Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the Faris oral history interview.
Opened April, 1975
Oral History Interview with
March 8, 1971
by J. R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Faris, I wonder if you would start this interview by giving me a little of your background, when and where you were born, something about your family, and then your jobs before you went into Mr. Truman's office when he became Senator.
FARIS: Well, I was born Edgar C. Faris, Jr. in Kansas City, Missouri, August 24, 1908. My father was City Architect of Kansas City. I think that he was only about twenty-five or twenty-six years old, and he built the City Market in Kansas City, and most of the fire stations. He was way ahead of his time, because he put an architectural design to the fire stations. I imagine some of them are still there. They don't look exactly like a fire station, the old drab looking, you know, buildings. He changed the design to sort of fit the architecture of the setting
of where the fire station was located.
I should go back, too, to his father, my grandfather, who was James E. Faris. He was a Republican. He was chairman of the Board of Public Works in Kansas City under old Mayor Darius Brown. My father was rather a strong-headed, strong-willed man, and he didn't like the Republican Party so he became a Democrat. He had known Tom Pendergast for a good many years, along with all the other politicians in Kansas City, because Kansas City was not too large a city in those days. I imagine there were two hundred and fifty or three hundred thousand people.
He built the City Market, as I said (I'm repeating myself), and then having known Tom Pendergast, he had designed Tom Pendergast's first home out in the Country Club district, I believe it was on Fifty-fifth Street and I might add that Tom Pendergast never paid him for the architectural work. I think my dad almost supervised the building of it, so I guess Pendergast figured that he paid him off by having -- I don't know whether Pendergast made him City Architect, I don't believe he did. I don't really know how my father became City Architect of Kansas City.
FUCHS: I wonder why Pendergast didn't pay him? They must have had some sort of a contract.
FARIS: Well, they did, but I think Pendergast was notorious for that sort of an operation at that time. But I never really did go into the details because I was young, and that was the least of my interests, whether Tom Pendergast had paid my father. As long as I got the car and the two dollars for a weekend date, why -- so, you know, you grow up in these things and actually they become commonplace to you. You know, you hear all the stories, and all the stories I have heard -- it was all hearsay, but I guess some of it was based on fact; and of course, there has been a number of books written about Pendergast and his early operations. So, I really don't see any reason for my going into that, because anything I know is just something that I had heard, you know, through the years. This is prior to my entering politics.
FUCHS: Where did you live in Kansas City?
FARIS: I lived on Warwick Boulevard in Kansas City. We had a home on Warwick and then we went to Florida, you see. We left Kansas City in 1925. My father had gone to Florida in 1921. There was a builder in Kansas City by
the name of McCandles, Guy McCandles, and Guy McCandles and my father took a trip around the United States to see what other cities were building in the way of apartment buildings, because they built homes and apartment buildings. And on this trip, they ended up in Florida, this is 1921; and my father was quite taken with Florida, so he bought some acreage there in Florida in '21. The big problem there in Florida was the palmettos, they grew wild there like a scrub palm, and the question was how to get rid of the palmetto to clear the land. There was a man by the name of Carl Fisher, who had invented the presto light for the first automobiles, it had a tank on the side and you went out front to the lamp to light them. Do you remember those lights?
FUCHS: Vaguely. I remember reading about them.
FARIS: You would light the headlights by turning on the gas from the presto tank. They were used in the early days on practically all automobiles. Carl Fisher had bought quite a bit of acreage on Miami Beach, and so, being an inventive type of man, he invented a plow that would plow up these palmettos with ease and cut the expense, you see, of clearing the land. So when the boom broke out in Florida in about '24, why, we moved
to Florida. So I finished high school in Miami and then I came back to Kansas City, I guess it was in the summer of 1928.
FUCHS: Did you come back with your family?
FARIS: Yes, I came back with my family.
FUCHS: They moved back?
FARIS: They had moved back to Kansas City, because the boom had stopped and my father had lost some money in Florida so we came back, but he still kept some acreage there.
FUCHS: You were about twenty then.
FARIS: Yes, in August of '28, I was twenty years old. That's when I went to Rockhurst College.
FUCHS: You entered Rockhurst, after you came back here, as a freshman.
FARIS: Yes, as a freshman, and I played football, basketball and baseball at Rockhurst. From Rockhurst I went to Missouri University.
FUCHS: Oh, you did. What year did you enter there?
FARIS: In '29.
FUCHS: In '29.
FARIS: Then from Missouri University I came back to Kansas City. I studied journalism at Missouri University.
FUCHS: Did you graduate from the School of Journalism?
FARIS: No, I left. I wanted to be a writer, I always had; that was my tendency anyway. I wrote a novel -- College Humor was the in college magazine at that time, a national magazine, that was subscribed to by all colleges, you know, all the undergraduates read it. College Humor used to have a contest every year for the undergraduates for the best novel. One of my colleagues, Thomas Cockrell, won it, and I got a mention but mine wasn't published and his was. Tom became a pretty fair writer. He later wrote for Saturday Evening Post and then he ended up in Hollywood writing screen stories. So then when I came back to Kansas City, I went to the Kansas City Journal Post as a cub reporter.
FUCHS: This would be about '31?
FARIS: Yes, about '31 or '32, I guess it was. They were
paying me $18.00 a week, so I decided that here I had been going to a university to try to learn to be a journalist and it was the wrong thing to do, because the newspaper city editors didn't want students from journalism schools in those days, the old hard-bitten city editors didn't want you to start in as a "copy boy" not from a journalism school. But I had some contacts so I got into the -- my grandfather, again, who was Chairman of the Public Works, was then a leading developer of tract homes himself, he was a builder, and from that he naturally went into the real estate business, had a real estate office in Kansas City, and he handled all the Walter S. Dickey real estate. Dickey headed the Dickey Clay Pipe Company and Dickey owned the Kansas City Journal-Post.
FUCHS: Was Charlie Ross still at the School of Journalism at that time?
FARIS: No, Walter Williams was president of the School of Journalism.
FUCHS: I believe Charlie Ross for a period, now I can't tell you what the dates were, was on the staff.
FARIS: Yes. Charlie was there, but I can't remember -- I
remember Charlie later, but actually I don't remember him being in the journalism school at that time. As a matter of fact, I can't even tell you the name of the professor now. So many thousands of names have gone through my mind in my life, you know, since then that unless I have something to recall it for me, I can't remember.
Well, anyway, I was going to make a step forward, I felt radio would pay better. I had gone to see Arthur Church, who owned KMBC in Kansas City; and Arthur and I were working out a deal for me to enter radio. Paul Henning, who now does the Beverly Hillbillies and Greenacres, and Paul was at KMBC at this time. Paul and I later met here in Hollywood. Paul had jerked sodas at the drugstore in Independence, he was from Independence.
FUCHS: You didn't know him back there?
FARIS: No, I didn't know Paul at the station. I learned this later that he was there at the same time that I was going to go with KMBC.
FUCHS: What did you do, work for the Post about two years?
Was that as a reporter?
FARIS: Yes, mostly sports. Well, I was with Parke Carroll, and Ed Cochran was the sport's editor. So, at this time, this was in '34, and I had been interested in politics anyway. At Missouri, I had helped elect the president of the class, you know, that got in, and I had worked in my precinct in Kansas City like everybody did, and worked up to the board. Otherwise, if you didn't have that experience, you didn't get anyplace in politics in Kansas City. That's where you had to start. That was good experience.
Anyway, I went to Arthur Church and we were working out a deal for my joining his staff at KMBC when Jo Zach Miller III, who was vice president of the Commerce Trust, called me one day and told me he'd like to have me meet him in his office about two o'clock, that there was somebody he wanted me to meet and talk to.
FUCHS: How did you know Jo Zach Miller?
FARIS: Well, I had known. Jo Zach through my family, I knew the Kempers, knew Billy, then Bill Kemper. My grandmother Faris was a good friend of the Kempers,
socially she was a friend of theirs. And Jo Zach -- where did I meet these people in the first place, I don't know, I knew them all. When you grow up in a town, and Kansas City being, not a tremendously large city, it was a moderate-sized city, and since they had a rather restricted, residential area, restricted in the sense of certain types of homes, certain priced homes in a certain area, and then a more expensive type, and then on out to the mansions. Well, if you lived out in that area, you knew everyone. And I lived out in that area, so, through your boyhood friends they were all connected some way, and, with either the insurance companies, the banks, or the packing houses or the railroads, so you knew all these people, I guess by induction. Well, anyway, Jo Zach I had known, my father was a good friend of Jo Zach's; so when I went to the Commerce Trust Company at two o'clock that afternoon, I was waiting there, and Mr. Truman walked in and he had just been elected Senator in the November '34 election. So, after we sat down and exchanged pleasantries and talked a few minutes, Mr. Truman asked me if I'd like to go to Washington as his secretary.
FUCHS: Did you know him at that time?
FARIS: Yes, well, I had been out to his house prior to this during the election. I had a lot of friends around the state, having gone to the university, and having been in politics in the university, and then my father was very well acquainted throughout the State of Missouri, too, and had many friends. So I had taken a list of men in various counties in Missouri and my friends also, who could help in Mr. Truman's campaign, and which they did.
FUCHS: Did you compile the list?
FARIS: No; I compiled my own list of friends that I had, and my father had a list of his friends, you know, which included county commissioners and mayors, because my father had gone with the Seagraves Fire Company, when architecture and building during the depression was so bad. He went with the Seagraves Company, they built fire engines, and in Missouri he sold fire engines around to all these, municipalities, so he knew all the politicians. So from that, there was a list that he gave me to take to Truman, plus the people that I knew from the university.
FUCHS: Did you see Mr. Truman in his home there?
FARIS: Oh, yes, 219 Delaware. Yes, I remember very well, he had on black and white shoes. He was very beautifully dressed that summer day that I went out there. He didn't have his jacket on, but he had his tie and his white shirt and his black and white shoes and he looked very dapper. As I was leaving he ran up those stairs, up two at a time, because he was in a hurry, he had a meeting, this was right during the campaign...
FUCHS: You mean the stairs to the porch?
FARIS: No, inside the house, the stairway up to the second floor. I know that I rather marveled, because I think I was only twenty-five at this time, and I marveled at a man who was at least fifty, which to me was quite elderly, who could go up stairs two at a time like he did.
FUCHS: Was there an outside stairway then?
FARIS: No, it was inside the house.
FUCHS: Oh, I see, it was just the regular stairway going to the second floor.
FARIS: Yes, the stairs going up to the second floor.
FUCHS: As you went out the door...
FARIS: Yes, he was saying goodbye, and he was going up and he was in a hurry.
FUCHS: Did you see Mrs. Truman at the time?
FARIS: Yes, she let me in, Mrs. Truman.
FUCHS: Was that the first time that you had met him?
FARIS: Yes, that was the first time I had met him.
FUCHS: Very interesting.
FARIS: Yes. Then later, of course, when I went to the house when the Wallaces were all there -- I'll have to come back to that -- but anyway, when I walked into the bank, and then the Senator-elect Truman walked in, and after pleasantries were exchanged, then he asked me if I wanted to go to Washington with him as his secretary. Well, I was, you know, looking forward to going to the radio station, that was in the back of my mind when he asked me, and so I hesitated. You know, maybe it wasn't very flattering right at that
moment, to Mr. Truman, because anybody would jump at the chance to go. But then I thought it over and I said, "Well, yes, I think it would be a great honor to go with you." So, anyway, I told him yes, I would like to go.
He said, "Well, it isn't necessary, but do you think you could get an endorsement from Mr. Pendergast?"
I said, "Well, I'm quite sure I could." Not only did I know Mr. Pendergast myself, personally, but I also knew his daughter Marceline and his son Bud, and having been at Rockhurst, and having been an athlete there, why, I knew Marceline well, and Bud Pendergast -- he went to Rockhurst too. So, I told Mr. Truman that I didn't think I'd have any trouble. So I went to Mr. Pendergast and told him what I wanted. Mr. Pendergast told me that he had recommended someone else to Mr. Truman to be his secretary. I said, "Well, I don't know anything about that, Mr. Pendergast, but all I want is your endorsement. I'd like to go back to Washington with Mr. Truman." So he sat down and wrote me an endorsement, which I took back to Mr. Truman and Mr. Truman said, "Well, that's fine. You know, that solves a lot of things."
FUCHS: Was this at his office?
FARIS: Yes, this was at his office.
FUCHS: You had been in his home before?
FARIS: Oh, yes, you know, through the kids.
FUCHS: "Bud" is Thomas?
FARIS: Tom junior. I always called him Bud. Oh, yes, and then Mr. Pendergast knew me because he followed Rockhurst athletics. There was Red McKee and John Sullivan and Vic Zahner -- and Sullivan, John Sullivan, ended up with the Ready-Mixed Concrete Company. Vic Zahner went into the City bank, they both married the Soden girls there. Again, you were thrown with everyone, so you knew everyone. That was it, and Mr. Truman told me to report to Washington on the first opportunity that I could, when I could straighten out my affairs in Kansas City.
FUCHS: Did you go see Mr. Truman when you had the endorsement?
FARIS: Oh, yes, I went out to Independence.
FUCHS: You went to his home or the courthouse?
FARIS: No, I went out to Independence and met him. Well,
I met him at the campaign headquarters and I can't remember the man. Well, anyway, I took the endorsement and I saw Canfil, that's who I saw, and he said, "Well, Mr. Truman, the Senator, will be here. You better wait around for him."
FUCHS: Where was the headquarters, do you recall?
FARIS: Oh, I couldn't even tell you where it was.
FUCHS: But that's where you did see Canfil?
FARIS: I saw Canfil there, but I think I ended up out in Independence. I saw the Senator in Independence and told him that everything was okay, that I had the endorsement from Mr. Pendergast, and so he told me, you know, to report back to Washington as soon as I could and we'd get rolling.
FUCHS: Did you know who Canfil was then? Had you seen him before?
FARIS: No, I didn't have the slightest idea who Canfil was. No, I had no contact whatsoever with Canfil.
FUCHS: Was it your impression that Mr. Truman had asked
Jo Zach Miller for a recommendation, and Miller had thought of you?
FARIS: Yes, yes. Right, because I think this is, number one, I think Mr. Truman wanted a Catholic secretary, because Pendergast was a Catholic, everybody else was Catholic in Kansas City, all the Irish, all the politicians were in Kansas City. I think that he felt that this would satisfy all the Catholics in Kansas City: Bud Faris, a former athlete at Rockhurst College, you know, a Jesuit College, I think that was part of the motivation -- and Jo Zach Miller was a Catholic, a very good Catholic, too. So I think that was the reason. I wasn't picked on my talent, although I think I had the necessary requisites that he wanted. I won't say that I was an outstanding student, but I was a good one.
FUCHS: Well, now, did he have any other staff to your knowledge at that time, that he intended to take to Washington?
FARIS: No, I think he appointed them -- really, I don't know. I believe he had. I think he had Mildred Latimer -- Mildred Dryden -- and Jane Taylor...
FUCHS: She was an Independence girl?
FARIS: No, she was from Kansas City. Jim Taylor was her father.
FUCHS: He did bring her from the area.
FARIS: Well, they were all either from Independence or Kansas City. I think Mildred and Jane Taylor had been appointed as stenographers. It's rather difficult to find out what Senator's functions were in those days. You call the Senator's secretary, a secretary, but he was really an administrative aide, which they call them now, because you didn't go in and take dictation from the Senator. You ran his office as an administrator, and the girls took all the dictation and did all the typing. There's an awful lot of work in a Senator's office. I don't think anybody realizes the work in a Senator's office.
FUCHS: Did you take the job with the understanding that you were going to be what is consonant with the administrative assistant, now -- under Mr. Truman?
FARIS: Yes, that's right. Now, when I got back to Washington, Mr. Truman told me, "Say, Bud, I think we'll take this
Vic Messall, he was Congressman Lee's secretary, and he's had a little experience in Washington, and we're both green, so it might be good for both of us." So, I welcomed it, too, because I was pretty green.
FUCHS: Did you know who Vic Messall was?
FARIS: No, I only knew that Vic Messall had been Congressman Lee's secretary, although I never heard of Vic Messall until I got to Washington and Senator Truman told me about him.
FUCHS: This was probably in January?
FARIS: This was in January, yes, right before he was sworn in. Well, I welcomed him anyway, to have a guy with some experience to teach me the ropes, because otherwise I would, you know, have to pioneer all this stuff myself. So he was a great help. Then Vic and I became very good friends.
FUCHS: Did you have a title then?
FARIS: Well, we both were secretaries to Mr. Truman. As I say, again, at that time, a Senator's secretary was making $3900 a year. Of course, Senators were only
making $10,000. After about two years, Vic was still there, and I went in one day and told Mr. Truman that, you know, "Let's get this thing straightened out, is Vic going to stay here or what?"
He said, "No, we'll get him a job someplace. We'll get him a good job."
FUCHS: You thought originally that he would just come in to get you started.
FARIS: Yes, but he stayed and stayed.
FUCHS: Was he there at a higher salary than you got?
FARIS: No, we both got the same salary. As a matter of fact, what we did, we split the two top salaries, the secretary's salary and the assistant's salary, so that instead of both of us getting $3900 a year we got $3300. Well, so, I asked Mr. Truman, "Are you going to get him a job or am I?"
He said, "Well, we'll both work on it."
Well, in the meantime, as I told you, the Supreme Court had declared the first Coal Commission Act unconstitutional, and so Congress rectified that and passed a new Coal Act and created the Bituminous Coal
Commission; so, there was a job as secretary of the Commission. That job paid the same thing as the Senator was getting. I made some inquiries about it and then went to the right people. I didn't say anything to Mr. Truman. I wanted to be sure that I could get the job. I felt certain that he would endorse me for it. So when I went back and told him that I could have this job he wanted to know why I wanted to leave him. I told him it was purely economics. I think that's exactly what I said to him. I said, "Look, I've been spending more than $3300 a year here, and I think by economic necessity I'm going to have to make a move."
He said, "Well, you stay with me. I'm going to have a committee here started, and I can add to your salary with one of these other committee salaries and we can get you up there."
FUCHS: He wasn't thinking of any particular committee at that time?
FARIS: He was, yes. This was in '38, and he was thinking -- I think he was -- he became Chairman of the Subcommittee of the Interstate Commerce Committee, and that's when he investigated the holding companies and we had
J. P. Morgan down there and his friend, the other banker with Morgan, I can't think of his name -- boy, my memory for names, isn't it awful? He was such a quiet, nice old man, as opposed to J. P. Morgan, who sat as though he were royalty with his meerschaum pipe in his mouth.
FUCHS: He was mixed up with the holding companies?
FARIS: No, he was with Morgan in the bank. He was a very well-known man, just his name escapes me. Well, anyway, it was this committee then and Truman was chairman of that subcommittee.
FUCHS: In other words, you just disregarded looking for a job for Mr. Messall?
FARIS: Yes, because I figured that, you know, "He doesn't have time to get a job for Vic Messall. How am I going to go and get Vic Messall a job?" You know? Unless the Senator said, "Vic, you've got to take this job." I didn't want to get in any hassle. By this time I liked Vic, and I figured that Vic could stay there for $3900 and I would be making about three times that much.
FUCHS: How had you been supplementing your $3300?
FARIS: My own money.
FARIS: Well, money.
FUCHS: Was this reflected in any of your activities?
FARIS: Yes, it was.
FUCHS: How was that?
FARIS: Well, I lived pretty well. I had a pretty nice apartment with my own private elevator, etc.
FUCHS: Where were you living?
FARIS: I had an apartment up on Connecticut Avenue. It was in an older building, and it was a penthouse apartment. You could only get to my apartment on this elevator and it had iron bars on it, steel doors.
FUCHS: Mr. Truman was aware of this?
FARIS: As a matter of fact he had been in my apartment.
FUCHS: How had some of your other activities come to his
FARIS: Well, I had a friend who wrote a society column on the Washington Herald-Examiner, it was Sissy Patterson's paper. It was the Washington Herald-Examiner, wasn't it?
FUCHS: I guess it was. There was the Washington Post...
FARIS: Well, this was Sissy Patterson's paper. So this woman who was an older woman, a very fascinating character.
FUCHS: Who was that?
FARIS: Peter Carter was her pen name. Well, she was kind of a gay person, and she was around all...
FUCHS: Not in the modern usage?
FARIS: Oh, no, not that way, no. I mean, she was just fun. She knew all the younger set, even though she was an older woman. She had a daughter about my age and another teenage daughter. Her older daughter was just about my age. I was what, twenty-six, twenty-seven.
FUCHS: Did you date her daughter?
FARIS: Oh, yes, once in a while, you know. I didn't have any steady dates. Well, anyway, Peter used to write up
my parties in my apartment, because I gave some very nice parties. She described the apartment and all this. Then Mrs. Truman would read these things and Mr. Truman called me in one day and asked me about my social activities. Evidently Mrs. Truman had thought that my appearing in Peter Carter's column so much was giving me notoriety and that maybe it wasn't such a good thing for the Senator. So this was another reason which contributed, actually.
FUCHS: Did that upset your equanimity at that time?
FARIS: No, it didn't bother me a bit. In fact, I used to laugh about it, because I still went to Truman's house. Well, Mrs. Truman knew me pretty well, and although she disapproved of some of the things, I think she still liked me. But they'd have me out to the home at 219 North Delaware with all the Wallaces and the parties there and then of course, I babysat Margaret, and Margaret and I were pretty fair buddies, you know, she was only ten years old.
FUCHS: You babysat her?
FARIS: Yes, sure, because, as I said, I took the Trumans
to their first White House party that Roosevelt gave.
FUCHS: Where was he living at that time?
FARIS: He was living on Tilden.
FUCHS: You used to go out there and...
FARIS: I went out to Tilden and I picked them up and took them in my Packard to the White House with Margaret sitting beside me; and then we'd go home and Margaret would play the piano and sing for me. Then I'd go back and pick up the Trumans and drop them off. So, I had sort of a family relationship with them aside from being with them in the office. Then Mr. Truman and I would travel around Washington together, making appointments like when he had an appointment made with the Secretary of Commerce, or one of the Cabinet members. I often used to tease him about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue being a very good address for him. And he'd laugh and say, "Un-huh, that's an address I never want." You know what, when I look back on this, maybe I've thought of this in later years, but you know, I had an intuition about this. I will say it: You know, I had an intuition about this man's being in the
White House. This may sound crazy, but that's why I used to kid him, because I thought maybe one day he would be. Now why I thought this, I don't know. And I think someday -- the next time I see Mr. Truman, if he can remember our conversations because we used to drive together an awful lot, and he'll remember my telling him about being in the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
FUCHS: What were your impressions of him as a boss, as a Senator, his ability, administrative ability, legislative ability?
FARIS: Well, as I started to say, you worked hard in the Senate, especially with Mr. Truman, because he would call me at five o'clock in the morning and tell me that he was going to walk for thirty-five or forty-five minutes down Connecticut Avenue and would I pick him up so that we could have breakfast together. Well, I would do this, maybe two or three, sometimes four times a week. And we'd go have breakfast and we would be in the office in the Senate at seven o'clock in the morning.
FUCHS: You mean, he would start walking south on Connecticut
and you would pick him up along the way?
FARIS: Right. And we'd go and have breakfast and we'd be in the office at seven o'clock in the morning. This man, I mean, he was tremendous in the way he worked. I mean, he studied everything, every bill that came up. I don't see how he really did it all, but he did manage it. I'd say as an administrator he was great. His memory, he had a very retentive memory. I don't think the man ever forgot anything he read, because in later years, I talked to that old librarian at Independence (I've forgotten her name now), but she told me that by the time Harry Truman was seventeen years old, he had read practically every book in that Independence library. And the man was an expert on military history. I mean, I don't think there was a greater authority in America than Mr. Truman on military history.
FUCHS: Did he like to talk with you about that?
FARIS: Oh, yes, we used to discuss Genghis Khan and Hannibal and Alexander the Great, and oh, military campaigns, and he knew the strategy, especially of the Civil War. The man is actually an expert on the Civil
War, I mean as far as historical accuracy and as an authoritarian, I'd say, on the Civil War; because he took me to Gettysburg and we stood up on those towers at Gettysburg and he explained the whole three days' battle to me. He knew all the troops' moves, how far they moved, where Longstreet didn't obey his orders and how they lost the battle. And then we'd go down through Virginia. We took that, what is it, the Skyline Drive down through Virginia, there where the Shenandoah Valley is below you. It's beautiful. Then we'd get into a discussion, we'd go to Appomattox and then we'd get into a discussion about Lee, and Lee's generalship, and what a great general Lee was, and "Stonewall" Jackson and Grant. We discussed all this, so I became, really, he educated me in the military.
FUCHS: Did he drive on these trips?
FARIS: No, I usually drove. From that respect, I don't think people realize the depth and the breadth of Mr. Truman's knowledge. I mean, just because you go to a university, and even if you get an A. B. degree, it doesn't mean anything, really. It doesn't mean that you've got a lot of knowledge; because I knew Phi Beta
Kappas that were in my fraternity house at Missouri University who were, I thought, the dumbest guys I had ever known because they had nothing but book knowledge; they only knew what they got out of the books. As to life and their understanding of life and of people they had none, and didnít seem to care. But Mr. Truman had a vast knowledge, a very vast knowledge of many things, and as I say, he had a tremendously retentive memory; he didnít forget. He wasnít like me in forgetting names. He could recall names more like Mrs. Faris, my wife, Joan. I was up to meet him at the Hilton here, the Beverly Hilton. That was, oh, I imagine, that was in í61 or í62, back in there, Iíve forgotten all the men that were there; I know Nat Dumont was there, and David Noyes and a few others. And they were talking about the "Kitchen Cabinet," and all of a sudden he forgot one name and he said, "Who was that Bud?"
I said, "You mean Tyler?"
He said, "Yes, Tyler." I said, "Thatís one time I helped supply a name to him." Tippecanoe and Tyler, too. I was listening, I donít know whether he did this to test me, or whether he really once in a while would forget. But there werenít very many things that he
ever forgot. Very few things.
FUCHS: Did he talk much about the various Presidents?
FARIS: Oh, yes. He knew about every President. There again, he was a student of American history, I mean, an ardent student of American history, I mean, tell you things, little things about Presidents, past Presidents, that the history books didn't teach you, you know. Now, where he dug up these things, I don't know. I think he spent some time getting some of this stuff out of the Congressional Library and reading the old newspapers, you know; because I used to order -- when you're in the Senate, you know, you have the Congressional Library that's for the Congress, you know, so you can get anything you want out of the library. I used to send over for the old papers. I was curious, too, and I used to read. It's remarkable to read history and you place yourself back at that time, say you're reading a paper in 1860, and you try to take yourself back to that period like you were there, as if you were just now reading a present day article, you know. It was fascinating because you see that the trend at this time hadn't changed much in politics, because they would still vilify.
They were vilifying Lincoln, the editorials were terrible editorials against Lincoln. So only time venerates all these men. We forget, I think, that these men were human, all Presidents. We forget this in history, because this great veneration takes place, and the great -- we have a tendency to put halos around our past patriots or Presidents.
FUCHS: His knowledge of this probably stood him in good stead then when he was in the same position.
FARIS: Absolutely. Actually -- of course, I don't know how much Teddy Roosevelt or Grover Cleveland or Harrison or Van Buren or any of those Presidents, I don't know how much they were students of American history. I imagine they were at that time, because American history was rather new. But Harry Truman, I had never met anybody who was so versed in the political history of the United States, and especially the Presidents. He was well informed, well organized in his own mind as to what the Presidency was all about when he took over on Roosevelt's death.
FUCHS: When you picked him up and you went to breakfast, did you have a favorite place to go or did you just go to the Senate...
FARIS: Well, one place we used to go quite frequently was -- I want to say the Hamilton Hotel. It was the hotel that was not too far from the Capitol Building there. It was north and west of the Capitol Building, there was a large hotel. Wasn't it the Hamilton, or is the Hamilton downtown?
FUCHS: It seems to me that the Hamilton is on 14th Street.
FARIS: No, it was the Congressional Hotel...
FUCHS: I think I know what you mean, but I can't seem to -- my memory...
FARIS: There was a large hotel right there which was not far from the Union Station. Well, we went there quite a bit, because you had to go someplace -- that early in the morning you know, there wasn't anything in the Senate Office Building; that restaurant didnít open,
I think, until about 8 o'clock. That's another funny thing. I lived out on Connecticut, too, because Tilden where the Senator and Mrs. Truman lived was right on Connecticut, and I lived out on Connecticut. Quite frequently when I did -- I didn't pick Mr. Truman up all the time, you know, on these early morning walks, it was frequent enough, especially when he stayed in the office until 7 or 7:30 at night, it made a pretty long day out of it. But I used to run into Huey Long all the time. He'd wave to me and we'd go down Connecticut, he'd see me in the Senate, because the Senator's secretary had the run of the floor of the Senate, you know. You could go on the floor.
FUCHS: You mean he'd be walking down Connecticut?
FARIS: No, he'd be driving. He'd see me and he'd wave, and so then when I'd get in the Senate Building, you know, I'd always go in there for breakfast, and then Huey Long would come in for breakfast, and if I was sitting alone he'd always come over and sit down with me. So I struck up quite a friendship with Huey Long, because he was another man that fascinated me, because
I had read about him. Naturally having been a newspaperman of sorts, I knew all the newspaper guys, and I belonged to the Press Club, not as a newspaperman, but they used to have what they called a -- what was the membership, it wasn't an active, it was an inactive membership, but you could belong to the Press Club, you know. So I belonged to the Press Club, naturally, because I gravitated towards newspaper people. I found out an awful lot about Huey Long, and the man simply fascinated me, especially when he would filibuster and tell them how to make corn pone and all this; and this is all sort of an awakening to a young man who was out of college and thinks he's sophisticated, you know. You go back to Washington and then you realize what's happening in the Senate of the United States, this august body, and hear a Senator filibustering and tell them how to make corn pone. This really struck me.
Well, anyway, I had breakfast with Huey Long quite often, and I believe it was on the last night of the 76th Congress, I believe it was the 76th Congress, I was sitting in Mr. Truman's seat on the Senate floor, because everybody was -- you know, it was the last session and everybody had a few libations and, you know, loose
and enjoying each other; and Huey Long was sitting right in front of me, and the Senator was sitting in the chair next to his seat, which I was sitting in. And Huey turned around and said, "Here, Bud, I want to give you my autographed picture." And he handed it to me. And he looked at Truman and he said, "Say, I'm going to take Bud away from you." And he looked at me and said, "Don't you want to come and be my secretary?"
That actually happened and I said, "Well, I don't know much about Louisiana politics; I know something about Missouri, so I think I'll stay." But I was very flattered by that.
FUCHS: Pretty good. Do you recall any other anecdotes in connection with Huey Long?
FARIS: With Huey?
FUCHS: Did you every discuss Senator Truman?
FARIS: No, no, when I was with Huey I was fascinated by his background and by the fact that he had read law
for only six months and went and passed the bar. He had a photographic memory. I remember these things about Huey Long. You know, he took out after Roosevelt, which was very unpopular at this time because Roosevelt was very popular, especially in the Senate, and then with the majority of Democrats and Huey was a Democrat; but he would get up and Senators were actually afraid to challenge Huey Long on points, because if he was making a point on a piece of legislation or something that he was against that Roosevelt was doing, and they'd get up and challenge Huey Long, and he'd make a statement, you know, that this Senator had made and the Senator would get up and challenge him, he'd say, "Senator, in the Congressional Record on June 27, on page 1167, you said this." And then he'd quote what the Senator said. He could actually go back and I think see -- because I know, in later life, I've met some other people that could do this, I know a lawyer that can do this. He would actually quote verbatim what the Senator had said. Well, after a while, these Senators weren't about to challenge Huey Long. That's why he got away with what he did, because he knew -- how can you beat a guy that can quote you verbatim?
To tie this in -- I'm rambling an awful lot -- but when I was in Rockhurst College, there was a friend of mine, we used to call him -- we both worked on the school paper, and Coogan was the editor, and I always called him "Scoop" Coogan, you see, because he was always going to get a good story on this guy, he was always like a real veteran reporter. And Scoop Coogan and I became good friends, and Scoop went with the UP, United Press, and he was in the hallway in Baton Rouge when Huey Long was assassinated. Scoop Coogan ran to the pay telephone in the hall, called the UP office in New York and told them to hold the line open, and he stood there and watched and related all that was happening, the shooting. He scooped the whole country on the Huey Long assassination, which is a strange coincidence, Scoop -- and I had known Huey, you know, had breakfast with him. So you wonder why these overlapping ties come in on things. From that scoop that Scoop Coogan got -- his name was J. Allen Coogan -- he became head of the South American Bureau of UP, United Press. Then later, when I was writing a Hollywood column for Radio-TV Daily, CBS flew us all back with their western stars, like James Arness, you know, Matt Dillon, and Dick Boone who was doing Paladin, Robert Culp who was doing some
kind of a western, and Steve McQueen was doing Wanted, Dead or Alive, so we all flew back to Dodge City, you know. This was a plan of CBS's to publicize their western shows. So we had parades in Dodge City and I rode with the Governor of Kansas, Governor George Docking from Fort Larned to -- what's the town in Kansas, I can't remember. So we went from Dodge City, we had a parade, and I rode with Jim Arness in the parade in Dodge City and then from Dodge City the Indians attacked our train, I was riding with the Governor of Kansas, this was a staged attack, you know, to show us how the old West was, and we ended up in Great Bend. Well, we arrived in Dodge City early in the morning because we left here very early in the morning from Lockheed Airport and we were in the Hacienda Plane, they chartered the Hacienda Plane which flew to Vegas to the Hacienda Hotel, and it had a piano, and they had a pianist, so that's the reason, I think, they chartered this Hacienda Plane but it wasn't a pressurized cabin, so we couldn't go over 10,000 feet. So it was a pretty rough ride because it was windy and, of course, this guy was playing the piano, and we were bumping up and down and people were getting a little airsick. So they passed
around a drink thinking that maybe this would help everybody in their airsickness, and which didn't help much; so when we arrived in Dodge City after this rocky trip, it was still -- I think it took us something like three and a half hours to get to Dodge City due to the wind and everything on this plane, well, everybody was a little rocky when we got off at Dodge City. Well, it wasn't until we had gotten to Great Bend that I found out that Scoop Coogan had married the owner of the newspaper's daughter of Great Bend and they also owned the television station in Great Bend. Here was Scoop Coogan coming into my life again. Guy Della Cioppa was head of CBS out there on the Coast and Guy Della Cioppa was on the plane with us because he accompanied all the stars, and Guy told me, he said, "Gee, that reporter who met us in Dodge City really rapped us on the UP, on the United Press story that he released, that all the Hollywood people when they got off the plane were half crocked and they couldn't walk." He said, "You know, you were there, that there was practically no drinking at all on the plane, and this reporter really wrote a lousy story on us."
And I said, "It so happens that I've been talking
to some people here in Great Bend that know Scoop Coogan," and he was then still head of the South American Bureau of United Press of South America, but he was in New York, and happened to be in New York at the time and when I was talking to his friends there, and it was through the guy that plays "Doc" on Gunsmoke...I know his name as well as I know yours. Well, it was Milburn Stone who played "Doc." Well, it was Milburn who had told me all this, because Milburn came from Kansas and he had played in all the tent shows and everything.
FUCHS: He told you all what?
FARIS: Told me about Scoop Coogan and about marrying the boss' daughter and that they owned the newspaper and they owned the television station, and Scoop had been in Great Bend and had tried to run the paper and then he ran the television station, but he just didn't fit in, he didn't want that, you know, he was a newspaperman and it was too confining in Great Bend, so he left again. But they told me that he was in New York. So when Guy Della Cioppa, who was head of CBS out here, told me about this awful story that the reporter had written,
you see, when we landed in Dodge City, I said, "Well, I think I can kill that story." Then I told him about Scoop Coogan and Great Bend and all this that Milburn Stone had told me. So I found out where Scoop was in New York and I called him and I got him in his hotel in New York (this was early in the morning), and I told him the facts and he said, "Well, I'll see if we can't kill that story." And we got the story killed.
FUCHS: How did Della Cioppa know that he had written a bad story?
FARIS: Well, because we got the paper when we got to Great Bend and it was in the Great Bend paper, but it hadn't gone all over the wire yet. So I told Scoop to get it, you know, it had to go to New York and then it would be released out on the wire. So Scoop did. I don't think he got it entirely squashed but they rewrote the thing for us. So, this is strange how these things happen. Scoop seeing Huey Long assassinated, and here I am in Great Bend with the Hollywood crowd and this comes up and I go to Scoop. These interrelationships in life, this interwoven fabric, which has always fascinated me, because when you read history you find these traces
of things. I often wondered why was I chosen to go with Mr. Truman? Why didn't I stay with Mr. Truman until he became President of the United States, because you see I would have been in the White House with him, which would have been a very fascinating experience. Well, there must have been some reason for my not being in the White House. You see, I'm philosophical about it all. Mine, I guess, was because I felt the economic necessity. Well, anyway, this is just in passing. I could write a few chapters on that.
So, anyway, I finally left Mr. Truman and went with the Coal Commission. Of course, we remained friends, very close friends always; and then the war came on, and I was in an exempt position as we were a strategic commission, you see, coal for war.
FUCHS: What was your job with the Coal Commission?
FARIS: Well, the Commission at this period in time, the Commission had been eliminated. The Congress did away with the Commission, and they put the Bituminous Coal Commission in as an agency of the Department of Interior, so it became the Bituminous Coal Administration of the Department of Interior. We had an administrator and
I was head of the records section, chief of the records section, which comprised all the coding of all the coal producers. They had to sign a code that they would abide by the rules and regulations, the marketing rules and regulations, that they would abide by the prices of coal that were set, you see. Then I maintained all the records of the hearings, the dockets of all the hearings. It was completely an administrative position of all these various sections that I had under me, like the coding section, the docket section. Under my office, we put out all the coal prices, the physical, you know, the mimeographing and the physical distribution of all that. It was a pretty immense thing because we had about 18,000 code members, you see, coal producers who had signed the code that they would abide by all these coal prices. So we were a strategic agency of the Government when the war broke out.
Well, all my friends were going into the service, getting commissions, and I was seeing them leaving, you know, and I thought, "Well, here I am, sitting in Washington as a civilian; I'm missing all this." So, Mr. Truman at this time had formed the Truman Committee, you know, they called it the Truman Committee, but it was the committee to investigate war contracts.
FUCHS: This was early in '41, March '41.
FARIS: March of '41. So, they kept deferring me every time I wanted to go in, you see; and I'd go down and I'd talk to the Navy or I'd talk to the Army and they'd say, "Sure we'll take you." You know, I had ROTC at Missouri University. I wanted to get my commission and go in. And my boss at the agency said, "No, we need you here. You're deferred. You can't go."
So finally by December of '42, I just couldn't stand it, I had to get in the service, I wanted to be in uniform, I was afraid I was going to miss out on a lot of action. So, I finally went to the ATC, I think it was General George, and told him, you know, gave him my background and my scholastic...
FARIS: Air Transport Command. And I figured, "Well, maybe I can get in here." So General George said, "Yes, go get your physical and we'll see what we can do." So I went and I took the physical and I found out that I had a hernia. So they said, "Well, we can't take you with a hernia. You'll have to go have that operated on. Even after you have it operated on, we can't examine you
for 90 days, so it will be 90 days before we can give you your commission after the operation."
Well, I'm all fired up. I've got to be in the service. So, I quit and had the operation, paid for it myself, the surgeon and the hospital bill, and in those days, I think it cost me about eight hundred or nine hundred dollars to have this done. I went back to ATC to get my commission; and they said they'd get me a commission as a captain. They said, "Say, your boss [meaning Senator Truman] came out here with a blast a couple of weeks ago about these cushion commissions that politicians' sons and friends were getting."
And I said, "Oh, no."
They said, "Well, we don't dare give you a commission, especially with your association with Mr. Truman. You'll have to go down and see him and get him to straighten it out."
FUCHS: Even though you were no longer working for him?
FARIS: No, I was no longer working for him. So, anyway, I went up to see Mr. Truman and I said, "Look, I went down and had a hernia operated on, paid my own good money to accept a captaincy in the Air Corps, the Air
Transport Command, and now you came out with a blast about these cushion commissions and politicians' friends getting these commissions, and now I can't get the commission unless you do something."
And with a twinkle in his eye he smiled at me and he said, "Well, you wouldn't want me to stick my neck out would you?"
I said, "Well, I sure would."
He said, "Well, I'm not going to." He said, "You go in as a private and I'll see that you get to OCS."
Well, to make a long story short, I did. I went in and was inducted into Camp -- Virginia there?
FARIS: Camp Lee, Virginia; and of course, I had had a big party, here I'm going off to war, the night before. I arrived in Camp Lee and I'm hung over and they give us an intelligence test, and I didn't do too well. I think it was about 125. Well, that wasn't really good enough, you know. But there wasn't much I could do about it then, because I was pretty clear headed that morning. So I was shipped to Atlantic City and that was what they called a boot camp.
FUCHS: What type of an outfit were you in?
FARIS: That was the Air Corps. Because of my IQ they gave me the Air Corps, because if you had over 110, I think you went to the Air Corps or something like that. Anyway, I was assigned to the Air Corps. So I got to Atlantic City, and I never will forget I got in this squadron; and, you know, on your form, your Form 52, they call it, that goes with you everyplace, well, naturally your history is on your...
FUCHS: Do you mean your 201?
FARIS: Yes, 201. But enlisted men, I think it was a Form 52. Well, anyway, they had all your records there. So this Major, who was head of my squadron, and he saw this of course, so he called me into the office. This was after I had been there about four weeks, you know, almost five weeks. I thought, "Well, Jesus, what the hell's wrong?" I'd been a good soldier in training, I didn't complain, I went through everything, and, hell, I was 33 years old, or 34.
And he said, "Sit down, Mr. Faris."
I sat down, and, you know, you don't call a soldier "Mr. Faris."
He said, "You know, you've been a rather outstanding example to the men." You know, I was kind of taken aback. He said, "At your age, you got out and performed, you did all the exercises, you drilled, you never complained, and you were quite an example to these younger fellows. And I'm going to recommend you for OCS. In fact, I'm going to give you a letter."
And, my God, the guy wrote me one of the most beautiful letters, you know, "Officer material," and I should go immediately to OCS and I sent it to Truman.
He said, "My God, that's the damndest letter I ever read from a commanding officer. You must have really impressed that outfit you're in."
Well, I did, really. I really worked hard at it, because, you know, Mr. Truman anyway, I had that idea of soldiering like he did. He instilled a lot of things in me, his honesty and his lack of hypocrisy and everything else. I learned an awful lot from that man.
Well, anyway, in order to go to OCS you had to be attached, you had to be attached to a permanent outfit. Well, when you're in boot camp, you're unattached -- well, this Major gets the assignment of closing Atlantic City
and when he sees my administrative background, he decides that I shall help him close Atlantic City. So I spent three months, you know, we had to close out the contracts on those hotels in Atlantic City. So I spent about three months with him closing out Atlantic City and I'm unattached.
FUCHS: The Army was going to take them over for their own.
FARIS: They were wiping it out then. They had finished their training, using Atlantic City for training.
FUCHS: They had been using it, I see.
FARIS: So, they were using Miami Beach now completely. So they were taking the Air Corps out of Atlantic City. So we closed up all those hotels. So I said, "Look Major, actually, I've lost another three months here. Not that I've complained about it. You've been very nice." But they couldn't even give me a promotion. They couldn't even make me a sergeant because I'm not attached. This is the craziest thing. So anyway, well, then, I'd go back -- we finished Atlantic City and I got leave after that from the Major, and I went to Washington. I saw Mr. Truman and we discussed that letter that the
FUCHS: Would this still be in '42?
FARIS: Yes, this would be in about May of, '43, I guess. May of '43. So, dammit I lost all this stuff. I told you down in Dallas I had all those Truman letters from the time he was a Senator, Vice President and President. It makes me sick, and this letter, the commanding officer's letter was in them. Well, anyway, I wrote to him all the time from Atlantic City when I was there, and I'd tell him the maid service was pretty lousy in the Carleton Hotel where I was staying, because I had to make up the room and the bed. And he got a big bang out of it.
So anyway, I was shipped into Miami Beach, Florida and on the way I told Mr. Truman. I said, "Gee, you know, this is not helping me at all in this service. Here I go to Atlantic City and then this Major writes me this beautiful letter and then he wants me to help him out, so then I stay there for three months; I've been in the Army for six months and I'm still unattached. I can't go to OCS until I'm attached."
So, he says, "Well, I'm going to write you a letter,
a recommendation, along with this commanding officer's recommendation," that I should go immediately to OCS.
I said, "Well, fine, thanks."
So he gave me a letter, a very glowing letter. So I get to Miami Beach and they make assignments out of Miami Beach now to the Air Corps. They assigned you to the various Air Corps. So I've got to wait until I'm attached before I can even put in my OCS papers. So finally I meet a kid that I've known all my life and he's a warrant officer, and he's permanently attached to a squadron there in Miami Beach. His name was Bud Webb. And I said, "God, get me attached will you, to your outfit, so I can go to OCS?"
He says, "Well, don't you know who's here?"
I said, "No."
He said, "Well, Jo Zach Miller. He's a Colonel up here on the beach."
I said, "You're kidding?"
He said, "No, we'll call him."
So we call Jo Zach and Jo Zach's a full colonel. And so I told Jo Zach, I said, "Look," and I explained everything. I explained about the hernia, what I'd been through trying to get a commission in the damned Air Corps, and he laughed. He thought it was the
funniest thing he'd ever heard of. And I show him the letter that Mr. Truman had given me and he says, "All right, we'll get you attached to Bud's outfit." He knew Bud Webb, too. He was from Kansas City. So, I got attached to the squadron.
So, by now, I'm so teed off at the Air Corps that when -- you had to make a selection of three branches of the service that you wanted. So I decided, well, I'd put in all this time, "Well, I'll go to the Adjutant General's Administrative School," which is at Fort Washington, which is right out from Washington. I said, "Well, I might as well get back close to Washington. I can go to school there and I'll get my commission out of Fort Washington."
So, I am called up to go before the board down in Miami Beach for the selection of officer's candidates. I'm all spit and polish, you know, everything pressed and the brass is all shined on my buckles, you know. I'm all ready for them. And I've got this letter from Truman and the other one from my commanding officer. I decided at the last moment that I wouldn't use Mr. Truman's letter. I figured, "Well, maybe that might look political." So I stuck the damn letter down in
the back pocket of my uniform. Well, evidently, Jo Zach Miller, Colonel Miller, unbeknownst to me had talked to the board, and I didn't know anything about this, because I hadn't said a word about Mr. Truman to this Major, this one Major, boy, he was really questioning me, throwing questions about politics and all this, and "How do you feel about this," you know. There were a lot of questions that were really unnecessary, they weren't related to my being approved as a candidate for officer's candidate school. I was about to leave and this Major said, "What's that in your hip pocket?" Just the edge of that letter was sticking out.
I said, "Oh, that's a mistake." And that was the wrong thing to say.
He said, "What do you mean, a mistake? Take that out."
I said, "Oh, it's a letter of recommendation but I'm not going to use it."
He said, "Well, let me see it."
So then I had to give it to him. So here he read this letter from Mr. Truman.
FUCHS: You mean he read it aloud?
FARIS: Yes, to the rest of the board. Then he looked at me and he says, "We don't use politics to become officers in the Air Corps."
I said, "Well, I just got through telling you, sir, that I didn't intend to use the letter."
"Well, just the same, it's political."
I said, "Well, you have your understanding; I have my understanding. May I have the letter back?" I'm getting a little hot -- my temper sometimes, the Irish comes out. So he gave me back the letter. I thanked him, and I saluted and I walked out of the place. But they did approve me, and they approved me for that adjutant general's school at Fort Washington. So I had my orders cut, now here at long last I'm going to get to go to OCS. This is about -- oh, golly, this must have been in December of '43, and I haven't been anyplace, Atlantic City and Miami Beach. So I'm waiting to get all -- my orders are cut now, I'm waiting for the day I'm to leave Miami Beach to go to Fort Washington. An urgent message comes for me to report to headquarters. They've closed the school at Fort Washington. Well, here I am again. And the Air Corps, they're teed off because I've put the Air Corps second. So
they wouldn't take me on second choice. I had to go through the whole rigmarole of the first choice for the Air Corps. That's how these damned services were, you see. But anyway, through Bud Webb we went down to headquarters and I got assigned to administrative school at Fort Logan, Colorado -- Denver. I went through administrative school in Denver and then I was shipped to the Third Air Force, and from the Third Air Force I got a transfer to the ATC where I wanted to be in the first place. My Major in the Third Air Force at Columbia, South Carolina there said, "Well, you'll never get a transfer. They don't transfer from one Air Force into another branch."
I said, "Well, you just sign these papers and we'll see if we can't do it."
Well, he signed them. Well, in the meantime, I had gotten my brother a commission before all this had happened, you know, when I was in Washington, and my brother was now a First Lieutenant in the headquarters at the ATC in Cincinnati, Ohio. So he arranged for my transfer. Boy, this Major in Columbia, South Carolina -- he was a broker from Boston -- he never could figure out how I ever in the hell got
FUCHS: This was a transfer from one...
FARIS: From the Third Air Force into the Air Transport Command. He said this wasn't done. He couldn't get over it. He said, "How in the hell did you work this?" He said, "Look, I don't want you to go. I've got a warrant officer's commission here. You can have it. I'll make you a warrant officer right now if you'll stay."
"No thank you. I'm going to the Air Transport Command." Because by this time I didn't give a damn whether I was ever an officer or anything, you know how you get in the service. All I wanted to do was write, that's why I wanted to be in the Air Transport Command because they were running it like an airline, and they were publicizing, and they were doing stories all the time, and this is what I wanted.
FUCHS: Were they part of the Air Force?
FARIS: Yes, the Air Transport Command was a part of the Air Force, but it was a separate branch of the Air Force.
FUCHS: That's why he didn't...
FARIS: General George was the head then of the Air Transport Command.
FUCHS: You had known General George?
FARIS: Well, I didn't know him, I had met him, you see. That's who I went to see the first time. So anyway, I'm transferred, and oh, this Major wanted me to take that warrant officer's commission and I said, "No, I don't want it." And he couldn't understand that either, that I'd refuse that.
Well, anyway, to make a long story short, I was shipped to Memphis and I went with the camp newspaper, first, at Memphis.
FUCHS: What was the camp paper?
FARIS: It was the 513th, I believe, Ferrying Command. We had a big base there. We had guys like William Randolph Hearst, and, oh, we had a lot of guys -- oh, this former flyer that did all the movie stunts. Joanie's uncle also flew in that, for the old silent movies, you know, Wings, and all those. Joanie's uncle flew in all those.
Well, anyway, so I went on the camp newspaper. The guy who was editor of the camp newspaper was a professor from Princeton, an awful nice little guy, he was a sergeant; and so he and I really started putting out a camp newspaper. We got pretty successful with our newspaper and our editorial policy, so we won an award for our editorial policy, the ATC did this for all their camp newspapers. See, through General George and General C. R. Smith (C. R. Smith was president of American Airlines, you know, when he went into the ATC). Well, everything was publicity to these guys, these generals, and so they wanted their camp newspaper to be up top, you know. So, because of this award that we got for our camp newspaper I was put into the public relations office at Memphis. This meant that I had complete control over the newspaper, editorial policy, and then I could write any kind of stories I wanted. I did the story, to show you how strange things happen -- Elliott Roosevelt and his dog and his dog meat carne to Memphis, and I'm the guy that the two sailors squawked to about being bumped off of this plane. Well, actually, see, the newspaper
wire services -- one of these sailors complained to somebody downtown, and one of the newspapermen called me and said, "Say, this sailor has talked to me about being bumped off this plane," He had already written a story, you see. Then I rushed down to see these two sailors, and I asked this kid, "Did you tell him all this stuff about being bumped off?"
He said, "Yes. Why should we be bumped off just cause this guy is the President's son? I've got emergency leave to California." His wife was ill or his mother was dying, I've forgotten all the details. But what I had to do was take and rewrite the story so it took the onus off of Elliott Roosevelt, you know, in this bumping; which we did, because we made room, as a matter of fact, for the sailors and got them out. It's strange how this happened, because back in 1936 at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, Mr. Truman and I went to the convention, you know, in fact we roomed together in the hotel. I had met Jimmy and Elliott back there in '36 when they were so popular. Here I end up writing up a coverup story on Elliott in Memphis.
FUCHS: Do you recall anything about that '36 convention that might be of interest, any anecdotes?
FARIS: Well, I was one of the sergeant-at-arms, there were quite a few sergeants-at-arms. Well, I remember Mr. Truman had asked me to see Jim Farley for him. He wanted somebody to talk to Jim Farley about -- what was it -- and I went over and saw Mr. Farley, who was very gracious and told me he'd be happy to meet with Senator Truman. We arranged a meeting, I did. I've forgotten what the particular thing was for now. That was the first time I had met Farley and, gee, I was impressed with him. He was quite a guy. He had that Irish charm, you know. The damned Irish can charm you out of anything.
FUCHS: Was Senator Truman acquainted with Farley?
FARIS: Yes, oh, yes. I can't recall -- '36, see, we were still pretty new. Mr. Truman had only been in office, in the Senate, about a year, a little over a year then, you see. I remember Tom Pendergast was there at the convention and Bill Pendergast.
FUCHS: What part did Senator Truman play there, do you
FARIS: Well, actually, see, I was busy on the floor. The Secretary of the Senate assigned the chores of all the Senators, the various Senators' personnel, like Russell Arundel. I don't know whether you want these other things?
FUCHS: It's part of history, if you don't mind.
FARIS: Well, Senator [Jesse Houghton] Metcalf of Rhode Island, you see, that Yankee shrewdness, you know how the Yankee New Englanders are, the thrift and all this and that, you know. And Metcalf owned woolen mills in New England. He was a very wealthy man, and Russell Arundel was his secretary. Russell later became very famous in Washington as a tax consultant, he was high in the Democratic hierarchy, owned an island off of Maine, and he used to give the Democratic Party, the whole Committee, a party on this island off of Maine. Didn't you ever hear of Russell Arundel?
FUCHS: Not the same island that [Kenneth] Roberts -- how did he get his name Arundel for his book?
FUCHS: Did it come from that?
FARIS: Yes. Well, Russell was young, too, you know. We were all young. We used to meet on the Senate floor over there, because I was always running over to the Senate floor; because I got so I was letting Messall handle all the office detail and I was handling the politics, because I knew the people from Missouri that would come in to see the Senator. I took care of all the visiting firemen and everything. That became part of my duties, the public relations, let's say, end of the Senator's office. I took care of all the VIPs that came in from Missouri for Mr. Truman. Then I wrote a column, not exactly a column, they gave me a by-line on it, for the Democratic weekly papers in Missouri, and I used to have Mr. Truman's picture on those weekly papers about every week. They ran these stories I wrote. I wrote human interest stories about, like his association with Vice President John Nance Garner and all this; and evidently the editors of the newspapers in Missouri liked them, they ran my stuff all the time. So I had about fifty newspapers that were using my stuff out of Washington, out of the Senator's office, which I was writing.
FUCHS: About how long did you do that?
FARIS: I did that for quite a while. Mildred Dryden used to get kind of teed off because she used to have to cut the stencils for me and run them off, the copies, so I could send them out to the newspapers.
FUCHS: Do you recall Tom Pendergast coming in as a visiting fireman, so to speak?
FARIS: He never came to Washington when I was there, never; but I do remember -- well, you see, it's so hard to just sit here and try to grasp a whole panorama of years in a little bit of a conversation. You know, it's like going in and seeing a movie and then coming right out of that movie and trying to tell somebody what you saw. It's rather difficult. And here's a panorama of -- look how many years it spans.
FUCHS: Did you ever discuss with Mr. Truman how he came to run for Senator?
FARIS: The story is, and I tell it from hear-say, maybe it's a possible, but actually, I think that this is true. See, he was Judge of the County Court and he built the Jackson County Courthouse. I being a gregarious guy, socially I knew everybody, and made it a point to know people;
and I had four pretty good friends in the FBI, Joe Cannon -- Walter Gallagher was with the Attorney General, he was in the office of the Attorney General -- Joe Cannon, and Dick English and Walter Gallagher and Dick Shanahan. They were all in the FBI except Walter Gallagher who was in the Attorney General's office.
FUCHS: In Washington?
FARIS: Yes, in Washington. They used to come to my apartment and they were good friends. This was later, you know, after the Jackson County Courthouse was built, so I'll come back to this FBI story. But, actually, when Mr. Truman built the Jackson County Courthouse, he wouldn't allow any conniving on the part of the contractors; in other words, they put in their bids and this was it, and there was no chicanery, no bribing or anything else. It was just straight right down the line. These contractors went to Tom Pendergast and said, "Hey, what are you doing with that man on the County bench for? We can't make a dime, and we didn't off that Jackson County Courthouse."
And the story goes that Mr. Pendergast said, "Well, I guess we better kick him upstairs." Well, the candidate
for the United States Senate, he died, what was his name? Isn't that awful? Well, anyway, at his death, it left a vacancy open. He was the nominee, you see, the Party's choice to run for the Senate, so they put Mr. Truman in in his place. In other words, that's what they called "kicking him upstairs." Well, he ran him for the Senate, and he won. So, that was really on account of that Jackson County Courthouse that Mr. Truman became United States Senator.
FUCHS: Who do you recall hearing this story from?
FARIS: Well, among the politicians it was kind of common gossip, you know. Everybody related the story. I don't imagine many people will tell you this, but at that time, it was pretty well known that the contractors were pretty teed off at Judge Truman because they hadn't made any money off of the Jackson County Courthouse.
Well, then getting back to the FBI boys, who were my friends, they came and they told me that they were going to Kansas City. I said, "What are you going to do in Kansas City?"
"Well, we're going to go look over the records of your boss, especially that Jackson County Courthouse."
I said, "I'm going to call up J. Edgar Hoover and tell him he's wasting the taxpayers' money."
They said, "You're kidding."
I said, "Of course I'm not kidding. I'm serious. You guys are going out there and wasting a lot of money. I can tell you right now, take my word for it, you won't find anything." And I told them the story. I said, "That's the reason he's a United States Senator." And they wouldn't believe me. And they went out there to Kansas City and they went through everything with a fine-tooth-comb, and they came back and they said, "Boy, you sure were right. We didn't find a thing against that man."
FUCHS: Were they really looking for something on him or were they really after Pendergast?
FARIS: They were after Pendergast, but they figured they'd get to Pendergast through Mr. Truman, because, I guess, J. Edgar Hoover felt that where there's fire there must be smoke; and they felt that Mr. Truman must have done something that they could pin on him and that would get to Pendergast. But there wasn't anything, they couldn't find anything, because Mr. Truman hadn't done anything,
because this is the character of the man. Tom Pendergast realized this or else he would have never, you know -- Tom Pendergast was not stupid, and he wanted a man of character in that office. He knew that Mr. Truman was his friend and that Mr. Truman would do anything within reason, so Tom Pendergast really never asked anything that wasn't reasonable, except unless it was a dire emergency; and the only dire emergency that I can think of is when Emmet O'Malley, who was the Insurance Commissioner -- and of course, everybody knows that story of how the State of Missouri had impounded the premiums of the fire insurance companies, and they had, I think, about seven or eight million dollars impounded, the insurance companies wanted this money released, and Emmet O'Malley went to Pendergast and told him that they were willing to pay, I don't know, half a million dollars or something to get this money released. So Emmet did, accepted the money and gave Pendergast -- that's all on the record. I mean, I'm not telling anything that isn't known. That was the income tax, you know, of Pendergast, that he didn't report that -- I forget what it was, $40,000 or something. The reason he was detected on that was because the internal revenue agent sitting there in
Chicago reading Ed Sullivan's column about this man from Kansas City, this politician, who had bet $80,000 in one day at Saratoga, and he figured that this man who could bet $80,000 in one day at a race track needed investigation. And that's what started it, and of course Emmet went to the pen. I think then that Tom Pendergast -- I don't really know, actually in my own knowledge, whether he wanted Mr. Truman to go to bat for him to try to help him, you know, stay out of the pen.
FUCHS: Did he request help?
FARIS: I assume that he did, but knowing Mr. Truman, and he knew Mr. Truman, that Mr. Truman -- if you did anything illegal, boom, you paid for it.
FUCHS: I don't know of anything that I've read that he made any request to Mr. Truman.
FARIS: I don't know whether he did or not, you see, I really don't know, Jim; but I imagine that he must have talked to him about it, you know, "Can you help me?" And I don't think Mr. Truman could. What could he do?
FUCHS: Of course, this was probably after you were gone
from Mr. Truman's office.
FUCHS: He was convicted in '39.
FARIS: But his son, see, Emmet's son, Emmet O'Malley was a friend of mine. I knew his son very well.
FUCHS: Did you ever discuss it with him?
FARIS: Well, in an offhanded way, yes. He was very unhappy that Mr. Truman hadn't gone to bat for his father and for Mr. Pendergast; and I told him, I said, "What could they have done? My God, it was an out and out flagrant violation. What could Mr. Truman have done?" I said, "You're a lawyer."
He said, "Well, these things can be done. The President could have given an order or something."
This was the only discussion I ever had with O'Malley's son regarding this subject.
FUCHS: Did Mr. Truman have a routine that you recall, when you would arrive at the office early in the morning?
FARIS: Yes, he was always there.
FUCHS: What did he...
FARIS: That was his routine. That man was there earlier than everybody. Well, he was such an early riser. He always got up at five. I don't care if he went to bed at 2 o'clock in the morning, he was up at five, and he was down at that office. This man really worked.
FUCHS: Did he normally go in and start to read or look at the Congressional Record, or...
FARIS: Yes, the reason why he went in early, he studied, and he studied everything that was before the Senate, that they were considering. He would study all the bills, he would study the committee reports, you know, everything is printed, all the committee hearings are printed. You get all the voluminous printed materials from the United States Senate, you know, they're pretty loquacious there. So you've got the Congressional Record to go through, you've got all the committee reports to go through, you've got all the new legislation coming up, you've got the consideration of all the new bills; and when I was there, there was the packing of the Supreme Court, you know, when Roosevelt wanted to increase the number of old men on the Supreme Court. We got tons
and tons of mail on that. One law that Mr. Truman laid down in our office was that every letter that came into our office was to be answered, no ifs, ands, or buts, it was answered; and, boy, we answered everything. Of course, we finally had to get up on that work thing, we had to make up, you know, a mimeographed letter because we couldn't have answered it. It would have been physically impossible, because we only had four girls.
FUCHS: Who wrote most of the letters of the more routine, constituent nature?
FARIS: Vic handled the routine stuff, but what Vic would do, he would call these -- because he knew the agencies and had been in Washington, and Vic was a pretty good mixer, too, and he had key people in the various agencies to ask when we had a constituent that requested something, and it was a problem -- Vic would call up the agency and get one of these guys he knew in that agency, and the guy would give him the information to tell him what he could do with it, whether he could handle it or whether he couldn't handle it; and then Vic would write a note on the letter as to how to dispose of the letter. So sometimes he would dictate when it was a person of some political influence
who needed an answer, I mean, with some import. So then the girls would just take that and write what the information was or what we could do about it. Then, see, I knew who the key political figures of importance in the state were, and they would always come to me when they got to Washington, so I would usually handle anything for them myself, personally. So Vic handled most of the correspondence, the routine correspondence, and then between the two of us we got jobs. I think we got more jobs for our constituents than any other Senate office in Washington, I really do; because, see, Julian Friant was head of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, and they were hiring an awful lot of people. The Works Progress...
FUCHS: He was the head of it in Missouri?
FARIS: No, in Washington. And Joe Boland, there was a guy by the name of Joe Boland who was Friant's assistant, and I became very good friends, and so Joe gave me a lot of jobs for our constituents because he was also a Missourian.
FUCHS: How was the patronage that Mr. Truman's office was getting stacking up, as you recall, against that that
Senator Clark's office was?
FARIS: Well, I think we did much better than Senator Clark did, because Ed Villemore was Clark's secretary, Senator Clark's secretary, and Ed wasn't too inclined to put himself out to get jobs for constituents. Ed was a little above this. Oh, he was a funny guy. His father was either the president or vice president of the Kansas City Life Insurance Company, and so Ed had a little pompous air about him, you know, and I think sometimes he thought that that was a little beneath his dignity, to go down and get jobs, because they didn't get the jobs that Vic and I did, we were always out hunting.
I can tell you some stories of some of those people we got jobs for. There was one little Jewish fellow that came in to see me and he was an attorney, and he was in tears. He was from St. Joseph, Missouri, and he told me his wife was just about to have a baby, he was broke, and they were starving, he needed a job, and couldn't we do something to help him. He said, "I'll tell every Jew in Missouri that you helped me."
So I said, "Okay, give me your name, where did you live in St. Jo." So, I authenticated the fact that he
was from St. Jo. So I went in and I told Mr. Truman the story and this was rather late in the evening, 5:30 or 6 o'clock in the evening. I said, "I think we ought to try to help this guy. He's pretty desperate."
Mr. Truman said, "Did he have any endorsement or anything?"
I said, "No."
He said, "Well, go ahead. If you feel that he needs help, why, go ahead and help him."
So I went to work through my friends in the Department of Justice, and I got him on as one of the junior attorneys, you know, in the Department of Justice. It paid about $3200 a year. Well, you never saw a guy who was so grateful that we had helped him. Well, my God, when he got his first paycheck, he came in with a sack of bagels and a bottle of wine as a gift. I thought about him, you know, quite a bit, because not many people after you got them a job, you never heard from them. But this guy kept in touch. So one day, he came in the office and he was awfully excited. He wasn't talking quite normally, but he wasn't really irrational, but there was just something, it didn't suit his norm, you know, of his personality. So I said, "Well, what's
He said, "Bud, I love you and Truman, but I can't even tell you this. I'm going to go to Walter Winchell. I'm going to break this with Walter Winchell."
I said, "For God's sake, tell me what it's all about."
He said, "I can't tell you. It's just too big. I'm on my way to New York to see Walter Winchell."
So I said, "I think you're making a mistake. Does your department head know about this?"
He said, "No."
I said, "Well, don't you think you ought to consult with him down at the Justice Department before you do anything like this -- going to Winchell?"
He said, "Oh, no, don't worry. Donít worry. I'll handle it carefully. Everything will be all right. Don't worry."
So what could I do. The guy left the office and the next thing I know, I get a wire from him from New York. "I love you and Truman. Haven't see Winchell yet, but have hopes," or something like this, and he signed it.
So, I got this telegram and I decided, "There's something wrong here." So, I knew who his boss was down
in the Justice Department. I called up his boss and I said, "Well, what's wrong with my friend," and I can't think of the guy's name, Eichelberger, I think it was, or Eisenberger, or something like this.
He said, "Well, what's wrong?"
I said, "Well, my God, he came in" and I told him, "like he was almost hysterical or something."
He says, "Oh, Bud, I've been having trouble with him. He's having trouble with his wife. His wife has left him, gone back to her parents, and I think it's just upset the man emotionally and mentally."
I said, "Well, what is this thing you suppose he's got that he's taking to Winchell?"
He said, "Well, it's all a figment of his imagination." He said, "Where is he?" In the telegram it was, I think, out of the Roosevelt Hotel.
And so I said, "Well, all right, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Why don't you call him and see if you can get him back here,"
So he did; he talked the guy in to coming back to Washington. Then he called me from New York, the guy did, this Jewish, fellow, and I said, "Look, you better get back here and right away or you're going to lose
your job." And so that brought him back. He came in to see me and I knew then that there was something wrong with him, he was emotionally really disturbed, mentally disturbed. So, I called the psychiatrist at the branch hospital of St. Elizabeth's, they had a branch, I've forgotten what the name of that hospital was, and so I sent this guy down to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist was Jewish, too. So he took care of the guy and got him straightened out. This was one case.
So then I had another case. A fellow who had just been discharged from the Marines, a great big, strapping fellow, and his brother-in-law was a state senator in Missouri. Then he showed me the letter from his brother-in-law. He said, "You know, I took the Civil Service examination for the metropolitan police department here in the District of Columbia, and I'm on the eligible list. Do you think you can help me get an appointment?"
Well, I also knew a few people on the police department. (I shouldn't tell you some of these things, but to show you how politics works.) So I called up this lieutenant that I knew on the police department, and he was in charge of training, and I gave him this guy's
name. He looked it up and he said, "Yes, he's on the eligible list. Send him down to me. We'll give him an appointment."
It was all perfectly legal, because he was on the eligible list. So they gave him an appointment and he went through his training. Then this lieutenant called me and he said, "Mr. Faris, how well do you know this" -- the man's name was Shull. He said, "How well do you know this man?"
I said, "I don't know him at all. He came in the office. He's the brother-in-law of one of our state senators in Missouri, and he's been honorably discharged from the Marine Corps."
And he said, "Well, I'm not sure, but he acts rather odd at times."
I said, "Oh?"
He said, "Yes, but we'll observe him."
I said, "Well, all right, let me know."
So what they did, they put him downtown to walk a beat in the downtown metropolitan area of the District of Columbia, I think he would walk down F Street and then down 14th and back to G Street. Well, the streetcars ran along there in those days, along F Street, and then they joined up and went out Connecticut Avenue
into Maryland and turned around out there in Maryland and came back into the District. Well, this guy got tired of walking his beat and got on the streetcar. He'd take a streetcar ride. He rode out to the end of the line and when he got to the end of the line he saw a car parked by a fire hydrant. So he gets out and he writes this ticket, not knowing that the car is in Maryland. So, this I learned when the Lieutenant called me and told me about it. So, he said, "Well, I don't know what to do about him."
Well, in the meantime, prior to this -- I forgot to tell you this -- I was getting ready on one Saturday morning to go over to Baltimore to see the Navy play Notre Dame, and I'm trying to get out of the office and this guy walks in and he starts telling me that he's down there by the general accounting office and he's directing traffic there, and he's telling me, "You know I get confused, those streetcars, and I can't tell sometimes which streetcar is going to go right and which one is going to go left, and I get a little confused about directing the traffic down there. I wonder if you could get me..."
I said, "Shull, I don't know anything about directing
traffic. Go to your commanding officer, tell him about it. Don't bother me about this."
So finally I got rid of the guy, because I wanted to go to the football game. But I kept thinking about this on my way over. I said, "That guy, there's something wrong with him. I can tell by this confused mind that he has."
So then the lieutenant called and told me about this episode of his writing the ticket out in Maryland. Well, the guy's brother-in-law of a state senator, so I got to do something, you know, to help the man. So I told the lieutenant, "Well, the only thing I can think of is have him report over here to me and I'll tell him that the only way I can save his job is that he'll report down to my friend the psychiatrist" that I'd already used, you see. So, I called the psychiatrist and I told him the story, so he said, "Well, send him down to me, and I'll examine him and I'll report back to you."
I told him that "I'm having him report to you, you know, because the only way I can save his job on the police force is to have him report to you."
He said, "Fine, I've got that."
So, the psychiatrist calls me and he said, "My
God, this man is a dementia praecox."
Oh, Jesus. So, I get this man Shull to admit himself to the hospital there. They do and everything and the man is mentally off, dementia praecox. So I have to go to court and testify, and I felt so bad, because the man was rational at times, and then, you know, he was lucid and sometimes he wasn't, he was irrational. So they put him in St. Elizabeth's. Well, he had been in St. Elizabeth's about two months and I got a letter from him, and boy, he was really mad at me, and he was going to get me for having him put in St. Elizabeth's. Well, I didn't think anything about it. I tossed the letter aside, "What can I do?" Naturally he's going to feel this way about me. Well, about another two weeks went by, and he called me on the telephone. I said, "Where are you that you can call me on the telephone?"
He said, "Oh, I have the run of the grounds. I'm across the street here in a telephone booth." Oh, Jesus, well, if this guy can get out like that, why, he can come up here and get me. I tried to placate him on the phone saying, "Well, it was for your own good. What else could I do?"
In the meantime, I had gone back and written to
his brother-in-law and told him, and I found that he had been discharged really from the Marine Corps, they had had him in their mental institution in the Marine Corps; but they covered it up and discharged him, not with a Section 8 as we called it, but gave him just a regular discharge just to get rid of him. So, now when I received this call, I knew the daughter of the head man at St. Elizabeth's, I had met him through his daughter. I told him the story. I said, "This man's out running around, he just called me, he's written me a threatening letter." And I said, "Good gracious, confine him even to the grounds, will you, so he can't get outside. He'll probably be up here in the office after me."
He said, "All right, we'll take care of it."
So that brought Shull to his attention and he called the head psychiatrist and the head physician of St. Elizabeth's called me and told me, "Well, can't you get him into a state institution in Missouri? He would be much better off."
So then I had to go through all that and get this man transferred out of St. Elizabeth's to a mental institution in Missouri, which we did. These are the
things that you encounter that -- most people don't understand what goes on in a Senator's office.
FUCHS: Mr. Truman ever have any comment about these people?
FARIS: Oh, yes, he knew the whole story about this. He used to laugh, he said, "Why is it that you get all these nuts?"
I said, "I don't know, I guess they gravitate to me. I guess I have sympathy for them."
Then we had girls, you know, Government girls. They would read an ad -- the Government would advertise for secretaries, you know, or stenographers. Well, if you're out in Knob Noster, Missouri, and you see an ad, and they're going to pay you $1440 a year, that looks like quite a bit of money back in those days. This was right after that horrible depression, and things still weren't good, you know, throughout the country. Well, that looks like a great deal of money, and these girls would come and they would get jobs, Civil Service jobs, for $1440 or $1620, was usually the going rate, and they'd find that they couldn't live very well on that money in Washington, because Washington was always --
the per capita rate was higher, the cost of living per capita was higher in Washington than anyplace in the country. So these girls would come from families and they would go into these boarding houses and have to live at a boarding house, they had no social life, they were in humdrum jobs, they were doing the same thing over and over, day in and day out, month in and month out, and they'd crack up. And I had many of those. St. Elizabeth's was filled with these Government girls; and I always thought that was a crime the way the Government handled these poor gals that came to Washington to work. Because, another thing, there were seven or eight women for every man in Washington, the women far outnumbered the men, and so they had no social life. This always struck me as a rather tragic thing, too; but these and some of the other things, the sociological problems that you had to contend with in a Senator's office, as well as all the political problems.
So. Mr. Truman, he'd let us handle all that sort of thing, because his main bent was the legislation and what he could do for the State of Missouri and for the country. Because any man that gets into the United States Senate, even though he's from the state, I think
they all have taken on the aura that they're not only representing their state, the Senate is a very high, august body, and they do represent the whole United States. They can't help it, even through their committees, because you can't be so narrow-minded and so confined in your thinking that you're only going to do this which affects your state, because you've got national issues involved. And so they become national figures. This is what -- like Topsy, you know, who just grew, this psychological attitude, the seed is planted within the minds of Senators, and it's fertilized and blooms until they are national figures. I think most any Senator in the Senate has subconsciously, whether he would admit it openly even to his wife, subconsciously has that presidential bee in his bonnet. I don't think they can escape it. I don't really. That's my humble opinion, but I've seen it so often, this awareness in the Senate of all the Senators I knew then. I was acquainted with quite a few of them, because I was on the floor, and I was in the committee meetings, and I was with the Senator so much, he and I, you know, were pretty close pals, too, you know -- and like Shay Minton and Bennett Clark and old John Nance Garner.
My golly, John Nance would call up the office and say, "Where's Harry?"
I'd say, "Well, he's over in the Capitol Building."
He'd say, "Well, what's he doing over there?"
I'd say, "Well, he's got a committee meeting."
He'd say, "What are you doing?"
I'd say, "I'm working."
He'd say, "Well, come around here. I've got to strike a blow for liberty."
And I'd have to leave the office because he would never drink alone, so I'd go around and have a drink with him, with old John Nance. He was a marvelous man. I loved him. And he just adored Harry Truman. He saw so much in Harry Truman that he admired.
FUCHS: How did they get close?
FARIS: Well, first off, because Mr. Truman, in his first year in the Senate, he sat and listened, he observed, he absorbed and he learned how the Senate operated; and, brother, that Senate operates because there is a political structure within a political structure in the United States Senate, and you have to play ball if you want to gain anything in the Senate. I think John
Nance Garner admired the way Truman handled himself in the Senate, and, so, Mr. Truman wasn't a drinker, he would take a drink with them, you know, but he usually would nurse that one drink, and maybe two drinks at the most. I never saw Mr. Truman in all the time that I knew him, and over the span of the years, I never saw Mr. Truman once under the influence of alcohol. Only one time I walked in the office and I went in through his office because he had a private lavatory and I was late, it was in the evening, it was about 7:30, and I had some work I wanted to catch up on, and I came through and switched on the light and he was sitting behind his desk. He looked up at me and he smiled, and I said, "What are you doing here?"
He said, "Well, I was with Garner and Bennett Clark and Shay Minton and we were trying to work out..." They had something that was going on in the Senate, and they wanted pairs on notes and so forth. And he said, "I just had one drink, I think, too many."
I said, "Well, you don't look to me like you have."
He said, "Well, maybe I don't look it, but I feel it. I'm just waiting until it wears off completely. I wouldn't go home if I felt that I had..."
And that's the way he was, this is the character of the man. He wouldn't expose his family to the fact -- even though I couldn't tell that he'd even had a drink, but he was consciously aware of the fact that he had, and he wasn't going to move until he knew that the liquor wasn't affecting him. And so this is an indication of his character.
FUCHS: What about his temper?
FARIS: Well, I'll tell you. He was the only man who could be angry who could smile and laugh at the same time. He could be madder than a hornet and yet he could still laugh when he was mad.
FUCHS: Did you ever observe him using excess profanity?
FARIS: No, I didn't. When he was with the boys, he would use, you know, Senators, I mean, even the august Senators use language, the bawdy room style of language when they had a few drinks, and believe me, they drank in that Senate of the United States. There was one Senator there, I won't mention his name, but he was a complete alcoholic. He was from Kentucky where they made the bourbon whiskey, and he was intoxicated every day.
Bennett Clark was a terrible drinker. John Nance Garner -- but of course, his wife kept him sober most of the time. She was always after him, and -- of course, she couldn't figure out where he was hiding his whiskey; he had the maintenance carpenters fix his medicine cabinet in his office. He had had them pull out this medicine cabinet; then they put the medicine cabinet back up as it normally was, so that when you opened the mirror of the medicine cabinet, it looked just like a regular medicine cabinet, but then you pulled it all the way out, well, there he had all his booze stored. He was a lovable character that Garner, and he was a smart man, really. He was what I'd call an unpolished diamond, John Nance Garner was. I was very fond of him. Of course, I was young, too, and impressionable, and, you know, you read through history, I mean, you got it all out of books about Washington and Lincoln and all the rest of them, and then all of a sudden, there you are in the Senate of the United States. Such men as [William] Borah of Idaho, and all these men that had been in the Senate that I knew and read about. You're so in awe when you first go there. And then as you're there and time wears on and you get used
to it, and it becomes commonplace to you, then you begin to realize that they're all human beings, you know, and so are Presidents of the United States. I mean, they get constipated and they get viruses and they have good days and they have bad days, and like the fellow said, he often wondered how many momentous decisions had been made by Presidents following a banquet where a quantity of wine had been served. So, it's true. I mean, by golly, just because a man gets elected President doesn't mean that he's God; he's still a human being.
FUCHS: You would say then that Mr. Truman was no more profane than the average guy, or in front of ladies...
FARIS: Oh, in front of a lady he would never even tell an off-color story, never. This is another one of those old traditions of that generation of his where you respected womanhood, and, oh, he would never curse -- I don't think Margaret or Mrs. Truman ever heard him use a profane word, never. As a matter of fact, I don't recall Mr. Truman using profanity, only in a very rare instance where some man who really was a son-of-a-bitch, he would say, s.o.b. He wouldn't even say son-of-a-bitch. This is the kind of man he was.
There was an inherent gentility about him. To me he was a very fine -- and not just because he became President of the United States -- I knew this when I was with him in the Senate; and I really was reluctant to leave him because I admired the man so, and I had learned so much from him, as I told you, about the history and the military campaigns of men like Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and of Lee and of Grant and of Jackson. Then he could discuss -- philosophically he could discuss -- many things with you, because he had Masonry, he was rather high up in the Masonic Order, he was a 32nd degree Mason. My father had been a Mason, and my mother had been the Catholic in the family, so you see, by the time I was eighteen years old my father had been working on me on Masonry, and I began to doubt all the things about Catholicism, and then I started investigating religion myself. So at about the right age of, oh, I guess I must have been about twenty-eight or nine years old, maybe thirty, I decided that none of them knew what the hell they were talking about, and so I left. I never went back to church, I never joined anything. I developed my own philosophy. I read
Spinoza and went back through all the Greek philosophers and tried to find the answer myself. I listened to various religious leaders. I even went so far as to study with a couple of Hindu swamis. I was trying to find the answer.
FUCHS: Where was that, out here?
FARIS: No, I was back East. You know, I went through lots of things trying -- my mother was a pretty ardent Catholic, and her brother was a priest, and I admired her brother, my uncle, because he was a great athlete. He was pitching in the Western League for Omaha when he was only eighteen years old, and he was striking out seventeen, eighteen a game. Connie Mack wanted him, all the rest of the big league managers wanted him, and scouts had all given reports on him. And he went to Sister Mildred who was his great champion, and this Sister had -- I guess she had taken on a mother image for him, and he went to her with all his problems and everything. And he told her that he had had all these offers to go to the major leagues, and she said, "You want to be a priest, don't you?"
He said, "Yes, but I think I could go to the majors
for two or three years or four years maybe, and I can still be a priest."
She said, "No, if you get your fingers broken, you'll never be able to serve mass, so you better forget about it." Well, he didn't go.
Well, this kind of opened my eyes, you see, because even though he went into the priesthood, baseball was still always in his mind, and he trained more ball players in Kansas City and sent up pitchers to the big league, and to me, he actually ruined his life, in my way of thinking, you see. I think he should have had the chance because he loved this. This was the love of his life. But Sister Mildred talked him in to giving it all up for the cloth. But I don't think he was unhappy as a priest, I don't know, because I didn't see much of him after I left Kansas City.
FUCHS: She didn't really use that argument as a telling argument that he'd break his fingers did she?
FARIS: Well, that was one of the arguments. Just one. So, I don't know how I got into this philosophical...
FUCHS: It's interesting.
FARIS: Of course, that's why I say Truman and I used to discuss Masonry and...
FUCHS: There's a lot more depth to the man than a lot of people thought.
FARIS: Oh, great depth in the man. People have always thought he was shallow because he would rip off a letter as an irate father to somebody who criticized Margaret's singing, you know. This didn't help his image, but he was this way, he was quick-tempered, and especially anything to do with Margaret, he idolized her. She was an only daughter, his only child, and he loved her a great deal, and Margaret was very smart. As he said, Margaret was a smarter politician than he was.
FUCHS: But as a superior he wasn't quick-tempered, with his staff?
FARIS: Oh, no, no, no. No, not at all. I never can remember the man being angry with me, and Lord knows, he had opportunity to be angry with me.
FUCHS: To go back a little bit, do you think that he fully reciprocated John Nance Garner's feelings towards him?
FARIS: Oh, yes, there was a great devotion between the two of them, a great admiration and respect for each other. You see, just because a man drinks, it doesn't mean a thing abut his character or his integrity or his feeling.
FUCHS: Did you have any knowledge of Pendergast frequently making requests of Mr. Truman, by either note or by phone call?
FARIS: Well, when I was there, I would usually know, during the period of time that I was there, I would know if Mr. Pendergast had made any requests, and I can truthfully say that in the first year, which would have been the more likely years for him to have made the most requests, due to the politics of that time, the year 1935-1936, because he was in trouble, Johnny Lazia had taken over the sixth ward, I guess it was, and had been shot in Kansas City, machine-gunned down, and Pendergast didn't have any love for Lazia, you know. Actually, Jim, I do not have any factual data myself on any of this. All I know is what I read in the Kansas City Star, or what I heard from people who were in the political scene.
FUCHS: You're speaking of the Pendergast activities?
FARIS: Yes, but actually knowing myself as a good newspaperman, I always like to have facts, and I don't have facts. Anything I know is hearsay on that, except for Mr. Pendergast having sent us wires. Now, you know Mr. Pendergast wouldn't have sent a wire if it was anything that was illegal or not proper, but he did call him a couple of times long distance. Everybody has the idea that Tom Pendergast was calling Mr. Truman daily or something. Well, I don't believe in that first year that I remember five telegrams having been sent by Mr. Pendergast. As far as telephone calls, I don't recall more than three of four long distance telephone calls, even that many, to the best of my recollection. So. Pendergast really didn't bother Mr. Truman, only, as I say, certain instances where maybe he'd like to have somebody appointed or something, or some job, he usually wrote a letter. So he really didn't, he didn't make demands, I'll say, as far as I know, Jim, on Mr. Truman.
FUCHS: He probably wrote some letters because he told somebody he'd write a letter.
FARIS: Yes, but as I said before, I know Pendergast knew
the character of Mr. Truman, and he knew that Harry Truman would not do anything that wasn't proper, period. And I'm positive that Pendergast -- Pendergast was a pretty smart man. He had a pretty good brain on him. He wasn't highly educated, but that doesn't prevent a man being sharp and shrewd and smart, and he was. And I knew he had enough savvy to realize that he couldn't get Mr. Truman to do anything that was against his conscience.
FUCHS: Do you know anything about speeches Mr. Truman might have given in his first term while you were there, who wrote them, how they were drafted?
FARIS: I sure do. He was going to make a speech on -- oh, I forget what the subject was on he was going to make a speech -- and so I decided on my own that I would write the speech; and I did, I wrote a speech, and I took it into him. He looked at it and he said, "Well, that's pretty good, Bud." And he pulled out, in his own handwriting, he said, "Here's the speech I'm going to make." And I never tried to write another speech for him. He wrote every speech himself in his own longhand and then it was typed out.
FUCHS: Mr. Messall didn't...
FARIS: No, Vic never...Did Vic say he did?
FUCHS: I don't recall that...
FARIS: Vic never wrote a speech in his life. Victor couldn't write a speech. Vic was not too educated himself. Vic was a shrewd, smart operator. I think he graduated from high school, at least, I don't know, but at the end of my association with Vic, Victor didn't have very much depth. He was a great observer and he could obtain knowledge from observation, he could watch people in their social behavior, how people talked, what people discussed, and Vic could absorb this stuff, he was smart. But he wasn't educated, and there's a difference of trying to acquire culture and having culture, do I make myself clear? And Vic didn't have this culture, and I think this stemmed from -- Vic had rather an inferiority complex, and people that have these inferiority complexes are sometimes rather on the defensive all the time, more or less like you say a "fellow with a chip on his shoulder," you know. They react hastily, over embarrassments or what they assume might be a belittlement of them. You know this. So,
Vic, no, I don't think Vic would have even attempted or had the audacity or the temerity to write a speech for Mr. Truman,.
Further explaining Vic, his personality. He had a couple of close friends, real close, they were always together, he and Vic's wife, Irene, and I can't think of this man's name. He manufactured venetian blinds, and they were real close, socially they were very close. And so one night I think we're at the Shoreham, and I joined their table -- Vic called me over and I sat down with them, and this woman, who was the wife of his close friend, said to me, "Oh, you're Victor's secretary, aren't you?"
Well, titles didn't mean anything to me and if he had told them that, it was all right with me and I said, "Yeah." You know, I just said it jokingly. I thought it was sort of strange, but I didn't think anything of it.
So. I'm at another party again later on and she said, "Oh, I want you to meet Victor's -- " she was going to introduce me to somebody, and she said, "I want you to meet Victor's secretary." Well, you see, Vic was so jealous of the relationship that Truman and I had, you see, that he never could get over this,
because he wanted to be close to Mr. Truman and he couldn't, you know, because Mr. Truman's not that way. He had to know you and know about your family and know your background and know something about you before he gave you his friendship. So, during this issue when I'm trying to tell him to either get Vic a job, get him out of there, or I was going to leave, I told him about this, and he laughed his head off. He thought that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. He got a big kick out of it. But it was indicative of Vic, you know.
When he finally left Mr. Truman, why, Vic used, you know, the office, he'd run in the office and go back and phone. He had these accounts you know. Fox, I think was that man's name from down around Joplin, he had the radio stations, several radio stations...
FUCHS: Cox, Lester Cox?
FARIS: Cox, Lester Cox. So, Lester was one of his accounts. Then he had the Chamber of Commerce, I think, of Joplin or one of those towns down there, Carthage or one of them. So he still was using the Senator's name and office, and even though I wasn't there I would be down at the Senator's office and I'd see Vic run in, go on back and use the phone, I knew what he was
doing. So I told Mr. Truman, I said, "You know, I think Vic's still using you and the office."
He said, "Oh, well, he can't do anything to hurt me." That's the way Mr. Truman was. He wasn't going to say anything to him, unless he knew that Vic had done something really unforgivable. Then Mr. Truman, I think, finally did cut him off, cut him out of the office.
FUCHS: This, of course, was after March '41. I believe he left in about March, maybe in January of '41. It was before the Committee was formed. The Committee was formed in March '41.
FARIS: Yes, he left before the Committee was formed, because Bill Boyle came in then. But you see, I was still close to Mr. Truman even after I left, I was always down there. I would run down and see him every week practically. Then we gave a dinner for him, all the boys that we had gotten jobs for, we got them all together and we gave a dinner for him there. What was the kid's name from Missouri, he was a friend of Vic's not really a friend, but he got Vic to help him and we got him a job, and he ended up in the White House with Mr. Truman, he ran the patronage end of the thing. He married the actress, Ilona Massey.
FUCHS: It wasn't Donald Dawson?
FARIS: Yes, Don Dawson. So Vic introduced me to Don, and of course, you see, when Vic really wanted something he would come to me. So I would talk to Mr. Truman, because I don't think Mr. Truman would take what Vic said. So Vic would have to come to me, and he told me all about Donald, and then I looked up to see what Don's background was and everything, and Mr. Truman knew Don's family, and so then we helped Donald Dawson. We got him a job. Where did we get him a job first? Have you talked to Don?
FUCHS: We have a man in Washington who is trying to interview Donald Dawson, but Donald Dawson has been so busy.
FARIS: What is Don doing?
FUCHS: He's either public relations -- is he a lawyer? I think it's public relations.
FARIS: I think he must be in public relations. I don't think Don is a lawyer.
FUCHS: I don't know for sure but I think he has a public
FARIS: Well, Don got awful big, you know, because when I was in the White House when Mr. Truman was President, I used to go back there and see him. When I would go to the White House, I would go there usually because I was with the Democratic Committee here in California, in fact, I told you about George Luckey, I guess.
FUCHS: No, we haven't gone into that yet.
FARIS: Well, after the war, I stayed in California. I didn't want to go back to Washington. I didn't want any part of Washington, I'd had it; and I love the sunshine out here, so I stayed and I got into politics here. George Luckey was the millionaire cattleman who backed Mr. Truman in the '48 campaign, and put up $40,000, which was to be repaid to him out of the Democratic funds, and which it was. So, I was with George. He was the vice-chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee, so we ran the Southern California end and the Northern California end was run by an attorney and a man by the name of Tolan. Actually, George was the power in California politics. So I would go back, on various
things we had politically, and I'd see Mr. Truman, and he was always the same, even when he was President. I'd walk right in to his Executive Office and I made a terrible request. I wanted a picture from him for my daughter, my daughter Gail. He said, "Well, they're pretty hard to get, Bud."
So I saw him and I said, "Well, you know, if you can see your way clear to getting me one, I'd appreciate it."
He said, "Well, it's pretty hard to get them."
So, I laughed, and I had an appointment again with him in about three days; so I went back and we were discussing things and I got through with my business with him and I was about to leave, he said, "Hey, you're forgetting something."
I said, "I am."
He had that twinkle in his eye, you know. He lifted up that flap on the Executive desk and pulled out this picture. It said, "To Mary Gail Faris, from the President, Harry S. Truman, October 22, 1948."
When he handed me that picture I said, "Do you know something?" I said, "Do you know you're going to be reelected?"
He said, "I know I am." And he said, "There's going to be a lot of red faced s.o.bs around here."
I said, "Well, I've been traveling around the country and I've been to quite a few places, and I'm positive you're going to be reelected." And I was, and I was one of the few who thought so.
FUCHS: Did George Luckey have confidence in his reelection, or not?
FARIS: Yes. Well, or else George wouldn't have done this, you know. I would tell George, I said, "George, the man's a cinch to be reelected." I said, "Number one, in all the political campaigns I've ever studied, the incumbent has a fifty percent chance to start with." On this basis, and on the fact that the people -- because I was with Mr. Truman here, you see, in parades, on the train, and I watched the people come out to see him, I rode in that parade, and I would see all those people on the streets. He had an attraction. George would ask me all the time, "You really think he's going to make it?"
I said, "I know he's going to make it." I said, "You know, I have a feeling about politics. I have called so many elections, I don't know whether it's
intuition or what it is. I haven't missed many." I called that one right off. So we took over and then I tried to get George to run for Governor, you know, of California. There again, George had had a haberdashery store down in Colton, California, which was parallel to Truman's life, and that was another reason why George Luckey had this kindred feeling for Mr. Truman. He'd gone broke in the haberdashery business, and a fellow had owed him some money, and so the fellow couldn't pay him, so he paid him off with 650 head of cattle, and that started George Luckey in the cattle business and he became a multi-millionaire from this 650 head of cattle. So, I had a very close association with George Luckey, and George would ask me to go back to Washington to discuss, maybe some political situation that had arisen out here -- because California was divided politically in factions, the Democratic Party. Jimmy Roosevelt was on one side, and it was kind of being pulled apart, and we were trying to pull it together and get some cohesiveness in the Party. So I would go back and discuss, some of the major things. Like maybe a Federal judgeship, or something like that -- and I'd relay the message that Luckey wanted me to relay to Mr.
Truman. So through this relationship, because of Mr. Truman and George saw how Mr. Truman felt about me, then we got closer and closer; so came 1952, George wanted me to stay with him. I said, "Well, George, I'm going to get out of politics. I've been in it long enough. I don't make any money in politics, and I've devoted a lot of time to it." I said, "I'm not seeking any office, and I'm going to go back to my love of writing, you know."
So, he said, "Why don't you come and go in the cattle business with me?"
I said, "George, I don't think I'm suited for the cattle business."
He said, "I'll tell you what. I want you to meet me Saturday morning at five o'clock in the morning, and we'll go down to the pens, and I'm going to show you the cattle business."
Well, I'll tell you, I had been out the night before and I was hung over, and I met him about 5:30 in the morning at this little dinky restaurant down there at the stockyards, and we got up over those pens and I got a whiff of that stink and that smell, and brother, I couldn't take it. I vomited. I said, "George, you can have the cattle business." He wasn't going to give
up on me. He wanted me to stay with him and be in the cattle business. I guess that was just a bad experience that I had that morning; but George was very much like Mr. Truman in a lot of ways.
FUCHS: What was your position with the State...
FARIS: I was the Executive Assistant to the Vice Chairman.
FUCHS: Did you serve...
FARIS: To be honest with you I ran the Committee, if that's what you want to know, because George didn't pay too much attention to it.
FUCHS: This was a paid job?
FARIS: Oh, yes, and they paid me pretty well, too. I was getting to the point that I wanted to get out of politics, because -- politics is too desultory, you know. You're in and you're out; you're in and you're out, you know. I was getting tired of the battles. Oh, I had a lot of people who wanted me to run for office, labor guys that wanted me, but I really didn't have any desire for an elective office. That really wasn't my cup of tea. I had seen so much of it, and been with so many
elective officers, that, you know, I was like a horse, I shied at the mention of elective office.
FUCHS: Do you recall a man who worked in the Senator's office, Harry B. Salisbury?
FARIS: Harry really didn't work in the office, only for a short while. Harry and John Griggs. Harry Salisbury and John Griggs were close friends; and Johnny Griggs, he was, I think, from -- what town was he from in Missouri? He had been at West Point, and after a year at West Point he didn't like it and he quit West Point and he came to Washington. We had gotten Harry Salisbury a job, and so Johnny -- and of course, Mr. Truman knew John Grigg's mother very well. She was active in politics in Missouri. So, we got John a job, but Harry Salisbury, well, he did work at some time, but he never had any official capacity that I remember in our office, not while I was there. He might have later worked for the Committee or something.
FUCHS: Well, I just picked up the name in the records someplace, and I wondered...
FARIS: Well, he was younger, he and Johnny were much
younger. I think they were only about nineteen or twenty years old.
FUCHS: Well, John Griggs worked in Mr. Truman's office?
FUCHS: He never did.
FARIS: No, but he was close because his mother was a close friend of Mr. Truman's. Johnny Griggs, and Harry Salisbury, you could talk to them. They were at some kind of party at the Truman's home, in Independence once. The Truman home really belonged to the Wallaces. Now, the Wallaces always felt that -- because they owned Queen of the Pantry Flour, you know, they were the milling family, and they were the social elite of Independence, you know, Mrs. Truman naturally went to Barstow, which was an exclusive girls' school, and the Wallaces always felt that Bess Truman had married beneath her station when she married Harry Truman.
FUCHS: How did you know this?
FARIS: Oh, how do you know that a dog has fleas? Well, I mean, in Independence, it was common gossip, that the
Wallaces always looked with disdain on the fact that Bess had married "a farm boy:" So the Wallaces, and this is my observation now, and I may be entirely wrong, but this is my observation, they rather ignored Mr. Truman, not blatantly, rudely, but it was there.
FUCHS: What period are you thinking of now?
FARIS: Well, this is after he had been in the Senate, maybe he had been in the senate two years at this time, you see. Now he was a Senator, and yet here at this party with the Wallaces there, and Margaret was putting an egg in a milk bottle and I had never seen this thing before, and Margaret said, "Now, let's see if you can get this egg out of this milk bottle."
Well, I had had a little bit of physics and I realized that you couldn't break the bottle, so I knew I couldn't just shake it out because the egg was elastic so when you pushed it, it was a hard boiled egg, but still it had some elasticity, so when you pushed it through, the egg would slide through the neck of the bottle by the pressure of your fingers. So I knew that there was always an equal force or opposing force so you had to have another force to get the egg out of the bottle. So I
was looking at it and figuring out how to do this, and I figured the only way I could do it was to blow it out, you see, to put air in the bottle and bring the egg back up to the neck and keep blowing into it until I could build up enough pressure and the egg would pop out. And Margaret said, "Oh, you've seen this done before."
I said, "It's the first time I ever saw it in my life."
Well, this is the reason I recall this because Margaret was so flabbergasted that I figured this out. Well, it was a simple physics problem, and Mr. Truman all the time was sitting over in the corner, not participating hardly at all in all this conviviality that was going on there. This is what I remembered specifically. Well, other things I had heard, how the Wallaces treated Mr. Truman.
So, actually, I believe, again in my humble opinion, that the Wallaces gave Mr. Truman an inferiority complex due to their arrogance, you know, and he was always going to show the Wallaces. No, I may be entirely wrong on this, but this is what I believed and what I thought, and always have, and that determined the motivation for some of his actions later on, like his intemperate act of writing the letter to the music critic who criticized
Margaret's singing, and a lot of other little things that I saw him do, which were not really within his character, but it was something that was deeply instilled from this treatment that he received from the Wallaces, that he did this subconsciously, he reacted subconsciously without realizing that he was acting this way. I think this is attributable to the Wallaces, some of the things that he did which he was criticized for. I can only say that this is merely my opinion, I may be wrong, but it seems to me that this accounts for some of the things that Mr. Truman did, which weren't really within the natural character of the man; because I think if he had stopped to think intellectually he wouldn't have done it, but subconsciously he reacted.
Then, of course, Mrs. Truman was pretty prim and proper, and actually when she read Peter Carter's column about me, she reacted. She didn't think this was the right conduct for the Senator's secretary, to have such a social life that he was being written up in the columns.
FUCHS: Did she get around to the office during the time you were there?
FARIS: She didn't come much. She did, yes, occasionally;
but she didn't come too often.
FUCHS: You don't know if she was doing any work for him then?
FARIS: Now that you mention it, I think she did. She was active, she was very active, I know, I guess it was -- see the Senators' wives have a club, you know, and they would have speakers. I remember Mrs. Roosevelt came and spoke before the Senators' wives. There was a period there when Mrs. Truman was doing something in the office. I believe she did do some work, I don't know what it was now, it escapes me. Because, you see, Mrs. Truman -- having babysat Margaret, not all the time, but when they were in a pinch I would do it, like I took them to that first White House party. I had the feeling always that Mrs. Truman disapproved of me, you know, so -- I was gracious with her, but it didn't bother me one way or the other, whether she liked me or not. I was at that age where I felt my behavior was impeccable.
FUCHS: Do you know if Mr. Truman saw President Roosevelt on many occasions in his first term?
FARIS: Oh, yes. Well, I can tell you. I went in the office
quite frequently on Sundays, because then on a Sunday I could catch up with a lot of work, and often -- he knew that I went in quite a bit on Sunday mornings, because the phones wouldn't be ringing, there wouldn't be anybody coming in the office, and I could get a lot of work done, which I did. I remember on two occasions on Sunday, when I was working, he came into the office. And I said, "What are you doing here?"
He said, "Oh, I had a call to go down to the White House."
I said, "Oh?" I don't remember the particular issues now of why he was called to the White House. I said, "Well, how did you come out?"
He said, "Oh, I got my usual kick in the fanny." That was his expression.
And on two occasions he told me this, that Mr. Roosevelt had "kicked him," as he said, "Kicked me in the fanny," hadn't gone along with him on whatever it was that Mr. Truman wanted him to do or something that Roosevelt didn't do. Of course, Franklin Roosevelt had such a charming personality. It was one of the most forceful personalities of any man I have ever met, and I am glad that I had the opportunity on two
occasions to have met Mr. Roosevelt.
FUCHS: Where did you meet him?
FARIS: Well, I met him first at one of the $100 dinners, Jackson Day Dinners at the Mayflower Hotel. I met him another time with Mr. Truman, and here was a man that -- well, of course, you see, in 1932 at the height of the depression when the whole country was harrowed, and the people had gaunt faces, and...the faces of the people mirrored the times, the expressions on people's faces, the gauntness, the hollow, vacant stares, people were almost bewildered, and in panic, practically. If this country was ever close to a revolution, I think it was at that time, because it wouldn't have taken much to set them off. Then when Roosevelt was nominated, and he flew to Chicago and he made that great speech, that wonderful speech, that one-half of this nation is ill-housed and ill-clothed, you know that speech, which was a marvelous speech. Well, I was listening to that and I thought, "Well, we've found the new messiah," you know, this is the way you felt about it; because he seemed to lift up and buoy everybody's spirits. So I had a great reverence
for the man for coming in at the time he did, then when he took hold and the things he did, and the country started moving again, and the charm of the man on the radio, his voice, his delivery, his speeches were magnificent. So I had a built-in reverence for the man, you see. So, when I first met him I was completely awed by the man. He was so charming, and you felt the force of this personality. I've met a lot of people in my life, celebrities, and princes and princesses, and I've never met anybody in my life that had that force, I want to say dynamic force, that Franklin Roosevelt had. And so I was always surprised when Mr. Truman told me that, you know, Mr. Roosevelt had treated him as he did; although Mr. Truman didn't express this, only in the way that I knew Mr. Truman and his anachronisms, you know, the way he did express himself. And they told a great deal, like when he said, "Well, I got my usual kick in the fanny."
So, when I felt that he didn't treat Mr. Truman right, then he started descending a bit from this high pinnacle that I had placed him on. Then as time went by, when I found out other things and how he had treated Henry Wallace -- of course, I didn't approve much
of Henry Wallace -- but, nevertheless, when Wallace went in and talked to Roosevelt about a particular thing, it escapes my memory, but it's in the records about how Wallace walked out of the office, he immediately picked up the phone and called whoever it was that Wallace had wanted him to talk to, and he told this man, whoever it was, not to do anything, you know, for Wallace. So this is the way, I found out, that Roosevelt operated. He did this to Jim Farley. So, as the years went by, I still admired Roosevelt, but he had clay feet, in other words, he wasn't the messiah that I thought he was. So this got me to studying Roosevelt a little bit more. This is all I recall ever, those two occasions, of Mr. Truman's dealings with Mr. Roosevelt.
FUCHS: What was the second occasion that you mentioned?
FARIS: That was the second time on a Sunday that he came in and he had been at the White House, had just come from the White House.
FUCHS: No. I meant the second occasion when you met Roosevelt. I believe you said you had two.
FARIS: I'm trying to think. Was it the press picnic? It
was out on Roosevelt Highway. Now where had we been? Anyway, he was in his car, that open car, and we went over and I shook hands with him and talked with him, again with Mr. Truman. But he still had that charm. Oh, God, what a man I thought he was, and I still do think he was -- of course, there we go back again -- see, they're human beings, and that's the trouble with people in our country, they actually -- they want to look up to their elective officers, especially to the President of the United States. Actually, the people want an aristocrat in the White House, because it gives them a tone of respectability. It's like the English government with their kings and queens, even though the British will talk about the kings, they still respect the office of the reigning queen. And this is what I think you need in a leader. I think you need that respect, and you need a man in there who demands the respect of the people, and the people will respect him. Roosevelt had this, I think far above any other President we've ever had. Now this is what, when you come back to the criticism that was engendered by the press corps in Washington, and their criticism of Mr. Truman; and they gave a wrong image of Mr. Truman to the public. I've talked to many, many people
about Mr. Truman, and after I've talked to them and they began to understand the humanity of the man and the wisdom of the man, and I explained the criticism that was made in banner headlines by the press, then they began to understand, then, that he wasn't the man that they had a concept of in their minds, the image that they'd created in their minds through the press. And I think the press was responsible for Truman's image, which was not a good image, because they called him the "little haberdasher" and all this and that. Well, the thing that people don't realize is that Mr. Truman, when he and Eddie Jacobson went broke in that haberdashery, they didn't take bankruptcy. Do you know that they paid back all their creditors? Did you know that?
FUCHS: I've heard that...
FARIS: They never took bankruptcy, and Mr. Truman and Eddie Jacobson paid for years and paid off every creditor. Now, isn't this an unusual man? So there you go to Eddie Jacobson, a Jew, and Truman was a great and loyal friend of Eddie Jacobson, and so was Eddie Jacobson to Harry Truman. Now, Eddie Jacobson could go to Harry Truman and talk to him because they
were old friends, they had been business partners. Eddie Jacobson made Truman realize the Zionist position in the world, and it was Eddie Jacobson's influence that influenced Harry Truman to create the State of Israel. I don't know whether anybody knows this or not, but that is it.
FUCHS: Do you have any recollections about Mr. Truman's attitudes about various minorities when he was Senator, Negroes, Jews...
FARIS: Oh, no, he had no ethnic prejudices. No, I never heard him really -- I always looked for maybe some bigotry within him, probably against the Negroes. But I found none, not to my knowledge, because we appointed, well, instrumental he was, in appointing Dr. Tompkins, who was a Negro, to the Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia, because Mr. Truman was on the District of Columbia committee. Dr. Tompkins came in with his wife and Mr. Truman always graciously received them in the office; and Dr. Tompkins was a very learned man and as a matter of fact, was a very cultured man, so was his wife. They were very light-skinned and I imagine there was quite a bit of white blood
in the two of them. I never felt that Truman was prejudiced, and if there had been any prejudice, it would have been against the Negroes, having come from Missouri, you know. His progenitors had all been Southerners, really. They came up from Kentucky. But I don't think he was a man of prejudice, at least in my affiliation with him I never absorbed any idea of bigotry on his part.
FUCHS: Did you discuss with him why he felt Roosevelt was more or less against him in his first term?
FARIS: No, because Mr. Truman was not inclined to discuss problems on higher level with the President of the United States. I don't believe he would have discussed it with Bennett Clark or with John Nance Garner. He had a quietude about him, a reticence, sort of an innate reticence about certain things, he just wouldn't discuss them. He kept it to himself, and you never knew really what his judgment was on things that were highly personal to him, of that nature, of his relationship with Roosevelt; and think wisely, too, perhaps. Maybe it was wisdom on his part, because after all, even though he had told me this twice, after all, Roosevelt
did, in that letter to Bob Hannegan at the Democratic Convention, recommended Truman as one of his running mates, if you'll remember. And Bob only read that portion of the letter which pertained to Mr. Truman, you remember. I don't know whether you recall that or not.
FUCHS: Well, there's quite a bit of controversy about what notes were written, and when and where.
FARIS: But anyway, Mr. Roosevelt did endorse Mr. Truman, and so suffice it to say that that's the reason Mr. Truman got on the ticket as the Vice President. Mr. Truman, though, you see, when we would ride around Washington together, I mean, not joy riding but going on Government business, we had lots of places to go, the Commerce Department, the State Department, various Cabinet members he'd call on for various things, which is senatorial duties, he wanted to find out. Truman had an investigative mind, anyway, he didn't take hearsay, he wanted facts, he was a stickler for facts. So he would go firsthand to find out. We were riding down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol one day, going back to the Senate Office, and he said, "Well,
I remember the first time I rode down here."
I said, "When was that?"
He said, "When I was state administrator of reemployment. Little did I know when I came back here at that time that here I would be in an official capacity in Washington."
Then, I saw it in the years that went by after -- I visited him in the White House, and Mrs. Truman and Margaret upstairs and places in the White House that, you know, that not too many people can get into, which I probably was fortunate in that, that Margaret conducted me on a tour of the upstairs, the living quarters, which was very interesting. Then to go into the Executive Office. You just can't help but being affected by the White House when you're inside it, because there you realize all the history of this country, and all the Presidents who sat there in that office. And somehow, there's a feeling that comes over you, well, it's akin to a spiritual feeling, and I cannot help but believe a man that sits in that office in the White House doesn't also feel this, and absorb the history that's gone by in this country, the decisions that other Presidents had to make, and the trials and
tribulations that they went through. I'm positive that a man changes as the months and years go by, as he works in the White House. I see it happening right today with Nixon. Now, he's not the same man that walked into the White House in 1969.
FUCHS: Very true.
FARIS: Because there's something about it, you just can't escape it. It's there, you feel it. I don't know whether the ghosts of Lincoln and Van Buren and Harrison and Cleveland are still around there, but anyway, there's something in the atmosphere of the place, it sobers you. I think it gives them pause to reflect before they make a decision because they realize the consequences of the decisions that are made in the White House.
Like one night with Mr. Truman out here, I was asking him about the decision that he had to make on the atomic bomb, using it; and he said, "Yes, it was a very difficult decision to make." I think in his Memoirs and so forth he wrote it, but to hear him tell it, you know. He said that what was at stake more than anything were the thousands and thousands of American lives, because had we -- and we would have had to invade Japan -- and you
can imagine what our losses would have been in invading Japan. My God, we would have lost, who knows, countless thousands of men. And so, you know, he made decisions and as Bob Considine says, and I've got an article in there, and I knew Bob Considine when he was writing "On the Line With Considine" on tennis. It was a tennis column on the sport's page in Washington. Then I saw Bob again in New York at the opening of Jack Dempsey's saloon, when Jack Dempsey opened his saloon on Broadway. Bob, I always had the highest respect for, because he was a damned good reporter and a very intelligent guy; and I was so surprised that here was a Hearst columnist that would write the column that he wrote about Mr. Truman. I don't know whether you have that in your archives, but it was a terrific column, and also, again, he mentioned Mr. Truman. It was something about -- I've got it. Just a minute.
This is written by Bob Considine in this column on Wednesday, January 18, 1967. It says:
New York: Toots Shor, the famous writer, has been insulted for the thirty-ninth straight year by Dr. George Gallup. Gallup's poll, showing what he proclaims as the most admired Americans, once again does not list Toots among the first ten thousand. Fraternity politics obviously,
either that or they ran out of names. Dr. Gallup is a piece of raisin cake as far as I'm concerned. How could he or how could he permit his creepy cross section to put Billy Graham ahead of Pope Paul VI. Billy Graham, a fine man to be sure, lowered his golf handicap this past year while the fellow ecclesiastic he beat out was knocking himself out trying to lower world tensions and bring about a peace with justice in Vietnam.
So it goes on, and finally at the end he says:
As for President Truman, to have him dropped off the list of the most admired Americans strikes at the authenticity of the Gallup Poll. It reflects either on the mentality of the polled audience, if any, or the computers and/or red and white bean filled mason jars, or the poll itself. With one or two exceptions, nobody on the list could wear his toga, carry his gloves, match his guts. That's the trouble with these darned lists, they neglect great men like Harry S. Truman, and his friend, and my friend, Toots Shor, the famous writer.
Isn't that wonderful? That's Bob Considine, again. And this other column that he wrote on Mr. Truman was just simply marvelous, stating that the decision that Mr. Truman had made during his administration, and that he was ninety-nine percent right, which he said was one hell of a batting average.
FUCHS: I guess that's a good place to close. Thank you very much.
Air Corps, Edgar Faris' experiences in the Army, 48, 50, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57
Air Transport Command, Edgar Faris' service in the, 45, 46, 47, 56, 57, 58, 59
Arundel, Russell, 62, 63
Atlantic City, New Jersey, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 55
Atomic bomb, 126, 127
California, politics, 104, 107,
Faris, Edgar C., Sr., 1-3, 11
McCandles, Guy, 4
National Press Club, 35
Patronage, Senator Harry S. Truman, 73-75
Salisbury, Harry B., 110, 111
Third Air Force, U.S., 56, 57
Tompkins, William J., 122, 123
Truman, Bess Wallace, 13, 25, 111, 112, 114, 115
Truman Committee, 44
Truman, Harry S.:
atomic bomb, decision to use against Japan, 126, 127
character of, 89-92, 95
courthouse, Jackson County (MO), lets contract for, 64, 65, 66
Democratic National Convention of 1936, attends, 60, 61
Faris, Edgar C., appoints Senatorial Secretary, 10, 11, 13-17
Faris, Edgar C., first meeting with, 12, 13
Faris, Edgar C., letter of recommendation for OCS, 51-54
Faris, Edgar C., relationship with, 20-23, 25-27, 33, 34, 43, 46, 47, 49, 50, 92, 102, 105, 124
FBI, investigated by, 66, 67
intellectual knowledge, 28-32
Messall, Victor, appoints Senatorial Secretary, 18, 19
patronage as Senator, 73-85
Pendergast, Tom, relationship with, 68-70, 96-98
press image of, 120, 121
profanity, use of, 89-91
racial prejudice, lack of, 122, 123
Roosevelt, Franklin D., relationship with, 116, 118, 123, 124
Senate campaign of 1934, 11, 12
Senate office routine, 70-73
speeches as Senator, 98
wife's family, relationship with, 111-114
Villemore, Ed, 74