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Ambassador William Fletcher Warren Oral History Interviews, Vol I

Oral History Interview with
Ambassador William Fletcher Warren

Ambassador to Nicaragua, 1945-47; Ambassador to Paraguay, 1947-50; Director, Office of South American Affairs, Department of State, 1950; Ambassador to Venezuela,

Commerce, Texas
Volume I
September 6, 1973 | September 10,1973 | September 17,1973
by Byron A. Parham

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed | Additional Warren Oral History Transcripts]

This is a transcription of an interview for the Oral History Program at East Texas State University, Commerce, Texas. 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.

Scholars and researchers may utilize short excerpts from this transcription without obtaining permission if proper credit is given to the interviewee, the interviewer, and the University. For extensive use of this material, permission must be obtained from the University.

This material may not be reproduced by any party except East Texas State University . However, to further the goal of thorough research, copies of unrestricted interviews may be obtained at cost by contacting the Oral History Office, East Texas State University , Commerce , Texas 75428 .

Opened February, 1974
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed
| Additional Warren Oral History Transcripts]


Oral History Interview with
Ambassador William Fletcher Warren

Commerce, Texas
September 6, 1973
by Byron A. Parham


PARHAM: Ambassador Warren, if you would, tell us something of your background: who your people were, and when you were born. I notice on the wall of your study, here, a certificate indicating that you are a member of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

WARREN: Thank you. My name is William Fletcher Warren, known in the Foreign Service and locally as Fletcher Warren. I was born March 3, 1896, about a mile and a quarter southwest of Wolfe City [Texas]. I got the membership in the S.A.R. through my great, great, great grandfather, Isaiah Warren, Sr., who was born about 1749 and died September 11, 1848. He had a son, Blake Warren; Blake Warren had a son, Isaiah Warren III, I'll call him; and Isaiah Warren III had a son, Abraham Warren, my grandfather, who came from North Carolina by way of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to near Rehobeth Cemetery, a mile and a half or two miles northeast of Wolfe City. There was no Wolfe City, of course,


then. Abraham Warren's wife was Frances Caroline Sims Warren, and they had several children, one of whom was my father Moses Abraham Warren. He was born September 23, 1857, and died June 28, 1951. My mother was Mary Wilson Warren from Wood County. Her father and his family had come to Texas from Oconee County, South Carolina, Walhalla District. As I have said, I was born near Wolfe City, went to the public schools there, graduated in May, 1915, and entered the University of Texas in September, 1915. I stayed in the University until January, 1918, and then I succeeded in enlisting in the Quartermaster Corps of the United States Army. I left the University and went to Camp Joseph E. Johnston at Jacksonville, Florida. From there to France and back to the States in October, 1919. I entered the University again in January, 1920, and graduated June 17, 1921. I got the membership in the S. A. R. through my great, great, great grandfather, Isaiah Warren, Sr., who served in the Revolutionary Army. It is not necessary, I'm sure, here to state the names of the other members of my immediate family. That, I believe, answers your question.

PARHAM: I understand that you completed your high school in the Wolfe City area. Would you make a comment on your high school studies and the activities you were involved in?

Warren: I did go to the Wolfe City High School and, as I say, graduated


in May, 1915. I was valedictorian of my class. I did not take part in sports. In the first place, I was living on a farm. Any time I was not in school, I was doing things on the farm or work that my father had for me to do. I graduated in 1915 and entered the University the same fall. In the University, I did not take part in sports. The only thing I had time for was studying because I was working my way through the University. The first year I waited on tables at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house and the second year I was in the University cafeteria waiting on tables. After that I was lucky. A friend of the family's became superintendent of the Texas School for the Deaf. He found me delivering papers one afternoon in Austin and asked me how I'd like to work at the Texas School for the Deaf. I told him that nothing would please me more and he told me when to report. I went over there, [and] he gave me a job as a landscape gardener. At the time I left the Texas School for the Deaf to enter the Foreign Service, I was supervisor of the students making $125.00 a month, [in addition to] room, board, and laundry and had more money than I've ever had since that date. That was in June, 1921. During the period, 1915-1921, I served in the United States Army for almost two years. On graduation from the University, I went to Washington. Ten days later I took the Foreign


Service examination and was fortunate enough to pass. I went back to the Texas School for the Deaf and stayed until I was notified in November to report for duty on December 1, 1921, to the State Department in Washington. I did that and thereupon began my Foreign Service career. After receiving notice of my appointment, Mrs. Warren and I were married at Eagle Lake, Texas, on November 24, 1921. She went with me to Washington when I reported for duty and went with me on every assignment that the Department gave me.

PARHAM: Did you meet Mrs. Warren at the University of Texas?

WARREN: Mrs. Warren was a student at Rice University. We met during the summer of 1920. The only time in my school career I went to summer school. That summer I went because I had lost two years in the military service. That [same] summer, she went to Texas for six weeks for the first summer school session. That's where we met.

PARHAM: You were married the next year?

WARREN: Yes, in 1921, that's right.

PARHAM: I note that you took the Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Texas. What was your major, and could you give us some comment on the studies you pursued there at the University?

WARREN: I majored in economics and mirrored in government, although


I had as many government courses as I did economics courses. I met several very interesting professors in the University of Texas. One was Professor Miller--E. T. Miller--who was an authority on financial phases of economics. I met C. [Caleb] Perry Patterson who became known throughout Texas as a professor of history [government]. I met Max Handman--Max Sylvius Handman--who was, as we would call him today, professor of social sciences [sociology]. And I met Albert Benedict Wolfe, the outstanding professor at that time in Texas in economics. All of these men helped me, but especially Perry Patterson, the history professor, and Dr. Miller, the economics professor.

PARHAM: Now, you mentioned that you worked at the Texas School for the Deaf. One account lists you as supervisor of students. What duties did this entail?

WARREN: Well, you see, the deaf students had to be supervised in the usual sense of the word. For instance, they had to be escorted to the dining room and when they came out, they left in formation and were escorted to their classrooms or wherever they should go. They were with the supervisors when they were not under direct instruction from their teachers. And so, that is what a supervisor did. They had a real job in supervising these students, some of them who were just in the first grade and some of them who should have been out of school and back where they came because they were larger in


size and weighed more than I did. But at that time, it was possible to bring enough influence so that the school had kept on some of them that should not have been there the last two or three years of their attendance. It was an interesting job and it was one in which I should have known the sign language. I didn't know the sign language. I knew some--a few--of the signs, but I knew enough and my assistants knew enough so that we could handle the youngsters properly and keep them in line.

PARHAM: Looking back on your studies at the University of Texas, were there any particular courses which you found later to be exceptionally useful to you that you would perhaps recommend to a student today?

WARREN: Considering my Foreign Service career, I think I did not take a single course that I could not recommend to a youngster who was thinking of the Foreign Service today. For instance, I had Latin, three years; I had Spanish; I had French; I almost had Czech which changed my career in that I didn't have it; I had government; economics, including labor under Dr. W. M. W. [Walter Marshall William] Splawn, who was later on [a member of] the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington. I had international law under Judge [Egbert Raileyl Cockrell, I think it was, from Ft. Worth, who taught at T. C. U. I had geography in one


form or another. I had enough mathematics, which I detested, to be able to pass that part of the Foreign Service examination. I can give you a transcript of the courses--the list of courses and even the grades that I made--if you are interested.

PARHAM: Yes, that would be most interesting. You mentioned a Judge Cockrell, who taught at T.C.U. Was he a visiting professor at the University of Texas?

WARREN: Yes, at summer school--the summer school when I met my wife. I think it was Cockrell. It's a good Fort Worth name and I haven't had the occasion to think of the man's name in a long time, but I'm pretty sure it was Judge Cockrell. Any rate, he was a fine old gentleman and he taught us international law that summer.

PARHAM: Can you give us some understanding of your military service? You mentioned where you went to camp in Florida and then went to France.

WARREN: Yes. As I have not stated here, I had left the University in April, 1917, to go to the first officers' training camp at Leon Springs [Texas]. Then, as now, I only have one good eye [the left one]. But I thought, maybe, that if I got down there and if the military worked on it, I could get glasses and be all right. Well, I stayed there ten days. After about two or three days--as soon as they had had an


opportunity to examine me carefully--my captain told me, "You'll have to go to San Antonio and get yourself fitted with glasses then everything will be all right." Well, I went to San Antonio to the oculist he recommended. He examined me and he said, "Warren, we can't do a thing for you." I returned to the camp, discouraged, and I said, "Well, I won't say anything. Maybe they'll forget about it." That showed how little I knew about the military, you see. Well, on the ninth day he called me in and said, "Warren, how about your glasses?" .I told him the truth. He said, "Well, son, we can't use you here. Why don't you go on back to the University and take up your studies where you left off." So, I did. It was Saturday when I left. I had a check in my pocket for whatever it was for ten days service. They took me to San Antonio in a military conveyance and dropped me there. It was Sunday morning. I couldn't cash the check; I couldn't get breakfast. I walked the streets for a long time. And then I walked from downtown San Antonio from about the Alamo out to Fort Sam Houston. I got out to Fort Sam Houston, and because it was Sunday, of course, I couldn't cash the check. I turned around and walked back downtown. I didn't have any money in my pocket. I got downtown. I went into a Greek restaurant and from that time on I've been for the Greeks. I saw the Greek


owner of the place and he looked me over. And he said, "You have this check?" "Yes." "Yours?" "Yes." "How do you happen to have it?" I told him. "Well," he said, "You look like an honest man to me. I'm going to take a chance." He cashed my check and I ate with him. Then that afternoon I caught a train out of San Antonio headed for Wolfe City. When I got up to Wolfe City I found that all my friends--my close friends--were in the military, and I wasn't. I wanted to be there just as bad as they did. One of the men that I had been there [at Leon Springs] with was Lynn Landrum. Later he made the Dallas News and had his column for years and years. Another man that I was with was John Booge from D'Hanis. We went down together. We left the University in the afternoon and went down to San Antonio and reported the next morning. John, he got to France like I did, but he didn't come home.

Well, after I got to Wolfe City, I stayed there during the summer months and worked on the farm with my dad, and when September came I went back to the University. Then I went home for Christmas. When I got home for Christmas, I had a good friend--I won't name him, but he was a friend of the family and he had known me from the day of