First of Many: Grandpa

In December, 1997, I went over to my grandfather’s house for a couple of recording sessions. I just wanted to know his history in his own words. My grandfather had had an active career in many respects, and it seemed that none of us were clear on its details. This was my attempt to get the “facts” straight. This oral, face-to-face encounter was markedly different than the short chronology sent by my father. My mother’s father and my father are singularly different men.
Is it on?
I went to flint high school and graduated in 1926. Then went to Princeton University and took an AB course there and graduate in 1930. I then went to U. of Michigan and got a JD course in law and graduated there in 1933. I had it in my mind that I’d be an attorney and Mrs. Dort and I drove around the country, all around the country, looking at different cities and towns that we thought might be a good place to live and enquiring, talking to judges and attorneys, enquiring about practicing in those areas and finally, uh, decided not to do that. In the mean time, a friend of mine who was the right-hand man to Harry Hopkins, who was Roosevelt’s right-hand man in 1933, gave me a letter to this man Corrington Gil, who was assistant administrator of the Emergency Relief Organization, and introduced me to him. We had lunch, and he said, “Why don’t you hang around a few days?” I thought I’d just be down there in all the excitement and look around and then maybe go back into looking about law. Two or three days later, he said, “Well, let’s have lunch again.” He said, “Why don’t you stay around for a while. There are a lot of things to do.” He says, “I’ve got a lot of telegrams out here that I don’t have time to answer. Why don’t you do those?” So, I did those and stayed seventeen years in Washington.
I had no intention of staying there when I went. I had various positions in Emergency Relief and the Works Project Administration. One of my jobs was investigating graft and corruption in the Emergency Relief. I learned about that by reading the paper one night in which I read that Mr. Hopkins had appointed me as his chief investigator without letting me know about it. And, the charges of graft were being brought about by senator Bora and were in all the papers. So, I arranged a meeting with him, and I arranged a meeting with him and there was quite a lot of fuss about that. It was in all the papers. I said we’d investigate the matter. And Senator Bora said, “Well, I’ll give you all of my charges.” And, then set up an investigating organization that had branch offices throughout the country. We were in charge of investigation charges of corruption or improper doings in the Relief and Work Progress Administrations. I was then in charge of what they called the Project Control Division, which reviewed and approved all the Work Projects that came in from over the country. Then, after that, became assistant commissioner of the whole organization in charge of administrative matters of budget and personnel and procurement and renting offices and the whole administration of the organization. I was rather proud I cut the administrative budget from 92 million to 54 million the next year. I went up to congress for an appropriation of 54 million. The senator said, “This si impossible. You’re the only man that’s ever come up here asking for less money than last year. So, I felt pretty good about that.
Anyway, as clouds of war came in for World War number 2, I was appointed by the President to come over to the office of the President in charge of what they called the Office for Emergency Management. I was in charge of what they called the Central Administrative Services This organization performed administrative services for all the 18- 20 emergency war agencies that had been set up like the Office of Price Administration and the well, there were a whole lot of them for emergency functions. Our organization helped develop there budgets and hired people, did all the administrative work for these organizations. I had nothing to do with their programs. But it was very difficult for them on an emergency basis to do all this administrative works, so we were set up to do that. We disregarded all the government regulations, said we’ll end up playing poker in jail afterwards, but we’ll get the job done–which we did, I thought.
By then, I went over to the State Department. Dean Acheson, who was then the assistant Secretary of State, hired me in the economic area of the State Department. I was working primarily on emergency relief to our allies and ultimately to the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe. I was involved as the American representative on the board of UNRA, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Organization and got to know some very interesting people around the world, especially Fiorello La Guardia who was the head of that organization. I traveled with him and have some interesting stories about him.

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