Oral History Interview with
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.
October 18, 1966
by Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Nash Oral History Transcripts]
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 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 October, 1973
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Nash Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
October 18, 1966
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Dr. Nash to start with, we ended up yesterday by talking about the President's trip in June of 1948. We had got down to my question of what were your duties on that trip, and we had started to discuss one of the speeches that you helped write. I believe it was one of the earliest speeches, is that correct?
NASH: Yes, that was the Swedish Pioneer Centennial speech and until you mentioned it yesterday, I: had completely forgotten the episode, forgotten the work that I did on it, and I've rather enjoyed thinking about it since you brought it back to my memory.
HESS: In your papers at the Library in the folder on this particular speech there are nine drafts; numbered one through nine. I checked them against the final draft and they are not in what might be called a word-for-word agreement, but there are many statements and many paragraphs that are lifted from your drafts and are as given, which leads to several different questions. Who did you work with on that speech, which leads to the general subject of just how are speeches written?
NASH: Well, first let me recall as much as I can about this particular speech. I don't know that I'm going to be as helpful as I might because as you can see from my answer to the question yesterday, it really had gone out of my recall.
The speech was one that it was important to give but it was in no sense a major speech. Consequently, there wasn't any great rush to see who had the honor of the chore of putting it together. I was rather anxious to get more work as a speechwriter and to have an active role in the '48 campaign. I had been active in '44 and it would give me kind of a taste for presidential politics and I didn't want to be off in a corner, and buried behind Dave Niles' distaste for this sort of thing, and I had to be rather careful about being helpful, but being helpful in a way that it would not be personally distasteful to him.
HESS: How did you go about that?
NASH: Well, I first told him what I wanted him to do and . . .
HESS: Mr. Niles?
NASH: Yes, Mr. Niles and, of course, he agreed -- I mean, you know -- it wasn't the sort of a thing that he would
disagree on. He just wanted to be sure that he knew what was going on and there were no surprises, and so on. So, he said, "Well, certainly, certainly," and he said, "I'll speak to Clark Clifford about it." Well, this was the secret of getting along with a man of Niles' temperament. A great human being, but capable of being very petty, and he was filled with small jealousies. So as long as he arranged it with Clark Clifford and I didn't go to Clark and -- you see we had a frank talk about it one time. I'd done something he didn't like, he said, "Well, how would you like it if George Elsey came over here and volunteered to do some of your work?"
And I said, "Well, I wouldn't like it very much."
"Well," he said, "that's all I'm talking about."
So, I mean from this standpoint it was perfectly reasonable and I must say it was a valuable lesson to me. If Steve Spingarn and George Elsey had had a couple of lessons along that line, from someone who was capable of being as direct as Dave Niles was, to a subordinate, they would not have left the White House when they did.
HESS: They would have been there on January 20th, 1953, also.
NASH: Yes. They would. I'm sure. Because there was never any question about the ability or talent of either one of them but they most certainly did get careless about the prima donna qualities of just about everybody that works around the President. Well, anyway, I did work it out with him.
Now, this was a field in which I felt I could stake out a little claim, I was, so to speak, the ethnic man. Here was a minority group, a nationality group in this case Swedes, in the Middle West, pioneers, my part of the country, my area of general concern and so I volunteered to help, and was answered by being told to get up a draft. Now, you say there are nine drafts in my folder. I'm not a bit surprised, because in the first place I saved most of my drafts, unless somebody else got hold of them to work with them and I didn't get them back. I don't have every one, but I just thought they should be saved. Most presidential speeches go through a good many drafts, I think nine might be a little bit high. The famous one at Harlem just before the election in '48, 1 think went through
six. But this was my first major effort, and the first one where I had practically all the responsibility shoved at me, and it's not too easy to satisfy everybody in speechwriting. In the first place, if it's any good, it's got to be in the style of the man. You are going to have a lot of empathy with him. I think you need to have studied his speech habits, his mannerisms, his vocabulary choice, his sentence structure when speaking, not formally. In Mr. Truman's case there isn't any sense in getting up a great big long-winded Victorian thing with every sentence a paragraph long because he'd ride right through the punctuation anyway. As I said yesterday, to him punctuation is a challenge.
HESS: Had you studied Mr. Truman's speaking habits before this time?
NASH: Oh, yes. And I had done a little speechwriting in the Roosevelt years. Really speechwriting is too dignified a term for it. I got a sentence here, and a paragraph there, in one or two of the very last of FDR's speeches, at a time when there was so much work to do that everybody was brought in and Jonathan
Daniels, to whom I was reporting, you see, at that time
HESS: Do you recall offhand what speeches you worked on?
NASH: No, but I expect my chrono file would show it. I can see if I can dig those out. It would be of interest to me to find out, too. I think I had a sentence, and maybe more than one, in that one that he never gave. The one that he was working on when the stroke hit him.
HESS: What was the subject of that particular one?
NASH: Well, it was one of those forward looking speeches in which you talk about what tomorrow will be like; the nature of the world. It had a social science concept in it which is why I was interested in getting in. I'll check that out.
Mr. Truman's short, direct, snappy sentence style-at its best in off-the-cuff remarks, and rather in exaggerated form in the give and take of a press conference, where it was inclined to be too quick, too short and too sharp, was his natural style and I did try to use it in preparing letters for him. As you'll note in my file in the Library I did a lot of letter
drafting, and I tried to use that as much as I could, and it isn't a very big step from that to a speaking style, if you're writing informal letters. Of course, the whole concept of pioneers and what they came West for; religious and political freedom, has been my lifelong interest. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to work this into the Swedish Pioneer Centennial speech, and use it as an opportunity to do more than just pay a ceremonial bow to an ethnic group and to pioneers; but to say something about what it meant.
Now, as to who I worked with on it. At this time Clark Clifford was generally in charge of speechwriting, George Elsey was his principal assistant, and had been the sole draftsman for so many years. George drafted almost everything-I mean he had the job they call the Drafting Officer in the State Department. He worked long hours and weekends and holidays and nights and everything else. In the early years of the Truman administration, nobody else was doing it, nobody else was really permitted to. So George had a very important role. Then Clark Clifford expanded it, they had to, of course, for the '48 campaign, and
closely associated with him was Murphy, and my recollection is that I worked primarily with George Elsey and, secondarily, with Charlie Murphy, and that it was reviewed by Clifford and I naturally took care to see that Mr. Niles had a look at all my drafts, so there were no secrets from him. Characteristically, he would look at it and he would say, "Why don't you put some more sex appeal in it," or, you know, a generalized comment, and that was all.
HESS: Did you ever work with President Truman? Did you ever sit in any sessions with him?
NASH: Not at this stage. The first time where I actually sat down with Mr. Truman in a speechwriting session was just before the Harlem speech, which is quite a story in itself.
HESS: Which we will get to a little later.
NASH: Nova, I had spent some time with him in "freezing" sessions, as they were called, on those two Executive orders. But, you see, that was to come after June of '48. Those were after the convention. So, I did not deal with the President directly on this particular speech of the Swedish Centennial. I was delighted that he gave it as written. My memory just fails me on any sessions
where everybody went over it, or where it was finally agreed on; or who monkeyed around with it after it left my hands; why I had nine drafts. Now, I could refresh my recollection by taking a look at the June chrono for 1948, which now for the first time is available to me. I have it unpacked at home. I think it would be worthwhile in terms of what you're trying to do to let me take a look at that and perhaps bring it in and go over it with you. There may be some details that I may recall.
Now, with respect to speechwriting, generally, I'd say the routine Mr. Truman followed was about like this: First would be the general discussion as to the occasion; you have an invitation, or if you haven't gotten one you get one, and then comes the question; "Well, what is there that needs saying, and what is a suitable occasion for it?" So, you have to work back and forth, with the invitation and the subject matter, so that the event becomes a forum, and not just a wasted appearance -- there's enough of those anyway -- where you've just got to satisfy somebody that was made a promise to one day. But a thing like the Swedish Centennial is a good opportunity to talk to the Middle West, and to talk
to country people in the Middle West. So there would be a decision to go somewhere, and to talk to a certain group, and to then either find a suitable subject or with the subject to be discussed, to find a suitable occasion. Once that's done -- the President in later years, when I did sit in on the original discussion, which I did not at this time; would usually turn it over to somebody.
There wasn't anybody who was automatically the head speechwriter. And in this, as I understand it, President Truman differed a little from President Roosevelt. Rosenman was in charge of speechwriting, and he would draw on fellows like [Archibald] MacLeish and other well-known speechwriters but it was understood this was his bailiwick. Now, generally speaking, this was Clifford's, but not exclusively; and Clifford in later years at least never assumed that he was going to be given the speech coordinating job . . .
HESS: On each and every speech.
NASH: On each and every speech, just because he was Special Counsel. Charlie Ross did not care for speech drafting, and he would usually not take part in the early discussions,
but he liked to be in towards the close, because he was very particular about language and the use of certain words, and some that he had a real mania about, such as "presently" for "currently."
HESS: I've heard him described as a "word mechanic."
NASH: Well, he's the first one I heard use the word, "wordsmith." I was talking to him about Merriman Smith, and maybe he used it because of the pun on Merriman's last name, or maybe this was just natural to him, and he said, "Oh well, a good wordsmith." It's a good phrase.
Well, anyway, there would be a decision by the President to go somewhere and to say a certain thing, in general. And the length of a presidential speech was determined by the occasion, of course. The Swedish Centennial is not a major occasion, you're talking ten minutes; if you have a major speech, you're talking twenty minutes, and that's the rule. Anything less than that is off-the-cuff, so you've got about three levels of speeches. The off-the-cuff, the remarks by the President, and the address by the President. So the length of it is really not up for discussion, and usually whoever is handed the job -- sometime Mr. Truman would give to two or three people, something to one
person, and he would say, "Well, get me up something." And he liked to see it -- in the beginning before he developed confidence in the ability of writers to turn on something that was natural to him, I think he wanted to see things fairly early in the game. By the time I got into the picture, it wasn't like that. He didn't have time; he had to rely on others, and he had found that he could. But the format, of course, was subject to constant revision, and there were a lot of changes that took place just through the 1948 campaign in itself.
Now, a speech like the Swedish Centennial was written out; was duplicated and handed to the press as a release, and the President then had to follow it pretty closely, and if the light was such that he couldn't see, or it was set up in front of him in such a way that the punctuation didn't lie naturally on the page, it was quite possible that people wouldn't be able to understand it, as read. So, a lot of thought was given -- not at this particular time, but later on in the campaign, to a physical format that would be very natural to him. Now, I did not make much of a contribution
to this, I think it was basically Clifford and Elsey, and they tried everything. What do they call that thing that unrolls in front of you?
HESS: A teleprompter.
NASH: A teleprompter was brand-new about that time. They tried that. It drove him crazy. He said he couldn't keep up with it. He felt he was paced by it, so he would go faster and faster and faster, and, of course, then the operator would go faster, and faster, and then he would go faster, and the first thing you would know they were racing through it, so that was disastrous.
Then, of course, we tried the large typewriter, I mean, that's commonplace. But this is not really Mr. Truman's problem. Mr. Truman's problem is that he does not regard the punctuation as a natural dividing point. So, what we worked out -- and my little contribution with it didn't amount to much -- was a page format in which each phrase was written as a natural spoken phrase, and was a line to itself -- a page of that begins to look like poetry -- and it was much easier to read, and it was also much better discipline for the speechwriter. Because it has to be spoken English to do this, and it makes you very conscious of the natural rhythm of speech,
and the pauses, and the musical qualities of a language then get to be important. A speech that is written that way, even then if it's rewritten in paragraph form, will be a much better speech, and will sound better, and lie better on the tongue. It could be heard and understood without effort, and for Mr. Truman it was absolutely essential.
HESS: I have another question about the June trip. You mentioned yesterday that it was taken as a practice trip. Was there any particular significance in the fact of where they went? That it was a Western trip? In other words why didn't they go to New England?
NASH: Well, I'm doing some second-guessing here. I did not take part in the discussions where the basic campaign strategy was laid out. Mr. Truman wasn't that aware of me as an individual, and I didn't have any special competence. What I did in the '44 election was highly technical, and I am quite proud of it. As actual political technology it was pretty difficult. But you couldn't expect Mr. Truman to be aware of that. Jonathan Daniels knew about it, but he wasn't around. So, he had no reason to call on me, and I didn't really
know what the basic strategy decisions were. You have to bear in mind that when I say it was a dry run, I mean that as I look back on it now, I think of it as a dry run. You can't interpret this to mean that I know that Mr. Truman said it was a dry run, because as far as I 'know he never did.
Secondly, it seems to me that what we know about modern campaigning today is highly colored by the jet airplane and by television. In 1948, a campaign planner did not think in terms of television, and he did not think of anything except trains. You couldn't have done it by airplane, it wasn't commonplace, and I personally regret it, I think that campaigning has suffered quite a bit from too much speed and too easy mechanical communication without the face to face contact.
Now, if given the train as a premise, then in a national campaign there is a certain inevitable logic to the travel arrangements, because your final close of the campaign has got to be where the most people are. So, you start out in the sparely settled parts of the country; the Northwest, the Southwest, the Deep South, the Southeast is always a special question and it most certainly was for Mr. Truman. So knowing that between
October, Labor Day and election day, you are going to have to spend a lot of time in the heavily populated states, which means the Northeast, and the Far West, you better get the North and Northwest and the rural Middle West taken care of right away.
HESS: But in the '48 campaign, didn't he almost retrace the route taken in June? Perhaps not to the same towns but in a general sense.
NASH: This is why I refer to the June trip as a dry run. It is my recollection that he went out about to Montana and he turned around and came back, didn't he? Chicago and the Dakotas and Havre, and then -- have you got it here?
HESS: That list is for the June trip.
NASH: That's what I'm talking about, the June trip.
HESS: He went down through Los Angeles.
NASH: Oh, yes, the Washington State Press Club, and then the commencement address . . .
HESS: At Berkeley, and then he went down to Los Angeles.
NASH: Greater Los Angeles Press Club. Well, of course, he did have to do that over again.
I still think this is a reasonable premise that you are probably not going to be going out through the
Dakotas and Montana and giving a lot of extended treatment, therefore, if you can get it taken care of before the campaign opening, you are well off.
HESS: Well, Mr. Truman on that June trip had six major addresses. He had many back platform speeches, but he had six major addresses. And in your files at the Library, in the folder on the University of California -- this was the speech given at the commencement address at the University of California on June 12th, and let's see . . .
NASH: Is it in here [Public Papers of the Presidents, 1948 volume]?
HESS: Yes. It's on June 12th, and the draft in the folder is substantially the same as the one given, but not quite.
NASH: Here we are. It's number one hundred twenty-nine.
HESS: Now, did you write that?
NASH: Well, I worked on it, but my recollection is not that I was the major writer on it, or the major draftsman. George Elsey and I did a lot of work on it. Foreign policy speeches, of course, are a different "kettle of fish" from any others. They require a lot more checking out, more people work on them, there's more cooks and, therefore, the broth is liable to be rather thick.
HESS: Do you check most of those with the Department of State?
NASH: Oh, I never knew a foreign policy speech that wasn't checked out draft by draft with the Department of State -- it's just another eater at the banquet as far as . . .
HESS: Was there anybody in particular over to the State Department who handled such matters or did you drop a thing in the mail and send it over there?
NASH: Oh, no. George was handling that, as I recall, on the commencement speech at Berkeley. On other occasions, I worked with Myrna Loy's husband. It's a shame not to be able to call him by his right name [Howland Sargeant]. I was just wondering whether that draft is not in my folder because I was reviewing it, or was working on it, but it was not necessarily my dictation. Does it show?
HESS: No. Of course, all I have here is just the note that I wrote at the time that I went over it, and I did not find your initials on this draft, which I did on some drafts. If I did, I would have put it down here on my notes.
NASH: My recollection of what I had to do with that June speech, was that George was troubled, he talked to me about it and I said, "Well, I sure wouldn't do thus and
so, or I sure would do thus and so."
And, he said, "Well, why not take a look at it?"
And I made some suggestions for language changes. I recognize this paragraph. This was my way of writing for Truman, "Anyone can talk peace but only the work that is done for peace really counts." This was my idea of Truman style. I can recall putting that in.
HESS: So, you may not have written the whole thing, but you worked on it?
NASH: I worked on it, all right. No one person could possibly write a foreign policy speech anyway. I wouldn't attempt it.
HESS: Did you work on the other four? Now, there was the address in Omaha, which is a story in itself.
NASH: I don't think anybody that had anything to do with that meeting in Omaha would admit it.
HESS: Tell me what you've heard about that meeting.
NASH: That was the one where Eddie McKim wanted to be the state chairman, I think, wasn't it?
HESS: He was co-chairman of the reunion.
NASH: Well, the story is that he wanted to be something -- I always thought it was state chairman -- and, therefore,
he handed out tickets only to those who would agree to support him, and the result was they had an empty hall. And the press and the newsreels, which were not very friendly to Mr. Truman anyway, delightedly put up their cameras in the back of the hall and made repeated still and motion picture shots of the rows upon rows upon rows of empty seats. It was a very valuable lesson to me in advance work.
Let me look at the commencement address again.
HESS: I know that he was co-chairman of the 35th Division Association reunion that was being held at that time.
NASH: No. I'm sure my recollection is correct on this, Jerry. I reviewed it, I made some contributions, I put in a few paragraphs, mostly in the way of simplification and clarification -- saying things that are a lot closer to the Truman style.
HESS: Eddie McKim and a man by the name of Robert A. Drum, who I don't believe I have ever heard of.
NASH: I don't know Robert A. Drum.
HESS: They were co-chairman of the reunion. Of course, Life
made quite a to-do of that when not too many people were there. But
the other addresses were in Butte,
Montana, the Washington State Press Club, and the Greater Los Angeles Press Club.
NASH: As far as I know. I had nothing to do with any of those.
HESS: But you worked on two of the six?
NASH: Yes. Two of the six. And now I recall. Reading this speech makes it quite clear. This was a joint effort in which the State Department had a big hand. George Elsey, I think, was the coordinator, as far as the White House was concerned, and I did make some minor contributions to it.
HESS: I understand that at the luncheon in Berkeley, Dr. Robert Sproul introduced the President in a not too courteous manner. bid you ever hear anything about that?
NASH: Never did. No. After I got to know Mr. Truman much better and we exchanged stories and anecdotes many times about things like this, but I never heard about this one.
HESS: Who went on that trip? Do you know?
NASH: I don't recall at the moment.
HESS: It will probably be in the newspapers if people want to find that out.
NASH: Do you have anything down about the President's trips to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico?
HESS: Mr. Truman?
NASH: Was that after June or before June, I think it was before June, wasn't it? This was a pretty important trip in terms of the buildup to the convention in the campaign.
HESS: Tell me about it.
NASH: Well, in the winter of 19 -- either late 1947 or early 1948 --
the President made a trip to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. He went
to both St. Thomas and St. Croix. At St. Thomas, he dedicated a monument
which had to do with emancipation in the Virgin Islands. I think it was a
centennial. I think the slaves were freed there in 1847. The remarks on St. Croix were just polite
ones. The remarks in Puerto Rico were made at the airport when he was greeted by Muñoz-Marin . . .
HESS: February 22nd, 1948.
NASH: Well, now that I have the speech in front of me and just let me say, on February 21, 1948 the President arrived at the airport in San Juan. There was an airport reception and he spoke in English, but the prepared text had been translated into Spanish, and was available as an advance
in Spanish, which greatly cheered the Puerto Rican press. It was the first time this much consideration had been given to them, I guess, perhaps ever.
You see, territorial matters were more or less assigned to Dave Niles, and he just turned them over lock, stock, and barrel to me. So, matters connected with the Virgin Islands, with Puerto Rico just as with Guam, American Samoa, the Trust Territories of the Pacific, the Canal Zone, insofar as it involved the President, and Alaska and Hawaii which were then territories, and where he was seeking statehood, were roughly matters that insofar as anybody was doing anything about them, I could freewheel. Consequently, when it was learned that he was going down there -- you see, I had been there the year before -- not on an errand, but on vacation; and this is a story worth telling, too, I suppose this is as good a time as any, I guess.
The President of the Puerto Rican Senate at that time was Luis Muñoz-Marin. He had founded the Popular Democratic Party, Partido Democratico Popular, in 1940, because he had grown up in the independence movement and
decided that it would work. There was a liberal party but they didn't want him. So he founded the Popular Democratic Party and carries many of the old Independentitas as would go with him and those members of the liberal party that thought it was wrong and outrageous that the liberals wouldn't have him. And this was the beginning of the modern era in Puerto Rico. Now, he ran for the Senate, and then for the president of the Senate, which is an island-wide elected post, then and now. Since the Governor at that time was appointed by the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the president of the Senate and the territorial delegate to Congress were the only two island-wide electoral positions.
Now, Muñoz -- I didn't know him at the time -- had come to Washington in 1947 together with his wife, Ines. They were having difficulties in the Island. At that time, the position of commissioner of education was an appointment made by the President of the United States, with Senate approval, and this was provided for in the Puerto Rican relations act. It was, of course, outrageous that the administrator of a local education
system should be appointed by a distant president and legislature. The reason for it is quite clear. They feared that the educational system would not be a vehicle for making Americans out of cultural Spaniards -- it was a cultural matter -- and especially the language.
Now, in 1947 the position of commissioner of education was vacant. The principal candidate was named Mariano Villaronga. He had been the head of the teachers' association of Puerto Rico, and stood four-square for the education in the public schools of Puerto Rico, of the Puerto Rican children, in the language of the home -- namely Spanish. And all previous incumbents had had a condition set on them that they would have English be the language in the schools, or they wouldn't get confirmed by the United States Senate. The Senate was standing firm, at least the Senate committee was, and was refusing to approve Villaronga. It was a very touchy, sensitive political matter in Puerto Rico, and Munoz as president of the Senate, came up to see if he couldn't get it straightened out. I did not know him at this time, nor did I know anything about Puerto Rican problems, but I was planning a winter vacation; the first one I had ever been able to take.
My wife and I were planning on going West; actually had reservations at a resort in the Tucson area.
I got a call from the Interior Department where my friend "Tex" [Arthur E.] Goldschmidt was chief of the power division, and where Abe Fortas, now Justice of the Supreme Court was the Under Secretary: "We have here the wife of the president of the Puerto Rican Senate, Mrs. Muñoz-Marin, and she would like to see schools." And then they got very confidential over the telephone, "And, of course, she cannot go to the public schools of the District of Columbia without embarrassment, and where else can we send her? What about Georgetown Day School where you are the president and your wife is the assistant director?"
And I said, "But, of course."
So, I called the school, and my wife was delighted, and the Interior Department took Mrs. Muñoz-Marin out to see Georgetown Day School, which at that time was the only unsegregated school, public or private, in the entire metropolitan Washington area. So, my wife fell in love with her immediately, and she with the school. When my wife found out that her husband was here on presidential business, she said, "Why don't you go to see
my husband at the White House?"
So, Ines left the school and came to call on me the same afternoon. Later I had cocktails with the Muñoz-Marins, and this was my first meeting with Muñoz. We have been friends now for twenty years. I became interested in Puerto Rico -- she immediately persuaded me not to go to Tucson, but to come down to Puerto Rico for my vacation. I felt I must go on to the Virgin Islands, so we just stayed a weekend in Puerto Rico, and then on to the Virgins, and then back in` Puerto Rico. And those two weekends fascinated me so that I have maintained an interest in Puerto Rico, and connections with Puerto Rico, ever since; considerably more so really than the Virgins. And it was the beginning of a great friendship and of a very important political development for Puerto Rico and very important for Mr. Truman.
Now, all of this is by way of background. I had had this just brief contact with the Caribbean. No one knew this, and no one cared. When it was decided that Mr. Truman should go to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands -- when I found out about it, I said, "I'd like to have a look at the speeches, because how are we going to find whether
he says the things that it's important to say. You know, they have an economic development program down there in Puerto Rico that they are very proud of. And it's about time that they chose their own Governor or at least that a Puerto Rican was appointed as Governor." Well, this had happened, you see [Jesus T.] Pinero had been appointed. "And there are a lot of things that need to be said, and can be said, and some ways of doing things that ought to be translated into Spanish, and provided, and so on."
Well, Dave said -- I said all this to Niles.
And he said, "Well, that's absolutely right."
So, the next thing I got was a call from Charlie Ross, would I help out on these matters -- these were all minor speeches -- nobody in the major speechwriting division wanted to bother with it, but it wasn't minor of course to the people of Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. So, I did do the speech which is in here, and word for word . . .
HESS: Which one is that?
NASH: This is number thirty-five, "Address Upon Arrival at the Airport in San Juan, February 21, 1948," and you will see a number of references in here to very important
matters connected with self-determination in Puerto Rico.
"The Federal Government has supplied financial help. But your own efforts, especially during the last few years, have enlarged the economic opportunities of your people, have attracted new industries, and have improved your educational and health facilities." [Public Papers of the Presidents, 1948 volume, p. 154].
HESS: Did you write the other speeches that he gave while he was down there?
NASH: Yes. St. Thomas on a visit to the Virgin Islands.
Bill Hastie, with whom I had stayed the year before was, and is, a very remarkable fellow. He had drafted the Organic Act of Puerto Rico, as a member of the Solicitor's staff in the Interior Department when Ickes was Secretary. Then he was appointed Federal judge and finally Governor, so here is the only individual who has been on all three branches of Government in one of our major possessions.
There were certain things that were very important to say, and you will find in the collection of still photographs, that they started a boom for "Truman for President" while he was down there. They were all photographed wearing great big, you know -- "Reelect
Harry S. Truman," buttons. And this was at a time when it wasn't being said very much. This was a pretty important occasion politically, and it was a clear demonstration that the civil rights fights that the President had been engaged in up to 1948 were known to the Negro people, and were appreciated by them. Bill Hastie, after all, who was, and still is, one of their outstanding spokesman; and at this time, he wasn't a judge, he wasn't under the limitation, but he was later, so this was a highly political event.
Now, the other speech that was done, which I also did was -- apparently its regard was too minor to get into the book -- he went over to Christiansted and made a few remarks on St. Croix.
HESS: Well, the criterion for getting in the book was whether or not it was released by the White House press office.
NASH: This would indicate that they did not release the one for the Virgin Islands.
HESS: Just exactly what was Mr. Truman's main reason for going down there?
NASH: I don't know that I knew, or that I know now. Obviously, a President should go, during his term of
office, to places like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and to Alaska and Hawaii, when they were territories; and Mr. Roosevelt regularly did. Puerto Rico, in particular, is a very important defense installation, and there were some naval games as I recall, naval exercises, between Vieques and Roosevelt Roads, between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
HESS: I spent three months on Vieques.
NASH: You know about Vieques then.
I think that was the main reason now -- I'm groping now -- for going.
HESS: In 1948 was there a large Puerto Rican population in New York?
NASH: Oh, sure.
HESS: This might have been a way to swing Puerto Rican votes. Do you suppose?
NASH: If it was, it wasn't discussed. February of '48, I think, if you want to swing Puerto Rican votes in New York you go to New York.
There are very, very close ties between the Puerto Ricans in New York, Puerto Rico itself, Florida; these are the main centers. The practicing politicians are not short of ties or connections. I did not hear it
discussed in connection with this particular trip.
HESS: This is jumping ahead just a little bit, but this is something else I xeroxed out of your files that has to do with the Puerto Rican constitution, which I believe you worked on.
NASH: Oh, yes. Yes, indeed.
HESS: On one of those I saw that it was a memo to Donald Hansen. Just who was Donald Hansen?
NASH: Donald Hansen was a lawyer. He had been at the Treasury Department, I think, in the last year or maybe two years of the Truman administration. He was on the staff; he had an office on the second floor of what's now the Executive Office Building -- the Old State War -- Navy Building. And he was reporting, I think, to Murphy, who was then Special Counsel, I'm quite sure. Well, if you want to take up the question of the Puerto Rican constitution we can do it later, or do it now, it makes no difference to me.
HESS: Let's do that a little bit later.
NASH: This is something that tickled me. I have maintained a very close connection with Puerto Rico since 1947, so I always stayed then with Muñoz at La Fortaleza after he became Governor. And my daughter lived there in the
Fortaleza for six months. Very close friends.
HESS: Did you mention that you wanted to go through some of your folders before we go into details very much?
NASH: No, I think as we recall -- as you bring these things up, I will remember things that I have forgotten years ago and if there comes a question as to whether I did something or what a draft means we can look it up.
HESS: Fine. In that case let's postpone the subject of the Puerto Rican constitution because that is a 1952 item . . .
NASH: You see, our whole economic development program in the Bureau of Indian Affairs is modeled right straight after what we did in Puerto Rico, with appropriate alterations for the fact that you can't have a tax-island inside a state.
HESS: We'll make a separate subject out of that.
This actually gets us through the June trip, and the trip down to Puerto Rico. The February trip and the June trip. One other question on that June trip. Did Oscar Chapman act as an advance man for that particular trip? Do you remember anything about that?
NASH: I just don't recall. This was quite possible, of course, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were
administratively within his department . . .
HESS: Actually, what I was referring to was the June trip; the Western trip.
NASH: Oh, I see. I don't know.
HESS: Did you help to write the civil rights plank in the Democratic Party platform in 1948?
NASH: I certainly reviewed it. I'm trying to recall whether -- I'll just grope through my memory again. Every time the quadrennial convention comes up, there comes the question of how the White House will have some influence and effect, upon the platforms as drafted and then finally accepted by the delegates. Someone usually has had this role and I think logically, as the White House was organized under the Truman administration, would be Special Counsel function; Clifford or Murphy, as the case might be. And actually he would work very closely with the chairman of the platform committee, and the views of the White House would be sought on any major item, obviously civil rights is one of them.
Now, when the 1948 convention came up, I am quite sure that Mr. Niles was consulted. He and I discussed it. I was not consulted directly, as far as I can
recall, by anybody that was going up there. You must remember that in 1948, my father had only been dead two years, and my arrangement with Mr. Truman was that I could take my leave without pay during the busy time in the cranberry growing season.
So, in '47, I was gone almost six months and in '48 I was gone during the period around the conve