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Tom C. Clark Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview
with
Tom C. Clark

Tom C. Clark
Attorney General of the United States, 1945-49; Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1949-67.
Washington, D.C.
October 17, 1972 and February 8, 1973
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | List of Subjects Discussed]


Notice
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. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 August, 1977
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | List of Subjects Discussed]



Oral History Interview with
Tom C. Clark

Washington, D.C.
October 17, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess

[1]

HESS: Mr. Justice to begin this morning, what are your earliest recollections of Mr. Truman?

CLARK: Well I'd say when he first started his investigations as chairman of the Senate's -- as I remember he had introduced a resolution in the Senate to create a committee on national defense. As you know, there had been a step up in our defense spending, the establishment of military bases, increase in personnel in the armed forces and procurement of materiel. I think the idea that Mr. Truman projected was

 

[2]

that incident to this policy we would have some problems in procurement with reference to anti-trust violations as well as, we hope not, but perhaps with reference to violations of other criminal statutes. And therefore, the Senate created this committee, which was composed of Mr. Truman, as chairman and Senators [Sherman] Minton, and Harold Burton, both of whom later came to the Supreme Court -- one a Democrat and the other Republican. This committee would go from place to place to conduct hearings, quite often here in Washington. The committee named a general counsel, Hugh Fulton who served it for several years. Prior to the time the Truman Committee was established there had been created in the Department of Justice a War Fraud Unit, which would monitor the hearings of the Truman Committee. At that time the Department would assign to one of its divisions the function of

 

[3]

following up on any findings the Truman Committee or other congressional committees would refer to the Attorney General. If the Truman Committee, for example, thought some matter it uncovered might be a violation of the law and ref erred it to the Attorney General we would be ready to go. Quite often during that period committees referred matters to the Department. And rather than waiting until we got references of that type we thought it might be better if we had had a liaison with the Committee. As head of the War Fraud Section I used to go up to see Mr. Truman quite often beginning about 1942 I guess. When did he come to the Senate, '37?

HESS: He was elected in '34.

CLARK: '34.

 

[4]

HESS: He came to Washington in '35, and the Truman Committee -- that was the Senate Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program -- was started in 1941.

CLARK: Well that must have been at the time the Committee started then.

HESS: Were you the official liaison of the Department?

CLARK: Well I happened to be Chief of the War Fraud Section, so I just took it upon myself.

HESS: You appointed yourself officially.

CLARK: I don't know whether I was official or not. But quite often we would get materials that were not sufficiently in detail so we could use them for the purposes of a grand jury for example, and so I would quite often go up and

 

[5]

go over the materials with Hugh Fulton and Mr. Truman, in an effort to try to get them perhaps to go into the problem somewhat deeper; and, in that way, we might make sure violations of law were detected and prosecuted more quickly. .In the Department at that time the FBI had so many investigations that there were delays. We tried to avoid this delay as much as we could since the quicker we could develop these cases the more effective they were in the procurement program.

HESS: How would you evaluate the help that Mr. Truman and Hugh Fulton gave you, when you would point out things that needed to be clarified and expanded?

CLARK: Oh, we worked hand in glove. There was tremendous cooperation. Mr. Truman not only inspired it but I had asked for it. Mr. Fulton

 

[6]

was very cooperative. He had a good staff. And Mr. Truman also, of course, had his office staff. Quite often it would be of some assistance, although the heavy lifting of the Truman Committee was done through the special staff of the Committee.

HESS: Who do you recall that you may have worked with on the Truman Committee staff? Matthew Connelly was on Mr. Truman's staff. Do you recall Mr. Connelly?

CLARK: Oh yes. I saw Connelly and Fulton and there was a fellow there that later ran for some office up in New York, I've forgotten his name, he was quite a good criminal lawyer.

HESS: Do you remember any specific cases? Two of the major cases dealt with the Curtiss-Wright airplane engines and the question of the pipeline

 

[7]

that was going to run from the United States up through Alaska. There were several other major cases, do you remember any?

CLARK: Oh, they had quite a few. Well the one I remember more vividly than any other is the one that involved copper and had to do with the Anaconda Company. It was a fantastic case, you would not believe it occurred. The Committee uncovered the whole thing and then we did some supplemental work on it.

It seems that the way it came to the attention of the Committee was that the Russians filed some objection to the field wire that we were furnishing them under lend-lease. It turned out that we gave it to them, and some of it was defective. There was also what they call a degaussing cable that would be placed around a ship to set up a magnetic

 

[8]

field and deflect a torpedo away from the ship. It was not involved in the Anaconda case. We hadn't had any particular reports on it, although in finding out about the field wire, the Committee went into that also and developed a case on it also.

But getting back to the Anaconda case, it manufactured field wire. They were required to test this wire in vats somewhat like a swimming pool. It would be in enormous spools of wire like you might see the telephone company using when they place telephone cables underground. The spool of wire, which is, oh, eight feet high, seven or eight feet high, comes in big rolls. At the Anaconda plants the company would take these spools of field wire and immerse them in this water in order to test them under conditions that they thought might be encountered in the field. The Government installed some magnetic

 

[9]

calculators in tables at the side of the vat. And the Anaconda people sat on one side, and the Government Bureau of Standards, I think it was, on the other. And whenever the needle indicated that the wire being tested was below specifications, well the Anaconda people had these buttons under the table that they could press and make the needle come to a higher level so that the wire would pass the test. Indeed we found one or two spools of wire that had been in the water so long that a sort of water scum had formed on the spools and you know how wood will get after its been in the water a while. We found out that in some instances they would never even take the time to change the spools.

Then the other case was the case involving degaussing cable, it was in New Jersey. It was an antitrust case. It involved several of

 

[10]

the companies that were making this degaussing cable. And then we had a case against the steel company. I remember going out to Pittsburgh on it. Well we went all over the United States. The Committee did a tremendous job on it, and of course it brought Senator Truman notice with the public because originally it was aimed at defense, and I think the original investigations were procurement of military cantonments, bases and things like that. Then it went into materiel and that was a rich source of cases. The Committee was quite busy. They made quite a few investigations and held hearings all over the country.

HESS: When you would go up to see him, did Mr. Truman ever tell you what he thought the value of the Committee was? What he saw as the real value of the Truman Committee?

 

[11]

CLARK: Well I think more than anything the deterrent value. Its impact would be much greater than anything an individual might develop; the fact that he went around the country conducting hearings on various cases would, of course, alert people that might violate the law and of course, they would not do it as readily. The Committee was a "watchdog" one might say. Some people thought they could get by with violating the law; we had quite a large number of cases. I'd say the Truman Committee was our primary source of information. And we would then use young lawyers on our staff. I'd have three or four young lawyers assigned to one older lawyer. If we had sufficient information like on the Anaconda or the degaussing cable case up in New Jersey we would call the grand jury and bring the witnesses in before it.

 

[12]

Of course, we might have to round it out some, get additional information, but that would save the FBI having to conduct a full scale investigation. So as a consequence, I would say, that his Committee was the most effective one that I had dealt with. I was in contact with quite a few in the twelve years I was in the Department of Justice.

HESS: Mr. Truman has stated in his Memoirs, and he stated at the time that he did not want to hamper the war effort in the same way that the Committee on the Conduct of the War had done during the Civil War. Did you ever hear him talk about that?

CLARK: Yes I did. Of course, Mr. Truman was an authority on the Civil War, I don't know whether you know it or not. Many, many

 

[13]

times I've talked with him about Civil War battles and he knew practically every general through his readings.

Yes he did, he told me of the problems that arose during the Civil War and how there was some interference, perhaps from a standpoint of jealousy on the part of some of the Committees or a tendency to cover up on the part of procurement officials. But we had nothing of that stripe at all. It was a very cooperative group; indeed, the Defense Department, well we didn't have a Defense Department then, the War Department was most cooperative. The War Department and the Navy Department were very cooperative in all of these cases. Sometimes they would award an "E" for excellence to some procurement manufacturer. Not when we found anything like we did at Anaconda; but sometimes

 

[14]

when we would return antitrust indictments and the War Production Board would certify that a prosecution would interfere with the war effort and would by statute be obliged not to proceed and sometimes the military would award an "E" to the people which was somewhat awkward; but generally Governmental agencies were very cooperative; with reference to President Truman's Committee they didn't deal too much with antitrust investigations. Might be in the periphery of it; or run across some lead that required following up. The agencies cooperated very closely with Mr. Truman. I would say that aside from the great impact for good that it had on our procurement policies the Committee saved billions of dollars for the Government -- we were spending in the billions then.

 

[15]

HESS: There was a time when Mr. Truman's operatives found out about a great deal of money that was being spent in Hanford, Washington and he was asked to not press his investigation any further, of course this was the development of the atomic bomb. Do you recall anything about that?

CLARK: Yes. I remember talking some about it and later on why General [Leslie R.] Groves came over to see me. He was in charge of the development of the atomic bomb. One of the radio newscasters in Chicago had heard about the bomb someway. He had made some reference to it in a broadcast. General Groves came to me seeking a criminal prosecution on it; but when I told him that we would have to have a public trial on any indictment returned he dropped the whole project. He didn't want...

 

[16]

HESS: A public trial.

CLARK: ...any publicity that would reveal the existence of the bomb. They kept Mr. Truman, of course, well posted on the atomic bomb and I'm sure that he knew all about it, although you'd never know it, he'd never say anything about it. I am satisfied that he wouldn't push an investigation of that type to the point where it would cause any problem to General Groves' project.

HESS: What would be your evaluation on Mr. Truman's handling of the Truman Committee in relation to his receiving the nomination for the vice-presidential spot in 1944? Just how important to his receiving the nomination was his handling of the Truman Committee?

CLARK: Well I would say, of course, that it brought

 

[17]

him notice in the press, the name "Truman" became a household word. Indeed his name assumed the title of the Committee, instead of it being called the statutory title it was always referred to as the Truman Committee. The American people always have to tag things, you know...

HESS: They have to label things, don't they?

CLARK: They always label things, so it soon assumed his name, which I'm sure was very helpful to him politically.

I remember he talked to me one time about the atomic bomb. Especially about his meeting with Stalin. He said that he was sure that Stalin didn't know anything about the atomic bomb. And he doubted if he got through to him the monstrous impact of it. At their meeting at Potsdam, I believe it was, President

 

[18]

Truman had indicated to him that he was thinking of dropping one of these instruments on the Japanese. He, Mr. Stalin, didn't seem to react in a way that indicated to Mr. Truman that he even knew the bomb was in the making, which is amazing. Many people, including Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, thought the Russians not only knew of the bomb but had its secret. The effectiveness of the security -- in which Mr. Truman had no little part -- was complete. It was a powder keg and to be able to keep as good a secret as it was, particularly in Washington, is tremendous.

HESS: Did you attend the Democratic National Convention at Chicago in 1944?

CLARK: Yes I did. I was there. When I went I thought we would -- in fact Mr. Truman had talked to me about it -- nominate Sam Rayburn for Vice

 

[19]

President and so I went to assist. Bob [Robert E.] Hannegan, a close friend of mine, and...

HESS: He was in charge of the Democratic National Committee at that time.

CLARK: Yes he was. He had a place there at the Blackstone I believe is the hotel. Mr. Truman was there too. And I remember Mr. Hannegan asking me if I would call down to Mr. Rayburn and find out whether or not we could get him to come to the convention. Mr. Rayburn had an opponent, he was running for the House again; he had to run every two years and his opponent was a fellow named [G. E.] Morris as I remember; he was a State senator who had a four-year term; this was his off year. So it appears that every time that he had an off year he ran against Mr. Rayburn. I suppose he did that in

 

[20]

order to keep his name before the public, because he didn't have much chance of defeating Mr. Rayburn. As you know the Speaker was one who thought that his duty was to make certain that he took care of his constituents. So he told me that he couldn't come up there.

There was a big problem anyway with reference to Mr. Rayburn; the Texas delegation to the Convention was not sympathetic to him. I had gone around to its headquarters two or three times trying to see how they felt and, being Assistant Attorney General, they would talk nice to me. They knew who I was, of course, and that I was close to Mr. Rayburn. Hence I learned little. And so I sent a friend from Illinois around there, a friend of mine...

HESS: He got a different story.

 

[21]

CLARK: ...and he got the real truth. And I told Bob about it...

HESS: What was the truth? The members of the Texas delegation were against Mr. Rayburn?

CLARK: They were against Mr. Rayburn, it's amazing.

HESS: Why?

CLARK: Even before I asked him to come up there, they were against him. We never did have a majority vote on it; I doubt if we would have been able to get a vote that was favorable.

HESS: Did Mr. Rayburn express any views on whether or not he would have liked to have had the nomination for Vice President?

CLARK: Well he was for Mr. Truman.

HESS: He was for Mr. Truman.

 

[22]

CLARK: He wasn't for himself. He said he thought that Mr. Truman would be the one. Mr. Rayburn was one to think that being the Speaker was quite a high position.

HESS: Which it was, especially when he held it.

CLARK: He had seen his old friend and legislative partner Mr. [John Nance] Garner go into the Vice Presidency and be tucked away; and so I don't think he relished it particularly. He was very fond, as you know, of Mr. Truman and had been ever since Mr. Truman came here, and so after our telephone talk we began to work for Mr. Truman. And I remember well the vice-presidential nomination depended upon who Mr. Roosevelt would support, and we had been working on that for some time. As you know, Mr. [Henry A.] Wallace had unfortunately been given a tinge that

 

[23]

was not very popular at the time, sort of you might say leftist; some people said Communist, but I don't think it was anything like that.

Wallace was a very able and honorable man, had served well during Mr. Roosevelt's terms, not only as the Secretary but as the Vice President and had very fine connections. Indeed his father was Secretary of Agriculture also. However, people began to point up to Mr. Roosevelt the problem that he might have, after all he had already been elected President three times, so that he ought to get a running mate, particularly in the war situation, who would not have that tinge.

HESS: What seemed to be his attitude?

CLARK: Well, Mr. Roosevelt didn't express himself, he may have to Bob, but not to me. And we

 

[24]

didn't get any word until he was on a train going out West and...

HESS: He stopped in Chicago.

CLARK: He stopped, yes, but not in Chicago -- further West. And I understand Miss [Marguerite A.] LeHand or Miss Tully wrote this out and some people say that Mr. Truman's name was not first on it but it was. And this talk got...

HESS: Was it first originally?

CLARK: Well this talk about his name was not being first originally is...

HESS: It was Justice [William O.] Douglas.

CLARK: ...is new talk -- new talk to me. I never heard of two documents. And Bob Hannegan was...

 

[25]

HESS: Justice Douglas being the other man.

CLARK: Bob Hannegan's a very close friend of mine and we worked hand in glove on political matters, and I'm -- I was there, I was satisfied that he would have told me if it had been anything like that, because he knew that I also was close to Mr. Douglas. And he never said a word about it. The tale is supposed to be that Bob sent it back and asked her to type Mr. Truman's name first. But I don't think that happened, I think his name was there originally.

HESS: You think Mr. Truman's name was first on the Truman-Douglas letter?

CLARK: I saw the document. The one that I saw had his name on it as number one and I'm satisfied it was the genuine document. I know

 

[26]

it was the only one Bob mentioned. I don't think there was any other one. I think that Mr. Roosevelt had -- as you know he was a very forceful person -- tight control over the presidential office. He played his cards pretty close to his chest and I don't think he took up too many matters with Mr. Wallace.

HESS: Did you feel that President Roosevelt took as much of an interest in who had the second place on the ticket in 1944 as he did in 1940? What I have reference to is in 1940 he sent a letter to the Convention saying, "I want this man Henry Wallace, as my Vice President and if I don't get him I won't run." In 1944 we don't have this. He did write a letter in which he said that if he were a delegate he would vote for Henry Wallace, but nothing as definite. What's your view on Mr. Roosevelt's view of who was to be on the ticket with him?

 

[27]

CLARK: Well I rather think that Mr. Roosevelt didn't give the impetus or attach the gravity to it that some of the political minds, like Mr. Hannegan did and as a consequence I don't think President Roosevelt thought it was necessary to make a change. As a matter of fact, it may be that he was being a little devious about it, I don't know. I know we had some problems. I know Senator [Samuel D.] Jackson, I believe it was Senator Jackson, anyway he was from Indiana, was the chairman, temporary chairman, and when it looked like Wallace was going to try to pull off his nomination late one night Bob got the Convention to finally adjourn until the next day.

HESS: One of my earliest political memories is listening to the radio and to the crowds in the galleries shouting, "We want Wallace."

 

[28]

CLARK: Yes. Yes. Well I was there. There were shouts and the Senator pounded the gavel and said, "We adjourn." But I don't know as anything would have happened that night anyway, I. really don't know. I think the situation was that Mr. Truman being the number one on Mr. Roosevelt's list, and having the standing that he did, which was very strong, that he had the inside track for it from the very beginning. He sort of held back. He told me that he thought Sam would be great. And I don't think that he -- in fact I know that Mr. Truman didn't push his candidacy at the outset.

HESS: Do you recall that James Byrnes had phoned to Independence and asked Mr. Truman to put his, Byrnes's, name in nomination and Mr. Truman had agreed to?

 

[29]

CLARK: Yes. Yes I do.

HESS: So Mr. Byrnes was also an active candidate.

CLARK: Yes.

HESS: In the Memoirs, Mr. Truman says he thinks Byrnes knew that his, Mr. Truman's, name was under consideration when he phoned, and that his call was an effort to try to cut the ground out from under him. Do you think that there's any likelihood of that?

CLARK: Could have been -- could have been. From what I've known later of Mr. Byrnes activity at that time, it is altogether probable.

HESS: Do you recall anything in particular of Mr. Truman's efforts in the campaign of 1944?

 

[30]

CLARK: Oh yes. He did a great job. He went around the country and I remember I made quite a few talks. At that time I was Assistant Attorney General under Mr. Roosevelt. I was appointed -- well let's see, about February '43 I guess it was, along in there. So we had a packet that Mr. Truman and Bob Hannegan and the Committee got up that we would send out for speakers to use. And it was quite an effective resumé of most of the accomplishments of the Roosevelt administration. And of course, Mr. Truman as you well know is quite an effective speaker, very forceful. And he had such a sincere ring in his voice that he always did pretty good and was very effective.

HESS: Were you present at any time he spoke in 1944?

 

[31]

CLARK: Yes, I heard him several times -- several times around the country. I remember one in New York and I believe one in California somewhere out there. I was in Missouri when he spoke also.

HESS: Did you hear President Roosevelt speak any time during 1944?

CLARK: Oh, many times. Yes many times, mostly on radio. The TV was just in its beginnings and radio had started about the 1928 campaign. I remember Al Smith always pronounced it radio, and you'd have to have a crystal set but by 1948 it was a very sophisticated piece of machinery, but the TV was not. I remember I bought my first TV -- oh, two or three months before the election. Yes, before November 1948.

 

[32]

HESS: When did you first become aware that President Roosevelt's health was failing seriously?

CLARK: Oh, I'd say along in '43, along in there, about the time I was appointed.

HESS: About the time you were appointed Assistant Attorney General. Some people point to a later date, around the election or around the campaign.

CLARK: Well I don't know, I of course didn't know Mr. Roosevelt intimately. But Mr. [Lyndon B.] Johnson was very close to Mr. Roosevelt, as you remember, Roosevelt came down to Texas when Johnson initially ran for Congress. I have a newspaper picture, it's not here, if I had that picture I could tell you the exact time. I think Johnson's first race was about -- it must be 1937, '38 along in there, it might be a little before. Back there then President

 

[33]

Roosevelt was a very dynamic person, full of energy with his eyes always bright and twinkling and his voice with a lilt.

HESS: He carried his cigarette holder at a high angle.

CLARK: Yes, and a long stem. And he would handle himself better although he was under great difficulties with those legs that he had all -- but he could handle himself better than I could. Oh, I was about 30 years younger, I guess. But from time to time when I would see him, which wouldn't be too often, perhaps his physique was more noticeable to me, because I didn't see him very often. When you see people frequently, you don't notice it as much. But I noticed heavier lines and it seemed to be to me a slower lilt in his voice. I think

 

[34]

those indications come earlier than physical manifestations of health problems -- aging, but he had experienced a most grueling time, he as you remember was elected in '32 and even when the war came on he had been in for eight years, nine almost.

HESS: And he had to handle the depression during that time.

CLARK: All through times of great stress, antipathy, name calling. I don't know of any man who was blasphemed more than Franklin Roosevelt. And while he had won his great victories, he had lost some. He went through the Court battle, for example, and all that, and of course, he had physical handicaps to begin with. So, it's remarkable that he was able to maintain himself. I remember well though when I went

 

[35]

over to the inauguration for his fourth term -- he had it on the steps of the White House.

HESS: Yes. They had it on the south portico didn't they?

CLARK: Yes.

HESS: In '45.

CLARK: Oh, he looked terrible. To me he looked terrible.

HESS: He looked pretty bad.

CLARK: I couldn't even talk to him, I was distressed.

HESS: That was shortly before he left for Yalta.

CLARK: Yes.

HESS: Just after that.

 

[36]

CLARK: Looked very bad.

HESS: I understand that was sort of a cold snowy day anyway.

CLARK: It was, yes.

HESS: Standing there in the crowd.

CLARK: Yes. I remember that was before they had the porch upstairs.

HESS: Yes, the Truman balcony.

CLARK: Yes. So he stood out there and he and Mr. Truman were sworn in there. We'd always had that you know, at the Capitol. It may be that the war caused it, but seeing him as I did, I rather thought that perhaps his physical condition had something to do with it.

HESS: You've mentioned the court episode. I believe

 

[37]

that was '38 -- '37, '38.

CLARK: Yes.

HESS: What was your opinion of Mr. Roosevelt's plan for the expansion of the Court?

CLARK: Well I was against the plan. I came here in '37, it was about a week before Roosevelt sent his message up, and I was just a small-time lawyer. Senator Connally asked me to come up here and I thought at the time I was going to be an Assistant Attorney General, but when I got here they found out about the Court plan and I found myself what they called a special attorney. It had been ballyhooed down home I was going to be an Assistant Attorney General, so I just took it. And about two or three weeks after I had been in the Department they called me and said they wanted me to talk to Mr. Connally about the

 

[38]

Court packing. But I told him I couldn't do it. One, I was against it and two, that I wouldn't have any influence with him. While my family was close to Senator Connally, I was not. So they took all of my work away from me in the Department. And then Mr. Hughes, Chief Justice [Charles Evans] Hughes, directed the Federal trial courts to set down for a trial a backlog of war risk insurance and other cases. All the Government cases were called up for trial. The Chief Justice thought he would get the Department of Justice busy trying cases rather than trying to pass legislation on the Supreme Court. As you remember Mr.[Homer S.] Cummings was rather a forceful Attorney General -- on that quick type of bill.

So I was one of the few lawyers in the Department who had much experience in trial

 

[39]

work. They sent me out to try these cases. I went all over the United States and while I was gone most of the work on the Court bill was done and I didn't have anything to do with it at all. I think it was a bad suggestion, however it did end up in perhaps a very good solution, that was by giving the Justices their opportunity of retirement at the same salary as they got while active. Many of them who were really beyond the age anyway elected to retire and since that time I think it has worked very well. As a matter of fact, adding three more Justices would not do the job; that would just add additional burdens.

We have always considered the Court as one Court -- not nine Justices. In fact the Constitution says there shall be one Supreme Court and since the Congress said that there will be nine Justices, we decided that all nine of

 

[40]

them have to pass on every matter. You wouldn't have one Court if you had a panel of three passing on cases, you wouldn't have but one-third of a Court. So we have always considered our Constitution required that every Justice pass on every matter whether it be a simple motion or a final decision after argument. So we have always followed that rule, if you had three more Justices you would have three more people to argue with, which would only delay and confuse our deliberations rather than expedite them.

HESS: Just add to the problems.

CLARK: Yes.

HESS: Where were you when you heard of the death of President Roosevelt and what were your thoughts and impressions?

 

[41]

CLARK: Well I was on the way out to Arizona to make a speech out there and I believe it was in Forth Worth, Texas, that I heard of it. I am not certain but it was somewhere in Texas. I had gone there on the way to Arizona, so I turned around and came back to Washington.

HESS: What kind of a job did you think Mr. Truman would do?

CLARK: Well of course, I was strong for Mr. Truman; I thought he would do a terrific job as President. He had always thought of the job as being an overwhelming, a crushing one. I remember when he first came in he spoke of how difficult it was going to be for him to handle it. But I don't think any of us that knew of his work or knew him, had any doubts about it at all.

 

[42]

He was a very decisive man and I think when you reach that echelon of governmental operation, decisiveness is one of the main attributes. The second one, would be honesty in making decisions, and certainly he had that. The third one would be after you have made a decision, to put it aside and not to fret over it, not to try to monitor it and see what the newspapers are going to say tomorrow and the next day. He was a past master at that, I never saw anybody like him in my life and I've been honored to associate with quite a few people in high offices. But he was able to cast past decisions aside and take up new problems, which, of course, were pressing all the time. He had a new one every minute. So as a consequence he was able to give his undivided attention to decisions of current matters, rather than fretting over old decisions

 

[43]

that had already been made and were like water over the dam.

HESS: Was there ever a time you may have had difficulty getting a decision from him?

CLARK: No. He was always quick and very decisive. He held a Cabinet meeting on Friday and I would stay over and talk to him about vacant judgeships and things like that. Two or three times on judicial appointments he had some ideas of his own, for example, Senator Burton, and he had been on the Truman Committee. As a matter of fact I had his name on the list of suggestions for a successor to Justice Roberts.

I had a practice of putting three names on the list of nominees. Since Mr. Truman had been in the Congress I thought we should put a Congressman or Senator on the list. Then I'd

 

[44]

put a judge either from the Federal or state courts and usually a lawyer would be the third one. The then Secretary of War, Mr. [Robert P.] Patterson, was my choice for Justice [Owen J.] Roberts' place and I had also put Mr. Burton down and the third choice I think was a judge from California, he was a trial judge, his name was McCormick and he was the chief judge in Los Angeles. I had tried cases out there and I knew him long and very favorably. So I talked to President Truman about Patterson, and he said, "Well the only problem is that Bob handled all the procurement during the war. And of course, the President was very close to the procurement picture but I just know that he thought well of Bob. What you might do, he said, was to talk to Bob and see if he thought he would be foreclosed from testifying as a Supreme Court Justice.

 

[45]

The 80th Congress was determined to investigate procurement of all kinds. So I talked to Mr. Patterson, I didn't tell him that I'd talked to the President at all. I just said, "Well I was thinking of making up my list and of course he being a brother Cabinet officer, I thought of him, and I wondered what he thought about the procurement investigations. Could he testify after going on the Court about procurement problems occurring while he was Secretary?" He saw no problem.

So I reported back to the President -- it was on a Saturday -- and before I got to report back to him on Monday, he called me Saturday afternoon and he said, "Have you seen Patters