Oral History Interview with
Reporter and correspondent, Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, 1937-41, 1946-62; assigned to Washington, D.C. bureau of the Daily News, 1947-62; head of Press Office, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1963-75.
Richard Cull Jr.
May 5, 1986
by Niel M. Johnson
See also Richard Cull, Jr. Papers
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened November, 1987
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Richard Cull Jr.
May 5, 1986
by Niel M. Johnson
JOHNSON: Mr. Richard Cull, Jr. is here with me in the Truman Library. Mr. Cull, would you tell us when and where you were born and the names of your parents?
CULL: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914, at the time my father was day city editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. Dad was a native of Miamisburg, a small town south of Dayton in southern Ohio, while my mother, Elizabeth Burns, was a native of Dayton. Both were Irish. Both are deceased. Dad came to Dayton about 1910 to start his newspaper career on the Dayton Daily News and then got a job in the bigger city of Cleveland about 1913. In addition to the Plain Dealer, he also was an editor on the Cleveland Press, one of three papers in Cleveland at that time.
JOHNSON: How long did your father stay in Cleveland?
CULL: About 1924 James M. Cox, the owner and publisher of the Dayton Daily News, brought Dad back to Dayton to be managing editor of the paper. As you know, James M. Cox served three terms as Democratic Governor of Ohio and then in 1920 the Democrats at their national convention in San Francisco chose him as their candidate for President. His running mate as Vice President was Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York, who later was elected to four terms as President of the United States. The Cox-Roosevelt ticket in 1920, of course, lost to the Republican ticket led by Warren G. Harding, also of Ohio, in an election where voters turned their backs on the policies of Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat who was President during World War I. Cox endorsed those policies, which included support for the League of Nations.
So I came back to Dayton in 1924 and went on to complete grade school, high school and college there at Corpus Christi Grade School, Chaminade High School and the University of Dayton, all Catholic schools.
JOHNSON: Did your father write editorials on the Dayton News?
CULL: Oh, no. The managing editor is responsible for the
news content of the paper, not the editorials. The editor writes the editorials, which are the opinions of the publisher. The editor was Walter Locke.
JOHNSON: Did you always want to be a newsman like your father?
CULL: Oh, yes, always. I even remember the exact day I knew that for sure. It was the day in March, 1932, the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped from his crib in New Jersey. I was sitting next to Dad in church when an usher tapped him on the shoulder and told him to call his office at once. Turns out he had to make a decision whether the News should put out an "extra," an extra edition saved for the most momentous news stories. You see, 1932 was long before TV brought you the instant story and pictures as it does today in the 1980s, and even radio didn't saturate a community like a newspaper. Well, Dad decided to go with an "extra" and he let me stay with him while it was put out in a hurry. I was hooked by the excitement and my lifetime work was decided right there. As kids would say today, it was a "neat" experience.
JOHNSON: When did you first start writing for publication?
CULL: I guess it was for the high school paper. Then later I was a reporter on the University of Dayton News before becoming editor in my senior year, 1935-36.
JOHNSON: When did you start to work full-time at the Dayton Daily News?
CULL: I graduated in 1936 at the depth of the Depression. There were no openings on the paper at the time and I finally got a job working nights on the assembly line at a General Motors factory in Dayton. I was there six months, long enough to know I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in a factory. I finally got on the staff at the News as a cub in 1937 when a reporter died suddenly. I helped on the financial page and wrote obits before being assigned as police reporter. Then along came World War II. I was drafted very early, almost a year before Pearl Harbor, and that was the end of my newspaper career for five years.
JOHNSON: Did you see much of the publisher, Governor Cox, while you were there?
CULL: Oh, yes, he was in and out of the newsroom all the time. If you didn't see him, you knew he was there
because he chewed tobacco and his aim wasn't too good some times when he spit tobacco juice.
JOHNSON: Was the Daily News the only newspaper in Dayton when you were on the staff?
CULL: No, not at all. There were two other daily papers, the Morning Journal and the Evening Herald, jointly owned. The Daily News was an afternoon paper with the largest circulation of the three. The News, with Governor Cox as publisher, was strongly Democratic, supporting FDR and the New Deal and with an internationalist viewpoint, while the other papers were Republican, very conservative and regular foes of the New Deal.
By the way, we always addressed Mr. Cox as Governor. He wanted it that way. He wasn't unusual. In my years in Washington, I found many Senators who had been Governors who preferred to be called "Governor."
JOHNSON: Was there hot competition among the newspapers in Dayton?
CULL: Very much so. Newspapers were king in every city in the country until TV came along in the late 1940s. Who doesn't remember Ben Hecht and the "Front Page," his
story of the newspaper wars in Chicago in the 20s and 30s? And I remember the circulation wars in New York into the 1950s. For example, I remember Jerry Greene of the New York Daily News and Bill Lawrence of the New York Times, both covering the white House in the Truman era, and one day there was only one copy of a press release available at the White House. Greene and Lawrence lunged for it but Lawrence of the Times got it, and Jerry screamed at him, "Give me that. We throw away more newspapers in Times Square than you print every day." In my own experience in Dayton as a rookie police reporter just before World War II, police early one Saturday evening found what they thought might have been a bomb in the local post office. Well, the police reporter for the opposition paper got the police officer who found the package to allow him to go with him to an area to test for a bomb so I couldn't get a report on the test. That left me holding an empty bag with a Sunday morning deadline approaching. Only at the last minute did I learn it was a fake bomb. But my story was not nearly as good as the opposition's. But that's the hard-nosed way the game was played before the advent of TV. Competition was red-hot but I think
the public benefited. Today in the 1980s, mergers and buy-outs have killed daily papers everywhere. When the mergers came in, the competition went out.
JOHNSON: Do you think those good old days of competing newspapers in cities from coast to coast will ever return?
CULL: No, never. TV has changed everything. You know, when I came back to Dayton in 1980 after being in Washington almost 35 years, I could see the change at once in my neighborhood. When I left in the late 40s, nearly every home on the block got either the morning or afternoon paper delivered. Not any more; today about one house in five still gets delivery. The TV set replaced the newspaper as the main source of news. Harry Truman would have been disappointed because he liked to read several newspapers every day. Today he would have to watch several TV sets, just as Lyndon Johnson did as President.
JOHNSON: Going back to your start as a newsman in Dayton, did you say you broke in as a part-time sports writer while still in college?
CULL: Yes. In those days, a generation ago, you usually started on the daily paper as a copy boy, which meant
you picked up the copy as it was written and edited and sent it on to the composing room to be set in type. You also did the other routine jobs of sorting the mail and running errands. After a while, if you showed some promise, you could be sent to cover a high school basketball game, which would show if you had any reporting or writing talent. By the way, that's how Leonard Reinsch, who later served in many roles for President Truman at the White House, got his start. I remember Leonard doing the radio broadcasts of local high school games in Dayton in the mid-1930s for WHIO radio, the station owned by the Daily News. Leonard got a job in Dayton, I believe, soon after he graduated from college in the Midwest. Later he became head of the Cox TV-radio empire. Leonard was always a very personable, a very able guy. He also was in charge of arrangements for several Democratic National Conventions as well as for the inauguration of Democratic Presidents, including Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy.
JOHNSON: How do you break in today in the 1980s?
CULL: I think you must have more experience today to break in on most dailies of any size. It seems to me from
reading Editor and Publisher, the magazine of the newspaper business, that it's like going to the minor leagues in baseball and working yourself up to the majors. You develop your skills that way. Besides, newspapers today hire more specialists, not just general assignment reporters. You often must be a specialist in something like energy or environment or economics to get on the bigger newspapers. And many papers require you to take an aptitude test, even a drug test, or, as in the case of the Knight-Ridder newspapers, you may have to attend their training school in Miami, Florida. The vast explosion of knowledge and information beginning with Harry Truman's Presidency right after World War II requires news people with much greater training than I had.
JOHNSON: What was the route to Washington for a reporter in your era?
CULL: I think almost all of us who came to Washington from newspapers around the country after the end of World War II followed the same route: city hall to the State capital to Washington. That way you learned the affairs of your city and state and the people who wrote and administered the laws. Washington was Broadway at that time and you
were pretty well rounded in your State's government affairs when you got there. Then you had to learn to mesh your state's interests into the national interest.
JOHNSON: Is Washington still Broadway for young news people today?
CULL: No, I don't think so, even though it is and always will be the news capital of the world. In my time, as products of the devastating Depression of the 1930s, we were intensely interested in job security, and Washington meant lifetime security. Today's generation, with no personal memory of the jobs-short Depression, doesn't have that interest in job security. I see newsmen come and go in Washington now; they go where the opportunity is.
I want to add here that I think it is better to have a frequent turnover of people in news and government in Washington in this era of rapid world-wide changes. I have found that Washington is a deadly place for people who stay too long in that island cloister and lose touch with the changes going on back on the mainland of the country. You know, I think Harry Truman's upset victory over Tom Dewey in 1948 did more to wipe the shine off the seat of the pants of newsmen in Washington than
anything ever did. In their superior wisdom, they just didn't believe the country thought differently from them. I remember John O'Donnell, Washington columnist for the New York Daily News, pounding his highball glass on the National Press Club bar and saying, "How could anyone be so wrong?"
JOHNSON: Before you were drafted into World War II did you write politics at the Dayton News?
CULL: No, I was just learning to be a reporter. An older man, Bernie Losh, was political editor. He was a red hot Democrat as was Glenn "Whitey" Whitesell, who helped him. You know, party loyalty was much more intense then than it is today in the era of TV and I can remember Whitey accusing some people of voting Democratic until they got "wrinkles in their bellies" when they turned around and voted Republican. He meant, of course, the Democrats made them prosperous and then they turned on the Party. Now in the mid-30s in Dayton, as well as in many other areas of the country, the New Deal of FDR was very controversial because it brought government intervention into what many thought were areas reserved for private business. I remember clearly that in Dayton
the News under Governor Cox supported the New Deal while the opposition papers, both Republican, opposed it. In fact, the Dayton News was one of the very few papers in Ohio to support the New Deal of FDR and the Fair Deal of President Truman.
JOHNSON: You say you were the first newsman in Dayton drafted into World War II and that you were in the very first draft call in the city?
CULL: Right. Soon after Congress passed the draft law in 1940, Secretary of War Henry Stimson conducted the first drawing of draft numbers in October, 1940. I can still see the picture of Stimson blindfolded and reaching into a goldfish bowl to draw the first number.
You see, the order in which your draft number was pulled determined the order in which you would be called. As I recall, all males between 18 and 35 had to register under the draft law and each was assigned a number. All over the country, in offices and in factories and in schools, just everywhere, the eligible men put up, say $1 each, for an office pool and the first number drawn was the winner. It was a pool hardly anyone wanted to win. I didn't want to win ours at the Daily News, but
I did and I was called to report on February 6, 1941. We were told not to worry, there wouldn't be a war and we'd all be home again in a year. In fact, the popular song of 1941 was "I'll be back in a year, little darling." Both Governor Cox and President Roosevelt said we'd be back in a year. How wrong they were.
JOHNSON: Where were you sent when you were drafted?
CULL: We were inducted at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and then sent by troop train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in the cut-over pine area of Southern Mississippi near Hattiesburg. I was assigned to headquarters, 62nd Field Artillery brigade of the 37th Division, Ohio National Guard. The Guard had been federalized in the fall of 1940 as war clouds gathered and a cadre of the 37th went to Shelby to await the draftees. There were two brigades of infantry in the 37th at Shelby also.
JOHNSON: President Truman was an artillery man in France in World War I, you know.
CULL: Yes, I know that. In fact, I think it was at Shelby when I began a career of following Harry Truman around, first as an artillery man at a southern army training camp, then
on to Washington after the war when he was in the White House and I was a newsman writing daily about his Presidency, and finally along the campaign trail, his last campaign as President, in 1952. It was a long, long trail a winding . . .
JOHNSON: What shape was Shelby in when the first draftees arrived?
CULL: Primitive. There was a shortage of everything, all the way to toilet paper; you got a ration of 11 sheets under your breakfast plate every day.
As for weapons, forget it. Weapons were in such short supply you often used broomsticks to simulate them. Hell, artillery shells were so scarce that I was sent out several times to the firing range on the fenders of ancient weapons carriers to mark duds. So what if the dud exploded in your hands. The Army said we can afford to lose men more than we can afford to lose a shell.
I tell you, if it weren't for Harry Truman we would have waited even longer to get supplies and equipment. As you know, he made a tour of southern Army training camps in 1941 as head of the Senate committee to investigate defense preparedness. He was Senator Truman from
Missouri then and he sponsored the legislation for the investigation. I have read he found something like $200 million in waste in defense production.
JOHNSON: Do you think camp life at Camp Shelby was about the same in early 1941 as it was in the fall of 1917 when Lieutenant Harry Truman went to Camp Doniphan at Fort Sill, Oklahoma to train for World War I?
CULL: Yes, I do. Army training camps have been the same in all wars. You are citizen soldiers or officers, in most cases; your life has been disrupted. You are sick and bored and lonely; you suffer abject despair and feel abandoned by your fellow citizens not in uniform. At Shelby, we counted the days until our year would be up and we could go home because we had been assured there was not going to be a war; then, I think it was early summer of 1941, the House of Representatives voted by one vote -- just one vote -- to extend the year's service. I remember hearing the news and burying my head in a pillow in my tent and crying like a baby.
JOHNSON: Was there a good spirit at Shelby between the Guardsmen and the draftees?
CULL: Not exactly. The Guards held all the non-com ratings, which meant the draftees did all the work. The draftees taunted the Guards with such remarks as, "I'd rather be a rubber in a whore's back yard than a goddamn sergeant in the National Guard." I'm sure the same thing happened in Truman's time.
I remember something else in 1941 at Camp Shelby that was there in 1917 at Camp Doniphan. I have read where Truman said they had a balky Sibley stove in their tent that operated at two extremes -- red hot or not at all. We had the same old World War I Sibley stoves in our tents. You had to beat on them all night to keep the fire going.
And I was one of the citizen soldiers who ended up in the hospital with the flu in the winter of 1941. Compare that to Camp Doniphan in 1917 when Truman wrote that fatal epidemics of measles and pneumonia swept the camp, along with some scarlet fever and smallpox.
You know what Truman said of all this? He said all this for "30 bucks and beans." Well, at Shelby, the song title was, "Twenty-one dollars a day, once a month." That's the pay I started at.
And, oh, yes, Truman talked about that early reveille at his camp. Well, at Camp Shelby, we were awakened at
5:15 a.m., by the charge of quarters banging on the tent pole with a broom handle and bellowing, "Drop your clocks and grab your socks. Let's go! You wanna sleep all day."
Yes, I wish I had a chance in the years I followed Harry Truman around the country to talk to him about Army barracks life.
Well, enough of life in the Army camps of World War I and II. But I think our experiences are worth recording here because in this era of the nuclear bomb there will be no more need for the mass training of millions of soldiers to fight a conventional war.
JOHNSON: How long were you at Camp Shelby?
CULL: I was there from February until the end of November, 1941, all through the period of the summer Army maneuvers in Louisiana and East Texas along the Sabine River between the Second and Third Armies. I transferred out in November to the Air Corps. I always wanted to be in the Air Corps since my home was in Dayton, which was the home of the Wright brothers, who made the first powered flight in 1903. Dayton calls itself the birthplace of aviation. I was able to get the transfer because war
still did not appear imminent in early fall of 1941.
JOHNSON: What group were you with in the Air Force?
CULL: I was at Patterson Field.
JOHNSON: Air Corps, of course.
CULL: That's right, with an air transport squadron in the Army Air Corps. Of course, the independent Air Force didn't come along until 1947 when President Truman signed the legislation. Yes, it was the Army Air Corps and I was at Patterson Field in Ohio for a while and then I was transferred to Fort George Wright, in Spokane, Washington. I was there the rest of the time.
JOHNSON: What was your rank and your . . .
CULL: I was a master sergeant, enlisted.
JOHNSON: What kind of work did you do?
CULL: Well, I handled publications, and edited publications -- magazines, newspapers and information. I was the head of a writing staff of five or six.
JOHNSON: Sort of a public relations office.
CULL: Public relations. Today they call it public information or public affairs which I think is probably a better term.
JOHNSON: So you were something like a historian too. You were writing about the . . .
CULL: Yes, because at the place in Spokane, it was an Air Force convalescent hospital, and these airmen had come back from Europe and they had all been in combat and they all had some problem, either physical or emotional. I think the Air Force did a great job out there because these fellows had to have some sort of help to rid themselves of these terrible phobias and war experiences. They had very capable medical people out there who helped them do that. I sent President Truman a report on the work being done at Fort Wright and got a nice letter back from him saying how important it was. I'll try to find that letter.
JOHNSON: And so you covered the war experiences of some of them or related some of those, I suppose.
CULL: Yes, that's right. And towards the end of the war, I was on the sports staff of the Spokane Spokesman
Review, the morning newspaper in Spokane, and spent about a year with them. You know, that's the newspaper Truman in his 1948 campaign called the second worst newspaper in the country after the Chicago Tribune because of its political attacks on him as President.
JOHNSON: Were you a civilian then or were you still in the Air Corps?
CULL: No, I was still in the service.Of course, the war ended in Europe and in the Pacific, in '45, and I was discharged in November of '45. The publisher of the paper asked me if I wouldn't stay on, and I said, "No." I preferred to go back to Dayton and resume my career on the Daily News.
JOHNSON: You never went overseas then?
CULL: No, I didn't go overseas.
JOHNSON: What about April 12, 1945 when Roosevelt died?
CULL: That was the day Roosevelt died. Yes, I remember it clearly. I was on the base at Spokane, outside the Post Exchange, and I can remember the feelings of the personnel there.
JOHNSON: What was their reaction then?
CULL: I think it was of genuine grief. I don't think maybe the shock was too great because the President hadn't been too well. But we all admired him as a great war leader. Well, frankly at that time the GIs were mostly interested in getting out and going home. Although they had great sorrow over Roosevelt's death, the war in Japan was still going on and there was the chance that troops would still have to go to Japan. If Truman hadn't dropped the bomb over there, you know, we probably would have gone there. It would have cost many more American lives.
JOHNSON: Did they say "Harry Who?" when they heard that Truman was now President?
CULL: I don't remember that they did.
JOHNSON: They just assumed he would carry on Roosevelt programs, I suppose.
CULL: Yes, but we weren't so politically acute after being locked up in uniform so many years. We just wanted to get out and go home and rejoin the "feather merchants," the civilians. I think they were happy when Truman decided to drop the bomb, you know. They had a personal
interest in that.
JOHNSON: You remember that day I suppose, too.
CULL: Oh, sure. Spokane was only some 40 miles from Hanford, Washington where some of the research was carried on, and we never knew a thing about it. We even had gone down there once or twice and played ball, softball, after the war in Europe ended, and never had the slightest inkling of what was going on. I guess it just had to be carried on in great secrecy.
JOHNSON: So there was a lot of elation when they heard that the bomb had been dropped and they wouldn't have to go over.
CULL: Yes, there was great elation. I have a brother-in-law who went through the Marines' campaigns in the South Pacific as a combat paratrooper. Luckily, he survived them. At the end of one of the last campaigns, probably Iwo Jima, his Marine division -- I think it was the 5th -- was then sent back to Hawaii and told to prepare for invading Japan. In fact, he was in a combat group from the First Marine Division that went to Japan. He couldn't be sure, he has told me often, just what was going to happen to
them over there. But he remembers clearly how the marines cheered and cheered when they learned Truman dropped the bomb.
JOHNSON: They were among the first to land and occupy Japan?
CULL: Yes, they were . . .
JOHNSON: What is his name?
CULL: Norbert Christensen. He is a stockbroker in Dayton and . . .
JOHNSON: He was one of the first American Marines to land?
CULL: Yes, he was, and he landed on Kyushu, the southernmost Japanese island. He was there with a group and he has told me how they couldn't be sure what reception they were going to get because the Japs had always said they would fight to the last to defend their homeland. Chris remembers the Marines holed up in a cave and waited for something to happen. But trouble never developed.
JOHNSON: Okay, you're discharged in November of '45 and you go back to Dayton to work for the newspaper?
CULL: Yes, I came back to Dayton on November 30 of '45, and
the paper asked me soon after to come back to cover City Hall. Newspapers in World War II had a lot of temporary people and just did the best they could, you know. A lot of these temporary people at the end of the war wanted to get on with some of their own plans too. So the staffs on papers everywhere changed. I was asked to cover City Hall, and I went to City Hall and spent a year there learning the operation of the City.
Now, it's not a political form of government in Dayton; it's a non-partisan City Commission form of government. There wasn't any great politics in city affairs there. But it was a chance to learn from a flatfooted start about the operation of city government, and there I learned the things that would be useful later to me in Washington. It was especially useful in Washington for a reporter to know his own city, what the problems are of that city, and relate what happens in Washington to that city. And all those problems of postwar readjustment -- problems of shortages of food and housing and strikes by unions that felt they had held the line on wages long enough -- were the ones that ended up on Harry Truman's desk at the White House.
You could see them all as a newspaper reporter in Dayton. And in addition to writing about the strikes and shortages, you also had postwar investigations by committees of Congress similar to the one Harry Truman headed while a Senator from Missouri. All told, I think Harry Truman confronted one of the most difficult jobs any President ever faced. And lest I forget, he also had to implement many of FDR's New Deal programs, often very controversial, that had been delayed by World War II.
JOHNSON: How long were you City Hall reporter?
CULL: I was a City Hall reporter for about eight months. I started there in January of '46 -- I guess it was; it was about eight months. Then they sent me to Columbus, and I was in Columbus until '47 when I came to Washington.
JOHNSON: In the bureau of the Cox newspapers?
CULL: The Cox. bureau in both Columbus and Washington, right. But at that time, right after World War II, the Coxes and the Knights and the Gannetts were so wary of being charged with monopoly, you never put the sign "Cox Newspapers" on the bureau door. You just listed the
individual papers by name. Not any more. Today there are huge chains of newspapers, all listed under the name of Cox or Knight or Gannett.
JOHNSON: I asked you before we started the interview if you were acquainted with Sawyer, Charles Sawyer.
CULL: I'm acquainted with Charlie Sawyer more by name than personally. Charlie Sawyer was from Cincinnati and he was Secretary of Commerce. And I think he was the businessman-Democrat type similar to Governor Cox.
JOHNSON: And he was a newspaperman.
CULL: He was an attorney and owner of smaller-sized newspapers in Ohio. He has a son-in-law who still runs radio station WING in Dayton for him. Charlie Sawyer, I know, was a good friend of President Truman, but I may have . . .
JOHNSON: But he didn't figure in state politics?
CULL: No, he didn't figure after 1938 when he ran for Governor and was defeated by John W. Bricker, later a U.S. Senator from Ohio. He did serve as Democratic National Committeeman from Ohio 1936-44.
JOHNSON: What names kind of come to mind who were important in Ohio politics right after World War II?
CULL: Well, Governor [Frank] Lausche was the popular Democratic Governor of the state for three terms, and Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio was the "Mr. Republican" of the United States Senate in his era.
JOHNSON: In '46 there was an election where the Republicans came in with a majority in the Congress.
CULL: Yes, did they call that the "beefsteak election?"
JOHNSON: They could well have.
CULL: There was a meat shortage at that time, wasn't there? I remember writing about the long lines at the meat counters in Dayton. People were mad and they took their anger out at the polls in November 1946. The Democrats around the country suffered most of the losses. That's what brought in Republican control of the 80th Congress, the one he ran successfully against in 1948.
JOHNSON: You covered some of the Congressional races for Cox?
CULL: Yes, oh yes, some of the Congressional races. But actually while in Columbus you were more concerned with the coal strikes that bedeviled Truman, plus the state
government and the Governor's office, and the legislature -- the full range of state affairs. I had covered city affairs; now I moved up to state affairs enroute to Washington and the Truman era in the White House.
JOHNSON: Your first exposure to national politics as a newspaperman, would that have been '48?
CULL: Well, it was '47. I went to Washington in September of 1947, when the Cox newspapers for the first time opened a newspaper bureau in Washington. McNeill Lowry, who had been an editorial writer on the Dayton News, was named the chief of the bureau. I was sent there to cover Ohio for the Dayton paper, and we had a man from Atlanta covering Georgia for the Atlanta Journal. We had a man from Florida covering for the Miami News. You see, Lowry, the bureau chief, was the guy who did the national general reporting, but the rest of us in the bureau still got into, of course, national affairs and Truman press conferences. As I told you, I remember going to one Truman press conference in his oval office and
JOHNSON: Do you happen to remember when that was?
CULL: Well, let's see, I don't know whether it was before the '48 campaign or not. I remember going a number of times to the Oval Office and standing in front of President Truman's desk while the press crowd gathered around him. Then, when all the crowd was in, a fellow by the name of Beckley, the superintendent of the Senate press gallery would say, "All in, Mr. President," and they would close the doors. Then the questions would begin. And the questions covered everything on the world news scene.
JOHNSON: Did you ask any questions, or were you . . .
CULL: No, I'll tell you, Washington in the late 1940s was a case really of "little children are seen but not heard." The veterans and the old timers in the White House Press Room did most of the question-asking. One question I remember, and I don't know just who it was, was a question by somebody, obviously a political enemy of Mr. Truman, a question from a paper with a political bias, asking "Mr. Truman, what do you think of this congressional investigation of Communists?" And Mr. Truman replied, "Oh, that's just a red-herring." Well, I know some of his friends on newspapers on the
Democratic side shook their heads and said, "He'll regret saying that." I'll tell you a little more about that "red herring" remark in a side paper later.
JOHNSON: Any other press conferences that stand out in your mind?
CULL: I don't remember any especially, but I do know that when Truman defeated Dewey, one prominent Ohio newspaper immediately recalled its Washington correspondent and closed its bureau office. They contended they had been lied to, that it wasn't possible that Truman could defeat Dewey and so they closed it, and kept it closed for several years. That's what you call taking it pretty hard. And I heard later at the National Press Club how the New York Journal of Commerce had stories written the day before the election about the changes in Government Dewey would make.
JOHNSON: So you were in that Washington bureau from '47 . . .
CULL: I was in the Washington bureau from '47 until about '61.
JOHNSON: You mentioned McNeill Lowry. Was he your boss there?
CULL: Yes, Mac was bureau chief of the Cox newspapers.
JOHNSON: How long was he in that position, and did you succeed him?
CULL: Well, McNeill Lowry was in that position until about '52. I might tell you that McNeill Lowry in 1948 won the Sigma Delta Chi award for national reporting from Washington because of his stories, which showed the discontent among the farmers for the Republican efforts to abolish the grain storage program in the Commodity Credit Administration.
JOHNSON: Grain storage program.
CULL: He wrote this series, and they were pretty darn knowledgeable stories. And after Truman pulled the upset of all upsets, Mac got the Sigma Delta Chi award, and it was well deserved.
JOHNSON: Ohio went for Truman by only a few thousand votes.
CULL: Yes it did. But remember, Ohio usually votes Republican for President. For instance, John F. Kennedy did not carry Ohio in 1960 against Nixon. And don't forget, Henry Wallace's Progressive Party took votes
away from Truman in Ohio in 1948.
JOHNSON: Would you say that Lowry's reporting may actually have swung the Ohio vote in '48?
CULL: No, I wouldn't say that. I think Harry Truman carried Ohio the way he carried other states that year he wasn't supposed to carry. He carried them on his own. It was a personal victory. He sold himself to the voters from the back end of that whistle stop train. Let me tell you this: Governor Lausche, a Democrat, was one of the most popular Governors Ohio ever had. He told me one day after that astounding Truman victory over Dewey that he hadn't given Truman much chance. But he said he changed his mind when he traveled in Ohio with Truman and saw the size and enthusiasm of the campaign crowds.
Ohio is a very difficult state to predict. Cleveland and Cincinnati are different the way St. Louis and Kansas City are different, the way Los Angeles and San Francisco are different: ethnically, economically, geographically -- ever way. You learn that in a hurry as a national political writer. Cincinnati and Cleveland like to ridicule each other. Cincinnatians say the difference between Cleveland and the Titanic
is that the Titanic had an orchestra aboard. Clevelanders quote Mark Twain as saying that Cincinnati is so backward he hopes he is there when the end of the world comes because everything happens a year later in Cincinnati.
So anyhow, Mac stayed until 1952 when he accepted a job as vice president of the arts and humanities program at the Ford Foundation. He stayed there many years.
JOHNSON: In '52 did you take his place?
CULL: No, at that point we didn't have a bureau chief for several years. The Cox newspapers in Ohio, Georgia and Florida decided that they would like just to have each newspaper with its own man, and that way it opened up more coverage to all of us, and more even on the national scene for Ohio. For instance, I spent a lot of time on the Bricker amendment, named for Republican Senator John Bricker of Ohio. Our Dayton paper vigorously opposed this amendment which would have restricted the President's treaty-making powers. Truman also opposed it, of course, and it was defeated.
JOHNSON: What was your title then?
CULL: Washington correspondent for the Dayton Daily News. And then several years later I became the bureau chief of the Cox newspapers, all the Cox newspapers.
JOHNSON: In the '48 campaign, did you have anything to do with that? Did you do any reporting at all on the '48 cam