases, and in this manner they were able to expose very expeditiously, within less than eighteen months, all the cases to an individual review, and make a recommendation to the board, which the board could pass on, of every individual case. There were some objections from the conscientious objector groups, most of whom I saw rather than Dave, but not much, not much. I think it got rid of a very troublesome problem for the President and I would say was handled in a way that was more fair, and evenhanded than has ever been done up until now.

HESS: Did veterans' organizations try to exert any pressure on that subject?

 

[751]

NASH: Not that I recall.

HESS: What about religious groups?

NASH: I think I had more dealings with the Quakers and the Jehovah's Witnesses more than anybody else. Of course, we were concerned only with objectors that went to jail, see. Those objectors who accepted alternate service under the law, unless they just got stir crazy and broke the rules and then got into jail, were all right, and we had some of that. But there were two groups that were very difficult to handle: One was the Jehovah's Witnesses, because on the advice of their general counsel they maintained not that they were conscientious objectors but that they were ministers and ought to have been given ministerial deferments. Well, unfortunately, they lost this case in the Supreme Court.

So here was a case of an organization which was authoritarian enough so that all the members accepted their general counsel's advice, and refused even to accept even the preliminaries to induction, so when the Supreme Court held that they had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, because the individual boards might very well have said, "Yes, you are indeed

 

[752]

a minister." "No, you're not a minister, you're working forty hours a week in a munitions factory and all you're doing is handing out literature on a street corner at night, you're not a minister." That person might perhaps have had the basis for an appeal. The court said, "Well, you can't appeal unless you've exhausted your administrative remedies." They refused to take the case. This resulted in about 12,000 Jehovah's Witnesses going into Federal prisons. It was about fifty percent of the Federal prison population. I'm guessing at figures now. It was a long time ago. But, I mean, it was on that order.

The other one was the objectors who were intellectual objectors but not religious objectors, just as conscientious, in all probability, but the law happened to say "religious." Here's a man who said, "Well, I'm an atheist; I don't believe in God; but I don't believe in killing other men. This is an intellectual objection and if necessary I'll go to jail." Think there were about 300 of those. They were tough for the panels too. I think ultimately nearly every one of those went before the full board.

HESS: Anything else come to mind on conscientious objectors?

 

[753]

NASH: That's all.

HESS: Doctor, concerning the transition from the Truman administration to the Eisenhower administration in '52 and in '53, what do you recall?

HASH: Well, we were all under instructions to be as helpful as possible, and Dr. Steelman was put in charge of our side of it. Sherman Adams, Governor Adams, was Eisenhower's representative. I never had any dealings with Adams.

HESS: Did you ever talk to him?

NASH: No, I got the material of what was by that time my office, by that time David had died, together in very complete form. I had two complete kinds of documentation: One was material that clearly belonged to the President, and was part of his files, incoming letters, outgoing letters, memoranda and so on. And the other one was what might be called loosely a library of information. Since my job depended in large part on being able to find out rather quickly who somebody is, you have to have a big collection of pamphlets, letterheads, programs and so on, sort of junk but it covers an area. I thought that would be valuable to my successor. And it was the kind of thing you get only by accumulating over a

 

[754]

period of years, and I didn't think it was wanted by the Library, and I figured that was one of those things that probably ought to be passed on to my successor. So I packed up the other things and they're now at Independence. The other material, I would say, maybe four or five cabinets full, sixteen drawers, something like that, maybe less. When I got around to ask Mr. Steelman about it, he said, "Oh, I forgot to tell you, when we came to that part on the organization chart, Mr. Adams said, 'Well, what do they do? That's a funny thing, an assistant to a vacancy, and two secretaries'."

"Well, that's our civil rights."

"Oh, that's purely political, take that out."

So, he said, "There won't be any transition as far as you're concerned."

"Well," I said, "the stuff's already gone to Independence. What will we do with this?"

He said, "Use your own judgment."

So, I eventually had it taken to my own home, not that I particularly wanted to do anything with it, but I didn't think it ought to be thrown away. I

 

[755]

didn't really have any means of getting it out to Kansas City at that point. Mr. Truman had okayed a memorandum in which I said I thought I'd like to do a book about his civil rights activities, which incidentally has never been completed. I could see that it would have some value in that connection, so there was no successor, and I just took it back. I thought, well, maybe somebody will turn up and they'll wish that they had this and they'll ask me for it. Well, the fellow who took Dave's place and mine together, eventually turned out to be Max Rabb, a very fine fellow, very nice gentleman, but he started out by assuming the same things that Sherman Adams had, that our operation was political and all rather reprehensible, and was not only necessary but a positive evil. The Jewish organizations in particular were rather upset about this and planned an evening where we would get together at the home of Herman Edelsberg, whom you referred to a moment ago. This was one of the most dismal evenings that any of us ever spent who were connected with it, because when Max finally arrived, it was well over two hours late; he said, "We had a terrible day at the White House," you know, he was very busy. All I can say is that the

 

[756]

chicken and the hostess were both pretty well burned up. Then he wouldn't talk about things. He said, "Well, you know, we're operating on the principle that I'm the right arm's right arm." So, I threw up my hands and I had no further communication ever with Max Rabb on any subject whatsoever, until he took on the International Refugee Year and he was out of government and I was Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin and I became the Wisconsin chairman. So the transition was kind of a joke so far as my part of things was concerned.

HESS: What is your evaluation of the overall transition, not just yours, but the other departments, the other offices, the other men?

NASH: I think the objective of a smooth transition with all the policies being put out in clear specific documented form, and the working papers to go with them is kind of a dream. There are too many policies that aren't that well formulated and there are too many working papers that are in people's minds or their telephone conversations. In other words, our program policy objectives are not that specific. Now it may be that PPB, Program, Planning and Budgeting, as developed by Secretary McNamara, now very popular throughout the

 

[757]

whole Government, will do that. I think it would be easier today than it was then, but I don't think that a transition can ever be quite that easy or smooth. And some of the most important things may well fall by the wayside.

You can't operate as President of the United States and not have a specialist in race relations. It just doesn't happen, until the day comes when there's a statute and a clear agency that is instructed to carry out certain programs. But to the extent that it's offhanded and involves the President's public relations and politics as a base, then you can't do without it in the President's own office.

HESS: All right.

On the subject of Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism, how does a person go about defending himself against charges such as those leveled by the late Senator McCarthy?

NASH: On the record, you can't fight a fellow like that in the newspapers. So, when I was accused by him I simply asked for a hearing and this opportunity was provided; and it seemed to me very important from the President's

 

[758]

standpoint that if I couldn't defend myself adequately in a tribunal of proper and competent jurisdiction, it would be better if Mr. Truman did without me for his own protection. So I asked for a hearing and had it, and that was not the end of it publicly, but it was the end of it as far as Mr. Truman was concerned.

HESS: On the general subject of Mr. Truman, sir, where would you place Mr. Truman on the scale from a liberal to a conservative?

NASH: I would put him definitely on the liberal side. I remember at Key West one time, Mr. Truman said he didn't like to be described as a liberal. He didn't like people that called themselves liberals. You have to be liberal, and he said most people who call themselves liberals aren't really. So he eschewed the label, and liked to think of himself as a middle-of-the-roader. But in my book, he was very much, very definitely on the liberal side. And I always resented the fact that some people thought he wasn't because he didn't use the name.

HESS: What do you believe were the major contributions made by Mr. Truman during his presidential career?

NASH: Many, many, many. Of course, the Marshall plan, and civil rights are outstanding. And many other things.

 

[759]

that are associated with him, but those two in particular. I've often heard him say this, that fighting international communism by programs of reconstruction and rehabilitation, was one of the things he was very proud of; and then fighting domestic communism, by giving deprived people of a better chance to share in the good things that society produces. He phrased it this way, of course, because he was being accused by somebody of being rather soft on communism during the "red herring" charges. I think that those two combined descriptions, I think perhaps the negativism of anti-communism rather demeans the importance of what he did, but when you put together such things as the Marshall plan and the Korean war, and put them all together and then relate them to such things as the implementation of the Full Employment Act and civil rights, where the economics and the legalities of underprivilege are being fought together, just as they are being fought politically and economically on the international front. I think these are outstanding and make him in the forefront of the great Presidents.

HESS: What is your evaluation of Mr. Truman's place in history?

NASH: I think Mr. Truman's place is secure and will grow.

 

[760]

It's already considerably brighter than it was when he left office. People tend to forget the little things and remember the big things as time goes by. It's pretty hard to forget the Korean War and the Marshall plan. There are those who look on his civil rights program, like Professor Bernstein, as small and meager, but I think they're the ones that are small and meager because they just lack historical perspective, and perhaps lack some knowledge too. Maybe they don't know the breadth and depth of his program. So, I've watched with a good deal of interest, not just the affection, but the regard and respect grow for him as the years go by, and I think this will increase.

HESS: As a man who has worked for several Presidents, and had an opportunity to observe the Presidency as an institution, do you have any opinions as to how the Presidency might be reformed? Is there any aspect of the Presidency that you think demands too much of a President's time or attention?

NASH: In the American system I don't see how it can be any other way. The things that the President has to do, the party leader, the chief legislator, the

 

[761]

man who is responsible for prosperity, all these burdens that we've given him by new programs over the years have become a part of the institution and I cannot imagine them being changed. They are, of course, too much for one man, but not too much if he has the right kind of staff.

Mr. Truman built up the White House staff, even more so than Mr. Roosevelt. Mr. Roosevelt was inclined to draw his assistance from wide and varied sources on an individual basis. Mr. Truman didn't have access to that many acquaintances. He was a more reserved man and had had a different political history. Consequently, he was inclined to draw on the Bureau of the Budget, and to build up the Bureau of the Budget, and institutionalize his staff. I think this is most important. I imagine that this will grow and the big problem as I see it is to keep that staff from becoming so highly institutionalized that it becomes insulated. And its meaning at a time like this -- to keep reverting to Mr. [Robert] McCloskey and the "Neutral in word, thought and deed," statement -- but this is a typical remark of an insulated public servant, who sees the technicalities, sees the legalities, and the statement isn't wrong, it just does

 

[762]

not represent the American political reality. In fact, the very utterance of that statement is sufficient to cause trouble in the election eighteen months from now -- it isn't eighteen months anymore, is it, less than a year and a half from now -- and to result in emotional outpourings such as is going on in Lafayette Park this afternoon. So having insensitive staff causes a President to waste time, covering ground that he personally never lost, but which was lost for him by somebody else. And I've seen that happen an awful lot of times.

HESS: Is there any other aspect of Mr. Truman or the Truman administration that you would like to comment on?

NASH: My last word before we shut the tape off?

HESS: Oh, no.

NASH: Well, he's a great human being, a great President, a great administrator, he had a real flair for administration, which would not have shown on his Form 57 if he had applied for the job as the rest of us did to the Civil Service Commission.

HESS: How would you rate him as an administrator?

 

[763]

NASH: Tops, absolutely tops. Roosevelt was the great improviser. He loved to give the same problems to two or three people and then see which one would develop the acceptable solution. Truman was much more systematic. JFK, of course, had his brilliant, incisive mind and a great respect for the individual who had the responsibility as long as he didn't make a fool of himself. In the dealings that I had with Jack Kennedy, he would never play one off against the other as Roosevelt did all the time. But he was also not one to make those "visceral judgments," as Charlie Ross called them -- gut reactions -- that characterized Mr. Truman. Mr. Truman was impatient and he liked to try to go straight to the heart of the problem if he could, and to do so on an intuitive basis. Jack Kennedy would take about the same length of time, but in that time he would have absorbed the documentation because he took in material so fast. And so far as I could see, never forgot anything that he ever knew. This is a great big difference in style.

I did not have personal dealings with Lyndon Johnson although I served him for two years as Indian Commisioner, so I just don't know. But in the three

 

[764]

years that I served Jack Kennedy I saw him on Indian affairs a lot more times than I saw Lyndon Johnson in two years that I served him, and I have a feeling that some of the present difficulties of the Johnson administration, arise from having outreached on the legislative side the ability of the executive to make good on the programs. Now, there's a reason for that. The 89th Congress was a unique Congress. There will never be another time when the logjam of the conservatives, Southern and Republican, was broken to the extent that it was in the 89th Congress. Mr. Johnson made up his mind, I'm sure, to get through everything he could get while he had the votes. But this does not result in good administration of those programs, I'm not saying that it was the wrong thing to do, I'm merely saying that if you're on the executive side and you're a working stiff, which is what a bureau chief is, and you try to make a program go, you don't necessarily have that budgetary support, the support through the departments that will make for effective administration, if everybody's mind is on getting more legislation. And if it looks to some of your bosses, as it looked to

 

[765]

mine, Mr. Udall, as though the measure of his performance was going to be whether he had new legislation or not. So, this means that the legislation that you've got isn't working for you as hard as it should if you've got your mind on something else. And I think there was a lot of that in the 89th Congress. Now, with the frustrations of the 90th coming up, I don't know whether that will be true or not.

HESS: Is that everything?

NASH: That's all.

HESS: Thank you very much for your time.

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