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William K. Divers Oral History Interview, April 21, 1970

Oral History Interview with
William K. Divers

Member of the staff of the Federal Emergency Public Works Administration, 1933-37; member of the legal staff of the U.S. Housing Authority, 1938; regional director of fifteen midwest states, U.S. Housing Authority, 1939-40; assistant general counsel and special assistant to the director of the defense housing division, Federal Works Agency, 1941; regional representative of the National Housing Agency, 1942-43; special assistant to the National Housing Expeditor, 1946; assistant administrator of the National Housing Agency, 1947; chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, 1947-53, and member, 1953-54.

Washington, D.C.
April 21, 1970
By Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Divers 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 September 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

 



Oral History Interview with
William K. Divers

Washington, D.C.
April 21, 1970
By Jerry N. Hess

[322]

HESS: All right, to begin today sir, in one of your scrapbooks I found a reference to a letter you wrote to J. Howard McGrath on April 11, 1952 concerning his resignation and I'll quote: "I am disappointed that you are no longer Attorney General of the United States, but I admire you for having the courage of your convictions." And the scrapbook also contains Mr. McGrath's note of thanks in reply to you dated May 1st. What do you recall about the events surrounding the resignation of J. Howard McGrath?

DIVERS: Oh, I think there was some difference of opinion between him and other members of the Cabinet. I don't remember really what the situation was, do you?

HESS: Well, it was the questionnaire by Newbold

[323]

Morris. Newbold Morris had been called down from New York City and had been given, or worked up, a questionnaire on financial matters of a good many members in the Government and they were going to send the questionnaire around and various people in Government did not like that. Do you recall that, Newbold Morris?

DIVERS: Yeah, I recall something about it. I wasn't familiar with the details because Raymond Foley, who was then at the Housing and Home Finance Agency, was very strict about any outside interests of anybody in his organization. He didn't believe in accepting gifts from anyone, or free trips, or . . .

HESS: Hotel bills or anything like that.

DIVERS: . . . family accommodations at the Eden Roc for year after year like Senator [Birch] Bayh had just admitted he accepted. So, we weren't

[324]

particularly interested in this situation. I do think that with such things, that it's better to make them prospective rather than retroactive, and I had the impression that that was Howard McGrath's principal objection to it. In other words, that he thought that after men had been appointed by the president, qualified and possibly confirmed by the Senate, and had been performing for several years, that it was out of order to bring somebody in from the outside to probe into their past almost. And I doubt whether Morris' questionnaire, if it was used, ever accomplished anything. I don't recall any scandals in the Truman administration, there were a couple of little things that were blown up out of all proportion, but, generally speaking, I think it was one of the most honest and conscientious administrations in our national history.

HESS: We mentioned in our last interview that you worked

[325]

with J. Howard McGrath in connection with the Long Beach case. Were there other occasions were there many occasions when you worked with the Attorney General?

DIVERS: No. No, it was primarily confined to litigation like the Long Beach case. That was the principal one I remember, but we did have conferences from time to time. For example, establishing policies with reference to the actions that the Federal Home Loan Bank Board would take when our examiners might find evidence of violation of Federal law, but some of my predecessors had taken it upon themselves to have the staff evaluate the evidence and decide whether or not it should be sent over to the Attorney General. On the other hand, I thought that that was the Attorney General's responsibility and his and he was more expert in the field. And our Board, at my request adopted a policy

[326]

of sending all evidence of violation of Federal law over to the Attorney General and let him decide whether there should be a prosecution or not.

HESS: Now, J. Howard McGrath had been Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1948 at the time that he was a Senator from Rhode Island. Do you recall anything in particular about him or were you particularly acquainted with him at this time?

DIVERS: No, I was not closely acquainted with him, but I did know him, because his brother Russell McGrath, was then and is now, a managing officer of a savings and loan association, a Federal savings and loan association in Rhode Island. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure but what I believe Howard McGrath was the managing officer of that association before he became Senator.

[327]

And, in any event, Howard McGrath was came to savings and loan meetings with his brother Russell, and it was there that I met them and their wives, and I really have been closer to Russell McGrath than I have to Howard although Howard did have a home up near Woodrow Wilson High School here in the District which was just a few blocks from where we lived.

HESS: And also in your scrapbooks I found an invitation to you to attend a reception at the White House on May 19th, 1952. Would you recall if you went to that particular reception? Why I ask, this is not too long after Mr. Truman had said at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, that he was not going to run for--that was on March 29th and this was at a period of time that they were having a little difficulty getting someone firmed up for the Democratic nomination. Do you recall if you went that time?

[328]

DIVERS: Well, if I had an invitation I'm sure I went.

HESS: Do you recall the President saying anything about the difficulty they were having getting someone to run for the Democratic nomination?

DIVERS: No, I don't.

HESS: Were you present at the Jefferson Jackson Day dinner at the National Guard Armory that night when he announced that he was not going to be a candidate for re-election in '52?

DIVERS: I certainly was. My wife and I were there and we had I'd made arrangements for a substantial number of people . . .

HESS: Your usual large group.

DIVERS: Yeah, And when Mr. Truman made his

[329]

announcement, there was a pause, a shock. I mean you could just feel the shock going through the crowd and then there were spontaneous cries of, "No! No! No!" all over the auditorium and then there was a buzz of people that I doubt whether they heard the rest of what he had to say almost. It was a memorable evening. I recognize the reasons why he didn't want to run. I think that the principal reason was Mrs. Truman, but I still feel that he would have made an excellent President for another four years.

HESS: After his announcement that he did not intend to run, who do you think would be a strong, or the strongest candidate that the Democrats could put up that year? Do you recall?

DIVERS: I suppose Adlai Stevenson.

HESS: What did you know about Adlai Stevenson at

[330]

that time?

DIVERS: Very little. I wasn't even acquainted with him.

HESS: What was your opinion of Mr. Stevenson after you became more familiar with his background?

DIVERS: Oh, I thought he had a nice personality, and I think that he probably would have made a better than average President. He leaned a little bit more toward the intellectual side than President Truman did, but I guess that the "intelligentsia" should be represented once in a while.

HESS: Were you present at any time that he spoke during the campaign? Did you go to the convention?

DIVERS: No, I didn't go to the convention, but no, I don't--well, I'm sure that I attended affairs

[331]

where he was present, but I don't remember what they were.

HESS: Do you have any other recollections of the campaign of 1952?

DIVERS: No, I don't. I don't have much recollection of that campaign. My only recollection (I don't think I've said this before in our discussions), my only recollection was after the campaign. Well, in the first place, after Mr.--I know I told you about taking my family over to the White House, my daughters, that was after Mr. Truman announced that he was not going to run again, because he had all the cares of the world on his shoulders prior to the day that he announced that he was not going to run. After he announced he was not going to run I didn't feel that I would be imposing on him if I took some of his time, otherwise it was my--I made an effort to relieve him of as much as I could, not bother him.

[332]

HESS: Do you think he appeared--did he appear more relaxed after his announcement, when you saw him?

DIVERS: Yes, I think he did. I think that he was beginning to feel the weight go off of his shoulders.

I started to tell you about after the election, and when President Truman was leaving the White House and going back to Missouri. He went on the B&O Railroad, went through Silver Spring, and John Carroll, Senator John Carroll and his wife Dorothy from Colorado were on the same train. I mean the Trumans knew they wer