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Judge Marvin Jones Oral History Interview, May 14, 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.
May 14, 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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.
May 14, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess


HESS: All right Judge, when we spoke last week I left Allen Matusow's book with you, Farm Policies and Politics in the Truman Years. After looking over his book, what are your comments?

JONES: Well, I was amazed at his mistaken so-called knowledge of the real facts in connection with this story. The writer indicates that I was for holding down the production, controlling production of food and farm products. The truth is that from the time I went into War Food after Claude Wickard and Chester Davis had served three months apiece, it was a difficult assignment because there were some disagreements in the Department of Agriculture over whether -- what the policy should


be about all-out production. So, when I first went in I said, "Our problem is to have all-out production, the biggest production we can get, because food is essential to the conduct of this all-out war." The first statement I made after beginning my service June the 29th, 1943, I emphasized the need for all-out production. I never changed this attitude during my entire service.

I had served under Justice Byrnes for a six months period in the East Wing of the White House. As his adviser on Agriculture from early January to June 29, 1943, just prior to becoming War Food Administrator, I said on the broadcast on the Blue Network on August the 9th, 1943, "This goal calls for a tremendous production of food. It calls for a proper distribution and handling of that food." The entire speech emphasized the need for the determination that we are to have an all-out production.


Then on August 18th, 1943 in spelling out the program for the following year, "This is an all-out war; it calls for all-out production."

I want to quote a sentence from different places. I have the record here. Anyone can read this record. "There will be no restriction on food production. All-out production is needed."

These quotations are from speeches and statements that I made as we went along. And there isn't a line in the record that calls for restriction of production, anywhere in the whole period of my service as U.S. War Food Administrator. And -- well, I've marked a number of places. In fact, I'd just like to send a copy of this book of speeches and statements to the Truman Library.

HESS: That would be very fine.


JONES: I have marked in the books some statements, but anyone may read all the statements. On September 29th, 1943, 1 said, "I hope the Congress may be willing to increase the funds available to the Commodity Credit Corporation so that the powers of that corporation can be used to the fullest extent in increasing food production."

Along about that time, some were saying, "Well, we still have the law on the statute books that calls for adjustment of production of certain farm commodities."

And I said to our staff, "I have authority during the war period under the Executive order to suspend and control any production during the war period." Some of my staff didn't like it even "Jake" [John B.] Hutson said, "No, I don't think you ought to do that."


"Well," I said, "I'm going to do it, and I have already issued the order. I have the authority and we're not going to have, from now until the time this war is over, any restriction on production. After that we can't keep them from restoring the control program if they decide to do so. We don't have any authority after the war is over unless we are given an extended authority, or somebody else is given it."

I've marked here several places in this book -- in March 1944 when we had already planned that year's increased production. Then too, you have my report on the food situation. Then I have in my hand -- you see I am holding conference reports in my hand. I want to give you a quote from the December 1944 statement that I made for publication. "For the coming year 1945, production goals call for about the same as have been produced in the year just ending,


but with a slight increase in planted acreage in 1945, and 1944 has been the greatest food production in the history of the nation." With all the shortage of help and materials we are with the bulk of farmers still measuring production. That was in December of '44 when we had made the plans for '45. And then as late as 1945 I made a public statement dated February the 3rd, 1945: "Our goals for this year call for greater acreage to be planted and more livestock to be raised with particular emphasis on increased production of milk and hogs and cattle. Crop goals call for an increase of nine million acres above last year." I increased the acreage every year.

It must be understood that the original ceiling order didn't cover all foods. These controversies raised the need of adding additional items that had not been included in the original


freeze order.

Here is what a lot of people didn't understand, and evidently Senator Anderson thought I was holding down the prices in order to control production. I had absolutely suspended any chance for that. OPA wouldn't agree to many of the needed increases in prices. I would have to go to see [Fred] Vinson and he would hold down the prices. I was trying to get increased prices on all these products needed for the war effort.

I said many times that if I had sat in on the original ceiling price legislations or the order pursuant thereto that had authorized a freezing of prices, that I would have said that I didn't think any ceiling ought to have been placed below parity if we were to get full production. During the


1930s we had rarely been above about 80 or 85, and one time as high as 90 percent of parity on any farm commodity. I would have said if we had any ceiling on essential farm production that should never be below parity.

I was not present when the legislation was enacted and I was out of the city at the Food Conference when the freeze order was planned. The prices had been frozen and naturally some of them were too low because when there had been a big surplus on some of them prior to the war we had a fight with OPA over prices and subsidies and they had a legitimate fight. I got along with Bowles, although naturally we didn't always agree.

HESS: What did Bowles say when you told him you thought the prices should be raised on certain commodities?

JONES: Well, he just said, "We are opposed to it."


And he -- he said, "If it's necessary there should be a subsidy." But he'd argued that it wasn't necessary. The OPA wanted to put a ceiling on hogs. We had to go to Vinson and then to Byrnes. We could appeal to Byrnes. Vinson said, "We're going to put a ceiling on hogs."

I said to Byrnes, "If there is going to be a ceiling, let's put it at fifteen cents." And Bowles wanted to put it at twelve and one-half cents. And I said, "We won't get the production at that price."

We went to Byrnes and Byrnes said, "Well, why don't you just, you fellows," [Prentis M.] Brown was there as OPA director that was just before Bowles was appointed. And Byrnes said, "Now, we're going to have to compromise this. Why don't you guys agree on fourteen cents?" And he said, "You had better both agree or I may make it worse on one of you."


And I said, "Well, I'll accept it. I don't like it. I think it had ought to be higher than that." But we agreed.

Later Bowles insisted on a lower price ceiling on hogs. He had [Richard V.] Gilbert over at Byrnes' office arguing that it ought to be kept lower.

The prices of corn and hogs are as mutually linked as the law of supply and demand. They are called the ratio prices. Corn won't move without those related prices. There isn't a line anywhere in my record, and I'll be glad to have anybody examine the notes that the Secretary made on our various War Food morning conferences -- we had a conference every morning for 30 minutes attended by the twenty-one or two division heads we had in War Food.

But some people don't understand that you must have an outlet or refrigeration for perishable


foods. There was an outlet during the war. We had no trouble with the outlets. I bought five million dollars worth of food per day for lend-lease for two and a half years; six billion dollars worth of food, and loaded it on ships. We had contracts with fifteen hundred warehouses and we had seventy thousand county and community committees. It is all emphasized all through these speeches and statements in this book that I will send the Truman Library. And it even goes back by reference to the time when I was in the House and handled the New Deal legislation. We had the problem then. I said on the floor back in the 1920s, "We have mastered the machinery of production to a far greater degree than we have mastered the machinery of distribution. Let's produce all we can dispose of at home or abroad." That has