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Philleo Nash Oral History Interview, June 8, 1967

Oral History Interview with
Philleo Nash

Special Assistant for Domestic Operations, Office of War Information, 1942-45, and special consultant to the Secretary of War, 1943. Special Assistant to President for minority problems, 1946-52, and an Administrative Assistant to the President, 1952-53. Later served as Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, 1959-61, and as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1961-66.

Washington, D.C.
June 8, 1967
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Nash 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 October, 1973
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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



Oral History Interview with
Philleo Nash

Washington, D.C.
June 8, 1967
by Jerry N. Hess

 

[701]

HESS: To continue today, Doctor, we were discussing your association and your problems in dealing with Indians in the White House, and I have a couple of other questions: One, do you remember anything in particular that might not be known about the E. Reeseman Fryer incident, I suppose it may be called? In your papers, I found some evidence, he was an Indian serviceman who resigned his post in December of ' 50 after pressure was placed on him by Senator Pat McCarran in Nevada. It was something to do with water rights.

NASH: Yes, I remember it very well.

HESS: Anything in particular that's not well known about that incident?

NASH: I don't know how much of it's known and how much of it isn't. I can tell you briefly about the incident.

E. Reeseman Fryer, is a very well known career man in the Indian Service. He had been superintendent of the Navajo reservation, and there was charged with carrying out the Collier administration policy and the Navajo tribal council policy of reducing the livestock on the Navajo

 

[702]

reservation to the carrying capacity of the range. This was bitterly resisted by many of the Navajo, almost resulted in violence, and after carrying out these very difficult duties in a conscientious way, he was relieved and then placed in charge of another hotspot, the Nevada jurisdiction.

Here, in essence, the problem was a far too common one in Indian affairs. The Pvramid Lake Indians and others in Nevada had a very clear legal right to water, which they were not getting. The reason they were not getting it was that non-Indian stock raisers were in trespass, and were not being removed by the Government, and there was no cooperation from the State officials. Under State law they were held not to be in trespass. Although there was a Supreme Court decision on it. Senator McCarran regularly introduced S-1 in each session of the Congress, the effect of which was to void the Supreme Court order by giving the Indian lands to the stock raisers who were in trespass.

All of them, incidentally, were ethnic, they were mostly Basque, or Italian, but I think mostly Basque, great constituents of Senator McCarran. There were three

 

[703]

in particular, very large operators, who were occupying these Indian lands in violation I won't say in violation of the law but in denial of rights which had been held to be the Indians' by the court. Superintendent Fryer attempted to obtain the water rights for the Indians, and in so doing ran afoul of Senator McCarran, who called up the Interior Department and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and threatened to withhold the Indian Bureau appropriations if Fryer were not removed.

The Basques are an ethnic group that come from the Pyrenees Mountains and they are on the border between France and Spain. They are very famous sheep raisers. Many of the sheepherders in the West are Basque, and some of them got to be very large operators indeed, and three of them in particular were large and were doing so at the expense of the Indians.

There were some other water right problems there, it didn't only involve trespass, in a situation where the Indian held lands were made useless because the water holes were fenced off. In that country if the sheep can't get to water they can't eat the grass even if you've got access to it. So quite often, there were

 

[704]

key tracts which regulate the use of tens of thousands of acres, and whoever holds those, then, in effect, holds the key to all the rest of it.

In addition to that, there's another water right problem in this part of Nevada. The Indians hold prior rights on the Truckee River, but they are at the end of the water chain. Various diversions, some of them Federal, some of them private, all of them countenanced under state law and various adjudicated water rights, where the Indians' water rights were either denied or were subordinated to the others, take the water before it gets to the Indians. The result is that it's only in a very heavy period of runoff that any water at all flows into Pyramid Lake, although by law, the Indians are entitled to a very substantial portion of it, not all of it. Pyramid Lake is a very beautiful desert lake, and it is known to have dropped many feet during the period when this water was not coming into it. This is the only source of incoming water to Pyramid Lake.

Well, it so happens that Mr. Truman was in a big fight with Senator McCarran at this point over the McCarran Act, and he was about to veto the McCarran

 

[705]

Act, and the only way in which we could salvage the Indian Bureau appropriations -- they had already been hit by reduced appropriations -- was to sacrifice the superintendent who was putting up a fight for which he didn't have the adequate backing, and there hadn't been adequate backing for a number of years.

So this was just a case where Mr. Truman just didn't think he could take on two issues with one man all at once, and the McCarran Act involved a lot more people than the water rights, so as so often happens in history, the decision was made to give this lower priority, and I was handed the assignment of taking care of Mr. Fryer.

Since he was a very competent man and a great soil, conservationist, and was getting a very raw deal, in my opinion, from the executive branch, I didn't condone what was being done to him at all, I didn't think he exercised very good judgment in taking on this issue before he found out whether he had any troops behind him. But at any rate, I didn't see any reason for his getting hurt on that issue, if it had not been for the McCarran Act being up at that time, Oscar Chapman and Mr. Truman probably would have gone down the line for him, because

 

[706]

neither one of them had any love for Senator McCarran, and the Indian rights were perfectly clear in this situation.

So, the point 4 program was just getting under way, and Ambassador [Capus Miller] Waynick was the administrator, and I went over to see him, told him the whole story. I said I thought we had an exceptionally good man in Mr. Fryer. And he said, "We need a man like that in the point 4 program and I'll talk to Secretary Chapman," and so on. So, ultimately, within just a matter of a few days, Fryer transferred to the point 4 program where he served with a good deal of distinction, for about five years. In the Eisenhower administration, nearly all of those people who had come into point 4 from the Indian Service (and he brought a great many people with him from the Indian Service to point 4), were all thrown out. It was a very bad thing to have done. They were very competent people and they were replaced by essentially trade development types rather than community or resource development people.

Fryer continued -- oh, he went up in the organization. He got a couple of steps promotion -- a couple of grades in the civil service that put a little salve on his

 

[707]

wounds, and somebody else went in as Nevada superintendent, and nothing was done about water rights, or ever was.

Now, when I became Indian Commissioner, Mr. Fryer had been in the Middle East for several years. He stayed on there in private business after he left the point 4 program. He came back to this country about 1959 or '60, and was at liberty when I became commissioner. So by this time, he had had five years private economic development experience in the Middle East, five years with the point 4 program, many years in the Indian Service, plus wartime duty in Latin America in the economic development field, so I grabbed him and recommended him to Mr. Udall as assistant commissioner for economic development. And he headed the economic development program during all the five years that I was commissioner. His performance was outstanding; we got a housing program started; we got industrial development magnified many, many times; all sorts of improved resource development features of a new and more modern variety were put in under Mr. Fryer's direction. Unfortunately, the same bullheadedness and strong will that caused him to get into trouble in Nevada, plus a strong feeling of being

 

[708]

right when everybody else was wrong, interfered between him and me at the end of my service as Indian Commissioner. So, we were not on the best of terms at the time I left. He retired only seven or eight months afterwards. He was certain that very large plants were the answer to the poverty on the Indian reservation, and my feeling about that was that there's nothing wrong with large plants, but that a large number of small plants will be much better received by the Indians, would have more permanent effect, and that you can make haste too slowly. Besides he's very grandiose in his thinking and is today. To my mind, this is a handicap in dealing with Indians, and I think it has been a handicap to him all his life and it certainly did represent a substantial difference of opinion between him and me.

HESS: Regarding Senator Pat McCarran, what were your relations with Senator McCarran at the time that you were in the White House in dealing with Indians or any other matters?

NASH: None whatsoever.

HESS: On March 29, 1948, the President sent a letter to Secretary Krug upon signing the bill authorizing

 

[709]

distribution of capital reserve funds for the Klamath Indians. I merely picked this out of the Public Papers because I saw the Klamath Indians, your old tribe. Anything come to mind about that? I didn't know if you had any association with that or not.

NASH: I had nothing to do with it and it's only a ministerial act.

HESS: When I saw the words "Klamath Indians," I thought "Well, I'll xerox this and show it to Dr. Nash."

Do you have anything further to add on the subject of Indians?

NASH: No.

HESS: The next card that I have is dealing with Mr. Max Lowenthal. Doctor, what was Max Lowenthal's relationship to the President and to the White House staff? What do you recall about Max Lowenthal?

NASH: Well, Max Lowenthal was in and out of various people's offices. I used to see him in Matt Connelly's, occasionally around in the halls. I don't know exactly where else I ever saw him and not very often, but I had the impression that he was in and out a good deal, and of course he was an old friend of Matt's, and of the President's, because he'd been general counsel on

 

[710]

the ICC. Then when the President was a Senator and had the investigating committee, it seems to me he had some functions in connection with it, maybe just of an informal kind. You don't think he was ever counsel to the Truman Investigating Committee?

HESS: I'm not sure. I know that he was to the Interstate Commerce, but . . .

NASH: I sort of think he might.

HESS: He may have had some contacts, but I'm sure he wasn't counsel. You know, they had Hugh Fulton, the head counsel to the committee, and Charles Patrick Clark was on that, but I don't believe that Lowenthal was there.

NASH: Well, I had nothing to do with the Truman investigating committee. I didn't know the President at that time, I was occupied with other matters, and didn't even know the names of the people, and was therefore dealing with an impressionistic rumor. As I never had any individual dealings with him, none of his affairs touched any of mine, nor did Dave Niles, although Dave knew him. Because he wrote a book about the FBI, it's been rumored that he had a lot to do with individual security problems. If he did, it's news to me.

 

[711]

HESS: I have understood that he ran an operation somewhere in the basement of the White House during the 1950s, sort of an instant reply committee, more or less, to the accusations that McCarthy was throwing around at that time. Did you ever hear about that?

NASH: No, I certainly did not. We had an instant reply committee in the campaign of 1952, as we did in . . .

HESS: I just used the term, you know.

NASH: Yes, 1948, but I'm just not aware of that having gone on. Now, like a great many other things that took place at that time, if it didn't concern an assignment of mine, I made it my business to keep my nose out. The fact that I didn't know it doesn't mean that it's not true. It merely means that I didn't know it.

HESS: There was a man by the name of Herb Maletz who was down there with him during that particular time.

NASH: I never heard of him, and did not know about the operation.

HESS: Anything else about Max Lowenthal?

NASH: No.

HESS: All right.

 

[712]

Concerning the President's Commission on Internal Security and Individual Rights, the Nimitz Commission, that did not get off the ground, were you involved in any of the decisions to establish the committee or to staff the committee?

NASH: I was not involved in that in any way.

HESS: In any way. All right, fine.

The next card that I've had here for months: What did you do in relation to Puerto Rico, Samoa and the Virgin Islands?

NASH: Well, I had something to do with all three at various times. In 1947, the then President of the Puerto Rican Senate, Luis Muñoz-Marin, and his wife, Dona Ines Muñoz-Marin, came to Washington, and they came in an effort to get the Senate off the dime on the confirmation of Mariano Villaronga as Commissioner. I'm sure I've told you this story.

HESS: Yes, we've covered that.

NASH: All right, so there's no point in going over that again. Now, this led me to an interest in Puerto Rico, in fact, my wife and I had been planning a vacation into the American Southwest and the Muñoz-Marins persuaded

 

[713]

us to go to Puerto Rico and ultimately on to the Virgin Islands. And this, of course, was just about eighteen months before the election of 1948. William Hastie, now Judge Hastie, was the Governor of the Virgin Islands, so we saw a good deal of him and his family. This led me to an interest and also to some feelings about the President going down there, and what kind of a reception he'd get and what ought to be done and so on, and to a limited extent, the same thing was true of Puerto Rico. Consequently, when it became known that the President was going to the Virgin Islands rather shortly, and this meant, naturally, a stopover in Puerto Rico, I sort of asked for a hearing on some of my thoughts, and ultimately got the assignment of preparing various remarks which I think we've already asked about. This led to an interest in Puerto Rico, which has been continuous from that time still this. I don't know how much of this I've covered before, so in order to avoid repetition, let me ask you.

HESS: We haven't covered about the constitution of Puerto Rico. We put that off until now.

NASH: All right. Then we'd better tell about that now.

 

[714]

We eventually found it impossible to get the Senate of the United States to back off its views that Mariano Villaronga would be an unsuitable Commissioner of Education because he wanted to teach the children in the language of their own homes, namely Spanish. This raised the question in Mr. Truman's mind as to why he had any responsibility for appointing these people at all, and he said in that case we needed to modify the whole Puerto Rican Relations Act. So, he set about this and of course the basic work was done in the Interior Department. This was not a staff job for the White House. But I just kept an eye on it in terms of the President's interests and obligations. I particularly recall that he said if he couldn't change the constitution, at least he could appoint a Puerto Rican as Governor. And this laid down a policy which he followed as far as he could in all the territories and possessions, of appointing local people. And at that time the territorial delegate was Jesus T. Pinero, and I can recall Mr. Truman asking, who is the person that had the most votes, who has come closest to receiving a popular mandate.

And I said, "Well, there's only one island-wide race right now that would come anywhere near that description,

 

[715]

that is for the non-voting representative in the United States Congress. So he said, "Then that's the man I'm going to appoint Governor." So he did. But then he said, "I shouldn't be appointing Governors, I don't like it. They should choose their own. So, let's get that done." And again the Interior Department went to work on it, and eventually came up with a bill which provided for the election of Governor, and which left out the appointment by the President of many minor insular positions, among them Commissioner of Education. So, my friend, Muñoz-Marin, was then elected Governor, rather than appointed, in modern times. And, of course, he immediately appointed Villaronga as head of the education department, secretary of public instruction.

But the constitution was really still inadequate, and a lot of work was done on getting it remodeled. In the meantime, the statehood issue kept coming up, and it was interfering with the important work to be done in Puerto Rico, and Muñoz-Marin, who was a very brilliant operator, decided that the right thing to do was to take various statements that had been made in the Congress

 

[716]

of the United States at their face value and conduct a plebiscite and let people say whether they wanted statehood, independence or some other relationship. The first of numerous plebiscites was conducted. Statehood received a very small vote, independence an even smaller vote, and it was obvious that the Puerto Ricans basically liked their relationship with the United States, which had many advantages and still does. So, on the strength of this, Muñoz conceived the idea of a constitution which would be based upon a different constitutional relationship than had existed up to that time, between the island government and the United States Government. And so he developed and lobbied himself for the Puerto Rican Relations Act, which was. an amendment to the Foraker Act, which had regulated the relationships between the United States and Puerto Rico since about 1916.

Now, Muñoz was, and still is, of the opinion that this constitutes a new constitutional relationship. Constitutional lawyers that I know don't agree with him, and this is really a very serious matter, because you cannot alter the United States Constitution by an

 

[717]

act of Congress, but whatever is there and whatever has been done by an act of Congress could theoretically be undone by another act of Congress.

Nevertheless it's on the strength of this modification of the Puerto Rican Relations Act that the Puerto Ricans went ahead and convened a constitutional convention, and Muñoz-Marin was successful in getting the words written into the act "in the nature of a compact," and this is his foundation for saying that there is, in fact, a new constitutional relationship well there is a new statutory relationship, and Muñoz believes you can't back up on a compact. The United States Congress has frequently undone legislation that is done and when it creates these rights then if it takes them away afterwards, there may be a money responsibility, but it does have the power to take away the rights. Well, Muñoz says that money can't pay for rights like this. This is a non-monetary proposition, at any rate.

HESS: Did you work with Donald Hansen on the writing of the constitution?

NASH: Yes, by this time. Don Hansen had come aboard from

 

[718]

the Treasury Department to handle a number of legal matters, and he happened to get this particular one. What happened is that the Puerto Ricans convened the constitutional convention, rewrote their constitution, a most interesting document with many novel features in it, and the enabling act, like all similar acts, just set forth two requirements: That it provide for a republican form of government and that it contain a bill of rights. And then it called upon the President of the United States to review the constitution when it had been drafted and to submit it to the Congress with a report indicating that it did in fact conform to the statutory requirements, and that he approved it.

In 1952 in the spring, the Bureau of the Budget made the necessary review. They are sort of professorial and not necessarily working politicians, and they were somewhat alarmed by the provision of an accordion pleated legislature. They had several unique features in this constitution and the one that seemed to throw the Bureau of the Budget the most was the provision that in the event of one party receiving more than

 

[719]

two-thirds of the votes in the election, then the constitution would simply provide for the legislature to be enlarged to provide for enough minority representatives to get the majority below two-thirds. And this was to be done on a pro-rata basis depending on the vote for Governor in the election. So, they were sure this wouldn't work, and they were not sure the President ought to approve it, and it alarmed them, so we had a little discussion with the President about it, and he said, "Well, now, let me see, I don't know whether that would work or not, but how many precincts did the Bureau of the Budget carry in the last election?"

I said, "Well, I don't know, I don't think very many, Mr. President."

He said, "How did Muñoz do?"

I said, "Well, he took nearly all."

He said, "Well, in that case, we had better do what he wants, because he's more likely to know what it's all about."

So, we did it that way.

Now, the thing that really caused us trouble, the Bureau of the Budget just didn't notice, and I can

 

[720]

see why. It's no criticism of the Bureau. There was a provision in there which said, oh, roughly as follows: "It shall be the obligation of the commonwealth to provide employment for every able-bodied man who desires it within the limits of the economic development that has taken place at any given time." So, anybody reading this knows, well, that there ought to be work if there is work, is about what it means. And we transmitted the document to Congress with the appropriate executive communication. The House passed it; when it got to the Senate, they balked. And who balked was Olin Johnston. And he had a law and business partner who had had some trouble with the commonwealth government about some housing, and nothing was said about the housing, but Senator Johnston picked up this language and he said that it was communistic. By this time, we were getting fairly close to the time when they wanted to proclaim it. The anniversary of the landing of troops in Puerto Rico on the south side of the island at Guanica is in July, I think the 25th of July. This is a very important date to the people of Puerto Rico. They are very proud of their relationship to the United States

 

[721]

and this marks the day on which it began. So, it is a significant local holiday. They wanted to proclaim the Commonwealth on the 25th of July, but time was getting away from us. Senator Johnston was being very sticky and Senator 0'Mahoney, who had been chairman of the Senate committee, just said in so many words, he couldn't get it through with that language in it. So, Muñoz flew up to Washington and we had a little visit in my office and he said, "What's the problem?"

And I told him.

And he said, "Well, we only recessed the convention, we'll reconvene it and change the language."

I said, "Well, that might be the only way in which we could get it done, but I'm not sure that the President will want to back down. He's reviewed this; he didn't see anything wrong with it, he doesn't now, and frankly I don't think he believes that this is the real reason why Senator Johnston is opposing it. I think it's just out of pique because his partner had a fight with the island government."

So, he said, "Well, we can't let that stand in the way. You would put this in the preamble, we put it in

 

[722]

the body, that's the only difference. It's a statement of intent and we'll change it. It's very important that we have the constitution, and have it right away, and the language isn't worth it."

So, we went over to the Senate, and sat down with Senator 0'Mahoney and the territorial representative, Dr. [Antonio] Fernos-Isern, took part in some of the discussions, and we finally made it clear to Senator 0'Mahoney that the language could be changed and that it was not a positive obstacle and that it could be done very quickly. Muñoz and I had worked on some language and Fernos-Isern had that and he brought it in. It was his job to sell this to Olin Johnston. Now, he was aided in this by a draft letter which I had in my pocket which said, "Dear Mr. President of the Senate, Dear .Mr. Speaker of the House," etc. It said in rather Trumanesque language that he had found that it was a good constitution, that he didn't especially care for somebody taking exception to this on the basis of language and one House had already agreed to it and just, you know, just exactly what did they think they were doing anyway. I handed this at one point to Senator

 

[723]

0'Mahoney. We had to persuade him somehow that it was necessary to move, not that he was against it, but it was not very easy to deal with a member of the committee on a problem of this kind. I didn't say it was going to be sent. I said, "I hope this letter will not be sent."

He looked at it and he said, "Oh, we couldn't have that; that would be terrible."

I said, "Yes, I hope it isn't going to go."

Well, it wasn't going to go. It had never been on anybody's typewriter but mine. And I wouldn't have dreamed of submitting anything like that to the President, but I thought maybe we might nudge Senator 0'Mahoney a little bit if he thought Mr. Truman's reputation for letter writing was about to be glorified some more. So, with that letter in front of him, he shook his head a couple of times, picked up the phone and called Olin Johnston and said, "We've just got to do something." So, that did have the effect of pushing him over the edge. And he handed it back to me without a word, and of course the letter never went any further. It never was intended to go any further.

 

[724]

HESS: It had served its purpose.

NASH: It had served its purpose. But in the meantime, it turned out that if the language was taken out Olin Johnston wouldn't object, and then the other language, the subsequent language was put in, Muñoz flew back to Puerto Rico, twenty-four hours later the constitutional convention had amended the proposed constitution, the objectionable language was taken out, and the thing sailed through in a matter of three or four days. And at the end of that time they proclaimed the Commonwealth, as of 25 July 1952.

Now, on the matter of the Virgin Islands, of course, I paid quite a bit of attention to Virgin Island's affairs, during the time that I was in the White House, but mostly in connection with the Governor. Bill Hastie campaigned very hard for Mr. Truman in '48, and long before 1952, he had a desire to leave and Mr. Truman thought he was needed there, but he also wanted to make him a judge. He wanted somebody of Hastie's caliber, and who was a Negro, to be a top, presidential appointment. So, this was done and that left the governorship vacant, and in line with the policy that Mr. Truman had expressed,

 

[725]

he wanted to have a local appointment. Naturally, Mr. Truman insisted on good qualifications. We ran into the usual troubles, that is, this had always been a non-Virgin Island appointment, and the Negro politicians had come to think of it as an American Negro appointment. So, we had some rather hard times, but eventually Mr. Truman's wishes prevailed, and they accepted gracefully the idea that it would be a non-Negro appointment as long as it was a local appointment and there was a separate justification for it. Naturally, we accommodated the politicians' desires and found a suitable person who was acceptable to the politicians for the second job. So, you had a non-Negro, Virgin Islander for Governor, and an American continental Negro for government secretary, which is the number two job. Now, in subsequent years the Republicans reverted to the earlier practice, and appointed an American Negro as Governor. One of the first things that Jack Kennedy did when he got in was to go back to Mr. Truman's policy, and he appointed a Virgin Islander without respect to race, Governor [Ralph M.] Paiewonsky, who is the very successful Governor down there right now.

 

[726]

We had some serious economic problems, and one of my original interests in economic development grew out of, not only Puerto Rico, but out of the Virgin Islands. One of the instruments for economic development there that was available to us was the Virgin Islands Corporation, VICOR, and this was a Federally chartered economic development corporation, which attempted to be responsible for the economic development of the islands using as instruments some soft loans, the purchase where necessary of idle sugar lands converting them to other purposes, industrial development, tourism, and the like. Eventually it got to be a pretty good-sized corporation, carrying on a good many activities of its own, but when the Virgin Islands government became strong enough so that it could handle these things by itself, then the powers were transferred to it. But Mr. Truman's sponsorship of this Federally chartered corporation, as a means to encourage economic development is not very well-known and that's why I'm putting it on the record. I think that's about all.

On Samoa and Guam, here again we have to say a little bit more. Civil government in all the countries that were taken from Spain in the 1898 war have been

 

[727]

a kind of a headache to this country ever since, because we don't quite know what to do with them. The Philippines we held and administered and then gave independence in connection with World War II. Puerto Rico doesn't want it that way. Guam hasn't wanted it that way, and American Samoa hasn't wanted it that way, but the other things that went with it weren't very acceptable either and some of them are not very well understood. For example, I found out when I got this assignment (I had to do some research on it), that civil government in Guam and also in American Samoa depended -- we got them in different ways -- let's go back and only take Guam. Civil government in Guam depended upon an Executive order that was signed by William McKinley, as President. It was about a three line order and it simply said that until further presidential action that governance in Guam, recently captured from Spain, would be vested in the Secretary of the Navy. And right up until after the death of President Roosevelt, that was the basis for any kind of governmental action, courts, titles, whatever process there was was based on that three line presidential order. Well, this isn't a very good basis

 

[728]

if you're trying to protect individual rights and think highly of civil liberties and so on. Mr. Truman, when he found out about it, was some put out. So, he said, "That ought to be straightened out right away."

So, we began to develop organic acts for Guam, and then also for all the parts of the United States overseas, whether they were incorporated or unincorporated territories, that didn't have them, or which had weak instruments. Well, they all needed improving, so this is how we got into quite an extensive program of upgrading and updating the instruments that provided for government in all these offshore territories. We were not successful with the Canal Zone. This has been a sticky problem and some of the things that we've attempted to deal with unsuccessfully, were the cause of a lot of the friction with the Panamanians in more recent years.

You didn't say anything about the Trust Territories of the Pacific, but that also ought to be included in your list of questions because this was dealt with by the Navy as one package: American Samoa, Guam, and the Trust Territory, even though they came about in different

 

[729]

ways. The Trust Territory, of course, was the Japanese mandated territory, and then we took that from the Japanese in the Pacific campaign in the course of World War II. There was a strong feeling in quite a number of government departments, primarily in State and Interior, that these territories ought not to have a military administration, that they ought to be out of the military mission oriented department entirely. The State Department felt this way because they knew that the United Nations would be looking over our shoulders of our Trust Territory, although they had no right to do so on Guam; our jurisdiction over Guam is older than the League, let alone the United Nations. But the President felt it was one package, and a great deal of that was handled -- of course it was basically a State and Interior problem, but there was a coordinating committee and this meant that things were apt to fall between two or more stools, and the real operator on it was Admiral Dennison. He, of course, was Navy all the way, but he was a fine scholar, a fine gentleman, and was very careful to follow out the President's instructions, even though he could never see how anybody could possibly

 

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have a better hospital than a Navy hospital, consequently, what was wrong with Navy rule, and it was sea transport, wasn't it, and the Navy understands that all the way. I was, to some extent, on the fringes of that side of that problem, but I thought it was related to the President's whole civil rights package.

The President's Committee on Civil Rights, made all these things a part of its recommendation, consequently, I didn't think it was right or proper to let any of this go just because nobody called me in and said, "You know, you're supposed to look after this." The general area that was defined by the Civil Rights Committee after 1948 increasingly became my area, therefore, I just made it my business to work with Admiral Dennison and with others on it. Of course, when we got into the Korean war, then right away Guam became a very important leaping off point, and it was necessary to restore military rule there for a while. So, this was done, but again, when the Korean war was over, the way was clear for the civilian rule and the first civilian Governor and so on, and it was done.

Once again, the reason I'm putting these on the

 

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record is that these are obscure, there's no public for this type of activity in this country. All the Samoans in the United States added up together wouldn't you know…

HESS: They wouldn't be holding a rally in Lafayette Park.

NASH: They wouldn't be holding a rally in Lafayette Park, or any other one today. Consequently, unless somebody cares enough to put these things on record, they really don't get known. But this was a part of Mr. Truman's record as a civil rights President, because his instincts and intuitions led him to whenever there was the option, to civilian government versus military government, constitutions and proper organic acts, as against Executive orders, to elected popular officials against the wisest appointment that he knew how to make. He just didn't think it was his right to do it. And we really moved a long ways forward in all these areas as a result of his own feeling about it.

HESS: All right. All on that?

NASH: That's all.

HESS: I have a general question on pressure groups. In your files at the Library I found several letters and memoranda

 

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from Herman Edelsberg, of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, and also many letters and memoranda from Jack Kroll, director of the CIO Political Action Committee, and I have just sort of a combination question: What types of political assistance came from such organizations and how effective do you think the pressure, if you want to use that word, influence, of these types of organizations, not just these two, but these types of organizations are on the operation of the White House, on the staff of the White House?

NASH: Well, you can't do your work on the President's staff if you don't have daily contact with organizations like this, because in certain areas, let us say in the field of agriculture, the Department of Agriculture makes it its business to have a relationship with the farm organizations, many, many different kinds: national, local, commodity, cooperative, and so on, whether they agree with their policies or not. The same thing is true of Veterans' Administration and veterans; of the Labor Department and organized labor; Commerce, and the business associations; of the Interior Department and

 

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the conservationists; State Department and the Foreign Policy Association, etc. In the area of human rights civil rights and minority group representation -- there is no government department and especially in the days that we're talking about. You didn't have a Civil Rights Commission, you didn't have a Civil Rights Division, you just had a section in the Department of Justice, and so on. Many of the things that are done by hundreds of people today were being done very inadequately by Dave Niles and myself, you see, in the Truman era. So, among other things, we made it our business to keep contact with the organizations. In the civil rights field, the NAACP and the Urban League, this was before the days of CORE -- CORE existed but it' wasn't big enough to be influential. When Dave was handling matters connected with the independence of Israel, and the partition of Palestine, it was the Jewish groups. And since they've always been interested in civil rights, to the extent that they made common cause of the Negro organizations, then it was his and my business jointly to work with them.

Now, some of these groups are extraordinarily

 

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effective, and some are effective in some ways, but not in others. But it's important to know what they're thinking; it's important that they know what you're doing. They are one of the major links with the constituency, and a President who is detached from them is short of information, and they are short of information about him. So the President can never afford to be cut off from these groups, however small, or apparently ineffectual. They're not always ineffectual just because they seem in certain respects to be that. Some of them are very large and very powerful, and they frequently get into matters that don't appear to be the direct concern of service.

HESS: What would you say would be an effective organization? What comes to mind when you think of the most effective organization of this type that you've dealt with in the days of the Truman administration?

NASH: Well, you mentioned Jack Kroll, the Political Action Committee of the CIO, was an extremely effective pressure group?

HESS: What makes an effective pressure group?

NASH: Well, in the first place, the fact that they are in

 

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contact with the members, and that they are keeping the members informed, that they have a body of views, that they are familiar with the governmental programs, and their adequacy for reaching the program objectives that the pressure group has for itself; and that they have political capability. What gives the PAC its power, and this has been rather slow to grow, is its ability to do certain things that one might think of normally as the province of the party in power, which party isn't always good at doing, getting out the vote, for example, organizing registration drives. Voter education sometimes is done much better by non-party groups where the people who think alike get together. regardless of party. The effectiveness of groups like this varies with the nature of the program. The NAACP today is regarded as too conservative by many of the Negro people, but in my early days in Gover