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Joseph A. Fox Oral History Interview


Oral History Interview with
Joseph A. Fox

Newspaper reporter from 1913 to 1956. Worked for the Washington Evening Star, March 1924-August 1956. He was the Star's White House correspondent from April 1943 to February '54 and its national correspondent, 1954-56. Served in the Information Service of the Department of Commerce, 1957-67.

Washington, D.C.
October 5, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess

[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. [45]) 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 October 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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


Oral History Interview with
Joseph A. Fox


Washington, D.C.
October 5, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess



HESS: All right, Mr. Fox, to begin, would you give me a little of your personal background: Where were you born?

FOX: Well, strangely enough I'm a Missourian.


FOX: By birth.

HESS: Whereabouts?

FOX: Well, Springfield. I was born in Springfield in August, 1891. And so I'm seventy-nine years old. I'm getting to be an old guy.

HESS: How long did you live in Springfield?

FOX: Oh, let's see. Well, actually, we left Springfield in nineteen hundred and two, or nineteen hundred and three. My father was in railroad construction work so we were pretty well through the Southwest. And then I was working there for a while, after the St. Louis Republic folded in 1919. I worked on the Springfield Leader Democrat for, I don't know, two or three months, something like that.

HESS: When did you first start to work in the news field?



FOX: In the news field? In 1913 on the old Houston Press. I'd been working for the Frisco down there. I started out in railroad work and I was doing that when I met the editor of the Press. I always wanted to get into newspaper work, and I quit a pretty good job on the railroad to go to work for a newspaper for twelve dollars a week, so you can tell how nutty I was.

Well, anyway, that was in 1913 and then things got bad that year, and actually I fooled around in Houston and Galveston, and then I went back to railroad work again. It was in 1915 that I went to work on the Newport News Daily Press. I had been working checking freight on a pier up there for a fellow that I knew. It was kind of hard to get a job in those days, and I went to work on a pier up there. And so then, as I say, I went to work for the Press and Times Herald in 1915, and I was in newspaper work from there on with the exception of two years, of course, during the war.

HESS: What were some of your early jobs when you first started out in the news field?

FOX: Oh, I was just a cub reporter, that was all. Just a cub reporter.

HESS: And then when did you come here to town, to




FOX: I came with the -- during the war -- I had better start back this way. During the war I was stationed in Washington for a while with the Signal Corps.

HESS: This was WW I, World War I?

FOX: Yes, and I met a young lady there, and after we were married she always wanted to come back to Washington, so eventually we got back here. At that time I was with the AP, that was in 1922. Just an anniversary this week incidentally. And in October 1922 I came to work in Washington on the Post. I always wanted to get another job -- actually I felt I needed more background in newspaper work after a couple of years in the press service. And I was with the Post from October 1922 until I went to the Star in March 1924, and I was with the Star straight out from March 1924, until August 1956.

HESS: And while you were at the Star you were the White House correspondent. What were the dates that you were at the White House?

FOX: I went to the White House in April 1943, and as I say, I left the White House, on a permanent basis, in about February of 1954. That was during the Eisenhower administration, and then I was the national correspondent of the Star for the next



couple of years and I was at the White House off and on.

HESS: And then what was the date of your retirement?

FOX: The date of my retirement was in August 1956. And then I was just loafing around, you know, for about a year and then I went to work for the Department of Commerce in the Information Service. I was there ten years.

HESS: Oh, with the Department of Commerce.

FOX: Yeah.

HESS: All right, what are your first recollections of when you went to the White House as a White House correspondent during the Roosevelt days? What comes to mind when you look back on those days?

FOX: Well, naturally, I was scared to death.

HESS: Did you hesitate to ask questions in a press conference?

FOX: Oh, no. I didn't hesitate to ask questions. As a matter of fact, Roosevelt told me one day, I was checking on a New York Times story and he says, "Joe, I don't have time to answer damn fool questions."

I said, "Mr. President, this wasn't intended as a damn fool question. I was just trying to check on the story of the Times."

Well, he said, "It's still a damn fool question."



So, that was that.

So, anyway, I never forgot that one.

HESS: All right.

FOX: But I was with Roosevelt from 1943 through the 1944 campaign, including that sixty mile trip through the rain in New York.

HESS: What do you recall about that trip through the rain?

FOX: Oh, the people were crazy, as bad as the weather was. It was cold and rainy, and people were out there with homemade signs. You know the people worshipped Roosevelt, absolutely worshipped him.

HESS: I understand that he caught a cold during that drive.

FOX: Well, I don't know whether he did or not. Maybe so. I just don't know about that. I know one thing, I know we were leaving New York that night, I saw his personal physician, Dr. [Ross T.] McIntire, and I said to him, "I didn't know whether he'd be able to make it tonight."

He said, "I've got a good patient."

So, I don't know whether he caught a cold or not. But Roosevelt used to love to put on that old blue navy cape that he'd throw over his shoulder -- you know, working with Roosevelt was just exactly



like being part of a stage production.

HESS: In what way?

FOX: What?

HESS: How's that?

FOX: Well, because he was always the center figure, you know, and everybody else were the supers around him. It was a little...

HESS: Spear carriers.

FOX: Yes, spear carriers, yes. But -- oh, the people worshipped Roosevelt.

HESS: What else do you recall about events of 1944? Did you go to the convention that was held in Chicago that year?

FOX: No, I did not. No, I did not. The political -- or rather the -- let's see, '44 -- I don't believe -- yes, Roosevelt did go. That was the time when they had that voice from the sewer wasn't it?

HESS: Well, I think that was a little earlier, I'm not sure. But in 1944 Mr. Roosevelt was on the train and he went through Chicago on his way to the West Coast. I think the war being on they apparently wanted to keep his location secret or something like that.

FOX: Yes. He -- oh, he did. It was all very secret.

HESS: You didn't make that trip to the West Coast?



FOX: No, I -- nobody did except the press services. No, during the war, nobody traveled with Roosevelt but the press services.

HESS: And then in 1944, of course, was when Mr. Truman was chosen as a vice presidential candidate. What are your earliest recollections of Mr. Truman? When did you first become aware of Senator Truman?

FOX: Well, the first time I became aware of Senator Truman was when I covered that Truman Committee for a day or two. And -- but that was only temporary. Somebody else was away from the Senate, so I went up there, because ordinarily I didn't go around the Senate. And so that was the first time I ever encountered him. Of course, I never knew the President intimately until I got to the White House. Some of the other men did.

HESS: Do you recall what your reactions were at the time that you were at the Senate covering the Truman Committee?

FOX: What my reactions were when?

HESS: Yes, when you were up covering the Truman Committee, did you think it was an efficient organization?

FOX: I thought it was very -- the thing that struck me about the Truman Committee was the President's



courtesy to the witnesses. I spoke to him about that later. He said, "Well," he said, "they were decent people." Everybody else was giving them hell you know. They had those people up there on this rubber, synthetic rubber business, and they were questioning them hard. No, he was -- and he was a nice person I think. A nice person.

HESS: Had you known of Mr. Truman before he was here in town as a Senator?

FOX: No. No. I had never known him.

HESS: All right. And did you -- let's see, you went with