Oral History Interview with
Secretary of the Treasury in the Truman Administration,
1946-53. Other Federal positions once held include Executive Vice-President
and Director, Defense Plant Corporation, 1940-43; Assistant to the Director
of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1940-44; Federal Loan Administrator,
1945; Director, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, 1945-46.
Secretary Snyder has been a longtime close friend of Harry S. Truman beginning
with their service in the U.S. Army Reserves after World War I.
John W. Snyder
May 15, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 September, 1970
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder
May 15, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Secretary Snyder, we received a little information from the Library regarding the paintings of Miss Greta Kempton -- the ones that she has completed of the president, yourself, and your family -- and the Curator of the Library, Mr. Milton Perry, has a few questions that I did not cover last time. He would like to know some of the arrangements that were made about the various paintings, who paid for some of the various paintings, the things of that nature. Let's go back to the beginning: You mentioned to me that the ones of your family were gifts from the artist.
SNYDER: That is correct. There were three that were gifts, the ones that are in our home now. The first one, as I stated in our last interview, was of my daughter, Edith Cook Snyder, who is
better known as "Drucie" and who is now Mrs. John E. Horton. That was the first painting that any of us had of Miss Kempton's work. Then the second one was of Mrs. Snyder, which she also gave to Mrs. Snyder. Then, the third of our family group was of me, which was some time later after she had done a number of other paintings. As a matter of fact, the one of me that she gave to Mrs. Snyder was about the third one, I think, that she had done of me. Now, the painting of Mr. Truman which is now hanging in the White House was paid for by a group of friends of Mr. Truman. The funds for that painting were raised by George Killion, and among those who made contributions toward the painting were: Anthony Buford of St. Louis, with the Anheuser-Busch Company then; Joseph J. McGee from Kansas City; Harley Hise from, California; John Nicholas Brown, a noted New Englander; James Forrestal, who subsequently
was Secretary of Defense; and W. Averell Harriman, who is very much in the news today; Mr. Harriman was a very good friend of Mr. Truman's and mine; and then there was C. V. Whitney, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force after it was formed; Jim Bruce, who at the time, I think, was Ambassador to Buenos Aires; Ken Royall, who was Secretary of the Army; Joseph Love from New York; David Bazelon, who was in the Attorney General's office, I think he was Assistant Attorney General at the time; Francis P. Whitehair of Florida, who was a good friend of Mr. Truman's; George Gibbs, Jr., of Florida, who was a friend of George Killion; William J. Primm, he was an attorney here, I didn't know him very well, but I think he was over at the National Democratic Headquarters; Robert Butler, who was one of our ambassadors, at that time I think he was the Ambassador to Cuba, at the time this was done; David Bruce, who is now our ambassador at the
Court of St. James, he's been in the Diplomatic Corps for many years; Paul Scott, another friend of George Killion, and then there was Ed Pauley, who was connected at the White House then on the assessment of the war damage in Europe. George Killion raised about $12,000 for that portrait.
HESS: How did he come to be interested in this particular project, do you recall?
SNYDER: Well, George, at that time, was at the Democratic National Headquarters, assisting in fundraising, and he was a great admirer of Mr. Truman.
HESS: Also, one other portrait of the President, and also of his family that we didn't mention last time, is the group portrait in the offices of the State Historical Society of Missouri at Columbia.
SNYDER: That is a composite. It was never posed by the three together. The Trumans posed for individual portraits and those were blended into a composite portrait. The sittings were in the Blair House.
HESS: About when was that done, do you recall?
SNYDER: That was among the last painting that she did during the Truman administration. It was probably in the fifties.
HESS: Do you recall who commissioned that?
SNYDER: Yes, Dick Nacy commissioned this group portrait for the Missouri Historical Society museum at Columbia, Missouri.
HESS: And the other paintings of President Truman: One is the Masonic painting. Was that commissioned by the Grand Lodge?
HESS: Do you recall about how much that cost?
SNYDER: As I recall, $10,000.
HESS: And there are two of Margaret. At least one, I understand, is a full length portrait.
SNYDER: One is full length in a rather frilly dress, a kind of a yellow dress, I think, and the last one is in a blue dress, just a bust portrait, I which the Trumans like the better of the two. Both of those are hanging in their home in Independence.
HESS: What do you recall about the arrangements for painting those?
SNYDER: That I don't know.
HESS: Also, we want to clear up a question about the five paintings that Miss Kempton has completed
of yourself, with a sixth in the works. Now are these originals or are they copies?
SNYDER: She has made no copies of any paintings of me. They are all originals. Now, I may have to modify that a little. The one in Jonesboro, because of the pressure at the time, may have been somewhat patterned after one of the previous ones.
HESS: Do you recall which one?
SNYDER: No, I think it must have been the Little Rock one, but I'm not too sure, because at the time that that came up we were under great pressure in the office and I just didn't have time to sit for her. But the first one was the one that is now hanging in the Treasury, and that is definitely an original.
HESS: Who commissioned that?
SNYDER: A friend of mine raised the money for it and quite a number of our friends contributed -- I think that painting cost about $10,000. Then the second one was the one that went to the capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas. Those funds were raised by Raymond Rebsamen of Little Rock. They paid about $10,000 for that one. The funds were raised in Arkansas from friends there. Then the third one which she did of me, was the one which she gave to Mrs. Snyder.
HESS: That's the one that's in Chevy Chase.
SNYDER: That's right. And the fourth one is the one at the high school in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The fifth one is in the Truman Library in Independence, and a sixth one is in process now, which will eventually hang in the National Gallery of Portraits of the Smithsonian Institute.
HESS: Who raised the money for the portrait that's in the high school in Jonesboro?
SNYDER: The students out there did, I think.
HESS: Do you recall about how much that came to?
SNYDER: No, I think she stretched the point on that one.
HESS: And who commissioned the one that's in the Truman Library?
SNYDER: That was done by friends here. I don't recall just how much it cost. I think that one was probably around $5,000. It's smaller than the usual ones.
HESS: Is she receiving a fee for the one that's in the works now for the National Portrait Gallery?
SNYDER: Yes, there are plans to pay for that one. They haven't been finally formulated yet. It was somewhat engineered by Admiral [Ernest R.]
Feidler, who is the counsel for the National Gallery, and of course, the interesting part about it is, as I jokingly say, that I am experiencing a conflict of interest now, because in order to have that portrait hung I've got to die, as they don't hang any portraits in the National Gallery of Portraits of living people, except the Presidents.
HESS: Let's hope they don't hang it up for a good, long time. And the three paintings of Mrs. Truman?
SNYDER: Well, the original one...
HESS: That was painted about 1952, is that correct?
SNYDER: Well, about that time. And it was actually intended for the White House at the time that it was painted, but through the bustle of packing up and everything, it got packed up and stayed in storage in Independence for some
months until they opened up a lot of things they brought from Washington. Whereupon, I think, Margaret and Mr. Truman became very attached to it and they said they weren't going to give it up.
HESS: Do you recall who commissioned that?
SNYDER: No, I don't.
HESS: And since that time there have been two copies painted...
SNYDER: Two copies for which she has been paid $5,000 each. The White House Historical Society, I think, there may be a more definite-just one minute, maybe I can get more accurate information on that.
HESS: Is that a brochure that they gave out at the unveiling?
SNYDER: Yes. I'll show it to you, but it doesn't...
I thought maybe it might say who did this, but it was a committee that paid for that one. And then the other was paid out of funds that are available for such things in the Truman Library.
HESS: This is the one that is presently hanging in the new wing at the Truman Library.
HESS: The one that you saw last week, a week ago today in the Library.
SNYDER: You might be interested in this. Someone at the White House called me up one day and asked me for an impression of Mrs. Truman, which I gave them as I thought they were going to use in a little statement, and to and behold they put it in the brochure.
HESS: Well, very good. This is the brochure that was
given out at the unveiling of the portrait of Mrs. Truman at the White House, late last month. I'm going to read this. This is by the Honorable John W. Snyder:
Her devotion to her home and her family in providing a constant source of encouragement, comfort, and inspiration has contributed immeasurably to the success that President Truman has experienced since he entered public life.
SNYDER: Do you like that?
HESS: That's very good, very good. Also, there is another painting in the Truman Library by Miss Kempton. It is of Chief Frank John, a Paiute Indian. Can you tell me a little bit about that painting?
SNYDER: Yes, Miss Kempton, in one of her travels to the West, did that painting of the Chief, got him to sit for it, and he was extremely pleased with it. Z think that was done somewhere in Arizona. She painted it because of her
desire to catch this old Chief. It was hanging in her home down in Virginia, and Mr. Truman, Mrs. Truman, and Mrs. Snyder and I went down for lunch with them one Sunday and the President greatly admired the Indian that was hanging over the fireplace. And so in time, two or three years later, well, as a matter of fact, it was after he had left the Presidency, and was out in the Library, that she sent it to him as a birthday present.
HESS: That pretty well covers everything that I have on Miss Kempton this morning. If anything arises later, we'll cover it at that time.
Mr. Snyder, what can you tell me about the decision regarding the continuation of the savings bonds campaign after the war?
SNYDER: When I came down into the Treasury, the savings bonds program was still operating under
the impetus of a patriotic fundraising program to help finance the aftermath of the war; it still had a patriotic motif. I, probably because of my banking background, decided that that was no longer the proper base for selling savings bonds in peacetime. The war was over; we were entering a peacetime era; and that if the Treasury was going to sell savings bonds, it ought to be for thrift, for savings, for benefits to come to the citizen from savings, and that the Government should not be in conflict with savings banks and private banking, and regular banking functions, or any other savings and loan, or any savings organizations financed by private enterprise. So, we gave some very serious thought as to what type of approach we could make to the public after having answered these questions that I had brought up and had discussed with our heads of the savings bond's program,
particularly Vern [Vernon L.] Clark, who was at that time the head of the savings bond operation in the Treasury. After studying it carefully, we decided that there could possibly be a real reason for dropping the savings bonds, but we decided on a rather unusual approach to it, which turned out to be most fortunate. I went to the American Bankers' Association and put it squarely up to them as to whether or not they felt that the Treasury should continue to press for savings through the sale of savings bonds, but I put it in this way, that the only way that the Treasury would do that would be with the endorsement of the banking fraternity as a project that would be beneficial to the economy of the country, to stimulating savings in the country, and that the savings were good as savings and not a patriotic gesture, but because it was something worthwhile to the man saving the
money, and that the bankers felt that it would fit in with their programs and would not be in competition with the savings banks and the various categories of savings. They were very prompt in their reaction. I wrote a letter to quite a number of them, and then we called a meeting and they were all prepared by the time we had the meeting to say categorically that they would urge the continuance of the savings bond program on the basis of my suggestion, and that they would continue their support of the program. So then we decided to continue the program of selling savings bonds, but change it to the "Opportunity Drive." That model of a covered wagon up there was the symbol of that drive. Then we had the "Independence Drive," and each year we would develop something new, but always with the idea that savings were good -- to put your boy through school, to help buy your house, and
to take a trip, or do something important with savings when the time came -- to go into business, if necessary. And we got away entirely from the old plan during the war, and came up with sparkling new ideas, which made a tremendous success. The banks were most cooperative. As a matter of fact, some of the leading bankers of the country headed up our different state organizations to promote and enlarge the drives. Then we went to work on the payroll savings plan, which we played up very strongly, because we found that we had to -- in those earlier days -- we had to hold back some of the savings from being put into the market and competing for scarce consumer goods and things in short supply until we could get the economy moving smoothly in a peacetime operation. So, we found that getting the man in the factories and in the payroll categories to put part of his salary or wages into savings
bonds and the idea of savings had stimulated them to start savings in other areas, in building and loan associations, savings and loan associations, in the savings departments of commercial banks. All of these things tended to make our savings program outstandingly successful. That is the background of why and how we went about extending it. Normally, it would have been dropped, had not the bankers themselves endorsed it, because I have always been very strong for free enterprise. As I told you back when we planned for the disposal of the defense plants that we financed, that our idea was to get those plants back into the hands of private enterprise as early as possible, and not build up competition of the Government with private enterprise in any field. These savings bonds were just another area in which it was my definite intention not to have the Government become competitive with
the banks or with the savings institutions.
HESS: Actually they were though, isn't that correct? After the savings bonds were available, wasn't that taking money away that might have gone into
SNYDER: The bankers never felt so, because I pressed them very strongly on that. And I'm sure they didn't, because if they had they wouldn't have devoted as much time as they did to heading up these various state organizations, and the national organization in helping us sell them.
HESS: Did any bankers that you dealt with bring up that particular subject, that by selling savings bonds, you were draining off money that might go to them anyway?
SNYDER: They always considered that because of the manner in which we presented the drives, how
we dressed them up, the stimulus, the advertising, we got tremendous free advertising from business for the savings bonds program. The Advertising Council of America donated tremendous effort and planning to help dress up these programs and put new ideas into them. And the banks always felt that this stimulating influence actually caused an increase in savings. Well, the records will show that their savings went up right along with the sale of savings bonds.
HESS: Because in some people it instilled the habit of saving, and part of those savings were in commercial institutions.
SNYDER: That is correct. They found many times that after saving for a bond, and they frequently would bring the bond in to cash it and put the money in a savings account, and invest it in something, say buy a house with it. As I said, as long
as I was in the Treasury, they were very enthusiastic over the program. Reno Odlin out in the Northwest, out in Tacoma -- he just recently served as president of the American Bankers Association. We had people of that type who put great effort -- Bob [Robert Vedder] Fleming here in Washington was one of our great supporters in the savings bonds program. We've had many top bankers put genuine effort into helping us make it worthwhile.
HESS: You mentioned the subject of the cashing in of the bonds before they reach maturity and just after they are eligible to be cashed and using the money for something else. Is that much of a problem?
SNYDER: No, I don't believe I said that. What I said was, in the payroll savings plan, you don't get your bond right off the bat until
it's paid for. They keep a record of the purchase and when you've paid for it then you get your bond. It was when they had paid for the bond that frequently they'd come in and cash the bond and deposit the proceeds in the bank.
HESS: I had just misunderstood, but really what I was driving at was the people who do cash in a bond three months after they receive it.
SNYDER: We had to correct that because in the pressure of a drive, sometimes in payroll savings particularly, we found where there were employees who wanted to make a big showing and always held up their hand and signed up. And then we found that they would go and turn those in pretty shortly after they got them. But that was the minority of the cases. It wasn't the rule; it was the exception.
HESS: Is that everything on savings bonds?
SNYDER: Do you think that about covers the answer to your questions?
HESS: That's right.
A few moments ago when the machine was off, Mr. Snyder, I asked you a question about your involvement with Georgetown University, and if it wouldn't be too much of an imposition, I'd like for you to state that for the record.
SNYDER: It has been a very interesting connection, and based on a very interesting background, to me. When I came to Washington and set up the Defense Plant Corporation back in 1940, and we got underway and started financing plants to build things for the defense effort, and later the war effort, we soon found that in spite of the patriotic purpose for which we were financing these plants -- the Defense Plant Corporation put
up the money and supervised the building and cost accounting of the buildings that were to build defense items, such as airplanes, propellers, engines, and various things -- aluminum plants. The Defense Plant Corporation financed the plant and leased it to the operator, but in spite of the fact that this was strictly for a patriotic purpose, because we never financed a plant unless it was recommended by the War Production Board, the Army or the Navy. They had to say it was necessary for the defense program or for the war effort, and they'd also have to tell us in their letter of recommendation what company should be financed and a contract and lease agreement entered into, because the Army, Navy or War Production Board were giving them contracts to use this plant for specific items. So it was strictly a patriotic reason. But in spite of that, we ran into quite a number of labor problems
in some of these big plants, one in Columbus, one in New Jersey, one in Buffalo, and it seemed that it may have been the same union, or it may have been a relationship -- one heard about the other -- but we were having difficulty. I was considerably concerned about it. But one day, Charles Fisher, who was a scion of the Fisher Body people (his father was Charles T. Fisher, one of the brothers, and the banker member of the brothers), he was on the RFC board at that time, and was working with me a great deal on many of the problems concerning defense plants. He said, "Well, I think I know somebody who can help you if you would like to go see him."
I quickly replied, "I certainly would like to go to see anybody who can help us get this labor thing straight."
He took me over to see Father [Edmund] Walsh at Georgetown University. Father Walsh
was one of the great inspirations of Georgetown. It was Father Walsh who started the Foreign Service School that has built such a wonderful reputation in furnishing trained young people, not only to go into the State Department (it was of course great value in our expanding during those war periods in the requirements for diplomats), but it's also been a great boon to companies who have international businesses and offices in foreign countries. As a matter of fact, about 60 percent of Foreign Service School graduates now are going to that area rather than to the Government. Well, Father Walsh listened to my problems and he said, "Well, we'll see if we can help."
So, we went on our way, and in a few days, the matter cleared up. And it was not until many years later that I ever asked how he did it, because as long as he did it, I wasn't going
to inquire too much how it was accomplished. He was helpful many other times during the three or four years that DPC was in operation. I got much help from the law school from the young law graduates. They would give me a line of some of their honor students that I would get into the Defense Plant Corporation, because we did have a rather interesting, complicated, no guidepost legal problem with our contracts, with the various lessees who we financed to build plants. Then when I got into the Treasury and encountered the necessity for sending representatives all over the world on monetary matters, it was necessary many times to get a crash program in languages. This need arose if we were sending a representative to an unusual place, and many young men came into the Treasury and had not had any foreign language courses of sufficient depth to meet this
problem. We'd have to have specialized vocabularies on finance and the training that we needed for them to have to go over and represent the Treasury in some of these financial responsibilities with various government central banks and treasuries, ministers of finance offices, and ministries. Georgetown University was extremely helpful in designing courses to help get those people qualified. The law school had programs on international law, other departments helped in linguistics and public speaking. We received a good deal of help from the Foreign Service School. After I left the Treasury Father [Edward B.] Bunn, who was president of the University at the time, invited me to become a member of the president's council. I was very happy to accept because I felt that if I could be of any help to them it would go to repay the many courtesies that they had
extended to me. Then later I became a member of the Board of Regents. And incidentally, I have just been re-elected for another three year term. And then about three years ago, I became chairman of the fundraising program to build up for the first time some endowment reserves. The University was created in 1789 and in all these years they have never built up any capital fund endowments. They had lived somehow from year to year. They had less than $15,000,000 in endowment funds. They had no endowed chairs. When we started out on this program it was a completely new idea with the Jesuits, they didn't know how to go out and raise funds in this fashion, because they had never done it before. They had raised funds for building certain buildings and for certain projects from time to time, but for a program of finance, they had just never done it. So, it's been a rather
stimulating and creative job to get this program underway. We are a little beyond the halfway point now. Well, I've extended my remarks a little. You asked how did I happen to become associated with Georgetown University and I think that pretty well describes it. It's been a most interesting and stimulating experience.
Last year, I was honored by Georgetown University with an honorary degree, a Doctor of Humanities, which I prize very much. This is one of quite a number of degrees that I have received, largely because the universities and colleges have felt that I have been helpful to them in some of the work that I have done in my lifetime. And I was particularly pleased to have Georgetown so honor me.
HESS: Mr. Snyder, I believe you accompanied the President on a trip that he took to the American Legion Fair in Caruthersville, Missouri in
October of 1945. What do you recall about that?
SNYDER: Well, I remember that very pleasantly. President Truman invited Leslie Biffle and me to go with him on that trip in view of the fact that Arkansas was my home state, my native state, and also that of Les Biffle.
HESS: What was his hometown?
SNYDER: Leslie was born in Boydsville, Arkansas, not far from Jonesboro where I was born. Mr. Truman invited us to go as he was going into our state. At that time, Mr. Biffle and Mr. Truman had been friends for a long time in the Senate. Mr. Biffle was Secretary of the Senate and was very devoted to Senator Truman, and of course, continued so as President. We landed at Blytheville, Arkansas. As we were to drive up to Missouri we stopped in Blytheville to visit
with some of my family. When we got in the cars and started on up to Missouri, President Truman invited Mr. Biffle and me to sit in the car with him as we drove through Arkansas on that part of the trip, but when we got to the state line, he ordered the driver to stop and he said, "Well, boys, you've had your ride, you're going to have to get out. I've got to have some Missouri people in here for the rest of the trip.
So, we were delegated to the car behind his. We were abruptly unseated as guests of honor.
HESS: Who took your place, do you recall? What Missouri people got in the car?
SNYDER: Governor Phil Donnelly, Judge M. R. Rowland, Senator Frank Briggs, and Neal Helm.
HESS: Was Harry Vaughan on the trip?
SNYDER: Yes, but he was not one of them that rode with Mr. Truman; they were local people. Neal Helm was one of them, and one of them might have been the chap that President Truman later named Frederal judge, in St. Louis, Roy Harper. But then we went on up to Caruthersville, Missouri, and had a grand time. We went on across into Tennessee to a fishing resort, Linda Lodge on Reelfort Lake near Tiptonville, and had some very fine fishing in a lake. It was a large natural lake that had been caused by volcanic action. It had marvelous fishing arrangements. It was just a delightful, pleasant trip. I remember it because it created quite a bit of comment through the state, because of his kindness in bringing Biffle and me down and giving us a chance to show our President off to our native people down there.
HESS: Mr. Truman liked to attend that American
Legion Fair at Caruthersville as often as he could, isn't that correct?
SNYDER: Well, he had been several times before. I think that maybe was his last time. I don't know whether he ever went back or not, but as Senator he used to go. It was quite an interesting affair and a rallying point for Southeast Missouri politicians.
HESS: On the subject of Mr. Biffle;. He is of great interest to many historians and political. scientists, and a question that they always like to have raised is his influence with the President, and his involvement in matters of congressional liaison. When Mr. Truman would have something that he wanted conveyed to the Senate, would he work through Leslie Biffle?
SNYDER: Frequently. Mr. Biffle was a very effective liaison. As to his attempt to influence the
President or the Senator, that was always somewhat of a question, because Mr. Biffle was quite a diplomat, and he was very careful in his dealings with the Senators to keep friendly with all of them, and he wouldn't go to the point of pressing any one of them. He supplied them with the facts regarding the case, and would poll the Senate to see how things were going in case of certain legislation that was before Congress. But as to his actually bringing pressure to influence legislation, it was done very adroitly, if at all. I don't recall his taking a position. He was always ready and willing and quite able in checking with the various Senators as to where they stood on various matters. But as to his actual lobbying for any measure, I don't recall his having done that. The first time I ever saw him working really hard towards a political end, was for Senator Barkley in the Philadelphia convention.
Mr. Biffle kind of went all out there in his attempt to get Mr. Barkley nominated for President.
HESS: What do you recall about that, just what did he do?
SNYDER: Well, he went to the various delegations who were there that had come armed with the right to vote, the various state delegations, and pressed them very hard. He solicited their support and tried to persuade them to cast their ballots for Senator Barkley. But he was not successful, and frankly his relationship with Mr. Truman was never quite as close after that as it had been up until that time, Senator Barkley, of course, was nominated Vice President, and he and Mr. Truman, of course, had a very warm, pleasant, delightful association for the four years that he served with Mr. Truman, as is
evidenced by that picture up there. [Pointing to an autographed picture of the two hanging on the wall.]
HESS: Just as an opinion, why do you think Senator Barkley made such a vigorous move at this time knowing, I suppose, that Mr. Truman was going to run again?
SNYDER: I'm not sure that Mr. Barkley made the great effort. I think it was a group that put forward the effort. I'm not at all certain, although I was there and right in the middle of it, I never got any evidence that it was Barkley himself who was putting this effort forward.
HESS: Just as an opinion again, do you think that in Mr. Barkley's mind, he could have been striving for the vice-presidential spot while some of his advisers and those around him were shooting for something higher, and were shooting for the
Presidency itself? Is that possible?
SNYDER: I really don't think that when Senator Barkley went to the convention that he had in mind that he was going to be a candidate. I think this was generated there, though there had been some background, as I learned later, checking around the convention, but that was a long time ago, and I just don't recall any particular personal effort that Senator Barkley put into getting nominated for any position.
HESS: Several historians have said that his very energetic keynote address that year propelled him to the forefront.
SNYDER: That's right. It was magnificent. It was just magnificent. That bears out what I've just told you, that the keynote address stirred up the enthusiasm, and his presentation was so gripping and so captivating that they thought, "Well,
here is a great candidate." And I think it was generated at the convention rather than any long-range planning. That bears out just what I was saying.
HESS: Who do you recall as being President Truman's first choice for the position of Vice President that year? Did you discuss this with him?
SNYDER: Oh, I'm sure we did, but I've just forgotten. He had somebody else at the time.
HESS: He mentioned in his Memoirs that he had asked William O. Douglas.
SNYDER: He had. You see, that goes back to 1944. At the convention in Chicago, Mr. Truman understood and it is true, because we actually saw letters to that effect, Bill Douglas had been one of FDR's choices for Vice President, and he declined. He was happy to be where he was. Mr. Truman through the three and a half years
that he had been President, had had some feelings about Mr. Douglas, that he was a good campaigner, and a very vocal person, and had thought maybe that he might make a good vocal person, and had thought maybe that he might make a good running mate. Yes, he had mentioned him, I recall that now.
HESS: You know, at the convention, when Mr. Barkley got the nomination for Vice President, he referred to himself as a "warmed over biscuit," indicating that he knew he was not first choice. Do you recall that?
SNYDER: Yes, he did do that, but he did it not with any venom, or anything of that sort, it was just a way he had. I'll tell you something if you're not aware of it, Mr. Barkley got his training in public relations, public projection of an image, from the Chautauqua circuit. He was an
attorney down in Paducah, Kentucky, and found that he had developed quite an oratorical feel. And he got an opportunity to go with the Redpath-Horner Chautauqua circuit one year. And he found he liked it tremendously, and it taught him a great deal, so he told me. Mr. Barkley has been a friend of mine since 1934, so he told me how he really got into public speaking through this season with the Chautauqua. And he became a favorite with the Chautauquas. But he said he learned in that training, in that experience with the Chautauqua circuit, which was culture brought to the rural district and the country, that he had to catch his audience's interest and hold it within the first five minutes or else he never had them the whole time. So, it taught him to size up people, to size up their receptivity. He would make two or three test remarks and if he saw a response, why then he went all out on that theme for his talk. It helped
him tremendously. It developed that wonderful voice he has, because we didn't have public speaking systems in those days, you know, and you had to fill the tent just naturally, and so he developed a very strong pair of lungs and a fine delivery. So he learned to catch an audience and his humor was simply tremendous, and his storytelling capacity was unlimited. He learned just to drop a little catchy story to relieve tension. That could easily have been why he said he was a "warmed over biscuit," because that would just let some of the steam off of the convention.
HESS: During Mr. Truman's first term when there was no Vice President and Mr. Barkley was in the Senate, how close was their relationship?
SNYDER: Very friendly, very friendly.
HESS: Would you suppose that Mr. Barkley would be one of the most important contacts that President
Truman had in the Senate, during those years when he wanted something done?
SNYDER: Well, he had a very important position up there, and naturally he would be, yes. You see, Mr. Truman, as I recall it, actually favored Pat Harrison for Majority Leader of the Senate, after Joe T. Robinson, but FDR selected Barkley. I was on the train with Senators Barkley, Truman, and Harrison coming back from the Joe T. Robinson funeral in Arkansas when Barkley said that FDR had asked him to take it. I recall it was quite a blow to Pat Harrison because he had thought that he had it lined up, and probably did have the vote, but when the President expressed his view -- particularly FDR -- it was usually heeded. But my recollection is that Mr. Truman and Mr. Barkley were always very cordial and friendly.
HESS: How effective was Mr. Barkley as Vice President?
SNYDER: Well, Mr. Barkley was very fine in building up the Party image and the administration work. Mr. Truman had him at all the Cabinet meetings. He had his regular seat right opposite from him at the Cabinet table, and he traveled around the country a great deal making talks on various subjects. He was very popular, of course, in the Senate as President Pro-Tem of the Senate.
HESS: Well, I sort of got off on that by discussing Mr. Biffle, but one thing that interests me is the time that Mr. Biffle, in the 1948 campaign, dressed up as a poultry truck driver and drove around the country.
SNYDER: He did that several years. Yes, he would get in a Ford pickup truck, or some small car, and he and his wife would just start off across the country, and stop and talk with the folks,
get their views, don't you see, and got the entree by saying he was a poultry fancier and dealing in poultry and so forth, and get them off-guard and they would unfold their heart. He was very effective in getting the feel of people, don't you see, around the country.
HESS: Did he ever tell you personally of some of the observations that he had made on some of these trips? Did you ever talk to him about this?
SNYDER: Oh, yes, Biffle and I were the very closest of friends right up until his death, and of course he used to regale us many times with his stories. I don't recall any of them in particular just now. Some of them were very pithy, and the remarks of some of his collaborators were a little strong.
HESS: Recalling back to the 1948 campaign when the
polls were running strongly against Mr. Truman, do you recall what Mr. Biffle's so-called "poultry truck poll" -- his one-man poultry truck poll -- may have come up with? What did he find the sentiment of the country was?
SNYDER: He found that the grassroots people felt more kindly towards Mr. Truman than Mr. Dewey. That Dewey just didn't project himself to them, and whenever they heard him talk they weren't moved particularly in his direction. And Biffle did bring back an indication that the grassroots people were much more inclined towards Mr. Truman than Dewey. It was just an indicator that was given careful consideration.
HESS: One more question on Mr. Barkley. We'll probably come back on several of these people and ask further questions, but in the 1952 convention, held in Chicago that year, Mr. Barkley went to Chicago, as I understand it, with
rather strong feelings that he did want the nomination at that time.
SNYDER: That is correct, and he worked very hard and thought that he had it pretty well lined up. At that time, though, Mr. Truman was very much impressed and wanted Adlai Stevenson, but Stevenson was a reluctant dragon at that time, he wanted to be drafted, and Mr. Truman just never believed that you drafted a President of the United States, that you had to get out and show some real energy and direction and that you should want it very badly. And so they had quite a difficult time getting Mr. Stevenson to throw his hat in the ring.
HESS: Since we're up here in 1952, we're getting quite a bit ahead of our story, but let's just continue on here for a minute; when did you first become aware that Mr. Truman did not intend to run for reelection in 1952?
SNYDER: Oh, long before he announced it.
HESS: He made that announcement late in March of 1952 at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner at the D.C. Armory.
SNYDER: Yes. He had indicated that he thought he had had two full terms some time before that, butů
HESS: Thinking back, can you remember how long before the official announcement was it that you knew he was not going to run, was it weeks, was it months, or was it a year before the announcement perhaps?
SNYDER: Oh, it's so easy to get yourself deluded that way, because many times you'll be sitting around just talking off the record, as we constantly did, he might have said, "Well, I'm certainly not going for any third term," or something
because he had considered that he practically had a full term of Roosevelt's. So, he could have, as much as months beforehand, made some such remark as that. People are too prone to go back and say, "Oh, yes, he told me," when actually he may not have been too serious about it, but just a remark in passing, don't you see. It really sounded to me like he was becoming serious, along after the first of the year.
HESS: Who do you think that Mr. Truman's first choice was for the standard-bearer, just about this time -- about the first of the year?
SNYDER: Well, his very first mention of anyone, it may have been before that, he did mention it to Eisenhower, as to whether he'd want to be a candidate or not.
HESS: When did it seem to you that Mr. Truman's backing of Stevenson began?
SNYDER: Oh, in the spring of '52.
HESS: Well, I don't want to get much further into this.
SNYDER: Yes, because we'll come up to that again.
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