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Donald S. Dawson Oral History Interview

Donald Dawson at Key West

Oral History Interview with
Donald S. Dawson

Assistant to the Federal Loan Administrator, 1939-41; Director of Personnel, Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1941-47; Administrative Assistant, Office of the President, 1947-53.
Washington, D.C.
August 8, 1977
by James R. Fuchs

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 February, 1980
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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



Oral History Interview with
Donald S. Dawson

Washington, D.C.
August 8, 1977
by James R. Fuchs

[1]

DAWSON: My name is Donald S. Dawson. I was born in Eldorado Springs, Missouri, August 3, 1908. I received my education in the public schools of Eldorado Springs and Nevada, Missouri and then went to the University of Missouri, graduating with a B.S. degree, economics major. Later I graduated from George Washington University Law School. I then went to New York City and worked for three years in the investment banking business, after brief summer employment in Tulsa, Oklahoma with an oil royalty company.

 

[2]

In 1933 I came to Washington and went to work for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

FUCHS: How did you happen to go to Washington?

DAWSON: I was here on business, selling a legal service, which consisted of a listing of prominent lawyers for world-wide referral of legal matters. I ran into a friend of mine, Fletcher Farrell, a prominent Missourian who was the treasurer of Sinclair Oil Company. He was much older than I, of course, but we were friends and he asked why I didn't go to work for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which had been in operation about a year. He was well-known there and recommended me. As a result I was appointed April 27, 1933, and went to work that day in what was known as the Closed Bank Section which handled all of the loans that had been made to banks that had subsequently closed. It was our job to liquidate those loans and collect the money that

 

[3]

the RFC had loaned. Subsequently I was put in charge of the Trouble Section, which had to do with all of the serious loan problems. One of the loans under my supervision was the Dawes Bank (Dawes was vice-president) loan in Chicago, and others of similar nature, all large loans and all very seriously in trouble.

In 1939 I was appointed assistant to the Federal Loan Administrator, Jesse Jones, and served him in that capacity and also when he was Secretary of Commerce. During the period that I was in that job, the defense buildup for World War II began and I was in charge of all personnel for the Federal Loan Administration and the RFC in particular. I increased the size of that organization from 2700 employees to over thirty thousand, and then went in the Army as a private, by choice, having been offered commissions in both the Army and the Navy. I went through basic training in Greensboro, North Carolina,

 

[4]

BTC 10, then made Air Force Officer Candidate School, and graduated from there, after having been elected to the only elective post in the Officer Candidate School, that of Chairman of the Honor Council. As far as I know, 1 was the only cadet who served for two full terms, by election.

I graduated as a second lieutenant and was assigned back to Washington in exactly the same job that I would have had with a major's commission if I had accepted it.

FUCHS: What was that, sir?

DAWSON: That was in the Army Services of Supply, Office of Industrial Personnel. My background had been to a considerable extent in personnel and they wanted me for their industrial program. They had kept their eye on me, and there I was back in the Pentagon, exactly where I didn't want to be.

FUCHS: You were in the Air Force?

 

[5]

DAWSON: Well, that was the Air Corps in those days, part of the Army. The Officer Candidate School was the Air Corps Officer Candidate School. I didn't like being put back in a desk job in Washington, which I had tried to get out of. I managed to get transferred to the Air Transport Command.

I didn't know anything about what the Air Transport Command did; I just wanted to get out of the Pentagon. I was assigned to Headquarters, Air Transport Command, and put in Civilian Personnel again, but it was the Air Force, or Air Corps then, and so I was reasonably satisfied.

Shortly thereafter they organized a Ground Safety Division in the Air Force, and I was placed in charge of that program for the Air Transport Command as a first lieutenant and established a safety record that resulted in 67 percent accident frequency reduction in the

 

[6]

first year. The division subsequently was awarded the first World-Wide Safety Achievement Certificate by the National Safety Council. That was a program in force all over the world and was very effective. I was proud of that job.

Then I was shifted back to Civilian Personnel and placed in charge for the Air Transport Command. I built that operation up from something like three thousand civilian employees to over 110 thousand civilian employees world-wide. The objective was to release military personnel for other duties, especially overseas, by replacing them with civilian employees. That, of course, kept me on the move a good deal and I was discharged finally when peace came, as a major. I went back to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and proceeded to dismantle the 30,000-man organization that I had built up.

I was there about a year when the Chairman

 

[7]

of the Board called me one day and said that the President, who was then President Truman, wanted to see me at the White House. I was quite surprised and didn't know why he wanted to see me. I knew President Truman. I had met him when he came here as Senator, but I didn't know him in Missouri. I said, "What does he want with me?"

He said, "I think he wants you to go to work over there for him."

So, I went knowing full well that I didn't have the qualifications or the ability to be in the White House, but nevertheless, when the President asks for you to come over you go. I talked to him, told him just exactly what I said to you. He said, "Well, I think that you're the man I want," and I went to work August the 6th, 1947 in the White House as Special Executive Assistant to the President, later on the payroll known as Administrative Assistant.

I can stop now and let you ask questions, or you can let me ramble on, whatever you want

 

[8]

to do.

FUCHS: Well, I usually don't interrupt people.

Just to go back a bit, I don't know who your predecessors were in the Air Corps jobs at that time. Did you institute any major type of a change there? You built this Air Transport Command Division up considerably.

DAWSON: The Ground Safety Program was brand new; it had never been in existence before, so I started out from scratch with very little experience and built the organization to a peak of success. It was one of the outstanding programs in the entire Air Force. The demand had not been present for large civilian work forces, but I saw the need for civilian workers who could work in depots, in aircraft maintenance, and do base maintenance, and not take the time of enlisted or officer military personnel. So, I sold that idea to my commanding officer, and we proceeded to recruit large numbers of civilians

 

[9]

which were then available in the war effort and could release military personnel for duties for which they were trained more specially.

FUCHS: Well, had you a Reserve commission, or had you been in ROTC?

DAWSON: I had the two-year basic training course at the University of Missouri in artillery. That does not give you a Reserve commission. My commission came by way of the basic training and Officer Candidate School in the Air Force.

FUCHS: I see. Later on you did get over into the Reserves, is that correct?

DAWSON: Yes. I was asked if I would not stay in the Reserves at the time of demobilization, and said I would. I've remained very active in the Reserve program ever since. I only again accepted the appointment of legislative chairman of the Reserve Officers Association last week, to work on

 

[10]

military programs, Reserve programs in the Congress.

FUCHS: I believe you went ahead and completed your law degree in Washington, is that correct?

DAWSON: I went to night school at George Washington University and graduated, passed the bar in the District of Columbia, at a time when only 38 percent passed. Which was much to my surprise.

FUCHS: Very good, sir.

Well, coming down to the appointment to the White House, was there someone particular you think may have nominated you or brought you to the attention of the President at that time?

DAWSON: I have no idea who it was that may have recommended me to the President. He knew me so it was not a question of his taking on a stranger. It may have been Matt Connelly, his Appointments Secretary, or it may have been John Snyder who was the Secretary of the Treasury,

 

[11]

and who knew me from my work in the RFC, or it may have been a combination of persons. No one ever took the credit or the blame.

FUCHS: How did you happen to meet the President the first time? Do you recall?

DAWSON: He was a Senator here and his secretary was Vic Messall, from Oklahoma. Vic was a good friend of mine; he had been secretary to Frank Lee, a member of Congress from Joplin, Missouri. Things were on a much more relaxed basis then than now. He took me in to meet Senator Truman. I saw him frequently thereafter; went to his office many times and a mutual friendship developed, not of a buddy-buddy type, but one where you have full faith and confidence in the other friend.

FUCHS: Mr. Messall, I had the pleasure of talking with several times and had lunch with him, but I've never been able to get him to sit down for an interview. We finally got some of his papers,

 

[12]

but his health was failing then and I wasn't able to interview him. I'm wondering if you know why he left the employ of Senator Truman at the time?

DAWSON: So far as I know, and I think I know the real reason, he saw an opportunity to go into business for himself. On Government salaries in those days you didn't accumulate very much, so he took advantage of that opportunity and did very well.

FUCHS: Were you acquainted with your predecessor, Mr. Zimmerman, I believe, insofar as liaison management or personnel management went?

DAWSON: Zimmerman was not my predecessor.

FUCHS: He wasn't?

DAWSON: George Schoeneman was my predecessor. He moved over to the Bureau of Internal Revenue as the Director. That had been his career before he went with President Truman. Zimmerman

 

[13]

had been on the White House staff in another role, specially connected with personnel work. My job had a lot more to it than personnel work per se.

FUCHS: Mr. Schoeneman was more in that line...

DAWSON: Yes.

FUCHS: ...and less in the personnel line.

DAWSON: That's right.

FUCHS: I had almost forgotten; he didn't stay there too long did he?

DAWSON: I merged the two jobs into one.

FUCHS: Oh, you did.

DAWSON: And carried on from that point. No, George Schoeneman had not been there very long, and I think his career ambition was to be the Director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue where

 

[14]

he'd climbed the "ladder."

FUCHS: Would you by chance recall your first assignment in the White House?

DAWSON: No, I can't recall my first assignment, but I can tell you one that came very near the beginning, in November, or the latter part of October. Part of my responsibility was to oversee office space in the Executive Branch. I was what you might call the "space czar" for all the Federal establishments. I settled any disputes, and assigned agencies to vacant space, or told them to move, whatever happened to be necessary.

We were very cramped for space in the President's office. Some people were in the old State, War and Navy Building across the street. General Pershing had a suite of offices there. He had been gone many years, but it was a kind of shrine to World War I veterans. The offices were furnished, but nobody used them, and I

 

[15]

thought that we could put them to good use. So I set about exploring the matter and always ran into a roadblock -- you just couldn't touch those offices, they were General Pershing's and that was that.

So, finally I took the bit in my teeth and I went to the Pentagon and I arranged for finer offices that would be maintained in the Military Establishment and staffed by military personnel as a sort of a Pershing museum. I got the space in the Pentagon and ordered that the furniture and so forth be moved out of the old State Building.

That was just before Armistice Day in November of that year, '47, and in those days the American Legion hierarchy and everybody connected with the top level of the American Legion came to town for the ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery. I didn't know that. They had been accustomed to going over to General Pershing's suite of offices

 

[16]

in the State, War and Navy Building and making that their headquarters.

So, when they found out that I had moved the General out, there was all hell to pay. The roof blew off and I thought for sure I'd lost the next election for President Truman, because there was such an outcry about it, I learned a very important lesson, and that was "timing." You have to know when to do something and when not to do something. If I had waited until after Armistice Day nobody would have said a word because they wouldn't have known about it until the next year.

FUCHS: Very good. Did the President get in on any of that action by any chance?

DAWSON: No, he left that all up to me. He didn't pay much attention. I over-magnified it, I suppose, but it was pretty big in my eyes.

I might also say that the only thing we

 

[17]

found of any consequence in the effects of the General that were left in those offices were several trunks full of long underwear.

FUCHS: You still have a lot of your World War II equipment?

DAWSON: Oh, no. The only item I didn't turn back to the Army at the end was my gas mask. Why I didn't, I don't recall, but it was the only thing that has done me absolutely no good since then.

I might go back to General Pershing's rooms in the State, War and Navy Building. In the spring of 1948, the Congress passed the Economic Recovery Act and I was given the chore of setting that up in the absence of an appointed administrator. When Paul Hoffman was appointed Administrator, he was on his way from Japan. I staffed his office with personal secretaries and furniture in General Pershing's office so that

 

[18]

those offices were the nucleus, the beginning of the Economic Cooperation Administration. I'm sure that General Pershing would have been very proud to know that, because the program, in and of itself, was a great success and saved Europe from communism. So, I did a good job I think in that regard, regardless of the fuss.

FUCHS: Did you know Paul Hoffman?

DAWSON: I knew him well, from the first day he arrived in Washington. I met with him that afternoon, he and Tex Moore, his personal attorney, for many years. We met in the East Wing of the White House. I had assembled a staff of key employees for him, all with established records of service in the Government. Also, in the meantime I had arranged space for the ECA in the Miatico Building, which had just been completed. I had all of the offices furnished with equipment, rugs on the floor, pencils sharpened, an international communications network, people

 

[19]

available and ready to run it, once he said that he wanted them. He took everybody that I recommended except one person; that person was the general counsel. I had recommended George Washington, who was the Assistant Solicitor General, an able, fine lawyer. But he took Tex Moore, who was his longtime personal lawyer; he said he would just feel more comfortable with Tex. They got off to a running start, and were a success before the election. That was one of the contributing factors to the President's reelection, because of the successful way the European Recovery Program was started.

FUCHS: That's very interesting.

DAWSON: If that had not been done, Paul Hoffman and a bunch of people that didn't know anything about Government would have been floundering around for twelve months trying to get off the ground.

FUCHS: Very interesting. Did people coming into the

 

[20]

Government into various agencies being set up, often refer to the White House personnel people for assistance? Was it customary?

DAWSON: To a limited degree, but not very much, Really that wasn't our function. There were people that we wanted to see placed, and we recommended them to agencies. However, by and large, the agencies got their own people.

FUCHS: You've been credited, by some of the people we've interviewed, with having systematized the personnel matters in the White House, very successfully, and that a lot of them are still in practice today. Of course, the people didn't go into detail. Could you delineate a little more what they mean?

DAWSON: I think what they said is true, and I'm happy some people have remembered it. The program, through no fault of anybody's, was more or less hit or miss insofar as presidential

 

[21]

appointments was concerned. This was true of management of the executive branch by the White House, because Presidents come and Presidents go. They bring their own people, so people are frequently changing, and especially is this true of political appointees such as I was, and as George Schoeneman was. But I instituted the practice of having every presidential appointee cleared through a full field investigation, by the FBI. I reviewed every one of them. Where there were questions I sometimes went out and made my own investigation to see whether or not the charges were well-founded. This disproved a number of allegations that had been made by people interviewed by the FBI. There was no mistake on the FBI's part; they were reporting what they had been told.

Later on, John Foster Dulles, I believe it was, claimed that he started that practice. That wasn't so at all; it was done under President Truman. We systematized the filing and record-

 

[22]

keeping insofar as potential appointees were concerned. We did it on a geographic basis, on a congressional basis, on a basis of function, so that on almost a moment's notice we could have a hat-full of good candidates. If you wanted somebody from the South we could get somebody from the South. If you wanted somebody for Senator Blank, we could get somebody that he had recommended. Or if you wanted a top-notch banker, we could pick out a top-notch banker that was well-qualified.

I think that plan has carried out very well. Under Eisenhower a man by the name of Willis ran the office, Only a short time ago at a seminar in Kansas City, Bill Hopkins, who was Executive Clerk in the White House, and I were talking. I had run the office single-handedly for a long time with my secretaries. Then Marty Friedman came with me from the Department of the Army. He had been under my command in the Air Transport Command. Marty and I then ran it by

 

[23]

ourselves, and we had just as many appointments to make then as they do now. Then Mr. Willis came in; he ran it by himself for Eisenhower, and they had just as many appointments to make as they do now. Now they have countless people working in those offices doing no more work, and I don't understand how they all keep busy. Maybe it was a good system we started.

FUCHS: Maybe you worked harder.

DAWSON: Well, I think everybody works hard when they go to the White House.

FUCHS: I suppose so; there always seems to be enough to do. I'm sure you were interested in quality and I feel quite certain President Truman was, but you also had to offset the urging of people, especially in Congress, to take their friends. How did you, in the main, offset this pressure from say Senator So and So, if he might have been pushing someone who was, you felt, not

 

[24]

qualified?

DAWSON: Well, let's change that a little bit. I found that the members of Congress recommended good people for the most part, and that it was a decided asset to have their recommendations. There were times when pressures had to be balanced out, because you'd have Senator So and So recommending somebody and the Speaker of the House might be recommending somebody for the same job. It was a matter of diplomacy, walking a tightrope, and things had to be balanced out in the long run. Sometimes you'd do it for this fellow and later on you'd take care of the other fellow's point of view. It's a matter of practicalities. We had no trouble in that regard, but if it were not for the help of Senators and members of the House, the job would be a lot tougher.

FUCHS: Do you ever recall disagreeing with the President, in a diplomatic way of course, on an

 

[25]

appointment where maybe he felt that someone should have a position and you felt that there was someone more qualified?

DAWSON: No, I never had a situation like that. Generally speaking, the President's candidates were always good candidates. The candidates that I would place before him for selection were always good candidates, and you could flip a coin and either one would do a fine job.

FUCHS: How often did you see the President?

DAWSON: Oh. I'd see the President three or four times a day, or half a dozen times a day. My office was immediately above his in the West Wing. He'd call me, and I would run down -- Matt Connelly would call me, so I was in and out of the office all day long for the simple reason that my job had many facets to it, not only personnel.

For example, and this could be the prelude

 

[26]

to the advance work that I did for the President in the '48 election. I was called by the President -- Charlie Ross, the President's Press Secretary was there -- and he said, "Frank Land," (the Imperial Potentate of the Shrine) "has the President coming out to Chicago to make a speech on Thursday afternoon in Soldier's Field at 4 o'clock. They are selling tickets at $5 to $15 a seat with few sales. You go out to Chicago and get that stadium filled." So that, I had to do.

FUCHS: How did you go about that, sir?

DAWSON: Well, that was a little sleight of hand. I found that 4 o'clock Thursday afternoon was not really a popular time for people to take off from work and spend five or ten or fifteen dollars for a seat to hear the President of the United States, so that sales were going slow. The reason for selling the seats was that the Shrine parade was going to wind up at Soldier's

 

[27]

Field and people could have a reserved seat and see the Shrine parade, which was a great attraction. But then after all of that, the President would speak.

I worked with the city Democratic organization in Cook County. We got loudspeaker trucks; they let the schools out; we arranged for some people to get in free to fill up seats; and then there was one last thing I did.

I had found out that the Chicago Tribune had an immense American flag that they used to stretch across the end of the field which was horseshoe shaped. So, I cut off many empty seats at the end with the American flag stretching across, and people weren't aware that the stadium was not filled. The part that was used, was completely filled. When the Shrine parade marched in, I locked the gates and they had to stay there seated in the infield and on the football field, all around where the President would speak, and so

 

[28]

the place was jam-packed full.

FUCHS: How did the President select you for this assignment? Was it Charlie Murphy that sometimes acted as an advance man?

DAWSON: No, Charlie never acted as an advance man.

FUCHS: There was another gentleman, I can't...

DAWSON: No one else acted as an advance man, with one big exception. After the President left office, there were others that did that work, but nobody ever did it except me while he was in office. Oscar Chapman had been advance man until September of 1948, when the President was in California. I took over at that point. Oscar was Secretary of the Interior and just had too many things to do so that he couldn't do everything. I was called, one evening during the 1948 campaign when I was in bed. Matt Connelly said the President wanted me to take over the advance work in Texas, and to get down there that night. I said, "I can't

 

[29]

get down there tonight, and I don't know anything about the job anyway. Can't you get somebody else that can do a better job?"

He said, "No, the President's picked you and you get down there." After some more arguing I went. Up until then they had had great difficulty in turning out crowds. The President had made a swing across the western tier of states in the spring of 1948. People had seen him, but crowds were not good then. You may remember the picture in Life magazine showing the empty sidewalks and no crowds out in Wyoming, and other places.

FUCHS: There was an empty hall in Omaha.

DAWSON: In Omaha the auditorium was just partially filled in the first trip. The Hollywood Bowl was not a success. That's when they called me, and from that point on we never had a meeting that was not crowded and overflowing. This was from E1 Paso, Texas, on through to St. Louis which was the last appearance we made in the

 

[30]

'48 campaign, in Kiel Auditorium.

FUCHS: Did you employ some particular tactics in Texas, which was your first assignment, I gather, in this capacity?

DAWSON: Just hard work there. When I went to Texas and got off the plane at Dallas, I was met by Sam Rayburn and Bob Clark, Tom Clark's brother. Sam Rayburn's brother was also there. The three of them took me down to the Adolphus Hotel and gave me the top floor penthouse suite. I thought I was a pretty big fellow. I discovered that the Texas Democrats were split right down the middle. Wright Morrow was the State Chairman, a fine man, old-line Democrat, but he was not representing the Truman Democrats the way they thought they should be represented. The so-called loyal Truman forces included Sam Rayburn, Tom Clark, Bill Kittrell, and Harry Seay. We found that the wrong people had been invited to every

 

[31]

meeting in Texas. The President was to spend two days in Texas on the train. We found that the Truman regulars, loyalists, were not included in any plans or preparation at all. So their feelings were hurt, and I had to take care of that so that there wouldn't be a division wherever the President went. I had to countermand Wright Morrows instructions, and put the Truman forces into the places of prominence. I did that all from Dallas by telephone, with the help of Bill Kittrell and Harry Seay. They knew everybody in Texas.

The President's first stop was El Paso. I worked with the county chairman. The railroad station was at the end of a long street that had another street coming in at an angle. The President spoke from the back platform of the train. When he arrived, both of those streets were filled with crowds backed up for two city blocks trying to see the President and wanting to hear him speak.

 

[32]

From that point the trip was a succession of personal triumphs. The President spoke everyplace where there was a handful, even out on the plains. I remember we stopped at one little place; there must have been two hundred and fifty or three hundred people there. The President spoke from the back platform of the train. A cowboy was on a bucking horse showing off for the crowd and trying to act smart. The President didn't pay too much attention, but everybody else was bothered by this fellow. So the President, after he was through, got down off the platform, went over to this fellow on his horse, and took the horse's mouth and opened it, as only someone raised on a farm can do. He looked at his teeth and he said, "Your horse is eight years old and he's not a very good horse," The fellow rode off with his tail between his legs while the crowd roared.

FUCHS: That's pretty good. While we're on the '48

 

[33]

campaign we might as well go ahead with some of the matters there. One was recounted in Irwin Ross's book, The Loneliest Campaign, in which he told the story that you have recalled about Ed Flynn. I wonder if you could put that in your own words here? And I might have a question about that.

Sarah Delano Roosevelt Park was the site.

DAWSON: Yes. We appeared in New York City, where traditionally the Democratic candidate always has appeared the last week of the campaign. The headquarters of the National Committee were moved to the Biltmore Hotel in those days during the Presidential campaigns. I had organized a big motorcade that started out with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers rally in the garment district -- Dave Dubinsky's and Jake [Jacob S.] Potofsky's organization. They were leaders of the Liberal Party. From there we continued to City Hall and wound up around dusk at Sarah

 

[34]

Delano Roosevelt Park, which was in the nature of a dedication.

There were open touring cars in those days. The President got out of his car to go over to a little platform in the park to make his speech. Ed Flynn just sat in the car. He wasn't going to get out. I said, "Mr. Flynn, you ought to go with the President, and sit on the platform," or words to that effect. He said he didn't think he would go. Well I said, "Mr. Flynn, it's important for you to go." The upshot was that he got out of the car, went over on the platform, and stood up with the President. In my mind, he didn't want to be embarrassed by appearing with a losing candidate. But he went nevertheless.

FUCHS: But he did it by persuasion?

DAWSON: Yes, I twisted his arm.

FUCHS: You took his arm, considerable persuasion.

 

[35]

And then another visit was to New York City on the 28th and 29th of October that year, and I believe you were advance man there.

DAWSON: That's right. The same visit, the same trip.

FUCHS: You recalled once before about the Madison Square Garden speech. Would you care to relate that here so we can get everything in one place?

DAWSON: When I got to New York to do the advance work, I found that the place where the President was to speak, and traditionally, was Madison Square Garden. The Democratic Party state organization had not had enough faith and confidence in President Truman's chances to engage Madison Square Garden. It had to be engaged about January, for an October appearance, you see. The Liberal Party, however, had reserved the Garden for that night. As I say, Dave

 

[36]

Dubinsky, Alex Rose, and Jake Potofsky were the heads of the Liberal Party. As a result I could not work with the Democratic organization, because the Liberal Party had the hall. I will say that the Liberal Party cooperated in every way, but they had sold tickets on a reserved seat basis, to their local unions, and the locals in turn had either sold the tickets or passed them out to the members. But there was no real motivating force for any member after he had gone home, to come back from Brooklyn, or Queens or the Bronx, or wherever he lived, get on a bus and drive in and occupy a seat in Madison Square Garden. After he had gotten home and taken off his shoes and was comfortable, he could listen to the radio. And that's what they were all going to do.

In addition, by selling seats on a reserved seat basis, they had had to pay a tax on each ticket sold. And Mrs. Malloly who ran Madison Square Garden in those days -- a beautiful Irish

 

[37]

woman, and very efficient, would not let me open the doors and get the public in, because she said that people that had reserved seats will come, and if they don't get a seat, they will get mad at the Garden. So she said she wouldn't do it. Furthermore she said, "Everybody that comes in has to pay a tax, and I can't collect tax from everybody that comes in off the street. I won't do it."

Well, we were in a real quandary. The Garden in those days would hold roughly 16,000 people. I didn't know what to do, but finally I won Mrs. Malloly over and she agreed at a certain time to open the gates of Madison Square Garden and let everybody in. So, I made it a big point to get people behind the barricades that were holding the crowds back, ready to rush across and fill up the Garden when the gates were opened. We had a crowd there, again with the cooperation of the city and state organizations of both the Liberal and Democratic Parties, because by that time the Democratic Party leaders

 

[38]

were getting a little agitated. They thought that Truman might win, and were willing to do a little work. Nowadays they all say, "Oh we knew he was going to win - knew it all along," and take credit for it, but that wasn't the fact at all. You could have shot a cannon down the corridor of the Biltmore Hotel at the Democratic headquarters and wouldn't hit a soul the week before the election.

At any rate, I had a plan worked out whereby it would be plan A, or B or C if certain things happened. I was eating dinner with the President at the Biltmore Hotel and was called from the Garden and told there were very few people. I put Plan A into effect. I excused myself, drove over to the Garden and saw the place was half empty. Dave Dubinsky was there; the lights were blazing down from the highest balcony. I walked up there, ran and saw -- there were no people at all. I said, "Mr. Dubinsky, you've got to open the gates, there isn't anybody

 

[39]

here." He wouldn't believe me.

I took him by the arm up to the balconies. I suppose that was the only time anybody ever did that to Dave Dubinsky. He saw few spectators but several photographers. We opened the gates, and the crowd came in. I ordered the top lights turned off, and then you couldn't see from the floor of the Madison Square Garden whether anybody was in the balconies or not, so you had the effect. But I filled them up.

Then, to make a long story short, we had a big motorcade and marching parade coming over from the Biltmor