SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION PROJECT
Oral History Research Office, Columbia University, 1968
This memoir is the result of a series of tape-recorded interviews conducted for the Oral History Research Office by Peter A, Corning with Miss Maurine Mulliner in Washington, D.C. during 1967. Miss Mulliner has read the transcript, and has made only minor corrections and emendations. The reader is asked to bear in mind, therefore, that he is reading a transcript of the spoken rather than the written word.
Interview # 1 (Note: Approximately 128 printed pages.)
Interview with Miss Maurine Mulliner by Peter A. Corning
Washington D.C. April 26, 1967
Q: Perhaps first of all we can put on tape a brief capsule biography of yourself up to the point where you came to work for Social Security. And, perhaps you could tell me how it was that you came to work for Social Security.
Mulliner: It was because of the Depression.
Q: Like a lot of other people.
Mulliner: You've heard that before.
Q: Yes indeed.
Mulliner: I came from a little different setting than many of the other people. During my college time I was torn between two drives--one which I had had all my life and another one as I grew older. The one I had had all my life was to be the world's greatest ballerina. The other one was to be a lawyer. And while I was in college at the University of California in Berkeley, I studied ballet. I majored in physical education and political science in college, and when I came to Washington originally in 1927, it was to continue my study of the ballet--over my mother's objections. If you wanted to be romantic about it, you could say I ran away from home to go on the stage--well, to dance in the ballet. And I studied here with the Kingsmith Studio school, which then had a good school of the ballet which now is out of existence. But then in order to do that, I had to earn my living. I took a position as executive secretary of the Washington Child Research Center, which was a research organization financed by the Rockefeller Fund.
In that connection I got to know a great many people in Washington who were on the executive board of this research center. I studied ballet here. I got to the point where I wanted to have a try; went to Chicago because I could get a research assistant's position following out some of the research we had done here at the Washington Child Research Center, at the University of Chicago. I tried out for the ballet, and to my amazement I was accepted in the ballet of the Chicago Civic Opera Company, because I really hadn't had the training that I should have had to do this. But nevertheless I was lucky. So I did two things while I was there. I was a research assistant at the University of Chicago, and I danced with the ballet of the Chicago opera company. But this was in ‘30 and ‘31, and the Depression hit Chicago, and our fairy godfather, Mr. Samuel Insull, who wrote out the half-million dollar check for the deficit each season had to flee the country when his house of cards fell down, and the opera closed. That was in the Depression, as you know, and jobs were not easy to come by, and I was a long way from my home in Idaho, and I needed to earn my living.
I came to Washington and saw some friends here. Then I went to New York and tried out for a dancing group there and was offered a contract to go to Paris for six months. "Well," I thought, "what will I do when the six months are over? And the Depression is worse in the United States."
Q: You didn't believe Herbert Hoover that it would be over in six months?
Mulliner: No, I didn't. And one of the reasons at that time that I was able to make a decision to leave the theatrical world was that the people in that field were so unaware of the social problems and the economic problems of the country. They just lived in a different world, and it was such a limited kind of living... Well, I'd had my little fling. I had found out I was not going to be the world's greatest ballerina, and I was satisfied then to turn my life into some other channel.
So I came back and took a test for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which was one of the agencies that was set up in connection with the Depression program. I did this on my way to New York, and when I came back they told me that if an amendment passed that had been offered to their act by Senator Wagner of New York, which would provide I think just $5 million to give loans to states and localities to help them with the Depression, that they would employ me, because they would be putting on some people. So at this point I had to go home to Idaho where I could eat and sleep without paying money, and I did get a telegram in July that they had a position for me to interview people in personnel. I had been doing some work in the field of psychology at the University of Chicago, and this fitted in.
I came back. I took that position and held it for maybe six months, and I didn't like it a bit, because I didn't think their personnel policies were fair. One day at noontime I walked from my office over to see Isador Lubin, who was then still an economist with Brookings Institution. He later was Commissioner of Labor Statistics in the Roosevelt Cabinet.
Q: How did you come to know him?
Mulliner: He had been on the executive committee of the Child Research Center. That's why I mentioned earlier that I had gotten to know a good many people through that work. I said, "Lube, I just can't take it any more. I just don't like these personnel policies, and if you hear of anything that you think I could do, I wish you would keep me in mind."
This is a pure aside, but I remember him saying, "Well, I have some friends named Javits in New York whom I know are looking for a top-notch executive secretary, an administrative assistant type of person. Do you think you'd be interested in going to New York?"
And I said, "No, I don't think I would. Let's wait and see if something else turns up."
Well, there's no telling how interesting a life I would have had. If I'd gone with the Javits. I think it was the Eagle Pencil Company or something like that that they were working in at that time.
But anyway two days later Lubin was called up by Senator Wagner for an interview. At that time Senator Wagner was using Lubin as an economic adviser on a volunteer basis. While Lubin was in the Senator's office, one of the Senator's secretaries came in and said, "Senator, here's the executive order from the President setting up that position you asked for, for a personal secretary. It's finally come through."
You see, the Economy Act was in effect in those days, and no vacancy in government could be filled and no new position could be set up except by an executive order from the President. So the Senator turned to Lubin and said, "Well I have the position now but no one to put in it."
And Dr. Lubin said, "Oh. yes. I know who should go into it." And three days later I was personal secretary to Senator Wagner of New York.
Q: What year was this?
Mulliner: Nineteen thirty-three. It was either ‘32 or ‘33.
Q: I guess it must have been ‘32 because March of '33 was when Roosevelt came in, or it may have been early '33. But it was when Hoover was still President.
Mulliner: Yes, Hoover was still President when I came into the government service. That senatorial work was a marvelous experience. I didn't know much about New York. I had spent three days in New York in my life. I didn't know a thing about the operations of the Senate except what I may have learned in school years before. But I just thoroughly took to that kind of work. The Senator introduced the Economic Security bill and when that bill was introduced I knew that was the program I wanted to work with, and I told the Senator that.
Q: Before we go on to talking about that, I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about working for the Senator. What was he like, for a start?
Mulliner: He was a man whose whole life was his work. He was a widower, as you probably know. He had one son, and he really didn't have any home life. You know, the sessions went on and on and on then, and he carried I guess two-thirds of the New Deal legislation, and his office was completely understaffed. There
was an efficiency expert waiting to see him one day whom I talked to. I told him a little bit about the volume of mail--from 2 to 5000 communications a day flowing in there, because every working man in the country thought Bob Wagner was his Senator, in addition to the New York citizens. And the man said, "Well, I would think a minimum staff of 25. How many do you have?" I said, "There are eight altogether to do the committee work as well as the Senator's work as Senator of New York." Well, it was just impossible But anyway we all worked very hard at it.
The Senator was not interested in or aware of the administrative or operations side of his office. He was interested in the legislative program, in his political contacts with New York, and we were quite free to go ahead and handle his correspondence--except for the letters I was supposed to identify out of those several thousand a day that were from personal friends or important public figures, which needed his personal attention--the best we could and try to keep from being bogged down by it. So we had complete freedom, not much guidance; but when something went wrong, wow, then we'd hear about it. He was under great pressures all the time. And really when he was intent on the legislative program, he didn't want to be bothered by these peripheral things, some of which were very important to his political standing.
I remember one incident, I had tried for about three days to get him to take over when he went to the floor some petitions that had come in from some towns in New York and some other things that were the kind of documents Senators put in the record for their effect back home. Now, surely they weren't as important as the legislation he was concerned with, and I'd be in there competing against Leon Keyserling, who was the legislative secretary, for the Senator's ear in trying to give him these to take and put in the record. All he had to do, you know, was just say two or three words and drop them in the hopper, and he'd just walk off talking to Keyserling and not do this. So one day he came back from the floor and he was just as cross as he could be. He said, "I don't know why it is that Senator Copeland's staff can get the things to him that he should get into the record."
And I said, "What do you mean?"
"Well," he said, "I saw in the Record today that yesterday Senator Copeland put in this and this and this."
I went back to my desk; I picked up this folder and I said, "Senator, I have been trying for four days to get you to take this to the floor and put these things in the Record, and the very things Senator Copeland put in yesterday are in this folder, and you could have put them in four days ago if you had listened to me." Said I, crying, "If I work for you 20 years I will never again try to give you anything to put in the Record," because he'd been real cross with me about this.
He sat there for a minute, I was standing by his desk. Then I had stopped crying and he said, "Well, are you all over it now?"
And I said, "Yes, Senator."
Then he said, "If I ever talk to you like that again, you just look right at me and say, ‘You go to hell.'"
He was really kindly, but when the pressures were on, like other people, he didn't think a bit about the person to whom he was exploding.
We used to say we wished he had a wife and family that he could explode to at home. Mrs. Barkley was telling us one day (this was the first Mrs. Barkley) about how irritable the Senator was because the pressures were so great and the summer was hot and the session was going on. And we all said, "wells we wish the Senator had a wife at home he could explode to so he wouldn't have to do it in the office."
But we all liked him. You know, he was fighting for the eight-hour working day for the working people, and he paid no attention to the 12-hour days that his own staff put in. He just couldn't relate these things at all. But we were supportive of the things he was trying to do. We'd work just as hard as we could regardless of whether he paid any attention to it or not. He was a brusque man.
I remember the day he came back from the meeting where he had told the Social Security Board members that somebody on his staff wanted to work for them. I hadn't known whether he was going to say this or not, I had told him months before that I would like to work for this program, and then in about October of 1935 we got a call one day saying that the Board was going to meet and they wanted the Senator to come down and consult with them. They wanted to consult with him about getting organized. And I thought to myself: "Should I remind him of what I said?" And I thought: No, if he's going to do it, he'll do it, and I won't remind him of it."
When he came back, he called to me and I went in, and in this graceless way he told me. It was sad, but when he was doing something nice, he couldn't be graceful about it. Now, I'd say this was a Germanic trait in him. I don't know whether that's fair or not, but that was the way it seemed to me. All said to me was; "Well, I hope you won't let me down--all those nice things I told them about you down there today." So that's how I knew he'd mentioned it.
So this was the way I got into the Social Security program.
Q: I wonder if we could expand a little bit on what you've talked about here, and whether you could give me a few impressions of what the Senate was like in those days. I don't know how much of a basis of comparison you have with the way the Senate operates today, but, if possible, maybe you could draw some comparisons between the Senate in those days and the changes over the years.
Mulliner: Generalizations are hard and unfair; and of course in my opinion the way the Senate operates is controlled so much by the personality of the majority leader that it's hard to make comparisons. For example, when I was first up there, Pat Harrison, a distinguished Senator from Mississippi, who was very much interested in the Social Security program, was the gadfly on the minority side because the Republicans were in control. And he was very effective. When the Democrats took control and he had a position of responsibility on the majority side, I didn't think he was nearly as effective. So we people are better in the opposition role and some people are better in the leadership role. The relationships, of course, between the Senator and the White House changed overnight when President Roosevelt came into the White House because they had worked together in the New York State Senate and known each other warmly and personally there. Al Smith and Wagner and Roosevelt all worked together and knew one another. It was interesting that I never heard Senator Wagner refer to a man he had probably called "Frank" or "Franklin" through a great many years other than as Mr. President or the President or President Roosevelt, once he was in the White House.
At one point I heard a very touching exchange between the two of them after there had been a strained difference of opinion, something to do with minimum wage, I think. Senator Wagner had taken a position opposed to President Roosevelt's position on this, and all the columnists were writing about it, you know--the break between the President and Wagner and how Wagner was out so far as the White House was concerned. Then a call came from the White House one day and I put the Senator on and listened and when the President came on he said, "hello there, Bob, how are you?"
And the Senator said, "Wells I'm fine, Mr. President, but I thought from the newspapers that I wouldn't ever be hearing from you again."
And the President laughed and said, "Oh., Bob, don't be a goose."
That healed the breach and they went on in a working relationship.
But the Senate then of course wasn't faced with the kind of issues that are so divisive today. Everybody in the Senate was scrambling for what to do to get people back to work, to get this country on an economic basis that would be sound again. There weren't things like Vietnam or the race issue that can be so emotional and so divisive as today. So I don't think I can really make any comparisons. It seemed then to me, and thinking back to then, that there was less friction between the Congress and the White House during those years--'33, '34, '35, when I was on the Hill--that there has been in recent years. But we weren't dealing with external matters then, and we weren't dealing with our most emotionally explosive domestic problems. We were dealing with what seemed to be sort of impersonal economic problems. They were personal enough to the people out of jobs. A majority of the people in the House and the Senate were looking for something to support regardless of whether it was Democratically sponsored or Republican-sponsored that would help to minimize the Depression.
Q: Regarding the relationship between the Senator and President Roosevelt, I have the impression that throughout all of these years, the Senator was frequently at the White House; that he was as much an adviser and confidant of the President as many other people--perhaps not as close as a person like Harry Hopkins, but that he did have a very close relationship.
Mulliner: Of the legislative people, he was the closest, I think.
Q: Exactly, and seems--since he took the responsibility for so many of the President's proposals--to have been fulfilling some of the role of the majority leader during this period.
Q: In particular--and this brings us to social Security now--one of the predecessors of Social Security was the Wagner-Lewis bill. I wonder whether you recall that in particular.
Mulliner: I certainly do. And nothing was ever locked in Senator Wagner's office until the three copies of the Wagner-Lewis bill came from the Printing Office--the copies that were to be introduced in the Congress. And, of course, as you know, Davey Lewis had worked his heart out for these kinds of programs, while Congressman Doughton hadn't paid any attention to them. Doughton was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee then. And some of the people who had worked, hardest on the bill wanted Mr. Lewis to be the sponsor of the bill in the House, just as it was expected that Wagner would be in the Senate. And those copies were locked in the Senator's desk overnight. They came over late in the afternoon,
Q: You're not talking about the Wagner-Lewis bill. You're talking about the Social Security bill.
Mulliner: What bill are you talking about?
Q: I'm talking about the Wagner-Lewis bill, which was a predecessor. It involved unemployment insurance...
Mulliner: I think I'm talking about Wagner-Lewis--that Doughton then took over?
Q: Well, later on, yes. This was a year later.
Mulliner: No, I'm talking about the Economic Security bill.
Q: Yes. Perhaps you should finish telling this incident, and then we can come back.
Mulliner: All right. There were supposed to be just this many copies printed. Well, the Senator dropped his in the hopper the next morning, but somehow Doughton's people had gotten hold of a copy of the bill overnight, and he dropped it in the hopper in the House a few minutes before Davey Lewis did.
Mulliner: Oh, it was intentional.
Q: Yes, but this was not prearranged with the President, to have Doughton do it instead.
Mulliner: No, no. Not as far as I know. He just wanted to get into the act at that point. It was unkind because Lewis had done so much work in this field.
Q: And a copy of the bill was missing from the Senator's desk?
Mulliner: No, there was another bill made available. You see, these powerful committee chairmen have ins with the government Printing Office and other places. I don't know what was involved, but we were all disappointed that this became the Doughton bill in the House instead of the Lewis bill. And then I was really annoyed when the annual report of the Secretary of Labor about the legislation subsequently referred to it always as the "Harrison-Doughton bill," because Pat Harrison was the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Q: I see. You don't know whether or not the President was involved in the changes of sponsorship?
Mulliner: No, I don't know.
Q: What did that have to do with locking the Senator's desk?
Mulliner: Apparently he sensed that there was going to be some effort to keep Lewis from being the sponsor of the bill in the House. He never said anything about this, but I know that that was the only time I ever knew of anything being locked up in that office.
Q: Oh, I see. It was done before, not after.
Mulliner: That's right. When the three copies came over, they were locked up.
Q: And presumably other copies than those three were made available to Lewis.
Mulliner: Yes, he was supposed to have his too, but somewhere along the line the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee or his staff got hold of a copy, and it got in a few minutes before the Lewis copy did.
Q: What do you know about Doughton? I understand his nickname was "Muley."
Mulliner: Yes. He didn't have any understanding of the need for social legislation, he got a tremendous education at the hearings on the Social Security Act and some of the others, and I do think that he came along quite well in that educational process. But here was a man, Davey Lewis, who had spent his whole career in the House working on these things, this kind of program.
Q: What was Lewis's background?
Mulliner: He was from Maryland, and I think he had worked as a laborer or with one of the unions or something like that--I can't recall now. I never knew him well except that he was a sweet little man, and this just seemed so unfair.
Q: I take it that you knew him because he had frequent contacts with the Senator.
Mulliner: That's right.
Q: The bill I was referring to before was called the Wagner-Lewis bill.
Q: Yes. I'm not sure I have it exactly clear in my mind, but it was introduced and then endorsed by the President, blessed by him, and then his blessing was withdrawn, and he decided instead to set up the Committee on Economic Security and review the whole picture and come up with a broad program. I wonder whether you recall any of the discussion which must have gone on between the President and the Senator about all of this.
Mulliner: No. I don't recall anything about that. Leon Keyserling would. probably know about that; and if it happened a little earlier, Simon Rifkind would. He had been in the legislative job for the Senator before Keyserling took over. He didn't get as much publicity out of that as he did out of the Manchester book.
Q: The Senator certainly had some prominent people working for him.
Mulliner: He was one man who didn't fear brains. You know, some of the Senators up there really are--or were--afraid to employ able people because they would be smarter than they were. But Senator Wagner didn't have that concern. Simon Rifkind was an extremely able man and so was Leon Keyserling, and they handled the legislative side for him very well.
Q: What about the Senator's intellectual powers? Was he the equal of these men or was he simply a person who maybe recognized that he wasn't as bright as some of the people he employed but he wanted the best?
Mulliner: Yes, I think that would be his attitude. He didn't have an usual IQ. He was a dedicated man, he devoted his whole 24 hours a day, except when he was having fun, and he enjoyed having fun too, but he didn't have any real home life--his job was his life. He just liked to work away on it. While he wasn't as extreme on this as people whom I later worked with, like Mr. Winant, Senator Wagner would call up his staff off hours other than his legislative man. The legislative man was on call all the time. But he'd call some of the rest of us for something whether it was working hours or not if he was interested in knowing something or moving ahead on something and needed some information that we could give him. He was very pleasant with his staff. He'd take us all out to dinner now and then.
I was with him and Rifkind and Keyserling on a speaking tour around New York State in 1934 during the campaign. He wasn't up for reelection, but he was doing two things, he was doing an educational job with respect to Social Security, preparing people for that, and helping the New York State ticket, Governor Lehman was up for reelection that go-round, and the four of us would have a nice, relaxed, jolly time until we would come into a town where the Lehman campaign entourage was. You know, traveling with any candidate is tense. And then we'd all get tensed up because of that. But then when we'd go along and wouldn't be in the same town for the same meetings as the candidate, things would relax.
I learned two things then about political campaigns. One was we had to mention all the candidates on the ticket in these speeches, and there was one man running for Congressman-at-large whom none of us had ever seen. We didn't know a bloomin' thing about him. We knew he was young. So the first time we were bringing this in, we said, "What can we say about him?" I kind of hate to use his name now because maybe he's still living, but anyway the story isn't a story without his name. His name was Matthew J. Merritt. And we were trying to think of something to say. Finally Rifkind said, "You know, it sounds like a tug on the East River." Well, then we decided on the phrase: "the up-and-coming young Congressman, Matthew J. Merritt." So that's the phrase that got thrown into the speeches about Matthew J. Merritt.
In a speech we were doing for Elmyra, I think, we put in a funny quote from Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass. It had something to do with elephants. I can't remember what it was now, except the Senator didn't feel easy about it. He said, "I don't like it. It won't go over."
And we said, "But it will go over, Senator, leave it in."
"No, I don't think it will go over."
You know, that rascal got half-way through that story and coughed about three times and then picked up there and went on, and then when he came back he said, "I told you that story wouldn't go over."
We got even with him in Buffalo. He always worried about his Buffalo speeches. I don't know--there must have been something that happened in his early career in Buffalo. No speech that was ever prepared for him for Buffalo seemed to him to be right in advance. When we got into Buffalo everybody was there--Governor Lehman; Jim Farley, who was then the national Democratic chairman, everybody. And there was to be a big parade and much hup-de-doo, and it was snowing. That put a little damper on the parade. I said, "I'm not going to the parade. I'm going to stay right here." When we'd move into a hotel, we'd take a suite and there'd be a nice sitting room and the bedrooms around it; so we led kind of a family life. And Keyserling and Rifkind both said they weren't going to the parade either. So we sat down, and oh, the Senator was so tense about that speech. There were about three points in it he wanted to make, and he was afraid they wouldn't go over. We could listen on the radio--there was no television then--and as soon as they started moving into the armory, where the big to-do was to be, we got in a taxis, went over to the armory. One of us went on that side of the armory; one of us went up in the balcony in the middle; one of us went on this side of the armory. And when those real crucial points came up in the speech, we'd start the applause in these three places in the audience. As soon as the Senator's speech was over, we all went back to the hotel and listened to the rest of it on the radio. The Senator came in when it was all over just aglow. He said, "I never had a speech go better. The very points I wanted appreciated were the ones that were most appreciated." And nobody ever told him that he had a special claque there to see that those points went over.
Q: That's a wonderful story.
Mulliner: That was an interesting trip because I'd never been around New York State.
The Senator was making a speech in Glen Falls when we were in Albany, and I decided I didn't want to go over to Glen Falls, and I'd never been in Albany before. We stepped out of that big old-fashioned hotel there--we were right on the hill where the capitol is--and I walked across and thought I'd look around
and learn a little bit about the capitol. I walked into the Court of Appeals, and the little old janitor was just closing up. I said, "Oh, I'm too late. I can't see it." I said, I'm going out early in the morning."
"Oh, yes, well, I'll show you through." So he took me through. He knew a great deal about the building. As we went into the chamber itself, here hanging on either side were the portraits of the former justices and chief justices. I said, "Which one do you think was the finest justice?"
He didn't hesitate a bit. He walked down the aisle, pushed open the little swinging gate that takes you into the rows of seats, and there was this fine portrait of Mr. Justice Cardozo, with those sensitive fingers displayed so beautifully in the portrait. There was never any doubt in his mind that that was his favorite.
Q: Very interesting. Perhaps we could return to the Economic Security bill, the Social Security Act. I wonder if you have any particular recollections about the passage, the byplay in getting the Economic Security bill through the Congress, or the work of the Committee on Economic Security, which I presume
the Senator was interested in and involved with indirectly.
Mulliner: Yes, he was. I remember one incident, and it could have taken place with respect to the drafting of the Economic Security bill or the National Labor Relations Act. I can't remember at the moment, but I think regardless it's illustrative of what you referred to a little while ago: How did the Senator work and his
capacity for getting legislation developed and through Congress? It could have been either bill because Tom Elliot worked on both of them. Tom Eliot was the solicitor for the Department of Labor, and he and Leon Keyserling and about three other bright young lawyers in the government were the working committee who were developing the draft of this legislation, and there were two or three sticky points that had to be compromised. Different groups had different positions on them. And Keyserling would come in in the morning after these young men had worked all night practically, and. still they hadn't resolved these sticky points. Finally, one day the Senator said, "Now, Leon, legislation has to involve compromises. Now, I would agree there's a point beyond which one should not compromise, but you'll never get a bill drafted or introduced or enacted if you can't work out compromise language on the points where there's real controversy." He, said, "Now, tonight when you young"--I don't know what he called them, but some special affectionate term--"go to work, quit taking the position that every comma in this draft is sacred because you folks put it in there, and come to some resolution--some language that will get us over these humps. We have to do that." He said, "Now, just because you put those commas in there, they're not sacred and they must be changed."
Q: Interesting. He had a very definite and realistic appreciation of how legislation is enacted despite his commitment to social welfare.
Mulliner: That's right. You take what you can get. If that's all you can get at this point, you get that; and then you move forward from there later on. He was very realistic.
Q: What about the Committee on Economic Security? Do you have any impressions of the Committee's work? It's very difficult for somebody who comes at it from a historian's point of view being able to read through documents that were published after the fact and historical materials now available...
Mulliner: Have you seen Ed Witte's publication...?
Q: Yes, I have. But I'd like to evoke the impressions of somebody who was an outsider...
Mulliner: I wasn't close enough to be able to do that for you. Wilbur Cohen could do it for you. Frank Bane was on one of those committees, he could do it for you.
Q: But what I'm looking for too is the impressions of somebody who was an interested bystander, who wasn't on the inside. What were the impressions from the outside of what was going on?
Mulliner: Well, you see, Keyserling was the main contact for the Senator's staff with all that. While at the time I had bits and pieces of contact or information, I just don't remember anything specific now. Of course one of the real issues was the unemployment compensation program--we had to call it then. We thought insurance would be unconstitutional, so we shouldn't use the term "unemployment insurance." We had to call it unemployment compensation, and the real issue was how much state role there should be versus a national system. Arthur Altmeyer, out of his Wisconsin experience, regrettably was strong enough to influence Miss Perkins to hold fast for the state role being the stronger. And as a result we've gotten a weaker and weaker unemployment insurance program throughout the country practically every year, because it's easier for the people who are not in favor of an adequate unemployment insurance program to influence state legislatures than the Congress. And as Arthur Altmeyer would tell you today, that's a sin he committed that he wishes he hadn't, because he had to work with the headaches of trying to keep the programs from deteriorating when he was the Commissioner.
Q: I'd like to talk about some of those problems a little later on. Do you recall Senator Wagner having any strong views on specific aspects of the Social Security bill?
Mulliner: No, I think he regretted when they had to drop out all the health business, you know. And I think he would have liked to have seen that Brandeis idea kept in about savings. There was something in there. Isn't it awful? I can't remember.
Q: Yes, there was a reserve proposal of Brandeis'.
Mulliner: But I really don't know enough about this to talk about it.
Q: Did Wagner have discussions with Brandeis?
Mulliner: Oh, I expect so. I would certainly think so. They were good friends. The Senator was at the Brandeis home socially on occasions. But I don't know any specifics on that.
Before we leave Senator Wagner, he took considerable personal interest in the members of his staff, even though he didn't pay much attention to what they were doing in the office unless he was directly interested in what was going on, what they were doing. It always amused him that I had been a ballet dancer. This kind of piqued his fancy. And he was in the Adirondacks or the Poconoes for a holiday one summer when there was publicity about a man who had been working for the OWI, Office of War Information. This was later on in the ‘40s and McCarthy was going after any person who deviated in any way from his own ideas of how people should behave and what they were like. This man in his youth had belonged to some religious group where natural dancing or some kind of dancing was part of the religious service, and he had participated in this. McCarthy found out about it, and it seems incredible but they fired him. The Senator had been reading about this in the newspaper, so he wrote me this letter. He didn't write in longhand very often. Even his personal letters, like a good many businessmen, he dictated. But for this one he, didn't have any secretary around, so he wrote it in longhand. I've been going to turn it over to Georgetown University, where his papers are deposited, and maybe I did. But at any rate, among the other things he said was: "Just wait until Senator McCarthy finds out about your past," teasing me that I was really in jeopardy. It's true that as long as was in the Federal Government I never volunteered the information that I had trained only to be a ballet dancer.
Q: It was not relevant experience.
Mulliner: Because as a hard-boiled administrator, this would have been a great shock to people. They just couldn't imagine me in that role.
Q: I take it from some of the things you've said here that the Senator had a good sense of humor.
Mulliner: He did and he enjoyed a good time. He liked to go to the races. I went to the races with him on occasion, and I soon learned that it was better if I didn't win if he lost. This made hi very grumpy and unhappy, and particularly because he was a plunger. He wanted to pick a dark horse and really have one come in, and I'm quite content to play with the same $2 all afternoon. I'll bet the favorite's place and be just as happy as can be to get my $2 back with 30 cents plus or 60 cents, which just outraged him. He just couldn't bear that. So after a few times I used to refuse to tell him how much I was betting, because here I
winning. I wasn't winning anything, you see, but he'd bet $50 on some dark horse, and he'd lose his $50 and then I'd come back with my $2.30. It annoyed him.
One other thing he liked to do--which is not unusual; we had justice of the Supreme Court who liked it too--was to go the Gaiety Theater. I don't know how well you know Washington, but that was our top-notch burlesque theater in Washington for a good many years. But he also had misgivings about this, you know-how this might be interpreted if it got into the newspapers. So occasionally he would ask me to go to the Gaiety with him because somehow he had an idea that if he were accompanied there, it would sort of legitimize this. Well, when I was in Chicago with the ballet, I'd gone to the Gaiety there a few times with the people who were always going to various theatrical things, so it wasn't a new experience for me. But he would wear dark glasses, and I must remember always not to introduce any remarks to him, by saying, "Senator how do you like this?" because he, didn't want to be recognized.
Another thing he liked to do--and when I was in New York he took me--was go to restaurants. He used to very often take me to dinner in New York because I had never been in New York City before, and liked to go to the different kinds of restaurants, and it was kind of fun for him to introduce this girl from out in the country to the various places in New York. Sometimes when we would go to a restaurant that wasn't too far from Union Square, we would stroll over after dinner; and he wouldn't go up to the various speakers close, but held like to know what that fellow was saying over there. So he'd stand. back kind of in the shadows in the background, and I'd wander up to see what he was promoting to save the world, and then I'd come back and tell the Senator about it. That's, one way he kept in touch with what, the fringe was doing and saying.
Q: What about his relations with his son?
Mulliner: They were very good. And this was an interesting contrast in a way. I don't want to sound unkind, but the Al Smiths, and the Wagners had been good family friends, and they had beach houses somewhere in New Jersey, and they'd all go in the summers. This was when the men were practicing law in New York and were in the Legislature, and the families would go down there, and the men would. come down on the weekends. As a matter of fact, when Al Smith died, the will that was left was still the will that Senator Wagner had. drawn up for him years and years and years before.
Well, young Bob was in boarding schools and college all the time I was with the Senator, so we didn't see a great deal of him. But he was never any problem to his father, while Al Smith's children were getting into perfectly natural trouble here, there, speeding, or drinking too much liquor or something like this. I used to think what a comfort young Bob was to his father. There were never any problems that I knew about. I don't think they were unusually close. But of course the mother had died, I guess when young Bob was very young, so his father was the only parent that young Bob had known. As for as I know, they always got along well. And after his father was ill in his later years, I think young Bob was an attentive, considerate son.
Q: What about the Senator's relationships with some of the other people in the Senate? How did he get along with his colleagues?
Mulliner: He got along quite well with his colleagues, as far as I know. He had a particular crony, a man named Peyser, who was a Congressman on the House side. It was the Wagner-Peyser bill, you know, that set up the employment services. I guess Peyser must have been a widower, too, or a bachelor, because they used to spent their evenings together quite often. I never knew that he had difficulty working with people. He became chairman of the Public Lands and Surveys Committee after the Democrats took over the organization of the Senate, and I simply roared. I said, "Senator, you've never seen a foot of public land in your life. Now, this summer you'd better go and visit some public lands and parks instead of going to Europe." You see, it was just habit. As soon as Congress adjourned, every summer he'd be off for Europe and Germany. That's the only way he knew to spend a vacation. He'd take a nice long boat trip over and spend the summer there and back. And he did. He went on a planned tour. I guess I got a letter from him from Salt Lake City or somewhere because he knew my family had been Mormons and that I knew a lot about Salt Lake City. He was really ecstatic. He said, "Why didn't somebody ever tell me what a beautiful country this is? Why have I been going off to Europe every summer of my life?"
Then when he got back he said to me one night: "Now, tell me honestly what do people do with their time in all those dinky little town?"
He was a big city boy, you know. I said, "Senator, you'd be surprised. They have more fun than the youngsters do in the city because they have to create their own entertainment. And they have picnics and they have hay rides and they have sleigh rides. They have to create their own recreation and entertainment, and it's a lot more stimulating and satisfying than going down to a roller skating rink and paying your money and going and skating around indoors." But this is something he never really understood or believed.
Q: We mentioned Pat Harrison before, and he of course figured in the history of Social Security. What do you know about him? Do you know why he wanted to be included in the Social Security Act, why he wanted his name on it?
Mulliner: I suppose human vanity.
Q: It was recognized this was going to be an important piece of legislation from the very beginning. It wasn't something that people came to appreciate after it had been enacted.
Mulliner: No, the whole structure, you see--the President setting up this elaborate Committee on Economic Security with all its working groups--gave it a different standing than other bills had which were being introduced then. There were so many staff people working on it that this generated a lot of talk. Then of course there was the big opposition from the California group. My word, who'd ever think I'd forget the name of that movement?
Q: The Townsend Plan.
Mulliner: Yes, yes, Dr. Townsend. That of course gave it more attention and publicity.
Q: What about the Townsend movement, incidentally? There's been a tendency among historians of this period to give a good deal of credit to the Townsend movement as something that did spur interest in Social Security and did help get it through the Congress as a way of heading off this more radical movement.
Mulliner: I think there's some validity in that.
Q: People really did become aware of this thing--not after the Social Security Act passed but definitely while it was in the Congress.
Mulliner: Oh, yes, because of all the appearances before the committee, you see, and the supporters of Townsend and the petitions that flowed in signed by the people who were recruited as members of the Townsend movement. It's another illustration of how one man can exert influence far beyond what one would expect of him.
Another man who did that was Abe Epstein. You know, one man crusading for government programs for the elderly. He sparked a tremendous interest, just as Dr. Townsend did in a different way. That little Abe Epstein was just like a fighting cock, you know. I would have thought, if I were in his position, "Why should somebody in my spot think I can influence this country to do anything or this city of New York or this state?" But he did. He just moved ahead, and he did it by sheer personality and determination and ability.
Q: What evidence did you have of his activities? Was he visible to you during this period?
Mulliner: Yes, he was around seeing people and writing to people and buttonholing people he was a zealot.
Q: Of course being a zealot can be good or bad. You can do a lot of harm that way, alienating people.
Mulliner: Oh, yes, and he did. No question about it. He had such a one-track mind and was so persistent, but I think he did a great deal more good than he did harm.
Q: Did he come into the Senator's office now and then?
Q: What kind of reception did the Senator give him?
Mulliner: Always courteous and interested and appreciative. Here was a man Epstein who was really devoting his life and at no compensation to himself. Townsend was making money on his movement.
Q: Yes, and a few other people were too--every out-of-work preacher in the country.
Mulliner: Yes, but Abe Epstein never lived well or made any money and wasn't interested in that part of it. Wilbur Cohen would know a lot more about Abe Epstein and his activities.
Q: What did Epstein look like? Can you describe him?
Mulliner: You know, when I start ti try to describe him--and this ridiculous--I think of Congressman Lewis. They were both small men with small features. I don't think I could call up an accurate description of him.
Q: What about Townsend? What kind of figure did he cut?
Mulliner: I thought he was quite an effective witness. I used to go to hearings of the Ways and Means Committee a lot in those days.
Q: Was this at the Senator's behest?
Mulliner: No, he didn't pay any attention to what you were doing, you know, as long as you were there when he wanted you. Well, and then later on, after I was working for the Social Security Board, you see, Townsend would come back and appear on the 1936 amendments and those times. He'd be back.
Q: Why did you go to the Ways and Means Committee hearings then?
Mulliner: Just because I was interested. You know, when there was somebody whom I wanted to hear. In those days you didn't have television. You couldn't come home at night and get the gist of it on television.
Q: You sat in on some of the Ways and Means Committee hearings on the Social Security Act.
Mulliner: Yes. Of course one of the most delightful witnesses was Ed Witte. Ed was always so full of this, you know. If he'd make an especially good point--this was done without him being aware of it at all--and he could realize this was being appreciated by some of his cohorts in the back, he'd turn around and beam at us, you know, as like a child.
Q: Was Witte effective as an explainer?
Mulliner: Yes. I think so. I never really thought of that before. I think he was.
Q: He seemed to be fairly competent. Certainly there was no strong feeling to the contrary, that he wasn't making a good appearance.
Mulliner: I don't remember that there was anything like that.
Q: How about Tom Eliot? Was he pretty active then too?
Mulliner: I don't remember him as a witness before committees. He was active behind the scenes in the drafting and negotiating. Let me digress now because I'll forget later with a delightful story about Tom Eliot. By the time Frank Bane was employed as the executive director of the Social Security Board, the Board, this not being untypical of Mr. Winant as the chairman, had already hired the general counsel, Tom Eliot. He wanted this position having worked on the bill, and Miss Perkins, being his boss, and Mr. Altmeyer, having been Deputy Secretary of Labor, and Mr. Winant having worked with Secretary Perkins in several relationships, including the International Labor Organization, responded to their combined wishes and had told Tom he was going to be general counsel of the Social Security Board. He wasn't just the exact type that Frank Bane would have chosen for his general counsel, so Frank then looked around and employed as associate general counsel Jack Tate from Tennessee. And off the record then, Frank would say that he had his "hot" and "cold" lawyer. And when he did not want to do something he would call Tom Eliot in and ask Tom about it because Tom was so legalistic, you know, and so precise about things. When he did want a way found to do something he'd call in Jack Tate, and Jack would find a way to do it and a legal rationale that was acceptable. So he called them either his "hot" or his "cold lawyer.
Well, now we're back to the Economic Security...
Q: Yes, and the Ways and Means Committee hearings. I wonder if you have any other impressions of the Social Security bill before the Ways and Means Committee. What was your impression of the way the members were reacting to it?
Mulliner: First, I was disappointed that they didn't all come and listen to every word, but that is to be expected.
Q: Did you have a feeling, though, that they understood what was going on and that they understood the bill?
Mulliner: Most of them, no. They didn't. Of course even today members of Congress don't know the difference between disability assistance and disability insurance and old age assistance and old insurance. It's a pretty complex bill and program, if you're not dealing with it and working with it all the time. I wouldn't try now to tell anyone what the old age and survivors' insurance program requirements are because I haven't kept up with the recent amendments; and unless you work with it day in and day out, you just can't.
Q: That's very true. What about Chairman Doughton? Do you have any impressions of how he handled himself up there and the kind of chairman he made?
Mulliner: I really don't. No, I don't think I better develop that now. If I had impressions, they've receded.
Q: In general, though, would you say that your impressions of the Ways and Means Committee hearings there weren't markedly different from other hearings; that they didn't somehow have any unusual aspects?
Mulliner: I think that's true. And as I've been trying to respond to your question or two, I realize that I can no longer separate out which were the hearings on the ‘36 amendments or even the ‘39 amendments. You see, they're running together in my mind. I'm really not clear enough on this to be able to respond.
Q: You mentioned before that Senator Wagner was unhappy about the health care section of the bill being dropped. Could you elaborate on that? Do you recall anything specific in that connection?
Mulliner: No, my recollection is that he felt health care was so important and it might be delayed for a great many years if it weren't in at the time people weren't being so critical of what was in because they really didn't know what was in, and that this was an important Social Security aspect that was appropriate to be in this kind of a bill.
Q: I've also been told that the Senator was rather unhappy about the unemployment insurance provision not being federal.
Mulliner: He'd like it to have been national.
Q: He's reported to have told somebody that the President had assured him that the bill in a couple of years could be amended and it would become a federal system. Do you recall that?
Mulliner: No, not specifically, but I could see that that might have been very likely.
Q: On this basis that the Senator accepted the bill as it was, accepting it on the basis that you said before, his recognition that there had to be some lines...
Mulliner: That you take what you can get at the time and then work ahead with it.
Q: But that Roosevelt had given him his assurances that he wanted to change it when the time was ripe.
Mulliner: I feel strongly that the President felt almost obligated to Frances Perkins with respect to the Social Security program, because in my opinion there would have been no Social Security program at all in the ‘30s if it weren't for Frances Perkins. Now, Wagner picked up at a point and carried on, but the one individual, in my opinion, above all others who was responsible for there being a Social Security program in the early ‘30s was Frances Perkins. She had worked with the President in New York State; she was close enough to him that she could keep at him. I don't think that President Roosevelt had the remotest interest in a Social Security bill or program. He was simply pacifying Frances so that she would quit nagging him about this in moving and setting up the Committee on Economic Security. She was a wise lady; she knew this was important; and she tenaciously kept at it, and I don't think she's ever gotten enough credit for the role she played.
Q: How about Harry Hopkins?
Mulliner: I'm not in a position to know about that. Frank Bane would know about that.
Q: Getting back to Frances Perkins for a little bit, did you have enough dealings with her to have some impressions about her?
Mulliner: Yes. She was not a warm person to deal with. She had
a need to protect herself from people. Several illustrations of this in my personal experiences come to mind. One illustrated her resistance to any encroachment on her privacy, and this was a great handicap for a lady in public life, but she had it extremely strongly. I don't know what all the factors were. One was the health of her husband, I believe. But, at any rate, she had almost a phobia against any invasion of her privacy. I was helping with the mid-century White House Conference on Children and Youth, which was held out at the armory here in Washington, and there was quite tight security. The people who were permitted to go into the conference had to wear an official badge that had to be achieved through proper channels and so on and so forth. She refused to wear an identification badge. She tried to go into the conferences and the policeman on the door didn't know who she was; and even if he did, his orders were nobody goes in without their identification. She just wouldn't have gone in if a top official hadn't come and told the policeman this was Secretary Perkins. She was either going to make a speech that day or she was expected to participate in a panel or something. But she wouldn't wear a label.
Then some years later at the time we were both going up to Concord, New Hampshire for the funeral of John Gilbert Winant, it just happened we were on the same overnight Pullman train to Boston. Our paths had crossed from the time in the early ‘30S when I was with Senator Wagner and again in the Social Security program, so my face at least was familiar to her. I guess I went into the dressing room on the Pullman train in the morning first, and she came in shortly thereafter. When she came in I said, "Good morning, Miss Perkins. I'm Maurine Mulliner. We've met in connection with the Social Security activities through the years. It's a sad trip were on today."
She simply said, "Good morning," period. No other ladies were in that Pullman, and we went ahead and finished our getting ready to get off the train. No conversation at all. She either felt that emotionally she couldn't talk about Mr. Winant and I might be pushing her to do that, or she didn't feel like talking in the morning. But there wasn't even the need to be minimally courteous. She just seemed always to need to protect herself against any encroachment.
There's a delightful incident involving her and Pat Harrison and the secretary she had when she was Secretary of Labor, who was a very unpleasant person. I don't know that anybody ever told Miss Perkins, but the secretary was rude to everybody who came into the outer office; and no matter how kindly disposed they might have felt when they came in, they were irritable as the dickens before they got in to see Madame Secretary because of this secretary out here. About the second day Miss Perkins was on the job as Secretary of Labor, Senator Harrison came down to pay a courtesy call on her. He came into the office and said to the secretary he'd like to see Miss Perkins, and she said, "Do you have an appointment?" And he said, "No, I don't." She said, "What's your name?" And he said, "Senator Harrison." She said, "Well, when it's convenient, I'll let the Secretary know you're here." And he sat in that office for 20 minutes. As far as he could see Miss Jay made no effort to let Miss Perkins know. She did say, "Somebody is in with the Secretary."
So he got up and said, "I won't be able to wait any longer. Will you just tell Miss Perkins when you get around to it that Senator Harrison came in to pay his respects." And out he went.
Well, the secretary was foolish enough to tell Miss Perkins this, and of course Miss Perkins realized what an affront this was. Frank Bane got a call from Mary La Dame, who was an assistant to Miss Perkins, and a woman of wider experience than the Secretary. She said, "Oh, Frank, Miss Perkins wants to speak to you about something."
So he went over, and Miss Perkins told Frank what had happened. She said, "Frank, what can you do about it? This is just awful."
Q: What was Frank Bane's position then?
Mulliner: He was Executive Director of the Social Security Board then, and he was a good friend of Pat Harrison's and everybody practically. Everybody always calls on Frank to fix things up. So when Miss Perkins said, "What can you do Frank?" he said, "I don't know, but I'll do what I can."
So he called up Pat Harrison and went up to see him. They talked around about a lot of things, and Frank said, "The main reason I wanted to talk to you was because Miss Perkins asked me to."
"Hmmph," said Harrison. He really had been affronted.
Frank said, "She's a new secretary in Washington. She didn't know her job," and this, that and the other.
Finally Pat said, "Well, Frank, you can go back and tell Madame Secretary that I understand the situation and that I hope we can work together comfortably in this relationship. Since she put it that way, tell her I forgive her. You don't have to tell her this, but you could add that I ain't ‘agoin' to love her."
That was just illustrative of the odds that were against Miss Perkins as a lady in a job, a Cabinet job that was probably the least desirable from many points of view for a lady, and then to have the handicap of a secretary who would affront the very people on whom Miss Perkins had to depend for cooperation.
Q: It's surprising that after an incident like that that she didn't realize that she had a problem with her secretary.
Mulliner: Yes. But Miss Perkins really made tremendous contributions to government in this country. This business about personal privacy was a great handicap to her. She never got along well with the press because they always felt that she was lecturing them, and the Congressmen did too when she would go before a committee. They felt she was talking down to them.
Q: It's also been said that when she first came to Washington she was a little bit naive about Congressional prerogatives, that she sometimes stepped on a few toes and didn't always understand the need for placating the vanity of a Congressman who wanted his name on a bill or something of that sort.
Mulliner: That could be. Of course she'd been industrial commissioner in New York State, and you'd think she would have learned in that position about the relationships with legislators.
Q: What do you know about her relationship with Arthur Altmeyer?
Mulliner: I think it was a good one. I think it continued to be a good one. Again, this is a digression, and I don't know whether it should go in here or not, but she continued to be in close touch with Arthur. When he was chairman of the Social Security Board--this is after Mr. Winant had left... It was after Mr. Winant was away, after he'd resigned because of the political campaign. It was inauguration day in 1937. That's when the sit-down strikes were on in Michigan in the auto industry. Inauguration day was a lousy day and I thought, "I'm going down to do some work." So I went down, and you had to sign into the buildings then, and I signed in and went up to my office and started to dictate. I used a Dictaphone all the time. And I realized I needed something which was probably in Mr. Altmeyer's office, which was down the hall just a few steps. So I went sailing down the hall, and there was a swinging door from his outer office into his inner office, and I pushed open this door only to see two gentlemen who were standing talking at the window turn and glare at me under four of the bushiest eyebrows I had ever seen in my life, and I realized right away it was Governor Murphy of Michigan and, John L. Lewis. I didn't even stop. I just turned right around in a circle, add went out that door and back to my office. And I knew what had happened. They had wanted to have an off-the-record discussion of the sit-down strikes that the Governor of course was trying to settle in Michigan, and Lewis was head of the CIO them, when they were both in Washington for the inauguration. They didn't want to have it anywhere where the press people would be apt to find out about. So Miss Perkins had called Mr. Altmeyer and said, "Arthur, can you fix it up so these two men can use your office when they're in here for the inauguration?" Arthur had said, "Yes," and there they were in there, and I came bursting in and found them. But, you know, it was so startling because they and Mr. Winant were three men who had the bushiest eyebrows you'd ever seen, and here they were just glaring at me, because they were startled, and I hadn't expected anybody to be in that office.
Well, she continued to keep in touch with Altmeyer, and he continued to be a devoted friend of hers.
Q: One other aspect of the work on the Committee on Economic Security I wanted to talk about is the health issue. There was originally some plan to include health care. I wonder what your impressions are of the AMA's role at that point. Did their efforts to prevent health insurance from being included become visible?
Mulliner: I think so. I think that was the main reason they didn't persevere. They just didn't want to take on that fight in connection with all the other things.
Q: Do you remember press stories and comments at that time? Or do you remember the Senator making any comments about the AMA?
Mulliner: Well, again, I can't remember whether it was at that time or subsequently. He didn't think the AMA was an organization that had any foresight at all as to this country's needs, and they were just so limited in their view of what their role was and should be. But of course at that time, you see, organized labor wasn't for certain provisions in the Social Security bill. They weren't for unemployment insurance for quite a while.
Q: How about the old age insurance bill?
Mulliner: I don't remember what William Green's position on that was.
Q: How about Barbara Armstrong? Did you know her?
Mulliner: Yes, I did, but I didn't know her well enough to recall anything about her. Somebody here in Washington who did know her well and worked with her then is Mrs. Marjorie Willcox, the wife of the general counsel, Alanson Willcox. She's a lawyer too, and she worked with Barbara Armstrong at the University of California as an undergraduate student, and they've had a long association. She could give you some real insights into Barbara Armstrong as a person.
Q: What about Wilbur Cohen? He was involved in this. Do you remember him at that time?
Mulliner: I didn't get to know Wilbur during the committee days. It wasn't until early 1936 that I got to know Wilbur. But of course he was here. He came with Ed Witte right out of college into this program.
Q: Perhaps we should postpone talking about Wilbur until we get you into the Social Security Board. I think that's our next step. How did you come to work with Social Security?
Mulliner: It gives you some insight into Mr. Winant. The Senator had talked to them in October, and along in late November, I guess it was, I got a buzz in the Senate Office Building that I should answer the phone. A call had come in for me. I picked it up and this very gentle voice said, "Miss Mulliner?"
And I said, "Yes."
He said, "This is Mr. Winant."
This was a great shock to me, because we had just been learning during those years how big industry operates in an office. You see, prior to NRA days very few businessmen had been in government. There had been in a few in the RFC. And when these big businessmen came into NRA, they set up a hierarchy system that the simple government had never known. You called so somebody. Maybe you'd want to get General Johnson at the NRA, and first you'd get somebody who answered the telephone, and you'd say Senator Wagner wanted to talk to General Johnson. And then you'd get a third secretary and then you'd get a first secretary and then you'd get Robbie and then she'd tell you whether or not the General could speak with Senator Wagner. So for me, to pick up the telephone and find Mr. Winant, the chairman of the Social Security Board, right there was really quite a surprise. He said, "Miss Mulliner, I would like to talk with you sometime."
I replied, "Well, Governor, I would certainly like to have a chance to talk with you. When did you want to see me?" Well, when would it be convenient for you?" And this is just typical.
"Oh, Governor, I could come anytime. Would you like to see me today?"
"Well, yes, that would be fine."
"Do you want me to come now?" says I.
"Well, yes. Could you do that?" just like you were doing him the biggest favor in the world.
Yes, I could, Governor, I'll come right down."
I hung up the telephone; I didn't even take time to put on my hat. I grabbed a copy of the Social Security Act in my purse and my hat. I bounded down the steps of the Senate Office Building and into a taxicab down to the Department of Labor where the temporary offices of the Social Security Board were.
Q: He gave you no indication on the phone of what he had in mind?
Mulliner: No, but I assumed that it was in connection with what Senator Wagner had said to the Board when he was down there in October. He had told them then that a Miss Mulliner on his staff wanted to work with that program, and that's when he came back and told me, I hope you don't let me down--all those nice things I said about you down there today."
I rushed into Mr. Winant's office, and the secretary, this very sweet girl from New Hampshire, Mary Healey, he brought down with him said, "There's somebody in with Mr. Winant right now. Will you just sit down?"
And I sat and waited the usual two hours before he was free of his other appointment. And this was typical. He was always running behind schedule. Then when the other person came out, Miss Healey said, "You may go in now."
It was one of these big offices, and his desk was long a way across the room from the entrance. And as I walked through that door, he got up and came around the desk to join me. And I looked at that face and those eyes under those shaggy eyebrows, and I said to myself, "Why that man could hypnotize me if he wanted to." His personality could be that magnetic when he was operating on that level. He was sweet and gracious, had me sit down. He never asked me one question about my background, my experience. He simply sat and talked with me about the Senators and Congressmen and what I thought about them and which ones did I like and why I liked these particular ones. I've never had an interview in connection with employment that was so indirect and subtle but I assume so revealing of what my beliefs were, what my likes were, what I expected in public service and how I evaluated it. I guess we talked for two hours. Then he explained that they didn't have any money yet but that the Senator had said that I was interested in working with the program and that he would keep that in mind; he had wanted to see what kind of a person I was, and when they started staffing he'd go into the matter again.
Subsequently, in December, I got a telephone call from Frank Bane, who was the Executive Director. He called me down for an interview, which was all business-like, you know--the usual kind of an interview. And I was employed then to begin the first of the year as technical adviser to the Social Security Board--as an expert. You know, the staff was recruited under civil service in general, but there was a clause thrown into the bill--that attorneys and experts might be employed outside the civil service procedures providing the Civil Service Commission approved the qualifications of each individual for each position in advancement of employment.
Q: It was a useful loophole.
Mulliner: Yes, it was. It caused a lot of headaches and a lot of funny situations and some almost tragic situations.
Q: Could. You go into that?
Mulliner: The most dramatic incident, I believe, connected with the qualification of experts in their appointment to positions came along in about 1936 involving the executive director, Frank Bane, of Virginia and Senator Carter Glass, the senior Senator from Virginia. It was a sad incident, because as a college boy Frank Bane had joined with other college lads in going around and tacking up campaign posters in Virginia for Carter Glass, and through the intervening years Carter Glass had felt that Frank Bane was one of his boys. But a certain lady applied for a position in the public assistance program, and her qualifications were reviewed by the Civil Service man who sat in the office at the Social Security Board for this purpose, and he found that she couldn't qualify as an expert in the field of public welfare, and it was clear to most anybody that she couldn't. But she was sponsored by Senator Glass. This was a purely paternalistic position of the Senator's. He hardly knew this lady. She was from either Kentucky or Tennessee. She was a nice widow lady who needed a job; and, as far as he could see, there was no reason why she wouldn't be a good person in the public assistance program. So he talked to Mr. Bane about this. Mr. Bane said he'd be glad to look into it. He did, talked to the Senator and told him that the lady didn't qualify in his opinion nor in the opinion of Mr. Sorrel, who was the civil service man, and Senator Glass wasn't content with this. He went to the Civil Service Commission himself and got somebody down there to reverse Mr. Sorrel and saw that the lady was qualified. And this put the Board and Mr. Bane on the spot because in their opinion she did not qualify and they did not want her. So they stood fast, and the Senator was so enraged that he went into the appropriations committee hearings that were being held on the Board's appropriations and had the salary of the executive Director cut $500 a year. That was that. Mr. Bane had a family and needed that salary, but he wasn't willing to give in and the Senator wasn't willing to give in, and so he had his salary cut.
Now, that had a wonderful effect on the whole organization. It does something fine for a staff when they see the key people in an organization live up to the fine words they say about high standards in the public service and merit system appointments and so forth. That assisted in setting up standards for the Social Security program that have been unknowingly influencing the organization all through the years.
And while I'm on that subject, no staff was ever picked for key positions with the care of the staff of the Social Security Board. For every position which paid $2600 and above--that doesn't sound like much salary now; it was more then--the file on that individual, who was being recommended by a bureau director for a position, came to the Board itself. The Executive Director saw it; the three Board members saw it; the name on the agenda for the Board meeting, and the Board itself knew the people who were going into the key positions throughout the organization and approved their employment.
There's a delightful story on that point. After Mr. Winant had left the Social Security Board, he kept in touch; and when he was back some years later, he was asking about how things were going and some of the people in the organization and particularly about a man named Henry Aronson, who had become a controversial figure because he crossed one of the Board members, Mr. Miles, on appointments--properly so--and as a result there was a campaign started on the Hill among Congressmen and Senators to get Henry Aronson out of the position of Director of Personnel for the Social Security Board. And things got so difficult that the Board transferred him out of the position into a new one that was set up a result of an amendment in 1939 which required the state welfare departments and employment security departments to establish personnel merit systems for employing the people who were paid with part federal funds under the Social Security Act. Most of the state officials didn't have any idea what a personnel merit system was, so the Board knew they had to give some advice and counsel and assistance to the states who asked for it in this respect. And Henry Aronson was well qualified to do this, so he was transferred over to head up what was called a state advisory merit system service.
I was telling Mr. Winant this and that Henry was doing a fine job in this position too, and he said--this was some years later; "Well, I would expect that. I would expect that of Henry and all those other people. You know, we hired them for their character."
And this was true. It wasn't just the qualifications on paper that were involved. It was what kind of people were they who were going into the positions.
Of course there was an extremely humorous incident along in 1937, I guess it was, when the Senate decided that everybody who had been employed as an, expert in the Social Security program who was drawing a salary of $5000 or more would have to be confirmed by the Senate. That meant retroactively too.
Q: What brought this about?
Mulliner: This was part of this whole fight. One of our Board was frustrated and thwarted in getting what he wanted directly, and he would play with some of the Congressmen who wanted a patronage arrangement to undermine certain rigidities, as they saw it, in the personnel system at the Board. They wanted, you know, more patronage because that is what they had been used to. In most of the New Deal programs, as you know--in the Triple-A and the other ones--the route to employment was to get a letter from your Congressman or your local political figure and then support from your Congressman; and if there was a vacancy, then you got a job in those agencies. I always felt if a Congressman sat down and analyzed it, he would realize that he was making ten enemies and one friend when he helped one person get a job and didn't help a lot of other people who wanted a job too. But I must be wrong because they didn't see it this way. They liked this patronage business.
Well, at any rate, what was involved then was that the
people who were working for the Board would have to have the sponsorship of the Senator from their state in order to get confirmed on the floor of the Senate. As I remember, they broke down by states the people who were involved and sent their names to the Senators so they could take action in asking that these people be confirmed by the Senate, and everybody got through except one very high, high-minded person, Miss Agnes Van Driel, who was in charge of training for the Bureau of Public Assistance. She was from Illinois, and Senator Hamilton Fish or Senator Lewis gratuitously made some remark on the floor that he had never seen Miss Van Driel; she had never deigned to come to his office, and, you know, why should he support her? And of course Miss Van Driel wouldn't go to his office. She wouldn't have political clearance. She felt that the work she was doing was nonpolitical and that it was demeaning for anybody to expect her to have political clearance.
I guess when that was read in the Record Frank Bane called somebody in Washington--maybe it was Father O'Grady, who was pretty close to the Social Security programs in the early days--and explained to Father O'Grady that Miss Agnes Van Driel was not only a good Catholic but a personal friend of the head of the Catholic hierarchy in Chicago--Mundeline, I think his name was--and maybe Father O'Grady would be interested in this situation.
The next day you should have read the flowery remarks made by the Senator from Illinois on the floor of the Senate about this paragon of all people, Miss Agnes Van Driel, and he implored the Senate to agree and consent to her continued employment right away.
Q: I want to go back to a couple of things. First of all, Father O'Grady--you said he was very close to Social Security for many years. Why so?
Mulliner: He had worked with Senator Wagner on various pieces of legislation--I think initially some of the labor bills. In those days I can remember him being in the Senator's office and his blue eyes snapping and that brogue he had. He'd say, "You know, I'm just a r-r-radical at heart."
Well, it changed after a while and he was at odds with the Social Security people for a good many years before he was retired from the position of head of the Catholic welfare program. He headed that up in his last years.
Q: Is that why he had so much influence?
Mulliner: He wasn't in that position in those early years. He was just, as I understand it, a Catholic priest who was very much interested in the laboring people and in legislation to help the laboring people.
Q: Did he do a lot of pamphleteering?
Q: He was prominent...
Mulliner: Yes, he was.
Then later on, because of some of the issues, in the children's program, differences came along, and he became a very difficult person for the Social Security Board to deal with.
Q: But you say he was close to the Social Security program for many years. What form did this take specifically? Whom was he close to?
Mulliner: He was close to Miss Jane Hoey, who was director of the Bureau of Public Assistance; to Mr. Altmeyer, the chairman of the Board and commissioner. He would serve on advisory committees and advisory councils dealing with various aspects of the program. During the years when he became a bit of a thorn in their flesh it was unfortunate that the then commissioner and prior to that the deputy commissioner was also a Catholic, William Mitchell, and this was very awkward for Bill because he was having to take public positions at odds with Father O'Grady, and Father O'Grady was getting more senile and more difficult to deal with.
Q: I also want to go back to a remark you made before about Miles and Henry Aronson. Perhaps this would be the time to talk about Miles--his personality, his role on the Board and what part he played in all this, and perhaps talk also to this question of what the difficulties were specifically with Henry Aronson.
Mulliner: Yes. At the time the members of the Social Security Board were appointed, I was on a boat on the Great Lakes. I had had a case of shingles. Working with Senator Wagner was a pressure job, and when the doctor told me I had shingles, I said, "That's impossible. Only old people have shingles."
He said, "Not at all. You just have a little rest for a while."
And I hadn't said anything to the Senator about being ill , but one day he called me in and said, "You're not feeling well, are you?"
Well, not, but I didn't know you knew it."
And in his brusque way he said, "Oh, I notice a lot of things around here you don't notice. I want you to get away for a while and get a rest."
And I said, "Senator, everybody's working hard around here. I would feel guilty as anything to pull out now."
This was in late July of 1935. I said that it would mean that the other people around there who were tired too would have to double up and do some of the things I was doing that couldn't wait. He said, "You figure out somebody we could get to come in here and take over some of this work."
I said I'd think about it, and I did. I worked out that Mrs. Bea Stern, who was a very effective woman in the National Labor Relations Board and a good friend of the Senator's, arranged to come up and do some work in the Senator's office while I was away. So I went to Chicago and got on the boat and cruised around the Great Lakes a while. And the day I got back to Chicago--I went to Buffalo and back on a very slow cruise--I got a paper and here the President the day before had announced the members of the Social Security Board. I read this avidly: chairman, Governor Winant of New Hampshire, whom I knew by reputation because he'd been connected with the Economic Security Committee; Arthur Altmeyer, whom I also knew by reputation--he'd been connected with the Committee on Economic Security; and a man named Vincent Miles, whose name I had never seen or heard before, an attorney from Arkansas. And I thought: "Who in the world can this man be? He had never been in the picture at all before as far as I knew.
When I got back to Washington I learned that he was a protégé of the Senate majority leader, Senator Robinson, Joseph Robinson of Arkansas; that through some lodge work he had done--the Moose or the Elks or some such--he had had some exposure to welfare programs.
It turned out that my office adjoined his, and my office was a connecting office between his and the executive director's office of the Board. My office was also the Board room, the room in which the Board met. It was a huge office, and there was a big long table at one end and my desk at the other end of this big room. I saw quite a lot of Mr. Miles, both because he'd walk back and forth to Mr. Bane's office and because he would come in and talk to me sometimes. He wasn't prepared, as the other two men were, on the program side at all for this position. I believed he wanted it and took it because he was working toward getting a federal judgeship in his area, and this would be additional public recognition of him that would help in getting the judgeship. At any rate, it seemed quite clear from the first two or three meetings of the Board that he was going to have to work very hard to get oriented to the program in order to make the kinds of policy decisions and operating decisions that needed to be made in getting started.
And then it seemed that he was going to focus on the insurance aspects of the Board's responsibilities and not on the welfare side. I thought this was because, insofar as old age and survivors' insurance was concerned (we called it "old age benefits" in those days because there wasn't any survivors' insurance) he wanted to be able to influence decisions and the appointments there because this organization was going to have a network of offices throughout the country, and in the states where he wanted to have influence this would be helpful to him--if he could give good jobs to people there who could help him in what he wanted to do.
Q: This was at his own instigation then, that he decided he would focus on the insurance?
Mulliner: Yes, and there was nothing said to this effect. This is just my observation, because on the welfare side generally, when the agenda would distributed for the Board meetings, he would come in and have a chat with Frank Bane and find out what should be done on these welfare things, and 99% of the time then, he'd just vote that way when it came to the Board meeting. He didn't want to bother to go into these things himself. He knew Frank, who had been commissioner of public welfare in Knoxville, Tennessee, and headed the American Public Welfare Association, knew that field well. And Frank also was from Virginia, as Miles was. He'd been born and brought up in Virginia and graduated from Washington and Lee and then had gone to Arkansas and was a charming raconteur. He could tell a tale as well as any Virginia gentleman and loved to do it.
But the more I observed Mr. Miles, the more I concluded here was a man who had never been obliged to decide what his values in life were. He didn't have principles to guide him or standards to live by that a good many people have developed by the time they reach his age. I think he had an easy, pleasant life and hadn't been faced with decisions which test his ethical concepts and standards until he got into this spot. He was more inclined to look at things and see how they might personally affect the career he wanted for himself ahead rather than what was best for the people involved in the programs themselves.
As time went by, you see, naturally he was thinking that he, being a Democrat, and Mr. Altmeyer being a Democrat, they could just run things the way they wanted to. The minority chairman, the Republican appointee, would be outvoted. And it didn't work out that way. Ninety-nine percent of the time when there was a difference, Mr. Winant and Mr. Altmeyer saw the things the same, and it was Mr. Miles whose point of view wouldn't prevail. This was very hard on him. He got frustrated, and he let himself get very frustrated because he thought he had this federal judgeship all set and that would be available before his two-year appointment was up. You see, one man was appointed for four years and one man for three years and one man for two years. His was a two-year appointment. And he just reached a point where he didn't figure he had to pay much attention to what was going on in this job because the other thing was lined up and he'd be moving over into the judiciary before too long.
But then Senator Robinson died of a heart attack just like this. Well, there went his future. And what was he going to do? He really hadn't endeared himself very much to the people he was working with in the Social Security Board, and he didn't have any real social philosophy that could help him in functioning in this setting. So he'd come in and sit at my desk and talk away and say, "I'm going right over to the White House and resign. I can't get anything I want around here, and I'm not going to put up with it." Of course I wanted to say: "Well, here are some roller skates. Go as fast as you can." I couldn't say that.
But over the course of this time I was with the Social Security Board, I was seeing Senator Wagner occasionally. He was at my house for dinner maybe once every two months or something like that. Naturally we talked about what was going on in the Social Security Board, so he knew from me some of the difficulties with Mr. Winant in the organization, and he then knew that Mr. Miles was going on the Hill to stir up trouble.
Q: I take it then that the President would have been informed ultimately, too.
Mulliner: Well, that would be necessary, yes. The time drew nearer for Mr. Miles' term to come to an end. I was in the hospital with an illness when Mr. Bane called me and said Mr. Miles had told him he was going to the White House that afternoon to talk to the President about reappointing him to the position, because he had concluded that circumstances had changed in the judiciary field and he wasn't going to get the federal judgeship. And Frank asked if I thought I could talk to Senator Wagner in advance of this. I said, "Well, I'll try--if he's in his office." So I called Senator Wagner and told him that Mr. Miles was planning to go to the White House that afternoon and could he get to the President before Mr. Miles got there so that the President could know his thinking about Mr. Miles as a member of the Board. He did this. Mr. Miles did not get reappointed, which was a big disappointment to him.
Now, as to what some of these things were and the Aronson problem: Henry Aronson had been employed early in 1936. I don‘t know who recommended him, but he was doing personnel work in the Farm Credit Administration, and he accepted and came in as the Director of Personnel for the Board. He work under the director of the Bureau of Business Management, who was William Mitchell. He was a fine technician. He was a man with a fine sense of public service and knew he had the support in maintaining the standards of the organization of two members of the Board and the Executive Director. So he had to say no to a good many people Mr. Miles wanted appointed to positions in the organization and to a good many Congressmen and Senators who wanted people appointed who didn't meet the qualification. Mr. Miles took this personally and was affronted and offended by it and encouraged the Congressmen and Senators who weren't satisfied that they were getting all they should be getting in the circumstance in the way of appointments through Mr. Aronson, and there really was quite a nasty situation developing on the Hill against Mr. Aronson on the basis of his being accused he wouldn't appoint the people they wanted appointed. They wouldn't come out and say they were against him because of anti-Semitism.
Many strange things went on. You said earlier we would talk about Ellen Woodward. She played a mighty fine role in connection with the Vincent troubles. Vincent Miles, despite his personal friendship for Frank Bane and almost every Saturday afternoon when he finished golf he'd wind up at Mr. Bane's house and spend Saturday evening and have dinner there and have dinner there and bring his guitar and sing songs and have a fine time...
Q: He was a widower?
Mulliner: No, his wife would be there. They had one son too.
He decided that Frank Bane was a block to what he wanted to achieve, because he would advise the Board in the ways that were different from what Vincent Miles wanted. One day Ellen Woodward,
who was then the assistant director of the WPA in charge of the arts program, had a call from some gentleman who wanted an appointment with her to talk about something to do with the Social Security program. Well, she set up an appointment and she had her secretary take notes. I guess this was a regular practice. I don't understand now why the man would talk this way if the secretary was in view, but anyway the secretary did take down the conversation, the gist of which was a plan to get Frank Bane out of the Social Security Board picture. This man was working on this at the request of Mr. Vincent Miles and had come around, I guess, to get Ellen Woodward's support because she was a very influential friend of Senator Pat Harrison's. So after the man left, Ellen Woodward had her secretary type up the transcription of this conversation--maybe it was a telephone conversation. At any rate, the next day was Sunday, I guess, and she called Frank Bane at his home and said she wanted to come to see him; she had something to show him. She came along and handed him the copy of this conversation. This was a great blow to him, of course, to think that a man who was apparently a co-worker and friend was doing this on the side. Frank said, "Well, this is startling, but I don't know there is much I can do about it.
And Ellen said, "Why not?"
He said, "Well, because of course you wouldn't want it known that you gave me this."
Sh said, "I certainly would. I think this outrageous, and you can take it and use it any way you want to use it with my approval.
Now this was a courageous thing for her to do too, because she was in a political position. She was not at all secure. So the next day, Monday morning, when Vincent Miles wandered into Frank's office, Frank said, "I'd like to show you something." And he took this out of his drawer and handed it to him.
Vince read it, terribly chagrined. He tried to say that he hadn't really intended it be done quite in this way and that something else was involved. He finally said, "Well, Frank, what are you going to do about this?"
And Frank said, "Well, Vince, I thought about that all night. I just decided the best thing to do was to let you know that I know about this, with all its inaccuracies that you've just been pointing out, and that should take care of the situation. This is the only copy there is of this document and it's yours." And he gave it to him.
So, you know, there were all these things involved.
Q: What happened after that? What was his relationship with Frank Bane?
Mulliner: They saw very little of each other after that. Maybe two months after Mr. Miles left the Board the Senator came to my house for dinner one night and when he got there--he'd just come down on the train from New York--he said, "You know, you should be feeling badly tonight."
I said, "Why?"
He said, "Well, in Pennsylvania Station today I saw a man who just looked down and out, and it was Vince Miles." He said, "You know what we did in keeping him from being reappointed. He really looked like a bum."
I said, "Senator, I feel badly that a would let one reverse do that to him, but as far as my minor role in his not being reappointed to the Board is concerned, I don't have any misgivings about that at all, because here was a man who as a member of the Board appointed to support and improve these programs did more from within to damage and harm the programs than all its enemies on the outside that I know anything about."
Well, Mr. Miles had a difficult time. He was appointed as an assistant solicitor of the post office department after some time. I suppose he could have had that kind of a position because of his political connections right away, but, at first, I guess, he just couldn't bring himself to accept a lesser position like that. But that was what he was doing at the time of his death.
But in the meantime there's a delightful story about him and his role on the Board. When Mr. Winant resigned in 1936 to go out and campaign against his own party because of their abuse in the campaign of the Social Security argument, things couldn't move. There were very basic decisions needing to be made by the Social Security Board to get the old age and survivors' insurance program on the Board, and Mr. Altmeyer saw them one way and Mr. Miles another, and with a vacancy on the Board, there they were just on dead center. So the President convinced Mr. Winant he should come back for a couple of weeks on the Board in order to get these decisions made because to appoint a new person at that stage would mean weeks and weeks of delay while he got familiar with the problems and would get to a position where he could act on them. So Mr. Winant did come back in December, and they tried to push ahead with many conferences and meetings, and Mr. Miles took to his bed. I don't remember now what the illness was, but at any rate he wasn't available then for the meetings where these decisions need to be made. And it got to the point where they simply had to have action. The Board met and pinpointed a couple of crucial issues on which Mr. Miles' position was essential in order to make a decision, and Mr. Bane was given the very difficult assignment of going out and trying to get a commitment from Mr. Miles in writing on these matters that he could bring to the Board. The Board recessed while Mr. Bane went out to see Mr. Miles and was gone several hours. When Mr. Bane came back the Board reconvened and Mr. Bane reported that he had gotten a statement from Mr. Miles on these issues. He didn't say this, but it had been a very difficult thing to do and a delicate mission. He told how Mr. Miles had stated this matter in the communication. Then with real pride and feeling of achievement, he handed the letter to Mr. Winant. He took one look at it and looked up at Mr. Bane and said, "But, Frank, this is in pencil!"
Frank said afterwards he practically had to climb in bed with Vincent Miles to get his attention and to get his attention and to get him to do this. And then to have somebody say, "This isn't notarized," or "This is in pencil" was just too much.
This was typical of Mr. Winant's caution. He wanted to be just right.
Q: I wonder if you could describe what Miles was like physically?
Mulliner: He was an attractive gentleman. He had a fine carriage--dressed well, had beautiful manners. It was just so regrettable that he hadn't had to decide somewhere along in his maturing process what it was he believed in and what it was he stood for so that he could live by some standards that gave him some satisfaction.
Q: What kind of relationship did he have with Mr. Altmeyer? How did he get along personally with Altmeyer?
Mulliner: They were all personal friends. They were entirely different kinds of people because Altmeyer had a more serious life and knew what his values were and what his principles were and had a much keener mind than Miles had--anyway a much better-trained mind. I think Vince Miles had a good mind, but it wasn't a very discipline mind. Life had just of been easy for him, and he hadn't had to really develop his capacities.
Q: But in things like Board meetings and things there wasn't a visible animosity between the two.
Mulliner: No, there really wasn't any tension or strain to amount to anything in the meetings of the Board and, generally--I would say 75% of the time--there was no division as to the course they were to take. But in the other 25% or whatever it was, when there were divisions, there wouldn't be harsh arguing or any recriminations. Each would state his or her position, and then it would be clear that two wanted it this way and one wanted it the other way, and the decision would go with the majority.
Q: What about the relationship between Winant and Miles? Was that fairly cordial too?
Mulliner: Yes, it was cordial on the surface. I think Miles had a harder time than Mr. Altmeyer in adjusting to the way Mr. Winant did his job. His way of doing business was quite different from the other two. He was a listener, not a reader. He wanted people to tell him what it was they were recommending. The way it was done: the bureau directors would develop recommended policy to the Board, and a document would have to come in in advance that presented this and documented it and gave the pros and cons and so forth and the reasons for the recommendation.
Now, Mr. Altmeyer could sit down and flip through a document and almost as fast as he'd look at a page, he'd know what was on that page and go on to the next one; and when he'd finished the document, he'd done all the analysis in his mind and he knew what his position was on it. He just has that kind of a mind. And Mr. Miles, having been trained as a lawyer, would cut through to the heart of the issue rather quickly and identify it and be ready to sink or swim on it, take a position. Now, Mr. Winant needed to talk over every aspect of every problem--and maybe not only once, but again for fear he'd missed some little piece that he wanted to know all about on the first go-round. So he might go through it again. Now, this way of doing business, was just very very hard on the other two members, but they never showed it. But when Mr. Altmeyer became chairman of the Board, it was obvious there was much less exploration with staff who attended the Board meetings on issues. He didn't feel a need for this exploration. He had more confidence in his own knowledge of the matters. After all, the bureau director was expected to have presented all the key issues in the documentation that came in, and he had gone through that and digested it and made his decision. And Board meetings when Mr. Winant was chairman lasted all morning and then recessed and all afternoon and even sometimes in the evening when they were supposed to be about twice a week for maybe about three hours in the morning. And that's what they became when Mr. Altmeyer was chairman of the Board, and then they moved to just one meeting a week. It showed the difference in the way key officials operate. Mr. Winant liked to talk and wanted to talk, didn't want to read these documents; and Mr. Altmeyer didn't want to talk and explore it. He wanted to have it clearly down in writing and get on with the next matter.
Q: I wonder if we could talk a little bit more about Arthur Altmeyer--his personality and what kind of impact he had on the shaping of the Social Security system.
Mulliner: Yes, I think he had an impact beyond what his official role with the committee on Economic Security would imply. This is partly because he was one of the few people in the country considered expert in the field of social insurance because of his experience in Wisconsin and because he was the right-hand man of Secretary Perkins in the Department of Labor, and she was the prime force in having President Roosevelt set up the Committee on Economic Security and keeping focused there and seeing that it moved ahead. She depended on Mr. Altmeyer, I'm sure, although I didn't know either one of them personally at that time, and relied on him rightly so.
I may have mentioned this earlier. He was the person, I believe, most responsible for having the employment compensation program set up on a federal-state basis rather than a national basis. He felt very strongly about this, and in more recent years has laughingly said that this is one of the mistakes he will have to account for sometime if there's ever any accounting to be done. He wishes he hadn't felt that way, because he feels that the unemployment insurance program would, be stronger today if it were not state by state and if it were a national system.
Q: Was he the person responsible for bringing Justice Brandeis into the picture when the Committee on Economic Security was debating the Social Security program?
Mulliner: He could well have been because he knew the family and they were friends and have continued to be friends. The married daughters and their husbands and the Altmeyers are good friends. Mr. Winant also was close to Mr. Justice Brandeis.
Q: Wasn't there a break, though, between the Raushenbushes and Dr. Altmeyer?
Mulliner: Yes. I'm not sure, but I think it was around the problems around the employer merit rating provisions of the unemployment compensation program, which, it turned out, were extremely difficult in administration and were the key to the deterioration of the program in the states, because employers wanted to lower their liabilities under that provision of the program. But I don't know that that interfered with their personal relationships. I'm not in a position to know that, but they certainly took a different position program-wise on some of the issues in the administration of the unemployment insurance program.
Q: How about Dr. Altmeyer's relationship with Frances Perkins? You mentioned in a general way his influence, but I wonder if you know how they got along personally.
Mulliner: I guess I don't except it seemed to me they continued to be good friends long after both of them were out of government service. I can't recall any specific incidents that would illuminate that except I did see both of them at the funeral services for Mr. Winant in Concord, New Hampshire.
Q: When was that?
Mulliner: That was in the autumn of 1947, I guess. I went up on an overnight train to Boston, and Mr. Altmeyer flew in on a plane. We met in Boston and went over to Concord together. They had special planes running between Boston and Concord that day, and Miss Perkins had been on the same train. I'm sure I mentioned that.
Q: Yes, you did.
Mulliner: And it was apparent that they were still good friends when they met on that occasion. Mr. Altmeyer and I were with a different group of people than Miss Perkins during that day, and I think it was because Miss Perkins as a former Cabinet member and as the government person who had been responsible for getting Mr. Winant to go back and head up the International Labor Organization and so forth had a different status than we did. I think she was with a group of VIPs while we were just among friends.
Q: How about Mr. Altmeyer's relationships with President Roosevelt?
Mulliner: I thought they were good. I thought they were close. I thought the President heeded Mr. Altmeyer's views, whether it was because of direct contact or contact through James Roosevelt, who was on his father's staff at that time, and Marvin McIntyre and some of these other people. I know Frank Bane often worked through them.
Q: I've had the impression from looking through some of the correspondence files that Mr. Altmeyer wrote fairly frequent memoranda to the President and that he did seem to have a direct access to the President's office. It struck me as perhaps unusual that somebody at that level would have had that kind of access.
Mulliner: Not in those days. You see, as an independent board, the chairman of the Social Security Board had as direct and frequent access as a Cabinet member would have. There weren't so many independent agencies in those days, and the Social Security program was so advanced and far-reaching that everybody in the White House was aware of the importance of this activity. So, actually, I believe the chairman of the Social Security Board had just about the same status as a Secretary of a Cabinet department had in those days.
Q: Am I not also correct that those in Social Security certainly, and many other people in government, tended to view the Social Security Board as being the umbrella for all the social welfare programs and filling the kind of role that the Department of Health, Education and Welfare fills today?
Mulliner: That's right; although health was in the Department of the Treasury at that time, it was a big program. You're right. That was the role.
Q: History didn't quite work things out that way, but that was certainly what many people envisioned at that point. I also have the impression that Mr. Altmeyer was extremely loyal to President Roosevelt. I don't know whether this was unusual or whether this was simply Mr. Altmeyer's style--that he would be loyal to any superior. But even years later, even today, he retains that sense of loyalty.
Mulliner: I think so. And I think you'd find the same thing true of Frank Bane, who was asked directly by the President as well as by the Social Security Board members to be executive director. There was that close a relationship. There is, as Molly Dewson said once, nothing stronger than the bond that is forged among people fighting together a good fight. And that was the spirit of Washington in those days. You know, the people who came into the Social Security programs in those days felt that they were fighting a very important fight for the economic and social improvement of this country, and it did develop bonds that are different from anything that has come along later. I often look at young people coming into government today and regret that they don't have that kind of emotional fervor and incentive.
Now, in 1953, many of the young people who came into government with the Republican Administration had something of this, and I liked this, and this was very annoying to my colleagues who had felt a loyalty to the Democratic regime. But to me this was good, this was healthy, and I think it was so educational to a whole group of people who had never touched government before and had really felt it was something a little bit beneath them and then found that there was something rewarding and something worth doing in a governmental setting.
Q: Did you have the same reaction to Kennedy in ‘61? Did he bring in the same kind of feeling, kind of emotion?
Mulliner: It didn't seem quite the same to me because the people with whom I was in contact who were in contact with Kennedy were holdovers--Wilbur Cohen, for example, And I didn't happen to know some of the young people who were coming into government for the first time when Kennedy came in. Now, take Ted Sorensen. He'd been one of our lawyers in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare a few years before.
Q: Oh, that explains the missing link. I wonder how Wilbur Cohen had come to know Kennedy and Sorensen.
Mulliner: Well, he got to know Kennedy through appearing before Kennedy's committees in the Senate and working with Kennedy in the Senate, and Sorensen too, because Sorensen went from a position as a young attorney with Health, Education and Welfare to work with Kennedy in the Senate.
Q: I see. Sorensen had known Cohen at HEW.
Mulliner: Yes, and then of course they knew each other in the relationship between the Department and the Congress, but Sorensen had been a bright young attorney in the--
Q: General counsel's office?
Mulliner: It was in the general counsel's office, but I don't know whether it was in the days of the Federal Security Agency. It must have been, because he wouldn't have been brought in, I don't think, during the Eisenhower Administration. You see, those attorneys' jobs while under civil service, they weren't under regular civil service; and your political beliefs could carry more weight there in the appointment. So it must have been when it was the Federal Security Agency and probably when Administrator Ewing was there that Sorensen was in the Department.
Q: Yes. Getting back to our point, though, this bond between people who are fighting in a common cause, you seem to imply that some of the loyalty to President Roosevelt grew out of the fact that the people working under him felt that he shared this cause.
Mulliner: Yes, oh, no question about that.
Q: And that because he supported them, they felt supportive of him.
Mulliner: Yes. And there's something about working to get something started that is different from working with sympathetic people to carry it on after it's started. There's a fervor in the challenge of creating new policies, of creating new devices, of helping to stimulate the technicians to develop new machines to do the record keeping for an insurance program that's unprecedented that is different from the ongoing job of keeping these things going or even of working for amendments to an established program. That's the nearest you come in later years to this kind of pioneering fervor.
Q: Although, of courses launching a massive new program like medicare involves you in some of that kind of enterprise.
Mulliner: That's right. You're quite right.
Q: Can you recall any specific anecdotes or illustrations of the kind of attitude that President Roosevelt had toward Social Security and toward the work that you were doing over there in that early period? Do you remember any incidents where there was some interaction between the Board and the President? For example, in some of the difficult and controversial issues that came up in the early years involved Henry Aronson, for example?
Mulliner: I can't remember how much the White House was involved in that other than in connection with not reappointing Mr. Miles and then filling his position with Miss Mary K. Dewson. Now, the White House had to know that one of the reasons the top people at the Board did not want Mr. Miles to continue was that he had not been in sympathy with the appointment of people on a merit basis into the program when some personal patronage of his was involved, and that when he was thwarted by the director of personnel in doing this, he talked to influential people on the Hill to get them to be critical of and make life difficult for the personnel director.
Q: Do you know which people on the Hill in particular?
Mulliner: I'd have to have a list of the Congress in those days. Isn't it something how quickly we forget who the members of Congress were?
Q: Well, if the names don't come to mind readily right now, maybe we could insert them in the transcript later on somehow, because this would be important, and these things don't appear on official documents, you know.
Mulliner: Yes. Some of the supporters I can think of. I know that in many instances the Board or the executive director depended on Jere Cooper of Tennessee to support them. I know that the person mainly responsible for getting the authorization to have the Social Security building, which was later renamed the HEW building, was Senator Pat Harrison of Mississippi. Frank Bane worked with him, and if it hadn't been for him, that would have been lost at the time it was salvaged.
Q: It was very useful having...
Mulliner: And of course Senator Wagner was relied on in many ways.
Q: It was useful having Southern people on the Board or associated with the Social Security Administration.
Mulliner: That's right. That's right, because so many of the influential people in the committees were Southern Democrats. Of course Frank Bane is always friends of everybody, even when they differ in principle. He just has that great talent. So he was called upon to do a great deal of bridging of gaps and clearing up misunderstandings and trying to persuade and convince because he had that talent. Interestingly enough, I was going to say this when you were asking me about Mr. Altmeyer earlier, Mr. Altmeyer was a man by temperament more interested in the details of internal administration, and Frank Bane by temperament is the outside public relations man. And their roles should really have been reversed. However, the Board used Mr. Bane in this role of outside promoter for the Social Security programs and causes to a great extent, and at least Mr. Altmeyer was aware of the anomaly in the roles they were cast in, because when Mr. Bane decided to accept the position with the Council of State Governments and talked to Mr. Altmeyer about this, Arthur offered to switch positions with Frank and to be the executive director and Frank be the chairman of the Board if that would interest Frank in continuing with the program.
Q: I never knew that.
Mulliner: Which is an interesting commentary on the lack of ego for public status in Arthur Altmeyer and his real dedication to the programs. He realized the strength of Frank Bane for the program, wanted to keep him there, and would have...
Q: Personally sacrificed.
Mulliner: ...personally sacrificed some status and salary if that would have meant being able to keep Frank with the program.
Q: That's an extraordinary thing. I think that's very unusual for men in public life.
Mulliner: Well, it's an indicator of the modesty of Arthur Altmeyer. Some people, having received a "no" from him in response to some request have interpreted it as being aloofness, stand-offish. Generally, I think it is this excessive modesty. He really has a high degree of humility and personal modesty that's unusual in a man in public life in the roles he has carried.
Q: How do you explain Frank Bane's social skills, if you will?
Mulliner: He has two or three stories that he tells when somebody asks him that. During the years he was head of the Council of State Governments, he had many committees to work with, and one of them was a committee of psychiatrists that the governors set up to develop a mental hygiene program. He, in getting them organized, in calling the first meeting, was exploring with some of the top people--Dr. Karl Menninger and some others--how they should go about electing a chairman. The advice was, "You better not elect a chairman. This group isn't apt to work very well that way. We think you should be the, chairman," and he was. And he had great skill at chairing a meeting. And after about the second or third go-round of this, Dr. Karl Menninger stopped him one day and said, "Frank, I am consumed with interest as to what makes you tick--how you are able to move this bunch of temperamental prima donnas along the way you do in these meeting. Would you consider coming out to Topeka for a couple of weeks or a couple of months and letting us really put you under the spotlight?" And Frank's answer (and this is one I've never quite understood myself from his point of view) was: "Why, Dr. Karl, it's simple. I was raised by the darkies."
Now, I don't know whether this meant that he had developed a certain kind of permissiveness in dealing with people or relaxation in dealing with people. I don't know just how he meant this, but that was his reply.
Q: That doesn't explain things. That makes it more enigmatic.
Mulliner: Yes. But it is true that he has the technique of trying to let everybody talk, but he won't let somebody monopolize a meeting, but in this nice charming Virginia way he can shift the ball to somebody else, and then after so long he'll say, "Well, it seems to me the consensus is," and he'll summarize what's gone on and then he'll say, "If there's no disagreement with that, now we'll pass on to the next item." It really is a wonderful technique, and he does extremely well with it.
Q: Apart from chairing meetings, though, the kinds of relationships he had with that time with people on the Hill and his ability to get along with them--I wonder how you explain that?
Mulliner: I don't know. I guess it's something he was born with. I've often tried to analyze it in terms of his growing up. You know, he was in large part brought up be two aunts. His mother died when he was quite young. His father was a Methodist minister. He, I believe, never developed any real close ties to members of his family. He had one brother and a sister. Both the brother and the sister in their later years with considerable affection would say, "We always called him ‘pet Frank' because he was always everybody's pet."
He is interested in everything that's going on. He's an omnivorous reader. He can read all day long and all evening long and not be bored. This, you know, would drive me to distraction. I can't do that, and I can't see how anybody else can. And he annotates his books. It's a great joy. I'd much rather wait and read a book after Frank has read it because the margins are all marked up with red pencil. He always carries a red pencil in his pocket, and when he writes speeches, he has a yellow-lined tablet and his red pencil, and he outlines them and then he dictates them. He's really a very well informed man literary-wise, but primarily in the fields of history and political science and public figures. I don't know. He's just one of these people who is a harmonizer and a very tolerant listener, very tolerant. I've never known a more tolerant person than he is of the other person's point of view, whether he agrees with it or whether he doesn't. He's tolerant and you feel that and people feel free then to talk with him about whatever their point of view is or their proposal or their differences. He's a great harmonizer.
Q: I gather from some other conversations that by contrast Arthur Altmeyer could be a little starchy and...
Mulliner: Yes--seeming to be stiff and rigid and much more
demanding of a rational, intelligent approach to problems and don't waste any time talking around the bush--just keep your eye on the ball and cut right through and get it decided in a hurry.
Q: Did he tend to be impatient with people that..?
Mulliner: Yes. I often felt that he was too impatient with staff, especially in the later years when new staff would come in with what they thought were new ideas and just be full of enthusiasm for them, not realizing that he'd thought about this ten years ago and explored all the possibilities and knew all the pros and cons and didn't want to be bothered to go through it all again. And then, you know, he put them off, and they would have a feeling that he hadn't any interest in anybody else's ideas when, as a matter of fact, it was that he had already gone through all this and more exploration of this particular proposal than they had and knew where he stood on it and felt there was no need of going through it all again.
But Frank would probably have sat and listened until they had finished everything they wanted to say on this, you know.
Q: And never let them knows...
Mulliner: That's right.
Q: ...that it had all been thought of before.
Mulliner: Well, and Altmeyer didn't always let them know either. If he had, this might have helped in understanding.
I think I mentioned that this characteristic was most noticeable after he became chairman of the Board after Mr. Winant left, because the board meetings had gone on and on and on with Mr. Winant because he liked to explore every possible angle, and Dr. Altmeyer didn't. He just wanted people to talk to the crucial
points and do it briefly and then make a decision and go on to
Q: Do you know how it was that Frank Bane got into welfare work and Social work? It struck me that it was much more unusual then than it is today for somebody to gravitate into that professionally. It was much less of a profession then, it seems to me.
Mulliner: You know, I wish I could remember the story in detail,
but it all goes back to a wonderful gentleman named Louis Brownlow, who played a real role in public affairs in this country and isn't too well-known by the public, but within the profession of public administration he's a real idol. Louis Brownlow had some position in the state of Virginia. I guess he was a city manager or something. I don't know what his position. I haven't heard this story recently.
Frank Bane was employed in Virginia to do some kind of a review or study of some of the prisons, and the man to whom he was to report was Louis Brownlow. He went to report to Mr. Brownlow. He had an appointment set up. And he started to tell him the good features he had found in the first prison, and then he started to move on to the second prison, and Mr. Brownlow said, "Young man, what did you say your name was?"
He said, "Frank Bane." As a matter of fact, he might have said, "Robert Franklin Banes," because that is his full name, and he didn't shorten it until I think a little later in his life to Frank Bane. He told Mr. Brownlow what his name was, and Mr. Brownlow said, "Well, Mr. Frank Bane, you're really never going to make much of a contribution to public life if you aren't more analytical and critical about what you do. Now, don't just tell me what's good about these institutions. Start over again and tell me what isn't good what should be changed and corrected."
And right then there developed a relationship between the two so that he was a sponsor of Frank's and good friend throughout the reminder of Mr. Brownlow's life, and he lived until a ripe old age.
Frank was taken by Mr. Brownlow to Knoxville, Tennessee, where Mr. Brownlow went--I don't know how soon after this--to be the city manager; and he moved Frank there to be his welfare commissioner in the city of Knoxville. It was a broad program: the prisons, the welfare program, the hospitals, houses of prostitution, all kinds and varieties of things.
While the Banes were in Knoxville, he got a telephone call from the newly elected governor, Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia, asking for a consultation. And they agreed to meet I guess at Bristol--anyway somewhere just close to the West Virginia, Virginia line that was convenient to the two of them. And when Frank got there, I guess it was Governor-elect Byrd at that point, the governor said to Frank: "Frank, I would like you to come back to Virginia and be the commissioner of public welfare in the state of Virginia."
And Frank said, "Oh, well, just a minute, Governor, I think before we go any further with this conversation, I should tell you that I did not vote for you for governor and, what's more, I made a financial contribution to your rival in the governorship race.
And Mr. Byrd said, "That's all right, Frank. I'm not asking you to be my political manager. I'm asking you to be the commissioner of public welfare in the state of Virginia. I think you're the best man for the job, and I wish you would take it."
So that's how Frank came back to Virginia to be the commissioner of public welfare for the state of Virginia. And from there he was tapped to move to head up the American Public Welfare Association when the Rockefeller Fund and some other funds endowed that activity, and he was with that program when he came to Washington with Harry Hopkins and some of the others to both work on the Committee on Economic Security and to help set up the relief programs. He was responsible for bringing into the relief programs for Harry, Aubrey William, who became quite a controversial figure in the relief program, and, as a matter of fact, Mrs. Ellen Woodward from Mississippi, who later became a member of the Social Security Board. She was introduced to Mr. Hopkins by Mr. Bane. He had been doing a study on government in Mississippi some years before, and she was secretary of one of the agencies in the state government and he'd been impressed with her efficiency and charm and so forth. So that's how he got into the welfare picture.
Q: We'll talk about Ellen Woodward later on, I think. But I wanted to go back to some of the other personalities we've been about today and ask you what you know about the family background and upbringing of some of the other people we've been talking about--in particular Arthur Altmeyer.
Mulliner: Yes. Arthur Altmeyer was an orphan who was brought up by his grandparents, I believe, and was brought up as a Catholic. At what age he left the Catholic church, I don't know, but he had left it a good while before I ever knew him in the Social Security program in Washington.
He was not an individual who developed close associations with people. They never had any children. They were instrumental in helping to bring up and to educate any number of nieces and nephews and so forth.
Mrs. Altmeyer taught school in order to provide the income that would permit Arthur to go on and get his master's degree and his doctorate, so that there has been a real close teamwork in their marriage along those lines. Mrs. Altmeyer is a highly intelligent lady, very outspoken in her beliefs, and someone who wants to do something about the things she believes in. She's less cautious and diplomatic, as you might expect. Her husband was in public office and she wasn't and she could be more outspoken than he was in many ways. She probably would have been anyway.
I never have heard Arthur speak of a brother or a sister. I think he was the only child probably.
Q: Do you know what his grandparents did--what kind of family background there was there?
Mulliner: No. It's either Holland Dutch background, I think, or German or maybe one was German and the other was Holland Dutch--his grandparents.
Q: And what about his parents?
Mulliner: I know nothing about his parents. I think he lost his parents when he was quite young, and, as a matter of fact, I didn't know for a great many years that he had been an orphan. He never talked about personal things or family things. He's quite a detached person--very sensitive and very shy.
Q: He struck me as a very proud man.
Mulliner: Yes, right. And sometimes I think part of this what seems to be a pride is shyness--not that he isn't proud also-and, you know, never in my opinion able to openly admit his competencies and abilities and strengths--very self-critical.
Q: Did he go to the University of Wisconsin?
Mulliner: I think so. I'm sure Who's Who would tell us probably where he went to school. I think he was brought up in Wisconsin. Both he and Ethel I think were brought up in Wisconsin and got their education there.
Q: How about Wilbur Cohen?
Mulliner: Wilbur was brought up in Milwaukee. I never knew his mother. I got to know his father a bit. His father is an entrepreneur who runs or did run some kind of a small store in Milwaukee, is just bursting with pride over his son in a sweet way. When Wilbur was sworn in as Assistant Secretary to the Department, I gave the celebration party here for him and his family and his friends, and his father came on for that occasion. He said it was the first time in all the years he had run his store that he closed the store for anything except a legal holiday. Said he proudly: "I put a sign on the door that said: ‘Closed for business--to go to Washington to see my son sworn in as Assistant Secretary of the Department of HEW." He just was so proud. Several times, both on that occasion and then later when Wilbur was sworn in as Under Secretary, I had the same group here for a celebration party for him, and the father was here; and both times the father would say with tears in his eyes: "0h, if only Wilbur's mother could have lived to this day."
Q: Oh, I see, so she...
Mulliner: Yes, the mother died I think after Wilbur was pretty well grown, but I never saw her in Washington. As I say, the father I saw on those two occasions. He's an unsophisticated, fine man who's extremely proud of his son.
Q: But from all you know, Wilbur Cohen's upbringing was fairly conventional.
Mulliner: That's right. His family wasn't well-to-do, but apparently the father made a modest living in this little business--at least in the later years of Wilbur's being at home and educated. The parents encouraged the children to get an education. I have met a brother of Wilbur's (I think he's a younger brother) on occasion, but I don't really remember anything about him, but I don't think they're a very large family. And I believe the mother was not Jewish. I think one of the parents was Jewish and the other parent was not.
Q: Do you know anything else about Wilbur's own upbringing? Did he work in the store when he was young?
Mulliner: It's interesting. I was just wondering if I'd ever heard him say he had done that, but I don't remember him talking about that when I've been around.
Q: Of course he did go to the University.
Mulliner: That's rights, and he came right out of the University to come with Ed Witte, who'd been his professor, to Washington to work for the Committee on Economic Security. He has some honorary degrees, but he never went back to get any postgraduate work, and it was quite extraordinary when in 1954 or whenever it was a special bill was put through the University of Michigan to set up a special chair at the University for Wilbur to take at a level that his educational training would not have equipped him for under the ordinary procedures of a university; so that he was professor of I think public administration and public welfare or something like that in a special chair that was set up through a special bill that Fedele Fauri got through the Legislature for this purpose.
Q: What do you know about the relationship between Wilbur Cohen and Fedele Fauri?
Mulliner: As far as I know, it's always been close and cordial.
Q: How did they come to know each other so well?
Mulliner: Through Fedele Fauri's interest in welfare programs, and all through the years he's been one of the people who would come to Washington to appear before committees in connection with legislation in the welfare field and been active with the American Public Welfare Association and in on the various public advisory committees, the councils that have been set up through legislation or administration in the public welfare or the Social Security program.
I thought it was very good for Wilbur to go away for those few years. I could see a great development in him after he came back. You see, he was gone about four years or something like that at the University of Michigan, and it broadened him a great deal. You see, he was so young when he came into the programs, and he stayed right here and concentrated on them, and I felt was not as open-minded about program proposals or alternative ways of doing things as he should have been for his age. And it was, in my opinion, because he was just too immersed in this. He hadn't been able to stand off and see it from another position or to get some exposure to other activities and programs that would broaden this orientation. I was reminded of this because he was off and on during the years when Frank Bane was head of the Council of State Governments, really extreme in his criticism of Frank because of some of the positions governors would take in the social welfare or Social Security field, and my position was: "Well, if Frank Bane can't support the organization he is working for on these matters, then he should leave it. And he isn't under any mandate for life to go along with whatever the commission of Social Security or Mr. Cohen of Social Security want in these programs just because he was once a member of the organization or the establishment." But Wilbur couldn't see this until after he went away and got some exposure outside the "establishment," and then came back, you know, and it was quite different. He got a little broader exposure. So much depends on where we sit, you know, in the position we take on so many things.
Q: And also, I guess, to some extent where we have sat before.
Q: It all shapes your outlook.
Mulliner: Do you mind if I digress right here to tell a story about John Corson in this respect?
Q: Not at all.
Mulliner: Well, John Corson was brought in as a bright young man into the Social Security program in the early days. He had been with the NRA program. First, he'd been with the compliance end of the NRA in Virginia, and he was a newspaperman there, and he also taught at the University of Richmond. Then he came to Washington with the NRA, and Frank Bane had known him through the years, and he brought him over as assistant executive director for Social Security Board. And John is in my opinion one of the ablest men who's ever been in the public service where I could observe him. He's extraordinary because he has the intelligence to make valued appraisals of substantive matters and program developments, and he's also an efficiency expert par excellence as far as organizations and procedures and performance are concerned. It's a rare combination. As a matter of fact, I've expressed this many times: that he was back in the 1940s the McNamara of the Social Security program. He was the brains, the efficiency, the program contributor in a way similar to what McNamara has done in the Defense Department since he came in.
Well, John Corson as assistant executive director was a wonderful, wonderful foil for Frank Bane, because Frank Bane never likes to say "no" to anybody, you know, even the executive director. And he could always say, "Yes," when the answer was yes. But when the answer was, "No," John Corson would always give the answer. And John, knowing that this was the role for the second man, would handle it, and therefore all the onus that built up in the organization when a bureau director or staff member didn't get what he wanted fell on John and not on Frank. Well, this is the mark of a real executive as far as Frank Bane was concerned, you see. And John could take the heat, and he was willing to do it.
There were many things that John made a real contribution to, but there's one in particular I have in mind. There had to be developed some kind of a statement of the relationship between the headquarters organization and the field organization. As soon as the Social Security Board set up regional offices, there was the eternal question of who is boss. Now, in the regional offices there was a regional director who was appointed by the Board and was responsible administratively to the executive director for the Board, for the overall handling of the regional activity. He had on his staff a technician representing each of the program bureaus--public assistance, employment security, old age benefits it was called then, plus some service people: auditors, personnel people, information specialists and so forth. Now, naturally, the bureau directors in Washington wanted to have full and explicit control over their regional man in the regional office, but at the same time the Board held the regional director responsible for what went on in his region, so he had to have control of a certain kind over these technicians. Well, it's the federal-state relations fight in a different setting.
John developed the first, second, third, fourth and umpteenth draft or something called, "Administrative Order No. 11," which was to set forth the relationships between the headquarters staff and the field staff. And this really gave the key role to the executive director through the regional directors, and John was a very persuasive proponent of this order, which never satisfied the bureau directors in Washington because it did make their technical people in the field administratively responsible to the regional director, program-wise responsible to them. Well, it's hard to draw the line. You don't know whether it's program or whether it's administration in some of these situations.
Later on John was made director of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance, and I used to laugh at him and with him over how differently he interpreted certain provisions of Administration Order No.11 when he was a bureau director from the way he did when he was the assistant executive director and how effective he was in getting certain changes made in Administrative Order No. 11 once he became a bureau director instead of the assistant executive director. And in both situations he was right from his point of view. It depends on where you sit and what your responsibilities are so often.
Q: Did we describe how John Corson came to the Board?
Mulliner: I just mentioned in passing that Frank Bane brought him in because he had known of him and thought he was a very able young man. He brought him in to be his assistant executive director.
Q: You mentioned before that John Corson had unusual abilities as an administrator, efficiency expert. I wonder if you can think of any examples offhand that would illustrate this.
Mulliner: One of his real contributions to the whole public service was the system he developed in the Bureau of Old Age Benefits (it was then called) and which the Board later took over for the entire Social Security Board and which became one of my areas of principal responsibility. That was the work planning system that he set up for his bureau whereby his division chiefs would have to sit down with their key-staff people and develop--first for six months ahead, later for 12 months ahead, later for 18 months ahead--their plan of operations for that period: What were the goals they expected to achieve during this period? How they were going to do it. Break that down into separate projects with an individual staff member assigned responsibility for each one of these projects. And then at monthly staff meetings you'd have a report on how every one of those projects was coming along.
This was taken over first within the Social Security Board as a whole, then within the Federal Security Agency in HEW and through many parts of the federal government now. And this was really a basic contribution that John Corson made to public administration starting back in 1938 or ‘39.
He got to be known in the bureaus he headed up as "Deadline Johnny." He was such a hard worker himself, and it never occurred to him that everybody else didn't want to work as hard an he did. And he was moved from being assistant executive director to being the director of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance very quickly and there was considerable criticism about this.
Mulliner: Because of his youth in large part and because he was
such a hard task master. And the people in the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance who were division chiefs hadn't really had anyone supervising them properly in their whole career, because in the beginning there was a part-time director, a man named Murray Latimer, who was also the director of the Railroad Retirement Board, and on a part time basis he came over and helped the Board set up the old age benefits program. Well, then it became more than a part time man could do, and the Board shifted over for a temporary period a man named Seidemann, who had been brought in as a coordinator by Governor Winant. Then when that didn't work out...
Q: It didn't work out?
Mulliner: No. They brought in a man named Hodges, and Frank Bane had something to do with bringing in Colonel Hodges, who was a Virginian, and had done very well in certain positions in public and private organizations in Virginia, but by this time he was in his late 50s or early 60s and he wasn't going to learn the hard grind of the old age and survivors' insurance program, and John Corson was put in to back him up as kind of an assistant. And then when it was clear that he wasn't going to really take hold, and he was happy to resign after a face-saving period of time, then John was made the director of the bureau.
Q: Why was it that Seidemann didn't work out?
Mulliner: I don't know just how to explain that now. He was more a planner and a coordinator than he was an operator, I guess, and you really have to have an operator in charge of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance. And one of the most anguishing experiences in Mr. Winant's period of service in the Social Security Board was the easing out of Mr. Seidemann, whom he had brought in. I can mention that later if we want to.
But to get back to John Corson...
Q: Maybe we ought to while we're on it, and then we can come back to John Corson.
Mulliner: When Mr. Bane talked to... When the then Governor Winant, the newly appointed chairman of the Social Security Board, talked to Mr. Bane about being executive director, one of the things of course that was talked about naturally was who would have the authority to select the staff and appoint them, and it was understood it would be the executive director for the key positions with the approval of the Board. But Mr. Winant quite typically and honorably failed to mention that he had already asked Henry Seidemann to come in for a temporary period to serve as a coordinator. He didn't know what he wanted the coordinator to do. He just knew that Henry Seidemann, who was with the Brookings Institution, had been in New Hampshire a few years before doing a study of some of the state government departments, and he was a gentleman and somebody that the governor liked, and they had gotten to be good friends. And so, you know, any man looking around for people to help in getting a new organization started thinks of the people who helped him in the past. So when Frank Bane appeared on the job, here he was the executive director supposedly in charge of all the things that an executive director was supposed to be in charge of, but here was a man sitting over here named Seidemann who was a coordinator, who was to do things that normally would be the Executive Director's responsibility. I don't know how many months they worked on in this arrangement, and it never would have lasted more than a week except for Frank Bane's personality. He loved Governor Winant; he didn't want to face him with an embarrassing decision; he just kept hoping that somehow this thing would solve itself. It was a ridiculous situation right from the beginning. It never should have existed. But there it was, and it was the kind of thing that could occasionally happen with Mr. Winant because he didn't think in terms of organization, and he didn't think in terms of the procedures for getting something done.
So when it became clear that Murray Latimer couldn't continue doing his railroad retirement work as chairman of that board and carry the planning for the old age benefits program, Mr. Winant grasping at a straw: got the other members of the board to agree that they'd put Mr. Seidemann in as director of the Bureau of Old Age Benefits. But this wasn't his role either, and I think mainly because he really wasn't an operator. It took a bright, experienced operator to get that show on the road and going. You see, one of the reasons Mr. Winant came back to the Social Security Board after he had resigned to campaign in 1936 against his own party because of their misrepresentation of the Social Security program was certain key decisions about the Old Age Benefits program had to be made. Mr. Altmeyer took one position with respect to them, Mr. Miles another, and there wasn't time to bring in a new person and wait for him or her to be educated to all the ramifications of these problems and then have a decision made by the Board because time was running out and you just couldn't afford that much lag in getting these decisions made.
Q: Do you remember what some of the decisions were?
Mulliner: What kind of a field organization were they go to have for the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance program; who was going to do the enumerating of all the employers and all the employees--the post office department, which was already set up, or a whole new organizational structure? Then the other problem that had to be solved and could only be solved by Mr. Winant was the Seidemann problem. He had brought him in, and Arthur Altmeyer wasn't the man who was going to move in and decide about his leaving if it could be done by the man who had gotten them into this problem. So Mr. Winant came back after the election and was there for I guess six weeks or two months, and I still have a special confidential file around the board meeting of December 19, 1936. That was the meeting where the decision had to be taken about Mr. Seidemann's departure from the program, and Mr. Winant by temperament was a kind of a secretive person. I remember Mr. Tixier, the French specialist who was brought over to advice the Social Security Board in the early days and who had worked with Mr. Winant in the International Labor Organization. Mr. Winant had headed the U.S. delegations to the International Labor Organization for several years. Mr. Tixier would say, "Meestair Winant--he is sooooo mysteeeeeer-ee-ous!" Well, he was certainly so mysterious about this agonizing job of not hurting Henry Seidemann and letting him go, and for some reason which I don't understand, to this day, instead of working with his own secretary on this, he decided to work with me--I suppose because I would hear all these discussions in the Board meetings anyway, and he just didn't want to have another body involved in this painful process.
So he started--I guess on the morning of the 18th--trying to decide what kind of a letter Henry Seidemann would send to him as his letter of resignation and then what he, chairman of the Board, would say in responding to this letter of resignation. I don't know how many drafts there were in that. Only I could do it, and I had to type them up myself. I wasn't doing much typing in those days because I was dictating all the Board stuff to a Dictaphone and my own staff was typing it up, but I had to do all this. And he would take each copy himself, tear it up, not throw it in the wastepaper basket, but flush it down the toilet, each copy that was discarded.
Finally we got the one that I thought was going to do, so I thought I could go to lunch. You know, when you were working for Mr. Winant on something, he didn't want anybody to move outside the environs in which he was working. But my young sister was having some serious domestic problems then and, she called me in tears and asked could I see her? And I said, "Yes, I'll meet you for lunch" at a little French restaurant that was just up the street a little ways from my office. And I had no sooner gotten in there and settled down with her to try to comfort her and help her out a little bit when (because I'd had to leave word where I was going to be) here came a call. Mr. Winant wanted me back, so I had to trot to the office without any luncheon and without being any help to her. He was struggling again with another idea about what he could say in this letter, because the letter had to be clear enough. While Mr. Seidemann was resigning to return to work at the Brookings Institution, the Board's letter, the chairman's letter of response, was to be as warm and cordial enough that it wouldn't reveal that his resignation was really being forced on him. Well, I'd never seen any human being agonize more than Mr. Winant did over that problem.
Now, a good many men in public life would just say, "This is the way the ball bounces. If the rest of the Board don't want him, they won't keep him. I'm the one who can manage this with the least hurt. I'll just go ahead and do it the best I can and that's that."
Oh, he just suffered agonies over it. And then the Board met on the 19th, and in the meantime overnight Mr. Winant had had to talk to Mr. Seidemann about this, so that Mr. Seidemann submitted the nice letter of resignation that Mr. Winant had written for him. And that went before the Board, and then the Board agreed to the reply that had been prepared for Mr. Winant to send to him.
But for a man who had been governor for three terms and had had a lot of the rough and tumble of elections and political life, which is certainly harsh, Mr. Winant remained a very sensitive person and could hardly bring himself to take a decision that would be hurtful to somebody else. It was just almost impossible for him to do that.
Well, interestingly enough, here was a third man in this group we've been talking about who hadn't been brought up in the usual household. His parents had been divorced when he was young. And, you know, here is Bane, here is Altmeyer, here is Winant--all these people with what would be called an irregular childhood, all coming together in working for programs to help people.
Q: Divorce doesn't seem like a very serious matter today.
Mulliner: Then it was.
Q: That's right. That's what I was going to say.
Mulliner: And these were Episcopalians--all the more so.
Q: Yes, in a state that was Yankee.
Mulliner: It was New York State, you see. So many people think he was born in New Hampshire. He was born in New York City. His father was a real estate man. They invested in real estate in New York City. That's where his money came from. Of course he lost nearly all his money in the ‘29 crash. Mrs. Winant didn't lose hers, but he did.
We went for a stroll in New York City in 1946 after we'd come back from London, and we strolled up around 92nd Street and Park Avenue or Lexington or something, and he pointed to a corner and said, "That's where my family home was. The house that used to stand there is where I was born." He seemed so New Englandish that people naturally assumed he was born and reared in New Hampshire, but he only went to New Hampshire to teach at St. Paul's school when he was a young man, and he liked it and built a home there and stayed there.
Q: There are a few missing pieces now. Where did he go to school?
Were did he get his schooling?
Mulliner: Ha! I have known where he got his elementary and secondary schooling, but I've forgotten. He did his college work at Princeton, and he didn't finish. He left school to go and join the Bull Moose to electioneer for Teddy Roosevelt in the Bull Moose campaign.
Q: Then he went into school teaching from there.
Mulliner: Yes, and he taught at St. Paul's school in Concord and from there he went into politics.
Q: Do you know about his upbringing? Did he live with his father or with his mother after the divorce?
Mulliner: I think he was with his mother off and on. He was always very considerate of his mother, very thoughtful of her, and very proud of her name. He wanted his full name, John Gilbert Winant, to be spelled out because that was his mother's maiden name, her family name apparently. After he was dead...
Q: Any relation to the actor?
Mulliner: I don't think so. He was still helping to support his mother at the time of his death. This was one of the burdens his widow resented very much having to carry afterwards, because the mother I think was living at the Plaza and continuing to live there, you know when she really couldn't afford to, but that's what she liked, was used to and so forth.
I used to know some stories about his childhood. One of them had to do about raising some chickens and entering them into some contest and winning some money for the best chicken, which is something that I never would have connected with him. Actually, I don't have that file anymore. I gave all those personal little stories to Bernard Bellush to help him in the writing of his book on Mr. Winant, and I don't think I've ever gotten them back, but I used to write down these stories as Mr. Winant told them to me.
Q: There is a book on him?
Mulliner: Yes and I don't know why it hasn't been published. Dr. Bernard Bellush, who is at City College and who got the contract for doing the book through Allan Nevins of Columbia, finished the book some time ago and we thought it was going to be published long before this. I don't know what's happened with it. But I worked with him over a period of quite a number of years in developing material for the book. As a matter of fact, I'm reminded of the interview he had with General Eisenhower in connection with the research for the book when Eisenhower was still at SHAEF headquarters outside Paris. One of the things General Eisenhower said to Bernard was, "You know, Gil Winant was my kind of Republican," which was interesting.
I wandered far afield. We were back with Mr. Seidemann, I think.
Q: Well, and even before that, John Corson, so we've got a couple of threads to pick up. Perhaps we ought to finish the Seidemann episode.
Mulliner; Well, that was about it. It went through and Seidemann went back to Brookings, and of course the letter that the chairman wrote him in accepting his resignation said that the Board was gratified that he had agreed to continue to serve them as consultant as needed when called upon. And so far as I know, there never was any picking up on that, but all of the amenities had been attended to, and there apparently were no hard feelings in working out of a difficult situation that shouldn't have been started in the beginning.
Q: All right. Perhaps we could pick up with John Corson.
Mulliner: I can speak with considerable enthusiasm about John Corson, who came to the program in 1936, I think, as assistant executive director. Mr. Bane had known him in connection with other activities and was instrumental in suggesting him for the position and bringing him in. I had then, and still have, admiration for his ability and the efficiency of his operations. He works almost like a well-tuned machine--never wastes any time, never talks irrelevantly on a subject, keeps right straight down the line he wants to follow and could make decisions--difficult decisions--without long delays and wasted time. I think I mentioned earlier somewhere that in addition to being efficient in administration and operation, he had a creative mind on the program side.
Q: It's been said by some of the people who worked under him, particularly, that he was somewhat ruthless. This word has been used in connection with him.
Mulliner: And I can understand that, because he could put personalities aside and make decisions that people didn't like and that were unpleasant for people to accept but needed to be made if public service isn't just going to bog down with indecision and weak supervisors who aren't willing to take responsibility for making difficult decisions. I think he was really a fine example to the whole staff in showing both sides of the coin. If you want to be in a position of responsibility with supervision over other people, you have to be willing to make the difficult decisions as well as take the kudos and the prestige and the salary that go with that kind of position. And I think we have too few people willing to do that in the public service, and I hate to say it--in the public service--because it's probably true in other organizations where the profit motive doesn't drive people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do if they weren't being measured against something like a profit and loss and loss statement. My guess is that in some of the large foundations there may be people who take supervisory positions and administrative positions who aren't tough enough to make the decisions that should be made for the good of the program. I don't know about that, but that would be my guess. And I know why they call John ruthless. I can see their point of view, especially the people in the then Bureau of Old Age Benefits, who hadn't really had any supervision before because they'd had a series of part time or short term directors who never got hold of the organization. So it was all the more difficult for John. He came in at a time when major decisions had been delayed and time had been lost and you had to move ahead, and yet he had to work with a bunch of people who had all been chiefs and no Indians and get them moving and going.
Q: I wonder if you have any specific collections now of some of the things he did to try to bring order out of the chaos. Were there any particularly noteworthy actions on his part that could sort of illustrate his capacities?
Mulliner: I didn't work closely enough with him when he was director of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance to cal up any incidents in that setting, but, as you probably know from the history and from your other interviews, in 1939 or ‘40 the pressures from industry on the Social Security Board increased because of deficiencies in the operations of the United States Employment Service on which employers were depending for workers to get the defense program material out.
Q: This was when the build-up for World War II was going on.
Mulliner: That's right--the build-up for World War II. Now, most of these same employers in peacetime wouldn't look at the U.S. Employment Service and would do anything they could to handicap it or destroy it. But when they needed men they couldn't get themselves, then they turned and were very critical of an organization they had kept weak for their own reasons, because they didn't want to hire on a merit basis and some of these other problems that are involved in an employment service. So the Board felt they had to do something to strengthen the Bureau of Employment Security, which consisted of a division of unemployment insurance and the United States Employment Service, which had been brought over from the Department of Labor to be in the Social Security Board after difficult negotiations. And naturally the man they looked to was John Corson in the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance. So they worked out an agreement with the director of the Bureau of Employment Security, a delightful gentleman and scholar who really was a born teacher and now he's retired--he's gone back to teaching, I hope. Ewan Clague was the director of the Bureau of Employment Security then, and he agreed to move aside and be associate director while they brought John Corson over from the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance to be the director and to get the show on the road as far as the Employment Service was concerned. And Mr. Oscar Pogge, who was the assistant director of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance, moved up--temporarily he knew and everybody else knew--to be the director of that bureau during this period.
Well, I had reluctantly agreed to the Board's request a little time before this that I transfer from the office of the Board to the Bureau of Employment Security to strengthen the administrative side of that bureau. This was not Ewan Clague's strength. He was a program man, and he was a good front man--awfully good with groups and with people and with working with the states directly and so forth but not very strong on internal administration. And I had argued against taking this position, and I remember one night out at the Altmeyer's at a dinner, Arthur was talking to me about this and I was giving the reasons why I thought I wasn't the person to go in to do this. I remember Ethel Altmeyer saying, "Now, Maurine, don't you let Arthur talk you into doing this if you don't want to do it."
But I ended up by going into the bureau, where I was the assistant director for a couple of years before I resigned to go to UNRRA to do a job during the war.
John came over, and of course he was as different as night is from day in the way he ran the bureau, as Ewan Clague had been. And he brought his own secretary, Elizabeth Green, who has more recently been secretary to Frank Bane. Elizabeth Green had been from the beginning of the program in it. She was the second secretary in Mr. Winant's office when he was chairman of the Social Security Board. So John brought Elizabeth Green over with him, and he set up the practice in the Bureau of Employment Security which he had carried on in BOASI of having a meeting with his key staff people every morning about half an hour before the regular opening time. This was a practice that some of us were familiar with, but others weren't and people gradually got accustomed to it. He would sit down with us, and would have with carbon copies a list of maybe 10 to 100 action items to be taken care of by the staff and indicating whether they were to be done by 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock or noon or today or by the end of the week or whatever, and indicating which staff person was to be responsible for doing it.
Mulliner: The night before he had sat down and gone through his mind and his brief case full of work that he carried around with him and gotten all this stuff laid out, so he didn't have to take time during the business day. Most men would have spent the whole morning doing this after they got to the office.
Q: This took an extraordinary ability to judge how long it would take to do a certain thing.
Mulliner: Oh, yes.
Q: And what had to be done in what order and so on.
Mulliner: Exactly. He would hand these out and say, "Read them over. Do you have any questions?" If you didn't have any questions, you'd report on what you'd done the day before and when you were going to get it all done. It took about half an hour for everybody to kind of clear the decks and for him to find out what he wanted to find out from us--the things that we hadn't turned in the night before that he'd expected to find when he sat down at home at 10 o'clock that night to work for two or three hours. And he typed out all these things himself with the carbon copies at home the night before, you see, and this was one of the reasons that he became known in the Bureau of Employment Security as "deadline Johnny," because he had a time limit. Whenever he made an assignment, he let the staff person know when he expected to have it back. And if you thought you couldn't do it, then you could talk about it. He might adjust it and he might not, but, at any rate, he was called "deadline Johnny" all over that bureau.
One day his secretary was ill, and the other lady, who had been Mr. Clague's secretary, who was the second girl in the office, had to come into this early morning session because Elizabeth wasn't there, and I happened to walk out just behind her; and as she got into the other office, where there were some of the other staff people and secretarial people, she held up her sheet, because of course she had gotten some assignments on it, and she said, "I know you won't believe this, but he can type too." It was just beyond reason that he could do all these other things he could do and he could type too. He had done all this at home the night before.
Q: How was he personally? How did he treat his staff? Did he tend to be caustic with them?
Mulliner: I never saw that. I heard about it, but my temperament and my way of working apparently were so similar to John's that I liked the way he worked; I enjoyed so much knowing what was expected of me and when it was expected, which of course one would never know with Ewan Clague because he played it by ear, you see. I just enjoyed working in a setting where I know what's expected of me and when it's expected and if I can do it, fine; if I can't, well, that shows up, too, but that's all right. I'd rather have clarity and decisiveness than indecision and unclear working relationships. And I think probably this is the main reason that I never saw these harsher sides of John that I would hear about.
The other one was that of course I was moving in the same social group he was moving in outside the office, and I think that often makes a difference in your relationships--if you know a person personally and you're in his home for dinner and he's in your home for dinner, there's probably a little bit different atmosphere for working.
Q: Incidentally, now that you've brought this up, this is a digression, but perhaps we ought to focus on that for a moment, because it does influence working relationships and perhaps the ways in which work gets done. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about some of the social relationships in the office and who fit into which pattern.
Mulliner: Yes. During those years--1936-'37 and part of ‘38--the social center for this particular group was the Banes' home out in Arlington, Virginia in Golf Club Manor not far from the Washington Golf and Country Club. The Altmeyer's lived out there; the Corson's lived out there. Some of the other people we haven't talked about lived there.
Mulliner: Well, Joe and Polly Harris, Joe Harris is a political scientist from the University of California, and he was back here doing some work then for I think the Social Science Research Council, and the Banes got them a house just across the street from them. Next to the Banes lived the Betters, and Paul Betters was head of the Conference of Mayors. They were a part of this group. Well, anyway, wherever the Banes lived, they were gregarious people and they knew all their neighbors and saw them and had their old friends around a lot. I think almost every Saturday afternoon after Vint Miles and Arthur Altmeyer and often John Corson, but seldom Frank Bane because he's the worst golf player in the world, had finished playing golf at the club would end up at the Banes certainly for cocktails and maybe cocktails and dinner, and Vint Miles would bring along his guitar and everybody would sit in the back garden and sing songs with Vint playing the guitar at night.
Q: Was it Vint or Vince?
Mulliner: Vint I think. I think he was called both Vint and Vince by different people.
So that was really the social center, and I was often invited out and would go either with Mrs. Bane and Clark, the daughter, or somebody else over to the club for a swim and then come back. I didn't play golf--at least not with that group. I was there often, and the Banes always had a big New Year's Eve party at their house before they left, and after they left the Altmeyer's took it over.
Other people who were in the group were the Aubrey Williams', Nita and Aubrey Williams, and Harold Smith and his wife--he was the director of the Bureau of the Budget--and the Wayne Coy's, Grace and Wayne Coy. Those names come to mind now. Those names come to mind now. Maybe others will come later.
Q: Well, now, specifically in Social Security it sounds as though none of the bureau directors were really involved in this to speak of.
Mulliner: Not as closely, but there was a good deal of dinner partying back and forth with the Wagenet's--Mr. and Mrs. Wagenet; Jane Hoey was involved. Let's sees who were the other bureau people who were a part of that group.
Q: Tom Eliot?
Mulliner: Eliot some but not so much and Jack and Liz Tate some too, and to a lesser degree Leonard Calhoun and his wife.
Q: The Mitchell's?
Mulliner: Not then. Later on in more recent years the Mitchell's were a part of that group, but they weren't so much then. They were somewhat younger, were bringing their family up, Bill was the director of the Bureau of Business Management, and Bill had kind of a serious illness somewhere in those years, and I think they weren't socializing so much. He was recovering and taking care of himself. I guess that's all I can think of right now about those.
It was a joke among the group that no matter were the party was, even if the party were at the Banes' home, at 9:30 p.m. Frank would say, "All right, John, you take over," and Frank would go to bed. He's always been an early go-to-bedder. And if the party were at the Corson's house, Frank would just slip out the back door and slip over the hedge and go home. Everybody in the group knew that when 9:30 came, Frank would go to bed. Gray, his wife, might not go with him if it were at the Corson's. She might stay on and some other couple would take her home. It was just a step around the corner. But Frank was always an early goer-to-bedder, and John was his substitute host.
Q: How about Wilbur Cohen? Was he included in this?
Mulliner: He certainly was not excluded, but, again, they were considerably younger and they were taking care of their family and they lived out in Maryland, not quite so accessible. Wilbur didn't play golf. But they were certainly frequently in the group, but just not quite as often, I think, as the ones I mentioned first.
Q: How about Molly Dewson later on?
Mulliner: Let' s see, Molly came in 19... Was that ‘37 when Miles' appointment expired? Molly came in 1937. And I think she was only there about 18 months. She had a heart condition, and her doctor decided that she just couldn't continue to try to cope with the amount of reading and decision-making that was involved in the job. So I don't think she socialized so much. She was a top-notch Board member. I mention this because I didn't expect her to be. I was very disappointed when I heard that she was appointed. I didn't know a thing about her background except that she'd been a political person, the head of the women's division of the Democratic National Committee.
Q: You thought it was another Vincent Miles.
Mulliner: Political. Yes, I thought it was another political appointment, and I thought, my word, we've just gone through this unpleasant situation and all of us done what we could to keep him from being reappointed only to have another politician put in. But she didn't operate the way Vint did at all. I'm sure she considered every decision she made as to what effect it might have on the next election as far as the Democrats were concerned, but I don't think she ever let that be a determining factor in any program decision that she made. She was program oriented, and she had a good mind. She could cut through to the heart of the matter very quickly, more quickly than her successor, Mrs. Woodward, was able to do when she came on.
Molly Dewson used to get very tired in the long Board meetings that we would sometimes have. The big board table had some drawers in it, and in the drawer near her place, which was nearest to her office, which was on one side of the board room, she would keep a few Hershey chocolate bars, and when it got about 12:15 or 12:30 and her energy was at low ebb, she'd open this drawer and bring out one of these chocolate bars. They were in these little squares, and she'd break it up into little squares and take a good little portion for herself and then pass the rest of it around the table for the rest of us to have a little energy pick-up while we waited to get free to go to lunch.
She was a delightful person; had a wonderful sense of humor and was really admired and respected by everybody. I think, in the organization.
Something was said, you know, about how I wrote up the Board's policy decisions, and I said, "Frankly, sometimes after I've been in a meeting all day long and would start to put things away I'll think, ‘I don't know what the Board decided on such and such a matter."' Then I'd sit down and dictate off the informal notes and go on home, and somehow overnight my mind would clear up on that and when I came back the next morning and read the informal notes that had been typed up and consulted my noodle, I would know what the Board had decided.
And Molly said, "I know exactly how that is. I often do that when I get a tough problem. I get all the facts I can and then I just put it in my subconscious to percolate. And pretty soon I know what position I should take on it." She just let it percolate a while.
Q: I take it from the way you've been talking here that you didn't actually do any of what's normally thought of as being "secretarial" duties, that you were more in an administrative capacity than the term "secretary" implies.
Mulliner: Yes. The civil service title was "technical adviser to the Board." I think I told you in the beginning that Mr. Winant hadn't wanted me to be put in this position. He wanted a lawyer to be secretary to the Board because he had been warned by one of the justices of the Supreme Court about the need to be very careful about everything that was issued as policy because General Johnson had gotten into trouble in the NRA because so much had gone out with his signature on it that he hadn't signed, and he'd been embarrassed in public and the organization had been embarrassed because somebody was saying, "What about that Order So-and-So?" and he'd say, "Well, when it's issued." And they'd say, "Well, it was issued last week with your signature on it," and things like that.
This Mr. Winant took far too literally, and he worked much harder than he needed to because anything on the Social Security program that bears the signature of John Gilbert Winant, he put on there himself. He wouldn't authorize anybody else to sign his name at any time. And at six o'clock at night when the rest of us would be going home, you could see through some windows into his office, and about that time he would be moving from his regular work desk over to a big table on the side of the room where letters for his signature would be piled a foot high--six or seven piles of them--just the most routine letters maybe saying, "Thank you for your application for employment in the Social Security program. We will certainly take it under consideration and if an opening arises, we will be in touch with you." He would sit there for an hour or two every night signing those kinds of letters, which of course was a foolish waste of his time and energy, but he was determined that nothing was going to carry his signature that he didn't read himself and sign, and that's the way he operated.
Q: Incidentally, was Governor Winant part of this social group that you described?
Mulliner: No, he wasn't. He and his wife didn't do much socializing at that time. For one reason, he was a tee-toter. He didn't drink, and he didn't like to be in a small group of people, all of whom were enjoying a drink or two before dinner and not join in. At certain functions certainly they were invited. But I remember how disappointed I was the night of his farewell dinner, for which I had carried the arrangements. As a matter of fact, this crowd I have mentioned. were all at my apartment for cocktails before we went down to the Mayflower Hotel for dinner, and the Winant's hadn't been invited for the cocktails because they didn't drink cocktails and they knew about this.
Q: Get all your drinking done before dinner.
Mulliner: That's right. And when we got down to the Mayflower Hotel, Mr. Winant was already there, and this was kind of bad because here were all the other top officials not there when he arrived.
Q: Was this his first leave-taking before the election?
Mulliner: This is the final one. He didn't have any when he left before. He just walked out. That's another story. I talked to him about having a meeting with all the staff to talk to then before he left, because they would want it; and in his most engaging way he looked deep into my eyes and said, "You know I will do whatever you want" period, and he left without doing anything.
At the farewell in ‘37 when he was actually leaving and when I got down to the Mayflower I said, "Where's Mrs. Winant?" and he said, "Well, she isn't feeling well. She won't be able to come tonight." Well, this was the occasion where these people who dearly loved him and had worked with him and respected him so much were showing him, but she wasn't coming. So I remember taking the corsage that we had for her and writing a little note on it saying how sorry we were that she was not feeling like coming and sending it by messenger out to the house in Georgetown where they lived.
Well, that was never a very smooth household. They really didn't go around socially much with this group in those days. For one thing, years later when I got to know Mr. Winant much better, I could tell part of it was that she just didn't have the slightest interest in his public career; she resented every moment of it; she wished he wouldn't do it; she didn't have any interest in these programs he was working with, and she didn't really have any empathy in talking with these people who more or less talked shop on these social occasions. She was interested in the world of finance and money-making and dog-breeding. Those were her great interests. Of course she loved to gamble, and this was one of the points of contention between them. He was terribly moralistic about gambling, and this was just a compulsion with her. She just really had to bet on things--horse races, dog races...
Mulliner: Elections--any kind of gambling she relished.
Mulliner: She was considerably younger than he was. Of course she was 19 when they married.
Q: And how old was he?
Mulliner: Twenty-six or seven. And it was her mother who was his friend. They were New Jersey people. The father was a banker, I guess, in New York, and they lived in New Jersey. And when Gil was at Princeton and got involved in some welfare activities, her mother was involved in these, too, and that's how she got to know him and just adored him. He came into their household through the mother and her affection for him. When they met, I think Connie--Mrs. Winant--was engaged to somebody else who was killed in the war, the First World War.
Well, all of this detail I have given ad infinitum to Bernard Bellush , so no use going over any more of that here.
Q: Yes, I think perhaps I ought to see it and see if perhaps there are questions we can discuss in addition.
Mulliner That would fit in here.
Let me put in here something that was interesting. Mr. Winant brought with him from New Hampshire his secretary, a charming Irish girl named Mary Healy who had never worked for anyone else, only for Mr. Winant, who of course was the most inefficient, disorganized worker you could ever have as an example. So Mary had no notion of how an efficient office operated. She thought Mr. Winant was a god on a white horse, and anything that he said and wanted she would no more think of questioning than not doing. Her mother felt the same way about him. They just adored him, and he had been helpful. This was a family apparently that had had some economic difficulty and he had been helpful in that, and both the mother and the daughter just worshiped him. And Mary came into a situation that was completely over her head. She had never had to cope with the kind of activities that the Chairman of the Social Security Board had to cope with. She didn't know how to use the help of the girls who were more experienced at the Washington level who were on his staff. She was ill a good part of the time. This was a problem because she was overworking, she was over strained. She knew she couldn't cope with the things she was to cope with. And I think that Mrs. Winant never cared much for Mary, and this was another difficulty in the situation. But Mary wanted to be a perfect secretary in Mr. Winant's eyes, and it made her completely inflexible. If she had said to him something was the case without knowing the full story, I don't think she could ever, once she got the full story, go back and give him the correct facts which he should have had, because this would have been admitting that she was mistaken in the beginning. She just wasn't able to do this. So this was a handicap to him. The office just ran in the most inefficient way because Mary had never worked for anybody else and didn't know how an office should run and she just handled things the way it was most comfortable to him, which is certainly part of a secretary's role, but this was a handicap to him really.
Q: What were your relationships to the various key people here, to Governor Winant and to Bane..?
Mulliner: Yes. Well, I told you about the first interview with Governor Winant and how he called me down after Senator Wagner had told them that I was interested in working for the program.
Then as soon as the Board got some money, Mr. Winant had Mr. Bane start the wheels going in connection with my wanting to work for the Social Security program. Frank called me up and I went down and had a talk with him, and at that time he had in mind this position of handling the work for the Board, the Board meetings, the agendas, the minutes and the follow-throughs and the memos that had to go out to the bureaus concerning the action that was taken at the Board meetings and so forth, because this had been all on his desk in addition to everything else in organizing the whole show and getting it staffed--personnel selected and so forth. So he often teases me about the fact that I held out for more money when we had that interview, and I guess I did. I had been around Washington then long enough to know that if you didn't do your bargaining before you said "yes," it would be a long time before you were in as good a position. At any rate, apparently they placed me at a grade higher than he had thought he was going to do when they first talked with me.
So I came on and was appointed as technical adviser to the Board, and the budget then was set up with a budget for the Office of the Board, which meant the three Board members and their staff and myself; and the office of the Executive Director and then the various bureaus.
Well, it's been interesting. In the years in between Frank Bane has completely forgotten that I was on the Board staff. He always talks about me being on his staff. It doesn't really make any difference because I worked just as closely with him as I did with the Board members. I was working for all of them.
In the beginning, the materials that came in for the Board meetings continued to come to the Executive Director first, and he looked at them and then would send them along into me, sometimes with comments and sometimes without. But after I got my feet on the ground and got a system set up, those things then all came to my office. The bureau directors would send their materials for the Board's attention directly to me, and my contacts with the executive director's office were that he had much more to say about personnel cases that came to the Board. I nearly always would consult him before I would list them on the agenda, because he was more intimately connected with that sort of thing.
What I did when I first came on, because they didn't have any system, was to go around and consult with the agencies in the government I thought were enough similar to the responsibilities and the organization of the Social Security Board to give me some guidelines as to what kind of a system should be set up for handling the materials and the meetings and the minutes and so forth. And I had to keep in mind that most of these agencies were regulatory agencies--Federal Trade Commission, Interstate Commerce Commission-- while we were not, in adapting their procedures to the procedures of the Board. But later on in my service when I was the first woman at the commissioner's level to get one of these special awards from the Secretary of the Department, that was one of the reasons for it; that I had inaugurated and built up a system
of handling the policy materials and decisions of the Board which had served the Board well, and when the Board was abolished, the commissioner had continued those same procedures in the Social Security Administration.
Q: Could you elaborate a little bit about these procedures?
Mulliner: Well, being me, I had them all written down in an administrative order through the years, which I amended from time to time. My principal goal in setting up the process was to protect the Board against acting on a submittal which hadn't been considered by other interested parts of the organization, whether it was another program bureau or the general counsel's office, if there were some legal angles, or the Bureau of Accounts and Audits if they had something to contribute to it, or if it were something that would need a public statement when the Board acted on it. Had the, what we called, Office of Information people been brought into this so that they were familiar with it and prepared a proper statement for the executive director or the chairman to issue to the press when this action took place, and that kind of thing.
So sort of early in the game I developed a sort of checklist of the things. Then later on there was such a volume that the staff in my office had to do some of this preliminary checking. They would check every submittal to see whether this had been done, whether that had been done, who had been consulted, who else should be consulted if they hadn't been consulted, was the recommendation clear was it consistent with any past policy decision made in this area, had the staff of the bureau submitting the paper come to us previous to see if there had been any previous policy that this would impinge upon or counteract or so forth, so that we really had a clear control on whether all of the necessary clearances and considerations had been covered by the bureau submitting it. And we often had to send them back. I'd call up and I'd say, "Now, did you discuss this with So-and-So? And if they hadn't, it would go back and they would. And sometimes they didn't want to discuss it with the other person and you'd have to insist that they did, because they knew they'd run into trouble and they couldn't get it through so fast if they opened it up, you see, for these other people to talk about it.
Well, then, once I felt that it was in shape to go on the agenda, I would list it on the agenda for the next meeting of the Board, and the bureaus had to submit enough copies of any policy recommendation so that a copy could accompany the agendas that went to the three members of the Board and the executive director and the assistant executive director. And they were responsible for sending to the other interested coordinate levels copies of it when they sent it through to the Board, so that these other people could be on board too.
Then the chairman at the meeting, would just start down the agenda. Usually the first item was to consider the minutes of the previous meeting and correct them if necessary and approve them, and then go right down the agenda. And I noticed in looking through this file today that I wouldn't have any notion of the nature of the items... There's a notebook in there that I used for for these meetings. I would just note down: "Item 1, okay. Item 2. okay," if there was no controversy about it. My notes wouldn't reveal at all what it was. You'd have to have the agenda in front of you to know what it was.
But then when there was something that had to have discussion, the chairman would ask the bureau director responsible to make a brief summary presentation to the Board, and always for any program matter I would tell the general counsel's office in advance if I thought they should be present for the discussion, if there were any legal aspects that they should cover. I would try to estimate approximately at what time each of these items they were interested in would come up, so that they wouldn't have to sit through hours of trivia or stuff that had no interest to them, and I'd do the same with everyone of the bureaus. I would try to schedule and let them know in advance what time they should come to the Board meetings, so that if they weren't interested in hearing the other bureau's problems, they wouldn't have to sit through them. So there was a problem of guessing and scheduling.
The chairman would seldom--only once maybe in a hundred times--would say, "Well, now, the Board has decided so-and-so-and-so." They'd just talk and talk and talk, and when everything was out in the open and it was clear what the Board members thought, then he'd go on to the next item. It was my responsibility to put the decision into the minutes.
Well, later on I got into my instructions to the bureaus that if they had certain precise language they wanted the Board to approve, they should put that in their submittal, and then the Board would know exactly what they wanted and then of course I could just lift that into the minutes for the policy statement.
So this became quite a refined process. I always tried to get the minutes out within two days of a Board meeting. They would go out first in draft to everybody concerned. Not everybody got everything. Only the Board members, the executive director, the assistant executive director, the general counsel and my office got the complete minutes. The program Bureau director's and the operating bureau directors got memos from me that would quote the parts of the minutes that were of concern to them and that their staff should know about, so that they didn't have to keep a big file of the whole minutes. They just got the thing's that they were concerned with.
And then I had to keep what I called an unfinished business list. Often the Board wouldn't act and would say, "The bureau should do so-and-so and so-and-so," and on the unfinished business list we would schedule these items and periodically send reminders to the bureau director, and if there were a deadline set by the Board, we'd work with that. If there weren't, we'd just use judgment in following up on the bureau directors to do the things that had been requested of them.
Q: You mentioned a few minutes ago...
Mulliner: Let me say one more thing in connection with this system. I had a document system so that I fastened into a document folder every piece of paper that the Board had before it on a particular subject so that posterity could know what the Board knew at the time that it made this decision. I would dictate into the minutes the title of the memorandum or memoranda which were submitted for this, so they were precisely identified. And in parentheses afterward, I would say, (Document # 274,) and the documents were filed numerically. And subsequently if a submittal came in that was directly related with this or indirectly related with this--substantially enough--that would be document # 274-A. So that over a period of years on a given policy issue you could have right in one folder, and a copy of the Board's decision was filed with these documents too, the whole story. You didn't have to go hunting for things on that particular subject--it was all tied together into this system of documentation.
Q: Is this system that you've just described still used?
Mulliner: Yes, and I was borrowed by the National Defense Advisory Council to set it up for them in 1939 and to set it up for the War Manpower Commission. It's used in a great many places in government now.
Q: You were never called into the Pentagon, though?
Q: Perhaps you should have been.
Mulliner: No, it was too simple for the Pentagon!
Q: I see.
Mulliner: Not elaborate enough. That was my aim--to keep it as simple as I could to protect the Board so that it would be clear on what they based their decision and that they had heard from all of the resources that were available before they were asked to make their decision. And then the people who needed to know the decision in order to do their job got a copy of it.
Q: This system obviously was one that evolved as you went along and as you refined it, but was it essentially in operation from fairly close to the beginning...?
Mulliner: Yes, it was. It was just that I refined it and got tougher about requiring the bureaus to do certain things as time moved on and I got more confidence and the Board got more confidence in me and I knew that the bureau directors would heed what I said was necessary. But basically the system itself didn't change. It just got refined and perfected.
Q: How was confidence as you acquired later on built? How do you explain it?
Mulliner: Just because, it served its purpose, and my office's services were accepted and depended upon by the whole organization. New staff people coming into a bureau knew they could come to my office and get the background on whatever it was they were working on. We were a service office as well as a rather demanding office on Board submittals.
Q: How big was your office?
Mulliner: I don't think I ever had over five people altogether. And then, I think I had that many only for a very short time. When I had an assistant who was a lawyer we instituted a very elaborate face sheet that was to go into this docket with every submittal, and it required a lot of typing, it was duplicatory, and I was to sign this, you know, to be sure this was official. Well, after a few years and after he'd moved on to another job, I just decided that the public service didn't need to afford that kind of a refinement; that we'd never had any kickback on these things and I could let one typist go by cutting out this.
Q: You previously mentioned that your office in the very first days in the life of the Board was actually in the Board room. Now, when you had this staff...
Mulliner: They were in a room across the hall, a big room across the hall where the Board files were and the staff.
Q: Where did all of this take place? Where were you located?
Mulliner: Well, in the very beginning I was in the Labor Department building sitting on a packing box.
Q: I hope the Board members weren't...
Mulliner: No, the Board members each had their own little bailiwick, but hardly anybody else did.
Q: These were just temporary offices?
Mulliner: Yes, Miss Perkins just made some of her people crowd up for a little while, you see.
Q: Where was your packing box?
Mulliner: Well, it wasn't in a very attractive room. I think it was in a room where they kept supplies or something like this. There was a little desk in there, but there were no chairs.
Q: About how many people were there on the staff at that time?
Mulliner: Oh, maybe 20 all told.
Q: Who were some of the very early staff members?
Mulliner: Wilbur Cohen, Leona McKinnon. I hope you got a tape from here before she died. Did you?
Mulliner: Oh, dear. Of course she was ill, I guess, most of the time you were working on this. She was a really key person because she had been with Mr. Altmeyer in the NRA in the Department of Labor and then into the Social Security program. And, you see, during these little hiatuses that I had in my service with the Social Security programs, Leona took over and was in my job during these times I was away; and she, of course, was so familiar with all of Mr. Altmeyer's work that it's too bad you didn't get her story.
I have a list that I ought to get out that I compiled of the people who were appointed to key positions during the first six months of the Social Security Board.
Q: Did it give the dates when they were appointed so that you could isolate those who were early?
Mulliner: Yes. But of course some of the people who were there in the Labor Department were borrowed from the WPA or somewhere and were just helping us out and then didn't stay on and continue as Social Security Board people. You see, it was all WPA money that Miss Perkins was diverting in order to get the Social Security program started, because Huey Long filibustered the first appropriations bill, you know, and nothing would have happened until 1936 if she hadn't been ingenious enough to use some of this WPA money she and Harry Hopkins had.
Q: Now, how long were you at the Labor Department?
Mulliner: Oh, I think just a few weeks. I would say just maybe two or three weeks.
Q: Was this the same building that they're in now?
Mulliner: Yes. Then we went to 1712 "G" Street.
Q: What was that?
Mulliner: That was a private building then. The government rented it for us. It is now the AAA, the Automobile Association.
Q: I see. What kind of building was it? How would you describe it?
Mulliner: It was not a new building then. It was adequate. It was just another office building in Washington, D.C. that was there between 17th and 18th Streets on "G" Street. That's to the west of the White House, you know. And fortunately at the same time we got a building just behind us--1724 "G" Street. So we were in those two buildings for some time. And then the OASI people were down in an apartment building, the Riverside or something, down near Virginia Avenue.
Q: I see. It was kind of scattered around.
Mulliner: Oh, yes. We were in umpteen hundred buildings as we grew.
Q: Oh, really?
Mulliner: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. It was just awful: Frank Bane struggling all the time to get space, and we were promised the Department of the Interior building when they moved into their new building, and somebody deceived us even though the White House had said we could have it and overnight somebody else was moved in and we didn't get it. That was a real naughty trick. I forget the details now, but we thought we were all set and then we weren't--outmaneuvered.
Q: These buildings now on "G" Street: where did the Board have its offices?
Mulliner: The 7th floor...
Q: Of 1712?
Mulliner: ...of 1712 "G" Street housed the three Board members, the executive director, the assistant executive director and the secretary to the Board offices, and that took that whole seventh floor.
Q: And the Board room.
Mulliner: Yes, the Board room, one end of which was my office.
Q: And what else was in that building?
Mulliner: I guess all of the bureaus except the Bureau of Business Management, which included the personnel. That was in the "F" Street building. And there were the OASI people who were in the converted apartment building, the Riverside or something like that, about eight or ten blocks away. This was right in the beginning. Well, then we expanded into Rochambeau and--I don't know--any number of buildings around Washington before we were finally forced to put the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance into a warehouse on the Baltimore waterfront.
Q: How did that come about?
Mulliner: Just from absolute necessity. We just couldn't get a thing in Washington that would begin to take care of them.
Q: It wasn't political...
Mulliner: Not in the beginning. It got to be when we were ready to bring them back to Washington. The Maryland Congressmen blocked it, wouldn't let us bring them back because they liked having that payroll and that many people in Baltimore, in Maryland. You see, the whole second floor of present Department of Health, Education and Welfare, where The Voice of America is... Well, the Voice of America is there because that whole second floor was built to carry the heavy machines for the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance program, which never got into it. The floors were reinforced and more heavy cables were laid in those floors; there were different things done with the whole walls and structure and everything of that floor in order to handle the machines and the files for the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance program, and it never got into that.
Q: And, of course, as it turned out, you would have needed much much more space.
Mulliner: Oh, yes. And we knew it at the time, but we thought it would be built around Washington, you see. As a matter of fact, we thought when the two buildings were planned in 1937--and we were working on them--the Social Security Board building on Independence Avenue and the Railroad Retirement building on "C" Street just behind it down there in Southwest, that, when necessary, the Social Security would take over the Railroad Retirement building, and they would go somewhere else. Well, they went to Chicago, but that wasn't in the picture at the time. So that was expansion that was built in really theoretically at the time. It wouldn't be enough either, but then the war came along and the war agencies took over those buildings, and the Social Security Board never got into them until after the end of World War II.
This is a funny story; I suppose it should go in here. Of course Frank Bane had left and was with the Council of State Government in Chicago, but he was being brought here by any number of war agencies to help them do things. And I guess it was when he was brought for about a six or eight-month period by the OPA to set up the rationing system for them that he had an office in that building, because OPA was in that new Federal Security Agency building--it was then called. And the first day he was in there, he called up Arthur and he said, "Arthur, how about getting together for lunch?"
Arthur said, "Fine."
And Frank said, "All right, would 12:30 suit you? And why don't you come down and see my new office?"
Altmeyer said, "The hell I will. I'm not coming into that building until I get my office in that building. I'm not coming down there to see you in it."
Of course this is just what Frank was after. He was needling Arthur because here he was, who had left the programs, in the Social Security building before Arthur, who was sitting down in some other spot.
By that time the Board's offices and most of the organization were over at 1825 "H" Street building. They moved into that when the RFC moved out of it when the beautiful building Jesse Jones built for the RFC over on Vermont Avenue was finished. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation moved into that.
Q: I think we're trying to cover all the physical description of the layout. We might as well complete it all at once. Could you describe the Board room of these two buildings?
Mulliner: Each Board member at 1712 G St. had two rooms--an outer office for the secretary and other staff--and a private office. The chairman had a little more elaborate suite. He had a larger reception room and a larger private office which was on the front of the building, on the "G" Street front, and another little private office opening off that and his own private bathroom opening off that. He was the only one who had any private bathroom facilities at that time. And there wasn't even a bathroom on the seventh floor for ladies, just one for gentlemen. And here was Molly Dewson, 65 years old, trotting down the stairs to get in with all the little typists and secretaries into the bathroom. But as soon as Ellen Woodward came, she had to have a little private bathroom built into her suite. She just couldn't adjust herself to trotting up and downstairs with the rest of us working girls to use a joint facility. There was a difference in the temperament of the women.
Q: Incidentally (I'll try to bring us back to what we were talking about before), you've alluded to Ellen Woodward here, but you haven't really focused on her and talked a little bit about what she was like and what part she played in all this.
Mulliner: Do you want me to do that now?
Q: Well, I think so. I'll try to keep track of where we are.
Mulliner: You better write it down. I'm apt to go most anywhere.
Ellen Woodward, in my opinion, was one of the most misinterpreted members of the Board. She was misinterpreted because her Southern finishing school lady-like charm led people into thinking she was all fluff, and she wasn't. She was a woman of real ability. She was a fine public servant. Now, she had a little higher percentage of vanity than some of the other women in key positions in the organization, but I regretted all through the years how many people felt that she was just a Southern belle who'd been given a sinecure kind of job. It wasn't true. She worked harder than a great many people did around there, and really wanted to understand and come to grips with the problems that were involved. Now, it's true that she worked a lot of other people harder, too, in trying to get herself informed on these things, and she was not always considerate in what she expected of her staff and other people in the way of overtime or special service and so forth.
Q: What was her background? How did she come to the Board?
Mulliner: Frank Bane. She had been the wife of a judge in Mississippi... She and her two sisters had the social status and popularity in Mississippi that the Langhorn sisters had in Virginia, and she knew Nancy Langhorn Astor very well. They had been brought up in the same milieu--ladies, charming Southern belles, who expected all the men to be gallant to them, and they were. Then Ellen's husband died and didn't leave her well enough fixed to live on the income, and she went to work for the state government in Mississippi. And when Frank Bane had been down there doing a study of the state government in Mississippi, he had worked with her in this organizational study--I don't remember now just what it was--and had been impressed with her ability and certainly with her charm, as everyone was. And he was in D.C. in 1933, as you probably know, helping to set up the WPA and helping Harry Hopkins get a staff. Harry said, "You know, what I really need is a woman who can do a job but can also handle Congressional committees." Now, Harry had some very good women on his staff, but they weren't pulchritudinous, and they weren't very charming. Frank said, "I think I know just whom you should have if she's interested in coming."
So he called Ellen Woodward and had her come up here and have an interview with Harry Hopkins, and Harry hired her as head of the women's project in the WPA. And she made some of the most courageous and effective fights before Congressional committees. As her scope expanded, she took over all the arts projects for the WPA too. And to go before those Congressmen and try to convince them that the federal government should pay artists to paint pictures and poets to write poems and writers to write books took some doing, but she did it. This was astute of Harry Hopkins. It took a charming lady with a Southern accent who was beautiful to look at and intelligent and who knew the political waters. She made some splendid fights. You know, she was responsible for some of the finest historical documents in this country--those state guides that were written by the WPA in every state by some fine writers. In my state of Idaho, Vardas Fisher did the state WPA guide, a fine history of Idaho and the significance of the developments there. And the same thing was true in state after state. And anyone now who has a complete set of those books has a valuable collection. And so many people know nothing of this with respect to Ellen. They just saw this fluffy, rather vain Southern lady, and especially the ones who knew her when she was getting on a little in years and her looks were fading and she was frantically trying to stem the tide as far as her appearance was concerned. But she made a contribution, and she worked hard and was a good fighter.
Q: How about on the Board?
Mulliner: She was effective on the Board. I think she was in some ways inclined to be a little more political than Miss Dewson had. been. I'm not sure it was party politics anymore than it was just sort of personal politics. She'd want certain things for certain people, and she'd be pretty tenacious about trying to get it if it didn't come easily, but never to an extent that was harmful.
Q: To get back to the things we were talking about before. I don't think I've gotten from you a physical description of what the Board room looked like.
Mulliner: It was a long room, about twice as long as it was wide. At one end, which was where the Board table was, was this lovely big mahogany long table with attractive mahogany chairs--not ostentatious--with nice real leather brown seats and backs. A big picture from the WPA hung on the end wall along that side of the Board table. It was a maritime scene which I believe Wilbur Cohen has in his office now down in HEW. It seems to me the last time I was in there I saw this. I said, "Wilbur, I hope that doesn't make you as seasick as it did me all those years I looked at it in the Board room." There was a door in that end of the room that opened into the Board member's suite that Mr. Miles had first and then Miss Dewson and then Mrs. Woodward. Coming down this side there was a door into the hall and then a big long wall where there were at least one or two sofas where people could sit who came to the Board meetings. Then there was another door down here into the hall, and in this end of the room was my office. I had some nice mahogany-enclosed bookcases along that wall. My desk was here across this corner, and right next there was the door into the executive director's office. And there were a series of about three windows along this wall here. And at two of those windows, the two at either end, were the splendid big machines that were air-conditioners in those days that ran from the floor about half-way up the window and made a lot of racket. The Board members had air-conditioning in their windows. Mr. Bane wouldn't have it for a long time, because he said if the whole organization couldn't have air-conditioning couldn't have air-conditioning he wasn't go to have air-conditioning. But finally the people who had to come in to his office for meetings protested so vociferously that he was forced to let Jim Bennett, who was the Acting Director of Business Management, was borrowed from the Justice Department, put one in.
The other thing Frank wouldn't have in his office, he said, was a sofa. "What do I need a sofa in my office for?" And some other time later Jim Bennett walked into Frank's office when he consulting Jane Hoey on the sofa about something. Jane was very emotional, you know, and this was some trouble, some problem that was going on, and Jane had started to weep. So Frank had come over and sat down on the sofa beside her and was patting her on the shoulder and soothing her when Jim Bennnett walked in. He said, "You see, Frank, why you need a sofa in your office?" And they both simply roared.
Then there were a lot of extra chairs in the Board room because sometimes we had as many as 20 or 30 people from the bureaus in there if there was an item on the agenda that cut across program lines and needed a lot of people in.
Oh, how Mr. Altmeyer disliked those big town meetings. I was always torn because I wanted to have everybody in who needed to be in to hear this. From my point of view, even if a person didn't have direct responsibility for the policy, if indirectly something he or she did could be helped or facilitated by knowing about this, I would want them brought in. Mr. Altmeyer only wanted one person, himself, if he could have had his way. He couldn't bear to have those mobs in the Board room. So he was always frowning at me every time another body would walk into the room.
Mulliner: Well, it would take too much time, you see. These people would have something to say if they came in, and he was all for expediting the business and getting it over with. Of course when Mr. Winant was chairman I didn't have this problem. He didn't pay any attention to that. He didn't know how many people were in the room. He wasn't thinking in these terms at all. He just wanted to feel comfortable that anybody that wanted to tell him anything at all about this matter had a chance to tell him about it.
Q: You described before about how the Social Security Administration became scattered ultimately all around town. I wonder: Didn't this cause a great deal of logistics and communications?
Mulliner: Oh, yes, and it was so expensive. You had to have messengers running all around--here, there, yon and everywhere all the time. If you wanted a file, it was off over somewhere else, and you might have to wait half a day to got it back. It was a real problem for the management people--the Bureau of Business Management. They supposedly kept messengers circulating on a schedule so that you knew if something had to go to a certain building, if you caught a certain messenger, he'd get it there on a certain run--all this business. Oh yes, it was a real problem.
Q: If you wanted to see a guy, you'd have to take a cab across town.
Mulliner: That's right. Of course, in those days, as long as we were a Board, each of the Board members had their own car and their own chauffeur, and there were two or three cars in a pool. The key staff people could call the pool. You know, the secretary could call and say, "Mr. Bane needs a car to go to the Hill at 10:35," and that would come. As things changed and we became part of the Federal Security Agency, all those privileges got taken away. It was only the administrator and his staff then who had those services. But when on your own, we were able to operate more comfortably in some respects because we could make those decisions ourselves.
Q: Yes, it must have been quite a wrench to be under somebody else.
Mulliner: It was, no question about it, and it caused a lot of difficulties and hard feelings. And it wouldn't have mattered much who the people were who came in at the top level when the Board went into the Federal Security Agency, there would still have been those rough spots because nobody likes to lose his independence.
Q: How close were you to that changeover? How much do you know about what happened?
Mulliner: Well, I remember a good deal about the 1939--was that when the Federal Security Agency came into existence?--changes. I was away with Ambassador Winant when the Board was abolished and a Commissioner set up to run things, so I missed that traumatic experience. When I came back--because I didn't think this was so terrible--oh boy, my old friends just couldn't understand me. This was the greatest calamity to them, and I felt the time had come when it was better to have a commissioner than a board. But this was heresy.
Q: We've gotten two subjects going at the same time here. First of all, there was the Federal Security changeover.
Mulliner: First of course there's the problem that whoever comes in at the top isn't going to know much about the programs. And Paul McNutt was not really intending to work awfully hard at learning the programs. He was a politically oriented person who had been governor of Indiana and was interested in holding other offices in the political hierarchy.
Q: Including the Presidency, I understand.
Mulliner: Yes, and what he was doing was keeping his eye on the balls that would bounce in that direction. Different devices were used to try to bridge the gap. One of them was the setting up of a position on the administrator's staff called liaison with the Social Security Board, and the same with the Public Health Service and Office of Education. And some good people were picked out of the operating agencies to go into these spots. I had an opportunity to do that, but I knew it wasn't my dish. I didn't want to get in between.
Before long, that person's loyalties were primarily to the Administrator. He was on the administrator's staff, and the people in the operating agency would feel this and resent it, because, after all, he was supposed to be fighting our battles up there. He wasn't supposed to be supporting what the Administrator wanted if it was different from what we wanted. It was an uncomfortable spot.
It was difficult because it was a person who was used to handling substantive program matters. He wasn't very happy because he was just kind of an errand boy back and forth. He wasn't having any influence on developing substantive programs. One of the men who went up there really kind of deteriorated into a dilettante because it wasn't a challenging enough job. It paid more than the job paid down in the Social Security Board, but it didn't have any meat, and he just got to be kind of a lazybones.
Well, there were difficulties, but I don't think as far as the Social Security Board was concerned they were unusual in the circumstances. It's just hard for an organization to fit into a superstructure.
Q: Well, now, how about the question of abolishing the Board?
Mulliner: Well, now, there were different views on that, and I wouldn't be able to tell you who took what position right now. I believe all along right to the end, Mr. Altmeyer was opposed to it. I think it was people in the Bureau of the Budget who really pushed it the hardest, and it took place, I guess, in 1946. I guess I better not tell this story. It has only a little bit to do with Social Security and a lot to do with something else, but I was certainly helped out of a difficult situation by having that reorganization act put through which moved the Children's Bureau over into the Social Security Administration from the Department of Labor. That was really funny.
Q: That was another trauma too.
Mulliner: Oh, yes, and they haven't recovered from that till this day. Well, maybe I should tell it, because it shows how government works. This is when I was in London with Ambassador Winant, and one reason he wanted me over there was because he wanted me to keep informed and be his tutor with respect to the developing international organizations. You see, I had been with UNRRA and then I went with Mr. Winant and then I came back to San Francisco to be the deputy documents officer for the San Francisco conference that wrote the charter for the United Nations.
Q: That must have been exciting.
Mulliner: Oh, that was tremendous. When I was leavings they said, "How did you like it?" and I said, "Wells I wouldn't have missed it for the world, but I wouldn't go through it again for a million dollars."
Then I went back to London. In 1945, early 1945 when Mr. Winant was urging me to come to London, he thought he was going to be the director-general of the United Nations. President Roosevelt had indicated that to him. You can imagine how he felt and how I felt when we got the news that the President was dead that April day. It was just terrible. Well, at any rate he couldn't give up this idea, and so I, you know, at San Francisco and at UNRRA and then in London was working on the United Nations activities, and even when it was decided in London to put the headquarters in the United States, Gil couldn't let go of his hope that he still was going to be put up for the director-general, although he knew in his heart you couldn't have a U.S. person the head of it with it located in the United States.
Well, then, you see, I was in San Francisco and then the Preparatory Commission went to London from San Francisco to get things going, and I was Ambassador Winant's liaison with that. And as the organizational period really started tightening up, he became ill with a strep throat. Incidentally, Dr. Fleming (he adored him) brought over to him some lozenges he hadn't yet put on the market that he thought might cure Mr. Winant's infection. They didn't seem to do any good, but I remember we had to keep them in the refrigerator. Well, at any rate, while he was ill I represented him on the planning group that was setting up the structure of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations because I and some other people had had in the back of our minds all along that that was the spot that Mr.' Winant should move into. Some of his intimates knew he wanted to move out of the spot he was in, and this was the spot for him. So I was sitting with those people for him, and it became clear that there wasn't time for the Big Five who were identified at San Francisco--ironically China, the USSR, the USA, the UK and France--to all get their representatives chosen for all of these commissions that were to be set up under the Economic and Social Council and get them appointed for the meetings in London that were to open in January. In the meantime, I had been responsible for the cables going back and forth between the embassy and the State Department suggesting the names that the President should choose to name as the U.S. representative on these various commission. And I couldn't get anywhere with the Social Commission, couldn't get anywhere, because the names that we kept sending back from London were Altmeyer, Hoey, Bane, Cohen. And we kept getting back: "Well, what about Katherine Lenroot of the Children's Bureau?" Well, finally, I found out from somebody that the woman in the State Department who was handling these cables had just recently come over from Katherine Lenroot's staff in the Children's Bureau to this staff. Alice Shaffer her name was. So she was the one who was just blocking us right here. So one day I got a long distance telephone call from Washington, and it was Wilbur Cohen and Ellen Woodward. And they wanted to know why Mr. Altmeyer wasn't in line to be the U.S. representative on the Social Commission. "Well," I said, "look, that's your problem right over there in the State Department. You go into the State Department and get these cables broken loose so somebody besides that woman who wants Katherine Lenroot will handle them and see what you can do to get a decision made for Mr. Altmeyer." Well, about two days later, I went to one of these meetings, and Sir George Reed, who was representing the British government then, said, "We would like this planning group to consider a modification in the basic plan, which provides now that each of the five governments will have its representatives ready for the meetings in January on all these commissions. We would like to propose that each government agree to forego an appointment to one or two of these commissions now, and we'll have time to get ready on that for the meetings in New York in April."
Well, if this wasn't manna from heaven. I said, "We think that's a very practical suggestion, and the United States will cooperate by deferring the naming of its representative on the Social Commission until the meetings in New York in May."
By the time those meetings came up, the Children's Bureau had been transferred to the Social Security Administration, and Miss Lenroot was a bureau director under Commissioner Arthur Altmeyer, so there was no longer any problem about who was going be named to the Social Commission of the United Nations.
You know, the women who headed up that Children's Bureau all through its history were simply superb. They were zealots; they were crusaders; nothing daunted them; they wouldn't let anything stop them, and kept their eye on all the balls--just as Katherine Lenroot was keeping her eye on this thing that practically nobody else in Washington knew was going on over in London. But the Children's never accepted--and hasn't to this day--being transferred into the Social Security Administration. They felt they were allowed much more freedom of operation in the Labor Department than in the Social Security Administration. And Katherine Lenroot, although she was from Wisconsin and Arthur Altmeyer was from Wisconsin and they were long-time friends, would never accept the organizational arrangements that Mr. Altmeyer would try to bring about to get closer cooperation between the Children's Bureau and the Bureau of Public Assistance and that sort of thing. She just came over determined to maintain her complete independence, and she never gave an inch.
I came back in 1947 all innocence to the Board, and didn't know about this terrific resentment. Martha Eliot was just the same kind of a driving woman that these other heads of the Children's Bureau had been. She was second in command at this time. When Miss Lenroot left, she had moved up. And some memo came across my desk that said, "Dr. So-and-So was to be appointed by the Children's Bureau to go out to Iowa to look into something that was happening in one of the hospitals out there. I thought, "Well, this is supposed to be a cooperating organization now. The Public Health Service has people right out there. Why can't the Public Health Service pediatrician who is out there look into this, and if he can't handle it, then we can send somebody else out there?" So I just wrote a little note on this (I had never met Dr. Eliot face to face, and she didn't know who this pipsqueak was who was sending this memo back to her): "What about asking Public Health Service if they have somebody there who can take care of this?"
Well, this no sooner hit Martha Eliot's desk than she was up on the fifth floor and went through my office like a whirlwind. I wasn't there fortunately. She went into Bill Mitchell who was the deputy commissioner just fuming and fussing at this effrontery, this interference. Well, Bill looked at the thing and tried to tell her that he didn't see this was so unreasonable, that maybe she knew the Public Health Service didn't have somebody, but on the face of it this seemed to be a way of efficiently using scarce medical manpower and so forth. But she would have none of it, and she insisted, and they went in to see Altmeyer and Altmeyer said, "All right, go ahead."
What I didn't know was that this Dr. Burnham who was going out to do this was a long-time friend of Dr. Eliot's who shared her house with her here in Washington in addition to everything else.
Well, this is just an illustration of how the Children's Bureau would accept no questions being asked at the commissioner's level about anything they did. They just wouldn't. And I had to work with this. I was handling the work planning of the bureaus during these years after I came back. Oh, Martha Eliot was the hardest woman to work with because she didn't want to put down in a work plan what the Children's Bureau was planning to do in the year ahead. She didn't want the commissioner's level to know in that much detail what the Children's Bureau was planning to do. They were just really psychopathic about keeping free from letting anyone at the commissioner's level know what they were doing in a way that would give a basis for suggesting anything in connection with it.
Q: It reminds me of some children I've known. It's just "no" to everything.
Mulliner: That's right. It was really hard going.
Q: Speaking of the women on the Board... Oh, one other question I wanted to ask you relating to this was: I take it that Dr. Altmeyer's strategy in this situation was simply to make the best of a bad situation. He apparently felt that there were times he would just have to back down and not force things.
Mulliner: That's right. He never, so far as I know, had an out-and-out battle on issues. He wouldn't say he'd given up on something, but it might just be indicated to the rest of the staff who were trying to do something about this that he was waiting to talk to Miss Lenroot about this. Then he'd wait ad infinitum.
Q: How about another woman at Social Security that we've just touched on and that's Jane Hoey?
Mulliner: Jane Hoey--oh, I know more good stories about Jane Hoey.
Q: Well, now's the time.
Mulliner: I think the story of Jack Tate's, the general counsel, about Jane is the best description. There was some kind of a disagreement between the Bureau of Public Assistance and the general counsel's office in connection with a submittal the Bureau had made to the Board. Jack Tate, who was a gentle, thoughtful person, was trying to talk with Jane about some different approach or something to this matter, and Jane was just flying off in her red-headed Irish way in all directions. Finally, Jack stopped and laughed and said, "Jane Hoey, you have more wrong reasons for reaching a right decision than anyone I ever knew."
Another story involves Governor Tingey of either New Mexico or Arizona. He called Frank one day on the telephone--and this was at the time when the Board was having to educate all the governors on a state personnel merit system for the people who were being paid in part from federal funds in the Employment Security and Public Assistance programs, and of course most of the governors hadn't any idea what a merit system was. Jane had made a tour around and seen all the governors and had come back and made a report to the Board about her educational tour. The governor called Frank. He was in Washington, the Governor was, and he said he wanted to see him. So Frank said, "Come on in." The governor came in, and they had a few exchanges. Then the governor said, "Say, Frank, about this merit system business--you know I can't have a merit system in my state."
And Frank said, "Well, Governor, Miss Hoey just came back last week and told us about that cordial conversation she had with you out there, and she thought everything was all set."
And Governor Tingey said, "Now, Franks as man to man, you're not going to hold me to anything I said when that red-headed blue-eyed Irish gal sat down across the desk from me, are you?"
Jane is a wonderful human being. She worked mainly from the emotional basis. People had to be helped and, by golly, she was going to see that they were helped. Her staff all just adored her, but they had to build all kinds of administrative devices to know what she was doing, because she wouldn't follow channels in her own bureau at all. She'd pick up the phone and call somebody way down somewhere and gave them an assignment that none of the supervisors in between would know about. So the assistant bureau director, who was Kathryn Goodwin most of these year, would have to have all the staff understand that whenever they got assignment from the bureau director they were to report it back up through channels, so that the rest of the organization would know what was going on.
Q: That's beautiful.
Mulliner: Jane, of course, had known Senator Wagner, and he'd known her through a great many years.
Q: Perhaps we could take up that list you have before you of names of people who came to work for Social Security in the very first months and go down that list and talk about a few of those people--what they were like and what kind of contributions they made to the initial process of organizing Social Security. For example, Del Smith. Perhaps we could start with him.
Mulliner: Del Smith was in charge of the public assistance section of the general counsel's office, an original thinker, a creative man who could bridge the gap between the legal approach to a problem and the social worker's thinking about that problem and their strong need to find a way to do something about it. He wrote a small book that was extremely popular. I can't remember the name now. It set forth a legal philosophy or justification for the "welfare state" concept. Now, that's an oversimplification, but at any rate this was an original contribution in the field and was much appreciated by the social workers. Del was a man who approached a problem with an independence and coolly presented his point of view. The story I mentioned was that one day in a board meeting he and the chairman, Mr. Altmeyer, were seeing some problem from different sides, and in a half joking tone Mr. Altmeyer said, "Why, Del, that is no more apt to happen than you could stand on your head." Del immediately stood up and he was six foot two or three, very lean, kind of like Ichabod Crane. He took his watch out of his pocket and the coins out of his pockets and walked on his hands across the board room. Everybody was amazed and entertained by this. He was consistent, and he pursued in whatever he was interested in.
I believe another person I mentioned as I went over this list of people who were there in the first six months of the Board's existence in key positions was Olga S. Halsey, who was in the Bureau of Employment Security. I mentioned what a fine human being she was. When it became apparent to her that a certain position needed to be set up to service the state Employment Security Agencies with respect to the unemployment insurance appeals that were being made by workers throughout the country and were being heard by the machinery in each state that was set up for this and to identify new key, probably precedent making decisions, which could then be circulated in a systematic manner to all the other state agencies for their information and education, she ran into a difficulty because the level at which the Civil Service Commission saw the value of this job was really too low to get the kind of skilled, trained expert who was needed to do it. She persevered, as she would, and found a gentleman--I forget where he was working--who seemed to be just the person to do this work, but he was already at a salary higher than the grade for this position; he had a growing family; he could not afford to work for less money, and Olga volunteered to transfer herself to the lower paying job in order to free her own position, which would give this man some increase in salary for making a change and put him into her job. Off the record she intended--and I believe she did this--for him to do the specialized job that was needed so badly and Miss Halsey took the reduced salary and made a real contribution to the public service in so doing.
Here's a name that reminds me of something I had in mind telling about the other day when we were talking about John Corson but decided that I would just skip it. But here's another woman who made some real contributions in those early days. She came with the program early in 1936 in the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation too. Her name is Ruth Reticker. She, as Olga Halsey and several other women, especially in the unemployment insurance field, had come through working with such organizations as the women's trade union movement in New York City. She was a research person primarily.
By the time John Corson was asked by the Board to come over temporarily to pep up the U.S. Employment Service in 1939 and ‘40 in connection with the defense effort, some of these people in research in the Bureau of Employment Security had built themselves little enclaves doing a certain kind of research or study or series of studies, which they liked especially, which perhaps by that time were not top-priority activities, but which the then bureau director would never have thought of doing anything about because these were sort of senior people on the staff. They wanted to do what they were doing. They were doing well. And it would be uncomfortable to ask them to drop that or to reduce that in order to do something that was more immediately important.
But John, Corson was not that kind of bureau director. He would move to get the total skills of everybody applied to the priority projects of today and tomorrow and next year rather than what they worked comfortably in doing, and he ran into some difficulty with Miss Reticker. There were some minor skirmishes, and she flatly refused to stop doing or reduce doing whatever it was she was devoting her full time to in order to do something that he had suggested that was in his opinion of more immediate usefulness. And he concluded finally that he would just have to have a showdown on this, and he never told me but I think his intention was to say that she, as other people on the staff, must cooperate with supervision or go somewhere else to work, because this was the war effort and we had to have the total manpower geared into what was needed then.
He asked me to be present for this interview, knowing it was going to be a difficult one, and I was reminded of this the other day when we were commenting on the fact that many staff people thought he was too tough and too ruthless and so forth. This was quite an interview. It wasn't very long. Miss Reticker came in with all flags flying and started shooting first with her argument as to what she intended to do and what she would do and she wasn't going to be interrupted in her important work by some interim Johnny-come-lately (without saying it, because she was a great deal older than Mr. Corson was). And when John could say something, he started to make his logical, persuasive points as to why he was asking her to do something different, and she just told him there was no point in his talking about that; she did not intend to do it, and she did not intend to do anything other than what she was doing and that she would tie up his full time in defending himself if he persevered in trying to make any change. And he ended the conversation or interview by saying he certainly now had a full and complete picture of her position and he'd give the matter some further thought and they'd have a talk later on. Well, so far as I know, that ended that. There never was any talk later on. But this was a point where he legally could have drawn the issue and had a publicly known battle with an older lady on the staff who had been there a long time, and he chose to be discreet about it and give up the fight. That was just an illustration--that he didn't always ruthlessly pursue an issue when he had indicated what it was he wanted.
Q: Do you have any idea why he didn't in this case? She really challenged him.
Mulliner: Oh, yes, and in a most obnoxious way. If it had been two women, there might have been a donnybrook or something. She was really, as my little niece used to say, "benoxious." But I think he realized that he had so many more important things to devote his time and energy to in getting things moved along that needed to be moved along that it would be foolish for him to draw off his time and the time of the personnel people who would have to prepare the charges and go through the procedures. And it wasn't that this woman wasn't making a contribution. She was working full time. She was a dedicated person. It was just that she reached the point in her working career where she wasn't going to change and do something new.
Q: Was she also somebody who was very popular and had a lot of sympathy around the office?
Mulliner: She was well respected. She was a woman who had had a history of hard work for women in the labor field in New York before she came to Washington, the kind of person whom you wouldn't want to discredit because of her fine attitude toward other people and toward the cause of the underprivileged and people who needed support. And of course John respected all of this in her. But that was just an illustration. It might be that she would have some interesting contributions to make to oral history with respect to the early years of the Bureau of Employment Security. I don't know whether she would bring up this incident or not, but that came to mind.
Q: What kind of relationships did they have after that?
Mulliner: Cool, cool and proper.
Q: But there were no subsequent chapters in that?
Mulliner: Not that I recall now., No, John just dropped it. He had more important things to do with his time and went about those. But I don't think he'd ever had an experience like this before. I had never seen such a thing. Why, I would no more have ever taken a position like that toward a supervisor than walk across the room on my hands.
Q: Did John Corson tend to be a little feared by the people in the office?
Mulliner: Yes. As you brought up earlier, he was considered to be tough and hard-driving and ruthless. But I think I mentioned then--and I'll repeat it now--that I always found him to be fair, to be willing to listen to the other fellow, which is what he was doing here before he moved, and to consider open-mindedly the other person's position.
Q: He wasn't, for example, in this particular incident you described, angry and belligerent?
Mulliner: No, no. He was just moving firmly along to do the job. And. even when she was really much more antagonistic than she needed to be, he didn't respond on that level.
Q: He wasn't antagonistic toward her during this interview?
Mulliner: No, he wasn't.
Q: Perhaps in her case it was a question of a good defense being a good offense.
Mulliner: Yes, she really took the offensive right off.
Let's look at some of these other names. I don't know whether anybody has suggested that you interview W. R. Williamson. That would be an interesting thing to do. He was the actuary who was brought in for the old age benefits program originally for the Social Security Board.
Q: Not Meyers.
Mulliner: No, Meyers was his assistant. Bob Meyers was the second man on that staff originally. And Williamson was a man who was brought in again by Mr. Winant. It was clear--and became clearer every day--that Williamson's philosophy, his social philosophy, was diverging, or had always been different, from that of the Board. And what to do about this was really a high-level, strategic, practical problem for a good many years.
Q: Could you elaborate on that a little bit?
Mulliner: Well, I don't think I remember the issues clearly enough to do that, but I do think you're not getting a full history unless you interview him about this, and, say, Bob Meyers about it, and Wilbur Cohen, because this was a major internal problem for quite some time.
Q: I wonder if you could perhaps give me a little bit more if you can--enough so that I have something to work with in approaching other people and discussing the issue. Do you know anything about what was behind this?
Mulliner: Well, I did, but I haven't thought about it in so many years that anything I'd say now is certainly questionable. I believe the basic issue had to do with the trust fund arrangement for the old age benefits program and how large a fund would be needed, how that fund should be accumulated, employer-employee contributions, government contributions. I believe Williamson was inclined to move over into the program policy side of the benefits and the kinds of benefits and the qualifications for benefits in a way that confused the public and people dealing with the Social Security Board on the financial side.
Q: Did he tend to be more conservative than some of the other people were?
Mulliner: I think so, but right now I couldn't be sure about that.
Q: There must have been a good deal of internal debate before the amendments were proposed in ‘39, before the advisory committee was set up.
Mulliner: I think so. And Williamson was a man who had been in private insurance most of his life. He was at least middle-aged, I believe, when he came with our program. I think he had been with Travelers' Insurance and was not too circumspect about speaking out in public differently from the policy of the Administration, which of course old government hands know is sacrosanct. But, you know, there were public differences that were very embarrassing. And then of course he could go before Congressional committees and have somebody ask him the questions that he wanted to respond on where he thought differently from the Administration or the Board. I think he was an honorable man, but there were times when the things he did looked a little strange.
Q: Do you think he was fully aware of what he was doing? Sometimes people do these things without being.
Mulliner: Yes, I think so.
Q: What about the personal relationship between him and some of the Board people?
Mulliner: Oh, they became very strained.
Q: Miles too?
Mulliner: I don't think it came to a head before Miles left. You see, Miles left in ‘38 or rather ‘37. Well, it wasn't so apparent then. It was in subsequent years that it became more and more apparent.
Q: Did these conflicts tend to be between Arthur Altmeyer and Williamson?
Mulliner: I suppose that would be true, because Arthur was more involved in discussing and working with the fiscal financing side of the program, although there weren't any serious differences between him and the other Board members on those matters.
Q: This brings up an interesting point. Did there tend to be a division of labor between the Board members?
Mulliner: Not formally. They brought it up for discussion intermittently as to whether there should be, and always the decision was made that there would not be. But just by natural interest and background, one member would be able to contribute more in a certain field than another one would. But they made a formal decision more than once not to break into areas of responsibility.
Q: At what point did Bob Meyers become the actuary?
Mulliner: I can' t remember that now, but it must have been in the '40s. The records of course would show that.
Q: What do you recall of Bob Meyers on the subject during that period?
Mulliner: Interestingly enough, I don't remember him at all during the period when he was Williamson's assistant. I thought of this long ago--I don't know what brought it up. Why don't I recall Bob being active? It may just be that Williamson didn't encourage his second in command to come to Board meetings or to come to these conferences where these things were being discussed. He just didn't work that way, and that's why I didn't get to know Bob in those early days.
Q: Who else is on that list that you might talk about?
Mulliner: Let me see. I don't think there are any of these I would suggest you go into other than those I've marked here.
Q How about on tape?
Mulliner: Well, James Bennett I mentioned--James D. Bennett--who came over for a few months in 1935 and early 1936 to direct the Bureau of Business Management and then returned to the Justice Department. I suggested you interview Joseph Meyers, who is now the acting commissioner of welfare, but beginning in December, 1935, was on the general counsel's staff working on the public assistance program.
Q: I wonder if we could put anything on tape about that. Do you have any personal recollections of him?
Mulliner: Yes. Jim Bennett, was one of the people who helped a great deal because he was familiar with federal government administration and agencies and know-how and getting things done, while a lot of other people had come in either through state programs or, as I mentioned earlier, the women's trade union movement in New York or the Consumers' Union or somewhere and to have somebody in the spot of director of the Bureau of Business Management who knew how to get things done in government. He was always in good humor. Business Management is a composite of hefty duties that can make anyone an irritable old man before his time, but this didn't seem to be true of Jim Bennett. He was always welcoming and cooperative and helpful. I believe I told this story when I was talking about setting up the offices of the Board and the executive director at 1712 "G" Street. Bennett was installing air-conditioning units in the key offices, not all of them, and furnishing them; and when he told Frank Ban,, the executive director, that there was a sofa coming into his office, Frank said, "A sofa! I don't need a sofa in my office." And Jim said, "Well, you'll have to have one. This is standard operating procedure in the federal government. And anyone in your position must have a sofa in his office." So Frank gave in on that sooner than he did on the air-conditioning. He wouldn't have the air-conditioning put in his office because all the employees weren't going to have it. But finally the bureau directors and the key staff people who were used to air-conditioning and who were coming to Frank's office for meetings complained and said it was too hot in his office, and he had to give in and have an air-conditioning unit put in his office.
But, at any rate, some time after the sofa was brought in, Jane Hoey was in seeing Frank and in her Irish, up-and-down emotional way she was unhappy about something. She'd been sitting on the sofa talking to Frank at his desk, and she started to weep and Frank in his typical way went over and sat down on the sofa beside her and was patting her on the shoulder and saying, "Now, Jane, that's all right. We'll work this out." Jim Bennett came in and took one look and said, "Now, Frank, you see why I insisted on having a sofa for your office?"
That brings us around to Jane Hoey if we want to talk about her now.
Q: It does. If we've covered the people on that list that you think it would be worth while talking about on tape, then perhaps we could go back to Jane Hoey.
Mulliner: Yes. There's one other let me mention who is an extremely thoughtful man. I think he'd be a problem for you to interview except he comes East quite often, and this is William Wandel, who was in the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation--it was called in those days--in the early days. He is now director of research for Nation-wide Insurance out in Columbus, Ohio--a thoughtful, sensitive man who at about a third-level position played a significant role and made fine contributions in those days. He worked well with people. He was a good facilitator. He was a thoughtful man in the field of statistics and research and so forth. If it should work out that you could have a session with him about those days, I think he could make a contribution; and tie does come East quite often for many conferences and on business and so forth.
Q: Perhaps we could go back to Jane Hoey then.
Mulliner: Jane Hoey was a promoter, a crusader, who loved what she was doing; devoted, I think, 90% of her waking hours to her job--this was her life--and gave great morale-building contributions to the early days of getting the Social Security program started. She was a good team player, a very hard fighter. If there were policy recommendations submitted by her to the Board that the Board couldn't go along with, she would keep on trying to get them to see the light for a reasonable period of time and then she would accept the decision. She would go back to her staff and her bureau and say, "This is the decision and this is the way it's going to be, and we'll move now to do it this way." In contrast there was another bureau director who would send recommendations in, not fight too hard for them if the Board didn't seem to agree, seemed to accept the decisions, go back and nothing ever happened in respect to it unless the Board followed up and insisted--you know, two different ways of doing business.
There are so many amusing stories about Jane. In connection with the difficulties with the state of Ohio in the early years, Jane and her staff were dealing with a governor who had had no experience with social welfare--Governor Davey, who had the nursery and tree business in Ohio and became elected governor, and I guess thought you ran a welfare program the way you run a tree surgery business. Rather soon there were difficulties, and the Board had to file charges against the state of Ohio on grounds of improper administration, which was permissible under the language of the Social Security Act. This was with respect primarily to the old age assistance program.
Now, bringing charges against a state under the Social Security Act with respect to an illegal provision in the law is a simple matter compared with improper administration, because people evaluate administration differently.
Well, the first thing the Board would do in a situation like that would be to send a group of technicians into the state to survey the situation and make findings and then they'd come back and the Board would call in this state official and talk with them about these findings, and then if there didn't seem to be any possibility of the director of welfare of the state taking steps to correct the poor administration, then the governor would be brought into the picture and there'd be discussions. Well, all this went on in Ohio, and then finally there was a formal hearing. The governor came for that, and he was, you know, quite confident that these administrative requirements were unnecessary--the need to have some people who had degrees in social work working in the public welfare program didn't make sense to him. I remember he said, among other things, that all that was needed in the old age assistance program or the aid to dependent children program was some women who had warm hearts being in the key jobs and doing the doing the job. And, as a matter of fact, as a rule widows were apt to be in this category, so he was just seeing that some nice widows got appointed to these jobs and of course all this was very hard to on Miss Hoey as she sat through this. And after that one particular session was over, I remember after the state people left, the federal people were kind of reviewing what had happened and what to do next, and Jane was sputtering away about how terrible this was. And finally she wound up with coupe de grace, I think: "And that Governor Davey: he is, he is, he is the lowest form of human life!"
I don't know if I've mentioned before the reaction of Governor Tingey of either Arizona or New Mexico. This, was probably in about 1939 when it was necessary to help the states implement the amendment to the public assistance titles, which required that the state employees who were being paid in full or in part by federal funds must be selected and appointed under a personnel merit system. And it was true that a great many states didn't have any idea what a personnel merit system was, and the two bureaus--employment security and public assistance--were doing what they could to educate the states and help them. And Miss Hoey had been on a swing all around the western states, and she had seen all the directors of public welfare and their governors and talked to them about moving to do this, and then had come back and made a very promising report to the Board about how this was going to go ahead.
About two weeks later Frank Bane, in Washington, got a phone call f rom Governor Tingey and he said, he was in Washington and he had to come over and see Frank. And so Frank said, "Fine, come on over." The governor came in and after exchanging a few pleasantries, he said, "Frank, about this merit system business--you know I can't have a merit system in my state."
And Frank said, "Oh, well, Governor, Miss Hoey just came back a couple of weeks ago from seeing you, and she thought everything was laid on and moving ahead."
The governor looked at Frank and said, "Now, Frank, you're not going to hold me to anything I said when that red-headed blue-eyed Irish gal sat down across the desk from me, are you?"
Jane did have a great deal of charm, and this combined with her zeal was pretty potent. But she wasn't always logical in her approach to things, could be quite emotional. One day when she'd been going on in a very emotional way about some matter, Jack Tate, was extremely fond of Jane, as we all were, said, "Jane, you have more wrong reasons for supporting a right conclusion than anybody I ever knew."
Logic was not one of her strengths.
Q: How about as an administrator?
Mulliner: She wasn't a good administrator. I don't know whether she recognized this or not, but the second person for a good many of those years she was director of the Bureau was a good administrator. Kathryn Goodwin was in that position for a good many years and later succeeded to being the Bureau director. What the second position person would do would be to just keep all of the division heads aware of the fact that she needed to know what was going on in the Bureau and that Jane temperamentally was not one who was inclined to realize that need even though Jane was away doing these things on the public side which she did so well a good part of the time and leaving the assistant director to run the Bureau. So it was known throughout the Bureau that when somebody way down the line, who normally would hardly know who the Bureau director was but whom Jane happened to know and would call up on the phone and give a man-sized assignment to, got the assignment, that person knew then that a report should go back through the supervisory channels--to the assistant director's office--so that all the supervisors along the line would know that this was cooking; that this staff person was going to be doing that for the next several days or weeks or months instead of what her supervisor had assigned her to do. So there are ways for ingenious staff to work with a person who doesn't work conventionally on organization and administrative matters.
Jane's heart was so warm and she was so generous and had some personal income, so she could be more generous than some people could. I remember at one time one of the key people at the commissioner's level had a long illness, was out, had heavy surgery and so forth; and the first day this man was back in a commissioner's staff meeting so that Jane know he was back on the job, when the staff meeting broke up she followed him down to his office and sat down across the desk from him, reached in her pocketbook, took out her checkbook and said, "Now, please let me help you. I know what these medical expenses mean to a man with a growing family and I have money that I'll never use. Don't be offended, but let me help you with all these expenses." She was thoughtful and warm, and would do these things. People were important to her.
Q: What about her relationships with Arthur Altmeyer?
Mulliner: They had their ups and downs. In my opinion Jane through out her federal career, put too much emphasis on the magic of a degree in social work and discounted too much the opinions of people who did not have a degree in social work, and this was one of the elements in her relationships with Arthur Altmeyer. He was not a trained social worker, and just instinctively this would cause Jane, when he took a position different from what she would like, to feel that why should she have to accept this? He did not understand. He was not a trained social worker. Her overemphasis on this in a day when there weren't one percent enough trained social workers to fill the positions that were needed in the field, I think was unfortunate. I think it meant the Bureau wasn't putting enough effort, although they put a good deal of effort in on a training program to help the states give training to the staff that they already had to help them do a better job in the program. But I think if Jane hadn't emphasized this so much, it would have been better. Of course, I can see from her point of view, somebody had to carry the torch for getting more trained social workers; and this was a way to do it--to insist that a large percentage of the positions in the program could only be done properly (this is throughout the country and in the state agencies as well as in the federal government) by people with at least one year of graduate work in social work and preferably two years and master's degree. Her emphasis on this was a great irritant to Congressmen and Senators. I remember Senator Glass saying in some hearing or on some occasion, "Oh, that Miss Hooey and her union!" He hadn't heard her name pronounced and he thought H-o-e-y was "Hooey." "Oh, that Miss ""Hooey and her union!"
Q: Was this part of what lay behind the antagonism toward her that developed at the very end of her career and her summary dismissal from government service?
Mulliner: I don't think so. I have a little different position about that event than most people I know, and it certainly is not a popular position with Jane's friends and colleagues. I think for the most part what happened to Jane happened because she was in one of a whole layer of positions throughout the federal government which had been shifted when the Republicans came in out of civil service protection into what they called a Schedule "C" position, which meant it could be filled by appointment from the top in these departments. It wasn't just in HEW or FSA--I guess it was then this had happened. It was throughout the government. And it was an effort of an incoming new administration to get people sympathetic with their administration in more of the key positions in the federal government. Now, I thought at the time that this could be argued both ways. Originally, Miss Hoey had been appointed, as were a lot of the rest of us, not under civil service per se but as an expert into a position that had been approved by the Civil Service Commission to be filled by an expert with the Civil Service Commission approving the qualifications of the person selected to go into that position. There was a certain provision in the Social Security Act, which had said that all employees should be employed under the civil service merit system except attorneys and experts, who would be approved by the Civil Service Commission. So actually, you see, she didn't take a competitive test to come in--either an assembled or unassembled civil service examination to come into this position. So in a sense it was not in civil service per se when she came into it, but in the course of the years these positions had been moved into the competitive civil service. Then when the Republicans came in, they said, "These are really policy-making positions which should be filled by people chosen by the Administration itself."
Now, I think this is a case that could be argued either way. It wasn't clearly black or white.
Well, going one step further, if Miss Hoey at the time this was done had taken her stand, that this was a violation that couldn't be permitted and resigned, that would have been consistent. But she didn't take a public stand at that time or even a private one, as far as I know. But it was months later when the finger was put on her and she was asked to leave because her position some months earlier, along with all these dozens or hundreds of others had been changed, that she took her stand. I just feel that as far as I was concerned, if this wore a matter of principle, the time to take your stand is when it occurs and not some time later on when its being applied to you.
She was always an ardent Democrat and a much more active political person than any other Bureau director in the Social Security Board. Her brother, Jim Hoey of New York, was one of the political leaders, the Democratic political leaders, in New York, I think he was the collector of internal revenue there for years at a time when these were primarily political positions. And Jane had always been active in Democratic policy. And while I never saw her take any position in connection with her program in the federal service because of what it might do politically, there's no question but what she was a dedicated, active card-carrying Democrat. So unavoidably she would stand out in a change in administration. Just as Ellen Woodward did at the Secretary's level when these things happened because she had always been an active Democrat.
In my opinion, it was time for Miss Hoey to leave. I think that Bureau needed new leadership. I don't think they have ever gotten it since. The administrations which have followed haven't been able to find people as capable as Jane to take that position, but c'est la guerre.
Q: This is in effect a criticism of Kathryn Goodwin.
Mulliner: Yes, by the time Kathryn Goodwin became director of that bureau, she, too, was so imbued and bound by the past that she wasn't able to open her eyes to the need to develop a new something to take care of the welfare problems in this country, and then after she left, the people who were brought in didn't have the capacity. I guess there's just one person who has been brought in since she left to do the job.
Q: I think a very important point can be made here, if I'm correct, but I don't want to make an interpretation that isn't accurate. In effect what you're saying here is that the failure to bring in new and imaginative people into the welfare field is at least partially responsible for the kinds of criticisms that are now being leveled against our welfare system in this country--as being antiquated, not getting people off but perpetuating the welfare rolls.
Mulliner: It isn't that these people weren't talking about the need to do this for a great many years. And of course I'm not at all sure that the OEO, the poverty program, has found the answers either in these years they've been experimenting. But at least they were able to experiment while we old people who were used to our routines and ruts had passed by that stage in life where we were able to open our eyes and our ears and try something new. And that's why I, as against nearly all my old colleagues didn't fight and talk down the poverty program approach, because I felt convinced that the old-line agencies couldn't change enough to give a novel approach a fair chance. They couldn't change their people fast enough, the attitudes of their people, their routines, their procedures.
Now, on the other hand, I think it might well be possible that if some of these so-called poverty programs have now developed something new that seems to be effective and working, that it might be possible for the old-line departments to take it over and continue it with the structure they have and not have these parallel, somewhat duplicate structures. But I don't think we old-timers could have done...
Q: It's more like a skin graft.
Mulliner: But then,, you see, I'm from the outside looking in and this is heresy. I was all for giving the poverty program every opportunity and support to make good, and I didn't cry one bit about the fact that the old-line departments and programs were being bypassed. I felt this was a good try and hoped it would develop something, contribute something.
Q: Is there any other aspect of Jane Hoey's contribution that we haven't discussed? Would it be worth while talking, about her relationships with some of the other people on the Board--with Winant, for example, or Miles?
Mulliner: I think there were no ripples on the surface of her relationship with Governor Winant. She being the temperament she is, and happening to respond sympathetically to the kind of temperament Mr. Winant had, was one of his devoted admirers. I don't at this time remember any differences they had. Now, subsequently, and I couldn't be specific about this, I know there were differences between her and Arthur Altmeyer, because there wasn't that kind of empathy that people did have with Mr. Winant if they happened to react to him that way. If they didn't, they could be just as negative the other way as those of us who liked him were affirmatively toward him. There weren't many people who had a kind of an indifferent, neutral feeling about Mr. Winant. You either thought he was an unusual and rare human being, or you thought he was just kind of an image that didn't have anything there to really contribute. But, at any rate, Jane was in the camp with some of the rest of us who related to him and felt that he was a rare human being. But we didn't feel that same way with Arthur Altmeyer. We had great respect for him. We were fond of him. But there isn't that aura, because he's more like the rest of us, you know--kind of an average human being personality, whereas Winant just wasn't. He was different. There was a kind of mysticism and caring that Arthur didn't emanate, he was too practical and business-like and so forth.
Q: I gather the way you describe the personality of Dr. Altmeyer and Governor Winant and John Corson, that he probably got along fairly well with Arthur Altmeyer but not so with Governor Winant.
Mulliner: Except that John fell for this Winant aura just the way the rest of us did. He did. He really did.
Q: That's quite unexpected.
Mulliner: He was a tremendous admirer of Mr. Winant's. I saw this later on, you see, because John and I went to England f or UNRRA with Governor Lehman in 1944 when Mr. Winant was Ambassador. He always preferred to be called Mr. Winant rather than Governor Winant or Ambassador Winant. So there I saw John again in contact with this man while we were there to reorganize the regional office of UNRRA, not knowing that those Britishers wouldn't pay any attention. At any rate, we had an interesting time of it, and it was clear to me then, when John and I were with the Ambassador, that he was under his spell practically as much as I was. And, as you say, this seems strange.
Q: It seems a paradox. I would have thought that John Corson's values would have been much more oriented towards appreciating the man who gets things done and is the efficient administrator.
Mulliner: Oh, I remember the day that John left me to face all these UNRRA top people, because Gil called from the embassy and said he wanted John to come over to talk with him about something. I said, "John, how can you do this to me? Not only am I an American, but I am a woman; and all these are non-American men.
Q: British men, yes.
Mulliner: Well, one was a Russian. I guess they were all British except Sergev, the Russian, who was in charge of supply.
Q: British men of course are very condescending toward women.
Mulliner: Yes. And, you know, women working within the coordinate level was just hard for them to take. And then to be an American besides, and then to do something that they wouldn't want to have done--to try to get them to work together when each one was running his own little show. This has nothing to do with this, but it's an awfully good story. John and I had had conferences with each of these main secretaries. There was Dr. Thompson, head of health; Sir George Reed, head of welfare; Mr. Sergev, head of supply; and; a chap named Scott who was really out of this world--a Britisher in charge of displaced persons. Well, they'd all been going their own separate ways without coordinating their plans, and they really needed to be ready on a coordinated basis to go on to the continent as soon as the military would let UNRRA get onto the continent to take care of the displaced persons. So we talked to each other separately--you know, getting plans together. Then we had developed this document. None of them had seen the document. And what we had done in developing this plan for the six months or the year ahead was to take these principles we had talked with them separately about, because everybody could agree on principle, and had put a little mortar between these bricks in the way of procedures for doing this, and this of course is where the pinch comes, how do you do it. So John went over to the embassy, and it was too late to change this meeting, and anyway our time was short. So they came in and I gave each one of them a copy of this draft, and here we were sitting around this small table and reading it. And suddenly Sir George Reed, who was across the table from me, said, "Young lady, don't you think we are honorable men?"
I thought, "What could I have put in here to have caused him to say that?" And I said, "Well, I certainly do. What do you mean?"
He said, "Well, look here on page such-and-such. It says that we must present an adequate justification for the money we ask for for the next six months--adequate justification. Do you think we would ask for more money than we need?"
Well, I knew better than to answer him truthfully on that. So then I started to talk about what was involved, and it came out that they would be quite agreeable to having the words say, "To present a proper explanation" for the money. This was insulting to the British to ask for an adequate justification, which of course is just plain, simple old generally used federalese in the United States. You know, one of the greatest barriers between the U.S. and the British is having a common language that doesn't have common meanings.
Well, in UNRRA we had a real SNAFU for months before we learned at the headquarters office here in Washington at the regional office in England that the two countries used the term "executive" and "administrator" in the opposite meaning. To us the executive is the top man and the administrator is carried out under the executive. In Britain the administrator makes the top decisions and they're executed by these people under him. Well, we finally got that straightened out after wasting a lot of money on cables.
I'm sorry. We were talking about John and Mr. Winant, weren't we?
Q: How about the other side of that coin? How about his relationship with Arthur Altmeyer?
Mulliner: I think John Corson and Arthur Altmeyer got along well through the years. They've had some vigorous discussions. Each man respects the other; they've continued to be very good personal friends and worked together well and vigorously when they are threshing something out. I think they have had a good working relationship. Each one respects the other one as far as I know.
Q: You discussed at some length here Jane Hoey's point of view on the kind of people that should administer Social Security and her values. Wasn't there also a school of thought that Social Security administrators should be insurance people? Weren't there quite a few insurance people in the early days of the program?
Mulliner: Yes, on the other side of the program. Well, there were two schools of thought as to whether it was, an advantage for people to have had private insurance experience and then come in and try to develop a social attitude on this. This wasn't in Jane's program. This was over in the Bureau of Old Age and Survivor's Insurance and in the unemployment insurance program. But the forces of circumstances were such that the civil service commission in trying to set up specifications for people for these new kinds of positions in the government had to grasp whatever tangible straws there were, and experience in private insurance was one they had to write into specifications for most of these positions, and it did maybe give insurance experienced people an advantage over the non-insurance experienced people. I do think that quite a percentage--I wouldn't know how much, of the people who were brought into positions in those programs--had had some contact with the private insurance world somewhere along the line. At the same time a good many people came in because Social Security was recruiting shortly after the Supreme Court had found the AAA and the NRA to be unconstitutional. And this made a lot of people available who otherwise wouldn't have been. This is how Bill Mitchell got into the program. He was an NRA compliance officer down in Atlanta somewhere, and overnight practically he was out of a job. And that first training group for the Social Security programs--a very high percentage of them were ex-NRA men who were recruited for Social Security because they were available and had had some federal government experience and were by and large good people who turned out well.
Q: What about the relationships between Henry Aronson and Jane Hoey with her very strong-willed opinion on personnel questions?
Mulliner: I think there must have been some differences, although I don't remember specifically now, because I would think Henry, in trying to help her recruit, would have wanted her to consider some people without social work training who Jane wouldn't want to consider. That's rather speculative. I know that Jane has great respect for Henry and vice versa.
Q: I've been told that there were at various times conflicts between people in the general counsel's office and some of those in the policy division whose commitments were to social values and programs and who fell into the category of the social workers in the program or at least in the minds of some of the people in the general counsel's office. I wonder what you know about the relationships between the general counsel's office and the rest of the people in Social Security?
Mulliner: Could I go back and answer your earlier question a little bit differently about Henry Aronson and Jane? Because I answered it thinking of those first couple of years. Then I realized that after a separate merit system service office was set up, with Henry Aronson in charge of that, to service the State welfare agencies and employment security agencies in connection with their personnel system, this inevitably led to some tensions between the program bureaus and this other service. This meant that the state welfare departments were not working only with the Bureau of Public Assistance people; they were taking their personnel problems, which really are the control of any program--you know, the people you have working, to another place. Now, this made for some real organizational difficulties in the set-up, and inevitably there was friction between the program bureaus and Henry Aronson and his staff, because the program bureaus were jealous of this relationship--and rightly so. And the more years this organizational set-up continued, the further away from personnel problems in the state agencies the program bureaus became, the Children's Bureau or the Bureau of Public Assistance. This was unfortunate; this was bad. And for what it may be worth, which is probably nothing, when I came bach to Social Security in 1947, one of the first changes that I suggested to the commissioner and the deputy commissioner after I saw how estranged the program bureaus were from the personnel matters of "their" state agency, one of the first things I suggested was: "Let's change this back now. This separate system was badly needed to get things going in these states on a merit basis. But I think the time has passed when it's necessary to keep it. And the program bureaus are losing the contacts in an area of their responsibility that is most important: the kind of people who are working for the state agencies, what the problems are with respect to those people. And can't we now work out an arrangement so that the program bureaus take this back and let Henry Aronson and his key staff, who wouldn't go into any one bureau, be used in some other way?" There were enough people on his staff specialized in public assistance and the Children's Bureau that they could have moved right back into the program bureaus. I still think that should have been done. But, you know, people with other problems hate to take on a problem that they aren't forced to take on. And of course this would hurt Henry Aronson, and in the meantime he'd had a bad heart attack, and who wants to risk upsetting somebody both emotionally and physically and professional? So nothing has been done about it, but I still think that this was an instance where you needed a specialized centralized service for a time. Once it had gotten the thing going, it would have been much better to put the responsibility back into the bureaus program.
Now, we can go to what you were asking me about the lawyers, the relationship of the legal staff to the program bureau people and particularly the social workers. One of the noticed differences in the relationships in the social Security Board commented on often by people from other agencies's and departments was this: The lawyers were expected to play an advisory and facilitating role and not a controlling role. This was a pattern that was set in the beginning, and this meant that young lawyers who came into the general counsel's, office were conditioned by this from the beginning. But the senior legal staff men who had worked either in private industry where the executive felt that he must follow the advice of his lawyer or in federal agencies where it was a regulatory agency such as the Communications Commission or Federal Trade Commission where the issues were legal issues and by and large the administrative people who felt obligated to follow the advice of their counsel... This also made the role of the lawyers--even those who hadn't been exposed to the control role in another setting--very difficult, because they could feel very keenly the limitation of words in the Social Security Act, which the social workers' training didn't prepare them to feel so keenly. Their social work training impelled them to do what was needed to help the people for whom the program was enacted. They didn't spontaneously, or didn't want to agree that there were limitations placed on the degrees of that help by a word or a phrase in the Social Security Act.
Now, the lawyers certainly realized that if they were to be effective, they must be patient with this benighted "do good" position and approach. Otherwise they might not be consulted in the development of a policy where they should be consulted, and where program people would be saved a good many headaches or heartaches subsequently.
Well, this was nice balance the lawyers had to find of being obviously sympathetic and understanding of the program objective that the social workers wanted to reach, but at the same time being obliged to say, "You cannot reach that point under this language in the Social Security Act. You have a choice of going in for an amendment to the language if you feel it important to do what you want to do, but our advise to you is you cannot take that position and have it legally sustained under the present provisions of the Social Security Act."
Well, this is an obvious dilemma that faced both sides. I would think in general the Board's inclinations were with the program people, and they would try to work with the lawyers and have the program people work with the lawyers to find the way in which the operating people could move the furthest under the language of the act.
This reminds me of a story which is probably on an earlier tape that tape that Frank Bane tells now--he didn't in earlier years. He learned early in his tenure as executive director that he had a hot lawyer and a cold lawyer. When he wanted to do something, he'd call in the hot lawyer and tell him what he wanted to do, and he could generally find some legal justification for it somewhere in the law. If it was something that Frank thought should not be done but that some state or some official was pushing him to do, he would call in his cold lawyer, and that man by temperament was inclined to say no rather than yes, and he would usually give the answers that Frank wanted to have. Then in this instance, he would be able to say, "Well, unfortunately, my lawyer cannot find a basis for doing that."
Q: What about the personal relationships between Arthur Altmeyer and Mr. Eliot?
Mulliner: I don't know too much about that. They certainly knew each other in advance because they were both in the Department of Labor together. Tom Eliot was a general counsel of the Labor Department, and Arthur Altmeyer was the second assistant Secretary there. It was an accepted fact--correct or not--that Miss Perkins had asked that Tom Eliot be made counsel for the Social Security Board. I assume that Mr. Altmeyer was quite agreeable to that.
Q: Why would she have specifically asked for that?
Mulliner: It was an advancement for Tom, and he had worked very hard on the work of the Committee for Economic Security and on the legislative processes and was much interested in the program. He wanted this, and she saw that he got it.
Q: There's been some allusion to the fact that there was some friction between Mr. Eliot and Mr. Altmeyer from time to time and that some of it involved a rather proprietary attitude toward the act on the part of Mr. Eliot as its principal draftsman, a certain feeling of special authority to discuss its contents and to interpret it.
Mulliner: Yes and this is part of that same basic problem that I was talking about earlier, that Mr. Altmeyer didn't feel bound to accept the legal advice of his general counsel. I almost had the issue; it's gotten away from me again now. But it had to do with the interpretation of an amendment act in 1939, I believe, that set up state merit system requirements where the general counsel's office in a written memorandum that was part of the official record, and it had to be pulled out periodically all through the subsequent years, took a certain position interpreting this point, and the board did not accept that position. It took another position, which was clearly set out in the administrative directives and orders and so forth. And this is hard for a general counsel. So it was just a case where the lawyers couldn't find that the Board's interpretation was justifiable, substantiable. The Board felt that their interpretation was. You know--at least if you've been in the federal government you would know--that the interpretation of a phrase in an act is all wrapped up in everything that was said, in committee hearings, in the committee deliberations, in the executive sessions of the committee, in committee's printed report, in what some of the key people said on the floor of the House and the Senate; as well as what the conferees (if it went to conference) said in their report on an issue that was in contention. Well, you see, there's much room for a difference of opinion as to what the intent of Congress was with respect to this particular provision, this particular phrase. And this is why the strong, confident administrator can feel that his position on this is consistent with the Congressional intent when it is contrary to what his general counsel says was the Congressional intent on a particular thing. And it was established right in the beginning of the Social Security Board that the administrators, the executives, would run the program, not the lawyers. This is one reason why the other two Board members didn't agree with Mr. Winant when he wanted to put a lawyer in the position of secretary to the Board when it was filled initially. They did want a legalistic style and control to be installed at that point. And as, I mentioned, this made him very uneasy, and he watched very carefully what was done for several months when a non-lawyer was put in that position because he was worried about it, and then he relaxed.
I don't think I mentioned this before. You didn't know Louis Brownlow, but he was a very distinguished man in the field of' public administration. He was chairman of the group that developed the first government reorganization plan for President Roosevelt, and he was also one of the first commissioners of the District of Columbia back earlier, and so forth. But when the TVA got into that bad administrative snarl among its members and the people in the organization took up different positions at the Tennessee Valley Authority, and there was really both internal strife and public scandal, Louis Brownlow told people who subsequently told me: that one of the main reasons the Social Security Board had proceeded more harmoniously and without this internal strife was because they had put in this key spot of secretary to the Board a person who didn't have personal professional ambitions to build up a coterie and a following and an empire of control and influence within the Board. And that was certainly true, I had no such ambition. But this was his analysis of one reason that two organizations that were set up at least superficially somewhat the same had a different history, in this respect.
Q: Does the Brownlow committee go into Social Security at length?
Mulliner: No, this was simply something Brownlow was saying when he was making a talk on public administration before some group or something like this. I don't know that its in any public report.
Q: Do you happen to know whether either Brownlow or the later Hoover commission did any detailed studies of the Social Security Board...?
Mulliner: My recollection is that the Brownlow committee did back earlier recommend changing from a three-man board running Social Security to a single commissioner. I Don't remember now how much they devoted to this in their report.
Q: Well, the only recommendations I was thinking about would be an analysis which would give some additional historical insight.
Mulliner: I don't know, but we can check the indexes of those two books of Brownlow's that are on the window shelf, the two volumes of his autobiography.
Q: I wonder: We haven't really focussed on Tom Eliot as a person. I wonder if you can talk a little about him and your recollections of him.
Mulliner: I thought he was a bright, able, fine public servant--perhaps a little too rigid in his position on program matters that had a legal aspect to them, not quite as flexible in his thinking as Jack Tate was or Del Smith. I didn't see it then but subsequently I think he was too much of a perfectionist in some ways. That is, he hadn't, in spite of the years he had then been in Washington, which may have been five years when he first came over with us, grasped the give and take which are involved in getting the public business done. I don't mean venality in public affairs but the fact that if' two people are involved, there has to be an accommodation somewhere if' they don't see eye to eye on a matter, in order for anything to move.
As an illustration of a rule of thumb that seems to be self-evident, that one's position is often so much influenced by where one sits in relation to problems--and I've seen it demonstrated so many times, as have other people of course--: Tom was so almost virtuous about some matters, including the personnel merit system principle when he was general counsel of the Social Security Board. However, when he left and ran for Congress and was a Congressman in Washington for one or two terms, my recollection is that he was more demanding of the administrative people in the Social Security Board for personnel appointments or administrative decisions that would help him politically than a great many Congressmen or Senators are.
Now, I'm sure he rationalized this by the fact that whoever these people were he wanted appointed were capable people. I don't doubt they were. And of course, he would think, that would make it all right for them to be appointed a little bit outside the official procedures because, you know, he was a good citizen and he would only recommend good people and so on and so forth. Clearly he had some rationale that would permit him to really put the pressure on in the reverse situation, where a few years before this would have just been outrageous. He would have of resisted this with all of his being as General Counsel of the Social Security Board.
Q: Even if an old hand there or an alumni were doing it.
Q: I wonder if his importunings, if that's the word, were as vigorous with other agencies or where it was just Social Security where he tended to feel some...
Mulliner: I don't know, but I would guess that this was a general way of doing business and not too different from what a good many Congressmen and Senators were doing. But it was just interesting to us to see him in this reverse role and how it was played.
Q: I don't know how much you know about the earlier events before and during the period when Social Security was in the legislative mill...
Mulliner: Not very much.
Q: ...about his role at the time.
Mulliner: Not very much but I have always understood it was quite a significant role. As general counsel of the Labor Department, he did so much for Miss Perkins, who was the key person on the Committee on Economic Security. But I don't know any of the specifics or the details. Mr. Altmeyer would know about that.
Q: How about some of the other people in the legal department?
Mulliner: I'm just trying to think who they were. Leonard Calhoun was one of the two associate general counsels in those early days. There had been a commitment made to him as well as to Tom Eliot before the executive director ever came into the picture, and the executive director didn't know about this--he just had an understanding when he accepted that he was going to have the appointing decision for the staff. And then he arrived and found that there was a general counsel and an associate general counsel already on the staff. And my recollection is that Leonard Calhoun was a good associate general counsel. But, when Tom left--and I can' t even remember what the circumstances were under which Tom left--the Board selected Jack Tate to succeed him instead of Calhoun, who had been on the ground first. Calhoun, as I remember, had been Senator Pat Harrison's recommendation. And of course Senator Harrison had a great deal to do with affairs in Washington in those days.
Q: Yes, not to mention the fact that it was his bill, wasn't it?
Mulliner: Yes. So Leonard was disgruntled at that and left.
It was a source of considerable pain to many of us that he almost seemed impelled from the then on to connect up with individuals or groups who were opposed to the policies of the Social Security Board or Administration. There was quite a widening breach between him and his former colleagues in the years that followed.
Q: You don't have any explanation for why this came about?
Mulliner: It could have been just a natural development and that he had this personal conviction that ran in a little different direction then that of the Board all of the time, and that the people dealing with him regularly sensed this and recognized it, and that was the factor that caused them to choose Jack Tate to succeed Tom Eliot rather than Leonard Calhoun. And that as the years went by these personal convictions of his just came more and more into the forefront when there was no reason to minimize them, when he was no longer in a setting where it was uncomfortable to develop them and propose them. And he was the general counsel for one or two organizations--he went into private practice--that were opponents of the Social Security Board on some issues. And he and Bill Williamson, the actuary, saw eye to eye on some of these issues and teamed up subsequently in hearings before some of the Congressional committees on some amendments and proposals and so forth.
Q: It's very strange. I wonder if this is related to the changing character of the Social Security program, becoming a more liberal program, one where social values were increasingly emphasized, social adequacy is the phrase that was coined for that, to describe that shift of emphasis--over the insurance and equity concepts.
Mulliner: It could be.
Q: Perhaps it was coincident with that shift that these people found themselves more alienated from the direction in which the Social Security program was going.
Mulliner: Plus a human inclination. It depends on where one sits so often what position one takes on a given issue. And when your sitting on the outside, you aren't being exposed day by day to the information, program data, the new problems that come to the surface in a program, which cause those working with them to move in what might seem a more liberal or advanced direction or position. Somebody who's sitting outside doesn't have this additional information and day-to-day responsibility for working with the program. You know, it's like some of us taking one position in Vietnam vis-a-vis another one, knowing we don't have anything like the amount of information that we really need to have to know whether what we feel is valid or sound or not.
Q: This is certainly a digression, but of course what worries me is the fact that some of the people who do have more access are not too happy about the way things are going. That's what worries me.
What were some of the organizations that Leonard Calhoun represented?
Mulliner: I was just trying to think.
Q: Was he the one that went to work for the AMA?
Mulliner: Yes, I think at one time he did. Another time I think he was doing work for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States in connection with some Social Security matters, and I think--I could be wrong about this--that he also did some legal work for that "maverick" unemployment insurance group that organized themselves to fight the Social Security Board on the Stanley Rector-Paul Raushenbush program.
Q: That, by the way, brings up a subject which I wanted to talk to you about. I wonder what you know about that whole episode.
Mulliner: Not very much.
Q: Who was Stanley Rector?
Mulliner: He was another Wisconsin man who was a turncoat according to the Wisconsin people who were in the Social Security program.
Q: And I guess they looked at the people who were on the inside exactly the same way.
Mulliner: Yes. I think a lot of the differences arose from the policy issue of a national versus a state-federal system of unemployment insurance, of which the provision for employer experience rating was a key factor. But I really don't think I could remember enough about the issues there to contribute anything. The organization still goes on. I noticed in the paper here within the last six months that Stanley Rector, who was heading it up here in Washington, had his offices in the Washington Hotel, died; so I don't know who's heading it up now.
Q: What about Paul Raushenbush?
Mulliner: I never knew him well. He was kind of a colorful figure, an attractive personality, just on the periphery of what I knew, because he was close to a lot of people I knew well, but I never knew him.
Q: Why do you say he was a colorful figure?
Mulliner: Well, he spoke out vigorously on many issues and seemed to be courageously vocal on things, most of which I disagreed with.
Q: Do you know anything about his early relationships with the Board? I've always been puzzled over the fact that he never came to work for Social Security in Washington since he was of course associated with its developments.
Mulliner: I don't know about that. I don't know whether he wanted to and didn't get an offer or whether he was offered a position that he didn't want.
Q: Have we pretty well covered the relationship between Arthur Altmeyer and Tom Eliot?
Mulliner: I haven't said much about it, because I don't recall much about it.
Q: As far as you recall, there weren't any notorious battles?
Mulliner: No, and I know they were personal friends.
Q: How about some of the other personalities that were associated with Social Security in the early days? Ewan Clague, for example.
Mulliner: Ewan Clague I know quite well and admire tremendously and hope he's teaching now. He's a born teacher. He was brought in by Mr. Bane and some others in order to strengthen the research programs, which was headed by a brilliant and distinguished gentleman, Walton Hamilton, who was no organizer or administrator. He was another one of these fine people Mr. Winant brought in and into spots that weren't the right spot for them. So then the executive director found a way to move Mr. Hamilton into the long-range program analysis and planning work of the Board, letting him retain the title of director of research; and brought in Ewan Clague, who was interested and able to work on the immediate needs. Now, Ewan was not really by nature a good administrator either, but he was a man who could see that the Board had to move quickly to lay out and maintain a system of statistical reporting for the United States that would produce data from the public assistance programs and the unemployment insurance programs that would give the Board a basis for knowing what the programs were doing and seeing where the gaps were or the overlaps and what should be done and this whole tremendous statistical program. And of course there was a fine basis that the Board was able to take over from the WPA. There had been some good work done in this field by a group of statisticians under Harry Hopkins in the FERA. The Harry Hopkins set-up really gave the Social Security Board a real jump ahead, a basis for building something more quickly than if they had had to start from scratch in compiling these statistics and developing them. And Ewan was such an outgoing, gregarious, warm person. Of course he got himself into trouble by some of this. As we used to say with affection but resignation: "You agreed with the last person who talked with you." This would be on an administrative matter. Some staff person was disgruntled and wouldn't like some move that existed, he'd go in and talk to Ewan about it, and Ewan would agree with him on this, although maybe it was just two weeks before that he had strongly promulgated this policy and made it clear that everybody was to live by this.
Q: You said Euke.
Mulliner: Yes, that was his nickname. Ewan Clague: "Euke." He was called "Euke" by some of his friends. He probably signed his initials E. something C. He had a middle name that began with a "u" or something.
Q: It's E. W.
Mulliner: That must be where it comes from. He probably signed his memos "E.W.C.," and so people started calling him "EWC." Some people would call me "M.M."at times because I always signed by two initials. A lot of people call Frank Bane "B.B." And loads of people speak of Arthur as A.J.A., Arthur J. Altmeyer. I guess maybe this is just a little shorthand we used in those days that I had never given any thought to.
Q: What about some of the others? Was Governor Winant referred to by his initials?
Mulliner: No, no. And the people with whom he was really close, he liked them to call him "Gil." He was very proud of his mother's name. Miss Gilbert was her maiden name. And while a majority of acquaintances who knew him well enough to call him a given name, called him John--the people who really were close to him called him Gil. I heard him express himself on the matter of the prefix to his name. He really preferred to be Mr. Winant. Now, I think this was partly an affectation, part of this Lincolnesque aura that was around him of the simple man; but he did express himself on that occasionally. I used to do it all the time, but I've noticed recently I've changed because I have realized that people don't know to whom I'm referring, while if I say "Ambassador Winant" or "Governor Winant," they have some association. Of course there are fewer and fewer people now who know the name at all, but of those who do know it, they only identify it as Ambassador Winant or Governor Winant.
Q: You keep alluding to this Lincolnesque aura. Did he have ambitions to be President?
Mulliner: Oh, yes. This was his tragedy. Oh, yes, he wanted this so much. And yet when it came to some of the crucial decisions like in 1936, he knew he was completely alienating himself from the Republican party when he resigned his position as chairman of the Social Security Board to fight his own party in the presidential campaign. After that then his only possibility--and of course by temperament this was agreeable to him--was to build himself up in the Democratic party. This is one of the reasons why in 1945 and after President Roosevelt died, he was so disappointed. I think I mentioned to you before that President Roosevelt had indicated to Gil that he was going to propose him as the first director-general of the United Nations. This then what he was focussing on, and this is one of the reasons I came back to San Francisco for the U.N.O. Conference of 1945 from London. I had been with UNRRA, too, and I was to be his eyes and ears in these developing international organizations, you see, in connection with this hope. Well, then you can just imagine how we felt in April 1945 when we learned of President Roosevelt's death. I was here then. Even so, Gil kept on hoping. And even after all those hearings in London as to where the United Nations would be located and it was clear that the location was going to be in the United States and there was no possibility then in my mind that a United States citizen could be head of the United Nations when the United States got the permanent seat, Gil kept hoping. That is the nature of human beings. He kept right on hoping. The day came when he had lunch with Bevin--this was Ernest Bevin, the foreign secretary--and pushed him into telling him what the British government's position was. You see, they'd been evading. They loved Mr. Winant in London. As Bernard Bellush says, the academicians over there now are still aware of Mr. Winant and talking about him. Of course Foreign Minister Bevin had been avoiding a talk with Gil on this subject because when he was pushed to it he was going to have to tell him that the British government, of course, couldn't support him for the director-general. And I didn't know that that had happened at this luncheon when he came back to the embassy this Saturday afternoon, and oh, he was in such a vile mood. His nerves during those months were all on edge. He was just like this all the time, so he could be upset over what appeared to be trivia. But, it wasn't until two days later that I learned that this was what he had found out that day, and I just wished I had known at the time, because instead of being compassionate and understanding I was very out of patience with him for being so ugly. He was ugly with one of the men who worked for him and who just adored him. I scolded him about this, and then of course he took some of it out on me, which he'd never done before, never. This was simply devastating to me.
Then he left to spend the week-end at the Eden's that night and Sunday. I promptly went home and wrote out my letter of resignation and took it over to the house where he lived and slipped it through the letter slot in the door. I didn't think he was going to be back till Monday morning, and about 12 o'clock Sunday night the phone rang in my flat. I didn't answer it. But a friend of mine who was working for UNRRA, Helen Jeeter, was staying with me right then. She was en route to Vienna, Austria with UNRRA: She was one of these people who had helped set up the statistical program in the early days in both the FER and the Social Security Board, and she was in London temporarily and was staying at my flat. She finally got up and answered the phone. She came to my bedroom door and said, "Maurine, you're wanted on the telephone." She said, "The embassy is calling."
I said, "Well, I'm not going to answer."
She said, "Maurine, you have to answer it. It's the ambassador!"
So I got up and went and talked to him, and of course he was full of apologies for the way he had acted and we both wept. He said that I was the only person over there who understood him at all and if I left, he'd be lost. And it was true. He was terribly dependent upon the few people who were close to him. I said, "All right, I'll come in this morning."
Well, we got over that. What got me sidetracked? Oh, his wanting to be President. Well, after the United Nations business was out so far as being director-general was concerned, and his resignation had been on President Truman's desk since he had taken office, the question was: what next? It was just routine, you know, for all ambassadors to resign. And when I went back to London from San Francisco in June, 1945, it was kind of with a question in my mind: Would I be there two days or three days or four days before President Truman accepted Gil's resignation and we'd all be coming back to the United States? We were living in this kind of never-never land all through these months.
When the United Nations director-generalship was clearly out, Gil still had a great need for a public career and still somehow or other hoped to get into the Presidential race. So it seemed apparent that he had to keep a public office. If you don't have a platform, who listens to you? In looking at this United Nations set-up, what looked like the spot for him? He'd been head of the International Labor Office. He'd been with the international textile business, so the place was in the Economic and Social Council set-up of the United Nations. So then some of us talked it over. One of the key foreign service officers, who was in London at the time, and who was fond of Mr. Winant and was close to him and on whom Gil depended a lot, and I talked with him about being the U.S. representative on the Economic and Social Council. He didn't want to do this. He was worn-out; he was exhausted. And, this was typical of him, he had some months before signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin to do three books. He had never mentioned it, and he knew he had to have some free time here if he was ever to write these three books, and the time schedule that was in this contract was utterly ridiculous for a man like him. The hardest thing in the world for him to do was to write, or to talk. This was one of the anomalies of his being in public life.
Well, I kept saying, "You know, people say you are not a Democrat, and I say, 'But he was appointed by President Roosevelt as ambassador to the Court of St. James,' and the answer is 'That was done on a purely personal basis; they were personal friends, and it doesn't indicate any allegiance to the Democratic party on his part." I said, "It seems to me the key next step for you is to be appointed by a Democratic President whom you don't know personally to a high post, and that could be the U.S. representative on the Economic and Social Council."
Well, anyway, it finally worked out and this happened. And those few months in New York when he was in that spot and didn't want to be in it, was annoyed at everything he had to do in connection with it, were quite trying. He'd turn to me and say: "I wouldn't be in this spot if it weren't for you." And I'd laugh and say, "No, you wouldn't, but I think it's the right place for you at this time, and some day you'll appreciate that fact." Well, he really appreciated it then, but he liked to have something to complain about.
Even at that point he was still hopeful that he could stay in the political spotlight.
Q: Once you're bitten by the bug...
Mulliner: Exactly. And, you know, in that speech he made at the welcome-home dinner at the Waldorf Astoria when be came back from England in 1946, which the United Nations Association sponsored for him, he said (he threw out kind of a challenge), "Are you doing as much as you can for your country at this time? I know I am not." And, you know, there was really something stirring about this. He really wanted to be back in national politics.
Q: What about the Social Security Board as a stepping stone? Was it an appropriate place for him to be?
Mulliner: Well, he was a minority member, you see, There had to be no more than two of one political party, and Altmeyer and Miles were Democrats, and Winant was the Republican nominee on that. So he was moving along in Republican channels at that point. He'd been Republican governor for three terms in New Hampshire. No other man had ever had three terms as governor of New Hampshire. He beat Frank Knox, which was really something, you know, in one of those races for governor.
I don't know that you'll get all this in the book on Mr. Winant that Dr. Bellush is publishing, but at least parts of it will be in there. I don't know how much he'll use.
Q: Well, we should discuss thoroughly everything that relates to Social Security. This decision to leave the Social Security Board and to campaign for Roosevelt...
Mulliner: He really was campaigning against the misrepresentations the Republican party was making to the country about the Social Security program.
Q: What kind of misrepresentations?
Mulliner: Oh, they were saying that everybody was going to have to wear a dog collar with their number on it and that the trust fund arrangement was just a hoax, that there wouldn't be any money there when it came time to pay--you know, really the most crass and unwise and foolish misrepresentations.
Q: Did Townsend play a part in this?--the Townsend people?
Mulliner: I think they did, but I don't remember the situation now. You see, technically, he didn't have to resign to do this. He could have spoken out any time any place to correct these misstatements, but he had an extremely high concept of public service and particularly that the Social Security program itself should not become a partisan issue. It was for those reasons he resigned. There was no moral issue because he was a political appointee on a political board. It was just that he wanted to maintain this high standard of a non-political administration of the Social Security program that he resigned. You must have a copy of that letter of resignation, I'm sure. It was a beautiful letter that he wrote to the President.
Q: That's undoubtedly in the files.
What about the speculation that he may also at that point have not felt very happy with the job, that he really was restless in the job of chairman of the Board and that he in a sense wouldn't have done it had he not wanted at that point to move on?
Mulliner: I don't know what those people think he was thinking of moving on to. It seemed to me that he was moving into a void. But of course he was restless. I never saw him a day in his life when he wasn't restless. This was his temperament.
Q: Was he dissatisfied, though, or did he feel out of place with the kinds of administrative pressure and climates that the job demanded of him? Perhaps he wasn't really interested in doing the job?
Mulliner: I don't know about that, and I think, while I'm not the person to go into it and there's no need to go into it here, his own personal life was a nightmare at that time. You know, you can't cut up a man into parts and have one part not be affected by what's going on in the other part.
Q: Well, maybe we should move on to some of the other people then. What about Walton Hamilton?
Mulliner: Well, now, here was a man who dared to be himself. I was shocked at him then. I think I would be delighted with him now that I'm a little more knowledgeable about people. But he was kind of a free soul, both intellectually and emotionally. You know, he deserted his wife of many years and was trotting around with a little girl who looked as if she was about 16 years old at this time, whom he later married; and she was completely unconventional and brilliant. She had a sister who was too. And that probably was wonderful for him because he was brilliant and perhaps his first wife wasn't able to meet him on the intellectual plane that these younger ones did. But the most exciting and perhaps inaccurate stories went around about the personal and private life of these people, but that's what they were. They were above and beyond the rest of us mundane people who were conformists. And he was a brilliant man. He wrote beautifully.
Q: What do you know about his background?
Mulliner: I was just trying to think. I did know something about it at one time, but at the moment I can't call up any of it. But, you know, there is a volume which I put together. It's a three-ring big binder. I guess there are two or three binders by now. I'm just a squirrel at heart, I guess, because right from the beginning I started accumulating the press releases and the announcements of appointments of anybody to any key position in the Social Security Board, and then I kept on doing it for the Federal Security Agency and HEW up to the time I left. It showed when they came and anything special they did when they were there that got into the public press and then the announcement when they left. A girl who was on my staff when I left, Mrs. Toni Peltonen, who is now in Joe Meyer's office, has those binders. That's the place where most quickly you can get a little bio on any of these key people without having to hunt through a whole lot of material because it's all right there together.
Q: It's good to know, although, as you know, sometimes these things don't got into press releases.
Mulliner: Well, no, but when you asked about the background of Walton Hamilton, you see, where he was educated, where he was born and what university he was in when he came with us: that sort of background would be there.
Q: But the really relevant things like his family background...
Mulliner: Oh, no. No, no, no. It would just be the usual public factual information.
Q: How about Henry Aronson?
Mulliner: Henry grew up in New York City. He has a very attractive sister whose husband worked for the Social Security program, Mrs. Jacob Perlman. Her husband is now retired, and he takes on quite a few foreign assignments--short-term ones. He's an expert in the statistical field. Henry was able to escape matrimony longer than most young men. He was with, I believe, military government during World War II. At any rate, he was in London off and on when I was there, and he used to take me out to dinner now and then when he'd be in London for a short time. And somewhere in his military contacts he met a charming and very intelligent British lady who was married and had a son, and it was a real romance, and she divorced her husband and she and Henry were married, and they now live right over here on Military Road. And the child had either a speech or a hearing handicap, and Henry was just beautiful in his efforts with that youngster to build a relationship with him, and the youngster was pretty well along by the time Henry came into his life--I guess eight or nine or ten years old.
I think Henry's earlier life was not a real hardship story out of New York City, my guess is. I think he was comfortably reared and educated.
He was with the Agricultural Adjustment Program when the Board picked him up and asked him to come over and be the personnel director.
Q: How would you describe his work with the Board?
Mulliner: Courageous, invaluable because he held the line in connection with merit appointments at the time it was most important to have somebody as director of personnel who would do that. I think he probably was a little too rigid--not for the good of the service but for his own good in working relationships in the organization. But I think he was the right person in the right spot at the right time and did a fine job.
Q: I guess we did talk, didn't we, about the situation in which Henry Aronson was finally moved out of the personnel job.
Mulliner: Yes, I think we went into that earlier. That's why I didn't bring it up again.
Q: What about Bill Mitchell? Have we talked about him?
Mulliner: Not very much. I'll tell you what I know about Bill and then we can wind up for the day. Bill Mitchell came in through the NRA. He was one of those people who came into the program because the NRA was dismantling after the chicken case. He came in to head up the Business Management work that Jim Bennett had been doing in those initial months. I didn't see a great deal of Bill in those early years because there were very few occasions when the director of the Bureau of Business Management needed to come into the Board meetings. He wasn't developing any policy papers that had to be considered and that sort of thing. I do know that he worked so hard at this arduous task of getting enough people, enough space, enough budget to move ahead with the programs that he had an illness which must have been sort of a breakdown, in the course of which he lost all his hair. I remember he was on leave and and took a long cruise; got on a freighter on the East Coast and went around through the Panama Canal and up to the West Coast and then came back. And at that time Dr. Henry Sebrell was with the Public Health Service; later became the first director of the National Institutes of Health when they were organized, and he was a brilliant man in the field of nutrition. Henry Sebrell told Bill about some new vitamin that might do something for his hair, and, by golly, he took it and all his hair came in and today he has the most beautiful head of hair you ever saw.
Bill was a handsome, gay young man with four children--three then. He had one come along later, one of those surprise babies you have when you think you're all through with your family. His wife is just a dear--Jessie. She's from Maine. Bill was born in Port Washington, New York; grew up in a home that was comfortably well off and got a good education; came to Washington and took a job while he was still in school with a surveying outfit for the Department of the Interior. That's how he started his government career. He went to Georgetown University and finished up there and was in the Bureau of Domestic and Foreign Commerce. When the Democrats came in--I may be wrong about this, but to me it looked like to get even with President Hoover they decimated his Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, which he had built up and was such a big thing when he was Secretary of Commerce. Well, Bill lost his job and that's how he happened to be with NRA. Anyway, he'd met his wife Jessie when she was a stenographer in the government. They got married, worked things out together, and had just a fine family and appear to have had one of those mighty nice marriages that everybody would like to have, a happy home life for him. He's Catholic and his religion means a great deal to him. I think in the times of stress and strife it's been a great comfort to him because of his feeling about his church and his religion. He never wanted to be Commissioner. He moved from being director of the Bureau of Business Management to being assistant executive director of the Social Security Board, to being an assistant director in the Bureau of Employment Security--at this time John Corson was beefing that up to do the war job. He brought Bill into the Bureau to be in charge of the employment service side, to get that going. Then Bill moved out of that job into being the assistant commissioner when the organization was changed; so there was not a board--there was a commissioner.
Then when Mr. Altmeyer left and they had a couple of fly-by-night commissioners who were just there long enough to tide the Administration over some difficult spot and then go--Tramberg and Schottland--, they finally talked Bill Mitchell into taking this: over his own wishes, and I never thought he'd last a year.
Q: Over his own wishes?
Mulliner: He didn't want to be commissioner. He knew he was a good second man, but he didn't want that responsibility, and he never should have taken it on. Now this is just my interpretation. But when a man has been a career civil servant for 30 some odd years it was by then, because he had started when he was in college, you see, and has never had to adjust to the political pressures that really are the final determinant of any government policy, it is devastating to have to fill that role. You see, when you're the deputy commissioner you can stand by the program people and what they think should be done in the way of legislation or in the way of an issue with the states on the merits of a program position and you're comfortable; you know this is right and you can sustain your support of it. When you're the commissioner or the Secretary of the Department, you have to meet the political demands of the White House, and the Congress in relation to every one of these things, and you have to make compromises; and it takes real toughness and real courage and a thick skin.
Q: And sometimes the ability to defend things you don't believe is in.
Mulliner: That's right. Then you have to publicly go out and defend something which you personally would rather weren't being promoted. Well, it was too late for Bill to make those adjustments. He was uncomfortable. He never was at ease in that position, he did stay two years, which surprised me. I didn't think he had enough resiliency combined with toughness in him to stand up under these conflicts, but he did. And no man was ever happier to give up a position than he when he resigned as commissioner, I think.
Q: (What about Marjorie Shearon?)
Mulliner: As you know, Marjorie Shearon was one of the early staff people in the Social Security Board in the research division and made the major contribution in the development of the economic brief that was used in the Supreme Court case that tested the constitutionality. She is a woman of keen intelligence, but in the opinion of some of us, her judgment leaves something to be desired. And as Dr. Falk, who was director of the Bureau of Research and Statistics, became more and more interested in, and almost preoccupied with, the development of some kind of medical care program of an insurance type, differences became more clear-cut with Mrs. Shearon. Now, there were no doubt other things; and Mrs. Merriam, who I think was on the staff at that time, would be able to give a picture from a much closer point of view than mine of the relationships there. But, at any rate, things became extremely difficult. And through whose efforts, I don't know, Mrs. Shearon transferred to the Public Health Service to a research position over there.
This is an amusing story about how they handled her when she became a problem to them. It wasn't long before there were problems, because she was so zealous about what she was doing that she didn't consider any other aspect of a program. It was just that she must have all of the resources and all of the staff that were needed to get a quick development of whatever her project was, and she became more and more annoyed with the supervision in the Public Health Service, as she had been critical of it in the Social Security Board; and she wrote a memorandum, a very brief, direct memorandum, up through channels saying that she was very unhappy about the delays and the lack of affirmative response to her request for x number of dollars or x number of positions needed to move forward her project which was so important, and she had reached the point where she was obliged to say that if these could not be provided, she would be unable to continue her work on the project. And this went up through channels to the top. I guess--to the surgeon-general, and he wrote on the bottom of it (put the date), that the PHS was unable to provide these resources and therefore he was accepting Mrs. Shearon's resignation and sent it back through channels, in accordance with her memorandum.
Q: Oh, dear. She trapped herself.
Mulliner: That's right. And he was in a position to take advantage of it.
Then, as you know, she developed her own little independent service to the medical profession. She got support on the Hill from, as I remember, Senator Taft. I think even Senator Murray for a time was receptive to some of her stories. Then she was on the staff of either Senator Taft's immediate staff or one of his committees for quite a while, and then when that ended she got some kind of a small subsidy from somewhere and put out her own news communication.
Q: I've been told that there was an anti-Semitic aspect of some of Marjorie Shearon's attitudes.
Mulliner: It seemed to me there was clearly one, that it wasn't just her professional pique but that she assumed from his name that Mr. Altmeyer was Jewish, too, and lumped the three of them--Altmeyer, Cohen, and Falk--together as Jewish men who were exercising their power in an unhealthy way in the federal government.
Q: Do you know how she came to work at Social Security?
Mulliner: No. I don't. The first I knew of her was when I heard of this lady who was a real problem in the Bureau of Research and Statistics.
Q: What was she like physically? How would you characterize her?
Mulliner: Well, what comes to my mind right off in an association response is that she looked something like the traditional picture of a spinster. The rigidity of her led to this picture. She was a perfectionist, you know. Things had to be just right and just her way.
Q: I have the impression that despite her serious distortions and her own biases and her relatively minor role in the history of Social Security as a contributor to it, that she did play an important part in shaping the attitudes of some of the opponents of Social Security.
Mulliner: I think she did, because for them she seemed to speak from a position of inside knowledge. She had been on the staff, and until people realized that she was just so venomous in her appraisal of proposals because of her strong feelings against the individuals who were proposing them, they were convinced by her ideas and arguments. So she continued to have support from some of the Senators and Congressmen on the Hill long after it seemed apparent to people who knew her better that she wasn't reliable because of her personal vendetta.
Q: We've mentioned Isadore Falk here. Perhaps we could talk a little bit about him and his role in Social Security.
Mulliner: Yes, when I used the word "rigid" in connection with Mrs. Shearon, I can say that to a considerable extent, although not as extreme a degree, it applied to Dr. Falk, too. He had a determination to have his proposals and views accepted, and he would push to try to persuade the top people to his point of view, sometimes beyond the point of their patience lasting. His real exceptional ability was recognized by these people, but his doggedness in pursuing some of his ideas got to be an irritation at times--so much so that I fear the last few years of his service in the Social Security Administration were not very happy ones for him, because he felt that the powers weren't listening to him with the receptiveness that they should have been.
Q: One of the important issues in which Isadore Falk played an important role was, of course, the national health insurance fight. I wonder if you could perhaps characterize his role in that.
Mulliner: I don't believe I'm competent to do that. The Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill was developed while I was away from the Social Security programs with UNRRA and with Ambassador Winant in London. So while I had the impression after coming back in 1947 that he must have made a fundamental and extensive contribution to the thinking that went into that legislation, I just wasn't here. Whatever thoughts or feelings I have about this I picked up after the fact.
Q: Do you have any knowledge of the relationships of various personalities to the policy or strategy issues, I should say--what kind of approach should be taken in pressing forward with health insurance or backing away from it and trying some other approach?
Mulliner: I'm quite sure there were differences of opinion between him and some of his superiors with respect to those decisions, but I, again, can't recall the details enough to speak about it. I can tell one little personal aside here that I happen to know about. That was one of many conversations that Frank Bane had with Mrs. Hobby of Texas, whom he had gotten to know through his Council of State Governments work. She consulted him a great deal when she decided she was going to take over the Department of HEW--FSA, I guess it was then: the Federal Security Agency. Of course, it was known then that Mr. Altmeyer was leaving, because he let that be known early in 1953. She was consulting Mr. Bane about people in the Social Security Administration, who were on her list to be replaced. He talked to her in an objective advisory role and advised her strongly not to handicap herself by getting rid of Wilbur Cohen and Dr. Falk, as it had been planned that she would do, and she didn't. Now, Dr. Falk, as I recall, was offered a somewhat different kind of a position and didn't' want to take it. I believe he left, rather than take the different position. Wilbur stayed on for some time, and she recognized the ability that he had and that she needed. But I think she would have moved right away on both of those people if she hadn't had someone whose judgment she trusted and who also understood the political pressures under which she was operating in advising her on these matters.
Back to Falk: I really don't know very much about him. He was a hard-working, able, dedicated man who was under attack from some sources because his professional field of specialization wasn't one that would ordinarily develop a person promoting the kinds of programs he was promoting. So he was attacked often.
Q: He didn't have the professional credentials.
Mulliner: Yes--from that angle. I forget what he was now--a bacteriologist or something, some kind of specialty in the public health field. But my personal opinion of him is that he was a valuable staff member and made contributions beyond those made by most staff members and was subject to vilification that was completely without basis, and he stood up under it extremely well.
Q: Do you have any knowledge of how he came to work at Social Security and why he was brought in? Was he brought in primarily to work on this?
Mulliner: I can't remember now. If I had the records and could see when he came in, that would give me a basis maybe for recalling some of the details, but I don't.
Q: Of course he had just finished publishing a book on this very subject, as I recall.
Mulliner: That would indicate that he was brought in to make that kind of a contribution in the Social Security Board.
Q: How about Wilbur Cohen? We've alluded to him several times. I wonder if we could perhaps talk about him in a little bit more detail. You know quite a bit about Wilbur Cohen.
Mulliner: Yes, I do. I know a lot about him and am one of his admirers--in fact, just had a birthday dinner for him this spring here with some of his old friends.
One of my amusing exchanges with Wilbur over the years has been related to his reputation as an administrator. When he went to the University of Michigan, I think the name of the chair which he took--it was a special position set up--was public welfare administration. And I laughed and said he was the last person in my book to be teaching administration. He couldn't even supervise his own secretary, which is an unfair thing to say, because there are a lot of man who are pretty good administrators who can't supervise their own secretaries for one reason or another. But this all goes back to a time in the early ‘40s when, I thought, to give Wilbur an increase in salary which wouldn't be available in his position as special assistant or technical assistant to the chairman of the Board or to the Commissioner of Social Security, which was the title he carried for a great many years, he was made assistant director of the Bureau of Research. I don't think he ever changed one iota of what he was doing for Mr. Altmeyer while he carried this title. At the same time I was assistant director of the Bureau of Employment and Security and Gertrude Gates was assistant director of the Bureau of Public Assistance. And we set up a society of frustrated assistant directors, and we used to have lunch together once a month just to commiserate with one another about the difficulties of being an assistant bureau director. And Wilbur actually shouldn't have been eligible to belong because he wasn't coping with the frustrations of being an assistant bureau director because he was the right hand of the Commissioner or the chairman of the Board, and really knew little about the frustrations of being an assistant bureau director. But we were such good friends that we enjoyed getting together for lunch whatever the excuse was, and if we had a little organization, then we managed to do it more regularly than we would have otherwise.
I can't remember when Wilbur stopped being assistant director of the Bureau of Research, but I was the first one to leave. I resigned to go to UNRRA, and Gertrude Gates resigned because she was going to get married, but she never got married. We've had a lot of fun about that over the years. I said to her, "You just didn't have the fortitude it takes to say you were resigning because you couldn't take it any longer. You had to bring in an extraneous reason." Well, as a matter of fact, she did think of getting married, and this had some substance, but she changed her mind before she got married. So that kind of broke up the assistant directors' association. One had never really been an assistant director, and the two women couldn't take it any longer, and they quit.
Well, Wilbur and I were in touch with each other all through the years. When I was in London I'd hear from him occasionally. I think on the record somewhere is the story of how we were trying to get Mr. Altmeyer as the U.S. representative on the Social Commission of the United Nations when I was in London, how Wilbur said Ellen Woodward would telephone me to ask me why I wasn't getting this done, and I would tell them that I wasn't getting it done because somebody in the State Department in Washington was frustrating me. I'm sure that's in the record somewhere.
Q: Yes. It is.
Mulliner: So then when I came back to the U.S. and to Social Security my contacts with Wilbur weren't too direct. I think there's also in the record another story, how I got his cooperation in trying to change the administrative assistant to Mr. Altmeyer as commissioner because the woman in the job did things the way he wanted them done instead of the way I thought they should be done for the good of the organization. And there was another woman who had been in the job before who was willing and eager to go back into it, and I worked out with Wilbur then, who was assistant to the commissioner once more (and maybe he still carried the title of assistant director for research all through the years), that he would take the first girl onto his staff to do a job if I could get Altmeyer to give her up and take back the other one. But Altmeyer was, too smart. When I went in to talk to him about it, he said, "No, I don't want to do that." He said, "I'm much more comfortable with Kay than I would be with Leona. Leona nags me about too many things." You know, he's so forthright. He would say that if that's what he thought. He knew right away that he didn't want to be nagged into doing things, consulting people he didn't want to consult. This is just an indication, that Wilbur was willing to go along with that if it could be worked out.
He grew so much in the years he was away at the University of Michigan. It was a delight to me. He was pretty doctrinaire before he left. I had been off on some assignment, six months with the National Defense Advisory Council, which had given me a breather from the Establishment. Then I had been with UNRRA and with Ambassador Winant in London, and I couldn't be as patriotic and nationalistic about the Social Security Board or the commissioner's edicts as the people who wanted me to be when I came back, you know. The fact that I didn't feel the place was going to go to pot when the Republicans came in was held against me, and this was just heresy, you know. I was saying that we needed to be challenged; we needed to be shaken up. Here we were for 26 years--'36 to ‘53; my arithmetic isn't very good.
Q: Seventeen years.
Mulliner: Yes, 17 years, and no one had really challenged us and certainly we couldn't be that good. We had gotten used to thinking about certain things in certain ways, and maybe it wasn't the best way now; so why not be open-minded about these people who were coming in and making us justify what we were doing. Well, this was just heresy. I know now and then through the years when the Council of State Governments would take a position on some legislation that wasn't just down the line on what the Establishment wanted, oh, Wilbur would be so critical of that Frank Bane. You know, he was a traitor to his class and turncoat because he was taking this other positions. And I would says, "Now, if he can't support the people he's working for, he ought to quit. Why should you expect him to follow the Social Security line for the rest of his life just because he helped to set up this organization?" Wilbur couldn't see this.
Well, after he'd been out at the University of Michigan and came back, there was a lot to be said for what was going on in the localities and in the states. It was just one of the best things that ever happened to him.
Q: A real education.
Mulliner: This young man who had come straight out of college into these programs and stayed right with them and had, as we all are apt to if we aren't compelled to be more open-minded, gotten to thinking about certain things in certain ways; and he and I used to have some real vigorous arguments before he went to Michigan about state responsibility, and he was inclined just to point out that the federal government had to do this and had to do that because the states weren't doing it. Really he and some of the other people reached a point where you'd think that the only thing that would save the country would be to have the states abolished. Well, certainly I thought the states hadn't done what they should do.
In any case, the experience that Wilbur had at the state level and the local community level in Michigan was a post-graduate course for him that made all the difference in the world, I think, in his flexibility and his open-mindedness and so forth. But it also led after he was back at the Secretary's level to a lot of heartache on the part of his old colleagues in the Social Security Administration, because he was receptive to radical ideas with respect to the programs that they, because they'd been there and doing it this way for this many years just thought were heretical.
Q: He had moved beyond them.
Mulliner: Yes. And I would point out that not only was he obliged to listen to these new ideas for program reasons, but when you get to either the commissioner's or the Secretary's level, everything has to be considered for its political implications, and he wasn't any longer making just straight pure program decisions. He was making program decisions that hopefully would be politically acceptable to the people who could accept or reject them. And, you know, it's really hard for a good many professional people in the Welfare field particularly to recognize that this is a step in government that is essential. It's a part of the whole system, and people have to fill that role, and it's much better to have somebody filling that role who really knows your programs and recognizes what compromises will mean in a program than it is to have a strictly political person in those jobs who isn't aware of what the program implications would be for the political expediencies that have to be adopted.
Well, Wilbur at times in recent years has been criticized very much in the organization by the people who once thought he was perfect and could do no wrong, and I think generally because they won't accept this political aspect of his present job.
Q: Is there perhaps another aspect to the situation, too--some of the very thing that Wilbur at an earlier day criticized Frank Bane for? It's been said that the vision that the Social Security envisioned at its simplest philosophical level involved a notion of a system which could meet all of the contingencies and economic hazards of modern industrial society as a protective device and that perhaps in recent years there's been a lot of rethinking of this original notion and that there are more complex ideas and other approaches besides social insurance coming into play, and that in a sense to keep up with these forces one has to move away from a complete to identification with Social Security as the only mechanism for dealing with these problems.
Mulliner: I think that's true. We're getting a little away from Wilbur now, although he played a role in it.
Q: What I'm suggesting is that perhaps Wilbur Cohen has done this, made this transition.
Mulliner: I think that's true, and a good many other people haven't. You know there are a good many people in the programs now who won't say one kind word for the war on poverty because it undertook to do certain things that were the prerogatives of their mandates, which they had never been able for whatever reason to carry out; and my position was: it has to go outside, because we're too routinized; we're too used to thinking in one way to break through and try these new things, and get it out and let them experiment and let them try. If something gets going, then I wouldn't ordinarily see any objection to its being moved back into a going structure, so that you don't need to have too many organizations going. But I don't think the bureaucrats--and I don't want you to think that I say that term with condemnation because I am one myself--are the best people for innovation, and I think Wilbur has reached out and been open-minded about trying to develop novel and new approaches.
Now, I do think that Wilbur with the passage of the years has gotten a little bit pompous, but that doesn't matter--I love him anyway.
Q: Do you know anything about his childhood or his education or his early years at Social Security--how he came to play the role he did for the commissioner?
Mulliner: His father is a merchant, a small merchant of some kind in Milwaukee, and I don't know at just what age Wilbur's mother died, but I know that through a good many of the recent years the father's wife is his second wife. I've met the father. Each time Wilbur's been made an Assistant Secretary or Under Secretary, the father has come here, and I've always had a dinner party to celebrate the occasion and the father's been here. He's an unsophisticated small businessman who has all of that appealing emotionalism of the Jewish people. He told me that the first time he came when Wilbur came back as Assistant Secretary, he said, "I have never closed my store before for any reason other than a legal holiday, but I closed it yesterday when I flew here, and I put a sign on the door which said, "Closed because I have gone to Washington to see my son sworn in as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He just glowed all through this day. At the actual oath-taking, the tears came into his eyes and he said, "Oh, if only Wilbur's mother could be here now." So it was apparently a warm family relationship.
Q: His father is obviously very proud of his son.
Mulliner: Oh, extremely so. There's one brother--I forget now what the brother does--who I think all along was not so amenable to wanting an education and pursuing an intellectual career as Wilbur. That's kind of vague in my mind, I don't remember much about that. Then Wilbur went on to the University of Wisconsin at Madison and got into some of Ed Witte's classes and got to working for Ed Witte, and Ed Witte brought him down here when he came to be executive director of the Committee on Economic Security, and Wilbur just stayed with the programs all through that time. Mr. Altmeyer, as a member of the Social Security Board, kept him on as his technical assistant; so there was continuity right straight through.
You asked me a little while ago about Charlie Schottland. One of the stories that Charlie tells about Wilbur that is, I think, sort of typical and illustrates this vast accumulation of knowledge and the continuity that Wilbur has on all developments in the Social Security program, is this: The first time or two after Charles Schottland became commissioner in ‘54 that he went to the Hill with Wilbur for hearings on Social Security matters, he was just so impressed. Of course, he'd been in touch with Wilbur through the years in his position as commissioner of welfare in California and knew of his abilities and knowledge. But he would say, "You know, the most esoteric question would be asked by one of those Senators, and Wilbur would dive into that little black bag and come up with a paper and it would have the answer on it." He was so impressed with the fact that if Wilbur didn't have it in his head, he had it all summarized on a paper in that brief case.
Of course, those men just relied completely on Wilbur--those temporary commissioners who came and went in those years. Wilbur left in ‘56 to go to Michigan.
I was chairman of the committee that planned the farewell for Wilbur, and in my many years of going to retirement parties or farewell parties, I don't think there was one that was more complete in its warmth and demonstrated affection than the one for Wilbur.
Through the years Wilbur had been using the small desk that had belonged to Ambassador Winant in the early days of the Social Security Board--not the big official desk, but the smaller desk that had been in a small inside office--and this meant a good deal to Wilbur. And the money that poured in for a retirement gift for him was tremendous. We worked it out though the property people that if we would replace that desk with a modern one of equal status and symbolism, we could substitute it and we could give Wilbur this desk as a farewell gift. And one of the people who had worked through all the years from the 1930s for the Social Security Board in the business management end of things was a man named Brailer, who was very clever with his hands. He was down in the part of the shop that worked with space and purchasing and all that kind of thing. And he, as a labor of love, hand carved a miniature desk, replica of this desk, for Wilbur that we could have at the farewell dinner in making the presentation. And of course letters came in from everywhere. And we set up the dinner, which must have been in February or some such month, out at the Hot Shoppe, a restaurant in Silver Springs. And the three Cohen boys were all there. At about four o'clock of the afternoon of the dinner, one of the worst sleet storms in the history of Washington descended upon us. And here were all the people way down there in southwest Washington who had to get all the way out to Silver Spring. So the question was: call it off or not call it off? Well, it was a great crisis, and we just decided we wouldn't call it off. We'd just go ahead and if people couldn't get there, they just couldn't get there. The Cohens were leaving any day for Ann Arbor.
People got there. There were any number of them who came out in taxis, including Frank Bane. One taxi would get stuck, and they'd just get out on the street and thumb another ride. And hundreds of people got to that farewell dinner. Everyone who was to make a talk--and I forget who they were now--was there. Mr. Altmeyer came back from Madison, Wisconsin for it. And Jane Hoey came back from New York for it, and Frank Bane came from Chicago for it--all the old timers came for it and got there. It was just one of the most heart-warming events that you could have, at the close of which the three Cohen boys said, "And that's our dad." They had been so impressed with all the things that had been said and the songs that had been written and all these things. Here was this guy they'd just been treating like a run-of-the-mill father, you know, who was kind of dopey, as children think their parents are. And they were so outspoken in their pleased bewilderment that their father was this remarkable man--it was a delight to see.
This was indicative--that party for Wilbur--that people got there regardless of the weather and with the taxis breaking down.
Q: What was Wilbur Cohen's reaction to all of this?
Mulliner: Oh, the tears came now and then. He's a warm-hearted, sentimental guy, too. When he got up to make his remarks, he really had a difficult time and had to start several times. I think we intended to have all that tape-recorded, and I don't remember whether the equipment got there and it was recorded or not, but the tributes were generous but well-deserved. It was sort of an end of an era for the old-timers in Social Security, because, you know, first Bane had left. Well, first Winant had left actually, and then Bane and then Altmeyer, and now with Wilbur going, we recognized this as the end of a chapter. But I don't think anyone ever received the tributes that Wilbur did.
Q: Why did he leave?
Mulliner: Let me see: He found it extremely difficult to work on the limited program proposals that the Republicans were willing to sponsor. Some of his free-wheeling relationships with the Hill necessarily had to be curtailed. He wasn't foreclosed completely, but, you know, he'd had carte blanche all through the years to be in touch with anybody on anything, and naturally the Republican hierarchy couldn't have that going on; so this was not conducive to his enjoyment of his job. It was true that his boys were getting to the point where college education was going to be a real heavy expense, and, as you know, the advantage of being a college professor when you have children to educate is considerable. And they offered him, you see, a great deal more money than he was getting in the federal government.
So I think it was two things: One, the job was restrictive compared to what it had been. He needed the money, and this seemed the time to make a break if he were ever going to get experience outside of the federal service.
You see, Wilbur doesn't have even a master's degree, and there had to be a special position set up for him to have the kind of status that this professorship carried. And of course his friend Fedele Fauri was able to work this out with I guess, Soapy Williams as the governor then, and with the Legislature for this particular chair to be set up that a person with Wilbur's limited academic background, as far as teaching in a university was concerned, could occupy.
Q: It's also been suggested by some people familiar with these events that another consideration was that Wilbur Cohen could perhaps do more, would actually have a freer hand to work on the legislation as he saw fit and to continue his contacts with the Hill, if he were outside the government.
Mulliner: Right, I'm sure all the people in the APWA and these other organizations were aware of that. Fedele Fauri, who was head of this department at the University of Michigan, was in a key position to help work this out.
Q: Yes. And I would presume that also before Wilbur left, he touched base with Senators and Congressmen on the Hill that he had long-standing relationships with.
Mulliner: I would expect so. I never knew about it, but it's just logical.
Q: So that it wasn't really as complete a break. It was an institutional break, but in terms of...
Mulliner: He changed his base of operations, but he continued to come back as a spokesman for these various groups before the Congressional committees. In fact, he was back in Washington maybe ten percent or more of his time.
Q: Would he usually stay in a hotel then when he was here?
Mulliner: Yes, sometimes with friends. You know, they were very good friends with the Waytinsky's. If you have time and want to get personal comments from a keen intellect, you can interview Mrs. Emma Waytinsky whose husband is now dead, but he had been an economist with the Social Security Board in the ‘40s and was an internationally known economist, as she is, and they've been close personal friends. As a matter of fact, when Wilbur came back here to take the Assistant Secretary position--his family stayed in Michigan until the school year was over--he lived with Mrs. Waytinsky out here on 39th Street just off Military Road during that interval. I used to go out and pick him up every morning and bring him to the office, because it was awfully difficult for him to get down there on public transportation from that address. It took so long. It took me about five minutes to run out there and get him and drive him down. I remember one morning he said, "I don't know why you do this, Maurine." There'd been a bad snowstorm and, you know, some kind of difficulty. I said, "Wilbur, all my life I've known that I was never going to make any really original contributions to better programs or better government, but I have found ways to help people who were doing that, and you're doing that kind of thing, and it's a joy for me in whatever way--even something as simple as picking you up every morning and taking you to your office--to help you to make the contributions that you're making. So don't consider it a chore. This is an opportunity for me."
Q: Do you have any general impressions of that period, those early days when he first came back?
Mulliner: Oh, yes, I do, because he brought people down in 1960 to work on the drafting of the education bill, you see--this was one of the real headaches of that period--a very dear friend of both of ours, Bernice Lotwin was brought into work on the education bill. She was from Wisconsin also and a wonderful person and brilliant. And Bernice is now the Regional Director in New York. She stays with me when she's in Washington, so ion that Spring of 1960 I had Bernice here in my guest room, and Bernice and I would go out and pick up Wilbur every morning. Because of this I heard a lot of discussion about what was going on in drafting the education bill and what they were trying to do and so on and so forth. They would say time and again that they were working the same kind of hours, you know--12, 14, 15 hours a day seven days a week--that they had been 25 years before, but it was telling on them now. They weren't as young as they had been in the early days of the New Deal. But there was much of that same kind of drive and determination and hard work going on for Kennedy that they had been doing for Roosevelt in the earlier years. But they were all that many years older.
Q: Of course one of the most important aspects of the new chapter that opened up when he came back to Washington was developing a new position and new set of relationships, working out the internal arrangements at HEW. I wonder if you have any impressions of how he responded to this situation.
Mulliner: He responded knowing that he was going to be bitterly criticized, particularly when the move was made to split up the Social Security Administration into the two parts--old age and survivors' insurance in one and the welfare programs in another. This was hard for him because he knew that Arthur Altmeyer didn't agree with this step, and Arthur had been his mentor and his sponsor and his guide all the years, and he really would never want to go against his advice and his views. And actually, there was a misunderstanding that developed at some point in that, so that Wilbur was saying to people that Mr. Altmeyer agreed with this. That arose, I believe, from a proposal to have some Under Secretaries at the Departmental level, one of whom would be in charge of social insurance and welfare. And with that arrangement, Mr. Altmeyer could see that you could split these things at the next level down as long as you had what was in effect the commissioner at that top level seeing that they didn't develop at cross-purposes or overlap. But somewhere along the line--I think for budget reasons, or maybe the Civil Service Commission wouldn't approve that Under Secretary in charge of welfare and Social Security--that got dropped out, and Mr. Altmeyer was not in favor of having this split unless there was that coordinating figure in there to devote full time to this job. So there was a lot of confusion around, with Wilbur saying, that Mr. Altmeyer agreed with this plan and Mr. Altmeyer not agreeing. I believe that it developed in the way I just explained.
Q: How about what came to be known as the Medicare bill, which then was the King-Anderson bill? Do you recall specifically the work he did on that in preparation of that, his outlook at that point and whether or not he was optimistic about it?
Mulliner: I've forgotten. What year was that?
Q: This was ‘61. He had headed a task force for President-elect Kennedy. Dean Clark was brought in, and there were of course many other people working on this, too--Nelson Cruikshank at the AF of L-CIO and so on.
Mulliner: No, I don't really remember anything about that.
Q: Do you recall any of his attitudes toward some of the people he was working with at that point--the new Secretary of HEW, then Secretary Ribicoff?
Mulliner: I don't know how things were immediately, but shortly after Ribicoff was in that position, Wilbur was very keen about him and enthusiastic about him. And Ribicoff would say in staff meetings to people at the Secretary's level, "Now, I admit I don't know what we're trying to do here, and most of you (these were the people he had brought in) don't know what we're trying to do here. Now, Wilbur does know what's going on here, and I want all of you to listen to Wilbur." So he relied on him greatly and cautioned his new people to rely on him, too.
Q: So that he developed a very good relationship with the Secretary very quickly, I gather.
Mulliner: Yes, because Ribicoff made it very plain--Did Ribicoff come in first or Celebrezze?
Q: No, Ribicoff.
Mulliner: Yes, that's right.
Q: Some difficulty developed, though, with one of his colleagues at that point, the Under Secretary, Ivan Nestingen. What do you know about that feud, if that's not too strong a word?
Mulliner: I really don't know too much about that. My personal opinion of Mr, Nestingen was that he was a pleasant gentleman who was no more aware of the complexities of a department like Health, Education and Welfare at the federal level than most other Americans, and he was completely overwhelmed by it. It just is such a giant step from being what he was, a mayor--isn't that what he was?
Q: Yes, of Madison, Wisconsin.
Mulliner: --to the federal level. Even to being commissioner of Social Security as it was in the old days, coming from being director of welfare in a state like California for Charlie Schottland, who was as quick on his feet and as alert and as bright as anybody could be, and pretty sophisticated about the political angles of this, moving from that level--the state level--to being commissioner at the federal level, was much more of an undertaking than the person anticipated. So to move from being mayor of Madison to the whole scope of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, I should think it would be such a discouraging business that in about the third week I'd want to pack up and go home. So it was inevitable, I think, that there would be difficulties, because Wilbur in a subordinate job knew so much more that it was natural that people would turn to him.
I did hear Wilbur talk once about some of the aspects of this difficulty, but I can't remember what he said. It was just in a small group when somebody said something about the newspaper stories about the feud. It doesn't come back to me now, so that's about all I can say on that.
Q: How about his relationships with people at the White House in the Kennedy Administration?
Mulliner: Well, he was really in, really in with those people, and I think they consulted him about lots of things that were beyond the scope of health, education and welfare. You know, Ted Sorensen once had worked in the Federal Security Agency. He was on the legal staff over there.
Q: Oh, really?
Mulliner: Yes. It was just for a short time, but he'd been one of our bright young lawyers over there. In addition to that, of course, Wilbur had worked with the Senator as a Senator and knew his staff people from that and then had worked in the campaign and Mrs. Cohen had worked in the campaign. They were on a personal first-name basis with the President.
Q: I gather, too, that during the years leading up to the campaign when he was coming to Washington f rom Ann Arbor frequently, some of his work was with Kennedy as Kennedy was developing a stance, a program.
Mulliner: Right, right. Oh, yes, Wilbur was in and out of here frequently on those missions.
Q: Did he ever express any attitudes toward President Kennedy and the Kennedy people?
Mulliner: My recollection is that it was a thoroughly pleasant relationship, and he was keen about the President and the way he worked and the people with whom he worked. I don't remember anything specific.
Q: Well, for example, the President's attitude toward Social Security, toward the King-Anderson bill. Did he seem to be satisfied with the way the President was supporting it?
Mulliner: I just don't recall having any occasion to hear him comment on that.
Q: I guess that after this initial period, the first six months or so, you weren't in daily touch with him.
Mulliner: Oh, no, and I didn't work on legislation, you see, so whatever contacts I had were outside the office during that period. They were social rather than business.
Q: Perhaps we could move on to a few other people. One of the most important in my mind is Nelson Cruikshank. I wonder what you know about him and his relationships to Social Security.
Mulliner: I never had really any close contacts with him. He was always one of the people relied upon in developing legislative proposals. He was considered a staunch friend of the Social Security program. He and Kitty Ellickson, who was his right-hand man through the years, were in and out of the offices of the program people, and he was nearly always appointed to the advisory committees having to do with Social Security or welfare, and Kitty would usually sit for him, be his alter-ego. So he was always in the picture, but I didn't have direct contacts with him because I didn't work directly on legislation.
Q: You don't know too much about his relationship with Wilbur Cohen?
Mulliner: I would have thought it was a close one. I know that the relationship with Kitty was very close. I always thought it was with Cruikshank.
Q: How about Elizabeth Wickenden?
Mulliner: There again I didn't have many direct contacts with her. She and Wilbur were good friends generally. I know they've had some differences. I consider her an unusually keen person intellectually, hard-driving, effective--unlike Kitty Ellickson, Wickie is not sensitive or responsive on a gentle, more social level. She's all hard-hitting business and was relied upon a good deal through the years for going before Congressional committees to present things and gathering support for proposals, and as far as I know, was always effective in what she was doing.
Q: How about Commissioner Ball? He's somebody that we haven't really talked about.
Mulliner: Well, he, as you probably know, started at either a grade 3 or a grade 5 employee in a New Jersey field office in the early days of the program and moved on up through the channels to head the whole show. I expected more of him as commissioner of Social Security than I felt he accomplished, but in retrospect I concluded that he had really taken the position as a holding operation, having been told in advance that his plan for the separation, the splitting up of the Social Security Administration would be proposed and if it went through, he wouldn't have to bother with the welfare side anymore. He'd be his own independent commissioner of Social Security. My guess is that in order to get him to take the commissioner of Social Security Administration when it was the whole show, he was promised that this other development would be attempted--the splitting of the two.
Q: You make it sound as though he didn't really want the job.
Mulliner: I don't think he did. I don't think he wanted to be responsible for all the welfare headaches that go with being head of the welfare programs at the federal level in this country. I think he was quite happy being the director of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance. That was his show; he could run it; he was the king pin. And while they had some federal-state programs because of the disability program, when it came along, they didn't compare with the federal-state complications that can develop in the welfare programs. No, I always felt that he must have only taken it as a holding operation, knowing that this other was coming. Well, either he isn't as effective an executive as I had thought he was from a distance when he was director of the OASI, or he didn't apply those abilities as a commissioner of the overall show because he was just sitting out a holding operation until the thing split up and he was able to devote his time to the social insurances again. I was just so sure he was going to move immediately to improve this and correct that because he couldn't help but know about them, but he didn't lift a finger to do anything during that period, he was the commissioner of the overall show. And this was a big disappointment to me.
Q: Do you recall any specific things?
Mulliner: Yes, I do, but I don't intend to put them on tape. I'll just be general about this. This is the only time I've been discreet in this whole show.
Q: That's quite all right.
Mulliner: Of course, on the other hand, much of the creative energy, if you will, of the Social Security Administration during these years was directed toward fighting the Medicare fight; so that this has to be put on the positive side of the ledger, too, it seems to me.
Q: Well, and of course there are those administrators before Ewing, too.
Mulliner; Well, those you mentioned.
Q: Yes, we could go back before Ewing.
Mulliner: The first one was McNutt, Paul McNutt, and in some ways he had the most difficult time because it was bringing together for the first time some groups, some of which had been independent, like the Social Security Board, vocational rehabilitation and public health, the office of education: Some of those had been in other departments, but trying to weld together those programs was very difficult, and I know we've talked and put on tape about some of the difficulties from the Social Security Board's point of view.
McNutt had an extremely able young man to assist him, Wayne Coy. McNutt was more the front man rather than the inside man. I think he had political ambitions that he thought would be enhanced by taking this job. My recollection is that he didn't really work terribly hard at it.
Then the next one was--Did Watson Miller succeed McNutt?
Q: Yes, I think you're right.
Mulliner: Well, he was just a figurehead--a sweet, gentle, kindly man, but never took hold at all. He didn't make any effort to do anything with the department or even run it; he just drifted along with it. Then I guess we had Ewing, and he was there because of his political ambitions, too. He brought in a couple of bright, bright, able men--one named Kingsley and one named John Thurston, both, able, both bright, and everything that Ewing publicly proclaimed I believe was designed to enhance his national image for political reasons. Some of his staff, and I assume he too, really thought he was going to be the Vice-Presidential candidate in ‘48.
Of course he tried to get the agency made into a department, too, while he was there, and it didn't come about. Then I guess we had Mrs. Hobby. Was she the next one? And she was frightened stiff all the time she was there. She was overwhelmed by the mammoth organization and I felt was just frightened. Other people thought she was, you know, aloof and inhuman, and she did build a barrier around herself with new people she brought in because she wasn't able to admit that she didn't know all that it would be desirable for the Secretary of the Department to know, and that it would be humanly impossible for anybody to know those things who hadn't grown up with it or been there for a long time.
So she had my sympathy all the time. She had the open criticism of most of the old-timers, but as far as I was concerned, I just felt sorry for her. And then of course the Salk vaccine crisis came up during her tenure, and out of her fear she made a bad decision and had a hard time with that.
Then she left and Folsom came, I guess. And of course as far as we were concerned, this was just one of our long-time friends coming in to work in a little different relationship, because he'd been on the Committee on Economic Security. He'd been on all our advisory councils through the years. There wasn't any period of getting acquainted as far as the key staff people were concerned. They'd been in touch all through the years. Then Flemming was there, and in my opinion Flemming ranks right at the top with the best Secretaries that department's had--he and Folsom; he and Folsom and Gardner, in my opinion, are by far the best heads of the Department we've had.
Now, there was a good deal of criticism of Flemming because he was kind of a slogan boy. You know, he'd pick up a phrase and ring the changes on it. The same criticism was made of him then as you hear now about George Romney, a certain piety, a certain religiosity that rubs some folks the wrong way--that if you just do good and have beautiful thoughts, everything will come out all right. But in addition to that, he knew the Agency because he'd been in government long enough to know it. In fact, I met Flemming first back in 1928 through a friend who also worked on U.S. News and World Report. I forget what it was called then--a little different name. They both worked there, and we used to double-date sometimes. The only difference was Flemming married the girl. I should put it this way: The girl he was going with then married him, and the girl my friend was going with then didn't marry him. But, at any rate, I'd known him then, and actually we thought he really wasn't very bright then. We thought he was kind of a nice guy but not too bright. Well, my gentleman friend has kept that idea all through the years, but I haven't. You know, you just have to be competent mentally to have done the things he has done and made the contributions he has made, but Allen won't concede that. He still thinks Flemming's a little lower than the average mentality. But what I started to say was that because of his experience in Washington, both in the educational field and Civil Service Commission and in the war agencies, he really knew government, how government worked, and he knew a lot about the Federal Security Agency. So he moved right in and was, I think, a good administrator, but he didn't stay so very long.
Q: He was there at a very difficult time, though, during the Medicare issue and the Forand bill.
Mulliner: And his personal opinions, you see, were more liberal than the Administration's, so this made it difficult for him. The same thing was true of Folsom. Their personal program views were ahead of the Eisenhower Administration. This made it hard for them.
Q: I've heard it said that Folsom resigned on this issue of health care for the aged. Does that jibe with your recollection?
Mulliner: I don't remember right now. You see, I haven't thought about these things. I don't remember.
Well, then we had Ribicoff and Celebrezze. Celebrezze never knew what it was all about. It was way above his head all the time. But being a politician, he had the front. In public he could carry off the role of being Secretary. He never got hold of the Department at all.
Q: Was his problem essentially the same as Ivan Nestingen?
Mulliner: Yes, just too big a step, just to big, a step to take. In a local government, or a state, the kinds of problems with which you deal generally are not complex programs, substantive problems. And of course at the Secretary's level you're just swamped with them. If it isn't education, it's health or Social Security. Vocational rehabilitation isn't quite so complex and controversial. Or it's St. Elizabeth's Hospital or it's Howard University. It's a different world.
Q: And not necessarily an ordered or consistent or logical world either, which makes it all the harder.
Mulliner: Exactly, and completely uncontrollable, that load that's there.
Q: Why did you hesitate to include Ribicoff among outstanding Secretaries?
Mulliner: I don't know why I didn't, but if I'd had the list in front of me I might have included him, too. But the very fact that in pulling them out of an unlisted void, I didn't include him seems to indicate that I wasn't quite as impressed with his operation as I was with the other three, although he was far better than Celebrezze or Mrs. Hobby or Ewing, I think, for that matter, and certainly that sweet man who succeeded McNutt--what ever his name was: Watson Miller.
Q: All right. Perhaps we could discuss the relationship between Washington and the regional offices and the evolution of that relationship over the years.
Mulliner: Yes. In the process of deciding about the field organization, which of necessity was influenced more by the national program of OASI than it was by the federal-state programs. It was obvious to anyone involved that there was going to be a problem on the personnel side concerning the relationship between the representatives in the field of the various organizational units in Washington and their relationship to the head man in each regional office, because the executive director representing the board needed to have one point of communication and control in each regional office. The program bureau directors wanted to have direct supervision of their program representatives in the regional offices, and there were service bureaus, such as accounts and audits, information, and later on some others, who had permanent staff in the field headquartered in the regional office. So it was rather early in the history of the organization--I would say in 1937 anyway--that the executive director asked the assistant executive director, who was John Corson, to start discussing with the bureau directors in Washington a proposal for controlling or guiding these headquarter-field relationships.
Again, as in any plan of organization or supervision, it was inevitable that harmony would depend in large part on the personalities involved regardless of what went into a written document.
And at the point this document was being developed, it had been preceded by ten other administrative orders. That was the system of communications that was used for this kind of instruction. So this became administrative order # 11. And through the years from time to time, this was a fighting number--administrative order # 11--and it went through many changes, a little bit here and a little bit there, depending on who was the executive director.
But in the beginning, when a decision was made to proceed with this, the theory was that the Board's point of responsibility and control through the executive director was the regional director in each of the six regions that were set up initially. In each region, for the federal-state program, there then had to be relationships developed with state people in the public welfare departments, in the bureaus of employment security and certain other offices--the attorney-general's office. And in the national program of old age benefits, it was then, there was a plan for a network of field offices in each region in each state to be opened as the program indicated the need. You couldn't open them all at once because you didn't have the staff for opening all of them. And this OASI publication that I have here. Twenty-Five Years of Service, tells you which was the first office of the field offices to be opened and which was the second one. As you go through it, you'll see that.
Q: Philadelphia it mentions.
Mulliner: But we're thinking now of the personal relationships among the staff people involved. All right, that was the administrative line of control. But the program bureau directors--that would be Miss Hoey for public assistance, Mr. Wagenet for unemployment insurance, and in the beginning Mr. Latimer for old age benefits--were rightfully jealous of having any direct supervision of their program regional representative in the regional office. So it was a matter of working out how the staff in the regional office could respond to the overall supervision of the regional director without the program directors in Washington feeling that the regional director was in between then and their program representatives in the field with respect to program matters and policy implementation.
And then there was the question of how the service people fitted into this--the auditors and the information specialist and so on. And administrative order # 11 tried to find the words in the English language that would simply make this clear: that the regional director was held responsible by the Board, and the executive director, for the operations of all of these activities within the region. But he did not have the authority to interfere with a program instruction or policy decision sent from a bureau director to his representative in the region.
However, there was a provision that the Regional Director could ask--if he questioned any such decision--that it not be carried out until he could come back to Washington by phone or telegram or in person and present his reasons for believing this was not a wise thing to do with state x at this time because of such-and-such, or was not wise to do in the old age benefits program at this time, because of such-and-such. Of course he would always try to work it out first in the bureau, and then if he couldn't get the bureau director to agree with his point of view, one or the other of them or both would come to the executive director.
This set up the control in the regional director, and this was John Corson's product essentially, and while he was assistant executive director, he had many discussions with--and differences of opinion with--and differences opinion with--either regional directors or bureau directors in applying administrative order # 11 in given situations, with his position being that the executive director's office, you know, had to be the fundamental point--the executive director's office through the regional director. And to me, it was just a classic illustration of how with every human being, we're conditioned by where we're sitting when we see something or do something.
When he became director of the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance, the areas that had been gray when he was assistant executive director all became black or white to him as a bureau director, and he was frequently in the reverse role in these relationships as a bureau director from the one he had played when he was assistant executive director.
Q: Did anybody ever have the gall to point this out to him?
Mulliner: Oh, yes, I've teased him about it many times, many times. And he would admit it. It was true, you know. There it was.
I think that administrative order # 11 became throughout the federal government something of a classic, despite all the difficulties and headaches we had with it. And I think it would be realistic to say that never was any one particular clientele satisfied with administrative order # 11, whether it was the regional director or the bureau director or the executive director. And I think that was inherent in the organizational situation.
Q: Yes, yes. You just sort of create a fatal triangle there.
Mulliner: And one of the most interesting battles of zealous proponents that ever was carried on before the Board was on a matter that ordinarily never would have reached the Board except for the two prima donnas involved. Anna Rosenberg was the regional director in the region in New York, and she is a dynamo, and she is used to running whatever she runs. She's now Mrs. Paul Hoffman. And there was a vacancy in the regional staffing pattern for the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance. The bureau director was recommending the advancement of someone either from the headquarters staff or from another region to move into this. It was about the second job in the old age benefits staff in the region. And Anna wanted a chap who had been her sort of administrative assistant put into that job. It was a higher grade and paid better. And John Corson didn't agree that her man was a better man than the one he wanted. And in theory he was the one who should be able to control that position because this was his regional staff, although it was in her region geographically. And this went on and on and on and on, and finally it came to the Board. And it was really something to hear those two people trying to persuade the Board of each one's point of view in a battle royal which remained under control, but, you know, neither one being able to agree to the other one's recommendation. And I must confess in embarrassment that the punch line I do not have, because I can't remember at this point who won out.
Q: That would probably be on the record.
Mulliner: Oh. yes, it would be on he record, but the record probably wouldn't show this battle over it. I believe Anna won out.
Q: That's why oral history was invented.
Mulliner: Yes. I believe the Board gave the decision to Anna on that. I felt, you know, that it was really more a matter of gallantry than of merit. Well, at any rate, this is just an incident in that program. In public welfare programs there was apt to be more irritation really because the governors often knew personally the regional directors, had known them in some capacity earlier; so this gave concern to the bureau directors in Washington, because , you see, their regional reps normally would work with the director of public welfare of the state. But the governor could call Henry the regional director and try to get some kind of an agreement or commitment that wasn't what the technical people or the program people wanted; and this was worrisome to the bureaucrats in Washington--to have this possible interference with the programs from that level, and there were many little irritations over that. And of course the governors felt quite free also to come into Washington to the executive director or the Board on something where the director of public welfare generally didn't feel free to do that. They'd be more apt to work through the regional staff.
I think considering everything, this system worked very well. Of course I wasn't where the irritations hit me directly, so maybe I'm more sanguine about this than the facts merit, but I think it was a pretty good plan.
Q: What could, we turn to next?
Mulliner: Why don't we do regulation # 1? This regulation # 1 dealt with the confidential nature of the BOASI records, and it all stemmed from a public statement that had been made through the press and every medium that could be used by the Board in 1936 as a preliminary to the enumeration, the assigning of Social Security numbers to employers and to the workers, because organized labor had been very fearful of this process. Many of the people in the movement having come from other countries where any centralized government records were used to blacklist people or as a source of information for employers or others that--
Q: Wasn't it also used in this country sometimes?
Mulliner: I suppose so, but there hadn't been this kind of a centralized record before. This would be establishing one, and so fears of this monstrous central one were real.
Q: The issue is still with us.
Mulliner: Right, exactly, especially with electronics now and the easier access to the information. So the Board made this statement: that these records would be used only for Social Security business, and in reassurance after reassurance all this was repeated and reiterated.
So then regulation # 1 was developed to put this into legal form, and it wasn't long--I don't know what came first, I can't remember, but this file, this #9 item in December 1962 memo of mine identifies that particular folder--the problems came from two general sources: (1) the Federal Bureau of Investigation who wanted to use the OASI records to locate people for whom they were looking, and frantic families who were trying to locate a missing member for some emergencies or maybe just for an inheritance. And the way this latter group was handled finally was that the Board said, "We will not give out the last address we have for anybody in our records to anybody--a wife or a husband or a father." First, there's a lag of six months in that address, so it isn't absolutely current, you see, with the reporting cycles--what they were. And secondly, maybe these people don't want to be found. If the wife doesn't know where the husband is, this may be from choice, not from amnesia, and why should we get involved in all these domestic problems. But we did say if they wanted to send a letter in an unsealed envelope, so that its contents could be read in the bureau and we knew it was legitimate business and not blackmail, something like this, and we found the name and an address for that person in the records, we would forward it, but we would never tell the inquirer whether we found the name and forwarded it or whether we didn't, and that left it up to the recipient as to whether he or she wanted to get in touch with the person who was trying to reach them or not. So that was the policy and practice with respect to that group.
But the FBI was something else again, because they're pretty powerful. The regulation states now--or did when I saw it last; it may not be now--that during this period of the national emergency (and it's still on; I think that since World War II, the President has never declared the state of emergency to cease) the FBI will be provided information--and the steps are spelled out--in connection with cases they certify, and certain people have to certify, and this is spelled out, are essential to the national security. This is with respect to people who might be a threat to the national security.
But, oh, inquiry after inquiry comes in other kinds of cases. Well, there's a whole ramification of cases that have to be screened regularly in the Bureau. Appeals for the most heart-rending cases of families wanting to get in touch with somebody for this, that and the other, and wanting to do it immediately.
There's also another provision in regulation # 1 having to do with state officials who request information in cases of amnesia if the person has on them a Social Security card and number and they want to find the family to which this person belongs, and there's a provision in regulation # 1 for handling that kind of case, too. But it's been a constant guarding of the gates as far as the Social Security Board was concerned, and each time a new administrator or a new Secretary of the Department would come in, the same people in the Congress or in the FBI who wanted a more liberal policy would immediately get in touch with them, and almost uniformly the response would be: "Why, this is ridiculous for you people not to provide this information that's requested when you have it right there in those records." So then there'd be a long, slow process of education of the new Secretary and all his new staff, who were there wanting to serve people, you see. It's interesting how regularly certain kinds of educational programs have to be gone through with new staff on basic policies of this kind.
Q: Has the education process become formalized?
Mulliner: Well, it did become formalized but it didn't work. When the Administration was changing to the Republicans, we set up a well-planned briefing program for the new Secretary and all the new staff. But it would take several sessions because of all the programs. And we had charts prepared and narrative material prepared and all of this. I would say that not one per cent of the new people, although in advance of coming in they all said they wanted this--"Just set up the schedule and we'll be there"--, were able to discipline themselves or to control their schedules so that they came to more than 10% of the briefing sessions set up for them. It was a very disheartening process. We tried every time, though, when there was a turnover or when several new people were coming in at the Secretary's level, oh yes, they all wanted it--they just thought this was wonderful--but they just pushed this lower and lower and lower on their priority list and never got to it, most of them. But it was tried. And this would be true for our own new commissioners when they were coming in, you see. We had a program set up--this was part of the training--to orient them, and they just had so many hot things to handle that they didn't do it. They'd push this off and push this off and push this off until they'd say, "We don't need it. We've learned all these things the hard way one at a time and by making mistakes over this period of weeks. We won't need the briefing sessions. You can just forget about that for our term."
Q: How about in 1961 when the Democrats came back in? Was this tried again?
Mulliner: Yes, with the same experience.
Q: New Frontier publicity to the contrary notwithstanding.
Q: You mentioned that you played a part at one point, but you didn't put that on tape. You might want to add that to the record. You noticed that there was some breaking down of these protective measures.
Mulliner: Yes, that's right. I was away for a few years during the war years with UNRRA and with Ambassador Winant in London, and when I left Social Security to go to UNRRA, I left from being assistant director at the Bureau of Employment Security, which meant that I hadn't been at the overall board level for about two years and had not been following what was going on in BOASI and these other programs as carefully as you would at the commissioner's level. Then when I came back, I came back to the commissioner's level, and something came up that required a statement about the confidentiality of these records. Maybe it was when there was such a fight on about the confidentiality of the public assistance records, which has always been a problem, too, in the states and with Congress. So I went back to do as I had done in several policy areas, to develop a summary of the policy step by step, how it was developed and what questions came up because of these succeeding steps in the development of the policy, and that was when I found out that the earlier policies which had been set by the Board with respect to the confidentiality of the BOASI records weren't known to the people in charge of the office which was at this time receiving the requests for information from the BOASI records. There had just been a slip somewhere along the line, and the policy hadn't been properly organized and kept current and in readily usable form for the people who had changed over the years in this particular spot. So we instituted hopefully some procedures that would correct this at the time and would prevent a recurrence in the future, so at least the commissioner could feel that whatever the existing policy is, good or bad, it's being applied by the people in the administrative spots, which wasn't completely true there for a period. Information was being released to the FBI that should not have been released, and all the information was being released in a manner that was not following the prescribed procedures for its scrutiny, the inquiry and the authorization of the release of it.
Q: Yes, we might talk about that next.
Mulliner: The bringing together of the United States Employment Service and the unemployment compensation program, as it was then called (Now it's unemployment insurance), was considered essential from the beginning. It had always been intended by the people concerned, starting with Senator Wagner, when he was persuading Congress to enact the Wagner-Peyser Act setting up the United States Employment Service. One of the arguments used in public speeches and in speeches on the floor was: A national network of employment offices, though run by the state, is essential before this country can have an unemployment insurance program, because there has to be a point for administering an unemployment compensation program; and you have an unemployment compensation program only for people if jobs cannot be found for them. So you need to have an ongoing efficient job-finding service before you have the other. But at the point in time when Congress, because it didn't like Madame Secretary, was disinclined to have the Social Security Act say that these programs would be administered in the Department of Labor. The two programs did not automatically come together. The new unemployment compensation title of the Social Security Act was with the Social Security Board over here, and the employment service was in the Department of Labor where it had always been.
Q: Why were they opposed to Madame Secretary?
Mulliner: Several reasons. One, a lot of people in Congress didn't approve of having a lady in the Cabinet and certainly not in the Department of Labor. Secondly, Miss Perkins' own personality was not one that appealed to the Congress. She couldn't be easy with people. She had really an abnormal need for personal privacy. The reason in my own mind for this was that her husband's illness for so many years had made her sensitive to having anything in the papers about her and had made her much more protective of her personal life and her privacy than would normally be the case. Then she kind of took a teacher-pupil attitude with the Congress, and they felt she was lecturing to them and talking down to them when she appeared before them.
Q: Rather than being deferential.
Mulliner: Exactly. And she knew more about what she was talking about than 99% of them did, and she showed it, and this didn't result in warm feelings toward her on the part of the Congress.
Q: McNamara, I guess, had some of the same problems.
Mulliner: But he's a man, you see, and the men don't resent this quite so much in a man as they do in a lady.
Q: It's compounded--that's right.
Mulliner: Right. And then she had the most undiplomatic, rude secretary who had ever served a Cabinet member. I think I told you on the tape earlier, didn't I, about the Senator Harrison incident? Well, all this was in the picture, and the Congress just resented her.
You see, one of the early drafts of the Economic Security Act provided for these programs to be in the Department of Labor, but it was quite clear that if the President wanted any legislation, he'd better get that out and not propose putting it in the Department of Labor. Well, so that left these two parts of this program separated, the United States Employment Service in the Department of Labor and unemployment compensation in the Social Security Board. And at an early date the Board asked Frank Bane to set up general communication and negotiation to bring the two together in the Social Security Board. He represented the board, and Mary LaDame represented the Secretary of Labor and Frank Perssons, too, the Secretary of Labor. And finally an agreement was reached, and, oh my, the U.S. Employment Service people did not like it one bit. They never did like it. There were some of them who never accepted it and dragged their feet on everything that the Social Security Board wanted done in those several years. I guess they came over in about 1938 probably and were there until the whole thing went to War Manpower Commission in about ‘42 or something like that. And they never accepted the fact that they were in the Social Security Board. They fought it; they lobbied on the Hill to get the whole thing back into the Department of Labor. And after the war for a time the combined Bureau of Employment Security was back in the Social Security Administration, until the political ambitions of one Oscar Ewing caused him to give it away to the Department of Labor. He thought that that would get him some labor support and some support on the Hill, and he just offered it--offered to give employment security back to the Department of Labor.
Q: This has never come out.
Mulliner: Hasn't it?
Mulliner: Well, you better check me on this then, but this is my recollection. And these same people resented being in the Social Security Administration. And of course now--and this, I think, is really the thing--in the last several years in the Department of Labor, they have physically separated the two offices so that they have two separate offices in two different building one for the Employment Service and another for the unemployment insurance program.
You see, the employment service people felt they were the elite in this, and they didn't want to have to deal with all this mob of people who, when there was a shut-down or a depression, would flood into the offices to apply for work and get unemployment insurance if there wasn't a job for them. They just felt that somehow they were above dealing with those hordes, and they wouldn't reconcile themselves to doing this. They felt this handicapped the employment service; wouldn't accept this theory that that was one of the reasons they existed--to take care of this particular clientele.
Oh, this was evident, you know, when I was assistant director of the Bureau of Employment Security. Some of those people wouldn't even be polite with regard to the requests of the Board. It was a ridiculous kind of resentment.
Q: It must have been a very difficult period for Arthur Altmeyer.
Q: To be working with subordinates whom you know--
Mulliner: Resent you--
Q: To say the least.
Mulliner: Resent being in your shop. That's right.
Q: Have we talked about the Children's Bureau in this respect? It was rather a similar situation.
Mulliner: Yes, yes. They never have accepted it yet either. And now this new reorganization that was announced yesterday by Secretary Gardner will make some changes in all those relationships. I'm not clear just what it does to the Children's Bureau, but it does something. I'll find out tomorrow night. I'm going to be having dinner with friends who are in the HEW.
Q: Have they decided about a new name?
Mulliner: Yes, it was in this morning's paper.
Q: Which I haven't seen yet.
Mulliner: Oh, I see. You were too sleepy this morning. I think we covered the Children's Bureau earlier.
Q: Yes, and the people--Lenroot and so on.
Mulliner: That's right, and about Ewing telling Congress that the Children's Bureau was always complaining. Of course they didn't want to report to the commissioner of Social Security, and while they said they wanted to report directly to him, that isn't really what they intended. He said. "You know, they only want to report only to God." This is in the hearings.
Mulliner: He was feeling a little annoyed with them at that point.
Q: I'll say. That I didn't know. What hearings now?
Mulliner: Oh, I don't know--back in ‘48 or some time along in there.
Q: Do you recall the subject?
Mulliner: What the issue was? No, but I had that quotation out in one of these files.
Unless there's something really crucial, why don't we end on that?
(Q: What about Loula Dunn?)
Mulliner: Loula Dunn I heard of first way back in the early days when the director of welfare in the state of Alabama was presenting the Board with problems about the payment of public assistance to veterans of the War Between the States, the Confederate veterans. There was some problem because, as I remember, they got a veteran's pension from the states, and I think the Southern states wanted to stop paying that and let the federal government and the matching pay the benefits while in theory they weren't supposed to do this. They were to keep on paying whatever they were paying. Anyway, Loula Dunn was that director of welfare in the state of Alabama that was raising this question.
Then I saw here up here socially some. She was a very attractive woman and a very effective one in a lobbying sense. She knew how to get the ear of the people on the Hill who could move ahead in whatever it was she was interested in. Did she go to the APWA when--? No, no, somebody else went to the head of the APWA after Frank Bane left and came to be executive director of the Social Security Board. I forget who it was. Then after that person left, Loula Dunn left Alabama to be head of the American Public Welfare Association, and I thought headed it effectively through the many years she was there. She had a lot of the same characteristics that Ellen Woodward, the lady from Mississippi, who was a member of the Social Security Board, had--sort of an iron hand in a velvet glove. That nice soft Southern accent didn't really reveal how firm and tough and aggressive these ladies could be in getting what they wanted. It's a wonderful technique. I just envy them the technique.
Loula. of course, had her strong supporters and her enemies in that position because she played hard and fought hard for what she wanted, and in that kind of a spot there's a lot of maneuvering that has to go on; and sometimes it looks like double-crossing instead of just clever footwork. There was some criticism of her as head of the American Public Welfare Association, which covers both the state and local welfare employees and the federal employees as members; and in my opinion Loula would forget entirely about the fact that her role related to the federal as well as the states. She got herself in a position in some years there where every statement she made, it seemed to me, and the whole style and content of their magazine was just to criticize the federal. She seemed to be the proponent of the states regardless. This reached a point--I forget on what; I guess on the confidential nature of the public welfare records; I can't remember what the issue was--where finally I quit paying my dues and being a member of the American Public Welfare Association on that very issue. It was a partisan kind of thing. She'd sit in meetings where she was speaking for the APWA, which covered both the federal and the state programs, and represent only a state point of view and vigorously. I just said my six dollars and 50 cents, or whatever it was, wasn't going to support that kind of one-sided proposition. If she'd presented both points of view and then told why she was for the state point of view, I could have accepted that. Well, that was just a personal thing, but I think it represents some of the problems in the role of head of the organization like that.
Then she retired from the American Public Welfare Association. I don't know a thing about that, because I wasn't a member at the time. She moved to Washington to live in her retirement. I've seen her here occasionally. I don't know whether she was doing any part-time consulting work or not in the last year or two. And I regret to say she's now in the hospital in Chicago, recovering, I understand, from surgery.
Now, do you want me to say anything more about her?
Q: No. I think that covers it. How about Murray Latimer?
Mulliner: Murray Latimer came into the picture right in the beginning because he was chairman of the Railroad Retirement Board at the time that the Social Security Board was looking for a director of the Bureau of Old Age Benefits. He agreed to take it on on a part-time basis--half time in his regular job and half time in the old age benefits job.
Before too long it became apparent that it was necessary to have a full-time person in charge of this, developing the old age benefits program. I can't remember now the details. My belief is that if he had wanted to resign from the railroad retirement program, the Board gladly would have put him in full-time charge of the old age benefits program, but he chose to stay with the railroad retirement program.
Then it wasn't too long after this that Mr. Winant left the Social Security Board finally. He had left, and then the President had gotten him to come back to get a decision on some of these OASI matters that had to be decided and would take too long for a new board member to learn the background. So he came back for a few months, and he left in February of ‘37.
And when he resigned and went to the International Labor Office, the President--and this is something I never understood; at the time thought it was ridiculous and would have said so if the President had asked me--sent Murray Latimer's name to the Senate to be confirmed as the minority member on the Social Security Board to replace Mr. Winant.
Well, here was Murray Latimer, who was born and reared in Mississippi--his name being sent up as a Republican. I don't know what was in the minds of the people who did this. There must have been something there that I never knew about. But of course it didn't go. The Congress wouldn't find he was a Republican. So in a few weeks the name was withdrawn, and the name of George Bigge of Rhode Island was finally sent up, and he became the minority member.
Q: How did his name enter the picture?
Mulliner: Well, he was the director of unemployment insurance in the state of Rhode Island, so he was known in the program. He had been a professor of economics, both in Michigan and at Brown University before he went into the Administrative position in that state, so he had good qualifications and served very well in the position.
Q: You never got an explanation for why Latimer's name was sent out?
Mulliner: No. I don't know that I ever asked, but I felt that somebody was whistling in the dark to think that this man, who couldn't have been identified as a Republican in the District of Columbia where he lived because there's no government with which to affiliate with one party or another to support, and he was really from Mississippi, and you know you couldn't be a Republican in Mississippi in those days. So I don't know what was hoped for. Whatever it was, it didn't come off.
Q: And if he was a Republican from Mississippi, the Democrats from Mississippi would surely not support him.
Mulliner: That's right. That's right. Of course, knowing that they had to have a Republican on the Board, if his state Senators had been agreeable to him, he probably would have gone through all right.
Q: Incidentally, what about that question of having minority representation on the Board, having a minority party? Did it have any meaning really beyond its public relations value?
Mulliner: It didn't happen to in this Board. At least I was never able to see that the problems were influenced; that Board members were influenced in their positions by the fact that they belonged to one party or another. It was their personal, economic, social, and to a very minor degree, political philosophy that influenced their position. And I never saw the political control of decisions.
Q: So in this case it really didn't mean anything.
Mulliner: Not internally, but I think externally it meant a great deal.
Q: Yes, public relations-wise.
Mulliner: That's right.
Q: What if the situation had been different--if the Republican had been an Alf Landon Republican?
Mulliner: That might have been entirely different, although the things that Alf Landon is saying and doing now make me wonder if I misunderstood him back then.
Q: You and a lot of other people. But, of course, presumably they would have to work out some kind of quid pro quo working relationship requiring some compromises perhaps on the part of the Democratic members in order to get a harmony.
Mulliner: If there had been a very conservative-- However, I think with that kind of a program, the President would never have nominated that type of individual for the Board.
Q: So that it's probably safe to say that it was not intended to serve any but a public relations function. It would not have been allowed to. Well, I think that completes it.