Oral History Interview with
Willard A. Edwards
Correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, in its Washington, D.C. Bureau, 1933-1973; reported on Capitol Hill and White House activities.
September 17, 1988
by Niel M. Johnson
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened November, 1989
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Willard A. Edwards
September 17, 1988
by Niel M. Johnson
Topics discussed include crime in Chicago in the 1920s, the Washington,
D.C. bureau of the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers in 1930s
and '40s, President Truman in Key West; Chicago Tribune headline
in 1948 election, Truman's 1948 campaign, Presidential news conferences,
Washington, D.C. Times-Herald, drinking among Washington, D.C.
newspapermen, Chicago newspapers, Chicago Tribune's editorial
policy, McCarthyism, the transition to television coverage of White House
events, Richard M. Nixon and his foreign policy, and Lyndon B. Johnson
and his campaigning techniques.
Names mentioned include Burton K. Wheeler, Arthur Sears Henning, Robert
McCormick, Lloyd Norman, Walter Trohan, Harry S. Truman, Charles Ross,
Thomas Dewey, Leon Stolz, Philip Warden, Doris Fleeson, May Craig, Edwin
A. Lahey, Robert M. Lee, Joseph McCarthy, Joseph Alsop, Dwight D. Eisenhower,
Richard M. Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson.
JOHNSON: Mr. Edwards, as I mentioned, I am going to start by asking you
the date and place of your birth, and your parents' names.
EDWARDS: I was born December 7, 1902, and my parents' names were Mary
Edwards and Evan Edwards; Welsh background.
I was strictly an accident as a correspondent in Washington; I had worked
for the [Chicago] Tribune from -- I joined the Tribune
in 1925 and was covering murders and ordinary things around town when
a member of the Washington bureau got sick and they needed a substitute,
and I was pretty good on features and so
forth so apparently they picked me to go down and take his place. So I
was to go to Washington for a couple of weeks anyway, and I stayed for
about 50 years.
JOHNSON: Maybe I could back up a little bit -- to ask you where you were
born and where you were educated.
EDWARDS: I was born in Chicago, on North State Street, very close to
the loop, but I didn't stay there long. We moved to Elmhurst and I had
my schooling there.
JOHNSON: Did you go to college?
EDWARDS: Didn't go to college.
JOHNSON: Graduated from high school in Elmhurst?
EDWARDS: Graduated from high school at St. Ignatius Academy in Chicago.
That's a Jesuit academy. After a year of public high school, my parents
decided I was wasting my time, so they transferred me, at considerable
cost to them, to this Jesuit academy in Chicago, where I got the equivalent,
in my belief, of a college education.
JOHNSON: Did you have any brothers or sisters?
EDWARDS: I had two brothers, one's living in San Diego now. Both of them
are living out on the West Coast.
JOHNSON: What's their names?
EDWARDS: Francis is the youngest one, and Paul is the other.
JOHNSON: I take it this is a Catholic family?
EDWARDS: Yes, it sure is.
JOHNSON: After graduating from St. Ignatius, did you go to work right
EDWARDS: I did. I will preface it by a little story. When I was about
twelve years old I saw a moving picture, and a newspaper reporter was
the hero. So from then on, when company was in and somebody would say,
"And what is this little man going to be when he grows up?"
I would say, "a newspaperman." And that stuck. So, when I graduated
from St. Ignatius I was offered a scholarship at Loyola, but chose instead
to go to work for the Tribune.
JOHNSON: By the way, what was your father's occupation?
EDWARDS: He was a manager in a steel company; A.M. Castle & Company.
JOHNSON: So he was white collar?
JOHNSON: So you started work then?
EDWARDS: I went to work. I'll never forget my first day on police work.
We got the call -- this was during the prohibition days, of course, and
the gangs were in control of Chicago -- and the call was from a barber
shop. I went along with the police on the call, and we came to the barber
shop and there was nobody around, except two figures, two bodies, both
of them with a bullet hole neatly in the middle of their foreheads, with
the blood flowing down and mixing with the lather on their faces. They
had been getting shaved and so forth. That was my introduction.
Well, that went on for about seven years, and then this substitution
into Washington came.
JOHNSON: What year did that happen?
EDWARDS: That was '33, the first year of Roosevelt's administration.
JOHNSON: But you started to work for the Tribune back in…
EDWARDS: In '25.
JOHNSON: In the middle of the gangster era.
EDWARDS: Right. And I had numerous stories about gangland figures, but
you wouldn't be interested in that I think.
JOHNSON: Is that on tape, or on the record somewhere else?
EDWARDS: I don't believe so. I will tell just one story.
JOHNSON: All right.
EDWARDS: It was necessary in those days to have a gangster friend, so
you could get some information from his side of the story. I became a
friend of a figure known as "Dingbat Oberta;" and he was a jolly,
gay, companion. We got together along very well, and I got a little information
from him. And then I was awakened to the
fact that he was not such a good companion after all. We were double-dating
and dancing in the rear room of a saloon on the south side of Chicago.
I happened to be looking at him. He was dancing with a girl with a bare
shouldered dress, and just out of pure whimsy, he put his lighted cigarette
into her shoulder. As she screamed, he put his head back and laughed;
that was the funniest thing he had ever seen in all his life. I thought,
"These are a different breed of men."
EDWARDS: Dingbat Oberta. He was found dead about a year later in a ditch,
full of holes.
JOHNSON: Was he considered a member of the gang?
EDWARDS: He was a member of the gang, and he apparently offended
somebody higher up. He did something that was wrong.
JOHNSON: Was Bugs Moran involved?
EDWARDS: Bugs Moran was a member of the northside mob, in opposition
to the Capone gang.
JOHNSON: You didn't get in on that Valentine's Day massacre?
EDWARDS: I was there, but I got there late. I wish I could say I was
JOHNSON: Were you a police reporter, or general features reporter?
EDWARDS: General features. As I say, it got to be known that I could
write a good feature story. That was why they sent me to Washington.
JOHNSON: A little Irish flavor to it?
EDWARDS: Could be.
JOHNSON: So then you got the call to Washington in 1933.
EDWARDS: In 1933.
JOHNSON: Were you politically very conscious at this time, or did that
kind of grow on you; the political side of things?
EDWARDS: I will tell you a story that illustrates how
little political leanings I had. One of Colonel [Robert] McCormick's favorite
"bete noirs" was Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana, who was
against [the United States] getting into the war. I ran into a committee
hearing, by Wheeler, and I was impressed with the way he ran it. I wrote
a very favorable story about Wheeler. The boss of the bureau, Arthur Sears
Henning, called me in the next day and said, "I got this message
on your Wheeler story." It was from McCormick. It just said, "Has
Edwards hired out to Wheeler?"
JOHNSON: So he didn't run your story on Wheeler?
EDWARDS: He ran the story. He ran the story. McCormick did not try to
censor stuff before it got into the paper; he. read the paper when it
was out. In this case, I was lucky I wasn't fired, of course.
JOHNSON: In other words, your boss didn't edit it, or rewrite it?
EDWARDS: Well, it was a good story; it was a factual story.
JOHNSON: In fact, I think Harry Truman was on Wheeler's
committee, in the transportation field.
EDWARDS: Yes, I believe that's right.
JOHNSON: Do you recall when you first saw or met Harry Truman, when you
first saw him?
EDWARDS: I'm sorry to say I don't. I've thought about that. He made no
impression upon me at all, but then he had this investigating committee,
which did a hell of a job.
JOHNSON: I might ask you about the Bureau, the Chicago Tribune
bureau here in Washington, D.C. Do you remember how many people were working
for it, and how did it compare with other newspaper bureaus?
EDWARDS: We had seven men working in the Washington bureau, which compared,
for example, with the New York Times of about twenty;
we were about one-third. But we had one of the biggest. Most of the newspapers
had one man in Washington.
JOHNSON: Where were you located?
EDWARDS: In the Albee Building. That's where the New York Times
was too. In fact, a lot of newspapers were located in the Albee Building,
at 15th and G.
JOHNSON: What floor were you on?
EDWARDS: We were on the 10th floor.
JOHNSON: Do you want to mention some of the other correspondents who
got bylines and who were fairly prominent as reporters on Washington or
Federal Government affairs?
EDWARDS: It's hard to single them off, you know, one from another. Each
one had his specialty. Lloyd Norman, for example, was the Pentagon man,
and he handled Defense. Somebody else had the State Department, and I
JOHNSON: You don't remember who dealt with the State Department?
EDWARDS: No, I don't.
JOHNSON: What was your specialty, or did you have an area?
EDWARDS: I covered the Hill; I covered Congress, both houses for a while.
It's kind of interesting to recite
this one, I think. I was introduced to the Senate by [being told], "Go
up and cover the Senate." That's the only preparation I had. I had
a hell of a time finding out where the Senate Chamber was.
JOHNSON: This was in '33.
EDWARDS: In '33, the first day on the job.
JOHNSON: Who covered the President? Who covered the White House?
EDWARDS: Later, it was Walter Trohan.
JOHNSON: Trohan, yes, I remember that name. In fact, the Truman Library
has an interview with him. It is in our oral history collection.
EDWARDS: He later became kind of an Assistant Bureau Chief, and therefore
didn't cover the White House. But I covered all the Presidential campaigns,
switching off between the candidates.
JOHNSON: Is Walter Trohan deceased?
EDWARDS: He's still around; he's living in Columbia,
Maryland. You might look him up. He's a talkative guy; he can tell you
a million stories, much better than I can.
But let me tell you the one story about Truman that I got a kick out
of. Harry used to love to vacation in Key West. I don't know what year
it was. We went down there and it was a pure vacation as far as Truman
was concerned. He loved to take afternoon automobile rides, and that meant,
of course, Secret Service men and the newspapermen, and there would be
quite a cortege of say six or seven cars. So we were out riding around
the countryside, and Harry saw a big mansion on top of a hill. He said,
"What's that?" And nobody apparently who was with him knew.
"Let's go up and look and see what it's all about." So the cortege
wound that long driveway up there, and we were not there more than three
seconds, when suddenly jam! bing! -- everybody took off in a hell of a
hurry. Then I later found out that Truman finally found somebody who knew
what the house was, and it was only the biggest and best brothel in the
county: One addition to this, and it's got an important bearing on it.
That story, of Truman, you
know, accidentally stopping at a whorehouse would have been a real feature
in every paper, but that story was never printed. They covered up for
it. I don't know whether it was just sort of a decency in those days that
realized that it wasn't his fault; but we didn't write those things until
later. We do now.
JOHNSON: Now did you cover the Truman committee hearings?
EDWARDS: No, I did not, I'm sorry to say. I apologize for my lack of
information about Truman except that I did cover the death watch on him.
I had decided to retire. I was 73 years old, and then they gave me as
my last assignment to go out and watch Harry Truman die. This, of course,
was long after the...
JOHNSON: In '72.
JOHNSON: Well, now back in 1944 or '45 do you recall anything about Truman
before he suddenly became President on April 12, 1945? Did you do any
coverage at all while he was Vice President, presiding over the Senate?
EDWARDS: No, I'm just a blank on that one.
JOHNSON: You recall, I suppose, the day that Roosevelt died?
JOHNSON: What was your reaction there to suddenly having new leadership?
EDWARDS: A feeling that this was going to be a terrible flop, that Truman
was going to be a bad President, that he didn't know what the hell was
going on. And they did not let him know what was going on; yet he turned
JOHNSON: D id you cover the '48 campaign for the Tribune?
EDWARDS: I was out there in Independence the night of the election, and
heard that my paper was already featuring Dewey's victory. That was the
one that Harry used to love to display to all the audiences everywhere
he went, "Dewey Defeats Truman."
JOHNSON: Oh yes, that's still one of the most popular, most often asked
EDWARDS: And I can tell you, if you want to know, how that came about.
EDWARDS: We had this same Henning, that I mentioned earlier, in Chicago
covering the general election. The returns kept mounting for Truman, the
popular returns. But the AP [Associated Press] bulletined the supposed
fact that Truman had carried New York State, and then Henning was consulted
and he said, "Oh, that's nonsense; that's nonsense. Forget it, the
AP is all wrong." And he turned out to be right. That confirmed the
official opinion in Chicago that there was no question about this at all.
JOHNSON: Dewey's home state, of course, was New York.
JOHNSON: It shouldn't have been a great surprise for him to win New York.
You had a strike going on, I understand, and you had to set everything
so far ahead of time.
EDWARDS: Yes we did, yes.
JOHNSON: Were you on the campaign train in '48, on the Truman campaign
train, or the Dewey campaign train, and what were your experiences if
EDWARDS: No, except I began mixing with the crowds and getting a little
dubious about the official opinion, which by the way, you know, is almost
universal. Nobody gave Truman a chance. [That includes] all the experts.
There was not a single one -- [except] there was one guy and I can't remember
his name, and he took a chance and said that Truman was going to win.
JOHNSON: Did you travel on the Truman train?
EDWARDS: I traveled on the Truman train, and I mixed with the crowds,
and I noticed a terrible enthusiasm for Truman. You know, he could give
'em hell; his speeches were popular and I began to get doubtful, but I
didn't do anything about it. I could have made myself a hero by phoning
Chicago and saying, "Don't go haywire on this; Truman might make
JOHNSON: Were you under any kind of instructions, directly or indirectly,
not to say things favorable about Harry Truman?
EDWARDS: No. No, never, never. I'll have to say that; I never got any
instructions. As I say, McCormick would read it in the paper and vigorously
object, but up until that point he didn't try to...
JOHNSON: No prior censorship?
EDWARDS: No, and perhaps it was just merely laziness on his part that
he didn't go down and find out what was going on.
JOHNSON: Well, if you were on the Truman train, who was representing
the Tribune on the Dewey train? Do you recall?
EDWARDS: I don't recall.
JOHNSON: Well, where was Trohan? Was he staying back here in Washington,
D.C. during the travel?
EDWARDS: Yes, and he was pretty mad about it too.
JOHNSON: So you were the one doing the traveling.
JOHNSON: You were, of course, well acquainted with some of these other
newsmen, and probably with some of the White House staff. Who were you
acquainted with on the White House staff?
EDWARDS: Well, Charlie Ross was Truman's press secretary, and I watched
the returns come in on election night with Charlie Ross. Charlie Ross
was the last man to give in. He kept saying, "Oh, the votes will
come in later. Just don't pay any attention to this." Finally, along
about 2 or 3 in the morning, he said, "Well, maybe we've got a chance."
So his own press secretary didn't believe he was going to win.
JOHNSON: Did you ever interview Truman?
EDWARDS: Oh, not in a...
JOHNSON: Not one-on-one.
EDWARDS: Not a one-on-one, no.
JOHNSON: Were you in a pool, in any pools where there was kind of a group
interview with Truman in the oval office, or somewhere else?
EDWARDS: Oh, that was always true, yes.
JOHNSON: You were at the press conferences in the oval Office?
EDWARDS: That's right.
JOHNSON: Did you feel you got a fair shake from Ross and from the President,
as far as having your say?
EDWARDS: I never had any feeling about that at all. There was a kind
of a jovial atmosphere in the White House press at that time, and is not
JOHNSON: Now they started out in the Oval office, and then later on,
a year or two later, they moved over to the Indian Treaty Room, I think,
of the State, War and Navy Building, next door. Do you recall the press
conferences being moved to a larger room there?
EDWARDS: That detail skipped me.
JOHNSON: But these were always interesting affairs, I guess.
EDWARDS: Oh, yes, and of course, they were not on the record, you know.
JOHNSON: Now you did get them published, but...
EDWARDS: You could say this: "President Truman is said to feel that..."
after he had said, "Yes, this is the way I feel." But you could
not quote him directly unless he authorized it.
JOHNSON: And that was observed by all the newsmen?
EDWARDS: Oh, all of them, yes. As I say, it was a different spirit then.
JOHNSON: So you were getting a feeling while you were on the campaign,
that maybe Truman had a chance?
EDWARDS: Yes, right.
JOHNSON: From the reaction of the crowds.
JOHNSON: Were you out there in Dexter, Iowa at the big plowing match where
he talked to 100,000 farmers?
EDWARDS: Well, I don't specifically remember it, no.
JOHNSON: Was there anything that impressed you, or that you can recollect
that kind of stands out in the way that Truman communicated with his audiences?
EDWARDS: Oh, he had a knack for it; there's no doubt about it. I mean,
you couldn't help but like the guy. I don't think he ever gave much thought
to what he was going to say next, but it was...
JOHNSON: You found out that he was more likeable than Dewey?
EDWARDS: Oh God, who could like Dewey?
JOHNSON: Well, McCormick did, I suppose.
EDWARDS: I think even he had to smother his feelings.
JOHNSON: They did promote his candidacy didn't they?
EDWARDS: Yes, oh yes, the Tribune did. A majority of the newspapers
JOHNSON: How about Bob Taft, Robert Taft? Wasn't he, Robert Taft, a favorite
JOHNSON: So Dewey was sort of second choice as far as they are concerned.
They would have favored Robert Taft?
EDWARDS: Oh yes, very much so, and incidentally, they would have had
a dead President within a year. You know, Taft died [soon after] of cancer
or something; if he had been elected, he would have died in office.
JOHNSON: So you never really got instructions or editorializing or slanting
EDWARDS: I've got to tell you; I'm not covering up at all for the paper,
or anything like that; there's no reason for it at all. I do not recall
an instance except that one message from McCormick, "Has Edwards
hired out to Wheeler?"
JOHNSON: Well, there's the Pendergast connection. I think before we started
the interview you were saying that as far as the Tribune was
concerned, Truman was
kind of a representative of Pendergast and that stayed part of their message
all the way through the Presidency?
EDWARDS: Oh yes, and his failure as a haberdasher and that sort of thing;
that was brought up pretty freely.
JOHNSON: And then the cartoons, these anti-Truman cartoons, were often
featured right up at the top of the front page, in the middle, and even
JOHNSON: Color cartoons. Orr and McCutcheon. Did they ever talk to you,
the cartoonists, about...
EDWARDS: I had no intimacy at all with the cartoonists. They were a breed
JOHNSON: How about the editorial writers for the Tribune? Who
wrote their editorials?
EDWARDS: Well, the head of the editorial writing staff was Stolz, a Jewish
gentleman named Stolz; he was the son of the famous Rabbi Stolz.
JOHNSON: What was his first name, do you remember?
EDWARDS: I think it was Leon, but I'm not certain.
JOHNSON: Were you ever asked to write any editorials, or was it just
EDWARDS: Oh, no, I never had any editorials.
JOHNSON: Just straight news?
JOHNSON: Did your writing about Truman change at all after that '48 election?
Did you begin to feel more favorable toward his abilities?
EDWARDS: I suppose I did; I would think it would be natural.
JOHNSON: How about this headline that we've mentioned here?
JOHNSON: "Dewey Defeats Truman."
JOHNSON: Do you remember the feedback, the reactions, that occurred here
in the Washington bureau and perhaps in Chicago?
EDWARDS: I can tell you one little story about that that might interest
you. They finally realized that they had made a fatal error, and at about
3 o'clock in the morning, with all the papers issued, the order went out,
"See if you can go out and buy up every copy of that paper."
They almost succeeded; they cleaned the newsstands of that headline, but
the opposition, the Chicago Herald Examiner, went to the Tribune
lobby and there, where we had forgotten to check, they bought themselves
a copy of that paper, and that's how it got out.
JOHNSON: Well, it was a first edition; but there were thousands of copies
that had gone out.
EDWARDS: Hundreds of thousands of copies. It was a terrific job
JOHNSON: We've got a few copies at the Truman Library. Any repercussions
beyond this feeling of, I suppose, being a bit mortified? Did anybody
get reprimanded or
EDWARDS: I had already arranged to take my vacation the day
after the election, so I departed that campaign as quickly as possible.
JOHNSON: Let them handle that hot potato, because you had nothing to
do with it at that time?
EDWARDS: No. They say I should have given them a little warning but it
wouldn't have done any good.
JOHNSON: So you took a vacation then and Truman went down to Key West.
This incident in Key West you were talking about, do you have any idea
what year that would have been?
EDWARDS: I was trying to think. It was towards the final year; it must
have been the last year he was in office.
JOHNSON: Oh, one of the last trips down there.
JOHNSON: When did you start going to Key West with the President and
EDWARDS: Not very often; I think I took two trips. I took my wife along
on the second one.
JOHNSON: On that last one?
JOHNSON: Was there anybody else from the Tribune that went down
to Key West after the...
EDWARDS: Not that I know.
JOHNSON: You don't think Trohan went down there.
EDWARDS: Trohan might have gone on a Key West trip.
JOHNSON: Well, you're the White House correspondent during the Truman
years, is that right? You're the one from the Tribune that's
attending most of the press conferences?
EDWARDS: Well, that's true, yes.
JOHNSON: Did you have anybody else from the Tribune that was
EDWARDS: No, not usually, one was enough.
JOHNSON: Usually these would be on the front page, wouldn't they, and
you'd have your byline?
EDWARDS: Oh yes.
Another thing, in that you're interested in the possible bias we had.
After that McCormick message, I began reading the Tribune editorials.
I was conscious what our line was, and I didn't violate that line. So
in a way, I suppose I submitted to censorship.
JOHNSON: You felt that you kind of had to follow the policy.
EDWARDS: Oh God, yes, yes.
JOHNSON: You never thought of going to another newspaper?
EDWARDS: Never. Never.
JOHNSON: How come you were so loyal to the Tribune?
EDWARDS: I don't know. It was 47 years I worked there, so…
JOHNSON: Well, you must have liked the people you worked with.
EDWARDS: Oh, I sure did, yes.
JOHNSON: You mentioned Trohan. Who are the others?
EDWARDS: Well, I mentioned Lloyd Norman. There was a Philip Warden who
is still around by the way. He's living over here in Virginia, and he
might be of some good to you.
JOHNSON: Well, they are a tough crew; they are still around.
EDWARDS: That's right.
JOHNSON: There were about seven people, you say, from the Tribune
working there. And they kept that level pretty much through the '40s,
through the Truman years?
EDWARDS: Yes, I can't remember any shifts. A Washington job, of course,
was considered the cream of the positions. Everybody wanted to be a Washington
JOHNSON: You remember, of course, when Truman finally came out with what
is called the Truman Doctrine, aiding Greece and Turkey, and the Marshall
plan to help Western Europe recover, and then NATO. Didn't the Tribune
look favorably on all of those policies, those foreign policies?
EDWARDS: Damned if I can remember; they must have. They must have.
JOHNSON: If they were to attack Truman, what would they attack him on
EDWARDS: I don't remember; I just can't remember.
JOHNSON: The Pendergast connection always was there under the surface?
EDWARDS: Yes, that's true.
JOHNSON: Were you a friend of Charlie Ross?
EDWARDS: A very close friend.
JOHNSON: When did you first meet Ross?
EDWARDS: Oh, the first time I went to the White House I suppose I met
JOHNSON: He was with the Post-Dispatch, but I guess he didn't
work in their Washington bureau did he, before he became Press Secretary?
EDWARDS: I don't think so, no.
JOHNSON: The Washington Times-Herald, do you remember that
JOHNSON: That was set up apparently by the McCormicks.
JOHNSON: In Washington, as a Washington newspaper.
EDWARDS: We bought it; we bought the paper.
JOHNSON: And you converted it into a kind of a stepchild of the Chicago
JOHNSON: With the same cartoons.
EDWARDS: Run by a woman named Bazie Tankersley. Haven't you ever heard
JOHNSON: What kind of a person was she?
EDWARDS: She was a puppet.
JOHNSON: A puppet of the McCormicks?
EDWARDS: Yes, sure.
JOHNSON: Did they run the same editorials that ran in the Tribune?
EDWARDS: Yes, often.
JOHNSON: So it was just kind of a Washington branch of the Tribune.
EDWARDS: It sure was, and they often said that McCormick, who sold the
paper finally to the Post, made the greatest mistake he ever
did in a businesslike way, to deprive himself of that mouthpiece.
JOHNSON: Did your articles appear in the Times-Herald too?
EDWARDS: Yes, they did, both of them, yes.
JOHNSON: They would run concurrently in both papers.
EDWARDS: The same stories, yes.
JOHNSON: And of course, that became one of Truman's villains too, the
EDWARDS: Oh yes, yes indeed.
JOHNSON: Did you feel that Truman may have had some reason for being
so angry with the Tribune?
EDWARDS: It never occurred to me to worry about his feelings. I wish
I had more personal stuff like that visit to the whorehouse to give you.
I spent some time last night thinking about what I would talk to you about,
and my God, I know very little about Harry Truman.
JOHNSON: These press conferences that we've talked about, you did get
to raise some questions, I suppose, and were answered by the President.
Did you feel that he answered you adequately?
EDWARDS: Usually, yes. Don't forget that business about "this is
not on the record." That contribution to freedom of expression. Then,
later on when he was asked "Let's pin this down, what did you say?"
some agreement would be made on what he had said and that would be in
quotes. But there weren't many quotes.
JOHNSON: There was a White House newspapermen's association. Did you
belong to that?
EDWARDS: I resigned for some damn reason, I forget what. But I remember
they thought I had resigned in protest against the paper's policies, which
I indignantly denied.
JOHNSON: Was that before or after Truman left the Presidency that you
EDWARDS: I can't recall the date.
JOHNSON: Were you there at the National Press Club when they had some
of these annual banquets, or affairs, that the Trumans attended?
EDWARDS: Oh yes, I used to go to those.
JOHNSON: You say there was a different feeling in those days about newspaper
coverage of the President. There were some gentlemen's agreements.
EDWARDS: Very much so. Very much so. I'm sometimes horrified at the stuff
I read these days quoting "un-named anonymous White House aides."
And you know that half of it is a fabrication of the reporter himself.
I had a little trick of my own when I was writing -- usually when covering
Congress. I'd think of a good
line, and I'd think, "You ought to quote somebody on this."
I'd finally quote "a veteran Washington observer;" that was
JOHNSON: That was you.
EDWARDS: I fulfilled that part; I was a veteran all right.
JOHNSON: So you had some good quotes that originated...
EDWARDS: That were my own.
JOHNSON: Of course, in those days there weren't many women reporters,
were there, like there are now?
JOHNSON: Do you remember some of the women reporters then? There was
Doris Fleeson, I think, who was especially prominent.
EDWARDS: Doris Fleeson was one, of course. She was quite a gal. May Craig
was another one.
JOHNSON: I remember her, yes. She started under Truman I guess.
EDWARDS: Oh way back, way back. She, I think, predated me.
JOHNSON: She had quite a bit of respect, did she, among the others?
EDWARDS: Yes she did, although she would bring up little items, local
items, and there would be a groan when she'd ask the question.
JOHNSON: How about coverage of the family, Bess and Margaret? Did you
ever write anything about the family and living in the White House, or
EDWARDS: No, I didn't. I can't remember anyway.
JOHNSON: You didn't do any features just on the personal side of Truman?
EDWARDS: No. There were the famous things Truman said about the music
critic, do you remember?
JOHNSON: Oh yes, Paul Hume.
EDWARDS: Paul Hume criticized Margaret's singing and
Truman threatened to kill him if he ever met him or something like that.
JOHNSON: Well, he was going to do bodily damage at least.
EDWARDS: And that was on the record too.
JOHNSON: Did that kind of surprise you? What were the reactions of...