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Jane Taylor Lacy Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Jane Taylor Lacy

Secretary to Judge Harry S. Truman, 1934-35, and secretary to
Senator Truman, 1935-36.

Shawnee Mission, Kansas
October 8, 1992
by Niel M. Johnson

[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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 September 1994
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

 



Oral History Interview with
Jane Taylor Lacy

 

Shawnee Mission, Kansas
October 8, 1992
by Niel M. Johnson

[1]

JOHNSON: Mrs. Lacy, I want to start out by asking you when and where you were born, and what your parents names are.

LACY: I was born in Kansas City, Missouri and my parents names were James A. Taylor and Anna Berkley Reynolds. She was from California.

JOHNSON: Anna Berkley Reynolds.

LACY: Which they gave me as a middle name. I was born at 808 Linwood in one of the biggest snowstorms they ever had; 16 inches of snow fell, and my father had to walk to get the doctor, who came by horse and buggy.

JOHNSON: What was the date?

LACY: April 6, 1912.

[2]

JOHNSON: All right.

LACY: My mother died when I was six years old, right after a birthday party she had for me. It was that terrible flu or pneumonia epidemic of 1918 that killed so many.

JOHNSON: The Spanish flu.

LACY: So I was raised by my stepmother.

JOHNSON: I see. How about brothers and sisters.

LACY: I have a younger sister, Harriet Taylor Leo who lives in Houston. Her husband was Walter Leo and he was with Armco Steel just like my husband was. He died this spring.

JOHNSON: So, Armco Steel was your husband's employer. What was your father's occupation?

LACY: He was a lawyer.

JOHNSON: In Kansas City?

LACY: In Kansas City, that's right.

JOHNSON: With a firm?

LACY: Well, I guess with a firm, but I think he pretty much had his own business.

[3]

JOHNSON: Did he have a partner now and then maybe?

LACY: I think he did have, but I don't remember.

JOHNSON: Was he acquainted with Rufus Burrus?

LACY: He probably was. He knew a lot of those Independence people. There was a judge somebody over there that he knew quite well.

JOHNSON: Do you recall when your father first became connected, or acquainted with Harry Truman? Or Harry Truman's career.

LACY: I don't really remember when. No, I can't tell you when they started. I don't know. I think maybe they reminisced over the war they were in.

JOHNSON: Oh, was your father in World War I?

LACY: Yes.

JOHNSON: What outfit was he with, do you know?

LACY: Well, in the second World War he was in command of a refugee camp over in Yugoslavia I know that.

JOHNSON: Commandant of a refugee camp in Yugoslavia. In World War I, did he happen to be in the 129th Field

[4]

Artillery?

LACY: I don't think so.

JOHNSON: Did he go to France?

LACY: No. In World War II he was mostly around the Mediterranean, Italy, and around that area as I remember.

JOHNSON: But you're not sure whether he got acquainted with Truman in World War I?

LACY: No, it would have been after that.

JOHNSON: Okay, how about your own education?

LACY: Well, I went to Southwest High School, and then I went to Sweetbrier one year, two years to the University of Missouri, and the last year I went to the Sorbonne in Paris. I was majoring in English and spent a year over there.

JOHNSON: A year at the Sorbonne in France.

LACY: It was a wonderful experience. That gave me a major in French, and then I came home and graduated with the summer school.

JOHNSON: What year was it that you were at the Sorbonne?

[5]

LACY: 1932 and '33. I went over with the Delaware Foreign Study Group sponsored by the Duponts of Delaware. Sixty-five American students. Two-thirds girls and one-third boys. They were chosen mostly from universities on the East Coast and a few from the Midwest.

JOHNSON: So you started out the Depression on a kind of a high note, so to speak.

LACY: I did. I know when I was over there, my father couldn't send me all the money he wanted to.

JOHNSON: Well, it was probably a little cheaper living then.

LACY: It was very cheap, and we got by on a shoestring and had a marvelous time. We worked very, very hard, studied hard, and played hard. One of the most memorable years in my life. I wouldn't take anything for that year. Terrific year.

JOHNSON: You got your degree then from...

LACY: I came back. I got a diploma from the Sorbonne, and I got my BA degree from Missouri, the next summer.

JOHNSON: In English you say.

[6]

LACY: In French, with a minor in English.

JOHNSON: That brings us up to 1933.

LACY: That's right. That's when I met my future husband.

JOHNSON: How did you meet him?

LACY: That was a funny, long story, too. My father was a good friend of Arthur Wagner, and my roommate from Louisville was coming to visit. She's real, real tall and he was real tall. My dad never knew a stranger and he said, "Hi George." I've forgotten how they got acquainted. But he said, "Why don't you come out and meet my daughter tonight." He came out and we had a blind date. I thought he looked like a doctor.

JOHNSON: So that's how you met George Lacy.

LACY: That's right.

JOHNSON: And what was his occupation?

LACY: Well, he started to work at the bottom of the pole at Sheffield Steel and worked his way up. Eventually that company became Armco. He died in '66. He was in charge of all the sales in the western half of the United States. He was in sales. We moved around. We

[7]

moved to Little Rock first, and then to Dallas; then they moved us back to Kansas City.

JOHNSON: You got married in...

LACY: In Kansas City.

JOHNSON: In what year?

LACY: In 1937.

JOHNSON: What was the month and day

LACY: March 6, 1937.

JOHNSON: I guess what we'll do now is focus on that period between '33 and '36, because that is when your major involvement with Harry Truman occurred.

LACY: That's right. I went to secretarial school. I went to Miss Huff's at the Plaza.

JOHNSON: Miss Huff's, at the Plaza.

LACY: Yes. It was a little business school. And that's how I came to go to work for Mr. Truman. He was a friend of my dad's and one day he was having lunch with my dad, and he said, "Jim, I'm looking for a secretary." My dad said, "Well, my daughter just finished secretarial school," and Harry said, "Send her

[8]

out." So I went out to Independence the next day and he hired me as his secretary when he was Judge of the County Court.

JOHNSON: So, it was 1933 or '34.

LACY: Probably '34.

JOHNSON: Okay, before the campaign.

LACY: Before the Senatorial campaign, yes. Then, later he asked me to go to Washington, and I was there for two sessions of Congress.

JOHNSON: Did your father support Truman politically?

LACY: I can't say. I don't know for sure about that. I know my mother knew Bess Truman. She used to play bridge with her.

JOHNSON: Oh, your mother did.

LACY: My mother, my stepmother, knew Bess Truman.

JOHNSON: Do you know how they got acquainted?

LACY: Maybe through the men, I don't know. Maybe through the men.

JOHNSON: Where was your family living at that time?

[9]

LACY: Let me think where they were living. They lived so many places in Kansas City, I'd have to think. They might have been living down in this big house on Wornall Road, I'm not sure.

JOHNSON: Was your father involved with the County Court? Did he do some work for the County Court?

LACY: Yes, I think he did. I can't tell you...

JOHNSON: Some legal work?

LACY: Legal work, I think he did.

JOHNSON: So, that's maybe how they got acquainted. We can perhaps find that out.

Do you have any of your father's papers.

LACY: I'm sorry, I don't have very many of those, just what he told me. I'm sorry I didn't ask any more questions before he died.

JOHNSON: There are no letters or diaries that your father kept.

LACY: No, I don't have anything like that. Just pictures of him.

JOHNSON: When you got your job in '34, would it have been

[10]

early '34, in the spring, or whatever?

LACY: In early '34, early winter or something like that. I don't know what month.

JOHNSON: He had an office, of course, in the courthouse, on the Independence Square.

LACY: That's right. We worked over there.

JOHNSON: You worked in that office?

LACY: Yes, in the basement.

JOHNSON: In the basement?

LACY: It seemed to me his office was in the basement.

JOHNSON: Well, he had an office on the first floor. I don't know whether you've been out there since they've restored it.

LACY: Not recently.

JOHNSON: You know, you come in on the east side, the east entrance, and then the first door to your left is the entryway into his office. There's a little anteroom, and then his office. The next room to the west is the court room, with the big counter.

[11]

LACY: As I remember, at first we went down into the basement. He had an office in the basement. We went down some stairs, it seemed to me.

JOHNSON: Do you remember who else was working for him?

LACY: I don't think anybody else was working for him that I knew.

JOHNSON: You were the only secretary that he had, at the courthouse?

LACY: I was the only secretary that he had, that's right.

JOHNSON: In his last year as County Judge, Presiding Judge.

LACY: That's right.

JOHNSON: And it was in the basement.

LACY: I think so.

JOHNSON: So you handled all of the correspondence.

LACY: Yes, I took dictation for his letters.

JOHNSON: Appointments?

LACY: Made his appointments, that's right.

JOHNSON: I don't know that I've seen an appointments

[12]

calendar. Some kind of appointments calendar was probably kept wasn't it?

LACY: It could have been, but I have no idea where it is. My main time is when we went to Washington.

JOHNSON: You took shorthand?

LACY: I took, you know, on a stenotype, that little machine.

JOHNSON: Stenotype. So you typed his letters, took dictation, typed correspondence, handled the appointments calendar.

LACY: That's right.

JOHNSON: Do you remember any of the people who had business with Truman at that time?

LACY: No, just some of his old friends I remember.

JOHNSON: Do you remember Rufus Burrus?

LACY: I remember the name, yes. He was a very good friend.

JOHNSON: You don't know if your father was involved with any of the legal work on the roads program...

LACY: Not that I know of.

[13]

JOHNSON: Were you there in that office, through the campaign?

LACY: I don't remember what month the campaign ran, but...

JOHNSON: Did he have another office downtown in Kansas City?

LACY: Not then he didn't, no.

JOHNSON: That was the only office he had. But court sessions would actually alternate, wouldn't they. They'd meet a month out in Independence, at the courthouse there, and then they would meet downtown Kansas City.

LACY: They may have, I don't know that.

JOHNSON: Every month or so there was an alternating schedule.

Did you attend any of those court sessions?

LACY: No, I never went to any of those.

JOHNSON: And he never added another person while you were there?

LACY: Not to my knowledge.

[14]

JOHNSON: Do you recall who you replaced? He had a secretary before you came I suppose, didn't he?

LACY: I don't know. I don't even know who I replaced. He just didn't have anybody.

JOHNSON: What were your first impressions of Harry Truman? Do you remember when you first met him?

LACY: He was very pleasant. He was nice to get along with, very courteous, very much a gentleman. I liked him. The more I knew him the more I respected him, too.

JOHNSON: So your first impressions were favorable.

LACY: Yes.

JOHNSON: He was a nice boss was he?

LACY: A very nice boss.

JOHNSON: Did you help take care of some of the correspondence during the campaign, some of the paperwork?

LACY: Yes, I did. I don't remember the campaign too well, but I must have done that too.

JOHNSON: Now, they opened up a headquarters down at

[15]

Sedalia, but you never went...

LACY: No, I never went.

JOHNSON: You never left this office.

LACY: No, I never left this office.

JOHNSON: You stayed here until he went to Washington?

LACY: Yes.

JOHNSON: After he was elected.

LACY: After he was elected he asked me to go to Washington with him, and I did. I didn't know a soul in Washington.

JOHNSON: By the way, just before he went to Washington, you know, they had a dedication of the courthouse downtown, do you remember attending that?

LACY: No, I don't think I did.

JOHNSON: I think that was right around Christmas time. Do you remember going out to Washington the first time?

LACY: I remember going to Washington the first time, yes.

JOHNSON: Was that the end of December in '34, or was that early in January of 1935?

[16]

LACY: It should have been early in January, I think. The first thing I had to do was look for a place to live.

JOHNSON: Where did you find one?

LACY: I don't remember all the places I lived. Mildred and I may have roomed together the first year. She was the first one I met.

JOHNSON: Okay, you're talking about Mildred Dryden, b