Oral History Interview with
Admitted Missouri State Bar Association, 1929; secretary, Missouri Ozark Chamber of Commerce; publicity director, Louisiana-Missouri-Illinois Bridge Company; practicing attorney in St. Louis, Missouri.
Anthony A. Buford
September 21, 1978
by James R. Fuchs
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 November, 1979
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Anthony A. Buford
September 21, 1978
by James R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Buford would you give a little of your background? Tell us when and where you were born and about some of your experiences until you met Mr. Truman, and how you met Mr. Truman.
BUFORD: Well, I was born in Centerville, Missouri which is in Reynolds County, on December 28, 1901. I went to grade school at Ellington, attended Missouri Military Academy at Mexico one year, and then later finished high school at Jefferson City. I graduated from the University of Missouri and then I became a lawyer and practiced law at Ellington.
FUCHS: You studied law at the University of Missouri?
BUFORD: No, I didn't study law. At that time I didn't think I was going to be a lawyer, but after I got out of the University I started studying in different law offices. I guess I got it the hard way -- or maybe a better way, I don't know.
FUCHS: It's called reading law?
BUFORD: That's right.
FUCHS: What town was that in, did you say?
BUFORD: Well, that was in Ellington also. I studied law at that time and then I took the bar exam and passed it, I think in 1927. At that time about half of Missouri's citizens were for good roads and about half of them were not.
FUCHS: Were you in St. Louis by this time then?
BUFORD: No. We wanted to advertise the Ozarks.
We got about eleven counties together and organized what was known then as the Missouri Ozark Chamber of Commerce, and they elected me secretary. I traveled over these eleven counties. We put out pamphlets, and booklets and so forth telling how great this country was -- what we called the Big Springs country, the Missouri Ozarks down here near Van Buren. Three miles from Van Buren is the Big Springs; that's one of the largest springs in the world, and millions of gallons come out of that spring.
Well, anyway, I got a great deal of publicity about it. The national people at that time were building a lot of toll bridges over the United States. I was happy at home and reading law and practicing law, and serving as secretary of this Missouri Ozark Chamber of Commerce. However, they came down and made an offer so attractive that I resigned from the Missouri Ozark Chamber of Commerce. I was still single at that time.
FUCHS: Now, who was this that came down?
BUFORD: Lloyd Stark came down, the president of Stark Nurseries. He was then president of the Louisiana-Missouri-Illinois Bridge Company, which was building a bridge across the Missouri River at Louisiana. He said that he represented all these brokerage firms that were selling these bonds to build bridges, and they wanted a public relations man. I said, "I'm not a public relations man, I'm a lawyer."
But they said, "You've been doing such a good job advertising the Ozarks, why, we'd like to...." Well, the offer was attractive and I took the job. The first bridge that we gave a lot of publicity to was the Louisiana bridge over the Mississippi at Louisiana, Missouri.
A funny story happened in connection with the dedication of that bridge. At that time a fellow by the name of Beech was Mayor of Kansas City, and "Big Bill" Thompson was the Mayor of Chicago. I told the people who I represented
that I thought it would be great to have those two Mayors, as well as the two Governors, as guests at the dedication.
Well, to make a long story short, I went up to Chicago after getting acceptances from Mayor Beech and Missouri Governor Baker, as well as Governor Small of Illinois. I went up to Chicago, and "Big Bill" Thompson at first couldn't understand. I had a letter from Governor Baker introducing me, and after I got through talking with Mayor Thompson, he said, "I'll not only come, I'll bring a special train with a band." And actually he did come, and he had two special trains, and two or three bands.
FUCHS: Now would this have been in the late twenties?
BUFORD: This was 1928. We also had a contest to name the bridge. The winner suggested naming it after Speaker of the House Champ Clark. It is known all over the country as the Champ Clark Bridge.
Well, from there I went on to become public relations man for a lot of bridges being built. One of the bridges that was being built was across the Missouri River between Independence and Liberty.
FUCHS: Who hired you for that job?
BUFORD: Well, the National Toll Bridge Company. Jack Sverdrup was the president of that company, and he was an oldtime acquaintance of mine. He was in the Missouri Highway Department when I was in Jefferson City. While we were getting ready to have the dedication, I got acquainted with Judge Truman, Presiding Judge of Jackson County.
FUCHS: At that time he was Presiding Judge.
BUFORD: At that time he was Presiding Judge of the County Court of Jackson County. Later, we became very, very great friends.
FUCHS: What was your initial impression of Truman?
BUFORD: The first impression I had was, this is a great man. This was just a man that is bound to go someplace.
FUCHS: You were aware then, of course, of Pendergast and his...
BUFORD: Well, I knew Mr. Pendergast. I knew Jim Aylward and Jim Pendergast. But I knew that nobody was going to have any undue influence with Mr. Truman if it wasn't the correct thing to do.
FUCHS: Did he seem like a forceful individual to you?
BUFORD: Yes, very much so. So, that led to our acquaintanceship, and when he decided to run for United States Senator way back in 1934 I immediately said I was going to support him. I lived in St. Louis then, and it was very unpopular to support Truman, because they had a very popular candidate by the name of Jack [John J.] Cochran.
He was a Congressman and all of the St. Louis committeemen at that time, including Mayor Dickmann, were for Cochran. John Snyder was then in the First National Bank, and he was for Truman. But there were very few of us in St. Louis that was for Truman. Truman finally won, as you know, by a little less than 8,000.
FUCHS: Were you acquainted with the candidate "Tuck" [Jacob L.] Milligan by that time?
BUFORD: Yes, and he was also the Congressman from across the river, at Liberty. I knew Tuck well. I knew Tuck Milligan well, and I knew Cochran well. But the friendship that I had with Mr. Truman, beginning there at the bridge in '28, just kept going on all the time.
FUCHS: How was that friendship fostered over those years? I mean, once the bridge was dedicated...
BUFORD: Because being in the bridge business, I
became a "good-road" enthusiast and he was also. He was for building roads in Jackson County, and we went to "good-road" meetings and we corresponded and so forth and so on.
FUCHS: Were you a member of the National Old Trails Association? He was involved in that.
BUFORD: No. I think he was involved in that, but I had some involvement because of the toll bridge business. On this subject I should mention a fellow named Theodore Gary; he was chairman of the Missouri Highway Commission. Earlier, he had sold his telephone patent to the Bell Telephone Company, for which he got millions of dollars, and therefore he was a very wealthy man. He was from Macon, Missouri, I believe. Anyway, he wanted to have the Missouri highways built on a pay-as-you-go system. In other words, increase the gasoline tax and don't spend any money for roads unless there's money in the state treasury to pay for it.
However, the Automobile Club of Missouri came out for a $120 million bond issue. At that time Roy Britton was president, and John Malang was the "good-roads" man for them. Of course, some of the papers were for it and some of the papers were against it. Anyway, it became a great argument. In the paper somebody in an editorial suggested that Governor Baker appoint a commission of six to try to work out a compromise. Even though I was a very young man, Governor Baker appointed me as one of the six to serve on such a commission. We met in Jefferson City. After a certain length of time, we recommended a $75 million bond issue. Then the committee thought that we ought to recommend somebody to be chairman of a citizen's committee to advertise this and get the signatures to put it on the ballot. So everybody had suggestions on who should be chair-man. They couldn't agree on anybody, and I kept my mouth shut for a while. At that time I was in
Louisiana directing the public relations to build this bridge, and getting ready for this dedication. Finally, I said, "Why not Lloyd Stark?"
Well, they all agreed that Stark would be a wonderful chairman, because of the Stark Nursery and the fact that farmers all over the country knew the Stark name.
So, they called Stark up and asked if he would accept. He said, "I'll accept it on one condition, that you talk Buford into being the secretary of it, and let him do the work."
So, I was secretary of the $75 million road bond issue, and it passed. I think the vote was only about 520,000 yes, and about 420,000 no. It's amazing that that many people were not "good-road" minded at that time.
FUCHS: Now, what year was that?
FUCHS: Do you recall Mr. Truman being involved in
that in any way?
BUFORD: Oh, yes.
I'd like to amend my statement. I just looked it up. I was just giving you those figures from memory. The vote on the $75 million bond issue on November the 6th, 1928, was 670,000 yes, and 503,000 no. So that's the actual vote.
FUCHS: You mentioned Jim Aylward, and that you were a friend of his. In 1934, as you know it was up for consideration as to whom Tom Pendergast would select for the candidate. It's been written that James Aylward -- and I believe Shannon, and perhaps several others -- but Aylward was one that was offered the chance to run before Mr. Truman was asked, and they declined. One of the stories has it that they didn't want to be associated with the Pendergast machine. Do you know anything about that?
BUFORD: No, I don't.
FUCHS: You never heard Jim Aylward say anything about whether he had the opportunity...
BUFORD: No. I have my doubts about that.
FUCHS: You do?
BUFORD: Yes, I do. There's a lot of rumors you know in politics. There was tremendous pressure by the St. Louis people to get the Kansas City people behind Cochran. Then there was Tuck Milligan who was almost in the suburbs of Kansas City. I think that it was probably Aylward's idea and Jim Pendergast's idea to select Harry Truman, and they probably sold it to Tom Pendergast.
FUCHS: Did you say you were acquainted with Mr. Pendergast?
BUFORD: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: What are your reflections about him?
BUFORD: Well, I was just in his office once or twice or three times. I never really had any business dealings with him at all, but I knew his son. He and another gentleman, Phil McClary, I believe, had the Anheuser-Busch distributorship for Kansas City, and they also had a liquor business. I knew them in that way.
FUCHS: Were you acquainted with Tom Evans?
BUFORD: Oh, yes, I knew Tom Evans, very well. After Truman was elected we kept up our correspondence, and I was in Washington often. I was a part owner of the St. Louis Browns and when during World War II the Browns and the Cardinals were champions of the leagues and they had the World Series, Senator Truman came to the baseball games as my guest. Then we just continued to have this relationship all through his senatorial career and later when he got to be Vice President and
when he got to be President.
FUCHS: Well, let's come down to the 1940 senatorial campaign when there was a feeling that Mr. Truman might not even run again. As you know, Maurice Milligan was running and then Lloyd Stark came into the contest. That was considered a crucial election. Mr. Truman at one time, it was felt, didn't have too much of a chance. What do you recall about that?
BUFORD: I was right up to my ears in that. Of course, I had worked for Lloyd Stark and had a very close personal relationship with him. I didn't know Maurice Milligan very well. The Buford's got a tradition that when you start out with a friend, you don't leave him. So we supported Mr. Truman all the way.
FUCHS: You felt he was a closer friend than Stark?
BUFORD: And he made a wonderful Senator. I was very close to Senator Kinney and Senator Brogan; I tried to get their support, but of course, they went for Lloyd Stark.
FUCHS: Who was the last one you named?
BUFORD: Joe Brogan and Senator Mike Kinney.
FUCHS: They were State senators?
BUFORD: Yes, they were State senators. But Robert Hannegan at that time was chairman of the St. Louis City Democratic Committee and he came out for Truman, and so did, as I remember, Mayor Dickmann.
FUCHS: Did you ever talk with Mr. Truman about the entry of Milligan into that race?
BUFORD: No, I never did.
FUCHS: There is a story that he actually fostered it and he denied it for a long time. But since then it has been corroborated by him and Tom Evans that they wanted Milligan in the race to sort of siphon off...
BUFORD: Well, the votes in the western part of Missouri. That might be true, I don't know.
FUCHS: Well, now, in '34 -- just to go back a minute --
it occurs to me that your father, Carter Buford, was very much for Mr. Truman. What fostered that; why did he go so far as to even decline to run again for the State senate so he