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W. McNeil Lowry Oral History Interview

 

W. McNeil Lowry

Oral History Interview with
W. McNeil Lowry

Chief of the Washington Bureau of the James M. Cox newspapers, 1947-52.

New York, NY
April 23, 1969
by Jerry N. Hess

[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 Lowry 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 October, 1969
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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



Oral History Interview with
W. McNeil Lowry

New York, NY
April 23, 1969
by Jerry N. Hess

[1]

HESS:  Mr. Lowry, would you tell me a little bit about your background. Where were you born, where were you educated, and what positions have you held?

LOWRY:  I was born in Columbus, Kansas on the 17th of February, 1913. I went to high school there at the consolidated county high school; went to the University of Illinois, and took a doctor's degree in English literature, and taught in the university for seven years. While on the faculty, as a younger member of the faculty, I joined with others in starting Accent, a quarterly of new literature which ran for twenty years.

When the war came, I made many efforts to get into the armed services, but needed physical waivers, and for one year I was a writer in the domestic

[2]

branch, writer's division, of the Office of War Information in Washington, waiting to go on active duty in the Navy, which happened in November, 1943. I went to Quonset Point to be trained as an air combat intelligence officer. I got out of the Navy on points in April, 1946, having worked in the OWI right along with experienced newspaper and magazine people, though I had never been a journalist. And still being so steamed up about national and international affairs as I was, I decided to get a couple of years newspaper experience, and with the recommendations of some people I knew, I met some publishers, one of whom was James M. Cox who was candidate by the Democratic Party for President in 1920 and defeated by Harding. He was three times Governor of Ohio. He had seven newspapers and several radio and T.V. stations. His home seat was Dayton, Ohio, the Dayton Daily News. I saw Governor Cox and worked for a year as associate editor writing editorials on the Dayton Daily News. And in the course of that year I talked him into the idea of setting up a full Washington bureau

[3]

for all his papers. And I went to Washington in 1947 to be chief of the Washington bureau of the James M. Cox newspapers, which included: Dayton and Springfield, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; and, Miami Florida. I wrote on politics for all of those papers. I had men under me who were stringers to write on Ohio news, Florida news, and Georgia news. And I maintained that position until the end of the Truman administration, after which, I became associate director of the International Press Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, and I stayed there with my family for about a year with an overall connection of about a year and a half. At the end of that time, I went into the Ford Foundation in their education division, as director of education, until 1957 when we secured permission from the board for a new program, a program for the humanities and the arts. As the program director and a vice president, I have been in charge of that aspect of the Foundation's work since.

HESS:  What do you recall of the Commodity Credit Corporation question in 1948?

[4]

LOWRY:  This, of course, was a question which was a benchmark, a high water mark, in my five years as a political correspondent, and a significant landmark in the Truman administration. It started with a letter from the farm editor of the Dayton Daily News, Jesse Garrison, who in July wrote to me in Washington and said he did not understand a certain phenomenon, which was that the farmers, particularly the corn farmers in Ohio, were beginning to mutter about two things: One, they were going to have a bumper crop which should have been O.K.; but two, they did not know where they were going to find adequate storage for this. This was already July and long before the corn, as you know, matures. "Something," Mr. Garrison wrote, "has changed about the grain storage program. Will you find out what it is, and if you think it merits a story, write a piece, or give me the facts so I can write it."

I went up to the Hill and began to go through the Congressional Records for debate on the Commodity Credit Corporation, and I couldn't find a

[5]

very meaningful story there, although I could date it. I got the hearings of the House Banking and Currency Committee, which was chaired then by one of the Truman administration's most inveterate enemies, the Honorable Jesse Wolcott of Michigan, and as you know, under a Republican controlled House. And in the course of that hearing, I found that an amendment to the charter of the Commodity Credit Corporation specified that if the farmer could not get his grain of any kind, not just corn, into "approved storage," by legal definition as approved, then he could not qualify for the current level of support prices for that grain as fixed in legislation for the given year. And at the same time there were indications that the temporary storage bins, the great metal bins that were added all across the Middle West, by the CCC, that that program had been cut in its appropriation for building such bins or placing them. And at the very end of the hearings on the last day, there was a question, Mr. Wolcott asking a question, saying, "Mr. Slaughter, have you anything more to contribute?"

[6]

But there was nothing in the printed hearings that Mr. Slaughter had contributed. At this point, after his question, there was the normal statement that Mr. Slaughter's comments were made in executive session.

I could not immediately identify Mr. Slaughter, but I thought I could. You may remember that in 1946, Mr. Truman had helped (they thought and he was accused of helping) to defeat Roger Slaughter, a Kansas City Congressman, Democrat, who was a political opponent of Mr. Truman's, for re-election. The seat was then held by a Republican. Slaughter, I found, had come back to Washington as a lobbyist. And I tried to find out for what, and found that under the Lobby Registration Act of 1946, Roger Slaughter was not registered as a lobbyist. But tracking through my friends in the Agriculture Department, both then and earlier friends in the Agriculture Department, people who were now out, I found that Roger Slaughter was acting in behalf of four principal grain exchanges, the North

[7]

American Export Grain Association in New York, in Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Chicago, Boards of Trade or grain exchanges, they have different titles, and that Slaughter had been invited by Wolcott on the request of these grain exchanges and particularly those three in the Middle West, Kansas City Minneapolis, and Chicago, to appear, as an expert witness for them in the Commodity Credit Corporation hearings. There thus developed two stories. I knew which one was the more important. The more important was, would there be enough grain storage in the fall of 1948, and if there were not, would it redound to the disfavor of the Republican Party, since this was obviously a deal, very tightly controlled by the House Banking and Currency Committee with a very tight rule from the Rules Committee when the charter went on the floor for debate, and there was hardly any debate. This was why I hadn't found much on it.

I looked back in the record, and I found in the Agricultural Department that an official of the Commodity Credit Corporation had made a mild demurral,

[8]

a short, very effective statement about what the effects of this had been. And that was all, just kind of a protest for the file, but no political reaction, no enlistment of the White House into this situation at all. I could not prove what this meant: Was it to drive down the price of grain, if you took away the support prices so that the grain exchanges could buy huge quantities of grain at a low rate and hold them and hope they would go up, this was obviously a potential; was it to drive down the price of grain in order to export it more cheaply abroad and make a bigger profit for grain export? Why was the North American Export Grain Association a party to this? And here is where I did and had to do some real gumshoeing as a reporter. I found in the files of an official in the Department of Agriculture a copy of a telegram sent by the North American Export Grain Association to Roger Slaughter saying, that for every bushel of grain that the North American Export Grain Association, which was a combination of exporters, could export below the support price, Roger Slaughter would be paid a fee on

[9]

each bushel, a very tiny one, like one tenth of a mill on every bushel, but when you added it all it was a very big one. And this was at least one of the missing links, then, the motivation. The other being, what about the sheer ability to buy grain cheaper in the grain exchanges in the Middle West and storing it. Well, obviously, Mr. Wolcott and the Committee, knowingly or unknowingly, were in the hands of speculators and the farmers were going to pay for it.

Now I knew, without being a lawyer, that the Lobby Registration Act of 1946 was written so loosely that you could drive a truck through it, and that Mr. Slaughter might or might not be brought to justice. That was not the issue. The issue was, what was the 80th Congress thinking about in connection with the farm situation, and the farmer's stake in the society to do this. Well, on the 12th of August, I broke a story in our papers, but primarily, of course, in the Dayton Daily News, an eight column banner headline, CONGRESS ACTS TO FORCE DOWN FARMERS' PRICE AT

[10]

BEHEST OF GRAIN LOBBY. And that blowing up out of the West was an issue in which the 80th Congress was deeply implicated which could change the balance of power in the vote in the 1948 election, in the Middle West, and improve drastically the chances of the President to be re-elected. And so on and so on. Everybody thought , because I quoted the telegram from the North American Export Grain Association to Slaughter verbatim in my text, everybody thought I had that in my possession. I didn't. I stuck my publisher's neck out with that. I knew the telegram existed, and that if anybody ever took any action, that a copy of it could be found, but I really stuck his neck out. He could have been sued. But that was not -- I want to make this plain -- it was often thought of as a story about catching a lobbyist, and it wasn't. It was not the issue. The issue was the difference between the Fair Deal attitude towards the farmer, and the attitude or rather the indifferent and calloused attitude of people like Jesse Wolcott and what this might do on the Middle West. And

[11]

having grown up in the Middle West, lived in Kansas, Illinois, and Ohio, I knew, you know, what it could do. When that story was air mailed, special delivery back to me in Washington, I took two copies to Clark Clifford at the White House.

HESS:  What was his reaction?

LOWRY: He started gesturing like this, and he started writing speeches in the air. And he said, "Now, Mac." Clifford and I were friends; I had very good contacts in the White House but Clifford was the best. "Now, Mac, let's think about this."

And I said, O.K., but remember, I have two roles to keep separate. I am a reporter covering a story, and that is what I want to do. I recognize the political interest. I am a political correspondent, and I have no objection to that, but I am not a government agent, or an administration agent, I am a reporter."

So that he understood, O.K.

The first thing that happened was that he sent

[12]

that article to the Justice Department, and within 48 hours the United States Attorney General had locked up and sealed the files of the North American Export Grain Association, Minneapolis Grain Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Kansas City Board of Trade, and put seals on them saying, you know, you can't open your own files until we have been able to study them and take affidavits and all that. I sweated it out while that was going on, I must say. Nobody knew it. They didn't know it, until one of the men in the Justice Department to whom I talked said, "Oh, by the way, in going over that material today I just read the text of that telegram that the Grain Exchange sent to Roger Slaughter," which made me about five years younger. That was one line of development that started.

The other was that this was the 12th of August and Mr. Clifford and I began to write inserts for the President's speech to be made at Dexter, Iowa on the 18th of September.

[13]

HESS:  The National Plowing Match?

LOWRY:  Right. It was the kick-off.

HESS:  It was his most important farm message.

LOWRY:  In that speech the President said, Clifford and I had worked this out (I mean Clifford worked it out, but in terms of the material) anyhow after consultation it read: "The 80th Congress has stuck a pitchfork in the farmers' back”, and so on. And explained why, briefly -- because Clifford knew and I knew that the buildup on this was going to come in October, because there wouldn't really be a big, visible dramatic issue until you had those trucks and wagons lined up in October just before the election, and you couldn't get into storage. That was going to be it. If it happened that way.

HESS:  Who came up with the phrase about the pitchfork, was it Clifford? Do you recall?

LOWRY:  Yes, I didn't make it that strong. I wrote some stuff for Clifford, but I didn't make it that strong. That was Clifford's, or else, you know,

[14]

one man who was helping him on that speech was Dave Lloyd. It was probably Clifford, but it could have been Dave Lloyd. How the pitchfork got in there -- what it was a symbol of, was about the Commodity Credit Corporation, it was about the grain storage issue, but the phrase, I think, was probably Clifford's.

Anyway, Tom Clark then began to cut records about this issue, and Charlie Brannan. And they were played on radio stations around, you know -- I think Clark's maybe fifty times. I don't know how many times Brannan's played. But the significant thing was that after the Dexter Plowing speech, the Washington corps, minus Lowry, because one of the penalties of developing this issue was that I was stuck feeding it from Washington the whole darn campaign and never did get out on the train with the President. But my friends, Joe Alsop, "Scotty" {James B.} Reston, all these people, laughed themselves sick about this phrase about the farmers. Alsop wrote a column saying, "Hell, a hundred of them flew here in their private planes. That's

[15]

how much they have got a pitchfork in them. Poor old Truman, he's just not with it. He just doesn't understand. Times have changed. Dewey's in," and so forth.

Well, all the way through this campaign, the Cox newspapers were fueling this stuff. I couldn't sell it to one columnist. Do you know what a reporter means by "blacksheeting?” I gave my carbons -- when I filed my story, I wasn't looking for exclusives. I gave those carbons to The New York Times, to Minneapolis papers, to the Kansas City papers...

HESS:  Just hoping that it would get in somewhere?

LOWRY:  Yes. "What's the matter with Lowry. There's no issue. Truman's beat. Dewey's in. What's all this stuff?” I said, "Look, this Commodity Credit Corporation charter was amended. Go out there to the Hill, goddamn it, and read it. It was amended. It's going to have one effect or another in the election in the Middle West. The farmers are either going to get in to storage or they are not, and if they don't, there's going to be hell to pay."

[16]

Well, a little ear of news began to creep up in the Minneapolis papers, because grain is a pretty good story up there, particularly when their grain exchange was locked up, you know. Now that part of the story they had to print. But the Times didn't even print that. That wouldn't make news in New York. That's the way it was. I sat there all summer, and I wrote a series of articles about this. By this time Slaughter had been indicted in front of Judge -- (Alexander} Holtzoff, in Washington, under the Lobby Registration Act. And there was some interest in this because this was going to be the first real test of that bill, which proved to be a putrid test, because the bill was putrid. But he had been indicted. O.K. that was news. I'd cover that.

But in the main covering the attitudes of farmers -- the Secretary of the Senate, Leslie Biffle, was an old boy from Piggott, Arkansas. And Les knew farmers, and he knew issues like this, too. And Les Biffle, I'm sure you have this somewhere in the Truman Library, took two trips that summer

[17]

in overalls, disguised as a chicken farmer. And Les and I had very good contacts, and when he came back from the fist trip I went out to the Hill to see him and I said, "Les, what about it?"

"Lots of people for Truman." He was one of the most laconic men when he was talking even to a friend, that there ever was. Socially, he could get quite talkative, but about politics, very laconic: "Lots of people for Truman."

I said, "Well, come on, give."

"Lots of people for Truman."

O.K. Then I thought about Les' failing and I said, "Les, have you bet any money?"

He said, "Yes."

And I said, "How much did you bet?"

He said, "A thousand dollars."

I said, "Your own money?"

He said, "Yes."

[18]

I said, "O.K." He had found that there were a lot of people for Truman. I said, "Les, do you think you found any evidence tied to this issue?"

He said, "I sure as hell did. The farmers are mad."

Well, this went right straight through the summer. Jesse Garrison out in Ohio had his mouth wide open, because his little query, you know, had turned in to what was obviously a big political issue in '48. The Republicans never got on to it. They made a few statements; Wolcott made a few statements; Dewey one time referred to the agitation about the Commodity Credit Corporation.

In October, James B. Reston, who was then chief of the Washington Bureau, New York Times, and an old personal friend of mine, was in Chicago, and he was talking to the two new figures: Paul Douglas and Adlai Stevenson, running for senator and governor, and he came back to Washington, he called me on the phone and he said, "Mac, I want to come over to the office." He came over. He

[19]

said, "What the hell. Tell me about that grain storage."

I said, "What do you care?" I had been trying to blacksheet Bess Furman, who was his agricultural writer. "I have been trying to blacksheet Bess for months. What are you talking about?"

He said, "Mac, the Times has missed a big, big story."

I said, “Well, do tell."

He said, "Yes."

I said, "How do you know?"

He said, "Well, I saw Paul and I saw Adlai and I was talking separately to Paul and I said, "What about it? How does it look?"

Paul said, "We're in."

He said, "I think this enthusiasm is great, but what do you mean, you're in. It looks to me like we're going the other way."

[20]

And Douglas said, "No."

Reston said, "Why are you in?"

He said, "Look, Springfield, Mattoon, Decatur, Bloomington, the trucks and wagons are lined up way after dark trying to get into storage and they can't get into storage."

And Reston said, "What does that mean?"

And Douglas said, "If they don't get in they don't get price support. And they're mad."

And Reston said, "How did this happen?"

Douglas said, "Don't you read the newspapers?"

He said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "It happened because of the House Banking and Currency Committee abortion on the Commodity Credit Corporation bill."

Reston said, "Where have I heard that before," because I had been dinging his ear off in Washington, you know, whenever he was there. So, he said,

[21]

"Well, gee, it's awful late." It was. It was just a few days before the election.

At ten o'clock on the night of the election, James M. Cox, over eighty by now, called me. I was in my office in Washington. And he said, "Lowry, the rural areas of Ohio are forty-five percent Truman, fifty-five percent Dewey, which means that Truman has carried Ohio." Ten o'clock at night.

And I said, "Governor, great."

And Cox said, "Ohio is the mother of Presidents."

I said, "You mean, Ohio is the first in?"

He said, "What the hell is McGrath doing?"

I said, "Well, he's over at the committee headquarters. I've been talking to him. He's happy, but..."

He said, "What the hell? Tell him. Tell him that Truman's carried Ohio."

I said, "O.K., Governor, but he is not going

[22]

to come out claiming at ten o'clock at night just on that."

He said, "Tell him:"

I called him up and I said, "Howard, Governor Cox wants me to say that Truman has carried Ohio."

He said, "How the hell does he know?"

I said, "Listen, don't be an idiot. Cox has got thirteen districts. He had them since the election of 1910. Cox has got thirteen precincts, not districts, in Ohio that he knows about. He can tell you, Ohio is in. You can claim Ohio O.K. What he wants to know is, are you going to claim the election?"

He said, "Mac, I think that would be a little premature."

HESS:  At ten o'clock at night.

LOWRY:  I said, Well, Howard, remember that Cox is the guy that put the first extra on the street that said Wilson was elected in 1916 and people thought

[23]

he had lost his marbles, but," I said, "it was. He knows this subject."

He said, "Mac, thank you very much, but I'm not going to do it. But I appreciate it."

I said, "I do want to tell you one thing, the grain states look pretty goddamn good."

I think he said, "They sure do." He said, "I've got a hell of a big dose of optimism here."

Well, I was up all night. Cox got so disgusted when I called him back, he went to bed.

At ten o'clock in the morning he called me again. And he said, "Now, look, Mac, this is ridiculous."

I said, "I know, Governor. It is."

He said, "What's the matter with McGrath?"

I said, "He's waiting for Dewey."

He said, "Where's Dewey?"

I said, "He's in New York at the Biltmore (I think) and he's asleep."

[24]

He said, "Well, he better not wake up that mean little bastard with this news. He'll claw their eyes out."

Well, it was about eleven o'clock in the morning before McGrath...

Now, then, goddamn, everybody started to try to get back on the beam. And Arthur Krock, said to Reston, "What is this thing about your friend Lowry. Where is that stuff?"

Reston said, "Well, I'll get a file."

Then Krock figured out, hell, it had to be Cox out there masterminding this political coup for Truman. It wasn't Cox, you know. I had nothing to do with that.  It was the story in the Congress. But he wrote a big column on the 13th of November, no, I remember, it was Armistice Day, the 11th of November, about the "old wizard" in Ohio saying, you know, pulling the string and re-electing a Democrat for President. The Northwestern Miller, which is a trade magazine on the grain exchanges,

[25]

came out with a piece called "Ballots and Corn Bins," or "Corn Bins and Ballots" or something like that. I think it was in December, 1948 or it may have been the first two issues of '49, January or February, anyhow, it's in the libraries, detailing all of this, and the development of the issue and so on. There are, as you know, two schools of thought about the significance of this issue. One ascribes to the grain storage issue only the comparative ratio of the vote in the rural area, the on-the-farm vote, and compares what the Democrats got in '48 with what they got in the previous elections. That is very wrong in my opinion.

The other school of thought to which I belong understands that grain storage and the economic well-being of the farmer, is also a key to the well-being of the merchants and the bankers in the small town in Iowa, and so on. And therefore, as my father, who was a department store owner in a little town in Kansas, how the farmer felt had a hell of a lot to do with how he felt about business, prosperity,

[26]

how he was going to vote, and so on. Now, if you analyze how that vote in a small town in the Middle West, surrounded by agricultural grain-producing area, changed for Truman, as opposed to '44 and '40, you find a hell of a difference in the states having 101 electoral votes, the Middle Western grain producing area. Mr. Ross, who has written a book about this campaign, belongs to the first school and says that only the on-farm vote ought to be included in this analysis. Maybe because he never lived there, Ross discounts the effect on a small town, because he points out that there is where Truman made his most conspicuous gain. He is inclined to apply that vote to labor, and to the President's great personality injection in the whistlestop campaign. Well, in my judgment the President's great personality injection in the whistlestop campaign had the most to do with the '48 election, far greater than any other issue. But I do not understand how what happened in the small agricultural towns can be ascribed to labor situations. Anyhow, that's the way it is adjudged

[27]

in that book. Have you checked?

HESS:  Yes. The Loneliest Campaign, by Irwin Ross.

LOWRY:  Right. And in that book you will find that Ross went to Clifford to substantiate the story in the article in the Northwestern Miller. He was talking to Clifford many years later and Clifford did say, "Yes, however, the way it started was when Lowry brought over this copy from the Dayton Daily News and this is how we developed it." Mr. Truman wrote me a letter which my wife, in my series of moves, has lost. The only thing from that era I really prize. Mr. Clifford wrote me a letter, and McGrath. This is why I got the Sigma Delta Chi award for national correspondence.

As for Slaughter, the proceedings were finally nol-prossed. There were too many loopholes in that Lobby Registration Act. It was later tightened and I think it is still pretty loose. And Slaughter had to go to court twice. I guess that's it.

HESS:  Do you recall anything else, any of the other

[28]

events of 1948 that really stand out in your mind?

LOWRY:  Yes. You know, I had to cover three conventions that year. They were all in Philadelphia, as you know: Progressive, Republican, and Democrat. I saw the convention, the Democratic convention from a very interesting standpoint. Barkley had asked me to do one draft of his speech.

HESS:  His keynote speech?

LOWRY:  Yes. And I did. And I talked to a journalist friend of mine, Ned Kenworthy, who is still the Washington Bureau of The New York Times, he wasn't then, and we loved Barkley and we knew his style pretty well, and we put in there that this was no time to have to go back to a mustache cup in the White House. Barkley could hardly see. He took off his glasses and he looked up like that, he was reading this, I was sitting in his office, and he said, “I don't think that's dignified.” Dignified: When he made that speech and started talking about the spiders that were found in the rafters over in the administration building when the Democrats took

[29]

over being hungry, talk about not being dignified. He used some parts of my draft, but he threw most of it away and that's how he did most of his speeches, he got several people to help, but he ended up, not totally, but turning them into his own.

Now, I was aware that the Democratic committee went with their tails between their legs to Philadelphia, that it was by default that Clark Clifford was going to have as much to do with the strategy, as he had.

HESS:  Why?

LOWRY:  Because the pros were ready to throw in the towel.

HESS:  They weren't going to give him any support, is that right?

LOWRY:  They were going to give him support. The way you give support when it's all facade. You know all about the flirtations about Eisenhower and so on?

[30]

HESS:  Yes.

LOWRY:  But it wasn't just that. There was a need for new blood, a need for a new day. Mr. Truman knew exactly what he thought about the attitudes of people like Olin Johnston and Richard Russell and so on. I want you to understand, I don't put those two men in the same category, by any means. Senator Russell is very much respected. He knew that but he was not going to do what he did do in Philadelphia except under the pressure and influence of people like Clifford, and the accidental thing which looked accidental then, but now I know was not accidental at all, of Hubert Humphrey and that speech that came to the vote of Wisconsin, I looked up and they were oozing off the platform. Nobody thought Hubert was going to get that plank in there. Why, they were all wrong. And why were they wrong? Because they were listening to the wrong people. I was checking with McGrath every ten minutes. McGrath stood right behind the platform, not on the platform. I could get around there -- I was very, very close to him, personally, and because

[31]

of the situation I had. I wasn't in big cities, but hell, all my circulation was under a Democratic publisher. He miscalled every single thing that happened.

HESS:  McGrath did?

LOWRY: Miscalled them. And I finally started writing impressionistic descriptions of what happened as I wrote the Humphrey thing -- not this was all laid on, or this is how they knew it was going to be done. Now, who were "they”? Clark may have known, but he wasn't that much of a politician. I think he had his hands on the right strategy, but that it would work he didn't know. And you know, at 2 o'clock in the morning when they brought Truman in finally to the podium and he started in that white suit and sawing the air, and those pigeons flying around -- it was brilliant when he said he was going to call Congress back, brilliant, and I guess that was Clifford, but I never could prove that. I mean, I guess it originally was Clifford. I knew it had his sanction, but I could never prove that.

[32]

HESS:  You know that it had his sanction?

LOWRY:  Yes.

HESS:  Did he tell you that?

LOWRY:  No. Let me amend that. Clark had a way sometimes -- and I don't mean that he was deceitful -- Clark had a way sometimes of letting credit for stories get on the table without taking exception to it. Now, what he did was tacitly accept credit for that in discussions where I was present. I cannot say, now, of course, it is a hell of a lot of years now anyhow, I cannot say that he ever said, "Yes, Mac I approved of that, in advance." But I never could find out who had that idea.

HESS:  Was it after the election that these meetings were held when Mr. Clifford was sort of accepting the credit?

LOWRY:  Yes, it was. Let me tell you. One of the most interesting things about it, you see, I was going back to Washington. I want you to understand that I'm not a great political strategist. I was just

[33]

a guy -- journalism wasn't even my profession. I was just a guy in a particular spot at a particular time, but I had a background in a father who ate and drank history and politics, and it was in my blood. That's why I couldn't go back to my teaching job at the University of Illinois, though it was waiting for me after World War II. And I had a personal excitement covering the Senate of the United States. I would have paid money to sit there in the gallery and to call those people off the floor They were my friends. I'm going to tell you some things about that, because this now has to do with the '52 situation. But anyway, I did know one thing. I knew that Mr. Truman was going to be re-elected, and I knew it because I knew what those people were going to say and do in the Middle West, and I had enough sense because even the pollsters could tell me to realize what the presence of a third party ticket was going to do in the big states, in one or two big states, particularly New York. Now, McGrath and most of the people who were in charge of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia

[34]

didn't feel that way, did not believe it. It was their professional duty to believe it, they were fond of Truman personally. Les Biffle, you know, he would have cut off his arm if Truman had said, "Cut it off." But they weren't going to do anything foolish.

HESS:  I heard that Leslie Biffle was sort of booming Mr. Barkley for the presidential spot.

LOWRY:  Because he thought there was going to be the great likelihood of a Democratic defeat, and that the last crown on Alben Barkley's head was to be at least like the crown on James M. Cox's head, “O.K. he was his party's standardbearer”, but Les had no illusion that Alben Barkley could be elected, had none.

HESS:  But he thought less of Mr. Truman's chances, is that right?

LOWRY:  No, no. He would rather see the honor of going down to defeat on Barkley's head rather than on Truman's. No, he didn't think less of Truman's chances. He didn't think any better of Barkley's

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chances. McGrath didn't think anything of either of their chances. And it wasn't only Clifford.

That was the whole thing that is wrong with the Ross book. It wasn't only Clifford who looked on the other side.

I was in Washington again in '49, in January, when Hubert Humphrey came to be sworn in. He and I became fast friends. But I didn't know Humphrey when he got up on that platform to make that speech, just who the hell he was. But Humphrey wasn't the only person in that hall who felt that way. And Humphrey and Clifford were not the only two people who felt that if Mr. Truman made a big slashing attack on the Congress and the Republican Party and had something like the civil rights issue to fuel it, that he had a chance. They were not throwing in the towel to the same extent that the old pros were. Barkley thought the jig was up himself, but he wanted to run.

HESS:  Do you think President Truman really supported the Humphrey and Andrew J. Biemiller plank, rather than the so-called regular plank on civil rights?

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LOWRY:  No. I think President Truman was told to support it.

HESS:  The Humphrey-Biemiller plank? By whom?

LOWRY:  Now, here's where I get in a fog. I am sure by Humphrey and Biemiller. Now, Humphrey already had his contacts with Truman. They didn't depend on Clifford.

HESS:  Who was his main contact?

LOWRY:  Labor people and ADA people. It was not through anybody I could identify in the White House. It was the external labor people that both Truman and Humphrey knew.

HESS:  Do you think that Mr. Truman would pay much attention to the ADA people since they had been trying to get Mr. Eisenhower to run?

LOWRY:  No. But I think that Mr. Truman had an idea that he didn't like the defeatism of those Southern so-and-so's, even though temperamentally and politically, his sympathies were closer to them than they were to Biemiller's or Humphrey's. And he

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might have just not really given a damn what any of them thought about it. No, I would have guessed that Truman was for the middle plank, and that Clifford really inherited, and therefore Mr. Truman supported the Humphrey-Biemiller plank. He really fell into that, fell strongly for it. Now, I do say that any discussion that I had with Clark Clifford after that time suggested that he was right along the beam on all these things, on the "Turnip Day.

HESS:  That Clifford was?

LOWRY:  Yes.

HESS:  How important or how accurate do you think that Mr. Clifford's political advice usually was? Just how good a political advisor was Clifford?

LOWRY:  You know, I never thought Mr. Clifford's political advice meant anything at all until I saw what he did in injecting the grain storage issue into the election, because that's the only tangible evidence I had about something I knew all about. After that, there was the discussion created in the press,

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didn't wair for Ross, that Clifford was very influential, and after the election, as you know, he was very influential in the White House, as long as he wanted to stay there. Murphy later was more the President's kind of man, I think, but you know, new times make new people. And they appear in strange places. And Clark Clifford -- it is a total accident that a guy who came in as an Assistant Naval Aide, or whatever he came in as, got into this role. He happened to be a lawyer. It was a total accident.

He was pretty defeatist too, up to a point.

HESS:  Did you hear him make any statements like that, that he did not think Mr. Truman would win?

LOWRY:  After the election?

HESS:  Before the election.

LOWRY:  No, but before the convention, he was pretty upset.

HESS:  What did he say?

LOWRY:  Well, his main complaint was my complaint, that all the pros of the Democratic National Committee,

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guys on the Hill, you know, were writing it off.

HESS:  When did he say this? Did you go in to speak to him, or were you...

LOWRY:  I went in to speak to him, maybe once a week. We just chewed the fat.

HESS:  Let's develop this a little bit, your relationship with Mr. Clifford. When did you first meet Mr. Clifford?

LOWRY:  When did he first work for Truman? When did he become Special Counsel?

HESS:  He became Special Counsel in 1946, but he went in to the White House about the time of Potsdam, and was Assistant Naval Aide to Jake Vardaman from Potsdam until April of the next year, and then he was Naval Aide. He became Special Counsel after the Samuel Rosenman left, I believe, the 1st of February of 1946, roughly nine months after Mr. Truman had been in; and then there was a period of time when there was no Special Counsel, I believe until July the 1st. But I believe it was July the

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1st, a little over a year after Mr. Truman had been in that Clark Clifford took over as Special Counsel, and then he left on, I believe, January the 31st, 1950. He served all the way through 1949 after Mr. Truman had been elected in 1948, and then about the last of January, and then Charles Murphy took over.

LOWRY:  All right. I first knew Mr. Clifford in July, 1947 and I knew him until he left and Charles Murphy took over. It was not until the spring and the early summer of '48 that I saw him on quite such a regular basis. In that time I saw him quite frequently, and after, starting with July, why, I began to feed those pieces in there. I saw him quite often, and after the election, naturally, all during the campaign, after the election, you know, well, we were just damn close. And I could either get him on the phone, or I could get an appointment set up. So I don't know how to average it, maybe once every two weeks I'd see him.

Now, I want to make it clear. I understand what it is to be a reporter, but I also understand what it is to be a historian, I think. I want to

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make it absolutely clear that, and you well know already, that in lots of conversations that are quite informal, things are taken for granted, where a man who really knows the facts is not saying, "Wait a minute, I can't t