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Third Interview, June 20, 2008
This is Tape 3 of the oral history of Jodie Gardner, being conducted for the DC Circuit
Historical Society. We are redoing Tape 3 today, June 20, 2008, for technical reasons.
Mrs. Grigg: Mrs. Gardner, when we left off at the end of Tape 2, we were talking about Judge
McGowan’s role on the court and various functions you may have gone to as the
Judge’s wife. At one point you mentioned a dinner party at the White House
under President Ford. Do you want to tell me about that?
Mrs. Gardner: I went to dinner at the White House because Ed Levi was the attorney general.
He and his wife were great friends of ours which is why we were invited. There
was a vacancy on the Supreme Court – I’ve forgotten why – which at the Judges’
dinner made it sort of exciting.
Mrs. Grigg: Judges’ dinner at the White House?
Mrs. Gardner: Yes, at the White House. I sat next to a Judge Gignoux from Maine. Judge Bork
was at the table and two other judges. Judge Stevens was at the table and none of
us even considered him! We talked about all these other people and, of course, it
was Judge Stevens who got the nomination. That was my only White House
dinner party and I found it exciting.
Mrs. Grigg: Lots of “pomp and circumstances”?
Mrs. Gardner: In between courses, the strolling strings came in and played which was great. I
suppose people made speeches, but this was quite a while ago and I don’t
remember very well. Ford was president at the time. After dinner, there was
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dancing in the East Room. The Wirtzes must have been there which means the
Wirtzes had a large government car and we came in the diplomatic entrance.
Anyway, it was all quite exciting.
Mrs. Grigg: We should probably back up. Did you go to Judge McGowan’s Senate
confirmation hearings?
Mrs. Gardner: No. I was in Illinois.
Mrs. Grigg: Did he call back at night and tell you what was happening? Was it a friendly
hearing or an adversarial one?
Mrs. Gardner: It was a friendly hearing. Actually, Senator Dirksen was a Republican but he was
very friendly. Of course, Senator Douglas was a Democrat and he was very
friendly to him. Did I say in there about his going to talk to Senator Douglas?
Mrs. Grigg: No. Please tell us.
Mrs. Gardner: Well, Douglas and Stevenson were not close and Carl was a Stevenson man, so he
was a little nervous about how Douglas would feel about him. Apparently, Carl
had been talked about for the court in Chicago, which is the Seventh Circuit, and I
think Douglas prevented that because Chicago was Douglas’s bailiwick. So, Carl
was afraid Douglas would prevent his appointment to the Washington court here.
But, Douglas was very friendly. When Carl went to his office he had a whole
wall of pictures and Senator Douglas said, “How many of those can you
recognize?” Of course, Carl knew them all. (laughter) The Senator was
impressed. Nobody else had ever known all of them. Anyway, he went through
the hearings like a breeze. There weren’t any problems with his confirmation.
Mrs. Grigg: Did you go to his swearing-in ceremony?
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Mrs. Gardner: Oh yes.
Mrs. Grigg: What was that like?
Mrs. Gardner: We were first taken to Judge Bazelon’s chambers where Justice Frankfurter and
Bobby Kennedy and Judge Bazelon were waiting. Justice Frankfurter was a great
admirer of Carl so he wanted to come to this event. We had our pictures taken.
There was a picture of Bobby Kennedy, Justice Frankfurter, Judge Bazelon and
Carl. Then the photographer said, “Judge Bazelon, will you please step aside and
Mrs. McGowan will step in your place.” Judge Bazelon didn’t like that much.
Bobby Kennedy said, “She’s prettier.” (laughing) I found that amusing. Anyway,
then we went to the courtroom and I sat with the other wives, but, for some
reason, Justice Frankfurter was called on to speak. And, he spoke and he spoke
and he spoke and he spoke. Until finally, the recording machine went off. I
suspect Judge Bazelon had pulled it off. His wife denied that. I don’t even
remember what Justice Frankfurter was talking about. So, Carl was sworn in and
there was a reception afterwards in the Judges’ dining room.
Mrs. Grigg: That sounds very nice. Were you and the judge friends with other judges on the
circuit court and the district court?
Mrs. Gardner: Well, sure. Carl got along with everybody. He wasn’t on one side or the other.
He wasn’t a conservative. He wasn’t a liberal. So, he got along with them all. We
had dinner with the judges and their wives. Bazelon was chief judge when Carl
went on the court. Skelly Wright came after that. Skelly Wright had to give up the
chief judgeship when he became seventy. So, on Skelly’s birthday, January 14,
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Carl became chief judge. I had a birthday party for Skelly and had all the court
and their spouses.
Mrs. Grigg: That was nice.
Mrs. Gardner: It was the only time I had everybody. Carl could only be chief judge from
January 14 to May 7, when he became seventy. I didn’t have a party then!
(laugher) He went on being a judge, he just wasn’t chief judge any longer.
Mrs. Grigg: How long did he go on being a judge?
Mrs. Gardner: Always. He never stopped. He took senior status on his seventieth birthday.
Mrs. Grigg: Do you remember when Judge McGowan was on the panel that ruled that
President Nixon had to turn over the White House tapes? What was happening
around then? Is there anything the judge told you that you could share?
Mrs. Gardner: It was pretty important. They took it very seriously.
Mrs. Grigg: Was the judge up in the middle of the night, pacing the halls, thinking about it?
Mrs. Gardner: No. He never did that. I tried to think about the people who appeared before him.
It was all so long ago. Anyway, it was a very important case. The tapes had to be
turned over.
Mrs. Grigg: That decision paved the way for everything that followed. Judge McGowan
spoke at Adlai Stevenson’s funeral. Would you like to talk about that whole
Mrs. Gardner: I was visiting my sister in Massachusetts when Carl called with the sad news that
Adlai had died in England. So I went home for the funeral. Carl gave the eulogy
at the National Cathedral. I joined him for the procession out to National Airport.
We got on Air Force II with the coffin and flew to Springfield, Illinois, where
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Adlai had been governor. We drove in a procession of cars and the hearse drove
by places important to Stevenson, particularly the Lincoln home and tomb and the
Capitol. Actually, he lay in state at the Capitol. We stayed at the courthouse with
Judge Schaefer, a close friend of ours who had an apartment in the courthouse.
Stevenson lay in state for a day and then there was another procession to
Bloomington, Illinois, where the funeral was held in a church.
Mrs. Grigg: President Johnson attended?
Mrs. Gardner: Oh yes. President Johnson attended. He arrived with Arthur Goldberg. My
husband Carl and Bill Wirtz, who had come with us, winked at each other. They
realized that Johnson was about to appoint Goldberg to Adlai’s job as U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations. And, indeed he did. After the funeral, we went
out to the local airport and we got on a helicopter to ride to the president’s plane,
which was parked at a larger airport. That was my first time on a helicopter. We
flew back to Andrews Air Force Base on Air Force One. At one point during the
flight Jack Valenti came and said, “The president would like you to come back to
his cabin.” So we went back to the president’s cabin. Goldberg and his wife were
there. Goldberg was looking very nervous. I don’t think he had actually been
asked yet to go to the U.N. We stayed there, not for long, and then we went back
to our seats.
When the plane landed, Johnson’s close assistant said to Carl, “Come. You’re
going to join the president on his helicopter.” No one said anything to me. I got
off the plane. Over here was the president’s plane with my husband happily on it.
Over there was Lady Bird’s plane. I didn’t know which way to go – I was going
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both ways at once! Apparently, President Johnson saw me and said to one of his
aides, “Get the hell out there and take care of Mrs. McGowan.” (laughter) So the
assistant came and took me over to Lady Bird’s helicopter. We flew back to the
White House.
Mrs. Grigg: How exciting
Mrs. Gardner: Bill Wirtz was also with us. He had a car at the White House waiting, so he
dropped us off at our house. That was the end of a memorable day.
Mrs. Grigg: No kidding. A memorable couple of days. I want to ask you to summarize what
you thought of Carl as a judge.
Mrs. Gardner: He was a wonderful judge because he didn’t have any preconceived ideas. He
wasn’t liberal or conservative. He took each case as it came. He was really very
good at making people agree and they would get along. He was a very fine judge.
Mrs. Grigg: I understand that all the other judges respected him as did the lawyers that
appeared before him.
Mrs. Gardner: I think they did all respect him. It was just a very happy time for him and
everybody else. He was a very good judge.
Mrs. Grigg: Did he stay in touch with his law clerks over the years? Did he have annual
Mrs. Gardner: Oh yes. He was devoted to his clerks. Every spring he would have a dinner at the
Metropolitan Club. First, just for the clerks. The clerks and their wives would
come to lunch at our house the next day. But, eventually, he had female clerks. I
think maybe the wives must have been included eventually at the dinner. Hmm, I
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don’t know. I never went to the dinners. He did have women clerks in the later
years. Everybody would come to lunch and that was great fun.
Mrs. Grigg: Did any of his clerks go onto become judges themselves?
Mrs. Gardner: Douglas Ginsburg. He is not in the McGowan image because he is very
Republican. I was rather hurt because, of course, we went to his swearing in. He
made his speech without mentioning Carl. He mentioned how grateful he was to
Meese, and how grateful he was to this person, and how grateful he was to that
person, and there was Carl sitting there. He had worked as a clerk for Carl and
Carl was so enthusiastic about his becoming a judge. I did think he could have
mentioned, perhaps, that he had enjoyed clerking for Carl, but no, absolutely no
nod. It didn’t bother Carl. It bothered me. That was the only clerk who became a
Mrs. Grigg: We are now skipping way ahead and wrapping up this oral history, even though
this is Tape 3, but this tape is being recorded after Tape 4. I’m going to let Mrs.
Gardner say a few last words.
Mrs. Gardner: It was a privilege to be able to talk about my two husbands, both of who were
wonderful men. I was very, very lucky to have had each one of them as my
husband. It has been fun to talk about them.
Mrs. Grigg: They were very lucky to have you.
Mrs. Gardner: You’re nice to say that. I’m sorry that I’m very aged and my memory’s not great
Mrs. Grigg: Your memory has been great.
Mrs. Gardner: Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about them.
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Mrs. Grigg: Thank you, Mrs. Gardner. This ends Tape 3.