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Judge Marvin Jones Oral History Interview, April 24, 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 24, 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 24, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess


HESS: Judge, I understand that your name was one of those that was under consideration for the vice-presidential spot in 1940. What can you tell me about that?

JONES: Well, it was -- several of the newspapers carried me among a list of others, but I wasn't particularly interested in that position at that time and... I can tell you some things that were said to me by a high up authority, but I won't. Perhaps some would not believe it anyway.

HESS: Why weren't you interested?

JONES: Well, I don't know, I'd prefer not to say, because I wasn't very enthusiastic about breaking the two term tradition. There were a number of people that are outspoken, but I


was going to remain a Democrat and carry through, so I just prefer not to say much.

HESS: Who else was under consideration at that time?

JONES: There were -- the list of names, five or six were mentioned in the newspapers from time to time, but these were highly speculative. As I recall, was Alben Barkley, Sam Rayburn and several others. I am sure the newspaper files would show.

HESS: Henry Wallace?

JONES: Henry Wallace was also named as being under consideration, but not many of them mentioned his name, some of them did. There was considerable speculation, but not much information. They finally narrowed it down and some of them told me, they narrowed it down to two names, but I prefer not to...


HESS: Okay, one more question: Did you ever speak with President Roosevelt on that matter?

JONES: Yes, we had some conversation about the possibilities, and some of those under him were speaking about it, but you know people who understand each other may have meaningful discussions with calling a spade a spade. At that time, he wasn't disclosing that he was going to run. The last conversation I had with him about the whole matter was in June. He talked about how Hitler was wanting to conquer the world, had emissaries all over South America, said we must make plans. He specifically urged me to not accept the judicial position to which I had already been confirmed -- said he needed me. I finally agreed to not take the oath until toward the end of the year. He didn't talk like a man who was quitting.


I had no doubt then that he would run. In fact, later when Wallace was nominated, the President made me promise to go with him on his barnstorming tour throughout the nation. I could tell you more, but that is enough. He didn't disclose until convention that he would run, that is, in definite terms. People were talking -- Garner announced you know, and so did Jim Farley. Both of them were campaigning his forces at the convention.

HESS: Now both of those men were against the third term weren't they?

JONES: They were outspoken against more than two terms.

HESS: Or against the third term suggestion?

JONES: Yes, against it.

HESS: Breaking the tradition.


JONES: The two term tradition. Against any three consecutive terms. But I took no part in that because I was a Democrat and while there wasn't anything in the law to prevent a man running for more than two terms, those opposing an additional term said they wanted to be sure that any President didn't build up a following that would enable him to run indefinitely and possibly change the form of government. That was not the theory, or not the practice, but nevertheless, I figured that whoever was nominated I was going to support. For years I had had the honors of the party and I felt I had no right to quit the team after the play had started. The breaking up into splinter parties is what got France and many other countries in trouble. Coalition governments rarely last long. I intended to support President Roosevelt if he was nominated and


I told him so definitely. And then after Wallace was chosen, the President wanted me to go with him on the campaign. And I went.

HESS: We mentioned last time that Mr. Bankhead had asked you to go to Iowa for the notification speech, is that right?

JONES: Yes. And that speech is in the Congressional Record.

HESS: And then did you stay and go on the part of the campaign?

JONES: Yes, when I stayed there according to the wishes of the President, he personally spoke to me about that after Wallace was nominated, but said he wanted me to go with Wallace on the barnstorming tour.

HESS: What did he say to you at the time that he asked you to go? Why did he want you to go?


JONES: Well, I don't know. He said I was more experienced than Wallace. He mentioned the fact that I had for many years been speaking all over the country in the Democratic tradition and I had been in charge of the western headquarters in 1936 of the Democratic Committee at Chicago when for the first time we carried practically all the western farm states. I was in charge of the western headquarters and assigned all the speakers in the West and he added, "You are well-known and popular among the farmers." In 1936 I was placed in charge, and we had the Chicago headquarters -- we sent out thirty-six million pieces of literature from there in that campaign. The people wouldn't read long printed speeches.

And we'd get out a little two-leaf cartoon folder on each subject, tell how the vote of the Republicans was on that subject and how the Democrats had voted. The majority of the


Republicans in the House that year had voted against practically everything that we had proposed including the rural electrification (I was amazed at that), and we got for each subject they had voted against. They weren't much for the farm deal, that is the farm program as we had fashioned it. Joe Martin, the new leader, was trying to build up a reputation of holding the members in line and he did a pretty good job. Martin was a good organizer.

Anyhow, we would get out on rural electrification -- on the Farm Credit Administration on marketing agreements, on corn, hogs and wheat prices, showing that farm prices were better and farm interest rates much lower than at any time in recent years. We had a good cartoonist. We had a cartoon on every leaflet. On rural electrification we had a cartoon of a woman on an old wash tub, and


then -- another woman standing right by her electric washer smiling.

And then we just had a few sentences. I had learned the value of short, crisp sentences. And we'd say on the passage of this measure and that measure, we had about a dozen different -- major farm programs. We would show the vote on those various commodities separately. We would show the difference in the interest rate of the home tenant purchases, each on a separate leaflet citing the various acts that we had passed, but each separately and we would say, "Before they were passed the interest rates were so much, and after the passage of these acts it was so much lower." Just a half a dozen sentences, great big letters. "Do you want this repealed?" "Do you want that repealed?" "Do you wish it repealed?"


Western Democratic state headquarters would ask for 5,000 or 10,000 at one time.

They called me out to speak so much that I would go out and make two or three speeches and come back and then assign the other speakers. And Paul Porter was out there. He helped write those just single sentences. I told him what I wanted. Paul Porter could give you that story, and he's a whizz anyway, a very able man. Anyhow he was young, but he knew how to get things done and he was an enthusiast.

I campaigned in all those Western States in 1936. I went up to Wisconsin to speak and they said, "We want five thousand copies of that leaflet on the milk, and milk products subject." Over on the side were stacks of congressional printed speeches, many packages unopened sent out from the general headquarters.


I looked over there at the stacks of printed speeches and said, "You apparently already have plenty of campaign literature on hand."

He replied, "We don't pay attention to them. People don't read them, but they read those leaflets."

The national committee had sent the speeches and they sometimes helped if someone was particularly interested. But people told me time and time again in many places, "These people get those little leaflets and carry them around in their pockets."

I spoke in practically all those Western States except in Cliff [Clifford] Hope's district in Kansas. Farley sent word to me, wrote me a letter, that he wanted me to go down in Cliff Hope's district and speak. I believe he called me up on the phone after that. And I said, "I'll go down there if you want me to, but


I'll brag on Cliff Hope because he is one of the few," -- he was the ranking Republican on the Agricultural Committee who s