Oral History Interview with
Attorney Investigator on the staff of the U.S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (Truman Committee), 1941-46.
Wilbur D. Sparks
September 5, 1968 and September 19, 1968
by Jerry N. Hess
[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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 June, 1969
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Wilbur D. Sparks
September 5, 1968
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Sparks, for the record, would you relate a little of your personal background, such as where you were born, where you were educated, and what positions you held prior to your service on the Truman Committee?
SPARKS: Yes, Mr. Hess. I was born in Missouri, insofar as I know the only other member of the Truman Committee staff besides Mr. William Boyle, who was a Missourian from that staff. My home was Savannah, Missouri, northwest of Kansas City, about seventy-five miles, and I am now fifty years old.
My birth date was October 4, 1918. My father was a lawyer in Savannah, a prosecuting attorney there back about 1913 or '14, a graduate of the University of Missouri Law School, and he was active in State politics during the 1930s. He knew Guy Park, the Governor of Missouri, from the days when Judge Park was judge of the circuit court in the district in northwest Missouri in which Savannah fell. My father served as a member of the state board which governed the School for the Deaf at Fulton, Missouri in the 1930s as an appointee of Guy Park. My mother was a schoolteacher in Savannah, Missouri before she was married, and her origins were down around Warrensburg, Missouri. I graduated from the public schools in Savannah, attended the state university at Columbia, got an A.B. degree there in 1940, and my LL.B. from the law school at the university in 1941. I certainly had every intention of going back to Savannah after my college education was completed and practicing law, probably in association with my father, but
the events of the war intervened and they were directly related to my coming here to Washington, and to my being here still today.
HESS: When did you join the staff of the committee?
SPARKS: The specific event which brought me to the staff of the committee is of some interest I think. I joined the staff on October the 10th, 1941. My father was an active Mason, he was active in most branches of Masonry in Missouri, and became acquainted with Senator Truman as a result of his activity in Masonry. Senator Truman was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge in Missouri in the late '30s, and my father would have been Grand Master of the Grand Lodge a few years after his death in 1941. It takes fourteen years to go through the line and he was about seven or eight years behind Senator Truman. He had known Senator Truman, therefore, as a result of his activity in Masonry, and also because they both were active Democrats. My father had been chairman of the county central committee in Andrew County, and was therefore a
part of the organization and knew Truman as a result of this.
I graduated from law school in 1941 and I took the bar exam in late June or early July, and at about the same time, either shortly before or shortly after I took the exam, I went to St. Louis with my father to attend a meeting of the Grand Lodge. I had been a Mason since I was twenty one, and in 1941, I would have been twenty-two years old. I had never met Mr. Truman before, and my father and I met Mr. Truman walking down the street in St. Louis, the first time there, and my father introduced him to me and told him that I had just graduated from law school and he said, "Well, what are you going to do?"
I said, "Well, I expect to go into the army." I had a student deferment from the draft at that time, and I said, "I expect to go into the army, probably in the fall or winter, and after I get out of the army, I'll be back practicing law with my dad again."
He said, "Between now and the time you go into the army, what's going to happen?"
I said, "I'll be up in Savannah helping in the law office."
He said, "Well, just a few months ago up in Washington, the Senate passed a resolution creating an investigating committee, and I am the chairman of this investigating committee, and I think it would be good experience for you if you'd come back there and work for the committee for a few months. You may never get to Washington again in your life, but I think it would be good for you to and would be helpful to the committee if you'd come back there and work for us for a little while."
Now, in passing, I was told later by both Mr. Truman and by Hugh Fulton, the chief counsel of the committee, that this was the only instance of something like this happening, that in all other instances where people were added to the committee staff, this came about through Fulton rather than through Truman. Of course, I should
also add in passing that Truman added Mr. Boyle to the committee staff, and of course that was an exception to it, but all the others were added as a result of a decision by Fulton.
HESS: He was in charge of hiring the staff?
SPARKS: Fulton was very definitely in charge of hiring the staff, and we can talk about that in considerable detail. He did say to me that day in St. Louis, "Of course, I can't absolutely promise you a job. You'd have to pass muster by the new chief counsel there, Hugh Fulton." I don't believe, based on a very close relationship with Fulton in later years and with some conversations with him along this time, I don't believe that Fulton felt that he was supposed to pass muster on me. I think he felt that this was a young man that Truman, for reasons of his own had offered to bring back to Washington, and put to work for a few months. But I am proud to say that Fulton always claimed that he was never sorry; I don't believe, however,
that he felt that in this instance he was really supposed to say yea or nay on me.
I was very interested in this. I had been in Washington once before when I was sixteen years old and had graduated from high school in 1935, and my parents and I took a trip to the East, again because my father was a Mason. There was a Shrine convention here in Washington in 1935 and we came here and attended that. That was my only time in Washington, and so I was interested in it, as any boy from the midwest would be, a boy who was feeling like a man, having just graduated from law school, and so I looked forward to it. I said, "Yes, I'd like to do this."
He said, "I'll let you know when you should come."
In a month or two after that I received a letter. As I recall, I received a letter from Mr. Clark, Charlie Clark, who instructed me to come to Washington and arrive at a given time and be prepared to stay. I had an automobile and I
put all my worldly possessions in the automobile and came to Washington and arrived here on the 10th of October. I went to Mr. Clark first in room 317. That may have been the only room number in the Senate Office building that I had, but at any rate I went to Mr. Clark. My recollection isn't very good at this time, but I'm pretty sure that he sent me to Hugh Fulton, and within a day or two, I met both Matt Connelly and Bill Boyle. Very shortly after that, within a day, certainly, I was on the committee payroll. I should not say that I was on the committee payroll. In the fall of 1941, only a very few people were on the committee payroll. The committee had started with an appropriation of $15,000 in the spring, and at that time, until early 1942, if my memory is correct, almost all people who were working for the committee were on the payrolls of executive departments. I was on the Securities and Exchange Commission payroll until, again as I recall, January or February, 1942, it was at about
that time that Mr. Truman and members of the committee started to make noises about dollar-a-year men. And I believe that it was because of that that this relationship with the Executive departments ceased. Also, I think, there was another very good reason for ceasing it, and again we can go into this in more detail later. But the committee's resolution was renewed in January 1942 at the beginning of the new Congress, the new session, and it got a large appropriation, and it was not only incumbent on the committee from the standpoint of public relations to start paying its own people at that time. I, however, was working fulltime for the committee, from the 10th or 11th of October on.
HESS: In October of 1941, the same month you joined the staff, the committee issued a report concerning the Office of Production Management, and their co-directors were William S. Knudsen, engineering vice-president of General Motors, and Sidney Hillman, president of Amalgamated Clothing
Workers of America. And as I understand it, there were several people on the Office of Production Management who were in a without-compensation status, and also several dollar-a-year men, which Mr. Truman seemed to take a dislike to.
SPARKS: Mr. Truman got into this subject, I believe, in the fall of 1941 first. I have refreshed my recollection a little bit on this subject by going back and looking at some scrapbooks, which I have, and also looking at a file of press releases, which the committee issued, which I gathered from time to time as they were issued and put in a loose-leaf notebook, which I still have. I believe Mr. Truman and the members of the committee became interested in dollar-a-year men along in the fall of 1941. One of the men in whom they were specifically interested was a man named Philip Reed of General Electric, and Philip Reed was with the old Office of Production Management and was a dollar-a-year man. That is, his
salary was continued to be paid by his company and. he was brought into the Office of Production Management because it was felt that he had special expertise from his services at General Electric. Maybe it was technical expertise, or maybe it was management expertise, but this was the reason that the dollar-a-year men were brought in. They were usually brought in to serve in areas of their own industry. A man from the electrical industry would be brought in to serve in an area dealing with the electrical industry over in the Office of Production Management. This was one basis of objection that the committee had to the dollar-a-year principle. They felt that the people who came, say for illustration, from the electrical industry, would be likely to have ties back into the industry, both in their own company and other companies, which might result in acts of favoritism, or might result in colored opinions which would influence their activities. Now, as a matter of fact, this
principle was carried forward both in the agencies during World War II, and even into the area of the National Production Authority in the 1950s, later on, and still exists today in the Department of Commerce where there are people who came from industry and who are down here for a few years, really on loan from their companies, on the theory that there should be people with expertise from industry who are working in the Government, that these people know the industry best. Today, however, they are on Government salary.
Mr. Truman withdrew his objection in January of 1942. He withdrew this objection to the use of these experts after Donald Nelson, who had been active, and had been in a position of responsibility in the Office of Production Management, and who was made the administrator of the War Production Board, Nelson came before the committee and said, "I need these men, and I believe that safeguards can be put up to prevent their making decisions which will be favorable to their own company, and
can be put up to prevent these situations in which their opinions would be colored by virtue of their own connections with industry."
HESS: Do you recall what safeguards he had in mind?
SPARKS: Not specifically. I am sure that the War Production Board history would show this. I don't remember specifically what safeguards he had in mind. I do know -- I have read recently -- I have clippings in my scrapbooks, which indicates that after Nelson came before the committee and said, "I'm not going to solve these vast problems unless I have assisting me these people from industry." And Truman and the committee withdrew this objection. As a matter of fact, I recently have read some editorials, current contemporary editorials, which praised Truman and the committee for being big enough to stand back and say, "All right, Mr. Nelson, if that's the way you want it, we want to see that you get the kind of assistance you need, and so we won't press on this."
Now, the other objection to dollar-a-year men, was the question of their compensation. Nelson did not stand firm on this. He did start putting some of these men on the Government payroll and changing the dollar-a-year, or without compensation idea, to meet the Truman Committee objections. I don't believe that all these men were taken off dollar-a-year immediately, but over the years, the trend was in this direction, and there were enough taken off immediately so that Mr. Truman and the committee took the pressure off Nelson and off the new WPB, as far as dollar-a-year was concerned, right at that time. The question did arise from time to time over the years, and many times I heard Mr. Truman ask in a committee hearing or in a private interrogation when the activities of a given division or a given section at WPB were under consideration, "Well, now, who is in charge over there. Is he a dollar-a-year man?"
He never got over his suspicions of the
dollar-a-year men, and I think with good reason. He remembered that as long as he was chairman of the committee, and probably longer.
HESS: When he made his so-called "farewell speech" to the Senate on August 7th, 1944, the only person named in a derogatory manner was Mr. Philip Reed.
SPARKS: Mr. Reed was sent to London, as I recall it.
HESS: That's correct. This is what he mentioned in the message.
SPARKS: Yes. He felt very strongly about Mr. Reed.
HESS: What was the nature of the relationship in general between the committee and Donald M. Nelson?
SPARKS: Well, first, it was very friendly. Secondly, the relationship, I believe, between Mr. Truman personally and Mr. Nelson personally, was one of friendliness, one of mutual respect, and perhaps on Mr. Nelson's part, one of a little bit of -- I wouldn't want to say "fear", but certainly it
went beyond respect. Mr. Nelson knew two things, I believe, and I think this is probably true of the top people in the other Government departments. He knew that if he had the backing of the Truman Committee it was a step in the right direction in trying to get any policy implemented. He also knew that if something went wrong in a program, or if something didn't work out well, and wind of this got to the committee or its staff, that in spite of this friendly relationship he had with Harry Truman and the members of the committee, there would be no holds barred. They would treat him just as they treated other people in positions of high authority. I think he felt that -- to generalize, I think he felt that the committee was attempting to operate in the public interest, and in many, many situations was in fact operating in the public interest, and I believe Mr. Nelson wanted to operate in this manner, too. And I think he felt that this would be the overriding consideration when any program was up for evaluation by the committee.
HESS: Do you think he was helpful in forwarding the work of the committee?
SPARKS: There's no question about it. As an example: In January 1942, the committee still was not really well established. The committee had already had a good many hearings. The early hearings of the committee before I joined the committee staff had dealt to some extent in generalities, the hearings in the summer and early fall of 1941 had to some extent been hearings to get members of the committee itself oriented, try to get some general policy set, try to get them acquainted with the people in high positions of Government with whom they were dealing, try to get their understanding firmly established of the programs that they were going to be evaluating as time went on. I have no idea whether Mr. Truman felt by the time of the fall of 1941 that the committee still needed to prove itself, but I do know one thing. I came across this a few days ago in my press release file. In January, 1942, the annual report of the
Committee came out, the annual report which gave so much acclaim to the committee, and I would say gave the committee its first nationwide recognition in editorial columns of the newspapers. Before this annual report came out, the committee was due for its appropriation and renewal of its resolution. Somebody, and I have a suspicion about who was behind this, but somebody asked Mr. Nelson, Under Secretary of War Patterson and other heads of departments for letters evaluating the work of the committee.
HESS: Who do you suspect?
SPARKS: Well, it sounds like Hugh Fulton to me. It sounds like Fulton might have made the suggestion to Truman. But these letters proved to be quite praising in nature. They were not long letters. Each one could be printed on a single piece of paper, typewritten, but each letter praised the committee and each letter was released to the press. A press release was made up for each one
of these letters, and there were several of these. And I am certain, without knowing anything at all about it at the time, I'm certain the reason for this was to give the committee some backing for the renewal of its resolution. Mr. Nelson wrote one of these letters. There is no statement in the letters themselves that they were asked to write a letter, but to anyone who was here at the time, it stands out all over the letters, and frequently the letters start out, "I understand that the committee's resolution is coming up for renewal and I just wanted to let you know how I felt about the committee's work." Nelson wrote one of these, and I know Judge Patterson wrote one, and there were some others. The letters were released to the public, undoubtedly were quoted in the newspapers, probably were circulated to members of the Senate. Certainly the word was given out that people in the Government who were having dealings with the committee felt that the committee was worthwhile, and I would guess that this had something to do
with the renewal of the committee's authority. After that first year, I don't think there was ever any worry, any concern, about the renewal of that committee's authority. The appropriations became pretty automatic after that first year. The committee always operated on a shoestring, but certainly on a shoestring in terms of today's appropriations, but even at that time, I don't think the committee ever had more than $100,000 in appropriation for a year. Now, they may have gotten an appropriation in the summer or fall following that first $15,000 appropriation, but I can't be sure about this. But I believe the one in January 1942 was the first one of any size.
Yes, I certainly do believe that Mr. Nelson helped the committee.
HESS: One more question on Mr. Nelson. In Donald Riddle's book, The Truman Committee: A Study in Congressional Responsibility, there is the following quote: "Nelson's liaison officer, Edwin A. Locke, Jr., kept the
committee continuously informed of events in WPB." Just how closely did Edwin Locke work with the committee?
SPARKS: Very closely, and his successor, Eugene Earley, also fulfilled this responsibility. Number one, Locke acted as did a person who was designated as liaison in the other Government departments. Locke acted as the man to whom all committee inquiries of that department were addressed. Now our committee staffs operated probably the way most other committee staffs were operated. Mr. Truman authorized his signature to be put on committee mail by Hugh Fulton, but by no one else. And when inquiries were to be made or when letters were to be drafted by the individual investigators, they would go to Fulton, and Fulton would perhaps change them or perhaps sign them. Now, in the case of a letter to WPB, letters were not sent to Mr. Nelson. Letters were sent to Mr. Locke and later to Mr. Earley; in most cases the letters did not take a position on a given situation. If we wanted to find out what the facts were about a given situation over at WPB, we would write a letter
stating very carefully that certain things were alleged and then asking for a statement from WPB, or Mr. Locke, about these allegations. Mr. Locke would farm out the letter when he got it to the industry division, or to the individual who would draft a reply letter and it would come back. Often, he would keep Mr. Nelson advised, but in many cases, he would not. He would simply handle this correspondence and at a proper time advise Mr. Nelson. Or perhaps if it was not important, not advise him at all. So that he acted as a funnel through which mail would go over to WPB. This was the least important of his responsibilities.
He also attended all staff meetings that Donald Nelson had at WPB. His title, I believe, was assistant to the chairman. So he attended all staff meetings and was constantly alert, I would say, to situations in which he felt the committee would have some interest, not only situations in which the committee had already evidenced interest, but if he felt that there was any kind of a ticklish situation
that might conceivably interest the committee, he would make note of this. Now, in some situations he or Mr. Nelson would call this to the committee's attention, without any prior notice, without any inquiry from the committee to WPB. This didn't happen at any other Government department. This sort of thing I'm sure was frowned on in the Government departments. They were not supposed to volunteer information which could be the subject of an investigation. They were there to answer the Senator's inquiries, and all other inquiries from the Hill, but certainly not to volunteer information. That was a little unorthodox. And I think it resulted from, again, from a feeling that Nelson had that "Here is a man who could be of considerable assistance, if they could put together an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust." Locke went on many committee trips, with the committee, where installations were going to be visited and in which WPB had an interest. He became rather close to Fulton. They were opposite numbers really, in staff positions, so that -- I
don't mean personally close, but they talked on the telephone often during the day about many different things. They would work together rather than being at sword points, or anything like this.
One other thing about Locke that I think might be mentioned at this point that is of interest. I believe that Locke and Fulton together worked out an arrangement which proved successful with other Government departments, and which had a great deal to do with the worth of the reports which the committee issued. During the time when Mr. Truman was chairman of the committee, the committee issued thirty-two reports. These reports were all issued in unanimity by the committee, not a single dissent. These reports were all circulated to the committee members, were all written first at the staff level, and usually written by about two or three people, at least the draft that went to Senator Truman would be written by Fulton, or Harold Robinson or Matt Connelly, I would say. There may be exceptions, but I would say
that they accounted for almost all those thirty-two reports.
Now, after the committee approved these reports, it was the practice, as worked out by Fulton and Locke, to send a typewritten copy or copies of this report to the Government agency, before they were made public, and the Government agency was asked to comment on the report. I don't know whether it was stated in the letter, but the understanding always was that they were to comment about the facts in the report, not about the opinions. And in some cases, I don't know how many, but in some cases the Government agencies, beginning with WPB, found misstatements of fact in the reports and called them to the committee's attention. They were always corrected, they were always changed to conform to the facts. I believe this had much to do with the acceptability of these reports, and with the effect that those reports had on the reputation of the committee over the years, because once having approved the facts in a draft of a report, the agency was never later in a position to shoot holes in it from that standpoint. They could differ with the report, or its recommendations,
but they could not say, "You don't know what you're talking about." They could not say, "No, you're wrong here, that is not fact," because once having approved it, they were wed to it. I am pretty certain that Ed Locke and Hugh Fulton worked this arrangement out in the fall or winter of 1941.
HESS: Were there ever any times that certain committee members might not have wanted to have signed the report and made it unanimous? Was it ever a close call?
SPARKS: I'm not in a position, really, to say whether there was or not. I don't know of any myself. I do know that in some cases drafts were rewritten to meet objections raised by individual members. I believe that in one case, I don't remember what it was, a report was rewritten to meet some of Senator Connally's objections, Tom Connally. He was not active on the committee, but he approved every one of those reports, and here again, the basic premise that Truman was working from was that "This is going
to be a bipartisan effort, an effort in which we all agree, or we don't act." Truman felt, and I would expect that this is something that was not inspired in Truman by anybody else. I think this is probably a gut feeling that Truman had, that "While we're at war, we'd better all hang together or we're going to hang separately." Of course, historians know Truman has said many times that he did not want to have a committee which resembled the Committee on the Conduct of the War in the Civil War. He did not want to go into the conduct of the war, and he didn't want to have a committee which would, in a partisan fashion, chew holes in what the administration was trying to do, or generally take issue with the administration, as such. He saw nothing wrong with criticizing agencies of the administration, but I think he felt that this was an important part of his philosophy as chairman of this committee, that the reports ought to be unanimous, and if they couldn't be unanimous, they ought to be changed and changed and changed until they were unanimous.
HESS: In his Memoirs Mr. Truman states:
Senators Brewster and Vandenberg tried at times to make another Committee on the Conduct of the War out of our committee by attempting to bring the Congress into control of the operations of the military establishment, but we never permitted that to happen.
Do you recall anything about the activities of those two gentlemen?
SPARKS: Nothing about Vandenberg. Brewster certainly has to be called a gadfly on the committee. By personality, by philosophy, I would say that he was inclined to be a bit more partisan than some of the other Republican members. I would say, for instance, that he was more inclined to be partisan than Homer Ferguson was.
HESS: Can you think of an example offhand when this might have come up?
SPARKS: No. I wish I could, but one doesn't come to mind. Truman, of course, confided -- I believe that it's fair to say that Truman confided in the Democrats on the committee before he confided in the Republicans
about the work of the committee. But he did have Senator Brewster and Ball and Burton and there was a fourth Republican member...
HESS: We have them on our list. We can get into that.
SPARKS: He did have them in his office, in his private doghouse room, very often discussing privately what course the committee was going to take. I think he went quite far in trying to get their acquiescence to committee decisions before they were announced.
HESS: Did the staff ever hold any meetings in that so-called doghouse, do you recall?
SPARKS: Not as full staff meetings. Neither Truman nor Fulton seemed to be a believer in full staff meetings.
HESS: How did they operate?
SPARKS: Well, first, Fulton operated as Truman's right arm, there's no question about that. Truman and Fulton were quite an interesting team. There is no telling what course history might have followed, in
my opinion, if Truman had not found Fulton. I think it ought to be said for the record that I may be alittle biased in connection with Fulton. After I left the committee in 1946, I joined Fulton's law firm and was either number one or number two in the Washington office of his law firm until 1956, so that I do have some special knowledge and special affection for Hugh Fulton.
HESS: Did he ever comment to you on how he was chosen to be special counsel for the committee?
SPARKS: I think the story was recounted. He told it to me and it was told to a good many reporters at the time. I don't know whether it appears in all the histories or not, but it appears in some. After Truman was made chairman of the committee, he went to Attorney General Jackson and he asked him for a recommendation. I don't know whether the name of Fulton came to mind or if he asked somebody for a recommendation, but Fulton at that time was executive assistant to the United States attorney in the southern
district of New York. Fulton had been graduated from the University of Michigan about 1930. He was a native of Ohio, very bright as a student, went to New York and went into a large law firm in New York, Cravath, deGersdoff, Swaine and Wood, it was called at that time. And Cravath is of course what lawyers call a law factory in New York. It has partners numbering from fifty to eighty and associates numbering in the hundreds. They occupy several stories in a large building. They had round-the-clock stenographic service and their offices are open twenty-four hours a day. It's a huge law factory. Fulton did very well in this law firm. He was an associate. He was never a partner, but then if he had stayed on, I'm sure that he would have become a partner in the law firm and shared in its great profits over the years. I don't know the processes by which Hugh Fulton went into the U.S. attorney's office. He never told me, and I never thought to ask him, as a matter of fact, why he left the Cravath firm and went to work in the U.S. attorney's office, but he did do
this. He handled two important cases while he was there. He prosecuted Howard Hopson, who had been a top executive in Associated Gas and Electric for violation of the SEC act. And he prosecuted a Federal judge named Davis, J. Warren Davis, and I believe the charge there was some sort of bribery. I'm not sure. But Hugh Fulton's name was on the front pages of the New York papers in the late '30s in connection with these cases. Still in all, I don't believe Truman had ever heard of him. Truman was too immersed in the workings of the United States Senate at that time to be very interested in what was going on in New York law courts. I just don't believe that Truman knew much about Fulton. But the Attorney General recommended Fulton and Fulton came to Washington, and after talking with Truman about this job, agreed to become counsel. It was a curious decision, I believe. Fulton had a very bright future as a lawyer ahead of him. He had the knowledge that he had gained in the Cravath firm, a huge firm representing very important corporations. He had the
knowledge of the Government and of the Federal courts that he had gained as assistant U.S. attorney. I would say that the odds certainly were that he would not have gone to work for the committee. Truman at the time was not well-known. He was the junior senator from Missouri; he had not received any nationwide publicity, except the publicity that he had received in chairing the railroad investigation, and I don't believe that was of great consequence at the time. Truman had $15,000, no staff, his main interest at the time was finding out first what had happened out at Fort Leonard Wood, what had happened in the construction of these camps all over the country. This is what got Truman started with the committee, and it was not until some weeks or months later that he began to talk in terms of anything other than camp construction. When he made his first speech to the Senate in early March, 1941, that was the major topic that he talked about. He did say that he had concluded that there ought to be a committee
overseeing this sort of thing. He was primarily talking about camp construction. So it's curious that Fulton should have taken this gamble, because I consider that it was a very real gamble for Fulton, he had a lot to lose, and it seems to me, not very much to gain by going to work in this position. He was going to be paid, I think, $9,000 a year and while at the time this was a good salary, and may even have been more than he was making in New York, it certainly was small money in terms of what he could expect to be making in private practice in a very few years in New York City. But Truman, I think, answered a couple of questions that Fulton asked him in a very typical Truman manner. And I believe that these answers had a great deal to do with persuading Hugh Fulton to take this job.
HESS: What were those questions?
SPARKS: Well, those questions, and I don't know that they were put in these words, but Fulton asked and Truman replied to the effect that if Fulton would come to
work for the committee, he would have a free hand -- with the staff, and that all the committee was interested in was ascertaining the facts, that they were not interested in being partisan, that they were not interested, I would bet that Fulton harked back to the Committee on the Conduct of the War, and talked about that. They were not interested in a muckracking, yellow journalism sort of committee inquiry; they were interested in rendering a public service. I would think that he probably appealed to Fulton's basic instincts, which were really, at that time, public service instincts, to my way of thinking. I believe that Fulton got a commitment from Truman that this would be the situation if he should come to the committee as its counsel. I believe he would not have come there if he had not gotten that commitment. I don't believe that Truman had any qualms at all in making a commitment like this, because I believe he wanted to go into it with all the cards face up on the table. And I just don't think there
was any problem involved here.
HESS: Basically, what were Hugh Fulton's duties and how effective was he in carrying them out?
SPARKS: Here again, you have to keep in mind my bias. Fulton, I would say, had two duties. One was to administer the affairs of the committee staff, and the other was to advise Truman on the policies which the committee would follow. Now, first he had to select a staff. There is, I think, a little bit of question as to whether or not there was anybody working for the committee as a staff man when Fulton came to work. I heard Charlie Clark say that Truman hired him. I've also heard a story that Fulton hired Charlie, and told him to get them some offices and to get some stationery, and to get the physical facilities that they would need for a staff started. If you'll recall, Mr. Clark's title was associate chief counsel. I heard Truman say many times in a rather joking way, that Clark gave himself that title, and this may very well be the case. I became
very well-acquainted with Charlie Clark, both as a junior member of the staff and then in later years when I was practicing law in Washington and he was also practicing law. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if he gave himself the title of associate chief counsel. That would seem to indicate that Fulton was hired first. But at any rate there was never any question about who was top dog on that staff. Fulton was top dog, and Truman looked first, last and always to Fulton. Fulton, I think, went ahead to hire the rest of the staff, I mean the professionals. Fulton had nothing to do with hiring the clerical staff. Clark pretty well left this up to Matthew Connelly.
HESS: Hiring the clerical staff?
SPARKS: Hiring the clerical staff, the stenographers, the clerks, anybody in this category. The people who were hired very early in the game, I would say, had a great deal to do with shaping the kind of staff that we were to have. Fulton wanted people, and in a large part
got people, who didn't have any previous ties with congressional investigations. Now, there were some exceptions to this. Both Charlie Clark and Matt Connelly had worked on the other side of the Hill, had worked over in the House of Representatives on committees over there. And Matt had a history of working in several Government agencies before that time. He had worked in Massachusetts and had worked down here for the Works Progress Administration, before he went to work over in the House of Representatives. But with those two exceptions, the people who worked on that committee staff came from outside the Congress and had not had prior experience as congressional investigators. I think this was intended, on Fulton's part, and certainly concurred in by Truman. He wanted men who didn't have these ties, who didn't have these preconceived ideas about how an investigation ought to be conducted. Most of the men were young men. There were very few exceptions. And I think this was intended by Fulton and by Truman. They wanted men who had stamina, they wanted men who
didn't have too many ties. A good many of the men were unmarried and could travel without any difficulty. Several of us got married rather shortly, and some of us married girls on the staff, as a matter of fact. He wanted people that he could influence into doing the kind of a job that he felt should be done. These were largely lawyers. Only one man had really extensive investigatory background and that was H.G. Robinson, Harold Robinson. Harold Robinson had been an FBI agent and was a remarkable man in his own right and had a great deal to do with the thoroughness of a lot of the important investigations over there over the years. Robinson had worked in the espionage area for the FBI. Robinson had run the radio station out on Long Island that had communicated with the German government in the late '30s. A movie called "The House on Ninety-Second Street" was made about this. If you should ever get a chance to interview Robinson out in California you should do that. He was a very able guy, a guy who had a lot to do with morale on the committee staff, quite a joker, light-hearted type, always had a story to tell you, but when you got
down to the investigation, Robbie was a most important factor in the kind of a job the staff did.
HESS: While we're at this point let's start down a list of the staff members that I have, and when we finish this, there will probably be some others who I have not put on this list and we can cover those, but if you will tell me a little bit about what their backgrounds were, why that particular person was hired, and how effective they were in carrying out their duties. Number one on our list is William Boyle, Jr.
SPARKS: He was an able man. He came to Truman through the Kansas City political organization. I don't know how early Harry Truman and Bill Boyle knew each other, but they certainly knew each other there in the 1930s, when Mr. Boyle was in the Kansas City Police Department and became director of the department, in the late '30s. He came to Washington in 1941, after the committee was formed, and started to work for the committee. He was a senior investigator at that time,
I certainly would say. Because of his closeness to Truman, he was in and out of Truman's personal office a good deal, more so than almost any of the others in the early days, even more so than Matt Connelly, I would say. Only Fulton on the staff was closer to Truman than Boyle. And in some respects, even Boyle may have been closer.