Oral History Interview with
Stanley R. Fike
Mr. Fike was a newspaper editor and publisher from Lee's Summit, Missouri before joining Senator Symington's staff as an administrative assistant in 1953. Mr. Fike met Mr. Truman when Fike was 16 years old working as a newspaper reporter and developed a friendship with Mr. Truman and subsequently printed Mr. Truman's campaign materials during the 1932 and 1940 senatorial campaigns. The friendship continued throughout the President's lifetime.
March 16, 1976
by Jerald L. Hill and William D. Stilley
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This interview was conducted by William D. Stilley and Jerald L. Hill as part of a intern and independent study project at William Jewell College in March 1976, under the direction of the Political Science Department of William Jewell College. 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 transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of William D. Stilley and Jerald L. Hill.
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Stanley R. Fike
March 16, 1976
by Jerald L. Hill and William D. Stilley
STILLEY: Mr. Fike, when did you first meet President Truman?
FIKE: In the spring of 1930.
STILLEY: And where was this, where did you . . .
FIKE: Well, as far as I can recall it was probably a meeting of the Inter-City-Kansas City Kiwanis Club in Fairmount, a suburb between Kansas City and Independence, Missouri. At that time I was working for the Blue Valley Inter-City News. I was at the ripe old age of sixteen, and a combination
printer's devil and-odd job man working after school and on Saturdays for the Blue Valley Inter-City News. And Judge Harry S. Truman was Presiding Judge of the Jackson County Court.
In our area we looked at the County Court as being our most important public agency, and so I think we covered a lot of the activities of the County Court. They furnished the roads, maintained the roads in the unincorporated areas of Jackson County. This was at a time when the county was completing the first part of a ten million dollar road bond issue, and getting ready to vote additional bonds in 1930. Judge Truman was one of the leaders in support of those bonds, and by all odds was the most important public figure in our area. He was a leader politically, and in the government, and at least once a year he and the other members of the Jackson County Court would meet with the Kiwanis Club, which was our only civic club in the area. When he came to speak at the club it was a big day for us. He
would report on what the county was doing, get questions from the floor; and the other judges were with him.
STILLEY: When you first met him as a young man, what was your first impression of Harry Truman?
FIKE: I was awed. He was the most important public official I had met up to that time. He was decisive, and incisive in his comments, as I recall; was not one to waste words, but friendly. He was in and out of our office from time to time. I would see him if I was in the office, talk to him, and then also when he came out and talked in the area, I would cover the meetings where he spoke and wrote stories about speeches that he made. Mostly at that time it was about county business, and the roads. He wanted to build paved, all weather roads within not more than two miles of every farm in Jackson County, which was a big issue at that time, because Missouri had just started coming out of the mud in 1921.
He was the leader in the highway building program in Jackson County and gained statewide and national prominence from this.
STILLEY: Were you involved in the 1934 campaign for the Senate?
FIKE: Yes. Our printing plant, newspaper plant, did all the printing for him in the primary campaign. I did a lot of the work myself, and printed millions of small candidate cards and leaflets, and reprints of editorials that came out of different newspapers out over the state. We didn't have a very big printing plant, but we did a lot of work on the press anyway in the campaign in 1934, starting about April or May. I guess it was in 1934. 1 was then manager of the plant. We had about eight or nine employees, I guess, and did general printing work in addition to our newspapers.
STILLER: Did you have much contact with Senator Truman while he was in Washington, or when he
came back to Missouri?
Fike: In Missouri when he would come back home, and in the Independence area, Kansas City area, I would see him usually, and cover speeches that he made in our immediate area. Ours was a local newspaper. We supported him editorially in 1934 and again in 1940, and would carry stories about him, and editorials in support of him from time to time.
In the fall of 1930 there was a movement underway and our paper was one of the first to carry an editorial and a news story about him as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 1932. Then in 1933 he actually couldn't make the race for state Governor, but he had been out over the state quite a bit checking it out to see if he could get the support for it. Francis M. Wilson of Platte City, Missouri had been the Democratic nominee in 1928, was defeated in the Hoover landslide of 1928, and was again the nominee in 1932 for
Governor. He died about six weeks before the election, and we urged Truman as one of the potential nominees at that time. The State Democratic Committee saw fit to select Guy B. Park of Platte City, circuit judge in Platte City to fill the vacancy on the ticket and he was elected as Governor. Truman in 1934 still had his debts left from the failure of his haberdashery business, which he had started with Eddie Jacobson back in 1921 after the war--'20 or '21 when he started it, it went broke I think in '21 or '22. He still had that debt hanging over his head. He wanted to be County Collector of Jackson County, and there was a practice at that time that no county official could run for more than two terms, that they had the support of the Pendergast organization for two terms; and Truman wanted to be County Collector. It was the best paying job in the county then, much more income than as Presiding Judge of the County Court, which was relatively low in pay, maybe $6,000 a year. Truman was a poor man and had these debts
still hanging over him from the bankruptcy of his haberdashery business.
The support of the organization had already been promised to George Harrington. Tom Pendergast, the leader, told Judge Truman that they would not support him for Collector because they had already promised the job to George Harrington. They put Truman in to run for United States Senator; told him that they were going to support him for that position, and he ran for the job and was nominated and elected and reelected in 1940, history shows.
He was widely known throughout the state. He had been president of the County Judge's Association, took all the county judges in the state along. Also he had been active in the Masonic work throughout the state. He had a pretty wide acquaintanceship, that helped a great deal to organize support he had. The Pendergast organization in 1934 was very strong, but Truman had some strength of his own through his friendships.
He had friendships throughout the state.
STILLEY: In the 1940 campaign, what involvement did you have in that?
FIKE: Well, we supported Judge Truman, then Senator Truman, in the primary and the general election. In the primary he won by just a little over 8,000 votes. I've often said that a change of one vote in every other precinct in the state--there were about 4,500 precincts in the state--so that a change in every other precinct would have defeated him in the primary and he won the fall election by that 4,200 votes as I remember. So, a change in every other precinct in the fall would have defeated him. In the primary a change of one vote in every precinct would have defeated him and in the fall, a change of one vote in every other precinct. I often cite that as an example of the value of each individual vote.
STILLEY: When Truman was running for Vice president, what involvement did you have in that campaign?
FIKE: Well, we supported him, of course. He got the nomination for Vice President, with the support of President Roosevelt, who said that Harry S. Truman would be acceptable to him; and the delegates to the national convention nominated him, of course, for the position. We didn't really do too much in that campaign. I was active in the campaign of Roger Sermon of Independence for nomination for Governor of Missouri. I was president of the Blue Township Sermon for Governor Club in 1944 and I wrote then Senator Truman and asked him to be the first member of the club, the membership was $1 a piece. He sent me back a dollar bill and so the first membership card was issued to Senator Truman of Independence. Roger Sermon was Mayor of Independence.
HILL: Did Senator Truman ever tell you he had ambitions to be anything besides Senator? Did he ever express a higher desire?
FIKE: Not to me, no. He wanted to do a good job as Senator, and he did. He was a very fine Senator
in his first term, and he was a worker. He liked to dig into a situation and become thoroughly familiar with it, and the facts. He was not a good speaker and a flowery orator at a11, but once he got the facts, he knew what he was talking about. He could speak very convincingly. Over the years he developed became a better speaker, especially as he knew what he was talking about. He was very active in his first term as Senator on the Commerce Committee. He