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Roger Tubby Oral History Interview

 

Oral History Interview with
Roger Tubby

Positions held during the Truman Administration included: Director of Information, Foreign Economic Administration, 1944-45; Assistant to the Administrator, FEA, 1945; Director of Information, Office of International Trade, Department of Commerce, 1945-46; Press Officer, Department of State, 1945-49; Executive Assistant for Press Relations, Department of State, 1950; Assistant Press Secretary, The White House, 1950-52; Acting Press Secretary to the President, October-December, 1952; Press Secretary to the President, December, 1952; subsequently served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, 1961-62 and U.S. Ambassador to Geneva to all the international organizations there, 1962-69.

Washington, D.C.
February 10, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess

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

 


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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, 1970
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

 

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

 



Oral History Interview with
Roger Tubby

 

Washington, D.C.
February 10, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess

[1]

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

[2]

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

[3]

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,

[4]

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

[5]

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,

[6]

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

[7]

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.

[8]

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

[9]

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

[10]

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

[11]

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 terminated in this manner. And Charlie had said, "Well, if you don't like it you'd better get in touch with Crowley. He's the man responsible." And Bert had, and I arranged a press conference. We had not only one, but two that day.

Well, that was my one very brief contact with Charlie Ross.

HESS: Do you know who Mr. Crowley consulted with on the decision to call for such a rapid dropping of Lend-Lease?

TUBBY: No, I don't. I think it would be interesting to know whom he consulted with. My guess would be that it may have been somebody, one or more, on the Hill, who had said, "What are you going

[12]

to do about Lend-Lease now that the war is over and we better cut it off." But I really don't know. It would be interesting to know that.

HESS: At the time you were at the State Department, did you have any dealings with Eben Ayers, who was Mr. Ross' Assistant Press Secretary?

TUBBY: Very few, very few. And I don't really remember any occasion when I talked to Eben.

HESS: I see. What were your first duties after you became a member of the White House press office?

TUBBY: Well, I had helped develop a new system of preparing for press conferences at the State Department under Secretary Marshall.

When I had gone to the State Department, under Secretary Byrnes, and later under his

[13]

successor, later dealing with Dean Acheson, the custom was usually to sit around with the Secretary a half an hour or so before a press conference, and orally bring up various questions that might be asked and to make suggestions as to how they might be answered. And some assistant secretaries or others might be called in to advise. It certainly seemed to General Marshall, or Secretary Marshall, too haphazard a way of preparation, and so under Marshall and Mike McDermott, we began to collect material two or three days ahead of time and put it into a black looseleaf notebook.

HESS: Who did you collect it from?

TUBBY: Well, we collected it from many different parts of the Department, from the Department of Defense, Interior, Commerce, depending on

[14]

the nature of the question. We usually anticipated anywhere from thirty to fifty or fifty-five possible questions. Sometimes we knew from our own contacts, sitting in the Secretary's staff meeting, or from other sources, pretty well the gist of what might make a sensible answer. Many times, however, we needed and got help from the relevant officials.

Well, anyway, this system seemed to work very well, and when I went to the White House I noticed that President Truman was using the old Byrnes system.

HESS: How would you describe that, as just a discussion group?

TUBBY: Just a discussion group. So I suggested to Joe Short that we try this other technique, the Marshall technique.

[15]

HESS: You suggested this early in your tenure at the White House?

TUBBY: When I first went over, and soon thereafter, we began to use the -- again, I should put in a caveat for all this. It's been a long time since I've thought about any of this and my recollection of dates may be off; it may even be considerably off. My recollection is that we started to do this fairly early on.

HESS: Was it successful?

TUBBY: I think it's been successful. I made a recommendation to Jim Hagerty that he do the same. He did through the Eisenhower years and indeed, when Kennedy came in I recommended to Pierre Salinger that he do the same. This has been carried on, I believe, right through to

[16]

today.

HESS: Did you ever hear President Truman compare the two systems of preparation, briefing books and discussions?

TUBBY: No, but he certainly seemed to like it. He would take the material -- the night before a press conference it would be in his hands. He would go over it at Blair House or in the White House, before he went to Blair House. Then in the morning, forty minutes or so before a press conference we would gather around with him. Meanwhile, there might have been some new things come up overnight that we would have checked on and suggest inclusion in his material.

HESS: One point, why I asked about the time that you brought in this new refinement, was from

[17]

Presidential Leadership of Public Opinion by Elmer E. Cornwell, on page 172, he says:

When Roger Tubby became Press Secretary towards the end of the Truman tenure, he instituted a further refinement which he had brought over from his experiences in the State Department.

Then he goes on, Cornwell implies that this was quite late during the time that you were at the White House.

TUBBY: He may be right, I don't know. I'm pretty sure that we were doing it much earlier on. I don't recall ever having talked to him, so I don't know where he got this information.

HESS: I think he had an interview -- I'm not sure if it was a personal interview or not -- but your name does appear in the notes in the back.

TUBBY: Then, in addition to working on preparation of the President's