Partial Transcript: As a reporter in 1952, looking at Senator Russell, do you feel like that he knew his chances as being good or futile in winning the nomination of the Democrats?
Keywords: 1952; Democratic National Convention; Jane Russell; John Sparkman; Kefauver; Southern bloc; candidacy; family; nomination; support
CATES: This is Hugh Cates, February 25, 1971. I'm in the office of WilliamM. Bates, who was press secretary for Senator Russell on two occasions from December 1959 to January 1961, from January 1964 to September 1966.
BATES: Hugh, I gave you a wrong date on the beginning of my first tour. Irealize it was December 1958 instead of 1959--total a little over five years all together.
CATES: I see. Mr. Bates is presently with Bell & Stanton public relations firmin Atlanta. Bill, would you tell me about your earliest association with Senator Russell?
BATES: Well, you are going to have to be more specific, Hugh. I mean, what do00:01:00you mean, the first time I met him or what?
CATES: Well, I guess the first time that you met him, the first time you had anypersonal dealings with the Senator.
BATES: Well, that would have been in, oh, in 1950 when I was Capitolcorrespondent for the United Press in Atlanta and he was--that's 1952--when he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination. I covered him on several occasions. I was a reporter on the United Press staff at the Chicago convention of that year and I was assigned to the Russell headquarters. So I met him first as a newspaper man--public official, elected official, reporter, and story type relationship. I had a great deal, from the very beginning, a great deal of respect for Senator Russell, but really I can't say that I knew the man in that capacity and I think this is true in many instances later that I observed. Few 00:02:00newspapermen really, really knew Senator Russell.
CATES: Do you recall perhaps your first interview or first several interviewswith the Senator in 1952; I believe you said--1951 or 1952?
BATES: It'd be 1952, interviews, no. I covered several press conferencesincluding one in Chicago that was later to be involved in one of the great regrets of Senator Russell's life, not regret over what happened but an incident. It had to do with the Taft-Hartley law. Taft-Hartley law--whether or not it should be repealed, amended, or strengthened--was a very big, hot, burning issue in those days particularly in national Democratic circles. Senator 00:03:00Russell, as a candidate for the Democratic nomination, was repeatedly asked his position on whether or not Taft-Hartley should be repealed which the unions were demanding and which most liberals supported, and Senator Russell always felt--he'd gotten involved with a Washington public relations man by the name of Charnet--where he came from and how he got there I haven't got the vaguest idea, but I was a reporter on the outside--but Charnet persuaded Senator Russell to issue some kind of statement which implied that he favored repeal or if not repeal, modification of Taft-Hartley, which Senator Russell did in a press conference and which the reporters carried it a great deal further than he 00:04:00thought he had meant to go. He really was quoted as saying--the way the story turned out he virtually was calling for repeal of Taft-Hartley which was not indeed his own position, and it particularly was not a popular position with the base of his support and caused a great reaction, so great that the Senator on many, many occasions after, many years afterwards when I worked for him still harked back to that, to that event, that incident as really one of the, one of his worst days, one of his worst times. He was--he felt terribly abused and put upon over that incident, which I don't know that it has any significance in the long pull of things, except that it did serve to illustrate how really futile was Senator Russell's chances of being nominated in a national Democratic 00:05:00convention with the views he held so much out of sync, shall we say, with the prevailing view (tape stops and starts again] of the more liberal, labor-oriented national Democrats who obviously were in a majority at the convention. In other words, Senator Russell was too conservative to be nominated by a Democratic national convention.
CATES: Bill, how would you say that this release was permitted to be released ifit was so diametrically opposed to what the Senator thought? Did he not clear it before it was released?
BATES: Hugh, I can't speak to that because, remember, I was there and this was1952 and I was a young reporter covering my first national convention. What went 00:06:00on in the back room, how it came to that point, I don't know. Perhaps other people active in that campaign that is still around can clarify that point. I remember it came up in a press conference at the Conrad Hilton Hotel. The late Warren Duffie, an Emory graduate by the way and a longtime United Press Senate correspondent--he and I--I was really the number two men on the story; I was helping Warren, and he and I covered that press conference. Both of us were mystified as to how that statement got to the point that it did. I don't know, and the Senator's later conversations didn't clarify the point, and I didn't probe him too deeply on it. So, I don't know. I did hear at one point this--not from the Senator, from somebody else--that Mr. Charnay was a--had done some work 00:07:00or in some way was associated with John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers. I don't really--I can't clarify that anymore.
CATES: As a reporter in 1952, looking at Senator Russell, do you feel like thathe knew his chances as being good or futile in winning the nomination of the Democrats?
BATES: Well, here's one of the very few places that I would probably view asituation that happened differently from the Senator, because he always denied what I'm about to say and he denied it as a fact what I'm about to say; but it's my impression drawn primarily from events at the time--that is 1952, not later 00:08:00events--that the Senator did not indeed get into the presidential contest thinking that he had a serious chance of getting the nomination. I'm sure you've heard from other people the Senator's frequent, frequent explanation as to how he wound up in that Democratic race. If not, if you haven't heard that, it's a pretty interesting story in itself and I'll relate it now if we don't forget where we were on the other--it's really related. The Senator says that he had no idea and certainly no desire to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1952, but that he was prevailed upon to enter the Florida primary by Senator (Spessard Lindsey) Holland, Senator (George Armistead) Smathers, members of the Florida delegation who were very anxious to prevent Estes Kefauver, then Senator 00:09:00Kefauver, from winning that Florida primary, Presidential primary, by default and therefore winning all the Florida votes and that they prevailed upon Senator Russell--I believe he used to say against his better judgment--to enter that primary, and to enter the primary he became a presidential candidate. Now I believe at some point along the line--and here is where I'm sure the late Senator would say I'm wrong, and I would stand corrected if he said that, but I will go ahead and give you my view--I think that he got carried away with the excitement of the campaign. I think--he won the Florida primary, and he won it right handsomely; he picked up some delegate support. I remember distinctly--in Ohio, I believe, he had a delegate that was elected, though it wasn't a presidential preference primary; but in, I believe, a Midwestern state like Nebraska, some unexpected type of place where they elected delegates in 00:10:00statewide primaries, I think a Russell-pledged delegate was elected and maybe led the ticket. But I think he got enough encouragement and saw enough things developing that I believe at some point he really thought he might have had a chance to win, and I believe for a little while he was a very serious candidate for president. I think that the incident that I just related to was one of the things that brought him back down to earth. I doubt very seriously after that that he thought he had much chance. I do--as one of the little postscripts to the incident of the Taft-Hartley press conference--either he was invited or asked, or he asked, to meet with the Southern governors who were supporting him in bloc, to come before them in a private meeting, and it happened right after 00:11:00that; so I assume that he either asked for an opportunity to clarify his position or they asked him to come before them to clarify his position. But at that point, it's my impression that he became again a certainly serious contender; he was a serious candidate, but he didn't really have any serious thoughts that he could win the nomination. I think he realized he was more or less a regional candidate, and I think this disturbed him a great deal.
CATES: Now you are speaking as a reporter, 1952, and not what you subsequentlylearned, is that correct?
BATES: Well, my knowledge of the affair began as a reporter in 1952, but someparts of the incident and certainly Senator Russell's own feelings about it I became acquainted with in subsequent years from his version of it. 00:12:00
CATES: I guess what I'm asking, Bill is the hypothesis that you just setforth--you came to that conclusion later years or at the time that you were a reporter in 1952?
BATES: At the time I was a reporter I was convinced he was a serious candidate.
CATES: Oh, you were convinced he was a serious candidate at the time you were areporter, I see. Let me ask you this: Do you think that Senator Russell tried to obtain from some of his colleagues support which they indicated that he would have, but later he did not have, in the 1952 Presidential campaign there--?
BATES: You're asking did he--?
CATES: What I'm asking is, did some of his colleagues in the Senate indicatethat they would support him as a Democratic nominee for president, and then when it came down to the wire, to the time to do something about it, they did not come forth with their support? 00:13:00
BATES: No, I don't think, that's not my recollection or impression of whathappened. He did indeed have many pledges of support from his fellow members of the Senate, though I doubt if he had a majority, but he had substantial--he was very popular member of the Senate. All of the Southern senators, with the exception of Senator Kefauver who himself was a candidate--and I don't remember what the other Tennessee senator did; he probably supported Kefauver out of courtesy, but with the exception of those two--the Southern bloc supported Senator Russell to a man, and he had some scattering of strength out in the country. Where did Senator (Frank John) Lausche who was then Governor of Ohio go? He had some senators from outside the South who were personally for him, but in the political make-up of many of those states, the senators don't necessarily and very frequently are not the dominant political force in the state and have 00:14:00very little to say over who the delegation votes for. In many instances they are one vote from a large state's delegation. So a pledge of support from, say, a senator who was a personal friend of Senator Russell's from, say, a state like Wyoming that senator may and probably was very devoted and sincere in his support, but that doesn't mean he could have automatically guaranteed the support of the Wyoming delegation. I'm using Wyoming as--to answer your hypothetical question, I'll answer with a hypothetical statement.
CATES: Bill, do you know of any other interesting incidents that came out ofthat 1952 Democratic convention?
BATES: Involving Senator Russell?
CATES: Involving Senator Russell, yes.
BATES: Only, well, I think Senator Russell discovered and at least it was veryinteresting to us, to the reporters that he had a lot of kinfolks from strange places that suddenly surfaced during that election year. Jane Russell--remember 00:15:00the actress of Howard Hughes' fame--she came from someplace and told the Russell headquarters that she and the Senator were distant, distant cousins. She was for him, and I remember seeing her around in the Russell headquarters wearing a Russell girl uniform. I don't think there was any semblance of a relationship. I never heard it confirmed anywhere else, but suddenly there was a kinship with Jane Russell. And Adlai Stevenson discovered that he and Senator Russell kind some common kinship. Did not--I believe there might have been still another--I don't know; there was some kind of relationship or kinship, common kinship, dreamed up between Stevenson, the late Senator (Alben William) Barkley and Senator Russell; they all had some common kinship. Politics makes strange 00:16:00kinsmen sometimes.
CATES: What part did Senator Russell play in the nomination of Senator (JohnJackson) Sparkman as vice-presidential nominee?
BATES: It's my impression, Hugh, that he probably played a fairly large one. Inever--I really wish I had asked the Senator sometime. I don't know whether he was asked if he would accept the Democratic vice-presidential nomination or not; I don't know if Stevenson offered it to him. I am very sure that Stevenson discussed with him and probably asked his view on a running mate, and I am sure Senator Russell would have urged a Southerner; and I am equally sure that if the name Sparkman were asked--I mean if he were asked, "What about Senator Sparkman?"--I believe he would have spoken highly of Senator Sparkman. I 00:17:00don't know to the extent that he urged Sparkman; I think he thought it was a good selection--he was a good selection.
CATES: I guess little did you realize at that time that six years later youwould be working for Senator Russell as his press secretary. Would you mind commenting about how this came about?
BATES: You're quite right. In those days I would have--I must confess I don'tthink I ever had the courage to confess to Senator Russell (that) I was a Stevenson man in 1952, though I had a great deal of respect for Senator Russell; I was a Stevenson man. No, I didn't think I would ever be, I never dreamed I would be on the Russell staff. My connection with Senator Russell was through a nephew of his now deceased, the late Judge Robert L. Russell, Jr., of Winder. I 00:18:00had known Bobby, as all of us called him, when he was a member of the legislature and I was reporter, pardon me, I was political editor of The Atlanta Constitution and became very close friends of Bobby's, and Bobby introduced me to--he didn't introduce me to the Senator, but he introduced me to the idea of coming to work for Senator Russell as press secretary. Senator Russell had never had a press secretary before. Bobby was the broker; he got me interested in the idea, and he apparently got Senator Russell interested in the idea that he needed a press secretary and arranged a meeting for me and the Senator in Winder late sometime during that year of 1968 (1958), the fall as I recall. It was after the governor's election because (Samuel Ernest) Ernie Vandiver, (Jr.), had been elected Governor that year--Bobby had been very interested and active in Ernie's campaign; they were brother-in-laws [sic], of course--and Bobby arranged 00:19:00a meeting with Senator Russell and myself, and we hit it off pretty well. I remember leaving Winder; I went over there--I was leaving Winder without knowing whether I was going to be offered the job or not. It was a very interesting conversation. As a matter of fact, after we talked a little bit about the job, my then, I think, pretty good newspaper man instinct came out and I started asking the Senator about something currently in the news, and I got a good story out of him. It had to do with the--there were some islands, some off mainland islands off the coast of, off China that Chiang Kai-Shek was threatening to recapture, the possibility of triggering some kind of serious international altercation. I remember Senator Russell saying that for Chiang Kai-Shek to try to claim those islands would be like Russia trying to claim Tybee Island off the 00:20:00coast of Savannah. It was a--I got a good story out of it, but I came away from Winder not knowing whether I was in or out of the Russell fold, nor had I really made up my own mind. A couple of days later Bobby called me and said the Senator would like to have me join the staff, and we talked about the mechanical problems, when and how much--that always got to be a good question, you know. Before I knew it I was on the Russell staff--the greatest decision I ever made in my life, I might say. The years I spent with Senator Russell were just incomparable; well, that's getting too personal on my side.
CATES: What did he ask you during the interview, can you recall anything specifically?
BATES: I'll have to confess to you, I do not remember; it was more or lessgetting really to meet each other. You asked me earlier about an interview with 00:21:00Senator Russell--I don't recall ever having done an individual interview with Senator Russell; it was always at a press conference or it was always with two or three other reporters when I was later on the UP staff in Washington. We'd interview Senator Russell, but it'd be a group interview, so it was never a man-to-man type discussion. I don't ever remember having one just he and I, a private, personal discussion before that afternoon in Winder, and I came away tremendously impressed with Senator Russell as a person. That's where it all began.
CATES: What impressed you most about him during this interview?
BATES: (sighs) I don't know how to answer that one either. I'm trying toremember what it was; I think a personal magnetism that he radiated, at least 00:22:00for me. I just instinctively caught some kind of excitement about being identified with Dick Russell, and I never have lost it and hope I never will.
CATES: After you worked out the mechanics and you did indeed go to Washington,you were his first press secretary--
BATES: First press secretary.
CATES: --would you mind stating how you went about setting up your routine oryour operating procedure? How much was the Senator involved in giving you direction in this area? BATES: Well, the answer to the last question first--none, because he was like me; he didn't know what you did. Well, I talked to (William Homer) Bill Burson who was Senator (Herman Eugene) Talmadge's press secretary at the time and who had been a classmate of mine at the University of Georgia. I got some ideas from him about what he did for Senator Talmadge and 00:23:00drew on my own knowledge of what press aides and press secretaries had done for public officials when I was on the other side of the table as a reporter, and we developed--I handled press inquiries, begin to write some suggested speeches for him. The Senator was very funny about speech writing. He did not like and always felt a little, particularly in the early years, very apologetic about having to use a speech that had been written for him even though the views--as always in my case, I wrote only views that I knew to be in accord with the Senator's own; frequently they were his own, just rewritten from some earlier speech. He was a hard--he accepted the notion that a press secretary, an assistant in the speech writing and press area, was really necessary. In fact, I--for a long time he 00:24:00considered the whole thing a necessary evil and made no bones about it. We both learned and developed some kind of operating mode that grew through the years; and by the time of my second tour and particularly during the time from, oh, let's say the fall of, even the summer of 1964 when we began to realize that we had a potential race on our hands from the then incumbent governor, Governor (Carl Edward) Sanders, we worked out a pretty good system of Senator-press secretary relationship including the whole thing--speech-writing and
CATES: Bill, when you referred to a necessary evil, were you referring to thewriting of the speeches and his delivering the speeches or the whole operation 00:25:00of press secretary-Senator?
BATES: The whole operation, including the first, and it was a long, long timebefore I ever knew Senator Russell to use anything on the Floor of the Senate that had been written for him, other than a very technical committee report maybe that had been written from the staff, that is; but when it was Dick Russell talking for the Record, for the Congressional Record, he wanted that to be his own words, and in most instances--I'd say 90 percent of the time--they were Dick Russell's words even if somebody, myself or somebody else, had written something for him--it would be no more than maybe an idea or two that he might use and develop, but basically--there are some exceptions to this--but basically-- I'll restart the sentence: The bulk of the words uttered by Senator Russell inscribed in the Congressional Record are indeed Senator Russell's own words. Very, very few of those words over the years were written for him by 00:26:00other people. This was the last tradition of the Senator's duty as he saw it that he was willing to accept--some necessity for change, signing his own mail was another and there're other members of the staff who will no doubt talk about that. He was--till I left the staff the last time the Senator insisted on reading all of his own outgoing mail and signing most of it, which it was my understanding the general practice of senators' offices is that the bulk of the mail the Senator never sees. You know, it's a routine, but no letter to Senator Russell from a Georgian was a routine matter; it was an important communication from a person that he thought was pretty important--a Georgia constituent. Now that may sound maudlin, but it's a fact, and it paid off in many, many ways that maybe the Senator didn't mean for it to. But I've seen him when we'd be 00:27:00travailing the state on speaking tours--and he made a lot more speeches in that 1965-1966 period than probably he'd made since coming to the Senate, since probably the (Eugene) Talmadge race--would be in some place making a talk, Tifton (?), Savannah, or usually more in the more rural communities. After his speech, the Senator was always available; he'd always stay around and shake hands; some public officials when they make their speech, they get out as fast as they can. Senator Russell's style was to stay around and shake hands and greet people and speak to them, and he knew an awful lot of people, a lot more than--this whole thing that Senator Russell had lost touch with the people was never true, never true. He knew people; he knew names, but he would be greeting somebody in a line--they'd always line up and come by where he was after he'd 00:28:00finish speaking; I've seen hundreds of people standing in line for an hour just to shake hands with the Senator--and if some couple would come up or some lady or some man and say, "Senator, we sure do appreciate what you did for our son, Joe." I'd say, "Oh, my gosh, he's really got the Senator on the spot, now; he hasn't any idea what this is all about." And he'd usually do a slight hesitation, his mental processes were working; he would remember where he was and the fellow who had introduced himself, and he'd think of the case, and he would talk, believe it or not, he would talk to the point of some minor little service case; but he knew; he had remembered; he had retained that he had seen what this service case involved, and when the parents brought it up, he knew if he'd think a minute that he'd come up--a half minute or a second--and he'd speak to the case. And this came from the mail, keeping in touch with his constituents.
CATES: Bill, would you mind describing a typical day as a press secretary at thebeginning when you and Senator Russell were trying to feel your way as to what was expected of you and what you were supposed to do, and then maybe contrast 00:29:00that with a later period when you had developed this rapport between one another?
BATES: Well, one of the ground rules, shall we say, of my job that Bob Russellhad worked out was that I could have access to Senator Russell at any time. I did not go through anybody else in the office; I had my own direct contact, so I could see the Senator anytime I wanted to; but I learned very quickly that I better see him as infrequently as necessary. So I didn't see an awful lot of the Senator personally at first. I tried to do my job as far as possible while I was learning what that job was without being too much in his presence. So I'd say that I tried to--that my contact with the Senator personally was somewhat 00:30:00limited. I'd see him every day, I guess, but not for long periods and usually just to get a quick yes or no on sme letter or statement or answer to some newspaper inquiry, and it was as you would be in any new situation, boss-employer relation. It was pretty formal; it was stiff. He was a commanding person, and it was sort of a-- You asked me what did, what was it when I had that private session with him in Winder that attracted me, and I think it was the sense that you were in the presence of a very commanding, really historic figure, and I always felt guilty, particularly in the early days, for wasting the time of a man so great. He overawed me a little bit without meaning to; I mean I let it be this way. So I did as much of my work for him as I could 00:31:00outside of his personal surveillance if that makes some sense. It was a fairly stiff and formal relationship, which loosened up as we both got to know each other and the job. I can't emphasize too much that we really, neither of us, knew what I was supposed to do, because I had spent ten years in the newspaper business and he'd spent by that time, I guess, thirty-five in politics; he'd never had the need of a press secretary as such; I'd certainly never worked as a press secretary. So we both had to figure out each other and the job, but I think it worked fairly well.
CATES: Why do you think he needed a press secretary? Why do you think he thoughthe needed a press secretary? I know you said that-- 00:32:00
BATES: Because Senator Talmadge and Bill Burson were doing such a fantastic jobof communicating to the people back in Georgia what Senator Talmadge was doing, and I think this above all brought home to Senator Russell that the time had come that he had to-- See, up to that point, up to Senator Talmadge, it had been Senator (Walter Franklin) George, who was even more retiring and aloof from the day to day things as Senator Russell, and there was--Senator George did not exploit, that's a bad word, did not use the modern means of public relations, communications, very much--so there was no need for Senator Russell to in order to still keep his, get his share of measured coverage back in the state. But Senator Talmadge with a younger, newer outlook on things always believed in a 00:33:00strong press organization, and he, I think he really was the straw that broke the camel's back that persuaded the Senator he had to have a similar function on his staff.
CATES: Was Russell ever critical of your performance in these earlier days andyears? I mean-
BATES: Well, he probably was, but characteristic of the Senator, he never toldme so.
CATES: He never had an opportunity to tell you, well; maybe you shouldn't havehandled something this way, that maybe it should have been handled some other way?
BATES: Hugh, he may have, but I don't recall an incident. Now I'm sure he wasdispleased with me in what I had done on many occasions, but the innate kindness 00:34:00of Senator Russell--Senator Russell could never be unkind to a person at least to his face, and he never voiced any deep displeasure with me at all on anything--ever.
CATES: Why did you leave his employ in January 1961?
BATES: One of the purposes aside from--and it was part of the realization onboth Bobby and the Senator's part--that this press secretary, press relations area needed to be expanded and improved, they were looking in part not just at the Senator's competition from Senator Talmadge's activities, but the fact that a Senate election was coming up in 1960. So part of my--part of the reason for bringing me aboard at the time I was brought aboard was to prepare for the possibility and--hoped to head off any serious opposition in 1960. As it turned 00:35:00out he had no opposition, serious or otherwise. So after that time I had an opportunity to go with an aerospace company up in Baltimore--Martin-Marietta of Ben Martin Company--at a considerably higher figure than I was making, and with the Senator's permission--and that's the only way I would have gone--I left for what I thought was greener pastures in the private sector.
CATES: Bill, what significant news happenings occurred while you were presssecretary the first time, December 1958 through January 1961?
BATES: Involving Senator Russell I suppose you mean?
CATES: Certainly involving Senator Russell.
BATES: By far the largest, biggest event of that period was the civil rightsbill--became, subsequently became law of 1960. This was the second major civil rights bill. One had been passed during the Eisenhower administration following 00:36:00a protracted Senate debate, filibuster in other words, and this one was introduced in the early part of 1960. By present standards, by later standards, compared to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was nothing, but it was the toughest thing that had been introduced by the civil rights proponents up to that time. It inspired a very vigorous opposition from the Southern bloc of which Senator Russell, of course, was the leader including a fairly lengthy filibuster around the clock debate. Senator Russell was in the thick of the 00:37:00fight from the first day to the last day. They won that one--the Southerners; they got most of what they really wanted out of it out of it. They got it all back in spades in 1964, but at least in the 1960 fight the Southerners succeeded in eliminating most of the provisions that were distasteful to them. And Senator Russell believed, sincerely believed, it unconstitutional.
CATES: What were some of your personal observations, or how did Senator Russellparticipate? I know he was the leader, but can you recall any specifics concerning this filibuster in 1960?
BATES: Well, nothing that--he was--I hope the other Southern senators that were00:38:00there won't take offense at this--but he was the whole fight. Had not Senator Russell been there to take it over and lead it and guide it, mastermind it, quarterback it, think of the arguments, think of the ploys, think of the tactics and strategies, I think the bill would have passed with very little difficulty. He ran the show; he ran the opposition to the civil rights bill, and that just got into so many areas, Hugh, that--negotiations with Lyndon Johnson, for example, on working out the final compromise. He was just--he was the--as the leader of the opposition, he was just involved in so many facets of it, I can't single out any one thing that stands out in my mind. So--
CATES: Can you recall other newsworthy happenings during this period other thanthe civil rights bill of 1960 and the filibuster? 00:39:00
BATES: I don't, I don't. Of course, Senator Russell was--anything involving themilitary, the defense posture of the country, defense appropriations were so very much in Senator Russell's area that he was, he would have been involved in all of them, but I don't--again, no great event stands out in my mind.
CATES: If I recall correctly, I think Sputnik I went up in the fall of 1957--
BATES: That's right.
CATES: --and, of course, this was just a little bit before you--
BATES: That was before my time.
CATES: --came up there. Was he still cognizant of the fact that Russia hadbeaten us on this, in this area? 00:40:00
BATES: Yes, very much so.
CATES: How did he feel about that? Did he ever discuss it with you?
BATES: Well, he didn't discuss it with me as such, but it was something hetalked about and we talked about in speeches, in interviews that he would give out. When I say we talked about it, I mean when I would prepare a speech for him, I'd--I knew what his position was from previous statements he had made on it and from talking to him to get guidance, and he was, yes, he was very concerned that the Russians were technologically and--in space and with space related to missiles, he was very concerned about the Russian, what appeared to be the Russian lead in the space, aerospace field--always coming back primarily to national security. He was concerned about it from a national security standpoint, not from national pride. I mean maybe he had some of that in it, but 00:41:00his concern--he viewed the space program in those days and later as essentially, as really a national security undertaking.
CATES: Bill, you stated that you left in January 1961, and went with anaerospace company. I've already interviewed Earl Leonard. I believe he was the second press secretary--
BATES: That's right, that's right.
CATES: --and you came back in January 1964. What were the circumstances there,of your coming back with Senator Russell?
BATES: Well, Earl had gotten, had been offered and had accepted his present jobwith Coca-Cola Company, and the Senator was looking, and again Bobby Russell was the instigator. He--I had always maintained, well, I maintained close relations with the Senator and his staff during the time I was with Martin Company. I'd 00:42:00see the Senator on an average of a couple of times a week. My daughter was born that I named for Senator Russell was--my third daughter was born during the time I was--the interval I was away from the Senator. So we were--I remained very close to the Senator during those two years, but characteristically it was Bobby who arranged, made the arrangements that led to my coming back, and he told me he needed to--the Senator was going to need somebody and I ought to talk to the Senator if I was interested. I got a call from the Senator; (he) wanted to ask, wanted to know if I'd drop by and see him, and he told me that Earl was leaving and he was a little concerned that the 1966 thing was beginning to get close and there was a young ambitious governor down there that might be thinking about running against him and he just needed some help and would I consider coming 00:43:00back. Well, I did. It didn't take very long really to be--having been asked by the Senator was a pretty great honor in itself. I took a quite substantial pay reduction to do it, but I never regretted that one either. It was a fortunate and good thing for me that he wanted me back on the staff.
CATES: You've made several references to Carl Sanders and his intentions to runagainst Senator Russell. Would you comment about this a little more in detail? How did Senator Russell view this threat?
BATES: Very seriously.
CATES: Let me ask you this question while you are putting your thoughtstogether: Did-- 00:44:00
BATES: Well, I'm thinking what I'd-- Go ahead.
CATES: --did Carl Sanders ever promise Senator Russell that he would not runagainst him?
BATES: That was why I hesitated. I don't know how to handle that, and I thinkthat I will not comment on that. I--don't let me leave it mysteriously. I don't know--of my own personal knowledge.
CATES: Did the Senator ever discuss this point with you?
BATES: I--that--I'm not going--I--that's an area I prefer not to get into. Letus say that Senator Russell at some point--certainly it was in the, very much in the consideration that led to my going back with Senator Russell. It was deemed a possibility, let me put it that way, in everybody's mind that had anything to do with Senator Russell--Bobby's, the Senator's himself, other members of the staff. Whatever understandings, if any, there were in the governor's race of 00:45:001962, by 1964, it was just an accepted fact that Carl Sanders was a potential challenger to the Senator in 1966.
CATES: Did he not indeed actively campaign, but then later withdrew from the race?
BATES: Well, now, I think that's a question that more properly should bedirected to Governor Sanders. If you--by that you mean he declared himself as a candidate, no, he never did; on the other hand, he didn't declare himself not a candidate till sometime in April 1966, and that was considered such great news that it was big news. It was--oh, we're kidding everybody if we don't recognize 00:46:00he was doing some--let's say Sanders never, Governor Sanders never formally declared himself, but he did some things that didn't deter speculation that he intended to run against the Senator and then formally declared that he would not run against the Senator a copy of the statement--as the statement indicated.
CATES: What do you think Senator Russell did that he would not have done had henot had opposition or potential opposition?
BATES: Would not have made as many personal speeches in Georgia, which wereextremely taxing on him from a physical standpoint--very taxing on him. You'd have to go back and look at the record, but he made, for anybody, a very large number of speeches in the state in the period from, well, when he--after his illness of 1965, when he got back on his feet and was able to start traveling 00:47:00and making and exerting himself--which was by the fall, even late summer--he was carrying on a quite extensive speaking effort in Georgia which required a lot of travel back and forth, much more so than a man of his years who had just had a very serious illness and who had had emphysema should have been making. He should not have been exerting himself as he should [sic], but that's the only thing that occurs to me that Russell did that he wouldn't have done.
CATES: Why do you think Carl Sanders withdrew--you've already stated the factthat he never officially entered the race, but everybody knew that he was running--why do you think he decided not to run against Senator Russell?
BATES: Well, Senator--Governor Sanders can--have to answer that question also.00:48:00Let me say from Senator Russell's standpoint, I don't think there's any question but had there been opposition of a serious nature, I think Senator Russell would have won overwhelmingly. We did some polling, which showed that Senator Russell was in an almost unbeatable position. I understand there were some other polls taken by some other parties that said the same thing.
CATES: You think Senator Russell held a grudge, or do you think it affected hisrelationship with Carl Sanders?
BATES: I won't comment on that.
CATES: Won't comment on that. Can you think of anything else that you couldcomment on concerning this?
BATES: Yes, I want to put a personal trans and postscript in there. It did notwith me. I always have liked Carl Sanders and always admired Carl Sanders, so 00:49:00our relations after that were very friendly, very amicable. I supported Carl Sanders last year.
BATES: That may be why he didn't do so well. (laughter)
CATES: --what were the--how did Senator Russell regard Carl Sanders?
BATES: I thought you asked me that almost a minute ago. (laughter)
CATES: Maybe I did. We won't--
CATES: belittle this. I just was trying to--this was a very important time inthe Senator's life
BATES: Right, right.
CATES: --as you indicated, he exerted himself to a great degree--
BATES: This, I think, was a great, great risk to the Senator.
CATES: --and he was only human; and I was just trying to, from your viewpoint,your close association with him on his staff at that time, to try to get across 00:50:00to future researchers and historians the human qualities of Senator Russell and how he reacted to this situation.
BATES: Well now, I am not even going to attempt to say how--to describe SenatorRussells personal feelings in the matter. Let me see if I can describe how I think Senator Russell, as a political animal, reacted to this. Number one, he did not like the idea of a challenge--he would prefer to win, as he did, without a major challenge--therefore, anybody who--who had--who would have arisen to be a potential challenger, the political man would not have liked this because he would rather win without having an election. I think that political man that Senator Russell was also understood, maybe from his own background, why the 00:51:00ambitions of a younger man whose time is running out as governor would look around for where could he go, and I think it would occur to him that a natural political step might have been a race for the Senate. In other words, I think I'm saying that Senator Russell did not like the idea that he could have had opposition, but I think he might have understood it. We--
BATES: --we had a non-campaign campaign. We were running like crazy. I don'tknow whether Governor Sanders considered himself running, but I can tell you that the Russell organization, if there is one--the Russell staff, the Russell friends--we were running; there's no question about it. Senator Russell was running--and he won.
CATES: Why was he running at this time?
BATES: Well, he was tryig to solidify his strength and his support and hisfollowing back home before--to be in such a formidable position that he would 00:52:00discourage a full-fledged challenge, which, I think, he did. My view is Senator Russell's strategy was eminently successful.
CATES: Do you think he developed his strategy or did his friends and advisorslead him in this direction?
BATES: I don't think--I think it was instinctive on everybody's part. If youcould win an election the year before the primary, isn't that the time to win it? It costs a lot less.
CATES: Bill, we've, I guess, pretty much covered this ground, so we'll go on tosomething else; and that is, during the time that you were press secretary for the second time, January 1964 through September 1966, what were some of the major news events that you recall as they affected Senator Russell?
BATES: Well, Hugh, those were extremely eventful years--civil rights debate of00:53:001964, the Vietnamese war really began to become a burning national issue; Senator Russell was very much involved in that--but before we leave the politics entirely, I want to talk a little bit about--I'd like to talk a little bit about how Senator Russell personally conducted himself in that 1965-1966 period, in which we thought there might be a challenge.
CATES: I believe you indicated, too, Bill, that you had a client to call youjust a few minutes ago and he needs to see you. I have a commitment to catch a plane this afternoon to fly down to Savannah, and maybe this might be a good breaking point; and we can get back together, and you can answer these questions 00:54:00that I've asked you and anything else that you might want to say because I feel like you do have a lot more to offer in this area and this time period.
BATES: Well, thank you, Hugh, and I'd appreciate that if you could do that.While we are on the subject, though, so it will be on the tape, we're also leaving out what to Senator Russell had to be--to Senator Russell and to his friends--had to be the greatest, the most important--not the greatest, the most important--event of all during that 1964-1966 time period and that was his very serious illness in early 1965 that really was the beginning of the end for the Senator--
CATES: I see.
BATES: --as far as his health is concerned, and.
CATES: Well, what we-- Excuse me.
BATES: --there were a lot of things there during almost a six month period thatshed a lot of light on Russell the man that I thinks worth recording.
CATES: Well, what we'll do then in the next several weeks, we'll try to gettogether again and maybe you can make a few notes and I'll try to do the same 00:55:00thing, and then we'll continue where we're leaving off now.
BATES: Very good.
CATES: Thank you.
CATES: This is Hugh Cates, March 17, 1971. I'm back in the office of Bill Bateswho was press secretary to the late Senator Richard Russell, and we'll pick up where we left off as indicated earlier on this tape. Bill, I believe, what you were going to mention first was how this race affected Senator Russell--the race that never occurred in 1966.
BATES: Well yes, in a general way, Hugh, but more important, one of the thingsthat I wanted to leave for the future researchers of Senator Russell is my--some observations that I think were interesting and maybe revealing as to how--what 00:56:00kind of political routine or political thinking, or political actions even, Senator Russell went through during the period of time that he realized and his friends realized that Carl Sanders may well run against him. I think that a lot of people who did not know Senator Russell very well probably thought he was a much more personally political animal than I think he was, or at least that he was in the stages that I knew when he had reached, of course, a high watermark of a national statesman. Because he was such a successful and popular political leader from his home state for so many years, I think there is a tendency to 00:57:00feel that this man must have thought, ate, slept, lived politics all the time. Well, this is certainly not true of the Russell I knew, in fact, just the opposite. We of the staff and friends and family who tried to start putting together and helping to shape a campaign organization found it very difficult to get the Senator to talk to us very much about the coming race. Oh, he would concede--he knew--there's no question that we all understood that we were getting ready for what might be a very monumental race, but this didn't--the Senator didn't come to the office and start thinking about his race, his campaign; he would go on about his daily business whether it would be something before the committee or something on the Floor. It was very difficult to find 00:58:00time and to find him in a mood to want to talk about the nitty-gritty of politics. In fact, in trying to refresh my memory for this second session, I'm--it's my recollection--I hope I'm not contradicting some of the other staff members--that the decision, for example, of who was going to be the campaign manager had never been decided. Several names were suggested, and I remember talking to the Senator on two or three occasions about who would be a good person to head up his campaign, or maybe it'd be two campaign managers, but--there was a discussion, but I don't believe ever a decision--and we were well down the line in point of time toward a primary campaign when Governor Sanders announced that he would not run for the Senate. So that's sort of typical, I think, of Senator Russell's personal view of that campaign. He knew 00:59:00he had the possibility looming of a campaign, and he would talk and think and plan in more general large terms what needed to be done but never got around and never did very much of the details and minutiae of politics; and I attribute this to several things: one, he was preoccupied during this period with some considerable weighty matters of state, the civil rights debate that ran a good part of 1964, of course--he was the leader of the thing. As I indicated on an earlier tape and as the calendar and the historians will note, the Vietnamese war really heated up starting about, as I recall, about midyear of 1964. About 01:00:00the time, as a matter of fact, that the civil rights debate of 1964 was reaching its climax, the war in Southeast Asia took a very serious turn--I believe this was the Bay of Tonkin period. What I am trying to say to you about Russell, the eminently successful political leader, the very popular, popular political leader, did not in the time I knew him and when he faced a serious--the possibility of a serious challenge, he didn't really think like you would expect a politician to think. He didn't worry, or if he did worry he didn't bother his staff with it about, oh, my gosh! What kind of shape am I in Ware County? Who's going to be my leader down there? He just stuck to the big major problems that he had to live with day in and day out, and I guess sort of left the day-to-day 01:01:00politicking to take care of itself, or his staff and the family and the friends would take care of it. During those busy days of 1965, 1964, excuse me, 1964 and then after he was recovered from his illness, enough to get back to work and get back to thinking about the campaign in 1965, the latter part of 1965, he wouldn't--he would not have time to talk to the staff about anything really weighing on politics during the day. About the only time that he would sit down and give some thought and some conversation to some practical political steps or moves or activities would be in his traditional time of relaxation in the office which always occurred late in the day after he had signed his mail--and I believe, you've heard from me, I'm sure other members of the staff, the fetish he would make of seeing and reading his own mail; it was an ordeal, but this was one of the things he insisted on--usually, usually it was five--five o'clock would be early--six or six-thirty, maybe even seven when he had finished his day, finished the mail. He would sit down--always had bourbon and water or two and relax and chat. That's when some of us from the staff discovered was the best timeto talk to Senator Russell. He was relaxed. He would give some thought to maybe some things that we ought to be doing in the political arena, but not 01:02:00that--he was just the--he couldn't have given less thought during his working day to his political campaign. This was--this is the side of the man that I think maybe is not too well-known or realized. Now--and this may not have been the case in his earlier career when he was a young senator, when he was governor; maybe he did think and talk overtly about day-to-day politics than he did in later life. The subject fascinated him--I mean he would talk about it. I'm trying to draw a distinction between a man who might fear for his political posture and just devote almost all of his time to doing something about it. This Senator Russell did not do; he did not do in his--in the time I knew him. I'm 01:03:00going to say something, too, about my discovery of what the Russell, so-called Russell organization was all about--and I look back on it with absolute--I'm appalled. During the years I thought I was a pretty good political reporter, I assumed the myth of a Russell organization--by that, that there was same formal county-by-county, precinct-by-precinct organization which somebody mysteriously would push a button and it would spring to life. I remember in my first stint with Senator Russell, not long after leaving the Constitution, being in a hotel in Washington with Governor Vandiver and Bob Russell [who] were up for some event in Washington, and we were-- I was then trying " to concern myself with the possibility--I now realize it was very remote--but the possibility that the 01:04:00Senator would have had a political challenge in 1958, which would have been--yes, that would have been the one before; and I remember asking Bob Russell about the Russell organization--and in the room at the time was Bob Russell and myself--and Bob laughed and said, "The Russell organization? It's now meeting." He and I--that was, of course, a facetious comment, but there was no formalized Russell organization; or if it was, it stayed very well hidden from me in the later years when we sure would liked to have known that there was a viable, ongoing, lively Russell organization down to the precinct level. It didn't exist. The Russell organization, the Russell political strength was Russell the man, Russell the giant.
CATES: And the loyalty that people had for the Senator that would spring forthat the time he needed it? 01:05:00
BATES: Right, right.
CATES: And then what you were saying before that, Bill, was that he certainlydid not have a preoccupation with his race or pending race with Sanders--that's what you were saying earlier--that if he did, if he thought about it, he kept it to himself, and it was not an overriding thought in his mind?
BATES: No, I'm not quite saying that, Hugh.
CATES: Oh, you're not?
BATES: I think that he was; he did give it an awful lot of thought. I think itdid occupy a lot of his thinking but that was not reflected in his day-to-day schedule.
CATES: I see.
BATES: He didn't act on the thought or the knowledge that-- That didn't dominatehis activities. He continued pretty much what he had always been doing--being a very active, a very effective, a very busy senator spread over many, many areas. There simply was no time to politick, to do the nitty-gritty of politics, but I 01:06:00guess we would have had to have found some of that time somehow if the race had materialized, but it didn't.
CATES: Bill, we are talking about 1965 now, but let's go back one year and talkabout a speech which Senator Russell made in the Senate, and I think he probably made it about 1964, and yet it did not appear in the Congressional Record the way that he gave it. Would you like to comment about that--because you had something to do with it? It was a speech that he made, and I understand that he went home that night and said for you and some of the others on the staff to kind of polish it up to send it over to the Congressional Record.
BATES: Well, I don't know where you got that information, but it's very erroneous.01:07:00
CATES: It is erroneous?
BATES: From several standpoints.
CATES: Well, that's--
BATES: In the first place it occurred in 19--the incident you are referring tooccurred in 19--well, excuse me, I shouldn't say you're erroneous; it did happen in 1964. The incident--
CATES: I was not sure of the date; I thought it was--
BATES: --it was in the earlier civil rights debate of 1960.
BATES: Right, and it was during the civil rights debate of that year--what hadhappened--and the same thing happened incidentally in 1964. During the period of prolonged debate, the filibusters, the regular Senate reporters simply could not handle with their regular staff the coverage of the Senate debate within their longhand, shorthand style. They were bringing in from, I guess, anywhere you 01:08:00could get court reporters--would be brought in to augment the regular Senate official reporter;--now we are talking about the public Congressional Record, not the press reporters but the official reporters, who were very good and who knew their men and knew their subject matter and just were excellent recorders of the spoken word--but when they bring somebody in new to the Senate, new to the Senate personalities, new to the terminology, the reporting could be just awful, and this happened on a particular talk that the Senator made one Saturday afternoon--
CATES: Excuse me just a minute. We're just almost out of tape here and I'd liketo refer the transcribers to Tape #28 (Side 3, Cassette #96) which would be a continuation of this interview and it would be following the interview with Judge Frank Hooper. (tape stops and starts again) 01:09:00
CATES: This is March 17, 1971. It's a continuation of an interview with BillBates from Tape 10, side 2 (Side 3, Cassette 96). Okay, Bill.
BATES: Well, the speech that the Senator made that afternoon which was recordedby, at least in part, by reporters as I remember them--not of the regular reporting staff, but people who had been brought in to help because of the strain on the regular staff. The talk the Senator made was on a rather sensitive subject. It was--I believe it involved crime and relative incidents of crime in Northern cities versus Southern cities and some other social aspects that were--in any circumstance would have been kind of touchy, difficult to handle. The Senator spoke off the cuff--as I had indicated earlier, it was his, 01:10:00particularly in the earlier years, he preferred to do anyhow from notes--and when we saw the--when he and I looked at the transcription of the official report, we were both just horrified. It was just impossible; it couldn't stand the way it was. It had--the speech did indeed have to be rewritten and it had to be rewritten from memory as best as I could put it back together, and the Senator was tired and he left it with me, and I think (William H.) Bill Jordan was another member of the staff--maybe there were several others. We drew everybody we could think of that might have heard it to help try to--I think we did put--get the Senator's thoughts that he had tried to express in that speech fairly well recast or recalled, but we lost a lot of his language--and if I had to go back and look, I could find the speech in the Congressional Record--but he thought it was all right, too. He called me at home the next Sunday morning, the 01:11:00following day, and said, well, we had done a pretty good job of trying to recoup from the disaster of the day before. But that was that incident. We did not rewrite a speech; we tried to recall the speech that he had made and soften it in a place or two.
CATES: Actually the person who told me this has put a time seal on this, so thiswould be part of time seal on this reference, and the transcribers and historians would know about that. The only thing I was trying to do was to mention it to you to get your viewpoint of it and to ask you, I guess, a direct question now: Do you feel like that maybe Senator Russell had lost his temper or was not in complete control of himself when he delivered this speech on the Senate Floor?
BATES: No, no, sir.
CATES: That was not the case? It was just a question of bad transcribing by--
BATES: It was primarily a question of bad transcribing--
CATES: --bad transcribing and--01:12:00
BATES: .on a very sensitive subject that would be easy to get yourselfout--embarrassing words. That's my memory of the thing.
CATES: Let me ask you this--this relates to another matter--does the phrase"Shining White Armor Speech" mean anything to you?
BATES: No. I think again I remember what you're referring to. I believe that wasa speech that he had dictated but never delivered at the conclusion of the civil rights debate of 1957, which was before I joined the staff. Is that--
CATES: Generally, it was on civil rights. I forget now right when it was; Ithought it was in 1964, but it probably was 1957. BATES: I think it was.
CATES: But you have no knowledge of that, other than what you just said?01:13:00
BATES: Yeah, that's all. Seems to me I saw the draft of it; but if I am thinkingabout what you're referring to, it wrote a speech that he had made, written, dictated to him as a sort of--what's it, postlog? Is there such a thing?
CATES: It's after the fact.
BATES: Yes--some observations over the civil rights debate of 1957, but that'sthe only reference to "shining armor" that I'm aware of.
CATES: Well, of course, this was under a time seal, too, but--and I guess itwould apply here just in my mentioning it to you, but I did want to mention that to you. Do you have any comments or observations about this illness of his in 1965?
BATES: Only that none of staff, family, or us realized how very serious it was01:14:00until--at first. There was that January a very widespread virus, flu bug, making the rounds of Washington; maybe it was part of a national epidemic that periodically seemed to sweep over us. I believe the President came down with it; several Cabinet officers came down with it; and it was quite common, and all of a sudden the Senator turned up ill--I can't remember what day of the week it was and the circumstances in which he checked himself in with the Senate physicians. Bill Jordan, as I recall, went to Walter Reed with him, and I stayed back in the office because we knew we'd get press inquiries as soon as the word was out that he had gone to Walter Reed; and I got the impression from my initial 01:15:00conversations with Bill, and I decided on how we were going to handle it with the press--that it wasn't anything real serious, and this was the tenor of the announcement that was made, and I made it--that he had been admitted. I think we related it to the virus, the common virus that's going around, and if the President and half the Cabinet can have it, then so can the senior members of the Senate--something like that. We got to--we sort of trapped ourselves with that, though, because we did make--I did anyhow; I'll assume responsibility for it; I think I was operating in consensus with Bill's thinking on it, though--that it wasn't serious. This was the way we handled it with the press initially, and before we knew it, we realized it was quite serious and didn't really know exactly how to handle it. We didn't want to picture him one bit more 01:16:00ill than he really was because we knew no matter what we said about his health, the rumor mill in Georgia, because the Senate race was beginning to emerge, the rumor mill would have exaggerated it several degrees beyond what we said the situation to be or what we reported the situation to be. So I got accused similarly by some of my friends in the press--(Charles) Charlie Pou for one--of not leveling with the news people on the seriousness of the illness, but this was not the case initially. We just--I simply didn't know; I thought it was much less serious than it turned out to be. Did I get off from your question of?
CATES: No, no. The question was about his illness and--
BATES: Well, it did--it wasn't very long before staff and family realized it wasvery serious. This was the most difficult time I personally ever had as a member 01:17:00of the Senator's staff because the Senator was not--you couldn't communicate with the Senator. He was out of it. There's no wife to ask, you know, what do we say? What do we say to the public and the press about the Senator's condition? You really didn't have much--we could talk to--we did talk--and this is how we finally handled it--sort of a family council of those senior members of the family who were present with constant consultation with Judge Bob Russell in Georgia--and someday would like to know what we spent in telephone bills, Bob and I; we probably spent a third of our days there for a while on the telephone with each other passing back and forth developments. We'd get--we would find out 01:18:00from the hospital staff, medical staff, what as best they could describe what the Senator's condition would be, and then we would discuss with the family what should be said. He had a tracheotomy.
CATES: Who decided on that?
BATES: Bob Russell and myself. Some members of the staff--and I don't know aboutthe family--but some members of the staff disagreed that we should--they thought me should not have announced that, but I am fairly certain Bill Jordan concurred in the decision that Bob and I reached unilaterally to announce that the Senator had had a tracheotomy. Nobody wanted to say--that was terribly bad news and nobody really wanted, relished the idea of saying it or announcing it, but it 01:19:00had to be done, and we realized that the longer--and hindsight the only thing we did wrong was not doing it sooner. We waited a few hours, several hours, but most of that was family consultation and trying to decide the best way to handle it.
CATES: Who decided that he should have his trach?
BATES: Now this I don't know.
CATES: You don't know?
BATES: I think--I assume the doctors would have made that decision. I don't knowwhether they--that was a purely medical decision so far as I know. I don't know whether it was discussed in advance with the family; I don't remember.
CATES: The reason I posed the question--and here again I truthfully don't knowwho told me this, but Senator Russell agreed to it but that he said that he was out of his head when he agreed to it, and I just didn't know if you knew about that or not.
BATES: I remember some discussion about it and I believe it was discussed withthe Senator, but--
CATES: And that he had such a personal fear of it that he would never had agreed01:20:00to it if he had been completely with all of his faculties.
BATES: Well, the way it was--the way I remember it being explained was it was amatter of life and death. I don't know; this is a--we're in a medical area now. I was concerned primarily with how the--with public announcement of it, not with the decision of whether or not it would have been done. I accepted what, of course, what the doctors did as being their best advice on what had to be done for the Senator's health and his welfare, but I do recall--you triggered my memory--I do recall that one of the--I think the Commanding General of the--who made the operation? Wasn't it the Surgeon General of the United States?
CATES: I'm not really sure.
BATES: I believe he was. I think he was the one who told the Senator he thoughtit needed to be done and I believe that you are right, or your informant that it was discussed with the Senator, but I'll have to say that I don't think the 01:21:00Senator could have responded responsibly at that time. He was too ill; he was too sick.
CATES: Well, that's what he said. That's what this person said he said, was thatif he had had all his faculties he didn't believe that he would have agreed to it because he hid such a fear of it.
BATES: I see. Well, one of the things about the Senator in the illness that Iwould like to leave for posterity, and you may have gotten some of this from Babs [Barboura G. Raesly]. I became increasingly concerned about what was being said to the press without any--without the Senator authorizing it, but he wasn't able to authorize it or to discuss it and if he had been, he was so sick that I wouldn't want to go in and say, "Senator, should tell them how sick you are? or something like that. I became concerned about the record we were leaving--the public record of what was being said about his illness and reasons why we would say what we would on any given day--and quite early in the illness, 01:22:00Babs Raesly and I developed a-- I've never gone back and read those, read her transcriptions. I would dictate to her at the end of each day what was done in the way of a public announcement on the Senator's condition as objectively as I could state it what the reasons behind or for a decision to say this or not to say this. So there is a record and I have it, and Babs may have a copy, too. I have never gone back to look at it, but in the course of time the Senator recovered and just before his discharge from Walter Reed--I was very nervous about this; I figured that he would say, "Oh, my Lord! Did you have to say this, or did you have to do this, or why did you do that?" Maybe I was making my record for him. (laughs) I just thought there ought to be some reason since 01:23:00there was no one person who had the responsibility for these decisions. It was--it devolved among several people, staff and family. I--just before the Senator's release, I went in and I told him, "Senator, I had to say some things about your condition while you were ill--and well, frankly we couldn't talk to you--that you may not like." I explained that in every instance where possible, and that was almost all of them, that Judge Bob Russell had concurred in and had helped shape the policy. The Senator loved Bob and had complete faith in his judgment and his decisions as he should have. The Senator cut me off before I'd--I had, I believe I had taken with me transcriptions of our daily record of what was said--he just cut me off and says, "Well, Bill, I don't know why you 01:24:00had any problem about this at all. All you had to do was tell the truth and that was all--just state the facts and that was all that was necessary." And that closed the subject. It was never raised again, and I've never looked at the notes since then.
CATES: I don't know if I asked you this question before: Do you think SenatorRussell was a hypochondriac?
BATES: I think that's--I don't--I'd rather not respond to the term hypochondriacbecause I don't guess I really--I know what it generally means. I'll answer you in this way: I think the illness of 1965 thoroughly frightened the Senator and which was one of the--and the doctor said so at the time--that this was one of the best things that--one of the good sides that came out--good things that came out of his illness if there was [sic] any good things--that it did make him concerned with his health. It did cause him to take better care of himself. It 01:25:00did cause him to check in with a doctor or doctors with the slightest evidence that he might be coming down with something, but I don't think that's a hypochondriac. I think the man was exercising the judgment that he had to exercise. No, I--he became very concerned about his health from that point forward, and I don't remember him expressing particular concern about his health prior to that illness. He didn't--I'm sure you've heard about some of his personal habits--how he didn't eat properly half the time; but, you know, there again, the man was a bachelor and when his day was ended he went home to an apartment and there was no wife there to prepare a hot meal, and I guess a man 01:26:00gets awfully tired of eating in a restaurant every night to get a hot meal or a good meal so he didn't--he didn't--many times I'm sure he didn't eat properly. But I think he--I know he did much, much better about that, after his illness. And the family stepped in at that point, family and staff, to try to make sure that he was--that his personal habits were not--weren't detrimental to his health anymore than possible.
CATES: Were you on the staff when his brother Bob Russell died and/or his nephewBobby Russell, Jr.?
BATES: I was on the staff at the time of Judge Robert, Sr.'s, excuse me, I wason the staff at the time when Bob Russell died because he died--the junior, the son, not the brother, the nephew--does that--? 01:27:00
CATES: His nephew?
BATES: It was the nephew. Yes, I was very much involved in that, not involved init but aware of it, because Bob and I, as I indicated earlier, were extremely close personal friends. I knew that he was dying at the same time the Senator was undergoing his crisis, health crisis.
CATES: Did the Senator know that?
BATES: No. The Senator knew that Bob had developed a kind of intestinal cancerin, I believe it was 1964, and the first reports were very grim; but then there were some encouraging reports which the Senator--that I think buoyed the Senator's thinking about Bobby's condition, and then he had his own--he became 01:28:00desperately ill himself the time Bobby's situation began to deteriorate. But I remember one time during the Senator's illness, Bob had come, unknown to Senator Russell--I made arrangements for Bob to go into NIH at Bob's request.
CATES: What is this NIH?
BATES: National Institutes of Health, where Bob died. He had a very--he had arare cancer, as I recall, some rare form of cancer and the doctors at NIH wanted him as a patient--you know, that's more or less a research tank--and one of the times that Bob came to Washington with his wife for an examination prior to the time he was admitted to NIH, he went out to visit the Senator; and I know that Bob knew in his heart that there war no hope for him, but he told the Senator in 01:29:00order to make the Senator feel good, that they told him they had given him a clean bill of health and everything was going to be all right. Bob did that deliberately to buoy the Senator's spirits, and it did at a time when the Senator needed it, and I don't know how long the Senator was under illusion about Bobby's condition--not very long because Bob died not too long after Senator Russell was, oh, in midsummer as I recall--
CATES: Of 1965?
BATES: --1965, so that the Senator was still in effect recuperating but back atwork when Bob died.
CATES: How did his death affect him?
BATES: Oh, terribly bad, it was a blow. The Senator loved him and they wereextremely, extremely close. I don't think the other nephews, or brother for that matter, would mind my saying that, in my opinion, the Senator was closest to Bob 01:30:00of all the nephews--Bobby, as he called him.
CATES: And when did Bobby's father die? You don't know?
BATES: Well, it was before my time, but I think it was about 1957. I think itwas during the civil rights, that first of the civil rights, prolonged civil rights fights because I relate it to the time that the Senator was diagnosed as having emphysema and when he stopped smoking. I think it was related to his brother's death.
CATES: Do you think that the national news in 1964 had anything to do with hisadverse turn for the worse health wise in 1965, January 1965?
BATES: No, no news itself did.
CATES: I meant--I'm thinking now about Vietnam and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.01:31:00
BATES: Well, I don't think--again we're really probably in a medical area, butI'll give it as my opinion as watching the man. No person, I don't care who it was, could have had a--unless it was the President of the United States--could have carried more on his shoulders in a period of a year than Senator Russell carried in 1964 beginning at the very start of the session because the Senate plunged right into the civil rights debate of 1964, which was the longest and the bitterest and the most demanding of all of them. At the same time President [Lyndon Baines] Johnson just--drafted Senator Russell to serve on the Warren Commission on the assassination of President [John Fitzgerald] Kennedy, which was--that alone, in addition to normal Senate duties would have been a load on a man, but he carried that on. He didn't attend as many meetings of the Commission 01:32:00as he wanted to, but he read the record and he studied and he spent many, many, many hours to the work of the Warren Commission. And on top of that, the Vietnamese war started heating up toward the latter part of the year involving him inhis official capacity in many ways. So, yes, there was the combination of three major, major-- (tape stops and starts again)
CATES: It's a continuation of my March 17, 1971 interview with Bill Bates,former press secretary of Richard Russell. This is Tape 29.
BEGIN SIDE 4, CASSETTE #96
(For other tapes in connection with this interview, see Tape 28 (Cassette #95)and Tape 10 (Cassette #96)) 01:33:00
BATES: The question was, I believe, Hugh, was, did the--you said news events andI changed it to the Senator's activities related to major news events, have an effect on his health, and I think very definitely when you remember that, in 1964, beginning on the opening day of the new session the Senator was involved 01:34:00in three major events. He was a member of the Warren Commission; as he has told it many times, he did not want to serve. Johnson just plain--President Johnson just plain drafted him, so he did accept service on the Warren Commission. Of course, the civil rights debate, the debate on the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was, I believe, the longest filibuster in the history of the Senate. Senator Russell directed every step of the way the Southern position. As we've indicated before, toward the end, even before the civil rights debate had been concluded, the Vietnamese war really heated up and became a pre-eminent national issue. And 01:35:00then there was still fourth--a fourth element in this--that we were then quite apprehensive that Governor Sanders might decide to run for the Senate in l966, and we were trying to take steps in that direction, and the Senator started making more speeches in Georgia than he normally did in a normal year beginning that fall, late summer and fall of 1964. So the combination of all those things with a man of his age, mid-sixties then, with emphysema was just bound to have taken their toll.
CATES: Bill, while we were changing tapes, you indicated and I know you don'thave her name, but I thought we would get it on tape here, but there was a member of the staff that was added specifically for the purpose of her assisting Senator Russell on the Warren Commission.
BATES: That's correct.
CATES: And after the interview today we will look up her name, and I'll try my01:36:00best to interview her. You might just state what you know about her. In fact, I think she worked--
BATES: She was the law clerk. She is a--and I'm embarrassed that I can't recallher name because I got to know her quite well--she is a lawyer. She was the legal assistant to Bob Russell, Judge Bob Russell, Court of Appeals, and he thought she was an extremely intelligent and able lawyer. When the Senator realized the enormity of the task and I think he knew it all along--as he recognized the enormity of the task of serving on the Warren Commission while at the same time trying to erect the civil rights--opposition to the civil rights bill, he, I'm sure went through some personal panic--how can one man do all this--and it was Bob's suggestion which he accepted that his legal assistant 01:37:00take leave of absence and join the staff of the Warren Commission. Whether her duties on the Warren Commission were so stated, she was in effect Senator Russells staff assistant on the Warren Commission. She, whatever that entailed because the Senator--that is one of the--as a matter of fact, that's the only activity, about the only activity Senator Russell was involved in during the years that I knew him that he kept absolutely to himself so far as staff is concerned. He never talked about the work of the Commission, only to indicate it was a tough assignment. The complete staff contact for his work on the Commission was the lady lawyer whose name I'll get for you in a few minutes.
CATES: Bill, can you think of anything else that you might want to note? Well,01:38:00one thing I want to ask you: How did the staff work as a unit when Russell was in good health and when he was unavailable, as you have so indicated?
BATES: Well, I think--I think very well under the circumstances. It was made upof present company included, of people that not maybe the most compatible with their fellow man as ideally we should be, and we often had differences of opinion on this course or that course; but we rallied behind the common cause, I think, very effectively, and the common cause was Richard Brevard Russell and his work and his re-election. I'd say it was--it was a great staff, as a matter 01:39:00of fact; I was very honored to be a member of it.
CATES: And they worked harmoniously generally speaking, one with the other?
BATES: No, I didn't say that. I said we worked together as a team (laughs) Ithink, or something like that, for the benefit of the Senator. Oh, no, there were personality clashes as there would be in any staff, but I don't believe we had any more than most would. We were a little leaderless at the top except for the Senator because of Mr. (Leeman) Anderson's own ill health and he was Administrative Assistant but he really did not direct the staff as I'm sure you've been told--and that's no disrespect for him; he was old and not--he was not well himself--and the Senator would not retire him. It was that simple. So, it was a headless horseman, but we managed to ride in the right direction. 01:40:00
CATES: Was the Senator aware of any problems?
BATES: Oh, sure.
CATES: He was? Did he ever--?
BATES: He liked to just ignore them though. That was our problem.
CATES: He did ignore them?
BATES: Pretty much, yes, during those times. He'd ignore them as far as anyaction, is that what you mean?
CATES: Yes. Bill, can you think of anything else that you would like to commentabout prior to your leaving his employ in 1966?
BATES: Well, Hugh, nothing that--no, I don't believe so. There are a lot ofthings that you could talk about from now on, I suppose, about the Senator, but I think we've covered the areas that I might be able to shed some light on the Senator.
CATES: Under what circumstances did you leave in 1966? I meant why did you leave?01:41:00
BATES: Oh, to return to Georgia and establish my home in Atlanta before I stayedaway so long it would be impossible to come back. I talked to the Senator at great length about it and he recommended--he advised me to, if this is what I wanted, if I wanted to return to Georgia--that in view of the age of my children, and my fancily, and my situation, my own age that he thought that I would be making a mistake not to do it then because if I waited very much longer he said, "You'll be trapped in Washington and you'll never go back." So he was all for the move, or so he was kind enough to tell me. It was after the primary, of course. I stayed longer than he--he asked me to stay a little longer than I had originally intended to, because of some--I've forgotten what it was now--some things coming up in the Senate that he felt like he might need me a little longer.
CATES: Did you have any contact with him after you left?
BATES: A great deal.01:42:00
CATES: You did?
BATES: I continued to help on speeches from time to time, conspired with him onsome friendly things a few times. Oh, no, I, that was the--the legacy I took away with me was a very close personal friendship with the Senator, and I suppose the door was always open; I visited with him in Washington and in Winder. I reached the point that when I'd come up here he'd usually let me take him to dinner at O'Donnell's (Sea Grill) which was always a treat.
CATES: Can you recall any conversation of significance that you would like torelate at this time covering the five years from 1966 until his death in 1971?
BATES: I was among those urging him to--not to say anything or do anything thatwould be interpreted to mean he wasn't planning to run again if his situation 01:43:00had permitted in 1972, and we had a couple of newspaper interviews that were arranged that so indicated this; but, of course, his health deteriorated so fast at the end that obviously it didn't work out. That was--that's about all I should say on that. I don't know what his own thinking was; I don't know when or if he ever fully knew that he could not be a candidate again. I don't know. I'd be interested in Proctor Jones's coments on that. He was discouraged about his health situation. In fact, when I talked to him about leaving, one of the reasons he urged me to go on and take the opportunity doom here was because he'd say, "Well, I'm probably not going to run again," or "I probably won't run 01:44:00again"; but I urged him not to think in those terms and above all, never to say that to--really don't even say it to staff; don't let that word ever leak out that he was really not planning to run again, and that was the--about all the politics we ever talked about after I left the staff was his politics.
CATES: What do you think motivated him to stay on even in his real bad health situation?
BATES: What else did he have? It was his life.
CATES: Well, do you think it was just that, or do you think he thought that hewas really doing a good job for the state of Georgia and that he wanted to stay on for that reason? In other words, was it a personal sacrifice in one respect for him to stay on?
BATES: Well, I don't think so. I've heard it said, and I happen to believe thatso long as Senator Russell lived and served in the Senate that his staff could 01:45:00do more for Georgia than most senators from most other states could do.
CATES: Because of his seniority?
BATES: Seniority and his influence. It was there whether it was being exercisedon a day-to-day basis or not; it was certainly there. He was a senior member of the Senate and Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and that speaks pretty loudly to the boys downtown.
CATES: What do you think was his most outstanding personality trait?
BATES: Personal honor, courage of his convictions--sense of wanting tocontribute to the welfare of his people, his state, and his country--all those things, I think, kind of rolled into one. I don't--I think I could not come up 01:46:00with a single phrase or certainly a single adjective that sums up Dick Russell for me. He was just so many things.
CATES: Bill, I appreciate this interview, and I'm always somewhat hesitant tobreak off an interview with somebody like yourself who knew him so closely over a span of time, but if you ever do have anything else that you want to add to this, we can certainly arrange it.