Oral History Interview with
Assistant Secretary of the Interior, 1933-46; Under Secretary
of the Interior, 1946-49; Secretary of the Interior, 1949-53.
Oscar L. Chapman
August 2, 1972
Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Chapman Oral History
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
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Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Oscar L. Chapman
August 2, 1972
Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Chapman, to begin this morning, let's discuss an occurrence
that took place in June during the trip to the West, and that was the
flooding of the Northwest at that time. What difficulties arose because
of the flooding just before the Presidents trip?
CHAPMAN: Well, you understand the psychology of the public when there
is a tragedy of such moment, as this was. There were many people who had
lost their lives in this flood. The flood was around Portland, and extended
down the river a considerable way. The measure of damage in dollars would
be almost impossible to estimate at this time. You can't estimate the
loss of life in terms of dollars. The people were very much disturbed,
very much concerned, about some immediate help right now, to help these
people, because some of them were wiped out completely. It was similar
but on a much smaller scale than the recent flood
we have just had down
in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
HESS: From Hurricane Agnes.
CHAPMAN: Yes, Hurricane Agnes. That one was not as large as Agnes, but
it was, nevertheless, extremely heavy and a number of lives were taken
in that flood. Actually the people were very unhappy and disturbed. They
needed help and they needed it quickly. I got there into Portland, traveling
for the President, trying to make arrangements for his appearance at each
one of these towns that we stopped in, and there we had to change the
program a little for this reason: We had a program set up where he would
march in what we called the Rose Parade. Portland is noted for its beautiful
roses at that time of the year, and they were gorgeous. The roses all
over Portland were just beautiful. They were in full bloom. The
was set up for him to make a little brief talk at one of the halls down
in town, then getting cars and starting to march behind the parade, or
in front of the parade rather. As they went by they came by this hall.
But I saw the atmosphere that had been created because of this terrible
tragedy, and I saw the President and I told him that I would recommend
strongly that we cancel what we called the Rose Parade and let him drive
out in a car, or we could take his train if necessary to Salem. So instead
of going to some building downtown to a couple of those meetings with
the officials of the Rose Festival, we went over to Salem that morning
and the regional Red Cross man met us there and he set forth the things
that they were doing and would try to do immediately for them, a strict
emergency thing, and it showed us right where we had to pick up on the
Federal Government side.
I had his speech. He gave me a copy of his
speech, and I had several
of the men that were helping me on the train take that speech and outline
the things in it that we could do as a follow-up to what the Red Cross
representative had said. They took it and picked out the things that could
be done immediately and fast, such as the Corps of Engineers sent in quite
a crew of people to help clear the debris and the other things away from
the river channel, and keep the channel open. There were trees and logs
rolling down that river and some of them were hitting houses and knocking
them over completely. If you have never seen a flood, real damage like
that, it gives you a shock when you first see one. I had never seen one
of that size before. The local peoples homes, you'd see them turned over
sideways and mashed up against the banks and over in the trees.
These men took that speech of the Red Cross man and we analyzed it very
carefully where we could pick up and go in. I had these fellows to
on the train until we got down to San Francisco. By that time they had
it all outlined, the whole thing.
Then we put some orders into effect, the President did, to have the Corps
of Engineers to send their crew in immediately and start to work and see
what they could do, the Reclamation Service of the Department of the Interior
to see what they could do in the way of help, and to help immediately.
We did it and in several cases we didn't overrun our budget; we just simply
overspent for the emergency of this, some extra money that we had that
we were saving for other things, and we took it and turned it into this
and started into helping those people. For instance, they went into such
detail of helping them. They went down and bought a lot of bedclothes
and things like that for them to sleep on. Some of these families didn't
have anything. They were just wiped out. They were people who had lived
comfortably and had nice little houses, and they
were people that were
well-organized in life and worked hard for their living and they had nice
little homes. They were small homes, as a rule, but they were nice houses.
They didn't have, in some cases, any furniture whatever. Then they got
them some furniture. The Red Cross did this part. Another thing they needed
which people didn't think of, they needed groceries. They had to have
some food. They didn't have any storage to keep any that hadn't been wiped
out. So they got them adequate food supplies and what they did, they gave
some kind of credit at two or three of the major stores in town where
they could go and get what they wanted and just charge it. What they did,
they gave them a limit, I think, so much, and they could go in and get
their groceries and pay for it by just letting them tear off a little
piece of paper off of this ticket that they had. Of course, this record
just simplified it down to the nth degree, I honestly don't believe that
there was a single case of unfair or
dishonest taking of groceries or
anything else that could have been so easily taken through that system.
You couldn't use that system widespread. But those people there used it
as conscientiously as if it had come out of their own pocket, and they
bought just what they had to have, what they needed, and that's what they did.
HESS: Did you ever later talk to any of the Oregon Democratic politicians
to find out or to ask what effect on the election Mr. Truman's handling
and your handling of matters there might have had?
CHAPMAN: Well, I talked to several of the political leaders and was asking
and inquired of them whether the flood and the effort we made to take
care of the emergency had had any effect or changed those people's minds
about Truman's competency in handling a real problem. There wasn't any
question; everyone, to the last man, gave him, in
a complimentary way,
a comment as to how decent he was to do this without trying to get a lot
of publicity out of it, which he didn't try to do. He spoke over the radio
with this Red Cross man. I didn't put anybody else on that program. I
just had the Red Cross man. The Governor was not there or I would have
put him on. I think it was Governor [Douglas] McKay who later became Secretary
of the Interior.
HESS: I think he was Governor at that time.
CHAPMAN: I think he was Governor at that time. Well, he was not there,
or I would have had him. But the other officials all showed up and we
spoke around 12 o'clock on the radio right on the steps of the capital.
The checkup that I had made, I had asked two or three of the leaders there
to make a little checkup for me to give me any idea as to whether this
was having any effect on us one way or another, if we were lacking in
anything we should do, to let me know. They
came back with glowing reports
about the appreciation of the people. They were just thrilled, because
by coincidence of facts that happened, I was in Portland before the water
got through going down, and so consequently we were there on the grounds
getting things lined up and I got the President's program outlined for
him as far as what he had to do and should do. We got that straightened
out for him and then I had several of the agencies of the Government that
I had worked closely with and I contacted some of them direct and talked
to them, and they started right in to help. They did it very quickly and
very fast. It was one of the most efficient jobs that I ever had the pleasure
of working on.
I like to work on a job that moves smoothly and nicely. This didn't have
any crossing up of orders, and what one group was going to do and the
other one was not going to do. And there wasnt one bit. Just each group
went ahead and did just what it was supposed to do. It was
them very easily, because it was very easy to outline to the Corps of
Engineers what they should do, and the Reclamation Service. Even the Grazing
Service was brought in to this because there were so many sheep up through
the valley; they run a lot of sheep, and they lost nearly all of them.
There again is where your money value loss comes in. The poor fellow doesn't
have anything coming in for the next fall for his income, for the loss
of his sheep. Some cattle were lost, but not many cattle. Sheep was the
biggest loss in that area.
All in all, I was very pleased with the reports I had gotten that the
people had appreciated what the President had done so quickly, because
he arrived there. I stayed there to meet him in Portland. I couldn't meet
him in Denver. I stayed there to meet him in Portland, because I, by telephone,
had pretty much lined up my San Francisco meeting anyway, and my plans
I wanted to work out. I'd gotten
men I wanted to help me down there and
I got so much better support and help than the press was giving us credit
for having. There was a lot of gossip about the coolness of the people
and so on. Well, you did have some of this. You had some of that where
the politician was scared to get too close to Truman, afraid it wasn't
going too well. But by the 15th of October, you couldn't hold them back.
I could tell by the change in the mood of the crowd that Truman was really
coming to the top. He was surfacing to the top, to the lead, in this program.
I could tell by the mood of the crowds from one town to the next.
HESS: That things were progressing and getting better.
CHAPMAN: Oh, absolutely. It was so obvious that you could see so clearly
what was happening. For instance, if he stopped at the littlest place,
little town, there was nothing but a train stop once in a while, not necessarily
a big town or anything of the kind. Remember, when the President
anywhere and stops, the press has to be there, and they are there. I don't
care if he spoke out there to just three people, if he made a speech and
there was only three there, they'd have to write about it, even if they
did have to write it about three people being there. They'd have to tell you why.
HESS: It would get in the papers.
CHAPMAN: It would get in the papers. And we got it in the papers by the
sheer force of the office, you see.
We moved from that stand in Portland, which gave us a wonderful backdrop
for the mistakes we made in Omaha.
HESS: Tell me about that.
CHAPMAN: Well, the Omaha situation just simply got crossed up between
several people trying to set up the President's program.
HESS: Ed McKim was in charge of setting that up,
was he not?
CHAPMAN: Well, he took charge. He took charge of it and was setting it
up and the local people, because he had just been at the White House,
had been working there; they thought he was really running the thing and
they had gone to him and he had talked with them and he had lined up the
program in such a way that it was impossible for the President to meet
that evening, to have spoken. It was humanly impossible. He couldn't do
it. He had doubled his program for that evening on a timetable that you
couldn't possibly keep.
HESS: Did you point that out to him beforehand?
CHAPMAN: I did.
HESS: What did he say?
CHAPMAN: He said, "Now, I'm handling it. Now, you just don't understand
Omaha. I know these people and I can handle them."
I said, "Ed, it's all right with me. You can handle it, but I'm going
to leave tomorrow and go on to Cheyenne." That was Saturday and I was
going to be in Cheyenne on Saturday night to get a lineup for the Sunday
meeting. Sunday afternoon the train was to arrive at 4 o'clock. The new
mansion that was built in the capital there for the Governor to live in
is, I would say, two or three hundred yards (I'm not a good guesser on
distances), from the station up to the Governor's mansion.
HESS: In Cheyenne?
CHAPMAN: Yes, to the Governor's mansion. The setting was perfect. We
didn't plan for him to stay there. We didn't want him to take his time
there, because the press we knew would be there. The Denver Post
and the Rocky Mountain News, all from Denver, sent their reporters
up there to cover it. Our newspapers from over the areas sent their local
reporters in, and then practically all of them, the major papers,
had someone on the train going with us. We had quite a good representation
of the press on the train, better than I had expected, and it picked up
as it went. By the time we got back to Washington we had...
HESS: Why do you think so many papers sent reporters along on this so-called
"nonpolitical" trip? As you know a large number of reporters went along.
CHAPMAN: Yes. They were expecting to see a complete flop and they wanted
to write about it. They got so disgusted after two or three of them. They,
of course, wrote the one up in Omaha. Life magazine took pictures
of that empty hall, and he wasn't even supposed to be at the hall. The
schedule that this fellow had worked out for him didn't have him going
to the hall at all, but a little handbill had been passed out by his Army
HESS: The 35th Division Association.
CHAPMAN: The 35th Division, and he marched with them that afternoon for
a little ways. Then he couldn't go that night because what Ed had done,
he had set up a cocktail party without telling me. I didn't know anything
about it. That was the first I learned about it. After I called the President,
I left on Saturday morning early and went on over to Cheyenne. The situation
was obviously going to be very difficult to handle there under the circumstances
and I wanted to get out of the way of it.
HESS: Did you communicate your feelings to President Truman?
CHAPMAN: Oh, yes. I talked to him personally over the telephone, direct,
through Matt Connelly. I talked with Matt and then talked with the President.
I talked with both of them.
HESS: And you told them that it looked like things were going to go wrong?
HESS: I told them that I was very concerned about it. He had a schedule
that I didn't think could possibly be worked, and he would just have to
play it by ear when he got there, and take what he could and the rest
he'd have to--Matt being with him all the time, would just have to watch
it and "make changes that you'd have to make when you get here, because
you'll just have to make some changes, because you can't keep them all."
Well, they got there and they had it that way, but they got with their
empty hall because he didn't go out there to the hall at first. He was
a little late. It had been put in the press that only the 35th
Division were to come to this meeting. Well, they thought the place would
be so packed, and half of them didn't come.
HESS: And the public thought that they were not invited.
CHAPMAN: That's exactly what happened. They didn't come. That's one time
that the public listened to the newspaper and read that article. It killed
me. Well, we decided we'd just make the best we could out of it and let
it go and not worry about it. "Well do something to cover that some other
way." And we did later on get a chance to recoup that in Omaha. The whole
program in Omaha was simply not the feeling of the people at all. They
were in perfectly good spirits and as friendly with him as they could
be. They were just not given the opportunity to see him in any way. Ed
kept him completely surrounded with his own friends.
HESS: Kept him isolated.
CHAPMAN: Well, for instance, this is one of those things that has been
printed. He took the President out to some place around 5 o'clock in the
afternoon to meet some people and to see a hall or some new building.
I never did know quite
what that was. But he leaves there and brings them
all on by his house to a cocktail party that he had set up there at his
house, and he had invited a lot of friends. What Ed didn't know was that
invitations to something for the President have to be scrutinized so closely
that I thought the Secret Service boys would go crazy. They were just
HESS: They were taken by surprise?
CHAPMAN: They were taken by surprise, and so was I. Of course, I had
left and I was in Cheyenne working on that meeting by that night. Matt
called me in Cheyenne that night, at midnight or later, and he said, "Well,
your predictions came true to perfection. You were exactly right."
HESS: It was a debacle.
CHAPMAN: But he said, "I'm sure glad you called the President and told
him about it because he would have been surprised." He said, "You had put him
on notice and he was kind of ready for it, and he didn't let it
bother him, and he just went on and handled it."
HESS: It didn't take him by surprise.
CHAPMAN: It didn't take him by surprise, so it didn't give him a chance
to think what he wanted to do and say. He handled it in such a way that
he didn't leave any implications on anybody that didn't handle things
right, because this man was a friend of his family's and was a friend
HESS: He used to work for him in the White House.
CHAPMAN: That's right. So he had all those credentials back of him. So
that's what happened there exactly.
But I'll tell you what I did when we reached Cheyenne on Sunday afternoon.
The plane arrived in there between 4 and 5; I can't remember the
time. Between 4 and 5 it arrived in there. I had arranged for the National
Guard to line from the train to the Governor's mansion, and we had a soldier
every ten or fifteen feet apart on each side of the street, Maxwell Street.
It was fixed up nicely. We had one on each side about every fifteen feet
apart, and it looked like a lot of people. We got them all set and we
had several hundred like that. Then, besides that all the National Guard
people had been notified that they and their families could come and be
there, and that they might get a chance to shake hands with the President.
They might not, but they could come and see him. Well, it followed through
so nicely. The train arrived on time. The crowd had gathered down at the
station, and there was a crowd. It was the biggest that was ever together
in the State of Wyoming, even for one of their rodeos. It was on Sunday
afternoon. A lot of people from Denver had driven up there. I had worked
on that. See, that's a one hundred
mile drive, and a very beautiful highway;
a lot of people from Denver drove up there. And these little towns in
northern Colorado, a lot of people drove up to Cheyenne for a little Sunday
afternoon holiday. It was a very pleasant little town for them to go to.
So we had a crowd from the northern Colorado areas that had come in there
that the people were not dreaming were coming. The local people would
never have thought of such a thing, that that many would come. They thought
a few would come, maybe forty or fifty. But there was some four or five
hundred of them that were in there from Denver on up.
The press caught that that way, and I made it a point to introduce two
or three of the editors, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain
News and the Greeley newspaper, and one other newspaper editor was
up there on one of those papers. These were two of the small papers and
then two of the biggest papers. Then one of the newspapers from over in
the West, the Grand
Junction Sentinel, which was the biggest newspaper
outside of Denver. The man who owned that had been a great supporter of
Truman. He had been worried about all the things he had been hearing.
He said, "I think I'll go on over to Cheyenne anyway." This was by telephone.
I was on the telephone, when I wasn't talking with one locally, I was
on the telephone. So he went on up. When I left Cheyenne primarily the
next stop for me was Portland to organize that Portland situation and
to be there in plenty of time to get it lined up.
In the meantime, I had the chance there in Cheyenne to introduce a few
of these editors to Truman and I gave a list of names to Clark Clifford
and Clark knew one or two of them, like Palmer Hoyt at the Denver Post.
I gave a list of them, the people there, the local people, to Clifford.
He in a very astute way just made it look like it was just as casual as
it could be. He said, "Come on and meet the President." He
in two or three of these reporters at a time to see the President and
after they had stayed a few minutes he would motion for one of them that
he knew, and he would take them on out. He handled that beautifully. He
filled in the little finesse that you needed to have to make it look nice,
and that overcame the Omaha thing so beautifully.
We had pictures of the Omaha thing in Life magazine. They were
two-page pictures, terrific pictures, and the front page, that is, the
outside, like this, had a picture of the hall with the vacant seats. Then
I got an opportunity to get some pictures with the President at the Governor's
mansion because all these people at the station walked up there, you see.
As I said, it was 250 yards or more, about that. They all walked up and
at the Governor's mansion there was a little balcony out over the front
porch that three or four people could stand out on. There was the Governor
and two or three other local citizens, including the head
of the Press
Association for the State of Wyoming, and he runs a radio station, so
he had him connected up and we had free time on that. He handled that
local situation for me and I knew him well. I knew he could do a good
job of it, and I had talked with him beforehand about the kind of thing
we should set up up there, and he did it. He did a good job, a very good
job. He's a typical, slow-moving fellow, but he stops to talk to every
one of these cattle people he'd see from around the country. He stopped
to talk to every one of them and he had the President meet every one of
them. Well, fortunately, we had a time schedule there that gave us plenty
of time. We could hold the train there for another hour if we wanted to.
So, I told Clark before I left--I took a plane out of there and went on
to Portland--and I told him, "Just don't worry about it, this Governor.
He's all right. You may get a little nervous about him the first thing.
He's too slow but he's exactly the pace that these people
are in, and
when he introduces you to one of these old farmers up there, cattle people,
it means something to you and it's worth something. So don't shortchange
him on anything if you can help it because it's too valuable. You've got
to keep pushing him." He pushed him to get him through. Clark caught that
exactly and he handled it just to perfection with the President for me.
He just handled it beautifully with the press.
Clark has a facility and a talent. His first meeting of a person, of
making an impression; it's like Judge Lindsey, whom I used to work for
in Denver, who ran the juvenile court there. I worked with him for seven
or eight years; he used to tell me, he'd call me in and he'd say, "Son,
I want you to understand that the artistry of approach is the finest approach
you can make to those people that will be lasting." And he had always
lectured me about the artistry of approach, your first meeting with people.
Clark Clifford had
that just by nature; he had it to perfection. What
Lindsay had been lecturing to me about all those eight years, Clark had it.
HESS: And he still has it today.
CHAPMAN: He still has it today. He could bring those people in and he
would handle them in a crowd so easily, and he could get the President
out of a crowd without any commotion or any apparent disturbance, so everything
was running just fine. He handled that so well. We got terrifically good
publicity on that one, and the reporters on that really caught the picture
that something went wrong in Omaha that had nothing to do with the President
at all, and so they really wrote that story up beautifully. They corrected
that Omaha story, correcting what they had written before, saying the
problem that they ran into in Omaha was nothing but a faux pas
that had been pulled by a local man (they didn't mention his name), who
wasn't familiar with handling a President. He
just didn't know how to
handle it. They made another reference to me in the press at that time:
"Oscar Chapman or Clark Clifford, had either one of them been there..."
Well, it was too late for Clark to do anything. He couldn't do anything
but help get him through the night, and I had gone.
So that covered the part of the program, for the atmosphere we started
off with was bad from Omaha.
We had a little bit of a flap in Chicago, a little mix-up; the program
there got mixed up a little bit by too many ambitious local politicians
trying to take the lead, and that's a tough place to handle them in Chicago
if you don't know the leaders. If you don't know the leaders and which
ones you're talking to you can foul up a meeting terribly.
HESS: Who were the principal leaders in Chicago at that time that you
had to contend with?
CHAPMAN: [Richard J.] Daley was coming to the forefront; right then he
was coming to the front, and I spotted Daley as being the brains behind--putting
his friends together and making them come to what he wanted to do.
HESS: You saw him as a comer at that time?
CHAPMAN: Oh, yes. I saw him and I used him. I used him heavily.
HESS: How did you use him?
CHAPMAN: Oh, I had him to get certain people. I said, "I want you to
get so-and-so and so-and-so, get them to come in to see the President.
You see Matt Connelly and talk to him." I gave him a list and he took
care of it. Clark followed it on through like that. I mean, our coordination
worked out perfectly and all because Clark had such good common sense.
HESS: That was the address in Chicago before the Swedish Pioneer Centennial
CHAPMAN: Yes. That wasn't serious, or it wasn't big. I mean, there wasn't
a serious error, but we could have gotten a little more out of it had
Clark and I been able to be there all day that day beforehand, you see.
I had to leave before to go into Omaha. Of course, it was a good thing
that I did. But that was the one he spoke at there. Governor Green. Let's
see, who was the mayor of Chicago at that time?
HESS: He'll be identified in the Public Papers. The mayor was Martin
CHAPMAN: Martin H. Kennelly.
HESS: "In his opening words he referred to Vilas Johnson, General Chairman
of the Chicago Swedish Pioneer Centennial, Dwight H. Green, Governor of
Illinois, and Martin H. Kennelly, Mayor of Chicago."
CHAPMAN: That's the one. I had given those names to Daley.
HESS: To Daley. To see that they showed up?
CHAPMAN: To see that they were at the right place at the right time.'
HESS: What was Daley at that time, do you recall?
CHAPMAN: I don't recall what his title was or what he was doing, but
he acted more or less as a public relations man for the mayor. They were
quite friendly apparently, and he was helping the mayor on public relations
matters such as this. He had had a good deal of experience on this kind
of a program, and that made him very useful and helpful to us.
HESS: One of the most powerful black men in the House of Representatives
at that time was William Dawson.
HESS: Did you work with William Dawson?
CHAPMAN: Oh, yes. I worked with William Dawson and
I'll never forget
his speech up there on the back of the car or automobile out at the community
there, in the black community. I know, Dawson had set up (Daley had done
this for me), he had set up a meeting for Truman to stop there in an automobile
and make a speech at 5 o'clock in the afternoon as they got off from work,
most of them. We caught the right hour. Dawson was riding in that car
with the President. I had him riding with the President and the mayor
was in the car with him. The Governor had been with us before. He was
not with us at that particular meeting, but he was with us before during
the day. The Governor had been very courteous and had been a little more
helpful than some of them had been.
HESS: Was this during the regular campaign?
CHAPMAN: No, this was on that first trip, nonpolitical trip. But Dawson's
speech up there, I will never forget the phrase that he used.
He had a
deep, heavy voice as so many black people have, and he got up, introduced
the President, and he said, "Now, the press is telling the public that
this man has been in the White House too long, that he shouldn't be there
any longer." He said, "I want to ask you, how long is too long when it's
good?" That crowd just roared with that. He said, "How long is too long
when it's good?" He got a terrific ovation out of that, and Truman got
a wide ovation there. They just tore the town down for him almost.
HESS: That must not have been in the...
CHAPMAN: That might have been on the second trip.
HESS: I can't find anything about Dawson in the notes. The President
also spoke at Gary.
CHAPMAN: Yes, he was in Gary.
HESS: I can't find anyplace where Dawson would have
introduced him in
Chicago, but quite probably it was just not released to the press.
CHAPMAN: I'll tell you, this was nothing, this was purely a
HESS: Off-the-cuff remarks?
CHAPMAN: I would say off-the-cuff remarks. The whole thing was informal.
HESS: It didn't go through the press office?
CHAPMAN: It was not on any program, you see. So, we did this at the last
minute because Dawson was feeling like he was being left out a little
bit. I caught that feeling. I had caught it before I left there, and I
had tipped Clark off to it. I said, "Some way or another get him in the
car with the President if you can and drive down through the black district.
You can stop the car on any one of about five corners. He'll have 5,000
people there," He
passed my guess by a long way. He had far more than 5,000.
HESS: So this was away to give recognition to Congressman Dawson and
also to have the President appear and speak before a group of black people.
CHAPMAN: That's right. He did.
HESS: How important to his victory in 1948 do you think that the black
vote was, particularly the urban black vote? In Chicago for instance?
CHAPMAN: Oh, very definitely it was a real asset. They gave us a margin
for victory. There isn't any question in my mind that they gave us the
margin we got. Remember, that was a close election out there.
HESS: Why do you feel that most blacks were voting for the Democratic
Party in 1948? Was this a holdover from the Roosevelt era when they voted
overwhelmingly for Roosevelt? As I understand, the black vote was still
dominantly Republican in 1932, right?
CHAPMAN: That is correct, and that was principally because it had not
been organized sufficiently.
HESS: Then four years later in 1936, we see a definite switch, a definite
change, after four years of the Roosevelt administration.
CHAPMAN: That's the part I want to tell you about. People didn't realize
what Truman had done those first four years. He had done things for the
poor people and for the Negroes. He had supported the Negro position right
straight down the line. He was against segregation. He expressed himself.
That word got around among people everywhere. And besides, Truman had
done some things legislative wise. He had put himself on record on two
or three important issues for them that he publicly had supported, which
had never been done before by any President for the Negro people. He had
put himself on record in such a way and on such important issues that
affected the black man very deeply, and they began to realize that
man is really with us. He's really trying to help us." They got the feeling,
the Negro group. The black man got the feeling that after his four years
in there that he had really tried to do something for them. They had felt
that he was trying to carry on the Roosevelt program, which was in their
favor, and they believed that and some of the carryover was from that.
But his record supported it. That's what made it solid.
HESS: Did political expediency enter into Mr. Truman's view of civil
rights to any degree?
CHAPMAN: No, no. Tru