Oral History Interview with
Member, United States Civil Service Commission, 1939-48; Assistant to Director of Defense Mobilization, 1951-53.
Arthur S. Flemming
June 19, 1989
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 May, 1997
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Arthur S. Flemming
June 19, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson
JOHNSON: Dr. Flemming, I'm going to start as I usually do by asking you
for your birthplace and your birth date and your parents' names.
FLEMMING: I was born in Kingston, New York on June 12, 1905. My parents
were Harry and Harriet Flemming.
JOHNSON: Do you have brothers and sisters?
FLEMMING: I have one sister named Elizabeth.
JOHNSON: What is her married name?
FLEMMING: Her married name is Sherbondy. She lives in Pennsylvania and
part of the year down in Florida.
JOHNSON: So you're one of two children. Concerning your education, where
was it you went to school?
FLEMMING: Well, my undergraduate college was Ohio Wesleyan University
in Delaware, Ohio, and I took a master's degree at American University
here in Washington. Then my final degree was a law degree which I earned
at George Washington University here in Washington, D. C.
JOHNSON: I notice you have the LLD. from several institutions. What was
your father's occupation?
FLEMMING: My father was a practicing lawyer in Kingston, New York. He
was a very active trial lawyer, and very active in life in the community
there, president of the school board, president of the hospital board,
and president of the savings bank. He was judge of the circuit court for
a period of time, and so on.
JOHNSON: In other words, would he have been the most important influence
when you were growing up?
FLEMMING: He was a very, very important influence.
JOHNSON: What was your first position after you received your law degree?
FLEMMING: I came to Washington and accepted a position, a part-time position,
really as a debate coach and instructor in government at the American
University. It was just two years old at that time. This was the year
1927, and they were just getting underway . I had about three years in
that position and then joined the staff as a reporter of the
United States Daily, which was the predecessor publication
to U.S. News and World Report. In other words, I was working
with David Lawrence, and I was with him approximately five years.
JOHNSON: That brings us up to when?
FLEMMING: That brings us up to around 1934.
JOHNSON: Okay, right in the middle of the Depression.
FLEMMING: Then I accepted an invitation to return to American University
to become the first director of a School of Public Affairs at American
University. I was there until 1939 when President Roosevelt invited me
to become a member of the U. S. Civil Service Commission.
JOHNSON: So you got into the manpower and personnel area of the Federal
FLEMMING: That's right, in 1939, and of course, as you know, that was
really the beginning of the defense program. Soon after I became a member
of the Civil Service Commission, my two colleagues on the Commission asked
me to accept responsibility for the Commission's role in the defense program,
later the war program. Not long after that, the President established
by Executive Order the War Manpower Commission, which was chaired by Paul
McNutt, former Governor of Indiana. The President asked me to serve on
that commission, representing Government in its
capacity as an employer. Soon after the commission got under way, Governor
McNutt, the chairman, asked me to serve as the government chairman of
a labor, management, and agriculture committee. This committee was a working
committee. We met virtually every week, and it was our responsibility
to work on the issue of moving people from non-defense to defense programs
without any loss of seniority and so on. We had to work by getting voluntary
agreements between labor and management. There was no law giving us authority
to order these movements and there was no executive order giving us authority
to do that . So, everything we did had to be done through negotiation
and through reaching an agreement.
JOHNSON: So you learned the work of both sides, management and labor.
FLEMMING: That's right. I became very well acquainted with some of the
younger leaders at that time in both labor and management, the people
who eventually became some of the top leaders on both the labor and management
sides. For example, one of the very active members of our committee was
Walter Ruether. It was my first opportunity to get to know him.
JOHNSON: Okay. You were a member of the Advisory Council of the Retraining
and Reemployment Administration in the Department of Labor from 1944 to
FLEMMING: Yes, that was an organization that was set up to plan for the
situation that everybody thought was going to confront the country immediately
after the war.
Namely, the feeling was that we would experience high unemployment, and
consequently the administration felt that some planning should take place
designed to alleviate that situation to the extent that Government could
As I look back on it, I recall with interest the fact that we had a lot
of studies put before us, and a lot of facts and figures put in front
of us, but no one mentioned the possibility of an electronic industry
developing in this country. Yet, the electronic industry was just around
the corner, and of course, it had a terrific impact on the employment
situation immediately following the war. Actually we did not have a high
rate of unemployment immediately following the war. However, the planning
process was very worthwhile and it did enable the government to focus
on some issues that it should have focused on.
JOHNSON: Did you get any specific instructions from Roosevelt on policy
FLEMMING: No, not that I recall in that particular area. Of course, at
that time the Secretary of Labor was Frances Perkins. She was very active
as a member of the War Manpower Commission and she was also very active
in the work of this particular advisory council.
JOHNSON: You were well acquainted with her then.
FLEMMING: Very well acquainted with her at that time, and then when President
Roosevelt died and was succeeded by President Truman, he brought in his
own Secretary of
Labor. But there was a vacancy on the Civil Service Commission and President
Truman invited her to fill that vacancy. She accepted the invitation,
so for three years I had the privilege of working with her as a colleague.
Of course, I had became acquainted with her work even when I was a reporter
because one of the first things that President Roosevelt did was to set
up a Cabinet task force to take a look at the question of whether or not
this country should start down the road of social insurance in order,
as he put it, to deal with the hazards and vicissitudes of life. The chair
of that Cabinet task force was Frances Perkins. She was certainly a great
lady, and an outstanding public servant.
JOHNSON: She had some influence on your thinking then?
FLEMMING: Oh, very definitely. We became close associates in connection
with the work of the Civil Service Commission.
JOHNSON: Had you met Senator Truman?
FLEMMING: No, I had not met him. I was very much aware of his work as
chairman of the investigating committee, along with everyone else that
was in Government. I met him soon after he took over as President. I met
him in this way. I should say this -- at that time, the members of the
Civil Service Commission did not have a term of office. They served at
the pleasure of the President of the United States. So the question came
up as to whether or not we should automatically submit our resignations.
What I would
call the Civil Service constituency urged us not to do that. They said,
clearly if the President wants to make a change he's got the legal right
to do it, but we think that it would contribute to the bipartisan climate
that has permeated the work of the Civil Service Commission if you did
not just automatically submit your resignation. So we didn't.
About a year prior to that, Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania,
had invited me to accept the presidency of that college. I considered
it, and decided that we were in the middle of a war program, that I had
a key position in connection with that war program, and that it would
not be right to leave the Government. They had not filled the position,
so they came back to me when President Roosevelt died and President Truman
took office, thinking that there might be a change. They asked me if I
would reconsider. I said, "Well, I'll think about it," but I
had reached the conclusion that I would make the same decision, because
we were still in the middle of the war program. But a friend over at the
White House, not in a key position, but yet someone working over there,
said to me that he had overheard a conversation that indicated they were
unhappy over the fact that we had not submitted our resignations, and
some were particularly unhappy that, as the Republican member, I had not
submitted my resignation. So I thought that I had better do a little checking
under those circumstances, because I might find myself turning down a
job and then being out of the job that I was in.
So I went up to see [Democratic] Congressman [Robert] Ramspeck from
Georgia. He was the author of most of the Civil Service legislation at
that particular period. He was actually chair of the committee that handled
Civil Service legislation, but he was also Majority Whip of the House
of Representatives, and he had been chairman of the speakers bureau for
Mr. Truman when he ran as the Vice President . So I told him the situation
that confronted me, and Mr. Ramspeck said, "I don't think there's
any truth to that, but you ought not hear it from me, you ought to hear
it from the President." He said, "I'd better get in touch with
the White House staff and suggest that the President talk to you."
Well, within a day or two I did get a call from the White House, asking
me to come down to see the President. I went in to see him -- went into
his office -- and he greeted me by saying, "Bob Ramspeck tells me
that some guy around here is trying to tell you that I want your resignation."
I said, "Yes, that's what I picked up." He said, "There's
not a damn bit of truth to it." He said, "I don't know anything
about Civil Service. That hasn't been a part of my background." He
kind of said it with a twinkle in his eye, but he said, "I need somebody
around here who does know something about it. Bob Ramspeck tells me you
do know something about it. I want you to stay." I said, "Thank
you Mr. President, I'll be very glad to stay." That conversation
didn't take longer than three minutes, but I understood just where I stood
with him, as other people did.
JOHNSON: Do you want to name this friend at the White House?
FLEMMING: Actually, the name has faded.
JOHNSON: Before we proceed further with Truman while he was President,
you did have some recollections on the '44 Democratic convention, on the
selection of a Vice-Presidential candidate for President Roosevelt, and
Paul McNutt being one of the leading contenders from your point of view.
FLEMMING: Yes, of course, I was in the Government during that period
and I was also over at the War Manpower Commission where Paul McNutt was
the chairman. I was following that with some interest. President Roosevelt
had kept people in kind of an uncertain state for quite a while as to
whether or not he was going to run for a fourth term. He had really invited
people to become candidates for the Democratic nomination for President
. Paul McNutt was one of those who accepted that invitation and got out
there to get delegates. And he was being quite successful.
Then when President Roosevelt announced that he was going to run, he
also made it clear that he hadn't made up his mind as to who he wanted
as a Vice-Presidential candidate. As we know, he really didn't make up
his mind on that until the convention was held. In effect, he kind of
invited those who were running for President, who were interested in doing
so, to run for Vice President. Paul McNutt certainly did do that. He got
a good many delegates pledged to him. In fact, when the convention took
place and President Roosevelt announced that he wanted to have Senator
Truman as his candidate, the McNutt delegates were stirred up. They were
aroused, and it became necessary for Governor McNutt to appear before
the convention and in effect say, "Look, the only person that should
select his running mate is the man who is going to run for President."
He urged his delegates to support the President's selection, and in effect,
released them with the idea that they would do just that. And; of course,
that is what happened.
JOHNSON: There was a letter that Roosevelt signed saying that either
Douglas -- that is, William Douglas who was on the Supreme Court by this
time -- or Truman would be suitable as vice-presidential candidates. Did
you know anything about his candidacy or do you have any recollections
of William Douglas as a possible Vice-Presidential candidate?
FLEMMNG: No, I was not involved in any discussions relative to that possibility.
Of course, I had known him. I was in the Executive Branch of the Government,
and I had watched with interest his nomination to the Supreme Court and
the work that he had done on the Supreme Court.
JOHNSON: Paul McNutt -- how long did he stay with the Government, and
was he involved at all with the Truman administration?
FLENINIING: Yes, he became Ambassador to the Philippines.
JOHNSON: Oh, under Truman.
FLEMMING: That's right. To the best of my knowledge, that was his last
public office. He died soon after that. He developed cancer and died at
a fairly early age.
JOHNSON: Then this Retraining and Reemployment group that you involved
with from 1944 until -- when did that dissolve, do you know?
FLEMMING: I'm not sure just when it was terminated. It was still functioning
I think when I left in 1948 to become president of Ohio Wesleyan University.
JOHNSON: But it was successful in doing what it was supposed to do?
FLEMMING: Well, I think it was a successful planning operation.
JOHNSON: In case there had been this postwar bust, or depression, as
was sort of predicted because this is what happened in the past, and that
was part of that cyclical idea involving free enterprise economics, what
would have been done? The Employment Act, of course, was passed in 1946.
Did you have any input into that Employment Act?
FLEMMING: I'm sure that some of our discussions, recommendations, and
so on, did influence that employment act. And if we had moved into a high
rate of unemployment I'm sure that, based on some of the work that we
had done and so on, there would have been an acceleration of the opening
up of public service jobs, not only at the Federal level, but at state
and local levels as well.
JOHNSON: Direct employment by Government at various levels?
FLEMMING: That's right, yes. That's right, in order to tide over what
people envisaged as a transition period. Give the economy a chance to
pick up so that normal employment rates would come back into the picture.
But, to the best of my recollection, the major factor that made that unnecessary
was the advent of the electronic industry, as I've indicated during our
JOHNSON: You're referring to the television, and of the expansion of
FLEMMING: That's right, and the whole electronic industry. It's clear
now -- it wasn't then -- that it was just around the corner, and that
had a major, positive impact on employment.
JOHNSON: And of course, there was all of this pent-up demand after the
war for all kinds of civilian goods. And the GI bill. Did you see the
GI bill as not only a way to help educate veterans but also as kind of
a pump primer?
FLEMMING: It contributed to the priming of the pump. Of course, it contributed
to putting the educational institutions back on a better economic foundation.
JOHNSON: Did you have any input into the GI bill?
FLEMMING: No, I was not involved in that. I was the beneficiary of that
when I became president of Ohio Wesleyan in '48.
JOHNSON: The Civil Service Commission -- you were with them for a good
long time, weren't you, from 1939 to'48. You resigned in '48 from the
Civil Service Commission.
FLEMMING: That's right. It was early in '48 that I received an invitation
from Ohio Wesleyan, my own college, to come back as president and I decided
that I would accept it, in all probability. But I also decided, in view
of the conversation I'd had with President Truman at the beginning of
his administration, that I would like to go over and talk with him and
tell him about my plans.
JOHNSON: After the meeting with President Truman in 1945, what were some
of the major problems that you had to deal with as a member of the Civil
service Commission? Do you recall what seemed to stand out as major problems
and how did you remedy those?
FLEMMING: If I may back up just a little, and say that when it became
clear that we were going to become involved in a major defense or war
program, the recommendation was sent to Capitol Hill from the War Department
to exempt all new positions from the whole Civil Service system. I went
to the White House to talk with one of President Roosevelt's assistants,
a gentleman by the name of McReynolds, William McReynolds. He was one
of the six persons "with a passion for anonymity," that Roosevelt
appointed. He was a career civil servant himself. He had been a special
Secretary [Henry] Morgenthau over at the Treasury, but he had grown up
really in the Post Office Department. I said to him, "Look, it is
not necessary to take these positions out from under the whole Civil Service
structure just because we're confronting a crisis." I said, "The
President's got all of the authority he needs to authorize us to set up
a system, by Executive Order, that could be adapted to this crisis situation."
And he said, "Well, if you feel that way, go up and testify to that
affect. You've got clearance; go up and tell them about it."
So, I went up before the committee that was considering this recommendation;
as I recall, it was chaired by former Congressman [Andrew J.] May of Kentucky.
I indicated to the staff director I wanted to be heard. The hearing was
drawing to a close and he said, "I understand there's somebody from
the Civil Service Commission that wants to be heard. Who is it?"
So I stood up and introduced myself. He said, "Okay, tell us what
you want to say." So I urged that they turn this request down, and
then laid out how I thought it could be helped. Well, they accepted the
recommendation by a margin of one vote in the committee, and they did
it by using some proxies. So then I immediately got in touch with Mr.
Ramspeck, and told him what had happened. He said, "All right, I'll
fight it on the floor." He did fight it on the floor, and he beat
it, by a close margin, but he did beat it. It never came up again, and
as a result of that, the President did issue an Executive Order and we
established war service regulations. Under those war service regulations,
we organized a recruiting program which had, as an objective, getting
best qualified people we could on the job in the shortest possible period
of time. People received what were referred to as War Service appointments.
In other words, they were for the duration of the war. That worked reasonably
well. We worked out partnerships with all of the major agencies. As the
war came to a close in '45 and'46, it became clear, of course, that we'd
have to have another transition period from the war service period back
to a normal career civil service. So we'd have to get the Executive Order
that would make it possible for us to do that. That was presented to President
Truman. We did not have to present it to him in person. Don Dawson was
on his staff.
JOHNSON: Was he your go-between?
FLEMMING Yes, he was the go-between at that particular time. It was presented
and it was signed. We worked on that transitional period. We'd, step by
step, give the war service appointees an opportunity to take certain steps
that would enable them to be converted over to a regular Civil Service
status and so on. We did work out the transition, and I suspect that was
the major issue at that time. But also, of course, during that period
of time, we had this whole issue of the so-called loyalty standards and
the Executive Order dealing with that, that President Truman issued. This
is where my association with Frances Perkins was extremely helpful.
JOHNSON: Okay, before we get into that subject, which is a very important
one, you mentioned this McReynolds' "passion for anonymity."
You had a little anecdote. Do you want to repeat that?
FLEMMING: Well, let me give you a background for that. Fairly early in
the Roosevelt administration he set up a group which was headed by Louis
JOHNSON: You mean Roosevelt set this group up?
FLEMMING: Yes. Brownlow had association with the University of Chicago
and on it was also Charles Merriam, who was head of the Political Science
Department at the University of Chicago. It was to take a look at the
way in which the White House was operating. In those days there was no
professional staff at the White House, just really clerical staff -- some
of them were high-level clerical staff -- but no professional staff. [The
Brownlow committee] also was to take a look at other organizational problems
in the Federal Government. They filed a report with President Roosevelt
in which they recommended that he select for his own personal staff, six
persons who as they put it, would have a "passion for anonymity."
Mr. McReynolds was one of those persons. They also recommended the creation,
of a number of new agencies such as the Federal Security Agency, which
was the agency that Paul McNutt headed while he also was serving as chairman
of the War Manpower Commission. That was the predecessor agency to [the
Department of] Health, Education and Welfare.
JOHNSON: Well, what was it Roosevelt asked of McReynolds, something about
whether he kept a diary?
FLEMMING: No, this goes back to an earlier period in the Roosevelt administration.
I happened to have as one of my close personal friends a person by the
name of Charles West, who was a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University but
who was also a member of the political science faculty at Denison [University].
In'32, that's my recollection, he ran for Congress from our Congressional
district in Ohio, and was elected. He was identified as a very promising
younger member of the House and was placed on the Ways and Means Committee
in his first term, which was an unusual thing to have happen. He was doing
very, very well. But, as you will recall, around '36, along in that period,
President Roosevelt became very unhappy with some of the Democratic members
of the Congress and he decided to see if he could get rid of some of them.
One of them was Senator [Victor] Donahey of the State of Ohio who was
a very popular political figure. So he went to Charlie West and asked
him to run in the Democratic primary in Ohio against Senator Donahey.*
Well, Charlie West was very reluctant to do it because he could see that
there was unfolding for him a very interesting career in the House. And
he knew enough about Ohio politics to know that the odds would be very
much against him in terms of defeating Donahey.
Well, he was right; he ran and he lost. But then the Government was just
beginning to establish the positions of Under Secretary in the various
* Victor Donahey served as U.S. Senator, from Ohio, in the years 1935-41.
so President Roosevelt offered Charlie West the position of Under Secretary
of Interior, which would have put him under Mr. Ickes, Harold Ickes, but
he offered it with the understanding he would be detailed immediately
to the White House and would become their principal liaison with Congress.
This was really the first position of that kind that we had. So he accepted
that. In those days President Roosevelt would start the day with what
was called the "bedside conference" because of his physical
problem. His close staff, immediate staff, would meet him in his bedroom
and they'd kind of plan the day. About the second day that Charlie West
was a part of that group, President Roosevelt suddenly said to him, "Charlie,
do you keep a diary?" Mr. West's reply was, "No, Mr. President,
I do not keep a diary." And the President's response was, "That's
great; we don't like people who keep diaries, do we Marvin?" referring
to Marvin McIntyre who was his right-hand person, one of his personal
JOHNSON: Were you there for any of those bedside conferences?
FLEMMING: No, no.
JOHNSON: This came to you through somebody else?
FLEMMING: Yes, that's right.
JOHNSON: Now, getting up to the Truman period again, the loyalty issue
created controversy, but before we mention that, according to the history
of the Civil Service
Commission by Van Riper,* one of your ideas, one of your projects, in
that immediate postwar period was to decentralize Civil Service.
FLEMMING: Well, all that started before that postwar period. That was
an idea that I had almost from the beginning of my service as a member
of the Civil Service Commission, because I found that it was a highly
centralized organization. I felt that an organization that was going to
function effectively in the personnel field would have to be decentralized.
So we started it even prewar, but when the war came along, then we made
it a completely decentralized operation.
Now, in the postwar period, of course, we confronted the issue of to
what extent we were going to recentralize, as contrasted with the decentralized
operation of the war period. We decided to stay with the decentralized
JOHNSON: Now, Van Riper says that that might have been more theory than
practice because he said the Civil Service Commission did control procedural
FLEMMING: Well, see, he's using "decentralization" in one sense;
I'm using it in another here. When I responded to your question, I was
talking about decentralizing the operations of the Civil Service Commission
as an organization. The Civil Service Commission had field offices and
so on. When I first took office, those field offices had very little authority
to act and we did delegate a great deal of authority to act.
* Paul R. Van Riper, History of the United States Civil Service
(Evanston, Ill.: Row, Peterson, 1958).
Now, he's using it in the sense of a willingness on the part of the Civil
Service Commission to decentralize to the operating agencies of the Government
some of our authority to act, recognizing that we had the responsibility.
But we did recognize that we had authority to delegate authority to act
with the understanding that there would be a monitoring of how those delegations
were carried out and so on. During the war we did delegate a great deal
of authority to departments and agencies to act, subject to monitoring
on the part of the Civil Service Commission. In the postwar period, my
effort personally, and I had the backing of someone like Frances Perkins
on that, was to continue that policy of utilizing the resources of the
personnel offices of the departments and agencies to the maximum possible
extent. You do have to keep in mind the fact that prewar, the personnel
offices in the departments were very thin, with very few professional
people in them. In fact, when I first went on the Commission, the personnel
function was handled by what were called chief clerks. Today they would
be called Assistant Secretaries for Administration. But the chief clerk
handled budget, he handled procurement, he handled space, and he handled
personnel. They were just beginning to get some professional people in
those personnel offices.
Now that was accelerated some during the war because of the pressures
of the war period. So, when you thought about delegating to the operating
agencies, you had to take into consideration their resources in terms
of professionals in the personnel field. So, postwar, it was spotty. We
delegated more completely to some departments and agencies than we did
JOHNSON: I see. The competitive exam and the register of eligibles, was
that introduced after the war, during the Truman period?
FLEMMING Well, you see, that was an integral part of the Civil Service
JOHNSON: That was prewar too.
FLEMMING: Pre-World War II. We did not use it to any extent whatsoever
during the war period. We had to use other methods and other techniques.
After World War II, it was reintroduced in connection with certain jobs,
for example, with entrance positions.
JOHNSON: So the application might have changed a little, but the principle
remained the same?
FLEMMING: We tried, consistent with the resources that were available
all through the Government, to stay with that concept. That's right.
JOHNSON: And, of course, you had tremendous workload after the war.
FLEMMING: Oh, yes, particularly all of this conversion that had to go
on; it was a very heavy workload for everybody.
JOHNSON: And, of course, you introduced the veterans preference, with
the five points?
FLEMMING: Well, the veterans preference had been pre-World War II also.
JOHNSON: Oh, it had?
FLEMMING: But when you began to apply post-World War II, obviously it
was on a much greater order of magnitude, and had a much greater impact
on the whole career service.
JOHNSON: Were there many complaints that because of this preference,
that sometimes the best person might not have been appointed to the top
FLEMMING: Oh, you got that complaint and sometimes it might work that
way. You see, veterans preference in the Federal service at that time,
and it still operates substantially this way, operated so that whatever
grade a veteran got, a non-disabled veteran, you'd add five points to
his grade. For a disabled veteran, you would add ten points and he'd go
to the top of the register. Well, he was qualified. I mean the whole objective
of the system was to make sure that the person was qualified, but there
might very well be some people lower down on the register that would be
better qualified. Congress continued that, and decided that's what they
wanted to do as far as the disabled veteran was concerned. And it still
JOHNSON: Congress had to approve all these major decisions?
FLEMMING: Well, the veterans preference law was definitely a Congressional
decision. The President still had a good deal of authority in the Civil
Service field; he doesn't have as much today as he did then. I mean Congress
has come in over the years with more and more specific legislation.
JOHNSON: Did Truman kind of intrude, or did he take a strong role at all
in Civil Service?
FLEMMING: No. I mean he certainly did not intervene at any point. I think
he probably operated in accordance with a philosophy that he expressed
to me in that first conversation. "This is not an area that I know
very much about; I need somebody around that does." And as long as
he had confidence in the way we were operating, he didn't feel that it
was necessary to intervene.
JOHNSON: When you left in'48, do you know how many times you had met
with Truman, by that time?
FLEMMNING: I met him that first time when he first took office and then
I met with him as I left. That was all. I did not meet with him in between.
JOHNSON: Well, how about on the Hoover Commission?
FLEMMING: Okay, in connection with the Hoover Commission, as a Commission,
we did meet with him, but personally, I mean one-on-one, it was only those
two times. I should say that you've identified one development that from
my point of view was very important in terms of the opportunity it gave
me. Under the law establishing what we now call the First Hoover Commission,
the President was charged with the responsibility of appointing two persons
from the Executive Branch; one Democrat and one Republican. He appointed
as the Democrat, Secretary [James V.] Forestal who
was then the first Secretary of Defense, and he asked me to serve as the
Republican, so that put me on the Hoover Commission.
JOHNSON: In'47 I believe.
FLEMMING: Yes, '47. And that was a very exciting assignment . As you
know, President Truman, in asking President [Herbert] Hoover to come back
to be a member and chairman of the commission, was giving him his first
opportunity to come back into public life following his defeat for reelection.
I know that President Hoover deeply appreciated that. I had the feeling
as I observed what was going on that a good relationship developed between
President Truman and President Hoover. At times President Hoover would
feel that he'd like to know how President Truman would react to a particular
proposal, so he'd call up and go over and see him. I got the feeling that
on those occasions and possibly others, President Truman also got President
Hoover's reactions to certain things that he was dealing with. I was thrilled
to see that kind of a relationship develop between