Oral History Interview with Warner Gardner
by Jerry N. Hess
Harry S. Truman Library
June 22, 1972
Oral History Interview
WARNER W, GARDNER
Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior, 19?2-?3
and 19?5-ij6, and Assistant Secretary of the Interior,
Washington, D.C •
. June 22, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess, Harry s. ‘Iruman Library
The Harry S. Truman Library
WARNER W. GARDNER
This is a ·transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted
for the Harry s. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was
edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made;
therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially
a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written, word.
This transcript may be read, quoted from and cited by researchers
and may be reproduced for purposes of research. Publication
rights, however, are retained by the Harry S. Truman Library.
Oral History Interview
WARNER W. GARDNER
June 22, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library
HESS: For the record, sir, will you give me a little of your
GARDNER: Yes, I was born in 1909 in Richmond, Indiana. My
family moved about a great deal during my youth, ending
up in New York City and New Rochelle, New York. I went
to Westtown School, a Quaker preparatory school in
Pennsylvania for five .years, and then to Swarthmore
College, graduting in 1930. To escape unemployment I
took graduate work on a fellowship at Rutgers University,
receiving a Master of Arts Degree in 1931. From there
I went to Columbia Law School, graduating in 1934.
There followed about.thirteen years of Government
service, starting with one year as law clerk to then
Justice (Harlan Fiske] Stone on the Supreme Court; then
about six years in the office of the Solicitor General
at the Department of Justice, where I was an attorney
and t?en first assistant to the Solicitor General. I
served under three: Stanley Reed, Robert Jackson and
Francis Biddle, and very briefly under Charles Fahy.
– 2 –
I went to the Labor Department as Solicitor in
the fall, I belie?e, of 1941, and I was there for
about nine months and went over to Interior Department
as Solicitor under Mr. [Harold] Ickes, where I
was on duty for about a year, and then entered the
intelligence service of the Army where I served for
two years. During that period I was trained at
Camp Richey and the Pentagon, and then assigned to
the British intelligence group which was working in
the Midlands in England, and by them reassigned in
the summer of 19?? to the 6th Army group, under the
command of General (Jacob Loucks] Devers. I was his
intelligence officer in respect to the specialized
intelligence which the British were producing. At
the conclusion of the European hostilities I came
back to the Pent agon, and as it was evident to me that
I would never learn enough about the Japanese army to
be of any use to anyone, I did nothing for the summer
and returned to the Interior Department, again as
Solicitor, about October the lst of 19?6. I found
some of the same problems on m y desk that I had left
two years before.
HESS: They were waiting for you.
0> / l,
– 3 –
GARDNER: Yes. I resumed service as Solicitor to Mr. Ickes.
No, I believe it was in 1945 when I came back to the
. rnterior Departmerit. I resumed service with Mr. Ickes
until his somewhat tempestuous resignation as Secretary
of the Interior and became Assistant Secretary under
Julius Krug who succeeded Mr. Ickes, and stayed in
that position until July of 1947 when I left and came
to what io now Shea and Gardner, where I’ve been ever
HESS: All right, now moving back, you mentioned the names
of four very interesting men who were Solicitors General:
Stanley Reed, Robert Jackson, Francis Biddle and Charles
Fahy. Would you tell me a little about those fciur men
and if you were called upon to rate them at the job of
Solicitor General, their administrative ability, etc.,
how would you rate them?
GARDNER: The first position is very easy. Robert Jackson,
who was by all odds the most satisfactory man that I
have worked for. I was, I believe, his first assistant
from the start or shortly after he came in, and we had
an extraordinarily satisfactory working relation from
my viewpoint. He left the day-to-day conduct of the
office to me without interfering; and yet whenever I
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needed help, as regularly a couple of times a week
I would, he was available and invariably helpful.
Beyond that, he was a d istinguished advocate, an outstanding
lawyer all told, and my period with him was,
as I say, quite the most satisfactory that I’ve had
with any superior.
HESS: Did you ever have any conversations with him in
later years about his duties at Nuremberg and the
GARDNER: No, we were never close personally, and I am by
no means clear that I even saw him after his return
from Nuremberg. It was also a matter of some delicacy.
If I did see him I wouldn’t have mentioned it. My
partner, Francis Shea had been over there as his
.. first assistant, and had .left for reasons which he
has never mentioned.
HESS: •And about which you have not inquired.
GARDNER: And as to which I have not inquired.
On Nuremberg, I should say that immediately after
V-E Day, I began working very hard to get back to the
United States, and I got as far as London by the first
of June. I was told that Jackson was searching for
– s –
me for his Nuremberg staff, which was the last thing
in the world that I wanted to do, and I hid out in
London leaving word where I could be found if the Air
Force called me, but no one else.
HESS: Why didn’t you want to become involved in that matter?
GARDNER: I had been away from home for eighteen months
was the primary reason. Second, I was by no means
clear that I approved and I certainly was not enthusiastic
about the conduct • • •
HESS: About the war crimes trials? What is your view today?
GARDNER: It’s about the same. It’s a very dubious undertaking
to make the law after the crime has been committed.
In a way, it’s rather worse to do it with a
panoply of procedural rights and protections in due
process than it would be by summary execution, which you
put aside as military excess, and it didn’t affect the
structure of the law to the extent that papering it
over with perfectly evident laws, but nonetheless made
after the event,
In any case, as I was on the way back, I finally
got a seat on the plane going out of Prestwick and I
boarded a plane in London to go up to Prestwick, I
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saw an empty seat and noticed there was a man in
civilian dress, and thought very little of it and
sat down next to him. After awhile I looked up and
it was Robert Jackson whom I had been hiding out from.
He was, however, very considerate and I explained that
I’d been away from home long enough, and he canceled
the request he’d put in with my superiors in the Pentagon.
So I never saw any part of Nuremberg.
HESS: How would you rate the other three gentlemen: Mr.
Reed, Biddle and Fahy?
GARDNER: Reed is a very solid lawyer, a very careful workman.
He wasn’t a brilliant advocate, but was to my mind a
very good and satisfactory man to work for.
Mr. Biddle was a completely charming man;to work
for. Perhaps his essence is best caught in one episode.
One of our duties in the Solicitor:Ge?eral’s
office was to authorize appeals, when the Government
lost a case in the district court. The Post Office had
lost a case in which they banned from the mail a nudist
magazine, and they had been enjoined in the district
court and wished to take an appeal. I said that they
couldn’t and they demanded an interview with the Solicitor
General before a final.decision was reached, and I
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said, “Certainly.” We set up an interview in which
about eight people from the Post Office came over and
?xplained that Mr. Biddle’s young man did not wish to
authorize an appeal here. They handed him the nudist
magazine in question. For a good fifteen minutes he
looked at it, turning over page by page, skipping none,
and at the conclusion announced his judgment, which
was, “They’re pretty little girls, aren’t they? 11
The Post Office Department left, and I believe
has never since taken an appeal from the young man in
the Solicitor General’s office.
They were all very capable men and it was a privilege
to work for each of them.
HESS: Any· comments about Mr. Fahy?
GARDNER: I didn’t work with him long enough to have any
very clear notion. He did not carry on the tradition
of Messrs. Jackson and Biddle of allowing the first
assistant to run the office.
HESS: He ran it himself?
GARDNER: He ran it himself, and ran it well. It was nevertheless
a sanewhat less interesting job after a working
Solicitor General arrived on the scene, and accordingly
– 8 –
when Miss Perkins asked me to be her Solicitor, I said,
“Yes,n and went over to the Labor Department for about
HESS: What are your reminiscences, recollections, about
GARDNER: She was a highly intelligent woman, very committed
to social improvement. By the time I got to her she
had been in Washington as Secretary of Labor for,
it must have been nine years, and had been kicked around
quite a bit, particularly by the Congress. It had the
effect by the time I was there of making her somewhat
timid about causing·con troversy, and with that attitude
she was less effective than I think she had been in her
earlier years. Personally, I had the highest regard
HESS: And in 19?2 you changed over from Solicitor of the Labor
Department to a similar position with the Interior Department.
What brought about that switch?
GARDNER: The man who had been Solicitor of the Interior
Department for many years, Nathan Margold, had, I
believe, been appointed to one of the inferior courts
in the District and they needed a Solicitor. Abe
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Fortas I had known off and on for a number of years
and suppose that he suggested to Mr. Ickes that I
might be a suitable replacement. I had one interview
with him, at which I said that I thought that he ought
to know that I was not getting along too well with
rrances Perkins, to which his characteristic reply
was, 11 I wouldn’t have you if you were.”
HESS: He thought that was a pretty good recommendation?
GARDNER: Well, he thought it was something of a recommendation.
I found a personal pleasure in the fact that
during the last week I was in the Labor Department I
had been examining the law of libel from a plaintiff’s
viewpoint. My first week at Interior I was back in the
law of libel but this time from the defendant’s viewpoint.
By and large life is more interesting if you
represent the defendant rather than the plaintiff in
HESS: What were some of your other duties as Solicitor in
the Interior Department?
GARDNER: We had a staff of about twenty or thirty, I would
guess, after these years, in the Solicitor’s office
itself, and there were legal staffs in perhaps a half
dozen of the bureaus, and l was supposed to be in
charge of them. The work in the Interior Department in
– 10 –
terms of volume, the legal work, was comparatively
dull and I regret to say that I devoted almost no
t’ime to the supervision of the law work in what was
then the General Land Office, for example, or the routine
problems of the department, I should have gotten
into them, should have worried about them, and am
ashamed that I didn’t. I let them coast along on
their own, and by and large worked largely, personally,
on whatever problem at the moment seemed the most important
and the most interesting.
HESS: Did you work closely with Mr. Ickes, the Secretary?
HESS: Tell me a little about him, How would you characterize
Mr. Ickes as a man?
GARDNER: That’s rather hard to do in generalities. He was
a man of extraordinary courage and an equal amount of
belligerence, and is one of the very few people in
Washington who has ever really managed to get control
of the department to which.he was appointed, and to
overcome the jello-like consistency of the·bureaucracy
and make it do what the Secretary wanted. [Robert S,)
McNamara, I understand, did that to a degree in the
– 11 –
Defense Department, while he was there, but no other
example comes immediately to hand where an established
department was remade so that it amounted to an instrument
controlled by the Secretary.
HESS: This relates to his administrative ability. Just
what steps did he take to make the department come
around and operate in the manner that it did?
GARDNER: With Mr. Ickes, one’s mind turns more to the
dramatic episodes than to any carefully-wrought judgment.
Before I was there, he was in charge of the Public Works
Administration as one of his duties, and at Interior the
practice was to move matters requiring action up through
the department with each successive official initialing
the signature page. The Public Works Projects ran to
about a hundred or a hundred and fifty pages of recommendations.
Mr. Ickes had a secretary type out a very
large segment, if not the whole part of Alice in Wonderland
enclosed in appropriate papers, and started it
on its way at about the third supervisory level. It
reached him after ten initials had been added.
HESS: They were all initialing Alice in Wonderland?
GARDNER: Yes. If any one of those ten had a real contribution
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to offer Interior Department, I’m sure he was forgiven.
If he didn’t, he may have been out hunting for another
job. That sort of conduct repeated often enough brings
even quite large departments into a sudden stage of
Again, something pleasant to recall, particularly
in these times–! say these times, because this town
has never been more politically dominated than it has
been in the last four years. This, too, was shortly
before I came to the Interior Department.
Mr. Ickes had an Under Secretary named Charles
West, who was a politician from, I believe, Ohio.
I think he was succeeded by Mr. Fortas. The occasion
·of his departure was that Mr. Ickes had objected when
he was appointed Under Secretary. Mr. Roosevelt had
said that it was his appointment and he was going to
find him useful in a lot of ways. Mr. Ickes complained
from time to time that he was no use in the Interior
Department, and he was told that he’d just have to
get 4long with him 4nd that beyond that it W4Dn’t hia
business, it was the President’s business.
Charlie West was out on a speaking tour, of more
political than departmental import, leaving behind three
large and spacious offices which were for the purpose
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of the Under Secretary, He returned to find all
furniture, all drapes, all rugs, removed, except for
one desk and one straightbacked chair sitting in the
middle of the largest room. Mr. Ickes view, either I
was told or he later told me, I don’t remember which,
was that certainly the President did control Mr. West’s
appointment, but that he, Harold Ickes, was in charge
of the furniture in the Interior Department. Mr. West
left very shortly after his return.
One could go on quite a bit with more or less
flamboyant examples of that sort, but they add up to
a man of great courage,. great integrity, and eternally
ruthless towards those who stood in his way.
HESS: At that time, did you also work closely with Abe
Fortas when he was Under Secretary?
HESS: ·What type of a man was he?
GARDNER: Very able, very intelligent and I thought at the
time possessed a remarkably good judgment.
HESS: Which might have slipped some time later?
GARDNER: Yes, I think it’s rather noto?ious, at least there
– 14 –
were one or two episodes in which his judgment, when
on the Court, was slightly imperfect.
HESS: And two Assistant Secretaries were Michael W. Straus
and Oscar L. Chapman. Did you work closely with those
gentlemen at that time?
GARDNER: Yes. Mike Straus was First Assistant Secretary,
but his major interest was the Bureau of Reclamation
and the lovely dams that they put oll)t. And he, in a
sense, stepped down, and in another sense stepped up to
become Commissioner of Reclamation. At that point I
succeeded him. He has been a friend of mine from the
time I went to Interior until his death. In some ways,
as Mr. Ickes, a rather difficult person in that he was
not easily intimidated and had reasonably clear ideas
of where he wanted to go and was quite capable of .getting
there. And I discovered only as I was leaving Interior
Department that what any department needs as m? ch as
a secretarial staff to fix policy, another equally large
staff to be sure that policy is carried out.
The Bureau of Reclamation has always been very
powerful in the Congress, exceeded by the Corps of
Army Engineers, which has·a goodie for every Congressman,
not only those who from west of whatever the
– lS –
·meridian is, I think the 100th meridian, that Bureau
of Reclamation serves. Quite often I discovered we
·would reach in my office some, what seemed to me,
enlightened agreement or compromise among the conflicting
interests represented in the Interior Department, but
only later would I discover the Bureau of Reclamations
had done nothing about it other than to explain to the
Congress, the congressional committee involved, that
the department wanted to do that, but of course a
sensible person would know better.
I took some consolation from the fact that the
Corps of Engineers had an even greater degree of
independence from the Secretary of War, and, indeed,
was quite capable of ignoring clear directions from
the President, which seemed to me on the whole a
little more ruggedly independent even than the Bureau
Mike was.a newspaperman by origin with a bent
toward public relations, probably a little stronger
than a bent toward administration. He was thoroughly
effective in securing appropriations and congressional
support for the reclamation projects, and I always
My relations with Oscar Chapman were not nearly
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so close. Is he now dead or alive?
HESS: He’s living,
GARDNER: Still living, He’s not practicing now is he?
HESS: He still has his offices over on Pennsylvania
GARDNER: I haven’t run into him for about five years. I
discover if I haven’t seen someone my age for about
five years . . .
HESS: The natural assumption is that they’re no longer
GARDNER: One friend of mine I was convinced had died, by
the name of Gardner Jackson, I met in the middle of
l?th Street, and I was so astounded that I stopped
and threw my arms around him, figuratively at least,
at great hazard to him and me in terms of tra?fic.
But Oscar and I were not close.
HESS: Did you leave the department about the time that he
came in as Secretary when Mr. Krug was leaving?
GARDNER: I left a little before,
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HESS: Mr, Krug was still Secretary when you left?
GARDNER: He was still Secretary when I left, and I left
without regard to either Mr. Krug or Mr, Chapman. I
was just getting a little tired of administrative work,
for which I have no great hunger and was anxious to get
back to the profession of the law,
HESS: What are your earliest recollections of Mr. Truman?
GARDNER: I don’t have too many. I wasn’t too close to him,
and I take it you want personal recollections, not my
recollections of what ne?spapers said about him, and
HESS: What is the first time that he came to your attention,
let’s put it that. way?
GARDNER: Oh, apart from just routine attention that any
Senator pro.duces, he was in charge of some Senate
committee investigating, possibly, railroads.
HESS: He served on that committee, that’s quite right.
That was one of the subcommittees of the Senate
Interstate Commerce Committee. Burton Wheeler was the
chairman of that Committee,
– 18 –
GARDNER: I rather think that a friend of mine by the name
of Telford Taylor, who is now teaching at Columbia,
was counsel for that committee, and had a high regard
for Mr. Truman’s conduct of the investigation. I
don’t believe that before the war I had any contact,
direct or indirect, with him.
HESS: In 1941 Mr. Truman caused to be established the
Committee for the Investigation of the National
Defense Program, which came to be known as the
Truman Committee, as you know. Do you recall anything
about his handling of that Committee?
GARDNER: Nothing at all. I had no contact with it at
any point. I knew it was in existence; I knew it had
a good reputation.
HESS: You were out of the country during the war, during
much of this period of time anyway, correct?
GARDNER: I left the Interior Department in September of
’43, as I recall, and left the country about December
and was engrossed in military training before then.
The first time Mr. Truman came vividly to my
personal, though indirect, attention, was when I got
back during the summer of 1945. I went around to
– 19 –
visit Francis Biddle who was then Attorney General and
we had some vague talk about perhaps starting up a law
·firm. He’d had vague talk with three or four people.
I indicated that I thought he’d stay on as Attorney
General and he said no, that he was leaving, and then
gave a delightful account to the manner of his leaving.
He had had a telephone call from one of the President’s
assistants, perhaps Matt Connelly, who indicated that
the President would be sorry to see Mr. Biddle go,
but he’d be pleased if he would resign his position
as Attorney General. Mr. Biddle, who was mainline
Philadelphia, and so far as I know, intimidated by no
one, told Mr. Connelly that it was his view that the
proper etiquette was for Mr. Truman to tell himself
that he wanted him to go, that he was at Mr. Truman’s
service any time that he, Connelly, could arrang.e .an
appointment, that he would not accept such a9vice
In due course he went over to see Mr. Truman who
told him that he wanted his own man as Attorney General,
and I gather was polite but firm about it, and.Biddle
said, r•m sure accurately, when he got up to go, he
leaned over and patted him on the shoulder and said,
“Now, Harry, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
– 20 –
HESS: Going back one year further than that, in the summer
of 1944 Mr. Tru man was nominated for the second spot
• on the Democratic ticket.to serve as the vice-presidential
candidate for Mr, Roosevelt, Just what did you
know about Mr, Truman at that time?
GARDNER: I doubt that I even knew that he was nominated
for. Vice President. I was either in Caserta or Corsica
trying to get the intelligence transmission working
prior to the invasion of Southern France. Nothing
was farther from my mind or interest.
HESS: Where were you on April 12, 1945 when Mr. Roosevelt
GARDNER: I know exactly where I was. We were in Heidelberg.
We’d moved our headquarters to Heidelberg* and the
announcement of the President’s death was transmitted
by whoever the man is who is in charge of personnel
in the Army (I forget his title now). The headquarters
group was assembled in the courtyard of the University
of Heidelberg where we were stationed, and the announcement
was read to us. The courtyard was enclosed by a
wrought iron fence, and it was interesting to me that
the citizens of Heidelberg were gathered outside the
– 2l –
fence in quite a large nWJlber, and were as moved and
as sad as the American Army personnel itself. I also
remember it because General Devers who read the quite
eloquent announcement to the Armed Forces overseas,
and, being a somewhat literal-minded man, kept on
going, including all the telegraphic transmissions at
the end. That had a somewhat anticlimactic effect.
HESS: What did you know about Mr. Truman at that time,
GARDNER: No, other than the general impression that he had
an impossible job, and it was generally understood
that he had not been either close to Roosevelt or
in any way a par?to the decisions that were being
made, which I ?elieve is the universal situation of
HESS: Even more so back in that day than perhaps it is
GARDNER: I don’t know what the situation is today, but I
would suppose that Kennedy and Johnson came closer to
having some degree of a working relationship than most
Presidents and Vice Presidents in my time, certainly
throughout the Roosevelt administration. I’m quite
– 22 –
sure he could have given the name of the Vice President
at any given moment, but I’d also be surprised
•beyond measure if there had ever been a serious consultation
with a Vice President as to any matter of
Governmental policy or problem. I hope that’s the case
HESS: What are your recollections concerning the resignation
of Mr. Ickes,?
GAIUlNER: Quite vivid. By way of background, Mr. Ickes was
the most belligerently anti-political Cabinet officer
that’s been in the town during my lifetime. I told
you of the episode of the West furniture.
On another occasion, a man by the name of [WelbernJ
Mayock, who was general counsel of the Democratic
National Committee, had a practice which involved some
land affairs. This was during my time. Ile went to
the lawyer working on the file, they were called
examiners, I think they were members of the bar, but
that was about their only legal attainment; and in
the course of discussing this case advised them that
he, Mayock, was general counsel of the Democratic
National Committee, which was reported in due course
and reached Mr. Ickes’ ears, who addressed himself a
– 23 –
memorandum to the guards of the Interior Department
saying that under no circumstances ever in the future
Was Mr. Mayock to be allowed entrance into the Interior
Department, and sent a copy to Mr. Mayock. I’m sure
there· are dozens of other examples, but he had a very
firm commitment to particularly non-political administration
of not only the Interior Department but, insofar
as it lay within his power, of the Government as a
Ed Pauley was an oil man of considerable wealth,
well-known and variously regarded throughout the
Government and throughout the oil industry generally,
Mr. Ickes was convinced, and I wasn’t present at the
episode, though I was in the Department at the time,
that Mr. Pauley had asked him to enter some decision
on some matter of moment, presumably connected with the
oil industry, and he had-in return offered tp make,
in the event’ of such a decision, either personally
or through his clients, I cannot recall, a very sizable
contribution to the Democratic National Committee.
In contrast to our present Attorney General, Mr. Ickes
immediately recognized that as being improper and very
close to a bribe, and needless to say, I’m sure with
a considerable drama, ushered Mr. Pauley out of his
– 24 –
Shortly after that, whether a month or a year I
do not know, Pauley was nominated to be either Secretary
or Under Secretary of the Navy.
HESS: Under Secretary.
GARDNER: Under Secretary of the Navy. Mr. Ickes objected
to the nomination chiefly on the basis of this episode.
His objections, again, were not heeded in the White
House, and he agonized over what he ought to do. I
think I knew at the time, but I cannot now remember,
whether he was independently asked by the chairman
of whatever committee had jurisdiction, whether it was
the Naval Affairs Committee in those days, or whether
it was the Armed Forces or Armed Services, if he would
testify. It is possible that Mr. Ickes procured ?hat
invitation. My recollection is not clear. It leans
a little on the fact that he did not procure it, and
the issue was whether he should refuse to respond to
it. It was not a subpoena, it was just a request.
It’s coming back now that that’s the way it was.
I’m sure that Mr. Ickes’ distaste for Mr. Pauley,
and possibly some part of its foundation was gossiped
about through the town, and undoubtedly led to the
– 25 –
somewhat unusual request of having Mr. Ickes’
He and I discussed it. Abe Fortas had left,
Abe having on the whole a more cautionary frame of
mind than Mr. Ickes, or than I. I was comparatively
young at the time. He and I worried about it, and on
the ground that technically he could not refuse to
appear because a subpoena could issue and require
his attendance; and more essentially on the ground
that it was not in the nature of Mr. Ickes to refuse
an entertaining combat that was offered him, nor in
his nature by silence to condone what he thought was
improper, and which he felt, I believe accurately,
lay within his power to stop.
So, we prepared his testimony, I assume that I
prepared it, though I can•t remember definitely, and
marched up and explained the reasons why Mr. Pauley
was not in the view of Mr. Ickes fit to be confirmed
as Under Secretary. I do not know, I may have at the
time, but certainly do not now, whether Mr. Ickes
proceeded to resign on his own v6lition or whether
it was suggested by Mr. Truman. I do not even know
the time sequence. I have a vague feeling that his
resignation followed very quickly and was, in a sense,
– 26 –
his own volition, though I would expect also if he
didn’t take action, very probably he’d be asked to
.. leave. Mr. Truman ran a somewhat tighter ship in
terms of personal adhere.nee, personal conduct, than
Mr. Roosevelt did. I’m fairly clear that when
Charlie West found his furniture gone, Roosevelt
HESS: Some historians say that in taking Mr. Pauley’s
side in the disagreement with Mr. Ickes, that Mr.
Truman was taking the wrong side. What is your view?
GARDNER: Obviously I am a partisan in that controversy,
so my view is not worth very much. I was Mr. Ickes’
principal adviser and assistant at the time, on that
sort of an issue.
HESS: What is your general opinion, why would Mr. Truman
come down on that side of the fence in an argument
such as this?
GARDNER: I cannot give an answer that has any foundation
other than general newspaper understanding.
Mr. Truman was a politician who had worked his
way up through Kansas City politics into the Senate
and he had a lively appreciation of the compromises
– 27 –
that go to make a political system, if you’re going
to make it work. I am by no means convinced that his
position was wrong in the sense that our Government is
founded on politics and works that way and always has,
and one may hope always will, because with all its
defects it’s a little better than other ways of
approaching the government.
Mr. Ickes was not possessed of a similar background.
He was, in a sense, outrageously upright
and he did love a fight. I was convinced then and
am now that on that controversy we certainly were on
the right side. I’m not sure that at this point I
would have advised him to go down to the Senate and
to make his views known. Now that my arteries have
hardened I would have said, “He’s done all anyone
can expect a man to do to prevent the appointment,
but he’s not in charge of the Navy Department, nor
the White House.”
HESS: Have you ever heard the.story that Roosevelt had
promised Pauley the position and Mr. Truman felt that
he was just carrying on ?hrough with a request or a
promise that had been made by the previous administration?
– 28 –
GARDNER: I can’t say that I’ve never heard it. I can’t
recall it now. It seems to me highly likely, in view
of the timing, that that would be the case.
HESS: Also since Hr. Pauley is an oil man it brings up
the subject of tidelands oil. Did you get involved
in matters of tidelands oil at the time that you were
in the Interior Department, and the political ramifications
of that thorny subject?
GARDNER: To a degree. It had come to a head in terms of
the law work while I was in the Army. I came back and
picked up, either for the first time, or for the first
intensive time, the. legal problems involved. I remember
very vividly going out to Wichita, I believe it was,
in the fall of 19?6, in order to address the annual
meeting of the, I believe they were called Interstate
Oil Commissioners. It was completely an ind¥stry group,
and I believe that some of ‘them held state positions in
one form or another. I explained to them why the
offshore oil really belonged to the Federal Government
rather than the states, and I convinced one person in
the audience–me. The other three hundred were fighting
for the floor in order to be able more loudly than
their neighbor to denounce.me. Governor (Andrew)
– 29 –
Schoeppel, he was later Senator, was then Governor,
and at the meeting, and I was never clear whether it
was an act of courtesy or an act of permitting me to
escape the town, but he turned over his car and
chauffeur • • •
HESS: For your getaway.
GARDNER: • • • for my getaway to the railroad, which I also
remember, because I had had the forethought to bring
some whiskey with me and was looking forward to a
nice, leisurely dinner and I observed with urban
tolerance the farm family next to me which was opening
a basket of food. Well, it developed the dining car
developed a flat wheel and there was no food until
about 1 o’clock the next afternoon on that train.
I seem to recall a fair amount of communications
back and forth with the Justice Department on it.
Throughout that period, of course, Mr. Truman and the
Justice Department and Interior were united in attempting
to establish Federal title to the offshore oil.
HESS: Moving on, Mr. Julius Krug was selected as the next
Secretary of the Interior. Do you know why he was
selected? Tell me a little about his background?
– 30 –
GARDNER: I did not know him, had never met him until he
was Secretary of the Interior. He had been first,
1 believe, Executive Director and then Chairman of the
War Production Board, and the general understanding was
that he had done an exceedingly effective job, and in
the circumstances would be a natural man to turn to
with the Cabinet vacancy, particularly since I should
suppose Mr. Truman’s interest in the War Production
Board, growing out of his chairmanship of the Senate
committee, had been fairly marked, and I have no doubt
that he had many times run into Mr. Krug.
HESS: What is your general evaluation of his handling of
GARDNER: I don’t think he did handle the department. He
was a very intelligent man, and he could take effective
action, would take effective action, when the crisis
built up so that he was £creed into a corner and it
had to be solved. I liked him, and found him a satisfactory
man to work for, but his administration of the
department was certainly a much more passive one than
that of Mr. Ickes.
HESS: If he didn’t run the department, who did?
– 31 –
GARDNER: I’m probably one in half a dozen people, each
of whom thinks that he did. I was, in effect, first
HESS: Here is a copy of a page from the Official Register
of 1947. It shows Oscar Chapman as Under Secretary
and then yourself as Assistant Secretary.
GARDNER: I was Assistant Secretary with department-wide
jurisdiction and all the mail for the Secretaries,
all the problems, came through me. I was young and
HESS: And then the other Assistant Secretary in 1947 was
C. Girard Davidson. Did you work often with him?
GARDNER: Often and I’m not at this point at all clear of
the jurisdictional division. I had insisted that
before I became Assistant Secretary that I not be
subjected to whacking up the bureaus. I’d been
spoiled as Solicitor with department-wide interests.
It was my belief that Jebby and I divided things up
more or less on ad hoc assignments.
HESS: Nothing cut and dried, but you handled problems as
they would arise, is that right?
– 32 –
GARDNER: I’m sure there was more form to it than that,
but I can’t remember it now.
HESS: Did you work closely with Oscar Chapman at this
time when he was Under Secretary?
GARDNER: I very frequently, I would suppose once a day or
twice a day, would meet with him, and report something
or discuss something with him. I would draw back a
little bit from the ‘1working together” verb.
GARDNER: He’s not a worker. He’s a man with a good sense
of people, human relations, a good politician, but
not the man you turn to if you want to get something
done today or next week.
HESS: Did it seem to you that he spent a good deal of his
time, or perhaps was called on to spend a good deal of
his time, on political matters for the President or for
the Democratic National Committee?
GARDNER: I haven’t any recollection of that. I should
think it likely.
HESS: He was from Colorado, and I understand that he worked
– 33 –
as an advance man for some of the President’s tripe
when the President would go to the western part of
the United States.
HESS: Do you think that cut into the effective administration
of his job in Interior?
GARDNER: No. His talents and his contributions to the
Interior Department could be given without working
full time at it.
HESS: Let’s discuss briefly some of the other units of
the Department of lnterior. We have mentioned the
Bureau of Reclamations, but did you work closely with
the office of Indian.Affairs? At that time William
A. Brophy was Commissioner?
GARDNER: Yes, I worked reasonably closely with all the
department bureaus and depending, by and large, with
those who had a particular problem of importance at
the time. Brophy I was very fond of; I have not seen
him since he left Washington but we were quite friendly
when he was here, to the point of–once or twice.he
dined with us, which is not a very frequent intermixture
– 3? –
of my Government or professional activities and home
life. He was an Irishman, highly intelligent, very
dedicated, charming man.
HESS: What is your general opinion of the handling of
Indian Affairs’ matters during the Truman administration,
and then up to the current time? Has the
United States Government handled this problem in a
GARDNER: I should think obviously not. The Bureau of
Indian Affairs when I was there was not quite as
“‘ unimaginative and. lethargic ? bureaucra·cy as what
was then called the General Land Office, but it was
pretty close to that condition.
There was, on the part of John Collier, who
was Commissioner when I was there, and most especially
on the part of my distinguished associate(‘Solicitor
Felix Cohen, a very real compassion for and highly
talented efforts to improve the lot of the Indian.
But, from my observations, which did not reach very
far below the top I’m sorry to say, the general impression
that I have was that it was a slothful and
lethargic bureaucracy, which had no active animus
against the Indians, but was incapable of effective
– 35 –
action. One small episode: For a period of a
month or two I surreptitiously ran a time check on
all of the mail that was prepared in the department
for the signature of the Secretary or an Assistant
or Under Secretary, and at the end of the month we
had a department meeting and I delivered myself a
number of thoroughly unkind remarks. I can still
remember the prize example of that lot which indicates
my lack of admiration for the Indian office as I then
By some historical accident, one of the tribes,
perhaps even many, required an approval of the Secretary,
personally, in order to spend the money of the
tribe members which were held in trust. We fixed up
some delegations after this month’s experiment, but
at that time, no matter how trifling, it had to reach
the Secretary. One little Indian girl had asked
approval of spending money in order to buy a heifer
calf, which had been approved by every official along
the way. She got the approval three years after she.’d
made the request. The heifer calf was no longer a
calf,.and that is, of course, an extreme example, but
the fact that it can happen at all indicates the grave
reservations I had.
– 36 –
Just last week or two weeks ago, I’m fairly
active in the Administrative Conference of the
Hriited States, and one of the recommendations was
to set up an independent Indian trust authority to
represent the Indians against the United States in
case of conflicting natural resource claims. I
was forced to go back and think why it was that I
had never been troubled about it when I was in
Interior, and I searched my recollection to explain
“Why not,n although I strongly supported the proposal
once it was called to my attention. I concluded that
the reason was that the Interior Department is a very
curious department in the sense that it is custodian
of about fifty separate and almost invariably conflicting
interests, and I really can’t say that it
never occurred to me, but after twenty-five years I
can’t remember focusing on the fact that the guardianship
of Indian affairs was a much more strong commitment,
being as it was a fiduciary commitment, than the
Governmental commitment to miners, fishermen, bird
lovers, etc. More or less, my own attitude, speaking
with the enlightment I gained two or three·weeks ago,
my wrone attitude was that it was just another damn
– 37 –
problem, that you couldn’t help the Indian in many
respects without hurting somebody else. And that
. was the focus in Which I as an Assistant Secretary
would find myself, if there were no inter-bureau
conflict, it was rather rare that I would get too
deeply into a problem. So I don’t know too much
about the administration of the Indian office. I
just had a lively skepticism of the people who are
dealing with it, short of the top. Collier and
Brophy were good.
HESS: Would a lack of ideas being pumped into the Bureau
of Indian Affairs•, and the lack of action of the Bureau
of Indian Affairs, show somewhat of a dereliction of
duty on··Mr. ·Truman’s part?
GARDNER: No, Mr. Truman had global problems and national
problems to the point that I’d be surprised if he gave
much attention at all to the Interior Department as a
whole, and certainly not to the work of any bureau.
HESS: He expected the people he appointed to that department
to run that department, correct?
GARDNER: That would be the natural explanation, or if you
will, speaking as an old bureaucrat, rationalization.
– 38 –
I didn’t know what went on in the Land Office. You
can say that I expected the people in charge to run
it, but in fact I didn’t think about it.
HESS: You hoped that somebody over there knew what was
GARDNER: Yes, when I thought about it.
HESS: Did you become involved in the operations of the
territory and the island possessions? That also came
under the Department of Interior.
HESS: In Alaska, Ernest Gruening at that time was Governor,
GARDNER: That’s correct.
HESS: Any thoughts on Alaska or were there any particular
oCcasions you may have worked with Mr. Gruening?
GARDNER: I was plunged into Alaska on the salmon fishing
controversy, whic? was a three-sided battle between
the then territory and its seine fishermen, the local
fishermen, the salmon packers and the Indian claims.
Mr. Ickes had called a hearing before him in order to
– 39 –
consider a regulation, some form of which I can’t
recall, and he pulled out tempestuously about a
-week before that hearing was to meet, and I carried
it on, and I was waistdeep in Alaskan problems all
the time after that, as they affected the conflicts,
Krug and I went up to Alaska on a ten-day trip
with, as I recall, a fair number of staff people, he
was the first Secretary that had ever been in Alaska
and it was considered very good. He took one day to
go fishing, and I went over to Cordova in his place
to attend the lunch and speak, At the end of the
lunch the mayor introduced me, and virtually the
entire adult population of Cordova was there, and
he explained I was the third high dignitary from
Washington that they had had the honor of giving
lunch to. He said, 11Who knows, some good may com?
of this one. 11
HESS: ·Nothing had come from the other two?
GARDNER: And oddly enough, what they wanted, I told them
then they couldn’t have.
HESS: What did they want?
– 40 –
GARDNER: They wanted the Copper River railroad paved
over,- the old Copper River road. There had been
a railroad bringing down mine material, and they
wanted road access to the interior of Alaska, and
it didn’t seem to me that it began to warrant the
expenses involved. But it’s my understanding that
very shortly after Mr. Eisenhower came in office·on
an economy program, the Copper River railroad project
was carried forward, although we heavy spenders endangered
my reception in Cordova by saying it was out
of the question.
HESS: The problems between the salmon canneries, the seine
fishermen and the people who would like to have the
fish go back, up the river to their spawning grounds
still remain, do they not?
GARDNER: It’s much better controlled.
HESS: · Is it now?
GARDNER: I hati worked out with salmon packers a compromise,
or rather with the man who.was speaking for them, a
splendid fellow by the name of Phil [Philip Douglas]
Macbride, one of the leadin? attorneys in Washington
who was also chairman of Pacific-American Fisheries,
– ?l –
which is one of the larger packers. He and I worked
out a compromise that made sense to us, it still makes
sense to me, by which the fish traps, which was a major
bone of contention, the structures that caught the
salmon as they were coming in, would be phased out over
a ten-year period so that the packers’ investment would,
i f not be recovered, would be amortized, and there would
be an end to it. I think the salmon packing industries
refused to accept what Macbride negotiated on their
behalf and the Congress refused to pass the bill,
which had industry opposition, and on the other hand,
the opposition of a splendid fellow, Delegate [Edward
Lewis] Bartlett, who thought ten years was too long.
So poor Macbride and I were left in the usual position
of those who cQmpromise without adequate control of
their constituents, as many union leaders have found
themselves in recent days.
HESS: ‘And Governor [Ingram M.J Stainback was in Hawaii.
Did you have any dealings with Hawaii?
GARDNER: Again, quite a number–no, I guess only one
transaction, but it was fairly protracted and reached
a typical level of acrimony that had to do with martial
law in Hawaii.
– 42 –
Stainback and his attorney general, Garner
Anthony, came into Interior Department and Mr. Ickes
summoned a major meeting starting with [Chester
William] Nimitz and whoever the corresponding man
was in the Army (I forget now). I recall sitting
around his table, and the meeting convened at 10
a.m., and he surveyed people over the top of his
glasses, and said, “Gentlemen, the agenda today has
only one item: The liberation of Hawaii. 11 And we
carried on a battle for, oh, about three months, I
guess. Stainback didn’t stay, but Garner Anthony
did. He was a very able·. and very courageous attorney
in Hawaii, a leader of the bar there for twenty or
thirty years, I guess. Abe Fortas worked on it very
closely, and I suppose I did most of the actual work.
I’d say it was a good fight, which I think we won in
the· end, as I recall–yes, we did.
HESS: ,Governor [Jesus T.J Pinero was down in Puerto Rico.
GARDNER: I didn’t know him at all. I had virtually nothing
to do with Puerto Rico for one accident or another.
HESS: How about the Virgin Islands where Judge William
Hastie was? Did you have anything to do with that area?
– 43 –
GARDNER: Not very much with the Islands. I think it was
his appointment–yes, it would have been his appointment
to the Virgin Islands. He had been nominated
while Mr. Ickes was there. His confirmation hearing
was scheduled when Mr. Krug had come, and Mr. Krug
did what Mr. Ickes would never have done, allowed such
a dramatic opportunity to pass by, and sent me down
to testify in behalf of Hastie. It wasn’t too bad.
Senator [Ralph Owen] Brewster had been on the Harvard
Law Review with Hastie, and so his color was less
prominent than it would have been if Senator Brewster
had gone to another school.
HESS: Was there some objection from some of the southern
GARDNER: There was a terrible lot of covert objection. I
don’t recall any overt, but there may have been.
HESS: ·During the time you were working on these and any
other matters, did you ever call upon the assistance
of any of the people who served on the White House
staff: Mr. Truman’s Special Counsel, Clark Clifford,
– 44 –
GARDNER: No. The traditions of Interior Department under
Mr. Ickes, a?d as Mr. Krug was not one to diSturb any
established tradition, why, the less help we had from
the White House, the better. We thought we could do
our own work.
I suppose the two times I had White House contact
I should mention here.
Before I had marched off to war, we had on one
occasion taken over the coal mines because of the
strike, and I noticed when I came back that the
regulations that I and an assistant had drafted from
S p.m. to 8 a.m. the next morning were still in effect,
unchanged. Nobody in all the years had bothered even
to improve the somewhat awkward phrasing that comes
about 4 o’clock in the morning. It was the only time
I was in the Interior Department on time and I di?covered
there was a bell that rang at 8:15.
HESS: ·That’s the only time you heard the bell?
GARDNER: That’s right. It took Mr. Ickes a little while
to learn that he couldn’t be sure of getting me before
9:30, but he gave into it.
HESS: What other occasions did you work with the White House?
– 45 –
GARDNER: I was just leading up to that. When I came back,
we had another coal strike, and I think this overlapped
also Ickes and Krug. We seized the mines and
a very capable Navy captain by the name of Harvey
Collisson who was later president of Olin [Olin
Mathieson Chemi cal Corporation], I believe, and he’s
now dead, came over tO run them in a highly technical
sense. We had labor negotiations with [John L.] Lewis,
There was some major controversy with–no, I’m trying
to keep them separate, because I was mixed up in three
coal seizures altogether. I think our major controversy
with–no, we had a controversy with Tom Clark,
of rather formidable proportions, in which I went over
and had lunch with him once, and that afternoon the newspapers
had the content of our discussions, and he had
what I later discovered to be a justifiable grievance.
I thought he’d done it; and he though? I’d done it.
HESS: ·Who did?
HESS: Oscar Chapman?
– 46 –
GARDNER: Ours was the right and proper side, and it was
a discreet leak to the newspapers in the best governmental
tradition. It took me about a week or two to
discover that. I was furious when I did.
But in the course of it, we finally got the matter
settled with the help of an injunction that the Justice
Department had gotten. I went over with Krug to report
to Truman on it.
We had a pleasant half hour in which he was congratulating
us and talking quite at ease, and I believe
enough time has now passed so that I can mention what
he then said. This was shortly after he had appointed
[Fred] Vinson, I believe, as Chief Justice, or had just
sent his name up, which was, more or less, contemporaneous.
Shortly before the rigors in Nuremberg had eaten too
deeply into Bob Jackson and he issued some wildly indiscreet
denunciation of [Hugo] Black, in what connection
I don’t know, but it was an extraordinary thing
to have done and most ill-advised. In the course of
the conversation Truman said (and he did not always
speak with measured and stately eloquence), that if
Jackson hadn’t “pooped off in Nuremberg, he would have
– 47 –
been Chief Justice now,” which, I think, was both an
accurate statement of his frame of mind and what then
seemed to have been a sound judgment.
When he got back to the stability of this country,
the Jackson conduct was always impeccable thereafter.
What happened in Nuremberg I have no idea.
Another time, or two, I was over in the White House
in connection with the Taft-Hartley Bill, the issue being
whether to veto it or not. It’s my recollection, which
is terribly dim after twenty-five years, that, first,
Truman did veto it and it was passed over his veto,
and that he did so over the advice of the clear majority
of his departments. I recall at that meeting that only
the Labor Department and I for the Interior Department
recommended the veto. I’m not sure, I don’t know whether
Clark Clifford was there or not, but whoever the White
House Counsel was.
HESS: · He was.
GARDNER: It was more or less undecided but leaning more to
the veto than placating the Congress and industry.
HESS: But your recommendation for a veto was the only one
coming from the Department of the Interior, is that
– 48 –
GARDNER: I’m sure so, I was sent over to represent them,
and I’m sure also I would have talked it over with
Krug before. I wouldn’t have been sent under Ickes.
He would have either been there himself or sent Abe
For tas. It’s also true I wasn’t Assistant Secretary
under him, but nevertheless, Krug delegated authority
with • • •
HESS: Far more often than Ickes would do, is that right?
GARDNER: Yes, and would not follow the formulation of the
policy nearly as closely. In fact, I once got good
and angry at Ickes. He took to writing a newspaper
column after he left Government, and he didn’t like–
I forget whether it was the salmon compromise or the
Alaskan timber business that I worked on also, to try
to get the timber resources opened up to use. They
were issues Ickes didn’t like, and it represented–
it was the salmon thing, I had spent about a year on
it, and finally hammered out what seemed to me then and
seems to me now, a good compromise. Everybody would have
been better off. Ickes devoted either one or two
colwnns denouncing Krug for it and saying that among
– 49 –
his sins that he had coerced an otherwise reputable
young man named Gardner into supporting it. Krug
didn’t know what the damned policy was.
HESS: It was what you had done anyway. You weren’t
coerced into doing it at all.
GARDNER: I was more than a little irritated at Ickes.
HESS: At the time of the meeting regarding Taft-Hartley,
do you recall what President Truman’s attitude was,
what his reactions were to the advice that was being
given ?o him?
GARDNER: No, I just don’t recall.
HESS: You did sit in on the meeting though, is that right?
HESS: With the others.
GARDNER: Yes. My vague recollection is that Truman was
there only for • . •
HESS: It is quite correct though, that most of the departments
recommended that he not veto the bill, that is
correct, and then he did veto it and it was passed
– 50 –
over his veto.
GARDNER: Yes. There were two or three other rather grim,
semi-social occasions when I ran into him.
With me as with the world generally, Truman grows
in stature as you look back. He seemed at the moment
a very ordinary man, with responsibilities far exceeding
those which any man ought to be asked to bear. But
as you look back, he bore them remarkably well. I was
not by any means enchanted by him at the time.
There are a couple of small episodes. One Christmas
he called together all of the under and assistant secretaries
of the departments and they marched over to the
White Hou?e at Christmastime, it wasn’t Christmas day.
I’m sure everyone had what he thought was an ureent
problem that he thought he ought to be spending his
time on. As we gathered around–! forget which room–
in a nice little semicircle, waited for twenty minutes,
Truman came in, wished us all a Merry Christmas. I
was standing next to Dean Acheson, who was a semi-friend
of mine for many, many years. My only consolation was
that if Acheson could be subjected to that indignity,
so could I.
HESS: You were in good company.
– Sl –
GARDNER: Yes. On some other occasion, he came over to
Interior Department for a dinner. I suppose somebOdy
was visiting, I don’t know what, but he bestowed
autographed menus on everybody, which again, for an
eastern unobtrusive Quaker, seemed to me not in the
very best of taste, but he was quite right. I suppose
everyone’s child or children was happy to have one.
It didn’t appeal to me.
HESS: On what other occasions did you work with the White
House on matters of substance, other than the TaftHartley
GARDNER: The coal seizure, and there was a recurrent consultation
on the annual messages. I’d go over and quarrel
with them about not striking a paragraph or putting
something in. I don’t recall.
HESS: Just how was that handled? Were you, as Assistant
Secretary, requested to send to the White House· a
complete message or a section of the message that you
would like to have included?
GARDNER: It would be the section relating to the Interior
– 52 –
HESS: Relating to Interior,
GARDNER: Some other time, I can’t recall, I was there
through most of the night with somebody, it may have
been Clark Clifford, it may have been somebody else,
working on a, I believe,. a speech that the President
was making on something that came in reasonably close
to the Interior Department concerns. It was fairly
frustrating, but I can’t recall the occasion or,
indeed, the man.
HESS: Were there times when a speech was being formulated
when you found that part of what you and your department
wanted to be included was not in the speech, would
you go over to the White House and try to get it put
back in or argue your point?
GARDNER: I guess so. I don’t recall the mechanics. I
just know that’s in evitable with any White House
HESS: That’s just the.way.it’s done.
GARDNER: It has to be. If you allowed every department to
say what it wanted, you’d have • • •
HESS: You’d have a complete speech for each department,
– 53 –
would you not?
GARDNER: That’s right, five volumes of contradictory • • •
HESS: You returned to private practice before the 1948
HESS: But I’d like to ask you just a little about that
anyway. Do you recall anything about the role that
may have been played, or may have not been played, by
Secretary Krug in the events of 1948?
GARDNER: I do not recall that at all. I can offer you
instead a rather charming account.
I do not recall if I ever knew, what, if any,
role Mr. Krug plaJed in the 1948 electio n campaign.
I do recall, however, being told by Mike Straus that
Mr. Ickes had asked him to come and see him. He had
done so, and Mr. Ickes, an old campaigner who loved
it, particularly because it gave him such unrivaled
opportunity to denounce the opposition, said, 11Mike,
I’m going to campaign. I haven’t decided yet whether
it ought to be Truman or Dewey. What do you think?”
HESS: He knew he was going to campaign for someone.
– 5• –
GARDNER: He was not going to let that election campaign
go by without adding his comments. He ended up
·campaigning for Mr. Truman.
HESS: There was quite some time, was there not, when he
was taking the Republican side and speaking and
writing in opposition to Mr. Truman? This was after
his retirement, and before 19?8.
GARDNER: He was certainly riot fond of Mr. Truman, and
was undoubtedly critical of him.
HESS: I could be wrong, but I thought he supported Dewey.
GARDNER: No, I’m quite clear that it was Mr. Truman.
HESS: Good, I’m glad you are, because I am probably wrong
Have you ever heard anything about Mr. Krug being
considered for the vice-presidential spot on the Democratic
ticket in 19•8?
GARDNER: Never heard a word of it. I should add that I was
always quite remote from polities. I went through Government
refusing to be a member of either party, thereby
creating quite a large number of problems.
– 55 –
HESS: Why did you take that stand and what were the principal
problems that it caused?
GARDNER: I took that stand because I was very young, and
had notions about Government that no political party
could really conform to.
I was very fond of Homer Cummings, with whom I’d
worked closely on one project or another, but he irritated
me, though it wasn’t my affair and why I was so
concerned I cannot now recall, by refusing to prosecute
some rather notorious crooks in New Orleans who happened
to be prominent in the Democratic Party. That is the
chief episode that remained in my mind. I think more
than anything it was youthful idealism, that I was here
to serve the Government with a capital G, or the people
with a capital P.
The problems it caused were whenever I was nominated
and had to be confirmed. Somebody, Jim [James
J;, Jr.] Rowe, I know, loused up one job with the Labor
Department. Oscar Chapman did a rather better one with
the Interior Department. They had to go down and make
their peace with the appropriate Senators to let this
odd youngster be confirmed.
HESS: You say Mr·. Chapman “loused up” a confirmation’?
– 56 –
GARDNER : No, Jim Rowe did. Jim Rowe is an old friend of
HESS: And he loused up a job that you were in line for?
GARDNER: No, he loused up the confirmation by putting my
name in with about fifty postmasters who were being
appointed, it got in by mistake before Jim had gone
down and made his peace.
HESS: Was that at the time when he was one of President
Roosevelt’s administrative assistants?
GARDNER: Yes, that was under· Roosevelt. And I’ve never
let him forget it, he’s never let me forget it, and
he always adds that he went around to the old gentleman
who was·in charge of White House mail, had been
for twenty or fifty years, and for whom Jim had a
gre·at respect, and told him what a terrible thing he I d
done and explained it at length. I think his name was
Hassell–I’m not sure, but something like that–he
looked at him and said, 11Young man, you’d be astoniGhcd
to know how little difference that makes to me. 11
HESS: Was that Bill Hassett?
GARDNER: Hassett, yes.
– 57 –
HESS: He was the Correspondence Secretary.
GARDNER: That’s right, and some how the nomination got
in the wrong basket.
HESS: He’d been there for years and years.
GARDNER: So not only was I not a Democrat, the nomination
hadn’t even been mentioned.
So I became a Democrat for much the same reasons
that I had refused to become. I went through storm,
lightning, and high winds in order to register as
a Democrat in Rockville, because Mr. [Herbert]
Brownell was prosecuting people, it seemed to me,
because they were Democrats. It’s a little hard to
articulate the difference, but there’s a world of
difference between not prosecuting someone because
of political considerations and prosecuting them.
HESS: Then it turns into persecution, does it not?
GARDNER: It does indeed. I thought that was a sorry
HESS: That was during the Eisenhower administration,
– 58 –
HESS: As a man who was an independent during the Truman
administration and held high positions, what is your
opinion of th? weight that Mr. Truman would give to
political considerations before he would take an action?
GARDNER: I don’t know. I wasn’t that close to him on actions
which involved political considerations.
HESS: Just what was your general impression?
GARDNER: My general impression was that he was a good
practicing politician. Also, my general and concrete
impression was that never in the thirteen years that
I was in Government did we have to consider the political
affiliation of anyone who was being selected for
appointment, and there was no thought of it during
Mr. Truman’s time, whether they were Democrat or
Republican, even for positions of considerable magnitude.
HESS: Do you think he was more interested in getting the
best man rather than the best Democrat?
GARDNER: If I had to put together the indirect knowledge I
had, the newspaper business and so on, I would say
• 59 –
obviously he was more interested in eetting the best
man; if it produced a political problem of consequence,
that the interest in having the best man could be overcome,
which is about all you can ask of a Presiden t.
HESS: Did you think Mr. Truman was going to wi n in 1948?
GARDNER: No, I did n’t, a position shared by quite a number
HESS: You were in the majority, that’s right.
GARDNER: Very clear majority, excep t for those who voted.
HESS: Why did you think Mr. Dewey was going to win?
GARDNER: Just reading the damn newsp apers.
HESS: Jus t what you read in the papers.
HESS: Did it come as quite a sur prise in November of ’48
when Mr. Truma n won?
GARDNER: A surprise, and a ver y pleasant one.
Hi.:SS: And then not too long after that, in the year following,
Mr. Krug left and was replaced by Oscar Cnapman. Why,
– 60 –
in your opinion, did Mr. Krug leave the Departmen t of
GARDNER: I don’t.know,
HESS: Any opinions?
GARDNER: Well, it could have been either of two things: He
got_ himself into some trouble with Howard Hughes (I
think it was Howard Hughes), and starlet s out on the
west coas t which was public and which would not make
any Presi dent feel happy with his Cabinet membe r.
Krug also had a quite lively eye out to his business
future. I don’t know which it was, it could have
been either. It could have been a suggestion that on
the whole it woul d be nice if he took up somethin g else,
or it could have been his own decision, that he saw a
good opportunity and wanted to take it.
HESS: Oscar Chapman was chosen as his replacement. Why , in
your opinion , was Mr. Chapman the next Secretary of the
GARDNER: On e, he was Under Secretary; two, he was a good
politician who had been vecy useful to Mr. Truman. Any
other selection would have been quite out of the question
I would have thought.
– 61 –
HESS: You mentioned that Mr. T?uman had a good many problems
on his mind and had international considerations to
.. look out for. What’s your opinion, do you think that
he should have given more attention to domestic matters
and to the operation of the departments concerned with
GARDNER: No. I think every bit of attention he gave to
international problems was required, and particularly
in terms of the Marshall plan, one of the more sensational
successes in recent centuries, in the plural. I
can well recall that it looked almost hopeless at the
time. Coming down on the train I ran into Gary [Gerhard)
Gesell who is no? a district judge, each of us lawyers
of modest competence, and in our wisdom we decided that
the Marshall plan couldn’t possibly work, things were
too far gone to be helped.
HESS: Was this about the time it started, in ’47?
HESS: Or when it got underway?
GARDNER: Just getting underway. From this viewpoint I am
far from enchanted with the Acheson-Truman policy of
– 62 –
containment, which I think now is a mistake but I
didn’t at the time.
F.ESS: Do you think it was the correct thing to do at the t iree?
GARDNER: No, let’s ·say that at the time I thought it was the
correct thing to do·:
HESS: What sho1Jld we have done?
GARDNER: I don’t know. I’m sure it’s produced both in our
own mentality and in international relations a great
d?al of harm. What I’m really complaining about is
that it should have been stopped long ago, not that
it was bad when it started.
HESS: You mean our international involvement?
GARDNER: Our international effort to contain communism,
reaching its flower • •
HESS: Should we have tried to seek greater accomodation with
GARDNER: I just don’t know enough about that. At this point
I rather wish we’d tried it, as we’re trying it now.
HESS: Just a couple of questions about the “Little Cabinet, 11
– 6 3 –
and you’ve mentioned the time that you gathered around
the Christmas tree.
GARDNER: That was the only “Little Cabinet” meeting that I
HESS: Do you think that was evidence or a demonstration of
the absence of good administrative policy? Would it
have helped if “Little Cabinet” meetings had been held,
the assistant s ecretaries of Interior, and the ass istant
secretaries of Commerce and the • •
GARDNER: I don’t believe it would have contributed anything
to the conduct of·Govemment. It would have been a
social occasion, but no one was sufficiently posted on
the problems of another to make a general systematic
meeting of any utility. When interacting or conflicting
problems arose, why, there would be ad·hoc committees.
HESS: In your opinion, what did Mr. Truman regard as the
proper role of his Cabinet members’? Just how did he
see this organization?
GARDNER: I can’t really characterize it.
HESS: Approximately. how many times did you either meet with
– 64 –
or see President Truman during the period of time you
served in his administration?
GARDNER: Probably ab out half a dozen times.
HESS: What is your opinion of the level of Mr. Truman’s
administrative ability during the period of time he was
GARDNER: I had too li ttle contact with President Truman to
have a reliable fir st-hand jud gment. So far as I can
n.ow recall, the White House did not interfere with the
4dminis?ration of or the appointments in the Interior
Department; that non-inte rference we of course considered
good administra tion.
HESS: In your op inion, what were President Truman’s major
accomplishments, and what were his major fail ings?
GARDNJ::R: I am reasonably clear that the formulation and
execu tion of the Marshall plan, which was the indispensable
foundation of the European free governments
and economic prosperity, was the major ac complishment
of President Truman. At the time I thought his vigorous
actions in respect of Greece and Korea were well-conceived
and of first importance to the world. I am
– 65 –
somewhat less confident now about the whole program
of 11 containing communism, 11 and can wonder as to the
_c;ourse of history if we had relied more on the course
of evolution in place of armed resistance.
-I would consider his greatest 11 failure 11 is found
in what he did not attempt. Even in what now appears
to be the halcy.on year of 1946 there were a number of
things in our Government and society calling for
drastic and i nnovative action. These domestic matters
received little or no attention, in part because of
a generally mediocre level of appointments to office
and in related part becaus e by and large the Government
was not attracting the fresh young talent that it
had in pre-war days. The distinguished appointments
of Marshall and Acheson, and the resulting initiative
in foreign policy, i llustrates my point by contrast.
HESS: In your opinion, what will be President Trwnan 1 s
piace in history?
GARDl-lER: My euess at the verdict of history is not worth
much, but I should suppose that President Truman
will be ranked somewhat below the giants and well
above the average.
HESS: Thank you very much.