Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Cleveland, Grover, 1837-1908; Dever, Paul A. (Paul Andrew), 1903-1958; Williams, Francis W., 1906-1985; Boyle, William Marshall, 1902-1961; Barkley, Jane R. (Jane Rucker), 1911-1964; Sparkman, John, 1899-1985; Russell, Richard B. (Richard Brevard), 1897-1
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Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, July 11, 1952. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

July 11, 1952

Had a meeting with Frank McKinney, Matt Connelly and Leslie Biffle. We agreed on Barkley for the top place and Oscar Chapman for Vice President.

What a position we are facing! But-we must have it and meet it. We'll do that.

Early in January 1952, I asked Adlai Stevenson, Governor of Illinois to come to the Blair House for a talk. He came one evening about 8 P.M. We talked for an hour or more.

I told him that I would not run for President again and that it was my opinion he was best fitted for the place. He comes of a political family. His grandfather was Vice President with Grover Cleveland in the campaign and the election of 1892. The grandfather had been on the ticket with Winfield Scott Hancock in 1880. He had served in Congress.

Adlai's father had been connected with the government of the State of Illinois. Adlai had served the country in the State Department and the United Nations. He had made an excellent Governor of Illinois.

When I talked with him I told him what the Presidency is, how it has grown into the most powerful and the greatest office in the history of the world. I asked him to take it and told him that if he would agree he could be nominated. I told him that a President in the White House always controlled the National Convention. Called his attention to Jackson and Van Buren & Polk. Told him about Taft in 1912, Wilson in 1920, Coolidge & Mellon in 1928, Roosevelt in 1936, 1940, 1944. But he said No! He apparently was flabbergasted. I saw him again in about a month. Had Murphy, my counselor, talk to him along with Oscar Chapman and Dave Lloyd. He still said No.

On March 29th at the Jefferson-Jackson Day banquet I announced that I would not run again. The announcement was received with "No's" and tears.

When I arrived at the White House after the announcement I found the ushers and door men almost in tears and the two maids who were taking care of my mother-in-law were weeping sure enough. The head butler and all his assistants told me they would quit when I did. It was heart warming but I told them to calm down and stay on the job.

Numerous conversations were had with Gov. Stevenson by Murphy, Chapman and Lloyd. No result. Finally on July 12th I called a meeting in the study of the White House. The Vice President, Mr. Barkley, the Secretary of the Senate, Mr. Biffle, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. McKinney, Mr. Connelly, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Dawson were present. We agreed that we would support Barkley for the nomination since Stevenson could not make up his mind.

As soon as the conference broke up I had a nervous chill sent for the Doctor-Gen. Graham. At 1:00 P.M. I called Margie in London and had her mother in Independence hooked up on a three way talk.

Soon as the conversation was over I had another chill and went to bed. At 2:30 I had another and began to warm up. The Doctor took my temperature. It was 101 in the shade and no shade. He came up on Monday I was working at my study desk temperature 103.6. Pretty hot. He phoned Bess and I wrote her what was taking place. The Doctor slept across the hall on Monday night, took me to Walter Reed on Tuesday. Stuck me full of holes and took a lot of blood and other things for examination. Bess arrived and took charge. I couldn't get enough sleep I only was awake between the needle punchings and the pill taking. For forty eight hours I slept. Then had numerous X Rays taken and went back to the House Saturday the 19th.

Convention business in Chicago was going great guns.

Barkley had a meeting with labor and quit the race against my advice. Biffle and the Kentucky Senators persuaded him to quit as did Mrs. B. and his-son-in-law. Charlie Sawyer called me and said Barkley was leaving town by the back door and suggested that he should make a farewell speech to the Convention. I called McKinney and suggested that he arrange it. Barkley made the speech of his life. I called him and told him what a grand farewell it was.

Then I told my fellows to get behind Stevenson and force him into the race.

On Friday, Aug. 25, Stevenson called me and wanted to know if it would embarrass me if he announced that he would accept the nomination! I told him in words of one syllable that I'd been trying to induce him to accept the nomination since Jan. 1952. But since he would not give me a straight answer in the affirmative I had instructed McKinney, Dawson, Boyle to help Barkley. Now Barkley was out and he was the logical man. I called McKinney and Dawson and reported the conversation. McKinney had called me earlier and told me that Stevenson would call.

Mrs. Truman and I boarded the Independence at 2:30 E.D.T. and took off for Chicago. The plane commander, Col. Williams had installed a T.V. set in my quarters. Mrs. T. and the gang saw me board the plane on the T.V. set and at the same time could look out the window and see me do it!

We watched the convention all the way, first hooked up with Washington, then Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Chicago. We saw the results of the 2nd and the start of the 3rd ballot. Landed in Chicago about 3:30 C.D.T. and drove to the Blackstone Hotel and saw the result of some of the balloting. The Mayor, Mr. Kennelly met me at the airport as did Mr. McKinney. Rode through cheering crowds yelling "Hello Harry," "Give'em hell Harry' etc. The Mayor was amazed at the reception.

Saw a number of friends at the hotel, worked on my speech. Talk to Barkley and told him he'd made a mistake in letting Sen. Hennings of Mo. and his two Senators from Kentucky nominate him again after his wonderful farewell speech. His friends had persuaded the Vice President that the Convention would be dead locked and would then turn to him.

I sent Charlie Murphy to see Harriman and Matt Connelly to see Gov. Dever of Mass. and to tell them to appear after the recess and turn their states to Stevenson. We had dinner at the Saddle and Sirloin Club and the arrangements were made with Sam Rayburn and carried out.

In the meantime Kefauver had tried to make a grand stand play and had failed to do it. After Harriman and Dever had made their announcement, it was all over. But even at that Stevenson lacked about seven votes of a majority. The Senator from Tenn. came before the convention and congratulated Stevenson-but did not turn his state's vote over. Russell did the same thing.

Finally Sam Rayburn recognized Walter Granger from Utah and he gave the Governor of Illinois the necessary votes for a majority. The Convention recessed for 30 minutes and then I went to the platform. Could have had a prolonged oration but there was no use in that. Kept trying to make the delegates and visitors sit down. The hall was full to the roof at 2 A.M. and they all stayed until Stevenson read his acceptance speech.

After that the Governor, Sam Rayburn and myself with Mr. McKinney went into the National Chairman's office to discuss the candidates for Vice President.

I told the Governor he had the right to choose. We sat down and he made a list-Barkley, Kefauver, Russell, Monroney, Sparkman. The Governor ruled out Barkley on account of age and labor's attitude. He favored Kefauver. I vetoed that and persuaded him that no candidate needed to be appeased by being placed on the ticket. Sam Rayburn was for Monroney. I asked Sam if the Senator from Oklahoma could deliver Texas. Sam said No. Then I asked him how many Dixiecrats east of the Mississippi he could deliver. Sam said none. We talked on and on for an hour and a half and I finally said "Sparkman is your best bet. I am going to bed." And I went to the hotel. Went to the plane at 8:30 the next morning and to Kansas City.

Sparkman was nominated the next morning without opposition. In his acceptance speech he ignored the President and the Administration. I'm not a prima donna, thank God, and I'll give my best to elect the Democratic ticket because it is bet for the United States and the world.


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