The Radio Priest

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The “Boss” was Mr. Roosevelt?

Yeah. So at any rate I got on a train and rode all night and finally got to Albany about four in the morning. As I got off the train a newsboy came up, shouting the headline about Huey Long’s death. He had been shot a few days before, but he had just died. I bought a paper, and then Joe drove up in his Rolls Royce—he drove his own car in those days—and we drove back to Mr. Roosevelt’s house. Well, there was nobody awake, of course, so we went up to a little kitchen and made ourselves some breakfast. I guess the President got up about six—he was always an early riser—and he called to us from the top of the stairs. You know, he really walked on his arms. He had the strongest arms and shoulders of any man I ever saw. Well, I ran up the stairs to lend him my shoulder, and I still had the morning newspaper under my arm. He noticed it, and I showed him the headline and said, “Hey, your boyfriend is dead.” He got the news of Long’s death from me.

What was the President’s reaction?

He blanched. He was shocked. You see, he liked Huey Long. Lots of people did. Everybody liked his buffoonery, a special kind of buffoonery he had that caused people to laugh. It made people like him as a person, quite apart from his politics or philosophy.

What happened then?

We went down to the President’s little breakfast nook and talked for a while, and finally he asked why I hadn’t been around much. I sort of hemmed and hawed a bit, so finally he told Joe to “go look at the pigs—he didn’t have any pigs, of course; it was just a little joke he used to make. Joe laughed and went out, and then I showed the President the evidence that Michael Gallagher had received. We talked for six hours that day.

What did the President say about it?

He just kept saying, “It can’t be true” and “I don’t believe it.” I told him that his plan to recognize Russia diplomatically and to extend credit to the Soviets was all right, because it was obvious that no nation could go bankrupt without affecting all the other nations in the world. But this evidence, the evidence I showed him, this was just too much.

Did the President ever look into the matter?

I don’t really know. What I gave him was a copy of a public document, and I told him, when you get back to Washington, you have the ways and means of finding out the truth of the matter. But it was never mentioned again.

Did you part friends?

He wanted Joe and me to stay for dinner, but we had already made plans to drive up to the home of a friend of ours in Great Barrington. On the way up I told Joe most of the story, and when we got there Kennedy asked the butler to bring him some writing paper, and he sat down —I remember he pushed some dishes aside, the table had been set for dinner—and wrote out his resignation as chairman of the SEC.

That was on September 10, 1935?

It was the day after Huey Long died, yes.

And that fall you announced a “hunting season” on Congress, meaning that your National Union for Social Justice was going to become involved in the Congressional primaries the next year.

Yes.

The candidates endorsed by the National Union won twelve of twenty-four contests in Pennsylvania and thirteen of eighteen in Ohio. Did you consider this part of the struggle for social and economic reform that you had hoped would be undertaken by the Roosevelt administration?

That’sright. We tried to get it through the House; that was the aim, but it didn’t work.

On June IQ, 1936, you abruptly announced to your listeners the formation of a Union Party ticket headed by Representative William Lemke of North Dakota. “It is not pleasant for me who coined the phrase ‘Roosevelt or rum'—a phrase based upon promises—to voice such passionate words, “you explained. “But I am constrained to admit that ‘Roosevelt and rum ' is the order of the day because the moneychangers have not been driven from the temple. ” How do you feel about that campaign today?

It was a horrible mistake. I was persuaded to do that by a lot of nincompoops.

Why do you say that?

That was no way to indoctrinate people.