Oral History Interview with
Physician and missionary with experience in China, 1925-31 and 1934-38, member of Congress from Minnesota, 1943-62. United States delegate to the 12th General Assembly of the United Nations, 1957.
Dr. Walter H. Judd
April 13, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
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.
As an electronic publication of the Truman Library, users should note that features of the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview, such as pagination and indexing, could not be replicated for this online version of the Judd transcript.
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 January, 1975
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Dr. Walter H. Judd
April 13, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Dr. Judd, we're primarily interested in your relationship with former President Truman. Just what was that relationship and when did it begin?
JUDD: I had met Mr. Truman a few times at official functions in Washington when I first came here as a member of Congress in January 1943. I had no personal contacts with him, directly, until he and I traveled together in the summer of 1943 .
A group of us in Congress were concerned that the United States not go back into isolationism after World War II. I had been a young soldier in World War I, and he had been a captain in the field artillery, and when we got to know each other better, we talked about our various military
experiences. He felt, as did I, that we had made
a mistake in 1918 and '19 when we imagined that we could pull back from the world, not recognizing our own situation in the world had changed. We were now a creditor nation instead of a debtor nation. We had to have dealings with other countries if they were to pay their debts to us. We had invented the steamboat and the airplane which had destroyed our physical separation from the rest of the world, the separation that George Washington and others had had earlier, which allowed them to concentrate on domestic problems and to forget pretty much the rest of the world.
So, a group of Republican Senators, [Joseph H.] Ball of Minnesota and [Harold H.] Burton of Ohio, and Democratic Senators, [Lister] Hill of Alabama and [Carl A.] Hatch of New Mexico, introduced a resolution in the Senate in 1943 which was called the Ball-Burton-Hill-Hatch, or B2H2 Resolution. As I recall, it merely declared it to be the sense of the Congress that the United States should cooperate with other nations after World War II to bring into being a world organization through which the peace-loving nations could pool their strength against lawless or aggressive actions by any nation. No one country could now run the whole world. England with her fleet had been able to for about a hundred years, but
that day had gone. England didn't have the strength, she was too exhausted by two wars and there were too many other powers in the world. We either had to have such an international organization that would be effective or the United States would have to try to do it by itself, which the United States couldn't do indefinitely. We didn't have the resources (we're discovering that now), and second, we didn't have the patience. If we could move into a trouble spot quickly and get it over with, okay, but if unrest or threats to the peace were to drag on a long time, Americans by and large don't have the stomach for long, drawn-out struggles, as we're learning in Vietnam.
Well, this was the sentiment of many of us. By the summer of 1943 it was reasonably clear that Hitler was not going to succeed in conquering Europe. He had failed to get Stalingrad in 1941 and Baku oil wells in '42 and '43. He was retreating in Europe. By that time it was also clear that Japan was not going to win control of the Pacific. She had shot her bolt against the United States and been defeated at Midway. In her drive toward Australia she had been defeated in the Coral Sea. We had recovered from Pearl Harbor, rebuilt our fleet, and were beginning our march, island by island, back across the Pacific.
So, it was time then to think about the future. There were six or eight in the Senate and six or eight in the House who were particularly concerned. It was my belief that we had to have some kind of a world organization to get order and peace in our world, the same as we had to have organization in our own country and in our communities if we were going to have order and peace here. This concern had been the major reason why I had given up my profession and gone into political life. So, we gradually worked out, that spring of 1943, a plan to have some bipartisan teams go out through the country talking about this issue--grassroots education if you wish. Naturally, since it was a bipartisan resolution it would be wise to have on each team a Republican and a Democrat. If the Republican was a Senator, the Congressman would be a Democrat and vice versa. I was assigned first with Senator Carl Hatch, one of the authors of the resolution. He was a Democratic Senator from New Mexico, and I was a Republican Congressman from Minnesota.
We started in July out in Iowa, Davenport, Fort Dodge, Mason City and so on. Something came up about the third or fourth day that required Senator Hatch to leave, and in the emergency, they sent out Senator Truman.
He hadn't been on one of the regular teams because he wasn't very much of a speaker and he wasn't as well-known as Senator Hatch, but he was interested in this cause and so they sent him to take Carl Hatch's place. He joined me at Des Moines on a Friday, as I recall. spoke in the morning at Simpson College, a Methodist college in Indianola, twenty miles or so south of Des Moines. We spoke at a joint luncheon of the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and other clubs in Des Moines at noon. The Governor of Iowa was Bourke Hickenlooper, and he introduced us. The next year he was elected to the Senate, where he became a very close associate of President Truman.
Then we spoke somewhere else in the afternoon, Drake University, I believe, and in the evening at Iowa State University at Ames. From there on we were on the circuit together.
HESS: Whit kind of an impression did Senator Truman make as a speaker?
JUDD: Well, this brings up an interesting story. He had a speech all written out--and the first two or three times he pretty much read it. He and I had talked a little over the phone before he
joined me and I told him the pattern that Carl Hatch and I had worked out. Since the resolution was a Senate resolution, and dealt more specifically with treaties which the Senate would have to approve, maybe the best thing would be to have me speak first on why we had to have a world organization, and then the Senator would follow with how to achieve it. President Truman and his staff had prepared his speech along those lines. We usually had about twenty minutes apiece for a forty minute appearance, a little longer when we could expand it in evening meetings, and a little shorter at luncheons. He's not a very dramatic speaker, either when he's reading or when he's speaking ad lib. In private conversation the words just come along, but not so well before an audience. He wasn't trained to be a speaker. He was a businessman.
So, after about the third or fourth occasion, he always started his speech with a story. I'd try to get them steamed up as to why we couldn't go back to the isolationist pattern of the past. Then he'd get up and tell this story. I bet he told it the last fifteen speeches we made together. He said, "For me to make a speech following this stem-winder, Judd, always makes me feel like the man
who went to the funeral of his wife and the undertaker told him he'd have to ride to the
cemetery in the same car with his mother-in-law. He protested, but the undertaker insisted there was no other place for him to ride." And then Mr. Truman would always scratch his head and go on, "Well," the old fellow said, "I can do it, but it sure is going to spoil the whole day for me."
That story always went over with a bang and gave him a good entree. He always had his facts well thought out and assembled, but he had no oratorical gifts. It was straight-forward, declarative sentences, factual. After he got them with this introduction he was very convincing. We enjoyed that trip--I did--very greatly and I have reason to believe he did too.
In several places in those days they weren't as thoughtful about accommodations as they generally are now. For example, I remember in the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska, they gave us the nearest they had, I guess, to a Presidential suite. We had twin beds in the same room. Every night on the road he'd call up Bess. I couldn't avoid hearing him talk to her over the telephone because I just happened to be in the same room. He never was embarrassed, and I have the greatest admiration for the obvious devotion and affection and trust that he had for his wife. They were a great pair.
It was certainly a most happy and successful marriage. You find out what a fellow is like down deep, when you hear him talking to his own wife about his family or whatever. He's not a man with inhibitions. If he felt indignant about something he'd let you have it. He'd let her have it too, I suppose, if he felt that way.
We would talk one place in the morning or at noon and talk at another place that evening. We drove, for example, from Topeka, Kansas over to Emporia where we were to be that night; and the next day, in the morning, we drove from Emporia to Wichita where we were to be at noon and then to Salina, Kansas in the afternoon. We visited a prison camp there with a thousand or so Nazi prisoners that we had captured from [Field Marshal Erwin] Rommel in North Africa. Mr. Truman was very interested as was I in seeing those prisoners from across the fence. We couldn't talk to them but the spectacle of them and us, persons of the same race and culture and so on, so bitterly opposed to each other because of their having been taken over by the fellow Hitler, made one think.
There's a story here I perhaps ought to put on the record. We were in Omaha one night and the next day a Sunday, we were to be in Grand Island and Hastings, Nebraska. They're cities fifty
and seventy-five miles west of my family home at Rising City, Nebraska, which is seventy-five miles west of Omaha. We spent Saturday night in Omaha and I asked him if he would object to having Sunday dinner, good fried chicken or something of that sort, at my country home where my father was still living. He said he'd be delighted. So, we drove there and had a good home-cooked dinner at noon with homemade ice cream and so on. He just loved it.
Because my father had been born in northwest Missouri, only the second county away from Jackson County where Kansas City is, and lived there until he was a teenager, he and Mr. Truman had some things in common and they talked in a homespun way. I remember at the end of it, my father, who was a strong Republican, and had been a great supporter of George Norris in Republican politics in Nebraska, was very much impressed with Truman and in his direct way he said to me, "Well whatever his views are politically, I would trust him with my pocketbook." That was the finest compliment my father, a pioneer out on the frontier, could pay; he would trust Mr. Truman with his pocketbook.
After Hastings and Grand Island that afternoon and evening, we were to speak in Kansas City the
next noon, Monday. Lo and behold, the Kansas City people objected to Mr. Truman's speaking there: The Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary, Kiwanis and perhaps Lions clubs wouldn't organize a luncheon if Mr. Truman was to speak at it, even though it was his home town--or Independence is, right outside it. The reason was this: it was right after they had had a terrible political fight in Kansas City in which reform forces had rooted out the Pendergast machine. That had been a pretty tough, rough machine, such as city machines were for many, many decades in America; in New York, Boston, Chicago, and so on. Well, Mr. Truman had been appointed judge--it wasn't really a judicial job, it was a kind of county executive for Jackson County--largely at the behest of the Pendergast machine. It had put Harry Truman in to give itself respectability because he was a man who could do it. I don't think anybody ever questioned his integrity. He was, in some sense I suppose, a front for them, not intentionally on his part. But that was, doubtless, their point of view. Well, Kansas City leading citizens had fought so hard for so long and finally got the machine out, they were not willing to honor what they considered a product of the machine by sponsoring a big luncheon at which he spoke. Well, that was the...
HESS: What did he say about that?
JUDD: He didn't know it. I don't think he knows it even yet. I'll tell you how we got around it.
The people of Kansas City protested to the folks in Washington who were setting up these B2H2 tours and they called to ask me what to do. I said, "Well, maybe you could split us for that meeting." So, that is what happened. They sent me to Kansas City for that noon and sent Mr. Truman to Topeka and then they drove me to Topeka in the afternoon and picked him up and we went on to Emporia for the evening, as I said earlier. The case was presented like this, "Senator, you're in Kansas City all the time. That is your home town. We've got a request also from Topeka for that noon. So isn't it better to have Judd go to Kansas City, he's a new voice to them, and you go to Topeka, and thus cover both of these places at one luncheon?" It was smoothed over that way. And to the best of my knowledge, he never knew the reason why.
That same afternoon when we were driving from Topeka to Emporia in a police car with a state trooper we got to talking about Kansas City and Pendergast and so on. He said, "You know, a lot of people jumped on me
when Pendergast died and I went out to his funeral. But Tom Pendergast never asked me to do one dishonorable, or unworthy, or underco