Oral History Interview with
Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1934-41; Chief Investigator for the Truman Committee (U.S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program), 1941-45; Chief Investigator for the Warren Commission on Organized Crime (State of California), 1948-50; and Assistant Counsel and Chief Investigator for the Kefauver Committee (U.S. Senate Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce), 1950-51.
Harold G. Robinson
March 6, 1971
by J. R. Fuchs
See also Harold G. Robinson Papers finding
[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. ) 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Harold G. Robinson
March 6, 1971
by J. R. Fuchs
FUCHS: What was your job?
ROBINSON: I majored in accounting, and at the time that I was in the FBI they used me on quite a number of, shall we call them "technical surveillances," that was the polite term.. You can figure out what they are.
My 220 pounds don't fit very good around the crossarm on a telegraph pole up there, particularly when it's icy; and an occasion came up where they called me and said the telephone man had been around, he saw the duplicate wire and they were wondering whether he suspected anything. So, I told them to go back up where I had put the jumper on and look around the bottom of the telegraph pole, and if there were footprints, there had been somebody up the pole, and if someone had been up there he'd have found it. So, they called me back and said, "Yes, it was pretty well tromped down and get over and get it out." Well, that pole had about an inch and a half of ice and sleet on it. It wasn't too bad going up, but after you get up
there you start figuring, "How the hell am I going to get down? At my discretion."
So, I wrote out my resignation. I felt that all of this work was confidential, nobody even mentioned it in any official reports of any kind. And I originally entered the Bureau as an accountant and when you put me back on accounting work where a report goes across the supervisor's desk now and then, it can probably take care of that salary deficiency that I was suffering. I was the man that nobody knew. So, they didn't quite see it that way, so I quit.
FUCHS: What year was that?
FUCHS: What year did you start with the FBI?
ROBINSON: ‘34. I ran the radio station to Hamburg, Germany. We fixed up the radio station that operated to Hamburg for a year and a half, that later became the theme of Confessions of a Nazi Spy -- no, The House on 92nd Street, that's the movie. I got fifty dollars a month from the Gestapo for serving as a sort of a double agent.
So, in any event, naval intelligence wanted me to come in and I went down and talked to them; and there was a question about my accumulated annual leave. The FBI was right at the peak of operation and they wouldn't talk about how much overtime you put in, never mind the
annual leave. So, it piled up. And the Navy said, "Well, of course, if you come in on a commissioned basis, it will be transferred; a civilian appointment is considered rather temporary in the Navy and your accrued annual leave won't transfer. I said, "It's nice knowing you fellows."
So, I went back to Justice at Ninth and Constitution and walked in to see Assistant Attorney General Tom Dodd, who is now United States Senator. I had worked on the Atlantic City National Bank cases with him years back when he was Special Assistant. Just as I went into Justice, Hugh Fulton came down in an elevator and he said, "Robby, you're just the guy I'm looking for. I hear you quit the Bureau."
And I said, "Yes."
"Well, I just got a call from Bob Jackson upstairs, the Attorney General, and I've got to go over to Capitol Hill and see some junior Senator from Missouri, I think his name is Truman or some such name as that. And where are you going to be tonight?"
And I said, "I'll be at the Raleigh Hotel."
FUCHS: How did he know you?
ROBINSON: Oh, hell yes. Fulton was a -- well, we go back
to the Associated Gas and Electric Company. Three hundred and eighty-two subsidiary companies. I analyzed one ledger account for one year and there were fourteen other agents besides me. Three hundred and eighty-two companies. You start with a transaction in the Rochester Electric and end up out in the Manila Electric, or all over. The company was put together by this accounting genius Howard Colwell Hopson. After working on it over a long period of time in the old Park Row Building across from the Woolworth Building there on lower Broadway, we submitted a report. Jake Rosenbloom who later went over with Dewey, said, "This is too big for our judicial process. In other words, I am supposed to unravel all of these corporate transactions to the point where I understand them, and then present it in a manner so that the twelve good men on that jury -- I'm supposed to communicate that to them, and it can't be done. This case is just too big for our judicial process."
He had a point. I'd hate like hell to have to be a prosecutor and try to orient the jury on what was involved in that case. It was too complicated. So, they appointed a fellow from Cravath, deGersdorf, Swaine and Wood, that big law firm in New York, named Fulton; and he came in and he called a staff meeting
of all the agents and said, "This is quite a report you've got here."
"And I'll tell you what we're going to do about it. We're just going to forget it."
And with that he threw the report over his shoulder into the waste basket. Well, there goes our labor of love for about twelve months and we were very much incensed.
He said, "Just don't get excited, here's what I'll do. I'll make you a promise. You go out and get me the answer to just one simple question. How much did he get? If you will do that then I will assure you that someone's going to end up in jail."
Well, this is Fulton's strong point. I think he's "the greatest" on cross-examination of anybody I ever knew. He'll lead you out to the end of a limb and then cut the limb off. Other Senate committees borrowed Fulton to cross-examine fellows like General [Brehon B.] Somervell. You've got to be sharp on your feet in order to be able to tackle that martinet general.
We went out and got the answer; Howard Colwell Hopson ended up in jail. We worked together on the William Fox case and the Fox Theatres case and the
Judge Davis Case; corruption in office, and the Martin T. Manten case in the First District of New York, he was convicted of misconduct in office. So, there were a lot of cases that I had worked with Hugh.
FUCHS: You as an FBI agent?
ROBINSON: I as an FBI and he as Assistant Attorney General. or a Special Prosecutor. So, he called me at the Raleigh Hotel that night, and he said, "Well, Robby, it looks promising, but there are a couple more things I've got to run out. You're going to be in town tomorrow?"
I says, "Yeah."
"Well," he says, "I'll tell you, this proposed committee is going to investigate the waste in defense spending in the hopes that by doing it concurrently with the program you can eliminate some of the waste. During the previous World War it had the Graham Committee who developed reams and reams of testimony on how not to run a war, and that's all it accomplished. But on the theory that you don't park your car by a fire hydrant when you see the cop on the corner, the fact that the committee's in being," he said, "it has its possibilities and it's not going to get into any military strategy, which was a mistake they made during the Civil War. But," he said, "Bob Patterson was a former Federal Judge in the Southern
District. We've had cases before him, he's now Undersecretary of War. Jim Forrestal of Dillon Reed, used to be with the Cravath firm, he's now Undersecretary of the Navy. I think if we get to an understanding with those two people, and convince them that this is not a witch hunt, that we want to do an objective, constructive job here, we can make it. I'm going to see them tomorrow." So, that's how this thing got started and our first effort was in camp construction. We were building camps at that time for soldiers. Manpower was short. I told General Somervell at one time (he was Constructing Quartermaster General at that time), I told him the story about the mental institution. They had a need for a storage building and they couldn't get it in their state budget, so the superintendent went through the inmates and he screened out probably ten of them that were a little more rational than the others, and then he did another screening and he picked the one outstanding out of the ten as sort of a foreman. And they started building the building and he stopped out there to see how they were going along. And the fellow who was nailing on siding, he'd dip in his apron and pull out a nail and throw it over his shoulder.
After about six or seven nails went over his shoulder, he'd get one and he'd drive it in. And the foreman went over to him and he said, "What's the idea throwing all those nails away?"
He says, "Some stupid guy put the head on the wrong end."
The foreman says, "You dumb bastard, those are for the other side of the building."
So, Somervell says, "That is what I've been building these camps with. That's what I've got." He says, "You've taken all this manpower in the country, and anybody can go down to Sears Roebuck and buy a saw and a square, not that they know how to use them, but they know how to buy them, and then he'd go over and apply for union membership and you're building camps. That's what I've been building camps with."
So, from there we went to ordnance plants and they sent me down to Memphis, Milan, Tennessee, just outside of Jackson, and about the same time I arrived in town, Investigator McTigue, I think his name was as I recall it, from the House Military Affairs Committee, arrived in town. And I called back to Fulton and I says, "Well, I don't know whether this is going to be a rat race, but this is Cliff Davis' home territory and he doesn't want any big scandal in his
FUCHS: He was who, Cliff Davis?
ROBINSON: He was a Congressman from Memphis.
Now, the Commercial Appeal was pushing. So, I said, "The way I got it sized up, I'll just mark time until they have their big clambake, Rotary luncheon and motorcycle escorts, and leave town, and I'm bound to have anything that they have and the Commercial Appeal is only too happy to give it to me because they know I'll do something with it; and if we come up with more than they came up with, then their faces will be red."
He said, "That's good strategy."
So, I sat back and the Commercial Appeal made the Pulitzer Prize for that expose.
FUCHS: The year, do you recall the year that it was?
ROBINSON: No, but I have a clip here about it. I was staying at the Peabody Hotel and had a call Sunday morning -- these are the little colorations I think that you want as to the man. Got a call about seven thirty in the morning.
I said, "Yes, sir."
"This is the chairman."
I said, "Oh, Senator, where are you?"
He says, "Downstairs in the lobby. Now, I thought it was a nice day, how far is this ordnance plant from Memphis?"
"Oh," I said, "about sixty miles up country."
"Be just a nice drive. We're going to have hearings on it tomorrow and I want to know what it looks like in the flesh."
So, I came down and we had breakfast, and started up country. As we were going along, we got talking about one thing or another, and I said something about how I liked to get out in the backyard and dig and do a little gardening here and there and he says, "You and I both Robby. You know, Margaret's got one more year at the Denver School of Music [or the Colorado School of Music, wherever she was going]. I'll get that out of the way, and just give me one pair of Headlight overalls and I'll be happy back on the farm."
He didn't want that White House. He wanted to finish his term as a Senator and go back home. So, we got out there and drove all over the project and came back.
I like to make sure that my witnesses are going to be available when the hearing starts. It's embarrassing as hell when you try to call a witness and he isn't there, he's "chickened out" or something
Well, these are all Army employees. You recently heard what happened to Fitzgerald, the cost analyst on the Navy overrun on the F-105. He isn't there anymore. The services say that they don't do any recrimination, but you're talking to a guy that saw it in its early years. They most certainly do. So, like a condemned man, you give him his last big meal. I said to these boys, "When you get to Memphis call me and I'll check you in and make sure you're going to be on deck the following morning." So, they'd call me and of course, we had to have a snort here and there, or as the Senator used to say, "A little bourbon and branch water."
And they come up to my room. Brewster and Truman went out to some affair, I believe it was. So they come back in about 9:30, 10 o'clock, and by that time the witnesses going to the execution the following morning were a little bit boisterous in my room. As Senator Truman and Brewster came down the hall Brewster is a teetotaler, he doesn't even drink coffee -- and they hear the laughter and a little noise in my room and, "Isn't that Robby's room?
Truman says, "No, I think he's two doors down the hall."
He knew it was my room. How can you hate a
guy like that?
When we started off on the Committee, there was an article that appeared that was put together by the Committee staff on the work of the Committee, and it appeared in the American Magazine. After it was published -- of course, it appeared over Truman's byline -- the American Magazine sent a check down, and as I recall it was thirty-five hundred bucks to pay for that article. Truman sent it back and said, "I didn't write it, it was written by the staff."
The American sent the check back to Truman, and said, "We published it, the people liked it, and we want to pay for it." Just as simple as that.
So, he came to me and said, "Robby, you know you've run undercover funds before, and there are a lot of times that something will come up that you want to buy information or something and you can't get it through the disbursing office, with all their regulations, so take this check and open a special account downtown, and when something like that comes up that the disbursing office bows their neck on, you've got the money to pay for it."
So, this is what I did. And then later in the war Senator Brewster and Senator Mead went to North Africa. It was during the North African campaign, they met a lot of troops and I think they wrote a
book, collaborated on it, Tell the Folks Back Home by James Mead and Owen Brewster. So, when they returned Truman put on a welcome home dinner for them at the capitol dining room. That's what happened with the check from the American Magazine; it paid for that, even though Brewster later on wasn't particularly nice to Senator Truman, particularly on the Hughes hearings and some of the other later developments.
With the change of administration it became the Brewster Committee. He ran it a lot different from what Senator Truman did. He just didn't have that sense of fair play that Senator Truman always seemed to have.
Another little incident. Bennett Clark was the senior Senator from Missouri and he had been more or less following Senator Wheeler and Editor McCormick's isolationist policy. Here was the junior Senator, coming up fast, capturing the public fancy with a National Defense Committee. Well, apparently Missouri politics got all split up, the Milligans and the Starks, and the politics in Missouri was all chopped up. They were going to have a big get-together feast and do a lot of fence mending. They asked Truman to appear. Well, Truman -- he didn't get up late any morning.
He could picture it -- you introduce the senior Senator and "blah." And then you introduce the junior Senator -- and "wow!" and he wouldn't do that to Bennett Clark, he said, "I'll appear on one stipulation, that when the Senators are introduced, they are introduced together." That's a big man.
The Committee went on a series of hearings and Fulton was always the "patsie." He always paid the hotel bills and you know, made up the travel vouchers, and he'd end up five, six, seven hundred dollars out of pocket. So he said, "Robby, you're basically an accountant, you're going to be the Committee treasurer this trip."
So, these Senators -- I don't say this critically, I say it just because it's a fact. You always get a sitting room and a bedroom for the chairman, and the other Senators have bedrooms down the hall. But when it comes to calling room service, they always come into the chairman's sitting room and they call room service from there, or that long distance phone call home, they call on the chairman's phone. So, he has to be a little bit alert to catch them doing that; and we had with us on that trip, Sam Jackson from Indiana, remember he was a keynoter at the convention one time. So I got back to Washington. And there is
another cute trick that happens. Instead of letting someone list the prorata expenses of all participants and then claim the per diem they are entitled to as an offset, they make up their own expenses accounts as soon as they get back to Washington, it goes to the disbursing and they collect their per diem, before you can claim it. Now, I don't know whether it's deliberate or not, but it's a fact, this happened. So, I made up a statement of account and I allocated these expenses out to each one, how much per diem they had coming, and went over to the disbursing office and made sure that it was earmarked. Then I went up to Senator Truman's, Senator Kilgore's, got their check for their deficiency, and when I got up to Truman, he said, "Have you got a bill there for Sam Jackson?"
I said, "Yeah." It was, I don't know, it amounted to two, three, four hundred dollars.
He said, "Well, he was on the trip as my guest." And he drew his personal check for Sam Jackson's deficiency.
Now, a little interesting sidelight. I mentioned this to Truman in one of my letters to him which I have looked for and can't find. Phil Johnson, head of Boeing, was going to fly us to San Francisco in the new Boeing plane that they had just broken out, but
because Sam Jackson wasn't a member of the Committee, he couldn't be a passenger. The result was that none of us went rather than leave Sam Jackson to make the balance of the trip by train. So, there's nothing any more monotonous than that Southern Pacific over the Cascade Summit. And all you have to do is sit there and play poker and here were the professionals. There are no better poker players than Harry Truman and Mon Wallgren and Sam Jackson. So, I was in over my head, but it was for little -- nickels and pennies; we came along to a canteen. I think the train makes about 12 miles an hour and at a canteen there where the good ladies of the different towns would be down at the station and make up sandwiches and fruit for the troops going through, you know. So I stopped off there to get a breath of fresh air, I had been playing poker all day long; and I saw these apples, delicious, a bag full of them, about a dozen, just something to chew on, to nibble on while you were playing. Well, I came in and I think Truman sat there, Wallgren across, this bag of apples was between us. 'And I don't know, Truman got three kings and so he got preoccupied with his hand, and without looking he reached down and got an apple and he took a good healthy bite of it and all of a sudden he exploded.
He said, "Who in hell is feeding me Stark apples?" I wouldn't know a Stark apple if it were to walk up and bite me, but he did. Apparently there had been political feuding between the Starks, Governor Stark of Missouri, isn't it?
ROBINSON: And he belongs to a different political faction than Truman, and he's the one that developed this Stark apple and Truman thought he was being put on. Well, those are the little things that, oh, I don't know, they just make you like the man. I think he's great.
FUCHS: You compared Brewster with Mr. Truman as far as the chairman of the Committee. What about Mead, how did he handle the Committee compared with Mr. Truman?
ROBINSON: About the same, it just continued on.
FUCHS: Do you think he was a better chairman than Brewster?
ROBINSON: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Mead is more of a human being. I've seen Mead come into town with the Committee and -- he's got the damndest address book -- made it a point to record all the addresses in his constituency. He'd spend that first night when he arrived in town, writing post cards. "Dear Jim," and have some little friendly message, signed "James Mead." Well, the guys who got them probably showed them all over
town. "Look, I got a post card from the Senator, from Chillicothe." So, this was Jim's political gimmick, but he did have a common touch with the people. I think more so than any other Senator I've seen. He'd send those post cards. Well, Jim was, oh, he was just a different kind of person than Brewster.
FUCHS: Do you recall your first meeting with Senator Truman?
ROBINSON: My first meeting? Not particularly.
Well, there's a little story that, I say this not to be vicious, but there's a fellow in Washington. I don't know whether you ever met him or not, Charles Patrick Clark. He affects a cape, now. Well, Charlie knew his way around Washington and he'd been on committees and Hugh Fulton had -- I forget what case it was, it was still pending in New York, but he had to finish up before he could just tear himself away to come to Washington. And on one of these earlier original meetings he just told Charlie, "Well, you know your way around here. We need a room for the Committee staff and have to order the stationery, and the furnishings."
And Charlie said, "Don't you think I had ought to do this?"
"Yeah, if that's what you think, you do it. Get all of these preliminaries out of the way, so that we can get into business without having to bother with a lot of details."
So, Charlie ordered the stationery and it came out, "Hugh Fulton Counsel, Charles Patrick Clark, Associate Chief Counsel," not Assistant Chief Counsel, Associate Chief Counsel. Did you ever see those old letterheads?
FUCHS: No, I haven't.
ROBINSON: So, nothing was done about it. Finally along about the last, the Committee was about to break up, and Truman said something about Charlie Clark, or I guess Fulton said it.
FUCHS: Clark was gone by this time?
ROBINSON: Yes. And Truman said, "What the hell did you make him Associate Counsel for?"
He said, "Me? Well, I thought you did it and I didn't want to question it."
Charlie did it on his own. He was never given that position. But this was part of getting ready for the Committee's work. He ordered the stationery and he put himself on there as Associate Chief Counsel, not Assistant Chief Counsel. Now, that wasn't discovered until -- I mean Fulton thought Truman did it,
and didn't dare question it, and Truman thought Fulton did it without knowing any reason why, and Charlie was Associate Chief Counsel all the while the Committee existed.
FUCHS: Fulton hadn't mentioned it when he first saw the letterhead, to you or anyone else?
ROBINSON: No, because he figured that this was something that Truman worked out.
FUCHS: That sounds like what I've heard. Was Clark already aboard when you joined the staff?
FUCHS: Who else was?
FUCHS: Did you know him as the Chief Investigator then?
ROBINSON: I was the Chief Investigator, despite newspaper publicity.
FUCHS: Right from the beginning?
ROBINSON: Look at the Truman Committee hearings.
FUCHS: How long had Connelly been with the staff before you came on?
ROBINSON: Oh, a week or two.
FUCHS: He couldn't have carried the title long.
FUCHS: Did he think of himself…
ROBINSON: I don't think that he ever had it. I don't
think he ever had it.
FUCHS: What were your impressions of Connelly and what was his title, in your mind at least?
ROBINSON: Do you want to stop that thing and I'll tell you.
FUCHS: Well, you can still put it in and you can take it out later if you don't like it. You might want to change it and leave it in if it's historical.
We erase the tapes, incidentally, it's just the draft and the final transcript as you want it, that is all that is saved and you can close any portion, or the entire transcript, just so it's open some day you know.
ROBINSON: Let me tell you the story and then you can decide whether it's all right to put it on there or not.
FUCHS: Well, I'd rather just go ahead and then we can cut it out of the draft if you don't like it. We'll let you decide. I'm sure I think it's all right.
ROBINSON: Senator Chandler, then junior Senator from Kentucky, was given a swimming pool, brass plumbing, fittings, racing strips down the bottom of the pool, and stuff that you and I couldn't get during that point in time, with the priorities. And this was built by some defense contractor that he had helped get defense contracts, just to show their appreciation.
So, it embarrassed Alben Barkley and he asked for an investigation. So, Fulton called me up and said, "I want you to go to Louisville and investigate Happy Chandler's swimming pool?"
Well, I did a little mental gymnastics. Senators don't request investigations of other Senators. Democrats don't investigate other Democrats. The senior Senator from a state doesn't investigate the junior Senator from the same state. I looked at Fulton and I said, "I don't know what's going on here, Hugh, but there is only one way that I cut this, and you've known me for a good many years. If I come back from Louisville, you're going to have a report on your desk that tells you all about Happy Chandler's swimming pool. I just want to make sure you want it. That's the only rule I know."
He called me the following day and said, "We're sending Matt Connelly."
Now, am I maligning somebody?
FUCHS: It's a fact, that's what happened. This wasn't written down like that and no one will know it for history unless you say it, but it's interesting. Do you have any more?
ROBINSON: I'll characterize it further. I'll say that Matt not only got the whitewash brush out, he got a spray
gun out. He had that thing just all glossed over to a fare-thee-well. He's a more politically astute type of investigator than I am. I don't know it any other way.
FUCHS: He was a "political animal," as they say?
ROBINSON: As a resident of the District I didn't have a voting franchise, and as a former member of the FBI, I didn't dare get political. And when I went with Pat Brown as his Deputy Director, I said, "Pat, you're looking at a political neuter."
He says, "That's what the job needs. I don't doubt that someday you'll tromp on somebody that means something to me politically, but when that day comes, I'll come into your office with my hat in my hand, and until that time, the Penal Code are the House Rules which will apply."
I said, "With that understanding, I'll take the job."
That's the only way I play it.
FUCHS: Well, first, do you have any other specific comments about Connelly's work with the Committee and also what do you think his principal service to the Committee was?
ROBINSON: Well, he and Bill [William, Jr.] Boyle belonged more properly up in the Senator's office, not on the
Committee. Anything that came through there that had political connotations, this should have been answered from the Senator's office; but when it was routed down to the Committee, then the Committee handled it on its merits, so Matt was more that type of a representative. And when Harry Vaughan went away to the South Pacific, Matt was pulled up there and Bill Boyle was pulled up there. I had to smile when Bill Boyle was sent down the first time for me to put him to work -- did you ever meet Bill? I think he's dead now, too.
FUCHS: He was dead before I got this job.
ROBINSON: We went out to lunch together and went over to Carrol Arms, and all I knew was that this guy was sent down to put to work on the staff, and he was from Kansas City. So, to find some basis of conversation I said, "Well, have you ever run into a guy there, a former FBI agent that I think he ultimately became the Chief of Police, Lear B. Reed?"
And Bill looked at me and he said, "I ought to know that sonofabitch, he took my job."
How to win friends and influence people. Got off to the wrong start right away with Bill Boyle.
FUCHS: How did Connelly come to be hired by Mr. Truman, do you know?
ROBINSON: I think it was pretty much a Clark influence. I think Matt and Charlie had worked on the Privileges and Elections Committee on some of these demands for recounts and election allegations. I think both Matt and Charlie were on that.
FUCHS: Did Clark just apply for a job or how did he come to Mr. Truman's attention?
ROBINSON: That I don't know. That I don't know.
FUCHS: Aside from making himself Associate Counsel, what other reflections do you have about C. P. Clark?
ROBINSON: Well, he continued to be, let's say the Administrative Officer, and -- anyway, the Senator's wives met, I think every Tuesday noon, for lunch in one of the rooms down in the Old Senate Office Building basement. They rolled bandages and one thing and another, and they did Red Cross work. That's a coffee klatsch let’s face it. So, as Charlie Clark walked down the corridor, he walked in on these ladies, and said, "What's going on here?"
They said, "Well, we're rolling bandages."
And, "Huh. How long is it going to take you to get this stuff cleared out of here? We're going to
have to have some more space for the Committee."
"Well, may I ask who you are?"
"Oh, I'm Charles Patrick Clark. I'm Associate Counsel. Who are you?"
"I'm Mrs. Thomas, the wife of Senator [Elbert Duncan] Thomas from Utah."
"Oh, great guy, great guy. Student of Chinese. He studied Chinese."
She says, "It was Japanese, Mr. Clark."
Charlie gracefully backed himself out of the room, but this was him, brash. Came down one day, Tom [Thomas F] Flynn, nice investigator, was just leaving, and one of the stenographers called and said, "Mr. Flynn, on this word here…" And Tom stopped over to correct some word on the transcript and Charlie came along and he said, "Flynn, take your hat off when you're in the office. What do you think this is a pool hall? We've got to have an entente cordiale around here."
Well, that was a good word. "Entente cordiale" went through the Committee, and a couple of days later Charlie's room was 318, he was up on a balcony, that overlooked Constitution Avenue -- and here's Evie Roberts, the wife of Chip Roberts, the former
Democratic National committeeman, Chip Roberts from Georgia. And Evie, she was quite a Washington character. She got hold of a jeep somehow. Where the hell she came by a jeep I don't know, but here she was on Constitution Avenue down from Charlie's room. "Beep, beep, beep" she was blowing the horn of that jeep, and Charlie went out on the balcony and waved at her, and I stuck my head in the door and I said, "Hey Charlie, is that what you call "entente cordiale?"
FUCHS: Do you have any more on Charles Patrick, these are good.
FUCHS: Do you have any more on Charles Patrick, I think these are good.
ROBINSON: Well, the disbursing office would make temporary advances which were kept in a little working checking account, and you made advances for your investigators so that you wouldn't have to keep running back to the disbursing office and go through a lot of red tape to get a ten dollar advance. So, then ultimately when the expense accounts came in you'd voucher them through and the disbursing office would extinguish that much of the advances. And here we were ready to turn over the Committee to Senator Mead, and the disbursing office said we owed $8500 bucks, because of a shortage
somewhere. Charlie had always run those books, and he had some of the gals with, oh, let's say pulchritude, with no brains, in his office. This was the attribute that Charlie would look for, and boy they wouldn't know a set of books or a Voucher if it was to bite them. So, we didn't want to let Mead know that there was a shortage because he'd demand an audit, properly so; and we didn't want Truman, then in the White House to be embarrassed, he was then in the Vice President's spot. So what to do.
Well, I worked sixteen hours a day running back through every expenditure that probably had been advanced as a fifty dollar advance, and then when you submitted your accounting back to the disbursing office, somebody only added it up to forty, which would leave you ten dollars off balance with the disbursing office on that one voucher. So you had to go through all the vouchers that were handled during the Committee. I finally got the whole thing reconciled so that there was no shortage. It was just sloppy, interrelation bookkeeping; but can you imagine what the newspapers would do with it? The Truman Committee $8500 short? I don't think the chairman even realized it, but there's one gal back there
that probably can tell you about it and that was Peggy Bucholz. Have you talked to her?
ROBINSON: She's still around.
FUCHS: I talked to Walter Hehmeyer in Memphis and then, of course, learned his wife was...
ROBINSON: Shirley Key.
FUCHS: Shirley Key, and so I had a short interview with her and she was pretty amusing and interesting, very nice girl.
ROBINSON: Well, I'll tell you about Shirley Key. She learned stenography on the Committee, and I was dictating a memo one time on Camp Roberts down at San Luis Obispo, and it was originally based on sloppy planning. There wasn't sufficient water supply there to sustain a camp, so that in order to bring it about you had to build a temporary dam on Charros Creek and divert the water through the Salinas River until you get a permanent dam built on the Salinas River to build up a reservoir to create adequate water supply. Well, I dictated that to Shirley, and we were talking about the temporary dam and the permanent dam and I don't know what now, three or four pages, came back to me and every time I used the word dam, she spelled it d-a-m-n.
ROBINSON: Temporary damn.
FUCHS: What did you say to her?
FUCHS: What did you say to her?
ROBINSON: Oh, I don't know, I just had a lot of fun with Shirley. She'd come up, sit at the desk, and be more or less shaking in her boots, but -- I went on their honeymoon you know. She'll tell you that.
FUCHS: You went on their honeymoon?
FUCHS: How did that come about?
ROBINSON: Well, they were going to get married and we went out to a little reception that Fulton gave up at his apartment and I asked Walter, I said, "Where are you going on your honeymoon?"
Says, We're going to New Orleans."
"How are you going?"
"Got your reservations? They're hard to come by you know."
"Yeah," and told us what the reservations were. Stupid!
I went on Sunday and tried to change the reservations -- no, wait a minute, I tried to intercept the
train and Western Union wouldn't take a practical joke, "got a war going on." So, I tried to telegraph the Monte Leone Hotel and change the reservations in the name of Mr. Hehmeyer to two single rooms and she wouldn't take that one either. So, he was going on through.
Fulton in order to work with the guy -- there was an old blast furnace at Rusk, Texas that used to make old cannon balls during the Civil War and as to its utilization in the war effort, somebody had to go look. So, he told Walter that if he wanted to go to Rusk, Texas from New Orleans, why the Committee would pay half his transportation.
So, Walter cried, "I don't want to go investigating blast furnaces on my honeymoon."
So, we were going through to Houston to investigate the concrete barges and we missed our connection at New Orleans, they slipped a sleeper out, so I got off with Franklin Parks -- have you talked to Frank Parks?
FUCHS: Our man in Washington is trying to see him.
ROBINSON: Frank Parks.
So, I took him with me to put him -- this was his first training as an investigator and we got off the sleeper and came downtown and I called the Monte Leone
Hotel and Shirley answered, and I said, "Who's this?"
She says, "I'm - I'm - I'm Shir -- Shir -- mis -- mis -- mis -- Mrs. Hehmeyer."
I said, "What are you doing up there in that room?"
And she says, "I'm -- I'm -- I'm married."
I said, "This is the house detective. Now, we got a rule in this hotel, no women allowed in our guests' rooms."
And she said, "Walter, Walter, the house detective."
So he came on the phone and after a couple of minutes he said, "Robby, you sonofabitch where are you?"
I said, "Across the street, come on down and have a cup of coffee."
So, I don't know, we drank Raymon fizzes, sazerac cocktails in the Court of the Three Sisters, and we did the Absinthe Bar I think at 9 o'clock in the morning, so all in all it was a good day. And Frank and I had to make the train connection at Houston I think at 12 o'clock that night and we're rolling into Houston the next morning, we're up in the men's room shaving, and Frank, steadying himself on the sway of
the train, looked down and he said, "Did we make that train all right last night?"
I said, 'Where the hell do you think you are right now?"
So, Walter had a camera, and here I am clowning around with Shirley, and Walter would be snapping pictures. And the result is that their honeymoon pictures are of Frank Parks, myself, and Shirley, and everybody looks at Walter and he's stopped showing them anymore. They say, "Didn't you go on your honeymoon Walter?"
FUCHS: That's pretty good.
ROBINSON: I was telling you about the distinction between the Senator's office mail and the Committee mail. So, I got a letter from the American Legion in Joplin and they are complaining about an ordnance plant that was being -- I think it was the Jayhawk Ordnance Plant -- being built at Galena, Kansas. Are you from out there?
FUCHS: I'm from Ohio originally, but I live in Missouri now.
ROBINSON: Well, Galena is across the river from Joplin there.
ROBINSON: Well, there's a creek that goes through there,
and it doesn't seem worthwhile to fill the approaches to get the bridge above high flood level in the spring, and they made them come all the way around about fifteen miles and come in the front entrance of the Jayhawk Ordnance Plant in order to go to work instead of coming in the back door. They were complaining that citizens were supposed to save rubber and conserve gas, and here you're making them drive another fifteen miles around. I didn't know what the answer was.
Number one, the letter should never have come down to the Committee. It should have been handled up from the Senator's office. So, I wrote the War Department, and I asked what the hell the answer was to this thing so that I could make an intelligent reply. And they got into how much it would cost to build the approaches and what the bridge would cost, to build a bridge across that stream so that these people could go in the back door.
And I wrote back and told them that I felt that they should contact the lo