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Paul Mike Westwood Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Paul Mike Westwood

Mr. Westwood is a former employee of Jackson County and a lieutenant with the Independence, Missouri Police Department. He drove Mr. Truman occasionally before President Truman became President. After the President returned to Independence, Lieutenant Mike Westwood was assigned to the detail of guarding the President. Lieutenant Westwood retired from the Independence Police Department in 1973.

Independence, Missouri
December 30, 1975
by Jerald L. Hill and William D. Stilley

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

 


Notice
This interview was conducted by William D. Stilley and Jerald L. Hill as part of a intern and independent study project at William Jewell College in March 1976, under the direction of the Political Science Department of William Jewell College. 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 transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of William D. Stilley and Jerald L. Hill.

Opened July, 1985
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

 

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

 



Oral History Interview with
Paul Mike Westwood

Independence, Missouri
December 30, 1975
by Jerald L. Hill and William D. Stilley

[1]

STILLEY: Mr. Westwood, when did you first meet President Truman?

WESTWOOD: Well, that's been years and years ago, you see. When he was a County Judge I worked for the County, too, and we were friends then. I drove him when he was a County Judge when the regular driver for the County Court was off sick or on vacation. The man who did all the driving for the County Court was Hunter Allen, and they were Army buddies. And that was the beginning of my time with former President Harry Truman.

[2]

HILL: Did he ever talk about his future or anything at that time?

WESTWOOD: No, he never did. During that time he never talked about anything beyond getting these main crossroads and things like that into the county. He worked very hard on that and you will find that the different roads, the slabs on cross sections of the county, for instance Buckner-Tarsney Road, the extension of Noland Road, extension of Sterling, and those--Blue Ridge Cutoff--those roads were designed and put in while he was the County Judge, which made it more convenient for people to get around into the county than it was. Before they had to go on a lot of dirt roads. I think 150 [Highway] runs out of Greenwood west and that was one of the crossroads that he put in, I think south of Lee's Summit there.

HILL: How much contact did you have with President Truman after he left County Judge, while he was Senator and while he was President?

[3]

WESTWOOD: Well, all of the time that he was Senator when he would come home from the White House, if he came on the train rather than drove, why, I would always be one of several people who would meet him at the train. I had a station wagon and I always handled all of his baggage. Even after he was President when he came home, if he came home on the train, or a plane, why I would meet him over at the depot or the airport and pick up his baggage and bring them; to Independence.

One incident that happened when he was President, the first time I guess he came home. I was detailed to go and pick up his baggage over town, so I loaded them in the station wagon, and I just took out for home like I had when he was Senator, and I noticed in my rear view mirror that there was a black car following me. I thought, "Oh, no, somebody wants to get hold of the President's stuff." So, knowing the northeast district like I did, why, I finally lost the big black car. And when I got to Independence, to the "White House,"

[4]

the Secret Service was waiting for me. And they said, "What did you go off and leave that black car for?"

I said, "Well, I thought they were after me, so I just thought I'd ditch them."

They said, "They were Secret Service, and they were supposed to follow you out and see that nothing happened to the baggage." From that time on, there was always a Secret Service man rode in the car with me, and I didn't have any black car following me.

HILL: When President Truman came back from being President, back as a citizen, you were his personal chauffeur, is that right?

WESTWOOD: No, I was detailed down there to look after the property and to look after the family at the Little White House there at Truman and Delaware. But it got so bad and there were so many hunters for, oh I would say, a little something. Like they would tear limbs off of the tree, and they would

[5]

pick up leaves, and try to tear the fence down. We had to file with the city to put a detail down there. You see, when he came back from the White House, there was no array of Secret Service taking care of him. The bill had not been before Congress until after Johnson got in, and there was a bill passed that the Secret Service should take care of the President and the First Lady, if they wanted them. So we had a detail down there, around the clock, and I was in charge of the detail.

As far as driving him is concerned, the Highway Patrol--Colonel Wagner was the colonel of the Highway Patrol. at that time--appointed Sergeant Bell, from the Troop A area down here to take him back and forth from Independence to Kansas City. His office was in Kansas City at that time, and they had quite a deal on that. He stayed over there with him, and then Kansas City also had a detail there at his office all the time.

HILL: How much contact did you have with President Truman after he came back? You saw him, you were

[6]

there daily at the house?

WESTWOOD: Oh, yes, we were with him. One of us took a walk with him every morning. There was one incident. We had quite a few people that would come there and try to get in to see the President. They would say that they were sent here, they had a vision, and things like that. We had quite a few nuts around here at that particular time. And of course, we had to check them all out, and naturally that takes time when you start checking somebody out like that, because you have to write to the city where they came from, and find out all the information. Now, the Secret Service, since they've been here, why, we could check somebody out in less than five minutes. They teletyped it to Washington and put it on the computer and in less than five minutes why the information is back all about the guy, where he comes from and what he had done, who he is, and how much he's worth, and his whole life history.

HILL: When did the Secret Service first come to protect

[7]

Truman as a former President? How did your duties with the President change when the Secret Service came?

WESTWOOD: Well, when they first passed that bill in Congress for the Secret Service to take over the protection of the President and the First Lady, if they wanted them, there wasn't any question there, it was just that they came out and took over. They didn't ask him whether they wanted them or they didn't want them. So I was relieved of that duty then and the Secret Service claimed that there was no way that they could keep me down there. So I was put back to the Police Department where I had been authorized by the City and the Council to look after the President on this detail, back on the job with the City, and I was available to the Court. In about three days, I think, after they had taken over, why, he called me--or called out to the house and talked to my wife, and said to have me get in touch with him right away. So I called him, and I was in

[8]

court, I came down out of the court case office and I talked to him and he said, "You want to pick me up in the morning?"

And I said, "I sure do."

He said, "Well, I just relieved all the Secret Service." So then I went back on the job taking him wherever he wanted to go. See, I was a liaison officer between the City of Independence and the President, besides being the chauffeur and bodyguard, and they didn't seem to think they needed me; and so then he didn't seem to think he needed them at the present time. But later on, after a year or so, why Johnson became the President, he called him and asked if he couldn't send down a Secret Service man to help out--with we talked it over and I said, "I think it's a good idea, because you see, the Secret Service can chase down anybody," and like I said, in only a very short time, where it takes us three or four days as a police department to run anything down like that.

So then, we had one and then we had more, and

[9]

then we had around-the-clock, and now they have all three shifts, which they've had for the last, oh, several years, quite a few years. There's been a complete detail of Secret Service men, and they watch over Mrs. Truman now since the President has passed on,

STILLEY: Were there any actual threats on the President's life after he came home to Independence?

WESTWOOD: No, there wasn't anybody who really threatened him; a lot of people wanted to see him. There is only one instance I know of, that he let somebody come in out at the Library and as we checked him out we found that he had a pistol on him, and he said that was to protect his money. He was from back east somewhere. He had got out of an institution and he did have quite a bit of money on him, but he said he didn't come to harm the President, he came out here to see him. So, the Chief of Police at that time, contacted his folks and, of course, they had the Chief bring

[10]

him back to this particular town in the east and he was put back into the institution. But as far as anybody trying to harm the president, there was nobody really trying to harm him. There were lots of people had threatened, but threatening and fulfilling it is two different things. And I had no trouble whatsoever with anybody.

HILL: Was President Truman pretty free with his time after he came back to Independence, like if people called up and said they wanted to meet him did he make an appointment, and this type of thing?

WESTW