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William Wear, Sr. Oral History Interview

   

Oral History Interview
with
William Wear, Sr.

Springfield, Missouri attorney; friend and political supporter of Harry S. Truman; son of Sam M. Wear who was a longtime friend and political organizer for Senator Truman.

April 26, 1990
Niel M. Johnson
Springfield, Missouri

[|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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 January, 1992
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

 



Oral History Interview with
William Wear

Springfield, Missouri
April 26, 1990
Niel M. Johnson

[1]

JOHNSON: Let me begin, Mr. Wear, by asking you to tell us where and when you were born, and your parents' names.

WEAR: I was born in Springfield, Missouri, on January 27, 1915, to Sam M. Wear and Susan M. McClellan Wear, my mother.

JOHNSON: Your father's occupation was . . .

WEAR: He was a lawyer.

JOHNSON: And his father . . .

WEAR: Was a lawyer.

JOHNSON: Your grandfather, is he the one who immigrated into the area then?

WEAR: He came in here from northern Missouri; I don't know

[2]

when. He came into Barry County, down by Cassville and Monett. He lived in Cassville, and I think that's where my father was born. When my father was about 5 years old they moved to Springfield.

JOHNSON: Your father took up the law here in Springfield then.

WEAR: Right.

JOHNSON: I am interested in your father's background. Since we don't have an oral history interview with him, I think I'll ask you some questions about your father. What was his education?

WEAR: He graduated from Drury College here in Springfield. He had gone to the Drury Academy, which was, I guess, equivalent now to Springfield High School. I don't really know about his high school education. But he graduated from Drury College and then he went to Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, where he got his law degree.

JOHNSON: So he didn't just read law; he actually went to law school.

WEAR: He actually went through law school. Back in those days most of them just read law.

JOHNSON: Did he start his career with his father, or by

[3]

himself, or with another firm?

WEAR: I don't think he and his father were ever in partnership. He started with a law firm that I think was called Pepperdine & Farrington or something like that. I remember Judge [John S.] Farrington was one of the partners.

JOHNSON: Do you have any idea about what year that would have been?

WEAR: I think he graduated somewhere around 1902.

JOHNSON: So he started practicing in 1902 or '03.

WEAR: Yes. Of course, that was before I was here, so that's purely from what people have told me.

JOHNSON: Do you have any idea when he first got involved in politics, your father?

WEAR: Well, he was elected Prosecuting Attorney in 1912, here in Greene County. I think he was the only Democrat elected in this county that year. He was elected Prosecuting Attorney again in 1914. The Prosecuting Attorney then was a two-year term, and he served through 1916 and didn't run again.

JOHNSON: Was he in the service in World War I?

[4]

WEAR: No, he wasn't. See, I was born in 1915, so he had three children. He was married, with three children, so I presume that's why he didn't really serve.

JOHNSON: Do you know when he was born, or how old he was when you were born?

WEAR: Let's see. Off the top of my head I can't remember. I know he was 85 when he died in 1965.

JOHNSON: So he was Prosecuting Attorney until 1916. Did he go back into private practice then?

WEAR: Yes.

JOHNSON: So he was already involved to some extent in county politics, no doubt.

WEAR: Oh, yes. He was always a real strong Democrat.

JOHNSON: How about the Democrat Central Committee of the County? Do you have any idea when he became an officer of that committee?

WEAR: I don't know when he became an officer of the Central Committee, but he was on the State Committee for a good many years, and he was Chairman of the Democratic State Committee twice. I think he was in 1940 when Truman had his big race for the Senate against [Lloyd C.] Stark and [Maurice] Milligan.

[5]

JOHNSON: Do you remember the Dickey-Wear faction versus the Greenwade faction?

WEAR: Yes.

JOHNSON: That apparently was quite a controversy.

WEAR: I didn't know much detail about it, but they used to fight over the various offices in the committee.

JOHNSON: Apparently Champ Clark was not a friend of [C.W.] Greenwade.

WEAR: Greenwade was a part of this, and I remember at one time [Sam M.] Wear and [Charles W.] Dickey were on one side and then later it was Wear and Greenwade against Dickey. You know how those things go. The details of it I couldn't tell you.

JOHNSON: Did the Republicans have a strong county organization?

WEAR: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact Greene County has always been Republican, predominantly Republican.

JOHNSON: From the Civil War on?

WEAR: Yes.

JOHNSON: So you really had to work to win elections.

WEAR: You really had to get out and battle them if you were

[6]

a Democrat in Greene County. When he [Sam Wear] was elected prosecutor the first time, he was the only Democrat on the whole ticket elected.

JOHNSON: I wonder what made him a Democrat?

WEAR: He was raised as such. My mother was a Democrat. Her father fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side. I think he was a bugler or something; he was only about 14 years old. That was her background.

JOHNSON: Your father or grandfather on your father's side, was that a Confederate background too?

WEAR: No. At least if he did I never had any knowledge of it. I never met my grandfather on my father's side. He died before I was born.

JOHNSON: Apparently, your father was Congressional District representative to the Democrat State Committee in 1932, the year that Roosevelt was elected.

WEAR: I think so.

JOHNSON: Did you have any knowledge of Truman yet in '34, in that Senatorial campaign?

WEAR: Yes. Oh, yes.

JOHNSON: Do you remember your father's role at all in that '34 campaign?

[7]

WEAR: I was pretty busy running after girls during those days. I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to politics, but I would hear conversations or read some of the stuff in the papers.

JOHNSON: Then, in 1940, of course, comes the second Senatorial campaign for Harry Truman.

WEAR: I was very familiar with that campaign, because I was in law school then, and I was campaign manager for George Robb Ellison, whose picture is right above your head there. He was the last Supreme Court Judge who had to run state-wide.

JOHNSON: A State Supreme Court Judge, and he had to run at-large?

WEAR: Right; it was in the 1940s when they adopted what they called the Missouri Court Plan, which is in effect now, but they no longer have to run except against their own record. But he had to run, and he had a race. He ran against a Republican opponent; he was a Democrat. Of course, I was in Sedalia when Truman kicked off his campaign. And that's when Truman just sort of introduced my father, and Dad made the speech. In those days Truman was not a speaker at all.

JOHNSON: So your dad was quite an orator apparently.

[8]

WEAR: He was a very, very fine speaker.

JOHNSON: I notice that you attended a Democrat picnic near Cameron, Missouri in July of 1940, that was presided over by Father Wogan.

WEAR: Probably did; that was probably when I was with Judge Ellison.

JOHNSON: Yes, I think you were there with Judge Ellison for whom you were working. Do you happen to remember a Ted Sanders, who was running the Truman campaign up in Cameron?

WEAR: I don't.

JOHNSON: You don't remember that picnic in particular?

WEAR: No, I went to a lot of them. We campaigned the whole state of Missouri, but I was working for Ellison more than anything else during that campaign.

JOHNSON: So you weren't necessarily also speaking up for Truman?

WEAR: I was speaking up for Truman any opportunity I got.

JOHNSON: Your father was chairman of the State Democrat Committee. Wasn't he elected to that in 1940?

WEAR: I think so.

[9]

JOHNSON: And he was one of the vice-chairmen of the Harry S. Truman for U.S. Senator renomination election committee according to one of the letterheads.

WEAR: Probably was.

JOHNSON: And as you mentioned, he was in charge of arrangements for the opening of Truman's campaign.

WEAR: That's right. I was in Sedalia; I was there.

JOHNSON: That was in June of 1940.

WEAR: Judge Ellison and I were both there.

JOHNSON: What are your recollections of that rally, or that opening there, in Sedalia in 1940?

WEAR: Well, I suppose I couldn't tell you what anyone said, but it was very interesting, especially since I was there working with Judge Ellison and my father was pretty much in charge of the meeting and gave the main address.

JOHNSON: Milligan and Stark were also candidates, and they were Democrats.

WEAR: That was the primary.

JOHNSON: Yes. What was your father's attitude towards Stark and Milligan?

[10]

WEAR: Dad had been a colonel on Stark's staff when Stark was Governor. I think it was because he was just prominent in the Democratic Party. He never cared much for him.

JOHNSON: Your father didn't care that much for Stark?

WEAR: No, and he didn't care anything about Milligan, because Milligan, although he claimed credit for a lot of things, his associates and assistants are the ones who really prosecuted those things. He was a weak United States Attorney, frankly. At least that was my dad's opinion. I didn't know him well. But he didn't do much of the work himself.

JOHNSON: I see. Did your father have any grievances against Stark? Did your father ever comment about Stark?

WEAR: He just didn't care much about him.

JOHNSON: And he knew him very well.

WEAR: Oh, yes, he knew him.

JOHNSON: Did he have the same opinion as Truman had of Stark?

WEAR: Probably; he probably got it from Truman, because he and Truman were very close. They were very close.

[11]

JOHNSON: Well, when did they get close? Was it in the '34 campaign?

WEAR: I imagine the '34 campaign. That's when I got acquainted with Mr. Truman. You see, I graduated from college in 1937, at Drury. As a matter of fact, I was going to the University of Missouri, but my father, through Truman's connection, had gotten jobs for two or three boys in Washington, so they could go to George Washington University. I told my father; I said, "Why don't I go to George Washington University? One law school is as good as another." And he said, "Well, I'll write the Senator and see what he says." Well, he wrote the Senator and the Senator instead of calling or writing, just sent a telegram; he used to always send telegrams. This is early summer, before school even started, and he told me to just come right up to Washington. I thought I had to get there in a hurry, so I did; I got ready and packed and on my way to Washington, and arrived there. I think I got to Washington the day the NRA was declared unconstitutional, and about 5,000 people were automatically, overnight, unemployed; and that was the job market that I hit.

JOHNSON: When was that?

WEAR: That was '37. I graduated in '37. It was '37

[12]

because I went to George Washington in '37-'38.

JOHNSON: But when did you first meet Truman, actually meet him?

WEAR: Probably in '34.

JOHNSON: But you don't remember any details?

W