Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Alben W. Barkley, October 18th, 1953

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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OTHER VOICE: This is side one of reel seventeen, Barkley tapes.

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: This is Sidney Shalett. Senator, will you give your voice so the stenographer will be able to identify it--

BARKLEY: Yes, I'm Barkley of Paducah, which is the subject of a family joke about me when my son and I were driving in Kentucky some years ago.

SHALETT: Dare I say, before you tell it, that this is reel seventeen, side one?

BARKLEY: I'm not telling it. I just said that the--oh--I said it was the subject of a joke.


BARKLEY: You want me to tell it?

SHALETT: Yes, this doesn't have to be transcribed, but let's put that on the record.

BARKLEY: Well, some years ago my son and I were driving to Paducah from North Carolina where I had been to celebrate, or participate, in the unveiling of a monument to Robert Barkley, my great-great-great-grandfather. 00:01:00And we stopped up near Bowling Green, Kentucky, to fill the car--tank with gas. And a fellow was working away at it and filled the tank, and then he was washing the window--I mean, the windshield, and I got into conversation with him. And I learned that he had moved up there about four years ago from Marshall County, which is an adjoining county to my county, McCracken. And I said, "How long did you live in Marshall County?" He said, "All my life." Well, I said, "I'm from Paducah, adjoining county to Marshall." He said, "What is your name?" I said, "Barkley. Barkley of Paducah." "Oh, yes," he said, "that's the place where the Baptists are raising hell." (Shalett laughs) Well, it was true that the Baptists had a split in their church and they--Court of Appeals of Kentucky with it, and it was a very noted case down there. Well, I just--after we 00:02:00got our gas and car fixed up, we drove along for about five miles. And my son tells the story that I never opened my mouth during that whole five miles, and then I turned to him and said, "He didn't know me." (Shalett laughs) And that's--(laughs). Well, I was pretty sure he'd voted for me a number of times down there, because I'd been running for office ever since 1912.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: The President's veto of the tax bill in February 1944 came over on Wednesday, and Senator George made a speech as soon as it was read, expressing his disagreement to it, and maybe one or two others also commented upon it. I rose and addressed the chair and was recognized, and was in the act of making a speech myself about it. But on second thought, after I rose to 00:03:00my feet I thought maybe I'd better wait until the next day and think it over, so that if I did have a speech to make on it, I would have more time to think of what I wanted to say and to study the message. So I resumed my seat, didn't say a word about it. The Senate adjourned rather early and I came home and discussed the problem with my wife, who was bedridden from illness, and I didn't decide until the next morning that I would really do it. I--as I've already indicated, I was awake most of the night thinking what I ought to do. And I did write out a little of it in longhand, sort of a lead to see how it sounded.

SHALETT: You didn't use the typewriter.

BARKLEY: No, I didn't. I wrote it out in longhand myself and came into her bedroom and read it. And she said to me, "You can do better than that." She thoroughly approved of the 00:04:00course I was going to take, but she said, "You can do better than that." And I said, "All right." I told her goodbye and said, "I'm going to make the speech as soon as the Senate convenes at noon, and I've got to hurry over to the office to dictate it to one of the girls." And she gave me her blessing and said that--"Go to it. I think you're right." And I went on to my office and then dictated it to Miss Winfrey, as I've already indicated.

SHALETT: How long has it been you've typed a speech or typed anything? Do you still use--

BARKLEY: Oh, I still--I can still type almost as rapidly as any clerk or secretary in my office. I--

SHALETT: You learned that back in those Paducah days?

BARKLEY: I learned that back in those Paducah days, and I learned to type with only two fingers, the middle finger of each hand. I never did learn the touch system. But I could--with these two middle fingers on each hand, I could type almost as rapidly as any secretary. And as a matter of fact, during all the 00:05:00time I was reporter for the circuit court down there taking testimony and transcribing the testimony for the court records, I wrote with those two fingers. And I got to be so rapid with those two fingers that I could keep up with almost any secretary in typing things on the typewriter, and I still am pretty fast if I have a good typewriter.

SHALETT: That's what your daughter Marian calls your hunt, peck, and cuss out the--

BARKLEY: Yes. Well, there was more hunt, peck than cuss out, but there was every now and then the cuss out in a mild way if I hit the wrong key, the wrong letter. But I was pretty good, I'll say, and I'm not boasting, but I had to be reasonably good to take all the testimony and then transcribe it on the typewriter, and never having taken any lessons in typewriting, though I did take lessons in shorthand. I took no lessons in typewriting, and I never learned the touch system, and I had to keep my eye pretty much glued on the keyboard in order that I wouldn't miss a letter, but I got so I could 00:06:00do it almost automatically with just two fingers.

SHALETT: This is not for transcription. Wahwee recalled another little phase of the veto message from her standpoint that you hadn't gone into. She told me that she was working in the Senate at the time, and she was sitting up in the gallery, literally scratching her arms red with tenseness. And she got a note from Les Biffle, who was secretary of the Senate then, saying something to the effect, "Wahwee, stop scratching your arms. He'll be re-elected unanimously tomorrow," signed, Les. (Barkley laughs) And then she said that she rushed down to your office and you were there and it was a pretty emotional scene, you were both very tense. And in fact, you had a drink together, and then you called the b---reporters in and made a very fine presentation which you closed by saying, "I have said all I can. My cup runneth over." Or something to that effect.

BARKLEY: Well, that story is substantially true. Of course, I 00:07:00knew nothing about the note that--


BARKLEY: --Biffle sent to her. And as a matter of fact, I didn't know whether any of my family or any of my office force were in the gallery. It turned out that they were.


BARKLEY: And of course, when I finished the speech, the newspaper reporters all rushed around me after the Senate adjourned, both in the Capitol and over at the office. And it was an emotional moment or hour or 24 hours, as a matter of fact, because I had resigned, I had announced that I would resign the next day. And I didn't want to be re-elected. I wasn't resigning as a gesture. I felt that I had probably served as majority leader as long as I could be useful, and that since I, in that important matter, was very ineffective in my advice to the President about the course he should pursue, that I should give it up. And 00:08:00did. But there was a great deal of emotion. I don't remember anything about taking a drink, because--

SHALETT: You didn't ----------(??)that.

BARKLEY: I didn't keep liquor in my office, and I don't know.

SHALETT: Well, she just said it was miraculously procured.

BARKLEY: Somebody may have brought one in there to, maybe, relieve the tenseness and all that, but I don't recall about that part of it.

SHALETT: Well, you were entitled to one. (laughs)

BARKLEY: Well, I probably needed one, yes.

SHALETT: Note to secretary: None of that is to be transcribed, but go back on with what we take now.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: We had--

SHALETT: The Senator's going to give just a word about the family quiz games, which Mrs. Truitt reminded me of.

BARKLEY: Well, that was almost a regular institution in our family at dinner or at breakfast. We were not always together at breakfast, because the children had to get off to school, and sometimes we didn't eat breakfast all together, but we were nearly always together at 00:09:00dinner. And during the meal, we inaugurated a custom of asking all sorts of questions, geographical, historical, and political, and every other kind of question. And it went around the table, and they became very interesting and very instructive, because it's amazing how much an aggregated--an assembled family can produce in the way of knowledge that maybe the rest of them don't know. Any one member can answer a question. So it was one of our regular programs and routine almost, and we enjoyed it very much. Somebody would start out. Usually I would start or my wife would start with some question, and we went around the table, taking it by rotation, and nobody else was permitted to answer that question unless the next person failed to answer it, then it went all around. Well, that became, for years, a regular part of our dinner routine. And we always enjoyed it, and it was a 00:10:00very instructive process, because if we didn't know the answer--if nobody knew the answer, then we would immediately repair to a dictionary or to a geography or to a history to remedy the deficiency in our knowledge, and in that way it became a very valuable family routine. And it was a lot of fun too.

SHALETT: Would the gals bone up on trick questions to stump you with?

BARKLEY: Well, they would sometimes not only bone up but gang up to ask me some trick questions, and I frequently fell down on them and I couldn't have gotten a very high grade. Not only that, I remember one very amusing incident. I don't remember whether I've told this or not, about the spelling match between the Congress and the Press Club?


BARKLEY: Well, this very--this thing happened, which was a very humiliating thing to me. There was a spelling match, spelling bee they called 00:11:00it in the old days, but it was a regular sort of contest between the Congress and the Press Club. And it was a very well-advertised affair, and it was over the radio. And I had been selected as one of the members of the Senate. I had gone to the Senate by that time. There were three or four senators and Congressmen and three or four outstanding members of the press, and they were all in a spelling match.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: I do not recall the members of the press nor the Senate, other than myself, who were in that contest, but my family was very proud of the fact that I was on the team. And the children and my wife also invited all the neighbors in to listen to this spelling match and to observe how I would mow down the press in that contest. Well, the contest came 00:12:00on--I think it was down at the Press Club--and I don't remember all the words that were given out, but I went down on the third word given to me. And it was optician, the simple word optician. And I spelled it with a "t" instead of a "c", o-p-t-i-t-i-o-n, where it should have been c-i-o-n. If I had stopped a moment, I would have known better because optics is with a "c," optical is with a "c," but t-i-o-n confused me, and I went down. And of all the humiliations that ever my family endured with all their neighbors, our neighbors who'd been brought in there to witness my triumph over the press, that was the greatest. And from that time on, I have never escaped the calumny of having gone down on that simple word, the third one that was given to me in the whole contest. (laughs)

SHALETT: That's a wonderful story.

BARKLEY: I've always prided myself on being a pretty good speller, but that time I was just so quick that I made that mistake. And just as soon as I'd gotten it out, I knew 00:13:00I was wrong, but it was too late.

SHALETT: (laughs) Senator, I have one very serious charge against you that we might as well get on right now. Your children, while admitting you're probably the best father ever lived, make one very serious charge against you. They say you're a hell of a procrastinator. And in that line, Mrs. Truitt tells the story about the time that she finally had to scheme and trick to get an appointment with you, without letting her name come up, so she could go through a two foot high stack of invitations that you hadn't either accepted or rejected. Now, do you plead guilty or not guilty? (laughs)

BARKLEY: Well, I don't plead guilty to the--without some extenuating circumstances to the charge of procrastination. But I have always felt that unless you know what--unless and until you know what you're going to do, the best thing is to do nothing, and frequently that's true even yet. Invitations of all sorts come for functions and occasions that are to take place, maybe weeks ahead. And not knowing whether I can 00:14:00go or not, or where I'm going to be, I put off answering them. And my wife now--she gets after me with a sharp stick every week or two to answer these invitations. And finally I break down sometime and just answer nearly all of them by saying, "I'm sorry, I can't be there." But the charge of procrastination in that regard is, to some extent, true, but I plead extenuating circumstances and throw myself on the mercy of the court.

SHALETT: In other words, your policy is to keep your lines of communication flexible.

BARKLEY: Yes, absolutely. Because if you answered one too quick and said you couldn't go, and that has sometimes happened, when the time comes, you could have gone and you wished you'd said yes.

SHALETT: Okay. (laughs)

BARKLEY: There's another story I don't think Wahwee told you about, when we lived in this [Courtland?] Apartment at Champlain and Euclid. The Christian Science church is right across the street from the apartment, across Champlain, and all the children of the neighborhood used to play over 00:15:00in the yard of this church. And my youngest child, who is known by the name of Wahwee--her name was Laura Louise, and she couldn't speak plainly and she'd say, "Wahwee," and it became "Wahwee" and still is--she used to play over there, and Marian played there, and my son David played there, all the neighborhood children, but they didn't know just exactly what this Christian Science church was, what denomination it was. So Wahwee was about four years old, I suppose, and one day she said to her mother, "What do the Christian Science people believe? What is that church? What do they believe?" And in order to make it just as simple as possible, my wife said to her, "Why, they believe that if you fall down and hurt your elbow, it doesn't hurt." Well, that satisfied her. A few days later the neighborhood children were playing over in the yard of this church 00:16:00again, and one of the young people said to the whole crowd, "What do these people here believe? This Christian Science church, what's their doctrine?" And somebody else spoke up and said, "They believe that if you fall down and hurt your knee, it doesn't hurt." And Wahwee spoke up at once and said, "No, it's not your knee, it's your elbow." (both laugh) Of course, that was a very simple explanation of a very profound doctrine of a very fine church. But that is--it was amusing, and all the--from that time on, it was a family joke that if you fell down and hurt your elbow, it didn't hurt, but if you hurt your knee, it did hurt. (laughs)

SHALETT: (laughs) Senator, I wonder if you can add anything to a very charming story Marian recalled on the incident of how you probably risked life and limb in making tracks on a porch roof to imitate Santa Claus the time it snowed in Paducah. Do you recall that?

BARKLEY: Well, I recall it. I don't know the details she has given to you, but--

SHALETT: You had a big porch.

BARKLEY: The question, naturally, when children begin to get up and 00:17:00take note of Santa Claus and whether there is one or not, it becomes a matter of some concern to a parent to keep that illusion as long as possible. And I had three children, the oldest was a boy, and the other two, of course, girls, and there was some question being raised in the family from time to time as to whether there was a Santa Claus or not. So it just so happened that on this Christmas Eve night, when the stockings had all been hung up, and they'd all gone to bed and so forth, it snowed about four inches of snow, I should say. So I got up--of course, I knew that the children would all be up early to see what old Santa Claus had brought them. So I woke up long before daylight when I discovered that it was snowing, or had snowed, and went out on the roof of the porch and made tracks going and coming so that I 00:18:00could refer to those tracks as the tracks of old Santa Claus who had been there. And I had to make them close to the chimney. And the chimney was up on the top of the roof, and it was a little steep there. And I ran a very great risk of slipping and falling to the ground from a two-story house, but I made it all right, and the tracks were there, and I convinced my children for at least one more year that there was a Santa Claus.

SHALETT: (laughs) Senator, one story that Wahwee told me that we hadn't hit in our earlier recordings that I'd really like to hear from you--I think it was one of the most tremendous stories I've heard--was the Knickerbocker incident. That must--that was a perfectly heartrending thing, wasn't it?

BARKLEY: Well, it was. We--

SHALETT: Why don't you tell the whole thing?

BARKLEY: We were still living in this [Courtland?] Apartment in Washington at the corner of Euclid and Champlain. And the Knickerbocker Theater was a moving picture theatre that had been built while we lived there. 00:19:00We lived in this apartment ten years, and of course, that part of the town around 18th and Columbia Road developed very rapidly, and they built a moving picture theater on the corner. And it was known as the Knickerbocker. Well, there was a tremendous snowstorm in Washington, and my son, David, wanted to go to the moving pictures. And we rather remonstrated against it because it was snowing and bad weather, but it was only a block away, so it didn't make a lot of difference, and the snow was not too deep when he went down. So he went down, he left the house, I should say, about 8 o'clock, 7 or 8 o'clock to go to the movie just a block away. Well, he didn't come back, and way 00:20:00long, I should say 10 o'clock or later, I don't remember the hour, word came that the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater had fallen in on account of the weight of the snow. The building would have been faultily constructed, and the support of the roof when the roof sagged, slipped off of the wall and the whole roof fell in. And 96 people were killed. Well, when we heard of it, and knowing that our son had gone down there, my wife and I went running down to the corner. And in the meantime, ropes had been stretched around the building, and we were just sure that this boy had been in there when the roof fell, and that of course, part of my impulse naturally to go inside and help 00:21:00look for him. I finally told the policemen who were guarding the place that I had a son in there and that I wanted to go in and help find him. So they let me go in, and I dug around in there in the rubbish and the debris and the confusion, turmoil, for hours trying to find him and others. I helped take out others. I really helped to carry 45 corpses out of that theater over to the basement of this Christian Science church that was on the corner between the apartment where we lived and the Knickerbocker Theater.

SHALETT: Still not knowing what ----------(??).

BARKLEY: No, I--no. But I helped take these people out, but I of course spent as much time as I could looking for my own son. Finally I came to a young man who had on a suit of clothes almost exactly like the one he wore. He had curly hair, and I was sure it was my son, so I dug around and helped get him out, and when I 00:22:00got him out I found it was not my boy. Well, in the meantime, my wife had gone back to the apartment and--of course, in distress because it was cold and she couldn't stand out on the sidewalk waiting, although she was there most of the time. But about midnight or a little after, I should say, I went back to the house--to the apartment to see how she was. And when I got back, my son was there. And it turned out that when he went down to that movie, he went to the ticket window and discovered that he had already seen that picture, so instead of coming home he went to visit a young friend, Joseph W. Byrns, Junior, the son of Speaker Joseph W. Byrns, Congressman Byrns at that time, who later became majority leader and Speaker.

SHALETT: Oh, it was Joe Byrns, not Jimmy Byrnes.

BARKLEY: Joe Byrns, Joseph W. Byrns of Nashville. He's still living. He served a term in the House himself. And of course, we 00:23:00were so grateful, of course, that our son was not there, that we were elated, of course, with joy. And then my wife made coffee all night and sent it down to the rescuers, and I went back to the theater and spent the night helping to get out corpses. And I helped to carry out the body of Congressman--former Congressman A. J. Barchfeld of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with whom I had served in the House, but who had in the meantime retired. That was the most grueling night I think I ever spent in my life.

SHALETT: What was his name, Senator?

BARKLEY: A. J. Barchfeld, B-a-r-c-h-f-e-l-d, Barchfeld.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: I think instead of finding him back at the house when I went back, he had called the house to explain why he hadn't come home.

SHALETT: This is David.

BARKLEY: That's David, and was told then that the theater roof had fallen in, and that I was down there looking for him. So he came on home and was on the sidewalk waiting sometime 00:24:00when I would come out, because they wouldn't let him go in. And when I came out, he was there awaiting me and told me what had happened, and then we went on back to the apartment for a few minutes. And Mrs. Barkley and I spent the rest of the night in rescue and in feeding and keeping comfortable those people who were trying to relieve the situation and rescue those who'd been killed. And it was a very tragic thing to see ninety-six people killed--ninety-six or ninety-eight, and I literally helped to carry out on stretchers myself forty-five of them and deposited their bodies in the basement of this Christian Science church.

SHALETT: Um-hm. Just for the record, this is not for transcription, Wahwee said that she knew the moment it fell down, because it was Saturday night and she was taking a bath, and the bath water shook like an earthquake had hit the neighborhood.

BARKLEY: Well, I don't remember that because I was not taking 00:25:00a bath. It was not my Saturday night to take one. (laughs)

SHALETT: (laughs) All right.

BARKLEY: But it well might have happened.

SHALETT: Yeah. We're back on the record now.

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: This is not for transcription either, but, Senator, do you remember a little story of once when you were on a boat to Panama and an inebriate got hold of you and couldn't even pronounce Senator and wound ------------(??) Senator, wound up calling you Sinister, which became a family joke. (laughs)

BARKLEY: Yes, I recall when--I was taking my family--in fact, we had gone to Panama and were on our way back. And we stopped in Jamaica at Port-Au-Prince for a day or so, and one of the members of the party imbibed a little too much of a very strong potion known as the Planter's Punch down there at Port-Au-Prince. And when he--when the boat was ready to leave, why, he had to be helped considerably, and his tongue was pretty thick. And 00:26:00when he got on the boat, somebody rather facetiously said, "Do you know--you remember Senator Barkley, don't you?" And he said, "Why, yes." He said, "I remember the Sinister." He said, "I've known the Sinister for many years." And from that time on the word 'sinister' became synonymous with 'senator' in my family.

SHALETT: You've even signed a personal note to the family in that way.

BARKLEY: Yeah, I have signed--not only to the family, but I have signed it to my secretaries who were also in on the joke, and frequently I have--in imitation of him, referred to myself as the Sinister from Kentucky--(both laugh)--in talking to other people.

SHALETT: Sinis---Now you've got me doing it! (laughs) Senator, was the first ----------(??)--your first race for the Senate was against a Republican incumbent named Ernst?


SHALETT: What was his full name?

BARKLEY: Richard P.

SHALETT: Uh-huh.

BARKLEY: Richard P. Ernst.

SHALETT: Was he an old-timer?

BARKLEY: Well, he was an old-timer, yes. He had been elected Senator six years before that by a fluke. He had beaten Senator 00:27:00Beckham, who--to whom I have referred heretofore. And I had, in the meantime, as I've already recited, made an unsuccessful race for the Democratic nomination for governor of Kentucky in 1923, so that in 1926 I was nominated unanimously without opposition by the Democrats for the Senate to run against Senator Ernst, who was a sitting Senator. Senator Ernst lived in Covington, Kentucky, but his business interests were largely over across the river in Cincinnati. His law office was in Cincinnati, and he had very large financial interests in Ohio as well as in Kentucky. And long before I ever became a candidate against him, he was frequently referred to as the third Senator from Ohio because of that circumstance. So I ran against him and defeated him by about 30,000 majority. And at that time, Kentucky had two Republican senators.


SHALETT: Was that the end of his political career?

BARKLEY: That was the end of his political career. Well, he was a very nice man. He was an agreeable fellow. He was a reactionary, old guard Republican, and so--but he was a gentleman in every sense of the word. And, oh, several weeks after the election in which I had defeated him, I was over in the Senate restaurant. Many of us members of the House went over to the Senate restaurant to eat our lunch, because they were very famous for their pastry and their bean soup, and they made a sweet potato pie over there that I was very fond of. So I went over to the Senate frequently to eat my lunch, and I was sitting at a table in the center of the dining room where--which had been sort of allocated to Congressmen. And Senator Ernst was sitting at a table way over at the other end among the senators. So he got up and walked over where I was seated, extended his hand to me, and he said to me in a joking way, "Are you the damn scoundrel who beat me in November?" (laughs) And we had a good laugh, and I said, "I don't know 00:29:00whether I'm--can fulfill your description or not, but I am the bozo who beat you in November." And we had a good laugh, and we were good friends after that, but that was the end of his political career.

SHALETT: Do you recall how in that campaign you were driving with the family one night and starting to fall asleep and Wahwee awakened you by suddenly yelling, "Ernst!" (both laugh)

BARKLEY: Yes. Of course, Ernst was on my mind at that time, both in my waking and sleeping hours. And we were driving along one night--it was rather late, I had made a speech I think somewhere, I don't recall, it doesn't matter--and we were going to--either going home or going to another town where I would be ready for the next day's operation, and I fell asleep or dozed, and she hollered at the top of her voice, "Ernst!" And she said I jolted ----------(??) sat almost erect in the car at the 00:30:00mention of the name. (both laugh) And I often wondered after that what Ernst's reaction was when somebody shouted 'Barkley' to him. (laughs)

SHALETT: A picture is developing on tape here of your daughter as a very vivacious and irrepressible girl. She also tells me that you're--

BARKLEY: I can testify to her irrepressibility. (laughs)

SHALETT: She tells me that you used to be a--really an iron man on your ability either--both to drive and to be driven four or five hundred miles at a clip late at night and this and that. And once you made her drive 500 miles on an engine that was just about to burn up because you wanted to get home.

BARKLEY: Well, we did all sorts of hazardous and what now look like foolish things. She accompanied me in one of my campaigns, and she drove me most of the time, and we did take long drives. I got the title of Iron Man in that race 00:31:00for governor because I could just--I could go from sun-up to sundown and speak as many times and places as I could get a crowd to assemble to listen. And I spoke as many as sixteen times a day sometimes. Now, I didn't do that every day, but I--it was a common thing for me to speak five, six, and ten times. And one day I recall in Union County, the county seat of which is Morganfield, I made an all-day's whirlwind trip speaking all over the county, starting at about eight o'clock in the morning and finished about eleven o'clock at night, and I made sixteen speeches in that county that day. And that was at a time when the roads were dusty. They were dirt roads, most of them. They had no concrete roads, no hard surface roads, and very few gravel roads, and it was a very dusty day, and I--when I turned in that night at eleven o'clock, I was covered with dust and perspiration and hope. (laughs)


SHALETT: (laughs) Since we're talking about Kentucky races, I might jump ahead to another note I had here. We didn't talk too much about your race against Happy Chandler. And I've done a little research into him, and I find that actually he came into Kentucky politics--this is not necessarily for the record or for the printed record--as sort of a political fluke. And he did quite a lot of things to sort of intrude himself into--well, for instance, FDR's visit when he came down to help you. Do any of these things stick in your memory?

BARKLEY: Well--oh yeah, I remember that campaign very well. I would like to go back to the campaign for the Senate. I wouldn't say that he came into the picture in Kentucky as a fluke, because he had been a state senator in the legislature for one term, I think, in the district which he represented, which included Woodford County where he lived. When Governor Laffoon was nominated for governor in 00:33:00a convention in 1931, Chandler was a candidate for lieutenant governor and was nominated by the convention as lieutenant governor to run with Laffoon. And they were elected, and he, as lieutenant governor, presided over the senate, just as the Vice President presides over the Senate here in Washington. Well, when Mr. Laffoon's time was approaching its expiration, not being able to run to succeed himself under our constitution, there were two outstanding candidates for the nomination. Thomas S. Rhea, who had been prominent in politics, spelled R-h-e-a, who lived in Russellville, had been prominent in Kentucky politics for many years. He had been state treasurer and, I think, auditor, and had started out earlier to run for governor, but 00:34:00withdrew from that race, but he was a real candidate in 1935. And Chandler, as the lieutenant governor, was a candidate against him. The question arose before the state central and executive committee as to whether there would be a primary election or a convention. In 1912, the legislature had passed a compulsory primary law, applying to all candidates, from governor all the way down to county and local officers. But during the administration of Governor Edwin P. Morrow, who was a Republican governor, one of our Republican governors in the state, they amended that law so as to allow the state committee to determine whether there would be a primary or a convention, and if it were a primary, it would be held under the law. If it were a convention, of course, it would be by delegates selected in each county. As the time approached in 1935 for the nomination of a state ticket, 00:35:00I was opposed to the convention, although I was not a candidate, I had no particular interest in candidates, but as a matter of principle I'd always favored the direct primary for the nomination of all candidates in all parties. And Governor Laffoon and I, who had been friends, intimate friends, since 1906 when we were both county attorneys in our respective counties, was for the convention method of selecting the nominee. And I argued with him against the convention because I told him that I thought ninety-five percent of the Democrats of the state preferred a primary, and that instead of wishing a convention on the people, which he could do as governor because he had control of the committee and the political machinery, that they ought to call a primary election. Well, the committee met in Frankfort, and I went from Washington down there to argue before the committee in behalf of a primary 00:36:00election instead of a convention. I was very courteously received, but when the committee voted, they voted for a convention instead of a primary, and the result was that it created a good deal of dissatisfaction among the people. Well, I came on back to Washington, of course, accepted the result, naturally, because they had the power and the authority to do that. Well shortly thereafter, of course, Mr. Chandler, being the lieutenant governor and being a candidate, he was for a primary. He urged the primary election also. I was not urging the primary election because I was interested in any preference among candidates, although I--Mr. Rhea and I had been friends a long time, and he had supported me and I knew him better. But I was there as a matter of principle, and not because it meant anything for one candidate. I do think if the committee had called a primary instead of a convention, the history of Kentucky would have been different, because if 00:37:00they'd called a primary election, I doubt whether Mr. Chandler would have run against Mr. Rhea. And Mr. Rhea might have been nominated even without opposition, and I think he would have been nominated anyhow and he would have been elected governor of Kentucky. But having called a convention and created this dissatisfaction and having given Lieutenant Governor Chandler an issue to make against the Laffoon administration and against Mr. Rhea as his opponent, opened the door for him, and he walked into it. A few weeks or shortly after the committee had acted, Governor Laffoon and Mr. Rhea came up to Washington to see the--one of the agencies of the government about some highway construction in Kentucky. That left Mr. Chandler, lieutenant governor, as the acting governor of the state. And in their absence in Washington, he called the legislature into extraordinary session 00:38:00for the purpose of enacting a compulsory primary election law. Well, Governor Laffoon and Mr. Rhea came over to the Senate to see me. And I was in on the floor; I was then majority leader. And they sent their card in, and I started out to the reception room, and South Trimble, who was then clerk of the House of Representatives, walked into the door of the Senate chamber and he said, "Have you heard what Chandler's done?" I said, "No, what?" He said, "He's called an extraordinary session of the legislature to pass a compulsory primary law." Well, I said, "If the committee had done what I urged them to do when they met and called a primary law, this wouldn't have happened." So I went out into the reception room where Mr.--Governor Laffoon and Mr. Rhea were seated waiting for me, and I told them what had happened. Well, they immediately left for Frankfort and returned to Kentucky. And the governor tried to rescind the call of the lieutenant governor, who was acting governor, of the legislature 00:39:00into extraordinary session. And it got into the courts, and the Court of Appeals held that the lieutenant governor, acting as governor, had the right to call the extraordinary session and that it could not be rescinded. The legislature passed a compulsory primary election law, but in the--in order to get something out of the situation, Governor Laffoon and his administration urged that there be a runoff primary, instead of having just one primary. That's where they made a mistake also, because in the runoff primary, Mr. Rhea, who was the governor's candidate, had a plurality of the vote. There were other candidates, so that they didn't have a majority, but he had a plurality. And under the law, as it had always been in Kentucky and is now, a man who gets a plurality gets the nomination or the election. But they insisted on having a runoff primary. And in the runoff primary, it narrowed 00:40:00down to Mr. Rhea and Mr. Chandler, and Chandler beat Rhea in the runoff primary. Well, he became the nominee, of course, for governor in 1935. I had been invited--my wife and I had been invited, as had other members of the House and Senate, to Manila, capital of the Philippine Islands to witness the inauguration of Manuel Quezon as the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. And we had been invited to be the guest of Governor Quezon, with whom I'd served in the House of Representatives and who was a very brilliant man. We'd been invited to be his guests at the mansion. We had accepted, and our stateroom had been assigned to us on the boat, and we had packed our bags to go to Manila. Well, after the nomination of Mr. Chandler, Governor Laffoon and Mr. Rhea refused to support him. And that created a very desperate and ticklish situation in the Democratic Party. And I was urged by Mr. Chandler's friends 00:41:00and his campaign manager not to go to the Philippines, but to stay at home and campaign for him in the race for governor. I cancelled my reservations, remained at home, campaigned for him in the state, and he was elected there by a very substantial majority. I've forgotten now, 50- or 75,000 majority. So I had felt, and I felt then, and I still do feel that if I--if my advice to the committee had been accepted and they'd called a primary election, Governor--Lieutenant Governor Chandler would not probably have been a candidate. Mr. Rhea would have been nominated and he would have been elected. But having taken another course, it gave an opportunity for Chandler, which he was prompt to seize and create an issue against Mr. Rhea and Governor Laffoon. Well, I felt that while I had not done that for 00:42:00any candidate, that my appearance and my advocacy and feeling that had been engendered among the rank and file of the Democrats, because I had gone to Wa---from Washington to Frankfort without any selfish intentions or any ax to grind of my own, but simply as a matter of principle, had been automatically of assistance to any candidate, whether it was Chandler or anybody else, who advocated the primary and who was instrumental in bringing about a primary where the people could vote. But I stayed at home and helped to elect the governor, Mr. Chandler, and so forth. Well then, of course, I naturally had a feeling that he ought not to oppose me at my very next election in '38 three years later. He had a perfect right to oppose me and all that, but I felt in all probability he could come to the Senate later anyhow, and maybe as soon as he would if he ran against me, because I didn't think he could beat me. I realize that any young, active, and personable governor who 00:43:00is in charge of the state political machinery can give any Senator trouble, and I didn't relish any fight of that sort. I didn't think I was entitled to have it. I was majority leader of the Senate. That's an honor that had not for a long time come to Kentucky, and I felt that, as a matter of fact, I ought to be re-nominated without opposition. But he didn't feel that way about it, so he ran against me. He had an idea that I'd been up in Washington so long that I'd gotten soft. I hadn't had opposition for the nomination since '26. Opposition started in '32, but it didn't develop into anything, and I was practically nominated without opposition. From '26, I had no opposition, in '32 an incipient opposition, and then in '38, of course, I hadn't had any opposition. And Governor Chandler not only felt, but he expressed the belief, that 00:44:00I'd been up here so long in Washington--I'd been in Washington so long that I'd lost touch with the people and that I was soft and that I couldn't really make a hard campaign, and that it was his chance to come to the Senate. Many of his friends, and mine too, urged me to go to see him and try to persuade him not to run. I wouldn't do it. I said, "No. If he wants to run, let him run. I'm not going to appeal to him not to run because that might be interpreted by him as an evidence of weakness on my part and that I was frightened and that I was trying to persuade him not to run." I never did go to him about it or send anybody to him about it. Well anyhow, he got into the race. Well, it was a rather strange thing. It's true I had not had a fight for the nomination in twelve years, and a man's political organization will disintegrate in that length of time if it's not active, but an organization of young men and women sprung up all over the state for me almost overnight. And in that campaign, the average age of the chairman and chairwoman in every county who 00:45:00managed my campaign was the youngest in the history of the state. I think the average was around thirty to thirty-two years. That's a pretty good average--


BARKLEY: --for a vigorous, young campaign manager. Well, the race got very hot, and there were a lot of issues which I am not necessarily here to discuss. Well, of course--

SHALETT: Did he charge you were soft and ----------(??)?

BARKLEY: Yeah, he said that I was soft and that I had lost interest in the people, lost touch with them, that I was not any longer interested in Kentucky, that I had been in Washington so long. Well, I--nobody took that issue seriously, because--

SHALETT: How did you handle that?

BARKLEY: I handled it by campaigning harder than I had ever campaigned almost in my life. And it turned out that instead of putting me in bed before the primary, I had him in bed a week beforehand. And he drank some water down at one of 00:46:00his speakings that he claimed was poisoned, and it made him sick and he had to go to bed and had to stop campaigning for several days. Well, I had a lot of fun out of that. Every time I would speak, somebody would put a pitcher of water up on the desk in front of me, and if I pulled out a glass of it and licked my lips, the crowd would yell, "Be careful! Be careful! That water may be poisoned!" And it got to be a great joke in the state. Well--

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: Did he sing "Sonny Boy"?

BARKLEY: He sang "Sonny Boy." He sang songs. He was quite a singer. That's where he got his nickname 'Happy.'

SHALETT: Uh-huh.

BARKLEY: He was quite a singer and had a very good voice too. He sang a lot of songs, but he sang "Sonny Boy" in particular, that was one of his favorites. Well--

SHALETT: You didn't fire back with "Wagon Wheel."

BARKLEY: I fired back up at Covington one time when they had about 20,000 people and he'd been singing "Sonny Boy," and I changed the song that he ought to sing, because he'd been all around--he'd charged me with not being in Kentucky, and I had retaliated by giving a list of the visits he'd made outside of Kentucky 00:47:00while he was governor, to Mexico and to Texas and to Hot Springs and to French Lick Springs and to all these other summer resorts that he had frequented and visited, and also the question of some campaign contributions that were sent up to Kentucky from Louisiana got mixed into the campaign, supposed to have been sent for him. So at Covington I changed the tune and the song which he was supposed to sing to another song that was at that time current and popular, and that was, "There's a Gold Mine in the Sky." And I said that's the song he ought to be singing. Well--

SHALETT: (laughs) Did you sing it?

BARKLEY: No, I didn't sing it, but I quoted it. I didn't want to sing. I could have, but I didn't. Well anyhow, as the spring--as the campaign went along, up at the White House one day Mr. Roosevelt said, "I'm going on a tour of the country, and I'd like to speak in your behalf in Kentucky." Well, I said, "Mr. President, I'll be very glad to have you do 00:48:00it if you feel like you want to do it." I want to make it perfectly plain here that I never did ask Mr. Roosevelt to make a speech for me in Kentucky. I felt that I could win on my own, that I did not need any outside help, but when he offered to speak for me, of course, I was grateful to him and said, "I'll be very happy to have you do so." Whether he helped me or not, nobody'll ever know. As a matter of fact, the Gallup poll, which was being taken every week, because it was a very interesting race, I was the majority leader of the Senate and if they could beat me and knock me down, it would be a slap at the President, because I was the majority leader and carrying the ball for all his entire program in '38 with the domestic situation and the European situation and the world situation deteriorating like it was, if they could beat me as the majority leader and his spokesman in the Senate, it would be quite a victory for all his enemies at home 00:49:00and abroad. I've got an interesting story there about Roy Howard, head of the Scripps Howard Newspapers, that I may want to record. Anyhow, before Mr. Roosevelt--of course, he went--this was the trip in which he was seeking to purge certain members. He made--he went out to Oklahoma, and on the way to Oklahoma, he went through Kentucky and made a couple of speeches, maybe three, I think one at Covington, one in Louisville, maybe one in Bowling Green for me. Well, he went on then out to Oklahoma and made a speech in behalf of Senator Elmer Thomas. And he went back down into Georgia on that trip and spoke against Senator George, in behalf of a man who was his opponent who was supposed to be picked by Mr. Roosevelt and his friends, forgotten his name now.

SHALETT: Can't remember.

BARKLEY: Kemp, Kemp, I think, or Camp [Lawrence Camp]. Then he went up into Maryland to speak against Senator Tydings, in behalf of David J. Lewis, with whom I'd served in the House, a very able man, but who didn't have much chance to beat Senator Tydings. 00:50:00Well, before President Roosevelt went to Kentucky, the Gallup poll gave me 61 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. I got 59 percent of the vote in the primary, so that I did not get in the primary, which was the first Saturday in August, the proportion of votes that the Gallup poll gave me prior to President Roosevelt's coming into the state. And I attribute that in part to the fact that, of course, Governor Chandler being the governor and being head of the political organization in the state, gained some in his votes as the campaign went on, and I dropped off two percent. But whether Mr. Roosevelt's trip into Kentucky really helped me or hurt me, nobody will ever know, and it doesn't make any difference now. There may have been some resentment that the President would come into 00:51:00a state to inject himself into a primary campaign, as there was resentment in Georgia and in Maryland and elsewhere where he had done the same thing. There was no doubt resentment, and his appearance in Georgia against Senator George and in Maryland against Senator Tydings helped them instead of hurt them, because the people felt that he ought not to have injected himself into a Democratic primary. But anyhow, that's neither here nor there. Well, the day he spoke in Covington for my--in my behalf, he came in from Ohio, and I went up to Chillicothe and got on the train and went with him into Cincinnati and across to Covington. Governor Chandler was in Cincinnati, I think, and got on the train in Cincinnati before it crossed over in Kentucky, so he was on the train. And every picture that was taken, he was in it. And when we finally got off the train in Covington to--into an automobile, President Roosevelt sat on the right in 00:52:00the back seat where he, of course, is entitled to sit. I went around on the other side to get in so I wouldn't have to climb over him. But while I was going around on the other side of the car, Chandler jumped over Mr. Roosevelt and sat down by him so that he was in the middle and seated next to the President instead of myself. Well, that was very amusing, but it showed the nerve of the man and his resourcefulness, that he--if there was any pictures going to be taken, he was going to be taken next to Roosevelt instead of me.

SHALETT: Did Roosevelt ever say anything to you about that?

BARKLEY: Oh, he laughed about it very much, and he--it was sort of very amusing. It was a little bit irritating, because it was not according to protocol, but it was such an exhibition of--well, I wouldn't like to use the word gall, but it was such an exhibition of pure unadulterated nerve that it was amusing and laughable. Well, they had a great crowd. We spoke at the old Latonia 00:53:00racetrack where there was a grandstand. And all during Roosevelt's speech, Governor Chandler was sitting right up as close as he could get and waving at the crowd and laughing at the crowd and evidently trying to detract from Roosevelt's speech in my behalf and so forth, all of which was very amusing. And after the--after it was all over, after the nomination was over and the fight was finished, in the White House one day, President Roosevelt imitated Governor Chandler in an inimitable way, how he jumped over him into the car and how he sat up there while Roosevelt was speaking, waving and laughing at the crowd and so forth. And it was very amusing, very laughable, and Roosevelt got a great kick out of it, although he thought it was pretty nervy.

SHALETT: Which itself is very pro-Barkley.

BARKLEY: Well, it was very pro-Barkley, but he paid Chandler a compliment by saying that he probably would make a good Senator, but that he ought to wait a while, that he ought not to try to beat me. Well, in the meantime, Senator Logan, who was my colleague in the Senate, had been considered and was supposed to 00:54:00be interested in an appointment as federal judge. And before Governor Chandler announced against me, maneuvers and efforts had been made to get the President to appoint Logan as federal judge so he would resign, and the lieutenant governor, who was friendly to Chandler, would appoint him to the Senate. And as a matter of fact, if Chandler had not run against me, he would have reached the Senate, and did reach it, as soon as he would have reached it if he had beaten me, because Senator Logan died. But Senator Logan would not be jockeyed into a position where he had was being appointed as a federal judge in order to create a vacancy that Governor Chandler could be appointed to. He held out very strongly that he would not be party to any such a deal, and he was not. But he later died, and Chandler came here almost as soon as he would have come if he hadn't run against me.

SHALETT: Didn't the microphone happen to fail that day when Chandler 00:55:00got up to make his speech?

BARKLEY: Chandler didn't make a speech the day Roosevelt was there.


BARKLEY: I don't recall that he did.

SHALETT: Someone recalled that everything worked fine when you and FDR were speaking, but when Chandler made some remarks and--

BARKLEY: I don't recall that Chandler made any speech at all, any talk. But I never heard of any failure of the microphone.

SHALETT: What was the Roy Howard incident?

BARKLEY: Well, of course, the Scripps Howard papers were against me. And they sent Tom Stokes, Thomas L. Stokes, a very able newspaper reporter, down to Kentucky to try to find some evidence that the WPA was being used in my behalf. At that time, there were 69,000 people on the WPA rolls in Kentucky. Half of them were Republicans, if not more than half of them, and of course could not vote in a primary. The other half, half of them had 00:56:00not registered to vote and they couldn't vote. Now, that reduced the number of eligible voters on the WPA rolls to somewhere around--well, half of 70,000 would have been 35,000 who were Republicans, they couldn't vote in the Democratic primary; half of the thirty-five remaining were not registered, that left about 17,500 on the rolls who could vote. Many of them didn't vote in the primary. Many of those who were eligible and had registered did not vote. And I've always had a serious question whether Governor Chandler or I got the majority of those who did vote, because as the head of the political organization and the governor of the state, he had taken an interest in the primary contest among county officers a year before, and had succeeded in electing many of his friends and supporters to county offices, including the offices 00:57:00who determined who would be on the WPA rolls in the state. Naturally, if there was any special favor shown, those who were indebted to him for their election would favor him, and they would use their influence among the WPA workers in his behalf. And there got to be quite a noted contest between the state workers and the federal workers. And there was evidence produced in many crowds where I spoke that people on relief who did not agree to vote for my opponent were taken off relief, because it--I had nothing to do with putting them on. It was local county officers who put them on; the state had more to do with that than the federal government. Well, the upshot of it all is that I have always doubted whether I got as many as 10,000 of these workers in 00:58:00the primary, due to the eliminations I've referred to. Well I beat Governor Chandler by nearly 80,000 majority, so that if he had got---if I had gotten all of the WPA workers, it would still--I mean, if I had gotten all of them, it wouldn't have changed the result, except it would have increased the majority. And if he had gotten all of them, I still would have won over him, so that that was a mere alibi, as I've always contended. Well, the Gridiron Club met here in April, and I was a guest. And George Holmes, who was then the head of the International News Service here in Washington, a very fine newspaperman, and a very close friend of mine. And his widow, Mary Holmes, is still a devoted friend of mine. She is a sister--was a sister of Steve Early, who was President Roosevelt's press secretary. And he always invited certain guests of the Gridiron Club out to his home here in Washington on Massachusetts 00:59:00Avenue for a sort of a midnight supper and a gathering of congenial friends. Well, this happened in April before the primary in August. And Tom Stokes, who had been sent to Kentucky to investigate it, found about twenty-two WPA people out of 69,000 who had gone out of their way, without my knowledge or anything of that sort, to support me and to do things on my behalf because they felt that I was entitled to re-election. But for whatever reason, out of the whole list, he reported twenty-two people, I think, not over twenty-five, who had been guilty of some unusual enthusiasm in my behalf. Well, he wrote a very good article from that standpoint about it and got the Pulitzer Price of $1,000.

SHALETT: Really?

BARKLEY: Yeah. And I've always jokingly said to him he ought to give me a part of that commission, because he got that 01:00:00$1,000 because of what he said about me. Well anyhow, I saw Roy Howard, head of the Scripps Howard newspapers at this supper at George Holmes's after the Gridiron Dinner in 1938, in April, as I recall it. And he and I got off into a corner, and I was chiding him for his opposition to me. I said, "I've always regarded the Scripps Howard newspapers as liberal newspapers. I recall them as a boy; it was the Scripps McRae chain of newspapers. It's now the Scripps Howard, and I've always looked upon them as progressive, forward-looking liberal newspapers." And I said, "I've got a progressive, forward, liberal record, and I don't understand why you're going out of your way with your newspaper to oppose my re-election to the Senate." And Mr. Howard said, "You have got a good record. You're a liberal member of the Senate; your record is good, your--it's liberal," but he said, "if we can beat you, we will be slapping Mr. Roosevelt in the face, and that's why we're opposed to you." Well, I said, "Roy, it seems to me that that's a very unworthy motive and 01:01:00a very unworthy reason for opposing me, whose record you say is good, just because you want to slap down Mr. Roosevelt, and you want to slap him by beating me because I happen to be majority leader." Well, he said, "That's it. That's all we're--that's what we're interested in. We're interested in beating Mr. Roosevelt. And if we can beat you, we'll slap him between the eyes." Well, I--of course, I've seen Roy Howard many times since. We've always maintained a very friendly personal relationship, but I never have been able to get out of my craw what at that time seemed to me to be an unworthy motive in trying to beat me because he was opposed to Roosevelt and his whole program. And if he could beat his majority leader, Democratic majority leader in the Senate, why that would be quite a feather in his cap or in the cap--

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: This is side two, of reel seventeen. We were going along so interestingly I didn't have a chance to indicate the end of the previous reel.

[Pause in recording.]


BARKLEY: After my defeat of Governor Chandler, he and many of his friends attributed my victory to the pernicious activities of the WPA in Kentucky. But I think the breakdown that I have given, and the facts that I've given about it, show that that was not correct. And it was perfectly natural for a man who was defeated by considerable majority to assign any reason he saw fit for his defeat, but I wanted those facts cleared up. Governor Chandler supported me in the prim---in the election after the primary and later came to the Senate, as I've already said, on the death of Senator Logan, while he was still governor, from which office he resigned, leaving the governorship then to Lieutenant Governor Keen Johnson, who appointed him to the 01:03:00Senate. And then he was elected later for an unexpired term, and then for a full term of six years, and resigned then that seat to become baseball commissioner, as is well known.

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: Senator, I wanted to add just a little footnote to what we had on Huey Long. At our last session, you told some very fine stories about him.

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: Do you recall one more Huey Long story that this daughter of yours remembers when she was just a little young chick of seventeen, eighteen, quite slim and very young looking, and you had her to lunch one day and Huey burst in on you at the Senate restaurant where you were eating and accused you of robbing the cradle, thought you had a young girl out to lunch? (laughs) And you were able to flabbergast him by presenting your daughter. (laughs)

BARKLEY: (laughs) Yes, Huey just thought--of course, he--we were eating lunch 01:04:00in the Senate restaurant, and Huey came in and took a look at me and this young girl, and he just assumed that I had gone out on the highways and byways and brought in a young thing to have lunch with me, and so forth. So he started out to banter me according to his conception of what was happening, and said that I'd robbed the cradle and all that kind of thing. And then I, in a very dignified and somber and more or less hurt tone, presented my daughter to him, and he was very much embarrassed. He blushed very much and apologized for his mistake. I said, "Huey, the idea that you could think such a thing of me is what humiliates me." Well, we laughed about it. He was a pretty good sport. He liked--as I've already indicated, he liked fellows who opposed him. He didn't like the fellows who were afraid of him, or bowed down and kowtowed, or wasn't willing to 01:05:00enter into battle with him. He liked the conflict. He liked the friction of ideas, and he had more respect for men who fought him honorably and honestly on issues than he did those who just allowed him to get away with murder, as I sometimes told him, without any contest.

SHALETT: Senator, you remember we talked a good deal about, oh, just philosophy and political axioms and so forth. Do any of these axioms ring any bells in your memory from early days in Kentucky? How about the expression, "You've got to know how to look hurt when you're not, and how not to look hurt when you are." Is that good political advice?

BARKLEY: Well, that's--that is subject to variations. Of course, psychology enters into politics as much as anything else, because in politics, from the highest to the lowest level, you're dealing with human beings, with all 01:06:00sorts of reactions and sentiments and backgrounds and feelings. And I've often said, and it's true, that a man can learn more about human nature and all of its strengths and all of its frailties, after a few campaigns for public office than in any other occupation of which I have any knowledge. In politics, the virtues as well as the venalities of people come out, and you have to know how to value both, because sometimes venality may parade in the garb of virtue, and you have to know enough about human nature to judge that and to assess it according to its value and intent. But if you are hurt over something, it's psychologically wise and politically wise not to show it. In other words, to keep a stiff upper lip and move forward without letting anybody know you're hurt, although you 01:07:00may be suffering excruciating inward pain. And the converse is true also. You can't be--you can't show too much elation over a triumph, and that's particularly true of victories. You know, it's often said in politics that a victor can always afford to be generous, especially with his opponent and with those who have fought him. And I found that out in my first race for Congress. I had been a prosecuting attorney in my county and a judge. And I had made friends and I had made enemies, of course. And in my first race for Congress, one of the very active, fine gentlemen who lived in Paducah was vigorously opposed to me for the nomination. He espoused the cause of Colonel Hendrick, who was one of my opponents. Well, I 01:08:00was victorious, and I always treated him with great courtesy and tried to let him know that I didn't hold it against him that he was opposed to me, although I felt like I naturally had some claims upon him. But he always said after that that I was so nice to him that he became one of my most enthusiastic supporters, and until the day of his death, I never had a contest in which he was not on my side.

SHALETT: Is that the axiom, "Never recognize an enemy," or--

BARKLEY: No, not exactly that. Now, you've got to recognize them.

SHALETT: I mean, recognize that a man is an enemy to--

BARKLEY: Well, no. You don't want to--in very rare cases--in some very rare cases where you don't care whether he's your friend or not, maybe he's been peculiarly unfair, dirty in his opposition, and sometimes, you know, a man is known by his enemies, as well as by his friends, but that's a very rare case. Most times if a man is generous in triumph and recognizes the right of those 01:09:00who oppose him to oppose him, and treats them as he would want to be treated under the same circumstances, he reconciles his opponents. I don't like to call them enemies. He reconciles his opponents and they--very frequently they become among his most enthusiastic supporters in another race or in the future.

SHALETT: Reconcile your opponents, that's better, yes. Does this ring any bells? Is it correct that someone once told you rather admiringly that you kept up your fences in Kentucky better than anybody they'd ever had. And you said, "I keep up my bridges better than my fences." (laughs)

BARKLEY: (laughs) Well, I'll tell you, after my first race for Congress, I had no opposition during the remainder of my 14 years, but having to run every two years, nobody ever knows when he will have opposition. And I've found, and I think all men in 01:10:00public life find, that the best time to electioneer for yourself is when you're not a candidate, when there's no race on. And I made it a practice to go into all the counties of my district every year, whether there was a race or not, to visit the towns, to keep in touch with the people, and of course to make speeches in other races in behalf of candidates for governor or Senator or Congress--I mean, county officers in counties where there's a contest. Most of the counties of that district were Democratic. Only one county at that time was Republican, and it still is. The district has been enlarged since, and has taken in some other counties that are doubtful. But I kept up my--what they call in politics--'fences,' by going not only into every county to speak politically, but to speak to schools, educational associations, churches, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, agricultural meetings, all 01:11:00sorts of meetings where I was not running for anything at the time. But the people felt, and it's a perfectly natural feeling, that if one of their public servants comes around among them frequently when he's not running for anything, they don't forget that in the event that he does have a race in the future. So it's a good way to keep up not only fences but bridges, because bridges, when you have to cross streams, are just as essential as a fence, and both of them are a very valuable political adjunct, both bridges and fences.

SHALETT: Did your--the pressure of your official duties ever get such that you were unable to get back to Kentucky for a campaign, even one in which you had no opposition?

BARKLEY: Oh, yes. Yes. I had--I said I had no opposition from the first race for Congress. I did have an opponent in my second race in 1914. I carried every county in the district and almost every precinct. I lost one precinct because of an unpopular 01:12:00post office appointment in a small town which I had made on the recommendation of the county officers of the county, but it turned out to be an unpopular appointment and I lost the precinct which I had carried two years before by an overwhelming majority just because of the unpopularity of that postmaster. He was a good postmaster, but he wasn't well-liked. Well--

SHALETT: So you didn't run for the Senate during the actual years of World War II, did you?

BARKLEY: No, no.

SHALETT: You ran in '38?

BARKLEY: Oh, no. I ran first in '26.


BARKLEY: And then in '32, and then in '38, and then again in '44. Yes, I ran--

SHALETT: So you did run.

BARKLEY: --for the Senate in '44.

SHALETT: Were you able to get to Kentucky then? Or did--

BARKLEY: Well, I was there some. Yes. I would run down to Kentucky on convenient Saturdays, for instance, and I didn't let it interfere with my duties here as majority leader in the middle of the war, but I did get there sometimes. But--


SHALETT: Who was your opponent then?

BARKLEY: Which, in '44?


BARKLEY: I think his name was James Park. He was a very able lawyer and a very fine gentleman in Lexington.

SHALETT: Republican?

BARKLEY: Republican.

SHALETT: No Democratic opposition.

BARKLEY: No Democratic opposition, no.

SHALETT: Speaking of--

BARKLEY: But I was speaking of not having any opposition in my fourteen years except the first race. I did overlook the fact that I did have an opponent in '14, but it did not amount--

SHALETT: Not major.

BARKLEY: No, it didn't amount to much.

SHALETT: Speaking of speaking at schools, I think one school was so pleased that they presented you with a prize calf, William Duke III, in Glasgow in '30, didn't they?

BARKLEY: Well, that was a commencement address I delivered at Glasgow to the high school while I was vice president. And they gave me a very fine registered young Hereford bull. That is, Mr. Leonard Preston, who was a member of the legislature at that time, and 01:14:00had been for a number of years, gave me this prize bull out of his herd, which I still have. I don't know whether I'll have it very long or not, because the drought has dried up all my pastures and I've had to sell a lot of my cattle at practically nothing because I can't afford to buy feed for them in the summertime. Well, that's another subject.

SHALETT: Sure is.

BARKLEY: A very tragic one, though.

SHALETT: Yeah. Senator, Bill [Gorham?] reminded me, which I think is wonderful, and I want to get it--get the actual text, that twice at least you opened the Senate with prayer on those--when they adjourned from three a.m. to 3:20 and the chaplain was asleep. Do you recall that?

BARKLEY: Well, I recall--I don't know whether the chaplain was asleep or not, but he was not immediately available. Several times I thought I was going to have to open the Senate with prayer, because the chaplain might be--not late, but one minute before twelve, maybe he 01:15:00wasn't there, or if he were out of town and some visiting minister was supposed to open the Senate with prayer and didn't arrive until almost the hour for the opening of the session. The chaplain usually tries to get there about ten minutes before twelve, so there'll be no uncertainty about it. But on one occasion when we adjourned for a very brief period in the early hours of the morning, of course, the chaplain had no notice of that.

SHALETT: That's a little legislative wrinkle. If you're in recess, you can adjourn from day to day or something?

BARKLEY: Well, if you recess from day to day, there's a certain parliamentary situation that is created, whereas if you adjourn from day to day, it's different. You have a morning hour, and you have to go through a routine. And also it's a new day if 01:16:00you adjourn, but as long as you just recess, it's the same legislative day on which you started. And that has a lot to do, especially if there's a filibuster on, whether you adjourn or whether you recess. Well anyhow, that's a technical matter that I won't go into here. But there was a reason why the Senate should take a very brief recess for maybe a few minutes in order to create a new day, a new legislative day. And under the rules, there had to be a chaplain was supposed to open with prayer. Well, the chaplain was not available, of course, so I opened the Senate with prayer that day.

SHALETT: Brief and to the point.

BARKLEY: Brief and to the point. And I would be perfectly willing to include, if we could find it--


BARKLEY: --which we can, in the Congressional Record, that prayer.

SHALETT: We'll track down the date.

BARKLEY: Yeah. And on one other occasion when we didn't just recess or adjourn for a few minutes, but on one other occasion, I did open--on two occasions, I think, I opened it with prayer. And on several others I thought I was going to have to, but the chaplain showed up at the appointed hour.

SHALETT: I'll seek out the text on this one also, but 01:17:00could you reconstruct, just in essence, how you responded to Mr. Truman's presentation of the White House gavel to you? That was done before the Senate on a so-called surprise visit.

BARKLEY: Yeah. They--when they remodeled the White House recently and the Trumans moved over to Blair House, they tore down--tore out all the wood, the materials, of the White House, and they made various things out of the old timber they took out. And among them, they made a gavel, and President Truman wanted to present it to me as Vice President. He came over there with it and came in onto the floor as he had a right to do as an ex-Senator, and he came up and presented the gavel to me in a few very gracious words. And I responded. I've forgotten now precisely 01:18:00what I said in the response, and I probably ought not to trust my memory with reference to it.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: --reference--

SHALETT: Excuse me, I'm sorry. Yes, sir.

BARKLEY: I do recall this one rather facetious and humorous, although half-serious response that I made. I said that from my earliest childhood my teachers told me that I could someday be President of the United States, and I believed them. I thought that in some way, although I never did anything about it, I thought in some way fate would put its hand on my shoulder someday, and that I would become an occupant of the White House. It never did. So in my response, I told the President that all my life I'd had an ambition to go to the White House, but up to 01:19:00that time I had failed to realize that ambition and failed to justify the predictions of my early schoolteachers, but that I was very grateful to him for bringing a part of the White House to me.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: That created a good deal of amusement, interest, and sympathy, because many senators besides me had had an ambition to enter the White House who never got there.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: --sympathy, because many senators besides me have entertained the ambition to enter the White House who never got there.

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: Off tape, the Senator's been telling a very interesting story about how President Truman personally designed the first vice presidential seal and presented it to him at a rather interesting ceremony at which a major-general was explaining the significance, and they came to the point of whether the eagle was male or female.

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: The Senator will now pick up the story.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: --toward the olive branch, which I thought was a very 01:20:00appropriate change, and I wondered why it hadn't been done long before. And the general was explaining the significance of that change and the beauty of the seal, which it is, and the flag and all of that. And after he finished, he said to me, "Mr. Vice President, do you know whether this eagle is male or female?" Well, I paraphrased--took advantage of a story that Irvin Cobb had told here years before when he said that he--an elderly lady was out in the zoological gardens here in Washington, and she came upon a hippopotamus splashing around in a big pool of water with a big iron cage around it. And she looked at this animal, which--this mammal, whatever it was, which she'd never seen before, and wondered what it was. And finally the keeper came along, and she said to him, "What is this animal?" He said, "It's a hippopotamus." She said, "Is it male or female?" He said, "Madame, I can't imagine any creature in 01:21:00the world that would be interested in that subject except another hippopotamus." And I said to the general, "What difference does it make whether this eagle is male or female, except to another eagle?" (Shalett laughs) But as a matter of fact, I imagine it was a male because it's a strange thing in nature that whereas in--among human beings, the woman, the female, is the glamorous member of the race. She is the beauty, she is the bedecked and [bediked?] and bedizened with not only natural beauty, but she dresses accordingly. But in the--among fowls, the male is the more glamorous, the more beautiful. You take a rooster, all the silk feathers that flow off of his neck and over his back, and among the turkeys and among all of them. And I think it's true of the eagle, that the eagle is a more glamorous and more attractive fowl than the female--I mean, the male eagle is more so than the female, and therefore I think 01:22:00it would be fair to say that in using the eagle as the symbol of our nationality, the male has been chosen instead of the female, although I'm not an expert on that.

SHALETT: You look pretty glamorous today in that Hawaiian sport shirt yourself.

BARKLEY: Well, I want to say that that doesn't indicate that among human beings that I'm anything but a male. (both laugh)

[Pause in recording.]

JANE: Just a minute. I'm interrupting you.

BARKLEY: I got this jacket, which is rather colorful and beautiful, in Honolulu when Mrs. Barkley and I were on our way back from Korea in December 1951. And they were so beautiful, and not knowing that I'd ever get back to Honolulu, I bought three or four of them, and I gave my son and my son-in-law--both of my sons-in-law and--

JANE: Your father-in-law.

BARKLEY: --my father-in-law a similar jacket, colorful and glamorous, so that they might, along with me, offer some degree of competition to the 01:23:00beauty of the women in our families.

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: This is Sidney Shalett. We've been taking a little breather to listen to what we've transcribed, and I remarked to the Senator on--when he was talking about the rooster's plumage that he'd lose a lot of rooster votes, he said, "Get me a lot of hens, though." And we also established now that in discussing how fate might tap him on the shoulder so he goes to the White House, it was Mrs. Barkley who said--

BARKLEY: Well, it was Mrs. Barkley who said that I had three times in my life kicked fate in the teeth. Now, I'm not saying that, but she said it, and I know the occasions to which she referred. But that's also speculative, and I'm trying to record history here and not speculation.

SHALETT: Well, this is just fun for us.


[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: Senator, since our last series of transcriptions, we--the nation has 01:24:00suffered the tragic death of a very good friend and colleague of yours, Chief Justice Vinson. I thought we might say something about him.

BARKLEY: Well, yes. I would like to say something about my good friend, Fred Vinson, whose death was a tragic loss to the nation. When I--after I had been defeated for governor in the Democratic primary in 1923 in Kentucky, and Congressman Fields was nominated by the committee, all of which I've heretofore gone into, Fred Vinson, who was then prosecuting attorney of one of the districts in Eastern Kentucky, was chosen as the Democratic nominee for Congress to succeed Governor Fields, and he was elected. That was in 1924. When I ran for the Senate in 1926, I asked Fred Vinson to be my campaign manager. 01:25:00He was a young, active, vigorous Congressman from one of the districts of Eastern Kentucky, and he agreed to act as my chairman, and he did a good job. He was a very intelligent and aggressive chairman with good judgment, and as a result of our campaign, I won the senatorship. Well, we remained, of course, close friends. I went to the Senate; he remained in the House. And he became a--as time went on, he became a prominent member, and he got on the Ways and Means committee, he became a tax expert. I think I've already recorded the fact that I went out to see Roosevelt to get him to appoint him circuit judge, federal circuit judge, here in the District, and so forth, and all of that. Well, then 01:26:00after--when the war came on, and James F. Byrnes, who was then--had been appointed justice of the Supreme Court, and I've already recorded how--I think I have--how he asked me to go see the President, and how I took Pat Harrison, who had been my opponent for the majority leadership, down to the White House. And I went out to see the President for Jimmy Byrnes to go on the Court, and I went out to see him for Fred Vinson on the Court. Different court, however. Both of them resigned their positions on the bench to take part in the war effort as economic stabilizer and war mobilizer, those titles, and so forth. Well, Fred Vinson became--after Mr. Truman succeeded President Roosevelt, he became secretary of the treasury, and while secretary of the treasury, he was appointed chief justice. I had nothing to 01:27:00do with that appointment, because I think Fred Vinson was closer to President Truman than I was, so it didn't need any visit on my part to the White House to see President Truman in behalf of Fred Vinson as the chief justice. He was appointed and confirmed and served for seven years as Chief Justice of the United States. It is well known--and I may comment on that at another place--that President Truman sought to interest Chief Justice Vinson in the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

SHALETT: You have put that in.

BARKLEY: I have put that in, yeah. And I thought he was wise in declining that, because he was comparatively young, and he might look forward to a long service as chief justice and make a real reputation as chief justice. Fate cut him down in 01:28:00a premature death. During those seven years, though, as a conciliator, as a modifier, and as a man of excellent judgment and determined and aggressive advocacy of anything in which he believed, although in a diplomatic way, he was able to modify and soften some of the asperities which had been created and grown up in the court due to various things which--with which the public is familiar and I need not here discuss, because all the members of the Court were my friends. I do not know whether I have yet recited a conversation with President Roosevelt about the first appointment to the Supreme Court that he made, and about my urging him to appoint Senator Robinson, who was ambitious to go on the Court, and all that. And when the 01:29:00President said he was considering Senator Black or Senator Minton for the Supreme Court, and when I objected to it on the ground that they were loyal supporters of the administra---I've gone into all that. And then of course, when Chief Justice Vinson put aside the crown, as we might say, because if he had been interested and had been willing to consent, there's no question that the President of the United States could have secured his nomination as Democratic nominee for President in 1952. And when he decided he would not consider it, I congratulated him because I felt that he had rendered the proper decision, the wise decision, because the Supreme Court ought never to be tainted with a suspicion that it is a jumping post or springboard from the Court into politics. And when I was at home this summer and 01:30:00learned of the death of Chief Justice Vinson, I was shocked. I could hardly believe it, because the last time I saw him he looked the perfect picture of health.


BARKLEY: And I think his death was a loss to the Court and to the country, and yet it is interesting in that connection to speculate. President Truman was seeking to persuade him to accept the Democratic nomination. If he had been nominated and elected, he would have died just the same, and nobody knows who would have been the Vice President or who would now be President of the United States. And in connection with that also is the peculiar situation about Senator Taft. If Bob Taft had been nominated for President, he would have died just the same. Nobody knows who would have been the Vice President and who would now be President of the United States, so it illustrates how fate, inscrutable fate, interferes and comes in, takes 01:31:00a part in the destiny of people. Now, I do not propose to answer that speculative question, but it is interesting. Here are two men, both belonging to different parties, who were being urged, one on one hand being urged to seek the Democratic nomination or accept it, and on the other hand, a man who was seeking the Republican nomination, both of whom are now dead. If either one of them had been nominated and elected, who would now be President of the United States? Nobody knows.

SHALETT: What happens to people in Washington? A man like Vinson, he was in his, what, his fifties?

BARKLEY: He was 63 when he died.

SHALETT: Sixty-three. A man in his prime. Is the pressure here too great for them or what?

BARKLEY: Well, the pressures here are great. I--

SHALETT: Was Fred Vinson a healthy man?

BARKLEY: So far as I knew, he was a healthy man. He looked healthy, although he was a little bit too heavy, I thought. But since his death friends have told me that he had 01:32:00suffered from what, when I was a boy, was referred to as heartburn. Now, that is a sort of a form of indigestion. He complained of indigestion, but evidently it was more than indigestion and more than heartburn, which was just a colloquial name for some derangement of the digestive apparatus and the heart also.

SHALETT: But you knew him as a man who had plenty of energy. He could work hard; he campaigned hard.

BARKLEY: He worked hard. Oh, yeah. He campaigned hard, he was vigorous, he was active, he never--I never thought he overworked, that he strained himself, but he was always on the go. And the last time I saw him here in Washington before his death, I thought he looked well--

[End of Tape #1, Side #2]

[Begin Tape #2, Side #1]

BARKLEY: --and I predicted for him, in connection with my complimenting him for declining to become a candidate, and I recited a lot of historical incidents in connection with it. I thought he looked unusually well, and I predicted for him a long tenure as Chief Justice 01:33:00of the United States and that he would make a reputation during that period that would compare with that of other great chief justices. And I thought it was a great tragedy that he was cut down almost in the prime of life.

SHALETT: I can cut it a minute if you'd like to think about it, but do you happen to have any human recollections of things you and Vinson did together in the campaign that might point him up as a human person?

BARKLEY: Well, there was one thing. He lived in the mountains of East Kentucky, and those mountain sections have been traditionally, ever since the Civil War, Republican. I won't go into the reason for that, but they have been. There were two Congressional districts in the mountains of East Kentucky who went--always went Republican. When I became the nominee for Senator in 1926, I felt that we could win a lot of those Republican votes in East Kentucky. There was no natural reason 01:34:00why they should be Republicans. They had inherited their Republicanism as a result of the issues growing out of the Civil War, or the War Between the States, as it's now called. Well, Fred didn't want me to go up into the mountains. He said, "You'll just go up there and stir up the Republican vote, and they'll all go out and vote against you." Well, I said, "Fred, if what I'm going to do is to go up there to stir them up and to get them against me, why of course, I can do it. But I'm going up there, if I go, to persuade them. I'm going to preach the Democratic doctrine to them, and I believe that we can get a lot of them to vote with us." So I overruled his judgment and decided that I would go. I campaigned all over East Kentucky. I carried one of those Republican districts and reduced the Republican majority in the other one to a point which it had never attained before. So I felt, and he admitted 01:35:00later, that I was right and that he was wrong. I said, "I can go up there and make the kind of a speech that'll drive all the Republicans against me and make them mad and make them go out and vote against me, but that's not my object in going up there. I just think they're naturally in the--their environment, their condition, their history, their character, because in the mountains of East Kentucky and East Tennessee, there's the purest strain of Anglo-Saxon blood to be found in America. I think if I go up there and talk to them in their language and lay my own problems and my own convictions before them, I can win a lot of their votes." And after it was over, I had. And he said that, "You were right and I was wrong," and he was very happy over it.

SHALETT: He's big enough to admit it.

BARKLEY: Oh, yes. Surely.

SHALETT: He was learning from you.

BARKLEY: He was a little afraid that I would do what so many previous Democratic speakers had done, gone in there and raised Cain with the Republicans and denounced them and just made them all 01:36:00mad, and then inspired them to go out and vote the Republican ticket.

SHALETT: Well, what did you do when you went up there?

BARKLEY: When I went up there, I just talked turkey to them. I talked honestly. I talked sense to them. I laid the--I went into the difference between the history of the Democratic party and the Republican party, all the way back to Jefferson and Hamilton.

SHALETT: What year was this?

BARKLEY: That was in 1926.




BARKLEY: Well, those people listened.

SHALETT: They listened.

BARKLEY: They listened, and they've been voting that way ever since. We've carried one of those districts, and we have a Democratic congressman from there now. And the majority of the other district has been reduced very materially, so that no Democrat now has any hesitation in going into that--what used to be the Republican section of East Kentucky and proclaiming the Democratic doctrine. And we've carried many of those counties, which were traditionally and overwhelmingly Republican for the last 20 or 30 years.

SHALETT: Vinson, was he always a man susceptible to reason and 01:37:00facts? He wasn't a hard-headed man?

BARKLEY: Oh, no. He was not. Now, he was very aggressive in advocating what he believed in.


BARKLEY: He was very sincere. And in the Ways and Means Committee on tax matters, and in the conferences when the House and Senate had passed tax bills, revenue, income, excise, tariff or otherwise, he had risen gradually to the top of the committee. And I had done the same in the Senate on the Finance Committee, so we were in the conferences on almost all these tax bills. And he knew his subject. And President Roosevelt was right when he said Fred Vinson had become a tax expert and he hated to lose his service in the Congress by putting him on the bench, but he finally did so. But Fred was aggressive and persuasive and determined in the advocacy of the things he believed in, but he would always 01:38:00listen to reason. And if you could show him that he was wrong or that there was any modification in his views that would be wise, he was not adamant in maintaining them. And he was a very valuable member of the House and of the Ways and Means Committee, and a very valuable man in any public position which he occupied.


[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: This is for transcription. The Senator has recalled after his speech--was it nominating or seconding--

BARKLEY: Seconding.

SHALETT: --seconding Al Smith's nomination, Mr. Smith had great appreciation of this, and he'll now tell it.

BARKLEY: Well, in 1924 at the Madison Square Garden Convention in New York, the Kentucky delegation had supported William G. McAdoo, former secretary of the treasury, for President, and voted for him during the hundred-and-some-odd ballots that were cast. And at that convention, Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated 01:39:00Al Smith, and it was there where he gave him the title of 'the happy warrior.' In 1928, the Kentucky delegation was for Smith. It felt, and I, as a member of the delegation, felt that Al Smith was entitled to that nomination, and regardless of the opposition to him, he was entitled to his chance. And after we got to Houston, I was asked to second his nomination. Of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt again placed him in nomination at the convention. And I might add that Mr. Roosevelt seemed to be in much better physical condition in 1928 at Houston than he was in New York in 1924, because he spoke standing on crutches in New York in '24, whereas in '28, he only used a cane. Fred Vinson was a delegate also to the convention at Houston. I accepted the invitation to 01:40:00second Al Smith's nomination. But to show how cautious Fred was about my welfare and how much he was interested in it, he said, "Now, you must remember that you've got to run again in Kentucky. While it's four years off, you've got to take that into consideration." I said, "Fred, the Kentucky delegation is for Al Smith, and I'm willing to take those chances, whatever they are." And in the preparation of my speech, I got a typewriter myself, went off into my bedroom and secluded myself for the whole day to write out my speech seconding Al Smith's nomination at the convention. There was a limitation of ten minutes for a seconding nomination, speeches, but I had to speak a little bit longer than that. And when I'd spoken about 11 minutes, Senator Robinson, who was the permanent chairman, complained to me. 01:41:00There was a demonstration of applause, and while it was going on, he said, "You've already exceeded the time allotted to you." I said, "Well, Senator, I've got a little more here I want to say, and I found I couldn't get it all in ten minutes." So he permitted me to go ahead. I think I spoke about 20. And after I'd finished the speech--I don't have the telegram, I'm sorry I don't--but I received a message from Governor Smith of New York thanking me for my speech seconding his nomination. And I heard later that he said to friends who were sitting with him at the time that, "There is a Methodist with a Pres---a long Presbyterian background who has made a great speech in behalf of tolerance and understanding, and I appreciate very much that seconding nominating speech that he made." 01:42:00Later, as I've already said, I was selected by the committee in Kentucky as his campaign manager.

SHALETT: You mentioned--

BARKLEY: But I mention it to--I mention this incident to show that, while Fred Vinson was for Smith and he was on the delegation, he was cautious that I not do anything that would injure my own chances in the future.

SHALETT: In this speech, you took up the question of tolerance.

BARKLEY: Oh, yes. I discussed it.

SHALETT: I think we better get that in here.

BARKLEY: I think it might be worthwhile to get that speech, because--

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: The Senator's had some recollections of taking his mother on her visit to Washington to a country fair at Rockville.

BARKLEY: Well, during the visit of my mother to us in Washington, on the same occasion when she went to the White House to call on President Coolidge, there was the annual county fair in progress out at Rockville, Maryland. And my wife--my mother, rather, having always 01:43:00been fond of agricultural matters, livestock and crops and fruits of all sorts, we thought it would be interesting to take her out to the county fair at Rockville, which we did. We spent the whole day out there in the fairgrounds visiting the livestock, and she commented rather interestingly and wisely upon the different breeds, Herefords, Jerseys, Holsteins, Black Angus, and all kinds of cattle. And the hogs were purebred hogs, Poland Chinas, Berkshires, White hogs, and every other kind. And of course, she was interested in the vegetables, the fruits, apples, the pears, the peaches, and especially the canned goods, because all her life she had, as we used to say, "put up"--and I suppose the words "put up" ought to be in quotations--enough food to last the whole family 01:44:00all during the season. All sorts of canned goods and preserves, jellies and jams, blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and peaches and apples and pears and plums, and all sorts of things like that, which she had all her life indulged in putting up and preserving. She was very much interested, of course, at the age of 80, which she--which was approximately her age at that time, in all these things, and she got a great kick out of going around and seeing them. She had been to county fairs, of course, in Kentucky. But it was a little bit different to go to one up here in Maryland, right close to Washington. She was also interested in the exhibition of linens and old quilts that were not for sale, but were put in 01:45:00the fair just to show off, because I suppose my mother quilted as many quilts, if not more quilts, than any other woman of my lifelong acquaintance in our section of Kentucky. They used to have quilting bees where the women would gather at different neighborhood houses with a set of quilting frames that hung from the ceiling, and they'd roll the quilt frame up as they progressed with their needlework until it was finished. And I have quilts now that my mother quilted after she was 80 years of age, beautiful quilts. And she did that, she made all of her quilts, she did a very fine job of it. And I appreciate and prize those that she made for me as well as the other children. Well, having done that all of her life, she was very much interested in the exhibition of these beautiful old quilts that were brought to the county fair out at Rockville. So the result was that the whole day was 01:46:00spent out there in this fair, with my wife and me and my mother. And we had lunch somewhere around the fairgrounds, and we had a very happy and interesting day, which she enjoyed very much. And although it was a grueling experience to walk around all day in the fairgrounds and look at every exhibit, for a woman of 80 years old, she--we drove back into Washington when the day was over, and she was just as chipper and as brisk and as feisty as I was. (Shalett laughs) And she walked--rather ran up the front steps of my house more rapidly than I undertook myself.

SHALETT: I bet you didn't see any egg custard pie that aroused your interest.

BARKLEY: No, I didn't see any, because I don't know whether it was customary out here in Montgomery County to make custard pies, because if it had been, I'm sure that I wouldn't have found one equal to those that she used to make herself. (Shalett laughs)

[Pause in recording.]


BARKLEY: Well, as I was saying, my mother died at the age of 89. If she'd lived four months more, she'd have been 90 years of age. And she was active as she could be up to that time. She took a spell of double pneumonia, and they didn't take her into the hospital soon enough, and as a result she died. But a year or so before that, when she had a full-fledged garden in the--vegetable garden at the little country place where she lived four or five miles out of the city, she had all sorts of vegetables, and she took great pride in it. Well, she had taken an old pair of bed springs, coil springs, that had served their time and generation, as I might say, and thrown them in the corner of the garden. Well, during the summer, the weeds and the grass grew up around that old pair of bed--set of bed springs to conceal it. Well, one day a hog got into the garden and was rooting up all the vegetables, and 01:48:00she went out there to run the hog out herself, now, at about 88 years of age, and she forgot about this set of bed springs, and she got her feet tangled up in it and fell all over the garden, just fell sprawling, and rolled all around there before she could get up. Well, it sprained her ankle, and for about two days she walked around on a cane. But after two days, she was just as strong and as vigorous as ever, and she could run up a flight of steps faster than I could. (Shalett laughs) That was very amusing, though. We had a great laugh at her for falling all over the garden, running a hog out to preserve her vegetables and might have well have broken her leg.

SHALETT: Now, if she'd have clung to the faith of her fathers and stuck with that featherbed, that wouldn't have happened.

BARKLEY: Well, that's right. She did stick with her featherbed all right until her dying day, but she did provide mattresses and springs for members of the family who came to visit her. But even--she put her own featherbed on a set of springs, so that she 01:49:00had springs under which--on which she put her own featherbed. And when she came up to Washington, I think I've already related, that she brought her featherbed with her. Yeah. (both laugh)

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: Senator, I've just received startling information that may cause us to break our relationship. I have heard on reliable authority that you were formerly a member of the KKK. Now, is this true or not?

BARKLEY: (laughs) No, sir. I never was a member of the KKK or anything that resembled it. What you have reference to is the fact that many years ago they had a sportsman's club in Mayfield, Kentucky, which is the county seat of Graves County where I was born, called the KKK Club. I do not know what these letters stood for, but it was a very famous club made up of men who hunted wild game, wild turkeys, deer, quail, and all sorts of fowl and animals. And once a year in December they 01:50:00gave an outstanding supper in Mayfield. It was a sort of a Gridiron affair on a small scale, and guests were invited from 2- or 300 miles away from cities like Louisville and Chicago and St. Louis and Memphis and all around. And it was a very gala occasion, and the food was delicious, because it was made up altogether of wild game with such condiments and additions to it as would make it palatable and enjoyable. And they also invited many speakers to regale the audience with humor and philosophy and literature and oratory and all of that. And people looked forward from one December to another to an invitation to come to this KKK Club. Now, the KKK sounds like the Ku Klux Klan, but it had no relationship to that and antedated it. Well, on one of these occasions, I was invited to be the speaker, one of the speakers, and they always 01:51:00assigned their invited guests as speakers a subject which they should discuss. And they assigned to me the subject of cracklin' bread and sweet milk. Now, of all the subjects that you could imagine a man could make a speech about, that would be the last one. Well, I accepted the invitation, however, and I racked my brain for weeks about what I could say on the subject of cracklin' bread and sweet milk. I realized that it was supposed to be humorous and reminiscent, maybe, of my own experiences in the country, the hog-killing time, and all of that. Well, I spent a good deal of time on that speech, and I got it down to what I thought it was pretty good, and I really memorized it. I didn't read it; I memorized it. Well, the speech went over with a big bang. It was really humorous and homely and had all the elements of the soil and the experiences of a country boy in it. 01:52:00The Mayfield Messenger printed the speech in full. I have long since lost the copy that I had, and a few years ago a farmer in my own county, whom I met on Broadway in Paducah, said to me, "The best speech you ever made in your life was that one you made in Mayfield on cracklin' bread and sweet milk." His name was Albert [Houser?]. I said, "Albert, I've lost that speech." Well, he said, "I have the copy of the Mayfield Messenger that contained it in full." Well, I said, "If you'd send it to me, I'd like to have it copied, and I'll send the paper back to you." But he never did, and he died a few years ago and I have lost that speech. But some of these days when I have time in Mayfield, I'm going to look up the files of the Mayfield Messenger and get it, because I should like very much to remind myself of what it sounded like. It may not now sound as funny as it did at that time, because sometimes our boyish efforts seem excellent and humorous and finished 01:53:00at the time, but years later we read them and we wonder how we could have been that stupid.

SHALETT: Do you think some old-timer in Mayfield might be able to enlighten us on what KKK stood for?

BARKLEY: Yes, I imagine we could find out what KKK stood for, but I want to emphasize again that it did not stand for Ku Klux Klan. (Shalett laughs)

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: Not quite. The Senator has just been telling me some details of what the Roosevelt Supreme Court-packing fight was about. And he told me that the day before Senator Robinson died, there had been a caucus--a meeting in Senator Robinson's office at which they were in effect counting noses before a threatened filibuster. As the others left, Robinson said to him--

BARKLEY: Well, I was just saying about what happened the day 01:54:00before Senator Robinson died suddenly at night. The Court bill was under consideration; it had been introduced. And I'm going into it in more detail as to its provisions, but it provided authority for the President to increase the Supreme Court to 15, with an automatic provision for retirement at the age of 70. Well, there was great opposition to it, and the Democratic members of the Senate were split wide open on the subject. And Senator Robinson, as majority leader, was holding daily conferences among senators, especially Democratic senators, to see where we stood. And I was his assistant, and I was supporting the bill, as he was. Well, on the day before he died, we had a conference in his office in the Senate Office Building. And he was giving instructions to senators that if he was not on the floor at any given time while this fight was on, which was threatened with 01:55:00a filibuster on the part of the opponents, Democrats and Republican, that any motion that I might make as his assistant, whether to adjourn, recess, or whatever it might be, was to be supported by the senators who were for the Court bill. And they all understood that, and finally the conference broke up and Senator Robinson asked me to remain behind. And I remained, and he told me he wasn't feeling well. He said he had a pain in his chest. And he took my hand and put it on his breast bone to indicate where the pain was. And I said to him, "Joe, you better not go to the Senate today. You go home and go to bed. I can handle things over there. There's nothing going to come up today that I can't handle." He did. He went to bed, went home and went to bed, and he called his doctor about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. And he administered some something to him, I don't know what. That night, he died suddenly, and I was shocked the next morning to be called over the telephone and told 01:56:00that Senator Robinson had been found slumped on the floor in his bedroom, which gave the appearance of an effort on his part to go into the bathroom, but on his way, he had this heart attack and died. And he was leaning against the wall next to his bed when he was found the next morning by the maid.

SHALETT: Another one of those Washington fatalities.

BARKLEY: Yeah, another one of those Washington fatalities. Well, of course, his death threw consternation and uncertainty and chaos into the Court situation as well as the Democratic leadership. And after that, I will recount somewhat in detail chronologically what happened.

SHALETT: All right.

[Pause in recording.]

SHALETT: Have you ever had any regrets about not keeping a diary or filing some of these pieces of paper?

BARKLEY: Yes, I have. I never intended to keep a diary. 01:57:00I always felt that it was a terrible drudgery to feel that every time you went home you had to sit down and jot down in a book all the things that had happened during the day. So I never did it. I have a very good memory, and I remember most everything, but of course it's impossible always to remember every name and every date with which you were associated. And also I probably did not appreciate the possible importance of any of these things at the time they occurred. I do now regret that I didn't take a little more pains in preserving documents, letters, and statements, and things of that kind that now appear to be to have been important, and that I did not--not without keeping a daily diary, keep record of what I might have regarded at the time as being important episodes, communications, or other items that would enter into 01:58:00an accurate record of the things that happened.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: --Sheppard of Texas, who was a great friend--

SHALETT: You said you remember that Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas--

BARKLEY: I said I remember that Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas, who was a great friend of mine, kept a daily diary of everything he did. And I don't know what ever happened to it or whether it'll ever be used or not, but he spent a great deal of time keeping that accurate record of the de---the smallest detail of the things that he did during his long service in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. And because it took so much of his time in drudgery and detail, I resolved never to devote that much time to it myself. But I still now think it would have been wise for me to have kept some record of some of the things that I did and that happened to me and that occurred in connection to my service in the Congress and elsewhere. But I didn't, and maybe it's just as well, 01:59:00because sometimes people get tired of dates and names.

SHALETT: Well, some of these scraps of paper like the Stevenson message should be preserved. (laughs)

BARKLEY: Well, I guess they're somewhere. My secretary tells me that they're in a bunch of papers that I received as a result of the Chicago convention, but I didn't myself individually preserve them.

[Pause in recording.]

BARKLEY: I was in Europe attending the Interparliamentary Conference. And when I came back, I learned that Secretary of Commerce Daniel C. Roper was anxious that I talk with Colonel House in New York about the presidential nomination in 1940. It was then assumed that Roosevelt would not be a candidate for a third term. I told Mr. Roper 02:00:00that I'd be glad to talk to Colonel House about it. It seems that Colonel House had expressed some interest in my possible nomination. And I have referred to that heretofore by repeating a conversation with Mr. Roosevelt where he said the employees at the White House were suggesting that I be nominated as his successor, in which I told him that I appreciated that, but we'd have to see further about it, and later on I urged him to run for a third term. Well, I talked with Colonel House. I went to his apartment. And he was not very well, and I called on him and we had a long talk about it. And I told the Colonel that I thought that the situation would develop where Roosevelt would have to run for re-election. He didn't think so. And he was interested in knowing whether I would be available or whether I--what my position would be in regard to it. And we talked quite at length about the matter, and I told him that I would not be in a position to suggest it or to push it or even to encourage it, that if Roosevelt determined not to run again, and 02:01:00the leaders of the party thought that I would be an acceptable candidate, that I would at that time be glad to discuss it with him and determine then what action, if any, should be taken. And it was a very affable and very friendly conversation, and I appreciated Colonel House's interest in it. During the conversation about that, he told me that he had great trouble persuading Mr. Roosevelt to appoint Cordell Hull as his secretary of state. Now, he didn't go into detail about why Mr. Roosevelt had to be persuaded, and other evidence and other writers have indicated that at a very early stage the President had considered Mr. Hull and had one of his friends approach Mr. Hull in regard to it. And the report of the conversation indicates that Mr. Hull was receptive to the idea, but it had 02:02:00to be based on the condition that he was to be the secretary of state and he would--he was to be--his voice was to determine about those whom were chosen to work with him, which the writer of this particular book claimed later Hull received assurances of, but were never really carried out. Of course, I am not stating that because Mr. Hull has written his own book and is more capable of speaking for himself. But the interesting thing is that Mr. House, Colonel E. M. House, who was Wilson's unofficial advisor during all his eight years, told me that he had a hard time persuading President Roosevelt to appoint Cordell Hull secretary of state. Now, it may have been because Hull had just gone to the Senate and was in the Senate for only two years and he thought he might be more valuable in the Senate than he would be as head of the State Department. But anyhow, he appointed Mr. Hull, and he accepted, and Hull was secretary of state longer than any other man in the history of the country, and in my judgment made one of 02:03:00the great secretaries of state of this entire history--our entire history.

SHALETT: That's very--a very interesting footnote. I think we're at the end of reel 17, side 2 now.

[End of interview.]