Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder

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.

Washington, D.C.,
December 8, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess

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


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

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

RESTRICTIONS
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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
Independence, Missouri

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



Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder

Washington, D.C.,
December 8, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess

[127]
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.

[128]
If you have some in mind, I can tell you my recollections as far as I was concerned.

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?

[129]
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, speechwriting?

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—

[130]
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 was always

[131]
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

[132]
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

[133]
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 Mr. Goodman.

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

[134]
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 1940...

SNYDER: If that subject comes up again, we can add...

HESS: ...add it in at a later time. Moving

[135]
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 President

[136]
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.

[137]
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 recall that.

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

[138]
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 trip.

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

[139]
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 him.

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 and Early.

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

[140]
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 campaign?

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.

[141]
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?

[142]
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 House grounds.

HESS: About how many were there roughly?

[143]
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 attended.

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

[144]
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

[145]
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 discussions.

[146]
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 three.

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

[147]
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 not reciprocate.

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

[148]
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

[149]
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 functions were...

SNYDER: I don't know.

HESS: Do you recall anything else of interest

[150]
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

[151]
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.

[152]
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

[153]
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

[154]
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.

[155]
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 duties.

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 months.

HESS: Before you were appointed?

SNYDER: Yes, but he had left the job and gone over

[156]
to OWMR. The job was vacant when Mr. Roosevelt died. He had not filled it.

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 agencies.

SNYDER: That's right.

[157]
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

[158]
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

[159]
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

[160]
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.

[161]
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,

[162]
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 deep grief

[163]
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

[164]
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

[165]
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

[166]
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,

[167]
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 became President.

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."

[168]
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."

[169]
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;

[170]
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?

SNYDER: Yes.

HESS: Thank you very much.

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