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Oscar R. Ewing Oral History Interview, May 1, 1969

Oral History Interview with
Oscar R. Ewing

Attorney, Hughes, Hubbard & Ewing, New York, New York, and predecessor firms, 1919-1947; Assistant Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 1940-42; Vice Chairman, 1942-47; Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, 1942 and again in 1947; Acting Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 1946; Administrator of the Federal Security Agency, 1947-53; and organizer and member of an unofficial political policy group during the Truman administration, 1947-52.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
May 1, 1969
by J. R. Fuchs

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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

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Oral History Interview with
Oscar R. Ewing

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
May 1, 1969
by J. R. Fuchs

[163]

FUCHS: Mr. Ewing, I'd like to ask you a little bit more about your policy strategy board or political strategy board. Did you have a common term that you applied to this little group that met on Monday nights in your apartment?

EWING: No. Various terms were used, "advisory group" and "strategy group," I think that's about the only two descriptions that I could recall.

FUCHS: Yes, well...

EWING: But we certainly had no formal name.

FUCHS: Yes. I was wondering if certain other individuals met with you, such as Dave Bell?

EWING: No.

FUCHS: George Elsey?

EWING: No.

FUCHS: David Lloyd?

[164]

EWING: No.

FUCHS: No other advisors that you could think of met with this group. What about Oscar Chapman?

EWING: No.

FUCHS: He never met with the board?

EWING: No.

FUCHS: Who did you consider to be Mr. Truman's chief political advisors before the formation of this strategy group?

EWING: Well, I'm sure Bob Hannegan was as long as he was active. John Snyder, I'm sure that the President relied on him a great deal. Fred Vinson, until he became Chief Justice, I don't know how much the President consulted him after he became Chief Justice.

FUCHS: What about Tom Clark, do you think he had any political influence with Mr. Truman?

EWING: Yes. Yes, I think he did, particularly with reference to Texas and the Southern states.

FUCHS: What about George E. Allen?

[165]

EWING: I don't think George had any particular political influence. George was a delightful companion and I think the President enjoyed being with him, but I don't think the President looked to him for political advice.

FUCHS: David Noyes?

EWING: Well, towards the end Dave was in Washington often. I think in the 1948 campaign he was around a good deal and did advise the President on political matters and various other things. David had had very wide experience in public relations and was, I'm sure, quite helpful to the President.

FUCHS: You were associated undoubtedly with Bill Boyle when you were vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Do you think he was a political influence on Mr. Truman?

EWING: Oh yes, in a way. I think--well, I don't know how much weight the President gave to Bill Boyle's advice and I don't say that negatively, I simply don't know. Bill, however, was more of a person to carry out the President's desires than to be offering constructive

[166]

advice. But he was very loyal to the President and in every way did the best he could.

FUCHS: Was there anyone that you would have considered to have been rather a poor one to advise Mr. Truman, someone who was perhaps too conservative or too liberal?

EWING: Well, it would be hard for me to say. I think some of his advisers were much more conservative than I was, than our group was. I think, for instance, John Snyder was, probably Charley Sawyer when he was in the Cabinet. That, however, was an honest difference of opinion between our group and the conservative members of the administration. The conservative members of the administration were just as honest in their views as we were in ours.

FUCHS: The conservatives, such as Snyder and later on Sawyer, didn't attend any of your policy meetings I gather.

EWING: No.

FUCHS: Did they know of your group?

EWING: Oh, I suppose they did.

[167]

FUCHS: You know of no similar group among the conservatives or any attempt to organize such a group?

EWING: No. As far as I know it was individual contacts with the President that they had. Nothing in the way of a group.

FUCHS: Mr. Boyle had been serving in Mr. Truman's office as secretary. Do you know why he went over to the Democratic National Committee with Hannegan?

EWING: No, I do not.

FUCHS: Now, I believe you resigned your position as vice chairman when you were appointed to be administrator of FSA.

EWING: Yes. Well, I think I resigned to become Special Assistant to the Attorney General when I undertook the prosecution of Douglas Chandler for treason. When that was finished I think I was reappointed vice chairman of the committee. But that would be only for a short time.

FUCHS: I see.

EWING: I know I was not vice chairman at any time that I

[168]

was Federal Security Administrator.

FUCHS: Yes. What about Leslie Biffle, were you acquainted with him?

EWING: Oh, very well. He was the Secretary of the Senate and was very helpful to the President in any problems that the President had with the Senate. Of course, Senator Barkley, first as the Democratic leader of the Senate and later as Vice President, was very helpful to the President. Mr. Biffle was often the liaison between the President and Senator Barkley and other Democratic senators.

FUCHS: Did you feel that he exerted a strong influence on Mr. Truman?

EWING: I don't think so. The President always made up his own mind. I can't say that anyone really had great influence with the President. If some one had advice that the President thought was good, why, he'd take it. But I don't believe anyone really could influence the President to do anything that he didn't think was right and proper. He was his own man.

[169]

FUCHS: Well, I was thinking primarily of political advice. He is generally credited, of course, as being an astute politician. What would your views of that be?

EWING: Well, there's no doubt about that. His political judgment was, in a way, unerring. I think that that was particularly true when he had received, perhaps, a lot of different advice from different sources some of it which was conflicting. He would unquestionably come out with the right decision. Now, perhaps there were a few instances, none of which I recall, where one side or the other had not had a chance to give him their views before he had to act, he might have made an occasional faux pas as any of us might do; but when the President had all the facts he was unerring in his political instincts --judgments.

FUCHS: Of course, you've heard the charges that he had gathered a gang of Missouri cronies around him. How would you view that?

EWING: Well, it is only natural that a President wants men around him who are loyal to him. A President needs those above all things. You've got to remember that President Truman was mighty loyal to his friends, as

[170]

he should have been. I think the matters in which some of his friends perhaps took advantage of him were trivial matters that didn't affect the public interest in any way.

FUCHS: Who do you have in mind?

EWING: Well, perhaps General Vaughan, I think the refrigerator episode was not too smart. It wasn't anything like as important as the Republican press tried to make it. That was simply a situation of where a manufacturer had some refrigerators that were defective in some minor respect and he didn't want to sell them, so he gave them away. I think General Vaughan was the one who the manufacturer had contacted about it or--I don't remember the details but I'm sure it was played out of all proportion by the Republican press.

FUCHS: Yes. Any other instances that you can think of?

EWING: No. Not offhand.

FUCHS: When it became necessary for President Truman to find a replacement for Chief Justice Stone were you consulted on that?

[171]

EWING: No. No, I was not consulted. President Truman told me, however, how he came to select Fred Vinson for Chief Justice. The President said he requested former Chief Justice Hughes, whose resignation as Chief Justice had opened the place for Justice Stone, to stop by the White House for a talk. The President asked Mr. Hughes if he had any suggestions as to who would make a good Chief Justice. Mr. Hughes immediately replied, "Why you've got a man here in your own Cabinet who is eminently qualified for the place, and that is Fred Vinson. He's been the Chief Judge of the District Court of Appeals. He is a fine lawyer, and I wouldn't think that you had to go any further." And so Mr. Truman took Judge Hughes' advice. I am sure it was advice that he was happy to receive because the President had a very high opinion of Judge Vinson.

FUCHS: Go back just a little bit. What were your thoughts when Roosevelt died and Mr. Truman became his successor? At the time how did you feel about that?

EWING: Well, I think we all were filled with intense grief over President Roosevelt's death although I knew that he was a very sick man and I was not completely unprepared

[172]

for his death. Then when the shock came and Mr. Truman was sworn in as President, I thought his conduct was exemplary. I had great confidence in his latent capacity to measure up to the job. Many people did not. I remember one newspaper correspondent who talked to me about it, and insisted that Mr. Truman was physically a little man and mentally a little man. I tried to argue him out of it but he was very insistent. But time proved that Truman's admirers were right rather than his critics.

FUCHS: Yes. At the time you were nominated for the Federal Security Administration post a newspaper article I saw said that perhaps you were slated for something larger in the long run other than staying in the FSA. Do you recall anything of that and is there anything you know about that that it might have been a truthful report?

EWING: No. I never even heard of it. The Federal Security Agency was a job that I welcomed. I know the President hoped to make it a Cabinet position. He sent two reorganization plans up to Congress that would have made the agency a department. Other than that I'm

[173]

quite sure President Truman had nothing in mind for me. I think that had the Agency been made a department during his term he would have nominated me for the secretaryship. In fact, I'm quite sure of that, but as to anything outside of that I never heard of it.

FUCHS: What are the chief reasons that you felt FSA did not achieve Cabinet status, I believe it was to be called the Department of Health, Education, and Security during Mr. Truman's time?

EWING: Oh, it was the opposition of the American Medical Association unquestionably. Both times the reorganization plans were sent up to Congress the AMA. staged campaigns to prevent the agency being made a department. Their main argument was that they did not want me given a higher platform from which to argue for national health insurance.

FUCHS: Did they base their attacks on you solely or largely on principles or personality?

EWING: No. You see, national health insurance had been proposed by President Roosevelt in the very first social security bill introduced in Congress back in 1934.

[174]

Later President Roosevelt dropped his support of national health insurance. I think he did this largely because he thought that including national health insurance in the bill might make it more difficult to get the social security program through Congress and that it would be better to take a step at a time, get what he could, and later try to get the more controversial parts of his program, such as national health insurance, adopted.

FUCHS: How did Mrs. Roosevelt, who we know was greatly interested in welfare type projects, feel about this earlier approach to health insurance?

EWING: I can say something about that that I learned from Arthur Altmeyer, who was a member of the first Social Security Board, and later when the Board was abolished, he became Social Security Administrator. I think Arthur knew what he was talking about when he told me this. He said that at the time the social security legislation was first introduced including the provision for national health insurance, some doctor friend of Mrs. Roosevelt had a talk with her and convinced her that it was very unwise to push for national health insurance; and that she convinced the President that it was unwise

[175]

and accordingly he withdrew his support for the proposal. Later Mrs. Roosevelt changed her mind, apparently, because she became an active member of the Committee for the Nation's Health which was very strongly in favor of national health insurance. You see, even at that time, the United States was the only civilized nation that didn't have a national health insurance program in operation. National health insurance was started by Bismarck in Germany back in the 1880s and similar programs had been gradually adopted by other countries one after another. There had been ample experience so that we who were pushing it could say that it was a workable program that would fill a very great need.

FUCHS: Do you have any knowledge of how it worked in Germany, and was it continued under the Hitler regime and is it still in?

EWING: Oh, yes. It's worked very well there. And the interesting part of it is that, say from the 1880s on up until the American technology caught up, it was out of Germany that came all of the great medical advances. I wouldn't say that today nor would I say it of the time since World War II, but German medical research

[176]

from the 1880s on was outstanding.

FUCHS: Was theirs linked with the social security type system?

EWING: I think it was. It is all part of a social insurance program.

FUCHS: Yes. Do you recall who the doctor was that exerted this influence on Mrs. Roosevelt?

EWING: No, I never knew, and Mr. Altmeyer, I don't think he told me who the doctor was. At least I don't remember.

FUCHS: Was the feeling on Mr. Altmeyer's part that the doctor had done it because of medical interest or that it would be politically unwise?

EWING: Oh, it was medical interest. Completely. Someone suggested that it might have been Doctor Cushing, the great brain surgeon of Boston. Jimmy Roosevelt had married a daughter of Doctor Cushing. I'm quite sure Dr. Cushing's name was not mentioned because I would have recognized it and it would have stuck in my mind.

[177]

FUCHS: AMA was also opposed to the Government getting into medical research. What were their principal arguments there?

EWING: Well, the American Medical Association wanted to be the exclusive sovereign of medicine. They didn't want the Government to have a thing to do with medicine. They opposed every bill that was introduced in Congress that even remotely would involve Government in medicine. They had a very powerful lobby. They were opposed to the Federal Government supporting any kind of medical research. In order to stave off the Government giving support to medical research, they proposed that the doctors would raise ten million dollars a year for research. Well, they tried it and the first year they raised about six hundred thousand dollars and that ended that. When I left the Federal Security Agency, the Government was giving the Public Health Service and other areas of medical research about a hundred million dollars a year. Today they are giving them well over a billion dollars a year and that money has done more for the advance of medicine than any other single factor.

[178]

FUCHS: Did the doctors propose to raise this through their individual contributions or by solicitation of the general public?

EWING: I think they had in mind probably tapping the pharmaceutical manufacturers for a large part of it. They also had in mind raising part of this fund by their own contributions and a public appeal, too. Anything to keep Government out of it. They raised the awful specter of Government control. As a matter of fact Government didn't want control, I know, because I was in the driver's seat at that time. We had plenty to do without wanting to control medical research. We wanted to help it. We wanted to encourage it and we wanted to furnish money for it, but we had plenty to do besides controlling the medical profession.

FUCHS: Do you know when they first tagged it "socialized medicine" and how that came about?

EWING: I'm not sure but I think that what I will now say is correct. In California, Governor Warren back in the early 1940s had proposed a program of health insurance for the residents of California and he had

[179]

legislation for it introduced into the California legislature. The California Medical Association staged a campaign in opposition. They spent a great deal of money for billboards, newspaper advertising, radios, etc. Their opposition was directed by a public relations firm in San Francisco known as Whitaker Baxter. That was a husband and wife team. Clem Whitaker was the head of it and his wife, whose maiden name was Baxter, was the other partner. That fight took place before I was Federal Security Administrator, before I even got interested in national health insurance. Until I became Administrator the problem was one that I had had no reason to consider. After I became Administrator, I realized that President Truman was strongly in favor of national health insurance. It was, of course, my job to push any program that he wanted pushed. Then I soon came to realize that health insurance was an important subject and that I should know more about it and the country should know more about it. Accordingly, at the request of the President, I called a conference to consider the health problems of the country, not merely national health insurance but every phase of health problems that

[180]

faced this country.

FUCHS: What year was that?

EWING: The conference was held in May of 1948 and covered the whole spectrum of medical problems.

FUCHS: Whose idea was it to call this conference?

EWING: Well, it originated in my office. I think it was Don Kingsley, my assistant administrator, who first suggested it. It's very hard to remember just who suggested an idea to you, but I know Don was very much interested.

The question you asked me is how the term socialized medicine came to be used and I was trying to give you a little background about that. It was sometime in early 1948 that I began publicly advocating national health insurance and it was becoming a controversial issue all over the country. This story that I am now telling you was told me much later. It was about this time that a friend of mine, Mike Gorman, was working on a paper in Oklahoma City, and he wrote an article for his paper that was quite favorable to the idea of national health insurance. The next morning he was called in by his

[181]

publisher and fired. Mike's family lived in Los Angeles, so he returned there. He had been there only a few days when he received a telephone call from Clem Whitaker in San Francisco. Clem told him that the firm of Whitaker & Baxter had just been employed by the American Medical Association to conduct a hard-hitting fight against national health insurance and he would like Mike to join his staff and help in the fight. Mike replied, "Clem, I'm not sure. I don't think you can beat it. I'm convinced that it's the right thing to do and such a program will eventually be adopted and you can't stop it."

"Oh," Whitaker said, "that's easy. We've been through this fight with Governor Warren's proposal for a state health insurance program and it's a cinch to beat it. In order to do so, there are only two things that you have to have. First you have to give the program a bad name and we're going to call it 'socialized medicine' because the idea of socialism is very unpopular in the United States. We'll give it this bad name. No one wants to be, or at least very few want to have the tag socialist attached to them. Then the second thing you have to have is a devil. You have to have a devil

[182]

in the picture to paint him in all his horns and we've got that man chosen. We first thought we would center the attack on President Truman, but we've decided he is too popular; but we've got a perfect devil in this man Ewing and we're going to give him the works."

So, apparently that is where the large scale use of the term "socialized medicine" all started.

FUCHS: Why did they feel that they had a perfect devil in you? Have you any idea?

EWING: Well, I think they had to center their attack on someone who was close to the program and was prominent in promoting it and since they had decided not to attack the President, my being second in the line, caught the fire.

FUCHS: When did you become acquainted with Mike Gorman?

EWING: It was some time after this episode when he came to Washington and told me about it. I did not know him at the time it happened. It was perhaps a year or so afterwards that he told me.

FUCHS: The thing that strikes me as rather odd is that there

[183]

is a man who has just been cashiered from his paper because he wrote in favor of national health insurance and a public relations firm which was going to oppose national health insurance wanted him to work for them.

EWING: Well, Mike was a very competent person and if he could be enlisted in any cause he would do a good job.

FUCHS: Why were the pharmaceutical manufacturers so against national health insurance?

EWING: The reason for that is quite simple. In the original draft of the bill, which has been prepared in the Federal Security Agency, largely under the immediate direction of Dr. Isadore Falk, there had been included a provision to the effect that if the price of drugs became excessive the Government could step in and fix prices. That was a perfect anathema to the Pharmaceutical manufacturers, and I think it was unfortunate that it was put in. I say this because it instantly created a solid opposition from the pharmaceutical manufacturers and it wasn't necessary at that time. What should have been done was to make no mention of price control, get the program adopted and then if the manufacturers began charging

[184]

excessive prices, that would be the time to consider legislation to control the situation. Later, I remember making a talk to the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and I told them I thought they were very foolish to oppose the bill because it would mean a great deal more widespread distribution of health services and that would necessarily mean a much greater market for their products; that they would have dollars instead of dimes running through their cash registers. Actually I think that argument proved quite effective because shortly afterwards the pharmaceutical manufacturers, who had been the chief financial supporters of a so-called "National Physicians Committee for the Extension of Medical Service," withdrew their support. The National Physicians Committee was really the propaganda arm of the American Medical Association. You see, under the tax laws, contributions to an organization that uses its money for the purpose of influencing legislation cannot be considered a charitable deduction. The Physicians Committee had been set up because the American Medical Association didn't want to impair a ruling it had obtained to the effect that gifts to it were charitable gifts and therefore

[185]

tax deductible. Actually, I think the AMA would have lost its tax-free gift status had they kept operating the Physicians Committee, because it was doing nothing but carrying on propaganda to influence legislation. Dr. Fishbein, the Executive Director of the AMA., was on the board of directors of the National Physicians Committee and there were other interlocking officers and directors.

FUCHS: Was he the principal man in the National Physicians Committee?

EWING: No. Dr. Morris Fishbein had been for many years the AMA's principal mouthpiece. He was a very .vocal man and really brilliant.

FUCHS: Who do you recall as being the leaders of the National Physicians Committee?

EWING: I really don't recall a single name. It was disbanded shortly after I made that talk. Whether my talk influenced it or not, I don't know, but I know the pharmaceutical manufacturers withdrew their support.

FUCHS: About what year was this?

[186]

EWING: I would think it was probably in 1948 or 1949.

FUCHS: The implication is that when the manufacturers withdrew their financial support from the NPC then the committee folded?

EWING: Oh, absolutely. The pharmaceutical manufacturers then organized the Health Information Foundation. It was an organization to which they made contributions that previously had gone to the Physicians Committee. The Foundation did statistical work, furnishing information on the general economics of medicine and all that, and in no way attempting to influence legislation. They did very valuable work in producing various statistical studies.

FUCHS: The Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill in 1943, which did contain, in addition to many other provisions, one for setting up a system of national health insurance. Would you care to comment about that? It was before your time, I realize, in the Federal Security Agency. Then, as you know, there was a later bill somewhat modified that Wagner, Murray, and Dingell introduced in 1945 under Mr. Truman.

[187]

EWING: I am not too familiar with the legislative history of the various Wagner-Murray-Dingell bills but I am under the impression that the first one was introduced shortly after President Roosevelt's death. He died April 12, 1945. I think the first Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill to be introduced in Congress was in the latter part of May 1945. I understand that a little while afterwards Arthur Altmeyer, Wilbur Cohen and some others from the Agency went to the new President and urged him to consider backing the bill. They gave all the arguments and in a few days sent them an answer saying that he would support the program, but until the war with Japan was finally terminated he didn't want anything to divert him from his concentration on that job. When the VJ Day came and a few months had passed President Truman sent a special message to Congress in November 1945 recommending legislation to provide for national health insurance.

FUCHS: Why do you think he separated this from the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill?

EWING: I do not know. Possibly, he wanted something different from what that bill provided.

[188]

FUCHS: Yes. Well, in his Memoirs, he indicated that he thought that the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill was too comprehensive; and he did introduce his proposal for a separate national health plan in his speech.

EWING: Well, that might be. That was before my time.

FUCHS: Yes. Of course, the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill didn't do too good. It was eventually killed by the 79th Congress. The National Health Assembly resulted in what?

EWING: Well, we divided the work of the Assembly among the various committees in such a way that each segment of the health problems of the country would be given specific consideration by a specific committee. Each committee made its report to the full Assembly and on the basis of these reports I prepared a full report to the President. I might say that those recommendations were all unanimously adopted except the recommendation of the section that dealt with national health insurance; and I think, as I recall, they endorsed the insurance principle for meeting medical expenses, hospital expenses. The committee of the

[189]

Assembly that dealt with medical care made absolutely no recommendation regarding the health insurance program.

FUCHS: These representatives were selected at, I assume, a lower level but have you any knowledge of how representation was decided upon for this National Health Assembly in 1948?

EWING: Yes. We tried to make the Assembly as representative as we could, and I'm sure we did because we were complimented by the American Medical Association on the conference itself. I got a telegram from Dr. Fishbein saying it was the best conference that had ever been held in this country on health problems. We had, as I recall, around eight hundred people brought in to represent every interest that could be involved in the. health problems of the country. There were representatives of medical schools, representatives of the hospitals, public health, labor unions, etc. Then we had a smaller executive committee composed of some of the most distinguished people in the health field. We left out no one if we could help. We had representatives of the insurance companies, state health officers, the National

[190]

Grange. We had the General Federation of Women's Clubs represented. We made it as broad as we possibly could.

FUCHS: Were the doctors of osteopathy invited?

EWING: They probably were but I don't recall specifically.

FUCHS: I saw a letter in the files--I'm trying to remember whether it was related to this Assembly or some other commission, but I thought it was to this Assembly in which an osteopath wondered why they weren't represented, and the answer from the White House was, as I recall it, that although they had tried to get representation from every group there were so many groups that were connected with medicine in one way or the other that it couldn't be accomplished. My reaction was that doctors of osteopathy are a pretty large group compared to some of the others that might have been represented. Now, I just wondered if you had a recollection on that and I may be connecting it with the wrong conference but I do think it was the National Health Assembly.

EWING: I have a feeling that it might have been--I think the question of the osteopaths did come up but I cannot for the life of me remember anything more.

[191]

FUCHS: Yes, sir. Do you have any anecdotes or other reminiscences about this assembly, the dinner for it, which I believe Mr. Truman attended, or anything else in connection with it that comes to mind?

EWING: The only somewhat dramatic incident that I remember occurred in our final session of the assembly when we were adopting the various committee reports. Dr. Fishbein had asked for the floor--I was presiding--and he got up and made quite a vigorous talk against national health insurance. Nelson Cruikshank, who was a delegate, asked for the floor to answer Dr. Fishbein. I tried to persuade Mr. Cruikshank not to press his request to be heard because the conference had really had no friction and had gone so smoothly that I was hoping that it could be left in that way. But Nelson insisted and he made quite a vigorous answer to Dr. Fishbein. It was the only time during the conference that any sparks really flew.

FUCHS: Who was Nelson Cruikshank?

EWING: Nelson Cruikshank was a representative of the CIO at that time and until quite recently he has been head of social work for AFL-CIO. He reached retirement age,

[192]

certainly within the last year, and has now been elected president of the Senior Citizens Council of America. He took the place of Mr. John Edelman who had been the president for some years.

FUCHS: What are the dimensions of the Senior Citizen's Council? What is their particular thrust for?

EWING: They were organized along in 1956. It may have been 19 5 4 , I'm not sure. But, with the end of the Truman administration also came the end of any really active pressures for national health insurance. Mrs. Hobby, who succeeded me as Federal Security Administrator, and later became the first Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, she had proposed one or two different plans, none of which caught hold. The truth of the matter was that the doctors in the American Medical Association were highly and efficiently organized and could exert great pressure on Congress. Naturally a Congressman is interested in votes because if he can't get re-elected he can't be very effective in any way. The fight that the American Medical Association had put up against President Truman's proposal for national health insurance had been very effective. Their main appeal

[193]

was to tell about how much political influence the country doctor had with his patients.

I had realized that if we were ever going to get any program through, Medicare or anything of the like, there had to be support of an organization that had real political power. It was with this thought in mind that I toyed with the idea of organizing the American Patients Association. But when I dropped that in 1953 the opposing forces rested until along in 1954 or 1956 when Congressman Aimee Forand of Rhode Island and some others organized this Senior Citizen's Council. They took up the cause of Medicare, of the bill that I had had introduced in early 1952, which they had reintroduced in Congress with certain modifications. It was undoubtedly better than the bill I had had introduced, because they had had four or five years experience in between from which they could profit.

FUCHS: What year did you conceive, if you recall, of the American Patients Association and why did you drop that?

EWING: Well, I realize that something had to be done to organize a public support for national health insurance

[194]

or even for medicare; and as my term as Federal Security Administrator was coming to an end, I played with the idea of organizing the American Patients Association which I discussed with some of my friends. I knew the chief financial support would probably have to come from the labor groups.

FUCHS: Do you recall any of these friends?

EWING: I know the one with whom I discussed it most was Jacob Potofsky. He was head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. I talked with Mr. Potofsky about a Patients Association and he said that labor would support such an organization. They would make contributions and support the program, but he added, "Oscar, you've got to remember that we might get tired and if we did you might find yourself in a situation where you'd have to assume personally all expenses." Naturally, that didn't encourage me. Then I talked to another friend and he thought if I had anything to do with such an organization that, because I had become such a controversial figure, I would hurt the program.

FUCHS: Who was that?

[195]

EWING: I'll have to furnish the name.

FUCHS: Well, fine. What was your next step then? Did he convince you to drop it then?

EWING: Well, he didn't convince me. It was taking all these considerations together that convinced me that I had better lay low for awhile. Then in '54 or '56 Congressman Forand came along with the Council of Senior Citizens. I asked him if I could give them any help and he answered, "No, not at present." I think that he felt that I would be a liability instead of an asset, and again I didn't want to be a hindrance so I just bowed out. I have been a member of the Senior Citizens Council and have made my yearly contributions, but otherwise I have not been active.

FUCHS: This bill that you had introduced in ' 52 , what was the title of that and how did that differ from Mr. Truman's earlier insurance proposal?

EWING: Well, it simply covered the over sixty-five group. Mr. Truman's earlier proposal involved everyone from cradle to grave.

FUCHS: Could you discuss that a little bit? This was an

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attempt to get something instead of nothing?

EWING: Yes. Because I knew they had us licked on the big program for national health insurance. But I find as of today there is a great deal of support for extending Medicare to everyone. Governor Rockefeller has come out for that program within the last few months.

FUCHS: In '52