Oral History Interview with
Oral History at the Harry S. Truman Library with James R. Fuchs. History of the Harry S. Truman Library.
James R. Fuchs
June 20, 1979
by Dr. Monte Poen
See Also Additional James R. Fuchs Oral Histories with J.T. Curry and P.D. Lagerquist dated March 18 and 19, 1976.
[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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
James R. Fuchs
June 20, 1979
by Dr. Monte Poen
POEN: Well, Jim, you came out here with Phil Lagerquist and you were the team that oversaw, I guess, the transference of the papers from Washington to the Federal Reserve Bank Building in Kansas City. Isn't that right?
FUCHS: Actually, the papers were already here when I got here. Lagerquist came out in September of '53 to start to organize the papers. Mainly it was checking the White House index and dividing the index up into subject, name, and of course, they already had the numerical. Getting better indexing was what we were working on initially, and then doing any service on any papers that Mr. Truman wanted. But the papers were moved to the courthouse in Kansas City--incidentally, the one which
Mr. Truman oversaw the building of--provided for the building of--when he was County Judge and dedicated in 1934,
At that time they did not finish all of the courtrooms and so there were large high-ceilinged rooms in which shelving could be erected to house the papers of former President Truman; and they remained there until they wished to finish these courtrooms around the end of 1954, shortly after I got out here, which was August of '54. So we then, at the end of '54, moved the records to the Memorial Building in Independence, Missouri.
Mr. Truman--and you mentioned the Federal Reserve Building-had his offices there, but the presidential papers came from Washington directly to the courthouse.
POEN: Right. I noticed from the file that you kept David Lloyd pretty well briefed by sending him clippings of the local newspapers and he appreciated that. The clippings file is a good source, really; that correspondence file is a good source for showing how the Library progressed in its construction stages.
FUCHS: I've always been a great one for clipping news papers.
POEN: Have you? You lived on North Cottage I noticed.
FUCHS: Yes, I did.
POEN: Did you observe Truman using his records in the early days? I know there's a story about him triggering off an alarm. Were you here when he did that or was that at the very beginning?
FUCHS: I think that was prior to my coming to Kansas City to work on the papers and Lagerquist, of course, knows about that story.
Mr. Truman, as I have it from Phil, and in my experience, did not use his papers to a great extent. There wasn't a constant flow of requests for documents.
Phil could, as I say, tell you more about that; he knows. I believe by the time I got out here the Memoirs were much further along, and the first volume, I believe, was published in '55 and that was the main usage, I believe, of the documents. So, before I got here there was, I assume, considerable more requests than after I got here.
POEN: Well, in writing of the Memoirs do you recall hearing whether Truman had research assistants that went into the papers and did a lot of the field work for them?
FUCHS: I don't think they went into what we know properly as the Presidential Papers. I think that was primarily effectuated through requests to Lagerquist, who got documents for them. They did keep, of course, his personal secretary's files, his immediate office files, and those I think contained a lot of the documents that he wanted. He built up a series of documents that he used. Now, that's my understanding. Phil might be able to correct me.
POEN: Yes. Well, I think you've pretty much answered the question whether he showed up very often.
FUCHS: I might mention that there was a request, that I remember doing any kind of a research project on, in connection with the trial of Matthew Connelly. The lawyers that he had hired--the Lashley firm, I believe it was, in St. Louis--they wanted to know what appointments he had, I believe it was, with those various
people, primarily Schwimmer, Harry Schwimmer, maybe Sachs. I doubt if Sachs was one of the persons accused of evading the income tax, receiving favors. But it was in that connection with the trial of Matthew Connelly that I recall doing some work for these--and I can't remember--I think it was for the criminal lawyers; I don't think I did anything for the Government case.
POEN: Well, I came across something in the file about Truman wanted to make sure that Connelly had a real good lawyer, in that connection.
FUCHS: I guess he didn't have a good enough one.
POEN: Did they find him guilty?
FUCHS: Well, of course, you may know. Yes, Connelly was sentenced and served jail time along with Lamar Caudle. Lamar Caudle I believe at that time was in the Anti-trust Division of the Department of Justice. But it was largely, in my opinion, a political thing and they convicted him on failure to give best services to the Government; but it kind of ruined Matthew Connelly.
POEN: As you observed Truman's coming and going in the early days when he was still in the Federal Reserve Building, did anything strike you as being unusual? When did you first see Truman?
FUCHS: Well, I didn't see a great deal of Mr. Truman prior to his taking up offices in the Library, which was, of course, early in '57 when we moved in there; before the Library was completed. But I met him, oh, I suppose it was within a week or so, or a couple of weeks, when I first came to Kansas City, and that was, of course, a courtesy visit since I was working on his papers and Phil thought I should at least meet the man. I was struck immediately by his vigorousness and his look of good health, and his friendliness. He was much more impressive in person than he came through on radio certainly, which was only his voice, or even on TV.
POEN: I'm struck by the fact that he personally responded to requests for autographs, pictures, if someone even sent in a one dollar bill to the building fund for the Library that he would see to it that he got a letter with his signature on it, thanking them.
FUCHS: Yes, he was very kind about that. I suppose some collectors felt he overdid it because there is such a clutter of Truman autographs, but he was a friendly man and he liked to be accommodating to people. He took stands sometimes. If he felt that they were going to be used commercially he was adamant in not doing it; if he sincerely felt that he was being taken advantage of. Although he knew that people would want his autograph, just an ego thing, and they'd think well eventually it would be worth something, that's just common human nature, and I'm sure he realized that. It was a different sort of thing.
There was one person, I guess in the early sixties or maybe later fifties after we were in the Library, that his office, and probably he, recognized was sending in a great number of documents, and they were later appearing on the autograph, or manuscript, market, although they were presented as being because of this man's great love for Truman. Of course, once they discerned this, they no longer complied with the requests. I believe that's right.
POEN: When you moved up to the Library and he had his office in the Library, you oftentimes took people in to see the President. Was that restricted just to scholars, or were you involved in taking others in to see him?
FUCHS: Well, I did as you mention, take scholars in, although I don't have a clear or vivid recollection of that as I don't of most of this. But that was a matter in which I simply took them in and introduced them and told Mr. Truman what their interests were, and then he and the scholar took over and I was an interested bystander. I did, of course, take in dignitaries in my capacity as Acting Director, in the absence of the Director, for a long period of years.
POEN: Did Truman have sort of a performance? I was just reading a book, a new one that's come out, in which the author said that Harry put on a show, it was sort of an act, when he was meeting people and so on. Did you see any changes in his character from one time to another?
FUCHS: Well, it's difficult for me to delineate what the act might have been. I feel that like all of us we're slightly different when we meet a stranger and we're inclined to, I won't say assume a stage voice, but talk in a little different tone than you would to your wife or friends that you see every day. I'm sure that Mr. Truman did that, too; but I don't recall any great difference.
POEN: Was he, do you think, helpful to scholars, in general? Making a generalized observation here, did they come away feeling he had been able to help them?
FUCHS: Well, in all frankness, I think that many scholars-I say many, I don't know how many that is--felt that he had not really given them a great deal of new information or facts for their project. He was