Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened September, 2001
Oral History Interview with
December 1, 1994
by Raymond L. Geselbracht and Dennis E. Bilger
GESELBRACHT: Mr. Goldy let me ask you, how did you come into the Interior Department in Truman's Administration?
GOLDY: I had been over at the Labor Department as the Special Assistant to the Director of the United States Employments Service, it was then a Federal operation, Federally operated, during the reconversion from wartime to a peacetime manpower operation and it had been the field in which I had been working for a long time. And when I came out of the Navy, I went back into the position with the head of the Manpower program of the country, and frankly, I had become interested in how we could expand jobs in the United States instead of just stretching the existing job base so enough people could find jobs as they came out of the military service and we had our transition from war to peace. And on top of that we had--my wife and I had visited--she had lived there before--we had visited the Pacific Northwest and we had decided that that's where we wanted to go to live now that our military duty was over. And so we visited in the Northwest, met some people who were key in the Department of Interior, and they in turn introduced me to people in Washington, D.C. in the Department, and given the particular background that I had had in heading up a regional committee of various Federal agencies in other positions that I filled, I was offered a job in the Pacific Northwest by the Office of the Secretary where they were creating a field committee of the Interior Department agencies for the Colombia Basin.
The then Secretary of Interior, Julius Krug--"Cap" Krug--had come out of the TVA and his Assistant Secretary, C. Girard Davidson, had come out of the TVA, and they were very interested in creating a Colombia Valley Authority, an equivalent of the TVA for the Pacific Northwest and the Colombia Basin.
So I was set up--they felt they would have difficulty with the Congress in getting one approved just directly, but Secretary Krug felt there was absolutely no reason why they should not pull all the agencies--existing agencies--together in the Interior Department and at least have a coordinated program with respect to what they had control over. And I was hired actually to go to the Northwest and become the executive secretary of this interagency committee within the Department of Interior.
Well, we went out there and we found a house, rented one, and we were just about to settle down and undertake our duties, when I had a call from the Assistant Secretary, Mr. Davidson, who said that his assistant had departed for the State Department and he said, "Dan, you'll be out there in left field without a glove," he said, "if I don't have some assistant," he said, "we won't really be able to staff that and get it under way. You won't have anybody to really report to and things won't happen unless we do something about that." So, he said, "I want you to come back here to Washington, and," he said, "I want you to be my assistant until we can find somebody and as soon as we do you can go back out to the Northwest and do what you were hired to do."
So, we cancelled the lease on the house and we went back to Washington. And back in those days there were really two Assistant Secretaries in the whole Interior Department, and the way Cap Krug had it organized they each took turn running the Department. One of them ran it for two weeks and the other ran it for two weeks. They got all the mail from all the bureaus up there and we weren't called Deputy Assistant Secretaries at first, we were Special Assistants, but we were the only assistants they had, and there was one for each Assistant Secretary.
So, every two weeks I read all of the Department mail. Everything headed for the Secretary's signature would show up in my office. And it'd get stacked around the walls and piled up. Anyway, that's how I got introduced to the Interior Department.
We did have certain Bureau assignments as well. We had the Park Service and back in those days when I came in there was a General Land Office and a Grazing Service, we later while I was there, we put them together to become the Bureau of Land Management as it's known today. And we had the Geological Survey and we had some other--we had most of the land functions of the--other than Reclamation and Power. But we did have, we took turns--and also we had a kind of regional orientation and Assistant Secretary Davidson and I were oriented toward the Northwest and some of the other Western states.
GESELBRACHT: So, while you were in Washington, you didn't really specialize too much then did you. You handled everything.
GOLDY: Yes, I got quite an exposure to almost everything going on into the Interior Department, that's correct. And also, we handled other special assignments. For example, one of the assignments that came to the Secretary from President Truman when he was initiating the idea of a Marshall Plan, assistance program, for Europe to rehabilitate them after the war. The issue came up of America's capacity to produce resources to transfer to Europe. How much could we transfer, what were the limits of our ability to do that, and the Secretary of Interior was given the mission of looking at our resource base in the United States, and making a recommendation to the President of what could be transferred to Europe by way of assistance. And I was involved in that study as well. As a matter of fact, we got a commendation from the President for the work we had done on that. And that was my introduction--I was here, I got started in a sense with the Marshall Plan before it began over in the Interior Department, and as you know, later on I went to work in the Marshall Plan in Europe.
GESELBRACHT: We'd like today to try to evoke from you some things about your experience that will help our researchers to use your papers in the coming years and one of the issues in your papers that's very evident and that you've talked to me about today, is this matter of the Oregon and California lands issue. Can you describe, I guess, the genesis of that issue, both as an issue and how it came to your attention and how you got involved in it, and just what it all means.
GOLDY: Right. Well, the O&C Lands as they're known, Oregon and California were vested railroad grant lands. Those lands had been given to the Oregon and California Railroad to compensate them for building a railroad line from California into Oregon and what happened was they were given every odd section on each side of the railroad right-of-way extending up into the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range in Oregon and they contained some of the best--probably the best forest lands in the whole United States. And there were terms and limitations put on the grant to the railroad. And they were supposed to sell these lands at certain price to settlers and other things, and they didn't do that, they recognized that the land had value for timber and so they started using it for other purposes.
The Federal Government, in effect sued--suits were filed and they reclaimed the land. The lands were revested back to the Government on the basis that the railroad had violated the terms of the grant. And so now here were lands, forest lands, very important lands, that had been on the tax roles of the counties. They had been private lands. The counties used them as a tax base and now they were back--they were Federal lands again. So the Congress, the President asked and the Congress decided to pass a law--I mean they enacted legislation special to the O&C lands setting up-- different from the National Forests--they had a different mission. Those lands were dedicated to providing a sustained flow of timber to the forest- dependent communities in that area, to support the communities, to be an economic base for them. And the distribution of the proceeds from those lands were different from the way the gross proceeds on the National Forest are distributed. And the counties in which these lands are located, we call them O&C counties in Oregon. They were entitled to 75 percent of the revenues from the lands and the Federal Government would have 25 percent except that in the years until the Federal Government was reimbursed for the costs of
reacquiring, revesting them, and the cost of the money that they had put into it administering them, managing them, the counties would get 50 percent and the Federal Government would get 50 percent.
Well, that's where the lands came from.
GESELBRACHT: When did that happen, when had the revesting occurred and all these regulations been developed?
GOLDY: The revesting occurred--the issues started around 1915 or so, and the actual revesting occurred, I'm not sure what the exact date was, around 1920 or '21 or '22 somewhere in there. What happened to all the--in the Pacific Northwest, which is the most foreste