Charl Williams to Eleanor Roosevelt

views updated

Charl Williams to Eleanor Roosevelt

13 May 1948 [Washington, DC]

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

I have often wanted to know how Drew Pearson got all the information that he pours out over the radio and through the press that seems to be absolutely accurate.3 I know that dozens of people have already told you what I am about to write. The Sunday before you landed in New York, Drew said in effect "that when Mrs. Roosevelt returns to this country, she will make a quiet trip to the White House and tell President Truman that he ought to retire and not be a candidate in November, 1948. Further, that he was not the choice of the people but received his nominations largely through the offices of President Roosevelt."4 It is amazing to me how he could unearth such a story when you had been out of the country almost thirty days!

You will be amused by the following paragraph which came to me in today's mail, written by Paul Strachan, President of the American Federation of the Physically Handicapped. He is a native Georgian and somewhat of a character, though a very fine man.

"I hope you will conserve your strength a bit. No use of being too damned strenuous. Save a bit of steam, so you can enjoy the political suicide party, which, inevitably, will take place Nov. 2, next. I think, as I look over the situation, that I cannot endorse ANY candidate of present note, but, I do not doubt, ere the shades of Conventions have fallen, that we shall see the most vitriolic, lambasting campaign ever held in our lifetimes. You know, privately, I sorter Wish a Ticket could be, Ike, and Eleanor. I fully realize Mrs. R's attitude, and position, but, as sure as God made little green apples, the Democratic Party, for which her husband fought, bled, and died, is falling apart, and she might be persuaded, for that reason alone, to lend her name and her following, to a Ticket. While I have no doubt about Ike's "personality charm", yet, I dunno what he knows about domestic problems, and, I have no doubt about what Eleanor would do, had she the power as an Elected Vice-President, to at least try to do. It's an interesting theory, anyhow."5

In the mail last week I received a card from Emily Kneubuhl of Minneapolis, who wrote "wouldn't 'E' make a grand Secretary of State? Also she would make a grand presiding officer of the United States Senate."6

Well, my dear, whether or not you ever run for office there are plenty of people in this country who think you could fill almost any one of them with great honor and distinction.

Since you have known Tiffany's all your life and the high standards which are associated with their name, I think you will be amused over the enclosed correspondence concerning the mahogany bases I had made for the two silver trays. I wouldn't have accepted the first trays that they made at any cost, and since I paid a good round sum for them, it was imperative that they do their work over from start to finish. The bases are now ready and I am sending shipping instructions to the firm.7


                                 Charl Ormond Williams

P.S. I thought you would be interested in Mr. Shipman's letter to me of April 18.8


1. Pearson also wrote: "If Mrs. Roosevelt does what her friends say she's going to do about Harry Truman it's going to be one of the hardest political blows the president has ever taken—also a big personal disappointment. Only a few insiders know it, but President Truman has counted on Mrs. Roosevelt to help him swing for his renomination" ("The Washington Merry-Go-Round," WP, 4 May 1948, B15).

2. On Charl Ormond Williams, see n4 Document 248. For ER's eventual public endorsement of Truman, see Document 383 and Document 384.

3. For Pearson, see n1 Document 146.

4. ER returned to the United States from a tour of Europe on April 27, 1948. Drew Pearson's "Washington Merry-Go-Round" column of Sunday, April 25, did not mention ER's feelings about the Truman candidacy. Williams may have referred to Pearson's radio show, which aired in Washington, D.C., on Sundays at 6:00 PM. Pearson's May 4 newspaper column, however, did contain the following item ("Mrs. Roosevelt Reports ERP 'Lift' in Europe," 28 April 1948, WP, B1; "Today's Radio Programs," WP, 2 May 1948, L4).

5. Paul Ambrose Strachan (1894–1972) both established and served as president of the American Federation of the Physically Handicapped in 1940. He additionally helped develop policies on employment of disabled individuals for the Truman administration in 1945. Strachan suggested, as others had done, that ER consider political office. ER discussed her feelings on this issue in her My Day column of September 13, 1947:

I have received several letters lately stating how pleased the writers are to hear that I am going to "run for the Senate," and offering me help and support. So far those who would be against me have not written to me in great number. But to all alike I have to reply that I am not going to run for any office!… Here I am, therefore, forced again to state—as I did when rumors flew about in 1945 and in 1946—that I not only have no political aspirations, but under no circumstances whatsoever would I run for any political office.

For information about ER's thoughts on running for political office, see Document 137 (WWWA, vol. 5; MD, 13 September 1947).

6. Emily Kneubuhl (1883–1967) was executive secretary of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women before she served as Minnesota's alternate delegate at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. That same year Kneubuhl wrote to ER encouraging her to consider running for political office.

To be honest and I mean this—You are my candidate and have been for months—men and women in every poll, I take, agree … I am knowing you will be led to make only right decisions. I don't ask you to "save the party" but I could work for a Truman-Roosevelt ticket even tho that is hard to imagine.

("Business Women to Honor Official," NYT, 26 January 1936, N6; WWWA, vol. 7; "Index to Politicians: Knappe to Kniffin," Political Graveyard,, accessed 10 January 2005; Emily Kneubuhl to ER, 29 May 1948, AERP).

7. Williams wrote to Tiffany & Company to express her disappointment with the workmanship of two mahogany tray bases she had ordered, which produced a contrite letter of apology from the company (Charl Williams to W. R. Barry, 23 March 1948, AERP; Tiffany & Co. to Charl Williams, 26 March 1948, AERP).

8. Fred Shipman (1903–1978), an archivist, served as director of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library in 1940. His letter to Williams discusses his affection for the library and his reluctance to leave (WWWA, vol. 7; Fred Shipman to Charl Williams, 18 April 1948, AERP).

Responding to Arab Criticism

In late spring 1948, as the end of British occupation drew near, Wadad Dabbagh,"an arab wife and citizen of Palestine," wrote ER "to bring to your kind attention some real facts about her poor county." Writing that although she was "sure" that ER "sympathized with the Zionist movement [because of] a bone fide belief on your part that you are helping a suffering portion of the human race," Dabbagh concluded that ER's belief:

is based upon misrepresentation of the facts. Jews pretend to be persecuted in Europe, and under this pretense try to seek refuge in Palestine. But as soon as they land therein, they become despotic and allow themselves to commit all the unlawful acts of which they were the victims in the countries from which they come. They avenge themselves upon the innocent Arabs who used to live peacefully in their homes for immemorial times.

Dabbagh then asked ER:

in the name of a suffering and wronged community to stop backing Zionists until you come to Palestine and see with you[r] own eyes what injustice they are causing to us the Arabs. They are driving us [out] of our homes, depriving us of our lands, robbing us of our means of living, and encroaching upon our resources and upon the wealth of our country. They have even committed bloodshed and murder, pulled down buildings and homes upon their inhabitants without any discrimination and even without any pity for helpless men, women, and innocent children.

To augment her argument, Dabbagh sent ER three photographs to document her claims of abuse: pictures of "a child with a broken leg,… a child with a broken backbone,… and an infant girl hit with a bullet in her head." "Do you really, Madam," Dabbagh asked, "tolerate such injustice and wrong doing? Do you wish to defend Zionism, the cause of all these atrocities and unhuman acts?"1

ER replied two days before the British Mandate was set to expire.

About this article

Charl Williams to Eleanor Roosevelt

Updated About content Print Article