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William J. Randall Oral History Interview, December 8, 1989

Oral History Interview with
William J. Randall

Member, U.S. House of Representatives, Fourth District of Missouri, 1959-77

Independence, Missouri
December 8, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson

See Also Additional William J. Randall Oral History Number 1 by Niel M. Johnson dated November 14, 1989 .

See Also Additional William J. Randall Oral History conducted by the William Jewell College Oral History Project dated March 15, 1976 .

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


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.

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 2011
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


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Oral History Interview with
William J. Randall


Independence, Missouri
December 8, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson


JOHNSON: We'll pick up where we left off last time, let's say, in January 1953, when Truman came back from the White House, and from then until 1959, when you took office replacing George Christopher who died in office.

RANDALL: A very interesting sequence there.

JOHNSON: Did it take a special election to do that?

RANDALL: You know, that's something that makes you so very proud, to be a member of the United States House of Representatives. You asked me if there was a special election. There is no other way you enter into those doors. We've seen the spectacle in this country--I'm making motions like Mr. Truman with both hands parallel, which I try to avoid--we've seen here in


recent years a President of the United States un-elected as President. We know many times United States Senators are un-elected or appointed. Many, many governors are unappointed. There's only one office in America--oh I suppose there's constables or dog catcher or school board members--but only one major office in America that you never enter those doors unless you are elected by the people. There must be a special election. It isn't the question, "Was there one;" there must be one.

JOHNSON: When was that election?

RANDALL: The election was March 3, 1959.

JOHNSON: So he just had begun to serve his term.

RANDALL: Well, I was going to tell you. I don't know whether this is as important as some other things we were going to try to get to. Mr. Christopher suffered from diabetes, very serious diabetes. First he had a toe removed and then a foot removed and then an ankle removed, and up to his knee. Finally, I guess the dear soul had both of his lower extremities virtually all removed. He was in a wheel chair, being wheeled around. He was in bad, bad, bad condition. He was sworn in on the third day of January, and passed away on the tenth day of January. Seven days later.


JOHNSON: But he was reelected with those infirmities.

RANDALL: Yes, he was reelected with all those disabilities. Well, he was wheeled around. There again is another episode which has always saddened me. Without mentioning any names, he had two assistants out here in the area, out in the district. One was a very nice fellow, a long-time personal friend, down in Bates County where he lived. He lived in western Bates County. But the other one was what I have always regarded as sort of an opportunist, a ne'er-do-well, who was his assistant here in this county. He let that dear old soul sit in the hot sun in a car, unattended during the summer months of 1958. The young man who was working for him would leave him for as long as an hour and the poor guy--I'm referring to Mr. Christopher--would come down and say, "Would somebody give me a drink of water?" That said something to me about Mr. Christopher. I would have fired that b-a-s-t-a and so forth on the spot.

JOHNSON: So between 1953 and March of '59 you were serving here as Eastern Judge of the County.


JOHNSON: Were you down at the depot when Truman came in that day?


RANDALL: Oh, I was there that night. That was pretty much under the aegis, or I should say under the arrangement, of the then-sitting Robert Price Weatherford, Jr. who was mayor. Incidentally, well, we won't go afield on that, but he was one of those who, shall we say, always paid homage to Mr. Truman, but I always felt that Mr. Truman never returned it. He was there that night anyhow. He was running the show.

JOHNSON: Robert Weatherford, yes. He was a popular Mayor, is that true?

RANDALL: Well, yes. Don't misunderstand me. I'll take a little credit for his even being Mayor. The leadership met the night of Roger T. Sermon's death, about an hour afterward. When I say leadership, I was Eastern Judge, and in those days I had more jobs, I controlled more jobs, than anyone in the city. I had virtually 900 jobs under my control, and anyone close to me only had 40 or 50. Maybe the little city jobs in those days were 100-150. So four of us, or five of us, were called in. There were two City Councilmen, a City Counselor, and John Theiss. The two city councilmen were Rennick Jones and Jim Noel, and there was Alvin Hatten who was county collector, and myself. Maybe Marcus Curtley was there; he was Assistant County Counselor. John Theiss was City Counselor; and then


myself. Two immediately began making a selection for successor.

I'll have to refresh my memory. There was a special election, but the council had to agree on an interim Mayor pro-tem. This is clear off the subject of Mr. Truman--but that night I was the first one to propose Robert P. Weatherford, Jr. because he was at that time president of the Chamber of Commerce. We had to have someone who would have a totally clean, untarnished image, if you please, and Weatherford fitted that mold. I proposed him. There were three or four other proposals; some members of the council wanted to succeed the Mayor, but my proposal finally prevailed. I was the first one to propose Weatherford. So therefore, that's the answer to Mr. Weatherford.

I will have to suggest that after he was in office there were some shortcomings that later, should I say, surfaced, but I first proposed him. Now that's a little afield; let's go ahead.

JOHNSON: When was your first meeting with the former President after he came back?

RANDALL: There weren't too many meetings. In other words, there was really no occasion or no call for a meeting. I was doing my job; he was here. I don't think I have


ever taken one of the morning walks with him.

JOHNSON: Did he take an interest in local politics after he came back?

RANDALL: No, not very much. Not very much. Really not. Well, of course, I guess you could say he took more of an interest while he was President, before he retired, than after he retired. After he retired, I can't recall any.

JOHNSON: Did he ever come up to the office there at the Court House to visit?

RANDALL: Oh, very rarely. Very rarely. I can't recall. He would walk through the Court House as a sort of a short cut sometimes from the east door to the west door, and maybe say hello to a few people on the way. But he didn't visit the Court House very much.

JOHNSON: He never talked to you about running for office, running for Congress, anything like that?

RANDALL: Not in one single instance.

JOHNSON: What was it that caused you then to decide to run for that position?

RANDALL: I don't know that there ever was a decision. I have said many times to those who have an ambition to


be a member of Congress that today you can have that ambition but it's very, very difficult to ever see it realized. We're to a point in this country now where it takes a challenger at least a quarter of a million dollars, and even back in those days it probably would have taken seventy-five to a hundred thousand. A person can have an ambition, but to see it realized; I suppose a person can nurture that ambition all the time, and say, "Oh, my goodness, I just want to hold national office, and that's the one I want to hold." I wasn't running for Congress. I think I told you that before. I wasn't running for Congress. My dear wife, I mentioned earlier; she said, "Bill," bless her heart, she said, "I want you to retire from the County Court. One of these days you're going to be so old they're going to have to lift you on the bench and lift you off." She said, "You can stay there until you die, I know that. I know they'll never defeat you, but," she said, "why don't you just voluntarily retire?" Which I didn't do. I had been elected to a seventh term when Mr. Christopher died.

JOHNSON: Well, now, who was it that influenced you to run for Congress?

RANDALL: Well, that is quite a story, and I don't know that that's as important as some other things we ought to


get to, but we'll go into that.

At 10 o'clock that night, the phone started ringing at our little home on South Main Street. People were calling from way down in the deep country, friends that I had known over the years, mostly in veterans organizations. I was very active in the VFW, past commander of the local post, a state judge advocate general; I had a lot of friends throughout the area. Those were mostly from veterans organizations. They said, "Bill, get in there right now; don't let anybody get ahead of you." I said, "Well, I have a job." I'll never forget the remark that one of them made; "You just get something going there in the suburban area, we'll take care of the sticks." Well, I didn't ever a