Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened January, 1970
Oral History Interview with
May 15, 1969
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Allen, when did you first meet Mr. Truman?
ALLEN: I first met Mr. Truman, as I remember, when he first came to the Senate. I think that was in…
HESS: It was '35 when he came to the Senate.
ALLEN: Yes, when he first came to the Senate. I know very well he was in the Senate when the fight for the Senate leadership was up with [Pat] Harrison and [Alben W.] Barkley,
and the Senator voted for Harrison, who was a great friend, although he was very close to Barkley, and Barkley afterwards became Vice President with him. But he voted because he had promised to vote for Harrison and he stuck to that promise. That's when I first met Mr. Truman.
HESS: Could you tell me about the events that led up to Mr. Truman's nomination on the Democratic ticket in 1944?
ALLEN: That I could tell you quite a bit about, because that's quite a story. As you know, Senator Truman didn't want the Vice Presidency, as far as that was concerned. He was perfectly happy in the Senate, as I remember. Now, at that time, Frank Walker was chairman
of the Democratic National Committee, and I was secretary of the Democratic National Committee, and Ed Pauley of California was treasurer. Ed Pauley deserves more credit than anyone else for stopping Wallace. We all felt, really, that possibly Roosevelt wouldn't live, and that the man we were nominating would become President.
HESS: Would he deserve more credit in that than Robert Hannegan?
ALLEN: Oh, much more. Hannegan was merely just...for the simple reason that Pauley saw this quicker than anyone else, and Pauley had it in for Wallace more than anyone else, at least he thought Wallace would be a bad influence on the country. So, Pauley worked
out a deal with "Pa" [General Edwin M.] Watson, who was then the secretary to Roosevelt, that any Democrats that came into Washington would go in and tell the President that under no circumstances should we have Wallace, that the President should run again, but we shouldn't have Wallace. Now, that was Pauley's idea, and he worked with Watson on this, and Roosevelt realized that the political leadership of the Democratic Party was against Wallace. Labor was for Wallace, of course, and the very left wing people were for Wallace. So, we finally had a meeting, a dinner, it was in the summer, if I remember it, yes, it was in July, with the President, with President Roosevelt; in fact, I cover all this in my
book* which I want to give you and that will tell this story better than anything else. So why don't we go ahead with something else and that will tell you this whole story.
HESS: What do you recall about Mr. Truman's campaign in 1944?
ALLEN: Well, President Roosevelt and [Harry] Hopkins sent for me one day and they said, "We want you to go with Mr. Truman during the whole campaign for Vice President," and I was really the campaign manager for Mr. Truman in '44, for Vice President. We started out in Los Angeles, and we worked all over the country and we had some very unusual experiences. He used to speak
*See Presidents Who Have Known Me, by George E. Allen, Chapter 10, "The Conspiracy of the Pure in Heart."
to sometimes as many as five or six people sometimes, ten or fifteen thousand. And I remember very distinctly he was speaking in some little town out west and somebody said, "Senator, how old are you?"
And he said, "On my next birthday, I'll be sixty."
So I remember now how old he was because of that. And we had some great experiences during that campaign. Hugh Fulton was his speechwriter, and Hugh wrote some pretty dull speeches, and Truman did better when he just spoke off-the-cuff. And he made a number of these speeches. I remember we got into New York and we were meeting at Madison Square Garden and Truman and Wallace were both to speak. Well, the CIO wanted to show
up Truman and who show how strong they were for Wallace. So we got to the old Madison Square Garden and Wagner, Bob [Robert] Wagner was up for re-election to the Senate, and I remember Truman and Wagner, we were all sitting there, waiting for Wallace. And their strategy was to have Wallace come in after Truman. Well, our strategy was to have Truman and Wallace walk down at the same time so that any ovation they gave, Truman would get just as much of it as Wallace would.
So, first of all, we were about an hour late. Wallace first lost his glasses and had to go back to the hotel. They used every excuse in the world. But, finally, he did show up, and they walked down together, and that's the way that turned out. But Truman was a great campaigner, and one of the sweetest men that ever lived. There's no doubt about that he was a fine, lovable fellow.
HESS: How was the liaison worked out between the Truman campaign and the Roosevelt campaign? Just how was that handled? Mostly through yourself?
ALLEN: Yes, I worked with Hannegan who was running the Roosevelt campaign out of New York, and I would report back to Hannegan from California or from wherever we were. That's where I first met Hubert Humphrey. He was then state chairman in Minneapolis when we came in there. We had a lot of problems when we would go into places like Butte, Montana. But Truman never worried about the little jealousies in politics. He was really too big for that. We would try to think of all those things, but it didn't bother him at all. If a man wasn't a friend of his, that was that; if he was, that was fine. He was really a great campaigner.
HESS: You mentioned Hugh Fulton just a minute ago. Did you ever hear why Hugh Fulton did not join the White House staff? This is getting ahead of the game just a little bit. But when Mr. Truman got to the White House there was some speculation that Hugh Fulton would take some post in the administration, and he did not.
ALLEN: Well, I'm sure it was due to Hugh Fulton's saying he was going to be Attorney General. That's my opinion. He came down that morning and made a speech in the lobby of the White House and intimated that he was going to be the new Attorney General in the Truman administration, as I remember it. This, of course, is a little hazy. I was there during the whole time. I was in Las Vegas
when Roosevelt died, and Truman's office phoned me and told me about it, and I came back. Ed Reynolds, sitting over there, and I worked on the first three speeches that he made as President.
HESS: Is that right? Tell me about that.
ALLEN: We did all three. Well, that, there's no question about. Matt Connelly said, "We've got to make three speeches..." In fact, we had worked on Truman's speeches as Vice President. Now, Hugh Fulton sort of dropped out of the picture after that, because we worked on most of the speeches after he became Vice President, during the time. I remember one or two of the speeches we helped prepare, we got a lot of criticism on them, said we weren't much of economists,
because we said there was going to be no slump after the war was over, and it turned out that we were right. We got a lot of letters, Truman did. So during those days there was Matt, myself, and Charlie Ross -- well, no, first, we had a Press Secretary named J. Leonard Reinsch. He didn't last but about two days.
ALLEN: You'll have to ask Mr. Reinsch. He's still around. A nice guy.
HESS: He's been asked. I just wondered...
ALLEN: What does he say?
HESS: I don't know.
ALLEN: Well, I don't know why he wasn't, but anyway, he lasted only about two days. And then the President took Charlie Ross, who was then with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Charlie became his secretary. So there was Matt, Charlie, Harry Vaughan, Harry was in on everything, Jake Vardaman, who was his Naval Aide. They attended the morning conferences, which used to start about seven o'clock every morning.
HESS: Let's take a few of those men, just one at a time, and tell me about your impressions of those gentlemen when you met them. Now, you had worked with Matthew Connelly probably on the campaign, is that right?
ALLEN: I hadn't known any of them. You see, I
was a Roosevelt man, and this was a new group that came in. There was a boy named -- the druggist that joined us on the train too, what was his name? From Kansas City -- Evans, Tom L. Evans. And a lot of other fellows came in. But they were nominated. My friends had been the Roosevelt people up until then. I had been in Roosevelt's "sub-administration." I had been commissioner of the District, and I had done a lot of things for Roosevelt.
HESS: What part did Tom Evans play in the campaign?
ALLEN: Well, he was a personal friend. He was with us on the train quite a bit. And a boy named [Edward D.] McKim was along too. Those were the fellows that were around Truman at
that time. And if anybody belonged to Battery "D", he could get right in. There was a great fellow, was his partner too, what was his name, that ran the haberdashery?
HESS: Eddie Jacobson.
ALLEN: Yes, he was in there. If you look over there, you will see some very interesting photographs. That's when we used to go down on the Williamsburg, and the President would autograph all our place cards after the meeting. We used to have a lot of poker games and the President loved to play poker, and so did Fred Vinson. The President's trouble in poker was the he liked to look at an inside straight. Vinson and Joe [Joseph E.] Davies, Scott Lucas, Stuart Symington, Clark Clifford, were always there. Clark and I
were usually in on all the poker games. But we quit at eleven o'clock at night. We played what we called a "poverty" poker game. In other words, you could only lose a certain amount and then you would go on poverty. So nobody could get hurt. It was just a social game. There wasn't anybody trying to make any money.
HESS: Were you along at anytime when there was business of a substantive nature discussed on the Williamsburg?
ALLEN: Oh, yes, they used to talk business all the time, and you can't be around a President without the world affairs being there all the time.
HESS: Do you recall a particular incident, a particular problem that may have been discussed?
ALLEN: Oh, I think so many that I wouldn't know what…
HESS: In some files that I have run across, I found a memo from you and from John Snyder and from Judge Samuel Rosenman giving some suggestions of things that might come up at Potsdam that I believe you discussed with the President early in July.
ALLEN: That was his first trip as President you know, his Potsdam trip. That's right.
HESS: Do you recall that episode?
ALLEN: Well, you'd make suggestions all the time. Some of them would be accepted, some
would be thrown out. Now, you mentioned about the Stettinius thing. That was really an interesting thing.
HESS: Tell me about that.
ALLEN: Well, we were on the Williamsburg. You see, the President had three things to do when he got in office: He had to address Congress; he had to address the Armed Services, and then he had to go out and address the United Nations on its formation, and it was just being formed in San Francisco. No, it hadn't been formed in San Francisco. The war wasn't over when he got in.
HESS: I believe that was when the charter was signed, was it not?
ALLEN: That was in San Francisco when the charter
was signed. That was after the war, but anyway, we were on the Williamsburg, and it was decided there that somebody should go out to San Francisco to represent the President. At that time, the "big five" was meeting there: Russia, England, China, United States and France. And, so, they were setting up the meeting. So it was decided that someone should go out to represent the President, and I drew the assignment. So I went out. Our headquarters were at the Fairmont Hotel. So, I was talking to the President over the phone one day, and he said, "Are you where you can talk?”
I said, "Yes."
He said, "I want to make Jimmy Byrnes Secretary of State. Would you go see Ed
Stettinius and tell him this and see if we can't put him in -- isn't there going to be something in this new organization where Ed could fit in." And it was, as Secretary General.
So I said, "Yes," that I would talk to Ed.
Well, Ed was furious. He said that he wouldn't resign. So we had two or three days of real tough...
HESS: How did you convince him that he should?
ALLEN: I finally said, "Ed, who are you close to in this delegation that you trust?"
He said, "Dr. [Isaiah] Bowman." Now, Bowman was the geographer from Johns Hopkins, he was president of Johns Hopkins at one time.
So I said, "Well, get him in here with me," because I wanted him to hear my argument. Because Ed wouldn't listen.
He said, "You Democrats are just trying to throw me out, and I've done a great job."