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Judge Marvin Jones Oral History Interview, April 20, 1970

Oral History Interview with Judge Marvin Jones

Member of U.S. House of Representatives (from Texas), 1917-40; Judge, U.S. Court of Claims, 1940-43; U.S. War Food Administrator, 1943-45 (on leave from U.S. Court of Claims); Chief Justice, U.S. Court of Claims, 1947-64; and Senior Judge, 1964 to the present.

Washington, D.C.
April 20, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Jones Oral History Transcripts]

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 May, 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Jones Oral History Transcripts]


Oral History Interview with
Judge Marvin Jones

Washington, D.C.
April 20, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess


HESS: Judge, to begin this morning, let's just discuss a few of the men who served on the Texas delegation to the House of Representatives. What do you recall about Mr. Martin Dies?

JONES: I served with Martin Dies, Sr., who was one of the best Speakers in the House, but he didn't want Woodrow Wilson to go to France. And he figured that some war hero would run against him and, since he wasn't in good health anyway, he decided that he wouldn't run for re-election after World War I had ended, but peace had not been declared. He and I were very good friends and he had a tremendous amount of ability and was listened to whenever he spoke. He left the House voluntarily. Several members urged him not to retire, but


he insisted and said, "No, I don't want to remain here any more." Martin Dies, Jr. was elected several years later.

Martin Dies, Jr. was also an interesting man. He was a good Speaker, had a good sense of humor and loved the banter in the cloakroom. He organized what he called the "Demogogue Club" just in fun, but if someone made a speech in the House a little different from opinions expressed in the cloakroom, Martin Dies would make him a member of the Demogague Club as soon as he returned to the cloakroom. But he studied the question of silver until he became an expert on that subject. He was the head of a special committee appointed to investigate the money question, especially the coining of silver as a joint basis of money. He probably went a little far, but he could make a powerful speech on the question of recoinage


of silver. All at once he quit talking about silver. I asked him why. He replied that he observed that nearly everybody who kept studying the money question went "nuts."

About that time communism became the rage Martin Dies became head of the Committee on Un-American Activities. It became a very active committee. There was opposition to his listing names, but Martin was very popular in the House and he kept on with the committee. Dies, Jr. ran for the U.S. Senate in Texas but was defeated, and he had served a while on the Rules Committee in the House. Martin was a delightful man personally. Everybody liked him except the ones that wanted him to quit this investigation.

HESS: Now, we mentioned Mr. Sam Rayburn last time, but what else do you recall about Mr. Rayburn, what else comes to mind?


JONES: I didn't think we said much about Mr. Rayburn.

HESS: Oh, a little. I think we mentioned the fact that when you were in law school in Texas and he was in the Texas legislature that he came to the school for a couple of classes. I believe that's about it.

JONES: Well, it was more than two classes. He took one or two courses there in one year -- I mean part of two years.

HESS: Is that when you first met him?

JONES: That's when I first met him. I had known of him, of course, through the newspapers.

We lived in adjoining counties, but we lived in different congressional districts. As a matter of fact, when we were younger, we both lived in the same congressional district,


but there was a redistricting before we were grown. I was thrown in the western district and he in the district just east. In our youth we both lived in the same district and we both admired Congressman Joseph W. Bailey of Texas when Bailey was in Congress. Later when Bailey became Senator a fight against Joe Bailey was made, claiming that he had represented Waters-Pierce Oil Company and the Standard Oil Company as an attorney while serving in the Senate. I believe Sam Rayburn was in the Legislature when the fight was made on Bailey. Our fathers supported Bailey. Sam and I were ardent supporters of Bailey. We became very well acquainted and Sam and I remained close friends throughout our public careers. Sam was a member of the Texas legislature when he took his law course and was later elected Speaker of that body. He


came to Congress four years before I did. We had long been friends, we had offices right down the hallway from each other and...

HESS: Did you work together closely during the years that you were in Congress?

JONES: Yes, we worked together closely on a lot of things. We shared an apartment at 16th & U Streets for two years. Sam Rayburn bought the furniture and the remaining two years lease of Jeff McLemore who retired from Congress.

HESS: Where was that?

JONES: What was known as the Flatiron Building, a three cornered building at 16th & U Streets. We lived together there. His three brothers visited us and we had a very pleasant week while they were there. Mr. Rayburn and I each had an Essex car. We would drive his car to the


Hill one morning and mine the next and then alternate.

HESS: I understand that there was a period of time when Sam Rayburn was married to your sister, is that correct?

JONES: Yes, they were married about 1928, the early part of the year. They lived together about six months. They separated. No one knew exactly why. Neither of them ever talked about it. My sister married again and is the mother of two fine children and now has six grandchildren. She was a very attractive young lady in my book. I thought Sam was a great chap, but somehow they didn't get along. They parted as friends and she went by to see him in his last illness. He had asked me, oh, a year before he died, saying, "If Metze comes up here any time, I would like to see her."


And I said, "I am sure she will come by to see you."

They never did really fall out. I never asked her and she didn't volunteer, said they just couldn't get along, and they couldn't, and she respected him. That's about all she would say and he wouldn't say anything. Sam's sisters liked Metze. They remained friends. It all seemed rather strange, but strange things happen in law and in life.

But that was merely an incident in our lives. Sam and I fished together for thirty years, all kinds of places, and I have been in his home both before and after that happened. His sisters admired my sister and they remained friends, and asked her to come to see them. One of them lived in Dallas. I have no further explanation.

HESS: How would you rate him as a political



JONES: He was extra good. He would study his bills. He was one of the few men who took an interest in the way the programs were planned even before he became Chairman of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee and I became Chairman of the Agriculture Committee. When the New Deal came in in 1931, the last two years of Hoover's administration, the Democrats gained control of the House by a very narrow margin. We were elected Chairmen and we still worked together. There were several subjects that were on the margin as to jurisdiction of our respective committees. We would simply agree on which committee would handle. One of these was rural electricity. It was in Agriculture, but Sam had such a fight on the securities exchange bill. We were both strongly in favor of rural electrification. But


on account of his utility fight, I waived any claim, although technically I think I could have claimed it. I supported it in every possible way.

We were very close friends for many years and when he became sick I had just gotten back from Hawaii. I called his office immediately when I arrived in Washington and was informed, "He left this morning and he is not well at all, has back trouble."

Well, I immediately called him then in Dallas on the phone and I said, "Well, I was glad to hear that it is simply back trouble and not serious as some had thought."

He said, "Well, I don't know. They say I am better, but I've got an awfully sore back."

Some of the people in Washington had said that they feared he had cancer. I immediately decided that it probably was cancer, just in my mind, I didn't say it. I


said, "Well, I hope you get along all right and get better soon." I flew down to see him after it began to get worse.

HESS: Now, he was Speaker of the House on and off. Who would you rate as the best Speaker that you knew, that you served under or that you knew?

JONES: Well, I'll tell you. I think that Will [William Brockman] Bankhead and Sam Rayburn were the two best Speakers in my time, and we were all great friends. As a matter of fact, Will Bankhead and I came to Congress the same time and he asked Mr. Rayburn and me to go down with him when Tullulah, his daughter, had her debut here at the old theater on Ninth Street. She was pretty as a picture and only 18 years of age. Will, Sam and I had dinner together and we went to the theater together. I think the two were outstanding


as Speakers and members. There were several good Speakers, but these two knew how to handle that p