Partial Transcript: When you were the ambassador for the United States down in the Dominican Republic, they had an uprising of some sort there.
Keywords: Caribbean; Castro; Communism; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Foreign Relations Committee; Lyndon Johnson; Marines; William Fulbright; economic crisis; embassy; evacuation; revolution; sugar
STEPHENS: We'll begin our oral history tape here about recollections of ourfriend here, Mr. Tap Bennett Sr., and on the basis of his long-time friendship with Senator Russell and his family. As I know you all believe, Senator Russell was a great Georgian and he is honored by having the Russell Library set aside in his memory with all of the things that he had. I don't know whether you've seen his office over there; it's been reproduced in the Library.
BENNETT JR: Oh, has it? No, I haven't been over there.
STEPHENS: And it's been a very nice thing. It's got all of his Congressionalfurnishings and his, it's just exactly like his office was and it's very interesting to go there. Mr. Bennett, when do you, did you recall first meeting Senator Russell? Before he was Governor I'm sure, when-- 00:01:00
BENNETT SR: Oh yes.
STEPHENS: He was a young man.
BENNETT SR: About the time he comes through the university.
STEPHENS: I see. Well--
BENNETT SR: He was an outstanding citizen, due to his father, Judge [RichardBrevard Sr.] Russell.
STEPHENS: Yes, and were you living here at the time that the Russell's lived inAthens, or were they already over in Barrow County?
BENNETT SR: They were living in Barrow County and we lived in Apple Valley.
STEPHENS: In Apple Valley, now that's--
BENNETT SR: Jackson.
STEPHENS: In Jackson County, isn't it?
BENNETT SR: Yeah.
STEPHENS: Yes, and how did you become, excuse me, did you--
BENNETT JR: I was just going to say next door, the two counties join.
BENNETT SR: See my father was a dear friend of Judge Russell and I, he hadtalked to me so much about him.
BENNETT SR: And then--
STEPHENS: Well, your father was Mr. George--
BENNETT SR: George--
STEPHENS: George Bennett, and he, my recollection represented Clarke County or00:02:00at one time in the Georgia legislature, was he in the state senate, wasn't he in the--
BENNETT SR: No, he--
STEPHENS: State Senate at one time--
BENNETT SR: Was a representative at home in Jackson County and then Oglethorpe County.
STEPHENS: Did he--
BENNETT SR: He come to Athens County, uh Clarke County, and he run and waselected from Clarke County against Judge [Andrew C.] Erwin and he wasn't, hadn't been in Clarke County long enough to vote for himself.
STEPHENS: Well, I'll declare.
BENNETT JR: I think he's the only man that's ever represented three separate counties--
STEPHENS: Three separate counties, uh huh.
BENNETT JR: In the legislature.
STEPHENS: Now, was he in the legislature when Senator Russell was the senate orwas this before Senator Russell--
BENNETT SR: That was before.
STEPHENS: Before he was the governor.
BENNETT SR: Father represented Jackson County as a Populist.
STEPHENS: I see. He and Tom Watson were friends, I'm sure.
BENNETT SR: Tom Watson and Mr. Johnson and the E. S. Sell, who else, and the00:03:00Braseltons were all Populists.
STEPHENS: Well, they have claimed that we've got some Populists now, like oh,had, like Representative Wright Patman in the House of Representatives in Washington was considered a Populist in his philosophy. Well, now--
BENNETT JR: Some people even talk of Jimmy Carter as having Populist tendencies.
STEPHENS: Yes, and uh--
BENNETT JR: I said all of us Southerners are part Populist.
STEPHENS: Well, that's correct because we had such a terrific time overcomingmany of the economic difficulties after the War Between the States. When did you first remember meeting Senator Russell?
BENNETT SR: I don't remember specifically when I met him, but I remember his father.
STEPHENS: Can you tell me--?
BENNETT SR: That was before his day.
STEPHENS: A little bit about his father?
BENNETT SR: His father, my father brought me to Athens to hear Judge Russell00:04:00talk, make a speech in front of the Athens High, over here on Prince Avenue.
STEPHENS: Yes, the old Athens High School.
BENNETT SR: And when we got there, there was a big crowd. So's father said youcome down, bringing you down here to learn something, so you go up yonder and sit down on the side of the steps to where you can hear and learn something. And that's when I got sprayed, by him chewing his tobacco.
STEPHENS: Judge Russell was chewing tobacco in his speech and you were too near to--
BENNETT JR: But you didn't move.
BENNETT SR: I didn't move.
STEPHENS: You were so fascinated with him you sat there and.
BENNETT SR: Oh yeah, I was fascinated from my father's instructions.
STEPHENS: Well I, I'm glad to hear that. Sometimes it's difficult for people tounderstand parental instructions nowadays. You say that you lived in Apple 00:05:00Valley and you had a bicycle?
BENNETT SR: Uh hum.
STEPHENS: And what was the distance you traveled in your bicycle, on your bicycle?
BENNETT SR: I, that was about the time that Dick was running to be Governor andI just wanted to know where he lived. So and having that previous experience with his father making the speech in Athens, I got on my bicycle and rode it to Jefferson, four miles to Winder and then down two miles to Russell Station and stopped and looked up the alley of the trees into the front door. I'd seen Dick Russell's house and turned around, wasn't any pavement then, and I turned around 00:06:00and went back to Winder and back to home.
STEPHENS: That must have been about a fifty-mile trip on the bicycle, almost.
BENNETT SR: Well, it was four and thirteen and two.
BENNETT JR: I think that would have been well before he was governor, becauseafter all, you were older than he, and so that must have been to go see his father's house.
STEPHENS: Well I think he said, you said that was about the time Dick wasrunning for governor, which would have been about 1928, 20--
BENNETT SR: Let's see, I was--
BENNETT JR: You were already married then.
BENNETT SR: Yeah.
BENNETT JR: I think you must have been going to see his father's house' cause ofwhat your father had said about him.
BENNETT SR: I guess that's right.
BENNETT JR: Uh huh.
STEPHENS: You went to see the house where the Russell's--I had that sameexperience one time. My father brought me and my sister and my uncle over here to Athens from Atlanta to an alumni meeting and on the way back, my uncle, who 00:07:00was Judge [Alexander William] Alec Stephens on the court of appeals, and Judge Russell were great friends, and he wanted to stop and see Judge Russell's home. So we had the same experience that you did. When you started out, you, in the field of agriculture, you were with the Agricultural Extension Service, or were that before they had formulated exactly the--
BENNETT SR: No. And J. Phil [Campbell] was director of the extension then--
BENNETT JR: Campbell.
STEPHENS: The father, the father of the, our former commissioner--
BENNETT SR: Yes. Yeah.
STEPHENS: of agriculture. Now then--
BENNETT SR: Now and when I graduated from college, Dr. [Lamartine Griffin] LamHardman, who was a great friend of our father, of my father's, and he carried me to the senate with him as president of the senate before he run for governor. 00:08:00
STEPHENS: I see.
BENNETT JR: You served as a page.
BENNETT SR: Yeah.
STEPHENS: You served over there in the legislature. A lot of people have donethat and found it, as young people, and found it very interesting. The, then after working several years that way with the agricultural department, you went as the agriculture agent for the Southern Railroad?
BENNETT SR: No, I started out at the request of Dr. Lam. [He] wanted me to comebe our first county agent in Jackson County and Dr. [Andrew] Soule had previous orders not to--that no boy could go back home.
BENNETT JR: To his own county--
BENNETT SR: To his own county--
STEPHENS: As the county agent.
BENNETT SR: As the county agent.
STEPHENS: I see.
BENNETT SR: So Dr. Lam when he asked me, said, "I want you to go back to JacksonCounty as our first county agent." And I told him, "Sorry, Dr. Lam, but I can't go for the simple reason Dr. Soule said that we can't go back home" And he asked 00:09:00me, says, "Don't you know who I am?" And I said, "Yeah, Dr. Lam Hardman." He says, "Well, I'm King Andy's boy, boss." And he was chairman of the board of trustees.
STEPHENS: On the board of trustees of the university then before they had theuniversity system.
BENNETT SR: That's right.
STEPHENS: That was before--Senator Russell--
BENNETT SR: He said, "If I want you to go to Jackson County, you'll go." And I did!
BENNETT JR.: That was about 1914, wasn't it?
BENNETT SR: 1913.
BENNETT JR: --13.
STEPHENS: Well now, that was about 15 years before they created universitysystem when Senator Russell was the governor.
BENNETT SR: See, Senator Russell was governor when they made the Board ofRegents in the--sent in the System.
STEPHENS: That was about 1933; it was in--
BENNETT SR: 1933 I think is correct--
STEPHENS: I was in the middle of the university at that time when they made the00:10:00change and brought the Agriculture College together with the Franklin College.
BENNETT JR: I was a freshman.
STEPHENS: That was your first year, Tap. Well now you had very close connectionsover the years with Senator Russell's family.
BENNETT SR: Oh yes.
STEPHENS: And with Senator Russell. Now when you were with the Southern Railroadyou were frequently--
BENNETT SR: It's uh, Central of Georgia.
STEPHENS: Oh, it's the Central of Georgia, that's right and I guess iteventually joined with the Southern Railroad, the Central--
BENNETT SR: The Southern finally purchased the Central of Georgia.
BENNETT SR: And is its owner now.
BENNETT JR: That was really after you left.
STEPHENS: That was after you had left the connection. But you saw SenatorRussell then in Washington very frequently.
BENNETT SR: Oh yeah.
STEPHENS: And at various things when he was at home. My recollection fromeverything I have always known, he was a great friend to agriculture.
BENNETT SR: He was. See as a member of the representative by--the boss always00:11:00would send me to go to Washington and see Senator Russell, because he felt like our own friends as a family, was more important than just somebody going up there to talk about something.
STEPHENS: Well, they advised you correctly or you advised them correctly. Couldyou tell me or recall any particular times that you talked to Senator Russell on some problems that were facing our agricultural community in Georgia and in the South?
BENNETT SR: Yeah. We talked just about ever time I went up there, he wanted toknow what the status is of the agriculture and it was especially important when he was re-establishing the university--
STEPHENS: Yes sir.
BENNETT SR: And that was to be an important part.00:12:00
STEPHENS: The University Agricultural College after it was consolidated had, hasprofited greatly over the years because of Senator Russell's interest.
BENNETT SR: That's correct.
STEPHENS: The Center over there that is now probably equal to any agriculturaldevelopment in the Southeast at least and maybe in the United States.
BENNETT SR: Well, it's comparable to the best ones.
STEPHENS: Yes. Let me ask your son, Ambassador Tap Bennett about his appointmentoriginally as ambassador. Tap, you remember, in may--yes,
BENNETT JR: You can get into that, in awhile, but I think you ought to tellabout the time he came over the Longview to dinner, when you had your meeting with Senator Russell.
STEPHENS: Oh yes, I'd like to hear about that, thank you.
BENNETT SR: Wel1--
STEPHENS: Now, where is Longview?
BENNETT SR: Well, Longview is our--
BENNETT JR: It's our family place.
STEPHENS: Oh, the name of your family place.
BENNETT JR: It's in Franklin County, between Carnesville and Commerce.00:13:00
STEPHENS: Yeah. Yeah, I would like to hear about that, Mr. Bennett.
BENNETT SR: Well, in 1953, I was chosen as the Man of the Year by theProgressive Farmer and then in, I've forgotten the year now, but anyway, the year before, wasn't it in 1963--
STEPHENS: 1963, yeah that's right.
BENNETT SR: When I was talking with Byron Troutwell down in Tifton and he said,"Tap, why don't you all, you and Annie Mem [Little Bennett], entertain the Men of the Year on the farm." I said, that's a good suggestion and we did and that year happened to be the year that the Progressive Farmer selected Dick to be the Man of the Year.
STEPHENS: Oh, the Man of the Year in agriculture?
BENNETT SR: Yeah.
STEPHENS: Well that's great. I'd forgotten that.00:14:00
BENNETT SR: So we had him and one of the most interesting things happened to usat the table. We, William had asked me to get him--
STEPHENS: Now, William is Tap Bennett, Jr.? Ambassador?
BENNETT JR: William at home, yes.
BENNETT SR: To get him a bunch of pla--a dozen plates of the pink, or the you docall it--
BENNETT JR: Yeah, those commemorative plates of the University.
STEPHENS: Yes, oh yes.
BENNETT JR: Wedgewood.
STEPHENS: Yes, the Wedgewood.
BENNETT SR: His mother and I had traveled and asked many times, but we couldn'tever find, until we finally found a bunch of them in Sandersville, Georgia, but they were blue instead of pink, but we bought'em since it looked like the last thing we had. And then when he come home, why he says, "Mother, I wanted pink; I 00:15:00didn't want these." And he didn't say much to our faces about it. Anyway, we said, "Well that's all right, we can use'em." So, then when Dick Russell comes to have dinner that day, he was impressed with them. So he said, "Annie Mem, would you object to me turning this plate over and seeing what's on the back?" She said, "Anything you want Dick, it's your privilege." So he read the thing on the back without conversation and then the next thing I knew was I found Margaret (White Bennett) had stuck a little thing in the plate "property of Tap, Jr."
STEPHENS: (Laughter, and both Stephens and Mr. Bennett, Sr., talking here.) Well00:16:00Senator Russell, I'm sure, got a little bit of a laugh out of that. He had a good sense of humor.
BENNETT SR: Oh yeah. See, we had 22 men there at that time and it was quite aday for us.
STEPHENS: Yes, well I can imagine that it was and it's the kind of thing Ibelieve that he enjoyed more than a big gathering where he was called upon to make a speech.
BENNETT SR: Well, it uh--
BENNETT JR: He referred to it later in a speech on the floor of the Senate, butthat sort of gets into my side of the story.
STEPHENS: He did? Yes. Well, let me get back here now just a second toAmbassador William Tapley Bennett, Jr., who, whom we have known, I've known him for many years. We were in college together, and I had the privilege of being at the, his swearing in as an Ambassador when Dean Rusk was Secretary of State and he and another of our classmates (Benson Ellison) Lane Timmons (III) were in 00:17:00foreign service, career men, and were sworn in at the same time, and then they both went down to the same place almost, the Dominican Republic where Ambassador Bennett went and the Haitian--
BENNETT JR: Haiti.
STEPHENS: Haiti, where the other end of the same islands where Lane Timmons wentand that was during the Kennedy first years. What year were you sworn in as an ambassador for the first time?
BENNETT JR: That was March, 1964.
STEPHENS: Was that, it was 1964?
BENNETT JR: 1964, yes.
STEPHENS: All right now. Before you were sworn in, I remember that ambassadorialappointments have to have the approval of the Senate.
BENNETT JR: Oh yes, that's provided in the Constitution of the United States.
STEPHENS: As a two-thirds vote?
BENNETT JR: The president appoints and then you have a hearing before the SenateForeign Relations Committee, and the committee approves or disapproves, but if 00:18:00they approve, it goes before the full Senate.
STEPHENS: Yes. You, of course, had contact with our senators at that time,Senator (Herman E.) Talmadge and Senator Russell.
BENNETT JR.: Yes, and before Senator Talmadge, Senator (Walter F.) George, whoof course was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for a good many years.
STEPHENS: That's right. During the earlier period of your career as, in theForeign Service, I believe you told me you started in the Foreign Service about 1940?
BENNETT JR: 1941, yes.
STEPHENS: 1941, at the--being at the University and then being as an exchangestudent to Germany.
BENNETT JR: Yeah, I followed you to Germany, you remember.
STEPHENS: Yeah, that's right.
BENNETT JR: And then came back and I was in Washington as an intern, sort of anapprentice, a special program of the Rockefeller Foundation, from 1939 through 1940.
STEPHENS: Did you talk with Senator Russell about the appointment after the nomination?
BENNETT JR: Well, I always made it my practice--now the foreign service, you00:19:00know, is a career service and it's always been rather rigorously independent, that's how--it's not always understood on Capitol Hill, but in the foreign service, we feel that we serve the government and serve the country, and for instance, my original service began with President Franklin Roosevelt, and so I have now served eight presidents and I have autographed pictures of all eight on my piano in Brussels today.
STEPHENS: Well, that's great.
BENNETT JR: But I always, since I was a Georgian man, I made it my business toknow our people and you know, this was the kind of state where you knew your congressmen and your senators and so I usually would go up when I was at home and pay calls on all our representatives--
STEPHENS: Of course, you had a family background connection with Senator Russellthat made it--
BENNETT JR: Particularly close with Senator Russell--
STEPHENS: Just as a family friendship among the other responsibilities you feltto your senators.
BENNETT JR: I always went by to see him and it was more family talk thananything else, but I remember his telling me, this was at the beginning of the 00:20:00Nixon administration when he was then the, you know, the ranking U.S senator and number one in the Senate and--
BENNETT JR: President pro tem, I guess it's called, isn't it?
BENNETT JR: And he said--I came home that January, I was there, I think I wasthe last ambassador to see Lyndon Johnson before he left office, because it was on the 19th of January, I happened to be at home and I was at Mr. Rusk's farewell ceremony.
STEPHENS: What year was this now?
BENNETT JR: I was then, this was 1969, January of 1969, and I was ambassador toPortugal at the time, but I happened to be at home and so I stayed over so's to go to Mr. Rusk's farewell. And I went up to see Senator Russell and he said, "Now we got a change of administration, Tap, is there anything I can do for you? Can I be helpful to you?" And I said, "Senator, I appreciate your support, but I'm not asking for your help." Well, I thought that was independent foreign service; I later came to conclude that it was a very impertinent remark to make--for being an obscure foreign service officer, ambassador, to make to the ranking member of the United States Senate, but he took it in good stride, and 00:21:00he said, "Because the new secretary of state said he'll need my help on things and so I'd like to know." Well, I didn't ask for anything and it all turned out all right, but he was always very understanding and I remember his saying that day, he said, "You know, I don't know too much about the state department, said, "I've specialized on defense matters." He was then chairman of the Armed Services Committee--
BENNETT JR: Or had given it up to be chairman of Appropriations. I, you know, hewas so prominent he was in all of the major committees. But he said, "I've put my career and my interests in the defense department, rather than in the State." So I suspect he'd be interested to know today that now I'm serving as ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
STEPHENS: Yeah, which is--
BENNETT JR: Which has a lot to do with the military side of the government.
STEPHENS: Well, I'm sure that Senator Russell must have had a great deal to dowith the creation of NATO--
BENNETT JR: Oh, indeed, and he was--
STEPHENS: Because of his position as the head of Armed Services.
BENNETT JR: And gave it very strong support always, of course.00:22:00
STEPHENS: Yes. I remember he always visited when the recess period came, he wentto Spain to visit there, to see our bases there and other places.
BENNETT JR: See I flew with him once when he was in the Caribbean and he stoppedthat time in the Bahamas to see some of our navy's underwater work there--
BENNETT JR: There was a special station down there. No, as you say, he was anindefatigable man to look after the interest of the armed services and to make sure they were doing their job right.
STEPHENS: And he made personal inspections, rather than sending somebody else,
BENNETT JR: You're right!
STEPHENS: which I always have thought was what a Senate, a chairman of acommittee should do.
BENNETT JR: Yes.
STEPHENS: Now let me ask you one question. You and I were talking about it theother day. When you were the ambassador for the United States down in the Dominican Republic, they had an uprising of some sort there. Tell me about that and your consequential discussion with Senator Russell.
BENNETT JR: Yes. Well, we had a lot of shooting there, as you know, there was --00:23:00
STEPHENS: Well, I always heard that you had a communication with the, withPresident Johnson and it makes a good story and I, about the fact that he wanted to know if it was any emergency. You said, "Yes, I'm in the embassy now and under the desk--
BENNETT JR: "I'm talking to you from under my desk."
STEPHENS: From under my desk, they're shooting through the embassy." I like thatuh, because it really proves it was an emergency.
BENNETT JR: Well, it was just about that time I was on the phone and a planesuddenly dived on the embassy so I took cover as the marines taught me to do.
STEPHENS: Well, tell me about the, after you had--
BENNETT JR: Wells that--
BENNETT SR: Well now let me say one word that you said when President Johnsonasked you about an emergency. You said, "If you don't believe it's an emergency, listen to that glass fall."
BENNETT JR: Well, that's true, but as I said, you could hear the bullets; you00:24:00could hear the shooting over the telephone which was true. Well, I had been there about a year and it was a country which was in serious difficulties. They'd had a 31-year dictatorship, you know, which had ended with assassination and sugar prices had dropped to practically nothing. You can't believe it today, but in the winter of 1964-1965 between Christmas and New Year's, sugar dropped below three cents a pound. We knew, since their means of income was so circumscribed, that we'd have real trouble in the near future and within three months we did have this really very violent revolution and shooting in the streets. Well, it was an enormous loss of life for such a small country.
STEPHENS: Was that when you recommended that we, they have Marines come there?
BENNETT JR: Yes, that was April the 28th of, I believe, 1965. And we brought the00:25:00Marines in to save American and Allied lives because the evacuation program, which was enormous for that size country, carried out 4600 people. No, I'm sorry, there were 46 countries involved and there were about 5000 people taken out, less than half of whom were Americans, without a single, without the loss of a single life. Well, the action became controversial, of course, and we had a lot of criticism from some of the Eastern press. I'm glad to say the Georgia papers always understood what the issues were and it was a very determined effort by a left-wing social visionary to take over the government but behind him were very disciplined Communist cadres of people who knew what they were after. 00:26:00
STEPHENS: And this was after the taking over of Cuba by the Communists and theywere anxious to take over all the Caribbean and Latin American--
BENNETT JR: Yes, you remember, Castro took over as a social reformer and thenless than a year later revealed himself as a card-carrying Communist and this was what was about to be happening in the Dominican Republic. Well, President Johnson, and in this he had the full support of Senator Russell, was determined that we were not going to have another Cuba in the Caribbean and that had been President Kennedy's policy before Johnson. And so when the shooting started, we recognized what the issues were, and of course, it was unfortunate that some of the liberal elements in this country and, particularly in academic and press fraternities, couldn't see that and thought we were moving against a social reform, which was not the case at all. In fact, as a result of the action and 00:27:00the fact that we helped a country back on the road to civilian and constitutional government, they've had a longer period of it than that country's ever had. It was the country, you remember, where Columbus first landed, so it has the longest history in this hemisphere, but they've never had more than five years of constitutional government in all those more than, more than four hundred years.
STEPHENS: Was it at San Domingo--
BENNETT JR: Santa Domingo.
STEPHENS: That Columbus landed.
BENNETT JR: He landed actually on the north coast--
STEPHENS: On the north coast
BENNETT JR: on his first voyage and there's a marker up there and that was theoriginal colony that was founded. His brother was governor there and.
STEPHENS: And he was supposed to have been buried there--
BENNETT JR: --his remains are in the cathedral there.
BENNETT JR: Seville and Havana dispute that. They claim they have his bones, butI'm convinced that they're in Santa Domingo. Well, what I wanted to say about Senator Russell was he took a very active interest in this situation. You remember, he had been very critical of our failure to follow through in Cuba and 00:28:00rid ourselves of--
STEPHENS: After the Bay of Pigs.
BENNETT JR: Yes, he said we should have put more force if we were going to do itat all and remove that, remove that cancer from the hemisphere. I think he was right myself. Well--
STEPHENS: Well, I agree with you and I had an opportunity about that time totalk with General Lemnitzer, General [Lyman L.] Lemnitzer, who was the head of the Chiefs of Staff.
BENNETT JR: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--
STEPITENS: That's right and he told me and my friend John Bell from Augustawho'd served with me--
BENNETT JR: Oh yes.
STEPHENS: He said that Cuba is not a military problem, said it's a political problem.
BENNETT JR: Right.
STEPHENS: And I'm sure that that's the way you felt.
BENNETT JR: And it remains one today.
STEPHENS: You felt that was true in the Dominican Republic--
BENNETT JR: Yes.
STEPHENS: --as far as the situation was concerned.
BENNETT JR: Well, you see the chain of islands there. There's Cuba, which isonly ninety miles from Key West, the largest. Then the next in size is Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic being two-thirds of that island, and then there's Puerto Rico, where, of course, we have very great interests. And so 00:29:00to let the second one go to the Communist sphere would have put Puerto Rico in grave danger. At any rate, we took the action. It was successful and after most tortuous and complicated negotiations, the thing was composed--, a provisional government was put in office, and then they had a free election a few months later and they've been going along very well ever since. And the little man, which all this is supposed to be about, has had a better shake and a better prospect for his own future than at any time in Dominican history. But, none of this pleased Senator Fulbright, who at that time was the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and this is the story with Senator Russell. Because this happened--
STEPHENS: Senator Fulbright, and some of people like him, made a criticism ofwhat had happened down there and sort of blamed you for some--
BENNETT JR: Very strong criticism and, but this is what happened. SenatorFulbright took the floor of the Senate, I believe it was in early September, and 00:30:00had a very strong speech condemning everything that had happened; condemning Johnson for sending Marines and then condemning me for having recommended it; that I didn't know the job and was, you know, just not doing what I should have been doing.
STEPHENS: And this was, as we would say again, your first assignment as anambassador and it was important--
BENNETT JR: As an ambassador, yes I was minister in Greece and I served in--
STEPHENS: Yeah, I remember.
BENNETT JR: --other European Latin Countries. Well, I remember Senator Russellsaying to me that, he said, "I am furious at Bill Fulbright." Said, "he saw me a few days ago and he said, I am going to get upon the Floor and attack the Dominican case and the handling of it by the Johnson administration," but said, "You needn't worry, I'm not going to jump on your man Bennett." Because Senator Russell apparently had already made clear his support of my action. "Well," he 00:31:00said, "I was not even on the Floor when Fulbright spoke." Said, "When the word was brought to me in my office that he had attacked you as the ambassador," said, "It made me furious in view of what he said to me a few days before and I immediately determined that I was going to answer it." And about three days later, Senator Russell did get up and make a very powerful speech endorsing what we'd done and then, to my eternal appreciation of him, he gave a very strong endorsement of me personally and that's the time--
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In this speech, he referred to the fact that the Russell's and the Bennett's hadbeen friends for several generations and he said, "Why just recently I was over at the ambassador's father's house to dinner with friends," and said, "I want to tell the Senate of the United States that these are people who are grounded in firm principles and they're not people who panic," and that the ambassador is not, was not just acting out of impulse, that he knew what he was doing. And I 00:32:00always was very grateful to him for that support.
BENNETT SR: Me, too.
STEPHENS: Well I'm sure that you are reflecting what so many people found outand so many people appreciated and that is if you were right, Senator Russell was going to back you up and back you up effectively. And he knew what you had done was correct and it was one of his characteristics. I found that out very much myself as being on the House side when he was in the Senate, and I'm sure that reflects that one great characteristic that we all appreciated. He didn't run and abandon his friends when they seemed to be in difficulty. He was one of those who would come in and help fight for you.
BENNETT JR: He was extremely loyal and in fact he even made a trip that falldown to the Dominican Republic just to--
STEPHENS: Tell me about that.
BENNETT JR: Yes, he came down.
STEPHENS: He came down specifically to see you.
BENNETT JR: He came down and stayed at my house, but he came to look into the00:33:00situation. He visited the troops and I remember we had the, this was in November and we had the Armistice Day ceremony on the steps of the embassy and he spoke at that little occasion which was out under the tropic sun, you know, and it was a very nice ceremony and he gave it great dignity with his contribution to it. But at the time, I already knew that I was slated to move on to another post and I did go in a few months--
STEPHENS: You went to Portugal after you left the Dominican Republic.
BENNETT JR: And the White House had already been in touch with me as to whetherI was to go to Sweden or to Portugal. Either one was a promotion, as far as I was concerned and then it was decided that it would be Portugal and that was a great satisfaction to my wife, who didn't want to have a cold climate. So, Portugal's not as cold as Sweden. So anyway, the Senator came down and I remember he was sitting on my back terrace one morning there and he was in the 00:34:00rocking chair. We had old-fashioned rocking chairs as you do in the tropics, and as you know we used to have on porches here more than we do now.
BENNETT JR: And he said, said, "Tap, they tell me that, Lyndon Johnson tells methat he's gonna send you as ambassador over to Europe." And I said, "That's what I understand, Senator, and it'll be fine with me." He said, "Well, I just want to know, do you want to go? If you don't want to go, you don't have to go." Well, at that time, I was looking forward to getting out of this tropical hell-hole--
BENNETT JR: --to use the word mildly, and so I said, "No, I think the time hascome for me to leave here because I've done my part of the job and we need to have an election here in a few months." I stayed until the eve of the election and then it's time for me to move on and I'm looking forward to another assignment. But I again always appreciated that because he was already 00:35:00determined that, if necessary, he would intervene to see that I was done no injustice. And since, now papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times, which so attacked the operation--later on the Washington Post at least had the gumption to turn around and say we now recognize what was done was correct. I don't think the New York Times ever changed.
STEPHENS: Well, the thing about the Washington Post and the New York Times thata lot of people don't realize, people don't read them much in Georgia.
BENNETT JR: Nor in the Congress either.
STEPHENS: And in the Congress either, except those who are very close by andwhose Congressional districts are affected by the publicity. But I appreciate your--
BENNETT JR: Both the Washington Post and the New York Times fired the tworeporters who'd been their reporting people--
STEPHENS: Because they had not done their job right.
BENNETT JR: They had just done a very thoroughly unobjective job of work.00:36:00
STEPHENS: Well, that's very interesting, but I--
BENNETT JR: And then that was the time that I flew up with Senator Russell whenwe stopped in the Bahamas and he visited the navy installation there.
STEPHENS: Yes. Well I had an experience with Senator Russell that is analogousto show you the same kind of support that he would give you. That, he was in a position to work well with the development of Fort Gordon as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate. And a big project was pending but nobody knew whether it would be financed and approved and Senator Russell, as the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee and also the chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, knew when the matters were going to be done before anybody else, because he would make these plans. And he called me up on the telephone and he, knowing that it was, that Augusta and Fort Gordon were in my 00:37:00congressional district. And he said, we are going to approve a big project at Fort Gordon on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and said, "I'm going to send out a news release," and he said, "I'm going to send it out, if it's all right with you, saying that you and I jointly announce this." Well, golly, you don't know how much I appreciated that because I had no way of--
BENNETT SR: Yeah. Well, that's why he came to be a great senator.
STEPHENS: That's correct.
BENNETT JR: Well, he was a very human person.
STEPHENS: Well, he did.
BENNETT JR: Now the reason that I flew with him that time, now this wasNovember, 1965, while he was there staying at our house, the embassy residence, I had word that my mother, who was seriously ill and who did pass away later that month, her condition had taken a turn for the worse. And he said, "Well, the thing for you to do is to fly with me so's you can get home fast." And we left the next morning and he got off in the Bahamas but sent me on over to Miami 00:38:00in his own plane so that I could get a commercial flight home. And that was again evidence of his humanity.
STEPHENS: Well, he just never got to be too big a big shot to be a man andrecognize his friends and to look after them. And I think that quality stands out in everything he did.
BENNETT JR: I never saw him when he wasn't entirely calm and judicious in hiscomments on things.
BENNETT JR: He wasn't one to fly off the handle or to make flamboyant statements.
STEPHENS: Well, when he was governor, wasn't he, Mr. Bennett, one of ouryoungest governors?
BENNETT SR: He was the youngest governor.
STEPHENS: Was he the youngest?
BENNETT SR: Yeah.
STEPHENS: That we ever had at that time.
BENNETT SR: Yeah, that's right.
STEPHENS: I think--
BENNETT JR: You remember his statement to Teddy [Edward M.] Kennedy, don't you?Did you ever hear that?
STEPHENS: NO, I don't remember that.
BENNETT JR: Well you see, Kennedy visited me in Greece when he was not yetthirty, this was back in 1962, I guess, and he--
STEPIENS: He just had become a senator.00:39:00
BENNETT JR: Well no, he was just about to announce--
STEPHENS: Announce, that's right.
BENNETT JR: He wasn't even thirty yet, but he announced on his thirtiethbirthday. But he was making the required trips for a Massachusetts politician to Israel, to Greece and to Italy. So I was in charge of the embassy in Greece at the time, and had a very interesting two or three days with him. Well, later when he was--(At this point, Stephens must have re-recorded over this part of Mr. Bennett's statement. The transcript follows exactly as he recorded it.)
STEPHENS: This oral history interview has taken place here in Athens, Georgia onOctober the thirtieth, nineteen hundred and seventy-seven. I believe I better correct that, today's the twenty-ninth, Saturday the twenty-ninth and not the thirtieth.
BENNETT JR: --of a Senator from my state. Well, Senator Russell looked at himand in a slow, calm way said, "But you forget I had already served two terms as governor before I was elected to the senate."
STEPHENS: Well, wasn't there another story that you told me about his talkingwith Teddy Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy had told him that his older brother, who 00:40:00was then the president, had given him some advice about advising Senator Russell whenever he needed anything done on the Floor?
BENNETT JR: Yes.
STEPHENS: Did you tell me that? Had you heard that?
BENNETT JR: No, I think that didn't come from me, but I'm not at all surprised.
STEPHENS: I was thinking you had discussed that, but--
BENNETT JR: Because President [John F.] Kennedy had served with and under DickRussell as a younger senator.
STEPHENS: Yes. Well at the Miami convention, I believe, when [Estes] Kefauverwas nominated, as the vice-presidential candidate--
BENNETT JR: Right.
STEPHENS: And the presidential candidate was Adlai Stevenson. Again that waswhen Senator Russell was prominently nom--
BENNETT JR: Mentioned himself.
STEPHENS: Mentioned as a candidate.
BENNETT JR: Yes. And then the big competition was once Adlai Stevenson had beennominated was between Kefauver and Jack Kennedy as vice-president.
STEPHENS: And Jack Kennedy and Senator Russell, in my recollection, and I know00:41:00we in Georgia felt that Kennedy would be the preference on that ticket, and I believe that if that had been a ticket, that it would have been the stronger ticket, but if Senator Russell had been on the ticket, it would have been great.
BENNETT JR: Stronger still. Because that was during the years when you werelosing southern states.
STEPHENS: Yes, exactly, and dissident factions breaking off and I, like manypeople said, that we were not going ever to elect another president as a Democrat until we brought the South substantially back into the Democratic party. And that's what happened this last time with Jimmy Carter.
BENNETT JR: That's why Carter won.
STEPHENS: He won because he carried practically every one of the old Confederate states.
BENNETT JR: I think Virginia's the only one he didn't carry.
STEPHENS: The only one he didn't carry, yes. Well I know that you're busy as ourrepresentative in Brussels at NATO. It's an important job and thank you very much, you and your father, for talking with us on this and I'm sure it's going 00:42:00to make an important contribution to the Russell Library.