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1981-05-13 Interview with John A. Reed, May 13, 1981 Reed001:1981OH064Reed14 01:25:45 Stanley F. Reed Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Reed, Stanley Forman, 1884-1980 John A. Reed; interviewee Terry L. 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BIRDWHISTELL: I thought we'd begin by finding out some of your earliest recollections of your father, some of your first impressions of him as a . . . as a young boy growing up. REED: You mean . . . you mean when I'm three years old or something . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, . . . REED: . . . like that? BIRDWHISTELL: . . . when you're . . . when you're very young, some of your first impressions of him. What . . . as you were growing up, as a young . . . as a boy, what you . . . what you thought about your father, what your impressions were. REED: Golly, I wonder if I had any. [chuckle] I can't offhand remember any . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Anything in particular? REED: . . . when . . . well, I was going to say when we were living . . . we lived down in Maysville till I was three or four years old and then moved up on the hill and lived there the rest of the time. And while we were living in Maysville, I can't really remember anything while we were living downtown. On the hill, very faint . . . very faint recollections that are not clear at all. I have no . . . BIRDWHISTELL: What was the . . . REED: . . . I . . . I . . . I can't remember anything in the early days that . . . just . . . just can't remember anything. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Did you . . . did you know much about what your father's work was like when you were . . . when you were young? Did you travel with him on . . . on trips or things like that? REED: No. No. I . . . I knew he was a lawyer. I was . . . he had a law office in Maysville, and I'd been . . . I was in it. I remember, for example, that he had in his office paper clips exactly like these. They haven't changed, you know, since those days. That must have been 1917-1918, along in there. I knew he was a lawyer, of course. He would sometimes bring work home and work . . . work there in the living room. He had a kind of a lapboard that he would work on and quite often worked at . . . at night there at home. When I was . . . once I started going to school, which was when I was six years old, I suppose, starting and continuing during rest of my school days pretty much, I would ride my pony down the hill to the school, which school was down in the town, and he would walk along with me. Quite often we did that. And I remember him saying once as we were walking down the hill, he said, "Take some deep . . . deep breaths." And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because the air is better [laughter] up here then it is down below." And I don't think I ever really enjoyed taking deep breaths, but . . . but he always did. [chuckle] I remember he liked exercise. I think he was kind of a physical-fitness nut, as . . . as I would put it. And he would do sitting-up exercises in the morning in those early days before . . . before going off to work. BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, is that right? REED: Umhmm. BIRDWHISTELL: Hmm. Yeah. I guess your recollections of him are of a man that was quite busy. He was involved in politics, he was involved in building a law practice that . . . that was growing pretty quickly, I suppose, with the railroad business and then with the Tobacco Association later on. REED: Yes. I would say he was always a sort of a workaholic, always busy. I don't remember the political days very much. BIRDWHISTELL: You were very young when he was in the legislature. REED: I was very young then, and . . . but . . . well, at least when I knew him, he . . . he spent a relatively small part of his time on politics and . . . but busy on the . . . on his law, and he spent a certain amount of time sort of supervising his . . . his . . . his real estate. He had the subdivision . . . he was subdividing land on top of the hill, a farm, and . . . he bought an old farm and turned it into residential property. And then he had some farms ten miles from town that he went out to every weekend, I suppose. So, yeah, he was always a busy man, certainly. I mean, he was always considered, I think, while he was in Maysville, as one of the two or three or four busiest men in Maysville. [chuckle] BIRDWHISTELL: His interest in those farms sort of continued all during his lifetime, didn't they? REED: Yes, I think he . . . I think he got . . . I think he really loved it, and . . . and it relaxed him, I think, to go to the farms and think about the farms. Yeah, he inherited them . . . inherited the farms from his father at a fairly young age. His father died in 1908, when my father was 23, I believe. And so from then on he had the farms to . . . well, he was the sole person responsible for the . . . for the farms. BIRDWHISTELL: We were talking at lunch about your mother as chairperson . . . women's state chairman for Al Smith in 1928. REED: Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: Was there a lot of political talk around your house while you were growing up, or . . . you know, at the dinner table? Or did you discuss politics? REED: Well, some. Some. Not all the time, but some. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. REED: It was something they were always interested in. My . . . my father, after he served those two terms, I think it was, in the state legislature when he was very young, he never ran again for elective office, although he considered it once. Maybe we'll come to that. But he was always one of the--I don't know what you would call it--but one of the leaders of the Democratic party in the county, I would think, in . . . in a kind of non- . . . non-working [chuckle] sense. I suppose all he did was give them a hundred dollars a year, and that made him [chuckle--Birdwhistell] a leader. BIRDWHISTELL: Made him a leader? REED: But . . . but he was--as probably you know--he was a delegate or an alternate delegate to several Democratic national conventions. BIRDWHISTELL: Right. I . . . you know, I didn't . . . I wasn't aware of that until I read that interview at the . . . the Columbia interview, and he went into pretty much detail on that. He seemed to be quite interested in that, you know. REED: Well, and I think my mother was, too. And . . . and I think at the conventions they got to know the other important members of the party around the state. Had also gotten to know them in . . . in Frankfort when he was in the legislature to some extent. But I think the reason my mother was named in 1928 as wom- . . . as [the] state woman's Democratic chairman for the Al Smith campaign was that she had gotten to know these people around the state from going to conventions. And my mother was always the sort of person that . . . well, as . . . I think as she once put it herself, and I think it was true, she said, "If I had gone to Vassar College, I would have known everyone there." I think it's true. She would have. And my father was not that way. He went to Yale College and did not know everyone there and didn't want to. [laughter] But . . . BIRDWHISTELL: [inaudible] REED: . . . they were different in that respect. BIRDWHISTELL: Your mother was very outgoing? REED: She was a perfect wife for him in many ways and, certainly, politically she was. BIRDWHISTELL: Did . . . were there any repercussions for her working for Al Smith? He wasn't the most popular candidate Kentucky had ever . . . REED: No. He lost . . . he lost . . . you . . . you know, he lost Kentucky by a big margin that year. BIRDWHISTELL: I was wondering . . . REED: You mean repercussions on . . . against her or my father? BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Uh-huh. REED: Not that I ever heard of. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Well, I mean, I wasn't aware of any either, I just . . . REED: Not that I ever heard of. As . . . as I was saying at lunch, the result was that she and Alben Barkley became great friends and really great friends. I mean, they . . . they . . . I mean, they each liked one another very . . . [chuckle] liked and respected one another very much. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Now, you went to the public schools in Maysville for a number of years? REED: Yes. I went all the way through the public schools in Maysville, graduated in 1926 at the age of fifteen from Maysville High School. BIRDWHISTELL: At the age of fifteen? REED: My father had done the same thing, and my brother had done the same thing. My father thought it was a good idea. My mother never thought it was. My brother and I [chuckling] never thought it was, but it seemed to work all right for him at least. BIRDWHISTELL: Now, how . . . which grades did you skip? REED: He went . . . I started in the third grade at the age of six after . . . after some home tutoring. BIRDWHISTELL: Did your mother do that or your father, or both? REED: No, they got a . . . BIRDWHISTELL: They got a tutor to do that. REED: . . . I think the third-grade teacher was the tutor. BIRDWHISTELL: Oh. All right. REED: And they . . . I think they had us . . . I was told that I could recite Mother Goose from memory at the age of three. I suppose they . . . I don't know whether I had read it or whether they'd taught . . . either Mother or Father, I can't remember, or whether they just read . . . told me what it was and I remembered it, or whether I could actually read it. BIRDWHISTELL: There was a . . . your father believed in education, didn't he? REED: Yeah. He graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College before he went . . . when he was at Winchester before he went to Yale. Which . . . and then he entered Yale in his sophomore year. I think it may have . . . maybe that was a sort of a junior college in those days. But I understand . . . well, when he got to . . . in the F.- . . . in the F.D.R. [Franklin D. Roosevelt] administration, one of F.D.R.'s secretaries who decided who got in to see F.D.R. was Marvin McIntyre. And he told my mother in those days that . . . in the F.D.R. days that he remembered my father from Kentucky Wesleyan College days. My father was a big man on the campus and Marvin McIntyre was the son of the local tailor. He didn't even go to the [chuckle--Birdwhistell] . . . the college, but he remembered my father from those days, and the result was that my father had a friend at . . . at court, so to speak, in the . . . BIRDWHISTELL: I didn't realize that. REED: . . . F.D.R. administration. BIRDWHISTELL: I didn't realize that. REED: And the McIntyres were always very . . . he and his wife and family . . . family were always very friendly. BIRDWHISTELL: Now, after . . . after high school in Maysville, then you went to prep school, right? REED: I went . . . yeah. I went one year to the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, and then on to Yale College and then Harvard Law School. BIRDWHISTELL: And Harvard Law School. REED: My brother went . . . he went four years to Taft and fewer years at the Maysville High School. He must have left Maysville High School . . . maybe he had freshman year there, maybe he didn't have any, I can't remember. So he's a little more of a . . . an Easterner then I am. [laughter] BIRDWHISTELL: He had three more years of it, right? REED: I'm a little more of a small-town boy than he is. BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. Now, I'm sorry I'm going to have ask you what . . . what year did you graduate from high school at . . . at Maysville? REED: 1926. BIRDWHISTELL: 1926. So, by the time your father was appointed to the Federal Farm Board, you were already at Yale by then, in 1929? REED: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. I was wondering if you had any recollections about your father accepting that appointment: if he had any reservations about going to Washington, or if he saw . . . how he saw . . . how he viewed this in his career? Or if . . . if your mother had any reservations about moving up there? REED: I . . . I . . . my impression is they both jumped at the chance. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] That they . . . they'd been wanting to get there before, and . . . by going to Congress, and this was an alternate . . . just an alternate way and just as good. They had considered . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Is that . . . REED: . . . Congress earlier. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . is that what you were talking about earlier, . . . REED: Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . that your father . . . REED: Yes. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . had talked about running for Congress. REED: Yes. Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: What year was he wanting to run? REED: It was the year that Fred Vinson first ran . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, . . . REED: . . . must have been about `23. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . `23, when [William Jason] Fields became . . . REED: When Fields . . . BIRDWHISTELL: . . . governor. REED: . . . became governor and there was a vacancy. And it was . . . it was filled by the . . . they didn't have an election; they filled the D- . . . the Democratic nominee and the Republican nominee were picked by the county chairmen in each . . . each county in the congressional district. And I can remember my father and mother discussing it a number of times. There wasn't . . . actually, there wasn't much time to turn it around, because I think the . . . there was only an interval of two or three weeks, I think, between the time that there became a vacancy and the time county chairmen met. But debating whether or not he should go around and see the county chairman and try to get him to support him, and debating whether he really wanted it or not. And I don't remember . . . as far as I can remember, he never did anything about it, and the result was . . . the result was that only two of the county chairmen voted for my father, and all of the others voted for Vinson. BIRDWHISTELL: Why do you think he didn't do anything about it? REED: I . . . my guess was . . . is that he wasn't sure that he wanted it--that he probably would have taken it if he had been offered it on a silver platter, but that he decided he didn't want to make any effort to get it. I think he was torn between thinking it would be nice to be in Congress and t- . . . and torn between what . . . what effect it might have on his law practice. I'm just guessing. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Yeah, you would've . . . you would think that his law practice at that time was doing quite well with the tobacco . . . was tobacco . . . REED: I've forgotten whether this came before or after the Burley . . . probably this was after . . . I think the Burley started about . . . Burley Tobacco Cooperative Association, I believe, started about 1921. So it probably was . . . yes, I think his law practice was doing well, and I think that . . . I think he was naturally nervous about what damage it might do to his law practice if he went and became a congressman. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. And, of course, as it turned out, in `29 he left to go to Washington for a . . . for a job, and had to give up his law practice. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don't . . . I'd be guessing. I don't . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. REED: . . . I wasn't in on all their deliberations, but . . . I don't know. I started to . . . started to say the children had already been educated, but they weren't. The chil- . . . the education of the children didn't really complete . . . get completed until, I think it was 1938, [when] my brother [chuckling] got out of law school. BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Right. REED: I . . . yeah, I don't know. I don't know whether they just decided that . . . I . . . I don't know whether he knew that Vinson had it sewed up or not. I wasn't in on all of that, but . . . BIRDWHISTELL: I wonder if he talked to Vinson about it? REED: I don't know. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. REED: I know . . . this much I remember hearing as part of that same scen- . . . same campaign, I guess it was. Vinson's . . . my mother's father was an insurance agent in Maysville named Jim Elgin, E-L-G-I-N, and Vinson's photograph appeared on . . . on my fath- . . . grandfather Elgin's desk probably in the early . . . probably about 1920,`21,`22, sometime along there. And my grandfather was a general agent and his . . . his district included pretty much the same territory as the congressional district. And apparently I asked him who this was, and he said, "Oh, that's my friend Fred Vinson. He's great guy. I got to know him up on the Big Sandy or somewhere." And I remember my grandfather saying early on when this vacancy first appeared. If Fields became elected governor, I remember hearing my grandfather Elgin say, "Well, Fred Vinson says that . . . that if [my father] wants it, of course, he won't even try for it." [chuckle] BIRDWHISTELL: Hmm. REED: Now, I . . . I don't know what happened. I . . . I . . . I suspect that . . . that Vinson . . . Vinson tried for it. Now, whether . . . whether he knew my father was interested in it or not, [I] don't know. I don't know whether my father was interested, but . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. REED: . . . but he was at least . . . at least he liked to talk about it. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] But I think if you put yourself in the shoes of those young lawyers at that time and in that district, it would be natural for a young lawyer to think about getting to Washington somehow, and the most logical way would normally be Congress, I suppose, for a lawyer. BIRDWHISTELL: I think your father said in his . . . in his interview . . . REED: I don't know what he said in his . . . in his . . . what did he say? BIRDWHISTELL: In his interview with Columbia, he was talking about how he was . . . he was interested in going up in the attorney general's office possibly earlier, you know. Earl- . . . I'm talking about back during the . . . REED: Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . earlier administration. REED: Well, I . . . I think in 1920 . . . the 1920 presidential election when Governor Cox of Ohio was elected the Democratic . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Nominated? REED: . . . nominee for president, my father once told me that he was a member of a Kentucky Democratic delegation that went to call on Cox before the convention and said that they were going to support him for the . . . for president. And . . . and my father said that Cox sort of hinted that if he were elected, that my father might make a good assistant attorney general. [chuckling] There was something . . . some discussion to that effect. That may be what's in his . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, that might be it. REED: . . . Columbia oral history [interview]. BIRDWHISTELL: When . . . when you were at Yale, did you have much contact with your parents then, or did you see them very often? They had moved to . . . let's see, you were at . . . you were at Yale from 1927 to 1931, I suppose? REED: Yes. BIRDWHISTELL: And . . . and they went to Washington in . . . Washington in `29. REED: Yeah. Well, after they moved to Washington, I would see . . . I would see them in Washington in the summer and Christmas . . . Christmas vacations, I suppose. Not . . . not much more in those . . . that was before airplanes, I guess. BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Did your father talk to you about how he was enjoying his work with the . . . with the Federal Farm Board and then later with the R.F.C. [Reconstruction Finance Corporation]? REED: R.F.C. BIRDWHISTELL: You have any recollections about that? REED: Well, yes. I . . . of course, I was down at his offices both those places and met a number of the people that he worked with, including the members of the two boards. It was obvious that the members of the boards liked him very much, and that he liked them, and that he was working very hard, and they thought he was doing a great job. And at least one of them . . . one member of the . . . one of those boards I remember telling me--I guess the two of us were alone or something--he said, "The reason I like working with your father is that he doesn't seem like a lawyer. [chuckle] He just . . . he just seems like . . . like a businessman." And I think he meant it as a compliment. [laughter] BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose he did. REED: But they were . . . those were the good groups, and I suppose you know the relationship of Jim Stone and the . . . BIRDWHISTELL: With the Burley . . . REED: . . . with the Burley Tobacco . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. REED: . . . and then with the Federal Farm Board. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. REED: And, of course, Stone was really responsible for my father going to . . . to Washington with the Federal Farm Board. BIRDWHISTELL: Did . . . did your father have any reservations about going to Washington with a Republican administration? REED: I don't think so. I don't think so. I suppose I was off at school or college when the decision was made, but my im- . . . my impression was that he and my mother both thought it was a great opportunity and . . . and sounded like a lot of fun. [chuckle] Of course it was, as you know, as . . . well, no. I guess it was just bef- . . . I forget whether it was just before or just after the `29 [chuckle] stock market crash that he went . . . he went up either September or October, `29. The st- . . . the . . . I think the stock market was . . . was beginning to be jittery about that time and, really, cra- . . . I think the worst crash was in October. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. REED: I don't know whether they thought that it was a . . . government payroll looked pretty good [laughter] if we were going to have a depression. BIRDWHISTELL: I don't know. REED: Of course, the same thing was true in `33 when they decided to stay on with F.D.R. and, again, there was a depression in . . . `32-`33 were kind of depression years. BIRDWHISTELL: Sure. REED: Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: You received [telephone rings] . . . you received your degree from Yale in `31. When did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer like your father? REED: Well, I frankly always thought I would be a lawyer. My f- . . . I talked about it at a fairly young age with my father, and he thought it was a good idea. I think personally I didn't have much . . . I didn't know what I wanted to be, I don't think, but I . . . I thought it was a good idea to live three more years on my father's salary, so to speak. [laughter] So I was always pointing toward it, and picking my courses at college, I picked what they thought was good for pre-law, which I don't know that it was. English Constitutional history, Magna Carta, and all that, I don't think it's really helped very much. So I always pointed toward it and . . . BIRDWHISTELL: I guess I was trying to [telephone rings] . . . you know, seeing if your father . . . you know, what . . . how he felt about his son being a lawyer? REED: Oh, he wanted me to be . . . he wanted me to be a lawyer. BIRDWHISTELL: He wanted you to be? REED: Oh, yeah. Yes, very much. BIRDWHISTELL: That was understood? REED: Hmm? BIRDWHISTELL: That was understood? REED: Oh, yeah. He made it clear from the beginning he wanted me to be. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] And I didn't . . . as I say, I didn't know what I wanted, and . . . but once I got to law school, I was . . . two things surprised me: one, that you were supposed to work hard, which I really never had done, and two, that when I tried working hard, I found it was more fun than not working hard. BIRDWHISTELL: Than not working hard. REED: That . . . they both surprised me. [chuckle] BIRDWHISTELL: Well, then you got your law degree in . . . in `34, and . . . [interruption in taping] BIRDWHISTELL: We were talking about . . . I think we were at the point where you had gotten your law degree and, as you mentioned, your father then stayed on in . . . with the new Roosevelt administration in Washington with the R.F.C. and then went into the Solicitor General's office. Did you come to New York from your . . . after . . . soon after . . . right after you got your law degree? REED: Yes. I . . . yes. Yes. I came . . . two or three months after I graduated, I . . . I came to a Wall Street law firm, and I've been with one ever since. Two different ones. BIRDWHISTELL: So you were a practicing lawyer, then, when your father was going through this period in the Solicitor General's office. What were your impressions of his work in that period, arguing the New Deal legislation in front of the . . . you know, before the courts, and . . . it was a very difficult period for him, I . . . I assume? REED: Well, he was working . . . he had to work pretty hard. BIRDWHISTELL: Did he talk with you about his work at that point? REED: Well, not in specific details. I just . . . I just knew generally that he was working on these New Deal cases, the . . . he had to argue . . . as you know, he had to argue the constitutionality of a number of the New Deal laws . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Right. REED: . . . before the [Supreme] Court, and he argued several of them, and . . . BIRDWHISTELL: And some of them were quite tough, and . . . REED: Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . he lost some of them. And I was wondering . . . REED: Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . if it was frustrating for him and . . . or did he give you that impression? REED: No, I don't know that he . . . no, I don't think he would . . . no, I don't remember that he was any more frustrated if he lost than if he won, really. BIRDWHISTELL: [chuckle] That's just business. REED: Just business, yeah. He was . . . they were interesting cases. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. REED: He . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Would you say he enjoyed that . . . that part of his career? REED: Oh, yeah. I think he enjoyed all of his career. Yeah, I think . . . I think . . . I think so. I think . . . actually, I think the first . . . of course, I remember the gold clause argument, which was the . . . I think was the first case he argued . . . the first of those New Deal cases he argued in the Supreme Court. I think he was still at R.F.C. when he argued that one, and I think that that argument, his working that case, had a lot to do with his being appointed Solicitor General, I sus- . . . I always thought. Because that was a . . . that was a very important case to . . . to the administration. As I remember, he won that one . . . I . . . I mean, they decided that one in his favor 5 to 4, I think. And I think . . . I think it was good for his reputation. BIRDWHISTELL: Did he ever talk to you about what it was like being in the Roosevelt administration, [or] any of his experiences when you'd come down and see him? REED: [chuckle] Well, I'm sure he did. I mean, little anecdotes. I was trying to think of some of them. This would have . . . this . . . you're thinking both . . . I suppose that would include both the R.F.C. and the . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Right. REED: . . . and the Solicitor Generalship. Of course, at the R.F.C. he was . . . among his legal staff were one or two people, particularly Tom Corcoran, who . . . who was, while on the payroll of the R.F.C., was spending most of his time [chuckle--Birdwhistell] sort of being the "brain trust" for F.D.R. and think . . . thinking up these New Deal laws and drafting them and whatnot. So that he . . . he was . . . he and Tom were quite close. The summer of 1934, I lived with Tom Corcoran and some [of] the other New Deal lawyers in a little house in . . . no, a big house in Georgetown called the "Little Red House." BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really? REED: It was supposed to be a bunch of parlor pinks [chuckle-- Birdwhistell], and my parents were off in Hawa- . . . my father was traveling in the Hawaiian Islands . . . my mother and father were traveling the Hawaiian Islands with the . . . the Attorney General Cummings, Homer . . . it was then Homer Cummings. And, incidentally, that trip probably had a lot to do with Cummings recommending my father for, I suppose, first Solicitor . . . Solicitor General, and second [the] justiceship. But these people in the Lit-. . . in the Little Red House were . . . were New Deal lawyers [for] different agencies, and interesting people to be with. BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose. Now, . . . and you were just living there? REED: I was. It was just after I'd graduated from law school and just before I went to work in . . . in a law firm in New York. As I say, my parents were going away for about a month, going to the Hawaiian Islands, and so it was interesting to be with them and hear what they were talking about, and . . . BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose, yeah. REED: This was 1934, which is right in the middle of drafting of most of the New Deal legislation. BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Why did that trip have an influence on the . . . the recommendations, because he got to know your father? REED: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it was the attorney general and his wife and my . . . and my father and his wife. Yeah, it . . . it . . . the . . . of course, the . . . the underlying factor about my parents is that anyone who got to know them liked them very much and thought they were good people. That was . . . that was true of anybody, no matter who. [chuckle] It never failed. They had . . . they had the knack of charming anybody. It could take . . . it didn't matter who it was. [chuckle] BIRDWHISTELL: That's interesting. REED: And, of course, that . . . that gets people a long way in life, if . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Your father . . . I guess, just to talk about his personality for a minute, he . . . he made very few enemies, didn't he, if any? REED: I doubt if he had any. I doubt if he had any. They were very attractive people. Some cousin of mine told me that when my father was in the legislature and they were still in their 20's then . . . mid or, I guess, late 20's, they'd go to a big party in Frankfort with a lot of other people from the legislature, and she said a lot of people just stood and stared at my parents. It was kind of like Jack and Jackie Kennedy. They were very glamorous, apparently. My mother was a great beauty. My father was not all that handsome, but . . . but I suppose compared to some of these other legislators [laughter]--I won't use . . . I started to use other words, though. BIRDWHISTELL: Well, it seems to me that people describe your father as a gentleman, as a . . . REED: Oh, yes. He was a gentleman and she was a lady, no question about that. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. He seemed to be even-tempered. One person said they very seldom saw him smile, but they very seldom saw him angry. REED: I think that's right. I think he was on a even keel without having highs and lows, which is the way I am. My mother was . . . had more of a quick temper and . . . BIRDWHISTELL: More volatile? [chuckle] REED: . . . was more volatile and more lively in many ways. But she was . . . she was also extremely intelligent. I think if my mother had been born about thirty years later, she might have been governor or a senator. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. But at that time, what you see is . . . is women like your mother playing key roles behind the scenes. REED: All she wanted . . . all she wanted was things for her husband. She didn't want anything for herself. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Yeah. I d- . . . I was . . . I didn't know she'd been state . . . . women's state chairman in 1928 until I read that interview, and I was . . . I was interested to find that out. REED: She'd been active in a lot of women's organizations. I've been reading in the back the . . . the local Maysville paper about fifty years ago, seventy-five years ago, she . . . about 1913, she organized the first chapter in Maysville of F- . . . Wo- . . . Women . . . Women's . . . Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1921 she was the first region of the first ch- . . . local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and somewhere in between those two she was one of the organizers of the Mason County Health League. She did a lot of that sort of thing, which . . . I don't think she did it for political reasons, but it would have been helpful in [chuckling] a political career. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Well, I suppose by `29 she was ready to move on to Washington. Maybe that . . . REED: I think she was. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . maybe that was more of a challenge than . . . than Maysville. REED: I think . . . I think . . . I think she was. I think she was, and she loved Washington. BIRDWHISTELL: Now, other than social occasions where she would help your father by entertaining or . . . or being with him at places, did she . . . was she active in anything in Washington, such as clubs or . . . ? REED: Oh, I think she belonged to some . . . well, let's see. No. I'm sure she belonged to some . . . there was a Kentucky Society which, I suppose, was social. BIRDWHISTELL: Right. REED: In the early . . . her early years in Washington, she spent a lot of time up at the Senate gallery just watching the Senate . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really? REED: . . . and getting to know the senators. Sometimes she would have lunch with Alben Barkley. Another thing that they did a lot in the early years at the Mayflower . . . they lived at the Mayflower Hotel from 1929 until 1976. [In] the early years they'd sit down in the lobby after dinner, and other people living in the hotel would sit there, and among the people that sat there were Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Jones, Senator and Mrs. Walter George [chuckling] from Georgia, Senator [Charles L.] McNary from Oregon that . . . Oregon, who became the Republican [Senate] Leader. And people like that they got to know quite well thataway and, of course, the Jim Stones lived at the Mayflower Hotel, too, . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really? REED: . . . during the Hoover administration, which is why Mother and Dad went there. BIRDWHISTELL: Oh! REED: And they became very close with the Stones. BIRDWHISTELL: That's quite a little after dinner gathering, isn't it? [chuckle] I mean, just informally like that? REED: And it was through the . . . it was through the meeting with the . . . at the Mayflower [with] Jesse Jones that he invited my father to come over to R.F.C. At least that's . . . that . . . that was the first contact. I don't mean that he didn't check up on him or [chuckling] anything. BIRDWHISTELL: Sure. Well, why did they never move out of the Mayflower? Why did they not . . . I mean, there are advantages of living there . . . REED: Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . and I guess there are disadvantages. REED: Well, the reasons . . . the reasons my mother gave, at least in the early years, were that they had quite a lot of land in Kentucky which they had to do a certain amount of taking care of; it was such a relief to get up here and not have any land to take care of. And, of course, also they didn't know at first how long they'd be in Washington. BIRDWHISTELL: Right. REED: Now, I think once . . . once he was put on the Court in `38 . . . early `38, then I think they really took another look at it because it looked like they were going to be living . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, . . . REED: . . . in Washington. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . once you're on the Court, it's [chuckle] . . . REED: They were going to be living in Washington quite awhile. And there was some debate then about, "Well, now, shouldn't we buy a house around here instead of staying on," and . . . BIRDWHISTELL: And they decided not to. REED: . . . they decided not to. I don't know that I know all the reasons. I kind of have a vague recollection that he wanted to and she didn't. [laughter] I . . . I think he had a kind of a yearning for a little plot of land and she didn't. [chuckle] BIRDWHISTELL: Well, you know, you get this impression [chuckle--Reed] of a . . . of a man from . . . from a rural state who ends up in downtown Washington, that every once in a while he might like to see a little yard and a little green [chuckling] or something. REED: Yeah, right. Right. BIRDWHISTELL: But, also, I get . . . I'm getting the impression that on decisions that your mother had quite a bit of influence? REED: Oh, yes. [laughter--Birdwhistell] Oh, yes. She . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Almost a veto power. [laughter] REED: . . . she was never just . . . she was never just a "yes man," but . . . and he would . . . he would let her have her way on a lot of things, but occasionally he asserted himself. [laughter] I . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Did your . . . oh, go ahead, I'm sorry. REED: . . . I was going to . . . one example was that in this Tobacco Cooperative--it was r- . . . this was rather amusing. I don't know how much of this is in the other Columbia oral history, but I think it was 1921 that they started this Kentucky cooperative all over again. I think they'd had one many years earlier, but it had terminated. So the first step was to elect a . . . a representative from each of the tobacco counties, who . . . who . . . each one would be a director of the new cooperative. And so the farmers had a mass meeting in Mason County. Met and voted for my father to be their representative. And my father, who was present, got up and said he was sorry, but he was too busy practicing law and he just couldn't do it, but recommended they pick his friend James Kehoe, who was at that time president of the bank that was [chuckling] my father's best client [chuckle--Birdwhistell] and . . . and married to my father's first cousin, which they did. They then elected Kehoe and he became and acted as that for ten years or so. Well, I remember that night, my father . . . my mother was hysterical. "You made . . . you've . . . you've lost your great opportunity!" [laughter] She gave him a terrible time, and as it turned out he was right and she was wrong, because it was much better to be the counsel, . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Than to be the . . . REED: . . . as it turned out. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . representative. REED: If he hadn't been the counsel, he never would have gotten to Washington . . . BIRDWHISTELL: To do the other . . . REED: . . . you know. So she . . . he . . . he was right and she was wrong on that one. [End of Tape 1, Side 1] [Beginning of Tape 1, Side 2] BIRDWHISTELL: [chuckle] I don't think we got that. You said you don't . . . you don't know if she had a talk with him before? REED: I don't know whether they had discussed it before the mass meeting, what to do if [chuckle--Birdwhistell] . . . if he . . . I don't know whether he knew that he was going to be elected or anything. But, oh, no. She was always-- are we on or off? We're . . . BIRDWHISTELL: We're on. REED: . . . we're on? BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. REED: She was always fussing at him and telling him what to do [chuckle- -Birdwhistell], and . . . and . . . you know, in a nice way, and . . . and . . . and she was a . . . she had very good judgment. She was an unusually good judge of people, and usually right about her . . . her judgments were usually sound on people, and she had a lot of common sense. BIRDWHISTELL: Had your father talked about going to the Supreme Court, about the possibility of being appointed, before he was appointed? Do you ever remember him saying anything about it? REED: Oh, I remember . . . yes, I remember him jokingly saying . . . half-jokingly mentioning it. I think in the Hoover administration he jokingly said, "I think somebody"--I forget who--"is going to . . . going to get me on the Supreme Court." But I can't remember the details. Anyway, I think jokingly he talked about it quite a bit. I don't remember him talking seriously about it until . . . well, just before he was nominated, he was mentioned . . . had been mentioned for it, and I remember him saying on the tele- . . . long-distance phone that . . . just a few days before he was nominated, "I think I have one chance in four," or something like that. BIRDWHISTELL: Huh! But he . . . he wanted it? REED: [chuckle] Well, he obviously did. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] I don't know that he . . . yeah, I think he obviously [did]. I think he always planned to accept it. I don't think there was much . . . I don't think there was anything [chuckle--Birdwhistell] to debate about that. BIRDWHISTELL: If he hadn't been appointed to the Court, do you think he would have returned to Kentucky? I guess that's always speculation that . . . REED: No, I suspect that he would have been offered a job by some law firm in Washington or New York. BIRDWHISTELL: Some people thought he wanted to be governor of Kentucky. REED: Well, I think he might have accepted that. I . . . I have the impression that he told me once that . . . that someone was exploring . . . exploring whether he would make a good candidate for governor of Kentucky. I forget who it was. I think Jesse Jones, at one point, wanted my father to go back to Texas and be his personal counsel. BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really? REED: I think . . . I . . . I'm pretty sure that my father told me that Jones made that . . . made a pretty definite offer to him to that effect. I'm . . . I'm not sure about the year. Obviously, it was before my father went on the Court. Maybe it was even before my father left the R.F.C., but Jones at some point wanted my father to come back to Texas and be his lawyer, or be one of his lawyers and I don't know what, but he . . . you know, he . . . he had a lot of interests in Houston, I think it was. No, I think he would have . . . my guess is that if he found anything . . . any way of making a living without going back to Maysville, he would have . . . my mother would have made [chuckling] him take it if he . . . BIRDWHISTELL: She didn't want to go back? REED: I . . . I just guess she didn't. I do know that when he retired at the age of 72, he wanted to go back to Kentucky to live, and she said that, "If you go, you'll go alone." [laughter] BIRDWHISTELL: Didn't beat around the bush? REED: She loved Washington. Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: That's interesting. REED: Now they did--as you probably know--they did go back in the summers a number of times after . . . after he retired and maybe even while he was on the Court, I forgot. But . . . BIRDWHISTELL: When . . . when your father went on the Court, he was one of the last justices to serve not having a formal law degree, I suppose, and had no prior experience as a judge. REED: Right. BIRDWHISTELL: Do you think that . . . that affected him in any . . . any way at all? Do you think it made him apprehensive about going on the Court, or did he feel confident about it? REED: Oh, no. I think he . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Without knowing . . . REED: . . . oh, no. I . . . I don't think so. I think he was always confident. I don't think the lack of a law degree was of any significance. He had a much better legal education then ninety percent of the [chuckle--Birdwhistell] lawyers of his . . . of his vintage. BIRDWHISTELL: Right. No, I didn't mean to imply that it did. I just wondered if he . . . REED: I wouldn't . . . BIRDWHISTELL: . . . if he just, you know, felt apprehensive at all. REED: I don't think so. No, I don't . . . I think he was always . . . I think he was always confident he could do the job. He . . . he . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Was he concerned at all about the fact that just a few years ear- . . . you know, just a very recent past, the big fight Roosevelt had over the Court, the Court-packing controversy, which your father more or less stayed out of? But here he was the second Roosevelt appointee to the Court. Did . . . did he feel any pressure at all in that regard? REED: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think my recollection is that the . . . that the chief justice and the just- . . . justices greeting him . . . greeted him with open arms. In fact, I was reading something--I think it's right up there, actually--by . . . or maybe it's in the . . . yeah, I think it is up there. I think Stone . . . I think Stone was the chief . . . no, it . . . no, was it [Harlan] Stone or [Charles] Hughes when . . . BIRDWHISTELL: When he went on? REED: . . . I guess it was Hughes . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Yes. REED: . . . when he . . . when he went on it. And I think it was Hughes that wrote to someone, "From all I can hear, Reed is a good man and will make a good justice," or something like that. No, his relations were . . . were . . . even during the Court-packing bill, his relations with the Court were . . . were excellent and, [chuckle] in fact, I remember I was down at a dinner party, I guess, that my parents gave for the . . . invited all the sitting justices of the Supreme Court, which were the "Nine Old Men," to dinner [chuckle--Birdwhistell] right at the height of the Court-packing bill. And they all came except [James] McReynolds, I think. And I remember my mother . . . or my . . . my father saying to my mother just before they left the apartment to go to the dinner, which was downstairs in the downstairs dining room, "Just act as if there is no Court-packing bill pending. Just . . . just ignore it." And so that's what they did and, you know, just Kentucky hospitality [chuckling] so to speak, which was the wise way to do it, of course. And the . . . and the justices acted the same way. I . . . I was there at the dinner, and the justices were all very friendly. BIRDWHISTELL: Your father didn't like controversy, did he, it doesn't seem? [chuckle] I mean, not that he didn't . . . not that anyone likes controversy, but it seemed like he would . . . he went out of his way to try and stay away from controversy. REED: Probably true. Probably true. I don't remember him ever being involved in any long feuding or . . . BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I mean. On the Court when . . . when . . . you know, the Court . . . on the Roosevelt Court became very controversial in itself, you know, in terms of the dissension on the Court, and . . . and your father was, you know, not on any faction, always in the middle. REED: Yeah. I think he was friendly with all the justices. Yeah, I think he was . . . that was his nature to be kind of a middle-of- the-roader, and . . . BIRDWHISTELL: [inaudible] continue the Kentucky tradition of compromising, the "Great Compromiser." [chuckling] REED: Yeah, I think so. I think so, yeah. That's . . . that's . . . I think I'm probably a lot like him. I . . . that's the way I . . . I am. [chuckle] As far as I know, none of the . . . none . . . he had no feuds with any of the . . . any of his brethren. Never heard of any. I think . . . I think they all liked him, and he liked them. BIRDWHISTELL: Did you have [Felix] Frankfurter as a professor, too? REED: No, I didn't. I didn't. I . . . the year I would have had him, he was on a sabbatical, so I never . . . never knew him at law school. Never even laid eyes on him, I don't believe. BIRDWHISTELL: How would you describe the relationship between your father and Frankfurter? Do you have any insight into that? REED: Yeah. As far as I know they were friendly. I . . . I . . . as far as I know they were friendly. I don't . . . I think m- . . . I don't think my mother liked him, but I think she pretended to. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] BIRDWHISTELL: Why didn't your mother like him? REED: I think she always thought he was kind of a rival of my father's some way. I don't quite know what it was. She . . . she just didn't like him, and I . . . I can't say why. I mean I don't know why. [chuckle] But I think he l- . . . I think he and Felix liked one another. I think . . . I think sometimes Felix amused him, but I guess the other people did, too. BIRDWHISTELL: [chuckle] In those early days on the Court, who do you think he was closest to either personally or philosophically? I know later on when . . . when [Fred] Vinson came on the Court, but . . . and he and . . . REED: Let's see. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . Vinson and [Harold] Burton usually voted together. REED: Well, let's see. Well, of course, in the early days the . . . the first Roosevelt appointee was [Hugo] Black, and then my father. I don't know that my father ever became too chummy with any of the people who were on before Black. In other words, they liked one another and they were friendly, but I don't know that any of them . . . I don't remember any of them coming . . . coming to our apartment, for example, such as the Stones or the Hughes' or whoever it was. Of course, those . . . those old . . . "Nine Old People" got off fairly quickly then, but among the later people, they got to know the Blacks pretty well. And I remember the Blacks . . . oh, about the summer of 1939 or `40, that the Blacks spent a week with my parents at their summer home on Long Island. And I think the Bob Jacksons came up the next summer. So that's one measure of being close to the Blacks and Jacksons. Later . . . later my father and the Tom C- . . . my parents and the Tom Clarks became quite friendly. And now I kind of forget who the others were. I don't . . . well, the Douglas', of course, but those are the ones that I think of particularly. BIRDWHISTELL: Here's some of the list that'll help refresh your memory of people on the Court. REED: Yeah. Well, yeah, as I say, I don't think any of those . . . those older people ever came to our apartment, and whether Mother and Dad went to their apartments . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Did your father have a . . . have a best friend or a closest personal friend? Or, who would you say was his closest friend? REED: You mean on the Court or anywhere? BIRDWHISTELL: Anywhere in his life. REED: [chuckle] Well, I think it would be some people in Maysville . . . some people in Maysville. Perhaps Dr. Taylor, T-A-Y-L-O-R, who was the young doctor practicing with my father's father. My father's father was a doctor, and when my father's father retired and then died, the office was in the home . . . the residence. And Tay- . . . Taylor was then a young doctor without any money, and so my father sold him the building on very . . . very favorable terms. And I don't know just what, but pay as . . . pay over a long period and didn't try to get the most out of it. And . . . and in return, Taylor said that . . . of course, that . . . you know, that building was worth something because people were in the habit of going there. I mean, Dr. Reed had been, I guess, the leading general physician there. But as a result, Taylor agreed--I don't . . . I don't know if it was part of the bargain--but in practice, he treated my father and mother and their children free as long as he lived and as long as we lived in Maysville, which was until 1929. So that . . . and they remained great friends. And shortly before we . . . my parents left Maysville for Washington in 1929, Dr. Taylor decided to move to a house up . . . a residence up on the hill, so he bought a nice lot next door to where my parents lived, [chuckle] started building and started building it before my parents [left], but he didn't . . . by the time he finished it my parents were in Washington. And his daughter still lives there in that . . . that house. It's a nice house. I would say he was my father's best friend over the years. Another good friend was Chief Justice William Rees, R-E-E-S, who became the chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He was a classmate and roommate of my father at Virginia . . . University of Virginia Law School, . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Right. REED: . . . and practiced law there in Maysville and didn't have a particularly good practice. And when Fields was governor of Kentucky, he phoned my father--there was a vacancy on the judgeship on the . . . the Kentucky Court of Appeals--he phoned my father and asked him if he'd like to have it. And my father said . . . said no, he couldn't take it. He [was] too busy practicing law. He had, you know, . . . it didn't . . . I think it paid $4,500 a year or something. [chuckle] So Fields said, "Well, who would you recommend?" and he said, "Bill Rees." So he offered it to Rees and Rees took it and spent the rest of his life there. BIRDWHISTELL: How about that. REED: Rees had a relatively . . . I don't think he had a very good practice. He was a nice fellow, but not a . . . not a workaholic, and he had some other means of support. [chuckle] So that worked out very well. Incidentally, I think my father was offered several judgeships over the years in addition to that one. I . . . BIRDWHISTELL: He was offered some by Roosevelt, wasn't he? REED: I think F.D.R. offered him, I think, a district court judgeship and a court of appeals judgeship before the Supreme Court. BIRDWHISTELL: Why would he turn those down? Just various reasons? REED: Well, I don't know, but I think he did. [laughter] BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, [laughing] I think so. REED: I'm not sure about the court of appeals. I'm pretty sure he was offered a district court judgeship and I'm not even sure whether it was Kentucky or the District of Columbia. And I think the court of appeals was maybe [the] District of Columbia but, again, I'm not sure. But I have kind of a vague feeling that . . . that . . . I think maybe one of those . . . maybe he talked to F.D.R. about one of those, and I rather think F.D.R. told him, "Why, you can have this if you want it, but I hope to have something better for you." Some . . . something like . . . I think there was some such conversation. I don't remember the details. BIRDWHISTELL: What was your father's reaction to Vinson being named chief justice? REED; Well, I don't know that I knew at the time, but I have gathered from his reaction over the years was that he . . . that my father wanted it very much and was quite disappointed when Vinson got it, and . . . which I suppose is a natural reaction. Of course . . . of course, in Kentucky I think my father's stature as a lawyer was . . . was greater than Vinson's. Vinson was, as I remember in Kentucky, was . . . he was a commonwealth . . . the commonwealth's attorney. I'm not sure he ever practiced very much. BIRDWHISTELL: No, he never practiced much law. Of course, he had been on the court in . . . in D.C. REED: Yeah. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Things had changed a lot and, of course, Vinson had had a good career in Washington in many ways, but . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Was he . . . REED: . . . I can see my father looking back to [chuckle] the Kentucky days. I think my father was about five years older, I think. But I think . . . as far as I know, they were always friendly and, in fact, I remember my father . . . I recall some conversation my father had with Vinson on this subject after Vinson became chief justice. And some conversation just between the two of them, I suppose, there in the Court building where Vinson said something about, "Oh, you're just jealous because I got the chief justiceship instead of you," or something. And my father said he ta- . . . talked to Vinson, he said, "Well, now, look. Sure I'm sorry I didn't get it instead of you, but I want you to know that you've got it, and I'm going to do all I can to . . . to help you," and . . . and . . . and something like that, yeah. And as far as I know, they were . . . never had any real words about it [chuckle] other than something like that. BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose it was harder because Vinson was from Kentucky and . . . and their rivalry sort of went back all the way to that congressional . . . wanting the same congressional seat, and here they were years later . . . REED; Yeah. Yeah. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . still . . . still rivals. REED: It was interesting. BIRDWHISTELL: And they had . . . their backgrounds were quite similar and . . . REED: Yeah. There was something in Frankfurter's diaries that I . . . I only read excerpts of in some newspaper, New York Times or Washington Post or something, but he's put . . . put down that he was riding in a car, both my father in Washington somewhere, and . . . and Frankfurter asked my father, he said, "What is . . . what is Vinson like?" I guess this was when Vinson [had] just been appointed or something, and Vinson . . . my father . . . according to the diary, my father said, "Well, he's just like me, except that I . . . I had a better education and more advantages." [laughter] Which is true, I suppose. I think . . . well, I guess Vinson went to Centre College, but I think . . . I think my father's . . . I think my father had . . . my father's father, I think, had . . . had a . . . probably had more money than Vinson's father. BIRDWHISTELL: No question. REED: I suppose that's what he meant by advantages. [laughter] My father grew up in a big house in the . . . biggest house in Maysville, I guess, with a . . . I guess his father was one of the rich men in Maysville at that point, even though he wouldn't be rich by modern standards. [chuckle] But . . . but he was considered a well-to-do man. BIRDWHISTELL: One writer suggested that, quote, "It is not easy to label Reed. He tended to be an economic liberal and a civil rights conservative." What is your assessment of . . . of that? Do you . . . would you agree with that, or . . . in looking back over your father's career on the Court. REED: I think it's pretty close to correct. I think my father didn't . . . didn't think civil rights were as important as . . . as many people do. I mean, he was not an extremist in making sure that no one's civil rights were . . . were invaded. So I suppose that's what they mean by civil rights conservative. Economic liberal . . . well, I suppose he generally supported the New Deal measures, which tended to redistribute wealth somewhat. I suppose that's what they mean. I'm not quite sure what an economic liberal is. BIRDWHISTELL: I s- . . . I guess New Deal type legislation. REED: I think he generally supported the New Deal . . . the whole New Deal pretty much. There may be . . . may have been . . . I don't know whether there was anything that he didn't support but, certainly, generally. BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Of course, any time your father served in public life as long as your father did and was involved in so many things, there will be criticism, but knowing your father personally like you do, what is your reaction to the criticism about some of his decisions on the Court in terms of civil liberties or civil rights? What . . . what . . . I guess, can you provide any insight into how your father arrived at those decisions, or how he would view those types of cases, or would . . . is that not fair? Would each one have to be looked at individually? REED: Well, there are a lot of different kinds of civil rights, and I imagine he had different views on different ones. I can remember him once just saying to me when, I guess, we were alone--I don't know what brought it up--but he said that, "Some of his . . . some of my brethren want to let all the criminals out of jail." That's one form of civil rights, to . . . to be sure that no man is convicted without one hundred percent due process in every sense of the word. Ev- . . . even though he's clearly guilty. [chuckle] And I think that pretty consistently he . . . if there was a split on the Court about whether to set aside a conviction, he would . . . he would probably be with . . . one of the group that did not want to set it aside. I . . . I guess that . . . I guess that's sort of the way I feel, too, so I don't . . . but I . . . there are a great many people . . . I imagine most of the people in this . . . lawyers in this office would be what I would call "extremists," that civil liberties are all-important and come first, and the most important thing is not to deprive anyone of any possible civil liberty that he has or might have or anybody can think of that he may have. [chuckle] I think it's more true . . . I think there are more of those "extremists" in this part of the country than there are in Kentucky. It would be my guess. I don't believe in Maysville you'd find so many civil liberty . . . non-conservatives [chuckling] on civil liberty. BIRDWHISTELL: I guess the other thing mentioned about your father and the Court . . . articles one reads about the Court, is that he's always mentioned as the Roosevelt appointee who . . . one of the Roosevelt appointees who started more or less liberal on the left side and ended up at least further to the right. The question is whether he changed his philosophy or whether the Court moved on him, you know. Did his . . . did his philosophy pretty much stay the same from what you can tell? REED: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I . . . I really don't know. I don't know the answer to that one. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. REED: But I think it's normal for one . . . isn't it normal for a person to get more conservative as they . . . as they get older? BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Umhmm. REED: I think it is. BIRDWHISTELL: Some other things have talked about Supreme Court justices advocating a social philosophy in their decisions. You know, being for a particular social philosophy. And I think I read one that said your father wasn't advocating . . . [chuckle] REED: Was not? BIRDWHISTELL: . . . was not advocating a specific social philosophy. REED: I wouldn't know what it was if he did. [chuckle--Birdwhistell] I don't think he had anything to advocate, right? BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. REED: My guess is that he was trying not to advocate a social philosophy. BIRDWHISTELL: Well, of course, I'm not a lawyer and . . . and not a real student of the Court, but from what I've read about him, this idea of judicial restraint about how he . . . he seemed to believe very deeply in that, you know, in terms of how . . . what role the Court should have. REED: I think so. I think he would . . . would have believed in judicial restraint. BIRDWHISTELL: Did your father talk with you before he decided to retire in . . . in `57 about retiring from the Court? REED: I don't remember any particular discussion. I have an impression- -and I'm not sure where I got it--that he had talked of re- . . . been talking of retiring for a year or two before he retired. And that Mother . . . my mother had dissuaded him, at least temporarily, on the ground that people would think it strange that he quit work at such [chuckling] a . . . such an early age. BIRDWHISTELL: Of course, he was seventy at the time, wasn't he? REED: Yes. I think she hoped he would go on. I don't remember ever talking to him about it. I . . . I think he had begun to think that he could no longer do the work as well as he once did and that, therefore, he should retire. I wondered . . . I never knew whether he was moved partly by the statements made into the height of the Roosevelt packing bill . . . the Roosevelt court-packing bill about justices staying on the Court too . . . until . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Past seventy? REED: . . . until they got too old. BIRDWHISTELL: I guess that could have been in back of his mind. REED: I never knew whether that was a factor. BIRDWHISTELL: What about retiring during the administration of a Republican? Would that . . . do you think that bothered him? REED: I never heard him discuss it. Was it . . . I . . . I'd forgotten, was it Republican? BIRDWHISTELL: [Dwight D.] Eisenhower. REED: `57. Well, yes. Eisenhower had just come in, hadn't he? BIRDWHISTELL: For his second term. REED: Well, he would have had s- . . . BIRDWHISTELL: So he had to stay till `60 . . . he would have had to stay till `61. REED: . . . would have had to stay on quite awhile. BIRDWHISTELL: Four more years. REED: Four more years. Perhaps he . . . I don't know. Perhaps he waited until the election in `56. BIRDWHISTELL: And then saw that it would be four more years and decided to retire. REED: Perhaps. I . . . I never . . . I don't remember ever hearing that discussed, but it's . . . it doesn't . . . it's not an . . . it seems possible, anyway. I don't really know. BIRDWHISTELL: Of course, he s- . . . he stayed active for a number of years after retirement, hearing cases and . . . REED: He sat on the lower courts to some extent. Yeah, he seemed to . . . he seemed to be pretty well, but evidently he'd found that . . . that he wasn't doing . . . at least he thought he had found, I think, that he wasn't doing the work as well as he once had. I don't . . . I don't know how you know that. I think you'd might have trouble . . . it might be difficult for a person to know that, but . . . and I don't know whether it was just imagination or whether it was true. But . . . because he still seemed to be . . . have all his faculties for a number of years after that. So I never knew. BIRDWHISTELL: What about his rice diet? That was kind of interesting, wasn't it? REED: [chuckle] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it probably . . . it probably kept him . . . it probably made him live longer. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. That's interesting. I think his law clerks always felt sorry for him having to eat rice all the time. REED: Well, I . . . I read not long ago that it's well known that malnutrition can cause premature senility. And I begin to wonder whether that might have been a factor with my father and might have . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really? REED: . . . somehow affected his mind a little bit. BIRDWHISTELL: Because . . . because of his diet? REED: Yeah, a little bit. And whether that was what he was beginning to notice in . . . when he retired, I don't know. But it's a possibility. BIRDWHISTELL: That's interesting. REED: It's a possibility. Now he . . . he certainly . . . well, I don't mean that he was senile at 72 in the . . . I mean, in the ordinary sense of the word he wasn't senile, but conceivably it could have . . . he could have become just enough . . . little bit senile so as to affect his ability to . . . you know, those justices have to work pretty long hours on that . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Yeah. REED: . . . concentrated work. BIRDWHISTELL: And he took the job very, very seriously, didn't he? REED: He did, and I don't think he would have wanted to stay on if he didn't think he could do his share of the work. BIRDWHISTELL: It seems to be that's one of things that comes [out] about his career as a justice is the . . . not that the other justices don't take it serious either, but that seriousness and attention to detail and the concern for . . . for his opinions to . . . to be legally correct, I suppose, is what I'm trying to say. REED: Oh, yeah. I think it . . . I think it's a . . . you have to work pretty hard and . . . to be a . . . to be a . . . I mean, to be even an average justice. [chuckle] Well, . . . well, I mean, you first have to have the natural ability and the . . . and the background and education and all of that, but also you've got to work. You can't just . . . well, of course, you can let your law clerks write the . . . your opinions, but I don't think [chuckle] my father liked . . . liked to do it that way. BIRDWHISTELL: No, I don't think anyone has ever accused him of that. [chuckle] REED: It may . . . I don't say . . . it probably has happened, but I don't . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Well, . . . REED: . . . I don't mean with him, but it's happened, I'm sure, with other . . . BIRDWHISTELL: . . . yeah. That . . . it's been mentioned in the . . . REED: . . . other justices. BIRDWHISTELL: . . . case of other justices. REED: I'm sure it has happened, but I don't think it was ever true of him. BIRDWHISTELL: No. [chuckle--Reed] If . . . if anything, I think it's . . . he . . . he probably depended on them less than a lot of justices, from what I've been able to tell. REED: I suspect so, too. I would know . . . BIRDWHISTELL: He had a good relationship with his clerks, it seems. REED: I think so. Yeah. I went to a number of the law clerks' parties. They had parties every year, and I went to a number of the . . . of them. They would give a dinner for him in Washington on a Saturday night, and then he would . . . he and Mother would give a bru- . . . brunch for them the next day. And I went . . . I went to quite a few of the brunches over the years, and over the last year or two I went to the dinners. And it was a good relationship. And it was . . . it was a nice . . . nice bunch of . . . nice bunch of boys. And I think they all liked him very much ,and he liked all them very much. I enjoyed meeting with them. They were a good . . . good group. Oh, yeah. I think the relationship with the law clerks was great and mutually beneficial. BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Right. REED: Yeah, that's a good setup, that law clerk relationship. BIRDWHISTELL: That's about all the questions I have. I think the things you've said will be very helpful to someone who's looking at your father's life and career and trying to understand the . . . understand him as a . . . as a person. Is there anything else that you'd like to . . . to add that you can think of? REED: Well, I don't think of anything very important. One little . . . one little--again, I don't know how much is in the Columbia oral history--one little point that might be pertinent today particularly is that he was offered a job in a Wall Street law firm when he finished law school, either at the end of the second year, which was here at Columbia Law School, or at the end of the third year, which was over in Paris . . . Sorbonne in Paris, by White & Case, and specifically by Colonel Hartfield, who was from Kentucky and one of the . . . one of the senior partners at White & Case in those days. And they offered him fifty dollars a month salary, and he said, "No, thank you," and went back to Kentucky. And [it's] interesting to speculate on what might have happened [chuckling] if he had said yes. I always suspected that . . . I . . . I suspected . . . well, I suspected he had two reasons for going back to Kentucky: One, that his wife's parents were living down, although his parents were dead by that time. And two, that he had these farms and . . . outside of Kent- . . . in Kentucky that he felt that he ought to look out for. I would have thought that except . . . without . . . except for those reasons, I would have thought he would have accepted it and tried it for a year or two at least. He had inherited some money from his father, so that he could have . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Could have managed? REED: . . . well, probably in those days you could live on fifty dollars a month, but if you couldn't, he had . . . he could've [chuckle] invented capital for a year or two. BIRDWHISTELL: Did . . . did his being a Supreme Court justice have any effect on your career at all? REED: Yes. BIRDWHISTELL: Adversely or . . . or helpful? REED: Well, . . . well, I don't know which, but it had an effect. I don't know that I want to name names, but . . . because the firm I was then with was afraid my father would not sit on a case they were going have up before the Supreme Court, [telephone rings] they asked me to leave [chuckle--Birdwhistell], which I did, and came here. BIRDWHISTELL: I suppose you didn't appreciate that at the time, though, did you? REED: Well, I . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Or did you understand that it was part of the business? REED: . . . I understood it. I think it was somewhat unusual. I think probably . . . I think probably it was . . . I think probably it ended up well for me. I think probably I have been better off here than [chuckling] I would have been there. But . . . BIRDWHISTELL: Of course, your father could have refused to sit on the case because he was still mad at the [chuckling] . . . at the . . . REED: I . . . BIRDWHISTELL: . . . at the firm. REED: . . . I don't . . . I can't remember what happened eventually. I think . . . I think they lost the case in the Court . . . in the Supreme Court. I can't remember whether my father sat or not. I think my father w- . . . was somewhat upset with the firm. I . . . I didn't . . . I really wasn't [chuckle--Birdwhistell], because I think . . . I think that . . . I don't know. I think I was . . . I think I had a kind of a hunch at the time that this might be a better hole. [chuckle] So it did have that effect. I don't know that it had any other effect. As a matter of fact, one of the . . . one . . . when I started looking around, one . . . one of the other good firms similar to this that I went to said they had the same problem. They'd like to have me, but [chuckle] they couldn't . . . they had this same problem about a case in the Supreme Court. BIRDWHISTELL: That's interesting. REED: So I came and talked to John W. Davis and told him the problems. He said, "That wouldn't make any difference to me," and he said, "It's very possible we can use you," and, of course, at that time he was head of this firm, and even the slight suggestion from Mr. Davis that he would like to have a person here, and he was in. [laughter] BIRDWHISTELL: That's all it took, right? REED; That's all it took. And . . . and he was . . . had been a good friend of my parents and continued to be after that. And . . . and he was a . . . he was a very great . . . well, charming man. He would have . . . would have made a great president, I'm sure. BIRDWHISTELL: Well, we're about at the end of the tape, and I want to . . . REED: I . . . BIRDWHISTELL: . . . I want to thank you for taking the time today and . . . REED: . . . well, I was . . . BIRDWHISTELL: . . . for reminiscing back over the years. REED: . . . I've enjoyed it. It's a pleasure for me, and I hope someone will read it with interest and sympathetic understanding. [laughter] BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. REED: I hope I didn't say too many things I shouldn't have said. BIRDWHISTELL: No, I don't think so. [End of Interview] John Reed begins by discussing his parents' activities in Kentucky. His father, Stanley Reed, was a prominent Democrat in Mason County, and served several times as a delegate or an alternate to the Democratic National Convention. His mother was active in politics as well; in 1928, she was named the Women's Democratic Chairman for Al Smith's campaign, and became friends with Alben Barkley. She also founded Maysville's first Federation of Women's Clubs. Reed talks about the 1923 election, when his father considered running for Congress, and he shares an anecdote from his grandfather regarding the election. Then he discusses his father's involvement with the Burley Tobacco Cooperative, the Federal Farm Board, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. He describes Stanley Reed's work as Solicitor General, and notes his support of Ohio's Governor Cox for president. He also mentions the Gold Clause cases. Other topics discussed in the interview include Stanley Reed's relationships with Jim Stones, Jesse Jones, Charles Hughes, Felix Frankfurter, Hugo Black, Thomas Clark, William Rees, Fred Vinson, Dr. Taylor, and William Douglas. John Reed describes his father's role in or opinions about civil rights, New Deal legislation, overruling convictions, and judicial restraint. He ends the interview by talking about his father's retirement and the work he did afterwards. Kentucky Politics