Ewing, Oscar R. Papers

1900-1994

Vice chairman, Democratic National Committee, 1942-1947; Administrator, Federal Security Agency, 1947-1953

The papers of Oscar R. Ewing contain correspondence, printed materials, legal and financial records, drafts of speeches, and other items relating to his service as Administrator of the Federal Security Agency, his political activities as a leader of the Democratic Party, his career as a lawyer, and his personal life.

See also Oscar R. Ewing oral history.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Note | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]

ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: 30.4 linear feet.
Access: Open.
Copyright: The donor of the collection also gave his copyright interest in these materials to the United States of America. Records created by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are also in the public domain. The copyright interest in other materials in the collection presumably belongs to the creators of those materials, or to their heirs.
Processed by: Erwin J. Mueller (1983); Doug McClellan and David Clark (2013); Randy Sowell (2023).


[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Note | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Oscar Ross Ewing was born in Greensburg, Indiana on March 8, 1889. He graduated from Indiana University in 1910 and from Harvard Law School in 1913. Ewing married Helen Dennis in 1915 and they had two sons, James and George. After briefly serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, Ewing joined the New York law firm of Hughes, Schurman & Dwight. When that firm was dissolved in 1937, he became a partner in a new firm, Hughes, Hubbard & Ewing.

After many years of work for the Democratic Party, Ewing became Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1942. As a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, he prosecuted William Dudley Pelley for sedition in 1942 and Douglas Chandler for treason in 1947. In August 1947, President Truman appointed Ewing Administrator of the Federal Security Agency, a post he held until January 1953. As Administrator, Ewing oversaw the activities of the Social Security Administration, the Public Health Service, and the Office of Education, and supported Truman’s proposed program of national health insurance, which was strongly opposed by the American Medical Association. Ewing was a founding member of the “Wardman Park Group” a conclave of administration officials who often met informally at the Wardman Park Hotel, where Ewing stayed during his years in Washington. Along with other members of the group, such as Clark Clifford, Leon Keyserling, and G. Girard Davidson, Ewing urged the President to adopt a more liberal political agenda. He was an important figure in Truman’s successful Presidential campaign in 1948.

Ewing retired from public office at the end of the Truman administration but remained active in Democratic Party politics. His first wife died in 1953, and he married his second wife, Mary "Heidi" Thomas, in 1955. Ewing died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on January 8, 1980.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Note | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The papers of Oscar R. Ewing include correspondence, printed materials, legal and financial records, and drafts of speeches relating to his service as Administrator of the Federal Security Agency (FSA) from 1947 to 1953, his political activities as a leader of the Democratic Party, his career as a lawyer, and his personal life. The collection is arranged in seven series.

The first series, the Personal Correspondence File, contains letters (both originals and copies) and telegrams dating almost entirely from 1918 to 1936 and from 1944 to 1947. Throughout this period, Ewing was an attorney in New York. The correspondence in the series mostly concerns his personal life but includes information about his law practice, his financial affairs, his civic activities, and his involvement in politics as a member of the Democratic Party. Also included are references to such contemporary events as the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, and World War II. (One 1911 letter was enclosed with correspondence Ewing received in 1918. There is no correspondence in the series from the 1937-1943 period.)

The second series, the Daily Reading File, contains copies of letters and telegrams from Ewing or one of his secretaries, and a few original letters received by Ewing. The beginning of the series roughly coincides with his appointment as Administrator of the FSA in August 1947. From 1947 to 1953, much of the correspondence pertains to Ewing’s official responsibilities and his involvement in politics as an ardent supporter of President Truman and his administration. Topics include the 1948 Presidential election, the controversy surrounding Truman’s national health insurance program, efforts to elevate the FSA to a Cabinet-level Department, and Ewing’s departure from the agency at the end of the Truman administration. From 1953 to 1976, there are significant chronological gaps in the series, and the correspondence is largely concerned with Ewing’s travels, financial activities, and personal affairs, although some references to political events are included.

The third series, the Alphabetical Correspondence File, contains letters, telegrams, financial and legal records, and printed materials. Included in this series is correspondence with Mr. Truman and other veterans of his administration; with Ewing’s relatives and friends; and with such prominent persons as Hubert H. Humphrey (whose Presidential campaigns Ewing supported in 1960 and 1968), Wendell L. Willkie, the civil rights leader Walter White, and the journalists Herbert Bayard Swope and Mike Wallace. The Alphabetical Correspondence File contains many original letters received by Ewing as well as carbon copies of letters he sent to others.

The fourth series, the Federal Security Agency File, contains materials relating to Ewing’s tenure as Federal Security Administrator. Included are letters concerning his swearing-in ceremony, transcripts of his testimony before Congressional committees and subcommittees regarding proposed legislation, and records of his official appointments and telephone calls. Also included are letters, memoranda, and printed materials concerning various allegations that were made against Ewing by his political opponents, and Congressional investigations of these charges. Among other things, Ewing was accused of improperly employing an FSA employee as a chef to prepare private lunches for himself and his guests, of using his visits to European countries to promote "socialized medicine" in the United States, and of encouraging political partisanship in the Office of Education.

The fifth series, the Political File, contains correspondence, printed materials, financial records, lists, and other items relating to Ewing’s service as Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and his involvement in political campaigns. Included are letters commenting on the relatively poor performance of Democratic candidates in the 1942 Congressional elections; materials pertaining to Ewing’s candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1952; the results of various public opinion polls and surveys; correspondence and printed materials relating to politics in Ewing’s home state of New York and such political allies and adversaries as Thomas E. Dewey, Paul Fitzpatrick, and Edward J. Flynn; and information concerning such political issues as civil rights and U.S. support for Israel.

The sixth series, the Speeches and Articles File, contains speech drafts, printed materials, correspondence, press releases, itineraries, and handwritten notes. The speech drafts and published articles in this series reflect Ewing’s political activities on behalf of the Democratic Party and his involvement in such fields as education, public health, and social welfare during and after his tenure as FSA Administrator. Much of this material relates to his support for President Truman’s proposed program of national health insurance. Ewing delivered many speeches to labor organizations, Jewish groups, government officials, and Democratic Party assemblies. He made frequent appearances on radio and television, held press conferences, and wrote articles for national publications. The series also includes some speeches delivered by others on Ewing’s behalf, drafts of campaign speeches that Ewing never delivered, and background material that was used in preparing Ewing’s speeches and public statements.

The seventh and final series, the Subject File, contains correspondence, printed materials, financial records, and itineraries concerning Ewing’s travels, his interest in public health and social welfare programs, his involvement in politics and legal affairs, and his life after his retirement from government service in 1953. Included in this series are the contents of eleven scrapbooks containing printed materials, correspondence, and other items that document Ewing’s life and his career as FSA Administrator. Also included is information relating to a trip around the world that Ewing and his wife took in late 1952 and early 1953, during which he conferred with public officials in a number of Asian countries; documentation of his involvement in locating a national center for the study of environmental health in North Carolina; and materials relating to government policy in the fields of education, health, and medical care for the elderly during the 1950s and 1960s.

More information about Oscar R. Ewing can be found in the transcript of a 1969 oral history interview with Ewing, and in the papers of Harry S. Truman: Official File (OF 299-I and 299-J); President’s Personal File (PPF 3397); and Post-Presidential Papers (Name File and Outgoing Correspondence File).

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SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

Container Nos.

 

Series

1-6

  PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE FILE, 1911-1947 [mostly 1918-1936 and 1944-1947]
Letters, telegrams, and other documents. Arranged chronologically.
7-11   DAILY READING FILE, 1947-1976
Letters and other documents. Arranged chronologically.
12-27   ALPHABETICAL CORRESPONDENCE FILE, 1915-1976
Letters, financial and legal records, printed materials, and other documents. Arranged alphabetically.
28-36   FEDERAL SECURITY AGENCY FILE, 1934-1954
Letters, transcripts, printed materials, and other documents. Arranged alphabetically.
37-45   POLITICAL FILE, 1933-1957
Letters, printed materials, financial records, lists, and other documents. Arranged alphabetically.
46-61   SPEECHES AND ARTICLES FILE, 1900-1968
Speech drafts, printed materials, letters, itineraries, handwritten notes, press releases, and other documents. Arranged chronologically, with a card index at the end of the series.
62-76   SUBJECT FILE, 1900-1994
Letters, printed materials, itineraries, financial records, and other documents. Arranged alphabetically.
[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Note | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

FOLDER TITLE LIST

Box 1

PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE FILE, 1911-1947

  • December 30, 1918 - October 8, 1920
  • October 9, 1920 - November 14, 1921
  • November 15, 1921 - January 5, 1923
  • January 6, 1923 - October 25, 1923
  • October 25, 1923 - August 12, 1924

Box 2

  • August 13, 1924 - August 8, 1925 [1 of 2]
  • August 13, 1924 - August 8, 1925 [2 of 2]
  • August 11, 1925 - August 6, 1926 [1 of 2]
  • August 11, 1925 - August 6, 1926 [2 of 2]
  • August 13, 1926 - September 12, 1927 [1 of 2]
  • August 13, 1926 - September 12, 1927 [2 of 2]
  • September 13, 1927 - June 11, 1928 [1 of 2]
  • September 13, 1927 - June 11, 1928 [2 of 2]

Box 3

  • June 12, 1928 - January 31, 1929 [1 of 2]
  • June 12, 1928 - January 31, 1929 [2 of 2]
  • February 1, 1929 - September 23, 1929 [1 of 2]
  • February 1, 1929 - September 23, 1929 [2 of 2]
  • September 24, 1929 - May 29, 1930 [1 of 2]
  • September 24, 1929 - May 29, 1930 [2 of 2]
  • May 30, 1930 - May 12, 1931 [1 of 2]
  • May 30, 1930 - May 12, 1931 [2 of 2]

Box 4

  • May 13, 1931 - June 24, 1932 [1 of 2]
  • May 13, 1931 - June 24, 1932 [2 of 2]
  • June 25, 1932 - July 13, 1933 [1 of 2]
  • June 25, 1932 - July 13, 1933 [2 of 2]
  • July 14, 1933 - July 13, 1934 [1 of 2]
  • July 14, 1933 - July 13, 1934 [2 of 2]
  • July 14, 1934 - April 9, 1935 [1 of 2]

Box 5

  • July 14, 1934 - April 9, 1935 [2 of 2]
  • April 10, 1935 - December 31, 1935 [1 of 2]
  • April 10, 1935 - December 31, 1935 [2 of 2]
  • January 2, 1936 - September 8, 1936 [1 of 2]
  • January 2, 1936 - September 8, 1936 [2 of 2]
  • August 1, 1944 - September 20, 1945 [1 of 2]