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Roman L. Horne Oral History Interview

 

Roman L. Horne

Oral History Interview with
Roman L. Horne

Economist, U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, 1944-46; organizing secretary, International Monetary Fund, 1946; deputy secretary, IMF, 1946-56; and secretary, IMF, 1956-66.

McLean, Virginia
December 15, 1972
by Richard D. McKinzie

See also Roman L. Horne Papers finding aid

[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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 February, 1976
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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



Oral History Interview with
Roman L. Horne

McLean, Virginia
December 15, 1972
by Richard D. McKinzie

[1]

MCKINZIE: Mr. Horne, I wonder if you could tell me how you happened to come into Government service, and then how you came to the War Production Board, and what circumstances led you then to go from the War Production Board on into the Department of the Treasury? I believe that was 1944 when you went to the Treasury.

HORNE: In answer to your first question, I have been in and out of government a number of times. First during the early years of the [Franklin D.] Roosevelt administration.

Like many other people entering college

[2]

in the twenties, I ran into some rough sledding when the depression came along, and fortunately was offered a teaching fellowship at Ohio State University, which enabled me to get both a Masters and a Ph.D. during the worst years. While I was still working on my doctorate in the field of international monetary theory, a favorite professor of mine, Dr. H. Gordon Hayes, came to Washington to take a rather responsible position in the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce. That was the beginning of the Roosevelt administration. Right away he began urging me to come to Washington, although I didn't yet have my degree. I held off until the June of '34, because I had certain requirements to work off back at Ohio State. Coming to Washington a year after the Roosevelt administration had taken over, I was afraid that all the good opportunities were gone, but hoped that

[3]

I might be able somehow to take advantage of my professional training.

Through introductions that Professor Hayes made for me, I was able right away to get into writing and editorial assignments, frequently on a short-term basis, without getting too deeply entangled in the bureaucracy. I got out a number of publications under my own name, and came to the attention of a good many people, meanwhile completing the remaining requirements for my doctorate, which I got in 1936.

Among the people whose acquaintance I made in due course was one Chester A. Davis, head of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. I was doing an editorial job in the Department of Agriculture in 1937 when the AAA came under fire in the courts and Mr. Davis, a favorite of President Roosevelt, was

[4]

shifted to the Federal Reserve Board. He invited me to go with him.

Well, that was -- in view of my background -- like the rabbit being tossed into the briar patch. I was very much at home at the Federal Reserve Board, which I had just joined when they moved into that gorgeous marble building they still occupy on Constitution Avenue.

By the time I got to the "Fed," as it is called, I was beginning to feel that my professional career was more or less launched. Meanwhile, I got married, and my wife, a Vassar-trained economist, felt that I might go to seed there because it was all too comfortable. I was in a receptive mood therefore when, in the spring of 1940, I got a telephone call from the Tennessee Valley Authority asking me to come down

[5]

there for an interview. I went, talked to Gordon Clapp, [David E.] Lilienthal, and others. They wanted me to become their chief reports editor. I had some little difficulty understanding this or how they had even found my name. But TVA had had some rough going during the mid-thirties, what with Commonwealth Southern and [Wendell L.] Willkie -- trials, tribulations. So, they had asked me to do this primarily because (a) my credentials were generally satisfying and, (b) -- and more importantly -- I was born and reared in the mountains of western North Carolina and had a familiar -- an all too familiar -- knowledge of the kind of problems that TVA had to deal with, plus the fact that I was working then on the Federal Reserve Bulletin, a very prestigious monthly, and they wanted to introduce some of that style

[6]

into their own publications. My involvement there, while highly rewarding, is not particularly relevant to my later career. But briefly, the TVA moved very rapidly in the early forties, with the war coming on, and by the end of '42 people with my kind of training and experience were being urged to come to Washington and make a contribution to the war effort.

The War Department offered me a captaincy in the Army Specialists Corps, where I was to work on reports to the President and the Congress. This sounded good, but you will not have found a reference to this experience in any file on my background. The Army took me on loan while processing my commission. I moved to Washington in early '43 and went to work in the War Department, then housed in a building referred to as the

[7]

New State Department building, very close to the Federal Reserve, and shortly thereafter moved over to the newly completed Pentagon. I plunged into the kind of work they had mapped out for me as best I could, but before my commission came through I realized that a captain -- particularly with a civilian's demeanor, dress, and independence of mind -- would play no significant role whatever in that atmosphere. He was little more than a messenger boy. I felt trapped, not realizing that a means of escape would shortly appear.

After about two months on the job a man from the personnel office came around to me and he said: "Mr. Horne, there's been a mistake in the handling of your application. We gave you the wrong form to fill out to begin with. Let's just tear this old one up and you fill out the correct form and the

[8]

processing will all move along very much faster."

I said, "Thank you very much," stuck the new form in my pocket, put on my hat and coat and walked out and over to the War Production Board where I knew, as a civilian, I could do something useful. There I moved immediately into a position as Assistant to the Executive Secretary, where my principal duty was to organize meetings of the Board, assemble documentation, and write the minutes of Board meetings. That would have been March or April, I guess, of 1943.

Well, I won't go into what happened during the war, except to say that when the Allied armies moved into France in June of 1944, all of us in the War Production Board with professional background began to think about our personal reconversion to a peacetime career.

[9]

MCKINZIE: May I ask whether or not there was a feeling in the WPB that some modification of that organization might be possible? That the idea of planning for peacetime production was, in the minds of some, just about as important as planning for wartime production.

HORNE: Do you want me to speak on that for a moment?

MCKINZIE: If you would, please.

HORNE: This was very much in the minds of people at the WPB. When I speak of the WPB in this context I am really speaking of a staff and an office -- first under [Donald M.] Nelson, then under [Charles E.] Wilson, and subsequently under [Julius] Krug. Our offices were located on Independence Avenue about four or five blocks west of the Capitol.

[10]

The Board itself actually was made up of more than that: the military and a lot of big brass at cabinet level. And while the Board was advisory to the Chairman, it nevertheless carried weight. People who were civilian-oriented began putting up a mighty struggle, even before the landing in Normandy, to get on with reconversion to a civilian-oriented economy, and at a minimum to initiate meaningful planning. How to let loose all these wartime plants; how to get back on a civilian basis -- these were staggering challenges. But the military-minded people -- and this is part of their training and I don't wish to fault them for it -- the military-minded people didn't want to let anything go, anything, until they had victory in the bag.

When the WPB, for example, would authorize

[11]

the Tennessee Valley Authority to go ahead and build a new dam back in the mountains somewhere -- put up an enormous village around it to house imported labor and technicians, as you had to do -- it was a struggle to get allocations of materials and manpower to build essential supporting services. This was very shortsighted, in my opinion, because if you had all of the essential community facilities the women living there with their men would have been freed to do more important work. But you could hardly get approval to build even a sewage disposal system or a commercial laundry. So, if a woman had to stay home, do her laundry and mind the kids -- well, she didn't have much time for productive employment. And while there was a lot of pressure from some quarters to get on with reconversion, there was just as much, if not

[12]

more, to keep the heat on until the war was over. Some people, unfortunately, had vested financial interests in this, and, indeed, there were people in the WPB -- I don't point to anyone in particular -- who, while working for the government, kept an eye on the industry from which they had been recruited. There is no doubt about that. This was a cause of constant turmoil and concern. But everyone knew that you couldn't make a lifetime career out of the WPB, so many of us, particularly after D-Day, began casting about for opportunities to resume careers that had been interrupted by the war.

Well, in July, actually, the first three weeks of July, 1944, a conference on postwar intervational monetary and financial problems was held at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.. And while this conference was in progress,

[13]

I sat over there at the WPB realizing that that was where I ought to be. But I could not easily desert the ship, besides, I had not been asked to go to Bretton Woods. I was still on loan from the Tennessee Valley Authority, and I had to consider whether I would go back there when the war was over.

The Bretton Woods Conference came and went, and a few days after it ended -- and now I get around to answering your question -- a few days after Bretton Woods I was sitting at my desk reading an article in the Commercial and Financial Chronicle, an article by Herb [Herbert Max] Bratter on the implications of what had happened at Bretton Woods. I was, again, regretting that I hadn't been present, and I thought I must have missed the boat by not being there and getting involved somehow. And so help me, while those

[14]

very thoughts were running through my mind, I had a call from one E.M. [Edward M.] Bernstein at the U.S. Treasury, one of the brilliant minds behind the Bretton Woods proposals. He told how he had come upon my name, and asked me if I would come over to the Treasury and talk about a job. He had just got back from Bretton Woods. They had a big campaign ahead to inform -- or I guess he must have said to educate -- the country and in particular to educate the Congress on the implications of the proposals to create two gigantic international financial institutions, the IMF and World Bank. That campaign would be carried on mainly by the Treasury, to a large extent under his supervision. I went right over. He had something I had written, and I don't mind telling you frankly what appealed to him was that I have an overly simplistic

[15]

style of writing in dealing with complex matters. I think this goes back to my mountain background where nothing very complex ever got understood by anybody. So Bernstein and I talked, and then he took me along to introduce me to his boss whose name was Harry Dexter White. And they said, "Well, you've got a job here, when can you come to work." We agreed that I would start immediately. So I was in the Treasury now. Having been in the Federal Reserve some years before, I was back in the field where I hoped to make my mark. My job was mainly writing and editing, and dealing with members of Congress, a very exciting assignment.

Although the Bretton Woods Conference was over, the Articles of Agreement had yet to be considered and approved by congresses and parliaments around the world including the U.S.

[16]

Congress. And there would be no International Monetary Fund or World Bank until enabling legislation was enacted by a substantial number of Free World powers. So, we went to work out of the Treasury to educate the country and to build a fire under Congress.

I guess I wrote speeches for more than 50 members of the Congress who were kindly disposed. It would happen in this way. Mr. White or Mr. [Henry J.] Morgenthau would approach these people - ask them to make speeches in the Congress and around the country. "Well, if you'll provide me with a draft," was the usual reply, "One that the folks back in my district can understand." I did a lot of that. I also went around the country a bit myself, beating the bushes, as we said. Talking to small groups, women's organizations, Rotary clubs, luncheon groups,

[17]

classrooms -- anybody who wanted a speaker could come to the Treasury and get one. Our roster of speakers included outsiders as well as Treasury personnel.

MCKINZIE: How did you find the state of economic intelligence in the country in 1944?

HORNE: Well, I'm bound to say that the public at large seemed to be aware that during the war all normal trade relations had been suspended. No one any longer knew what the pound or franc or lira was worth in terms of dollars or -- well, all normal exchange values had simply disappeared and plans had to be drawn up for a new beginning.

If we were helping France, or England, or Russia, or anybody else during the war, as we were on a large scale, we might have used dollars as some sort of unit of account. But the thing that really counted

[18]

was guns, trucks, numbers of men, quantities of food and all the rest -- planes, what have you. Money had lost its normal function as a means of facilitating international trade. Goods of all kinds moved outside the price system. And the public seemed to understand this. They knew that a big effort would be required, and I think it's fair to say that almost everywhere I went to talk, and this is true of others as well who went out to make speeches, I came back to Washington with a resolution -- some sort of a public expression saying in effect, "This is a good thing; let's get on with it." We never lost an opportunity to say, "Well, if you think it's a good thing, write your congressman, write your senators." They did indeed write, and by the summer of 1945 -- much else had happened of course -- but by the summer of 1945 this

[19]

matter came up for discussion in Congress, and the Bretton Woods enabling legislation was finally enacted on July 31 of that year. From then on it was a question of what other countries would pass similar legislation, and no other country, not France, the U.K. nor anybody else had been willing to stick their necks out until it was certain that the U.S. was coming along.

About this time it became apparent to all that during the war the British had really blown their resources, at home and overseas. The war in Europe had wound up in April of '45. It was moving to a climax in Japan in August of '45. The British let it be known that in order to sign the Bretton Woods Agreements and carry out the obligations specified therein, they would have to have a very large dollar loan from

[20]

the United States. They had in mind an amount between 4 and 5 billion, as I recall. So, we in the Treasury went to work to try to show the public, and the Congress in particular, how making this loan to help a principal ally would help all of us return to normal peacetime economic relationships. Moreover, it had become quite clear that until the U.K. signified a willingness to sign the Bretton Woods Agreements no other members of the Commonwealth would sign.

The proposed loan was agreed by the U.S. in the fall of '45; they were ready to sign, as were many other countries around the world.

As the postwar leader, it was up to the U.S. to take the initiative.

A signing ceremony was arranged for the 27th of December 1945 in the old State,

[21]

War, Navy Building, [Fred M.] Vinson, Secretary of the Treasury, presiding. Mr. Morgenthau had resigned during the preceding summer. Some thirty countries signed the Articles that day and that brought them into effect.

And on that very day, Mr. Harry Dexter White made me responsible for finding a place to hold a meeting of the prospective member States at the earliest possible date to launch the Fund and Bank as going organizations. He got in touch with the Coast Guard and had them assign to me a plane and pilot. "Judge Vinson prefers something in the south," he said, "He likes the warm weather." The meeting, he thought, probably couldn't take place before March. After much correspondence and a few scouting trips, Savannah, Georgia, was agreed as the place

[22]

to hold the Inaugural Meeting.

Now, I've shoved aside a number of rather important points in going straight through to that December 27 date, which was a crucial date in the history of these international organizations. Perhaps you'd like to raise some questions about what happened during the preceding months.

MCKINZIE: I'd like to go back to the wartime period, when you came to the Treasury Department and undertook work with Congress and speaking to the various groups around the country. There was, was there not, a rather unusual economic view of things on the part of some people -- a view that, perhaps, is not quite so strongly held now? Could it be called economic internationalism? I'm talking about Will [William C.] Clayton and I'm talking about Harry Dexter White. The

[23]

idea of integrated world economies -- the heritage of Cordell Hull, I expect. And yet there were some pretty strong economic nationalists at the time, weren't there, particularly up on Capitol Hill? I'm wondering in retrospect, as you look back on that, if you think that that idea of integrating world economies as they'd never been integrated before was a feasible kind of outlook? And if it was, do you consider that Bretton Woods Agreements were a little bit weak as an instrument for bringing those ideas into some kind of reality? Now that's a loaded question.

HORNE: That is a good question, although the answer is likely to be very involved. I certainly couldn't give you a definitive answer. I believe it will be a long time before scholars can make an honest assessment. But just on the surface I would agree that

[24]

there were many idealists in positions of responsibility. There were many people -- I consider myself amongst them -- who felt that the war had settled very little; that in general wars are bloody and useless. To be sure, World War II had eliminated some very troublesome characters. But now there was a great public revulsion. People wanted the United Nations; they wanted international machinery to settle disputes of all kinds. I'm not saying everybody. But certainly the majority of the people had caught on somewhat to the Hull philosophy. Roosevelt himself had shared this view. There ought to be, it was thought, a better way to settle disputes than to go out and start shooting. There were people on the Hill -- [Robert A.] Taft for one -- and there were many others, who were skeptical. There were people in the

[25]

financial and business community who were skeptical. And some, I'm sure, just wanted to return to what President Harding had called "normalcy," and get out and make a quick dollar at ordinary peacetime employment. There were all these mixed views but with a substantial component of idealism. There was a large element of idealism, as well as optimism, behind the creation of the United Nations, the Fund and Bank and other organizations that were set up at that time.

Did we overdo it? Perhaps we did. The world hasn't been quite so simple as we thought it would be. Most of us certainly did not foresee the intransigence of our biggest ally during the war -- Russia. They've been very difficult to deal with, until fairly recently, anyway; maybe they still are. It remains to be seen.

[26]

I leave it to others to assess the role of the United Nations. Having spent a good deal of time there myself, I think that its better to talk, and even to use strong language and call one another names, than it is not to talk.

In the field of international monetary cooperation. I certainly can't say that the Fund has been able to operate smoothly, but at least we haven't had the currency wars that we had in the 1930's, including under the Bretton Woods scheme, competitive devaluation. Currency arrangements, although not ideal, have been such that they tended to be neutral in the promotion of trade, leaving tariffs and the like aside, which is somebody else's responsibility. Money itself, exchange values, per se, have not generally been a detriment to trade since

[27]

the Fund was set up. This was and remains one of its big objectives.

But the Fund, like other international organizations, is only as strong as its strongest members, and there have been times (indeed, now is one of the times) when some of its strongest members seem to be backing away from giving it the support it needs to carry out its role. I'm referring particularly to the United States. Beginning in August 1971, the United States dealt the Fund and international monetary cooperation generally a terrific blow. It will take a while to recover from that. What is more important, it will take the U.S. a while, maybe a good long while, to win back the international goodwill that they had before the events I refer to. You have to recall that during the first twenty-odd years of the Fund the

[28]

U.S. was in the front ranks of those strong countries wielding cudgels and beating small people over the head to make them toe the mark and do exactly what the IMF told them to do. But beginning 6 or 8 years ago when the U.S. balance of payments began badly to deteriorate and the IMF began preaching to the U.S. -- preaching is the wrong word -- pointing out that they were headed for a fall -- that they would have to increase taxes, retrench somewhere, give less foreign aid, cut military expenditures, something had to be done. Trim sail somewhere along the line, or there would come a time when U.S. trading partners all over the world will have built up such large dollar balances in this country that our financial stability will be threatened. U.S. officials didn't like hearing this. They resented the Fund making public statements to

[29]

that effect, and putting it in their annual report year after year. And then when finally the crisis came in August of 1971, and they realized they were on the verge of an international disaster -- when European countries alone, if they had cashed in their chips, could have demanded fifty-odd billions in gold that the U.S. didn't have -- well, when that point was reached the U.S. took a small boy's attitude. It might be more accurate to say they adopted the stance of a medieval potentate toward a messenger who brought bad tidings: "Off with his head:" In the intervening years, and particularly during the remainder of Mr. Nixon's tenure, the U.S. has been a rather uncooperative member. It's a very large membership; it's over a hundred and twenty countries. And this makes it difficult for the IMF to work with the other

[30]

hundred and twenty odd members, the U.S. being by far the most powerful and supposedly the most influential of the lot.

Now, maybe we are getting off the track a little bit but...

MCKINZIE: No. That, of course, couldn't have been anticipated in 1944 and 1945, but some scholars who have written before this latest problem developed, and after the postwar problems, have said that the IMF was well conceived as a long-range balancing organization, but that in combination the IMF and the IBRD did not adequately provide for the immediate problems of postwar reconstruction. And some scholars have faulted Secretary Morgenthau and Mr. White, for not having foreseen, as they argue that John Maynard Keynes foresaw, the need for a much larger, much more powerful international banking,

[31]

financial institution. One which could handle not only the problems of reconstruction of trade but of reconstruction of industry -- rebuilding, in short. Would you comment on that?

HORNE: Yes. I agree completely with what you say, and I shan't try to repeat it. I would just add that on the other side there are those who have been very close to the situation who have felt that it was only during the period of euphoria at the end of World War II, when the prospect of some kind of new order loomed over the horizon, it was only during that period that organizations such as the U.N., the Fund, the Bank and others could have been established, even with their limited prospects.

I think in today's world, if you had to start from scratch, you couldn't create an International Monetary Fund. I don't think

[32]

the big powers would want to give up the elements of sovereignty they have to transfer to an international body if they had to do it all over again.

This is a very complex subject and I guess we're getting into the realm of psychoanalysis now, and somewhat away from history, strictly speaking.

MCKINZIE: Right.

HORNE: With your permission I'll go back and pick up an aspect that we have not touched on so far. We have mentioned the name Harry Dexter White, who has a place in history apart from the Fund and Bank. As I have said, I worked for Mr. [Edward M.] Bernstein and Mr. White at the Treasury. I was aware while I was there that they, partly because of the Treasury itself and Mr. Morgenthau,

[33]

that they were in a very powerful position. It may surprise you to learn that General [George] Marshall's terms of reference for his China mission were very largely drafted in the Treasury. Now, Dean Acheson doesn't say that -- I've got his book here, Present at the Creation -- but that was in 1945, the NAC had not yet been set up. It was established under the Bretton Woods enabling legislation, but this hadn't been approved yet. The people on White's staff spent quite a bit of time on Marshall's terms of reference, as they did also on the creation of the independent state of Israel, and on postwar policy in Germany.

MCKINZIE: Did you work on that?

HORNE: Not really; I was on the fringe of the group that discussed these matters. The Treasury

[34]

was very active on Israeli affairs -- maybe partly because of the special interests of Morgenthau and White. A little bit earlier, during the San Francisco meeting, it may surprise you to hear that the Treasury was deeply involved in working out the terms of reference for the U.S. delegates at that meeting, and on the division of powers between the General Assembly and the Security Council -- that sort of thing. I saw many telegrams, all kinds of little drafting alterations in basic documents. Now, the State Department, I'm sure, was the proper channel and I suppose anything the Treasury had to suggest went through the State. But I mention all this only to point out that the Treasury was an important place. And Mr. White, assisted by Mr. Bernstein, carried a great deal of clout.

[35]

MCKINZIE: I have a quote here which you might be interested in. This is from a book by E.F. Penrose who talks about the Treasury Department in foreign policy and foreign economic planning. He says that a group of officials in the Treasury and others near the Secretary of the Treasury had actually participated in the military government planning of Germany to the point where people in the State Department were complaining of the necessity of clearing papers with the Treasury.

HORNE: That could be true. Mr. [Raymond F.] Mikesell and others you may talk to can tell you a great deal more about the work that was done in the Treasury on postwar Germany.

MCKINZIE: Do you believe that the Treasury has a proper function in foreign economic planning and policy?

[36]

HORNE: I would rather not comment on that. I would just say that during the war they were deeply involved in that kind of work; Treasury agents were scattered around the world. They were in the Philippines, Shanghai; in almost every theater of war there were Treasury agents who were communicating with the Treasury, and I don't know, frankly, to what extent with State. But the Treasury had a very active intelligence-gathering staff abroad. One of my Treasury colleagues, who was in Shanghai, sent back adverse reports on Chiang Kai-shek's prospects for survival. He painted a black picture of the plundering that went on -- what happened to U.S. supplies of all kinds. It won't surprise you to learn that he got into deep trouble later on, and it was just by the skin of his teeth that he escaped falling victim to [Joseph R.] McCarthy

[37]

purges.

This reminds me of something else that I ought to mention, because it is part of the early Truman period. We've really not touched very much on the Savannah meeting, but at the Savannah meeting, where I acted as Temporary Secretary on the Fund side, I was made Organizing Secretary then and sent back to Washington with an allocation of $200,000 and instructions to find a temporary headquarters site, assemble furniture, recruit essential staff, and a lot of other things. This, after a few weeks, led me to resign from the Treasury. Since I had accepted big international responsibilities, it didn't seem appropriate any longer to be even on loan from a U.S. Government agency. So I resigned in effect from the Treasury but, as a legal matter, from the Tennessee

[38]

Valley Authority, and cancelled the loan arrangements that the Treasury had with the Authority for my services. Thus, becoming the Organizing Secretary of the IMF, I at the same became an international civil servant.

Everything progressed as planned. The inaugural meeting at Savannah, attended by many illustrious people including John Maynard Keynes, had done a number of things. It agreed to move ahead with establishing the Fund and Bank, chose Washington, D.C., as headquarters, and agreed that the first meeting of the IMF Board would be held on May 6, 1946. The first meeting of the Bank Board was scheduled for May 7th.

MCKINZIE: Could I interrupt you at this point? Since you were the arranger of that conference it sounds very interesting. Could you give me

[39]

a little local color about it? I notice that meetings were held in places like the beach-house, and aboard some Coast Guard cutter and .

HORNE: You want to go back to Savannah now?

MCKINZIE: Yes. I want to go back to Savannah for a minute. Since you organized that conference you mentioned that...

HORNE: Well, I mentioned that the Coast Guard gave me a plane, and I got in touch with members of Congress and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and did a lot of scrounging to find a place where a meeting could be held. You would be amazed at how scarce such places were. The big hotels in Miami, Tampa, and elsewhere in resort areas practically throughout the country were either closed down, or if year-round hotels that could be properly staffed, they were under military occupation.

[40]

It was difficult to find a suitable place. A Congressman from Georgia called me to say that a hotel just outside of Savannah, the Oglethorp, had been given up by the military a few months before. It was already largely reconverted for civilian use, not yet been occupied, but it could be made completely ready by March. So I hot-footed to Savannah -- made several trips down there -- and got the Savannah Chamber of Commerce and others behind the project. They were very happy to lend their support. There was a big international air force base nearby from which warplanes had been launched to war theaters around the world. Well, with the kind of introductions I could get from Mr. White and others, I could go right to the commanding officer and say, “We want 500 desks, we want telephones, we want wastebaskets, we want spittoons, we want cooks

[41]

and pots and pans, we want everything.” They said, “Just make a list.” There was not only this military base but there was a Coast Guard station nearby, at Cockspur Island, which was under process of deactivation. Well, we could use all their facilities for printing. A conference is very largely paperwork, you know. It's a big paper mill. So, we drew on these service facilities, and made good use of everything the town could give us, which was a great deal of charm and hospitality, all the liquid refreshments we could use. They had heard a little about Mr. Vinson's fondness for bourbon, I guess. Perhaps they had also heard that under Secretary Vinson's instructions not a penny of U.S. money would be spent for alcohol in any form. That did not mean however, that we shouldn't have it. It only meant that the local people would have to provide it, and that they did. Johnny

[42]

Walker Black Label and Old Forester by the case, case after case. The city fathers arranged some interesting entertainment -- cookouts, brunswick stews, and all that sort of thing -- practically every evening. I realize I'm getting a bit off the track here, but I'll just go back and give you a little local color. I worked very closely with the State Department in setting up the meeting. An able and very conscientious man by the name of Warren Kelchner was State's principle conference officer, a man concerned with protocol and international niceties of which most of us, at that time, were totally innocent. He had a competent staff, which was placed at our disposal. The Treasury rode such a "high horse" in those days, however, that Mr. White really called the shots on how the conference was run. It was largely run from the Treasury, and

[43]

I was the instrumentality.

We were all a little nervous when we saw how many people were coming to Savannah, a rather provincial town, including people from Ethiopia and Haiti; and I had to have serious talks with the hotels about serving these people without discrimination. In the end, the Haitians decided not to come because they thought it was a disgrace that the meeting was held in the part of the country where blacks could only expect second-class treatment. But the Ethiopians were coming, and so were many other dark-skinned people, including the Indians. I guess the Ethiopians created about as much interest as anyone. Most of the delegations from Europe, Asia and Africa arrived in New York aboard a particular sailing of one of the Queens, and a special train was arranged from New York to Savannah. The whole

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company, except for the Latin American contingents -- and some of them had gone to New York to come down by this train -- practically the whole company arrived on one big, long train.

The schools in Savannah were recessed for the day, and everybody was lined up with flags, "Welcome International Conference," and so forth. People like Lord Keynes, of course, got a tremendous hand. He was already a legend. They didn't know what he stood for, but they knew that he was a very great man. There was almost as much interest, I would say, in the Ethiopians as in the British and others, as no one could be sure what kind of reception they would receive. The leader of the French delegation was [Pierre] Mendes-France, whose name was quite well-known already. But many people standing along the

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route from the railroad station to the hotel were looking most particularly for the Ethiopians, and every car had a big blazer on it identifying the delegation. All told, there were about thirty-five countries represented, including Russia as an observer, and others. And finally the Ethiopian car loomed around the corner and everybody peered. Sitting inside as the Ethiopian representative, with his wife and one or two aides, was an American by the name of George A. Blowers, who was as white as you or I, and that was a big letdown for everybody. The meeting convened on March 8th. It was scheduled to go on to the 18th or as long as necessary. Actually it concluded its business on about the 16th. We all dispersed and went our separate ways. Keynes left there a disappointed man, broken in health and died very short