Harry S. Truman photo

Informal Remarks in Little Rock, Arkansas, in Connection With the Reunion of the 35th Division Association.

June 10, 1949


Mr. President, distinguished guests, and members of the 35th Division:

I am most happy to be here. I am only here in my capacity as a member of the 35th Division. Tomorrow I will address you as President of the United States, and I am afraid you will have to listen, whether you like it or not.

I hope to have a pleasant time in Little Rock, as I always have when I come here. I have been here a dozen times--one of the most hospitable cities in the United States. They know how to treat you, they know how to make you like it, and want you to come back.

I will see more of you later on in the day.

I appreciate the welcome that everybody has given us here this afternoon.

Thank you very much.


Governor McMath, members of the 35th Division organization, and distinguished members of the Arkansas delegation in Congress:

It is a pleasure for me to be here this afternoon. I made an arrangement with the arrangements committee to see all of you and to shake hands with you by proxy. So, if all of you will shake hands with your next-door neighbor, I will shake hands up here.

Last year, when we were in the White House, Mrs. Truman shook hands with 50,000 people. I shook hands with 25,000. On this short campaign which I took over the country, I shook hands with about, I'd say, 200,000 people altogether during the whole period. This right arm of mine has to sign documents officially--no matter whether I am in Washington or here--at the rate of an average of 600 a day. So I have to protect it just a little bit.

I am not refusing to shake hands with you, but if it continues the time may come when the President may not be able to sign his mail. Then what will happen to the country! None of you will get paid, for one thing !

It has been a privilege for me to have the opportunity to come down here. The fact that you are having this on a weekend has given all the Members of Congress from Arkansas a chance to come down and be with you.

I don't think that red-headed cousin of mine will believe this, but I don't think I have missed a meeting of the 35th Division Reunion since the First World War, with possibly one exception. I didn't want to miss this one, particularly because it was in Little Rock. I have had some wonderful times here.

I remember one time, in the Marion Hotel, it was my privilege to be the guest of Mrs. Caraway, when she was running for reelection; and I never had so much fun in my life as I did then. And Mrs. Caraway, who is still in Washington, enjoyed herself immensely.

You have two wonderful Senators from Arkansas, and you have the delegation from the Congress. I hope we will have the usual good time, and that everybody will go home without a headache.


Governor McMath, the Mayor of Little Rock, and distinguished guests:

I can't tell you how very much I appreciate the cordial reception which I have received in Little Rock. It has been like coming back home to come down here. It's a habit of mine and has been for 25 years. I have been here in town many a time, and attracted no attention at all. But my friends were just as cordial to me then as they are now.

And I want to thank Eberts Post No. r for its cooperation with the 35th Division in putting on this ball and entertainment.

My education, so far as taking part on the floor is concerned, was sadly neglected as I grew up. I am a Baptist--not a light-foot one--so I didn't learn how to dance. But I did learn a lot of other things in life, maybe, that I shouldn't have learned.

I hope that the 35th Reunion this year will be the usual success that 35th Reunions are. I have missed only one, I think, in 25 years or more. I didn't want to miss this one. The fact that you had it on a weekend gave me and the congressional delegation of the great State of Arkansas an opportunity to be present and attend the meeting. Otherwise, we would have had to stay in Washington and work.

It doesn't make any difference, though, where the President goes, his work follows him up. I told the congregation this afternoon--you see, I am talking as a Baptist talks--that it didn't make any difference where I went, I have to sign my name some 600 times a day to keep the country running. And it has, up to date, and I think it will continue, at least for 3 1/2 years more.

I am looking forward to a most pleasant time. I am talking to you now as a member of the 35th Division only, but if you want to hear the President of the United States you had better come out to the stadium tomorrow, and I will tell you something that will be good for your souls.

Thank you very much.


Gene, Governor, Mr. Mayor, and distinguished honorary members--late ones and all:

I don't have very much to say to you this morning, only that I am highly appreciative of the fact that so many of you came down. I am glad to see every one of you. I met most of you at the head of the steps this morning, and I think I was able to call each one of you here by your first or last name, which is some chore after you have met some 2 million people, more or less.

But, I never forget this organization. When Gene was reading the list of those who have passed on, I could remember something about every single one of them that was interesting.

One name on that list, who was a prize fighter, if you remember, he trained on a cigarette and a bottle of whiskey, with a pot belly and spindly legs--we had a fight on the Zepplin coming back, with the champion of the naval contingent on the ship, who was a scientific fighter. And I remember very distinctly that they went for a round or two, and finally old Sandifer got tired of it, went right through his scientific skill and punched him right out of the ring so that he didn't come back. I have seen Sandifer do that on a dozen different occasions, and he never did train. I don't know how he did it. Finally, he got in trouble with a fellow in Kansas City where Sandifer was a bricklayer, and the fellow dropped a brick on him and killed him. That is not the story that is written in the book, but that is really what happened, so I am told. I was very fond of him. He was a corporal when I was a private in Battery B, when it was first organized.

I think of those things every time we gather together. I have two little black books in the second drawer of my desk in Washington, which are the service records of all the men who served in the Battery. There are certain notations on those records that would be interesting to most every one of you.

I want to caution you, however, that there are organizations, not only the 35th Division but all the other divisions that served in the First World War and in the Second World War, who have honorable records. Most of them were in much more danger than we were.

Due to the fact that through luck and the good Lord you happen to have a Chief Executive of the United States, you mustn't let that cause you to feel that you are better than the other people who served and fought for the country. There are organizations and divisions that had much more trouble than we did. While we--on account of the fact that I am the President of the United States--get a great deal of front-page advertising, you mustn't let it go to your head. I know you won't.

I am proud of you. Always I think of you as you marched down Pennsylvania Avenue at the inauguration. You conducted yourselves like men and gentlemen. I know you will do that everywhere you go.

I was exceedingly sorry to hear the Mayor give you the freedom of the city in the manner in which he did. I know you very much better than he does!

I enjoy being able to be present at this organization meeting, and at the meeting of the 35th Division. I am proud of it. I am proud of the fact that a first cousin of mine was the commanding general who trained the 35th Division in the Second World War.

My connection with this organization will always be close and sentimental. More than sentimental--I can't help it.

I do want to thank the Governor, and the Mayor, for giving us that good "Missouri" ham this morning. And I also want to thank the organization for hiding "Steamboat" Johnson behind the pillar, where he couldn't see me.

I hope you will all enjoy the city of Little Rock as much as I have always enjoyed corning to this great city. I have been here on numerous occasions. Its hospitality is well known throughout the whole Nation. And when you get through down here, I know you are going to say the same thing I am saying, that we are always glad to be here and are always glad to come back again.

Thank you, Mr. Governor, and Mr. Mayor, for your warm hospitality.


[The President was presented with a cartoon made of wood and a pair of wooden scissors.]

Thank you very much. That is an excellent cartoon, especially coming from a Richmond paper. The reason the budget is not amenable to this sort of thing is because it's ironclad to begin with. And I mean it.

I appreciate this very much. You are very kind to me. I have got, I think, as great a collection of cartoons as any man in public life. I have cartoons from the beginning of my political career down to the present time. I must have three or four hundred of them. This one will go into the collection as a unique one, because it is the first wooden cartoon that I have received. As I said, it is a remarkable one coming from a Richmond, Va., paper.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you have done. You helped prove that the Democratic Party is the party of the people, and that is what we are going to keep it, as long as I am the head of it.

Thank you very much.

Note: In the course of his remarks the President referred to Col. Joe Nickell, president of the 35th Division Association; Sidney S. McMath, Governor of Arkansas; the President's cousin, Maj. Gen. Ralph E. Truman, former Commander of the 35th Division; Mrs. Hattie Caraway, former U.S. Senator from Arkansas; John L. McClellan and J. William Fulbright, U.S. Senators from Arkansas; Sam M. Wassell, Mayor of Little Rock; Eugene P. Donnelly of Kansas City, Mo.; and Col. J. Monroe Johnson, former Director of the Office of Defense Transportation.

The wooden cartoon presented to the President at the Governor's luncheon was a gift of William Sparks Kellogg of Richmond, Va. It was a reproduction of a cartoon published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch after the President's election, "The Stubborn Little Man from Missouri" holding the halter of a triumphantly braying Democratic donkey.

Harry S. Truman, Informal Remarks in Little Rock, Arkansas, in Connection With the Reunion of the 35th Division Association. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229521

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