Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened October, 1970
Oral History Interview with
February 10, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Ambassador Tubby, to begin, would you tell me a little bit about your background: Where were you born, where were you raised, and a few of the positions that you've held.
TUBBY: Well, Jerry, I was born in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1910, December 30, 1910. I went to Yale University. I worked in Vermont for the Bennington, Vermont Banner; I was a reporter and then editor. My main achievement there, I think, as I look back, was getting town manager government for Bennington. During
the war I was in the Board of Economic Warfare and when that became the Foreign Economic Administration, a combination of BEW and Lend-Lease, I became assistant to the administrator, Leo Crowley. Subsequently, I went to the Department of Commerce as Director of Information of the Office of International Trade; and after that to the Department of State in 1946 with Mike [Michael J.] McDermott, who was then the chief spokesman of the Department of State and had been for a great many years before. In 1950 I went to the White House as the assistant White House press secretary under Joe Short. Do you want anything after that period?
HESS: Let's have a few of your positions afterwards. What were a few?
TUBBY: In 1953 Mr. [John Foster] Dulles asked me to come back to the State Department and be his
Press Chief. I felt, however, that I could not really do this because I believed strongly in Mr. Truman's positions, and accordingly I told Mr. Dulles that I thought it better if I did not. Subsequently, in partnership with Jim [James] Loeb, we bought a little daily newspaper in northern New York, Saranac Lake, where I was co-publisher-editor, jack-of-all-trades, and became president of the Adirondack Park Association, an association that covers all the communities of about a fifth of New York State, in the northeast corner; and advisor to the Governor on natural resources and.conservation. For a short time I worked with Averell Harriman when he was Governor. In 1956 I went out to campaign with the Adlai Stevenson staff, and in 1960 I joined John F. Kennedy at the Los Angeles convention and stayed with the Kennedy team through the election,
serving as Director of Press Relations for the Democratic National Committee. Subsequently I became Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs; and for the last seven and a half years I was Ambassador to Geneva to all the international organizations there. I am presently Dean of the School of Professional Studies, Foreign Service Institute, Department of State.
HESS: We will come back to a few of those and ask some further points on them. But to get back in time, just how did you come to be a member of the White House staff?
TUBBY: Well, my understanding is that Charlie Ross and the President asked Joe Short who was then with the Baltimore Sun, and Bill Hillman who was then with Collier's, and I think one other, to make nominations for a possible successor to
Charlie Ross, because Charlie had indicated that he would like very much to retire, and to get a country paper and edit it during his last years.
HESS: About what time was this that Mr. Ross was thinking of retiring?
TUBBY: My recollection is that this was maybe as early as 1949. Anyway, Bill Hillman called me one day at the State Department and said he would like to have a meeting with me at the Carlton Hotel, and I did meet him there with Matt Connelly. They told me what they had in mind -- would I be interested in coming to the White House? They didn't say exactly what date. I had been nominated to go to the National War College for the following year and I was very much interested in doing so and continuing my career in State, but naturally,
when you get an invitation to go to the White House, you drop everything else.
Then Charlie Ross had his heart attack and died, and Mr. Truman, very wisely, I think, chose Joe Short as Charlie's successor. Joe had been covering the White House for a number of years for the Baltimore Sun and had the complete confidence of HST.
HESS: Do you recall when you first met Mr. Short?
TUBBY: I had known him slightly over the years, but I don't think I really met him or had a talk with him until around November of 1950.
HESS: How would you compare the two men, as to the way that they handled the office: Charles Ross and Joe Short?
TUBBY: Well, I didn't know Charlie Ross enough -- I rarely saw him in action. My impression is
that he had an easier personality, more relaxed personality than Joe Short, that he enjoyed a very long friendship with HST over many years, and that there was complete confidence, rapport between the President and Charlie, and the President held Charlie in very high regard. He had been former editorial writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and chief of the Bureau for the Post-Dispatch in Washington.
Joe enjoyed the President's confidence likewise. He was, by nature, however, quite tense, very conscientious as was Charlie Ross, but very much aware of the possibility of error and of consequences of error in anything that was said to the press, and so I do think that Joe was more wary and therefore, perhaps, in some ways, not quite as successful as Charlie was. Somebody else really ought to make a judgment on that.
HESS: You mentioned that you did not have very many dealings with Charles Ross while he was Press Secretary, is that right?
TUBBY: I had only one, and this was in connection with the termination of Lend-Lease. I was then assistant to Mr. Crowley, who called me up from Chicago one day, I think it was in August of 1946, and said that he wanted me to draft a statement for his approval to go to the White House indicating that Lend-Lease be terminated forthwith. I drafted a statement in which 'I recalled the tremendous job that Lend-Lease had done during the war and indicated that there would probably be some follow-up measures taken to carry on the general thrust of Lend-Lease. These measures were eventually taken in the form of the Marshall plan. When Mr. Crowley came back to his office, then in the National Press Club, I showed him this draft and he said, "This
isn't what I want at all. I just want a short, brief statement indicating that Lend-Lease is to be terminated forthwith."
I said that I felt maybe this wasn't the wisest course and he said, "Well, we owe it to the Congress. We've indicated that when the war was over that we would terminate Lend-Lease. The war is over and we should therefore make the statement."
I took it over to the White House. On the way out of the Crowley office, Oscar Cox, who had drafted the Lend-Lease Act, was sitting in an outer office. Crowley had really taken over from Oscar Cox. I paused briefly to say to Oscar that I was on my way to the White House and I wasn't very happy about what I was going to have to do, and then went on my way. When I got to the White House I saw Charlie Ross and handed him the Crowley statement and he looked
at it; and I also showed him the somewhat longer statement that I had drafted. He took both of them. Whether or not he ever showed both of them to the President I don't really know; or what he may have said to the President I don't really know, if anything, about the longer draft. But when I got back to my office I had a summons from Mr. Crowley to appear forthwith to his office. From the tone of his voice I felt pretty certain that he wanted me to come in and that he was going to fire me, for understandable reasons. I had seen him fire two or three other people, and he did it in a very short and sure way. So I said goodbye to my staff and went up to see him, but by the time I had gotten there, he did not fire me, he indicated displeasure, but he said instead that he wanted to have a press conference. He had never had a press conference
as head of FEA. Bert Andrews, the then Bureau Chief of the New York Herald-Tribune, had called Charlie Ross and expressed his astonishment that Lend-Lease was being termi