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Edgar C. Faris, Jr. Oral History Interview

 

Oral History Interview with
Edgar C. "Bud" Faris, Jr.

Secretary to Senator Harry S. Truman, 1935-38.

Los Angeles, California
March 8, 1971
by J. R. Fuchs

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

 


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the Faris 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 April, 1975
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

 



Oral History Interview with
Edgar C. "Bud" Faris, Jr.

 

Los Angeles, California
March 8, 1971
by J. R. Fuchs
[1]

FUCHS: Mr. Faris, I wonder if you would start this interview by giving me a little of your background, when and where you were born, something about your family, and then your jobs before you went into Mr. Truman's office when he became Senator.

FARIS: Well, I was born Edgar C. Faris, Jr. in Kansas City, Missouri, August 24, 1908. My father was City Architect of Kansas City. I think that he was only about twenty-five or twenty-six years old, and he built the City Market in Kansas City, and most of the fire stations. He was way ahead of his time, because he put an architectural design to the fire stations. I imagine some of them are still there. They don't look exactly like a fire station, the old drab looking, you know, buildings. He changed the design to sort of fit the architecture of the setting

[2]

of where the fire station was located.

I should go back, too, to his father, my grandfather, who was James E. Faris. He was a Republican. He was chairman of the Board of Public Works in Kansas City under old Mayor Darius Brown. My father was rather a strong-headed, strong-willed man, and he didn't like the Republican Party so he became a Democrat. He had known Tom Pendergast for a good many years, along with all the other politicians in Kansas City, because Kansas City was not too large a city in those days. I imagine there were two hundred and fifty or three hundred thousand people.

He built the City Market, as I said (I'm repeating myself), and then having known Tom Pendergast, he had designed Tom Pendergast's first home out in the Country Club district, I believe it was on Fifty-fifth Street and I might add that Tom Pendergast never paid him for the architectural work. I think my dad almost supervised the building of it, so I guess Pendergast figured that he paid him off by having -- I don't know whether Pendergast made him City Architect, I don't believe he did. I don't really know how my father became City Architect of Kansas City.

[3]

FUCHS: I wonder why Pendergast didn't pay him? They must have had some sort of a contract.

FARIS: Well, they did, but I think Pendergast was notorious for that sort of an operation at that time. But I never really did go into the details because I was young, and that was the least of my interests, whether Tom Pendergast had paid my father. As long as I got the car and the two dollars for a weekend date, why -- so, you know, you grow up in these things and actually they become commonplace to you. You know, you hear all the stories, and all the stories I have heard -- it was all hearsay, but I guess some of it was based on fact; and of course, there has been a number of books written about Pendergast and his early operations. So, I really don't see any reason for my going into that, because anything I know is just something that I had heard, you know, through the years. This is prior to my entering politics.

FUCHS: Where did you live in Kansas City?

FARIS: I lived on Warwick Boulevard in Kansas City. We had a home on Warwick and then we went to Florida, you see. We left Kansas City in 1925. My father had gone to Florida in 1921. There was a builder in Kansas City by

[4]

the name of McCandles, Guy McCandles, and Guy McCandles and my father took a trip around the United States to see what other cities were building in the way of apartment buildings, because they built homes and apartment buildings. And on this trip, they ended up in Florida, this is 1921; and my father was quite taken with Florida, so he bought some acreage there in Florida in '21. The big problem there in Florida was the palmettos, they grew wild there like a scrub palm, and the question was how to get rid of the palmetto to clear the land. There was a man by the name of Carl Fisher, who had invented the presto light for the first automobiles, it had a tank on the side and you went out front to the lamp to light them. Do you remember those lights?

FUCHS: Vaguely. I remember reading about them.

FARIS: You would light the headlights by turning on the gas from the presto tank. They were used in the early days on practically all automobiles. Carl Fisher had bought quite a bit of acreage on Miami Beach, and so, being an inventive type of man, he invented a plow that would plow up these palmettos with ease and cut the expense, you see, of clearing the land. So when the boom broke out in Florida in about '24, why, we moved

[5]

to Florida. So I finished high school in Miami and then I came back to Kansas City, I guess it was in the summer of 1928.

FUCHS: Did you come back with your family?

FARIS: Yes, I came back with my family.

FUCHS: They moved back?

FARIS: They had moved back to Kansas City, because the boom had stopped and my father had lost some money in Florida so we came back, but he still kept some acreage there.

FUCHS: You were about twenty then.

FARIS: Yes, in August of '28, I was twenty years old. That's when I went to Rockhurst College.

FUCHS: You entered Rockhurst, after you came back here, as a freshman.

FARIS: Yes, as a freshman, and I played football, basketball and baseball at Rockhurst. From Rockhurst I went to Missouri University.

FUCHS: Oh, you did. What year did you enter there?

[6]

FARIS: In '29.

FUCHS: In '29.

FARIS: Then from Missouri University I came back to Kansas City. I studied journalism at Missouri University.

FUCHS: Did you graduate from the School of Journalism?

FARIS: No, I left. I wanted to be a writer, I always had; that was my tendency anyway. I wrote a novel -- College Humor was the in college magazine at that time, a national magazine, that was subscribed to by all colleges, you know, all the undergraduates read it. College Humor used to have a contest every year for the undergraduates for the best novel. One of my colleagues, Thomas Cockrell, won it, and I got a mention but mine wasn't published and his was. Tom became a pretty fair writer. He later wrote for Saturday Evening Post and then he ended up in Hollywood writing screen stories. So then when I came back to Kansas City, I went to the Kansas City Journal Post as a cub reporter.

FUCHS: This would be about '31?

FARIS: Yes, about '31 or '32, I guess it was. They were

[7]

paying me $18.00 a week, so I decided that here I had been going to a university to try to learn to be a journalist and it was the wrong thing to do, because the newspaper city editors didn't want students from journalism schools in those days, the old hard-bitten city editors didn't want you to start in as a "copy boy" not from a journalism school. But I had some contacts so I got into the -- my grandfather, again, who was Chairman of the Public Works, was then a leading developer of tract homes himself, he was a builder, and from that he naturally went into the real estate business, had a real estate office in Kansas City, and he handled all the Walter S. Dickey real estate. Dickey headed the Dickey Clay Pipe Company and Dickey owned the Kansas City Journal-Post.

FUCHS: Was Charlie Ross still at the School of Journalism at that time?

FARIS: No, Walter Williams was president of the School of Journalism.

FUCHS: I believe Charlie Ross for a period, now I can't tell you what the dates were, was on the staff.

FARIS: Yes. Charlie was there, but I can't remember -- I

[8]

remember Charlie later, but actually I don't remember him being in the journalism school at that time. As a matter of fact, I can't even tell you the name of the professor now. So many thousands of names have gone through my mind in my life, you know, since then that unless I have something to recall it for me, I can't remember.

Well, anyway, I was going to make a step forward, I felt radio would pay better. I had gone to see Arthur Church, who owned KMBC in Kansas City; and Arthur and I were working out a deal for me to enter radio. Paul Henning, who now does the Beverly Hillbillies and Greenacres, and Paul was at KMBC at this time. Paul and I later met here in Hollywood. Paul had jerked sodas at the drugstore in Independence, he was from Independence.

FUCHS: You didn't know him back there?

FARIS: No, I didn't know Paul at the station. I learned this later that he was there at the same time that I was going to go with KMBC.

FUCHS: What did you do, work for the Post about two years?

[9]

Was that as a reporter?

FARIS: Yes, mostly sports. Well, I was with Parke Carroll, and Ed Cochran was the sport's editor. So, at this time, this was in '34, and I had been interested in politics anyway. At Missouri, I had helped elect the president of the class, you know, that got in, and I had worked in my precinct in Kansas City like everybody did, and worked up to the board. Otherwise, if you didn't have that experience, you didn't get anyplace in politics in Kansas Ci