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C. Girard Davidson Oral History Interview, July 18, 1972

Oral History Interview with
C. Girard Davidson

Attorney Tennessee Valley Authority, 1934-37; Bonneville Power Administration, Portland, Oregon, 1940-42, general counsel, 1943-46; consultant Office of Production Management, Washington, 1941-42; assistant general counsel, War Production Board, 1944-45; Assistant Secretary of the Interior, 1946-50; national Democratic elector, 1952; member of the Democratic National Committee from Oregon, 1956-63; chairman, National Democratic Committee on Natural Resources; chairman, Western States Democratic Conference, 1960-63; Member Oregon Educational Coordination Commission, 1972; Chairman, 1974-75; President Alaska Pacific Lumber Company, 1958-; Attorney, Portland, Oregon, 1950-.

Washington, D.C.
July 18, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Davidson Oral History Transcripts]


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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 June, 1979
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Davidson Oral History Transcripts]

 



Oral History Interview with
C. Girard Davidson

Washington, D.C.
July 18, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess

 

[79]

HESS: Mr. Davidson, when we left off yesterday, we were discussing the Wardman Park group, and before we began this morning we went through a number of your scrapbooks and files looking at some items of particular interest. One of the clippings that we just looked at mentioned the Monday night meetings and listed a number of people who were present at those meetings. The first two on the list here are George Allen and Sam Rosenman. Were they ever in attendance?

DAVIDSON: No. Neither one of them ever attended one of the Monday night meetings according to my recollection, at least none that I attended. We tried to make it a point to be at all of the meetings that we possibly could, but, of course, sometimes we were out of town and they may have come to one when I was away.

 

[80]

HESS: Bill Batt, Jr. was also mentioned. Did he attend?

DAVIDSON: Well, Bill Batt was chairman of the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee, and I think on one or two occasions Bill did come to the meetings to explain the results of some of the research projects which he had carried on.

HESS: One other point of interest I found in the clipping mentioned that a bill for $150 for the food that evening was sent to the Democratic National Committee. Was that a common practice?

DAVIDSON: Well, I was under the impression that we were meeting at the behest of the Democratic National Committee to assist in Truman's '48 campaign, and therefore I was under the impression that the dinners were paid for by the Committee. I think Howard McGrath, Jack Ewing, and the others who were running the Committee, did not like the type

 

[81]

of advice that the President was getting from some of his Cabinet officers to try to outdo Dewey in being conservative, and this whole idea of giving the 70th Congress hell, I think, really came from this little Monday night group and was strongly supported by both Howard McGrath and Jack Ewing.

HESS: I found a clipping in your scrapbooks that said the idea of making the 80th Congress a political target came from you, personally, and came a year in advance of the campaign. Do you recall anything about that?

DAVIDSON: No, I really don't. I thought the 80th Congress was a good target, and one that should be attacked, but the way this got to the President, I'm sure, was from our Monday night group via Clark Clifford. I don't want to take any more credit for doing that than anybody else.

HESS: What made you think that the 80th Congress would

 

[82]

be a good target, what made it look like they were susceptible?

DAVIDSON: Because it had turned down all progressive domestic issues; it had done absolutely nothing to help the unemployment situation; it did nothing about wage and price controls, and both wages and prices were running rampant. And I think that the 80th Congress' failure to act on the President's proposal made them a natural target.

HESS: Now in the foreign field they weren't so uncooperative, as has been said. What Mr. Truman will be known for in history are the Greek-Turkish aid bill, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall plan, and those were passed by the 80th Congress. In elections, when there is no shooting going on, are domestic considerations more important than foreign considerations?

DAVIDSON: I think that's right. I think times have changed considerably from 1948 to today. Obviously,

 

[83]

today foreign policy and what's going on in Vietnam is of equal if not more importance in the forthcoming election than domestic policy, but that was not the attitude of the country back in '48.

HESS: To digress just a little bit, you mentioned that Bill Batt attended some of the meetings, and that he was head of the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee. That was set up about in June, 1948. Various people served on it: Johannes Hoeber was one, Philip Dreyer also. Was he from Oregon?

DAVIDSON: Yes.

HESS: Did you have occasion to work with the Research Division?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I did. I used to work with them a good deal and would supply them with information in the power and the resource field, and in other fields. Bill Batt did an outstanding job as

 

[84]

chairman of that group, and he had some very bright young fellows working with him.

HESS: Dave Lloyd, also.

DAVIDSON: David Lloyd worked with Batt. You must remember, at that time, nobody expected the President to get reelected. The Democratic National Committee was broke; it did not have a large staff, and it just couldn't get its work done. These were dedicated individuals that helped a great deal. This little group o£ Bill Batt's became the forerunner of the Democratic Advisory Council, which was strongest in Paul Butler's administration of the National Committee. If you recall, Adlai Stevenson was chairman of that group, and when I was chairman of the Western States Democratic Conference I fought hard to maintain the Advisory Council in order to get research done, and this was over the objection of the people on the Hill. Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson felt that the Democrats on the

 

[85]

Hill should determine party policy, and some of us felt that this was too conservative a policy to represent the party.

HESS: Did you attend any of the Democratic Advisory Council meetings, that were held across the street in the LaSalle Building?

DAVIDSON: I was chairman of the Natural Resources Committee of the Democratic National Committee. You may remember that Mrs. Roosevelt was chairman of the Committee on Civil Rights, Dean Acheson on Foreign Policy, and I had Natural Resources. "Resources for the People", was the name of the publication which finally came out from my section and it lists the Governors, Senators, and others who were members of the committee. Rachael Carson, I remember, was a member of my committee. We had a number of sessions before we put that document together which was printed and used in the Jack Kennedy campaign.

 

[86]

HESS: After you had had your meetings and developed your material, just how did you try to put it into effect? Through the report?

DAVIDSON: Through the report "Resources for the people." Donald Balmer, a professor of political science at Lewis and Clark College, was the executive director of this committee, and he did a great deal of the writing himself. The two of us worked with the platform committee in Los Angeles when Kennedy was nominated. Our Natural Resources Committee had a great deal of input into the resources section of the platform adopted at the Los Angeles convention.

HESS: Did you know that Mr. Charles Tyroler still has that suite of offices in the LaSalle Building? He was the executive secretary of the Council.

DAVIDSON: Yes, we worked a great deal with him.

HESS: Not for the Council. He's off on other pursuits, but he's still in that suite of offices.

 

[87]

DAVIDSON: That type of work is essential if you're going to properly analyze the issues and the opposition. I've always believed in that type of staff work.

HESS: In 1948 the Research Division was used mainly as backup on speeches. Isn't that correct? Research for information...

DAVIDSON: Right.

HESS: Research for information to help write the speeches.

DAVIDSON: To help write speeches and to help dig up some of the record of the 80th Congress so that it could be attacked.

HESS: In one of the clippings I found that many of the statements on natural resources that were made by the President when he was in the western part of the United States were your ideas, or came from you. Is that correct?

 

[88]

DAVIDSON: When you say they came from me, I may have been the spokesman, because I made a lot of speeches, but I had a great staff at Interior. When Krug became Secretary and I went in as his Assistant Secretary, our philosophy was completely at variance from the way the Department of the Interior had been handled; from the way Secretary Ickes and Chapman, who had been an Assistant Secretary during that time had handled it. We believed in a more decentralized operation. When we were confirmed all the bureaus were headed up in Washington, D.C., and they had their direct channels out to the field. In the field the bureaus did not communicate with each other, and any coordination was supposed to be handled in Washington.