REED: . . . back at the office?
BIRDWHISTELL: I have a feeling that's where I left it. That's okay.
REED: We can call later, if you want to.
BIRDWHISTELL: I thought we'd begin by finding out some of your earliest
recollections of your father, some of your first impressions of him as
a . . . as a young boy growing up.
REED: You mean . . . you mean when I'm three years old or something .
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, . . .
REED: . . . like that?
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . when you're . . . when you're very young, some
of your first impressions of him. What . . . as you were growing
up, as a young . . . as a boy, what you . . . what you thought
about your father, what your impressions were.
REED: Golly, I wonder if I had any. [chuckle] I can't offhand remember
00:01:00any . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Anything in particular?
REED: . . . when . . . well, I was going to say when we were
living . . . we lived down in Maysville till I was three or four
years old and then moved up on the hill and lived there the rest of the
time. And while we were living in Maysville, I can't really remember
anything while we were living downtown. On the hill, very faint . . .
very faint recollections that are not clear at all. I have no . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: What was the . . .
REED: . . . I . . . I . . . I can't remember anything in the
early days that . . . just . . . just can't remember anything.
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Did you . . . did you know much about what your
00:02:00father's work was like when you were . . . when you were young? Did
you travel with him on . . . on trips or things like that?
REED: No. No. I . . . I knew he was a lawyer. I was . . . he
had a law office in Maysville, and I'd been . . . I was in it. I
remember, for example, that he had in his office paper clips exactly
like these. They haven't changed, you know, since those days. That
must have been 1917-1918, along in there. I knew he was a lawyer, of
course. He would sometimes bring work home and work . . . work there
in the living room. He had a kind of a lapboard that he would work on
and quite often worked at . . . at night there at home. When I was
. . . once I started going to school, which was when I was six years
00:03:00old, I suppose, starting and continuing during rest of my school days
pretty much, I would ride my pony down the hill to the school, which
school was down in the town, and he would walk along with me. Quite
often we did that. And I remember him saying once as we were walking
down the hill, he said, "Take some deep . . . deep breaths." And I
said, "Why?" And he said, "Because the air is better [laughter] up here
then it is down below." And I don't think I ever really enjoyed taking
deep breaths, but . . . but he always did. [chuckle] I remember he
liked exercise. I think he was kind of a physical-fitness nut, as .
. . as I would put it. And he would do sitting-up exercises in the
00:04:00morning in those early days before . . . before going off to work.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, is that right?
BIRDWHISTELL: Hmm. Yeah. I guess your recollections of him are of a
man that was quite busy. He was involved in politics, he was involved
in building a law practice that . . . that was growing pretty
quickly, I suppose, with the railroad business and then with the
Tobacco Association later on.
REED: Yes. I would say he was always a sort of a workaholic, always
busy. I don't remember the political days very much.
BIRDWHISTELL: You were very young when he was in the legislature.
REED: I was very young then, and . . . but . . . well, at least
when I knew him, he . . . he spent a relatively small part of his
time on politics and . . . but busy on the . . . on his law,
00:05:00and he spent a certain amount of time sort of supervising his . . .
his . . . his real estate. He had the subdivision . . . he was
subdividing land on top of the hill, a farm, and . . . he bought an
old farm and turned it into residential property. And then he had some
farms ten miles from town that he went out to every weekend, I suppose.
So, yeah, he was always a busy man, certainly. I mean, he was always
considered, I think, while he was in Maysville, as one of the two or
three or four busiest men in Maysville. [chuckle]
BIRDWHISTELL: His interest in those farms sort of continued all during
his lifetime, didn't they?
REED: Yes, I think he . . . I think he got . . . I think he really
loved it, and . . . and it relaxed him, I think, to go to the farms
00:06:00and think about the farms. Yeah, he inherited them . . . inherited
the farms from his father at a fairly young age. His father died in
1908, when my father was 23, I believe. And so from then on he had the
farms to . . . well, he was the sole person responsible for the . .
. for the farms.
BIRDWHISTELL: We were talking at lunch about your mother as chairperson
. . . women's state chairman for Al Smith in 1928.
BIRDWHISTELL: Was there a lot of political talk around your house while
you were growing up, or . . . you know, at the dinner table? Or did
you discuss politics?
REED: Well, some. Some. Not all the time, but some.
REED: It was something they were always interested in. My . . . my
00:07:00father, after he served those two terms, I think it was, in the state
legislature when he was very young, he never ran again for elective
office, although he considered it once. Maybe we'll come to that. But
he was always one of the--I don't know what you would call it--but one
of the leaders of the Democratic party in the county, I would think,
in . . . in a kind of non- . . . non-working [chuckle] sense.
I suppose all he did was give them a hundred dollars a year, and that
made him [chuckle--Birdwhistell] a leader.
BIRDWHISTELL: Made him a leader?
REED: But . . . but he was--as probably you know--he was a delegate
or an alternate delegate to several Democratic national conventions.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right. I . . . you know, I didn't . . . I wasn't
aware of that until I read that interview at the . . . the Columbia
interview, and he went into pretty much detail on that. He seemed to
be quite interested in that, you know.
REED: Well, and I think my mother was, too. And . . . and I think
at the conventions they got to know the other important members of the
party around the state. Had also gotten to know them in . . . in
Frankfort when he was in the legislature to some extent. But I think
the reason my mother was named in 1928 as wom- . . . as [the] state
woman's Democratic chairman for the Al Smith campaign was that she had
gotten to know these people around the state from going to conventions.
And my mother was always the sort of person that . . . well, as
. . . I think as she once put it herself, and I think it was true,
she said, "If I had gone to Vassar College, I would have known everyone
there." I think it's true. She would have. And my father was not
that way. He went to Yale College and did not know everyone there and
didn't want to. [laughter] But . . .
REED: . . . they were different in that respect.
BIRDWHISTELL: Your mother was very outgoing?
REED: She was a perfect wife for him in many ways and, certainly,
00:09:00politically she was.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did . . . were there any repercussions for her working
for Al Smith? He wasn't the most popular candidate Kentucky had ever .
REED: No. He lost . . . he lost . . . you . . . you know, he
lost Kentucky by a big margin that year.
BIRDWHISTELL: I was wondering . . .
REED: You mean repercussions on . . . against her or my father?
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Uh-huh.
REED: Not that I ever heard of.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Well, I mean, I wasn't aware of any either, I just
. . .
REED: Not that I ever heard of. As . . . as I was saying at lunch,
the result was that she and Alben Barkley became great friends and
really great friends. I mean, they . . . they . . . I mean, they
each liked one another very . . . [chuckle] liked and respected one
another very much.
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Now, you went to the public schools in Maysville
for a number of years?
REED: Yes. I went all the way through the public schools in Maysville,
00:10:00graduated in 1926 at the age of fifteen from Maysville High School.
BIRDWHISTELL: At the age of fifteen?
REED: My father had done the same thing, and my brother had done the
same thing. My father thought it was a good idea. My mother never
thought it was. My brother and I [chuckling] never thought it was, but
it seemed to work all right for him at least.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, how . . . which grades did you skip?
REED: He went . . . I started in the third grade at the age of six
after . . . after some home tutoring.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did your mother do that or your father, or both?
REED: No, they got a . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: They got a tutor to do that.
REED: . . . I think the third-grade teacher was the tutor.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh. All right.
REED: And they . . . I think they had us . . . I was told that I
could recite Mother Goose from memory at the age of three. I suppose
they . . . I don't know whether I had read it or whether they'd
taught . . . either Mother or Father, I can't remember, or whether
they just read . . . told me what it was and I remembered it, or
whether I could actually read it.
BIRDWHISTELL: There was a . . . your father believed in education,
REED: Yeah. He graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College before he went
. . . when he was at Winchester before he went to Yale. Which .
. . and then he entered Yale in his sophomore year. I think it
may have . . . maybe that was a sort of a junior college in those
days. But I understand . . . well, when he got to . . . in the
F.- . . . in the F.D.R. [Franklin D. Roosevelt] administration,
one of F.D.R.'s secretaries who decided who got in to see F.D.R. was
Marvin McIntyre. And he told my mother in those days that . . . in
the F.D.R. days that he remembered my father from Kentucky Wesleyan
College days. My father was a big man on the campus and Marvin
McIntyre was the son of the local tailor. He didn't even go to the
[chuckle--Birdwhistell] . . . the college, but he remembered my
father from those days, and the result was that my father had a friend
at . . . at court, so to speak, in the . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: I didn't realize that.
REED: . . . F.D.R. administration.
BIRDWHISTELL: I didn't realize that.
REED: And the McIntyres were always very . . . he and his wife and
family . . . family were always very friendly.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, after . . . after high school in Maysville, then
you went to prep school, right?
REED: I went . . . yeah. I went one year to the Taft School in
Watertown, Connecticut, and then on to Yale College and then Harvard
BIRDWHISTELL: And Harvard Law School.
REED: My brother went . . . he went four years to Taft and fewer
years at the Maysville High School. He must have left Maysville High
School . . . maybe he had freshman year there, maybe he didn't
have any, I can't remember. So he's a little more of a . . . an
Easterner then I am. [laughter]
BIRDWHISTELL: He had three more years of it, right?
REED: I'm a little more of a small-town boy than he is.
BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. Now, I'm sorry I'm going to have ask you what
. . . what year did you graduate from high school at . . . at
BIRDWHISTELL: 1926. So, by the time your father was appointed to the
Federal Farm Board, you were already at Yale by then, in 1929?
REED: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. I was wondering if you had any recollections about
your father accepting that appointment: if he had any reservations
about going to Washington, or if he saw . . . how he saw . . .
how he viewed this in his career? Or if . . . if your mother had
any reservations about moving up there?
REED: I . . . I . . . my impression is they both jumped at the
chance. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] That they . . . they'd been wanting
to get there before, and . . . by going to Congress, and this was
00:14:00an alternate . . . just an alternate way and just as good. They had
considered . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Is that . . .
REED: . . . Congress earlier.
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . is that what you were talking about earlier, .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . that your father . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . had talked about running for Congress.
REED: Yes. Yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: What year was he wanting to run?
REED: It was the year that Fred Vinson first ran . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, . . .
REED: . . . must have been about `23.
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . `23, when [William Jason] Fields became . . .
REED: When Fields . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . governor.
REED: . . . became governor and there was a vacancy. And it was
. . . it was filled by the . . . they didn't have an election;
they filled the D- . . . the Democratic nominee and the Republican
nominee were picked by the county chairmen in each . . . each county
in the congressional district. And I can remember my father and mother
discussing it a number of times. There wasn't . . . actually,
there wasn't much time to turn it around, because I think the . . .
there was only an interval of two or three weeks, I think, between
the time that there became a vacancy and the time county chairmen met.
00:15:00But debating whether or not he should go around and see the county
chairman and try to get him to support him, and debating whether he
really wanted it or not. And I don't remember . . . as far as I
can remember, he never did anything about it, and the result was . .
. the result was that only two of the county chairmen voted for my
father, and all of the others voted for Vinson.
BIRDWHISTELL: Why do you think he didn't do anything about it?
REED: I . . . my guess was . . . is that he wasn't sure that he
wanted it--that he probably would have taken it if he had been offered
it on a silver platter, but that he decided he didn't want to make any
effort to get it. I think he was torn between thinking it would be
00:16:00nice to be in Congress and t- . . . and torn between what . . .
what effect it might have on his law practice. I'm just guessing.
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Yeah, you would've . . . you would think that
his law practice at that time was doing quite well with the tobacco .
. . was tobacco . . .
REED: I've forgotten whether this came before or after the Burley . .
. probably this was after . . . I think the Burley started about .
. . Burley Tobacco Cooperative Association, I believe, started about
1921. So it probably was . . . yes, I think his law practice was
doing well, and I think that . . . I think he was naturally nervous
about what damage it might do to his law practice if he went and became
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. And, of course, as it turned out, in `29 he left
to go to Washington for a . . . for a job, and had to give up his
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don't . . . I'd be
guessing. I don't . . .
REED: . . . I wasn't in on all their deliberations, but . . .
I don't know. I started to . . . started to say the children
had already been educated, but they weren't. The chil- . . . the
education of the children didn't really complete . . . get completed
until, I think it was 1938, [when] my brother [chuckling] got out of
BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Right.
REED: I . . . yeah, I don't know. I don't know whether they just
decided that . . . I . . . I don't know whether he knew that
Vinson had it sewed up or not. I wasn't in on all of that, but . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: I wonder if he talked to Vinson about it?
REED: I don't know.
REED: I know . . . this much I remember hearing as part of that same
00:18:00scen- . . . same campaign, I guess it was. Vinson's . . . my
mother's father was an insurance agent in Maysville named Jim Elgin,
E-L-G-I-N, and Vinson's photograph appeared on . . . on my fath- .
. . grandfather Elgin's desk probably in the early . . . probably
about 1920,`21,`22, sometime along there. And my grandfather was a
general agent and his . . . his district included pretty much the
same territory as the congressional district. And apparently I asked
him who this was, and he said, "Oh, that's my friend Fred Vinson.
He's great guy. I got to know him up on the Big Sandy or somewhere."
And I remember my grandfather saying early on when this vacancy first
appeared. If Fields became elected governor, I remember hearing my
grandfather Elgin say, "Well, Fred Vinson says that . . . that if
00:19:00[my father] wants it, of course, he won't even try for it." [chuckle]
REED: Now, I . . . I don't know what happened. I . . . I . .
. I suspect that . . . that Vinson . . . Vinson tried for it.
Now, whether . . . whether he knew my father was interested in it
or not, [I] don't know. I don't know whether my father was interested,
but . . .
REED: . . . but he was at least . . . at least he liked to talk
about it. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] But I think if you put yourself in
the shoes of those young lawyers at that time and in that district,
it would be natural for a young lawyer to think about getting to
Washington somehow, and the most logical way would normally be
Congress, I suppose, for a lawyer.
BIRDWHISTELL: I think your father said in his . . . in his interview
. . .
REED: I don't know what he said in his . . . in his . . . what did
BIRDWHISTELL: In his interview with Columbia, he was talking about how
he was . . . he was interested in going up in the attorney general's
office possibly earlier, you know. Earl- . . . I'm talking about
00:20:00back during the . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . earlier administration.
REED: Well, I . . . I think in 1920 . . . the 1920 presidential
election when Governor Cox of Ohio was elected the Democratic . . .
REED: . . . nominee for president, my father once told me that he
was a member of a Kentucky Democratic delegation that went to call on
Cox before the convention and said that they were going to support him
for the . . . for president. And . . . and my father said that
Cox sort of hinted that if he were elected, that my father might make a
good assistant attorney general. [chuckling] There was something . .
. some discussion to that effect. That may be what's in his . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, that might be it.
REED: . . . Columbia oral history [interview].
BIRDWHISTELL: When . . . when you were at Yale, did you have much
contact with your parents then, or did you see them very often? They
had moved to . . . let's see, you were at . . . you were at Yale
from 1927 to 1931, I suppose?
BIRDWHISTELL: And . . . and they went to Washington in . . .
Washington in `29.
REED: Yeah. Well, after they moved to Washington, I would see . . .
I would see them in Washington in the summer and Christmas . . .
Christmas vacations, I suppose. Not . . . not much more in those .
. . that was before airplanes, I guess.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Did your father talk to you about how he was
enjoying his work with the . . . with the Federal Farm Board and
then later with the R.F.C. [Reconstruction Finance Corporation]?
BIRDWHISTELL: You have any recollections about that?
REED: Well, yes. I . . . of course, I was down at his offices
both those places and met a number of the people that he worked with,
including the members of the two boards. It was obvious that the
00:22:00members of the boards liked him very much, and that he liked them, and
that he was working very hard, and they thought he was doing a great
job. And at least one of them . . . one member of the . . . one
of those boards I remember telling me--I guess the two of us were alone
or something--he said, "The reason I like working with your father is
that he doesn't seem like a lawyer. [chuckle] He just . . . he just
seems like . . . like a businessman." And I think he meant it as a
BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose he did.
REED: But they were . . . those were the good groups, and I suppose
you know the relationship of Jim Stone and the . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: With the Burley . . .
REED: . . . with the Burley Tobacco . . .
REED: . . . and then with the Federal Farm Board.
REED: And, of course, Stone was really responsible for my father going
to . . . to Washington with the Federal Farm Board.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did . . . did your father have any reservations about
00:23:00going to Washington with a Republican administration?
REED: I don't think so. I don't think so. I suppose I was off at
school or college when the decision was made, but my im- . . .
my impression was that he and my mother both thought it was a great
opportunity and . . . and sounded like a lot of fun. [chuckle] Of
course it was, as you know, as . . . well, no. I guess it was just
bef- . . . I forget whether it was just before or just after the `29
[chuckle] stock market crash that he went . . . he went up either
September or October, `29. The st- . . . the . . . I think the
stock market was . . . was beginning to be jittery about that time
and, really, cra- . . . I think the worst crash was in October.
REED: I don't know whether they thought that it was a . . .
00:24:00government payroll looked pretty good [laughter] if we were going to
have a depression.
BIRDWHISTELL: I don't know.
REED: Of course, the same thing was true in `33 when they decided to
stay on with F.D.R. and, again, there was a depression in . . .
`32-`33 were kind of depression years.
BIRDWHISTELL: You received [telephone rings] . . . you received your
degree from Yale in `31. When did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer
like your father?
REED: Well, I frankly always thought I would be a lawyer. My f- . .
. I talked about it at a fairly young age with my father, and he
thought it was a good idea. I think personally I didn't have much .
. . I didn't know what I wanted to be, I don't think, but I . . .
I thought it was a good idea to live three more years on my father's
salary, so to speak. [laughter] So I was always pointing toward it,
00:25:00and picking my courses at college, I picked what they thought was good
for pre-law, which I don't know that it was. English Constitutional
history, Magna Carta, and all that, I don't think it's really helped
very much. So I always pointed toward it and . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: I guess I was trying to [telephone rings] . . . you
know, seeing if your father . . . you know, what . . . how he
felt about his son being a lawyer?
REED: Oh, he wanted me to be . . . he wanted me to be a lawyer.
BIRDWHISTELL: He wanted you to be?
REED: Oh, yeah. Yes, very much.
BIRDWHISTELL: That was understood?
BIRDWHISTELL: That was understood?
REED: Oh, yeah. He made it clear from the beginning he wanted me to be.
[chuckle--Birdwhistell] And I didn't . . . as I say, I didn't know
what I wanted, and . . . but once I got to law school, I was . .
. two things surprised me: one, that you were supposed to work hard,
which I really never had done, and two, that when I tried working hard,
I found it was more fun than not working hard.
BIRDWHISTELL: Than not working hard.
REED: That . . . they both surprised me. [chuckle]
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, then you got your law degree in . . . in `34, and
. . .
[interruption in taping]
BIRDWHISTELL: We were talking about . . . I think we were at the
point where you had gotten your law degree and, as you mentioned, your
father then stayed on in . . . with the new Roosevelt administration
in Washington with the R.F.C. and then went into the Solicitor
General's office. Did you come to New York from your . . . after .
. . soon after . . . right after you got your law degree?
REED: Yes. I . . . yes. Yes. I came . . . two or three months
after I graduated, I . . . I came to a Wall Street law firm, and
I've been with one ever since. Two different ones.
BIRDWHISTELL: So you were a practicing lawyer, then, when your father
was going through this period in the Solicitor General's office. What
00:27:00were your impressions of his work in that period, arguing the New Deal
legislation in front of the . . . you know, before the courts, and .
. . it was a very difficult period for him, I . . . I assume?
REED: Well, he was working . . . he had to work pretty hard.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did he talk with you about his work at that point?
REED: Well, not in specific details. I just . . . I just knew
generally that he was working on these New Deal cases, the . .
. he had to argue . . . as you know, he had to argue the
constitutionality of a number of the New Deal laws . . .
REED: . . . before the [Supreme] Court, and he argued several of
them, and . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: And some of them were quite tough, and . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . he lost some of them. And I was wondering . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . if it was frustrating for him and . . . or did
he give you that impression?
REED: No, I don't know that he . . . no, I don't think he would .
. . no, I don't remember that he was any more frustrated if he lost
00:28:00than if he won, really.
BIRDWHISTELL: [chuckle] That's just business.
REED: Just business, yeah. He was . . . they were interesting cases.
REED: He . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Would you say he enjoyed that . . . that part of his
REED: Oh, yeah. I think he enjoyed all of his career. Yeah, I think .
. . I think . . . I think so. I think . . . actually, I think
the first . . . of course, I remember the gold clause argument,
which was the . . . I think was the first case he argued . . .
the first of those New Deal cases he argued in the Supreme Court. I
think he was still at R.F.C. when he argued that one, and I think that
that argument, his working that case, had a lot to do with his being
appointed Solicitor General, I sus- . . . I always thought. Because
that was a . . . that was a very important case to . . . to the
administration. As I remember, he won that one . . . I . . . I
00:29:00mean, they decided that one in his favor 5 to 4, I think. And I think
. . . I think it was good for his reputation.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did he ever talk to you about what it was like being in
the Roosevelt administration, [or] any of his experiences when you'd
come down and see him?
REED: [chuckle] Well, I'm sure he did. I mean, little anecdotes. I was
trying to think of some of them. This would have . . . this . .
. you're thinking both . . . I suppose that would include both the
R.F.C. and the . . .
REED: . . . and the Solicitor Generalship. Of course, at the
R.F.C. he was . . . among his legal staff were one or two people,
particularly Tom Corcoran, who . . . who was, while on the payroll
00:30:00of the R.F.C., was spending most of his time [chuckle--Birdwhistell]
sort of being the "brain trust" for F.D.R. and think . . . thinking
up these New Deal laws and drafting them and whatnot. So that he . .
. he was . . . he and Tom were quite close. The summer of 1934,
I lived with Tom Corcoran and some [of] the other New Deal lawyers in
a little house in . . . no, a big house in Georgetown called the
"Little Red House."
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
REED: It was supposed to be a bunch of parlor pinks [chuckle--
Birdwhistell], and my parents were off in Hawa- . . . my father
was traveling in the Hawaiian Islands . . . my mother and father
were traveling the Hawaiian Islands with the . . . the Attorney
General Cummings, Homer . . . it was then Homer Cummings. And,
incidentally, that trip probably had a lot to do with Cummings
recommending my father for, I suppose, first Solicitor . . .
00:31:00Solicitor General, and second [the] justiceship. But these people in
the Lit-. . . in the Little Red House were . . . were New Deal
lawyers [for] different agencies, and interesting people to be with.
BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose. Now, . . . and you were just living there?
REED: I was. It was just after I'd graduated from law school and just
before I went to work in . . . in a law firm in New York. As I say,
my parents were going away for about a month, going to the Hawaiian
Islands, and so it was interesting to be with them and hear what they
were talking about, and . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose, yeah.
REED: This was 1934, which is right in the middle of drafting of most of
the New Deal legislation.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Why did that trip have an influence on the . . .
the recommendations, because he got to know your father?
REED: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it was the attorney general and his
wife and my . . . and my father and his wife. Yeah, it . . . it
. . . the . . . of course, the . . . the underlying factor
about my parents is that anyone who got to know them liked them very
much and thought they were good people. That was . . . that was
true of anybody, no matter who. [chuckle] It never failed. They had
. . . they had the knack of charming anybody. It could take . . .
it didn't matter who it was. [chuckle]
BIRDWHISTELL: That's interesting.
REED: And, of course, that . . . that gets people a long way in life,
if . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Your father . . . I guess, just to talk about his
personality for a minute, he . . . he made very few enemies, didn't
00:33:00he, if any?
REED: I doubt if he had any. I doubt if he had any. They were very
attractive people. Some cousin of mine told me that when my father was
in the legislature and they were still in their 20's then . . . mid
or, I guess, late 20's, they'd go to a big party in Frankfort with a
lot of other people from the legislature, and she said a lot of people
just stood and stared at my parents. It was kind of like Jack and
Jackie Kennedy. They were very glamorous, apparently. My mother was a
great beauty. My father was not all that handsome, but . . . but I
suppose compared to some of these other legislators [laughter]--I won't
use . . . I started to use other words, though.
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, it seems to me that people describe your father as a
00:34:00gentleman, as a . . .
REED: Oh, yes. He was a gentleman and she was a lady, no question about
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. He seemed to be even-tempered. One person said
they very seldom saw him smile, but they very seldom saw him angry.
REED: I think that's right. I think he was on a even keel without
having highs and lows, which is the way I am. My mother was . . .
had more of a quick temper and . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: More volatile? [chuckle]
REED: . . . was more volatile and more lively in many ways. But she
was . . . she was also extremely intelligent. I think if my mother
had been born about thirty years later, she might have been governor or
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. But at that time, what you see is . . . is women
00:35:00like your mother playing key roles behind the scenes.
REED: All she wanted . . . all she wanted was things for her husband.
She didn't want anything for herself.
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Yeah. I d- . . . I was . . . I didn't know
she'd been state . . . . women's state chairman in 1928 until I read
that interview, and I was . . . I was interested to find that out.
REED: She'd been active in a lot of women's organizations. I've been
reading in the back the . . . the local Maysville paper about
fifty years ago, seventy-five years ago, she . . . about 1913, she
organized the first chapter in Maysville of F- . . . Wo- . . .
Women . . . Women's . . . Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1921
she was the first region of the first ch- . . . local chapter of the
Daughters of the American Revolution, and somewhere in between those
two she was one of the organizers of the Mason County Health League.
She did a lot of that sort of thing, which . . . I don't think
00:36:00she did it for political reasons, but it would have been helpful in
[chuckling] a political career.
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Well, I suppose by `29 she was ready to move on to
Washington. Maybe that . . .
REED: I think she was.
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . maybe that was more of a challenge than . . .
REED: I think . . . I think . . . I think she was. I think she
was, and she loved Washington.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, other than social occasions where she would help your
father by entertaining or . . . or being with him at places, did she
. . . was she active in anything in Washington, such as clubs or .
. . ?
REED: Oh, I think she belonged to some . . . well, let's see. No.
I'm sure she belonged to some . . . there was a Kentucky Society
which, I suppose, was social.
REED: In the early . . . her early years in Washington, she spent a
00:37:00lot of time up at the Senate gallery just watching the Senate . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
REED: . . . and getting to know the senators. Sometimes she would
have lunch with Alben Barkley. Another thing that they did a lot in
the early years at the Mayflower . . . they lived at the Mayflower
Hotel from 1929 until 1976. [In] the early years they'd sit down in
the lobby after dinner, and other people living in the hotel would sit
there, and among the people that sat there were Mr. and Mrs. Jesse
Jones, Senator and Mrs. Walter George [chuckling] from Georgia,
Senator [Charles L.] McNary from Oregon that . . . Oregon, who
became the Republican [Senate] Leader. And people like that they got
00:38:00to know quite well thataway and, of course, the Jim Stones lived at the
Mayflower Hotel, too, . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
REED: . . . during the Hoover administration, which is why Mother and
Dad went there.
REED: And they became very close with the Stones.
BIRDWHISTELL: That's quite a little after dinner gathering, isn't it?
[chuckle] I mean, just informally like that?
REED: And it was through the . . . it was through the meeting with
the . . . at the Mayflower [with] Jesse Jones that he invited my
father to come over to R.F.C. At least that's . . . that . . .
that was the first contact. I don't mean that he didn't check up on
him or [chuckling] anything.
BIRDWHISTELL: Sure. Well, why did they never move out of the Mayflower?
Why did they not . . . I mean, there are advantages of living there
. . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . and I guess there are disadvantages.
REED: Well, the reasons . . . the reasons my mother gave, at least
in the early years, were that they had quite a lot of land in Kentucky
which they had to do a certain amount of taking care of; it was such a
00:39:00relief to get up here and not have any land to take care of. And, of
course, also they didn't know at first how long they'd be in Washington.
REED: Now, I think once . . . once he was put on the Court in `38
. . . early `38, then I think they really took another look at it
because it looked like they were going to be living . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, . . .
REED: . . . in Washington.
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . once you're on the Court, it's [chuckle] . . .
REED: They were going to be living in Washington quite awhile. And
there was some debate then about, "Well, now, shouldn't we buy a house
around here instead of staying on," and . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: And they decided not to.
REED: . . . they decided not to. I don't know that I know all the
reasons. I kind of have a vague recollection that he wanted to and she
didn't. [laughter] I . . . I think he had a kind of a yearning for
a little plot of land and she didn't. [chuckle]
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, you know, you get this impression [chuckle--Reed]
of a . . . of a man from . . . from a rural state who ends up in
downtown Washington, that every once in a while he might like to see a
00:40:00little yard and a little green [chuckling] or something.
REED: Yeah, right. Right.
BIRDWHISTELL: But, also, I get . . . I'm getting the impression that
on decisions that your mother had quite a bit of influence?
REED: Oh, yes. [laughter--Birdwhistell] Oh, yes. She . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Almost a veto power. [laughter]
REED: . . . she was never just . . . she was never just a "yes
man," but . . . and he would . . . he would let her have her way
on a lot of things, but occasionally he asserted himself. [laughter] I
. . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Did your . . . oh, go ahead, I'm sorry.
REED: . . . I was going to . . . one example was that in this
Tobacco Cooperative--it was r- . . . this was rather amusing. I
don't know how much of this is in the other Columbia oral history,
but I think it was 1921 that they started this Kentucky cooperative
all over again. I think they'd had one many years earlier, but it had
terminated. So the first step was to elect a . . . a representative
00:41:00from each of the tobacco counties, who . . . who . . . each one
would be a director of the new cooperative. And so the farmers had a
mass meeting in Mason County. Met and voted for my father to be their
representative. And my father, who was present, got up and said he
was sorry, but he was too busy practicing law and he just couldn't do
it, but recommended they pick his friend James Kehoe, who was at that
time president of the bank that was [chuckling] my father's best client
[chuckle--Birdwhistell] and . . . and married to my father's first
cousin, which they did. They then elected Kehoe and he became and
acted as that for ten years or so. Well, I remember that night, my
father . . . my mother was hysterical. "You made . . . you've
. . . you've lost your great opportunity!" [laughter] She gave him
00:42:00a terrible time, and as it turned out he was right and she was wrong,
because it was much better to be the counsel, . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Than to be the . . .
REED: . . . as it turned out.
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . representative.
REED: If he hadn't been the counsel, he never would have gotten to
Washington . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: To do the other . . .
REED: . . . you know. So she . . . he . . . he was right and
she was wrong on that one.
[End of Tape 1, Side 1]
[Beginning of Tape 1, Side 2]
BIRDWHISTELL: [chuckle] I don't think we got that. You said you don't .
. . you don't know if she had a talk with him before?
REED: I don't know whether they had discussed it before the mass meeting,
what to do if [chuckle--Birdwhistell] . . . if he . . . I don't
know whether he knew that he was going to be elected or anything. But,
oh, no. She was always-- are we on or off? We're . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: We're on.
REED: . . . we're on?
REED: She was always fussing at him and telling him what to do [chuckle-
-Birdwhistell], and . . . and . . . you know, in a nice way, and .
. . and . . . and she was a . . . she had very good judgment.
She was an unusually good judge of people, and usually right about her
. . . her judgments were usually sound on people, and she had a lot
of common sense.
BIRDWHISTELL: Had your father talked about going to the Supreme Court,
about the possibility of being appointed, before he was appointed? Do
you ever remember him saying anything about it?
REED: Oh, I remember . . . yes, I remember him jokingly saying . .
. half-jokingly mentioning it. I think in the Hoover administration
he jokingly said, "I think somebody"--I forget who--"is going to . .
. going to get me on the Supreme Court." But I can't remember the
00:44:00details. Anyway, I think jokingly he talked about it quite a bit. I
don't remember him talking seriously about it until . . . well, just
before he was nominated, he was mentioned . . . had been mentioned
for it, and I remember him saying on the tele- . . . long-distance
phone that . . . just a few days before he was nominated, "I think I
have one chance in four," or something like that.
BIRDWHISTELL: Huh! But he . . . he wanted it?
REED: [chuckle] Well, he obviously did. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] I don't
know that he . . . yeah, I think he obviously [did]. I think he
always planned to accept it. I don't think there was much . . . I
don't think there was anything [chuckle--Birdwhistell] to debate about
BIRDWHISTELL: If he hadn't been appointed to the Court, do you think he
00:45:00would have returned to Kentucky? I guess that's always speculation that
. . .
REED: No, I suspect that he would have been offered a job by some law
firm in Washington or New York.
BIRDWHISTELL: Some people thought he wanted to be governor of Kentucky.
REED: Well, I think he might have accepted that. I . . . I have the
impression that he told me once that . . . that someone was exploring
. . . exploring whether he would make a good candidate for governor
of Kentucky. I forget who it was. I think Jesse Jones, at one point,
wanted my father to go back to Texas and be his personal counsel.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
REED: I think . . . I . . . I'm pretty sure that my father told
00:46:00me that Jones made that . . . made a pretty definite offer to him
to that effect. I'm . . . I'm not sure about the year. Obviously,
it was before my father went on the Court. Maybe it was even before
my father left the R.F.C., but Jones at some point wanted my father to
come back to Texas and be his lawyer, or be one of his lawyers and I
don't know what, but he . . . you know, he . . . he had a lot of
interests in Houston, I think it was. No, I think he would have . .
. my guess is that if he found anything . . . any way of making
a living without going back to Maysville, he would have . . . my
mother would have made [chuckling] him take it if he . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: She didn't want to go back?
REED: I . . . I just guess she didn't. I do know that when he
retired at the age of 72, he wanted to go back to Kentucky to live, and
00:47:00she said that, "If you go, you'll go alone." [laughter]
BIRDWHISTELL: Didn't beat around the bush?
REED: She loved Washington. Yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: That's interesting.
REED: Now they did--as you probably know--they did go back in the
summers a number of times after . . . after he retired and maybe
even while he was on the Court, I forgot. But . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: When . . . when your father went on the Court, he was
one of the last justices to serve not having a formal law degree, I
suppose, and had no prior experience as a judge.
BIRDWHISTELL: Do you think that . . . that affected him in any . .
. any way at all? Do you think it made him apprehensive about going
on the Court, or did he feel confident about it?
REED: Oh, no. I think he . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Without knowing . . .
REED: . . . oh, no. I . . . I don't think so. I think he was
00:48:00always confident. I don't think the lack of a law degree was of any
significance. He had a much better legal education then ninety percent
of the [chuckle--Birdwhistell] lawyers of his . . . of his vintage.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right. No, I didn't mean to imply that it did. I just
wondered if he . . .
REED: I wouldn't . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . if he just, you know, felt apprehensive at all.
REED: I don't think so. No, I don't . . . I think he was always .
. . I think he was always confident he could do the job. He . . .
he . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Was he concerned at all about the fact that just a few
years ear- . . . you know, just a very recent past, the big fight
Roosevelt had over the Court, the Court-packing controversy, which your
father more or less stayed out of? But here he was the second Roosevelt
appointee to the Court. Did . . . did he feel any pressure at all
00:49:00in that regard?
REED: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think my recollection
is that the . . . that the chief justice and the just- . . .
justices greeting him . . . greeted him with open arms. In fact,
I was reading something--I think it's right up there, actually--by .
. . or maybe it's in the . . . yeah, I think it is up there. I
think Stone . . . I think Stone was the chief . . . no, it . .
. no, was it [Harlan] Stone or [Charles] Hughes when . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: When he went on?
REED: . . . I guess it was Hughes . . .
REED: . . . when he . . . when he went on it. And I think it
was Hughes that wrote to someone, "From all I can hear, Reed is a good
man and will make a good justice," or something like that. No, his
relations were . . . were . . . even during the Court-packing
bill, his relations with the Court were . . . were excellent
00:50:00and, [chuckle] in fact, I remember I was down at a dinner party, I
guess, that my parents gave for the . . . invited all the sitting
justices of the Supreme Court, which were the "Nine Old Men," to
dinner [chuckle--Birdwhistell] right at the height of the Court-packing
bill. And they all came except [James] McReynolds, I think. And
I remember my mother . . . or my . . . my father saying to my
mother just before they left the apartment to go to the dinner, which
was downstairs in the downstairs dining room, "Just act as if there
is no Court-packing bill pending. Just . . . just ignore it."
And so that's what they did and, you know, just Kentucky hospitality
[chuckling] so to speak, which was the wise way to do it, of course.
And the . . . and the justices acted the same way. I . . . I
was there at the dinner, and the justices were all very friendly.
BIRDWHISTELL: Your father didn't like controversy, did he, it doesn't
00:51:00seem? [chuckle] I mean, not that he didn't . . . not that anyone
likes controversy, but it seemed like he would . . . he went out of
his way to try and stay away from controversy.
REED: Probably true. Probably true. I don't remember him ever being
involved in any long feuding or . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I mean. On the Court when . . . when .
. . you know, the Court . . . on the Roosevelt Court became very
controversial in itself, you know, in terms of the dissension on the
Court, and . . . and your father was, you know, not on any faction,
always in the middle.
REED: Yeah. I think he was friendly with all the justices. Yeah, I
think he was . . . that was his nature to be kind of a middle-of-
the-roader, and . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: [inaudible] continue the Kentucky tradition of
compromising, the "Great Compromiser." [chuckling]
REED: Yeah, I think so. I think so, yeah. That's . . . that's . .
00:52:00. I think I'm probably a lot like him. I . . . that's the way I
. . . I am. [chuckle] As far as I know, none of the . . . none
. . . he had no feuds with any of the . . . any of his brethren.
Never heard of any. I think . . . I think they all liked him, and
he liked them.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did you have [Felix] Frankfurter as a professor, too?
REED: No, I didn't. I didn't. I . . . the year I would have had
him, he was on a sabbatical, so I never . . . never knew him at law
school. Never even laid eyes on him, I don't believe.
BIRDWHISTELL: How would you describe the relationship between your
father and Frankfurter? Do you have any insight into that?
REED: Yeah. As far as I know they were friendly. I . . . I . . .
as far as I know they were friendly. I don't . . . I think m- .
00:53:00. . I don't think my mother liked him, but I think she pretended to.
BIRDWHISTELL: Why didn't your mother like him?
REED: I think she always thought he was kind of a rival of my father's
some way. I don't quite know what it was. She . . . she just
didn't like him, and I . . . I can't say why. I mean I don't know
why. [chuckle] But I think he l- . . . I think he and Felix liked
one another. I think . . . I think sometimes Felix amused him, but
I guess the other people did, too.
BIRDWHISTELL: [chuckle] In those early days on the Court, who do you
think he was closest to either personally or philosophically? I know
later on when . . . when [Fred] Vinson came on the Court, but . .
. and he and . . .
REED: Let's see.
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . Vinson and [Harold] Burton usually voted together.
REED: Well, let's see. Well, of course, in the early days the . . .
00:54:00the first Roosevelt appointee was [Hugo] Black, and then my father. I
don't know that my father ever became too chummy with any of the people
who were on before Black. In other words, they liked one another
and they were friendly, but I don't know that any of them . . . I
don't remember any of them coming . . . coming to our apartment,
for example, such as the Stones or the Hughes' or whoever it was. Of
course, those . . . those old . . . "Nine Old People" got off
fairly quickly then, but among the later people, they got to know the
Blacks pretty well. And I remember the Blacks . . . oh, about the
00:55:00summer of 1939 or `40, that the Blacks spent a week with my parents at
their summer home on Long Island. And I think the Bob Jacksons came
up the next summer. So that's one measure of being close to the Blacks
and Jacksons. Later . . . later my father and the Tom C- . . .
my parents and the Tom Clarks became quite friendly. And now I kind
of forget who the others were. I don't . . . well, the Douglas', of
course, but those are the ones that I think of particularly.
BIRDWHISTELL: Here's some of the list that'll help refresh your memory
of people on the Court.
REED: Yeah. Well, yeah, as I say, I don't think any of those . . .
those older people ever came to our apartment, and whether Mother and
00:56:00Dad went to their apartments . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Did your father have a . . . have a best friend or a
closest personal friend? Or, who would you say was his closest friend?
REED: You mean on the Court or anywhere?
BIRDWHISTELL: Anywhere in his life.
REED: [chuckle] Well, I think it would be some people in Maysville . .
. some people in Maysville. Perhaps Dr. Taylor, T-A-Y-L-O-R, who
was the young doctor practicing with my father's father. My father's
father was a doctor, and when my father's father retired and then
died, the office was in the home . . . the residence. And Tay-
. . . Taylor was then a young doctor without any money, and so my
father sold him the building on very . . . very favorable terms.
And I don't know just what, but pay as . . . pay over a long
00:57:00period and didn't try to get the most out of it. And . . . and in
return, Taylor said that . . . of course, that . . . you know,
that building was worth something because people were in the habit of
going there. I mean, Dr. Reed had been, I guess, the leading general
physician there. But as a result, Taylor agreed--I don't . . . I
don't know if it was part of the bargain--but in practice, he treated
my father and mother and their children free as long as he lived and
as long as we lived in Maysville, which was until 1929. So that .
. . and they remained great friends. And shortly before we . .
. my parents left Maysville for Washington in 1929, Dr. Taylor
decided to move to a house up . . . a residence up on the hill, so
00:58:00he bought a nice lot next door to where my parents lived, [chuckle]
started building and started building it before my parents [left],
but he didn't . . . by the time he finished it my parents were in
Washington. And his daughter still lives there in that . . . that
house. It's a nice house. I would say he was my father's best friend
over the years. Another good friend was Chief Justice William Rees,
R-E-E-S, who became the chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
He was a classmate and roommate of my father at Virginia . . .
University of Virginia Law School, . . .
REED: . . . and practiced law there in Maysville and didn't have a
particularly good practice. And when Fields was governor of Kentucky,
he phoned my father--there was a vacancy on the judgeship on the .
00:59:00. . the Kentucky Court of Appeals--he phoned my father and asked
him if he'd like to have it. And my father said . . . said no, he
couldn't take it. He [was] too busy practicing law. He had, you know,
. . . it didn't . . . I think it paid $4,500 a year or something.
[chuckle] So Fields said, "Well, who would you recommend?" and he
said, "Bill Rees." So he offered it to Rees and Rees took it and spent
the rest of his life there.
BIRDWHISTELL: How about that.
REED: Rees had a relatively . . . I don't think he had a very good
practice. He was a nice fellow, but not a . . . not a workaholic,
and he had some other means of support. [chuckle] So that worked
out very well. Incidentally, I think my father was offered several
judgeships over the years in addition to that one. I . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: He was offered some by Roosevelt, wasn't he?
REED: I think F.D.R. offered him, I think, a district court judgeship
and a court of appeals judgeship before the Supreme Court.
BIRDWHISTELL: Why would he turn those down? Just various reasons?
REED: Well, I don't know, but I think he did. [laughter]
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, [laughing] I think so.
REED: I'm not sure about the court of appeals. I'm pretty sure he was
offered a district court judgeship and I'm not even sure whether it was
Kentucky or the District of Columbia. And I think the court of appeals
was maybe [the] District of Columbia but, again, I'm not sure. But I
have kind of a vague feeling that . . . that . . . I think maybe
one of those . . . maybe he talked to F.D.R. about one of those,
and I rather think F.D.R. told him, "Why, you can have this if you
want it, but I hope to have something better for you." Some . . .
something like . . . I think there was some such conversation. I
don't remember the details.
BIRDWHISTELL: What was your father's reaction to Vinson being named
REED; Well, I don't know that I knew at the time, but I have gathered
from his reaction over the years was that he . . . that my father
wanted it very much and was quite disappointed when Vinson got it, and
. . . which I suppose is a natural reaction. Of course . . . of
course, in Kentucky I think my father's stature as a lawyer was . . .
was greater than Vinson's. Vinson was, as I remember in Kentucky, was
. . . he was a commonwealth . . . the commonwealth's attorney.
I'm not sure he ever practiced very much.
BIRDWHISTELL: No, he never practiced much law. Of course, he had been
on the court in . . . in D.C.
REED: Yeah. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Things had changed a lot and, of course,
Vinson had had a good career in Washington in many ways, but . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Was he . . .
REED: . . . I can see my father looking back to [chuckle] the
Kentucky days. I think my father was about five years older, I think.
But I think . . . as far as I know, they were always friendly
and, in fact, I remember my father . . . I recall some conversation
my father had with Vinson on this subject after Vinson became chief
justice. And some conversation just between the two of them, I
suppose, there in the Court building where Vinson said something about,
"Oh, you're just jealous because I got the chief justiceship instead
of you," or something. And my father said he ta- . . . talked to
Vinson, he said, "Well, now, look. Sure I'm sorry I didn't get it
instead of you, but I want you to know that you've got it, and I'm
going to do all I can to . . . to help you," and . . . and . .
. and something like that, yeah. And as far as I know, they were .
01:03:00. . never had any real words about it [chuckle] other than something
BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose it was harder because Vinson was from Kentucky
and . . . and their rivalry sort of went back all the way to that
congressional . . . wanting the same congressional seat, and here
they were years later . . .
REED; Yeah. Yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . still . . . still rivals.
REED: It was interesting.
BIRDWHISTELL: And they had . . . their backgrounds were quite similar
and . . .
REED: Yeah. There was something in Frankfurter's diaries that I .
. . I only read excerpts of in some newspaper, New York Times or
Washington Post or something, but he's put . . . put down that he
was riding in a car, both my father in Washington somewhere, and . .
. and Frankfurter asked my father, he said, "What is . . . what
is Vinson like?" I guess this was when Vinson [had] just been appointed
or something, and Vinson . . . my father . . . according to the
diary, my father said, "Well, he's just like me, except that I . .
01:04:00. I had a better education and more advantages." [laughter] Which is
true, I suppose. I think . . . well, I guess Vinson went to Centre
College, but I think . . . I think my father's . . . I think my
father had . . . my father's father, I think, had . . . had a .
. . probably had more money than Vinson's father.
BIRDWHISTELL: No question.
REED: I suppose that's what he meant by advantages. [laughter]
My father grew up in a big house in the . . . biggest house in
Maysville, I guess, with a . . . I guess his father was one of the
rich men in Maysville at that point, even though he wouldn't be rich
by modern standards. [chuckle] But . . . but he was considered a
BIRDWHISTELL: One writer suggested that, quote, "It is not easy to
01:05:00label Reed. He tended to be an economic liberal and a civil rights
conservative." What is your assessment of . . . of that? Do you .
. . would you agree with that, or . . . in looking back over your
father's career on the Court.
REED: I think it's pretty close to correct. I think my father didn't
. . . didn't think civil rights were as important as . . . as
many people do. I mean, he was not an extremist in making sure that
no one's civil rights were . . . were invaded. So I suppose that's
what they mean by civil rights conservative. Economic liberal . . .
well, I suppose he generally supported the New Deal measures, which
01:06:00tended to redistribute wealth somewhat. I suppose that's what they
mean. I'm not quite sure what an economic liberal is.
BIRDWHISTELL: I s- . . . I guess New Deal type legislation.
REED: I think he generally supported the New Deal . . . the whole New
Deal pretty much. There may be . . . may have been . . . I don't
know whether there was anything that he didn't support but, certainly,
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Of course, any time your father served in public
life as long as your father did and was involved in so many things,
there will be criticism, but knowing your father personally like you
do, what is your reaction to the criticism about some of his decisions
01:07:00on the Court in terms of civil liberties or civil rights? What . .
. what . . . I guess, can you provide any insight into how your
father arrived at those decisions, or how he would view those types of
cases, or would . . . is that not fair? Would each one have to be
looked at individually?
REED: Well, there are a lot of different kinds of civil rights, and
I imagine he had different views on different ones. I can remember
him once just saying to me when, I guess, we were alone--I don't know
what brought it up--but he said that, "Some of his . . . some of my
brethren want to let all the criminals out of jail." That's one form of
civil rights, to . . . to be sure that no man is convicted without
one hundred percent due process in every sense of the word. Ev- .
01:08:00. . even though he's clearly guilty. [chuckle] And I think that
pretty consistently he . . . if there was a split on the Court about
whether to set aside a conviction, he would . . . he would probably
be with . . . one of the group that did not want to set it aside. I
. . . I guess that . . . I guess that's sort of the way I feel,
too, so I don't . . . but I . . . there are a great many people
. . . I imagine most of the people in this . . . lawyers in this
office would be what I would call "extremists," that civil liberties
are all-important and come first, and the most important thing is not
to deprive anyone of any possible civil liberty that he has or might
have or anybody can think of that he may have. [chuckle] I think it's
more true . . . I think there are more of those "extremists" in this
01:09:00part of the country than there are in Kentucky. It would be my guess.
I don't believe in Maysville you'd find so many civil liberty . . .
non-conservatives [chuckling] on civil liberty.
BIRDWHISTELL: I guess the other thing mentioned about your father and
the Court . . . articles one reads about the Court, is that he's
always mentioned as the Roosevelt appointee who . . . one of the
Roosevelt appointees who started more or less liberal on the left side
and ended up at least further to the right. The question is whether
he changed his philosophy or whether the Court moved on him, you know.
Did his . . . did his philosophy pretty much stay the same from
what you can tell?
REED: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I . . . I really
don't know. I don't know the answer to that one.
REED: But I think it's normal for one . . . isn't it normal for a
person to get more conservative as they . . . as they get older?
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Umhmm.
REED: I think it is.
BIRDWHISTELL: Some other things have talked about Supreme Court justices
advocating a social philosophy in their decisions. You know, being for
a particular social philosophy. And I think I read one that said your
father wasn't advocating . . . [chuckle]
REED: Was not?
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . was not advocating a specific social philosophy.
REED: I wouldn't know what it was if he did. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] I
don't think he had anything to advocate, right?
REED: My guess is that he was trying not to advocate a social philosophy.
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, of course, I'm not a lawyer and . . . and not a
real student of the Court, but from what I've read about him, this idea
01:11:00of judicial restraint about how he . . . he seemed to believe very
deeply in that, you know, in terms of how . . . what role the Court
REED: I think so. I think he would . . . would have believed in
BIRDWHISTELL: Did your father talk with you before he decided to retire
in . . . in `57 about retiring from the Court?
REED: I don't remember any particular discussion. I have an impression-
01:12:00-and I'm not sure where I got it--that he had talked of re- . . .
been talking of retiring for a year or two before he retired. And
that Mother . . . my mother had dissuaded him, at least temporarily,
on the ground that people would think it strange that he quit work at
such [chuckling] a . . . such an early age.
BIRDWHISTELL: Of course, he was seventy at the time, wasn't he?
REED: Yes. I think she hoped he would go on. I don't remember ever
talking to him about it. I . . . I think he had begun to think
that he could no longer do the work as well as he once did and that,
01:13:00therefore, he should retire. I wondered . . . I never knew whether
he was moved partly by the statements made into the height of the
Roosevelt packing bill . . . the Roosevelt court-packing bill about
justices staying on the Court too . . . until . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Past seventy?
REED: . . . until they got too old.
BIRDWHISTELL: I guess that could have been in back of his mind.
REED: I never knew whether that was a factor.
BIRDWHISTELL: What about retiring during the administration of a
Republican? Would that . . . do you think that bothered him?
REED: I never heard him discuss it. Was it . . . I . . . I'd
forgotten, was it Republican?
BIRDWHISTELL: [Dwight D.] Eisenhower.
REED: `57. Well, yes. Eisenhower had just come in, hadn't he?
BIRDWHISTELL: For his second term.
REED: Well, he would have had s- . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: So he had to stay till `60 . . . he would have had to
stay till `61.
REED: . . . would have had to stay on quite awhile.
BIRDWHISTELL: Four more years.
REED: Four more years. Perhaps he . . . I don't know. Perhaps he
waited until the election in `56.
BIRDWHISTELL: And then saw that it would be four more years and decided
REED: Perhaps. I . . . I never . . . I don't remember ever
hearing that discussed, but it's . . . it doesn't . . . it's not
an . . . it seems possible, anyway. I don't really know.
BIRDWHISTELL: Of course, he s- . . . he stayed active for a number of
years after retirement, hearing cases and . . .
REED: He sat on the lower courts to some extent. Yeah, he seemed to .
. . he seemed to be pretty well, but evidently he'd found that . .
. that he wasn't doing . . . at least he thought he had found, I
think, that he wasn't doing the work as well as he once had. I don't
. . . I don't know how you know that. I think you'd might have
trouble . . . it might be difficult for a person to know that, but
. . . and I don't know whether it was just imagination or whether it
was true. But . . . because he still seemed to be . . . have all
01:15:00his faculties for a number of years after that. So I never knew.
BIRDWHISTELL: What about his rice diet? That was kind of interesting,
REED: [chuckle] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it probably . . . it
probably kept him . . . it probably made him live longer.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. That's interesting. I think his law clerks always
felt sorry for him having to eat rice all the time.
REED: Well, I . . . I read not long ago that it's well known that
malnutrition can cause premature senility. And I begin to wonder
whether that might have been a factor with my father and might have .
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
REED: . . . somehow affected his mind a little bit.
BIRDWHISTELL: Because . . . because of his diet?
REED: Yeah, a little bit. And whether that was what he was beginning
to notice in . . . when he retired, I don't know. But it's a
BIRDWHISTELL: That's interesting.
REED: It's a possibility. Now he . . . he certainly . . . well,
I don't mean that he was senile at 72 in the . . . I mean, in the
ordinary sense of the word he wasn't senile, but conceivably it could
have . . . he could have become just enough . . . little bit
senile so as to affect his ability to . . . you know, those justices
have to work pretty long hours on that . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Yeah.
REED: . . . concentrated work.
BIRDWHISTELL: And he took the job very, very seriously, didn't he?
REED: He did, and I don't think he would have wanted to stay on if he
didn't think he could do his share of the work.
BIRDWHISTELL: It seems to be that's one of things that comes [out] about
his career as a justice is the . . . not that the other justices
don't take it serious either, but that seriousness and attention to
detail and the concern for . . . for his opinions to . . . to be
legally correct, I suppose, is what I'm trying to say.
REED: Oh, yeah. I think it . . . I think it's a . . . you have to
work pretty hard and . . . to be a . . . to be a . . . I mean,
to be even an average justice. [chuckle] Well, . . . well, I mean,
you first have to have the natural ability and the . . . and the
background and education and all of that, but also you've got to work.
You can't just . . . well, of course, you can let your law clerks
write the . . . your opinions, but I don't think [chuckle] my father
liked . . . liked to do it that way.
BIRDWHISTELL: No, I don't think anyone has ever accused him of that.
REED: It may . . . I don't say . . . it probably has happened, but
I don't . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, . . .
REED: . . . I don't mean with him, but it's happened, I'm sure, with
other . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . yeah. That . . . it's been mentioned in the .
REED: . . . other justices.
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . case of other justices.
REED: I'm sure it has happened, but I don't think it was ever true of
BIRDWHISTELL: No. [chuckle--Reed] If . . . if anything, I think it's
. . . he . . . he probably depended on them less than a lot of
justices, from what I've been able to tell.
REED: I suspect so, too. I would know . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: He had a good relationship with his clerks, it seems.
REED: I think so. Yeah. I went to a number of the law clerks' parties.
They had parties every year, and I went to a number of the . . .
of them. They would give a dinner for him in Washington on a Saturday
night, and then he would . . . he and Mother would give a bru- . .
. brunch for them the next day. And I went . . . I went to quite
a few of the brunches over the years, and over the last year or two I
went to the dinners. And it was a good relationship. And it was . .
. it was a nice . . . nice bunch of . . . nice bunch of boys.
And I think they all liked him very much ,and he liked all them very
much. I enjoyed meeting with them. They were a good . . . good
group. Oh, yeah. I think the relationship with the law clerks was
great and mutually beneficial.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Right.
REED: Yeah, that's a good setup, that law clerk relationship.
BIRDWHISTELL: That's about all the questions I have. I think the
things you've said will be very helpful to someone who's looking at
your father's life and career and trying to understand the . . .
understand him as a . . . as a person. Is there anything else that
you'd like to . . . to add that you can think of?
REED: Well, I don't think of anything very important. One little . .
. one little--again, I don't know how much is in the Columbia oral
history--one little point that might be pertinent today particularly
is that he was offered a job in a Wall Street law firm when he finished
01:20:00law school, either at the end of the second year, which was here at
Columbia Law School, or at the end of the third year, which was over
in Paris . . . Sorbonne in Paris, by White Case, and specifically
by Colonel Hartfield, who was from Kentucky and one of the . . . one
of the senior partners at White Case in those days. And they offered
him fifty dollars a month salary, and he said, "No, thank you," and
went back to Kentucky. And [it's] interesting to speculate on what
might have happened [chuckling] if he had said yes. I always suspected
that . . . I . . . I suspected . . . well, I suspected he had
two reasons for going back to Kentucky: One, that his wife's parents
01:21:00were living down, although his parents were dead by that time. And
two, that he had these farms and . . . outside of Kent- . . .
in Kentucky that he felt that he ought to look out for. I would have
thought that except . . . without . . . except for those reasons,
I would have thought he would have accepted it and tried it for a year
or two at least. He had inherited some money from his father, so that
he could have . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Could have managed?
REED: . . . well, probably in those days you could live on fifty
dollars a month, but if you couldn't, he had . . . he could've
[chuckle] invented capital for a year or two.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did . . . did his being a Supreme Court justice have
any effect on your career at all?
BIRDWHISTELL: Adversely or . . . or helpful?
REED: Well, . . . well, I don't know which, but it had an effect. I
01:22:00don't know that I want to name names, but . . . because the firm I
was then with was afraid my father would not sit on a case they were
going have up before the Supreme Court, [telephone rings] they asked me
to leave [chuckle--Birdwhistell], which I did, and came here.
BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose you didn't appreciate that at the time, though,
REED: Well, I . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Or did you understand that it was part of the business?
REED: . . . I understood it. I think it was somewhat unusual.
I think probably . . . I think probably it was . . . I think
probably it ended up well for me. I think probably I have been better
off here than [chuckling] I would have been there. But . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: Of course, your father could have refused to sit on the
case because he was still mad at the [chuckling] . . . at the . . .
REED: I . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . at the firm.
REED: . . . I don't . . . I can't remember what happened
eventually. I think . . . I think they lost the case in the Court .
. . in the Supreme Court. I can't remember whether my father sat or
not. I think my father w- . . . was somewhat upset with the firm.
I . . . I didn't . . . I really wasn't [chuckle--Birdwhistell],
because I think . . . I think that . . . I don't know. I think
I was . . . I think I had a kind of a hunch at the time that this
might be a better hole. [chuckle] So it did have that effect. I don't
know that it had any other effect. As a matter of fact, one of the .
. . one . . . when I started looking around, one . . . one of
the other good firms similar to this that I went to said they had the
01:24:00same problem. They'd like to have me, but [chuckle] they couldn't . .
. they had this same problem about a case in the Supreme Court.
BIRDWHISTELL: That's interesting.
REED: So I came and talked to John W. Davis and told him the problems.
He said, "That wouldn't make any difference to me," and he said, "It's
very possible we can use you," and, of course, at that time he was head
of this firm, and even the slight suggestion from Mr. Davis that he
would like to have a person here, and he was in. [laughter]
BIRDWHISTELL: That's all it took, right?
REED; That's all it took. And . . . and he was . . . had been a
good friend of my parents and continued to be after that. And . . .
and he was a . . . he was a very great . . . well, charming man.
He would have . . . would have made a great president, I'm sure.
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, we're about at the end of the tape, and I want to .
REED: I . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . I want to thank you for taking the time today and
. . .
REED: . . . well, I was . . .
BIRDWHISTELL: . . . for reminiscing back over the years.
REED: . . . I've enjoyed it. It's a pleasure for me, and I hope
someone will read it with interest and sympathetic understanding.
REED: I hope I didn't say too many things I shouldn't have said.
BIRDWHISTELL: No, I don't think so.
[End of Interview]