Oral History Interview with
Clerk, U.S. Housing Corporation, 1918-33; Assistant Director of Management, U.S. Employment Service, 1933-34; with the Social Security Board, 1934-40; assisted in the organization of the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, 1940-52; Director, Office of Budget and Management, 1942-52; and Administrative Assistant Secretary of Labor, 1952-62.
James E. Dodson
August 7, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
[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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 August, 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
James E. Dodson
August 7, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: To begin, will you give me a little bit of your personal background; where were you born and a little bit about your career?
DODSON: Well, I'm one of the few government people that was born in Washington, D.C. and really have lived here all my life. As far as education is concerned, I was well, forced to go to work at a very young age, fourteen years of age. I graduated from the eighth grade in those days. And then I followed night school at night time and I went to, oh, Strayer's
Business College and Steuart's Business College, and finally completed a course in accounting. At the same time I used to play in dance bands so that I had a daytime job, went to school for two hours, and then played music for about three hours whenever we could get a job. But this all enabled me to live, because in those days I started as a messenger boy in the Department of Labor, in the U.S. Housing Corporation, at $528 a year. So, other work was necessary whenever you could get it.
I had the good fortune though even when I started at $528 a year I was attached to the office of the president of the Housing Corporation who was Otto M. Eidlitz, who was a dollar-a-year man. I was in and out of his office. I saw some of his methods of operations and I started learning from that very
first day on. And as I always had the good fortune of being in contact with the head of whatever office I was in, I really got an education from top level operations while in low appointments. And while at one time I used to feel an inferiority complex for not having a formal college degree; after getting years of experience I decided I would not trade my years of experience for a college degree.
In 1933 I can remember having a Harvard graduate and one from the University of California working for me for $1620 a year, so I got over my inferiority complex.
I should go back and say that my first appointment was with the U.S. Housing Corporation which was charged with the responsibility during the First World War, of building housing and living accommodations plus providing transportation to the munitions factories, shipyards, and etc., for war workers. And
that corporation, well, operated at a real lively pace for the last year of the First World War and then just got really underway when the war ended. Well, they had completed about ten thousand houses and they operated the government hotels for war workers which was located on the Union Station Plaza, several other projects of that type over the country, so that it went into a liquidation phase. Having started as a messenger boy, I had been promoted several times, but I also got promotions during liquidation. I moved up until I reached the title of assistant treasurer.
When the Housing Corporation finally got down to being practically liquidated I went with the United States Employment Service in 1933. That was when the Wagner-Peyser Act was passed which provided for a Federal-state system of public employment offices. I worked
in the Employment Service until it was transferred to the Social Security Board. In other words, the Employment Service was merged with Unemployment Compensation and there was a great amount of jockeying around at that time whether the Employment Service should stay independent or be merged, and one of the arguments being that it would be submerged if it was merged with the Unemployment Service.
Well, during my employment with the Employment Service I worked as an Assistant Director in Charge of Administration and Finance. I worked under, directly under, W. Frank Persons who was the head of the agency, and I consider that he was one of the strongest administrators that I have ever worked for and I learned a great deal.
Then after the Employment Service was
transferred to the Social Security Board I received a request as to whether or not I would want to go back to the Labor Department to help organize the Wage and Hour Division. So, I went back to the Labor Department, transferred back to the Labor Department, because well, I didn't like board type of action, I liked to work for a single administrator. General [Philip B.] Fleming headed up the Wage and Hour Division at that time, and it turned out to be a very enjoyable, well, decision, to transfer back. I was the Assistant Director in Charge of Administration and Management of the Wage and Hour Division and I stayed with that until during the Second World War we moved it to New York, and Frances Perkins, then Secretary of Labor, and she asked me to stay with the
Wage and Hour Division because they were losing so many employees, and would I stay with it, and then she would give me a job in her office when she had settled the Wage and Hour Division in New York.
So, this is how I ended up in the Secretary's office and remained in the Secretary's office all the way through my work career in the Labor Department. And so I worked under all the Secretaries of Labor since Frances Perkins, with the exception of Mr. [George P.] Schultz and the present Secretary [James D.] Hodgson, although I now have an appointment in the Department as an Executive Reservist with him.
HESS: Let me ask you a few questions about that then.
HESS: What do you recall, what kind of men were the -- and we can't say men can we always, because of Miss Perkins, but let's start back with Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of Labor who was William B. Wilson. What do you recall about him?
DODSON: Well, he always had a reputation of being a very nice gentleman. I was just a young lad then and didn't work in his office, so I'm really not qualified to say other than in general, he had a good reputation throughout the Department.
HESS: And then serving President [Warren G.] Harding was James J. Davis.
DODSON: Well, James J. Davis, again, was a pretty nice person, and one of the most interesting things about Secretary Davis was that he was also one of the leaders of the Loyal Order of Moose, and it wasn't long before we had professional canvassers going through the Department requesting you to join the Loyal Order of Moose.
HESS: One of the requirements of the job?
DODSON: Well, it wasn't exactly a requirement, but certainly a lot of people in the Department did join the Loyal Order of Moose. I didn't join. But, again though, Davis I would say was a well-liked Secretary of Labor as far as the employees of the Department were concerned, and I'm not qualified to give anything on his policy determinations.
HESS: And he also served for President [Calvin] Coolidge and he was the first Secretary of Labor for President [Herbert] Hoover, and then William N. Doak came in as Secretary of Labor for Mr. Hoover.
DODSON: Well, Doak, and still I'm at the working level, and Doak was not as well-known at the working level as I would say that others that we've talked about, but I know nothing really of any detriment against Doak. It's just that
he wasn't as close to the employees as the other Secretaries.
HESS: Do you recall any of the plans that he may have tried to implement since he was there during the early years of the depression?
DODSON: No, I do not. The Department was fairly stagnant in those days. Immigration Service was the biggest bureau and that was still there at that time, and the Department of Labor did not enjoy any, as I recall it, any real aggressive movements under the other Secretaries and up through the Doak administration. It did not start to move until the so-called New Deal came into the picture and that would have been under Frances Perkins.
HESS: That's right. Tell me what you recall, what are your recollections of the days right
after March the 4th of 1933, the day that Mr. Roosevelt was inaugurated.
DODSON: Well, one of the things that I guess most government employees, old employees would recall, would be we had an economy act and it placed a 10 or 15 percent reduction in our salaries. It prevented both husband and wife from working and we had considerable drives to save all kinds of, oh, supply items, to even -- we got letters on Gem clips and saving that sort of thing and to check your wastebasket.
HESS: Don't waste the paper clips.
DODSON: Oh, yes. We were under constant pressure in those days to make savings. And in 1933 the relief program started and got under way and the Labor Department started to really expand because it was assigned lots of
responsibility in connection with placements on relief programs, placements into the...
HESS: PWA [Public Works Administration].
DODSON: ...the cleaning of wooded areas by young men that went into the woods, what did we call them.
HESS: CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps]?
DODSON: CCC yes. We had a lot of responsibility in connections with the CCC and in that connection and later on in years, Miss Perkins thought that the Department of Labor should have the minutes of the meetings of the CCC. She had been on the Board or committee that guided the CCC and she said there were two file cabinets of minutes that just had a world of information. If the country ever got into a problem again, why, some of that information would be valuable.
So, she assigned me the duty of trying to get that -- get those two file cabinets of records transferred to the Labor Department. They soon became valuable and the agency that had them wouldn't release them. It was then the, I believe SSA, now the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare agency that had the records and they wouldn't...
HESS: Wouldn't give them up.
DODSON: They wouldn't give them up. I don't know whether they made any use of them during the current period or not, but one thing about Miss Perkins, when she made a decision, she looked ten years ahead, "What effect is this going to have?" And this is something that I don't have a feeling happens today. And I said something about I learned a lot from W. Frank Persons who was a strong-armed
administrator of the Employment Service. I also learned an awful lot working for Miss Perkins.
HESS: How would you rate her? Where would you place her on the scale of the Secretaries of Labor that you have known?
DODSON: I would put her and Jim [James P.] Mitchell as the best Secretaries of Labor, having an unselfish feeling with regard to their decisions, but thinking what was really good for the country. And I have never worked for anyone that thought so broadly ahead in the effects of things as Frances Perkins. Jim Mitchell was a real good administrator. Now, I'm talking one Democrat and one Republican, but Jim Mitchell was a real good administrator.
And this is one thing too in general: I found out in all my career in the Department
of Labor it didn't matter who was in office, whether it was Democrat or Republican, the Department of Labor's programs in general were the same, but there would be a degree as to how far they would go or how far, well, expansion.
HESS: Could you give me an illustration?
DODSON: Well, a very simple illustration is in connection with the Fair Labor Standards Act. Maybe the Republicans would indicate that the minimum wage should be $1.40 and the Democrats would say $1.50. And it might be that we would have a little more success in getting, under the Democratic administration, a little more generous appropriation for inspectors under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But that's a simple example of when I say it's degrees. But as far as having a safety program
in industry, both parties want it, both parties recommended the legislation.
As far as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, neither party interfered as far as I know with the results of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And they were all for a good, clean Bureau of Labor Statistics. And you can go through the various bureaus in the Department and -- well, take apprenticeship, the Democrats and Republicans both have been very friendly towards apprenticeship training, and so right down the line the Labor Department in my thinking hasn't been affected by tremendous changes of policy. It's degree of what you're doing, how fast do you go along. I'll say this, that back in the Roosevelt days, and the Truman days, the Bureau of the Budget was a much tougher organization than it was in later years.
HESS: To get your appropriations through?
DODSON: Yes, to get your estimate through to go to Capitol Hill. And also the examinations on Capitol Hill were much rougher in those days of your budget requests.
HESS: Were you one of those that took the Budget to -- took the estimates to the Bureau of the Budget?
DODSON: Yes, I used to, from Frances Perkins' day on. This goes for all the Secretaries. I would...
HESS: Who would you work with when you would go to the Bureau of the Budget? Now, Harold Smith was Mr. Truman's first Director of the Bureau of the Budget and he was Mr. Roosevelt's last. Did you work with Mr. Harold Smith?
DODSON: Well, you would only get to the Budget Bureau Director when you had real serious difference of...
HESS: At the lower level.
DODSON: Decisions that came out of the examining level. You see they would have a small crew of men, and some women, that would examine your budget estimates and they'd hold hearings and if you weren't happy with the results that you got at that level, then you would make an appeal, and then usually it would be the Secretary and myself that would go over and it would just be a little private hearing with the Budget Director.
HESS: Who was the first Budget Director that you worked with, do you recall?
DODSON: [Charles Gates] Dawes was the one that used
to send out the notices on the Gem clips and so forth. And then Danny [Daniel W.] Bell who had risen up from the ranks, he was a mighty fine Budget Director. It seems like the people that come up from the grassroots (and maybe I’m prejudiced because I came up that way), have a greater understanding. Now you didn’t always get what you wanted...
HESS: But at least you got it through.
DODSON: You got some kind of explanation. Now you had asked me earlier about handling the budget. In the Department of Labor the bureaus would submit their budget estimates to my office and my staff would examine them and see whether or not (and I used this term all the way through), whether it had “sales talk.” If it didn’t have sales talk, why there’s no need in going along with it. But
prior to my office appraisal of it, I'd have a little time with the Secretary and we'd just go down the bureaus in a very general way. In other words, "is this a good year to try to get some more money for accident prevention, or is it a good year to, well, expand the Wage and Hour Division?" And I'd get the Secretary's general feeling. Then, as to the amounts that would go to the Bureau of the Budget, they pretty much left that up to me. The bureau chief would have to appeal that over my head to the Secretary. And this went on all the way through, all the way to my end in the Department, even through [Arthur] Goldberg. In the years of handling the budget, I had made friends on Capitol Hill on both sides of the aisle, and this is what helped me with staying on with all the Secretaries and getting along
with them, because I could talk to the Republican or to the Democrat whoever was necessary, and I had a good idea what they would go for and there was no need of bumping our heads against the wall. And so -- well, I don't want to get into too much detail of that unless you want -- you ask any question you want.
HESS: That's fine. We're doing fine.
One question on Mr. Harold Smith: What kind of a man did you find him to work with?
DODSON: I think I had only two meetings with Harold Smith and I'm trying to -- I can't quite recall, but I went with the Secretary both times, and I can't recall any time getting into what might be called a real down to earth argument with any of those, because I used the philosophy and I tried to sell it to the Secretaries,
"You have to sell this thing."
HESS: You don't force it upon them.
DODSON: Yeah, the reaction is usually negative when you try to force it. And so, I used selling and I'm a firm believer that governmental administration is selling. I don't care what you're doing, you've got to sell it to the public and -- I mean if it's the Cabinet officer and he wants to do something, he's got to sell his program to the public. And the public, I mean to include the AF of L, manufacturer's association, Chambers of Commerce, and so forth. So, you're always selling in government and if you don't sell you don't last long.
HESS: On that subject, did you often have the unions coming in for conferences?
DODSON: Well, not too much on the budget, but in later years, about the last ten years I was there, they would come in to say they wanted to be helpful. Some of them could be helpful and some of them couldn't.
HESS: Who could and who couldn't?
DODSON: Well, they would have their legislative representatives come in and as they're still in office I don't want to use names, some of them are. They would have their legislative representatives come in and get a run-down from me about what our budget consisted of, our request, what the increases were for and so forth and then they would visit the Appropriations Committee people and talk with them about the budget. Well, I happened to know a couple of Congressmen on our committee disliked some of the legislative representatives, and
I felt that it wouldn't be of any good for them to visit the Congressmen, but they always wanted to go, so we cooperated, we'd give them information. And finally, it got around to the time that, let's see, oh, Goldberg, I told him I said, "It's no good for those legislative people to go up and visit these men. You've got to get somebody higher up." They would go up also and read off a statement before the committee in committee meetings, but as I say, these guys kind of had a diluted effect on some of our committee members. I said, "You've got to get somebody right at the top of the AF of L to go up there and make the presentation, then it'll mean something." So, Goldberg did visit the AF of L and he got the second man over there under George Meany, [William F.] Schnitzler, and Schnitzler went up (this was my last year),
and I'd been fighting fort this all along because I said, "You've got to get somebody higher," but also it's more important -- I won't say it's more important than getting the very top of the unions to go up and testify for the Labor Department, it's important to get your support coming from leaders in the Congressman's home district. And if we could get somebody in the Congressman's home district to call him, it meant something to the Congressman, that was more weight than getting the manufacturer's association or Chamber of Commerce, anybody, going...
HESS: Were the unions helpful in getting letters and phone calls from their home district?
DODSON: Well, we and they -- yes, they did get some.
HESS: What were the principal ways you arranged this?
DODSON: Well, I worked this more though through our regional directors and their friends.
HESS: Right in the Department.
DODSON: Yes. Of course, and I don't want to put this all on the union basis because we had a lot of support from other people at times when we went for this support, but everybody associates unions with the Labor Department. This is one of the things that Secretaries have had to say, that is it's not a department for just the unions, it's a department for all workers.
But you take a regional director for the Wage and Hour Division, for the Apprenticeship Service, Employment Service, they would know the labor people in their area. So, I might call them on the phone and say, "See if you can get so and so to get in touch with
this Congressman." Now, of course, on your Appropriations Committee as a rule you've only got about seven or eight Congressmen and if you can control your subcommittee you're 90 percent through, maybe even 95 percent through. And so, this was the way we worked it.
Unfortunately for a number of years (this goes back to the Truman administration), we had southern Congressmen that headed up the committee for the Labor Department; Judge [Malcolm C.] Tarver from Georgia, Congressman [Butler Black] Hare from South Carolina, and you just had to, on a personal basis, kind of win those people over. One time we made the mistake (we were just carrying out our duty), of investigating the Candlewick Bedspread industry in the south, we found a number of people underpaid and caused them to
pay back money due workers. Well, we caught hell at appropriation hearing time on that, and it cost us money. And then there's the...
HESS: They didn't like it, they thought it was meddling did they?
DODSON: Well, we were hitting their constituents.
HESS: The employers of the people and they were having to pay out more money.
DODSON: Yes, they were complaining to the Congressmen. This involved a couple of southern Congressmen that were in influential positions, you know, but it was something we had to do, we were just carrying out the law, but it cost us money that year.
And let's see, getting into the -- well, during the Roosevelt administration (now you
wanted some stories on that), why Mrs. Roosevelt was very active and she fostered several projects down in West Virginia for youth trying to help them. Of course, unemployment was in the picture, and she was trying to help them get trained and get jobs.
One day she called Mr. Persons direct, he was a presidential appointee, but he still was in the Department of Labor and under the Secretary of Labor, and she called him direct to come over and have luncheon at the White House. And he was quite inflated at being invited over, so he went over. They had a nice luncheon. I know the story pretty well. (That's second hand in this incident.) They had a nice luncheon and then before the luncheon was over she said to Mr. Persons, "I want you to give preference to these children on the..." (I don't know whether she used
the word preference or not, but that's what it meant), to these young people that were in her projects, that she wanted a good showing of placements.
Mr. Persons being a strong administrator and a very honest type person, he told her he said, "Our policy is to refer the best qualified worker." Well, he left the White House a little bit roughed up.
Well, then I got the other part of the story from, well, Secretary Perkins, that the request came from the White House for the removal of Mr. Persons. He had been a most successful man in getting the Employment Service functioning during the relief days when they had to do all the registering of workers and related functions. He was relieved of his duties.
I met Mrs. Roosevelt, she had been over
for lunch in the Department. She was a good friend of Miss Perkins, and we had a little dining room for the top brass. And so I had lunch one day down there with her, she could talk, she was very intelligent, but she had a little personal preference there that she carried a little far, and then it cost a man his job, fired him.
Going back to the Employment Service time, let's see...
HESS: That was from '33 to '39, according to Who's Who, right?
DODSON: Yes. Yes, that would be as good a record as any on it.
After Mr. Persons left a man by the name of [William H.] Stead took over. But then shortly afterwards we were transferred to the Social Security Board. But, I wanted to
tell you, before the Employment Service was transferred to the Social Security Board, Truman was selected -- well, first let me tell you that the Employment, U.S. Employment Service was to organize and operate a state and Federal system of employment offices. We were given four million dollars and was distributed according to population, and the states when they matched that money, would get that money and we would set certain standards and so forth for the states to operate. Well, that law was passed in the first part -- June 6, 1933 I think it was. And then the relief program came upon us and some states didn't even have an employment service and also one of our provisions for a state to qualify for this money was that they should operate a merit system and too many states had no merit system, so it was a little
slow getting going.
When the relief program came into the picture, well, we had to quickly organize what we called the National Reemployment Service and this was operated and paid for strictly from Federal funds, but it supplemented state employment services wherever they were, and where there was no state employment service, it set up a Reemployment Service so that people -- there was a referral arrangement made, and while changes were made several times we practically referred all the people to the CWA or PWA projects. They would have to be registered with the Employment Service or the National Reemployment Service and then we would refer them. Of course, if we got a job that was not in the relief program we referred them to that.
Well, now in Missouri, Mr. Truman was
selected to be the man to head up the National Reemployment Service.
And going back to show you how quickly things got under way, Mr. Persons and one aid, Walter Burr, went up and rented a room up in the Mayflower Hotel and made long distance calls all over the country, and in two days they had the heads of the National Reemployment Service agreed upon in all the states in the country. And this organization really got under way very fast. And also there was plenty of employees for -- once they got ahead and got started, plenty of people to take the jobs in the Employment Service. So, in thirty days we must have had six thousand. I know we did. Six or eight thousand people on the payroll.
Well, getting back to Missouri, Truman was made head of the National Reemployment
Service and that came under the state labor department. In a good many places the Re-employment Service operated under the state labor departments, and this is an interesting point I think in connection with your main objective.
Edna May Cruzen was then commissioner of labor for the State of Missouri and she would come to Washington from time to time. I had some authority for allocating funds for the hiring of people for the National Reemployment Service. Sitting at my desk one day, she told me, she said, "Mr. Dodson," she said, "the National Reemployment Service is going to elect Truman to the Senate."
Their policy in those days was every time they referred a person to a CWA or PWA project they received a postal card signed by Mr. Truman or bearing his name. That is what she
told me and sure enough he did end up in the Senate. I've never forgotten that conversation that we had. She's quite a -- I think her job was political too, I know it was political. And you see she was behind Truman becoming Senator.
And then when Truman became Senator I had several contacts with him, but one time we were having a little trouble and so I told Miss Perkins, I said, "I think you should go up and talk to Senator Truman."
And so she said, "All right, we'll get an appointment," and she said for me to come along.
So, I went with her to see Mr. Truman. I won't forget this because he was -- there was a sculptor there and he was sitting for his bust that was being made. He immediately told Miss Perkins, he said, "You didn't have to
come up here. If you had just given me a phone call I would have come right down to your office."
Well, anyway we talked it over with him and then on several occasions we visited him to get him interested in some things that might be troublesome as far as the Labor Department was concerned. So, he was what we -- we considered, a friend of the Labor Department.
HESS: Do you recall the subjects that you discussed with him other than the one you mentioned?
DODSON: They would always be in connection with some phase of the appropriations, but specifically I don't recall.
Oh, in those early relief days, and this is something I don't know how employees would react to today, but there was one time this
National Reemployment Service ran out of funds, we got allocations of money from Harry Hopkins. He had the big pot of gold, and we would have to go to him to get money. One payday we didn't have money to pay over six thousand people and -- but those people kept on the job and worked right straight through and we were about two weeks getting straightened out with the relief organization to get the money. And this is one of the times (a little statement of ego on my part), but I was in my twenties and in those days young people didn't do as much as they do today. Miss Perkins called up Harry Hopkins and made an appointment with him for me to see him to get the money -- to talk to him about the money. So, I felt quite elated at that young age going over to see Hopkins.
HESS: A great deal of responsibility.
DODSON: Yes. Fortunately I got the money, so the people got paid off two paydays in one. But it was nip and tuck, and, as I say, I often wonder what the present employee's reaction would be to a situation of that kind. And further, the Economy Act, when the government was in debt and not having taxes coming in, we got a cut. Now, we're constantly going in debt, but we keep raising the wages, and this just doesn't seem like good business to me.
HESS: Now did you often see Mr. Roosevelt himself?
DODSON: I -- with President Roosevelt I guess I -- well they used to have a reception for government officials at the White House once a year, and I think I went to a couple of those with President Roosevelt, while he was President. And I would be sometimes a prop on the stage.
I call it a prop on the stage. They would be having, oh, some affair, and I would just get to meet him, but as far as having any real day to day business with President Roosevelt, I didn't. I did not have it. But...
HESS: Most of the direct contacts there carried on by Secretary Perkins?
DODSON: Yes, definitely by Secretary Perkins. And then in that connection, she was very close to President Roosevelt, and when it came to naming people in the labor field, in the Social Security field, her weight was the heaviest of any I'm sure. Take Arthur Altmeyer that was made head of the Social Security Board. Arthur Altmeyer was Assistant Secretary in the Labor Department, but prior to that he was Secretary to the Wisconsin Labor Commission and she brought him from Wisconsin here because Wisconsin was a
state that always seemed to have something a little ahead in the labor field. And so she brought him in and he worked with her on the Social Security legislation while he was Assistant Secretary -- in developing the Social Security law. Then he went over to become the chairman of the Social Security Board. You see in the -- no, I think that's about all in the Roosevelt administration.
HESS: One more question on that: The Who's Who said you assisted in the organization of the Wage and Hour Division. You mentioned that earlier.
HESS: What were the problems in the organization of that division?
DODSON: Well, the Wage and Hour Division got
started under Elmer Andrews as its administrator. Avery nice person, but for some reason or another it didn't seem to get off the ground in making inspections. And so, in those days General Fleming was used as sort of a hatchet man for organizations that were not doing too well, so he replaced Elmer Andrews as head of the Wage and Hour Division. And then he brought in a deputy and brought me in, and of course, other people came in too, but I mean there was the three of us that really had the organizational responsibility for the Wage and Hour Division and to get it off the ground. And so one time the General came up, with a quota for the inspectors, we should have a hundred thousand inspections. This is about
a year after he was in office. He said, "For this next year we should set a goal of a hundred thousand inspections."
I took the opposite position. I said, "Set it a hundred and twenty-five thousand, a hundred and fifty, you'll get them." I had been around in some of the field offices and knew enough about some of the inspection technique that you could get what we call "windshield" inspection. The inspector would drive up in his car outside the plant, fill out the forms. .And so, sure enough, we got just about the hundred thousand inspections. But then the unions got -- I mean the union in the Department of Labor got oh, peeved about this so-called quota system because the personnel department then began to place a
lot of importance on the quota with regard to whether they got promoted or not. Well, somebody inspecting in a difficult type of industry couldn't make as many inspections as the other and so they would get into all kinds of quarrels about the quota system. And so finally a delegation came to Washington and they met with me first and then they met with the Secretary -- I mean with the administrator, which would have been General Fleming. And when they met, the General and I was present, he said, "You have a friend in Dodson here. He didn't want to go for the quota system." And so we had to de-emphasize the quota system. We didn't omit it completely, but we didn't put the emphasis on it that had been placed.
The Wage and Hour Division wasn't getting away to a good start, and the General felt that
we just had to have some coverage, and we did it that year. We did turn up a lot of violations. But on the other hand, there were a lot of sloppy inspections made. And as I say, a guy would make his quota and he'd go to the movies then. And so I never was for quotas. I said that we had inspectors, a senior inspector, and then we had supervising inspectors, you have your sergeants, your lieutenants, if everybody's doing their job you're going to automatically get the volume. And that was my position. And it more or less got around to that. But of course, you never completely divorce yourself from looking at the volume that a person is doing.
HESS: And during the time that you were a chief clerk and budget officer, I believe one of your assistants, your principal assistants, was V. Singleton Hudson.
DODSON: That's right, yes.
HESS: What kind of a man was he at that time?
DODSON: Oh, he was an excellent worker. He's dead now. He worked too hard. He was going to retire and he didn't. He should have. He died about three years ago. Hudson went to work with me in 1933 and I had the good fortune that I had four or five key people that I transferred around with me all the time.
HESS: So I noticed in going through this Official Register.
DODSON: Yes. So, I have a nucleus always when I took on a new job that...
HESS: Yes, Jesse C. Watts?
DODSON: Well, Jesse C. Watts was an old-timer in
the Labor Department. He and Sam [Samuel. J.] Gompers, who was the first chief clerk in the Labor Department. He's the son of the original Sam Gompers.
HESS: I was going to ask you about that. Samuel J. Gompers.
HESS: And he had been there for some time. Now he's the son of the Samuel Gompers.
DODSON: That's right. And Watts was there with Gompers and I inherited Watts, and Watts was a good worker and very sincere, but he wasn't the kind to -- well, to give too broad a responsibility. He was inclined to exercise his own personal feelings about things, but he was a good worker for me.
Hudson as I say, started in 1933 with me in the Employment Service, that was his first government job. And we stuck together
right on through and when I retired I recommended him for my job, but I was told that the White House had interceded for another man in the Department. And Secretary Goldberg informed me, he said, "I can’t give this job to Mr. Hudson. There's been some pressure from the White House." And Hudson -- we made a good team because he was a little rough, and I was as I say, the salesman type, and so he'd get rough and I could do something that would kind of, well, smooth out the roughness. And so we made a real good team all the way through.
HESS: Who were some of the other of your principal assistants? You had John R. Demorest at one time.
DODSON: Well, John R. Demorest was another one that had been in the Department for years. A very intelligent man, knew the comptrollers'
decisions, and knew just what you could do, but he asked me, he had just so many more years to go, he said, "Just don't push me, just let