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Martin L. Friedman Oral History Interview

 

Oral History Interview with
Martin L. Friedman

Special Assistant in the White House office, 1950-53.

Washington, D. C.
December 5, 1963
by Charles T. Morrissey

[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 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 March 1968
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

See also: Martin L. Friedman Papers and Martin L. Friedman Files

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

 



Oral History Interview with
Martin L. Friedman

 

Washington, D. C.
December 5, 1963
by Charles T. Morrissey

[1]

MORRISSEY: Let me ask you, Mr. Friedman, about your relationship to Mr. Truman and the Truman Administration. What was this relationship and when did it begin?

FRIEDMAN: Well, it began largely through one of Mr. Truman's administrative assistants with whom I'd served in the Air Force named Donald Dawson. After Dawson became an administrative assistant, from time to time, I was borrowed to do odd jobs to help Donald; and particularly in 1949, I was borrowed from the Defense Department where I was then employed and advised him and helped him in connection with pay legislation. That specifically is what I remember.

MORRISSEY: Could you give me a little biographical background

[2]

on how you got into World War II and your relationship with Donald Dawson that began then?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I had come out of college to the Labor Department and then from the Labor Department to the then War Department, as it was called, and worked for the Secretary of War, and my field of specialty was in job analysis and in wage work. Thereafter, when I went into the Army and after OCS I was detailed to the Air Force and I was put back into wage determination work which became my specialty. Dawson was the Director of Personnel for the Air Transport Command and along the line he picked me up as a member of his staff and I was in charge of job classification and wage administration for him. Then when he needed some help in the White House in these pay areas, I was borrowed. In 1950, the extent of the loan became so long that both the Defense Department and the White House agreed that it would be more realistic for me to transfer over, and I did. At that time I was doing much more work and over a much broader area.

[3]

MORRISSEY: May I ask where you went to college?

FRIEDMAN: I went to Rutgers in New Jersey.

MORRISSEY: Could you give some dates for these things you've just talked about?

FRIEDMAN: Well, let's see. I was graduated from Rutgers in 1939; I was a graduate assistant there from 1939 to 1940 and I came to the Labor Department in '40 and transferred to the War Department in '41. I went into the Army in December of '42 and came out as a captain in February of 1946.

MORRISSEY: Who was the Secretary of War that you worked for?

FRIEDMAN: When I first went into the Office of the Secretary of War, it was Mr. [Henry L.] Stimson. Actually, most of my work, even though I was on the payroll of the Secretary of War, was in the Office of the Under Secretary's office. The Under Secretary, whose name shouldn't escape me now except

[4]

for your machine, was Judge [Robert] Patterson, a very, very able man.

MORRISSEY: How long were you on loan to the White House?

FRIEDMAN: Well, in '49, sporadically, for jobs that I could do at my own desk if I wanted to, and in '50 for several months until I transferred to the White House payroll because it became a long term loan.

MORRISSEY: What month in 1950? Do you remember that?

FRIEDMAN: That the actual transfer took place? I'm not sure -- May or June.

MORRISSEY: How long did you stay on?

FRIEDMAN: I stayed on until Inauguration Day in 1953.

MORRISSEY: Did you have a title?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, I was a Special Assistant in the White House Office.

MORRISSEY: Did you work closely with Mr. Dawson throughout this time?

[5]

FRIEDMAN: Very closely.

MORRISSEY: Did you work for anybody else?

FRIEDMAN: Occasionally, yes. I would do work for other administrative assistants and for the President's Special Counsel, Mr. Murphy, and a lot of work was independent. There came a time when I did a lot of work directly for the President. Our organization, as you undoubtedly have learned, was a very informal one.

MORRISSEY: Could you specify some of the work you did directly for the President?

FRIEDMAN: This is hard. I'll just tell you first what we were engaged in generally with Mr. Dawson. We were concerned about getting the best possible people we could for top presidential appointments. When I first came in, we had a "little cabinet" committee set up and as I recall it, Eugene Zuckert, the present Secretary of the Air Force, was a member of it; the Assistant Attorney General in charge

[6]

of Anti-Trust, H. Graham Morison, who subsequently became a law partner of Charlie Murphy's, was a member of it; the Assistant Secretary of Labor, Phil Kaiser, who is now an ambassador to Ghana, I think, was a member of it, Carlisle Humelsine, Assistant Secretary of State, and one or two others. It was our job to put together some scheme for keeping tabs on able people who might be willing to work in Washington. We devised a method and for some period of time after that I operated this -- this sifting machinery -- and when a major presidential appointment came I would pull our file on that position, generally talk it over with Mr. Dawson, narrow it down to a few choices. Sometimes, he would take it to the President, sometimes we would both take it to the President and if for any reason he was unavailable, I would take it to him alone. As time went on we also became responsible for liaison with the Democratic National Committee and there were a wide variety of duties that we performed in connection with keeping the

[7]

Committee informed and keeping informed of what the Committee wanted. We also got many, many recommendations from the Committee as to personnel, and that was another fact -- to see that people were not only technically competent, but politically acceptable.

Then a good part of what I did and sometimes directly for the President had to do with security files. I got the FBI files, read them, wrote an evaluation of what should be done with a particular prospect. Sometimes, it was open and shut. There was no question about it, but if there was a question -- any kind of a security question -- then we had to decide whether we would forget him or whether we would have a supplementary investigation made or whether in our evaluation of the report he was acceptable. Most of the work I did directly with the President—and I’ll tell you now since we’re going to edit this tape that this is what I’ll close—had to do with Congressional investigations. There was a period of time when the

[8]

White House staff was getting hit by [Senator Joseph R.] McCarthy and by others on the Hill, and Dawson was one of the objects of this attack in connection with RFC investigation. And since he was a target, he couldn’t very well be his own lawyer and the President asked me to follow this, to keep him advised, and he got through me a careful analysis of day-by-day developments. After this occurred there was a whole series of other attached on personnel and I became a sort of unofficial defense counsel for people on the staff who were being shot at by various Congressional committees, particularly Mr. McCarthy’s committee. In this connection, as I say, I worked directly with him. Matt Connelly sometimes acted as an intermediary but generally just to tell me when he was available. Finally, I think, we wrote and sent to the Library—it wasn’t the then Library—but we wrote and sent to Independence a final analysis of the attack on the RFC because of Dawson’s particular interest in that. In that case, there was a young lawyer named

[9]

[Franklin] Frank Parks, presently at the Atomic Energy Commission, and Frank came in and acted as a consultant—worked with me in putting that analysis together.

MORRISSEY: Do I understand that this final analysis of the attacks on the RFC was written after Mr. Truman left the White House?

FRIEDMAN: No, it was written in the last months of the administration and we wanted a cold, lawyer-like objective report on what had happened. So we wrote it for the President and sent it out to Independence with him.

MORRISSEY: Could you elaborate in any other ways on your concern with the attacks on Donald Dawson?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, I thought that they were in many ways like the attacks by Mr. McCarthy, except that instead of having McCarthy we had a highly respected senator who was behind it. But from a lawyer’s point of view, they were atrocious because of the attacks

[10]

were made before the hearings. Interestingly enough, the report came out which was a vicious attack on Dawson and his wife and his former colleagues at the RFC and there was nothing behind it. Mr. Truman, hav