Oral History of Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.
Conducted by Robert S. Peck
February 28, 1992
Last time, we were talking about the Third Annual Conference on
Civil Liberties. This was before the ACLU was in civil rights. This was the best illustration of
the fact that the ACLU had a separate conference going on civil hberties from that of the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg,
but the ACLU moved over to civil rights, too, so they didn’t need the civil liberties clearinghouse
or the civil hberties clearinghouse sort of passed away. Everything went into the Leadership
Conference because now, you know, the Leadership Conference takes an awful lot of positions
that are straight civil liberties positions although they may affect blacks a little bit more than
whites. They are pretty straight examples of what we would in the old days have called a civil
hberties rather than civil rights position. I really gave you this for two reasons: one was it was
probably the first shot at [J. Edgar] Hoover that came out of anybody that wasn’t a Corrnnunist;
and secondly, it evidenced the split inside the ACLU where they were only dealing with civil
hberties matters. I must have been right about the transition period.
Mr. Peck: I think so. Just for puiposes of the tape, this was the Third Annual
Conference on Civil Liberties in Washington on February 24, 1950. When we left off last time
we were talking about Porter v. Herter (278 F.2d 280 (DC Cir. 1960)] and one of the questions
you asked me which I didn’t have the answer to then was, “Who was on the panel?” The opinion
was a per curium, with a panel consisting of Judge Burton who was retired at the time and sitting
by designation; Danaher and Bastian were also on the panel.
Mr. Rauh: Boy, as lucky as I was in the Kohler case, how unlucky could you
be? Good God ahnighty. It’s a wonder anybody was talking to me after that. What a lousy
panel. Anyway, I can’t remember the degree we went into it, but it was a terrible opinion. They
didn’t hit the real issue at all. There’s a great separation of powers issue there, keeping
Congressmen from learning about a foreign country there. There was no real security. Boy it
was murder, but they wouldn’t take cert. Charlie Porter, who was the guy who brought the suit, is
a great guy. I don’t know if you know him, probably ACLU of Eugene, Oregon, he would be
active with He’s our type. You just couldn’t break through with a man like that. You couldn’t
get cert. But we were right. My God, what extremes can the Executive bar Congress fromwouldn’t
it take something more than the reasons they were putting forward then which rather
escapes my memory right now, something more than that to bar a congressman from going to
look up a problem that he considers important. Of course, Charlie was always, lmean he would
have like I was, for letting China into the United Nations and all that kind of thing. So if he
wanted to go and discuss that with the Chinese, I didn’t see how they could possibly stop him. I
always thought we could have won the case because I reckoned without a) that panel, and b) the
Supreme Court’s willingness to duck that problem at that time. I doubt that you can do that right
now, bar a Congressman from going somewhere ifhe had a legitimate reason for wanting to
investigate a reasonable point.
Mr. Peck: It would seem that it would have to qualify for the kind of
exception of trading with the enemies or something like that to be able to bar it.
Mr. Rauh: But there was nothing there. You could have said something about
this guy’s a Communist and he’s going to do something that would hurt the country. There was
no such suggestion. Charlie was a good radical guy. I don’t even think he was much interested in
the communist issue at that. He was interested in getting China into world affairs. I guess you
could say he was just about exactly where Nixon was a few years later when he went over there
and broke the thing up.
Mr. Peck: The other case that you had that went to the D.C. Circuit that year
was Shelton v. United States [280 F.2d 701 (D.C. Cir. 1960)] which of course came back to the
D.C. Circuit again in ’63 [327 F.2d 601 (D.C. Cir. 1963)]. When you were there in 1960 your
panel consisted of Warren Burger, Washington and Bastian.
Mr. Rauh: Gee, I wasn’t drawing too hot in those days. Shelton was the guy
who was a mistake. They were looking for·a fellow named Willard Shelton who was a radical
writer and may have been in some cormnunist organization. I don’t mean the party. I mean
something that bad some cormnunist-tinged control or something. I guess when he got to the
Times, they hauled him up, and they found out there was something there. But it was by
accident. We fmally had to go the Supreme Court. My memory is weak on that case.
Mr. Peck: In 1960, when it came before the D.C. Circuit, the question was
because he was a member of the press whether there was a special innnunity for the press under
the First Amendment. And Burger wrote this opinion saying that there is none, and that
Congress certainly had a right to do that because there were allegations of Cormnunist infiltration
of the press. Then it went back down to the district court, and I’m not sure exactly what the
intervention of the Supreme Court was. It eventually went back up to the D.C. Circuit in ’63
where, this time, you had Wright and Washington voting with you and Wilbur Miller dissenting.
They reversed the conviction at this point. The issue had been narrowed to refusing to answer
two questions in front of the Internal Security Subcommittee in 1956. The questions being: “Are
you, Sir, a member of the Communist party U.S.A.?” and “Did you ever have any conversations
with Matilda Lansman?” And what they found was that the delegation of responsibility in the
statute to the chairman for issuing the subpoenas was just a ministerial duty, and it still required
the entire committee to have voted to actually issue the subpoena. Since that did not happen and
since the actual appearance of the connnittee at the hearing did not ratify the subpoena, therefore
it had been improperly sought.
They sure wanted to duck the issues in that case. (laughter)
It’s funny when you remember stuff like that. You know you work
hard to get the court to do something like say there’s a right of free speech, that this has been
violated, and they put it on some asinine ground like that. Isn’t that wonderful! How the court
can run away like that, I don’t know. It reminds me so much of the Miller case, where Arthur
Miller refused to answer. He refused to make any reason for it except his First Amendment
rights, and then they said he hadn’t been ordered to answer. I’m still laughing about that result.
Mr. Peck: Yes, it did remind me of that.
Mr. Rauh: Didn’t it. It sounds almost exactly like it. They just run from,
when you try, that’s part of your job now, it seems to me, it must be, to try to get them to go as far
as you can when they’re trying to go as little as they can and it’s kind of ironic that I’m a
Frankfurter disciple who doesn’t accept Frankfurter’s principle that you never decide anything if
you can put it on a lesser ground.
Mr. Peck: It certainly was judicial gymnastics for them to do it that way. The
next case in the D.C. Circuit was in 1961 Neisloss v. Bush [293 F.2d 873 (D.C. Cir. 1961)]. This
was over the New York Central Railroad being acquired by Allegheny.
Mr. Rauh: Oh, yes.
Trying to force an ICC investigation of it.
Who was that guy, Randy Phillips? Rather a nutty investor.
We were talcing on the whole financial world in that case. I don’t
know. I wonder what’s ever happened to good old Randy. This was really a bombshell of some
kind, but I think it exploded in our faces, not in theirs. Didn’t Tom Clark or someone sit on the
Mr. Peck: It was Stanley Reed who sat.
Mr. Rauh: Oh, I knew there was a Supreme Court Judge. Yes, Stanley Reed
sat there. I can’t remember him ever asking anything; he just sat there. Who wrote the opinion
Mr. Peck: It was Reed.
Mr. Rauh: I don’t remember how we were_ upsetting the financial world, but I
do remember Randy kept telling me that I really was not very good at that case. I never have
really felt at home in a financial case or a corporate case. There were sometimes h”beral aspects
to it. That’s what gets you into it. But I really didn’t have a capacity for that case. And Phillips
was a lawyer, too. And he used to tell me a lot of things to do but I (laughter), usually, avoided
his advice. God, I’d forgotten the case – it’s the Allegheny Holding Company he was after.
That’s right. They bought the railroad, and he was a shareholder –
– he was trying to get the ICC to look at all this …
We never could get them The ICC was more monbund than, well,
they were moribund (laughter). Let’s just put it that way.
Mr. Peck: Also· in ’61, Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Association
International v. National Mediation Board [294 F.2d 910 (D.C. Cir. 1961)]. This was a case
involving whether the airline pilots union could also try and represent the stewards and
Mr. Rauh: Yes, and we claimed that they had used pressure on the leaders of
the stewardesses. (Laughter) A stewardess said on the stand .that the guy from the pilots union
said, “Aw, come on now, sister, don’t get your tits in a wringer.” That was there on the stand. I
was so surprised when that crune out. She hadn’t told me she was going to say that. She
probably figured I was an old prude and would have told her she couldn’t talk that way. But
anyway, they held for the bigger union. The pilots said the stewardesses didn’t have the right to
their own union which seemed to be rather silly. Did I draw as badly again?
Edgerton, Washington and –
That wasn’t so bad.
– let’s see, I’m trying to read my own handw1iting here, Danaher.
Danaher was a conservative Republican from Connecticut. He was
a Senator from Connecticut. Washington was middle of the road. That was a fairly good panel
but I guess I couldn’t persuade that one. We’d shown enough – enough pressure on the
stewardesses that the vote was unfair.
Mr. Peck: The following year in a case – Local 883, VA WIAFL-CIO v. NLRB,
in which Louis Pollak [300 F.2d 699 (D.C. Cir. 1962)] was your co-counsel –
Mr.Rauh: That’s a big case. That’s Kohler. That’s a very big case. That went
on for years. There were two issues in front of the court of appeals there. If I remember, and
here I remember a lot better because it went on longer. One was whether there had been an
unfair labor practice and that was Pollak’s side of it. I argued what was harder – that the violence
done by the union people that they wouldn’t reinstate was violence against Kohler’s outrageous
conduct and shouldn’t have prevented them from ordering reinstatement with back pay. They did
order the reinstatement of ahnost all the strikers, including those who bad been guilty of some
form of violence, but not the extreme where they couldn’t order them It was a total victory.
Then we got more and more people reinstated and I think I showed you the check, or I told you
about the check because we have another check there [ on the wall]. I thought the checks were
mixed up. That’s right. That was an exciting period. I think that argument was on Rosh
Hashanah, whichever year it was. What’s the year you said that it was?
’62 was when the decision was made.
Well, it could have been ’61.
The people said, “I’ve got to work on Rosh Hashanah.” I said,
“Yes,” and they said, “Well, what are we going to do?” I said, “Well, I was going to go to
Temple the night before and pray for Bazelon as my chief judge.” I don’t know whether my
prayers were heard, but Bazelon was the chief judge there. I think there was — he had Edgerton
Mr. Peck: That’s right.
Mr. Rauh: My prayers were really answered there. They wrote a wonderful
decision in which they not only gave us the unfair labor practice part that Pollak bad argued, but
they set up a really changed rule that you have to weigh the wrongdoing of the company against
the wrongdoing of the employee in the violence field. They’d adjust automatically some
violences – not keep them – give them the right to refuse to give you your job back. No, I’m very
proud of that result. We ultimately did settle that strike. There was a rather humorous aspect of
that. That was that after everybody’s back at work, apparently the union and Kohler got so
clubby that the Labor Board went after them for mistreatment of somebody who was against the
union. I mean it got rather clubby after awhile there.
The third member of the panel that time was Miller who dissented –
He dissented. It was two to one.
Well, in 1963, I understand you were instrumental in getting the
UAW to help put up bail money for Martin Luther King in Birmingham
Mr. Rauh: I was part of that. I would say I was not the most important factor.
The most important factor was the telephone call from Bobby Kennedy to Walter Reuther.
Kennedy and I were playing the same side of that. Reuther then raised – we needed $160,000, I
believe, to get bail for the remaining people. In other words, a lot of them were out. A lot of the
people that Bull Connor had put in jail were out, but there were bail requirements that amounted
to $160,000 to get everybody else out. King said he wouldn’t settle while there were any people
still in confinement. So between Bobby Kennedy and me, we persuaded Reuther to arrange for
the money. I would say that I was the minor factor in that. The major factor was Bobby
Kennedy, of course .. Reuther got promises from – he, hlmself, put up one-quarter of it – the
Steelworkers put up one-quarter – the AFL-CIO put up one-quarter, and I can’t recall who put up
the last fourth It’s in one of those books – Garrow or the other one, Roehling. We had to
move the money down there, and it was pretty hard. There was a man, Erskine Smith, who was
acting as lawyer for the blacks who were in confinement, and for King and the others, and we
talked pretty much through the night about the ways of getting it through. And I remember
during the conversation he said, “Are you who I think you are?” I said, “Well, I’m a civil rights
lawyer.” He said, “Yeah, I better not tell who I’m negotiating with up in Washington. It may
make things a little more strained.” And I said, “Wouldn’t they be pleased to know that the
money is coming from Walter?” He said, “Oh, God, no, don’t say that!” Anyway, Smith and I
became telephone friends that night when we were figuring out how to get the dough down there
in the morning. Anyway, we did get the money there, and they were let out on bail. And we got
all the money back. It took a couple years, but we did get all the money back. I think all they
lost was the interest on the money. Credit really should go most of all to Walter Reuther and a
degree to Bobby Kennedy. They wanted it settled and they got it settled. To King too, because
King could have said, “Oh w?ll, we’ll call it off.” Kmg’s role in that was very honorable, very
Mr. Peck: Well, I think that takes us to 1964. That was a busy year. The
debate on the Civil Rights Act began January 31st and after the debate began, I’ve read that you
were seated in the House Gallery with Nicholas Katzenbach, Burke Marshall and Clarence
Mitchell to watch it begin.
Tiris is in the House of Representatives?
I don’t know if you’re interested in any of these things, but there’s a
very good account of this thing in a book that’s just come out. It’s called Calculated .Visions –
Kennedy, Johnson And Civil Rights. It’s written by a man named Mark Stem, a professor at
Central Florida, published by the Rutgers University Press just about two weeks ago. The
university presses don’t seem to get much coverage in the press. The best account so far of the
three bills, the ’64, ’65 and ’68, and what went into them is in this book. I’ll tell you anything you
want about it, but I just want to say there’s a better account there than my memory, because this
guy really did a lot of work. He interviewed a lot of people.
We did get it through the House unscathed. The bill that had come out of the
committee got through the House really unscathed. The fact is, I think, it was actually
strengthened on the House floor. It passed quite unanimously. I say there were 150 votes against
it, but those are votes that you could have counted against us at the very beginning. They were
Southerners mostly. I can’t remember the exact number, but it was quite a one-sided affair.
There were many interesting sidelights to that debate. Number m?e, the only real ugly part of the
debate was put on by Howard Smith of Virginia, the head of the Rules Committee, who said, “I
go into a hotel and” – I don’t know what he called it, a black something, – “goes into a hotel, and
the chiropodist in the hotel has got to deal with these smelly feet.” Now remember, if you were
to look that up you might not find it, because of the re-write of the Congressional Record by the
person who spoke. But I heard that.
However, it was rather a decent debate – it was rather well done and I didn’t get
much feeling of hatred out of either side. The most interesting thing that happened was Howard
Smith moved to amend Title VII to put in the word sex. If you looked around out at our crowd,
you’d have thought we were about to be castrated. Everybody was scared to death. The women
on the floor were wonderful. They took it up and said how great it was, and those poor bastards
had put that in for the way it was going to hurt the bill It only strengthened the bill. All we had
to do was to keep our own mouths shut for a few hours and the women on the floor took care of
that guy. Anyway it passed and, in my book, it’s a good example, of which there are many, of
where the black fight for legal rights rubbed off on others – women, Hispanics, ethnics.
. Just to quickly give you two other examples of this same thing: In 1941, I was
working at the Office for Emergency Management and the Lend-Lease Administration. These
were both “prepare-for-war” organizations. One day I went down there to my office and my
secretary said, “Mr. [Wayne] Coy,” who was head of the Office for Emergency Management,
“wants you right away.” His office was in a different building but I ran over there. He said, “Can
you write an Executive Order?” I said, “Any jackass could write an Executive Order, what do
you want.in it, Wayne?” He said, “Well, the President wants by tomorrow monting an Executive
Order barring discrimination in the new war plants. There’s a fellow named A Philip Randolph
that’s threatened to march on Washington ifhe doesn’t get this. And the President doesn’t want a
march on Washington. He doesn’t want an Executive Order either, but as between those two, he
wants an Executive Order.” I said, “It so happens that this is a cinch to do because we have been
– I’ve been working with some of the White House people, like Ben Cohen, on an Executive
Order that would do that for violators of the National Labor Relations Act. That if you were a
violator of the National Labor Relations Act, even while you were in the court of appeals, you
couldn’t have a new contract with the government.” And so I said, “It’s really quite easy. The
legal theory is if you’re .buying goods, by God, you could put some conditions on it.” So he said,
“Oh, that’s great. The Budget Bureau,” which was in the same building as he was, “is waiting for
you because they’ve got some samples of Executive Orders and they can help you look up stuff if
you need it, but I’ve got to have the thing in the morning.” I said, “Well, it won’t be hard.” So I
was going out the door, and I had just shut the door when I heard Wayne shout, “Come on back.”
And I went back, and he said, “Don’t forget the Poles.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said,
“Well, the President has had a couple of calls from Buffalo about Poles not getting jobs in the
new war plants and,” he says, “as long as he’s caving in to A. Philip Randolph, we might as well
take care of the Poles.” So that’s where it used to read in the state statutes that we were working
with: “no discrimination on account of race, creed or color.” This was the first time it said “no
discriminating on account of race, creed, color, or national origin.”
Historians galore have asked me where did I get “national origin” from I don’t
know, but ifl had to try to guess where it comes from, it must·be from the immigration statutes.
But I can’t swear so. I’ve had historians galore wanting to know where national origin came
from It’s not a bad word for it, though …
Mr. Peck: No. Not at all.
Mr. Rauh: So that’s your ethnic discrimination where the blacks in ’41 did it.
Then, you have the sex one in the 1964 statute. Then you have other cases – the Voting Rights
Act was broadened in ’82 to include the Hispanics. The blacks have never fully had the credit
they deserve for what they did to this country on the legal revolution because it applied not only
to themselves, but to ethnics, women, other minorities, aged, and disabled. I always like to tell
the sex story on Howard Smith, what he did for his country unknowingly and unwittingly
(laughter) and unintentionally.
Mr. Peck: Well, as the House was debating the Civil Rights Act, on February
10th with the end of the debate in sight, you got a call from the White House asking about the
Mr. Rauh: A young man – then 14 – named Sandy Newman, who now runs a
thing called Project Vote where he registers people to vote in food lines, unemployment lines,
and people who would naturally vote Democratic – he registers them, and he was our go-fer
young man, and he came to the Gallery with a message that the White House was trying to reach
Clarence and me. I got a hold of Clarence and we went to the pay-phone down in the House and
called the White House. Toe·President said, “What are you guys doing down there?” “Well,” we
said, “it’s about to end, :Mr. President.” He says, “Well, this is what you’ve gotta do. You’ve
gotta go over and see Mansfield (the Majority Leader) and tell him that we’ve got to take it up
just as soon as we can and that I don’t want any legislation to interfere with this. We are going to
let them filibuster until they’re tired and then we’re going to get the bill.” I don’t know whether
Mansfield really liked getting those orders from a dark fellow named Clarence Mitchell and a
radical fellow named Joe Rauh, but it all worked out exactly the way the President had instructed
us. I don’t know why, to this day I’ve never figured out why he sent Clarence and me as
messenger boys when he could have used the telephone or sent somebody a lot higher up in the
hierarchy but we did have that conversation with Mansfield that afternoon.
Mr. Peck: Now LBJ didn’t want the bill strengthened, but he did promise not
to buckle under to a filibuster.
Mr. Rauh: That’s exactly right. In one of the meetings with Johnson, Clarence
and I asked about whether it would be good strategy to try to get some more. He said no, but he
said in the same breath, that he wouldn’t allow and that he was against any cloture vote until we
had the two-thirds. That was the strategy. A couple of times they were mentioning – we used to
have meetings every Thursday with the Senate leadership on the bill in Humphrey’s office. The
liberals on both sides of the aisle, because there were some hberals then on the Republican side –
Cliff Case, Jack J avitz, and some others – we used to have meetings. Somebody brought up,
“Let’s see what – let’s inquire what they want in return for votes on the cloture.” Clarence hit the
ceiling he was so mad. Because up until then we’d had no trouble and he said, ”The blacks have
been waiting for three hundred years for this moment and you” – I don’t remember who he was
pointing to but me (laughter) – “and now you say that we should compromise. We’re not going
to compromise, and you’re not going to go out – .” Ruben said, “Come on, Clarence, you’re three
feet off your chair. Cahn down. We’re not going to go for cloture until we’ve got the votes.” We·
didn’t go for cloture until they had the votes. We actually had more votes than we needed. Not
only did we have more than 67 on the record, but we had one vote that — I’ll never forget this
vote. Johnson – we were reporting to Johnson all the time and he was telling us what he’d do.
This was that old guy from Arizona, what’s his name? Carl Hayden! Carl Hayden of Arizona.
He was older than God, and he had never voted for cloture, and he never would vote for cloture.
He promised Johnson that if his vote was needed he would vote for cloture. Well, he sat in the
cloak room and waited and when we went over the 67, he came in and the Clerk shouts out, “The
Senator from Arizona?” and Hayden says, “No.” And we were always indebted to Hayden. Well
he’d promised Johnson that he would say yes, so we had actually more than we did – the
percentage worked so well that we were able to wait not only until we not only bad the 67, but
we had – I’m not exactly right – but there may have been 71 who voted for cloture that day. And
then, of course, after cloture, they can bring up amendments, but we didn’t lose any of them
Mr. Peck: Now, Hwnphrey told you the secret of passage was in the prayer
groups. What did he mean by that?
Mr. Rauh: I think he meant the religious community. I forgot that he said
that, but I would have said that back then. The real change that occurred in that year – ’64, ’63 –
the real change was in the religious community. I like to tell the story that in ’63, after [President
John] Kennedy sent up the bill, and the bill was pending in the full [Judiciary] Committee,
Clarence and I used to stand outside of the full committee and urge people to vote in our favor. I
think I may be wrong; it may have been pending in the subcommittee – subcommittee five which
gave us everything we wanted – it may have been pending there. At any rate, Ciarence and I
always stood outside there and as people walked in, we got to know the Congressmen and
Senators in their meetings, and we urged them to vote our way. I’ve always said that the time I
knew that America was changing was when 21 of the most beautiful Episcopal ministers lined up
outside. That was a very, very telling moment. It wasn’t a radical white and a black guy urging
them to vote with us. It was the Establishment, and I’ll never forget those guys. Let’s see, that’s
’63. It’s ahnost 30 years ago. They were about 30; they are about in their ’50s or ’60s now. I
don’t know where they are, but that was one of the most touching scenes that I have ever seen.
As these Congressmen crune in, they didn’t know what was hitting them They’d never seen
anything like this. This was the Establishment speaking to them You know, a guy would say,
”I’m a minister from your district.” He’d say, “Well, what church are you?” and somebody would
say, “Episcopal,” and so and so. This guy began to wake up and if that’s what you meant – that’s
what I would have meant by the same thing. I usually say it was the religious community, but he
might have called them the prayer connnittee. I just don’t remember that word exactly.
Now, I understand not everything was harmonious at the signing
Oh, 1 think you may have two of the bills mixed up.
I can’t think of anything that happened at the signing of the ’64 law.
Everybody was treated very nicely. Johnson gave me a pen and said something very flattering,
“It couldn’t have been done without me.” I didn’t get any such feeling. If you are referring to the
Voting Rights Act of ’65, a thing that happened there was Johnson turned the signing over to the
House. The preparations were made by the House Sergeant at Arms and that was that crazy
bastard who used to shout out, “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.” I can’t
remember his name but he was famous. And he arranged the seating for the signing, and that
was in a big room and we were all invited in. He also arranged for the signing in front of a very
few people. I don’t know why that happened. Clarence’s name wasn’t on the list and Andy
Biemiller’s [of the AFL-CIO] name wasn’t on it. I wasn’t surprised [to be left out] when I
represented a lot less people than Andy Biemiller and Clarence Mitchell. It never occurred to me
that there was anything bad about it. But Clarence almost died. That he shouldn’t be there at that
moment just shook him Andy Biemiller was so mad he could taste it, and he wrote a letter to
complain. I don’t know whether it was to Larry O’Brien, or the President. But I went up to
Katzenbach right there in the middle while people were going in the room and said, “You can’t
do this to Clarence. You’ve got to straighten this out. 11 And I came pretty close to – I tried to
hold back. Katzenbach had a say in this thing – he was in there giving it – I guess Bobby had
resigned as Attorney General. I just went up to rum and said, 11Y ou can’t do this to Clarence. 11 I
didn’t for Andy or for myself or for anybody else, but I said, “You can’t do this to Clarence.”
Well, I don’t know how it was, but there is a picture in this book of – that I saw – showing the
actual signing. A picture in Marge Stem’s book of the actual signing, and it shows Clarence very
close to the President. So that’s the first time I actually knew how close he’d gotten inside, but
that may be what you are referring to. I know nothing about any ill feeling during the ’64 signing.
Mr. Peck: I’m not sure where I got that.
Mr. Rauh: I think it could be this. Andy did write a hot letter, and be got an
apology. Oh, and we all got pens in the mail with a letter from the President, or from Larry
O’Brien, I’m not sure who it was. I don’t think there was anything to it. I just think – what’s that
crazy fellow’s name that was the doorman and –
Mr. Peck: This wasn’t Fishbait Miller, was it?
Mr. Raub: Yes. That’s the guy. I was trying to think of his name. Fisbbait
really bad that thing screwed up. But I don’t think there was any venality in it. Fishbait probably
would have thought Clarence was another doorman or something. He doesn’t know what the
heck was going on there. So that was the real thing. Anyway, Andy couldn’t get over it. I never
thought anything of it, but Clarence was the one who never would have gotten over it.
This brings us to the ’64 convention and the Mississippi Freedom
Why don’t you take this?
Mr. Peck: Okay.
Mr. Rauh: Use any part of it you think is relevant. I’ll tell you the story as I
know it, but that may help you. Will you mail that back to me when you’re finished with it?
‘Cause it’s the first time I’ve seen someone sort of take exactly my side of the story. Many have
given me more than my due and then there are some – . What happened in the Mississippi
Freedom Democratic party – I have a half-an-hour if you have.
Mr. Peck: I’ve got whatever time you need.
Mr. Rauh: It was the Civil Liberties Clearinghouse. Was it still going on in
1963? I can’t make sure now whether it was a meeting of the Clearinghouse on Civil Liberties or
the Leadership Conference. At any rate, I was the head of a panel to talk on politics and civil
hberties. After they all spoke, Bob Moses arose from the audience and told about the plan to
bring in a challenging delegation from Mississippi, and what did the panel think of it? Well, I
was deliriously happy, thinking that we could make some progress here. I responded and said, “I
think it’s the greatest idea you could possibly have. It’s going to be a lousy convention. There
isn’t going to be any fights at the convention. Johnson’s going to be renominated automatically.
This is wonderful. It gives us a chance to air civil rights.” So Bob came around and asked me to
be their counsel; that’s how I happened to be their counsel. And we wrote the brief. It’s a long
Mr. Rauh: It [ the idea of a freedom delegation] catches fire. People line up in
support of us. But Johnson doesn’t want a fight at the convention. He’s got the black vote on this
bill he signed on July 2nd. He doesn’t want to lose the South, so he’s on the other side. There
was still some feeling over at the White House that – for us. Kenny O’Donnell was very
sympathetic. He had to act the other way, but he called up one morning and he said,” _ you,
you don’t know what you’ve done now!” And I said, “What have I done now?” He said, “The
Massachusetts delegation came out for you last night. The Massachusetts delegation is going to
vote for your crowd at the convention. You know who was one of those leading the fight? It
was my sister!” (Laughter) I said, “Well, it serves you good and right – you’re on the wrong
side.” We remained very good friends after that. But Johnson didn’t want it. Johnson was a man
who believed every man has his price. I think it was Robert Warrick, the British Parliament
member, who once said that every man has his price and Johnson believed that. So what would
you do if you were trying to have me go in the tank? You would get my best friend in politics,
Hubert Humphrey, and my best client in the law, Walter Reuther, and have them tell me. Well,
that’s exactly wharhe did. And whenever I said anything about the thing that got in the papers,
I’d get two phone calls. The first one would be from Walter Reuther. Very seriously, Walter
would say, “Joe, the President’s so angry. You’ve got to be more careful,” and he didn’t want me
in it anyway. Because, see, I was Walter’s general counsel. Then a few minutes later the girls
would say, “The other one’s calling.” And it would be Hubert. Hubert would say, “Oh, God, Joe,
what am I gonna tell the President? He’s on my ass to get you out of there and to try to settle this
thing. Is there anything you can – what can I tell the President?” He was really quite pitiful.
And I said, “Hubert, just tell him Joe Rauh’s a stubborn son-of-a-__ that can’t be controlled.”
“Oh, the President wouldn’t want to hear that. He doesn’t think there’s anybody that can’t be
controlled.” So we went down to the wire that way with Reuther and Humphrey, the two guys
with the responsibility. Hubert was told, in effect, I don’t know the exact words, “Look, you
son-of-a-__ , you won’t be Vice President unless you settle that Mississippi Freedom thing.”
And Reuther was called in at the last minute to try to pressure us. Well, I was not in on the
settlement. I first learned of – the fight went on — the convention opened Monday – well, the
hearing of the Credentials Committee was on a Saturday. We got so much publicity and
everybody was on our side.
Fannie Lou Hamer told her story twice. Once in the afternoon and once on primetime
TV at night. It couldn’t have been going better, but the President didn’t want the thing to hit
the floor. Sunday, there was a meeting of the Credentials Committee. I guess I was entitled to
the floor first, but Governor Lawrence didn’t give it to me. He gave it to some Western delegate
who gave the resolution. of Johnson. which was that we were to be highly flattered guests of the
convention but not delegates. That was Sunday afternoon. Then I thought I had the right to the
floor next to move to amend. He gives it to Al Uhllman, a Congressman from Oregon, who said,
“I move to amend it by giving two delegates to the Freedom party.” Well after this has sort of
framed the issue, because we had the rules of the House and there was nothing I could do – you
couldn’t amend that. Then he gave me the floor. Of course, I made a speech like I had said. This
is now Tuesday afternoon, and we’ve been fighting and postponing until Tuesday afternoon. No,
no, this is Sunday afternoon. We were still on Sunday afternoon. He gives me the floor and I
make my speech, but the parliamentary situation then is the Administration’s position or nothing.
Al Ullman’s amendment or nothing, and we’re just at a deadlock. They could have put that
through, but they knew I had enough votes to go to the floor. I bad always said, and the press
was printing this, RAUH’S TAR GET IS ELEVEN AND SEVEN. That’s eleven members of the
Credentials Committee to go to the floor with a min01ity report, that’s ten percent, and seven is
delegations that demand a roll call. I had both of those in my pocket. So they didn’t want to go
to the floor on the Sunday afternoon procedure, because they could have adopted Ullman’s
amendment. They could have done the other amendment. They could have done either one they
wanted. They had the votes. But they didn’t want to.
So they set up a committee with Fritz Mondale as the chairman. He was a member
-he was Attorney General of Minnesota -and they set up a committee -Mondale, two of
our crowd, two of theirs. But there was no settlement possible at this stage of the game. There
was to be a Credentials Committee meeting on Monday just to do it that was called off. There
was to be one on Tuesday and they went through with the one on Tuesday, and here we are in the
meeting on Tuesday. Well, I went to the meeting early and was sitting there talking to David
Lawrence, who went early, and in comes Charlie Diggs, one of our members of the committee
and hands me a note that says you are to call that number. I don’t know if he told me who would
be on the other end of the line or not but I called that number. I think Jack Conway answered the
telephone. He was Walter Reuther’s -had been Walter Reuther’s assistant and was at that time in
the Administration. He says, “Joe, Walter wants to talk to you.” Walter gets on the phone and
said, and this was the first I knew of a settlement, he says, “The convention has made its
decision.” I said to myself, “The final decision of the convention? I don’t know who that was.”
Of course, it was Johnson and Reuther. Reuther had been called in that night by Johnson. He
got there late the Monday night, and this is Tuesday, early afternoon. And he says, “And I want
you to take it.” Whether he said this as an order or not, I can’t be sure. But, there was a peremptory
voice that made me think he intended it as such. But I don’t want to say he said it; you
know, it’s a hard thing. Oh, I was in a phone booth taking this thing with a hundred reporters
outside of it. So he said, “This is what it is.” I said, “Yes.” He said, “We are going to make the
regulars take an oath that they’ll support the ticket, which they won’t take, and they’ll go home.
So you have won that. We will give you two at-large seats. You have won that. We will
promise that there will never be another segregated group – discriminatory, segregated groupseated
at a Democratic convention, and we will set up a committee of which you will be a
counsel to bring that about in the next convention.” I said, “Walter, I have to tell you that sounds
like I’m making some progress, and it sounds like something I’d like ·to think about, but I have to
talk to Aaron Henry, because Aaron Henry is the chairman and we have a blood-oath that neither
of us will accept anything without talking to the other.” I said, “Please find Aaron and get him to
call me.” I gave him the number how they could reach me in the committee meeting and then I’d
call. I am told, but I am not certain, that Aaron Henry was in the room already. I know he went
in the room within minutes, but we never connected. I went into the meeting really knowing I
had no choice but to fight it, knowing that if we were going to negotiate a little bit that I could up
the ante from two to six, that we could really settle it harmoniously. But I had no way of raising
Aaron. I did have someone with me with a walkie-talkie who was trying to get to Aaron but I
think Aaron – I don’t know – whether Aaron was in that room or not, and whether Reuther
deliberately kept us apart. I ?ave no idea. At any rate, we never did it and I fought to the bitter
end, as Radice[?] say? there.
What happened was that Mondale came into the meeting room, or was just outside
when I spotted him and I ran out and said, “Fritz, I can solve this where it’s going to be
helpful to everybody. But I’ve got to talk to Aaron Henry.” I said,” I need a postponement, I need
some more time.” Fritz said, “Okay.” I mean, we were all acting in good faith. Mondale was in
good faith, I was in good faith – some little _____ standing next to Mondale says, “No
further delays. We’re going ahead. We’ve delayed this too long – we’re going ahead right now.”
And Mondale looks at me and – this guy was representing Johnson there. He was from Iowa and
I don’t recall – I’d never known his name. So we went inside. Governor Lawrence properly
called on Mondale to give his report. Mondale gave it and he gave it as though we had won the
moon. The regulars reluctantly accepted. He was really speaking to them We’d won and then I
got up, and asked for a delay and got booted at. This is now his lynch mob. They were shouting,
“VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.” So I tried to think of bow to stall it. There was nobody else in the
room that was speaking on our side. I had to do all the speaking myself. No, that’s wrong. Edith
Green did speak and opposed the thing. But most of the speaking – I was trying to stall it until I
could get a call to Aaron Henry. Well, Aaron’s call never cmne. “VOTE, VOTE, VOTE,” and I
said- then I asked for a roll-call vote. It takes twenty percent under the House Rules that we
were proceeding under, and twenty percent, my_, there wasn’t any votes. Maybe half a
dozen. They voted “aye.” You could have heard the ayes a mile away. Then there were “nos,”
and the nos were myself and Mrs. Todd Duncan, the singer’s wife. She was a black woman from
the District. The two ofus; two from Colorado; one from the Canal Zone; one, I think, from
Guam It was the sleaziest looking crowd, including me. I’m at this time half-dead and I’m not
being very eloquent. So, it was clear we didn’t have a majority. We didn’t have the eleven which
we needed. So, it was rejected, there was a good deal of recrimination, Bayard [Rustin], Kingthere
were two meetings on the rejection. One was Tuesday evening, the other was Wednesday
morning. They blur into each other in my mind. But we did have in favor of accepting it was
King and Rustin. But Wilkins didn’t have anybody there. He’d long since said – told the press it
was a great thing. There were some others in that. Somebody said, it’s the best we could get,
whether you want to take it is up to you. They rejected it. They had an eloquent plea by Fannie
Lou Hamer, and Reuther, who is without any doubt, the best bargainer I have ever heard, really
loused that up when he said two and named the two. Can you imagine telling this crowd after all
the sacrifices they had made to get there? To put in a white professor and a black, foreign,
middle-class, pharmacist when the majority of the people are sharecroppers. Well, Fannie Lou
had a cinch there, and they rejected the compromise. There were recriminations. I made the
point that we fought on to the end, but we didn’t have the eleven for the floor fight. We might
not have won the floor fight, because Johnson, by this time, had scared off a lot of people.
Furthermore, he had said they’d won! He kept saying, “What are they complaining about? They
won.” Well, two such brilliant negotiators as Johnson and Reuther to have not even asked me, I
could have iold ’em, “Put Fannie Lou on the delegation.” She may very well have a little different
viewpoint. But to exclude her- well Johnson had said to somebody, “That black __ is
never going to get on that floor.” Well he was wrong . She did get on the floor with other
credentials and other people, but she never was made a delegate. And Aaron and Ed King, who
was the professor who they sent there, I returned their credentials to Harold Leventhal, the
general counsel to the connnittee, with a short note saying that the matter is not satisfactory to the
delegation, and Aaron and Ed King will not accept the delegates.
The next morning, I was called by the Humphrey camp. They were worried about
the vice presidency. “Is there anything that can be done now?” I said, “Yes,” and they said,
“What?” I said, “Either give us two more votes … ” – see, there weren’t any votes, the voting was
ridiculous. It was just delegates. I said, “Either give us two more votes or cut the two votes in
half and give us four half votes and put Fannie Lou and Virginia Gray,” I think was her name –
another black woman, !’in there.” And the guy says, “Oh, no, we can’t reopen it.” I says, “Well,
what the heck did you call me for if you can’t reopen it?” I said, “You asked if there was
anything you could do, I’ve told you something that might work.” And there was never any
further discussion of the thing. The Radice piece really tracks this fairly well, and it will show
you what we had in mind. When the black/white delegation, exactly as we had it, walked on the
floor in ’68, it demonstrated we had won. Fannie Lou walked on with Aaron Henry and, what’s
his name, Rodding Carter, and his now wife, the Assistant Secretary under Carter for
International Human Rights. Well, anyway it was a straight Mississippi delegation, and it was
50-50, and we didn’t have to give them an inch The battle was over and we had won the fight.
From then on, you had to have roughly affirmative action delegations from everywhere and you
had equal women’s rights, another case where the black fight resulted in something on women’s
Mr. Peck: Right.
Mr. Rauh: In fact, I think that the historians today are going to take the Radice
position even though there was some, there was a feeling at that moment that they hadn’t won. I
think there was some over-expectation that the delegation had. I think they thought that 1?Y
changing the delegation — I mean it was really kind of a fantasy that by changing the delegation
from Mississippi to a black one, you were really going to change the face of America. We did
change the face of America in a sense that ’68 was better. At the moment there, they felt let
down and Aaron writes me a letter afterwards, which is at the bottom there, in which, he knew
we had won. And Ed King knew we had won. There have been a couple meetings I’ve been at
down there where I’ve been beautifully treated, but there was a minority that was screaming that
they had been sold out. There wasn’t a word of truth in that. We all fought ’til the bitter end and
had lost. I had to vote “no” against the Mondale operation. Reuther gets a good deal of the
Hubert by this time is so crushed that he worried. I will say for Hubert Humphrey
that his handling of that thing was the most honorable piece of politics of my lifetime. I went to
see him every night before I went to bed, whether it was 3:00, 4:00 or 5:00. We were alone in a
room and Hubert Humphrey could have said, “Look, Joe, take the last offer. I’ll be Vice
President, we’re friends.” He could have said something, “Do this for me.” Hubert never once
suggested that I give up anything except on the inerits. And we talked the merits, he knew I was
right, and it was beautiful. I think a couple of times he was almost in tears because Johnson was
a brute, and he was telling Hubert to settle it. I think Johnson was telling Hubert he can’t
understand why Hubert can’t handle an old friend on a thing like this. And Hubert couldn’t speak
back. He had to say, “I guess I’m not doing it very well” You know, he tried to propitiate
Johnson and it was not done. So Johnson hauled in Reuther. Reuther comes and botches it, and
of course, Reuther’s story is told by saying he handled it very perfectly. Because they did put that
over and from my standpoint, his not ever having asked me what I thought, was so outrageous
because it would have been so obvious. Either to let them choose their own delegates or to put
Fannie Lou on there and another sharecropper, so you balance it between the middle class, which
we had, and two sharecroppers, and Fannie Lou had to be on it. I mean, she was the – I guess,
star attraction, you’d say, on our side.
Mr. Peck: I understand that out of this, you once said that Reuther was so
mad at you that you could fry an egg on bis heart.
Mr. Rauh: (Laughter) I sure felt that way and I’m sure I said it. He didn’t talk
to me for awhile. I was general counsel, but …
Mr. Peck: Didn’t talk to you for six months is what I read.
Mr. Rauh: Well, six months may be a little exaggeration but it was a long
time. We had a negotiation with GM that I attended all night and when I was to say something,
he didn’t call on me, I would speak up automatically when the other lawyers spoke. Other than
that, I wouldn’t speak. But when a guy named Benjamin was general counsel, when he’d say
something, I would rebut it. But Reuther didn’t speak to me that night.
Mr. Peck: When the period was over, all was forgiven?
Mr. Rauh: When Walter died we were friends again. But he assumed when
he was in something, that made it a UAW matter, and nobody could dissent. Whereas I said to
him on this same telephone conversation, “Walter, you can’t tell me what to do because this isn’t
a UAW matter. 1bis is a public matter in which I took a private position, which I thought you
had agreed to ’cause I did think I had his agreement to go with the Freedom party. Not that I
would go, it was that he would go too. But I was wrong on that, and unless he changed his mind
again. You can’t say which, but Walter had the honest belief- I give him credit for it – that when
he came into something, that made it a UAW matter and that meant nobody else could take a
different position. I think he honestly believed that. I don’t think that was a fair position to have
taken. I’ll tell you, Freud is really right. I came out of that phone booth with Walter and they [the
reporters] said, “Who was that?” And I said, “Aw, some girl- some redhead.” That was the
dumbest thing I could have said. Walter Reuther was the redhead but I – it was Freudian. I was
trying not to say who it was, and I don’t think anybody caught onto it, but I realized when I said
it, “How dumb can you be?” And of course the only answer you can say is that I hadn’t slept for
nights and I guess I was just – I was where Freud made a difference. But anyway, nobody
seemed to have gotten on to that. Someone did ask me – and that was argument for the thing that
there was a conspiracy. That phone.call did come from Reuther, and I don’t know whether he
ever told the President. He left right away. He was in negotiations and he was – I don’t think he
was there 24 hours. But he sure got it balled up.
[End of Tape]
Oral History of Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.