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
December 8, 1967
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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
December 8, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Snyder, let's go back and cover a few of Mr. Truman's friends
who may have helped in the 1940 campaign in Kansas City and the western
part of the state. Who helped function in that part of the state?
SNYDER: Well, now, there was his great friend a druggist, Tom Evans.
Tom was a longtime, loyal friend, very helpful throughout Mr. Truman's
career and still is a very, very trustworthy friend of his. Of course
Jim Pendergast was always loyal, helpful and constructive in his assistance
to Mr. Truman's various activities. There are three or four more that
I would have to check back to get their names--Rufus Burrus was always
helpful and willing in anything that might come up and there are several
others, I am sure. They slip my memory right now.
If you have some in mind, I can tell you my recollections as far as I
HESS: We can get those names as they come up at a later time. Was there
an office opened in Kansas City?
SNYDER: No, there never was an office opened in Kansas City. There was
one opened in Sedalia, however, at 313 S. Ohio Street and that was our
western operation and the eastern was at the office in the Ambassador
building in St. Louis.
HESS: Who was in Sedalia?
SNYDER: Well, in the Sedalia office--I don't recollect just who was in
charge of that office. I'd have to do some checking on that.
HESS: Did Tom Evans and Rufus Burrus do any work out of the Sedalia office?
SNYDER: Yes, they were over there from time to time and used that office
in checking with the records and so forth because the records were kept
in the Sedalia office and in the St. Louis office.
HESS: What were the main areas in which they lent their support? Fundraising,
SNYDER: Well, not so much speech writing but research, digging up people,
routing, making appointments for the Senator, and arranging for conferences
with different groups in the western part of the state.
HESS: Mr. Snyder has just obtained a letterhead of the committee set
up for the 1940 campaign from his files. Will you just start from the
list of names, sir, and tell me what you remember about the various people?
SNYDER: Well, yes, that might be very helpful. This letterhead sets up
the two headquarters—
the one in St. Louis was called the executive offices, Ambassador building,
St. Louis, Missouri; and the one in Sedalia was called the state headquarters
of the campaign. We had as vice chairman of the state committee Phil Welch,
the mayor of St. Joseph, who was very helpful in that area; Frank Lee
from Joplin was one of our standbys; John Farrington of Springfield, Missouri
and Jim Wade of Sullivan, Missouri. These men were all extremely valuable--you
see we've got a cross-section in the state here, and they all put their
shoulder to the wheel in a magnificent fashion to help us out. Down at
Popular Bluff we had Doctor Brandon who helped us tremendously down in
that part of the state where we needed some real help. Phil Graves at
Neosho, Missouri was another one of our people who from the very beginning
was helpful. Down at Caruthersville we had Judge Sterling McCarty who
of help. McCarty was in there pitching from the very beginning. Frank
Monroe in Sedalia was extremely helpful. He helped us set up an office
there and was very helpful in the operation of it. Sam M. Wear down in
Springfield was one of our stalwarts in the whole program, and then we,
got a tremendous amount of help in the Women's Division under the leadership
of Mrs. Henry Clay Chiles at Lexington, Missouri. Roger Sermon in Independence
was one of our very close advisers and a close friend of the Senator's.
C. L. Blanton, Sr. from Sikeston, Missouri helped us along the Mississippi
River with some real assistance. Tom Evans, of course, in Kansas City
was always on the job--we could count on him through thick and thin, and
of course, at that time Harry Vaughan was in and out of the Washington
office, the St. Louis office and the Sedalia office. Then, of course,
we had some very good support from the Negro
people under the leadership of Dr. William J. Tompkins of Kansas City.
He stumped the state and helped organize the Negro Division to help us.
By and large, those were the real key workers in the campaign.
HESS: I believe Mr. Messall's name appears on that list, is that correct?
SNYDER: Well, Messall was Mr. Truman's secretary in Washington, and we
named him state chairman because he had better contacts with all the records
and the background and so forth.
HESS: Was he effective?
SNYDER: I think that he could have had better experience and could have
been much more helpful if he'd been a little better organized.
HESS: He wasn't from Missouri, was he?
SNYDER: No. Messall was from Maryland. He had
been with the Congressman from Missouri who did not return to Congress
the year Mr. Truman went up as Senator the first time.
HESS: Congressman Lee.
SNYDER: Congressman Lee, yes, and Mr. Messall and Mrs. Dryden came over
from his office to help Mr. Truman in his first staff as Senator.
HESS: Who helped write the speeches in the 1940 campaign?
SNYDER: The two helpful ones were Dave Berenstein of St. Louis and a
HESS: What had been their backgrounds?
SNYDER: Well, Mr. Berenstein was a lawyer and I think Goodman was a literary
man--a special writer, as I recall it.
HESS: Did they remain through the primary and then
into the general election?
SNYDER: Yes, they remained until the final election, and Mr. Berenstein
returned to his law practice following the general election in November
and I think Mr. Goodman stayed on and helped in the Truman office in Washington
after the election. Possibly he did some work in the Truman Committee
when it was later formed.
HESS: Did Mr. Berenstein have any further connections with the Senator?
SNYDER: Except on an ad hoc basis--not a continuing relationship.
HESS: That's about everything that we have at the present time on the
SNYDER: If that subject comes up again, we can add...
HESS: ...add it in at a later time. Moving
from here to the 1944 campaign, what do you recall about the campaign
in 1944--taking those days after the Chicago convention?
SNYDER: Well, I'll tell you something of Mr. Truman's part in the national
election--the presidential election in 1944 was a carefully scheduled
performance. He was assigned a certain area--for instance he went out
west and made speeches along the west coast.
HESS: Who worked out those itineraries?
SNYDER: They were worked out by the national headquarters. I presume
Hannegan had a great deal to do with them with consultation, of course,
with Steve Early who was in direct contact with President Roosevelt. President
Roosevelt had notions of his own about conducting a campaign, and he was
the one that was actually running for the number one job and the Vice
was normally used for spots where it would be helpful to get an appearance
without the President himself having to go to that area.
HESS: Well, Mr. Truman was officially notified of the vice presidential
nomination by the Democratic National Committee at a ceremony at his birthplace
in Lamar, Missouri on the last day of August of 1944. Do you recall anything
in particular about that?
SNYDER: Yes, it was to me quite an historic affair. It was a particularly
interesting gathering. The countryside gathered to do him honor because
it was our first time to have a vice presidential candidate, as I recall
it, from Missouri.
HESS: Were you down at Lamar that day?
SNYDER: Oh, yes, I was over there and it was quite an affair.
HESS: Who came down from Washington, do you recall? Were there a number
of Senators that came down?
SNYDER: Yes, there were three or four as I recall. Now I'd have to go
back and try to see if I have any notes on who was there, but I just don't
HESS: Mr. Truman opened his campaign at Cadillac Square in Detroit, which
is the traditional place to open campaigns, on September 4, 1944. As I
understand it, he was called up to address a labor gathering and it was
found out that the AFL and the CIO weren't getting along too well and
he had to address one group in the afternoon and another in the evening.
SNYDER: That's correct. I was not there but it broke up into a two-way
speech, but he delivered very much the same speech to both of them and
came out with good support from both sides in
the long run.
HESS: On his campaign trips in 1944 just who traveled with Senator Truman?
SNYDER: My recollection is that Vaughan was with him most of the time.
Matt Connelly was along as secretary to keep records and so forth of the
HESS: Hugh Fulton?
SNYDER: I don't recall Hugh's being--no, Hugh Fulton was not along--this
is in '44. He had resigned from the Truman Committee. I don't recall his
being on the long trips. He might have shown up in certain spots.
HESS: And George Allen?
SNYDER: Yes, George was along. I think George was along as sort of an
overseer for national headquarters to see if Mr. Truman knew his
way around and report back as to how the campaign and his speeches were
being received and what he had to say and so forth.
HESS: I understand that in 1932 James Parley sent someone with John Nance
Garner down to Uvalde, Texas during the campaign just to keep an eye on
SNYDER: I think that's largely what George Allen was doing; just along
to see to it that whatever he said was promptly reported back to Hannegan
HESS: During that campaign, Mr. Roosevelt rode in an open car; I believe
it was in New York City is that correct?
SNYDER: It was in the rain, yes, and I'm trying to think whether it was
Philadelphia or New York. It was one or the other, yes it was a
rather heavy rain. He took his hat off and waved to people and somewhat
exposed himself to the weather which greatly concerned his friends.
HESS: Was Mr. Roosevelt's health much of a debated subject during that
SNYDER: Off the record, yes. It was kept pretty well out of the papers,
but there was considerable concern among important leaders and among important
groups in the political field as to how his health was and whether or
not he had over-campaigned, if he hadn't overexposed himself to weather
conditions and probably overexerted himself because he ran a terrific
campaign. Although it was rather certain that he was going to win easily
from the very beginning, he did put a great deal of effort into the campaign.
HESS: Do you recall Senator Truman making any comments regarding President
Roosevelt's health during the latter part of '44 or early '45?
SNYDER: During the campaign. Afterwards he was concerned about the President's
taking care of himself and was very solicitous about it. He was greatly
concerned about his rushing off to Yalta right after the inauguration.
He left a day or two after the inauguration, you know, to go to Yalta.
I think he planned going on a ship to Malta first to meet with Churchill,
and then they went on from there to Yalta.
HESS: Offhand I don't recall the name of the ship.
Tell me about your impressions of that day--this is jumping ahead just
a little bit--January 20, 1945?
SNYDER: It was the U.S.S. Quincy I believe. Well, it was a bitter
day--very cold, snow, as I recall it, and there was a certain amount of
tension because there was concern all during the inaugural period about
whether the President was overexposing himself and should have taken things
a little more easy, but he seemed to be determined to go through with
all the functions and the usual inaugural procedures.
HESS: I understand that the swearing in was on the south portico of the
White House, is that correct?
SNYDER: That's correct. They did not go up to the Capitol, and, of course,
there was a limited number of people they could assemble on the White
HESS: About how many were there roughly?
SNYDER: Oh, there were a few thousand but certainly not up in the numbers
that would have liked to have been present. The arrangements were not
such as would have been made at the Capitol.
HESS: Were you there standing out in the snow?
SNYDER: Yes, I was present with Mrs. Snyder and Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Symington.
There was a reception and a buffet luncheon served afterward which we
HESS: What were your impressions of the President's appearance at the
time of the inauguration?
SNYDER: He looked tired. Frankly, he looked weary to me.
HESS: Did you speak to Vice President Truman later that day?
SNYDER: Oh, yes, I was with him later that evening. We had quite a little
visit and discussed the
graveness of the situation--that was the biggest thing on our minds at
that time--the graveness of this meeting with Stalin in Yalta--Stalin
and Churchill--because Mr. Roosevelt had not indicated to Mr. Truman what
his plans were nor what he intended to try to do. Mr. Truman had not been
briefed on just what the program was and it was a matter of some inner
concern as to how Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt were going to be able
to come to an understanding with Mr. Stalin--because it was already apparent
that the European phase of the war had turned towards a victory and it
looked as though this was to be a final "Big Three" agreement concerning
the aftermath or post-disposition of things in Europe.
HESS: Did Mr. Truman express any concern at that time about the fact
that perhaps he was not being kept too well informed of the events
that were taking place at that time?
SNYDER: Not openly. To some of those close to him...
HESS: Do you think he felt that way?
SNYDER: ...he indicated that he felt that he would have liked to have
known more particulars with Mr. Roosevelt leaving the country, and he
was to be here in charge. He was President in being in the United States.
When the President goes beyond the borders, the Vice President is actually
the President--the head of state during the President's absence. Of course,
there's constant communication established, but if something should happen
he's actually the head of the country, and Mr. Truman felt that as such
he would have liked to have known in some detail about some of the planned
HESS: Now the election had been held on November the 7th. Just asking
for an opinion, how many times do you think that the Vice President-elect
saw Mr. Roosevelt during that period?
SNYDER: In my recollection is was only a couple of times--not more than
HESS: What were those occasions, do you recall?
SNYDER: Well, remember at that time I was out in St. Louis in the bank
and wasn't in the day-to-day contact that I was later. Mr. Truman and
I were constantly in touch with each other during the period I was in
Washington running the Defense Plant Corporation. After I went back to
St. Louis, I had my bank work to do and it was largely through correspondence,
telephone calls or my visits to Washington that I could keep up with the
operations; so for that reason I can't speak too specifically but my recollection
is it was a couple of times.
HESS: Back on the campaign, other than his appearances in Lamar, did
you hear Mr. Truman speak?
SNYDER: No, I didn't have the opportunity to hear any of his speeches
during the campaign.
HESS: In New York City on the last day of October Mr. Truman and Mr.
Wallace appeared on the same program. As I understand Mr. Truman had many
good things to say about Mr. Wallace in his speech, and Mr. Wallace did
SNYDER: Yes, Mr. Wallace was, I think, openly resentful of the fact that
Mr. Truman was nominated instead of him because he felt very strongly
that he represented a great section of the people and that he would have
made a continuing good running mate and Vice President to President Roosevelt.
Yes, I think he was openly resentful and remained so for some time
after the election.
HESS: During that campaign, just how close were the relationships between
President Roosevelt and Mr. Truman?
SNYDER: I don't think they saw each other over once or twice and it was
all communications through the chairman of the national committee or through
messages that the President would send--brief messages and things of that
sort. There wasn't a great deal of communication between the two insofar
as I know. Again, remember I was not down here on the scene at the time,
I was out in St. Louis and you just don't have the opportunity to visit
and talk and chat that you would if you were closer. Therefore, many of
these things were only caught up with when we got together.
HESS: What part did William Boyle, Jr. play in that
1944 campaign, do you recall?
SNYDER: I don't remember. He may have been--I think he was in the Washington
office during the campaign while Messall was away as I recall. I don't
remember Boyle being around much.
HESS: I believe he was with the Democratic National Committee.
SNYDER: That's where he was. I don't remember him being with Mr. Truman
on his trips.
HESS: I believe he left the area of Capitol Hill about in March to come
down to the Democratic National Committee--was an executive assistant
or something of that sort to Robert Hannegan but just exactly what his
SNYDER: I don't know.
HESS: Do you recall anything else of interest
regarding the 1944 campaign?
SNYDER: No, I don't think so.
HESS: Then on November 7 the election was held and President Roosevelt
and Vice President Truman were elected, and then we discussed the period
between there and January the 20th. What do you recall about Mr. Truman
during the time he was Vice President?
SNYDER: During that period, Mr. Truman presided over the Senate and was
in a number of conferences, of course, while Mr. Roosevelt was gone, with
the various governmental groups--Cabinet members and so forth. Then Mr.
Roosevelt was only here for relatively a short time after he got back
from Yalta. He went down to Warm Springs within a few weeks and so Mr.
Truman's activities were largely presiding over the Senate and maneuvering
the various legislative items that were in the President's program as
set out in his State of the Union speech and his subsequent talks on the
economy. There was, of course, quite a list of recommendations to Congress,
and Mr. Truman took a very active part in stimulating action on those
items before Congress. His office at that time was up on the Hill in the
Capitol as Vice President.
HESS: During the time Mr. Truman was Vice President, Mr. Pendergast died
and Mr. Truman...
SNYDER: Mr. Truman said he was his friend and therefore he was going
to pay due respect to him and went to his funeral. It created quite a
bit of comment but generally it turned out favorable. The thought being,
here was a man that was going to stay by his friends in adversity as well
as in other times.
HESS: On January 21, 1945 Secretary of Commerce Jesse Jones made public
an exchange of correspondence between President Roosevelt and himself
which revealed that the President had requested his resignation from the
Commerce post and as head of the Government financing agencies so that
those positions could be given to Henry Wallace, the former Vice President,
as a reward for his "utmost devotion to our cause" in the recent election.
What do you recall about that episode?
SNYDER: I recall some parts of it vividly because Stuart Symington, the
now Senator Symington, and I with our wives gave a reception for Vice
President and Mrs. Truman at the Carlton Hotel. I was standing in the
receiving line when I had a message from Mr. Jones asking me could I step
around to the RFC building that was just around the corner from the hotel.
He wanted to
talk with me about a very urgent matter, and I told him, "Well, aren't
you coming over?"
He said, "I can't make it, but I've got to talk to you. I just can't
get over there."
I replied, "I can slip over there a few minutes if it quiets down here
a little, but remember I've got this party going here."
He said, "Well, I want to see you."
A lull came, so I ran around to his office and he showed me President
Roosevelt's letter. As I recall Sam Husbands and one other person was
in the office with him at the time. He said, "Are you surprised at this?"
I said, "Yes, Mr. Jones, I'm very much surprised--not the Commerce part
because I think I somewhat told you what I had heard about the Commerce,
but I had been told by Mr. Roosevelt in talking with him one day that
he intended to let the money side be handled by Mr. Jones." I said, "I
think I told you about that and so
that surprises me considerably."
He said, "I'm going to give him a blast." Those that were there persuaded
him against that, and he sat down and wrote a very decent letter, I thought,
to the President. He was very, very shaken up over it and considerably
hurt over the treatment he had received--to receive this letter of dismissal
from the President and not have a visit or conference with him about it.
He called the President but was told that he wasn't available.
HESS: Was President Truman instrumental in the confirmation of Henry
Wallace as Secretary of Commerce?
SNYDER: He was. I think there was some resistance in the Senate, some
opposition. My recollection is, Mr. Truman smoothed out several spots
and saw to it that Wallace did get confirmed.
HESS: In his Memoirs I believe he says he twice saved Wallace from
rejection by the Senate.
SNYDER: Well, that's how close it was, don't you see, but it was even
worse than that.
HESS: There was some discussion in Congress about the division of the
SNYDER: Yes, there was considerable discussion and the Federal Loan Administrator's
duties were separated from the Department of Commerce. Later Mr. Fred
Vinson was put in as Federal Loan Administrator. There was a division
as you see, the Senate never gave Wallace the Federal Loan Administrator's
job. Fred Vinson was given the job, but only stayed there two or three
HESS: Before you were appointed?
SNYDER: Yes, but he had left the job and gone over
to OWMR. The job was vacant when Mr. Roosevelt died. He had not filled
HESS: That's right. He was appointed as Director of the Office of War
Mobilization and Reconversion on the second day of April of 1945.
SNYDER: That's right, and he had gone over to the White House office
of OWMR and the Federal Loan Administrator's job was vacant at that time.
HESS: He held that position from March 5 until April 2.
SNYDER: It was only a few weeks.
HESS: So actually that job was split up and Mr. Wallace was just given
the Secretary of Commerce post, and did not have control over lending
SNYDER: That's right.
HESS: Mr. Snyder, in Mr. Truman's first reference to you in his Memoirs
he states that you were his first visitor at the White House on Saturday
morning April 14, 1945. What do you recall about those eventful days starting
when you were first informed of the death of President Roosevelt?
SNYDER: Well, Mr. Hess, I was down in Mexico City at the time of the
death of Mr. Roosevelt. A group of bankers from the United States had
gone down to confer with a banking group in Mexico City in an effort to
work out a more stable exchange rate pattern between the Mexican and the
United States banks. We had a deplorable situation in which there were
a half a dozen concurrent exchange rates for most exports and imports--it
was almost negotiable what exchange rates would be used whenever anything
was bought or sold between the
two countries; so to try to get that on a more stable basis, a group of
us went down to confer with the Mexican bankers to discuss the problem.
We had had a very productive session for two or three days and had worked
out a very satisfactory agreement. We were so pleased with the result
that Floyd Ramson, a United States citizen who had established himself
as a manufacturer's agent in Mexico City and who had been very helpful
to me in the RFC during the Defense Plant days, gave a luncheon out at
his country home and invited quite a number of us out for his luncheon.
I recall very vividly that Mr. A.P. Giannini was sitting next to me at
the luncheon and asked me to tell him something about President Roosevelt's
health, that on the west coast they had been hearing that he hadn't been
so well and they were concerned about it, particularly since they did
not know a great deal about Vice President
Truman and that he understood that I was an old friend of his. Mr. Giannini
and I had been friends for some years, so I started in telling him about
my long friendship with Mr. Truman and my observation of how he handled
things, particularly I went back to the time he was judge of--presiding
judge of Jackson County--and how he handled the building of a road system
in the country that was outstanding. It was the first real grid system
we had had in that part of the country, maybe the whole west of the Alleghenys
and how he had carefully studied road building and gotten the very finest
engineers to counsel him and how he'd had bid prices submitted and had
built the system very economically and put together a very fine road pattern.
I told him about how he had handled the building of the courthouse--how
he traveled all over the country--got ideas
from various architects--got cost patterns--and how he built a very magnificent
courthouse in Kansas City, again at a very economical price compared with
current prices and with the architectural styles and so forth. I told
him about the eleemosynary institutions for which he had built buildings
and how he went about that. I went on to tell him about--after he got
to Washington as Senator--how well he handled the railroad investigation
for the Wheeler Committee. Senator Wheeler had turned over the work largely
to Senator Truman and he had consulted many of the outstanding railroad
men, incidentally that's how he got acquainted with the labor group of
the railroads because he looked into the labor side, the management side,
the bankers side and came up with a very splendid report that was hailed
throughout the country as being an outstanding report on the railroad
situation at the time.
I said, "You are well aware of the splendid job he did do as chairman
of the Truman Committee in the war program investigating construction
problems, building problems, and defense contract problems and how in
each case he would get experts in the field in which he was investigating
to assist the staff in their investigations and how he avoided publicity
in order to get the job done."
Mr. Giannini said, "Well, you make us feel as though we've got a man
who will select good people to help him do the job if he happens to become
the head of state."
"Well," I said, "that's my opinion."
Within thirty minutes of that conversation, the butler came in and said
that there was a message for me that Mr. Roosevelt had died and please
get in touch with Mr. Truman. Because of the communication traffic pattern,
it was late before I finally reached Mr. Truman and he said, "Well, the
sky has fallen in on me," and he added, "I need you to come up here as
soon as you can. I just want to talk with you."
HESS: Did you talk to him on the telephone at that time?
SNYDER: Yes, from Mexico City. It was impossible to get a plane out until
early the next morning. Ambassador [George S.] Messersmith was our diplomatic
representative in Mexico at the time, and he helped me arrange transportation.
I was terrifically impressed at the stops along the way. In those days
we didn't have the nonstop jet flights up here and the planes stopped
for refueling frequently and the whole country at the airports seemed
absolutely stunned with the news of Mr. Roosevelt's death and there was
throughout the country and there was a demonstration of sincere mourning
for a great leader.
I got into Washington in the late evening and spent the night with my
very dear friend, Max Gardner, who was an attorney in Washington here,
a prominent attorney, and the next morning I went over to see the President
early and was with him then until he went to the station to meet the funeral
train. It was the day after the funeral that he asked me to take the Federal
Loan Administrator job--really he didn't ask me so much as he told me
he wanted me to take it, and I recall that Jim Byrnes was there with us
at the time and I was hesitating and telling the President that I thought
I could be of much greater use to him staying on with the bank as I was
to become president of the bank in July--a few months later--and that
this had been a long ambition
of mine. I thought that as a banker out in the Middle West that I could
find ways of being helpful to him that would be valuable to him. That
didn't seem to make a great impression on him and he said, "Well, I want
you to come down here."
And Jim Byrnes, I remember, spoke up, "Harry, you forget who you are,"
he says, "you're President of the United States, order him to do it."
I said, "I must talk with Walter Smith, the president of the bank, because
I came on here from Mexico City and haven't had a chance to talk with
him about the likelihood of being asked to come down here."
The President then picked up the phone and called Smith. He was a good
friend of Walter Smith's; I'd introduced them and on several occasions
we'd been together. He said, "Walter, I just wanted to tell you that the
President has just appointed John Snyder as Federal Loan Administrator."
Smith said, "What! What's that?"
Truman replied, "I just called you to tell you I want John down here
as Federal Loan Administrator."
He said, "Well, Mr. President, whatever you have to have. You are the
President and we can't stand in your way."
And so he very graciously conceded to the appointment. Of course, almost
as soon as the President got that done he called Jesse Jones down in Houston
and told him the President had just appointed me. Jones asked, "Did he
do that just before he died?"
Mr. Truman replied, "I said the President. I have
just appointed him."
"Oh," he said.
HESS: And Mr. Jones was thinking about President
Roosevelt. I believe that was Mr. Truman's first appointment after assuming
the Presidency, isn't that right?
SNYDER: It was his first major appointment. He had possibly named a few
staff people--it was the first appointment that required Senate confirmation.
And then during the day, he made two more appointments, Ed Pauley, I believe,
in connection with one of the surplus disposal jobs and Ed McKim of Omaha
to be one of his assistants around the White House.
HESS: An article in the New York Times indicated that Mr. Truman
had recommended that you be placed in as Federal Loan Administrator to
President Roosevelt shortly before his death, is that correct?
SNYDER: That is correct because the vacancy occurred when Fred Vinson
went over to OWMR,
and Mr. Truman did suggest that as I was familiar with that operation
that I would make a good chairman of the Federal Loan Administration,
but nothing was done about it--the job was vacant at the time Mr. Truman
HESS: What seemed to be Mr. Truman's attitude when you first saw him
there on Saturday morning?
SNYDER: Well, we just shook hands very firmly, and he said, "I'm in real
need of help from everybody." He repeated, "I need the help of everybody."
I said, "Mr. Truman, you have the sympathy and the full backing of the
Nation in this trying moment and I feel sure that we will be able to get
the right kind of assistance to help you carry on your enormous new responsibilities."
He was very humble. He also was very serious. He stated that he was very
determined that he was going to do the job to the best of his ability.
He had a great philosophy. It served me in a good stead all the time
I was associated with him and in contacts in other responsibilities that
I've had since. We were talking one time about the great job that he was
doing as chairman of the Truman Committee, when he said, "Well, John,
whenever I got to bed at night, I ask myself the question, 'Have you done
the best job that you can do within your capacity?"' He continued, "If
I can say yes then I go to sleep and get a good night's sleep and am ready
to meet the job the next day. I do not fret about it and worry because
if I've done the best job I can do within my abilities, then there's no
need to worry about it any further, I couldn't do any better."
Well, that struck me as being a wonderful philosophy, and I attempted
to follow it throughout the many trying years that followed, because I
had some rather unusual things to do--the Defense Plant Corporation was
one of them. There were "no road signs;" it was a new concept; we created
that out of imagination and forward thinking. Later when I went out to
prepare for taking over the First National Bank--it was one of the largest
single banks west of the Mississippi River--and I studied hard, but I
said well, I'm just going to do this--I've been chosen, I'll do it to
the best of my ability, and it always gave you some comfort. Then when
I was catapulted later into the War Mobilization job and again when I
got into the Secretary of the Treasury's job, this philosophy was a continual
source of comfort--now I've been chosen to do this job; I'm going to give
it the best I've got;
if it's not up to the mark, then the man who put me here will have to
make the decision. I'm going to do the best I can, and I tried to follow
that policy throughout my career with Mr. Truman.
HESS: Very good. Shall we quit for the day?
HESS: Thank you very much.
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