Oral History Interview with
Matthew J. Connelly
Chief investigator for the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (the Truman Committee), 1941-44, Executive Assistant to Senator and Vice President Truman, July 1944-April 1945; and Appointments Secretary to the President, 1945-53.
New York, New York
November 28, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Connelly Oral History Transcripts]
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 May 1969
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Connelly Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Matthew J. Connelly
New York, New York
November 28, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Connelly, the primary interest in our interview is, of course, your relationship with Mr. Truman. What was that relationship and when did it begin?
CONNELLY: I did not meet the then Senator Truman until the day I walked into his office. I was recommended by Senator Lister Hill of Alabama. I was purposely trying to establish another relationship which Senator Hill had suggested as a trouble-shooter for the White House. Senator Hill called me one afternoon and said he would like to see me and to call him off the Senate floor. I made that appointment, and
Senator Hill took me back to his office in the Senate Office Building and there he said, "We just had a meeting today of the Military Affairs Committee," of which he was a member and of which Senator Truman was a member. Senator Hill told me that Senator Truman was going to have to have a very important investigation, and he wanted me to work on his committee. I was not very happy about it because of the original understanding I had with Senator Hill, however, I kept the appointment with Senator Truman on the following morning. I walked into his office; I had never met him, as I said before, so he said, "Come in." He said, "I know all about you. I know what you did in Missouri, Chicago, and other committees you've been on. We have a very peculiar situation here. I have been authorized to become chairman of this committee, however, it has not been determined what our appropriations are going
to be. I do not know what I can pay you, but I will say this to you, if you go along with me, you will never have any reason to regret it."
I replied, "Senator, I came in here to say no, but the way you talk is refreshing in Washington and you've got yourself a deal."
"Well, we're agreed, so we'll arrange for space and some of the mechanical things like handling the mail."
I said, "I'd be very happy to." And that's where it began.
HESS: Who was the first one hired for the staff of the Truman Committee?
CONNELLY: Matthew J. Connelly.
HESS: In one of the books I have read by Harry Aubrey Toulmin, Jr., Diary of Democracy, he mentions that "Fulton's first step was to
organize both a legal staff and a staff of investigators; in that he showed his capacity and from that organization much of the success of the Committee grew. One of his smart moves was to pick Matthew J. Connelly as his chief investigator, a keen, diligent and discreet man with an unusual grasp of governmental procedures," but Mr. Toulmin just had his chronology wrong, is that right, in saying that?
CONNELLY: Yes, he was in error on that, because Mr. Fulton was not hired as counsel to the committee until after I'd been appointed by Senator Truman.
HESS: He was hired the last day of March--March 31, 1941. Tell me about the staffing of the Truman Committee. You were the first one that Senator Truman got for the staff. Who came next? Just how was this staff set up and organized?
CONNELLY: The second appointment of the committee as far as I know, was Charles Patrick Clark, and Charles Patrick Clark did not know of my conversation with Senator Truman. We had previously worked together on the Committee to Investigate Campaign Expenditures under the chairmanship of Senator Gillette of Iowa. Charles Patrick Clark later told me that he was appointed to the committee through the good offices of Senator Smathers of New Jersey. He knew nothing about my previous conversation with Senator Truman, and amusingly he later took credit for getting me the job. So the first two appointments were myself and Charles Patrick Clark.
HESS: Toulmin goes on to say, "The first staff primarily consisted of Hugh Fulton as chief counsel, his assistant and later his successor, Rudolph Halley, Harold G. Robinson, its auditor,
Matthew Connelly, its chief investigator, and its present chief counsel, George Meader." So he left out Charles Patrick Clark but included the other men which we will get to here in just a minute.
One question I would like to ask before we get on to the men who served on the Truman Committee, could you tell me a little bit about the committees on the Hill that you had served for before this time? Just a little bit of your background on the Hill.
CONNELLY: Yes, my first experience on the Hill was an investigation of the relief program in Washington, D.C.
HESS: What time was that?
CONNELLY: That was in 1938. It was a joint committee of the House and Senate. We conducted an investigation of the relief program
in Washington, D.C.--in other words, the local welfare program. That lasted for a period of, I would say, about six months. Senator Thomas of Oklahoma was the chairman of that committee. From that I went to the House Appropriations Committee to investigate the WPA. The chairman of that committee was Congressman Tabor of New York--no, he was the ranking Republican member--the chairman was Clarence Cannon who was also chairman of the full Appropriations Committee. So from there I went to the Committee to Investigate Campaign Expenditures in the election in 1940. That was under the chairmanship of Senator Gillette. On that committee was Senator Hill of Alabama who I had worked under as chairman of the subcommittee to investigate the Kelly-Nash machine in Chicago. This was about four weeks before the election of 1940. From there Senator Hill, after the conclusion of the hearings in Chicago, asked me to go to
Alabama to make an investigation of the Willkie campaign. He was then campaigning for President. Which I did. After completion of that investigation, I returned to Washington and that is when Senator Hill suggested to me that he wanted me to go with Senator Truman.
HESS: Did you find that the background that you gained in serving on those other committees helped you in your duties on the Truman Committee?
CONNELLY: Well, it certainly did because I was conscious of one thing, I learned what members of Congress had to do--what their responsibilities were, what their problems were--and my number one job was to do the bidding of the chairman of that committee which I always found to be fair.
HESS: Mr. Connelly, what positions did you hold
on the staff?
CONNELLY: I held the position of Chief Investigator and that is all.
HESS: I have read that you and Charles Patrick Clark at different times held the job as Executive Assistant. Is that title incorrect?
CONNELLY: That title was never used on the committee.
HESS: Never used on the committee. Well, I have read in a couple of books that someone was assigned to help the chairman with some of the various duties and their title might have been Executive Assistant. That was just incorrect?
CONNELLY: That was incorrect.
HESS: Now, let's review a few of the people who served on the committee and if you could tell me what their respective backgrounds were,
roughly why these particular people were called in to be members of the committee--this is asking you to remember back quite a ways, but if they have any specific duties that you recall--any times that you may have worked with them--anything that might help scholars out in a better understanding of the people who served on the Truman Committee? Now the list I have is not complete.
CONNELLY: Are you referring to the members of the Truman Committee?
HESS: The staff.
CONNELLY: I think it should be the staff.
HESS: The staff of the Truman Committee, that's right. I'll ask you about the Senators a little later. That is quite right. Sometimes I say Truman Committee and what I mean is the staff and not the Senators, but we'll get into
those later. Now the ones that I have listed here I have in alphabetical order. The first is William Boyle, Jr.
CONNELLY: William Boyle, Jr. was a native of Kansas City, Missouri. He was hired by Senator Truman, the chairman. He had practiced law in Kansas City; he had been known to Truman for many years. When he arrived in Washington Senator Truman called me to his office and told me that while Boyle did not know much about the Washington pattern, he was going to put him under my wing, and he would appreciate it if I would steer and guide him through the maze of Washington, which I was happy to do. William Boyle became a very successful investigator for the committee. He later became secretary to Senator Truman when his then secretary, Harry Vaughan, had been called to active duty in the Army. So Bill Boyle
left the committee and worked directly in the office of Senator Truman. He later became an assistant to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Bob Hannegan, and then following that became chairman of the national committee.