Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Byrnes, James F. (James Francis), 1882-1972; Clark, Bennett Champ, 1890-1954; Wallace, Henry A. (Henry Agard), 1888-1965; Garner, John Nance, 1868-1967; Wheeler, Burton K. (Burton Kendall), 1882-1975.; Jackson, Robert Houghwout, 1892-1954; Fulton, Hugh, 1
Legislators; Congressional committees; Political conventions; Presidential campaign, 1944; Press; Reporters and reporting; Presidents

Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, Not dated. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

7. In 1934 my tour of duty as presiding Judge of the County Court of Jackson County was drawing to a close. I'd given the county a road system, straightened out its finances, built two new Court Houses and a hospital for the aged and so I thought my job was done.

In redistricting the State in 1932 for Congressional districts I had set up the 4th District with eastern Jackson County and two or three eastern city wards in Kansas City. I had hoped to represent that district in the Congress of the United States. I could have stayed there the rest of my life. The organization had other ideas. I was forced into a Senate race after having told all my friend and relations I wouldn't run for the Senate.

But ran for the nomination and won it. The election was a push over on a New Deal platform and so I went to the Senate. My colleague, the Hon. Bennett Champ Clark was very courteous to me, escorted me to the ceremony when I was sworn in, introduced me to the Senators and the Vice President, showed me the Barber Shop & the bath house and was as kind as could be.

My committee experience was an education. On the Interstate Commerce Committee I learned the history of railroad finance, civil aeronautics, communications, federal trade and became acquainted with several able and distinguished Senators.

Same experience on appropriations. Learned how budgets are made and unmade and learned a lot about government finance, railroad finance, air transportations troubles, public buildings and grounds and Senatorial investigations.

I asked Senator Wheeler, chairman of the Interstate Commerce Committee if it would all right for me to attend the hearings on the investigation of railroad finance. He, of course said it would. I became the vice chairman of that subcommittee, because I was the only senator who was always present. There were many things that came before that subcommittee. I learned a lot about finance and about Federal Courts. I made a report to the Senate and finally wound up as coauthor of the Wheeler-Truman Bill of 1940.

In February of 1940 I introduced a resolution to establish the committee for the Investigation of the Defense Program. Hon. James F. Byrnes of South Carolina was chairman of the Audit and Control Committee, which had to pass on my resolution. There was some delay. I had asked for $25,000 to start my proposed committee off. Eventually the liberal Sen. Byrnes agreed to the resolution with an authorized appropriation of fifteen thousand dollars!

After the resolution and the appropriation had passed the Senate, I called the Attorney General, Mr. Jackson and asked him to recommend a counselor to me. He did, and a good one-Mr. Hugh Fulton.

I gave Mr. Fulton more than half my appropriation as salary and went to work. After our first report we were able to obtain the funds we needed.

I went to see the President and told him what I wanted to do. Explained to him that I wanted to help him win the war, that I would keep him informed of what I found and that if he could remedy the situation he'd hear no more from me. I also went to see General Marshall and told him the same thing.

I finally had nine senators on the committee with me and there was never a minority report! The President, the Chief of Staff of the Army and the chief of Naval Operations, all came to believe that the Committee was trying to help and not to hurt anyone.

How I wish I had cooperation such as I gave. When fifty reporters voted on the ten men who had made the greatest contribution to the war effort, I was the only legislator in the list!-which did not help my standing in the Senate.

When the National Democratic Convention was to meet in Chicago in 1944 I was a delegate and was elected to be Chairman of the Missouri delegation.

As I was about to leave Independence on Friday before the Convention was to meet. Hon. James F. Byrnes called and asked me if I would nominate for Vice President as the President wanted him to have that position on the ticket. I said surely I'll do it if the President wants it done. Before I could get to the automobile and start for Chicago with my wife and daughter, Senator Barkley called and asked me to nominate him for Vice President. I reported my conversation with Senator Byrnes and told him I was committed.

Bess, Margie & I got in the car and I drove to Chicago. When we arrived I found I was the chairman of the Missouri Delegation and that I was the Missouri member of the Resolution Committee which committee writes the platform. I worked diligently on the platform and went to see all the leaders I knew, labor, and otherwise to try to get them for Byrnes for Vice-President. Every time I saw a leader he would tell me he was for Henry Wallace first and for me second. I told all of them that I was not a candidate. I reported all these interviews to Mr. Byrnes. He would tell me every time that Roosevelt would publicly say he was for him for Vice President.

On Wednesday after the President had been nominated the Chairman of the Democratic committee came to see me at the Stevens Hotel and told me that the President wanted me to be the nominee for Vice President on the ticket with him. I was flabbergasted. I told Hannegan that I wanted to stay in the Senate, and that I would not take the nomination.

On Thursday afternoon before the V.P. nomination was to take place, I was asked to come over to the Blackstone Hotel for a conference. Of course I went. There I found all the Democratic leaders of the nation and they began to put pressure on me, the country boy, to stand for the nomination for Vice President. Finally Mr. Hannegan, the Chairman of the National Democratic committee called the President in San Diego, Calif. He asked Mr. Hannegan if he had received a commitment from the Junior Senator from Missouri. Mr. Hannegan told the President that he had never been in contact with as mulish and contrary a man. Then the President said, and I could hear him, "Well if he wants to let the Democratic Party and the country down in the midst of a war that is his responsibility."

I was to put it mildly stunned. I stood around for at least five minutes and then I said, "I'll do what the President wants."

But I had a family situation to meet. Mrs. Truman and Margie would not be happy. I knew that very well. But both were good soldiers when I told them what had happened.

After the nomination and my return to the hotel with police and secret service none of us were happy. But we all faced the situation and have been facing it ever since.

In the fall of 1944 I went to the Legion Fair at Caruthersville as usual and then drove to Mississippi with Fred Canfil. My objective was to see my nephew J.C. Truman, who was training at a naval camp west of Gulfport. We stopped in Gulfport and I saw my nephew. Then we drove to Biloxi and called on Mr. & Mrs. Luxich from whom we'd rented a cottage some years before. Margie had a strep throat when she was about eight years old, which affected her heart. Our good child doctor, Wilson by name said that sea level would cure the ailment. So we drove to the gulf coast, rented a cottage and the cure was complete.

After calling on the Luxich family and J.C., Fred and I started for New Orleans. We stopped at Pass? Christian for lunch and had fillet of flounder. It was excellent. Mr. Luxich used to take Margie out into the gulf when we first went to Biloxi. He had a gasoline torch and a broom stick with a nail in the end of it, and would spear flounders.

Those that Canfil and I had at Pass? Christian on the way to New Orleans were as good as I ever tasted.

We arrived in New Orleans and put up at the Roosevelt Hotel. I went to see a banker friend of mine and that night spoke to the Mississippi Valley Association on the Missouri Valley authority. All I received was a vote of no confidence!

The next day we boarded a Southern Pacific train and began a cross country tour. Beaumont, Houston, San Antonio, Uvalde where I had a grand visit with Mr. Garner, El Paso, Tucson, and finally Los Angeles. Then to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and across the northern part of the country on the Chicago, Milwaukee and Pacific railroad. Stopped at all the towns of any consequence, told the newspaper at Spokane what a lousy sheet it is, addressed a labor conference and then went on east. That trip was the first "whistle stop" campaign, but it received no consideration from the press. As has been the press attitude the vice Presidential Candidate at that time was an ignorant nonentity. Until 1948 the same press pursued that attitude-and it still pursues it! They never learn. Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Cleveland, Franklin Roosevelt have all had the same experience. Those Presidents whom the press of the time loved have been, in history nonentities-Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, Chester Arthur, Ben Harrison, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge-they did nothing for the welfare of the people therefore the kept press loved them.


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