March 14, 1944
Mr. Phil Locks
Miami Daily News
Thank you for your recent letter and for your gracious
oorments with respect to my speech. I am glad that you are gong
to do the chapter on Pepper, and I shall Le gled to furnish you
with what little information I hhve.
First, I want you to understand th't Claude Penrer is a
lose personal friend of mine and that I agree by and large with
the position he has taken on nublic questions. Fundamentally, vwe
adhere to the same basic philosophy. I regard him as the ablest
man from the South in Congress and beliee that in recent years
he ha:: demonstrated real insight and c urage. Hle is the only man
from the South who, when speaking in San Francisco or Detroit or
Pittsburg, sounds like a real national Democrat. There is a
saying among Democratic politicians up in Indiana that a speaker
from below the Iason-Dixon line always hurts the cause more than
he helps it. whenever r a Southern speaker is under discussion to
open a political oampaign with a speech at Indianapolis or Gary or
Fort ;7ayna or 7vansville, the usual reaction is: "For God's sake
don't send th.tt Southern Yahoo, he will 'urt us more than he will
help." That definitely does not apply to Claude. Claude talks like
a national Democrat anywhere you sand him.
However, I am -,oin! to try to be objective and to tell
you what I know of Claude in this state* 1 tell you this in the
strictest confidence, and some of it is only inference. Like you,
I wish I knew a lot more. I have been in a position sometimes to
get much more, but unfortunately I have never pursued it.
Pepper's closest friend in 'ainesville was Claude Lee,
who managed our local Sparks theatres. Claude Lee, next to
Charles Murohison of Jacksonville, is probably Pepoer's closest
political friend. Pepper has a picture of Lee, affectionately
autographed, on his desk in Washington. Lee is a typical promoter
and lobbyist, and I have always felt him to be somewhat of a vulgarian.
Soon after Pepper became a Senator, Lee got a job in Washington as
one of Paramount's Washington lobbyists. IHe is reputed to make a
handsome salary and now has a home on the Hudson near Tarrytown, as
befits a Tollywood lobbyist, but spends considerable time in 'lashngtcon.
As I recall it, Pepner voted against the bill which would prohibit the
block booking of movies, one of the few votes in which he voted with
the reactionaries and against liberals like Kilgore, etc. You had
better look up his votes on this and other movie measures.
Pepper's closest friend in Tallahassee was, of course, his
law partner, Curtis Waller. Waller is now a Judge of the Circuit Court
of Appeals in New Orleans, thanks to Pepper. Personally, I have never
thought much of Waller. He is rather a lasoivious-minded, nasty talking
individual. I heard him make an after dinner speech once which was nothing
but one filthy sex story after another. You know I am no prude, but the
tad taste of it appalled me. Waller once said to me, "You know keeping up
a United States Senator is as expensive as keeping up a whore."
ly the way, Waller was at one time a secretary to Pat Harrison
when Pat was a Congressman from Mississippi. I think one explanation of
Pepper's ability to land such good committee assignments when he first
went to the Senate, particularly his ability as a youngster and newcomer
to get on the Foreign Relations Committee when he first landed in the
Senate, lies in the fact that Waller was close to Pat Harrison and Pat
Harrison, then a veteran and power in the Senate, went to the bat for
An important nucleus of Pepper's first two campaigns for the
Senate consisted of certain boon cronies of his who served with him in
the Legislature. Perhaps his closest friend in the Legislature was W. Mack
Christie of Jacksonville. Christie was later Speaker of the Florida House
of Representatives. He carried on Pepper's speaking campaign during those
critical two weeks in 1938 when Pepper was ill with the flu. About four
years ago he was killed in an automobile aooident, and there were rumors
of suicide, but I never saw any reason to believe that. Another legislative
friend of Pepper's was Jim Clements, a lawyer'of Fort Myers. Clements does
not have too savory a reputation, and has, it seems, turned out to be some-
what of a drunkard. After Pepper went to the Senate, he wanted to make
Clements a Federal Judge, but, I understand, the Department of Justice
thoroughly investigated and turned thumbs down.
The firm of Duncan and Hamlin of Tavares was among the earliest
effective supporters of Pepper's, and Henry Duncan, now dead, told me that
he was the first to put up a large sum of money when Pepper ran for the
Senate the first time, in 1934, against Trammell. That was the year Pepper
was counted out in Hillsborough County.
Today, perhaps Pepper's closest political friend in the state
is Claude Murohison, a lawyer bf Jacksonville. Murchison could tell you
plenty, if he would.
It has often been alleged that the Dupont interests have been
behind Pepper. I don't know about this. I know that the John TI. Perry
newspapers vigorously supported Pepper in 1934, 1936, and 1938, and it
is claimed that Perry is close to the Duponta. Also, Pierce Wood,was an
avowed and paid representative of the Duponts for many years, and, as you
know, Wood was Pepper's chief secretary in Washington until about a year
or so ago. However, I have never seen any real proof of a Dupont tie-in
and I rather suspect that the Duponts, like the breweries and distilleries
of old, like to contribute to all candidates and have friends in all camps.
The Wood appointment as Pepper's secretary also is susceptible of another
interpretation. I think Wood broke with the Dupont interests and it may
be that Pepper took on Wood in order to get the inside story of Dupont
connections in Florida.
Politics in the South still has al-out it a good bit of the
personal, and a surprisingly large number of professional and business men
supported Claude Pepper in his first two campaigns because Pepper belonged
to the Kappa Alpha college fraternity. The Kappa Alphas are strong in
Florida, particularly among the older political families the Lewises,
the Hendersons, the Wards, the Bryana, the Pasoos, etc. This will explain
in part why Pepper had the support of Clay Lewis in Gulf County, Hayes Lewis
In Jaokson County, the Ausleys and Hendersons in Leon County, the Bryans
and Simpsons and Daniels in Duval County, BRx Farrior in Hillaborough County,
eta. This will also explain why Dick Troxler in Miami was such a Pepper
booster, although Troxler does not pack the wallop politically and socially
the others here mentioned do. This close connection between a college
fraternity and a race for the United States Senate would seem strange in
the industrial oam unities of the North, but to one who knows Southern
politics it is not strange at all.
The Eli Witt tobacco people have always been strong supporters
of Pepper in whatever oammmuities they live. Here in Gainesville Pepper's
representatives come out of the Witt office now that Claude Lee is gone.
Pepper served one term in the Florida House of Representatives.
As I remember it, he distinguished himself there by his bitter fight for
a sales tax. When he ran for re-election he ran on a platform favoring
the sales tax. He was beaten.
When Pepper ran for United States Senate in 1934 against Trammell
he ran on a platform of balancing the budget.
So I suppose we can certainly say he has grown in liberalism since
However, his change is susceptible of another interpretation.
A friend of mine rode in the same smoker of a railway train with Pepper
in 1935, after his defeat by Trammell in 1934. They were both going to
New Orleans, where Pepper had business before the Circuit Court of Appeals.
Pepper had had a few drinks and declared loudly, "Iam through with balancing
the budget talk, The people don't care anything about the budget. When
I run again I am going to have a Bible in one hand and an American flag
in the other and believe me I am going to be in favor of spending the people's
You will recall that when Pepper ran for the Senate in 1934, 1936,
and 1938 he had the support of the Townsend Clubs. His father is an ardent
Townsendite. Down in Polk County, during the campaign of 1938, a heckler
asked Pepper what he would do if Roosevelt vetoed the Townsend oldage pension
plan. Pepper answered bravely that he would vote to over-ride the President's
veto. But after receiving this support Pepper has never done anything for the
plan and several times I have got the impression front him that he is a little
ashamed of his alliance with them. Pepper has justified this to me on the
ground that in order to do the greatest good for the people you must some-
time fool some of the people. I wish I were at liberty to quote him exactly,
but at this point my lopalty to Pepper's friendship and personal confidences
is greater than my loyalty to history.
Bill Sherrill, who used to be Pat Cannon's secretary in Washington,
has often intimated certain shady things to me about Penper. He apparently
knows a good deal about the so-called scandal involving Pepper and Pepper's
law firm and their alleged bludgeoning of certain government agencies into
buying materials- for a client of their's. I am hazy on this, but Bill
Sherrill apparently knows a lot about it* Also, Sherrill picked up in
Washington certain stories about Pepper's alleged tie-in with the Fritish
embassy. Also, and more significant if true, he told me about very
expensive presents which Mrs. Pepper was alleged to have received from
certain special interests. Personally, I don't believe these stories, but
you ought to run them down in order tb disprove them Bill Sherrill is now
at his home in West Palm Peach recovering from a serious illness. You
ought by all means to get in touch with him. Sherrill's father is a
lawyer in West Palm Beach.
Many people think that Pepper is insincere. Personally, I
think this impression springs from his gushing quality and his eagerness
to please. Fundamentally, I think he is sincere, but his eagerness to
please leads him to do things which I rather wish he would not do. Ppr
instance, during the debate on the Connally resolution he drew an apt
picture of Henry Cabot Lodge during the latter's fight on the League of
Nations in 1919, and he aptly termed Lodge's manner as nMephistophelean."
This was a correct and an honest appraisal. But next day, to please young
Henry Cabot Lodge (I feel certain it was to please young Cabot) he got up
in the Senate and retracted the word Mephistophelean. Such incidents as
this lead his enemies to make light of him. For instance, during the
Connally Resolution debate Clark of Missouri said sarcastically, The
Senator from Florida says such nice things about us." Pepper honies
up his colleagues too much he overuses such phrases as "able senator"
"distinguished Senator", etc.
Yet I repeat that fundamentally I think Pepper is sincere. Way
back in 1932 I made a speech in the court house at Monticello. Pepper
introduced me. We rode back to Tallahassee together and bulled until about
five o'clock the next morning. At that time Pepper told me of his adoration
for Woodrow Wilson and how Wilson had done more to mold his political think-
ing than any other man. We also discussed the books of Claude Dowers, and
the fire came into Pepper's eyes as we talked of the Jeffersonian and
Jaoksonian fights against the interests.
Whatever one may say of Pepper, he has political imagination and
a feel for the masses.
ry the way, I saw Pepper one afternoon in July, 1939, two months
before the war in Europe and he had just returned from a personal conference
with R~osevelt in the White House. He told me that as a result of that
conference he was sure that Roosevelt expected the leading New Dealers to
prepare for a third term nomination. This was, of course, three months
before the war in Europe broke out. This illustrates Pepper's closeness
to the White House and it is also evidence of something muoh bigger. Put
you are not at liberty to quote this
Personally, I belong to the school of political morality which
takes account of the exigencies of practical polities. There may be some
unpleasant things in connection with what I have written, but where in
practical politics are there not some unpleasant things? One nast exeot
some unsavory things or he should stay out of practical polities altogether.
Only an academic politioan can afford to throw too many stones.
I reoently read another arbiole of yours in Free World.
Good work I hope you continue with your wise and libes~ rgoip .
Personal regards and best wishes.
WGClp William 0. Carletcm