Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened February, 1976
Oral History Interview with
June 18, 1973
Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Mr. Gray, might we start by asking you to explain how you came to be appointed Assistant Secretary of the Army in 1947? Could you talk a bit about your relationship with Mr. [Kenneth] Royall and how that came about?
GRAY: All right. Well, I'll have to begin a little earlier, because I suppose this really all starts with my entrance into public life in the first place.
GRAY: And let me suggest at the outset that we're talking about people and events of many years ago, and I'll have to say that my recollection is not as sharp as I'd like it to be; but I'll give it to you the best I can.
I first got interested in politics in North Carolina. Although born in Baltimore, I grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I had practiced law in New York for a couple of years. I worked for a large law firm there when I first got out of law school in 1933.
I was there for a couple of years, and in 1935 my father died, rather suddenly and unexpectedly, and, after considerable wrestling with my conscience and responsibilities, I decided that I should return to North Carolina to be with my mother, primarily.
So, when I was able to wind up my affairs in New York, I came back to North Carolina, either late '35 or early '36, and I took the
North Carolina bar exam after a period of cramming for it, passed, and became associated with a law firm which was then known as Manly, Hendren, & Womble, then, I guess, the largest firm in the community, and perhaps the best.
The thing that really got me interested in politics was that in 1936 we had a very spirited Democratic primary contest (this was for Governor) between Clyde Hoey, who later became United States Senator, and a man named Ralph McDonald, who was then on the faculty at Salem College, and who later became--and may still be, I don't know--president of Bowling Green State University, or whatever it's called, out in Ohio.
I think that if he should ever read this transcript he would agree with me that he was not considered exactly a burning conservative; and indeed in those days, whatever his later views--and I think they began to ameliorate--he was really quite liberal. A part of his campaign,
which is normal, in politics, was attacking the big interests. I was sitting at home one night with my brother, reading, or listening to the radio, or something, anyway the radio was on, I'm sure, because this is the real beginning of my getting into politics.
I heard a voice (Ralph McDonald) saying something like this: "Now, they ask me how I'm going to pay for all of these new programs." He said, "I'm going to tell you where I'm going to get the money, I'm going to get the money where the money is. Now," he said, "for example, a prominent and wealthy citizen of this community died recently. His will is probated in the very courthouse in which I'm speaking, and my friends, do you know, that man died and paid not a penny of taxes," He said, "That's the kind of source."
It was clear to me that he was talking about my father, and the next day I went down and offered my services to the Hoey campaign, because
I resented this attack on a man who had never been in politics, had never taken any part, who was a decent, honorable citizen, successful, and who was in no position to answer the charge, you see.
Well, I was 27 years old or so, and I didn't get a very big job with the Hoey campaign headquarters. I think I swept floors or something like that, but Hoey won the primary and went on to become Governor. As a result of this exposure and interest, I worked later in the Roosevelt campaign. His candidacy for a second term would have been in 1936. I actually went to the Hotel Biltmore in New York and spent several weeks there as a very minor functionary, but doing what I was told to do and never knowing whether I made any kind of contribution or not.
MCKINZIE: This kind of life, though, was appealing
GRAY: Well it did appeal to me, public service then was very appealing. I was in the law firm for a couple of years before I got into the newspaper business in about 1937, and then ran for the state senate in 1938 and was elected. I served a two-year term in the senate, continuing to be in the newspaper business as publisher of the two daily newspapers in the community, and the operator of a radio station; and I ran again in 1940 (these were two-year terms), and was elected.
Then, of course, Pearl Harbor came along in December of '41. At that time I was, I suppose draft proof, or draft exempt. I was holding state office, I was publisher of a newspaper, I had three children. There was just no way I would get into the military services unless I volunteered.
Living in a small community like that, of course, the members of the draft board were all friends of mine, and when I sought in early
'42 to enlist in the services, having if I may say, somewhat immodestly, been sought after by both the Army and the Navy for direct commission...
MCKINZIE: May I ask why you did not choose the commission?
GRAY: Well, as best I can reconstruct my feelings at the time, in our community there was a strong America First sentiment and the young men, many young men, younger than I--you see by this time I had gotten to be, I think, 32 years old--there was little enthusiasm for the war among many of the potential leaders in the community, for one thing.. People who read this later on will just have to take my word for it as to what my thoughts were at the time, but one thing I wanted to do was to set an example for the community. Another thing was, I didn't believe in accepting a commission and possibly being put into a position later on in some capacity without ever knowing to what kind of assignment I'd go, of being responsible for people without having
trained for this responsibility, and especially in the Army.
And so after a very considerable tussle with the draft board I was allowed to volunteer for the Army--I can't remember the exact date, but in the spring of 1942. This necessitated my resigning from the state senate, which I did in order to go into the Army.
I did go into the Army; was inducted at Fort Bragg. After a week or two there I was sent to Camp Wheeler, Macon, Georgia, for my basic training. I remember that I had reached my 33rd birthday just about two weeks after I had been in the Army. I was basically trained at Camp Wheeler in the summer, which was quite an experience, that being not exactly a Maine climate, and physically, of course, very difficult, because I was a senior of my peers by 12, 13, 14 years, I guess. But I successfully completed the basic training course. It was
discovered during the last week of my basic training that I had developed a double hernia and they put me on light duty for the last week of training. I thought the authorities were very compassionate, to allow me to wait for another week, complete the training, and then go into the hospital, which I did; and then Uncle gave me a free double hernia operation. And after a short period of convalescent leave I returned to Camp Wheeler, and temporarily was a member of the cadre there until I was sent to OCS at Fort Benning, infantry OCS, from which I graduated in February of 1943 as a second lieutenant.
To my regret I was kept on the staff at the infantry school, because I wanted to be more a part of the Army, as it were. I stayed there--again the dates are not clear in my mind, but for quite a period--and got the automatic promotions every six months, which you do in a headquarters of that sort. Finally I applied
for admission to the Battalion Commander and Advance Staff Officers' course at Fort Benning, because this was the only way I could get released from the staff of the school. They had no choice but to release me to enter this course, which I completed successfully, and then I was put in the officers' pool for overseas assignment.
I had known General Leven Allen's two aides well, General Allen having been the commandant of the infantry school. He had left and had joined [General Omar] Bradley and ultimately, as you know, General Bradley commanded the 12th Army Group and Leven Allen was his deputy. And unbeknownst to me, one of these aides had had a request put in for me to be assigned to General Bradley's headquarters, or he had asked General Allen to put in the request--I'm not s