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 30, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Connelly 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
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 It may not be published in full except by permission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 30, 1967
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Connelly, at the end of our discussion Tuesday, we were talking
about the Cabinet and your duties in relation to the Cabinet, and there
are a couple of other questions I would like to ask you on that subject.
Today, don't want to get into the Cabinet appointments themselves, but
just about your duties on the Cabinet--to keep things in a chronological
order. Did any of the other members of the White House staff have occasion
to sit in on the Cabinet meetings, other than yourself?
CONNELLY: No, none of the members of the White House staff sat in on
those meetings, with one exception, John Steelman, who regularly sat in
on the Cabinet meetings.
HESS: What percentage of the Cabinet meetings would
he sit in on?
CONNELLY: Well, he sat in on practically all of them. He sat there as
a participant in the discussion, and I sat there as a reporter.
HESS: I see. So he didn't take notes or anything of that nature?
CONNELLY: Except when I was not available, and he would take the notes
in my place.
HESS: Did he give you those notes?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes.
HESS: Fine. So you have the complete set even from when you weren't there?
CONNELLY: They're all there in the Library.
HESS: Was there an agenda worked out ahead of time for the business that
was to be taken up at the Cabinet meetings?
CONNELLY: Well, Cabinet meetings were very seldom held with an agenda,
except the President might want to bring up some particular subject. Otherwise,
it was just an open meeting, and he handled that deliberately because
his predecessor, unfortunately, did not have a Cabinet (the members would
not talk in front of each other), and he was determined that he would
eradicate that procedure and have a real Cabinet and let each Cabinet
officer bring up his own problems and there would be discussion among
other members, if they agreed or did not agree with his position.
HESS: On September 23, 1945, the New York Times published a story
that in a Cabinet meeting Wallace had proposed that Russia be given the
secret of the atomic bomb, and according to a statement in the book Out
of the Jaws
of Victory by Jules Abels, Wallace said that the idea
was proposed by Henry Stimson, and he blamed you for that particular leak.
Do you remember anything about that episode?
CONNELLY: No, offhand, the only comment I recall Wallace making was that
the Russians would have the atomic bomb in seven years anyway, so why
should it be such a big secret. So, with reference to any leak from me,
I never heard of it.
HESS: This was one thing that I had run across in my background work,
and I wanted to bring that up.
CONNELLY: Well, I know that there was never any leak about Cabinet proceedings
from me in any event or in any discussion.
HESS: At a later date we will cover the Cabinet appointments them selves,
but right now I'd
like to ask one question that I should have asked in
our last interview. During the time that you were with the Truman Committee,
did you have any working relationships with Mr. Truman's private staff;
and the second part of that question: What do you remember about the various
members of that staff?
CONNELLY: Oh, certainly we had relationships because that was his principal
project at that time. Prior to that he was just a Senator from Missouri,
but even lower than that because the Senator from Missouri. in those days
was Bennett Clark, and Truman was not known publicly outside of the Senate,
except in the State of Missouri. But when you referred to the Senator
from Missouri, it was taken for granted that you were talking about Bennett
Clark, who was the senior Senator, and had been in the Senate for many
years. But Truman, before the Truman
Committee was organized, was not well-known.
HESS: What was the relationship between Senator Truman and Senator Clark?
CONNELLY: The relationship was very cordial up to a point. They had minor
differences, naturally, but Senator Clark seconded the nomination of Senator
Truman for Vice President. So they worked very closely together in the
interest of the State.
HESS: On Mr. Truman's private staff, who was there besides Victor Messall,
Harry Vaughan, Mildred Dryden, and Catherine Bixler?
CONNELLY: Reathel Odum, and Lauretta Young--that was the total staff,
until General Vaughan left for the wars in Australia, and then Bill Boyle
left the committee to act as secretary to Senator Truman in General Vaughan's absence.
HESS: Were those people particularly effective in their work?
CONNELLY: Well, the people in his office had very little to do with the
committee activities. Their work was principally Missouri business, and
there was never any direct conflict between his office staff and the committee
staff, because the committee was set up independently of his personal office.
HESS: When Mr. Truman became President, of course, Harry Vaughan made
the switch with him from his personal staff to the White House, but why
didn't the others? Miss Odum was the secretary to Mrs. Truman, is that
correct, in the White House?
CONNELLY: That's correct.
HESS: Mildred Dryden did not make this switch.
CONNELLY: Mrs. Dryden had left before he was sworn in as President. She
had other employment in Washington. Miss Bixler had other employment in
Washington, and the other girls, who had been with him for many years,
stayed with him. They were Reathel Odum, Shirley Green, and Lauretta Young,
and of course, General Vaughan. He had returned from Australia.
HESS: Taking April 12, 1945, as the date now, just what were the problems
relating to staffing, that presented themselves at this date? I have reference
to probably the decisions about which of the Roosevelt people to keep,
what other people to bring in. Were those problems during those days?
CONNELLY: Those problems were problems, but we decided that the best
thing to do was to keep as much of the Roosevelt staff together as possible,
because Senator Truman, myself or Harry Vaughan
knew nothing about how
the White House was operated. We had to keep these people together so
that we would have a continuity of the running of the Government. We purposely
made that decision because we needed them, and there should be no blanket-turnout
of people who knew what they were doing when we did not. So, those people
were largely kept because of that fact. Secondly, Steve Early, who had
already announced his retirement from the White House, stayed on to help
us in that transition, and to work out a blend between the White House
people of Roosevelt and the little group that Truman arrived with.
HESS: Did the President rely on anyone in particular to make these decisions?
CONNELLY: Those decisions were largely worked through me.
HESS: Through you?
HESS: Did he ask you to do this to take on yourself the responsibility
of looking out after the staff?
CONNELLY: He said to keep the ball game going.
HESS: Shortly after he became President, he left for Potsdam, of course.
Was this part of your duties when he was gone?
CONNELLY: Yes, he asked me to go to Potsdam with him, and I said, "No,
I think somebody should be here to take care of the store." So, I stayed
in Washington while he was in Potsdam, to coordinate the communications
between the White House and him in Potsdam, and of course, on route.
HESS: I have the names of several of the people
who worked in the White
House during Mr. Truman's administration. Some of these were holdovers
from the Roosevelt administration. Some of them came in sometime later,
but I'd just like to ask you a few questions about these various individuals,
and a little bit about what their backgrounds were, what their duties
were in the White House, how effective they were in those duties, and
things of that nature. Let's start with the gentlemen who were Special
Counsels to the President, the first one being Samuel I. Rosenman.
CONNELLY: Judge Rosenman had been counsel to President Roosevelt for
several years, and in the same theory of keeping Roosevelt's people together
because they should know what was being done in the White House, what
was required, Judge Rosenman agreed to stay on and help President Truman,
and did for several
months or years. I forget when he did leave.
HESS: He left on February 1, 1946. He was there a little less than a
year. What seemed to be his relationship with President Truman?
CONNELLY: It was a very close relationship. President Truman relied on
him for legal decisions and points that had the legality problem, and
he helped him on legislation, and he helped him on messages to Congress.
He had been formerly a speech writer for President Roosevelt, and I believe,
he and Robert Sherwood wrote most of Roosevelt's principal speeches. But
the Roosevelt style and the Truman style were two different things in
making a speech, because Truman would not be effective in using the Roosevelt
technique in speechmaking. They were two different people, two different
personalities. If he had copied Roosevelt he would have not come over
as being very sincere.
HESS: Tell me how Mr. Truman's speaking ability evolved and developed
during this time?
CONNELLY: Well, when I first worked with Mr. Truman on the Truman Committee,
the few minor experiences I had with him in speechmaking were pretty sad.
He had a great tendency to want to get things over, and you'd give him
a prepared speech and he couldn't wait until he got to the end of a sentence
so that he could get started on the next one. As a result, the delivery
HESS: He had a tendency to rush it just a little, is that right?
HESS: What speeches do you recall that he gave?
CONNELLY: He made very few, very few.
HESS: Do you recall any of the particular occasions
where you were present when he spoke?
CONNELLY: No. He made a speech at some kind of lawn party in Washington,
and it was a pretty sad situation. When he became Vice President one of
the first things I wanted to do was to try to correct that little fault
of his about rushing through a speech.
HESS: How did you go about that?
CONNELLY: We had a boy named Leonard Reinsch, who was a speech adviser
on radio, which was the media, of course, in those days; and he was from
the Cox Broadcasting Company. He had worked on the technical side of speeches
for Roosevelt, in presentation and engineering, and so forth. So, when
Truman returned to Missouri to prepare for his campaign for Vice President,
I brought Leonard Reinsch to Kansas City. Leonard Reinsch and I made
with a friend of Mr. Truman's, named Tom Evans, who owned a radio station.
He had a studio set aside at his station and we'd have Mr. Truman come
up there to work on the speech of acceptance that he was going to make
in Lamar, Missouri, his hometown. We had a text of the speech, and we
would have him come up to the studio every morning, and have him run through
it and record it, and we'd play it back to him and point out where the
bugs were. Eventually, we finally worked him down to completing a sentence
without running through it. So, he turned out to be much improved, and
as he went along, eventually he had more confidence, and he made a better
speech. But it took a little training.
HESS: Who worked with you on writing that particular speech? Did you
help write that acceptance speech?
CONNELLY: No, I don't believe so. I think that was largely developed
at the National Committee.
HESS: That was the speech at his birthplace when he was informed that
he was the official nominee of the party, is that right?
CONNELLY: Yes, a committee of Senators went out to announce to him that
he had been selected. We had a very funny experience. Tom Connally was
to introduce him, the Senator from Texas. We looked at Senator Connally's
speech, and it was too long. We made a very bad mistake, Reinsch and myself.
We just crossed out what Connally was not supposed to say in the speech,
but we didn't block it out, so when Connally got up to make his speech,
he ignored our markings and continued on and cut in on the President's
time. But that was one of those things, because Senators are not known
for terminal facilities.
HESS: We discussed Tuesday about a few of the speeches that were given
during the campaign and some of the people that helped in the writing
on those, but after Mr. Truman became President, who helped write the
initial speeches, who helped write the speeches that were given, let's
say, shortly after he became President?
CONNELLY: Initially it was George Allen, his man Friday, Eddie Reynolds,
who was a speech writer, and had several college degrees, a good writer.
HESS: Where had he come from? What was his background?
CONNELLY: He had been with George Allen for many years in private industry.
Judge Rosenman, I'm not sure that Clark Clifford was there. I don't believe
he had gotten to the White House at that time. And myself.
HESS: When did Clifford make his appearance at
the White House? When did he come in?
CONNELLY: He came to the White House with Commodore Vardaman, who became
Naval Aide to the President, shortly after we arrived at the White House,
he was brought back to be Naval Aide by General Vaughan, who had served
with him in World War I in the artillery.
HESS: This is Commodore Vardaman?
CONNELLY: In the Second World War Vardaman entered the Navy. He was in
Okinawa and General Vaughan brought him back to become Naval Aide to the President.
HESS: Then Vardaman brought Clifford.
CONNELLY: Vardaman then brought Clifford in as his assistant.
HESS: Where had he met Clifford?
CONNELLY: In St. Louis, Missouri. Clifford had been his lawyer in St. Louis.
HESS: I have it down that Mr. Vardaman came in on May 4th
of '45, shortly after. The first date that I have for Clifford is about
the same. In fact, it's about a month earlier. I'll have to check that.
I have an April the 4th date, and that's probably wrong.
CONNELLY: That's wrong, because I know that he did not arrive until Vardaman
picked him as his assistant.
HESS: So, he was assistant naval aide, probably brought in at the same
time--it's a typographical error.
Also, in Mr. Truman's Memoirs he states that Judge Rosenman helped
him write the twenty one point message that was sent to Congress on September 6, 1945.
CONNELLY: I believe that is correct, but I think the principal architect
in this speech was Clifford.
HESS: What can you tell me about that?
CONNELLY: I don't recall. I sat in on the discussion about the speech,
but my contribution to speeches were largely negative. If I knew something
didn't quite agree with the President's own thinking, I'd object to it.
If there was a word used, or a phrase used that you have difficulty in
delivering, I would object to that. When he first read the draft of a
speech, I always sat in and went through the speech, and he would make
changes, or suggestions, or he would want to say it his way, and then
when we got through with that discussion, he would take that draft home,
and he would have Mrs. Truman review it. And if she didn't like some phase
of it, she would
make corrections. So we would finally get together again,
and work out the final product. There are many instances, in fact, in
most, where the President himself made the changes or revisal to what
he wanted to say.
HESS: Was the President usually present at the first session when it
was first discussed what was going to be in a speech?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, definitely.
HESS: This would be before the wording had been decided upon.
CONNELLY: Right, he would say what he wanted.
HESS: This is the way it would originate?
CONNALLY: That's correct. And then there would probably be six or seven
of the staff in the White House work on the draft of a speech.
probably wind up with seven drafts before they would finally present it
to him. He would read it in front of the staff who had worked on the speech,
he would read it aloud, and then he would be interrupted from time to
time for changes.
HESS: Who were the principal speech writers?
CONNELLY: Clark Clifford, Rosenman--Rosenman originally--Charles Murphy,
David Bell, David Lloyd--there are a few more--George E1sey.
HESS: Did Charles Ross sit in?
CONNELLY: Charles Ross sat in, yes. He never participated in writing
the speeches, but he always sat in on the review of the draft.
HESS: What were his main contributions?
CONNELLY: Charles Ross?
CONNELLY: He was Press Secretary. He was the mouthpiece of the President.
HESS: But I mean when it came to writing the speeches? Was he...
CONNELLY: He was there as an editor, but he didn't have time with his
job to be a creator. But he would be an editor of every one of them.
HESS: Judge Rosenman left the White House in February of 1946, did he
play any particular role in White House affairs after he left?
CONNELLY: No, other than contributions of ideas for speeches or messages
HESS: But he would still make those contributions?
CONNELLY: Yes, he did, for quite a while. When there was a message to
Congress going up,
Clark Clifford, who had succeeded him, would call him
and ask him to come to Washington and sit in on the preparation of a draft
for a presidential message or a presidential speech.
HESS: Did he also help Charles Murphy in the same way?
CONNELLY: I do not know if he helped Charles Murphy. I think by that
time since Clifford left, I believe Rosenman did not contribute after that.
HESS: Clifford left January 31st of 1950.
CONNELLY: Well, I'm pretty sure that Judge Rosenman was long gone on
contributing to speeches.
HESS: Now, the Judge did come back and help some in 1948, isn't that
right, for the preparation of the convention, for the matters that went
on at the convention?
CONNELLY: That's right. I think he came back to help Clark Clifford prepare
the usual draft, which was not a speech, it was an outline.
HESS: How was that done?
CONNELLY: Well, instead of making a formal speech, we decided that the
best thing to do was to make an outline and let the President make the
best impression off-the-cuff, with guidance from an outline. He was a
much better speaker off-the-cuff than he was from reading a printed text.
HESS: Who helped set up that outline?
CONNELLY: I believe Rosenman helped on that with Clifford. The same group
that Clifford had working on the other speeches set up the outline.
HESS: Did the Judge go on any of the campaign
trips in 1948?
HESS: Why didn't he assist through the entire production, the convention
and the campaign? Why was he there just for the convention, do you recall?
CONNELLY: I'm not sure whether he was at the convention.
HESS: But his services weren't used through the campaign?
CONNELLY: Oh, no, no. He may have given some telephonic advice but he
didn't actively participate in the campaign.
HESS: Anything else about Samuel Rosenman that comes to mind?
CONNELLY: Well, he left the White House and went
into private practice of law.
HESS: Why did he leave?
CONNELLY: For money.
HESS: Wasn't making enough money in the Government, is that right?
CONNELLY: Oh, of course not.
HESS: And when he left there was a period of time from February the lst
until July the lst, when there was no Special Counsel. Was there any particular
reason for that lapse of time?
CONNELLY: That was because the President wanted to make sure that he
would get somebody who could follow in Rosenman's steps and knew what
the job would be about and eventually he settled for Clark Clifford.
HESS: Were there any others that were under
CONNELLY: There may have been in his mind, but these I wouldn't know about.
HESS: Had Mr. Clifford been active in any way in Mr. Truman's senatorial campaigns?
CONNELLY: No, not in any way, that I know of.
HESS: Was the role that he played as Special Counsel different in any
significant manner than that played by Judge Rosenman?
CONNELLY: Well, it was fundamentally the same. It was a question of examining
bills that came to the President for signature and also getting the opinions
of department heads, and making recommendations for signature or veto.
His position was largely legality of documents that the President had
to approve or disapprove.
HESS: Did he contribute any political suggestions,
any political advice
to the President, as well as legal advice?
CONNELLY: Oh, certainly, he gave him opinions and suggestions like everybody
on the staff did.
HESS: Was Mr. Clifford a good political adviser?
CONNELLY: I would say that Mr. Clifford was too academic to be a good
political adviser, because Mr. Clifford's experience in politics had been
nil, so from the point of practicality, I would not say he was a very
good political adviser.
HESS: Why did Mr. Clifford leave the White House in 1950?
CONNELLY: Mr. Clifford had an ambition to become Attorney General, and
when the President appointed an Attorney General to succeed Attorney General
Clark, Mr. Clifford was very
unhappy, and he told me himself that he was
under the impression that he would be the new Attorney General. We had
luncheon one day and I explained to him that it was a political problem.
There are little divisions in our country such as Catholics and Protestants,
and I knew that President Truman was going to be severely criticized for
not replacing Frank Murphy on the Supreme Court, who was a Catholic, by
replacing him with Clark who was not--Tom Clark. So, I told Clifford probably
what the reason might be. Mr. Truman had a little problem making that
decision, and there would be great reaction among Catholic groups but
by appointing a successor to Tom Clark as Attorney General who was a Catholic--I
knew I would get the brunt being one myself, but if the criticism came
to me I would have a complete offset.
HESS: This was when J. Howard McGrath was appointed?
CONNELLY: That is correct. And if they came to me I would say, "Well,
when did you have two Catholics on the Cabinet?" And there was no argument.
HESS: Did you discuss this with Mr. Truman at this time?
CONNELLY: Certainly I did. And he agreed with me. As a matter of fact,
I suggested McGrath.
HESS: Was there much of an objection raised at the time that Tom Clark
was appointed to the Supreme Court, to the effect that it should have
been a Catholic appointment?
CONNELLY: Oh, all over the country.
HESS: That's right.
CONNELLY: All over the country. Being a Catholic, I was the fellow who
got the heat from the Catholic groups.
HESS: What was Mr. Truman's attitude about this?
CONNELLY: He could care less. He had no religious bigotry at all. He
didn't care what you were if you could do a job.
HESS: Had Mr. Clifford discussed the possibility with Mr. Truman about
his becoming Attorney General?
CONNELLY: At one time President Truman--Mr. Clifford told me--offered
Mr. Clifford an appointment as Under Secretary of State and Mr. Clifford
told me that he didn't want that, but that someday he would like to be
the Attorney General. He told me that Mr. Truman said, "Well, I'll keep
that in mind."
When McGrath was appointed, Clifford, naturally, was upset, and that
was what brought about his departure from the White House.
HESS: And the day after he left, Charles Murphy
was appointed Special
Counsel to the President. What can you tell me about Mr. Murphy? What
was his background and how did he come to be a member of the White House staff?
CONNELLY: Charles Murphy had worked as legislative counsel to the Senate.
He had been there for several years and he was well-known to Mr. Truman,
and was highly respected up there. Charles Murphy is and was then a very
able lawyer. One time when we were trying to build up a new staff, which
could be Truman's staff, I invited Mr. Murphy to lunch. We had lunch,
and I told him that the President would like to have him in the White
House. He said, "Well, I would kind of like it too, but I've got to get
clearance with Senator Barkley," who was then, I believe, the majority leader.
HESS: About what time was this? Do you recall, '45 or '46?
CONNELLY: Probably late in '45 or early in '46.
So, he went back to the Capitol, and he talked with Senator Barkley
who was not very happy about the idea. Barkley wanted to know if the White
House was trying to steal his brains. Murphy called me and he said, "It's
no dice. Barkley won't let me go."
I'd say that within about a year later, Murphy called me and he said,
"Is that job still open? I talked to Senator Barkley today and he thinks
he's standing in my way, and I can take the job if it's still open."
I said, "You've got a job," which pleased Mr. Truman very much, because
he had very great respect for Charles Murphy.
HESS: He was Administrative Assistant from December of 1946 until February
the lst of 1950, when he became Special Counsel. Did he carry on the job
of Special Counsel in any different manner than
CONNELLY: I would say only in one way, because the same problems arose
for him that arose for Clifford. I would say that he was a little less
flamboyant. He was a very level headed fellow, his feet were on the ground,
and his main ambition was to do a job, where I believe Clifford's ambition
went a little beyond the job he was in. All of the time I was with Murphy
he never indicated in any way that he wanted to be anywhere but where
he was. I would say that that was the principal difference.
HESS: The gentlemen who held the job as Secretary to the President, your
name is first, we'll just skip that name, and start with William D. Hassett.
CONNELLY: William D. Hassett we inherited from
the Roosevelt administration
and we used to call him the "Poet Laureate of the White House." His job
was to write messages for the President's signature, write proclamations,
which the President also signed. But that's principally what his activity was.
HESS: What had been his background?
CONNELLY: He was an old newspaperman and one of the assistant press secretaries
to Steve Early under Roosevelt. We made him Correspondence Secretary technically,
but he was still Secretary to the President.
HESS: Did he ever help out with the speech writing?
CONNELLY: He sat in on them, but he contributed very little because he
was, I'd say, in the stratosphere. He was a literary figure. But as a
HESS: And for the last few months of the administration after the death
of Joseph Short, his wife was Correspondence Secretary.
CONNELLY: I made the suggestion to President Truman after Joe Short died,
because we had a very short time to go, that it would be a nice tribute
to Joe Short as a loyal and hard worker for Mr. Truman to appoint his
wife to that position. So that the President agreed with. But Mrs. Short
never had the real authority that her husband had, and after Bill Hassett
resigned, we put her in Bill's place and got Roger Tubby, formerly from
the State Department to become Press Secretary. That was close to the
end of the administration.
HESS: Why did Mr. Hassett resign? That was in July of '52.
CONNELLY: For reasons of health.
HESS: The White House press office: We start off with J. Leonard Reinsch.
Mr. Reinsch was in the press office for just a little while from April
12 to May 15. Why was he there for such a short time?
CONNELLY: Mr. Reinsch wanted very much to be press secretary, but the
White House press, even more so than today, was press, in other
words, newspapermen, and they personally resented what they called a radio
man. They didn't like the idea of a radio man being press man for the
President. That was very widely discussed between the President and myself,
and I made a suggestion to the President that I go to Steve Early who
was still at the White House and ask Steve to make a poll of the press
people at the White House (the White House correspondents) and to have
them recommend who should be Press Secretary. Because I wanted somebody who would
be respected by the press, and who could be accepted by the
President. So Steve Early took that poll. He came to me with two recommendations
and he told me that he didn't think the President would go for either
one of them. I asked, "Why?"
He said, "They both are with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch," which
had been very violently opposed to Senator Truman when he was Senator.
I said, "Well, those are the recommendations, let's give them to the
President. Let him make up his mind."
So Steve Early said, "Mr. President, these are the two top boys on the
list. One is Charlie Ross, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and the other
is Pete Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The President grinned and said, "You know, I was thinking about Charlie Ross myself.
Did you know he was a classmate of Mrs. Truman and myself
in the Independence High School?" which neither Steve Early nor I knew.
So Steve Early was flabbergasted, of course, but pleased. He said, "Well,
I'll get in touch with him."
Charlie was covering the United Nations in San Francisco at that time.
When he finished his tour of duty out there, he came back to Washington.
Steve Early set up an appointment to have him come over and see the President.
The President had left by the time that Charlie Ross arrived; he had gone
back to the Blair House, where he was living at that time. We went over
to see the President, and he said, "Charlie, how are you? I want you to
be my Press Secretary."
Charlie said, "I just can't turn that down."
He said, "Charlie, how are you going to be
on your retirement with the Post-Dispatch?
Charlie said, "I don't know, this is the first I knew about it."
He said, "Well, I want to know." So, he turned to me and said, "Matt,
get that no-good Pulitzer on the phone. I want to talk to him," which I did.
So, he told Pulitzer, the Post-Dispatch publisher, that he wanted
Charlie Ross for Press Secretary. Pulitzer said it was a great honor.
He said, "Mr. Pulitzer, I'm not through with you yet. Where's Charlie
Ross on his retirement? Is he going to lose it?"
Pulitzer told him, "No, no, we'll take care of that. He'll have his retirement."
He said, "O.K., I wouldn't accept him if he was going to be cut out of
his retirement." So, that was arranged.
We sat down again. Truman sent for some drinks to celebrate the occasion. We had the
first drink and he turned to me and said, "Matt, get Miss Tillie
Brown in Independence on the phone."
I asked, "Who's Miss Tillie Brown?"
He said, "Charlie and I know. She was our school teacher."
So, I finally got Miss Tillie Brown. The President got on the phone and
the President said, "Miss Tillie, who do you think this is?"
She said, "Well, I don't know."
He said, "This is Harry Truman."
She said, "The President?"
"Miss Tillie, who do you think I have with me?"
She asked, "Who do you have with you?"
"Charlie Ross. He's going to be my press secretary."
Well, it was such a touching scene. Steve Early was a pretty touch guy,
a hard-boiled newspaperman. But I can be very frank
and say that Steve
Early and I had little droplets when we heard that conversation. Steve
Early finally said when we left that day, "Boy, what a man. I'll never
forget it. I loved Roosevelt, but we have a Presiden