1. Home
  2. Library Collections
  3. Oral History Interviews
  4. Durward W. Gilmore Oral History Interview

Durward W. Gilmore Oral History Interview


Oral History Interview with
Durward W. Gilmore

Attorney; member, Missouri state Senate, 1949-51; President, Young Democrats of America, 1949-51; Judge, 28th Judicial Circuit of Missouri (state court system), 1951-55; General Counsel, Kansas City Life Insurance Company, 1955-77.

Kansas City, Missouri
January 20, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson

[|Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcrip | 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 March, 1991
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


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


Oral History Interview with
Durward W. Gilmore


Kansas City, Missouri
January 20, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson

Summary Description:

Topics discussed include politics in Mississippi County, Missouri; Truman's Senatorial campaign of 1934; Young Democrats of America; civil rights and the Missouri state legislature in 1949; National Urban League; desegregation in the U.S. Navy in 1945; Democratic Party politics in Missouri in 1952; nomination of Stuart Symington as Democratic Senatorial candidate in 1952; President Truman's national health insurance proposal; President Truman and civil rights; dismissal of General MacArthur; relationship of President Truman with Governor Forrest Smith; Inaugural of 1949; Stuart Symington and the Democratic national convention of 1960; and President Truman's offer of the 1952 Democratic nomination to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Names mentioned include Roy Baker, William Boyle, Bennett Clark, Clark Clifford, Matthew Connelly, J.V. Conran, Forrest Donnell, India Edwards, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyman Field, J. Grant Fyre, Ernest G. Gilmore, Kay Glass, Lester Granger, John R. Hahn, Ted Hankins, Roy Harper, Ira Haymaker, Neal Helm, Thomas Hennings, Clarence Hicks, Harry Hopkins, Elmo Hunter, Herman Johnson, Clare Jones, James P. Kem, John F. Kennedy, Frank Knox, Ray Lucas, Charles Markham, Jim Meredith, Richard Nacy, Everett O'Neal, Jim Pendergast, Tom Pendergast, Tony Sestrik, Forrest Smith, Sid Solomon, Lloyd Stark, Hinkle Statler, Adlai Stevenson, Harold Stuart, Stuart Symington, J.E. Taylor, Vern Taylor, Harry S. Truman, and John Wells.


JOHNSON: I'm going to start out, Mr. Gilmore, by asking you for some background. Would you give us the date and place of your birth, and the names of your parents?

GILMORE: I was born December 25, 1911, in the area of East Prairie, Missouri. My father's name was Ernest G. Gilmore, and my mother's name was Maude B. Gilmore.

JOHNSON: What was the name of the place where you were born?

GILMORE: East Prairie.

JOHNSON: And that's located where?

GILMORE: It's in Mississippi County, Missouri. Mississippi County is down in what we call the bootheel of Missouri, southeast Missouri, and that's where I hail from.


JOHNSON: Is that bottom land there?


JOHNSON: Mississippi bottom land.


JOHNSON: Cotton country.

GILMORE: Yes, it used to be almost all cotton.

JOHNSON: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

GILMORE: I have a brother named George W. Gilmore; he's a lawyer in Sikeston, Missouri. That's near where we were born. I had another brother that died when he was aged 37, and his name was Ferd M. Gilmore. He also lived down at Charleston, Missouri but he was in Washington, D. C. going to law school when he died; he just died abruptly with a heart attack, without any previous experience with heart trouble. I had two sisters. [One is] Juanita Gilmore Long; her husband Roy Long is now deceased, and she lives in Sikeston, Missouri. I have another sister, Ernestine Gilmore Wright; she was always from Charleston, Missouri. Her husband was in the Army for thirty years; he got his law degree about the time he got out, and they lived at Charleston, Missouri.


Then they moved to Jefferson City, where he was supervisor of liquor control under Warren Hearnes, when Warren was Governor. They now live in Cape Coral, Florida.

JOHNSON: How about your education? Where did you go to school?

GILMORE: I went to school at the local grade school and high school in East Prairie; then went to Missouri U [University]. Well, I went to the Naval Academy first.

JOHNSON: After high school?

GILMORE: Yes. I went to the Naval Academy, and I was there just a little over a year, and then I got out because I was deficient in calculus. Then I came back and went to Missouri U, and finished my pre-law work, and did my first two years of law school there. But then I wanted to go out west to summer school. I started out to Boulder, Colorado, and I stopped at Topeka just to see what that law school was like at Washburn, and I liked it so well, I stayed there for summer school. I liked that so well I stayed there and finished my last year. So, my degree is from Washburn, in Topeka. I think that's the extent of my education, the L.L.B.

JOHNSON: What year was it you got your law degree?


GILMORE: In 1938.

JOHNSON: You went through the Depression and were still able to afford a law education. What was your father's job, or occupation?

GILMORE: He was a farmer, and a contractor.

JOHNSON: What kind of farming did he do?

GILMORE: Just general farming, cotton, corn, wheat.

JOHNSON: How many acres did he have?

GILMORE: Well, he farmed probably, oh, 1,500 acres or so. He didn't actually do the work himself. He was busy with his contracting, building of homes and whatnot, business buildings. And he was County Collector. He was first on the County Court in Mississippi County, at the time that Harry Truman was on the County Court here in Jackson County.

JOHNSON: So they were acquainted?

GILMORE: They were acquainted; they weren't any great buddies or anything, but they went to conventions. They had meetings of the County Court organizations, and that's where my dad got acquainted with him.


JOHNSON: So that was a three member county court, like here? Was he presiding judge?

GILMORE: My dad was, and Mr. Truman was here.

JOHNSON: Do you remember what years he was presiding judge down there?

GILMORE: Well, I imagine from about 1930 to 1936, I guess. Then he became county collector.

JOHNSON: Did he get involved at all in the 1934 senatorial campaign for Harry Truman?

GILMORE: Yes, he got involved. I was at the right age where I was responding to what he wanted me to do, and I put up signs all over trees and posts, and what not.

JOHNSON: In both campaigns; both the '34 and '40?

GILMORE: In '40 I was just out of law school.

JOHNSON: Were you friends of Roy Harper?

GILMORE: You bet, sure.

JOHNSON: We have an interview with him.

GILMORE: Well, you'll find him to be a very gracious fellow. He was real active in our Democrat party affairs. He was probably six years older than me. He was in a law


firm at Caruthersville; Ward and Reeves law firm. But Roy was at every Democrat meeting we had in that part of the country. Now, I don't know what motivated him to do it, but he was real active in Truman's first campaign for the Senate in 1934. I presume it was because we had a fellow named Neal Helm, who was real active, and Neal had some money, by the way, that he could use, you know, and Roy didn't have any money. He was like most of us, when you get out of law school, but Neal Helm...

JOHNSON: You were acquainted with Neal Helm too then?

GILMORE: Yes. He's dead now.

JOHNSON: What was the source of his wealth, do you know?

GILMORE: Well, I'm not real sure; he was in business in Caruthersville. All I knew, he was at every Democrat meeting we ever had.

JOHNSON: Well, now, Truman liked to campaign in Caruthersville. Did you ever attend any of those rallies there?

GILMORE: Not in Caruthersville. Well, naturally he would because everybody down there was for him.

JOHNSON: But in '34 you put out signs and did help promote Truman's candidacy?


GILMORE: You bet.

JOHNSON: Do you remember Truman giving any campaign speeches there in Mississippi County? This is Mississippi County we're talking about isn't it?

GILMORE: Yes. I'll tell you what; our organization down there was such at the time, that, for example, when Harry Truman went into New Madrid to start the campaign, someone down there told him, "If you want to save your time, go talk to J.V. Conran." J.V., we called him "the boss of the bootheel." If J.V.'s for you, we're all for you." Well, that was true of my county too. We had the same people that were like J.V., and my dad was in that group.

JOHNSON: Did you know J.V. Conran very well?

GILMORE: Yes sir.

JOHNSON: What kind of a campaigner, or what kind of a Democrat was he?

GILMORE: He didn't know there was any party but the Democrat party. He was prosecuting attorney of New Madrid County for years and years and years, I guess until he died. I used to say, if you wanted to do any business in New Madrid County, you had better be getting along with


J.V., because he sent innocent men to the penitentiary and he let criminals go free, depending on where you stood with him.. That was true. Now over in Pemiscot County, [there was] that kind of organization; and in Dunklin County, the same way; Stoddard County and Mississippi County, w