Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview..
The Papers of Harry Rosenfield are in the Library's archival collection.
Opened August 1982
Oral History Interview with
FUCHS: Mr. Rosenfield, I thought we might start by you just giving a little of your background; when and where you were born, some of your education, and how you came finally to be in the Government service.
ROSENFIELD: I was born in the City of New York in 1911, August 17. My parents were immigrants. Both of them came from Russia or Poland. I had a brother, who has since passed away, and I still have a sister. I went to the College of the City of New York; was graduated with a B.A. from there. Then went to Columbia Law School, developed a LL.B. there; then subsequently won a JSD, a doctorate of law of the science of jurisprudence, at NYU.
Let's see. The kinds of things I did in New York, workwise?
FUCHS: Any background as to how you came to the Government and your work there, is what we're primarily interested in.
ROSENFIELD: My first significant job was assistant to Fiorello LaGuardia, before he became Mayor. Before he became Mayor and after he lost his seat in the Congress, he was impartial arbitrator for the cloth sponging industry. That's the industry which pre-shrinks cloth, so that when you go out into the rain it won't shrink on you. LaGuardia had an office on middle Broadway, and he was then contemplating running for Mayor. And for awhile I was his sole and only research team, and at that time I was at Columbia Law School. I think I was second year Columbia Law School, and I was working my way through school partially through a job as librarian at The City College of New York, and I had the key to the library. So, when I'd get through with my work I'd appear down at his office and he'd give me
projects to do, and I'd work on them at night after everybody was gone, 2, 3, 4 o'clock in the morning. Then I would turn up at his office the first thing in the morning, and have his young ladies type this stuff.
I'll come back in a minute because there's an incident there that's colored my whole life that I think I ought to tell you. After that I was special counsel to the U.S. Munitions Committee in 1934. I'd come down to Washington to work on the Nye bill. We had such faith in our capacity to prevent war by ending munitions industry, and that's what I was working on. Regretfully it didn't come to pass.
Later in that same year I was legal assistant to the New York City Charter Revision Commission. From there I went to become secretary to a member of the Board of Education of New York City, a position I held for about eight years. The members of the Board of Education were nonpaid people. The member that I was secretary to was one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever known, a Dr.
Alberto C. Bonaschi. These people were not then, as I believe they are now, paid officials. They did this out of the goodness of their hearts. So for practical purposes, he made me a deputy commissioner of education of the City of New York and it was wonderful experience.
Then, owing to some illness in my family, I decided to come to Washington. Frankly, because the Army turned me down--this was in 1942 I wanted to get into war, and they turned me down because I had a bum left arm from childhood polio. So I figured I wanted to come down to Washington to do what I could in the way effort and because of the family illness I felt it necessary to change the climate. I became the principal attorney to the then Federal Security Administrator; that's the predecessor of the Secretary of HEW.
FUCHS: How did that come about?
ROSENFIELD: I talked with a dear friend of my father-in-law, Arthur S. Meyer, who talked with Lillian Poses, FSA Regional Attorney. I also talked with
a former teacher at Columbia, Walter Gelhorn, who had been a regional attorney for the Federal Security Agency, and they know my legal work. They were liars and said I was a good lawyer. So that was the way it opened up. I came down to visit Jack B. Tate, the general counsel, and Jack Tate employed me.
Before leaving New York, I went to see LaGuardia to say good-bye to him and he was furious with me, "You can't leave me."
I said, "Well, here are the circumstances."
He said, "I was just about to appoint you Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Budget and the director is going to retire in a year and you would have been director of the Bureau of the Budget."
I said, "Well, Major,"--those of us who knew him from the old days knew he liked to be called Major because he was a major in the Air Force during the war--I said, "Major, I'm sorry." And for awhile he was really miffed at me, but as you will see later, he forgave me for it.
So I became principal attorney and I worked for the then Federal Security Administrator, Paul V. McNutt.
FUCHS: This was 1940 what?
ROSENFIELD: 1942. In 1942 I came down as principal attorney. I think it was 1944 or early 1945 that I became assistant to the Federal Security Administrator.
FUCHS: McNutt was already FSA administrator, though, when you came in?
ROSENFIELD: Yes, he was. As principal attorney I was in the division headed by Arthur Delafield Smith, an excellent lawyer. A magnificent, imaginative, creative lawyer. And we were all under Jack Tate, who was really one of the ablest general counsels and nicest persons I have ever known. He later became associate dean of Yale Law School.
When I was in the General Counsels office I was assigned to the division that dealt with the then Social Security Board composed of three members of the Board) and the U.S. Office of
Education. The commissioner at that time was John Studebaker of Iowa. From there, I think they kicked me upstairs--must have wanted to get rid of me--to assistant to the administrator; and there were two of us who were assistants. Mary Switzer, a magnificent, wonderful woman, after whom one of the HEW buildings is named--Mary E. Switzer (she was really a remarkable person)--and I, were the two. She was directly responsible for the health aspect and I was responsible for virtually all of the rest. Which meant education, welfare, and Social Security.
FUCHS: When was the Office of Education reorganized? Was that a little later? Under Ewing, I guess.
ROSENFIELD: That's right. Well, I was at the Federal Security Agency from 1942 to 1948. In 1948 while I was still in the Federal Security Agency the President nominated me to be a member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Economic and Social Council for its meeting in Geneva, Switzerland in 1948; and that was a fascinating experience, especially crossing swords with the Russians.
FUCHS: This was prior to the Displaced Persons appointment?
ROSENFIELD: This was prior. As a matter of fact, he appointed me to the Commission while I was in Geneva and I had to excuse myself from that duty and come back. I was a member of the Commission from 1948 until 1952. When that was over and I thought I was going to get at least an hour's rest, I was called back from vacation and made executive director of the President's Commission on Immigration and Naturalization, which was a short time thing, from I think around August of 1952 to I think the end of January of 1953. Bear in mind that a new President came in after that.
So, that's the story of my Government work experience. Thereafter I went into private practice and I've been in private practice ever since. I have been since about the middle of 1953, the general counsel of the National Safety Council; and in the last eight or ten years, in addition, I've been copyright counsel to the National Education Association,
and for some years also the Washington counsel to the American Chiropractic Association, which brings me back into the health field, which I enjoyed so much.
That's the story. In addition I have along the way been able to do some writing. I'm the co-author of an eight or nine-volume book with Charles Gordon on immigration law and procedure. I have written a book on liability for school accidents, which the New York Times gave one of its awards for the 60 best books of the year. I've been a contributor to some other books, and then I've written somewhere's in the vicinity of 700 or 800 articles in professional, general, safety, and other areas, including an article for the New York Times Sunday magazine called "People Without Land, Land Without People," which I wrote while I was on the Displaced Persons Commission, covering the whole area of migrations around the world.
Well, I've talked more than I should.
FUCHS: No, that's what we want; we're not here to listen to me.
ROSENFIELD: You must never ask a lawyer to talk.
FUCHS: When did you have time for fun?
ROSENFIELD: Well, I had a wonderful family. My wife, Leonora Cohen Rosenfield, was a professor at the University of Maryland. I had a lovely daughter Marianne. I must confess that during the period I was in the Displaced Persons Commission they saw very little of me, but they were very gracious about it and very supportive, so it's just been wonderful.
FUCHS: Well, to go back a bit, while you were with LaGuardia, do you recall any other incidents that might be of interest? You know a lot of these anecdotes are good sidelights and footnotes to history.
ROSENFIELD: Yes. Yes, there was one incident that occurred with LaGuardia that's really shaped the rest of my life. He was an extraordinary man, gifted, choleric, but one of the kindest people I've ever worked for. I have two incidents which will be amusing to you, both of them while I was
working for him as a legal aide.
I had been writing speeches for him for months. One day he called me in and said, "Harry, I want you to write a speech for me. I've got to make a speech tomorrow noon at the Welsh Society of the United States"--I'm not sure that was its title, but it was the Welsh ethnic group.
I said, "What do you want to say?"
He said, "How the hell do I know. That's your job."
So, I went up to the Main Library and I was delighted to find out what an exciting people the Welsh of America were. They were just fascinating people. As was our custom there, I wrote a speech for him. And he had then these 6 x 9 cards with the large type, and I had it typed for him and I brought it in. I apparently got him at a bad time, because he looked at the cards and started shrieking at me like a banshee. He threw the cards down on the floor and jumped on them as if there were an animal there. Now this was in 1933, and I still have a visual picture of his heel mark on the cards.
You can imagine what an impression it left on me, and on the cards. And he shrieked at me, "Get the hell out of here; who ever asked you to write a speech, and the nerve of you typing it before you showed it to me." And he shrieked, "You're fired. Get your salary, I don't ever want to see you again, get out of here," shrieking at me.
It was the first and only time I've ever been fired. My office was directly below his in City Hall. If he stamped on the floor my lights would have gone out; it was in the basement. I was just absolutely crushed. I was still a law school kid. I started to pull my stuff together, my files and personal things, and memos I wanted to have as keepsakes. The executive secretary of the Mayor, Stanley--I can't for the moment think of his last name--Stanley came downstairs and took me by the arm and said, "The Major wants to see you."
And I said, "Tell him to go to hell, he just fired me."
He said, "Oh, come on, you're the only one in this building that hasn't been fired yet. We don't
want to discriminate against you." Well, he edged me up the flight of steps and was smart enough to open the door of the Mayor's office, push me in, and stay out.
And there I was, a truculent kid, and the Mayor looked over his glasses at me, that famous look of his over his heavy-rimmed glasses, and he said, "What's the matter, running out on me when I need you?" I figured well, this was some kind of apology. He said, "Come on over here. What does this mean?" I looked at the typed card and there was his heel mark on it. I described what it meant and he said, "Okay," and still no apology. So he said, "Doing anything for lunch?"
And I said, "No, sir, I was going to leave since you fired me."
He said, "Why don't you come up and have lunch with me up there?" He meant at the luncheon he was to address.
And that was the only apology that I ever got from him. And, of course, I was not fired.
FUCHS: He must have been a case.
ROSENFIELD: Oh, he was marvelous. Well, he married my wife and me.
FUCHS: Is that right?
ROSENFIELD: As Mayor of the city he was chief magistrate, so he married us. About three months after that--he married us after I had been at the Board of Education, and after I got out of law school. I didn't get out of law school until 1934, and another incident happened before. By then I was over at the Board of Education. I was his hatchet guy. I had to send people to jail for swiping city property and that kind of stuff. One day I was on Government business at the airport, not yet called LaGuardia Airport, and I hear from the other end, "Harry-y-y." Well, there was only one voice in the world like that which I knew, and that was LaGuardias. And I looked and there he came running at me, those little feet of his pumping, and his whole City Hall entourage coming behind. I said to myself, "Oh, Harry, I
don't know what you've done, but you're in real trouble." So I started running to him, and of course everybody in the world was looking at this silly scene, or at least so I felt. As I approached him he motioned to me with his finger as if he wanted to whisper to me, and then he said, "Did it take?" referring to the marriage he had just conducted some time ago.
And there's one other story. The most significant thing that LaGuardia ever did for me was in the field of ethics. It occurred during the first part of my association with, him, when I would come down to his office to have the staff in the office type my work on his assignments. It was a small office, and his back was to the window which faced on Broadway. There was one other desk, right near the door, and that was for me. One day when I was in there, in comes the most handsome man I have ever seen, without any implications of impropriety in beauty. This was just a genuine Michelangelo figure. It was a young Italian man who had just come back from his first year at Rome Medical School;
LaGuardia, as a Congressman, had helped get the kid into medical school.
Now bear in mind this was in the early thirties when Catholics and Jews and Italians and all these other "strange" people weren't able to get into medical schools.
Well, this kid had come back and here he was coming to express his gratitude to his God, and you could see his eyes shining--and he had practiced his speech Im sure all the way across on the boat. He delivered to LaGuardia for Mrs. LaGuardia, a gift of a very beautiful scarf. I'm sure the kid went without anything to eat for a month to buy it for her. And he made this grandiloquent speech about his gratitude to his savior and so forth and so on. Well, it was obvious I wasn't going to get any work done so I turned around and listened to all this. And LaGuardia was sitting there with that characteristic gesture of his, chewing on his eye-glass frame and looking as if he was going to bite the boy--but not a word out of him until the kid
was through and then LaGuardia said, "Son, can't take it. Give it to your mother."
Well, the kid just literally burst into tears, "Well, why not?"
"Son, I have a rule. I never take a gift from anyone in connection with anything I've done in the course of official duty, and I did that while I was a Congressman."
The kid pleaded and begged, to no avail, and he went out sobbing. When he went out, there were just two of us in the room. LaGuardia turned his swivel chair to look out the window. Then dumb Harry opened up his big mouth, and said, "Major, that was the cruelest, the most unnecessary, the most unreasonable thing I have ever seen happen. That kid wasn't trying to bribe you and you know it. He was an Italian boy and you know the ethos of the people, they have to show their appreciation. He was trying to tell you in the only way he knew how, how grateful he was." Even as I tell this story my eyes kind of tear up a little bit. And after I'd got through with my
long speech of maybe forty seconds, LaGuardia slowly turned around with his glasses on, so that I wouldn't see that he had tears in his eyes, and said, "Harry, not much of a rule is it if you can't apply it in the tough cases?" And then he turned around to the window and I sat there, and after awhile I said, also with tears in my eyes, "Major, thank you, you've taught me something."
FUCHS: Very true. Very good.
ROSENFIELD: Well, later on when I was Assistant to the Federal Security Administrator and LaGuardia had become the head of UNRRA--well, I should interrupt myself by saying that his rule was one that I followed all my life. I never accepted a gift while I was in official duty, either in New York or in Washington. I had a rule that my secretaries couldn't even accept a box of candy. It was rough on them. It was really rough, but that was my rule and to anyone I hired, I said, "Now look, I'm a nut; here's one of the things," and I would tell this story. And it was difficult, since everybody else accepted gifts.
Well, there are two interesting stories in relation to this. Am I boring you with these?
FUCHS: Oh, no sir, they're very good. It's a far cry from some of the things we hear about lately.
ROSENFIELD: When I was Assistant to the Federal Security Administrator, I once got a buzz on our squawk box from Paul McNutt, and he said, "Harry, will you come in?" And I came in and he said, "Harry, we're having trouble with Mr. Comer;" I don't know his first name. He was the owner of one of the biggest textile mills in America, in the South. He said--at this point I don't remember what the problem was--"Nobody seems to be able to get things squared up between us and them. You don't know a damn thing about this, but you're a lawyer; make believe you've got a brief and see what you can do."
I said, "I'll try, what's it about?" And he told me and I talked to the other people that had tried and found out what the difficulties were. Well, as luck would have it, it worked out right.
Comer and I just worked out right and it got squared away. Comer was delighted and McNutt was delighted, and about ten days later I got a package from, I think it was Alabama--and this was during the war, the war was still on--or maybe right after the war--I opened it; it was the most beautiful bolt of shirt cloth I had ever seen. That thing must have been worth 25 bucks a yard. With it came a little note, "Thanks for your kindness." A very gracious note.
I sent back a note to Mr. Comer telling him this story about LaGuardia and saying, "Under the circumstances, forgive me if I can't accept the gift, but in view of the relationship to LaGuardia, I'm taking the liberty of sending this cloth to LaGuardia in the hope that UNRRA can arrange that it will help clothe somebody."
Well, two things happened. In a few days I got an agitated call from McNutt on the squawk box, "Harry, come in; what the hell have you done?"
So I walked in and I knew what had happened. I walked in; I said, "Paul, I'm the only guy on your staff you can fire without any recriminations."
"Oh," he said, "cut it out; I don't want to fire you, but Comer is furious after you got him all calmed down. He's furious, alleges that you think that he was trying to bribe you with something." So I told him the whole story. He calmed down and was contemplative for a moment and said, "Harry, why the hell didn't you tell me?"
I said, "Well, I don't go around patting myself on the back."
He said, "But goddamn it, I took the cloth."
And then one other story in that same vein that's very significant in our family. When I was at the DP Commission, the pressures on the commissioners were enormous; everybody tried to get more admissions into the U.S. for their ethnic or religious group. Perfectly proper, nothing wrong; perfectly proper, for them, but not for us. We had to treat everybody alike. There was one person--I won't name names, for obvious reasons--who had tried to get special consideration for his group and I had said "no." He was in the food business in California and
he sent me a magnificent crate of oranges or--I don't know what it was. So the same form letter went out, except this time the oranges went to the Children's Hospital. That didn't work. Well, a week or so after that, I get home, late at night, and poor little Marianne was waked up so that she could see her father. She must have been seven, and she said, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, look what I got!"
I said, "What have you got?"
And she had a little Mickey Mouse watch. I said, where did you get it, honey?" And she showed me the card; it was this fellow who had sent it to her, that sent the fruit. So I said, "Honey dear, you can't accept it."
"Why not, Daddy?"
And then I said to her, told her pretty much the story, kind of rough on a seven year old child, and said, "I never allow gifts."
"But Daddy, I haven't got such a watch; will you buy one for me?"
"Marianne, dear, just so that you will never forget the story, I won't even buy you that kind of a watch."
"Daddy," you know, and that was the end of it.
Well, I completely forgot the story until a few years ago, maybe six, seven years ago. Our daughter is a lawyer, married. Marianne is a magnificent lawyer in Chicago where her husband, David J. Smigelskis, is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago. She graduated from Yale Law School and had been admitted to the Bar of New York. When she moved to Chicago she asked for reciprocity admission. And as part of that process she had to go downstate to Springfield to be interviewed by the character committee, which is a standard gambit. When she got there were three very serious looking gentlemen. One of then, said to her, "Mrs. Smigelskis, what assurance do we have that you will behave like a person of integrity?"
And as she tells the story, she said, "Well, I was brought up that way."
They said, "Well, what do you mean?"
She told the story about the Mickey Mouse watch. These three gentlemen looked at each other and said,
"Mrs. Smigelskis, we dont have any concerns about you."
When Marianne told Leonora and me that story on the phone that evening, I said "Well, Marianne, maybe the time has come for me to buy you one of those watches."
She said, " Oh, no, you dont!"
So, you see, LaGuardia had an enormous impact on me. In addition there was his intensity of interest in the public welfare. He was always interested in the public welfare. He was always interested in the little guy, and anyone that worked for him who wasnt interested in the little guy was out of luck.
FUCHS: Did you have any other occasions to see Mayor LaGuardia?
ROSENFIELD: I believe not. After I came to Washington, it was either on the telephone or by mail. Oh, I should say, when I sent that letter to Mr. Comer, I sent a copy of it to LaGuardia with a note, "Dear Major, I thought youd be interested in it." And I think one of the proudest things I ever had was a
letter back from him on UNRRA stationery in his own handwriting, "Dear Harry, I never had any doubts about you." That was a very lovely thing for him to have said.
FUCHS: Moving up to the Federal Security experience, what were your impressions of McNutt? Does anything stand out in your memory?
ROSENFIELD: First I should say that most of my experience was with the Assistant Federal Security Administrator, Watson B. Miller, because you may remember that at that time, Paul McNutt was the head of two agencies, the Federal Security Agency and the War Manpower Administration. McNutt spent most of his energies and time on the War Manpower program, and on the whole, my activity was virtually completely with the Federal Security Agency. Watson B. Miller, who had been for years the lobbyist for the American Legion, and was a superb lobbyist, acted largely on the Federal Security Agency side. I was with McNutt, of course, in all staff meetings. The principal activity that I had with him was on special assignments like the
one I have told you about concerning Comer--when there was something special he thought I could handle. However, most of my experience was with Watson Miller and with Jack Ewing.
FUCHS: Now Miller succeeded McNutt?
ROSENFIELD: Miller succeeded McNutt.
FUCHS: He was appointed as FSA Administrator.
ROSENFIELD: He was appointed--and then after him Jack Ewing.
FUCHS: In 48. Well now, what are your views of Watson Miller as administrator?
ROSENFIELD: He was an excellent person dealing with people, and he was exceedingly gracious with the staff in a rambunctious agency. It had been pulled together by the ears and it had a lot of agencies that really resented being with each other, and resented having anyone over them. Watson, following McNutt, had a useful influence in soothing the
savage beast, so to speak, and making them work together. It was not an easy job, and he was not an easy-going person in the sense that people could run over him. But he had an easy approach.
One or two stories about Watson that will give you some background. I was assigned the duty of taking care, as his assistant, as I indicated, of Social Security, welfare, education--it was not only the Office of Education, but a series of distinct educational institutions like Howard University, the American Printing House for the Blind, and Gallaudet College and so forth. It was a fascinating job, one of the most interesting jobs I ever held.
One day in a staff meeting--and I just give you a picture of Watson Miller the man--one day at a staff meeting, Watson had a note and said, "I just got a note from someone that's complaining about he's not getting enough Social Security." And he turned to me and said, "Harry, here are the facts, what is the answer?"
I said to him, "Watson, if you'll give me a minute I'll just go to my desk and pull out the manual and give it to you in a second."
He said, "What do you mean? You're supposed to know this; you're supposed to be the Social Security man on this. What do you have to look at a book for?"
I said--and this was in the staff meeting; when I say "staff" this meant the Commissioner of Education, the Social Security Board, the Surgeon General, the Public Health Service, the head of Food and Drug, and so forth--I said, "Watson, if you want me to memorize things that I can easily find out in a book behind my desk, I'm not your guy. I thought I had a different function for you."
Well, he grumped a little bit and let it go by. And after the meeting I went out, got the book, showed it to him, and that was it.
The next morning--as I recall they were Monday mornings--the next meeting he started something as follows: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have an apology to make. I've been thinking about what
happened in the colloquy between Harry and me at last week's meeting, and Harry was absolutely right, and I was absolutely wrong, and before all of those before whom I chided him, I want to apologize and say that." Well, that took a big man. That took a big man!
Now, another incident. I was the youngest person on his staff. And one day he said to me, "Harry, I want to teach you something about lobbying."
"Oh," I said, "great!"
So, the rest of that day (I don't think I've ever been so tired in my life, whether I climbed mountains or canoed or anything) he really wore me out, and he was much older than I and he was as fresh as a daisy. We went up to the House office buildings, and went through every one of all those floors, both buildings. And this is what he would do, and I tagging along with him not saying a word. He's walk into a Congressman's office and say to the receptionist, "Mary, howls the child; have you gotten all the medicines you need? Great! And how about
Joe's uncle; did he get that job out in Kansas City? Fine, if there's any problem let me know."
"Do you want to see the boss?"
"Oh, hell no, I didn't come to see him, I just wanted to find out."
He walked through that entire building, and with one exception didn't see a single Congressman. The only Congressman he saw was one who came running down the hall after him and said, "Watson, you were in the office, why didn't you come in to see me?"
He said, "I didn't want to see you. I wanted to see the girls."
I've never forgotten that. That guy could get anything he wanted out of any of those offices, and if the boss didn't see him when he wanted to see him the boss would have a strike on his hands.
Now that was Watson Miller.
FUCHS: Very interesting.
ROSENFIELD: Now, that's why he was such a successful lobbyist.
FUCHS: Must have had a good memory.
ROSENFIELD: Oh, he knew every one of these names and people by heart, just absolutely by heart.
FUCHS: Well now, what were the circumstances of his succession by Oscar Ewing as you remember it?
ROSENFIELD: Oscar Ewing had been the deputy chief of the National Democratic Committee and I think Truman wanted him in his Cabinet. It was going to be a tough campaign and he wanted him in his Cabinet. So he moved Watson over to Commissioner of Immigration where he did a good job, and appointed Jack Ewing--that's, as I recall it, what the circumstances were. Does that conform to what you understand?
FUCHS: Well, generally, yes. I knew, of course, Ewing had done yeoman service for the Democratic Party and . . .
ROSENFIELD: I think he had been a deputy or assistant chairman of the National Democratic Committee.
FUCHS: Why do you think FSA did not achieve Cabinet status during Truman's administration? The principal reasons? I think it was going to be called Health, Education and Security or something like that.
ROSENFIELD: Well, as a matter of fact, one of the last things I did when I was there, before the President appointed me to the Commission, was to help draft what became the ultimate HEW bill.
Well, I'm not sure I know. I think the answer was that it was a maturing process; people had to get used to the agency; it was an odd duck, a strange animal. It didn't have any fundamental simplicity, such as Defense--you knew exactly what that was. It was such a varied agency that I think Congress and the people had to get used to it, and I guess it was a political judgment that the time came for it.
I should say there were some interesting experiences. I think it must have been in the Watson Miller days, although I'm not sure, that I did what
is probably, from the point of view of long range importance to the American people, the most significant contribution I ever made in the public interest. I think it was in the Watson Miller days but I'm not sure. Although I wasn't acting as a lawyer then, I was on the top-side staff; I was a lawyer after all. With the Solicitor of the Department of Agriculture I helped draft the School Lunch Act. That isn't generally known--in my own personal scale of values I think that's the most important thing I ever did. The curious thing about it is that our daughter, Marianne, who is now the head of the food law section of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, has as one of her main jobs the legal aspects of the school lunch program.
FUCHS: Can you expound a little bit on the significance of it?
ROSENFIELD: I think the school lunch program originated with the idea of a way of getting rid of surplus food, in a useful and meaningful way. I think it has since become one of the most significant factors
in the American public health program, although it isn't generally regarded as a public health program; but it assures millions and millions and millions of children of decent, nutritious and balanced food. Many of them come from families which cannot afford that kind of thing, and in many cases this is the only balanced meal some of these children have, So, although it came about from an economic point of view, it has become in my judgment, one of the most significant governmental health programs in America and I feel kind of happy about having a minor portion in its genesis.
FUCHS: Was there one individual who conceived this, as you recall?
ROSENFIELD: Not that I'm aware of. Well, I'm sure there must be. I wasn't aware of it. I'm just trying to think of the Solicitor. I think his name was Shields. The Secretary of Agriculture called the Federal Security Administrator and said, "Look, you've got a problem here at schools, let's get together." I was assigned to work with Shields
and the two of us worked it out. I must say in all candor, he did the principal work, but whatever little I had has always left me with a sense of gratefulness for having had a part of it.
FUCHS: Ewing was appointed in August 1947, so you were under him for about a year.
ROSENFIELD: About a year.
FUCHS: What are your views of him?
ROSENFIELD: Well, before I leave that, there's another incident in the McNutt days--I think it was the McNutt days--that was significant. That was the time when the Administration was trying to think of national health insurance. Sounds interesting now. That was back in the mid-forties. There had been a Wagner-Murray-Dingle health insurance bill--Senator Wagner, Senator Murray, and Congressman Dingle (the father of the present Dingle). That wasn't given much hope, and the Federal Securi