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James I. Loeb Oral History Interview, June 27, 1970

Oral History Interview with
James I. Loeb

National director, Union for Democratic Action (1945-47) and Americans for Democratic Action (1947-51); Consultant to President Harry S. Truman's special counsel (1951-52); Executive Assistant to Governor W. Averell Harriman (1952); U.S. Ambassador to Peru (1961-62); and Ambassador to Guinea (1963-65).

Saranac Lake, New York
June 27, 1970
By Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Loeb Oral History Transcripts]


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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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, 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Loeb Oral History Transcripts]



Oral History Interview with
James I. Loeb

Saranac Lake, New York
June 27, 1970
By Jerry N. Hess

[88]

HESS: All right, Mr. Loeb, we were discussing some of the duties that you had on the White House staff. What were some of the other assignments that came your way?

LOEB: You mean besides the assistance in the preparation of these reports from various departments?

HESS: Yes sir.

LOEB: As I think I mentioned, after we got the department started working on these reports, there was a lull, an inevitable lull in my activity because we had to give them at least a month in order to present even drafts of reports, and it was during this period that I began getting a few very odd political assignments. I can mention just a couple of them to indicate the kind of

[89]

thing I was asked to do, and this came from the fact, and I say this without any particular arrogance, that I had been, because of my relationship with ADA, and the Union for Democratic Action before it, some ten years traveling around the country and I had political contacts in a good many states. For example, Mr. Murphy, Charlie Murphy, called me in one day and said they had a problem that had to do with Blair Moody, the Senator who had been named, appointed, by "Soapy" Williams, Governor [G. Mennen] Williams of Michigan, after Senator [Arthur H.] Vandenberg died. And a group of people, including I believe, the Michigan National Committeeman, I believe his name was [John Richard] Franco, had come in to say that Blair Moody had been divorced by his wife on the grounds of adultery, and that when this became known in Michigan it would mean that he would be defeated for

[90]

re-election and that the entire Democratic ticket would go down in Michigan, including the Governor, because they had two year terms at that time. Charlie Murphy just wanted somebody to look into it.

Well, I looked into it by going to the court records and found that in effect the charge was accurate, Senator Moody had been divorced on the grounds of adultery. He eventually married the girl, and was married to her when he died. But it also appeared to me, since I knew a little bit about Michigan politics, that there was a real factionalism in Michigan. On the one hand there was Governor Williams, and Walter Reuther and the whole UAW crowd, and on the other hand there were the old line Democrats of whom the National Committeeman, Mr. Franco, was one. And it seemed to me that this was the kind of issue that could not possibly

[91]

be used successfully against any candidate, and so while I reported that the charge was true, I also suggested that the responsibility of the White House was merely to inform Governor Williams that this charge was being made and had been brought to the White House and let him follow whatever strategy he wanted to follow on the basis of this knowledge, and as a matter of fact, that's what happened. We called, Charlie called in Bill Batt, William Batt, Jr., who was working in the Government at that time, and who was a friend of Governor Williams and we had lunch with him. After lunch we went up to the office and we simply told him and that was the end of that. That was one episode.

One very interesting episode, which increased my stature in the White House quite accidentally, and is kind of symptomatic of the kind of chore that I was given, one day Charlie called me in

[92]

and said, "Do you know anything about New Hampshire politics?"

I said, "Not a thing!" I said, "I went to college in New Hampshire at Dartmouth, but I don't know anything about the politics of the state."

He said, "Do you know anybody that could tell you about it? Could you find out?"

I said, "Well, I can try." And I thought of one friend who had been the executive director of President Truman's Civil Rights Commission and who was a classmate of mine. Only just very recently he resigned as president of Oberlin College in Ohio, but he was still in the Political Science Department at Dartmouth at this time, that's Bob [Robert Kenneth] Carr.

So Charlie said, "Well, see if you could find out through him."

So I called Bob Carr and of course, when

[93]

you telephone anybody from the White House, even if you're in a very menial position, as I certainly was, you have to be very careful because it sounds very overwhelming...

HESS: Very authoritative.

LOEB: Very authoritative, someone calling from the White House, it could be the janitor, it could be the President, but still it's the White House. So I explained to Bob Carr that this was very confidential, but I had been asked to find out something about the politics of New Hampshire.

The problem was this: There was a national committeeman by the name of Kelly, and Mr. Kelly was urging President Truman to allow his name to be used in the New Hampshire primary. The law in New Hampshire differs from every other law, in that anybody can be entered in the primary, and that person then has to write a

[94]

letter to the Secretary of State of New Hampshire, saying, "Yes," or "No." And there was some doubt, Mr. [Frank E.] McKinney, the National Chairman, thought this was a good idea, but some doubt had been raised about it. I asked Bob Carr if he could find out whether the Democrats thought it was a good idea.

It so happened that the head of the Political Science Department at Dartmouth was a chairman of the Democratic Party and evidently in competition with the national committeeman, and Bob Carr asked him -- the chairman of the Political Science Department and chairman of the party -- and he asked a few other people, and in about forty-eight hours he (Carr), called me back and said, "Jim, everybody that I have consulted tells me that it would be disastrous if President Truman allowed his name to be used," that this was a factional fight and that Mr. Kelly wanted to

[95]

use Mr. Truman's name in order to win the factional fight in New Hampshire, and that it was clear that the President should withdraw his name.

I reported this to Charlie Murphy. He said, "Fine, that's just what we wanted to know. Would you draft a letter for the President to the Secretary of State of New Hampshire?"

And I said, "Sure," and I drafted a letter and Charlie approved it and put it on the President's desk. It so happened that just before the President was going to sign it, Mr. Sullivan, the former -- who had been Secretary of the Navy.

HESS: John L.

LOEB: John L. Sullivan, who was later, and may still be if he is still alive, a trustee at Dartmouth.

HESS: He's still alive. He lives in Washington, but there's a...

[96]

LOEB: Well, he was for quite a while, I know, a trustee at Dartmouth, and he was from New Hampshire, and he had gone in and convinced the President the other way. So they took my letter and used my letter, except the last paragraph, and where it said, "No," they turned it around and said, "Yes," in effect, so the President allowed his name to be used in this Ne