ORAL HISTORY OF
G. DUANE VIETH
FIRST INTERVIEW – JULY 22,2003
This interview of G. Duane Vieth is being conducted for the District of Columbia Circuit
Historical Society Oral History Project, on July 22, 2003, at the offices of Arnold & Porter in
Washington, D.C., by Traci Grigg. This is Tape One.
Ms. Grigg: Can you state your full name and the year you were born?
Mr. Vieth: Yes. My name is Gifford Duane Vieth. I go by G. Duane Vieth,
and I’m frequently called Bud, and have been ever since I was a young boy. I was born in
Omaha, Nebraska, on September 20, 1923, and lived for about three years in Omaha, and then
another year in Oak Park, Illinois. At the age of five, I moved to Davenport, Iowa, which I have
always considered my hometown and where I lived until leaving to come to practice law in
Ms. Grigg: Do you remember anything at all about Omaha, Nebraska? You
were very little, just a baby.
Mr. Vieth: Yes. I don’t remember much about it. I have a picture in my mind
of the house that we had there and, indeed, on trips to Omaha, I’ve tried to find that house and I
haven’t had much luck. But no, I don’t remember much about Omaha, nor do I remember much
about Oak Park.
Ms. Grigg: Where were your parents from?
Mr. Vieth: My parents were from Davenport, both of them, and my father was
in the municipal bond business. He was working for other companies when he was stationed in
Omaha and then later in Chicago, Oak Park being a suburb of Chicago. Then he ultimately went
into business for himself in Davenport, and that’s where he lived and where I grew up. I lived
there until, I think as I mentioned before, until I left to come to work here in Washington.
What did your mother do while she was in Davenport?
My mom was a typical Iowa housewife. She never held a position
outside the home. She worked very hard in the home. As a matter of fact, that’s sort of been the
way my own marriage operated. My wife worked for the National Gallery of Art here in
Washington, but once we were married, except for a short time where she worked in the office of
Hale Boggs in Congress during the summer, she did not hold a job outside the house either.
That’s sort of been the tradition in our family. It was the old-fashioned tradition.
Ms. Grigg: What were your parent’s activities and interests when you were
Mr. Vieth: It’s hard for me to say. They were very much interested in their
family. My father, as I say, was in the investment business. He bought and sold municipal
bonds, and he did that for small towns in Iowa and Illinois and other governmental bodies. He
would help them where they had a need for funds to create a bond issue and do all the necessary
legal and other work. He would hire out the legal work – to get the issue issued and then he
would buy the bonds from them and resell them, mostly to banks and small-town banks in Iowa
and Illinois. He liked the idea of those tax-exempt bonds and that was pretty much what he did.
My father played golf and my mother used to like to play golf, but they stopped playing later on
in life. They didn’t have much interests outside the family, I’d say.
Backing up a little bit, where were your grandparents from?
My great grandparents were from Germany and immigrated to the
United States. On my mother’s side, my grandfather was a Lutheran minister, and he had a
church in Davenport, Iowa, and then later on moved to Quincy, Illinois, where he had his last
parish and where he lived until he passed away. And, after he passed away, his wife, my
grandmother, then moved into our house. I’ll never forget that. She lived with us for at least ten
or twelve years until her own passing. She was very good, as far as my folks were concerned, a
very good babysitter. But that was traditional also for, particularly widowed grandmothers, to
move in with one of their children. My mother was the daughter of a Lutheran minister and one
of her brothers became a Lutheran minister, and I’ve had a strong Lutheran background my entire
And are you still –
Oh yes, I’m still a member of Calvary Lutheran Church in Silver
Spring, Maryland. One of the founding members of that church was an uncle of mine, another
brother, a much younger brother of my mother. He was stationed here in Washington in the
Pentagon just prior to and during World War 11. During that period, he and a number of other
people formed a congregation in Silver Spring, and he was considered a founding member. So,
when I came to the Washington area, it just seemed natural for me to go out and visit that church
and I did, and I ultimately joined, and I still do belong.
Ms. Grigg: That’s wonderful. What were your family gatherings like?
Holidays and weekends? It sounds like you come from a large family,
Mr. Vieth: Well, I have one brother and one sister, and both of them still live
in Davenport, Iowa. I’m the only one who left town. My brother went into business with my
father and continued in that business until he finally retired a year or two ago. The same sort of
business, the creation and then buying of municipal bonds and selling them to banks, and that
sort of thing. As a sideline, he also went into the banking business itself. He ultimately ended up
owning two small banks, one in Iowa and one in Illinois. He sold those and he’s now sort of
semi-retired. I say he lives in Davenport; he still has a home there, but I think he considers
himself a resident of Florida now. He has a house in Florida as well. My sister married a local
Davenport boy named Joseph Kimmel, Jr. Joe’s father had founded a business known as
Republic Electric Company. It was a wholesale heating and air conditioning company, and it
was a very good business, as a matter of fact. Joe became very active in that business, and
ultimately ran it until fairly recently when his health deteriorated. He died a year ago. That was
run pretty much a family enterprise, but those are the only two close relatives I had, the sister and
the brother and they both lived in Davenport and still do, except that my brother-in-law passed
away last year.
Ms. Grigg: Where do you fall? Are you the oldest, the youngest, in the
Mr. Vieth: I am the oldest. My sister is two years younger than I, and then my
brother, George, is eight years younger than I.
How many uncles and aunts did you have?
Well, on my mother’s side I had three uncles. I haven’t talked
about my father’s family. On my father’s side, I had one uncle and one aunt. The uncle died a
good many years ago, and the aunt died just a couple of years ago. My uncle never married on
my father’s side, never married. His sister, my aunt, did marry, and she has two children who are
my cousins and who I occasionally see, but not anything like as much as I’d like to.
Ms. Grigg: Can you tell me some of your early memories from your days in
Davenport? Grade school? Friends?
Mr. Vieth: Actually, you asked whether I remember much about Omaha. The
only thing I do remember about that was that my folks, along with several others of their close
friends, owned a cottage on a lake near Omaha. I distinctly remember one occasion when I tried
to walk, it was sort of a gangplank, out to a dock. I was walking on that gangplank and I fell
over, fell off. I must have been three or four years old. And, I recall very distinctly going down
into the water and being pulled out by my Uncle Ed, the younger brother of my mother, who
happened to see it from the cottage and came running out and pulled me out. I don’t know if he
hadn’t done that, I don’t know what might have happened.
Ms. Grigg: Thank goodness.
Mr. Vieth: That’s the one thing I remember from Omaha. The one thing I
remember from Oak Park, and I’m probably talking about a lot of irrelevancies here –
No, this is fine.
I do recall getting a tricycle in Oak Park, and the one thing I
wanted to do more than anything else was to take that tricycle and have a real destination with it.
On one occasion, my father agreed to walk us, with me riding the tricycle, down to an ice cream
shop, which was three or four blocks away. I thought that was the most wonderful thing, going
along the street, my father watching me, having a definite destination and something very good at
the end of the destination, and then going home. Somehow that sticks with me.
Sounds like a life plan.
Well, it was something I really enjoyed. Growing up in Davenport,
we lived in a house on a dead-end street, which was very nice from that standpoint because there
were sidewalks there and then we could play in the street. And, I had a lot of friends on that
street, and we did an awful lot of things that young people do. Actually, the house had a
wonderful location. It was, as I say, at a dead-end street, and it was the top of a hill that
overlooked, about a mile-and-a-half away, the Mississippi River. We had a beautiful view of the
river. Indeed, just down the block from where we were, there was a park called Lookout Park
and it was just an absolutely lovely view of river traffic and that sort of thing. So, we played a lot
around in our backyard, which had the view, as well as played in the street in the front. I can
remember getting my first bicycle and that kind of thing, but, you know, I don’t have too many
memories other than I had a lot of fun playing as a kid.
Do you remember if you read a lot or –
I used to read a good bit. I loved – gosh, I can’t even think of the
names of the stories now. But there were some stories about a Westerner – when I see you next,
I’ll give you the name, if I can recall those. Yes, I did read quite a few books for kids of my age.
Ms. Grigg: I mentioned holidays. Do you have any strong recollections from
holidays and family?
Mr. Vieth: I have a stronger recollection of our holidays. We weren’t very
affluent in those days and our holidays were primarily getting in the car and going to visit one of
my uncles, and there were cousins there, so I thoroughly enjoyed that. We’d go to Clayton,
Missouri, which is a suburb of St. Louis where my mother’s brother had a Lutheran Church. I
told you he was a minister. It was a rural setting. His house was on the grounds and the church
was on the grounds, but there was a lot of room around the place. So, we used to love to go
down and be with our cousins there, and that was pretty much what we did on holidays. I do
remember one occasion when my father undertook to take the entire family, that is my sister, my
brother, my mother, and me, on a trip through the West. We went from Davenport all the way to
California by train, stopping at various places along the way. It was an absolutely wonderful trip.
We had sleeping accommodations on the train. In those days, you just went on an ordinary
Pullmans. You had upper and lower berths. I recall, we visited the national parks in the West;
went all the way to California, and it really stood out in my memory. It was an outstanding trip.
I tried to do something similar to that with my own family. I guess it would have been in the ’60s
or OS, and we even did travel a lot by train on that trip, although we also traveled by plane
somewhat. It just stuck with me as a wonderful experience, and I tried to do the same thing with
my children when they were young.
Mr. Vieth: Yeah, that’s right.
Ms. Grigg: That’s great.
With all those memories.
I can recall, as you know, seeing the California redwoods, and the
Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone Park, all those things that you do. This country is a wonderful
country to live in.
Ms. Grigg: High school?
Mr. Vieth: High school.
What was the name of your high school?
Davenport High School. The Blue Devils. High school was when
I really started developing an interest in the sort of thing that ultimately was useful in the practice
of law. We had an absolutely wonderful professor, a very old man, who taught public speaking
and debate. So, while I tried out for track and a few other things – and never was worth a damn
as an athlete – I just devoted myself entirely to the public speaking course and debate. We did
have competitions. I was a member of the debate team. We traveled around the state, and,
indeed, even went to national competitions on several occasions. There were two or three
disciplines. One was debate. Another was extemporaneous speaking that involved being given,
at a competition, an assignment, a topic, and, an hour later, you had to make a 15-minute
extemporaneous speech on that topic. You could use whatever cards and things you brought
along to prepare for that. You could prepare a little card, but you had to know a lot about a lot of
subjects, because you didn’t know until the last minute what your subject was. Then there was
dramatic speaking, too, where something had to be written by someone else and you delivered it.
Well, we had a very active group that was interested in that, and we just all concentrated our
attention on that. We would work after school. We’d go to the regular classes, but then after
school we would be doing extracurricular work in connection with public speaking. We
socialized together all the time. It was really pretty much our entire life there. I thoroughly
enjoyed that in the sense that’s what I spent three or four years in high school concentrating on.
By the way, we also felt we were pretty good because a group of us who were in that group
would put on what we’d call auditoriums. The entire school would be gathered together in an
auditorium, let’s say in the morning, and then it’d be an hour’s entertainment. We would put on
that entertainment, and I remember being very fond of a couple of comedians I’d seen in Chicago
called Olsen and Johnson – you’ve never heard of them.
Ms. Grigg: I have.
Mr. Vieth: Have you? (laughter) But they used to do funny things, and we
would copy a lot of those for our auds, as we called them. We would put on those shows, and I
think we were fairly well-received. (laughter) We could do a lot of strange, funny things. That
was a great deal of what our time was spent on in high school.
During the summers, did you have jobs or –
Yes. I think, aside from cutting the neighbor’s grass once in a
while and that sort of thing, the first job I had where I got a paycheck was working for a local
clothing store called The Hub. Then it was strictly the summer job. I’ll never forget – I think I
got $15 a week for working six days; we didn’t work on Sunday, but we worked all day Saturday.
In fact, on Saturday it was open until 9:OO. Social Security had just started and they took out 1
percent of my salary or $. 15 towards Social Security; so I got $14.85 in cash in my envelope on
Saturday night. That was a good experience. I was sort of a substitute salesman of shirts. I
didn’t try to sell suits, but shirts and ties and that sort of thing when the other fellows were going
on vacation. I’ll never forget, they had a way of, and I fell for this, they had a way of harassing
neophytes. They really got me on this. There were several other clothing stores in town, and on
about the first or second day when I came, they said that they need a sleeve-stretcher for shirts.
They said it’s expensive, so we only have one in town and we borrow it and back and forth. You
go over to Simon and Landar, I think that’s where we last sent it. So, I go to Simon and Lander
and say, “I’m from The Hub. I’m looking for the sleeve-stretcher.” They know what’s going on,
so they send me to the other store. I finally figured out that they were pulling my leg, but it was
funny how you would fall for a thing like that.
Ms. Grigg: That’s great.
Mr. Vieth: You were trying to do the right thing and so forth. The boss, the
owner of the store, was very angry at the guys who did that to me because he thought it wasted
Ms. Grigg: Are you still in touch with any of your public speaking friends or
any other friends from high school or Davenport?
Mr. Vieth: Once in a while, one of them I used to see when we’d go to high
school reunions, and so forth. Well, I’d see several of them, as a matter of fact, but one I’m
thinking of in particular died this past winter, and I was very sorry to hear that. Yes, I do see
some. I should mention Hubbin, my closest friend in high school – and we were close friends
in law school and college – I’ll go through the whole thing with him. I do see him occasionally.
He became an outstanding trial lawyer in the state of Iowa; he stayed in Iowa. So, yes, I see them
from time to time. Another member of our public speaking group was Leo Ziffren. Leo Ziffren
became an outstanding lawyer in entertainment law in Los Angeles, Hollywood. Leo’s still
around, but I think he’s retired now from practice. I’ll go to Ross Sidney. Well, I’ll do that later.
Ms. Grigg: At least three of you became lawyers. Did others in the group?
Your public speaking group?
Mr. Vieth: Yes. Dave McFarren, the one who just died, became a lawyer.
Ross Sidney, Leo Ziffren, myself. I think one of the girls, Louise Hilfman, who was my partner
in the debate team. I think she went to law school, but I don’t think she ever practiced. Those are
the ones who became lawyers.
How many girls –
Oh, Don Rivkin – he was a year behind us, but he was in the
group – he became a very prominent New York lawyer.
Were there a lot of girls in the group or was it just Louise?
I know Louise and Beverly, Christine and – yeah, there were
several of the girls, yes. I would say it was almost 50/50.
How large was the group?
I would say the group was about 12 and that included my class and
Rivkin, and a few others in the class behind him, and when we first started, the kids in the grade
above us. It was really a very large part of my high school experience. By the way, you talked
about summer jobs. The second summer job was somewhat related to World War 11. World War
I1 hadn’t started yet. But I think this was the summer after I graduated from high school. We had
a large defense facility in my hometown, Davenport, Iowa. It actually is on an island in the
Mississippi River, between Davenport and Rock Island, Illinois, which is the city directly across
the river from us. The facility was known as the Rock Island Arsenal. It had been there for
many, many years, I think, since the Civil War and was a large, munitions factory,
government-owned. I got a job as a truck driver that second summer and I worked there that
entire year before I left to go back to college for the first time. But those are the only two
summer jobs that I really recall.
thing. It’s just carrying materials around.
What were you delivering in the trucks?
They weren’t large trucks, they were pickup trucks and that sort of
So they weren’t bombs or –
Oh, no. No bombs and, as a matter of fact, I can remember we
several trips to Chicago and other places. We would travel on the road. But I can’t tell you what
we were delivering.
How long did it take you to get from Davenport to Chicago?
Chicago was the closest, big town. It was about 180 miles. We
would always go to Chicago for weekends and that sort of thing. It was the closest big town.
But no, traveling for the Rock Island Arsenal was all around the state of Illinois, various places,
and I was just a plain truck driver. That was all I did, but I did get a paycheck there as well.
Was this the summer after you graduated from high school?
Yes, the summer, yes. The thing is, I’m really concerned here,
because then what did I do the summer after my first year in college?
Did you go to college that fall then?
I did. You’ve got me worried about whether I’m – it may be that
the summer after high school was the summer with the clothing store and then the next summer
after the first year of college – I honestly can’t remember now.
Close enough. What year did you graduate from high school?
I graduated from high school in 1941. I can try to straighten that
Ms. Grigg: We should probably back up a little bit. How did the Depression
Mr. Vieth: The Depression impacted in the sense that I know my father was
always very concerned about it as was my mother, and it was very tough on him and his business
and his concern to take care of his family and that sort of thing. But I can’t say that it impacted
me very seriously. It’s just that I grew up in the Depression, and I’ll never get over the
Depression ways in a sense. I just cannot spend money wildly, even though I – I wonder,
should we take a little break?
Ms. Grigg: Yes.
Let’s hope the (recorder stopped) recorder works.
Well, we were talking about the Depression. We never had much
money. I could tell you one thing that I remember again very clearly. Once in a while I would be
able to get enough money together, you know, a penny at a time, maybe to be able to buy a
Coca-Cola for $.05. I will never forget when Pepsi Cola came out for the first time and the big
thing about Pepsi Cola was that it, it was a 12-ounce bottle. Coca-Cola was a 6-ounce bottle,
always had been. Pepsi came out with this and, literally, a friend of mine and I would be able to
get together a nickel between us and we would then go down and get a Pepsi and we’d split it
because we got almost as much as you got in a Coca-Cola alone. I’m afraid that kind of a
background has stayed with me my whole life. Yes, I do very much remember the Depression.
There were things like penny candies. Also, penny movies. Let me tell you about this. It was a
community building in the west part of Davenport known as the Friendly House, and we used to
go to the Friendly House virtually every Saturday, particularly during the winter, because they
had movies and they were penny movies. It cost a penny to get in and we always could get
together a penny and go down there. It gives you an idea of what the Depression was like. In
fact, you know, it was hard to come by. I told you my first job ever was for $15 a week and I’ll
never forget getting $14.85 because the $.15 was taken out.
Ms. Grigg: Must be hard to go to the movies today.
Mr. Vieth: Yeah. (laughter)
Ms. Grigg: And pay $9.00.
Mr. Vieth: Things are so wildly different now. That’s a sort of an experience
that I guess just will last forever. It will always be that way.
Shall we move on to college?
Yeah. That’ll be fine. I think I’ve talked enough about high school.
Let me just mention that my closest friend in high school was a fellow named Ross Sidney. He
and I were good friends there. He was also in the public speaking group. (Cough) Oh, sorry.
And then we both went off to the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and we pledged the same
fraternity. I guess as pledges in that first freshman year, we did not live together. You had to
live with an upper classman in the fraternity house. But, I think thereafter, I certainly know that
we went off to the war, and then both of us went back to college where we roomed together, and
then went to law school, and we roomed together in law school. Ross and I were the greatest of
friends then. Of course, our paths diverged. I came to Washington; he stayed in Des Moines,
Iowa, but we still see each other from time to time. I’m hoping to see him again later on this
year. He became a very, successful, outstanding trial lawyer in Iowa.
Ms. Grigg: Was there any real choice about going to the University of Iowa or
going somewhere else?
Mr. Vieth: No. No, there really wasn’t. Again, it was a question of
economics. I can recall that the tuition at Iowa was something like $500 or $600 a semester for
an in-state resident. I’d never given any thought to going anywhere else. We did join the Sigma
Chi fraternity and that’s where we lived until we went away to war. I know I started in college in
September of ’41. I’ll never forget December 7, ’41. We were sitting around the fraternity house
with the house mother there and all of us in the living room listening to the radio about Pearl
Harbor and wondering what it might mean and that sort of thing. That sticks with me very much.
I guess I stayed – I finished that year. Now that I think about it, I believe the summer I spent
with the Arsenal, I believe, was the summer of ’42 and then I went back to school and in
December of ’42, I went off to the air force – well, the air corps – Army Air Corps.
Is that because you were drafted or because you volunteered?
No, I volunteered. I wanted to become a pilot, and I ultimately
failed the physical to become a pilot. I honestly think they took a lot of us in and very quickly
led us to believe that we had a chance to become cadets, and then would wash us out for one
reason or another because they needed air crew; they needed gunners. I ultimately became a
gunner and a radio operator.
How old were you?
Well I entered in 1942. I was born in ’23 – how old was I?
Nineteen. My 2 1 st birthday was while I was with the Eighth Air Force in England.
How did you parents react to your signing up?
Oh, they were very supportive. They were concerned, but that was
one thing about World War 11, it was a very popular war, unlike anything we’ve had since then.
Ms. Grigg: Did a lot of your friends fi-om high school or classmates from high
school also sign up?
Mr. Vieth: Yes. Virtually everybody did. Ross Sidney went into the infantry
and another close friend, Don Shutter – he had not been so active in public speaking, but he was
a good friend of ours and joined the same Sigma Chi fraternity – he went into the Air Corps as I
did. He became a pilot for the B-24s. And Sid was, well, his war experience was incredible. I
can go into all those things. They’re separate stories, and very good stories.
Ms. Grigg: Do you want to start with those or do you want to talk about some
of your first experiences, where they sent you for training and –
Mr. Vieth: Yeah, well – all right, they sent me for basic training to Jefferson
Barracks outside of St. Louis, Missouri. I’ll never forget it, it was as cold as Adam, actually it
was February. I signed up in December and I went off in February. I’ll tell you there were
unheated cabins that we lived in, and then took our basic training. It was really, really
something. They then sent us to what they called ASTP, Army Specialized Training Program, I
think it was. We went to college campuses. They did this with everybody who had joined the
Air Corps. They sent them to ASPS, and they were on various campuses. Our campus was
Milwaukee Junior College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s now part of the University of
Wisconsin system, that’s the Milwaukee campus. I think most states have done that now. But in
those days it was known as Milwaukee State Teachers College – it wasn’t junior college –
Milwaukee State Teachers College. We were there for about six weeks, I guess. We took flight
training. I learned how to solo in a piper cub and had a lot of academic work and a great deal of
drilling as well. Our drilling was featured in the Sunday supplement of the Milwaukee Journal
one Sunday while we were there. Remember, the newspapers used to have something called the
Sunday supplement and there’s always a lot of pictures and so forth.
Do you have that article?
I think maybe, it may be among the things my mother had. I’ll have
to take a look. Those should be things at home. But, then I was sent to California, and there I
was given the physical that I failed and was told then that I would become a gunner after I wasn’t
going to be able to become a pilot. I was very disappointed, very upset about that, but there was
nothing could be done about it. I was then sent to radio school to become a radio operator. The
radio school was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and that’s where I learned to become an Army
radio operator. I learned Morse Code and all that sort of thing. Finally, I was sent to gunnery
school, Aircraft Gunnery School in Yuma, Arizona, and after about six or eight weeks there, I
was a certified radio operator and a certified gunner, and sent to Ardmore, Oklahoma, where I
was put together with a crew. That was my first crew – we called ourselves Brown’s Clowns
because Gerald Brown was our pilot, a very fine fellow.
Did you have more training in Oklahoma?
Yes, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, that’s where we first put together as a
crew, and then we did a lot of training there and then ultimately, I think, I can’t remember exactly
what month, but we were ultimately assigned a B-17. We were to fly the B-17 – it was not
going to be our plane, but this was the way they got the crews and the planes over to England.
We’d take a brand new B-17 and we flew it. I’ll never forget the trip we took was from Ardmore
to Manchester, New Hampshire, where we stopped and spent the night, and then we flew to
Goose Bay, Labrador, and stopped and spent the night, and then we flew to Reykjavik, Iceland,
and spent a couple of nights, and then on to Northern Ireland and landed there and spent the
night, and then we went on to England. The B-17 didn’t have all that much fuel capacity. I think
we could have made it further, but that was sort of the way you did it in those days – hopped
one place to another. I’ll never forget Reykjavik, Iceland. It was in the middle of June and we
could go out at midnight or 2:OO in the morning and read a newspaper –
Oh my goodness -the sun.
Yeah, the sun never goes down at that time.
You were in Iceland.
In Iceland. I just remember that and I do remember stopping in
Northern Ireland, and then we flew on to England and to our base, which was at a little village
called Thorpe Abbots – it was the 100th Bomb Group. The first time we knew exactly which
group we were going to be with – and that all happened in June of 1943 – I beg pardon, ’44,
that was 1944.
Ms. Grigg: And then from there, what were your missions? Were you
protecting England and France or flying over Nazi Germany?
Mr. Vieth: Flying over. We were essentially flying against Germany. The
first couple of missions were in France. I remember attacking an airfield outside of Paris, which
was in the hands of the Germans. I can recall very vividly our second mission, which was in
support. It was a low-level mission, and let me tell you, a B- 17 is not designed to fly at 12,000
feet and bomb in connection with troops, but that’s what we were asked to do. This had to do
with the fact that Field Marshal Montgomery, the British commander, was sort of stopped there.
Montgomery had been stalled outside the town of Caen, France, and had been there for a number
of weeks. Meanwhile, General Patton, who was with the American troops, was whizzing
through France, and so we were sent to bomb in support of a movement that Montgomery
planned. We did bomb at 12,000 and right over the German lines. They had a bunch of antitank
88 millimeter guns, which they could just turn up – and they did turn up – and shot antiaircraft
at us. And, I’ll never forget, we got about 87 holes in our airplane that day and got one of our
crew members wounded. It was one of the most harrowing experiences I had in the war.
Thereafter, there weren’t many missions over France. We were then primarily having missions
over Germany and I did fly 28 missions. I was supposed to fly 30. I got sick and near the end of
my tour was in the hospital when our crew flew two missions, and so the crew finished 30 and I
only had 28. We had three or four members of our crew transferred during the period we were
there for one reason or another to other crews. In every case, they had been shot down. It was
considered unlucky to have left our crew. So, my pilot went to the commander and got him to
agree that I could be relieved and go back to the United States, even though I only had 28
missions when the others all had 30 because, I guess, I got an excuse for being in the hospital for
the last two. In any event, that’s what happened, and ultimately I went back to the United States.
With all your original crew except the ones who got transferred?
Yes, except for those who – yes, we didn’t lose any members of
the crew but the ones who transferred. The bombardier who was injured in the second mission
was then transferred to another crew and promptly went down and was lost and was killed.
When we arrived there, they immediately cut our crew back by getting rid of one, and he was
transferred to another crew, and within two or three missions was killed. That’s pretty much
what happened. We ultimately became a lead crew, so we lost our ball turret gunner. Instead of
a ball turret, we had a radar scope in there. We became a lead crew and bombed by radar. He
went with another crew and was shot down on December 3 1 st, I’ll never forget. He survived,
however. He was a prisoner. I haven’t seen him since. There aren’t many members of my
original crew still alive. Those that came back have died off. World War I1 veterans are dying at
1,500 or so a day.
Did you ever see the German enemy up close?
Never got a chance to see them up close – it was always from a
distance. I can remember coming back to the United States, and being sent to several bases and
one of the bases I remember very distinctly. There were some very old German men who were
prisoners of war. They were found in a prisoner facility where they were attendants walking
around on the grounds and so forth of this airbase that I was sent to, and that is as close as I came
to – I always felt sorry for those folks because they obviously didn’t care much about what they
were doing and were conscripted into the German Army.
Have you been back to Germany?
I’ve been back to Germany a number of times. I’ve been back to
England to my old base on a number of occasions. The 100th Bomb Group has one of the most
active of the alumni associations, if you want to call it that, reunions and so forth. I’ve sort of
been forced to become kind of active in it. I do a lot of the legal work for them and that sort of
thing – sort of assistant secretary. I kind of enjoy it.
And it’s Veterans Day –
Veterans Day is no big deal – no not Veterans Day. But we do go
to these reunions every two years, my wife and I. I’m not sure she likes them all that well, but
there are some very nice people getting involved.
Did you know your wife during the war?
No, we didn’t meet until the year 195 1 when I came to Washington.
She grew up in North Carolina, went to Sweet Briar College and then the University of North
Carolina. She was an art major who was working at the National Gallery of Art when I met her.
In those days, young people would come to Washington and a lot of us lived in Georgetown –
and the business of living together wasn’t going on so much then. Groups of men lived in
houses. Jane lived in a house with four other girls on 27th Street. I lived in a two-person house
on 28th Street. We started dating. We’d go to parties together and that sort of thing, and that’s
how we met each other, and we ultimately got married in February of 1952.
Ms. Grigg: Are there any other stories you want to tell us about your war
Mr. Vieth: Well, let me just tell you this one. I told you that Ross Sidney and
I had been close friends. I knew that he was with the 106th Army Division and had come to
England. Of course, I forget now how I learned this, but I learned that the 106th was in England.
He was in that group and they were staged in Cheltenham, England. I think it was in the
Cotswolds at the racetrack in Cheltenham, England. All these racetracks were taken over for
Army facilities during the war. So I got that information, and I remember I got a three-day pass
and went from my base down to London on the train, and then took another train out to
Cheltenham, and I went out to the racetrack. And sure enough there was this big Army
contingent there. Finally, I was able to find my friend Ross Sidney. He was in a tent and I spent
the night there, in that tent, with him. We went out, drank a lot of beer and that sort of thing, and
then I went back. Lucky I saw him. The next thing I heard, which would have been in December
1944, the Battle of the Bulge started. The Germans knew that this 106th Division was all a
bunch of mean troops that had come under the line, and that’s exactly where they went through to
start the Battle of the Bulge. As a matter of a fact, they had something like a 50 percent casualty
rate in the 106th Division, I didn’t learn until March that he was missing in action. It turned out
he had been captured and was a prisoner. He was a prisoner for about four or five months until
Patton’s maneuver – I’d finished my tour of duty and I was headed back to the United States in
March of ’45, and all I knew was that Sid was missing in action. I didn’t know whether he was
dead or alive. We had to come back by boat. We flew over in B-17s and came back by boat.
We landed in New York and were sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, by train and spent a couple of
days there, and then we were told that we were going to go back to the Midwest. They tried to
send you back to a place close to home – in my case they were going to send me to Jefferson
Barracks in St. Louis. They gave us a chance to go for a couple of hours to the PX to get some
things because it was about a two-day train ride. In Alabama, I was standing in line at this PX
and the fellow standing in front of me was Ross Sidney.
Ms. Grigg: Oh, my God.
Mr. Vieth: He had been a prisoner of war. The Germans did not deliver him,
because they just didn’t have any food and were starving. I remember seeing that. He was
always a skinny guy anyway, and he had this distended stomach and so forth. By God, there we
were. We got on the same train and went back to Jefferson Barracks. He went to a hospital
facility somewhere, and I went straight at home. Ultimately he got back to Davenport, too, and
that was one of the darndest experiences of my life. Here I thought he was missing in action. I
didn’t know if he was dead, and he was standing in front of me in the PX line. This thing was
written up in the local paper. I think I do have a copy of that. This was kind of an interesting
story. Thereafter, I got out of the Army before he did, again, because he had to have certain
medical procedures and so forth. I went back to school in October of ’45, and I managed to get
that semester in even though I started two or three weeks late. He didn’t start until the following
semester, but we both finished up together and from that point on, as I said, we roomed together
in college and the rest of it. That’s the last World War I1 story I have to tell you.
Ms. Grigg: Perfect. Did your parents ever share their feelings or concerns
while you were over there?
Mr. Vieth: No. My mother was always very good about sending me packages.
Funny thing I remember – I always liked Liederkranz cheese. I don’t know if you ever heard of
that. It was a German kind of cheese – very, very smelly, but very good. And she would send
me in addition to cookies and other things, she would send me some Liederkranz cheese in a jar,
you know, packed in the middle of a box and so forth. We lived in Paris then – I would open up
that jar and the smell would come out and the other guys would raise hell with me because it did
smell bad. It tasted better.
I don’t think I’ve ever had any Liederkranz cheese –
It’s just like Camembert or what’s the other name -the English
one. I can’t think of it, the very fine cheese. But they don’t smell quite as bad.
I was going to say I can’t think of what it smells like –
No, no, they don’t smell as bad as Liederkranz. I loved it. I haven’t
seen it in years. I think actually Liederkranz, I think, was a brand name. I don’t think it was a
type of cheese.
Ms. Grigg: Do you want to keep talking about your college days or do you
want to stop for today? It’s up to you.
Mr. Vieth: No, no. Let’s go on for another – but let’s take another little
break. Would you like a break?
Ms. Grigg: Yes. (recorder stopped)
You returned back to the University of Iowa?
Yes. Well, I would like to talk a little bit about that because it
certainly had a lot to do with my career, and it’s something that I consider an interesting
phenomena. Those of us who had our education interrupted by World War I1 and were out of
college for three or more years gained a lot of maturity in our wartime experience, and as far as I
was concerned it really had some very beneficial effects. I found that when I got back – and I
had been just sort of an average student – I was able to handle economics courses primarily as
an undergraduate within the Department of Economics. I could handle the courses much more
readily, and was much more interested, and just a far better student than I had been before the
war. I think that was due to the fact that you were quite a bit more mature. I took what the
University of Iowa offered. Many, many schools offered the same sort of thing. It was a
combined program and took three years of college and then you took your first year of law
school. At the end of your first year of law school you got your college graduation.
Oh, that explains it, the years.
Yes, and then two more years of law school and you got your law
degree. So, that was a combined course and, as I say, it was a very customary thing. It was, at
least, in those days. And so that’s what I did. I did really quite well as an undergraduate and then
I started to do fairly well also as a first year law student which, as I say, was my final year of
college credit. There was another thing about law school that was kind of interesting. The
law school expanded tremendously as most law schools did because there were a lot of veterans
like myself who wanted to go, and they needed faculty. I was fortunate. Iowa Law School had
some very distinguished professors that primarily taught courses filled with first year students,
and I was able to have first year courses from those professors that I considered outstanding. A
lot of the courses were handled by newly hired law professors. In most cases, the newly hired
fellows had just graduated from law school -these were from good law schools in the East.
But, the net result was, while I was in law school, particularly in my second and third year, the
members of the faculty weren’t much older than I was. We got to be very friendly. We got to
partying together and that sort of thing, so I got very friendly with a good many members of the
faculty. And it was okay because Sidney and I lived together. First, we lived together in Law
Commons, and then we ultimately ended up with an apartment. We used to have a lot of parties
over at that apartment. Our fellow law school students would come, but also a good many of
these young professors would come, and we would have quite a lot of fun together.
Why did you decide to do the joint program?
I think I would have done it whether the war had intervened or not,
but it saves you a year.
I mean why law school versus –
Oh, why law school – I remember people mentioning something
about that, too. This goes back to the high school days and you asked about reading and so forth.
I used to read a lot. I can remember so well a number of books that I read about small town law
practice. I was from a small town myself, although not quite as small as I read about. But it’s
still very vivid in my memory. These were books about – I don’t know how many county seat
towns in Iowa I’ve seen that were just like this – there’s a square in the center of town, and in the
center of the square is the county courthouse, and then you have four streets around that square,
and there were storefront offices and so forth for lawyers – a number of these books dealt with
that kind of an atmosphere. The impression I got was that in the law practice you tried cases.
You tried them against the other fellows who were fellows who had offices around town like
that, and you fought mightily in the courtroom, but then you’d go out to dinner together and so
forth. That was what I thought that being a lawyer was all about. And that’s what I wanted to do.
And, so from high school days on, I planned to go to law school. That was not a sudden decision
or anything like that. That was always my plan. The reason I did it in six years instead of seven
– (tape ends)
This is side B.
I think I had finished on –
You were talking about why you went to law school.
Did you have any summer jobs when you returned?
Oh yes. I wanted to talk about that, too. That was another
phenomenon with regard to those of us who had been in the war. Most everybody who went
back to law school or to college did not take summer vacations. We worked right on through.
And that’s the way most people did it. Most of the fellows in my law class, including Ross
Sidney, took absolutely no summer vacations. They went right on through. I was a little lazy
because I took a half a summer each year, so that while Ross and my other friends graduated in
August of 1948, I didn’t graduate until a semester later, in February 1949. But even with that, I
had gone to half of the summer school. That was just part of the deal. That was just the way
most of us did it, because we were quite a bit older and were anxious to get finished with our
school and get on with going to work.
Ms. Grigg: What was the most important part of your time as an
Mr. Vieth: Well, the most important part for me as an undergraduate, I think,
was the thing I was referring to before. As I say, I had been sort of an ordinary student during my
first two years. The first year-and-a-half was what it was, college. And I had a lot of fun and did
ordinary things and so forth, but I don’t think I was getting all that much education. When I came
back after three years in the service, my entire attitude toward school was different, and I just
really think that made a great deal of difference in terms of what I got out of it and what I was
able to glean from it. I know that having done fairly well in the Economics faculty and so forth,
ultimately helped me in searching for a job as a lawyer because I got a good deal, a good bit of
support in the form of letters from, not only the law school faculty, but the undergraduate faculty,
in particular, the Department of Economics, which helped a lot. I’ll go into this later, in terms of
the firm, Arnold, Fortas & Porter, I applied to, because they were heavily involved in economics
as they relate to law, particularly antitrust. That was a very important part. I would say that was
my most important influence in undergraduate days.
And in law school?
And in law school? Well, I remember so well the first year of law
school when I did have a number of good professors who were very hard taskmasters. I’ve
always told young lawyers, law students that the key year is your first year. And that really was
my experience. We worked our tails off in that first year and we learned how to be lawyers.
Quite frankly, the second and third year, I spent my time in extracurricular activities, primarily
working for the law review, which I did night and day, you know, worked very, very hard in that.
But I really just handled my class work with the back of my hand. I didn’t have to work very hard
because if you learned technique in that first year, really apply yourself the first year, I think, you
can get by in the second and third year. The third year frankly, I think, was almost a waste of
time. You’re a lawyer, did you have that same feeling about law school?
We were busy with internships and law reviews.
Yeah, well that’s true. That’s true.
Law review. What was your role?
My role in the second year of law school was to – I forget what
we called them – write a large, brief, concise article, which I spent most of the year researching
and that sort of thing.
What was your topic?
It was not very much of a topic. It had to do with agricultural law
in Iowa, and I guess I’ve still got the article but I can’t remember much about it. I do remember
that faculty representatives spent a lot of time with me. It wasn’t really very good. In the third
year, of course, I was on the editorial board and I was editor-in-chief, and I had to spend a lot of
time going over other people’s work and that sort of thing. That to me was, by far, the best
experience in law school, working on the law review – and really working night and day on the
thing. Learning to edit other people’s work. I had to do a few things like getting in touch with
faculty to write the lead articles and that sort of thing, but mostly it was just about learning how
to write and to edit, which is what you do so much as a lawyer. I found that to be a very, very
Ms. Grigg: Influential professors?
Mr. Vieth: Yes, well, the older ones I mentioned, a man named OK Patton, a
teacher of two very difficult courses. One was called contracts and the other was called sales.
And he was a very, very tough taskmaster, and I thought he was an outstanding professor. We
had another man, he was slightly older named Chris Boardwalk. He was well known teacher of
property law. I’m talking about first year, the classes that were mandatory. And a Paul Sayer.
I’m trying to think. Oh, Philip Meacham was the professor of wills and trusts. Those were some
of the outstanding professors. As I say, I got to know some of the younger fellows. I guess
among the younger ones, a man named Frank Kennedy, he was a little older. He had not served
in the war. Some of the other fellows had. But Frank Kennedy was the advisor to the law review
so he and I worked very closely. He was also an outstanding creditors’ rights and bankruptcy
lawyer. Not long after I got out of law school, Frank Kennedy came to Washington. I guess
maybe ten years after I did and he started working for the Congress, rewrote the bankruptcy law.
He’s considered the author of the current bankruptcy law. He was a very influential professor.
How did you finance your law school education?
Well, I didn’t finance it. My father financed it. That was sort of
the way things were done in those days. By the way, I shouldn’t say my father alone. The
government financed a lot, seeing that I was on the G.I. Bill.
I was wondering about that.
Yes. With the G.I. Bill, once I came back, a good bit of my – I
can’t remember now what percentage was paid. But, I can tell you this, we were a lot luckier
than current students. I don’t know what your experience was, but so many people now have to
borrow heavily to go to college and law school, and they’re stuck with a big debt at the end. I
was not, because of the G.I. Bill, and because I went to a local state university, which had
relatively low tuition. I came out totally debt-free and I think that was a lucky break for me, and I
really feel sorry for a good many young lawyers today who come out with a big, big debt.
your general philosophy?
By the end of law school, sort of a wrap-up question, what was
My father was a Republican, so we were raised to be that. But I
had become much more liberal, I guess, in my views. I was very much a student of current
affairs. I was interested in the New Deal and what it had done and that sort of thing. And, that
had a lot to do with where I came to work because in reading generally about what was going on
in Washington and that sort of thing, I heard about A & P, about Thurman Arnold and Paul
Porter. I didn’t know much about Abe Fortas. But, I heard about the law firm. I remember, as a
matter of fact, writing to Thurman Arnold and asking him to review a book – I think it was
primarily to review a book. I don’t think I asked him to write an article. In any event, he wrote a
very nice letter declining to do it. I was impressed with the letterhead. I’ll never forget. I was a
very close friend of a young professor named Bob Hunt, and I showed Bob the letter, and he
pointed out that the last name on the letterhead was a fellow named L.A. McLory, who had been
a classmate of his at Yale Law School. He was the last one hired at this firm. He said, “if you
ever want to look into that firm, I’ll get in touch with McLory.” I ultimately asked him to do that,
and Bob not only did that, but he got a number of other law school professors and university
professors to write letters in support, and when I finally decided I wanted to apply here, but that’s
getting beyond the story, I guess, here.
Ms. Grigg: Is there anything you want to add, talk about, from undergraduate
or law school days?
Mr. Vieth: I guess not. If I had the chance to meet with you again, I’ll have a
chance to review some things and maybe put together some materials for you and I might be able
to fill in some holes.
That’s what I was thinking. Well, should we stop for today?
That would be fine. Right.
This is the end of Tape One.
ORAL HISTORY OF
G. DUANE VIETH
SECOND INTERVIEW – SEPTEMBER 3,2003
This interview of G. Duane Vieth is being conducted for the District of Columbia
Circuit Historical Society Oral History Project, on September 3,2003, at the offices of Arnold &
Porter in Washington, D.C., by Traci Grigg. This is Tape Two.
Ms. Grigg: The last time we met we were talking about law school
experiences. Before we move you to Washington, do you want to talk about what you did to
prepare for the bar and which bar you took?
Mr. Vieth: I’d be glad to, but I’m afraid it’s not much of a story. The Iowa Law
School had an arrangement with the Iowa Bar Association under which the bar exam members
would come to the law school and give us the exam near the end of our senior year. It really
wasn’t necessary to do much preparation in those days. We were pretty much asked questions
that related to our law school classes and what we had learned in our law school classes. So we
didn’t really engage in any bar review courses and preparatory courses and that sort of thing. We
just stopped one day in our senior year and took the bar exam, and it was pretty much a routine
thing. I don’t believe that’s true anymore at the University of Iowa, and I know it’s not true in
other places. I’ve had my own sons take bar exams now, and go do the review courses and spend
long hours practicing and so forth. But in any event, I was then admitted to the Iowa Bar.
Ms. Grigg: What year was that?
Mr. Vieth: That was in 1949, it would have been February 1949. And I came
right out to go to work for the firm of Arnold, Fortas & Porter. I started on April 1, 1949. In
those days, again, thankfully, you could become a member of the District of Columbia Bar just
by being waived in on the strength of your home state, in my case, Iowa Bar membership. That’s
how I became a member of the District of Columbia Bar. It was really as simple as that. I never
really had to study for any of the kind of trick questions that people get nowadays.
Ms. Grigg: You were lucky.
Yeah. I really was.
Now, we talked last time how Professor Hunt and other professors
did a letter-writing campaign for you. Did you focus in on Arnold & Porter? Did they
recommend it? Did you look at any other law firm in D.C. or the government?
Mr. Vieth: I didn’t look at the government or another law firm in D.C.?
No. They all very much encouraged me to, but I had indicated that was the firm that really
interested me, and so that’s where they turned their attention. Hunt organized this letter-writing
campaign, and – I don’t know – I wonder if we have files here. I never thought about asking to
see those, but –
Oh, that would be great.
The fact of the matter is that when I arrived, several of the partners,
particularly Norman Diamond, knew all about me and indicated that he had heard all these things
and he had passed the information around. The firm was very small then. He’d seen to it that
Abe Fortas knew about this and Thurman Arnold did. And so, when I interviewed with them,
they pretty much knew something about my background.
You were the seventh attorney here?
I was the eighth lawyer.
That’s what I was trying to figure out. How many partners? Was it
just the three name partners?
Mr. Vieth: Well, technically, there were just the three name partners at that
time, yes. There were several senior people – Milton Freeman, Norman Diamond, Walton
Hamilton. They had a status under which they were called partners, but they felt very much that
they weren’t, because they were not equity partners. That was an issue that was reached some
years later, but you can call them partners if you want to, those would have been the six, and then
there were two associates. I may have been the ninth lawyer, now that I think about it, because
there were two associates also – Reed Miller and Leonard Nickloric. Mr. Nickloric was the
contact, and he was the friend of Bob Hunt, and so it was through him that all the letters were
sent and that sort of thing.
first sort of assignments?
When you got here, what did they have you do and what were your
Well, my first assignments were to help out on various cases. I
remember distinctly the very first big case I was assigned to. It was being handled by Abe Fortas.
It was a price discrimination case under the Robinson-Patman Act which had been brought
against the three major soap companies at the time. Our client was Lever Brothers Company.
The other two companies were Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive Peet. And this was a
rather large proceeding. It involved hearings around the country. The Federal Trade
Commission took these hearings in. It was an administrative proceeding. At the conclusion of
the hearings, we had to file briefs and that sort of thing. And ultimately, it was an oral argument.
The case was kind of a landmark case on Robinson-Patman law. The decision finally came out, I
think it was in 1953. But I spent a great deal of my time in the early years on that case. Now, I
spent a lot of time on other things, but that was the one big case to which I was assigned. I
remember Norman Diamond had been helping out Abe Fortas on the case and he couldn’t wait to
get rid of it and get it on to me. And, of course, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to
work on a thing like that. The thing that’s interesting. There was another large case that we, I
worked on with Abe Fortas and only Abe Fortas, which was finally decided actually, I think, in
the year 1960. So it gives you an idea how things went on. But, no, I didn’t start with it right
Ms. Grigg: Oh!
Mr. Vieth: How things went on. My point is, that those were big cases
involving a tremendous amount of work, and the only people that worked on them were Abe and
me in the Lever case, and Abe and me in the Great American Life Underwriters case which is the
other one I was talking about. In those days, tons of associates and paralegals and all that work
on cases nowadays – we just didn’t have those people. We did it all ourselves, and we worked
very hard. But we had to keep track of all the documents. I guess we obviously didn’t try them
as thoroughly as they’re trying them now, but I think we tried them pretty well. But just in stark
contrast with the way things go nowadays.
Ms. Grigg: What’s your opinion about the way things are nowadays with major
Mr. Vieth: Well, it makes it so horrendously expensive to be involved in
litigation, and it results in so many cases being settled just because people can’t afford the
incredible cost. Certainly they’re being tried better now. I’m not suggesting that the large
staffing is not needed because I think the resources on the other side are much stronger, too. This
is just a matter of interest; I just wanted to point out the great difference between the way things
were handled when I first started and the way they’re handled now.
What was Abe Fortas like to work for?
Abe Fortas was an extraordinary taskmaster. He was one of the
most brilliant men, certainly I think, the most brilliant oral advocate I ever saw and one of the
hardest working lawyers. He was absolutely ruthless in his editing materials. If you sent him
something, you just made very clear, made certain, that a draft that you’d hand to him was in
good shape. You know very often it wasn’t in good shape – you thought it was – and he would
throw it back at you with a contemptuous remark and that sort of thing. He was very difficult to
work for. As a matter of fact, there’s a story about Abe, which I tell to some of the young
associates all the time, to describe the three founding partners, and I think it’s true. Abe was at
the Yale Law School. He was one of the brightest young men ever to go through Yale. And he
was the editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. He was such a ruthless taskmaster to the other
members of the editorial staff. They, I am told, they all got together and en mass resigned from
the Yale Law Journal. And Abe said, “all right,” and single-handedly put out the next edition of
the Yale Law Journal. I don’t know whether that’s really true, but it’s a story that’s been told
many, many times, and I continue to tell it, and I choose to believe it. It certainly is consistent
with the manner of the man.
me think about that.
Do you have a favorite story from your early attorney days with
Gee, I don’t know. (laughter) There’s so many. I’ll have to – let
I’m going to stop this for a moment and check the tape.
Mr. Vieth: Okay. (recorder stopped)
Ms. Grigg: Do you want to talk for a moment about the other two founding
Mr. Vieth: Yes. I’d be glad to. As I say, all three had different personalities,
and that was one of the things that made this a very interesting place to practice in.
Thurman Arnold had been, well he started academically. He was the Dean of the West Virginia
Law School. He practiced law in Laramie, Wyoming, in his very early days. He had been in the
army in World War I. In fact, I think he had something to do – I can’t remember now exactly –
something to do with the border wars down in Mexico back, you know, in his early days. He
practiced law in Laramie and then in shifts he became the Dean of West Virginia Law School.
He was there for several years and made quite a name for himself, and was recruited to join the
faculty at Yale. He was a very popular professor at Yale for a good many years. During that
time he wrote several books and became quite well known on economics and that sort of thing –
the Bottlenecks of Business and Symbols of Government are two of the books. He was then
appointed as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division at the Department of
Justice, and he became known as – well, he was certainly the most vigorous trust-buster that the
Department ever had. He became very, very well known for his activities there. He really went
after big business, but he also went after big labor as well, because he thought labor unions –
that many of their activities were generally in cahoots with the employer engaged in conduct that
was against the public interest and a violation of the antitrust laws. He didn’t make himself very
popular with a lot of Democratic politicians by going after labor unions, but he did. He went
after the American Medical Association for their practices with regard to physicians’ bills and
that sort of thing and having to be connected with certain hospitals, all of which he thought
violated the antitrust laws. He was very big – he was well known for that. The interesting thing
about that was that when World War I1 started, the Roosevelt Administration decided that now
was the time for industry and government to cooperate to help win the war. And it was felt that
Arnold’s trust-busting activities were antithetical to that and so he was in effect kicked upstairs.
He was named to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was a judge
there for four or five years. He used to say that he was always terribly bored being on the Court
of Appeals. He said he’d much rather talk to a bunch of damn fools than listen to them.
Ms. Grigg: I like that.
Mr. Vieth: That was his favorite remark. He really didn’t care much about
being on the Court of Appeals. One of the great opinions that he wrote while there was an
obscenity case involving the post office. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that case, but one of
the great concluding lines – and I can get that case for you. The post office had undertaken to
deny a second-class mailing permit to a publication that they thought was obscene, and Thurman
and the court found that it was not, and that the post office had no right to make a judgment like
that. At the end of his opinion he said that the postal authorities could go back to seeing to it that
neither storm nor rain nor gloom of night will stay these couriers from their appointed rounds.
You remember, it was the famous slogan of the postal service, and that’s the way he ended the
opinion. It was really quite interesting. He left the bench and started a practice with a man
named Arnie Wiprud who had been an ICC expert. I think he left the bench knowing that he was
going to help to get as his client a Cleveland financier. Christ almighty, Robert L. Young was a
partner in the group. These people were trying to get control – what was the guy’s name?
(Manning Cyrus Eaton) I know it was well as I know my own, I just can’t come up with it. It will
come to me in a minute. But in any event, there had been an antitrust case against the railroads.
In those days, the railroads, which of course were the primary form of transportation, also owned
the sleeping car company, which was called the Pullman Company, and the antitrust judgment
had been that had to be broken up – that the railroads could no longer own the Pullman
Company. And so the Pullman Company was up for sale and Arnold’s clients wanted to try to
buy it. Unfortunately, they lost out in the court, and Wiprud decided to go back to the ICC. It
happened about six or seven months after they had started practice, and Arnold always used to
tell the story about how bleak that was, the Christmas of 1945, how bleak that Christmas was.
He didn’t know where he was going to go. Somehow or other he and Abe Fortas had known each
other, and Abe had decided he wanted to come out of government. So he told Thurman he’d
form a firm with him and they did. It was Arnold & Fortas in 1946. Paul Porter did not join
until 1947. And, of course, that was the start of the firm. Paul Porter joined. I’ll tell you a little
bit about him, if you’re interested.
Ms. Grigg: Yes.
Mr. Vieth: Paul Porter was an incredible character. He was one of the best
raconteurs I’ve ever known. He was from Kentucky, and he had that Kentuckian ability to tell
wonderful stories, to be a great raconteur. He had gone to the University of Kentucky Law
School. Had been ajournalist. He actually helped put himself through law school by writing for
the local newspapers and that sort of thing, and then came to Washington and was working in
radio law for CBS when he was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission as
chairman. He was chairman of the FCC. As a result, he always considered himself a well known
communications lawyer, and his practice was pretty much in that field when he finally went into
private practice. After the FCC, he was appointed the head of the OPA. Are you familiar with
Ms. Grigg: No.
Mr. Vieth: The Office of Price Administration. They controlled prices during
World War 11, and Paul was about the last administrator of the OPA. Then the agency was
disbanded. After his OPA experience, he was appointed by Harry Truman, President Truman,
with the rank of Ambassador to head up a mission, which was called the Truman Doctrine, and it
was a mission to Greece. It was an economic mission that was designed to prevent a communist
takeover of Greece. You may remember that in World War I1 a number of Greek partisans
fought the Germans, and a lot of those partisans were under communist control. The Truman
administration was concerned about Communism taking over. You remember that was a big
concern right after World War 11. So the Truman Doctrine was designed to give economic
support to Greece, and I always thought one of the interesting things about it was that clearly that
program, which succeeded rather well, was the forerunner of the Marshal Plan, which came out
the next year and did the same sort of thing for all of Europe. Well, Porter did that and it took
about a year and then he came back, and Arnold & Fortas invited him to join the firm and he did.
As I say, his original practice was very much in the television field – radio and television. And
I mentioned Reed Miller. Reed Miller was an associate who almost limited his practice entirely
to communications. Reed worked very closely with Paul. I even had the opportunity to work
with Paul myself sometime – again, let’s just go back to 1952 and see if you can remember that
prior to World War I1 there had been some television stations that had been granted authority by
the FCC, and then when the war came they put on a freeze and no more television stations were
authorized. Then in 1952, the FCC lifted that freeze and there were channels all over the country
that were up for grabs. And the way you got a channel, you had to go through a comparative
hearing. Well, that was an incredible bonanza for lawyers in the FCC field, because clients came
from all over the country trying to get television stations awarded by the FCC, and they had to do
it through the comparative process. So our firm, which was still very small at that time – I don’t
think we had more than 10 or 11 lawyers – we had a number of clients and they all had these
cases that were now set to be tried before the FCC, and these things were tried over an extended
period. Even though I was working with Abe Fortas primarily on a number of matters, I had to
get in along with Reed Miller and several other people in the firm and agree to help on some
comparative cases for television stations, even though that was not my field. I did that once. I
learned all the procedures and helped Paul on a very large case, the Channel 10 case in Miami,
Florida. But that was sort of the way we did things in those days. We considered ourselves
generalists. And wherever the need arose in the firm, we would study up a little bit on the law
involved and get in there and help to try the cases. That’s an example of what we did there.
What did you consider your field of law?
I considered my field mostly antitrust because that’s what I worked
on with Thurman and with Abe Fortas. And securities laws because I did a number of things in
the securities field as well. I told you that Paul Porter was quite a raconteur. There’s some kind
of interesting kind of stories about him. He always was wonderful. Let me tell you about this
also. I may have mentioned this before, but we had a garden room, did I tell you?
Ms. Grigg: Right. Yes. I saw the one you have here.
Mr. Vieth: Right. You saw it now. Well in those – of course, when we first
started we were in the Ring Building. There was no garden room, but we would either go into
Thurman’s office or Paul’s office at the end of the day and sit there and have a drink. We had a
kitchen which had a bar in it and that sort of thing, so, you know, I’d love to just go in and listen
to their stories. But I want to tell you this one story. I told you about Greece. Paul Porter was
over there, and his number one aide was a fellow named Steve Ailes. Well Steve Ailes
ultimately became the head of a very large firm here called – unfortunately he died recently –
Steptoe & Johnson. Ailes was his aide at that time. Porter at the end of his mission there – they
were going to have a gathering and local people and so forth. He didn’t speak any Greek, but he
wanted to be able say thank you at least to the Greek people. So the word thank you in Greek is
“efharisto.” Well he couldn’t get it down. Ailes told him, “look,” he said, “just think F. Harry
Stowe, F. Harry Stowe.” So Porter gave his final speech and then at the end he and with a great
flourish he said, “and so my fiiends I say to you, Harry F. Stowe”. And there was dead silence.
And he looked back at Ailes and said, “you,” I forget; some remark to him, but it was a typical
Porter joke. It was – I thought it was very funny.
Ms. Grigg: That’s great. Because Mr. Arnold went after all the big business
when he was in the government, did he have trouble getting big business to come to him or were
they happy to have him on their side?
Mr. Vieth: I think they were happy. As I told you, Cyrus is the name that I
couldn’t think of before. It was Manning Cyrus Eaton. He was a large financier of Cleveland
and Robert R. Young was a financier from New York. They were the ones that were trying to
buy the Pullman Company. He had that retainer, and when he left and opened his practice, he
had a retainer from Robert Woodruff who was then the head of Coca-Cola Company, and
Thurman represented Coca-Cola for a long time. As a matter of fact you see in those days there
weren’t many Washington law firms and people with government experience of that kind could
attract clients so that I don’t think for, no, no, there was no -the only problem we had with
regard to some big business clients, and this was really only one, had to do with our activities in
the McCarthy era and the fact that we fought McCarthy and represented government employees
in proceedings involving communist charges. One of our clients objected to our activities in that
regard, but otherwise we got along just fine. By the way, have I given you that Harper’s article?
Ms. Grigg: No.
Mr. Vieth: Then I should do that, too. I should have brought a pad here. I
briefly alluded to the McCarthy era activities and maybe I should talk a little bit more about
them. It seemed that when the House Un-American Activities Committee started its activities
going after various government employees that they thought had communist tendencies, along
came Joe McCarthy, the Senator from Wisconsin who undertook to make his career out of
finding disloyal government employees, particularly, in his case, in the State Department. There
was quite a lot of hysteria with regard to that sort of thing. I think the Truman administration
meant well, but President Truman felt, I think, that he had to do something to respond to that
kind of hysteria so he promulgated the loyalty program for federal employees, and Arnold –
Fortas & Porter – undertook to do whatever they could to – really two things. One, we agreed
to represent government employees who were caught up in the loyalty program, and I’ll tell you
what we used to do for them. We did that all on a pro bono basis. But secondly, we undertook
to try to find a case that we could take all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary – as it
turned out, it was – to have the entire program declared unconstitutional. We came very close
to getting that done. Unfortunately, we ultimately lost by a four to four decision. Let me tell you
a little bit about what the firm did in those days. From my standpoint and that’s really what I’ll
talk about. I was just a brand new lawyer, but I was encouraged to devote one or two hours a
day, almost always at the end of the day, to meeting with government employees who were
caught up in the program and to help them handle the matter. Now I don’t want to
overemphasize this because a great deal of what we did in those days was just help people
prepare a response to a questionnaire. You got to remember that there was a lot of hysteria then,
and these people were just government employees – that was their only form of livelihood, and
they would get a questionnaire under the loyalty program asking about alleged associations or
Communist activities that they’d engaged in. That would absolutely terrify them because they
were afraid that if they lost out on that, they would lose their job, and they didn’t know where
they’d go. Many, many of the questionnaires were sent to people who had just belonged to one
organization. And it was up to us then to respond to that questionnaire and make it clear that this
was either an innocent thing or that the organization was perfectly all right. I’m going to give you
an example of that. Pursuant to the loyalty program, the United States Department of Justice, the
Attorney General, published a list, which was known as the Attorney General’s list. This was a
list of some 70 or 80 allegedly Communist organizations. If any federal employee had ever
belonged to one or more of those organizations, he was bound to be caught up in the loyalty
program, get a questionnaire. If the questionnaire procedure was not satisfactorily answered as
far as the government was concerned, a hearing would be called. I’ll tell you something about the
hearings in a moment. But that’s the way the thing worked. Now, of course, many of the
organizations on the Attorney General’s list were obviously Communist organizations of one
kind or another. But it went all the way down to organizations that were really as far as people
were concerned were perfectly innocent. I’ll give you an example. There was an outfit in
Washington in those days called the Washington Bookstore. It was run as a cooperative, a
consumers’ cooperative, and you could belong to the thing, and you’d buy books at the
Washington Bookstore. At the end of the year, they would declare a patronage dividend you
know and you’d get some money back. It was a way of getting books at a discount. By the way,
there were no such things as discount stores in those days. The fair trade laws were vigorously
enforced, and there just wasn’t a Crown Books or anything like that. So this was a place where
people could buy these books and get the discounts. And a great many government employees
would join. Well, it turned out that the Washington Bookstore, in addition to selling books, did
have a meeting room or hall of some kind, and they did allow Communist-oriented meetings to
be held there. Apparently, you know, some of the owners of the bookstore, or the entrepreneurs,
they weren’t owners, but the people who ran it, may have had some sympathies like that. In any
event, the bookstore got onto the list, and so every poor government employee whoever bought
anything at that bookstore was caught up, and these people would be terrified. Well, what I
would do for two or three hours in the afternoon would be to meet with these people and help
them prepare their answer, and try to calm them down, and get their answer, and get it notarized
by someone in the office, and send it in. Usually that was the end of it as far as they were
concerned. But there were a number where much more serious charges were brought and in
those cases I would either handle them myself or – I remember one case, a rather prominent
fellow, Thurman was asked to do it, and so Thurman left it up to me. I prepared the whole case
and we presented it. About the only thing you could do in those cases was to bring in witnesses
who knew the government employee and could testify to their good character and then hope that
things would turn out well, and generally they did.
Let’s now go to the campaign to have this entire procedure unconstitutional. The case
was known as Dorothy Bailey. Dorothy Bailey was an employee of the Labor Department. She
was some kind of a expert of on, I don’t know, wages and hours and that sort of thing. And she
was a union member. Milt Freeman in our firm was, one of the young partners, was active when
he’d worked for the SEC and he’d been active in union activities. So when Dorothy Bailey got a
questionnaire and it went hrther and charges were brought against her, she came to Milt and Milt
got the firm involved in it. There were several layers of jurisdiction. The first was the Federal
Loyalty Board, and there were hearings before the Federal Loyalty Board. I remember that Paul
Porter and Milt represented Dorothy Bailey in that. In the course of that Paul made a wonderful
record because these members of this Loyalty Board kept reading statements which suggested
that Dorothy Bailey had somehow or other participated in various communist activities. They’d
read their statement and they would say to her, “What is your response to that?” And Porter said
that he wanted to know who were the informants and how reliable they were, and the Loyalty
Board said we don’t know. These are just FBI reports that we get. We don’t have the names of
the informants, we have to rely on the FBI and reports. Porter did a very good job of making it
clear that in this whole thing there was no opportunity to cross-examine – not even an
opportunity for the accused or even the judges – the board deciding these things – to know
who the informants were. It was just based on FBI reports. Well, we thought we had a pretty
good case there. You had to take an appeal to the Loyalty Review Board. We took an appeal and
argued the same sort of things. I say we did this. This was done by Milt and the others in the
firm. I just did some legwork from time to time. The Loyalty Review Board affirmed, so we
took the case to the U.S. District Court and drew Judge Alexander Holtzoff, who was a real
curmudgeon. I don’t know if you every heard about Holtzoff. In any event, there were two days
of argument there. I went to the argument and was the third man. It was really Thurman and
Milt Freeman, and Judge Holtzoff decided against us. We took the case to the Court of Appeals
and lost by two to one, but the dissenting opinion was such a ringing denunciation of the whole
process and how un-American it was that I remember that in filing the Supreme Court brief in
support of the petition for cert., we just used the dissent of the dissenting judge. Well, the
Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and it was a great argument. Thurman argued most of it,
Paul Porter did part of it. And, unfortunately the court split four to four, so they affirmed the
decision below on a four to four decision. We were unable to get the loyalty program declared
unconstitutional. That’s the case of Bailey v. Richardson – that was the name of it. And it’s
Bailey against Richardson in the District Court and the Court of Appeals, and, of course, there’s
no opinion in the Supreme Court four to four. We later on brought another case involving a
fellow named Dr. Peters, who was a prominent physician on the Yale – he was a consultant to
Yale. Something like a dollar-a-year man consultant, but because he was a consultant he was a
government employee and he was charged. We had pretty much the same sort of facts. We took
the thing up to the Supreme Court. We thought we were going to finally get the thing done there.
This was near the end of the McCarthy era by this time. And I’ll never forget, Thurman was so
mad. He argued the case. In fact, in the Peters case what had happened was he had been cleared
by the Loyalty Board, but then the Loyalty Review Board undertook to review it, and they
reversed and held that he was ineligible for government employment because of Communist
sympathies. What the Supreme Court did was decide the case on that basis. Dr. Peters won.
We won, but not on the basis we wanted. They held that the Loyalty Review procedures did not
permit the Loyalty Review Board to reach down and take a case and reverse it. So Thurman
pleaded with them not to decide it on that basis, but they did. By that time, the hysteria was
pretty well over. But, that’s some indication of the kind of thing that we did in the firm in those
early days. And we did that because there weren’t any other big law firms that were willing to
take cases like that.
Ms. Grigg: That’s interesting.
Mr. Vieth: You know fellows like Joe Rauh and Tom Eaton – he wasn’t in a
large firm. Abe Fortas once said we did it because nobody else would do it. There were young
lawyers that would do it. You know in those days Ed Williams did not have a firm. He was over
there on 17th Street and he had a stable of fellows – he had an office with and then he had a
number of younger lawyers – Tom Warden and Murdaugh Maddon were good fellows. They
shared office space with him and he would use them from time to time in cases. Murdaugh
Maddon was one that we knew pretty well and we often got him to handle some of these loyalty
cases we couldn’t handle. There were just too many for us. So young lawyers like that would do
it. But there was no firm that would take on cases like these. Abe Fortas just said it was
something we had to do so we did it.
Was it the start of your pro bono program?
Well in a way it was. It clearly was. Because once that was over
we decided we had to have some sort of a pro bono program and did.
Ms. Grigg: Was Mr. Fortas the managing partner from the time you started and
a title that maybe evolved later?
Mr. Vieth: No. There was no title. He was just it. There’s no question about
it. He ran the firm – lock, stock and barrel. Thurman had no interest in that and Thurman really
felt that Abe had saved his life when things were so gloomy in 1945. Neither did Paul. No
question. Abe Fortas ran the place and he did so until 1965 when he left. I was sort of appointed
by Abe to be his assistant on all those things and so it was sort of natural that when Abe left, they
sort of made me the managing partner of the firm. Before that there had been no managing
partner and didn’t have to have one. He was it.
What was his managerial style?
Well, he was kind of imperious about it. No question about it. He
had great charm. He could charm the ladies wonderfully. You didn’t ever cross him. You
mustn’t do that. I told you that story about the Yale Law Journal, and I think this is certainly true.
He never expected associates, young partners, whatever, people working for him to do more than
he was willing to do himself. That was one thing about him. You know in those days, the
workday always included Saturday and you were lucky if you got off after lunch on Saturday so
you could have Saturday afternoon and Sunday off. And Abe worked hours like that all the time.
Just he never really stopped working. But even when he finally left, the firm was not that large.
You’re talking about a management style – it was just so completely understood that he’d be –
he was the boss – and that nobody questioned it.
How many lawyers were here when he left?
Let me look that up.
Ms. Grigg: What would be a typical workday? What time would you get in
and when would you leave?
Mr. Vieth: You know, it’s a funny thing there. We worked long hours.
Generally speaking we didn’t start too early, maybe 9:30 a.m. – something like that, but you
could work until 7:OO p.m. And as I say, we worked on Saturdays, too. And of course, we would
pull all nighters once in a while. People still do that, I guess. Can we stop for just a minute?
All right. (recorder stopped)
You were going to talk about some of the early cases. Some more
on Abe Fortas?
Mr. Vieth: Yeah, well, I told you about the Lever Brothers case that we tried
together. I guess that was finally decided about 1952 or 1953. But the case that gives you some
idea what kind of advocate Abe Fortas was involved the Otis & Company, the Cyrus Eaton
Company. As I say, Otis & Company at the time was a large financial organization. It no longer
exists. But Cyrus Eaton was quite a financier. The case involved a new car company which
Henry Kaiser and Joseph Frazer started right after World War 11. There were some thoughts that
all of the automobile manufacturing facilities had been taken over by the government during
World War 11, and they made tanks and jeeps and that sort of thing. As part of, I guess, the
general antitrust philosophy it was thought that there should be some new companies –
shouldn’t just have Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. So Kaiser Frazer Company came along,
Henry Kaiser. They started making automobiles and were being financed a lot substantially by
Otis & Company. They finally came around 1946 or ’47 – I guess, they were ready to come
with a very large, what we call an IPO now, a stock underwriting. The market got a little dicey,
and for whatever reason, Otis & Company decided in the end that they didn’t want to go through
with this thing. If it failed it would mean the end of Kaiser Frazer, which was – moving along
– I remember the Kaiser Frazer automobile. Just to make a long story short, at the last moment,
someone filed a lawsuit against Kaiser Frazer, and Otis & Company took that as an excuse to
back out of the deal, and the deal tanked. Oh, Kaiser Frazer fought an enormous lawsuit against
Otis & Company and claimed – and indeed the SEC believed this and brought a proceeding
against Otis & Company as well -that Otis & Company had instigated the lawsuit which they
then relied on to – and I think, just between you and me, I think the evidence was pretty damn
clear that had happened. Kaiser Frazer brought a suit against Otis & Company, and the SEC also
brought a proceeding against Otis. We handled that, too, but that’s not an issue I want to talk
about. The District Court rendered an enormous judgment against Otis & Company. We hadn’t
tried that case. But, then, by the way, Otis & Company had been filed in bankruptcy. They
couldn’t afford – (recorder stopped)
We were at bankruptcy when the tape recorder stopped.
Yes, Otis had to go into bankruptcy because they couldn’t
afford to pay the judgment. Well, an appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit and Abe Fortas argued the case. There was not really much point in trying to argue that
Otis & Company had not generated the call. Rather, what Abe argued was that the prospectus in
connection with the offering was false and misleading and that Kaiser Frazer was responsible for
that, and therefore they couldn’t have a recovery for a failed underwriting when the underwriting
itself was unlawful. And, he managed to get the Court of Appeals to adopt that theory and we
won the case. It was one of the greatest arguments I have ever heard. It’s not the kind of thing
you’d like to tell in Sunday school classes, but, in fact, it was a brilliant piece of lawyering, and
Abe pulled it off. I will never forget how impressed I was by that.
Did you attend the oral argument?
I did not. I was unable to do that, but I was told that it was really a
Did you get to go to any of his oral arguments?
Oh, yes. I went to go to the Lever case. Another case that I had
with Abe Fortas, I mentioned it in one of those – it was a really long big case. Again – when I
think back how he and I used to do it – I can remember sitting at home on Sundays, working
away on these exhibits and so forth. It was called the Great American Life Underwriters. This
was a company that was – technically it was an investment company, known as a unit
investment trust. When the Investment Company Act of 1940 was passed, this company
registered as an investment company under the Act, and then promptly forgot that it had
registered and operated for seventeen years as an investment company without complying with
the requirements of the Investment Company Act, which are extraordinarily complex. Believe it
or not, the company was extraordinarily successful. It had always dealt very fairly with its
investors and did it very, very well. But after seventeen years, it was suddenly discovered by the
SEC that they had filed an original registration and then never done anything else, and the SEC
had missed it, too. So the question was what could be done. And meanwhile the – I should
mention that you invested in, bought a ten-year certificate, and at the maturity of the certificate
you didn’t get your money at the time that you were entitled, you got shares in Franklin Life
Insurance Company. Franklin Life Insurance Company controlled this account. It had become
really a major, major enterprise. Well, the question was what do you do about this. They came
to us with it and Abe and I decided that there was only one thing to do and that is to go back over
seventeen years of history and show with regard to all major transactions how the company had
treated investors and others completely fairly. That was an enormous task. We did undertake to
Ms. Grigg: Pre-computers!
Mr. Vieth: Yeah – pre-computers. That’s right. But we did that and we filed
a petition with the SEC to give them a retroactive exemption back to the day they registered,
seventeen years before, and it was a tremendous undertaking. We started in the mid-30~ I think
we finally finished it around 1960. We got the exemption. The SEC battled us, but they couldn’t
find that there had been anything untoward in the way the company had been run. That was the
kind of thing that we liked to do. By the way, I don’t want to say that we did that entirely
ourselves. We worked very closely with Skadden Arps on that. Bill Timbers was the partner in
Skadden Arps. He had been the SEC General Counsel and Joel Flam and Barry Garfinkle
worked with us also. But that was an enormous case. Well, I can’t remember all the cases I
worked on through the years, but there were lots of them.
Ms. Grigg: Well, how did your practice evolve? When you were a young
lawyer, you did a lot of prep work for the senior partners, but when did you get to start going to a
courtroom or –
Mr. Vieth: Well, I guess it must have been along around 1970 or so. I – well
maybe no – I guess it must have been before that. I’m just trying to think of the first time. For
instance, several loyalty cases I tried. While they were not strictly court cases, we always – that
was another thing I learned from Abe Fortas, we always treated the so-called judges, the panel
members on those review boards, we treated them with the same kind of elaborate respect that
you do with judges because we thought that was just a good way to do. So we did that. I argued
several of the motions in the Lever case, but there’s no question that Fortas was the head man
there. By the way, in the Lever case – also I mentioned that, but there were three high-powered
law firms in that case. Proctor & Gamble was represented by Kenneth Royal of New York and
their principal firm in Ohio, and Colgate was represented by Lord Day & Lord in New York.
Everything we did in that case had to be done on a coordinated basis because we were all three
charged with the same thing. So I didn’t get a chance to argue many things but once in a while
when Fortas was unavailable I would argue minor motions. I don’t know, it’s hard for me to
remember exactly when I started. You asked about my practice and so forth. As I indicated, I,
you know, I used to do a lot of different things. But I was primarily interested in antitrust and we
represented Federated Department Stores. Abe, again, was the principal on that. But I would
work on a great many matters with him. Lever Brothers Company was a long time client and we
did a great deal of counseling with them. And, as time went on, the General Counsel of Lever or
other officials of Lever would call on me rather than Abe when Abe was busy and so forth – he
had a lot of things to do. So that’s how my practice sort of developed. It just sort of evolved.
Ms. Grigg: You’ve described yourself as an antitrust lawyer and not as a
litigator, so over time, did you move more into proactive advice and counseling?
Mr. Vieth: Yeah. It was mostly that. I did try some cases, but it’s mostly
helping on earlier cases. The one large case I did try involved Allis-Chalmers, which acquired a
tractor company – Allis-Chalmers was in the tractor business – tractor and lawn mower
business and so forth. They acquired Simplicity Manufacturing Company in Wisconsin, which
also made a very fine small tractor and mower and so forth. The government challenged that and
we had a full-scale trial in Milwaukee and won the case. That was a trial that took two or three
years with various hearings back and forth and that sort of thing. It’s a little hard for me to tell
you exactly when I did start doing those things on my own. But I was saying is that I used to do
some small things on my own right off the bat. I remember trying several cases in the Superior
Court down in the District of Columbia and that sort of thing. God, it’s hard to remember all
Mr. Vieth: Yes.
During this time, the OS, isn’t that when you met your wife?
Do you want to talk a little bit about your personal life during –
The O OS? Yeah, I was single when I came to town. I lived in – 1
think I told you this – lived in a house in Georgetown and my wife lived in a house on another
street, just the next street over. And that’s how we met. And, let’s see. Well, I was married in
February of 1952. I’ll give you an idea – my wife always talks about this. The very first date I
had with her was in 195 1, sometime in the fall. I guess I could establish the time because I
invited her out to dinner, and then I had to call her and tell her that Abe Fortas had given me an
assignment. This was a Friday night, and sometime Friday night the Korean War had started, and
the Truman administration had decided to reimpose price controls. They set up an Office of
Price Stabilization, I think it was called – OPS rather than OPA. The first regulation of the OPS
was to be issued that Friday night, but nobody knew exactly when it would happen. Fortas told
me that I had to go down to the Office of Price Stabilization, which was then along the Mall. In
those days, there were a number of – temporary buildings had been built in World War 11, I
guess, and they were still there until, I don’t know, I forget what time they knocked them down,
but in any event, that’s where the Press Office was. I had to go down there. So I told my wife
that she had to come over even though I was – she had to come over to my house and we would
wait by the phone. And she did and we waited by the phone. Then I had to go down and get –
the release when it was finally available. I got it and then took her out to dinner. Then, of
course, bright and early the next morning, Saturday morning, I was down there, and Abe Fortas
was in the office and I gave it to him, and we analyzed the thing, and then he called a number of
the clients. That was the kind of thing he felt was very important to do. But she always reminds
me that I made her walk over to my house, rather than my coming over to pick her up on this
And then you had your three children?
Yes. Our first child was born in 1953. I guess he’s – what,
how old is he now – he’s 50 years old. That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? We actually had four
children. One of them was lost at age two-and-a-half, our second son, yes – he drowned. We
were on a holiday and what it was – one of those things that I’d been working very hard. We
had moved into a new house and I had a weekend off. We took the kids over to Ocean City. It
was in September, after the season was over. He just got away. He was so intrigued with the
pool, swimming pool there that he went and jumped into the thing and got away from us, and we
didn’t find him until it was too late.
Ms. Grigg: Oh, I’m sorry.
Mr. Vieth: Yeah.
You have another son?
Then I had another son born in 1956 and then a daughter born in
Ms. Grigg: Let’s stop for a moment.
Mr. Vieth: Sure. (recorder stopped)
Ms. Grigg: All right.
Mr. Vieth: I mentioned that I had done a lot of antitrust – some antitrust,
mostly counseling, and that was the greater portion of my practice. But, I guess sometime in the
early OS, we started representing several mutual funds. One in particular, a large fund known as
IS1 or Insurance Securities Incorporated in California, we undertook the representation of them.
Abe Fortas – they came to Abe because they had a real problem with the SEC and we worked
on that problem for a long time. It seems to me not long after we started that, Abe left the firm,
and I took it on and carried on with it. Then I continued to represent IS1 for many years
thereafter. This was a mutual fund that sold – it’s kind of unusual. They charged a sales load on
the sale of the fund shares. Of course, that’s very common in the industry, but they had an
unusual arrangement under which the shares terminated at the end of ten years, and if you wanted
to stay in you had to buy new shares, and pay a new sales load. This was very profitable for the
Ms. Grigg: I bet.
Mr. Vieth: But the SEC didn’t much like it. We had a terrible time working
our way out of that problem. We finally did, but as a result, I became rather active in mutual
fund work. Another major client that we got around that time in the mutual fund industry was
the trade association itself known as the Investment Company Institute. The Investment
Company Institute was engaged in a variety of projects. Again, they wanted Abe Fortas and
that’s how we started. But, it wasn’t long after that he left the firm. They were engaged primarily
in a fight with the banking industry at the time. The banking industry was trying to get into the
mutual fund business and the IC1 and its members were trying their best to keep them out of the
business. We were arguing that the Glass-Steagal Act prohibited banks from engaging in any
kind of investment business including the mutual fund business. That was really a big fight. It
was a big fight in the Congress. It was a big fight in the courts. We filed the lawsuit and we
ultimately took it all the way to the Supreme Court. It’s one of only two cases I ever argued in
the Supreme Court. It’s known as Investment Company Institute against Camp, and I won the
case. It involved actually a kind of a mutual fund that Citibank Citicorp was trying to set up in
those days. I think it was called First National City Company at the time, as a matter of fact. We
got the court to hold that was a violation of the Glass-Steagal Act. There was a later case that I
brought on behalf of IC1 that I lost and since then the floodgates have opened. I mean the banks
are in the mutual fund business and securities business generally right and left. But I was
involved in that fight for a long, long time and, as I say, was successful for a while. But
ultimately, I guess the battle was won, but the war was lost. I believe because of a conflict we
had to drop IC1 some years ago and I haven’t done anything for them in recent years. When I say
some years ago, I guess it’s at least fifteen or twenty years ago that we stopped. As a result, I had
a number of mutual fund clients from various transactions so that I -that’s another area of
practice where I spent a fair amount of time.
Ms. Grigg: Did you ever consider taking a position in the federal government
for a period of time and leaving private practice and then coming back?
Mr. Vieth: You know, I never really did. Certainly, all of the people who I
admired in the firm when I first came had all had significant government jobs of one kind or
another that had helped them tremendously in their practice. I don’t know, for some reason, I just
was so wrapped in the practice of law right from the start, that I never gave any thought to that.
Some of my predecessors – some of the successors who came in, such as Bill Rogers in our firm
here, he came in not long after me. Bill left several times – one first to become director of the
Aid Program for Latin America, and then came back to the firm, and then left again to become
Deputy Secretary of State. But that’s something I never really thought about. I guess I never
really thought I had time. (laughter) By the time, I was through managing the firm and so forth,
it was much too late to do it. I was already 65 years old at that point.
Is there anything else you want to cover today?
I think that’s about it today.
We covered a lot of territory.
You wanted to talk then about the management. I’ll spend a little
more time trying to get myself up to date on what happened after I became managing partner and
Ms. Grigg: Okay.
Ms. Grigg: (laughter)
We had some crises.
And we will, the next time –
I’m going to turn the tape off now. Thank you.
ORAL HISTORY OF
G. DUANE VIETH
THIRD INTERVIEW – OCTOBER 1,2003
This interview of G. Duane Vieth is being conducted for the District of Columbia
Circuit Historical Society Oral History Project, on October 1,2003, at the offices of Arnold &
Porter in Washington, D.C., by Traci Grigg. This is Tape Three.
Ms. Grigg: All right. We were going to pick up this time from the mid-1960s.
When did you become managing partner?
Mr. Vieth: Sometime in 1965. But let me just give you a little background on
that. As I think I mentioned in some earlier interviews, the firm was very small in the early days,
and it was clearly run lock, stock and barrel by Abe Fortas, and there was no question about that.
Abe Fortas relied on me to be his assistant in a lot of things having to do with running the firm.
But there was no question who was the man in charge. In September 1965, much to the surprise
of virtually everyone, Fortas was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court, and had to leave the
firm. This was something we really weren’t prepared for at all, but it was a fait accompli, and we
had to deal with it.
Ms. Grigg: Was he surprised also?
Mr. Vieth: Well, the stories around that time are that he, yes, he was surprised.
He had been approached by President Lyndon Johnson on a number of occasions. Fortas was
very close to Johnson. Indeed, a lot of people feel that Fortas had a great deal of responsibility
for getting Johnson into the political life. I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard the story about
the 1948 senatorial elections.
Ms. Grigg: Go ahead and tell it.
Mr. Vieth: Lyndon Johnson defeated Coke Stephenson and became Senator
from Texas. There were a lot of allegations of improprieties with respect to that election and the
Coke Stephenson people brought a lawsuit challenging a number of things. The federal district
court agreed with the Stephenson people, and intended to delay the primary election. This was a
primary election for the Democratic Party, and election as a Democratic candidate was the same
thing as being elected to the Senate. In other words, you were going to win if you were
Democratic. Stephenson won his case in the district court and, I can’t remember now, but I think
it also went to a court of appeals, and he won there. So the question came out what should be
done. Johnson had a number of lawyers, sort of friends of his working with him on that – wellknown names at the time, like Tommy Corcoran and Abe Fortas. Abe Fortas really ultimately
took charge of things, and managed to get a stay from the Supreme Court so that the election
went ahead as scheduled. Johnson won and he won by fewer than a thousand votes. That’s why
he was always called Landslide Lyndon. But if Fortas and Johnson had not been close before
that, they were certainly very close after that. Johnson always admired Fortas. Fortas was one of
the first people Johnson called on when he became President after John Kennedy’s assassination.
Let’s see that assassination was in 1963. For the period thereafter, Fortas spent an awful lot of
time counseling Johnson on his activities. I’m certain, I didn’t know at the time, but I’ve heard
that Johnson many times asked Fortas to agree that he could go on the Supreme Court. Fortas
always declined. The story is that Johnson was about to make another speech to the nation and,
in effect, to the Congress asking for an additional 50,000 troops to be sent to the Vietnamese War
that was going on and raging at the time. Fortas was a close adviser to Johnson in connection
with those activities. He called Fortas in just before he was making his press conference and told
Fortas that he was going to ask for 50,000 more troops. He said that’s a great sacrifice for them
and I’m going to also announce that you’re appointed to the Supreme Court, and you have to
make that sacrifice. Fortas was really in a position where he couldn’t say no. So, the
announcement was made and I don’t think Fortas had any more notice than that. In any event,
that was quite a thing for Abe Fortas. And it was quite a thing for our firm. At the time we had
about 45 lawyers and we had really no firm organization at all. The thing had been run, as I say,
pretty much by Abe Fortas. It would have meetings. I usually conducted the meetings, although
again, as I say, Fortas was the lead who was in charge – no question about that. We would have
meetings and we would elect new partners at the end of the year and that sort of thing. We
conducted them as if they were the democratic process and that sort of thing. But, in fact, it was
pretty much Abe. Well, when Abe left the firm, it was necessary for us to organize. We didn’t
really have an elaborate partnership agreement at that time. It was more or less agreed that I
would prepare a partnership agreement and we would set up a formal structure for running the
firm and I did. I remember some of my senior colleagues at the time didn’t like some of the
provisions that I put in the first draft. We had quite a few discussions about that. But ultimately
we came up with a partnership arrangement. By the way, I relied heavily on the partnership
arrangement of Covington & Burling, which was a large firm at the time, and they were nice
enough to let me see what – or tell me at least about what their provisions were. So I pretty
much followed that. The partnership agreement provided for an executive committee. The
original committee was named in the agreement. There were five people. The executive
committee would be in charge of the firm and there would be a managing partner, and I don’t
think we ever had an election for that. I was just sort of assumed to be the managing partner until
I finally semi-retired in 1986, I guess.
Did you intend to serve from 1965 to 1986?
No, I never thought it would come to that, but it did. The
agreement set forth a number of procedures as to how we would elect partners and how we
would advance people, and we pretty much followed those procedures from then on. I know that
at some point in the late OS, the firm was growing very rapidly. We were at that point up to 70
or 80 lawyers and there was a feeling that we needed something more than just one single
managing partner. We had a large retreat – I remember that – a retreat of partners up in
Bedford, Pennsylvania. At that time, there was a very elaborate resort hotel in Bedford,
Pennsylvania. It used to be the site of the District of Columbia Bankers Association conventions
every year. We went to that hotel and had our retreat. By the way, that hotel subsequently
burned and it’s never been rebuilt.
Ms. Grigg: Oh, no.
Mr. Vieth: Yes, it did. It was quite a place. It had a golf course, and it was a
very elaborate place. I think there were some natural springs nearby and all that sort of thing.
I recall going there in the early ’70s with my family.
Did you? Sometime thereafter, it burned. In any event, at that
meeting, it was decided that we should reorganize to some extent and have a managing partner
who was a younger partner and who would be in charge of managing the firm and its non-legal
personnel and that sort of thing. We set up a number of partners who would work under the
managing partner to be in charge, with one for instance in charge of the secretarial force, another
in charge of other employees, and that sort of thing. At that point, and I was named chairman of
the firm, and a younger man, David Kentoff, became the managing partner. David worked very
well in that role for a long time. But that’s pretty much the way in which the firm organization
was set up.
What was your management style?
My management style. I guess, in one word you would describe it
as consensus. I always believed that I had to have pretty substantial consensus for anything that I
did, and 1 strove to get that, and if I could get it – it generally worked that way and it worked out
all right. I think I was lucky in that my partners had some confidence in me and so they would go
along with things. Although not by any means everything – I mean -but if I sensed that some
position 1 was taking was not widely popular, I would change, because I really was trying to work
a consensus every time and generally I managed to get that.
Ms. Grigg: Someone told me at some point you were given a Golden Glove
award or the Golden Elbow award.
Mr. Vieth: Golden Elbow Award. (laughter) Well that’s -that’s just kind of
a joke. Indeed there was – I think I still have it – literally a little sculpture that looked like an
elbow. But that was because I had a reputation of dealing with associates or partners or non-legal
personnel in a way that I tried to be kind of avuncular with them would grab them by the elbow
and then talking to them and so forth. So they literally came up with this idea of a Golden Elbow
and they gave it to me.
One of the things that is very important in managing a law firm is determining – well
there are two things really important. One, how do you get clients and what do you do with
regard to taking on clients? And secondly, how do you staff the matters, how do you make sure
that the legal services that the client hires you to perform are performed well, in a first-rate
manner? With respect to the second point about how you decide this, when you have a number
of partners, and we did have – once Fortas left we had a number of people who began to assert
themselves to get their own clients, and our rapid growth is in large measure a testament to the
fact that happened. But if a younger partner brought in a client, he would want to have it
properly staffed. In the early days, I used to try to handle that all by myself.
Ms. Grigg: Oh my goodness.
Mr. Vieth: Then a case would come in and the partner would come to me and
say I need A, B, and C, and I’d have to try and figure out – try to keep track, in the early days
when it wasn’t too large, of what all the associates were doing so that I knew who was available
and that sort of thing. I very often almost entirely had to negotiate with other partners to allow an
associate who was working for them to give part of his time to this new matter that another
partner had brought in, – that kind of thing. I consider that a very important part of the job of
managing the law firm. I should explain in connection with that, this firm prided itself in those
early days and for a long, long time, probably longer than we should have, we prided ourselves
on the fact that we were a bunch of generalists and did not have departments. We did not have
specialists. We were good lawyers. We could handle almost anything that came to a
Washington lawyer. And, so that was the way we operated. Could I just take a break for a
Ms. Grigg: Yes.
Mr. Vieth: Okay. (recorder stopped)
You were saying that the firm prided itself on being generalists.
Yes. We did and we had no departments, so that, in effect,
whoever was trying to keep track of the legal personnel had to know what everyone was doing,
and sort of parcel them out that way. That prevailed for quite a long time, as a matter of fact. As
we got larger, we still pretty much operated that way. Of course, ultimately, I would say
sometime around the late O OS, it became really impossible to do that and that was primarily for
two reasons. One, we were much too large for one person to keep track of what all the lawyers
were doing. And secondly, the nature of the practice of law changed. It really became necessary
for people to become specialists in certain areas of the law because they could provide legal
services to clients in a much more productive and cost-effective way than the generalist approach
where one day you might claim that you were a great expert in antitrust, and the next day you
were a great expert in securities laws, and the day after that in food and drug law, and that sort of
thing. Those areas became highly specialized and it really was necessary for people to start to
specialize to some extent in their practice. See, in the early days I do remember working on a
Robinson-Patman antitrust case as one of my first major assignments; and then not long after that
I worked on a couple of large Federal Communication Commission matters, and then not long
after that, that is, those were comparative hearings on who would get new television stations, and
then not long after that I worked on a couple of major proxy fights which involved the SEC rules
and regulations dealing with proxy contests. I didn’t really have any background in any one of
those things when I came here. I’d get the assignment and I would learn as I was going along.
You really can’t do that any more. The clients won’t pay you for your educating yourself on their
time, and they insist on dealing with people who really are very knowledgeable in areas. So that
there did come the time when we divided the firm into – we still don’t call it departments; – we
call it practice groups. But there is no question now we do have practice groups that specialize in
various areas and every practice group has a responsible partner, or two responsible partners in
some cases, and that’s what we call it. I suppose somebody would say well, you are just kidding
yourself; those are departments, and I guess they are department heads. But that is the
terminology we use. I can’t tell you how many practice groups there are, would you like to know
that? That would be something else I could send to you?
Ms. Grigg: I’ll do it.
That would be great.
Actually, I guess you could go into our –
I could probably go online and get that information.
Go online to get that, yeah. Which is probably what I’d do.
Yes, you might just want to make a note of that. Take a look at our
website. It does describe all of our practice groups. I don’t know that it identifies the heads of
each practice group.
And what practice group did you put yourself in?
Well, I put myself in the antitrust practice group. But I never really
was affiliated with any practice group because I continued to have this overall responsibility and
while I continued to practice law. The kind of law I mostly practiced was antitrust and securities
work. So, I guess, I was in both those practice groups. But the real intense development of large
practice groups and the real intense growth of this firm really came after I stepped down from –
you see, at age 65 I was required to step down from all positions in the firm and become kind of
semi-retired. Maybe I ought to mention that fact, too, if I could.
Ms. Grigg: Absolutely.
Mr. Vieth: One of the things that I did in setting up the partnership agreement
was to adopt a retirement-type system that was pretty much based on Covington’s. The idea was
to make sure that partners as they got older would relinquish their responsibility for clients in
favor of younger partners who had been working with them on the matters. I think it’s a damn
good idea. It allows for a firm to be vibrant and continue to grow. But it does create tensions
and strains; there’s just no question about it, because very often a lawyer at age 65 is still very
active, very engaged and can do an excellent job. Very often people at age 65 or even at age 70
do not want to quit. One of the things that I put in the original agreement – I remember this
very vividly – it provided that once a partner became age 65 he became what we called
semi-retired. His participation in the firm would be reduced each year over the next five years,
sort of on a down escalator is what I used to call it.
Ms. Grigg: Right.
Do you mean reduced in terms of their compensation?
Their percentage of the firm’s profits.
Would be reduced, little by little and in steps until at age 70 they
would be at the so-called bottom of the escalator. The idea – the original plan, incidentally –
the way it was when I drafted it and that was true in the firm for many, many years until some
time in the late ’90s – was that when you were at the bottom of the escalator your share of the
firm was 25 percent of what it had been when you were at the top. But you could stay and have
an office and continue to practice, and that sort of thing. Well, I’ll never forget when I sent
around the first draft of this agreement in 1965. A couple of my partners, who were somewhat
senior to me in terms of age and also with the firm, came in the next morning and objected to the
fact that it started going down at 65. They were closer to 65 than I was. So, we had to make
exceptions for some of them, for those who were here at the time.
Ms. Grigg: The grandfather clause.
Mr. Vieth: In a sense, a grandfather clause. Yes, and I was the next one in
line; I did not have the grandfather clause. I didn’t want it. But I did give it to them. They didn’t
start down on the escalator until age 70. That was just kind of an interesting little sidelight. But
I think that being on the Covington system – by the way, I know that some of the Covington
partners who were very active when I started to practice, people like Howard Westwood or
Tommy Austern – outstanding lawyers – Westwood in the aviation field; Austern in the
antitrust field – a whole bunch of those fellows continued to practice long after they were way
down at the bottom of the escalator there. Their system worked well for those partners. I don’t
know whether they were able to pass on as much responsibility as was ideal to the younger
partners. But I was impressed with the fact that those men continued to work very hard even
though their compensation was very, very low compared to what it had been at the height of their
career. Our system worked, I think, pretty well for quite a long time. It has recently been
changed so that there is an actual retirement arrangement now. You must leave -totally retire.
I think it is at age 70 for people who – I don’t know exactly where the cut-off is, but there are
some who still are on this old system, and then there are some now who will probably be
required to retire entirely.
Ms. Grigg: I had a few people, when they were telling me about you, say that
when you hit this semi-retirement stage you, on your own, very quietly, left your corner office
and took a smaller office, and someone said that’s how Mr. Vieth led. He led by example.
Mr. Vieth: Well, that’s interesting. I know I don’t think I was entitled to – I
didn’t think I should be – when we moved into this building I took a very small office, and now
I even have a, maybe not any smaller, but it’s on this atrium here, rather than on the outside.
An indoor window versus an outside view.
Indoor window, yes. Which is, by the way, it’s quite nice. You can
see that being on the atrium is –
Ms. Grigg: Very interesting.
Mr. Vieth: It is. It gives you a sense of being outside, but you have some light
coming through, but you don’t know whether it’s raining or not.
Ms. Grigg: Last time, right before we ended, you mentioned we would cover
the managing partnership years this time and you laughed and said “Oh, we had some problems.”
Do you want to talk about any of those?
Mr. Vieth: I’ll be glad to talk about some of those, yes. Let me just say,
before we get into problems there, there was one other thing I did want to mention in connection
with the growth of the firm and that sort of thing. I had known some senior lawyers around
Washington, some people who were very, very good, and who in a sense were running law firms,
and had said they deliberately made a policy of not growing. I’m thinking particularly of an
outstanding lawyer at the time, Clark Clifford. Clark Clifford had this reputation that he was
running a firm and he would not allow it to become large or to become a factory like Covington
or Hogan, or Arnold & Porter, for that matter. I often wondered about that, and I’ve been asked
many times what do you do about that? Well, I can tell you that I don’t quite know how you do it
unless you are a man like Clark Clifford where the firm is you and you are the firm. There is no
question about who was the boss. Because we had, and I think our success is due to this, we had
some very aggressive, very able younger lawyers who were interested in promoting their careers
and promoting the firm, and getting into – the way you do that is you get the clients and do a
good job for clients and the only way you can control the growth is to turn away clients. So if a
young fellow comes in and says “I’ve got this big company” and we say “Well we don’t want to
get that big – it would take too many lawyers to service it, so we are not going to take the thing”
– that is something that I just didn’t think was possible to do. We never did it and the result is
that we have grown rather substantially. By the way, not all of our growth in recent years is due
to bringing in new clients and so forth. With existing personnel we have had a number of
acquisitions in recent years. I can talk about that if you’d like me to.
Ms. Grigg: Of course.
Mr. Vieth: But, in any event, my philosophy was that we were not going to try
to stop any lawyers from bringing in matters; that just wouldn’t be a fair thing to do. So we
didn’t. The only constraint – and this constraint operates to – it’s troublesome but it had to do
with conflicts. We could not, of course, take Coca-Cola and then also represent Pepsi, and that
sort of thing. By the way, I could tell you some of the most excruciating problems we have had
through the years would be situations like that, where a young lawyer would land a very big
client, and then we’d have to turn it down because either there was an actual conflict or maybe
the general – this happened once I remember – the general counsel of a long-time client
objected to our taking another company not in direct competition with them but they were
related, and so this general counsel objected to that. I had to tell the partner who had brought in
the new client that we couldn’t take it. I’ll tell you that was a terrible blow to him and it was a
tough thing for me to do. He’s still a good friend of mine, but he reminds me of it from time to
So he stayed with the firm.
He did stay with the firm. He became one of our outstanding
partners. But it’s a tough thing. Nobody really objected when there was an actual conflict. You
know that; you don’t even try to come in – but you know, very often there is not a bright line;
it’s a question of judgment and that sort of thing, and you have to look at them. But in any event
that was one of the reasons we did not adopt this philosophy of “this is our firm; we are going to
keep it small and we are going to enjoy ourselves,” and so forth. It just didn’t work out that way.
Ms. Grigg: Well, through the ’70s and even into the ’80s , firms often had
institutional clients. And you were the firm. You represented Corporation A; you were the first
firm they came to.
Mr. Vieth: Yes.
Is that still true at Arnold & Porter?
Yes, I think it is still true. Yes, we have, what you’re talking about
is longstanding clients and that sort of thing. Of course, Arnold & Porter came late to that game.
Covington & Burling was a preeminent firm in Washington, and they had a great many
institutional clients in their Washington practice, so to speak. Hogan & Hartson had a wonderful
institutional practice, particularly in local matters. Hogan & Hartson – when I came to
Washington and for a good many years after that – represented all the major local businesses.
By that I mean they represented the transit company, they represented the biggest bank; they
represented the utilities, you know, the leaders of the community, the local community. That was
Frank Hogan and then – what was Hartson’s first name, I can’t think now – but you know, they
had developed that kind of a practice. It was very substantial. The transit company business,
streetcars running into people, was a big, big business, I’ll tell you. A fellow like Ed Williams,
who ultimately left and formed his own firm, but he started out with Hogan.
Mr. Vieth: Yeah, he did.
I didn’t know that.
Do you want to – before we go back to the problems – do you
want to talk about the number of acquisitions – that the growth at Arnold & Porter recently has
been due more to acquisitions?
Yes. My God.
Let me stop the tape for a minute.
Yes. (recorder stopped)
Is it on?
I’ll talk a little bit about the kind of acquisitions we made. Let me
just talk a little bit about our growth in terms of offices and that sort of thing. We, of course,
were a Washington firm and only had a Washington office until I think it was 1980, when we
acquired a young, relatively young lawyer from Denver who joined us as a partner. His name is
Harris Sherman, and with Harris we opened a Denver office. That was our first office outside of
Washington. We hired a couple of people in Denver and a couple of our partners went out to
Denver to help staff the office. They ultimately became a rather substantial branch office; it is
not our largest, but it is a substantial office. In terms of major acquisitions, I can’t tell you the
exact date. I will supply you with a chronology here of our acquisitions. We now have a rather
large office; actually, two offices in the Los Angeles area. One we call the downtown office and
the other is the Century City office.
Why do you have two in L.A.?
Well, L.A. is so big and the law practice there, just like the
businesses, is pretty divided, at least into those two areas. The downtown, is sort of a typical
downtown. And Century City, which is an area to the west of Los Angeles which itself is a
major business area. Century City concentrates a great deal on entertainment practice. But in
connection with Los Angeles we made two major acquisitions. Let’s go off for a minute.
Here we go. Now we’re on.
Among the acquisitions, I should mention by the way, I think I had
mentioned this earlier because it happened in the early days, but in 1960 we had a major
acquisition. It was certainly major to us at the time; I think we jumped by about eight or nine
lawyers, almost doubled the size of the firm. That was when we had Carol Agger and her
partners and associates from the Washington office of the New York tax firm – Paul, Weiss –
led by Carol Agger, who joined us and gave us a tax capability. This was in 1960. Almost
doubled the size of the firm at the time.
Was she your first female partner?
She was the first female partner, yes. Did we discuss that before?
Otherwise, I’d –
Ms. Grigg: No.
Mr. Vieth: Oh yes. She was clearly the first female partner. Actually we had
female associates prior to that. The first female associate lawyer we had was Patricia McGowan,
who married Robert Wald and became Patricia Wald, and ultimately served as an Assistant
Attorney General and then Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit, and I believe she resigned from that, and served for a while in the International
Tribunal, whatever its formal name is, at the Hague in the Netherlands, having to do with the
Bosnian war crimes. But yes, Carol Agger was our first female partner.
Our initial acquisition in Los Angeles was the Quinn, Kully & Morrow firm,
headed by John Quinn. I think there were 23 lawyers in that firm that joined our firm. At that
time we had a Los Angeles office that we had opened on our own and we employed some people.
But the Los Angeles office at that time had 18 lawyers and suddenly it had 41 with the addition
of the Quinn, Kully people. Major acquisitions here in Washington, and this one really was Los
Angeles, Washington and New York, was the Hughes Hubbard firm. A number of partners in
the Hughes Hubbard firm left there and joined us; I don’t remember now exactly the date of that.
The real estate firm of Dunnels, Duvall here in Washington also joined us as a group.
Acquisitions like that led to major jumps each time. Since then we have also had a large number
of smaller acquisitions; people where a partner or several partners would come with several
associates, particularly people who are skilled in certain areas, specialists in certain areas of the
law. And we added them to the firm to increase our capability in those areas. Virtually all of
those acquisitions have worked out very well. They have done well to broaden the scope of our
practice and people have, to the extent that there still is a firm culture, they have joined into the
culture very well. We also had a fairly large acquisition in London and have grown that office by
the addition of associates and younger partners also who started by a fairly major acquisition. So
that gives you some idea of how the firm has grown with regard to that.
Is that your only international office?
Yes, until this year. We have opened an office in Brussels. I
should, in the interest of making your history complete, we did, sometime in the 1980s – late
’80s I think – opened an office in Japan. We had two of our partners staff that office and after
three or four years we ultimately had to close it. It just didn’t seem to work out. Japan is a very
difficult place to practice law, very expensive. You win a couple, lose a couple; that was one that
just didn’t work out. But I believe it is safe to say it’s the only one that didn’t. We at one time
had a relationship with a lawyer in Moscow, sort of like a branch office, but he was not really
that close in the firm, and I don’t believe that relationship continues either. But we now do have
a substantial office in London and one that is going to grow, I am sure, in Brussels.
Ms. Grigg: You mentioned firm culture. How would you describe the Arnold
& Porter culture when you took over, and how did it evolve?
Mr. Vieth: Well, when I took over, it was just the culture that we had in a
sense when I speak of the fact that we were not organized into departments and we were very
informal and friendly with each other. That’s part of the culture that I think characterized the
firm then – the idea of consensus-building, which I think was also part of the culture, instead of
having someone from the top lay down the rules and so forth. Particularly in more recent years.
I think we always have been somewhat diversified in the sense that we were early on. Believe it
or not, there weren’t many women in the law when I started. In my law school class – I don’t
believe that – there were just two women in my entire law school class. Women just didn’t
practice law to a great extent. We, and this had a lot to do with Carol Agger, I think, but women
were rather quickly brought in. She was the first partner, but we had a great many women come
along. To the point now, of course, and this is not only true of us, it is true of most firms, and I
think virtually half of the large firms that have large incoming classes every year, they are
roughly 50-50, women and men. But we certainly tried to be friendly towards that. We also
have been, more in recent years, I think, due in large measure to our current managing partner –
I told you, we have this dichotomy now: Mike Sohn is the chairman of the firm and our
managing partner is Jim Sandman, and he is absolutely an outstanding, just an outstanding
individual. When it comes to leading the firm and trying to, as best you can with a firm as big as
we are, over 700 lawyers, to have a culture that still is friendly and, well let’s say not stuffy, let’s
put it that way.
Let’s stop the tape for a moment. (recorder stopped)
All right, we were going to talk about when Abe Fortas stepped
down from the Supreme Court.
Mr. Vieth: Yes. When Abe Fortas stepped down from the Supreme Court,
naturally there was a question of where would he go to practice law and would he return to this
firm. It did create one of the serious crisis in the firm in this sense: that a number of partners,
certainly his two fellow founding partners, Thurman Arnold and Paul Porter, very much wanted
him to come back to the firm. Although I think that Paul recognized that there might be some
problems in connection with that. There were several other older partners, I was one of them,
that very much wanted it to happen. But I realized that we had a serious problem on our hands.
The problem simply was that Abe had, while he was here, as I mentioned before, totally
dominated the firm. In the period after he left, a number of the men who were younger under
him had developed their own practices, and they were very proud of that, and very determined
that they wanted to continue to practice that way, and not to be at the beck and call of a senior
like Abe. My role in the thing was to try to come up with some arrangement whereby I could get
the firm to agree to have Abe come back and get these partners to agree to it. As I mentioned
before, my whole modus operandi was consensus and I tried to work out a consensus on that. I
came up with several elaborate schemes. But I can recall the final meeting with regard to one of
those when a lot of people had made a lot of accommodations, but still there were so many
partners then, important partners in the firm, that were totally opposed to it that it just, just didn’t
work out. I think that’s about as far as I want to go on that. But, it was, it really was a very
Of course, there was another critical time in the firm. I guess it was around the
time Fortas resigned, and that is, the unfavorable publicity that Fortas got at that time. This was
before the question of whether Fortas would come back with us. The question was the so-called
scandals involving Fortas and whether they would reflect somehow or other on the firm. And a
number of us undertook to get in touch with our clients. I called several meetings with my own,
and that sort of thing, because these were almost crisis meetings, just to make sure that we all
knew what was going on and would do our best to continue to practice, and we did and the firm
didn’t suffer that seriously at all. You see, at the time Fortas resigned in the first place, the
reasons for his resignation – there were a lot of people who were upset about that. But in
addition, there were some of these hate magazines and so forth – I have never forgotten, came
out with articles. I guess they weren’t all that widespread, but we got copies of them and it
certainly upset us. It appeared that it was a real assault on us as a firm, and I think that was one
of our finest hours when we got together and worked to overcome it then, and did. That was
before the question of whether Fortas should come back came up; that didn’t come up until six or
eight months after he had – well, maybe not that long – but several months at least after he had
resigned from the Court.
Where did Abe Fortas end up? I just don’t recall.
Abe Fortas ended up setting up his own law firm, law practice I
should say, in Georgetown. He lived in Georgetown and had a nice office there, and he had an
association with a firm in Chicago headed by a man named Cohen. (tape ends)
This is side B.
I should mention, in that connection, that while Fortas continued
his practice, I stayed very friendly with him and we worked together on a couple of things; not
too many. Carol Agger, his wife, stayed in our firm and continued to be the head of our tax
practice until she retired, and things worked out. Obviously, there was always some tension and
it was too bad it worked out that way. But that’s the way life is.
Ms. Grigg: Did Carol Agger marry Fortas while he was still at Arnold &
Porter or while he was on the bench?
Mr. Vieth: Oh no, she had married Abe Fortas, I think while she was still a
student at Yale.
Ms. Grigg: Oh.
Mr. Vieth: They had been married for many years. She, I can’t remember
exactly when they got married, and of course I didn’t know them at the time, but indeed, I think
she had been a student of Abe’s. They either married while she was still in school or not long
after she graduated. Carol was an outstanding tax lawyer. The Washington office of Paul, Weiss
– Paul, Weiss itself is a large New York firm; Randolph Paul was an outstanding tax expert. He
was really a great guru when he came. His name is the first one in the firm, but he always had
his office in Washington. His office, the branch office of Paul, Weiss in Washington, was
strictly a tax firm headed by Randolph Paul. This merger that took place between the
Washington office of Paul, Weiss and us in 1960 was after Randolph Paul had died, and Carol –
then the head of that office – she came over with us.
Mr. Vieth: Nope.
Were you about to say something?
You may want to just think about this one for next time, but do you
want to talk about some of your most memorable moments as a lawyer, whether they be funny or
very serious or –
Well, is there going to be a next time?
Let me stop the tape a moment, okay? We are going to stop for
today, October 1st , and we will do a fourth wrap-up session in a few weeks. So that’s it for the
third interview, tape B.
ORAL HISTORY OF
G. DUANE VIETH
FOURTH INTERVIEW – APRIL 29,2004
This interview of G. Duane Vieth is being conducted for the District of Columbia
Circuit Historical Society Oral History Project, on April 29, 2004, at the offices of Arnold &
Porter in Washington, D.C., by Traci Grigg. This is Tape Four.
Ms. Grigg: We were going to start today with your views on the D.C. Circuit.
Mr. Vieth: Well, the D.C. Circuit I have always thought was clearly the most
important circuit court in the federal judicial system. I think very often newspaper commentators
refer to it as the court that is second only to the Supreme Court. I think that is due in large
measure to two factors. One, it’s always been my impression that the administration, whatever
political party is involved, is unusually careful about appointments to the D.C. Circuit and as a
result, the judges there have always been of a very high caliber. I don’t mean to denigrate the
other circuit courts but that’s just an impression that I have had. Certainly, the caliber of the
judges on that court in the 50 some years that I have known it has been excellent. I think the real
reason that that court is considered the number one circuit court is because of its location in
Washington and the fact that so many administrative law cases and other cases involving the
federal government end up in the D.C. Circuit. Now, we all know that games can be played with
regard to that and lawyers are very good at playing those games. When they want to challenge an
administrative regulation, for example, they’ll be ready at the circuits around the country to file
appeals or other appellate-type actions. But very often the major matters of that kind do
end up in the D.C. Circuit. I’ve always had the highest regard for the circuit and I’m very pleased
that’s the circuit where I have spent my professional life and the one that is taking this oral
Ms. Grigg: Do you have any memorable moments from appearing before the
D.C. Circuit whether funny or serious or outrageous?
Mr. Vieth: No, I haven’t argued that many cases there. Not more than two
or three. But always the circuit has been, in my judgment, very responsive to legal arguments.
I’ll tell you the one memory I have was being admitted to the D.C. Bar by a motion that was made
just off-the-cuff by, my then senior partner, Paul Porter when I was a brand new lawyer. Back in
those days it wasn’t necessary to take the bar to become a member of the District of Columbia
Bar, so he just off-the-cuff made a motion at the end of an argument where I was attending court
with him, and I was admitted on that basis, which I thought was very convenient.
Ms. Grigg: Yes, indeed. Since we are in wrap-up mode here, what are some of
your most memorable moments as a lawyer?
Mr. Vieth: Well, you can always think about the cases that you were able to
pull off and that sort of thing. I can’t point to any particular decisions or outcomes that I think are
truly spectacular. I think I’d like to answer that question by saying that my most memorable
moments are the ones involving trying to pull together a team to litigate a matter and to do it in
the office and do it efficiently. As I think I indicated early on in this oral history, when I was new
at the bar and working with the senior partners in the very small firm that I was in, we had no
more than two people on a case and we managed to pull the whole thing together. As the firm
grew and as it became necessary to staff cases with many more personnel, it was very often
difficult to organize that sort of thing and because of my management position with the firm, it
became my responsibility to make sure that management of cases worked. I did spend a lot of
time on that. Generally speaking, it worked out pretty well. I think that’s certainly one of the
most memorable memories I have of the practice of law. Of course, there always were cases that
you won and that sort of thing. I can remember an antitrust case that I tried in Milwaukee
involving Allis-Chalmers which had acquired another manufacturer of riding lawn mowers and
small tractors. The acquisition was challenged under Section 7 of the Clayton Act by the Justice
Department. We had a full trial on the case, and the court ruled right down the line with us.
After the trial, I always thought that was a great victory. We were very pleased. I’ll never forget
the visit we received the next week from the general counsel of Allis-Chalmers who came in and
said that he certainly very much appreciated what we had done in the case, and he was telling us
that he was now going to use other counsel in regular matters for the company.
Ms. Grigg: Oh my goodness.
Mr. Vieth: He was the general counsel, but he was going to choose additional
outside counsel because of a change in management and also cost considerations. I always
thought that was a wonderful way to reward you for what I thought was a good result. But, of
course, it didn’t bother me. It’s just one of the vagaries of the practice of the profession.
Ms. Grigg: In-house politics.
Mr. Vieth: Yeah. That’s right. See this is sort of in line of what I’ve told you
about my career and that is the things that I really remember about the practice of law in terms of
bringing together a group of very talented people and manage it in a way that they could handle
the legal problems that our clients brought us, and do it in an efficient and successful way. I
really think that was the accomplishment that I am proudest of.
How do you think clients and your colleagues would describe you?
Well, I hope they would describe me as someone who listens
carefully to their problems and then tries to devise lawful and legitimate solutions to them.
That’s pretty much what I’ve tried to do throughout my career. I hope they think I’m thoughtful. I
try not to jump to conclusions, but to hear the client out fully and then try to apply what I know
about the law or can learn about the law. In the early days, very often, we would meet with a
client and we’d be on a subject that I didn’t know anything about. I would try to ask the right
questions, and then I’d hope I’d get a little time, a day or two, to go to the library and see if I
could learn something about the law, and then come back and give some counsel and advice to
the client. And that’s pretty much the way we did it in the old days. As you go along, you sort of
get a feel for the law whether you’re actually an expert in that area of the law or not. By the way,
I think there again, on something we talked about earlier, in our practice, particularly when we
were small, we were called upon to try a case in one area of the law on one day and an entirely
different one on another day. We had to, in a sense, be generalists like that. That really was a
very entertaining part of the practice. I thought that was marvelous. The fact of the matter is you
can’t really do that anymore. Clients do not stand for it. They do not want to be paying you for
your education. They want to meet with someone who is an acknowledged expert in this area
immediately and can get advice from them. So this sort of thing that I enjoy doing in the old
days simply can’t be done anymore, but it was fun while it lasted.
Ms. Grigg: You have been described by your colleagues as masterful at giving
general counsel to clients. You are thoughtful, reasonable, and sound. Is there really not a role
for the Bud Vieths of this world today?
Mr. Vieth: Oh yes, I think there is. I think those comments are extravagant.
But I appreciate them. Yes I think there is, although it is true that general counsels of major
corporations now very often have their own ideas as to how things should be handled, and they
want to go into a law firm and in effect cherry pick. If they have a problem in a particular area,
let’s say intellectual property, they want to talk to the intellectual property expert. That contrasts
with what I remember from the early days and particularly what I watched Abe Fortas do. For
instance, when he would meet with a client and pretty much get under the clients’ skin and find
out everything that’s going on. Very often the client was a general counsel, but nevertheless
those general counsels were willing to listen to broad advice, and Abe was a master at that. We
tried to do that when we represented Lever Brothers Company for so many years. Abe had done
it, and then I ended up doing it, and of course other members of the firm handled some of their
problems. But the general counsel at Lever Brothers Company in those days was a man who
very much relied upon that kind of interaction with his lawyers and the law firm, and that was a
very satisfactory relationship. Keep in mind I’m not actively practicing now so I don’t know
exactly how people do it, but my impression from just watching what’s happening here and
elsewhere is that you don’t have that kind of a relationship anymore with your clients. It’s, again,
an unfortunate aspect of the current trends in the practice, but there it is.
What advice would you have for lawyers starting out today?
Well, my advice would be that you better be prepared for being
treated as more like an employee, I guess, of a major organization than as a practicing lawyer in
the old small town sense. Of course, there still are small towns and there are still small town
practices, but I’m thinking about people who want to come to the larger metropolitan areas. We
talked a little bit, before we started here, about this recent merger which put together two
450-lawyer firms to make a firm of 900 or 1,000 – maybe they were 500 a piece – I forget now
how it was. I read about it. Now that 1,000 is not necessarily the largest – that would maybe
make them maybe the fifth or sixth largest in the country. But when you have a 1,000 lawyers or
1,500 lawyers or, as some of them do, over 2,000, that kind of an organization is more like a
major corporation. It is less like a congenial law firm, it seems to me, and an organization like
that has to be very carefully managed. Indeed, in my own firm here, with now something in the
area of 700 lawyers, it has come to that, too. It has to be managed as a business organization and
so the partners in the firm or the associate lawyers are more like employees of a major
organization. They still practice law. They still have the canons of ethics. They still have to
know their specialties. But in terms of overall participation in the firm as the way you would do
in a much smaller firm, that’s not available anymore. So my advice to the young lawyer would be
that you just better be prepared for that new world, and if you would be comfortable in that, it’s a
Ms. Grigg: Do you think these large mergers are a trend of the future or will
the bubble pop?
Mr. Vieth: Well, I’m not very good at predicting that. My own feeling is it is a
trend of the future. Even law firms like ours which started very small have grown to proportions
that I would never have believed possible. It’s got to be a trend for the future. Now, the only
thing about that kind of thing and it was always something that worried me – I think I discussed
this earlier, too – that is, as you get bigger, you run into terrible conflict problems. This recent
merger of Hale and Dorr and Wilmer Cutler emphasized in the press releases about it and so
forth, that they had complementary practices, and I’m sure they do. But nevertheless, there have
got to be conflicts. Old clients, somebody’s going to have to drop a client and that sort of thing.
That’s very difficult and that’s one of the difficulties of letting the firm grow as large as ours has.
Nevertheless, those problems are handled and I think the growth is with us to stay.
Ms. Grigg: What would your advice be then for mid-career lawyers who didn’t
start out in this world?
Mr. Vieth: Well, that’s a far more difficult piece of advice, I guess. If a
mid-career lawyer is thinking of maybe leaving a firm because the relatively small firm he had
started with has now become very big and very bureaucratic. Incidentally, bureaucracy naturally
follows in these major organizations. I don’t really think I have much advice other than better
just roll with the punches and conform to the times, because that’s the way it is. Unless you want
to leave and, of course, a good many of them are leaving now, and maybe go back to a small
town somewhere and practice law, but that’s not really an option for a fellow who is in
mid-career and whose got a family. So, my advice is to just do the best you can and make it
Mr. Vieth: For managing partners?
Now what about for managing partners?
Advice for managing partners?
Well, a managing partner has to be – particularly as these
organizations are getting so large now – has to be very tough and willing to stand by tough
principles. But I still think my advice would be to the major extent, the maximum extent
possible, try to manage by consensus rather than by fiat. That was certainly something I tried to
do, but I have to admit, it was in a much smaller firm. I’ve always thought that is really the best
way to manage an organization.
I’ll stop the tape for a moment. (recorder stopped)
All right, switching a little bit here, how do you think your friends
would describe you?
Mr. Vieth: Well, I would hope they’d describe me as someone whose always
willing to listen, to give friendly advice, in the best way that I know how and who will always be
with them through good times and bad. I have lots of friends and I enjoy very much being with
them. They don’t necessarily have to be the same political persuasion or anything like that. I just
enjoy being with them and discussing issues with them. And I hope that they would describe me
as someone who is fair-minded and congenial. That’s about all I can say on that.
How would you like to be remembered?
Well, I’m rather comfortable with my career, I don’t want to say I’m
proud of it, but I’m comfortable with it. I’ve enjoyed doing it and I think I have been recognized
very well for that. I would like to be remembered as someone who could bring together
conflicting philosophies or conflicting goals and work out a compromise that would come close
to being a consensus of the conflicting parties. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. I think that’s a
very important part of life and I think I’d like to be remembered as someone who could do that
and could do it rather well.
I wish, as a matter of fact, given the current state of our situation nationally that
we had the ability to do that worldwide. I think it is a very important talent, I guess, and it’s
certainly not easy to do when it comes to the problems of the world. But the relatively small
problems that I faced, that’s the way I tried to operate and that’s what I’d like to be remembered
Thank you for your time.
Thank you very much.
ORAL HISTORY OF