Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Oral History Interview with
Robert G. Nixon

News correspondent with the International News Service, 1930-58; served as editor of the service for a time. He first came to Washington, D.C., in 1938 where he served as their State Department and foreign relations correspondent. He was a war correspondent, attached to the British army in France and Belgium, 1940, during invasion of the low countries; evacuated from Dunkirk but later returned to France; evacuated with remnants of the British army from Brest, June 20, 1940; covered London Blitz, 1940-41; war correspondent, attached to United States forces in European theater of operations, 1942-1943; correspondent in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, and Mediterranean theater, participating in North African invasion and campaign. Covered Casablanca conference, 1943; Quebec conference, 1944; and Potsdam, 1945. Washington correspondent covering the White House beginning in 1944.

Bethesda, Maryland
November 20, 1970
By Jerry N. Hess

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

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

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

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened December, 1978
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

Oral History Interview with
Robert G. Nixon

Bethesda, Maryland
November 20, 1970
By Jerry N. Hess


HESS: Mr. Nixon, at the end of our last interview we were discussing the events of the 1952 campaign. What are your further impressions of that campaign?

NIXON: One of the things that has come to mind, was the nature of the Stevenson campaign, which rather appalled me at the time. Up to that time, it was certainly unique for a man trying to get himself elected President.

We've seen how Truman, by way of illustration, had conducted his '48 campaign. He had gone out and literally shaken the hands of hundreds of thousands of people. He had met them at railroad sidings in little hamlets, from coast to coast, thousands of miles all over the Nation. He had spoken in auditoriums,


stadiums, and enormous gatherings in cities. He had spoken face-to-face with literally tens of millions of American people.

When a candidate does this, there is a great psychological advantage. It means, to the people who come out to see him and listen to him, that he is identifying himself personally with the individual. This person goes away feeling that he knows the candidate (especially if this is a President campaigning for re-election), and knows and is a friend of the President of the United States. Come November, this person very likely is going to vote for the man. Not only that, but he will tell his children and his grandchildren about this occasion in his life when he met the President.

This was one of the impelling reasons why, in that '48 swing through Indiana and Illinois, people in the farm country drove hundreds of


miles to the railroad sidings where the President made these whistlestop speeches.

I enlarge upon the Truman use of this close contact with the people because in a sense he brought it to its highest peak of accomplishment. He, in a sense, refined the gold out of the quartz. Roosevelt, to a considerable extent, did the same, although the intensity of his whistlestop campaigning was necessarily limited by his poliomyelitis infirmity.

In the Stevenson campaign the contact with the American people was, if not entirely lost, certainly hamstrung by the decisions that were made for his campaign. Mind you, these decisions were made by the little group of people around Stevenson, and Stevenson himself, because he largely ignored the Democratic National Committee. He insisted on carrying on his own campaign with a


bunch of bumbling amateurs around him and without help from the Democratic National Committee or from Truman. Stevenson felt very strongly that Truman was an albatross, a millstone around his neck, and he wanted to disengage himself from any connection with the Truman administration. He seemed to resent the fact that Truman was out conducting a very intensive whistlestop campaign in his behalf.

All of this did not give reason to the manner in which the Stevenson campaign was conducted. As I've said, it was a proven fact, proven by history and by so many candidates before him, that if you are going to be elected President, you must have very close contact with the American people. You must associate yourself with them. You must make them feel that you are a part of them and that there is a very close personal contact.

If it's the first time you've ever seen a


President, that in itself, has a great personal impact upon you. You may drive a hundred miles just to see this man in action. This is an event in your life, and you can relate it to your children and grandchildren. It's this, "I shook the hand that shook the hand," sort of idea.

But what did Stevenson do? Did he relate himself closely to the American people, whose vote decided whether he would be President? Did he stand a few yards away from them or a few feet away from them and look them in the eye and speak to them, and talk with them? Hardly ever.

My recollection is that during the '56 campaign, the only time Stevenson got aboard a train, and did a little whistlestopping, was that dreadful and abortive trip through West Virginia, on a rainy day. The rest of the time he was on an airplane flying from here to there.


When he spoke, he spoke to organized crowds in some auditorium or stadium somewhere.

By way of illustration, he spoke in Los Angeles one day. We then boarded planes and flew entirely across the country to Boston for him to make another speech there. On still another occasion, if memory serves me right, we flew from Miami to Chicago. So went the campaign, always high, high, high up in the sky, 30,000 feet, cooped up in the fuselage of an airplane. He might as well have been on the moon without any intendent publicity.

Watching this, I would sit on one of these planes, high in the sky, and think, "My God, millions upon millions of votes and voters six or seven miles below us. Not a one knows that this man exists, and he's not speaking to a single one of them. How can he be elected President on that sort of basis?"


Of course, the answer was that he wasn't elected President. Granted, all candidates now must use airplanes to get from one large city to another. The more they do, the more they lose contact with the voters. The city vote and the urban vote is just one of the vote factors of this country. The farm vote, as we have seen, is extremely important. It's not only the impact of this personal contact with people, but it's the impact of the reporting of those events which gets in the newspapers and on the TV and radio, all over the Nation, every day and every night. So, this is what really struck me as a complete waste, a waste of time, a waste of effort, and a waste of finances which are always stretched to the breaking point in these campaigns.

HESS: Now you have been dealing with relations between Stevenson and the members of the public. What


seemed to be the relations and the nature of his relations with the local politicians who would come in to see him?

NIXON: Well, that's an interesting point which is really a very important part of the whole picture of Stevenson's personality as a presidential candidate.

Much later when Lyndon Johnson was President, he, against the advice of the Secret Service, insisted upon very close personal contact with the people who came out to see him.

HESS: I believe he called that "pressing the flesh."

NIXON: That is the phrase that I was going to use. While he did no real whistlestopping, at the airport where these crowds would gather, he would walk from his plane to the gates and shake the hands of just literally dozens and dozens of people. He said he liked the feeling of the


pressing of the flesh.

I relate this to illustrate, the difference in personalities. In a large sense, Truman and Roosevelt had also pressed the flesh. By campaigning from the rear platform of trains, all over the country, they had made very close personal contacts with individual people. Stevenson was the direct antithesis of this. This was perhaps one of the reasons why he did not feel comfortable in any whistlestopping campaign. He didn't like to get close to people. He particularly did not like people to get close to him. Local politicians, mind you, more or less, control the politics and the votes of their state, and most of them, as we know, are glad-handing, outgiving...

HESS: Backslappers.

NIXON: ...backslappers. They are usually quite demonstrative.


When anybody would throw their arm around Stevenson, he would actually cringe. You could see him cringe and pull away. There was sort of the feeling of resentment of a man embracing a girl when the girl doesn't want to be embraced. This was the peculiarity of this man, and it did him no good whatsoever. This was another reason why he didn't want the closeness of whistlestops, the closeness of getting out of an automobile and going over and shaking the hands of people.

He was a very reserved candidate. He had no warm gestures for the populace. Regardless of his intellectual abilities, he was not a warm person in contact with large groups of people, nor did he have that warm boyish grin of Eisenhower's. He was a candidate with a personality of an earlier age. Perhaps his being likened to Woodrow Wilson was accurate. His mannerisms


were those of the times, but they were the mannerisms, of what today we would call, a stuffed shirt. He was an egghead, which is a description of an intellectual stuffed shirt.

HESS: But a stuffed shirt nevertheless?

NIXON: Yes. So, he just did not go over as a candidate. It's not the intellectual qualities of a person that, in these years, takes them to the White House. The intellectual qualities perhaps do not harm them, if they have the warmth of personality and the things that go along with it at the same time. After all, we don't want an idiot in the White House, or a playboy, or one of those shallow brained Hollywood movie types.

HESS: Anybody in mind there?

NIXON: Well, without specific reference I believe it is obvious.


HESS: The gentleman from California?

NIXON: There have been two of them, one in the Senate, and one I guess in the state house. With all due respect to them, a man should have more qualities as a President than to just be a play actor with someone entirely writing his lines for him.

But they have to have some of these warm qualities as well as having intellectual qualities. Stevenson was simply miscast in his role as candidate. I speak of him only in that category, not to diminish in any way, whatever his intellectual qualities were. But there were guttier things. Breadbasket things, rather than the academic area, are what brings out the votes.

In all justice to the manner in which the Stevenson campaign was conducted (and for that matter, the way in which the Eisenhower campaign was being conducted at the same time), we in this country had begun to move into the electronic age, in which, by gradual development, the impact of the TV screen


had become enormous. It was a realization, I'm sure, of the potentialities of TV that had a considerable impact on Stevenson flying back and forth across the country making one stop one day on the Atlantic Coast and the next stop the next day on the Pacific Coast, with all these millions of people in between, never seeing him, never hearing him. The idea was that by using TV for these national broadcasts, he would reach the people.

Well, it didn't pan out. Certainly, in 1956, he was lost before he started. To have an impact on TV one must have a TV personality. They must be able to project themselves to people through the TV screen. Stevenson was lost before he began, simply because he did not have a TV personality.

When he got up before a large audience to make a speech (he was before the TV cameras, if his campaign supporters were able to plunk down a hundred thousand dollars for a half hour speech), he frequently just didn't go over.

He frequently muffed his lines. His eyes would


be down on the paper he was reading. It was bad enough, that they began trying to use a scanner. This was a device which line by line projected what a person was to say on a strip in front of the podium, behind which the person was speaking. It was visible to the speaker, but not visible to his audience. This enabled a speaker to look out at the audience, project his personality to them and at the same time read the lines on the scanner. That didn't work either. Stevenson just could not bring himself to use it. So, his personality, whatever part of it went over on the TV screen, wasn't particularly good.

While the TV has its tremendous impact, it had it to a lesser degree in 1956. It must be remembered again, that it's a different thing to speak to small whistlestop crowds than to huge crowds in cities. These are people who come there because they want to be there. It's another thing for a man to put his image on a TV screen and expect to reach people who are not sitting before the screen necessarily because they want to hear a political speech. After all,


they haven't gone somewhere to see a man and to hear a man. They can flip their TV on or off as they wish. The impact of a political speech, unless it bears upon something of a critical nature, like the missile crisis in Cuba, may not be of importance to them. They may be out of the town. They may be in the other room on the telephone. They may be in no mood to turn on the TV that evening. They may be (and probably are), anywhere but sitting in their home gazing at a TV screen. So, you have a tremendous loss of contact there.

Let's face it, the impact of the TV screen has had a great deal to do with the changing of the methods of conducting campaigns. It may be that the whistlestop is a thing of the past. It's gotten to the point where the wiseacres are now saying that the qualities that you need to win a presidential election are to be a relatively young man, with an appealing, youthful personality, someone who looks very good on the TV screen (a pretty boy, let's put it that way), and hires a high powered TV public relations outfit.


If those are the only qualifications, God help this Nation! The reality, looking back, and looking at today's picture, is that a combination of all of these various factors is certainly needed. I have a distinct feeling that if conditions were such that we were in a critical situation, as we have often been in our past and no doubt will be in our future, that we could still elect a man with a wart on his nose, as Lincoln was elected more than a hundred years ago.

Certainly the TV screen has become a great factor in our future campaigning. It may turn out that what we elect in the future is not only just a pretty boy, but a pretty boy whose daddy has left him a hundred million dollars, because the cost of the use of TV networks, on a national scale is virtually prohibitive. The money has to come from somewhere. While the Republicans from Wall Street seem to be able to amass that type of money, I wonder about the Democrats in the



HESS: What do you recall of the reaction in the Truman camp when Eisenhower said in a speech that if elected he would go to Korea?

NIXON: There were immediate outcries of demagoguery. We learned that demagoguery was not an aptitude invested only in the southern states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, etc. Certainly this was a piece of demagoguery written, incidentally, not by Eisenhower, but by a speechwriter, I believe his name was Jackson. He was a member of the staff of Life magazine, Time and Life, or perhaps the editor of Life.

HESS: A member of Henry Luce's organization nevertheless.

NIXON: To bring this into focus it must be remembered that the Korean conflict was highly unpopular, just as the war in Vietnam now is. The reasons


and the necessities for it should be remembered. We were the ones who were attacked by the Communists foes. This attack was the groundwork by communism for taking over Japan, and perhaps the Philippines, and the Western Pacific periphery. These reasons and the necessities, had been lost and obscured in the later developments that made the war extremely unpopular.

It was a conflict that the American people could not understand. Our engagement in wars in the past, and their support, had largely been based on the factor of an obvious menace to our own national security. All of these things had been obscured by the length of this conflict and the great error by MacArthur in his military intelligence. His error led to the war going on for two more years. Overall, this was a vastly unpopular conflict.

Eisenhower's pronouncement, that had been


written for him, was delivered in Detroit. The date escapes me.

HESS: October 24.

NIXON: Oh, on October 24, which was really the windup of the '52 campaign. This was sort of the last go-round. He did not say, "I shall end the war, the conflict in Korea, if elected President," but in this weasel-worded statement, this piece of demagoguery, he said, "And I shall go to Korea." Implicit in that was that he would end the conflict in Korea. It was this obliqueness that made this statement demagoguery.

Eisenhower had already brought himself into intense unpopularity in the Truman camp, especially with President Truman himself, by another event which had taken place during the campaign. I've already illustrated, with direct quotes from Truman, that Truman regarded General George Marshall as "The greatest living



During this campaign, Senator Jenner of Indiana (one of the most rabid, anti-Democratic, Republican foes in the Congress, and quite a demagogue himself, who was part of that bitter, rancid Joe McCarthy group) in a speech had accused General Marshall of being a traitor to his country. On a platform, General Eisenhower had walked over, flung his arms around, and embraced Jenner. This was just too much for Mr. Truman who had, in the past, had a very high regard for Eisenhower. As I have related, Truman had told Eisenhower over in Germany that if he wanted to run for President in 1948, he would support him. Afterwards Truman had made him Chief of Staff of the Army, the highest rank in the Army previously held by General Marshall, and then had made him NATO commander. There was nothing else in the way of great


honors in the military field that Truman could possibly have done for Eisenhower that he did not do. Eisenhower was a hero of Truman's and Truman well demonstrated it.

This business, during the campaign, was a shocking thing to Truman and was the basis for this tremendous split between Truman and Eisenhower. When Eisenhower threw his arms around Jenner, he lost Truman. That was the end of the line. On top of it came this piece of demagoguery: "I shall go to Korea." That meant that he would end the conflict in Korea, regardless of whether it meant our winning or losing the conflict, or stopping the spread of communism. It must be remembered that for many, many years in military parlance, it has been a maxim that Korea (and this is because of its geographical location), was a pistol pointed at the head of Japan.


The campaign seemed, at that point, obviously to hinge almost entirely on the Korean conflict. This Detroit statement by Eisenhower, written for him by a Luce minion, was, in fact, sheer demagoguery. Obviously it was done to clinch the victory in the campaign.

Aboard the Truman campaign train, with Truman himself and all the members of his staff, General Eisenhower at that point was not a very popular fellow.

HESS: Let's continue on with your general impressions of the '52 campaign.

NIXON: This was more or less a three month waste of time, energy, and everything that goes with it. The atmosphere was totally different from previous campaigns. Personally, on my part, there was a loss of interest, a loss of personal involvement, and a loss of impact. I think this reflects, in a great sense, the whole atmosphere


of the campaign.

Compared to previous campaigns, as it must be obvious from my rather detailed memory of the events of the '48 Truman campaign, this one just didn't have it. There were a number of reasons for it. My feeling of personal involvement, which was engendered by interest in the outcome, had become pretty well wiped out by the development of events. I felt that the Democrats were simply spinning their wheels. To me it had become obvious that Stevenson was a sacrificial lamb. He had little, if any, chance of winning. The Republicans at long last had found themselves a candidate, in General Eisenhower, who had the general repute, and general acceptance, of having won the war in Europe single handed. He was a popular hero like George Washington.

They found this man. They had made him their chosen candidate, and nominee. Because


of his tremendous popularity, he no more could lose the election than could have General Grant, many years ago the victor in the Civil War, Without the other factors, it seemed to me that it was obvious that General Eisenhower would be elected. Who was Adlai Stevenson? He was a former Governor of Illinois, period. Eisenhower was a supreme commander in Europe of all allied forces, and the victor over Hitler Germany.

Unfortunately for Stevenson and the Democrats, there was only one choice for the American people, and that was Eisenhower. On top of this, there were other factors that led to this belief of mine. In the four years of Truman's second term, despite his many fine accomplishments, he had been pretty well cut to pieces by events.

Even before the Korean war, there had been a whole series of events that did not reflect well on the Truman administration from the standpoint


of the publicity it was given to the American people. Before the unpopularity of the long Korean conflict began to have impact, the main Republican gambit to destroy the Democrats was the long series of investigations and hearings in Congress. Among them, incidentally, were the Kefauver crime investigations. While they had no direct bearing on the Truman administration, and Kefauver was a Democrat, the impact still was, "There is something gravely wrong in the United States. Why has it not been taken care of? How can there be such massive organized crime?"

The main gambit the Republicans had used in seeking to destroy the Truman administration was the so-called Communist in Government witch hunts, sparked by Senator McCarthy and by then Congressman Dick Nixon in the Whitaker Chambers-Hiss pumpkin papers investigation. But this was


not all.

The Truman administration had taken actions with poor judgment which resulted in making it highly unpopular. Some of these were happenstance. Some were lack of judgment, innocent enough in themselves, but they were inflated by adverse publicity into wrong doings. Some were acts of actual wrong-doing by persons who took advantage, for their own profit, of the power of the Presidency. Others were acts of sheer boobery. The whole thing was called "the mess in Washington." Tom Dewey made a point that he was going to clean it up in his 1948 campaign. There were the instances of the so-called "five percenters," of the mink coat, and of the deep freeze.

The deep freeze scandal was one of the first to come along. I say scandal, because that is what it was inflated into by publicity. Actually it was a rather amusing thing. Amusing in the sense


that it was quite innocent. It was simply the result of very poor judgment. Shortly after Truman had become President, one of his staff aides in the White House, apparently had no knowledge of simple ethics of Government. The kind of ethics that, I've said before, Sam Rayburn put into a pithy little phrase of, "If you can't eat it, drink it, or smoke it in 24 hours, don't accept it."

Mind you, these aides of Truman, whom he had brought down from his office on Capitol Hill, were not aware of White House presidential ethics.

For a considerable time after the end of the Second World War, civilian goods were in very short supply. Actually, they were almost impossible to obtain. The entire industrial fabric of the Nation had been overwhelmingly converted into war production. There was no


civilian production. A thing like an automobile was impossible to buy. Things like refrigerators, typewriters, stoves, household goods, or deep freezers, which were relatively new, were impossible to obtain.

Harry Vaughan, Truman's Military Aide, had a friend in a factory out in the Middlewest, who had begun manufacturing these household freezers. Vaughan was talking with him one day. The manufacturer was perhaps proudly expounding the desirability and the function of this new freezer that he was beginning to manufacture for household use. He got around to saying, "Do you have a deep freeze in the White House? And does the President have one in his home in Independence?"

Vaughan, of course, said, "Well, no, he doesn't."

The friend said, "Well, don't you think the President ought to have one and would he like


to have one?"

Vaughan, who should have known better but didn't, said, "Oh, that would be fine."

This manufacturer, as a result, gave one to the President, I believe for his home in Independence, and one for the White House kitchen. I believe there were several others. Perhaps Vaughan got one. It seems to me there was something about Connelly getting one, but I'm trying to remember back twenty-five years, and I may be mistaken. In any event, there were at least two of them given to the President for use in his home in Independence and at the White House. It was just as innocent as that and just as simple as that. But when the story got out, there was a great scandal. This was really the first time the political opposition had hold of a ball they could run with. The implication was that these gifts had been made to the President


and the White House in order to garner favor for whatever machinations the industrialist was supposed to have had in Washington, Government contacts being the main implication. This was no action of venality by Vaughan. It was a simple sort of country bumpkin thing. It had not penetrated that you do not accept such gifts if you're in Government. If you do, sooner or later, you are going to find yourself in trouble, however high or low you may be.

The same error was made by Jake Vardaman, which got very little attention. This was when he accepted the gift of a Ford for the President without even consulting him. Both were highly desirable articles in those times of scarcity of civilian goods. Perhaps because the deep freeze was a totally new concept, and everybody wanted one, it gripped the imagination. It was the innocence of the acceptance. This was done


by a member of the President's staff, a longtime friend, not by the President himself, but it was inflated far beyond its real aspects.

This was the first of a long series of occurrences over which the President had absolutely no control. These were done by people like Vaughan, wishing to do something nice for his friend, the President, but others were done by people who came into the administration circle for their own enhancement and advantage.

There was then the big scandal, the mink coat scandal. It goes without saying that the implications of someone accepting a mink coat as a gift are widely known and do not need amplification. The normal implications of a lady receiving a mink coat had absolutely no bearing on the mink coat case, but the implication, when it came to light in the public mind, was something else.


There was a young fellow named Merle Young. He had a job in the RFC. His wife was employed in the White House as an assistant to Rose Conway, the President's personal and private secretary, a very fine woman. Mrs. Young was, in a sense, an assistant personal stenographer and secretary to the President. She was in a very close circle of intimate contact with all of the secrets of the Presidency. A job in which she had to be cleared (as the expression is), after intensive investigation by the FBI and military intelligence. This was a highly select situation.

This young woman was, if ever there was one, was an innocent victim of circumstance. Her husband, as it came out later, was out to use his position in Government, but especially his relationship with a presidential secretary. Whether he had any actual authority at all, he certainly had an assumed authority, which he used very much to his advantage in lining his own pockets.


People in Government, those more or less close to the White House, told me that Young would come to them representing himself as a presidential emissary and would say to them, "The Boss says this for you to do." "The Boss wants this done." As far as I could tell, this young fellow was not a presidential emissary at all (unless it was on a few occasions). He was out to line his own pocket by getting contracts, or influencing contracts, for commercial enterprises, for people on the make.

This later came out in one of the congressional investigations when he was called upon to come up to the Hill to testify. He had his hand in a lot of pockets. Outside of his RFC job, he was working apparently for himself as an influence peddler.

His influence, incidentally, came through his wife's position on the White House staff.


Young was a White House frequenter. He had complete access because of his wife's position as an assistant stenographer to the President. He would drive this big car of his (first it was a little cheap, battered car, and then it was one of these five block long, black Cadillac), into the White House grounds in the late afternoon and pick up his wife and take her home. He had a White House admittance card, and complete access. As I say, his influence stemmed from his wife's connections.

This individual, who had an influence peddling job to get Government contracts (I believe, it was on Connecticut Avenue), as a gesture of gratitude for Merle Young's influence with the White House and other agencies ("The Boss wants this"), made a present of a mink coat to Merle Young's wife. When this came out in a congressional investigation, it became a


first class scandal in Government.

Again, the implications were wrong, I'm sure. They were inflated into something far greater than they were. Merle Young should never have accepted this mink coat for his wife, but everybody wants a mink coat, and greed and avarice can overwhelm judgment. Because of the implications of the gift of a mink coat, this really became a monstrous scandal for the Truman administration.

Truman had nothing to do with it. It was guilt by association in the public mind, and the facts were not well-known. Only the sordid part came to public light. This was played upon by the investigating committee in Congress with all stops out.

In this brief period of operation as an influence peddler, Young did pretty well for himself. As I've said, he first drove a broken down old jalopy into the White House


grounds to pick up his wife. In a short time it became a large, sleek, expensive automobile. He purchased a very large and very expensive home in Kenwood, one of the swankiest real estate areas in Montgomery County, outside of Washington. It was an area of very large palatial homes, one of which was owned by Senator Kerr of Oklahoma, an extremely wealthy man. Here was this young fellow with this very large home in that wealthy circle all within a very short time.

This mink coat thing, like the deep freeze thing, was investigated by Congress. There were exhaustive hearings. Young was called to appear on the Hill. I don't recollect what happened to him, whether he was cited for contempt or not. This investigation resulted in his being, more or less, discredited. He was able, afterwards, to purchase a large tourist motel down in south Florida, where I


suppose he is today.

In addition to this, there was a congressional investigation of the RFC. They tried to involve, and did involve, Donald Dawson, the Presidents Assistant who handled personnel in Government. When there was a vacancy in a top Government job, he had great influence. This wasn't all, by any means.

There was then the great five percenter scandal investigated by Congress. Without going into the details of it, this was influence peddling. There were these characters, like the ones that Young was associated with, who operated in Washington to obtain Government contracts for industrial firms, using influences in Government or posing as being able to do so. They were taking 5 percent off the top as their payment for obtaining these Government contracts. Five percent of a billion dollars is a considerable amount of money. Five percent of a million


dollars is a fair annual income, which most people would like to have.

Almost from the first, beginning with the so-called deep freeze scandal and going on through an administration that was in office over seven years, these investigations were conducted by Congress. They lasted for many weeks and months, with every detail of the investigation and accusations being contained in the Nation's news media. The Truman administration did not have a very good public acceptance. All of the courageous acts and the acts of great and good judgment, which were also performed, were swallowed up in the tidal wave of this sort of thing. This is why I felt that Truman would not run for a second elective term. He was certain to be defeated. No President likes to go out of office on a wave of defeat. Look at the obscurity that Hoover fell


into when he left office on the wave of defeat in 1932.

As I've said, the 1952 campaign was quite different in its atmosphere from earlier campaigns. In my own personal view, we were spinning our wheels. I felt that I was just along for the ride, and this, in general, was the mood on the train.

Actually, the presentation by the President, in his speeches on the twenty-year record of the Democratic administration, was as good, if not better, than in the 1948 campaign, but the circumstances were entirely different. In 1948 here was a man fighting for his life, fighting for his political future, and fighting hard. In 1952 he had pulled his own rug out from underneath him, and he was just helping out the other fellow, Stevenson. In other words, we weren't going anywhere.


The main impact of this long exercise, from Labor Day until election eve, was mainly to justify the record of the Truman administration and of the Democratic administrations before that. It was a justification, rather than a fight. In the 1948 campaign, even after twenty-five years, I can still see in my mind actual scenes of what happened. I can see the President as he looked standing on the rear platform at his whistlestop speeches and the crowds at certain little towns and hamlets. I can remember the words he spoke and the things he did. This is, even today, very vivid in my mind. It's as though I was looking at photographs and the details stand out very vividly in my mind. By contrast the 1952 campaign largely is a blur to me today. The reasons are simple enough. We weren't going anywhere. We were traveling all over the country, but the end result was already foretold and meaningless.


There was no verve or excitement to the campaign, because there was no target in view. Because of all of these things that I have tried to enumerate, it was a foregone conclusion that this gigantic figure of Eisenhower would come into office.

The moment that Truman disclosed that he had decided not to run again, he had also pulled the rug out from under the members of his administration and all the members of his personal staff. They had nowhere to go but out, because the Republicans certainly were not going to keep them in office.

In previous elections, in a sense, there had been uncertainties, especially 1948. Would it be possible for Truman to win under all the adverse circumstances? There were always uncertainties in elections. Even in the Roosevelt years, there were uncertainties, though I


never felt in my bones that anybody could defeat Roosevelt. That was a personal conviction and belief. To many others there were still uncertainties, but none of these things existed for me in Truman's campaigning in 1952. As I say, we were spinning our wheels. Stevenson, on Truman's record, could not possibly win. Eisenhower had to do very little but stand up with that appealing boyish grin of his, regardless of what he said or did, he was in.

On top of all this, was the rudeness of the people who came out to listen to Truman, especially at the so-called whistlestops. Almost without exception, there would be a claque that throughout Truman's speech would be shouting like the shouts that go off at a football game. This was organized. They shouted, "We like Ike!. We like Ike! We like Ike!" They were trying to drown the President out.


He had never run into such rudeness before, except on one occasion at the height of one of these scandals, the mink coat thing or the five percenters, when he went out to Griffith Stadium in Washington for the baseball season's opening game. He was loudly booed there. He had never run into this type of rudeness before.

There was not only this rudeness, but there were those egg throwing and tomato throwing incidents in New Jersey and New York which I mentioned before. To top off everything else, it became increasingly obvious that the Democratic administration was going down the drain. While it had to be done, Truman was wasting his time, and this '52 campaign was really to no effect at all.

HESS: Where were you on election night?

NIXON: I was in Kansas City with the President.


When I say with the President, he was out at Independence at his home. I was in Kansas City, staying as usual at the Muehlebach Hotel, where we always stayed. We had a press room there and Western Union communications facilities. So, I was there.

HESS: One question about the Muehlebach in general. The president of the Muehlebach was Barney Allis at that time, did he usually try to have a nice setup for the newsmen?

NIXON: Oh, yes. Barney saw that we had some of his best accommodations, which we paid for through the nose.

HESS: Wasn't free at all?

NIXON: Oh, something like, twenty-five dollars a night, which at that time was considerably more than the overnight charges in most hotels, I


remember running into twenty-five dollar rooms at the Ambassador, the then top hotel in Hollywood. As I say, we well paid for it. He also set aside a large room for us to use for our teletypes and our communications setup, in which the Press Secretary would hold his sessions with us.

HESS: Do you recall anything of particular interest about election night there at the Muehlebach in 1952?

NIXON: No, I have no recollection whatsoever. That's the way it was. Truman wasn't running for reelection. There were no real issues. Stevenson, at that time to me, was more or less a complete unknown. I'm sure I completed my usual function, which was to report what the President was doing and that sort of thing, that was pro forma. But in memory I just had no impression whatsoever, except, "Thank God, this campaign is over with!"


HESS: Shortly after the election, President-elect Eisenhower visited the White House to pay a visit to President Truman. Do you recall anything at all about President Eisenhower's visit to the White House?

NIXON: This wasn't a call by Eisenhower to pay his respects at all. It was to come in, with members of his immediate staff, and discuss with the President and members of the President's staff, a suggestion that Truman had made to Eisenhower. Two days after the election on November 5th, Truman had telegraphed Eisenhower and had suggested that there should be an orderly transition in the executive branch, from his administration to the incoming administration. He wanted to demonstrate to the world, that in view of all of the international perils that existed, that we were a united country. In doing so, he invited Eisenhower to visit the White House at an early



This was the first time in our history that any such offer had been--well, wait a minute now. Perhaps it wasn't the first time. This was one of the few times in our history that such an offer had been made by an outgoing President to an incoming President. It was something quite new. In doing so Truman was mindful of what had happened to him when Roosevelt died, and he was suddenly thrust into the Presidency.

As I related much earlier, Roosevelt never gave his Vice President the time of the day. He never called him into White House conferences. He never gave him the slightest information of what was going on in Government. The one occasion on which Truman saw Roosevelt, after the '44 election was that one occasion right after the election when Roosevelt invited him to


breakfast one morning. This, as I've related, made for tremendous difficulties for Truman in assuming the Presidency. No wonder errors were made. The wonder is that many more grievous errors were not made.

Although an opposition administration was coming into power, Truman's interest was the welfare of the country. Therefore, he suggested to Eisenhower that he should send his staff members and members of his Cabinet in to be briefed so they could be told of the national and world situation. He did not want the new administration to come in cold, completely unacquainted with these manifold difficulties.

When Eisenhower received this suggestion, he was at first quite suspicious of it, and not of a mind to accept it. His reaction was that Truman was trying to put something over on him, and he wanted no identification with


the previous administration. However, after thinking it over, he accepted the President's invitation to come to the White House to discuss this offer.

On November 18, he and several members of his staff came to the White House and conferred with Truman. This was the purpose of the visit. It was a business and not a social call. As to the physical nature of it, it was more or less pro forma.

HESS: Did you try to query Eisenhower that day?

NIXON: I'm sure I did. I have no recollection of it, because this was just another man calling on the President. Another man, regardless of the fact that he was the successor to the Presidency. He was General Eisenhower to me as he had been for years. I had been accustomed to seeing him, so it just didn't make any impressions on me. I have no idea what was asked or what


his replies were, if any. Sometimes he could be extremely brusque and sweep past you and ignore you. I have no recollection of the physical nature of his arrival and departure. It caused no excitement as far as I was concerned. It didn't raise my blood pressure one beat.

HESS: During the remaining period of transition, do you recall seeing any, or very many, of President-elect Eisenhower's associates in the White House or in the Executive Office Building?

NIXON: In the first place, after conferring with Truman, he, Lodge, Dodge, and the others went back to the Commodore Hotel where he had post-election headquarters.

After his doubts and hesitations, he did accept the President's offer of transition, whereupon he sent his own people into Washington to confer and to be briefed by the various top departments of Government. Among them the


Budget Bureau, an extremely important and vital area because the national budget has to be made up ahead of time. This is a very involved, extensive, and lengthy process. I believe he sent Lodge over to the State Department and others to places like the Department of Defense.

One morning I was in the White House lobby, oddly enough, I believe it was on a Saturday morning because there was no one else around. During the normal weekdays, there are the callers on the President, the people coming to and fro, and members of the staff. But Saturday mornings were a very quiet time. There were virtually no reporters in the place. The President would be in his office only a short time, if at all. There would be no callers on Saturday, normally. There were exceptions, but normally none. Of course, I had to be there Saturdays, quiet or unquiet. I was there almost literally


seven days a week. I was there Saturdays and I was alone. There were no callers as far as I remember, no members of the staff in the lobby. It perhaps was early in the morning. I don't recall a single reporter even having arrived, so this single person stood out. He walked into the lobby, not the entrance. He was someone I had never seen before, and I was rather curious because he came out of the area behind the door occupied and used by the staff. He wasn’t a member of the staff, so I thought to myself, "Who in hell is this?" He was a slender, medium height man with a rather grim, if not a sour expression on his face. He was sort of like a hound sniffing the air, in his manner. It turned out to be Sherman Adams, a former Governor of…

HESS: New Hampshire.

NIXON: ...one of these New England states, New


Hampshire. He looked like a movie type casting of a dour New Englander. He had the mannerisms, as I say, of sort of sniffing the air. He was like a man with a yardstick in his mind.

I watched him, and he finally came over to the lobby to the entrance of the press room where I was standing. He didn't know me from Adam. I suppose he assumed that I was a member of the White House staff, which I wasn't, I was just a reporter.

He went into the press room, which was a fairly large and commodious place, because it had to take care of a number of people. The three wire services had private telephone booths along one wall. We each had a desk of our own with our typewriters. There was a large, comfortable leather lounge where we could sit when we weren't working. There were quite a number of other telephones, not in booths,


but on desks, direct telephones to the special newspapers that covered the White House daily. Newspapers like the New York Times, the Herald Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, the Washington Star, etc. He stood there looking around the press room. He turned to me and said, "What is this place?"

I said, "This is the press room."

He humped and hawed and grumbled and said very severely, "Well, this is too much room for the press. We are going to have to change this. The news people can do with a lot less room. This whole part of the building will not accommodate General Eisenhower's staff. We are going to have to put partitions in, and we are going to have to use this for other purposes. This is going to have to be partitioned off and that Secret Service office next door has got to be taken out too."


I just stood there listening to his strange character, and thinking, "Oh, boy, what you've got to learn."

By this time it had become obvious to me that he was one of these members of the Eisenhower staff that had been sent in to survey the White House accommodations for the incoming Eisenhower staff. I didn't like his manner, which seemed to me rather imperious, so I didn't volunteer the information that, after all, the old State, War, Navy Building across Executive Avenue, had long since been converted into what was called the Executive Office Building. That was where the greater part of the White House staff was ensconced. I left it to him to sniff that out himself.

HESS: Did they reduce the size of the press room?

NIXON: As I've just said, "Oh, boy, wait until you


find out."

When the Eisenhower administration came in, the press room was not touched in the slightest. It's only been latterly, very, very latterly under the present administration that...

HESS: Been redecorated I believe, hasn't it?

NIXON: No. The reason there has been a change is that the coverage of the White House has outgrown the space that was available. So, under the present administration, the whole press setup had to be moved from where it was to what was formerly the Roosevelt's indoor pool.

It has an outside entrance, and it has been done over very lavishly with separate accommodations for each representative of the news media that covers the White House. This enlargement has mainly been due to the increasing


news requirements of the TV media.

So, Sherman learned. These grandiose ideas that he had about the architecture of the West Wing, never came into being.

HESS: Did you see very many other associates of General Eisenhower in the White House at that time?

NIXON: No, that's the only one. Adams came in to sniff out the--in other words he was the office provider, surveying the White House West Wing and making out his little charts of who shall occupy this office, who shall occupy that office...

HESS: Where desks were. Who gets how much space and things like that.

NIXON: That's right.

HESS: What do you recall about inauguration day,


January the 20th of 1953?

NIXON: Everybody was in formal clothing, that frock coat, striped pants, and top hat business.

HESS: Everybody looks like they are from the State Department that day.

NIXON: Or going to a very fancy funeral, or wedding, really more a wedding than a funeral. It's this sort of thing where everybody goes over to a tailor and for the day hires an outfit with an ascot tie. A great to-do arose over what kind of a hat would be the uniform of the day. Past Presidents; most of them, had worn these top hats, ridiculous looking paraphernalia, but part of this costume. The question was: What should be worn?

This became quite a to-do. Eisenhower


decided that he would not wear a top hat. He would wear a Homburg. That meant that the President was supposed to have to wear a Homburg, which he did, graciously. The new President is supposed to set the pace.

In midmorning, the select few, including the Vice President, Richard Nixon, and their wives, all dressed up to kill, gradually gathered outside of the north portico of the White House. I remember Dick Nixon in his cutaway and striped trousers. I believe he wore a top hat; I'm not sure. But I remember watching him standing there looking very elegant indeed, cordial to all, and speaking to and shaking hands with various people who arrived to go up to Capitol Hill in a motor entourage, for the inauguration.

Shortly before noon, Eisenhower and Mamie arrived in the usual big black limousine. I


was thinking perhaps it was an open car, but I just don't remember. Truman and Mrs. Truman came out on the north portico to greet them and shake hands. After this little ceremony, they all climbed into their big black car and headed for the Hill.

Eisenhower was looking very grim and not too happy, but Truman just looking as usual. (It afterwards came out.) This antipathy that had grown up between Eisenhower and Truman was still blowing pretty hot. Truman was still unhappy over this Jenner incident and the demagoguery of that Detroit statement of Eisenhower's, "And I shall go to Korea."

Eisenhower was unhappy for a number of reasons, some that we have gone over. Eisenhower was unhappy over Truman's criticisms of his campaign actions. I might add, Eisenhower was a man who notoriously could not book


criticism, or differentiation with his way of wanting things done. There was something else, that perhaps made Eisenhower look unhappier than usual.

On the way up, driving up to the Capitol for the inauguration, this paraphrased exchange too place:

Eisenhower: "Why did you call my son John back from Korea?"

His son, John, was an officer in the Army, a West Point graduate like Eisenhower and was on active duty in Korea.

Truman: "I ordered him back because I think that any son is entitled to see his father inaugurated as President of the United States."

Eisenhower didn't like it. He made it clear that he felt that Truman was interfering in his private life and the life of his family. Even more than that, Truman was calling his


son back from an atmosphere of combat. He felt his son should be there fighting, or taking part in whatever actions were going on. Under no circumstances did he want his son to be called back to Washington just to see his father inaugurated President.

Truman, of course, was flabbergasted. Here, out of the kindness of his heart, and a genuine feeling for family, he had made what he thought was a nice gesture. He thought it would be a great surprise to Eisenhower to have his son, John, home to attend his father's inauguration as President and then to go back to Korea and take up his duties.

Ike didn't like it. For whatever were the reasons, this turned out to be another breach between these two men. One trying to be nice, thoughtful and kind, and the other resenting it.


HESS: After the inauguration did you go to the Hill that day?

NIXON: Oh, yes.

HESS: I believe that after the inauguration Mr. Truman went out to Dean Acheson's home in Georgetown. Is that correct?

NIXON: That's true. We sat up there on these platforms that they always erect on the huge steps leading up to the main entrance of the Capitol. I went with the President to the reception room.

There's a very large reception room in the Capitol out of which doors lead to these steps where the inaugural platform was set up. The President and Mrs. Truman went down to their appointed seats to the side (the right side if you are in the rear looking out over the audience),


near the podium where the inauguration takes place, with the Chief Justice of the United States swearing in the incoming President. I had a seat on the stairs a few yards above, looking down.

The inauguration took place in the usual fashion without incident, and we left. The President left immediately afterwards, and we drove out to Dean Acheson's house on P Street in Georgetown, a beautiful, fine old red brick Georgian house. The President and a few members of his immediate staff went into Dean Acheson's for a luncheon. You see this was the middle of the day. The inauguration took place at 12:30, for luncheon and a farewell, that's what this was. I stood out on the lawn waiting as usual.

After the lunch the President came out and made a brief little talk to the newsmen who were


gathered there. Incidentally, quite a number of Georgetown residents, who were curious, had an opportunity to see the President. What he said was not important. It was more or less a few words of farewell and that sort of thing.

I and a few other newsmen who were there, were feeling like we were attending a funeral (which we were, in a sense). We went off to file our stories. We had been told Truman would go aboard a train at Union Station that evening for his return to Independence. So, I left him at the Achesons’ P Street house. He was an ex-President, therefore, the urgency had gone. It was just that simple. But I, of course, went home with him to Independence on his train.

HESS: Will you tell me about that trip?

NIXON: Yes. The things that I can recall.

HESS: Was there much of a crowd at the station


when they left?

NIXON: I am trying to picture this, and I'll tell you in a moment. The train was no longer the presidential train. The train he was going out on, to return to Independence, was a regularly scheduled train. It was backed up, as they do those trains at Union Station, with the rear car backed up to the platform, inside the station, beyond the iron fence that blocks the lobby area off from the train tracks. It was a sad, rather emotional parting.

There was not a large crowd at all. My recollection is that there were just people who were friends of the Truman's, and associates. They came down to tell him farewell.

It was emotional. I remember seeing Doris Fleeson, who was a lady columnist. She wasn't going out to Kansas City, so she was able to go back to the car in which Mr. Truman


had his accommodations, and bid him goodby. She came out, streaming tears, weeping and crying. I said, "What's the matter, Doris?"

She said, "Bob, it's just terrible. It'll never be the same." She went on about what a fine man Truman was, and how she hated to see him leave the White House. The ending of the Democratic administration that had done so much for the country, and the fear of what might happen to it under a different administration, that sort of thing. There were a lot of others. I just called Doris, but there were a lot of others who were sort of wet-eyed. This was a very sad occasion for those who had known and associated with this man for nearly eight years.

Myself and a few other people went back to Independence with him.

HESS: Who else made the trip besides yourself, do you recall?


NIXON: I just do not remember. I mean the only other person I can remember at the moment is Rose Conway. There was a Secret Service man. The few news people who were aboard just escape my memory. Some of them had jumped the train and gone over to Eisenhower immediately, you see. People like Meriman Smith of the UP, who incidentally, had left the Truman train, though this was his assignment in '48, to join the Dewey train, with a conviction in his own mind that Dewey was the next President. He wanted to be as near top dog as he possibly could be, with the incoming President.

HESS: Did Mr. Truman know that he had gone over to the Dewey train?

NIXON: Oh, indeed.

HESS: What was Mr. Truman's reaction to that?

NIXON: His reaction came out in a very interesting


way. After Dewey's defeat, Smith came back to the White House run with his tail between his legs. Trying to make up for his dereliction, this incredible opportunist went over to Blair House one morning immediately after the election to try to accompany Truman on his morning walk.

I should add that this was the thing that we never did when the President was in Washington. At his own request, we had left him alone on his morning walks.

HESS: Respected his privacy at that time.

NIXON: That is right. Respected his privacy at that time.

Smith went over there trying to pick up his marbles. He stood outside of Blair House until the President came out for his morning walk, to try to get an interview with him and mend his fences. The President saw him


standing there and said, brightly, "Well, Smitty, I see you're back." With that, he marched off on his morning walk and the Secret Service then prevented this character from following Truman and achieving his end.

HESS: But Mr. Smith did come back to the White House after that time did he not?

NIXON: Oh, indeed! Yes. That was where the President was, but he had jumped ship. He was so sure, like these other wiseacres, that Truman wouldn't be elected.

When Eisenhower was inaugurated, he after all was President, and Truman was an ex-President. You do what your office asks you to do. They knew that I was close to Truman, and he had been my assignment. The end of the road was when he got back in Independence. They had adequate coverage of Eisenhower in Washington, so my job continued to be to take Truman home.


Despite the fact that he was ex-President, he was still news, so that's why I went.

Who was along for the UP? It certainly wasn't Smith. It was some substitute, and I've forgotten who it was. As far as my recollection goes now, it seems to me that Tony Vacarro went along for the AP.

HESS: He had been the regular AP man.

NIXON: Yes, he was the regular AP man. The only "specials," as we call them, that is representatives of individual newspapers, I can remember was Wood of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the others escape my memory.

HESS: Since he was returning to Independence and Kansas City, do you recall if the Kansas City reporter, Duke Shoop was along?

NIXON: I'll have to tell you about that. The


Kansas City Star, under Roy Roberts (the managing editor, or publisher, or whatever his title), was a bitter foe of Truman and of the whole idea of a Democratic administration, so they didn't bother to send anyone along.

When the train arrived in Independence, it was evening. There was a crowd. There. must have been three or four thousand people at this little rail side station. It really isn't a station.

HESS: This was in Independence?

NIXON: Yes. One of these...

HESS: Sort of a small depot isn't it?

NIXON: Yeah, small depot. It was an open thing with a low gabled roof, and posts to support it on a concrete platform, that's it. Well, anyway, there was a huge crowd, for a small


town, three or four thousand people there to greet the ex-President, to greet Truman coming home.

The next morning in the Kansas City Star there was not a single line, not a single mention that Truman, President of the United States for three months short of eight years, a native Missourian, had returned to his home in Independence. Not a single line, not a piece of reporting. Well, it was very strange. That isn't the way it should be done. That isn't proper news coverage whether you like them or don't like them, you report a little of what they do.

HESS: What seemed to be the attitude of Mr. and Mrs. Truman on the train home? Were they relieved to be away from the burdens of the Presidency and the burdens of being First Lady?

NIXON: I would say, yes, that was my reaction.


They kept pretty much to themselves, but I saw and talked with Truman on the way back. He was in excellent spirits. He wasn't downcast at all. In fact he seemed a little happy that this burden had been lifted off of his shoulders, and Lord help the new fellow. That was sort of it.

Offices for Truman had been set up, before his arrival, in the Federal Building, on I believe the sixth floor. Anyway, it was not just an office. It was a suite of offices. An ex-President under our system, is happily entitled to those things. Although it seems to me that I remember Truman telling me that he was poor enough, and how in hell was he going to maintain these offices. Well, anyway, there was a nice suite of offices where he had a large private office himself and Rose Conway had her office. There was a reception room, and


two or three other members of his staff had their offices. Despite the fact that the President had left the White House he still receives an enormous amount...

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