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
January 8, 1969
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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
January 8, 1969
By Jerry N. Hess
Twenty-fourth Oral History Interview with John W. Snyder, Washington, D.C., January 8, 1969. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.
HESS: Mr. Snyder, this morning, let's discuss a few of the people who worked on the White House staff. Thinking back, could you tell me about your impression of a few of those people, how influential they were on the President's thinking, how effective they were in their individual jobs, any other questions of that nature that might help us evaluate those men in the context of their time? Let's take them one at a time. The first one would be: Clark Clifford. What do you recall about Clark Clifford during those days?
SNYDER: Mr. Hess, any of our discussions on subjects of this type will be purely restricted to my personal opportunity to observe. It will not be in the form of post-criticism, or anything of that character. Of course, we both recognize the fact
that some fifteen years have rolled by and the memory does shorten as time goes on.
You asked regarding Mr. Clark Clifford. Mr. Clifford was an attorney out in St. Louis. I knew him there before I came to Washington. During World War II, he was made an officer in the Navy, and served in the United States Navy. After Mr. Truman became President, he decided that he would like to have as his armed service aides men who were in the services, but who had not come up through the regular establishment, and had not been trained in the military and naval academies.
HESS: Do you know why that decision was made?
SNYDER: Mr. Truman somehow felt that he wanted to somewhat humanize -- he had the notion that the military establishment had used the aides on the President's staff for promoting their own service
interests in the past, and that they were too lacking in breadth of understanding of the general attitude of the people of the Nation, and were too oriented to the armed service program. He later changed that and did have some regular service aides in later years. But initially that was his decision. So for his Naval Aide, he chose Jake Vardaman of St. Louis. Jake had been a friend of mine from World War I training camp days. He and I both got our commissions at Fort Logan H. Roots in Arkansas, and he served in World War I in different capacities. We were never associated during the war.
In later years after World War I, both of us went into the Reserve Corps, and we re-established our old friendship at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was at a camp there that we met Lieutenant Colonel Truman. Mr. Truman liked him, they became good friends, and later as time
went on, Jake became vice president of the First National Bank of St. Louis, and continued his very warm friendship with Mr. Truman. Then when Mr. Truman was running for office, Mr. Vardaman took a very active part and later was constantly supporting Mr. Truman's positions in different matters, and particularly so when he became head of the Truman Committee. In World War II, Mr. Vardaman went back into the service, but this time in Naval Intelligence. He received a commission and served in the Navy. At the time Mr. Truman went into office, Commander Vardaman was in the Pacific. So upon being inducted into office, Mr. Truman inquired as to his whereabouts and ordered him back to Washington, as I recall it, and made him his Naval Aide. Of course, concurrently with that, he had made Harry Vaughan of St. Louis his Military Aide. That we'll treat in another discussion if you like. Mr. Vardaman then requested
of President Truman the permission to bring from St. Louis an assistant whom he felt was very necessary in his operation, and upon the approval of Mr. Truman, he brought Clark Clifford up, who was at that time, I think, a lieutenant in the Navy. Clifford was a bright, young man, a source of new ideas, a very ambitious and energetic gentleman. In the early days, of course, while Vardaman was still aide, Mr. Clifford did whatever was necessary, but at the same time he seemed to be taking a more and more penetrating examination of the functions of the various staff members of the White House. Clifford was Assistant Naval Aide from Potsdam to about April 4, 1946, at which time he was made Naval Aide to the President and served in that capacity only about three months, because as I have mentioned to you, he was spending more and more time in looking after the general staff operations than in the Naval Aide's work.
HESS: Was he doing this more or less on his own initiative?
SNYDER: A great deal on his own, although Sam Rosenman had found that he was very useful and able in doing certain work in the legal counsel's job. When Mr. Rosenman resigned, Mr. Truman had thought for a while that he wouldn't have a general counsel or a special counsel to replace him, but after a few months, he changed his mind and decided that the White House did need a special counsel, and on July 1, 1946, Mr. Truman named Clark Clifford as Special Counsel to the President, and he served in that capacity until January 31, 1950. Mr. Clifford's work as Special Counsel covered a great deal of the preparation and research work with the assistance of quite a number of the staff and outside aides in preparing legislation, proposals for studies by the Government in the various legislation that the President would like
to propose to Congress for enactment, and the preparation of the President's speeches in correlation with the various departments of the Government in the public speeches that the President might make. He took quite an active part in the preparation of speeches to Congress, and on his various appearances before the public.
HESS: Did you have occasion to work with Mr. Clifford very often?
SNYDER: Very rarely. Mr. Clifford took a very limited amount of interest in the financial side. His interests seemed to be largely in social problems and in general reorganization. It appeared to me from my observation that Mr. Clifford gradually began to take on the notion that he was pretty capable in the political phases, and he began to take more and more interest in the political planning and in shaping things up for the President -- political
statements in his speeches and so forth. In the campaign of 1948, I was never very impressed personally with what Mr. Clifford had to do and say in connection with the campaign, the campaign speeches and the campaign decisions. I have been extremely interested to see some of his personal statements as to the part he took and to the revelation of his papers, which he produced some eight or ten years after leaving the White House. It might have been longer than that, I guess it must have been twelve or fifteen years after leaving the White House, that he finally deposited his papers in the Truman Library. I read with great interest how omnipotent he was in the Truman administration while serving in the last four years of his time at the White House, the period up to his resignation. While the fact of the matter is that Mr. Clifford in his statements to people
in St. Louis, during the 1948 campaign, expressed a grave doubt that Mr. Truman could possibly be elected, as he didn't seem to have the capacity to grasp the important political issues that were current at the time of his campaign.
HESS: Did he make these statements during the campaign?
SNYDER: He made them to my knowledge the last few days of the campaign, and left the impression with quite a number of St. Louis people that he did not intend to continue on in the White House, that he felt that his work was not getting the attention that it rightly deserved, and that his talents could be better used in other fields. As a matter of fact, the last campaign speech that Mr. Truman made was to be delivered in St. Louis at Kiel Auditorium on Saturday night before the election. We were going out on the train, and Mr. Truman handed me a copy of a prepared
speech. I read it and was considerably amazed at the lack of punch, the lack of Mr. Truman that was in the speech, but instead of commenting on it when I finished it I said, "Are you going to deliver this speech in St. Louis?"
He folded it up and tossed it aside and he said, "I am not." And he didn't. He got up and gave a speech practically off-the-cuff though he did refer from time to time to notes on dates and statistics. It was one of the best speeches, in my opinion, that he had given during the entire campaign.
HESS: Do you recall who wrote the speech that he discarded?
SNYDER: I understood that Mr. Clifford was largely the creator of that speech.
HESS: Do you think that he was hurt at this time that his speech was not used?
SNYDER: I am told that he was very hurt. He never commented to me about it, but he was very hurt and made quite a number of comments around St. Louis over the weekend that demonstrated his feeling that his services were not being used to their full value.
HESS: In Irwin Ross' book The Loneliest Campaign, he refers to a memo that Mr. Clifford presented to the President in November of 1947, about a year before the election, outlining how he, Mr. Clifford, felt that the campaign should be conducted. Do you recall anything about that particular memo?
SNYDER: Well, I didn't hear much about it until years later. I don't recall having seen or heard anything of that, but that wouldn't mean, I must frankly say, that wouldn't mean that such a memo may not have been drafted in some form or another,
whether in the full form as later revealed, I don't know. I don't think that there's any trace of it in the Truman Library, up until Clifford filed his papers there. You would know more about that than I would because you've been studying the records so closely. Frankly, of course, I was chiefly interested in operating the Treasury. I had never taken an active part in politics. I didn't pretend to be of a political mind. My interest in politics had always been when Mr. Truman was involved, and I tried to be of help to him. Fortunately, in operating the Treasury, Mr. Truman didn't require any political activity on my part, and I was devoting my time very attentively to the financing and the monetary problems, which were great at the time.
HESS: Who seemed to be Mr. Clifford's principal
assistants in the White House?
SNYDER: Well, he had to have several there that worked with him. I think that Charlie Murphy was one that was associated with him, and Mr. Elsey. They were both very capable people. There were several others who had special areas in which to work that I just don't remember this minute.
HESS: We may mention a few of those names.
SNYDER: Well, Dave Niles, for instance, had the minority groups, I believe, but just how much Clifford ever relied on him, I'm not aware. I think that Judge Richmond Keech was associated there a while in certain legal phases of the operation. Dave Stowe was an assistant, I think, in some areas.
HESS: A few of these men we may refer to later on.
SNYDER: Steve Spingarn, I remember, was all around the place, but just what he did, I don't know.
HESS: I understand that he came from the Treasury Department.
SNYDER: He came later. He came in '49, but he went over to the White House as Special Assistant to the Special Counsel. Now, just what he did I'm not too sure.
HESS: And then he left and went from there to the Federal Trade Commission. Since he came from the Treasury Department, do you recall anything about Stephen Spingarn?
SNYDER: Well, he was considered a good workman. I understand he was put on special projects and things of that sort in the General Counsel's office. My recollection is that he was in the General Counsels office, and did quite a bit of
work for Ed Foley, the Under Secretary of the Treasury.
HESS: Did you have very many occasions to come in contact with him, speak with him?
HESS: Another question on Mr. Clifford, did he or did he not try to place himself or his views between the Cabinet members and the President?
SNYDER: Well, yes, he was very proficient in that area. He tried to make himself the contact point between the Cabinet and the President, and as a result quite a number of the Cabinet members had very little actual contact with the President. Those who the President particularly wanted to see were not affected, such as General Marshall and Dean Acheson and myself, and a few others. We usually went right straight
to the President and had no problem. There were others who if they wanted to see the President -- I've been told this, this is hearsay on my part -- would call for an appointment, and frequently, Clifford would call back and ask if it was something he could help with. He would be happy to talk with them about it as the President was very busy, and if he could help line up whatever they wanted to talk about, it would accelerate matters. I have had several tell me that. I don't know whether the President would comment on this or not, one way or the other. He was very sensitive to being shielded from his Cabinet, he made a point of it that his door was always open to any member of the Cabinet, but largely unless they caught him right after a Cabinet meeting they may have had some degree of difficulty in speaking with him. The record, I think,
will show, that the President's conferences, or private meetings with some members of his Cabinet, were limited.
HESS: Do you recall if any of the Cabinet members may have brought it to the President's attention that Mr. Clifford may have been preventing...
SNYDER: Not to my knowledge, no.
HESS: Do you know why he left in 1950? Why did he leave the White House and return to private business?
SNYDER: Well, as to that I really do not know. I only know that it was generally thought that it was an economic matter, that he decided he would go into the practice of law and try to build up some personal means which he had not done up until the time he went in the Navy. That's what I was told.
HESS: He left in early 1950, and the next man to take that position was Charles Murphy. What do you recall about Mr. Murphy?
SNYDER: Mr. Murphy had been an Administrative Assistant to the President from back in December of 1946 up until February 1, 1950, President Truman named Charles S. Murphy to fill the position of Special Counsel, and he served from then until the President left office.
HESS: How would you compare or contrast the way in which Clark Clifford handled the job as Special Counsel and the way Charles Murphy handled the job?
SNYDER: Well, they were entirely different. There was not a great deal of comparison to their procedural approach to the problem at all. Mr. Murphy, as I recall, was more -- he took the position of furnishing counsel and advice and research to
the President on matters that would require action, whereas Mr. Clifford took the position of trying to guide things and to maneuver certain decisions into the policy of the President. I don't think, except occasions when specifically asked, that Mr. Murphy ever tried to initiate recommendations on policy. I think he gave the background, the legal positions, things of that sort, and if asked for his opinion or recommendation, he would then give it, but I don't recall that he was known to be aggressively driving to influence the President's opinion on matters or policies.
HESS: If you had to pick between the two, who would you think was the better man?
SNYDER: Well, of course, we're bridging a great gap between the time that Clifford was actually at the White House, and then all of the publicity
that was given as to his capacities many years later at the time he was considered for the post of Secretary of Defense. There was a long gap when Mr. Clifford was practically out of any public notice, during which time he did build up a very influential and lucrative legal practice. He seemed to have been extremely clever and facile in eliciting some very fine retainers from large corporations, and he built up the reputation around town of having grown rather wealthy through his operation. He was not a trial lawyer. Apparently his entire operation was in making contacts and compromises, and making settlements with Government departments and agencies. From time to time before he was under consideration for the post of Secretary of Defense something would be said about Mr. Clifford being called in to a conference with President Johnson. Initially, I
think he was around the Eisenhower administration for a while, and then that kind of drifted out, and then when Kennedy came in, he was out in front again. It was rather interesting there, he was the campaign manager for Senator Stuart Symington in the campaign of '60 when Kennedy was elected. At the convention in Los Angeles, Mr. Clifford went out to the convention as a campaign manager to try to get Mr. Symington nominated for President. Somehow or other, in the shift around, it suddenly became very definite that Mr. Kennedy was out in the lead, and then it developed that Mr. Kennedy had chosen Mr. Symington as his running mate. And then overnight that suddenly changed to Johnson, and it ends up that Mr. Clifford is in with the new administration and that Mr. Symington was left out on the periphery. However, Senator Symington has long been a great admirer
of Mr. Clifford. For a while, Mr. Clifford was in evidence around the Kennedy administration. My recollection is a little dim on just how much he actually did. In later years, of course, we have been told that he was extremely active in conferences and so forth. That part I did not know until I read about it at the time he went to be Secretary of Defense.
HESS: One more question relating to Mr. Clifford back during the Truman days. Do you recall if there was ever any discussion of Clark Clifford joining the Cabinet, perhaps as Attorney General?
SNYDER: Never, to my knowledge.
HESS: In any other position?
SNYDER: Not in a Cabinet status.
HESS: You didn't hear Mr. Truman say anything about this?
SNYDER: I have never to this day heard him make such a statement. I never, to my knowledge, ever heard him mentioned by Mr. Truman as a potential Cabinet possibility.
HESS: Back on Mr. Murphy, Mr. Murphy was along on the campaign of 1948 and then he was also there in 1952. How effective was Charles Murphy as a political adviser?
SNYDER: My impression was that Mr. Murphy seemed to have a very close understanding of political issues, and their relative importance, and that his judgment proved dependable when sought in connection with certain phases of a political campaign or a political position.
HESS: All right. Moving on in our White House staff members, let's discuss Mr. Matthew Connelly. He held the title of Secretary to the President, and he was Appointments Secretary. What do you
recall about Mr. Connelly and his duties?
SNYDER: Mr. Connelly first came into the Truman picture in the Truman Committee days, and he was brought down from New York, I believe. That's my recollection.
HESS: He had come from New York, but earlier than this, I believe, he had worked on a couple of other committees up on the Hill.
SNYDER: Had he? Well, now that I didn't know?
HESS: But you are correct that he did come from New York.
SNYDER: He came from New York and the first I saw of him was in connection with the work he was doing, staff work, in the Truman Committee.
HESS: Do you recall what that was?
SNYDER: I do not. It escapes me.
HESS: This is a long time ago, but another question on that, do you recall how effective he may have been as a staff member of the Truman Committee?
SNYDER: My recollection is, and I'm kind of straining my memory, was that he went on certain investigations...
HESS: He held the title of Chief Investigator.
SNYDER: He did? Well, you're refreshing my memory, but my recollection does bear out the fact that he was considered to be a very able technician on these investigations, and marshalled the facts in a very chronological and revealing manner, so as to make the preliminary work of the investigation help the actual investigation to run more smoothly and more effectively.
HESS: Then when Mr. Truman received the nomination and was elected Vice President, Mr. Connelly
went with him at that time, do you recall?
SNYDER: Yes, because the Vice President, I recall now, kept his office up on the Hill. He never did establish an office other than the one that the Vice President had traditionally held up there. I do remember now. You see, at that time, during that short period between January and April, I was out in St. Louis with the First National Bank and was doing quite a bit of traveling on the West Coast, Mexico, various places for the bank; and I don't think that my records show that I was in Washington very much during that period, until Mr. Truman called me in Mexico and told me of President Roosevelt's death and asked me to come up and talk with him.
HESS: And then Mr. Connelly served as Appointments Secretary for the full term of the administration. How effective was he in that job, and just
what were his duties?
SNYDER: Well, I thought he was very effective. He was a most polite and accommodating person. So far as I am concerned, I could never have asked for any more consideration. Frankly, very few of my appointments went through the records of the office there. I had a direct line to the White House, and frequently when matters would come up I would call and the President would pick up the phone and ask me to drop over, or he'd ask Connelly to call me. Connelly was always most gracious. Actually, as I think back, most of my conferences with Mr. Truman were after hours over in the residential part of the White House. I don't recall any complaints or any dissatisfaction with any of the members of the Cabinet or any of the agency chiefs or anyone else with Mr. Connelly's conduct of affairs. In later years, some few remarks came up that
Connelly made it difficult for some of them to get to see him, but I don't think Mr. Truman ever felt that, and from my own personal view, I don't think it ever happened. If it did, they were isolated cases. By and large, I would say that he conducted the affairs of the Secretary to the President very well.
HESS: After the administration, Mr. Connelly had some difficulty. What do you recall about that?
SNYDER: Very little, because I had gone out to Toledo. My contact with it was that there were several of us, former Cabinet members and other members of the Truman administration, that were harassed for several months with investigations, largely stemming from an effort to try to involve some of the Truman staff. Mr. Connelly's name came up quite a number of times in the inquiries, but the question that they usually asked were things that I was unaware of. Mostly they wanted to
know if I had ever received any pressures from Mr. Connelly to take definitive positions on matters of appointments, taxes, and things of that sort, and frankly, I don't recall any. The best of my recollection at this time is that I never had any real pressure from Mr. Connelly on any matters for a decision.
HESS: Also I believe that in one of our previous interviews, we had discussed the Matthew Connelly and T. Lamar Caudle, and Irving Sachs matters. So we've already discussed that.
All right, the next Secretary to the President was William D. Hassett. What do you recall about Mr. Hassett?
SNYDER: Well, my recollections of Bill Hassett are all very pleasant and commendable. I had the greatest regard for Bill Hassett. He had a capacity for coming up with the right phrases,
his expressions always seemed to be so apt and appropriate that he was invaluable to the President in his composition of letters to heads of state and people of importance, in sympathetic notes on deaths or bereavement of any character. He was quite a word-artist, and on top of that was a most likeable, lovable person.
HESS: The next man was Charles Ross.
SNYDER: Charles Ross came from out at St. Louis. He was formerly with the Post Dispatch. I had known him and of him for quite a long time. He was a highly respected newspaperman. Actually, I think prior to his coming to the White House, he at times had been somewhat critical of the Democrats, and maybe at times of Mr. Truman. I have a vague, lingering memory of something like that, but he was from Missouri, he was an able man, and he was selected to take that position at the time that
Steve Early finally resigned. Steve stayed on for a while. He had been a newspaper reporter all his life, and Mr. Roosevelt selected him early. He had not had, at any time, an opportunity to really consider the economics of his life. He had worked hard as he had said, and was very devoted to Mr. Roosevelt, and he felt that Mr. Truman deserved to have someone who was closer to him and more attuned to him, rather than for Mr. Truman to take over a man who had been so closely attached to his predecessor. He was offered a very attractive job with the Pullman Company, and although Mr. Truman and all of us urged him to stay on, we couldn't do it with too much pressure because we realized the sacrifice he'd have to make to do it. So he left and Charles Ross' name came up, among other's, and seemed to be more acceptable to the President, and everybody concerned, so he named him as
press representative. I think he delivered a commendable performance of his duties in that capacity. He seemed to have rapport with the media, he got along, I thought, extremely well with the people that were assigned to the White House -- the photographers and newspapermen, TV, radio and all those various functions. His counsel was very good when the President called on him for his opinions and his recommendations. He became very devoted to Mr. Truman and was a great admirer as time passed. I think that Mr. Truman was fortunate to get Mr. Ross and that he was very happy with his performance of his duties during the entire time that he served with him.
HESS: He died in December of 1950 and shortly after that Joseph Short was appointed Press Secretary.
SNYDER: Joe Short was a lifelong newspaperman too, and had served as White House correspondent,
was well-known to Mr. Truman, well-liked by Mr. Truman. He was a very capable newspaperman. Mr. Short served from December 8, 1950, to the time of his death in September, 1952. During that period, he did a splendid job of carrying on the work. I don't believe he ever quite measured up to Charlie Ross or Steve Early in his ability to counsel and advise, but so far as carrying out the relationship with the press and keeping it on a very high level, I think he did a very good job.
HESS: One man that we should probably have discussed at the beginning was Sam Rosenman. He was a holdover, of course, from the Roosevelt days, and was Special Counsel for Roosevelt. Just what do you recall about Mr. Rosenman?
SNYDER: Well, I had met Mr. Rosenman casually during the war days when I was running the Defense
Plant Corporation, and had occasion to go over to the White House for conferences regarding certain projects, and had, of course, developed a very high regard for his capacity and for his personality. When Mr. Truman became President, one of the first people that I got closely acquainted with at the White House after I came to Washington, was Sam Rosenman. He was outstanding in his capacity and his unique ability to analyze a situation, come up with the gist of the problem, and give a succinct, legal interpretation of the involvements of the problem. He had been, of course, devoted to Mr. Roosevelt, had prepared voluminous records of the various activities of President Roosevelt and of his relationship with them. As a matter of fact, I suppose that some of the most accurate and dependable records of the Roosevelt activities were probably recorded in the Rosenman papers. He had been on the bench in New York prior to
coming down to Washington, and he too felt that he ought to have an opportunity to establish some worldly goods in his life; so he pled, very properly for relief. He said that he thought Mr. Truman should have someone closer to him, and that it wasn't fair to Mr. Truman or to him to ask him to continue on and take a position that would be competitive with his former position with Mr. Roosevelt. Although Mr. Truman finally agreed with him on his resignation, he continued to be a very close confidant and counselor for Mr. Truman, and remains so to this day. I greatly admire Sam Rosenman, and have from the earliest of my acquaintance with him. He was a tower of strength to Mr. Truman on numerous occasions and, as I said, had the ability to get at the root of the question with greater facility and accuracy of anyone that I have known. I'll have to tell you a little story to show you his
tremendous sense of humor along with his scholarly knowledge of the law and of the humanities. In Mr. Roosevelt's campaign for his second term, he was invited to go to Pittsburgh to address a group there, and Mr. Roosevelt was highly pleased because this was a very, very distinguished group of people. When the staff got hold of it, they quickly said, "Oh, my gosh, he can't go back there." He had spoken before the same group in his first campaign, and what he promised them and told them he was going to do in his first term he had just completely changed. "He's just gotten clear away from those things. It won't do to go back there and face that same group again." They worried about it and didn't know what to do, until Sam had a meeting when everybody's hair was hanging low, and the tears were coming into their eyes, as to what to do, and he said, "Fellows, I have the answer.
Let's just have the President declare that he didn't make the first speech." Well, that was always one of our prizes around the White House.
HESS: Just deny he ever said it.
SNYDER: It broke the tension.
HESS: Now a couple of questions about some of the men who held the position of administrative assistant. The first would be Donald Dawson.
SNYDER: Mr. Dawson was never one of my favorite people, I must admit. I had had some experience, not actually with him, but experience with his type of operation over at the RFC. Frankly, to this minute, I donít know exactly how Mr. Dawson got over to the White House. He and his wife were reputed to be pushers and maneuverers over at the RFC in the personnel division, and they had built up a little empire in the at section
that I had some difficultly with in the Defense Plant operation, and had to straighten out on numerous occasions; and it was somewhat to my amazement when I suddenly found him over in the White House. I think he was an operator.
HESS: Did you have any difficulties with him while he was at the White House?
SNYDER: I never had any personal difficulties with any of the White House staff, and thatís why I preface all my remarks with the point that personally I had no combat, no real arguments with any of the White House staff, because as it was, I never had to depend on them too heavily for contacts with the President or for any action that I might want because I was seeking nothing except the opportunity to help Mr. Truman and to do that through the operation of the Treasury. I did not admire Mr. Dawson and always
felt that some of his maneuvers were not to the best interest of the President.
HESS: What maneuvers did you have in mind?
SNYDER: Well, for instance, his attempt to control operations in the RFC from the White House and his efforts to persuade the President to put directors of the RFC and personnel in the RFC and to make loans in the RFC and to bring pressure on the RFC to make loans and so forth. I just didnít consider those to be in the best interest of the President.
HESS: Why do you think the President went along with that?
SNYDER: I donít understand it. I said that a while ago. I never argued with him, I never debated it with him, because he had selected him and I had my hands full with the Treasury
HESS: What about John R. Steelman?
SNYDER: I have always commended Mr. Steelman for having the foresight to have prepared himself for a position in labor negotiations by having been one of the two men, to my knowledge, up to that time, that is the forties, that had ever received a doctorate in labor relations, and his very foresight in pursuing his education to the point of getting a doctorate in that field has always been subject to my great commendation. As to his performance in the field of labor relations, I think he built his reputation on being a compromiser and a man whose extreme patience wore out the negotiators and that finally in desperation they would come to an agreement. Steelman was always a very affable person. I have frankly yet to see any great demonstrations of capacity in Mr. Steelman, and that may be my loss and my lack of observation.
HESS: He held the title "The Assistant to the President."
SNYDER: He devised that title himself, I understand. When I left the OWMR it was the intent to close that office as early as possible, because, as I think Iíve expressed before, I had a strong feeling that the President did not want an office of that type that close tot he White House. That title of "Assistant President" was very obnoxious to me, and I think it was to the President, both Truman and Roosevelt. President Roosevelt himself, although he laughed about it on occasion, was annoyed at other times with Jimmy Byrnes. I donít think he ever was concerned very much about Vinson, but there were certain times when he felt that Byrnes had maneuvered the use of the term into the press, and before the general public. When I left it was decided that we would dissolve the OWMR, and for the purpose
of dissolving it, Mr. Truman named Mr. Steelman to take over. Several of Mr. Steelmanís friends, and some of the agencies, liked the idea of having an entrée into the White House through that route; and all of a sudden it was decided to keep it on for a while, but that idea did not survive very long, and within less than a year after I left, it was dissolved and the records were stored. Then following the dissolution of OWMR, Mr. Steelman designed that title, there was no such title in existence, and he himself proposed it. I actually donít think Mr. Truman ever considered it as having any particular significance. He liked Steelman, and he probably still does. I havenít discussed Mr. Steelman with the President for a number of years, but he was a likeable chap, he was impressive to talk with because he spoke with great emphasis and at great length.
Incidentally, he seems to have made a success after he got out of the Government. I understand heís the owner of several newspapers and is enjoying life.
HESS: So he's done rather well. How about Mr. Vaughan, General Harry H. Vaughan?
SNYDER: Well, General Vaughan is a very, very dear friend of mine. Our acquaintance goes back to the time that I met Mr. Truman at Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1928, I believe. Vaughan had served in the same Field Artillery Regiment with Captain Truman, and then he too accepted a Reserve commission after the war. So I met him at the first officers training camp that I attended with Mr. Truman. We had both been to one or two other camps, but that was the first time we got together. From that day to this, Vaughan has been one of my very, very good friends. All
during the period of 1928 until World War II we had been constantly in touch, although he lived in St. Louis and Louisiana and various places. We always kept very close. Along about the time of the 1940 campaign for the Senate, we found the records in Truman's office to be anything but what we had hoped them to be. The records of the contacts with Mr. Truman's constituents had not been well-kept, at least not in Mr. Truman's files, if they were in some auxiliary file we never had them at our disposal. So, along about that time Mr. Truman brought Vaughan into his Senate office. He was very active in the campaign of 1940 and remained with Mr. Truman as his secretary until World War II when he went into active service, and served in Australia. He was wounded and came back to the U.S. As soon as he was able to maneuver, Mr. Truman took him back into the Truman Committee
work and into his office. When he was made Vice President, he took Vaughan along, I think, as his Military Aide, and then when he became President, he made him his presidential Military Aide and kept him the entire time he was President. Afterwards Vaughan became a Major General and kept that title until his retirement. Since his retirement he has lived over in Virginia. I see him frequently. He's a man with a considerable fine education. He has been badly mistreated in the press.
HESS: Why do you think that came about?
SNYDER: I think it stemmed initially from the needling of the military establishment who resented a non-professional military man being Military Aide to the President. Mr. Vaughan, or General Vaughan, had a very quick wit, a very quick tongue, and his quips frequently indicated a light side which
didn't give the full weight to the capacity of the man, actually. He had good judgment about a great many things. He was a source of comfort to President Truman because he was even-tempered, he helped tide over many difficult problems. He always had an ability to see a bright side of things, and many times brought out angles that were extremely helpful in decisions, because we would be so engrossed in the gloomy side of things that to have the brighter side brought forth was very helpful. He carried out his duties as Aide, I think, very well, and I know that he was greatly loved by the President, and continues to be.
HESS: How many men who later served in the Truman administration were associated with the Reserves back in the twenties, do you recall?
SNYDER: Oh, probably a great many did, I don't know.
HESS: Were there ever any times back then of a discussion of getting together and running someone for office?
SNYDER: Oh, you must have heard some of the stories of our evenings at some of the camps when we would all sit around -- McKim, Vaughan and sometimes Vardaman -- and we would get to joking more than with any serious thought to it. We were always going to run Mr. Truman for something, and we were all going to be on his personal staff, this, that, and the other. One particular time, I remember, we were going to run him for Governor, and I was going to become treasurer of the state, and Vaughan was going to take over the National Guard, and Vardaman was going to be his political operator and McKim was going to be the commissioner of insurance or something like that, and we carried that on at great lengths and had a lot of fun out of it; and of course, at
one time, it almost happened, but it never did develop. I don't know whether you heard those stories or not, but it was a lot of fun, not ever with any serious intent of its happening.
HESS: That's about enough for one day?
SNYDER: I think so, if you don't mind.
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]