Oral History Interview with
Executive assistant, War Assets Administration, 1946-48; executive officer, Office of Educational Exchange, 1948, asst. chief, Division of Libraries and Institutes, 1949-50, U.S. Dept. of State; director of personnel, Economic Stabilization Agency (also OPS), 1951; deputy director, Office of Educational Exchange, 1951-52, asst. administrator, International Information Administration, 1952-53, director, International Educational Exchange Service, U.S. Dept. of State, 1953-58; and subsequent service as a Foreign Service officer, 1958-68.
Russell L. Riley
Irvine , California
February 22, 1974
by James R. Fuchs
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These are transcripts of
tape-recorded interviews conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A
draft of each transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor
emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that these
are essentially transcripts of the spoken, rather than the written word.
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This oral history transcript may be read,
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published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened March, 1976
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Oral History Interview with
Russell L. Riley
by James R.
FUCHS: Mr. Riley, I'd like for you to give me a little bit of
your background: where you were born, your education, your life up to the
time you entered Government service which, I believe, was back around the
RILEY: I was born on a farm near Mendon, Missouri, in Chariton County
about 100 miles east of Kansas City on the Santa Fe line on February 11,
1911. My father was a farmer. A year later we moved to Nebraska and my
became a cowboy on a big ranch in northwestern Nebraska in
McPherson County, 75 miles northwest of North Platte. He finally became
the foreman of that ranch and lived there until I got big enough to go to
school. Then he thought I'd better get into school. I went awhile in 1918,
but the flu epidemic knocked that out, and, so, in 1919 we moved back to
Missouri so we could be closer to school. I went to country schools and
small town schools in Missouri, and finally graduated from high school in
Mendon, having gone earlier to Brunswick, Mo. grammar school. That's a
small town south of Mendon. I graduated from the University of Missouri
with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration in 1934. I was
actually in the class of 1933, but I worked my way through school, so I
didn't get my degree until
1934. I worked for Montgomery Ward at the time I finished
school. Then I worked for a small Mendon mercantile company up in Mendon,
Missouri for a short time. In 1934 I went to work for Swift and Company
working out of the St. Joseph, Missouri office as a salesman, and traveled
in southern Nebraska, northern Kansas, southwestern Iowa, and northwestern
Missouri for a year or so. After which I had a territory in Chillicothe,
Missouri. Worked there a couple of years and quit that job around the
first of October, 1937 to go to work in Washington.
FUCHS: How did you happen to do that?
RILEY: Well, when I was at the University of Missouri I took a Civil
Service exam, a clerk's exam, and I passed it. Didn't pass it very high, I
guess. But over a period of
from 1931 to 1937 I received a half dozen or so inquiries from
the Civil Service Commission as to whether I wanted a job working in
Washington and I always said "no." And finally in 1937 I got an inquiry
saying, "This is the last time we're going to ask you if you want to work
for the Government, on this examination. If your answer is 'no' we're
going to take you off of the list."
FUCHS: Were these other inquiries for specific bureaus?
RILEY: I don't remember. I honestly don't remember what any of them
were. But I went to work for the Railroad Retirement Board, at that point,
in Washington, October 7, 1937 as a clerk. And I worked there a while and
was still a clerk but I finally got into the economic section because of
my education and experience.
Then about three and a half months after I went to work there, I
got fired on 24-hours notice along with 472 other people because the
Railroad Retirement Board made a mistake in its bookkeeping system and ran
out of money in the first part of January, 1938. All probationary
appointees, all temporary appointees, and some permanent appointees just
got laid off on 24-hours notice. And that same day I was interviewed by
somebody from the Social Security Board in Baltimore and I never missed a
day's pay. Just transferred over there, still as a clerk, and went to work
over there in the personnel office.
FUCHS: Were they looking for employees or were they just trying to pick
up employees that were being laid off? How did they happen to interview
RILEY: They interviewed everybody who was laid off. They were
looking for employees in Baltimore, old Candler Building in Baltimore. It
was a big operation IBM set up. They were really establishing the Social
FUCHS: They were just getting started?
RILEY: That's right. I've forgotten -- they'd been underway for a year,
18 months, something like that. So, I worked over there from January '38
until February '39. Then I transferred to the Washington office of the
Social Security Board and became Chief of Clerical Placement for the
entire Social Security Board. Shortly after that I was offered a job to
come back to the Railroad Retirement Board at a substantial increase. I
was employed to go to Kansas City,
which was near my home, to help set up the regional office of
the Railroad Retirement Board. So I went there in June of 1939 and we got
that thing pretty well underway. Around the first of October, a fellow
came out from Washington and said, "I have kind of a mess that needs
cleaning up in Chicago, would I go to Chicago?" Of course, I didn't think
that was a very good idea. I was close to home and I'd seen enough of the
Government -- been fired once and only been with it two and one-half years
-- I'll never leave home again; I might not get money to get back home:
But, anyway, they gave me a two grade promotion to go to Chicago. I went
to Chicago and .worked there for four to six months, something like that.
Then they asked me if I'd transfer back to Washington with the Railroad
Retirement Board and I did in
April of 1940. Then I worked there until March of '41, at which
time I went on active duty with the military. I was a Reserve officer.
FUCHS: I have read that you were with the Office of Export Control for
a while in '41. Were you on active duty then?
RILEY: I was on active duty. As a matter of fact, I was hired and
interviewed by the Army Air Corps to go on duty in their personnel office
in March of '41 and as they were processing my papers to call me to active
duty, a field artillery colonel whom I'd known in reserves, a Regular Army
colonel, told me that he was active in setting up the Office of Export
Control, and if I was going on active duty why didn't I come to work for
him. I told him I'd made a commitment to the Army Air
Corps and he said, "I'll handle that." And he did. He got my
orders changed. So I went to work for the Office of Export Control in
March and worked with them until they became demilitarized in about
September or October of that fall. General Russell Maxwell was the head of
this organization, and at that point he went somewhere and they brought
in, I believe it was Milo Perkins from Texas, a bag manufacturer, to head
up this export control and all of us who were in military decided we'd
rather be in military organizations than we would in a civilian
organization, so we sort of abandoned ship.
I went back to the Air Corps and said, "Here I am. I didn't go to work
for you when you wanted me to, but what about it?"
They said, "Sure, we still got a job for you."
So I went to work for the Army Air Corps, and very shortly
thereafter I was made Deputy Director of Civilian Personnel for the entire
Army Air Corps. I stayed there until February of 1943 at which time I
petitioned out of there and got back to my first love which was the field
FUCHS: Had you been in the field artillery reserves?
RILEY: I'd been in reserves since 1933. I was commissioned in the field
artillery reserves in 1933.
FUCHS: This was out of ROTC?
RILEY: This was out of ROTC at the University of Missouri, that's
right. I was always a great admirer of one Colonel Truman, as a matter of
fact, also being an artillery man from
FUCHS: Did you go to summer camps?
RILEY: Yes, I went to summer camp in Des Moines in '36, 1934 and '35 I
couldn't go, I couldn't afford time off. And '36 I went. In '37 I was new
in Washington, I hadn't gotten established there. '38 I went to camp in
Fort Hoyle, Maryland, and '39, I was too busy trying to get the Social
Security Board and the Railroad Retirement Board going and I couldn't
afford to go to camp.
FUCHS: I've forgotten the last year it was that Mr. Truman went. Of
course, after he became Senator he didn't go much.
RILEY: We never were in the same organization . I was in some Omaha
outfit. He was connected
with the same general area.
FUCHS: He went to Fort Riley and that place in Minnesota.
RILEY: Fort Snelling, yes. I was commissioned at Fort Riley, Kansas, of
course, at the east end close to where old Camp Funston was during World
FUCHS: What were your major problems in the Office of Personnel in the
early years of the war, starting around 1942?
RILEY: Well, from '41 to '43 when I was in the Army Air Corps personnel
business, the first major problem was -- I went there in October and as
you know Pearl Harbor hit the first of December. I'd been there about six
weeks. We had to rev up real fast. We thought we were going pretty fast,
but our biggest problem
was getting decentralized. Everything centered in Washington.
If you wanted to hire a typist in Eugene, Oregon we had to set up the job
in Washington and they had to get permission through my particular unit,
that I was in when I first went there, for another $1,200 dollars to hire
one more typist. So the major problem was to get things decentralized and
get regulations out to the field so the people could hire civilian
personnel all over the country. As a matter of fact, I remember one of the
major problems they had was in the Philippines air depot. We had a big air
depot in the Philippines and the Navy was paying so much better salaries
out there for the Filipinos than we, the Army, were. I had all kinds of
negotiations with the Navy and everybody and his dog trying to get our
wages up a little bit
so that we could compete with the Navy. Seems like the Navy has
always traveled a lot better than the artillery, even than the old style
Air Corps, even though I think the new Air Force does very well. To make a
long story short, the Philippine air depot thing was solved by the
Japanese one day, which was very unfortunate. My problem just vanished
over night. I hadn't finished it yet.
But in March of 1943, I went back to my first love and was sent to the
Field Artillery Replacement Training Center in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, took a
refresher course for a few weeks, and immediately after that I was put
into the advanced officer's course, because I was already a major -- had
been since 1942, February. I took the advanced officer's course and that
was a rather rough experience
for me because, really, I was a desk officer and didn't know
much about field artillery; and all at once I find myself competing with a
bunch of officers who had been with troops and had been with the field
artillery and Regular Army and all this type of thing. But I got through
all right and I was told I was in the upper 10 percent of my class,
because I studied about eight or ten hours every night trying to keep up
with the other people while they drank beer.
FUCHS: While they were drinking.
RILEY: That's right. On the weekends I tried to get a drink, but I
didn't have time during the week. So from there I was given an assignment
down in Carolina and sent down, I think, to the 12th Corps headquarters;
and then I was further assigned to a battalion
in Fort Jackson, South Carolina as Executive Officer of the
696th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, self-propelled armored battalion.
That was in the fall of '43 and on February 11, 1944, we landed in
Scotland with this field artillery unit. We trained in England a while and
then in July of '44 we landed at Omaha Beach and we had combat until 1945
in Europe. I volunteered then for the Asiatic theater and came back to
Washington and was sent to the Command and General Staff School in Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas. Our entire class was in training for going to the
Pacific theater and we found ourselves in class when the atomic bomb was
dropped over there and the war was over, the entire World War II, in
August of 1945.
FUCHS: What divisions were you in, in Europe?
RILEY: We were a separate battalion and we were corps troops. We fought
with the Yankee (26th Inf.) Division, with the 2nd Armored Division, the
4th Armored Division, the 6th Armored Division, 3rd Corps, 12th Corps. We
were all over the place. We were a separate battalion, the 696th Armored
Field Artillery Battalion, and they used us as kind of shock troops.
Sometimes we were ahead of the armored infantry. It was kind of a rough
existence being a separate battalion. We never did belong to any outfit,
Anyway, the war was over, and I'm still alive, and I came back and
finally got out of the service in 1946. I met one of the old timers,
actually he was a major when I was a captain, but he worked for me in the
Export Control Office. At one point, as a
captain I had a bunch of Navy commanders and Army majors and
people like that working for me. We were all in civilian clothes. This
one, Major John S. Cooke, who had stayed in the Pentagon, worked himself
up to a colonel -- he was a major in World War I -- and as I was getting
out of the service in January of '46, I ran into him, and he said he was
about to go to War Assets Corporation as vice president and wanted me to
go with him and I did. And that's how I happened to get into War
FUCHS: Who was heading War Assets at that time?
RILEY: I remember Robert M. Littlejohn came in later. He was one of the
fellows. Some general headed War Assets. He was replaced by Robert M.
Littlejohn. He was the Quartermaster General in Europe. He was head of
at one time. And then another wild man who had been the 12th
Corps artillery officer, I've forgotten his name too, but he was head of
it for a while. Anyway, I worked there for two and one-half years,
something like that, roughly.
FUCHS: What was your title there?
RILEY: I was Executive Assistant to the man who had consumer goods
sales. I think he was vice president for Consumer Goods, something like
that. And then he became a different -- War Assets first had a president
and vice president, and then they had administrators. I think it became an
administration instead of a corporation.
FUCHS: What did your work entail there?
RILEY: Generally, we had all the consumer sales
division under our office and we had to knock heads together
and keep everybody happy and try to -- just general management of a bunch
of sales divisions. I never was very good at explaining what I did. I
seemed to work 12-15 hours a day, but I couldn't tell you during the day
what I'd accomplished.
FUCHS: Do you have any reflections about the way our war assets were
handled? Do you think it was done properly?
RILEY: Yes, I think our war assets were handled reasonably well. It's a
tremendous job and you have millions of pounds and millions of square
yards and millions of dollars worth of stuff. Maybe it's worth three cents
on the dollar, but it will cost fifty cents on the dollar just to store
it. So you're wise to get rid of it; let somebody else take
over the headache of storing it. The Government wasn't
prepared, of course, to use it, so you had to get rid of it. I'm sure lots
of people made millions of dollars, millions and millions of dollars on
it, and yet it would cost the United States Government that much to keep
it and it was useless to us. I remember one interesting thing. During the
course of that experience we found somewhere around Washington a bunch of
World War I horse-drawn ambulances still stored in a field. We got rid of
them. It would have been smart if somebody would have been wise and gotten
rid of them in 1919 instead of waiting until 1946 to get rid of them. I'm
sure they paid rent on that pasture or wherever they were. I didn't see
them but I know it to be a fact.
That's about all I can comment on war
assets. I thought it was an interesting experience. We had some
good businessmen helping us. Of course, I believe that the average civil
servant is a pretty dedicated person, I've always felt that way. Maybe
it's a reflection of myself because I always had a great respect for the
taxpayer. But I've found that a lot of businessmen who came in were
extremely dedicated and almost to the man, of the people I met, they were
impressed with the general caliber of the average civil servant. I've had
any number of them say to me or in my presence, you know, "When I was in
business I used to think that the Government had a bunch of deadwood but
I've met as many dedicated people in the United States Government as I've
met in my own firm."
And I think this is probably true. I'm dedicated to that fact anyway.
FUCHS: Any major problems that you recall in the
RILEY: No, I don't recall any. We were always, of course, very alert to
prevent any of our Federal employees who were working with it getting
entangled in any way. That was a preoccupation in the Administration,
being sure that our compliance people would be on top of anybody going
crooked. This was kind of an experience, too. You always wondered when
some prospective buyer would come in at what point was he going to offer
you something under the table. And there you'd be. Maybe it was somebody
you knew and had known for sometime, maybe you felt rather friendly toward
him. But you had to decide that if that ever happens, I'm going to turn
the son of a bitch in. I mean that's all. I never had a proposition made
to me. There was one fellow who was very
friendly with me; he was kind of a slimy type of guy and I was
always afraid he was going to, but he never did. I told my secretary one
day, "Don't ever leave me alone with him if you can possibly keep from it.
I want somebody around." But he never made a pass at me on any kind of a
This was one of the preoccupations of the Administration at that time
and I think it speaks fairly high for not only the War Assets
administration but for civil servants in general.
Notwithstanding, things like this mess going on in Watergate and things
like that, I think the average civil servant probably even today is pretty
FUCHS: Then you went to the...
RILEY: State Department.
FUCHS: How did that come about? This was '48?
RILEY: Yes, 1948. I, of course, realized that the War Assets was in its
waning stages and I was looking around for another Government job. I had
pretty much decided by this point that I was going to stay in the
Government, although I had never until about this time made up my mind
that I was going to make a career of the Government. I don't think I
entirely made it up then. But a fellow who worked for me in the Railroad
Retirement Board back in 1939 was working in the personnel office of the
State Department. A rather menial position. But he called me at my house
one day and said, "I understand they're setting up a new office over in
our Department" -- the State Department -- "and I understand this is the
man you might go to see about it."
Well, to make a long story short, I got a job. I saw a lot of
people, and I got a job in helping set up what was called the Office of
Educational Exchange. The Smith-Mundt Act had been passed in January of
1948 I believe that was this god-awful 80th Congress, wasn't it?
FUCHS: The 80th Congress was '47 to '48, because Mr. Truman castigated
the 80th Congress in his campaign in '48.
RILEY: Yes, that's right. Anyway, Senator H. Alexander Smith from New
Jersey and Karl Mundt, who was a Congressman at that time from South
Dakota, sponsored this legislation, and so we had in '48 -- January I
think -- President Truman signed the Smith-Mundt Act, which provided for
the cultural and informational part of the United States Government. This
was the beginning of the Voice of
America, International Press Service, the International
Broadcasting Service, which was the Voice of America, the overseas
libraries, binational institutes, the educational exchange program --
which I eventually headed -- and the motion picture service. Those were
the five media provided for under the Smith-Mundt Act. So I went to work
organizing the Office of Educational Exchange, which was made up of the
library service and the exchange of persons service. I was the first
employee actually on the payroll of the combined Office of Educational
Exchange. All the other people were detailed to it from the State
Department. Since I came from the outside, we had to set up my job, and I
became Executive Officer and helped set that up in '48 and '49. We had
three principal parts of it. The exchange of persons program, the
libraries, and binational
institutes program, and then an office -- I don't remember the
name of it, but it was dedicated to cultural relations mainly in the
Latin-American area. After working there as Executive Officer for several
months, I was made Assistant Chief for the libraries operation and worked
on that for about six or eight months. Then the Korean war hit -- maybe I
worked longer than that. I think I did, I worked from the summer of 1949
until December of 1950. When the Korean war came along, they set up the
Economic Stabilization Agency, which included the Office of Price
Stabilization, and the Office of Wage Stabilization. President Truman had
Eric Johnston heading that, I believe, and then he brought Mike DiSalle in
to head up the Office of Price Stabilization. A friend of mine became
assistant administrator of that and invited me to come over and apply for
the job and I became
Director of Personnel for the Office of Price
FUCHS: Who was that you knew in the office?
RILEY: Richard Francis Cook. Dick Cook.
FUCHS: What was his position?
RILEY: He was Assistant Director of Price Stabilization for Management
or Administration or whatever the title was. He had personnel and various
other types of administrative-managerial kind of control in the outfit.
So, I applied for a job and got it, and became Director of Personnel. At
this point, this was before Mike DiSalle's time, I guess. I've forgotten
the fellow's name. He left about the day he hired me, I think, and Mike
DiSalle took over. Mike didn't hire me. I've forgotten that fellow's name.
Anyway, before I was made Director
of Personnel, I had to have White House clearance. This was the
first time in my career I'd ever had anything approaching political
clearance. I was sent over to the White House to be interviewed by Donald
Dawson and Don made it abundantly clear from the very beginning that they
were hiring a personnel director and they expected me to operate under
Civil Service rules and regulations, no hanky-panky, and no ward-heeling
type of political appointments, this type of thing. They wanted a clean
operation. He also informed me that it was customary at times for
different people who worked in and around the White House to call up
various agencies and say, "This is 'Joe Bloke' from the White House," and
ask people to do things. But he said, in personnel administration in the
Government, nobody at the White House spoke for the White House except the
President and Don Dawson and Don Dawson's secretary
on his behalf. I understood that and told him I appreciated
that. I had a rather interesting experience one day. John Steelman called
me up and announced on the telephone who he was and began to ask me to do
some things and I didn't know whether it was a trap or not. I had great
respect for John Steelman but I felt obligated to inform him that I'd been
ordered by Don Dawson not to take any direction from the White House
except from those three people that I mentioned. So I informed John
Steelman of that and that's the last I ever heard from him. I don't know
whether he accomplished his mission or not through some other source.
FUCHS: Did you know him personally?
RILEY: I didn't know John Steelman. I'd seen him,
but I didn't know him.
FUCHS: Subsequently, did you have much contact with Donald Dawson?
RILEY: No, I talked to him on the phone probably three more times in
the several months I was there. His secretary called many times and
referred people to me, because there were lots of people always being
referred, I mean coming to the White House looking for referral; and we
were hiring a lot of people. In a period of about six months, we hired
11,000 people all over the United States and staffed some 45 regional and
district offices. All these people were hired under Civil Service rules
and regulations. Needless to say, we were extremely busy and we were
working many 20-hour days in our personnel office, and I think I worked
hours than anybody. I've always felt that if you're going to
lead a bunch of people you've got to set an example, and I did. But of all
the referrals that I had from the White House, I never had but one
pressure case. And Don Dawson's secretary -- I've forgotten her name --
called me and said, "Mr. Riley, I hate to put any pressure on you but I
have somebody I'd like to recommend here. He's been pestering us to death
and so is the Republican National Committee." She said, "If you can do
anything for him, I'd really appreciate it."
I said, "Send him over."
And she sent him over and, notwithstanding the fact that he was a
Republican, he was a good man and we hired him. I don't even remember his
name now; but we had a spot for him. He was qualified. I thought this
of characterized the Truman administration in a sense.
Newspapers blasted Truman for this and that, and he was criticized for
sticking by his friends and a few things like that, which I think is very
commendable. But I think by and large he was an extremely honest man, and
I think this permeated the entire administration during his duty. The
White House never put any pressure on me, as I say, on this small job that
I had in hiring some 11,000 people in six months, except once and it was a
bona fide bit of pressure. They just wanted to get somebody off their neck
and thought somebody should hire him. They told me he looked like he was
well-qualified when they sent him over.
FUCHS: Were you in touch with Mike DiSalle occasionally or
RILEY: Very frequently. He was a great guy, a great guy. He had
the best morale in that Price Stabilization Office of, I think, about
anyplace I ever saw. He was a leader. He was friendly. He handled himself
extremely well with the Congress and extremely well with the press. I
think by and large he was well thought of and this permeated his entire
organization. People were happy working for him because they knew they had
a person in there who was a good, honest, hard-working leader.
In personnel business you get down in the dumps because you have a lot
of pressure put on you from time to time. You know, operating people they
all want to get their secretary another $10,000 a year and things like
this. When I'd get down in the dumps and really needed to be perked up a
bit, I'd just go over and have a little chat with Mike DiSalle,
say on Saturday afternoon. He worked seven days a week. He really led that
outfit. And I would go over and talk with him for a few minutes and he
would kind of buttress up my morale and get me feeling better. He was a
real great person.
FUCHS: In this State Department position, where you were Assistant
Chief of Libraries andů
RILEY: Binational Institutes. Going back to 1938 or '39 there was a law
which provided for certain cultural cooperation with the other American
Republics, and under that the Government assisted in setting up in Latin
America binational institutes generally in binational libraries. They put
a bunch of American books down there and they'd have classes in English
and classes in American literature,
and things like that. The local people would attend them, and
there would be binational employees both North Americans, United States
citizens, and South Americans working in them. For example, I understand
that they taught English in Mexico City and they had such a big -- I've
forgotten, hundreds of people went to study English at this binational
institute in Mexico City. This was pretty well throughout Latin America;
it was part of our public posture during the war to keep this going. And
during the Nelson Rockefeller days of cooperation with the other American
republics, we nurtured this type of thing. Finally, when the Smith-Mundt
Act was passed, these things came under our general aegis and we had the
Division of Libraries and Institutes developed and that's the outfit I was
FUCHS: Was this augmented under the Smith-Mundt Act?
RILEY: Under the Smith-Mundt Act we got our first appropriation for
exchange of persons and things like that. Previously the Fulbright Act had
been passed in 1946 and there was no dollar appropriation for that until
the Smith-Mundt Act came along, and that gave some dollar appropriations
to help out on the Fulbright exchange program; and that became part of
this Office of Educational Exchange, too, the Fulbright Act. As a matter
of fact, starting in '48 we began to set up these Fulbright programs
around over the world, and this act provided for binational commissions to
run them in the foreign countries. So, you'd have the American ambassador
usually as the chairman of this commission, and you'd have some of the
leading local educators on it, and maybe one or two
other American businessmen or American diplomats. You would
have a four to five to seven man binational board, and then we'd sign an
agreement with the country to use foreign currencies that we owned in
their country, so to speak, because of war surplus or some other thing
that they owed us for, lend-lease type of things . So that was the
Fulbright Act in a nutshell.
But then we worked it hand in glove with the Smith-Mundt Act. Finally
in January of 1952, they reorganized all of this element of the State
Department under what was then called the United States International
Information Administration, and that was part of the State Department. At
that point, we set up these various services on a more clear
organizational pattern. The International Broadcasting Service, generally
known as the
Voice of America. The International Press and Publications
Service, which was dedicated to exchange of publications, nurturing press
relations with other countries, and things like this. Putting out American
literature. The International Motion Picture Service which did the same
thing with movies and audiovisual things. And the Libraries and Institutes
Service, called the Information Center Service. That was the one I had
been Assistant Chief of before, but by this time I was Deputy Director of
the parent office after I'd come out of the Office of Price Stabilization.
In August of 1951 I was invited to come back to the State Department as
the Deputy Director of this Office of Educational Exchange. And then in
January of 1952, when we had this reorganization that I was just speaking
about, I became the
Director of the International Educational Exchange Service,
under this International Information Administration.
FUCHS: I believe in your Who's Who account it says that in '52 you were
Assistant Administrator of the International Information
RILEY: That's right, that was my title. I was Assistant Administrator.
I had two hats. I was Assistant Administrator of the International
Information Administration with direct responsibility for the
International Educational Exchange Service.
FUCHS: Which you became Director of in '53?
RILEY: See, I was actually the Director of it. Honestly, this was a
funny thing. I had to get my own title changed because my title was
Assistant Administrator, International Information
Administration in charge of the International Educational
Exchange Service. And I remember one time I was interviewed, either on TV
or radio, I think radio in those days, and when the fellow asked me to
give my precise title he immediately balled me out after I gave it. He
said he didn't ask me to make a speech he just asked me to say what my
title was. This got very, very bureaucratic, all this title; so I got them
to change my title to Director of the International Educational Exchange
Service, which I shortened to IES. So I was Director of IES, and that was
the way we were known in the trade. I still had the same job but they
changed the title about a year later. Anyway, that was a great program. It
came on during the Truman administration and then when the Eisenhower
administration came in, in January, or whenever
the Eisenhower administration came in, shortly after that the
head of this International Information Administration left.
FUCHS: Do you recall who that was?
RILEY: Wilson Compton. Dr. Wilson Compton who had been the president of
Washington State University -- I've forgotten the name of the town up in
Washington -- for several years. He was the first administrator of the
International Information Administration. He was replaced by Robert
Johnson, under the Eisenhower administration. Bob Johnson had been
president of Temple University for several years. He was a self-made
millionaire. Made his money in getting Time and Life on the way, I guess.
Quite a publicist, quite a political-type person, and Dulles, being
Secretary of State at that time, brought him in to head up
this International Information Administration and to take it
out of the State Department and to set it up as a separate agency. I was
the head of the International Educational Exchange Service, which I
considered the diplomatic part of this organization. All the other parts
of it being more propagandistic. I had some backing on the Hill for this
viewpoint. I felt very dedicated, of course; the cultural community
throughout the United States, the educational community felt this way,
FUCHS: Who were the principal people on the Hill that felt like you
RILEY: Well, Smith, and Mundt and Fulbright and all of our friends.
I've forgotten the major friends of the program. I mentioned them
particularly because I worked closely with
them. But, anyway, I explained all of this to Dr. Johnson and
told him that under the direction of Eisenhower we had to write
Reorganization Plan #8, which was going into effect on August of 1953,
which was to set up the United States Information Agency.
FUCHS: This was under the Hoover Commission reorganization?
RILEY: I believe it was. I believe it was an offshoot of the Hoover
Commission; I just don't recall. I worked on it, and was very much
engrossed in it at the time, but I just don't recall. At any rate, I dug
my heels in and said, "I think the exchange program should stay in the
State Department. I don't think it should be a part of the propaganda
agency." And all of my staff, of course, felt that way. Dulles didn't feel
any way. He just wanted to get rid of everything but his
briefcase. He didn't want any operations in the State
Department apparently. He thought we were an operating agency and we
should be outside. So, I had that to contend with, not personally, but I
mean as a part of the scheme of things, including my boss, Bob Johnson. I
think he felt that probably the most bona fide program he had was the
Exchange Program. So he wanted it to go with him when he set up this
agency on the outside. Of course, this was during the McCarthy era. I
don't want to go into that. I could make some comment on it, but I just
don't think it's appropriate.
RILEY: Well, I don't know. You can sort this out anyway you want to.
Remind me of McCarthy a little later on. I'll go ahead with what
we're talking about.
We had, as an advisory commission to this exchange program, a
presidentially appointed board. Two of them. One, the Board of Foreign
Scholarships to supervise the Fulbright program, and an overriding
commission called the United States Advisory Commission on Educational
Exchange, also a presidentially appointed board made up of very prominent
educators. All of them educators, and the chairman of the board was
J.[ames] Lewis Morrill, President of the University of Minnesota. Great
friend, I still correspond with him. He's past 80 now; he's retired, of
course. So, they were holding their Advisory Commission meeting on this
particular day in the summer of 1953 in our office in Washington. And Bob
Johnson head of the International Information Administration
was going in to appear before them to explain why it was
absolutely mandatory that we take the exchange program out of the State
Department along with the rest of the United States Information Agency. I
told Johnson that I was not going into the meeting with him and back him
up. He said, "What are you going to do?"
I said, "I have no other alternative, we just part ways at this point,
so I'll have to resign as of now." This was ten minutes before the
meeting. I'd talked to him several times, but I just dug in my heels at
the door, you might say. And Bob Johnson being a great guy said, "Russ, I
didn't know you felt so strongly."
I said, "I sure as hell do." I said, "I'm dedicated to keeping this in
the State Department. Dulles wants to get rid of it,
you want to take it with you and everything like that. I have
no alternative but to resign."
He said, "No, you know a lot about this exchange program." He said, "I
think you should go into this meeting with me and I'll make my pitch and
then I'll explain to them that you have a different view."
I said, "Hell, Bob, I can't do this, I work for you."
He said, "No," -- he's not a bureaucrat like I am, see; he's a
businessman, educator, millionaire -- "I think that's right, I think they
ought to hear your view."
I said, "Okay, if you want to do it that way."
So we went into this meeting and appeared before the United States
Advisory Commission on Educational Exchange, which was
headed by Dr. Morrill, President of the University of
Minnesota. Dr. Johnson gave his pitch on why he thought the exchange
program should leave the State Department, go along with the rest of the
United States Information Agency and be a part of it. After finishing he
commented on the fact that the Director of it, which was me, had a
different view on it and that he had invited me to come in and present my
view. So I did. This caused kind of a problem for the Commission. We
usually sat through the meeting but Dr. Morrill said, "Well, we have kind
of a problem here, we want to discuss this and we think we should go into
executive session and excuse Dr. Johnson and Mr. Riley. But we'll let you
know. We'd like to have you come back in and talk to us a little
We were gone from the office for, I don't
know, I don't recall -- maybe 20 minutes, maybe an hour and a
half, but a short time; and we were invited back into the room and Dr.
Morrill said, "Dr. Johnson, we must inform you that we agree with Mr.
And Johnson said, "Well, if you feel that strongly, you're advisory to
the President. I'm seeing the President this afternoon," -- meaning
Eisenhower -- "I'll explain to him that you feel this way."
Dr. Morrill said, "Dr. Johnson, we're appointed by the President and I
expect he'd like to hear from us direct."
But, he said, "But I'm going over there this afternoon."
Dr. Morrill said, "Well, I think we can get word to him by this
So, I don't know precisely what happened, I wasn't privy to precisely
what happened. But
in the middle of the afternoon Bob Johnson who was my boss
said, "Well, Russ, I'm going over to see the President and I'll explain
all of this to him, and I don't know what his decision is going to be but
I'll call you at the office."
I said, "Well, I'm vitally interested in this so I'll sit here until I
hear from you."
At 9 that night the telephone rang in the office and it was Bob Johnson
and he said, "Russ, are you still in the office?"
And I said, "I told you I'd sit here until I heard from you."
He said, "I'm terribly sorry, I was over at the White House and I came
out of the White House and I got sidetracked and I had to go out to dinner
with some people, and I'm up here at such and such a restaurant. I just
happened to think about you so I called your
house and was told you weren't home yet and they gave me your
office number, and so I apologize." But he said, "The President said, 'All
right, if the Advisory Commission feels that way, that is all right, we'll
leave it in the State Department."' So Reorganization Plan 8 was rewritten
right as of that moment and I stayed in the State Department with the
program. I don't know whether Dulles was happy or sad about it. But anyway
that was the way it came out and that's what the President put through,
Reorganization Plan 8. And I think that was the major contribution I made
to that exchange program right there, I honestly do.
FUCHS: Do you recall the salient points of Johnson's presentation?
RILEY: No, I don't. Well, the salient point was that
this whole information educational exchange program should work
hand in glove. That they had a cultural officer and an information
officer, public relations officer overseas who did all of the things and
that they should be one agency so that they could be coordinated and work
closely together overseas, which they did. They still operate sort of
together overseas, but it's known as the State Department exchange program
and not an information agency exchange program. And, although we had a 30
million dollar budget, we had another 20 or 30 million dollars plowed into
it in time, effort, and resources on the part of cultural and educational
institutions in this country, and we would have cut off 90 percent of that
if we would have been part of the information agency and known as a part
of a propaganda agency. Educators are
extremely dedicated to the fact that they want education for
education's sake and not for political reasons. And, although I ran this
program with my eye on politics all the time, international politics and
the security of our country -- I've had to play it out of both sides of my
mouth in a way -- but we were spending taxpayer's money for this, and
although I had to placate the educators and get their cooperation, at the
same time I had to sharpen our program in such a way that we would score
politically abroad. Now, this is a tightrope, but we tried to do it.
FUCHS: As set up under Smith-Mundt, do you feel there were any major,
even minor, impediments to a more successful operation? Was there anything
that you would have wished had been done differently in the Act?
RILEY: Yes, and this was later taken care of. I've forgotten
the date of the Act, but one of the major problems that I had in my office
-- I operated under the Smith-Mundt Act, under the Fulbright Act, under
this act for the cultural cooperation with other Latin-American programs.
Certain parts of the foreign aid bill had been written to take care of,
for example, certain uses for India wheat money, things like this. We had
a big conglomeration of acts and it was hard to coordinate all of these
activities and comply with all the provisions for all the various acts. We
started kind of codifying this and getting it all together. Finally, after
I left this program I think it was about 1961 -- the Fulbright-Hays Act
was passed. By this time Wayne Hays from the eastern part of Ohio, a
Congressman, had become interested in the educational exchange
program and so he sponsored the bill in the House and
Fulbright, of course, in the Senate, and the Fulbright-Hays Act was passed
which brought all of these things together. That was one of the biggest
problems of the operation of it, aside from the fact that we always had
trouble getting money. That Rooney Committee in the House is the hardest
Appropriations Committee that anybody ever was up against, and yet I had
great respect for John Rooney and the way he squeezed the bureaucrats at
the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooney and I fought like cats and
dogs and he put all kinds of pressure on me and everything, but I knew
what I was doing and I was reasonably successful with him. But he kept me
honest from the standpoint of looking out for the taxpayer's interest. I
really think it was a great thing. Checks and balance in
our Government are the strength of the Government, really.
FUCHS: Is there anyone who really gave you a hard time, who didn't
believe in the program? Did you have any problems with this, that, or the
RILEY: You know, it's kind of like childbirth, you forget all the bad
things. Yes, there were a lot of people who gave me a hard time, but I
couldn't name a half dozen of them. I couldn't name three of them right
now. We were criticized for this and that. Of course, Congressman Gross
from Iowa gives everybody a hard time, you know. I think he's a great guy,
though; I mean from the standpoint of looking after the taxpayer. But I
don't recall the people who gave us a hard time. Well, I've forgotten just
what year it was, but I was working for
the Eisenhower administration, so I'm generally known on the
Hill, which was Democratic at that time, as that Republican at the other
end of the line. Wayne Hays was a Democrat and chairman of the
subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee and I had to appear before
him in the next few days on some legislative matter, and I didn't know
him. It was my way of operating to always try to get acquainted with the
people. I'd try to meet them and I tried to find out everything I could
about them. I kept a book on Congressmen. All their pet peeves and how
they voted and everything else. I kept up to date. So, if a Congressman
would get me on the phone and said, "I wanted to ask you something," I'd
interrupt him and say, "That was a great thing you did on the Veteran's
bill the other day, I thought that was great." You know, all at once he
found out that I thought he was important. So I got along
pretty well with the people on the Hill because of my congressional
relations efforts. But anyway, this Hays, I told him I'd like to come up
to see him. I said, "It will only take me three or four minutes but I want
to explain to you so you'll know in advance what I'm going to talk about
before your subcommittee," and he condescended to let me come up. I went
to his office and as I walked in -- I'd studied a lot about him -- and
he's got over on the eastern side of Ohio a district that looks like it's
about 20 miles wide and about 800 miles long and it takes the whole
eastern slab of Ohio, may go up as high as Akron, I don't know. He had a
picture of his district on the wall and that's the first thing I spotted
when I walked in. So I said, "Hello, Congressman Hays," and walked over to
the map and I said, "You know, I've
often wondered about your district here and how in the world
you ever cover it?" I said, "How far is it from up here down to here?" And
at that point he forgot that he was mad at me and he got up and stood and
looked at the map and said, "Well, it's 600 miles," or whatever it was,
and we talked about that and I said, "Well, I just don't understand how
you get around over it. Take some of these city guys, they've got a small
district and they can set up offices and this and that, must cost you a
lot of money." Not only that but he was hep on this idea of Congressmen
having to run every two years like the Senators or somebody else," but I
said, "Hell, you no more get elected than you have to run up and down that
district and try to get elected again."
Well, by that time we were friends, you know, I understood his
problems. So, he says,
"Well, sit down."
And I said, "No, I've already spent my five minutes here. I came up to
tell you what I was going to see you about when I came before your
committee and there's no point in my sitting down because I don't want to
take up any more of your time. I'll just tell you while I'm standing up."
I told him about whatever it was in about three minutes. All I really
wanted to do was get acquainted with him; I could testify before the
committee. But I explained it in about two or three minutes and thanked
him and left. The hearing came up a few days later and several people
testified on different other things, and finally the clerk says, "We're
going to have Mr. Riley now, Director of the Exchange Program, "at such
And Hays said, "Hello Mr. Riley, it's
nice to see you again." And I sat down, right by his elbow as a
matter of fact. He pushed back his chair and he said to the committee
members: "This thing that Mr. Riley has here is sort of a simple thing.
I've talked to him and it's all explained on this sheet of paper. We had a
long discussion about it and it looks all right with me. It's kind of
getting late and if anybody around the table has any objections, I'd like
to hear it, otherwise I think we might just as well -- and thank you very
much, Mr. Riley." And that was the hearing:
FUCHS: One way to do business.
RILEY: Well, that's the only way to do business in Washington. You can
see from this tape that there's nothing modest about me. I'm rather
egotistical except about my golf scores.
Honestly, though, I have worked hard.
FUCHS: Well, you went on then and became the consul in
RILEY: Yes, I was consul general in Malta for two years. I was consul
general in Johannesburg for four years, or three and a half.
FUCHS: Are there any problems or anecdotes, anything that stands out in
RILEY: Well, a lot of things. But there are people more prolific than
me who have commented on them and I don't think I could add a lot. Being a
Middle Westerner and having been raised in a hat something like that
hanging over there, which is a western dress hat. That's a little more
than a dress hat. That's about a seven and a half gallon there I guess. I
bought that hat in Laramie, Wyoming for my father many years ago, and he
passed away here not long ago, so I inherited it. Anyway,
I wore a white hat something like this all the time I was
overseas, and I became known as the "guy with the white Stetson hat," you
might say. Part of my trademark -- you have to have some kind of public
posture when you're in public life. You have to have some trademark. Go
into some of these British type clubs and meet some admiral of the Royal
Navy and he'd say, "Russ, I knew you were here, I saw your hat hanging
outside." I don't really have anything to say about the Foreign Service.
It's a great Service and a lot of dedicated people in it. I enjoyed it
very much and now I'm glad that I'm a private citizen again.
FUCHS: You retired from the State Department?
RILEY: I retired from the State Department and got credit for all of my
service under the
Foreign Service Retirement Act. I had 32 years of service. All
of my Government service counted, used my Civil Service money and bought
into the Foreign Service Retirement. I retired with 32 years of service,
and when I became age 60, in 1971, I also got a small pension under the
military reserves. So, I have two pensions now. And I'm working on my
third one here. I must retire from here in four years, when I'm 67, and at
that point I should be getting a little pension of say 20 percent of my
high three average or something like that. Sixty-seven is mandatory. I
don't know whether I'll hold out that long or not. I hope to. I've got a
young family to raise and it's expensive now days. I don't know of any
FUCHS: Well, in '56 you were chairman of the
European Congress of Cultural Officers. Do you recall anything
RILEY: Yes, I do. All of our embassies overseas have cultural attaches
and these were, in a sense, contract employees of mine, because the
exchange program was the principal cultural program of the U.S. diplomatic
service. We from time to time arranged these conferences and brought the
cultural attaches in from all of the various posts for meetings, and in
'56 we set up such a meeting in Brussels. We invited the cultural attaches
and public affairs officers, as a matter of fact, from all the European
countries, Scandinavian countries, over as far as Greece. We had people
there from Greece and people from Iceland. Those were the two ends. Then
from Portugal and Finland. I mean the entire area. This was about a
three-day conference in which we discussed all aspects of the United
activities abroad. I took a contingent of my people with me and
we brought them up to date on Washington aspects, political aspects,
financial aspects, regulatory aspects. That's what that was. I tied that
in with the trip that I made throughout western Europe and on up to
Finland. A kind of a "snoopervising" trip.
FUCHS: I believe you represented the Department of State at the
dedication of the Truman presidential library.
RILEY: July of '57, I believe it was. Wasn't it July?
FUCHS: July 6th.
RILEY: It was a hot day I know that. Were you there by any chance?
RILEY: It was a boiling hot day and, of course, we sat outside
there on the front porch or portico, whatever it's called. That boiling
sun and the program went on and on, very interesting. I remember that at
some point before the program was completely finished I found a shade tree
off to one side. We could still hear what was going on but we left the
main -- I've forgotten what his name was, but the head of the United
States Office of Education and I went over and stood under the shade tree.
That was an interesting experience for me. I don't recall how I was
appointed by the State Department to go. Anyway, I was happy to go.
FUCHS: The connection between libraries and your service?
RILEY: Well, that and my home and everything; it was near my home.
FUCHS: I think there was a connection between President Truman
and your home in the early days. Would you care to comment on that for the
RILEY: You mean down in Chariton County?
RILEY: I should have looked this up. But my father always claimed that
his grandmother and Harry Truman's grandmother were sisters. I haven't
checked that. I have some genealogy things and I think I saw something
about it; but I don't know what the connection is. My dad was a great
admirer of Truman. Anyway, Truman used to come down to Chariton County to
go duck hunting, I understand. This was after I left there. Although it
was my home up until I came here, in a sense, and I still visit there, I
really left there to go to school
and was away from there by and large after about 1929. But I
think in the thirties, along in there, and maybe even up until World War
II, Truman used to come down there. Tom Bash was a friend of his. Tom was
from Mendon, Missouri. Tom, you may recall, at one time was the Sheriff of
Jackson County. You may met him? I don't know how he got acquainted with
Truman, but Tom used to bring Truman down to go hunting at Lost Quarter,
which is two or three miles out from this little town of Mendon and
actually within 600 yards from where I was born. That's about my closest
contact with Truman, having him hunt ducks where I was born. I've seen him
lots of times, been in his presence, but never had any personal contact
with him, really.
FUCHS: I believe you had an uncle in Kansas City?
RILEY: Yes, Herley S. Daily was head of the Connecticut Mutual
Life Insurance Company in Kansas City. I guess he knew Truman. He was
chairman of the grand jury that sent Pendergast to the pen, I think.
Incidentally, I've heard a lot of comment about Pendergast and Truman. I
think that Pendergast befriended Truman, and I think Truman lived beyond
the dishonest aspects of it. I always paid great tribute to Truman for
having the nerve to go to his funeral and never let him down, really.
Although Pendergast obviously was a crook. I know nothing about it
FUCHS: Did you ever meet Mr. Truman personally?
RILEY: No, I've never met him. I've been within six or eight feet of
him two or three times in a small group. He would come in late and then he
had to leave early, and by the time
he shook hands with all the people right around him, why, it
would be impolite to go up and make him hesitate for one more minute to
say, "I'm a Masonic Missourian, field artilleryman, Democrat," which I
always felt I had in common with him.
FUCHS: You had mentioned earlier something about the McCarthy era and I
wondered what your reflections are about that period?
RILEY: Well this was a very rough time for good guys and bad guys.
McCarthy was, in my estimation, a phony all the way through. Kind of a no
count scoundrel. But at one point, I think it was in West Virginia, he hit
on this idea that he had in his hand, I believe he said a list of so many
subversives, and fairies, or whatever he had, Communists who worked in the
State Department, etc., etc. This made some
sort of headline that got the public's attention and of course,
lots of people in this country are dedicated against communism, naturally,
our most formidable enemy, so this brought McCarthy right to the front.
That's all background everybody knows who lived through that period. But
McCarthy was after educators, cultural people, because, very frankly, in
this general field you do find a lot of liberal-minded people and probably
some Communist sympathizers, in those days and this day and any other day.
Probably you would find most of the hot bed of liberalism and communism,
that type of thing, in the cultural, educational endeavor. So, realizing
this, McCarthy took out after the State Department in general -- weren't
those the days of Acheson? I think so.
FUCHS: Oh, yes.
RILEY: I worked under so many Secretaries of State I kind of forget who
they all were. I remember, George Marshall was the first one I worked
under. I remember that.
FUCHS: Did you ever meet him in person?
RILEY: Yes, on several occasions. I might say as an aside I met General
Walter Bedell Smith when he was Under Secretary of State. And then I
learned why Eisenhower was such a good general. I think that's a political
comment if there ever was one. Bedell Smith did most of Eisenhower's
thinking for him. I think if Ike could have gotten Bedell in the White
House he would have had him instead of Sherman Adams. Bedell Smith was one
of the best staff men that I ever saw in my life. He could really get to
the point in a hurry
and there wasn't any time wasted in any kind of a meeting I
ever sat in with him. I heard him lam-bast two of the very top people in
Government in a meeting one day. He said, "When you two guys get through
bull shittin' down at the other end of the table," he said, "I'd like to
go on with the meeting."
FUCHS: Who were they?
RILEY: Harold Stassen was one of them, and the other fellow later
became Secretary of Treasury, and I've forgotten who that was right now,
but he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense at that point. Bedell
Smith could really put people back on the business end of the deal.
But going back to the McCarthy days, McCarthy was -- Fulbright kind of
took after McCarthy a little bit. McCarthy then became
dedicated to the fact that he wanted to find out what
subversives were working in the State Department in connection with the
exchange program, the Fulbright program, this was all part of his pattern.
So here I sat at the top of the Fulbright program and all the exchange
program, and felt like I was as much of a dedicated war veteran as
McCarthy was. I was certainly anti-Communist and everything else, and I
felt like I had the same aim in mind that McCarthy did, but I had
different tactics I guess. Anyway, he had all kinds of hearings. It
started out by my getting a call on April Fool's Day, 1953. It would have
been a good April Fool's joke, but my secretary looked at me as I walked
in the office -- I'd been around the corner in the men's room or something
-- and said, "Mr. Riley, Roy Cohn wants to speak with you." I didn't say
April Fool, I didn't
say anything, I could tell by her look that Roy Cohn was on the
other end of the phone. So, I just went in and sat down at my desk and
said, "Hello," and it was, it was Roy Cohn; he wanted to see me. He wanted
to see me immediately. He wanted to talk to me about the Fulbright program
and so I went. This was a sign of the times, when McCarthy's group spoke,
you jumped. So I went over and cooled my heels for three or four hours
waiting until he could see me. By this time I was fit to be tied. I didn't
know what he wanted to see me about, what he wanted to ask me about. So, I
went into his office and I was a wreck by this time and he said, "Are you
in charge of the student exchanges?"
I said, "I'm in charge of all exchanges."
And he said, "Tell me how the students are selected."
I said, " Do you really have time for me to explain this to
you?" I said, "It will take three or four hours."
And he said, "No, I just want to know briefly how they are
I said, "I can't tell you briefly how they're selected. I can write it
out for you, I can explain it to you, I know how they are selected, but
I'm not going to do it in a couple of minutes."
"All right, you write me and tell me how they are selected."
I said, "Fine." He asked me about three other questions and I've
forgotten what they were, but I gave him roughly the same type of answers
and told him I'd furnish it for the records, so to speak. He said, "Thanks
very much," and I got up and I was so excited I walked through a door and
walked right into
a goddamn closet. And I turned around and had to come back and
go past his desk again.
Anyway, I sent him the information on how students were selected and I
knew all the time he wasn't even interested in how students were selected.
What he wanted to know was how professors were selected, because these
were the people he was after. But I got him on the student thing and kept
him on it for the purpose of my dealings with him.
Then McCarthy began to hold hearings on different professors and there
was a lot of news in the newspapers about he had this Fulbright professor
doing this and this one doing that and so forth. He was making big
broadcasts about it and, incidentally, at the same time there was a
liaison officer appointed in the State Department to work with the
McCarthy committee, and this liaison officer
worked with my office as a pipeline for information. We just
had all kinds of calls, we had to make all kinds of surveys. One time, I
remember, I had to make some kind of an international survey by telegram
and had to get the answer back to McCarthy and the committee in, you know,
14 hours or 48 hours something like that. To make a long story short, I
spent $9,000 in about three days and I kept account of it just because I
thought someday it might become of interest, to furnish some damn bit of
information that you didn't need. It wasn't of any importance.
A kind of a highlight of the tricks that people play, they had some
poor professor and his wife on the pan in New York City, the McCarthy
committee, for about a week, and announcing all of the time that he was a
Fulbright professor and this kind of thing;
and when they rung this fellow clear out, and rung him dry,
then I let the cat out of the bag through my liaison officer that they're
barking up the wrong tree. This fellow never had anything to do with the
Fulbright program and just kind of jerked the rug out from under them on
this end. That's one way to expend the enemy's ammunition. But actually I
couldn't agree more with the things that McCarthy said. You know, he was
against communism, he was for motherhood and all this type of thing. I
always did agree with that. But I thought he was the most devastating
thing that ever hit the United States Government. The day after I was
called before Roy Cohn I was just beside myself. I was just so excited.
That evening going home I drove through a red light out in Arlington,
Virginia and damn near got run over by a car coming cross traffic. I went
right through a red light; I was so preoccupied
that I never saw the light at all. But that brought me back to
earth right then, and I thought, "My gosh, don't let this get you down,"
and I kind of got a hold of myself.
I remember one day Fulbright was in a meeting down in the State
Department and I was so concerned about McCarthyism and everything that I
was about ready to climb the wall. Fulbright went out to his car and I
walked out with him and told him that I was very concerned and he said --
I remember he put his hand on my shoulder and he says, "Russell,
McCarthy's not after you, he's after the program." He said, "You must have
a pretty good record because if he was after you, if there was anything in
your background, he would have had you long before now, so you just relax
and just remember that he's after the program, he's obviously not after
Well, that was consolation to me coming from a fellow in
Fulbright's position. I remember we had a hearing before the
Appropriations Committee. I believe Styles Bridges was the chairman of the
subcommittee. I believe he was. I think this was under a Republican
Congress; I've kind of lost track. But anyway, I was supposed to appear
before the Appropriations Committee for an appropriations hearing for the
exchange program, in the regular basement room of the Capitol. I went to
the room at 9 o'clock in the morning, when I was supposed to go, and there
was a little sign, handwritten, hanging on the door saying that the
hearing has been transferred to the Senate Caucus room over in the Senate
Office Building. That was a big building, a big room. And we went over
there and found the klieg lights were all set up and the press was there,
and instead of having a nice little
hearing, cozy hearing, we're having a great big one. The
hearing started and the Senators first got in a fight; "Why was the room
changed?" They laid it on McCarthy and it was obvious that he had made the
arrangements. I don't know how he made them but, anyway, he wanted to get
some mileage out of this darn thing. So Senator [Allen Joseph] Ellender,
and -- golly, I've forgotten who some of the other Senators were -- they
took on McCarthy there for fifteen minutes before the klieg lights and
press, and God and everybody. But during the course of the thing, McCarthy
got over the point that today the witnesses were going to be sworn in,
which was not common for appropriations hearings. This was a hell of a
day, I'll tell you. So, here I sat, you know, had to appear before this
Committee. McCarthy announced that all of these subversives
in the State Department running this program, he was going to
find out who they were and he wanted everybody under oath. Because of the
popularity of the exchange program we had all kinds of people who would
testify on our behalf. That morning I remember that Bedell Smith was one
of the first people to testify, and some Senator said, "You don't have to
swear in General Smith." And McCarthy said, "No, no, no." And General
Smith said, "Well, if all the other witnesses are going to have to be
sworn in, I'm going to have to be sworn in." So he raised his hand and was
sworn in. He testified, and then Senator H. Alexander Smith testified
under oath, and Senator [Bourke] Hickenlooper testified under oath. I
remember those three. Others testified. Pretty soon we'd had so much fight
among the committee, including McCarthy, that we ran out of time for
that room and they had to move the meeting again. So we moved
to the old Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol and we went on and on and
on. And I'm the principal witness. I still haven't been able to get in the
witness chair. So, during the course of that afternoon at that hearing, I
remember -- I've forgotten who the acting chairman was but I think this
kind of mild-mannered Senator from Michigan -- anyway, at some point
McCarthy was trying to interrupt him and he just kept on talking, and
McCarthy picked up a big, heavy ashtray and began to pound on the table. I
mean you can't understand this in a civilized world, really. And finally
he broke this big, heavy ashtray all to pieces in his hand. Unfortunately,
it didn't cut his damn hand off. Fulbright finally was testifying, also
under oath. He was very mild-mannered and McCarthy
was glaring at him and yelling at him, and Fulbright was
talking very quietly. They got into an argument about people taking the
fifth amendment, and Fulbright replied by saying that normally he didn't
think that persons should take the fifth amendment before a bona fide
committee of the Senate, but these were not normal times and when you had
irresponsible committees acting in an irresponsible fashion, he could well
understand why -- and of course McCarthy was just glaring at him. So, this
went on and Fulbright argued with McCarthy in his way; and about 6 o'clock
in the evening or something like that -- we'd been there all day and I
still hadn't been on the stand -- McCarthy announced that he had to leave
the chamber or the room to go somewhere to make a telephone call or
something and that he would be back in a few minutes
and not to let the Senator get away, meaning Fulbright.
Whereupon everybody took after McCarthy and said, you know, "Since when
are we holding a Senator against his will? If he wants to get away he can
leave." I mean this went on for another five minutes, and McCarthy left
the room and the moment McCarthy left the room Senator Fulbright said, "We
have the principal witness here, Mr. Riley." He said, "I'd like to give up
my chair here and have Mr. Riley answer any questions the committee has."
So, we had a small hearing there and I answered about a half dozen
questions, and the Senator got back in the chair and by the time McCarthy
got back I'd already testified. That's the way I got out of that one.
Anyway, that was a low point in my life.
FUCHS: What about your anecdote about Vice President Nixon that you
RILEY: Yes, Vice President Nixon was interested in the exchange
program. I think his attention was attracted to the exchange program
through Senator Mundt. Senator Mundt was a close friend of his and, of
course, the Smith-Mundt Act, I think he got the Vice President's
attention. Of course I was trying to capitalize on that. Anytime you get
the Vice President's attention on anything if you're in bureaucratic
Washington, why, it's to your advantage. And so, I fed tidbits to Nixon
and to this Mary Louis, or whoever this woman is who's his secretary. I
worked with her very closely and saw her, of course, more often than I saw
Nixon. But I kept them abreast of what was going on in the exchange
program because I wanted -- as you know, in anything like this any support
you can get even from the garbage collector is helpful. If he's helpful
Nixon said that he planned on testifying before the
Appropriations Committee if he could possibly make it to tell about what
he thought of the exchange program because he thought it was a great
thing. And so right in the middle of a hearing in the Senate
appropriations main hearing room, which is on kind of the main floor of
the Capitol, I'm in the witness chair and all at once somebody looks up
and says, "Hello there, Mr. Vice President," and everybody got up and the
Vice President shook hands with the chairman and then he went over across
the room and said, "Hey, Russell," and called me over to the corner and
asked me about three questions. He was a little mixed up on an item or two
that he wanted to talk about and he just asked me about two or three
questions with our heads stuck back in the corner where nobody could hear
us. Took about
30 seconds, I suppose. Then he came around to the chairman and
said, "Where do you want me to sit?" And he sat on the principal witness'
chair and testified for probably 45 minutes. To my knowledge it was the
first time a Vice President had ever testified at the appropriations
hearing and to my knowledge it was the only time. But that showed
something of the general popularity of this exchange program, and all the
time that I had anything to do with it in Washington we had great friends
on both sides of the aisle in Congress and everywhere else. We tried to
run it properly.
FUCHS: Who of the Secretaries of State that you served under impressed
you the most?
RILEY: Well, I'll just have to speak from my viewpoint. I was more
impressed with Acheson as a diplomat's diplomat than anybody else.
I was more impressed with Dulles as an intellectual person, but
I don't think he was a good operating head of the State Department.
Marshall, I only served a short time under him. He was a great man in his
own right; I don't know what kind of a Secretary he was, very frankly. And
the fellow who was Johnson's Secretary of State, and Kennedy's. I knew him
before he became Secretary from the Rockefeller foundation; he was
Secretary quite a while. I thought he was a smart fellow. Rusk, Dean Rusk,
I had met Dean on several occasions in connection with my work before he
ever became Secretary; had very little to do with him. When I was around
Washington there I used to see the Secretaries on certain occasions, when
I had very prominent visitors or people like that.
FUCHS: Well, Kennedy went in, of course, in '61
and by that time you were in South Africa.
RILEY: Yes, that's right.
FUCHS: Well, thank you very much.
RILEY: Yes, you bet.
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List of Subjects Discussed
Acheson, Dean, 92
Committee, U.S. Senate, 84-89, 91, 92
Air Corps, 8-10, 12-14
Field Artillery, 10, 14-17
Baltimore, Maryland, 5, 6
of Foreign Scholarships, 47
Conference (1956), 67, 68
Chariton County, Missouri, 70, 71
Service, 3, 4
Roy, 77-80, 82
Richard F., 29
John S., 18
Daily, Herley S., 72
Moines, Iowa, 11
Michael V., 28, 29, 35, 36
John F., 43, 45, 46, 48, 53, 93
Eightieth Congress, 26
Dwight D., 53, 75
Allen J., 85
Congress of Cultural Officers, 67, 68
Foreign Service, 65, 66
Service Retirement Act, 66
Hoyle, Maryland, 11
Jackson, South Carolina, 16
Leavenworth, Kansas, 16
Riley, Kansas, 12
Sill, Oklahoma, 14
Snelling, Minnesota, 12
Act of 1946, 38, 39, 53
Act, 56, 57
J. William, 77, 83, 87-89
program, 77, 78-80, 82, 83
Gross, H.R., 58
Hays, Wayne L., 56, 57, 59-63
Bourke B., 86
Information Center Service, 40
International Educational Exchange Service, 41, 42, 44-63, 90
International Information Administration, 39, 41-44, 47-63
International Press and Publication Service, 40
Johnson, Robert, 43, 45-53
Eric A., 28
Kansas City, Missouri, 1, 6Latin
America, 36, 37, 56
John F., 93
Libraries and Institutes, State Department, 36-40
Littlejohn, Robert M., 18
McCarthy Committee: see Senate
Government Operations Committee
McCarthy, Joseph R., 46, 73, 74, 76, 77, 80-83, 85-89
Marshall, George C., 75, 93
Maxwell, Russell, 9
Mendon, Missouri, 1, 2, 3, 71
Mexico City, Mexico, 37
Missouri, 1, 2, 3
Morrill, James L., 47, 50, 51
Mundt, Karl E., 26, 90
Navy, U.S., 13, 14
1, 2, 3
Richard M., 90-92
Office of Educational Exchange, 26, 27, 38-40
Office of Export Control, 8, 9, 17
Office of Price Stabilization, 28-36
Office of Wage Stabilization, 28
Omaha Beach, 16
Pendergast, Tom J., 72
Railroad Retirement Board, 4-7, 11, 25St.
Joseph, Missouri, 3
Plan No. 8 of 1953, 45, 53
Officers Training Corps (ROTC), 10
Senate Government Operations Committee, 80-82
H. Alexander, 26, 86
Act, 26, 27, 37-39, 55, 56, 90
Walter Bedell, 75, 76, 86
Security Board, 5, 6, 11
Department, 25-27, 36-46, 48-69, 73-75, 80, 86, 93
John R., 31
and Company, 3
Truman, Harry S.:
Army reserve, as officer in, 10-12
Truman Library, dedication of, 68, 69
Chariton County, Missouri, visits to, 70, 71
honesty of, 34
Pendergast, Tom J., relationship with, 72
Riley, Russell L. related to, 70
U.S. Advisory Commission on Educational Exchange, 47-51, 53
Information Agency, 45, 48, 50
of Minnesota, 47, 50
of Missouri, 2, 3, 10
Voice of America, 26, 27, 39
War Assets Administration, 18-24
War II, 12-17
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