Oral History Interview with
Mayor of Pittsburgh, Penn., 1946-59; Governor of Pennsylvania,
1959-63; Member of the Democratic National Committee, 1940-66; and chairman
of the Democratic National Convention in 1944 when Harry S. Truman was
nominated for the vice presidency.
David L. Lawrence
June 30, 1966
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.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript
indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the Lawrence
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 April, 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
David L. Lawrence
June 30, 1966
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Let's begin, Governor
Lawrence, by having me ask you, when did you first meet Mr. Truman?
LAWRENCE: Mr. Truman was elected to the Senate in 1934. My
old friend Joseph F. Guffey was elected the same year. They came here in 1935,
and were "back-benchers" together with a number of other so-called
"young Turks" who were among the real liberals in the Senate, and
being closely associated with Senator Guffey I naturally met up with Senator
Truman. I had known not too much of him prior to that time, and of course with
Senator Guffey I then met up with him a good deal, because we had a lot in
common, because we were both supporting President Roosevelt and his legislative
program, and so forth; and we were both on the liberal side, very definitely,
and I grew to know him through that.
One of the very memorable
things I remember about Senator Truman, was a famous hunting trip Senator
Guffey got up, I believe it was in December of '36, in the
deer hunting season in Pennsylvania.
Senator Guffey got about ten Senators, friends of his, and the party included
also John Garner, who was Vice President at the time; and we went up to Elk County,
Pennsylvania -- St. Mary's, Pennsylvania -- to the preserve and home of Colonel
William Kaul, and we had a very delightful time there for a couple of days
together. They went up on a special car that was arranged for them, railroad
car, and that was sort of the real beginning of a friendship with Mr. Truman.
HESS: Did Mr. Truman shoot
LAWRENCE: I don't recall that. It was sort of deer hunting
deluxe. It was one of these wonderful preserves. They shoo the deer down
through the woods and you get a shot at them. I don't know just what Senator
Truman did at the time, but it was the only real hunting trip I was on in my
life and I got a deer, and I'm sure that was some sort of a setup made for me
to get it because I'm no crack shot by any means.
Then, of course, over a
period of years, we would meet intermittently up in the Senate Dining Room at
lunch, most of the time with Guffey.
Where I became attracted to
Senator Truman was prior to the '44 convention. I had not been in sympathy
with the nomination of Henry
Wallace in the 1940 convention. At that time, I was for Paul McNutt who was
Governor of Indiana and a friend of mine. I met up with him in the American
Legion. He was National Commander and I was just an ordinary member, but I observed
him and the fight he made in Indiana, and therefore thought he would be a very attractive
running mate for President Roosevelt. But President Roosevelt didn't agree with
that. He insisted on Henry Wallace. And then I had some minor difference with
the President on the selection and of course he naturally insisted that he
should have a great deal to say about who his running mate should be. Finally
McNutt withdrew. There was a famous scene in the Democratic Convention of that
year at Chicago when the President prevailed on McNutt to drop out
and the convention was very much opposed to it. McNutt had great difficulty in
getting heard by the convention; they kept yelling and booing because they were
not in sympathy with him. However, the President's wishes prevailed and they
went on, and Henry Wallace became the Vice President of the United States.
Then the scene shifts to the
'44 period and associated with me in Pittsburgh in politics was a man named John J. Kane, who was
chairman of the board of
county commissioners. He had
been into Washington a number of times on county business, and on several
occasions drifted into the so-called Truman Committee, which was investigating
war contracts and so forth; and Kane became very much impressed with Truman and
the things that he was trying to do. Kane had a boy of military age who was, I
think, then in West Point and subsequently graduated from West Point, and
now is a colonel in the Air Force, Francis X. Kane. And Kane would come back
from these meetings and tell me what a great job he thought Truman was doing in
seeing to it that war contractors did their job according to specifications,
and the great service he was rendering to every boy that was in military
service, and so forth.
Well, as the pre-convention
period wended its way along, Bob Hannegan was the national chairman at the time
and Bob indicated a desire to push Truman forward. That same idea prevailed
with Ed Kelly who was then mayor of Chicago and national committeeman of Illinois. I
was then, as now, a member of the National Committee. We would meet here in Washington and
discuss the possibilities of Truman. Finally, of course, the convention came on
and the battle lines were drawn.
HESS: One question, sir. How
long before the convention
was this that Mr. Truman was
seriously being considered?
LAWRENCE: I would say it was months.
LAWRENCE: Months. Now, in fairness to Senator Guffey, he and
Truman were great friends. Senator Guffey early in the year when Truman -- and
I've had this from both President Truman and Senator Guffey. A lot of people
had the wrong impression of what Guffey did in this situation. He and I parted
company on the candidacy because Philip Murray, who was then head of the United
Steel Workers, and Sidney Hillman were leading a campaign at the convention for
Wallace. They were both good friends of mine, both Murray and Hillman, and I
was a great admirer of theirs then and still am. I think they contributed as
much if not more than any two men in the country in saving this country from
communism because in both their unions they prevented communism from moving in
and gaining any ground in their respective unions. And it was a very difficult
position that I got into, because I'd known Murray particularly from the time I
was a youngster working in the law office in Pittsburgh that was attorney for
Murray's union then, which was the United Mine Workers of America,
District Number 5, with
headquarters in Pittsburgh. It was a little bit hard to be on the opposite side
from Mr. Murray and I think he was a little bit provoked at me for the fact
that I was not going along with Wallace. And of course labor generally
was supporting Wallace, and that put me in an awkward position in Pennsylvania,
particularly in the Pittsburgh area, which is strongly organized in the labor
Senator Guffey, as I started
to say, and then got off on a tangent, was in the same position. He had talked
to President Truman -- then Senator Truman -- and Truman had verified this with
me since. At that time Truman dismissed any thought of being a candidate for
Vice President, and therefore Guffey felt free to then make a pledge to support
Wallace. A lot of people misjudged and misconstrued this action on Guffey's
part but it was perfectly honorable. President Truman has on a number of occasions
since said that he really was to blame for that himself.
So, anyway, we went on into
the convention, and there we developed quite a large vote for Truman, and of
course, I sat in on the strategy with Bob Hannegan, Mayor Kelly, Frank Walker
-- Frank Walker was Postmaster
General I think at the time.
He was from Pennsylvania although he never took a real active part, but he was
a delegate at large and he supported Truman. We had a famous meeting under the
stage after midnight on one of the days of the convention. When the
convention adjourned we moved down there to Bob Hannegan's office, the national
chairman's office, at the convention hall in the stadium. We were laying lines
for the next day.
HESS: Who was present, sir?
LAWRENCE: Well, there was Bob Hannegan, Frank Hague, Mayor
Kelly, Frank Walker, and myself. That's all I can remember.
HESS: Was that after the
first or the second day of the convention?
LAWRENCE: I think it was the second day. What had happened, I
can identify as the night when the nominations were made and the great
demonstration was put on for Wallace.
HESS: And you were
LAWRENCE: Yes, by pre-arrangement, Senator Jackson, who was
presiding, recognized me and I made the motion for the convention to recess until
the next day because we were fearful if it stayed in convention the CIO and
other organizations were putting on terrific demonstrations for Wallace -- parading
the aisles -- and
pandemonium had broken loose.
By pre-arrangement with Senator Jackson, the presiding officer, he was to
recognize me and I made the motion that we recess until the following day and
that carried. Then we went into caucus under the platform and counted noses as
to just what we had and what we didn't have.
HESS: How did the situation
seem right then?
LAWRENCE: Well, it was very, very close. Wallace was very
close to the nomination, and we felt that if it had gone into another ballot,
some of the weaker-kneed delegates might run away from Truman and to Wallace or
run away from some of the other nominees and go to Wallace. So then we went on,
of course, into the next ballot the next day, and we had, I think, twenty-five votes
from Pennsylvania for Truman, which was a great disappointment to
Senator Guffey because he felt he would be able to deliver a whole delegation.
Joining with me in Pennsylvania,
I think it's important to state, was James P. Clark, who was then chairman of
the Democratic City Committee of Philadelphia, and eleven of the twenty-five
votes we had were from Philadelphia. He was able to influence eleven out twelve delegates
there. He only lost one, and he was a member of organized labor and very
friendly to Sidney
Hillman and felt that he had
to go along with Wallace for Hillman's sake. If you remember, I think the
record will show there was about twenty-five votes in the California
delegation, which did the same thing, supported Truman. That was the real
break, those fifty votes, I think, that won the nomination and started the movement
for Truman to be nominated.
HESS: During the meeting
that night, what plans were made?
LAWRENCE: Well, I don't know in full detail, but naturally
the plans were to check on all the delegations and to have the lines hold. I
remember one of the things we did was to arrange for Bennett Clark to place in
nomination Senator Truman. We picked him because he was his colleague at the
time in the Senate from the State of Missouri.
One of the things that I
might add that happened prior to this, early in the year, I would say probably
in April, Senator Truman came to Pittsburgh to make a speech at a banquet of
the motor association there, the transportation people, and they called me and
asked me if I wouldn't come down to the dinner. I got Commissioner Kane and we
went, and went afterwards to have a snack in a restaurant close by the
Senator's hotel, the Penn-Sheraton, and that was the first
opportunity that Commissioner
Kane had to really get acquainted with Senator Truman and it was a very happy
The next day I drove Senator
Truman from Pittsburgh over to York, Pennsylvania. It was on a Saturday. Because he was booked in to
speak to the Young Democratic Society of York, Pennsylvania at their annual
dinner, and I was booked in also to speak at the same dinner. So it gave me my
best opportunity to have a real visit over four or five hours of driving across
the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The turnpike was built during the Ea