Interview with Oscar Fendler
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QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

And you told me that, about Senator Robinson. Let's go to him, that he was a kind of gatekeeper for Roosevelt and getting legislation through Congress. Can you tell me?

OSCAR FENDLER:

We had, we had some very fine representative from Arkansas in the National Congress in '33 and '34 and '35. The outstanding person was Senator Joe T. Robinson, and U.S. Senator Joe T. Robinson, and working with him was Hattie Carraway, the widow of Thaddeus Carraway who died. And Huey Long had elected her back in '32 in the campaign. Robinson was a brilliant man. Everyone here that, among the business professional people, looked up to him. He had been attorney before he went into the Senate for the utility company Arkansas Power and Light. He had made a number of visits to Blytheville for instance. And we, we, we favored him as well as our Congressman we had was Bill Driver and, and he lived at Osceola in this county and he was close to Joe T. He came here, my experience with Mr. Senator Robinson was that he came here and visited with us at, either at a city meeting of business people and professional, or the Rotary Club, a member of the Rotary Club, nearby Rotary. And we met him in the old hotel. The Old Global Hotel was a very fine modern hotel in Blytheville, the only decent one we had here. Three story building. Elevators. Big time, you know, city stuff. And the time I could remember so vividly in '35 maybe, that I remember him here, '35, '36 maybe, and he sat and talked with us and of course, just, I mean, just informal and answered questions. And we were very upset with Roosevelt. We, I mean the lawyers. He wanted to pack the Supreme Court, US Supreme Court, and we were very strongly against it.

INTERVIEWER:

You know, we can't actually get into the court packing. I'm sorry.

OSCAR FENDLER:

Alright.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me?

OSCAR FENDLER:

Well, let me tell you about him. So he's sitting here and we expressed our views with him, and we told him we understood why he would be sponsoring legislation, for, for the president, because it without Robinson's help as being the majority leader in the Senate we would have never gotten any of his legislation in the Hundred Days in '33 and some of us went in '34, '35. Robinson did it all. Robinson, I can mention this to you or to whoever's listening, Robinson wanted to be on the U.S. Supreme Court and, so he had an ambition there. The—

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me how Roosevelt depended on Robinson to deliver votes to get through New Deal legislation?

OSCAR FENDLER:

Well, the, any, the—how much did Robinson, what effect he had on the passage of legislation for President Roosevelt, I'd say the effect was ninety percent. Without Robinson steering it through the Congress, it never would have gotten out off base. Because there were a number of conservatives, particularly in the Democratic side, over there in 1932 and '34 in the Senate and the House, they would've never gone along with Roosevelt. And see, once you—

[audio only]
OSCAR FENDLER:

—accomplish and done so much good by getting the economy back stirring, and getting the banks open and everything, then by discussions today, I mention, people forget. It's always like the story of Senator Barclay and when, when, when he was a, remember, he was vice-president—

INTERVIEWER:

Oh, we're out.

OSCAR FENDLER:

Huh?

INTERVIEWER:

We rolled out. No more film.

[cut][slate][change to camera roll 315:91]
INTERVIEWER:

OK.

OSCAR FENDLER:

Joseph T. Robinson, in my opinion and the opinion of my peers in the County, was the most outstanding political figure. Almost, we almost thought of him almost like a statesman. He was super. And we swore by him, all of the crowd that I dealt with. The reason he had all that power was money. That's the, that's the way he got to be elected to Congress, as I remember. Then he got to be elected governor, and a new, he appointed himself, a guy died and he appointed himself to the Senate, and, and then kept being re-elected. He was really the representative of the vested interests, the utility group, the large landowners, the banks,
** the big banks and everything. He had, he had one of the best law firms in Little Rock, in this state. And you just can't, you can't say too much. It was in his favor. I mean you can't say anything derogatory about him as far as I was concerned. Now, if were a person that didn't have any money like a sharecropper, what the heck, you didn't care about him.
** But remember, that sharecropper didn't vote. You have to remember that in those days, we voted by registration and you had to buy a poll tax, and you had to pay a dollar for it. Sharecropper didn't have a dollar to spend on it.
** He voted, some of his tenants or landowners bought it for him. Just like, for instance, Lee Wilson Company down there. And to have control, they'd buy five hundred of them, seven hundred, a thousand, give it, you know,  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] . And then they'd vote them as a block. You see when they voted, they had a control. That's why Mr. Crane had, was able to be a boss, political boss. Up here—

INTERVIEWER:

Robinson didn't really pay too much attention to—

OSCAR FENDLER:

Oh, Robinson didn't even worry about carrying Mississippi County. He didn't even have to come here to be elected. We're going to, we're going to throw...I, I doubt if he ever lost fifteen percent of the vote or twenty in this county when he ran. He got, got them all practically, because my group, and I was a politician too, you know, I was in the Democratic Party, very active, and we voted pretty straight ticket for, for Senator Robinson. And, where was he, where would he fit in with a fellow like FDR, you know, President of the United States, a New York politician? Well, you have to remember that four years before then he ran for vice-president on the ticket with Al Smith, '28, got beat, because Al Smith should've won, but he's a Catholic and nobody, I don't even think he carried Arkansas. Nobody wanted a Catholic as president, you know.