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James Woodrow "Bud" Porter Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
James Woodrow "Bud" Porter

Mr. Porter, commonly known as "Bud" Porter, was a former police officer before he joined the Kansas City Star staff as a reporter. He first met Harry S. Truman following Truman's return to Kansas City from the 1,944 Democratic Convention in Chicago, where he was nominated as Vice President. A friendship developed between the two men following the President’s retirement and return to his Independence home. Mr. Porter accompanied President Truman on many of his walking press conferences. Mr. Porter retired from the Star in 1973.

Independence, Missouri
December 29, 1975
by Jerald L. Hill and William D. Stilley

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


This interview was conducted by William D. Stilley and Jerald L. Hill as part of a intern and independent study project at William Jewell College in March 1976, under the direction of the Political Science Department of William Jewell College. 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.

This transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of William D. Stilley and Jerald L. Hill.

Opened July, 1985
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


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


Oral History Interview with
James Woodrow "Bud" Porter

Independence, Missouri
December 29, 1975
by Jerald L. Hill and William D. Stilley


HILL: Mr. Porter, when did you first meet President Truman?

PORTER: I met him in the fall when he was running for Vice President with Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Democratic Convention had nominated him and he came to Independence and had a final rally as part of the Democratic campaign at the Memorial Building in Independence, and that's the first time that I had met him. I guess this was in, what I don't know the date. It must have been


1943 or ‘44. It would have had to have been '44 wouldn't it, because he ran again in '48. Yes, the fall of '44 is the first time I met him.

HILL: Were you working for the Star at that time?

PORTER: yes.

HILL: When you met him this time was it in an interview situation or how did you meet him, just introduced to him, or . . .

PORTER: No, just introduced to him. It was a formal meeting. They had speakers and a rally where they had invited the public. Before they had the rally they had a parade and that sort of thing. He then spoke and several of his associates in Congress were here; Speaker [Sam] Rayburn was here and Champ Clark was here, and a lot of his old friends who had known him. The crowd--I guess that old building then would hold about 1,300 people, and even at that time I don't think Truman ran it over. There wasn't people


standing to the aisles or standing outside or anything like this, But you know the old adage, "The prophet is unknown in his own town." That was true with him even on through the years. But that's the first time I met him.

HILL: What was your first impression of Mr. Truman; what did you first think about him?

PORTER: Well, of course, I was a young man and I had just started working for the Star. I had been formerly a police officer, before I went to work for the Star, on the Independence Police Department, and I had been involved in local politics. I hadn't come in contact with Truman in this area, but when I met him I just thought, "Well, here's another politician trying to get elected." That was kind of my impression. He didn't impress me too much. I thought, "Well, he doesn't speak too eloquently. He meets people and he has a nice personality." That was a secret probably of his success, was his ability on a


one to one basis oar in small groups. But he was not an eloquent speaker and he didn't make an eloquent speech that night in his closing campaign.

It became necessary for me to get some background on him and I found out that he had many friends in Independence and they all considered him honest and hardworking, and you found out that he had a lot of longtime friends. If he made a friend, they were friendly to him. This was part of his character, too, I think, that he remembered names, he remembered people. Many times in later years he'd walk down the street and see somebody he knew in their car, "Hi, John," and this sort of thing. He never was one to pass up an old friend, or a crony or anything, or one of his World War I buddies or anything 1ike that.

HILL: What were your duties at the Kansas City Star at this time?

PORTER: Well, at that time when he was elected


Vice President we had a one man bureau out here. This was during World War II and I had had a serious operation, and because of that I was classified 4-A. The Star had prior to that needed someone in the bureau and I was young and had started a family at that time and I figured that I didn't want to be a policeman for the rest of my life, so I applied for the job; and they took me in. We didn't have a teletype or we didn't have two. way radios and that sort of thing, this was later we got this sort of equipment. Most of our duties was going around the town, and the county, and interviewing people and collecting news and telephoning it to the Star. I would tell them who I was, that I had something, and they'd say, "Okay, I'll give you so and so on rewrite." Well, you'd either dictate or give the bulk of the story to this person and he would take it and write it, and that's the way the paper operated at that time. Later we had a teletype where you'd go out and interview somebody and come


back and type it out and sit down at the teletype, and then you'd send it over there and they'd tear it off the teletype then, just like a wire copy, UP and AP and this sort of thing. But when we first started out it was all telephone.

STILLEY: What was your relationship with President Truman?

PORTER: Well, it was very limited. The only time I saw him for the first, what, eight years I knew him, he was on his visits home and at various functions that he would attend. He usually tried to spend a part of the summer in Independence when he was President, and they always sent thirty or forty guys from Washington to cover him and they stayed in Kansas City. I had some friends across the street from the Truman home and they had a nice screened-in porch and the Star ran a telephone line in there, and whenever Truman would come to town, we'd plug in the phone, and that was kind of an unofficial press headquarters. The guys hung around there, and if we weren't


using the phone, they'd use the phone. The Star tried to be very cooperative with visiting news-men. I didn't actually have any close contact with him. It was just like you would be in a group of reporters and we'd walk around with him or we'd go someplace with him, and we'd stop and we'd ask him questions, and he'd talk to us. There wasn't any personal one-to-one, we didn't sit down and I didn't go in his house and interview him. This never happened at his home, because of Mrs. Truman's attitude, which everybody admired, and after they understood it they admired her more, because she didn't want the privacy of her home disrupted with this sort of thing. When they went in the house their life was their own, and most of us just laid off and let them. When he got out on the street, or he would go to functions, we'd cover him in that.

After he came home from serving as President, it was a different sort of thing. You had more opportunity to be with him alone. The first four


or five years he was home, of course, he was very interested in--he had one great goal when he came home from the White House, to found the Library for his papers and that sort of thing. And you must understand, up to that time, this was an innovation in the thinking of the Presidents. Some of President Roosevelt's heirs had started a Roosevelt Library in an old house up in Hyde Park where he had lived, where the family had lived, and they had collected some of the items that he'd had, and some of the papers and that sort of thing. This was a deep concern of Truman's, that all of his stuff, and he felt that all the papers that he had acquired, and all the gifts that he had acquired, they were all given to the President of the United States and not to Harry S. Truman. He figured that if they were given to the President of the United States they belonged to the people of the United States, not to Harry S. Truman. So for two or three years this poor old man--he wasn't a poor old man then, he was quite active--traveled


all over the country making speeches anyplace they wanted him to make a speech, or anyplace where he could pick up $500 or $1,000 for a speech, why, he would go. And this guy collected, what, over two million dollars, built this building, and said, "Here's the building I want to give the Government to house all my papers and memorabilia." This was one of his prime objectives after the White House, this Library. Then it came to the point where they were going to locate it.

Am I talking too much? Do you want to ask something?

STILLEY: No. Did you have more contact with him then?

PORTER: Yes, you had more contact with him then. You got to know the guy. You knew this was a great desire of his, this was what he wanted to do. When they started the building, he’d go out there almost daily and talk to the workmen and check and see what was going on. He had a deep concern about everything that was going on. Of course,


the Government archivists, and all the people who had been keeping records in the Government, were interested in this project too, because this was the first time that they would have an opportunity to initiate programs and to develop programs that they had been thinking about, for the maintenance and care of this sort of material. And it was a great development, I think, coming in for the community, for the United States, and especially for Truman. He e