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University of California Berkeley 


Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Earl Warren Oral History Project 

Warren Olney III 

With an Introduction by 
Herbert Browne 11 

Interviews Conducted by 

Miriam F. Stein and Amelia R. Fry 

1970 through 1977 

Copyright (c) 1981 by the Regents of the University of California 

This manuscript is open for research purposes. 
All literary rights in the manuscript, including the 
right to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library 
of the University of California at Berkeley. No part 
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without 
the written permission of the Director of The Bancroft 
Library of the University of California at Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication 
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 
486 Library, and should include identification of the 
specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the 
passages, and identification of the user. 

It is recommended that the oral history be cited 
as follows : 

Warren Olney III, "Law Enforcement and Judicial 
Administration in the Earl Warren Era," an oral 
history conducted 1970 through 1977 by Miriam F. 
Stein and Amelia R. Fry, Regional Oral History 
Office, The Bancroft Library, University of 
California, Berkeley, 1981. 

Copy No. 

ca. 1955 



INTRODUCTION by Herbert Browne 11 ix 





Background 4 

Representing the University of California Board of Regents 8 

Western Pacific Railroad 11 

Political Matters 15 

Spring Valley Water Company 18 

Associate Justice, California Supreme Court 24 

Service on the Draft Board 26 
Antitrust Action 

U.S. Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure 30 

Water Resources 35 

Views on "Court Packing" 39 

Hunting and Packing 40 


Childhood 45 

Schooling 56 

Boy Scouting 59 

Outdoor Adventures with a Friend 62 

Retribution: Two Episodes with the Berkeley Police 63 
Pomona College 
University of California 

Joining the Office 

In Charge of the Richmond Office 84 


Joining the Staff 
Organization and Administration 
Eliminating Delays in Criminal Prosecutions 
Investigative Staff 
Deputies on Call 
A Complex Fraud Case 
Standards of Evidence 
Coordination of Law Enforcement 
Reflections on Earl Warren s Career 
The Cos den Case 
The Del Masso Case 
Deputy Charles Wehr and the Point Lobos Shipboard Murder Case 

The 1934 Reforms 
Putting the Reforms to Work 
Office Personnel 

Tony Cornero s Early Career 
Tracking Cornero s Backers 
Investigating the Ships 
Anchorage and Telephone Service 
A Brief History of the Gambling Ships 
The Cornero-Adams Arrest and the Adams Appeal 
Legal Theories 

Planning for Summary Abatement 
D Day 

Results of the Litigation 
The Outcome for Tony Cornero 
The Nootka Sound Convention 

The California Supreme Court and the S.S. Rex 
An Attempt to Revive the Gambling Ships 



State Border Disputes 
Prosecuting the Wire Services 


Setting Up the Crime Commission 264 

Administrative Machinery 264 

Artie Samish and the Tom Keene Murder 268 

The Attorney General s Office and Organized Crime 273 

The Crime Commission at Work 276 

Gathering Information 277 

Attorney General Howser 281 

Drew Pearson and Ralph Allen 285 

The George Rochester Suit 288 

Federal Intervention 292 

Cooperation with Other Crime Commissions 296 

An Assessment of the Crime Commission s Work 299 
Relations with Commission Members and Preparation of Reports 300 

The Commission Staff 303 

Fred Grange and the Mendocino Trial 305 

A Postscript on Two Underworld Figures 313 


Teaching at Boalt Hall 315 

Coming to Washington 317 

Organization of the Department 332 

The Congressman Bramblett Case 334 

Personnel 336 

The Bramblett Case Concluded 338 

The Investigation of Tom Clark 340 

Internal Security Work 341 

Budget Problems 341 

The Rosenberg Case 347 

The Joseph Weinberg Case 350 

The Owen Lattimore Case 357 

The Jencks Case 363 

The Harry Dexter White Affair 371 

Senator Joseph McCarthy 378 

The Smith Act Prosecutions 381 

A Question of Federal Jurisdiction 383 

The Nomination of Earl Warren to the Supreme Court 386 

Cleaning Up the Mess in Washington 393 

Civil Rights 407 

Desegregating Washington, D.C. 407 

The Civil Rights Bill of 1956-1957 412 

Voting Rights 421 

Little Rock 426 

Kidnaping Cases: The FBI and the Justice Department 430 

Shipping Cases 438 

The Prosecution of Artie Samish 441 

Life in Washington, D.C. 443 


Reform of Rules of Procedure in the Federal Courts 
The Problem of Backlog of Cases and Some Solutions 

The Philadelphia Experience 

The Brooklyn Project 
The Court Calendar Conundrum 
Problem Judges 
Protracted Cases: The Problem and a Solution 


Statistical Matters: A Case Study of the Federal Probation System 475 
The Budget and Congressional Relations 478 

The Federal Judicial Center 483 










Easton, Ethel Olney, "Sierra Club Beginnings," 
Sierra Club Bulletin, December, 1969, pp. 13-15. 

Letter from Ronald Beattie, chief of Bureau of 
Statistics, California Department of Justice, to 
Warren Olney III, dated November 9, 1970, regard 
ing 1931-1932 statistics on time taken to dispose 
of superior court cases in Alameda, San Francisco, 
and Los Angeles Counties . 

"Getting Action on Crime," Berkeley Daily Gazette 
editorial, September 3, 1929. 

"Government and Politics," Fortnight, The News 
Magazine of California, November 5, 1948, pp. 12-13. 

Article on President Dwight D. Eisenhower s appoint 
ment of Warren Olney III as Assistant United States 
Attorney General and head of the Justice Department s 
Criminal Division, San Francisco Examiner, January 5, 

Shalett, Sidney, "How To Be A Crime Buster," Saturday 
Evening Post, March 19, 1955, p. 25. 

Memo to Judge Alfred Murrah from Mr. Eldridge outlin 
ing operational procedure of the Speedy Trial Project. 

Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa, degree awarded to Warren 
Olney III by Mills College, June 6, 1954. 







The Earl Warren Oral History Project, a special project of the Regional 
Oral History Office, was inaugurated in 1969 to produce tape-recorded interviews 
with persons prominent in the arenas of politics, governmental administration, 
and criminal Justice during the Warren Era in California. Focusing on the years 
1925-1953, the interviews were designed not only to document the life of Chief 
Justice Warren "but to gain new information on the social and political changes 
of a state in the throes of a depression, then a war, then a postwar "boom. 

An effort was made to document the most significant events and trends by 
interviews with key participants who spoke from diverse vantage points. Most 
were queried on the one or two topics in which they were primarily involved; a 
few interviewees with special continuity and "breadth of experience were asked to 
discuss a multiplicity of subjects. While the cut-off date of the period studied 
was October 1953, Earl Warren s departure for the United States Supreme Court, 
there was no attempt to end an interview perfunctorily when the narrator s account- 
had to go beyond that date in order to complete the topic. 

The interviews have stimulated the deposit of Warreniana in the form of 
papers from friends, aides, and the opposition; government documents; old movie 
newsreels; video tapes; and photographs. This Earl Warren collection is being 
added to The Bancroft Library s extensive holdings on twentieth century California 
politics and history. 

The project has been financed by four outright grants from the National 
Endowment for the Humanities , a one year grant from the California State Legis 
lature through the California Heritage Preservation Commission, and by gifts from 
local donors which were matched by the Endowment. Contributors include the former 
law clerks of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Cortez Society, many long-time sup 
porters of "the Chief," and friends and colleagues of some of the major memoirists 
in the project. The Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Foundation and the San Francisco 
Foundation have Jointly sponsored the Northern California Negro Political History 
Series, a unit of the Earl Warren Project. 

Particular thanks are due the Friends of The Bancroft Library who were 
instrumental in raising local funds for matching, who served as custodian for all 
such funds, and who then supplemented from their own treasury all local contribu 
tions on a one-dollar-for-every-three dollars basis. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record autobiogra 
phical interviews with persons prominent in the history of California and the 
West. The Office is under the administrative supervision of James D. Hart, 
Director of The Bancroft Library. 

Amelia R. Fry, Director 

Earl Warren Oral History Project 

Willa K. Baum, Department Head 
Regional Oral History Office 

30 June 1976 

Regional Oral History Office 

U86 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 



Principal Investigators 

Lawrence A. Harper 
Ira M. Heyman 
Arthur H. Sherry 

Advisory Council 

Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong* 

Walton E. Bean* 

Richard M. Buxbaum 

William R. Dennes 

Joseph P. Harris 

James D. Hart 

John D. Hicks* 

William J. Hill 

Robert Kenny* 

Adrian A. Kragen 

Thomas Kuchel 

Eugene C. Lee 

Mary Ellen Leary 

James R. Leiby 
Helen McGregor 
Dean E. McHenry 
Sheldon H. Mess ing er 
Frank C. Newman 
Allan Nevins* 
Warren Olney III* 
Bruce Poyer 
Sho Sato 

Mortimer Schwartz 
Merrell F. Small 
John D. Weaver 

Project Interviewers 

Miriam Feingold 
Amelia R. Fry 
Joyce A. Henderson 
Rosemary Levenson 
Gabrielle Morris 

Special Interviewers 

Orville Armstrong 
Willa K. Baum 
Malca Chall 
June Hogan 
Frank Jones 
Alice G. King 
Elizabeth Kirby 
Harriet Nathan 
Suzanne Riess 
Ruth Teiser 

*Deceased during the term of the project. 


(California, 1926-1953) 

Single Interview Volumes 

Amerson, A. Wayne, Northern California and Its Challenges to a Negro in the 
Mid-1 900s, with an introduction by Henry Ziesenhenne. 1974, 103 p. 

Breed, Arthur, Jr., Alameda County and the California Legislature: 193S-19S8. 
1977, 65 p. 

Carter, Oliver J., A Leader in the California Senate and the Democratic Party , 
1940-1950. 1979, 200 p. 

Carty, Edwin L. , Bunting, Polities, and the Fish and Game Commission. 1975, 104 p. 

Chatters, Ford, View from the Central Valley: The California Legislature, Water, 
Politics, and The State Personnel Board, with an introduction by Harold 
Schutt. 1976, 197 p. 

Dellums, C. L. , International President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car 
Porters and Civil Rights Leader, with an introduction by Tarea Pittman. 
1973, 159 p. 

Paries, Mclntyre, California Republicans, 2934-1953. 1973, 155 p. 

Graves, Richard, Theoretician, Advocate, and Candidate in California State 
Government. 1973, 219 p. 

Huntington, Emily H., A Career in Consumer Economics and Social Insurance, 
with an introduction by Charles A. Gulick. 1971, 111 p. 

Jahnsen, Oscar J. , Enforcing the Law Against Gambling, Bootlegging, Graft, 
Fraud, and Subversion, 1922-1942. 1976, 212 p. 

Johnson, Gardiner. In process. 

MacGregor, Helen S., A Career in Public Service with Earl Warren, with an 
introduction by Earl Warren. 1973, 249 p. 

McGee, Richard Allen, Participant in the Evolution of American Corrections: 
1931-1973. 1976, 223 p. 

McLaughlin, Donald, Careers in Mining Geology and Management, University 

Governance and Teaching, with an introduction by Charles Meyer. 1975, 318 p. 


Olney, Warren III. Law Enforcement and Judicial Administration in the Earl 
Warren Era. 1981, 523 p. 

Patterson, Edgar James, Governor s Mansion Aide to "Prison Counselor, with an 
introduction by Merrell F. Small. 1975, 79 p. 

Pittman, Tarea, NAACP Official and Civil Rights Worker , with an introduction 
by C. L. Dellums. 1974, 159 p. 

Powers, Robert B., Tau Enforcement , Race Relations: 2930-2960, with an intro 
duction by Robert W. Kenny. 1971, 180 p. 

Rumford, William Byron, Legislator for Fair Employment, Fair Housing, and 
Public Health, with an introduction by A. Wayne Amerson. 1973, 152 p. 

Sherry, Arthur H. , The Alameda County District Attorney s Office and the Cali 
fornia Crime Commission. 1976, 146 p. 

Small, Merrell F., The Office of the Governor Under Earl Warren. 1972, 227 p. 
Sweigert, William. Democrat, Friend, and Advisor to Earl Warren. In process. 

Taylor, Paul Schuster, CALIFORNIA SOCIAL SCIENTIST, Three Volumes. 

Volume I: Education, Field Research, and Family, with an introduction by 
Lawrence I. Hewes. 1973, 342 p. 

Volume II and III: California Water and Agricultural Labor, with intro 
ductions by Paul W. Gates and George M. Foster. 1975, 519 p. 

Warren, Earl, Conversations with Earl Warren on California Government. In process 

Wollenberg, Albert, To Do the Job Well: A Life in Legislative, Judicial, and 
Community Service. 1981, 396 p. 

Multi- Interview Volumes 

duction by Arthur H. Sherry. Three volumes. 
Volume I: 1972, 137 p. 

Mullins, John F., Sew Earl Warren Became District Attorney. 

Balaban, Edith, Reminiscences about Nathan Barry Miller, Deputy District 

Attorney, Alameda County. 
Hamlin, Judge Oliver D. , Reminiscences about the Alameda County District 

Attorney s Office in the 1920s and 30s. 
Shaw, Mary, Perspectives of a Newspaperwoman. 
Shea, Willard W. , Recollections of Alameda County s First Public Defender. 

Volume II: 1973, 322 p. 

Chamberlain, Richard H. , Reminiscences about the Alameda County District 

Attorney s Office. 
Jester, Lloyd, Reminiscences of an Inspector in the District Attorney s 


Volume II (Continued) 

Heinrichs, Beverly, Reminiscences of a Secretary in the District 

Attorney s Office. 
Severin, Clarence E. , Chief Clerk in the Alameda County District 

Attorney s Office 

Spence, Homer R. , Attorney , Legislator t and Judge. 
Daly, E. A., Alameda County Political Leader and Journalist. 
Bruce, John, A Reporter Remembers Earl Warren. 

Volume III: 1974, 165 p. 

Coakley, J. Frank, A Career in the Alameda County District Attorney s 


Hederman, Albert E., Jr., From Office Boy to Assistant District Attorney. 
Jensen, Lowell, Reflections of the Alameda County District Attorney. 
Oakley, James H. , Early Life of a Warren Assistant. 


Ashe, Maryann, and Ruth Smith Henley, Earl Warren s Bakersfield. 

Gavins, Omar, Coming of Age in Bakers field. 

Vaughan, Francis, Schooldays in Bakerefield. 

Kreiser, Ralph, A Reporter Recollects the Warren Case. 

Manford, Martin and Ernest McMillan, On Methias Warren. 

Rodda, Richard, From the Capitol Press Room. 
Phillips, Herbert L. , Perspective of a Political Reporter. 
Jones, Walter P., An Editor s Long Friendship with Earl Warren. 

Volume I: 1976, 324 p. 

Barnes, Stanley N. , Experiences in Grass Roots Organization. 
Cunningham, Thomas J., Southern California Campaign Chairman for 

Earl Warren, 1946. 

Draper, Murray, Warren s 1946 Campaign in Northern California. 
Mailliard, William S., Earl Warren in the Governor s Office. 
Mull, Archibald M. , Jr., Warren Fund-Raiser; Bar Association Leader. 
McNitt, Rollin Lee, A Democrat for Warren. 

Volume II: 1977, 341 p. 

Knowland, William F. , California Republican Politics in the 1930s. 
Feigenbaum, B. Joseph, Legislator, Partner of Jesse Steinhart, Aide to 

Earl Warren. 

Ladar, Samuel, Jesse Steinhart, Race Relations, and Earl Warren. 
Steinhart, John, Jesse and Amy Steinhart. 
Hansen, Victor, West Coast Defense During World War IT; The California 

Gubernatorial Campaign of 19 SO. 
Mellon, Thomas J. , Republican Campaigns of 1950 and 19 52. 

Volume III: 1978, 242 p. 

McCornac, Keith, The Conservative Republicans of 1952. 


Clifton, Florence, California Democrats, 2934-19SO. 

Clifton, Robert, The Democratic Party, Culbert L. Olson, and the Legislature. 
Kent, Roger, A Democratic Leader Looks at the Warren Era. 
Outland, George, James Roosevelt s Primary Campaign, 2950. 
Post, Langdon, James Roosevelt s Northern California Campaign, 2950. 
Roosevelt, James, Campaigning for Governor Against Earl Warren, 2950. 

TEE GOVERNOR S FAMILI. 1980, 209 p. 

Warren, Earl, Jr., California Politics. 

Warren, James, Recollections of the Eldest Warren Son. 

Warren, Nina (Honeybear) [Mrs . Stuart Brien] , Growing Up in the Warren Family. 

Warren, Robert, Playing, Bunting, Talking. 

Brown, Edmund G., ST., The Governor s Lawyer. 
Kenney, Robert, Attorney General for California and the 2946 Gubernatorial 

Kuchel, Thomas H. , California State Controller. 

CALIFORNIA STATE FINANCE IN THE 1940s, with an introduction by Stanley Scott. 
1974, 406 p. 

Links, Fred, An Overview of the Department of Finance. 

Groff , Ellis, Some Details of Public Revenue and Expenditure in the 1940s. 

Killion, George, Observations an Culbert Olson, Earl Warren, and Money 
Matters in Public Affairs. 

Post, A. Alan, Watchdog on State Spending. 

Leake, Paul, Statement on the Board of Equalization. 


Albright, Horace, Earl Warren Job Hunting at the Legislature. 
Stone, Irving and Jean, Earl Warren s Friend and Biographer. 
Henderson, Betty Foot, Secretary to Two Warrens. 
Swig, Benjamin H., Shared Social Concerns. 

EARL WARREN AND HEALTH INSURANCE: 2943-2949. 1971, 216 p. 

Lee, Russel VanArsdale, M.D., Pioneering in Prepaid Group Medicine. 
Salsman, Byrl R. , Shepherding Health Insurance Bills Through the California 


Claycombe, Gordon, The Making of a Legislative Committee Study. 
Cline, John W. , M.O., California Medical Association Crusade Against 

Compulsory State Health Insurance. 


Cavanaugh, Bartley, A Mutual Interest in Government, Politics, and Sports. 
Lynn, Wallace, Hunting and Baseball Companion. 


Masaoka. Two Volumes. 

Volume I: Decision and Exodus. 1976, 196 p. 
Rowe, James, The Japanese Evacuation Decision. 
Heckendorf, Percy C., Planning for the Japanese Evacuation: Reforming 

Regulatory Agency Procedures. 

Clark, Tom, Comments an the Japanese- American Relocation. 
Ennis, Edward, A Justice Department Attorney Garments on the Japanese- 
American Relocation. 

Wenig, Herbert, The California Attorney General s Office, the Judge 
Advocate General Corps, and Japanese-American Relocation. 

Volume II: The Interment. 1974, 267 p. 

Cozzens, Robert, Assistant National Director of the War Relocation Authority. 
Myer, Dillon S., War Relocation Authority: The Director s Account. 
Kingman, Ruth W. , The Fair Play Contnittee and Citizen Participation. 
Hibi, Hisako, painting of Tanforan and Topaz camps. 


Brownell, Herbert, Earl Warren s Appointment to the Supreme Court. 
Finkelstein, Louis, Earl Warren s Inquiry into Talmudia Lou. 
Hagerty, James, Campaigns Revisited: Earl Warren, Thomas Deuey, and 

Duight Eisenhower. 

Oliver, William, Inside the Warren Court, 29S3-19S4. 
Richman, Martin F. , Law Clerk for Chief Justice Warren, 1956-2957. 
Stassen, Harold, Eisenhower, the 1952 Republican Convention, and Earl Warren. 


Bulcke, Germain, A Longshoreman s Observations. 
Chaudet, Joseph W. , A Printer s View. 
Heide, Paul, A Warehouseman s Reminiscences. 
Simonds, U. S., A Carpenter s Comments. 
Vernon, Ernest H. , A Machinist s Recollection. 

LABOR LEADERS VIEW THE WARREN ERA, with an introduction by George W. Johns. 
1976, 126 p. 

Ash, Robert S., Alameda County Labor Council During the Warren lears. 

Haggerty, Cornelius J., Labor, Los Angeles, and the Legislature. 


Tallman, Frank F. , M.D., Dynamics of Change in State Mental Institutions. 
Hume, Portia Bell, M.D., Mother of Cormunity Mental Health Services. 


Jorgensen, Frank E. , The Organization of Richard Nixon s Congressional 

Campaigns, 1946-1952. 

Day, Roy 0., Campaigning with Richard Nixon, 1946-1952. 
Dinkelspiel, John Walton, Recollections of Richard Nixon s 1950 Senatorial 

Campaign in Northern California. 

Adams, Earl, Financing Richard Nixon s Campaigns From 1946 to 1960. 
Crocker, Roy P., Gathering Southern California Support for Richard Nixon 

in the 1950 Senate Race. 



Gallagher, Marguerite, Administrative Procedures in Earl Warren s Office, 

Scoggins, Verne, Observations on California Affairs by Governor Earl Warren s 

Press Secretary. 
Vasey, Beach, Governor Warren and the Legislature. 

E. S. Rogers. 1973, 409 p. 

Merrill, Malcolm H. , M.D., M.P.H., A Director Reminisces. 

Stead, Frank M. , Environmental Pollution Control. 

Ongerth, Henry, Recollections of the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering. 

Zimmerman, Kent A., M.D., Mental Health Concepts. 

Arnstein, Lawrence, Public Health Advocates and Issues. 

1976, 276 p. 

Ramsay, Ernest G., Reminiscences of a Defendant in the Shipboard Murder Case. 

Grossman, Aubrey, A Defense Attorney Assesses the King, Ramsay, Conner Case. 

Harris, Myron, A Defense Attorney Reminisces. 

Resner, Herbert, The Recollections of the Attorney for Frank Conner. 

Johnson, Miriam Dinkin, The King-Ramsay-Conner Defense Committee: 1938-1941. 

Odeen, Peter, Captain of the Point Lobos. 


Drury, Newton, A Conservative Comments on Earl Warren and Harold lakes. 
Schottland, Charles I., State Director of Social Welfare, 1950-54. 


Hale, Mildred, Schools, the PTA, and the State Board of Education. 
Kerr, Clark, University of California Crises: Loyalty Oath and the Free 

Speech Movement. 
Kragen, Adrian, State and Industry Interests in Tasation, and Observations 

of Earl Warren. 

McConnell, Geraldine, Governor Warren, the Knoulands, and Columbia State Park. 
McWilliams, Carey, California s Olson-Warren Era: Migrants and Social Welfare 
Siems, Edward H. , Recollections of Masonic Brother Earl Warren. 

EARL WARREN AND THE IOUTH AUTHORITI, with an introduction by Allen F. Breed. 
1972, 279 p. 

Holton, Karl, Development of Juvenile Correctional Practices. 

Scudder, Kenyon J., Beginnings of Therapeutic Correctional Facilities. 

Stark, Heman G., Juvenile Correctional Services and the Community. 

Beam, Kenneth S., Clergyman and Community Coordinator. 


INTRODUCTION by Herbert Brownell 

Warren Olney s memoirs in the Earl Warren Oral History Project add 
significantly to the story of the life and times of his good friend, the 
chief justice. But they reveal, too, the highlights of Warren Olney s own 
professional and public activities that will not only be useful to historians 
and legal scholars but also will illuminate his own career. His career was 
that of an outstanding lawyer and teacher and of a public servant of great 
integrity who served the nation and his state of California with distinction. 
He was a man of deep convictions and high standards, with a capacity for 
unselfish friendship and service to his community. 

I became acquainted with Warren Olney shortly after the election of 
President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The president-elect requested me to recommend 
someone to head the criminal division of the Department of Justice and, 
accordingly, I undertook a nationwide survey of attorneys who had demonstrated 
their ability to enforce the criminal laws in their community. Outstanding 
among the successful prosecutors of the country at that time was Warren Olney, 
who had a rich experience in the field by designation of Earl Warren and whose 
standards of conduct and professional qualification were unimpeachable. 
Accordingly, I arranged a meeting with him in New York where we discussed the 
problems facing the Department of Justice in the field of criminal enforcement 
and I concluded that he was ideally fitted for the post of assistant attorney 
general. President Eisenhower, after meeting with Mr. Olney, offered him the 
appointment and he accepted. His acceptance was an act of dedication to the 
public service because it required him to disrupt his personal and profession 
al plans and leave congenial surroundings in California to move to Washington 
and assume a difficult and controversial assignment. 

The criminal division of the Justice Department at that time comprised a 
large central staff in Washington and required supervision over the United 
States Attorneys and their staffs in every state of the union. In addition 
to enforcement of the federal criminal statutes, the division was charged 
with heavy responsibilities in the field of civil rights, internal security 
and corruption in the government. During the years that he headed the 
criminal division, he improved its standards of integrity, its administrative 
efficiency, and brought new energy and leadership to the office. 

In the field of civil rights, he inherited a staff of only three or four 
attorneys with an inadequate budget and inadequate federal statutes which 
frustrated any attempt to enforce the constitutional safeguards in the field 
of civil rights. Before he left the office, he had contributed significantly 
to the formulation and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was the 
first civil rights act enacted since the reconstruction days following the 
Civil War. He laid the groundwork for the enforcement of new statutes which 

eliminated the roadblocks for blacks to exercise their voting rights. He 
also performed yeoman service in connection with the great constitutional 
crisis in the field of civil rights involving the opening of the public 
schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, to black children. 

In the field of government corruption, he established high standards of 
nonpartisan enforcement of the federal criminal laws and successfully prose 
cuted, in some cases with his personal participation, several notable cases 
involving government officials who had transgressed the law. In the field 
of labor racketeering, he brought the first substantial cases under the Hobbs 
Act and established the standards for prosecution in this area. 

In the field of internal security, he faced a plethora of statutes passed 
in the late 1940s which were not only very controversial but appeared to 
violate constitutional rights of individual citizens by imposing severe 
restrictions on their freedom of speech and association. He brought about 
a test of these statutes including the Subersive Activities Control law, the 
McCarran Act, and allied measures, which resulted in landmark decisions by 
the Supreme Court defining the limitations of government intervention in this 

All in all, he made an outstanding contribution to federal law enforcement, 
one which is having a continuing beneficial effect by reason of the improve 
ments in prosecuting methods and administrative efficiency which he establish 
ed. But most of all, during this period of his life Warren Olney demonstrated 
by personal example the formula for an ideal public servant professional 
skill, integrity and zeal. He displayed warm personal qualities of friendship 
with his co-workers and deserves a lasting tribute of his fellow citizens for 
his devotion in public service. 

The segment of his lifetime activities encompassing his years in the 
Department of Justice constituted a small part of his lifetime contribution 
in the field of the administration of justice. In the course of my friendship 
with him, I learned that the qualities that he displayed during those years 
governed his conduct throughout his career and I am very pleased that his 
memoirs will be available at The Bancroft Library for scholarly research as 
well as for general reading. 

Herbert Brownell 

United States Attorney General 

1953 to 1957 

24 October 1979 
New York, New York 


For many of us memories of Warren commence when he was a boy in knee-pants 
mounted on his bicycle. Etna Street, where I lived, was around the corner 
and down a block from Warren s family home on Dwight Way. It swarmed with 
children and the street was our playground. Warren would come riding down to 
join us in a game of one-o -cat, field hockey, or some other. He was a free 
spirit, though, and ours was not the only such group that he visited. He had 
friends and acquaintances everywhere, so it seemed. He was left-handed, and 
as "Lefty" he was known by all. Distinguished though he became, "Lefty" he 
always liked to be called by his friends of those days. 

He was a friendly and outgoing boy and the best of companions, but still 
with a quiet reserve until he knew you well, and an underlying seriousness. 
His individuality was never submerged in any group and he was impervious to 
peer pressure. 

Warren was strongly attached to all his family. He had great admiration 
and affection for his father and grandfather, whose namesake he was. Family 
outings of many kinds made a lifelong impression on him. Probably from these 
came his love of the out-of-doors and wilderness, his interest in wildlife, 
and his taste for adventure. Or perhaps it was his nature to find adventure 
in so much that he did. Saturday hikes exploring the Berkeley hills, a 
memorable spring camping trip on Mt. Diablo, and, later, trips packing in the 
mountains, tracing an earthquake fault, or an emigrant trail to all such he 
gave that touch. Certainly the spirit of adventure was present in his 
approach to many of the tasks of his public life. 

Warren s school years were normal enough except that he was slow to show 
an interest in girls. Almost the first to receive any particular attention 
from him was Elizabeth Bazata, and he needed to find no other. Their wedding 
took place while he was still a student in law school. More than two years 
ago they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Always they were full 
and equal life partners and close companions. 

Law was not the only vocation that Warren considered. Another one was to 
become an historian. History was one of his great interests, on which he 
read widely and with a marvelously retentive mind. As an avocation, he did 
indeed become an historian of no small erudition, amazing us often by his 
ability to discourse extemporaneously in colorful detail on almost any 
historical subject. Related to his love of history was another great 
interest archeology. 


Warren was not a particularly enthusiastic law student, which once led one 
of his professors, ironically enough the professor of criminal law, to comment 
rather gloomily on Warren s prospects in the profession. Little did the good 
professor know his student. Real-life experience fired Warren s drive, if 
firing was needed. This he gained quickly on his first job, as a deputy 
district attorney in Contra Costa County, and, after a very few years, in 
Alameda County under Earl Warren, then district attorney there. The work as 
a prosecutor suited Warren admirably. It gave scope to his love of indepen 
dence, his resourcefulness and originality. It appealed to his interest in 
people and fulfilled his sense of social responsibility. He embraced it with 
relish and dedication. 

Measure his success by the value placed on Warren by his chief, Earl 
Warren, who at every subsequent stage of his career in public office called 
on Warren for an extraordinary public service. Appointments by others, each 
successively higher, came to him too, and eventually his service record 
included the following: assistant attorney general of California in the 
criminal division; counsel to the California Crime Commission created by 
Governor Warren to investigate organized crime; professor of criminal law at 
Boalt Hall of Law, Berkeley; deputy attorney general of the United States in 
charge of criminal matters; director of the Administrative Office of the 
Federal Courts. In these posts he made a mammoth contribution to the admin 
istration of criminal justice and to the improvement of the legal system. 
But in addition to all that, he served three war-time years overseas in the 
Marine Corps; was in private civil law practice during two separate periods; 
and during his retirement years served as special master for a federal 
district court in New York. What a unique and utterly remarkable career for 
only one man! 

Warren had, rather than self-confidence, an absence of self-concern. Free 
from blockages, integrated, at peace with himself, when he had a job to do he 
faced it and set about doing it. No prospect intimidated him. He worked 
deeply absorbed in what he was doing, unsparing of himself. Afterwards, he 
was unpretentions about what he had done. He was warm in his appreciation of 
his co-workers and their efforts and interested himself in advancing promising 

His work in Washington brought him new honor and distinction and many new 
friends, including intimates in high places. Nothing during those years there 
changed him at all. He returned here unaffected, as natural and unassuming as 
always . 

Washington, which so often permanently captures those who go there to work 
in government, could not hold Warren and Elizabeth. Their children and grand 
children here were the reason. Even as such family relationships naturally 
go, closer ties than theirs are not likely to be found. Warren s new leisure 


left him free to enjoy them. That he did heartily at every opportunity, of 
which there were many. Wonderful vacations with great collections of off 
spring and spouses of offspring became a tradition. To me they seemed to 
resemble the family outings of Warren s boyhood, of which he so often spoke. 
His fond recollections of them will surely have their rich counterparts in 
the memories of his own family members. 

We, too, each of us individually, will have our own abundant store of 
recollections. Happily, it will be easy to remember Warren Olney III. 

Scott Elder 
6 January 1979 

Berkeley Independent and 
Gazette. December 23, 1978 



Famous law reformer 
Warren Ol ney HI dies 

BERKELEY - Warren 
Olney, III, once a prominent 
prosecutor for the state and 
federal governments, died 
Wednesday at his Berkeley 
home. He was 74. 

Mr. Olney helped reform 
sentencing practices by the 
federal judiciary and was 
credited by Chief Justice 
Warren Burger as being 
"responsible for new ideas 
in the judicial administra 

A protege of Justice 
Burger s predecessor, the 
late Earl Warren, Mr. Olney 
was Warren s deputy when 
the latter was district attor 
ney of Alameda County and 
California attorney gen 
eral; he later was Warren s 
administrator at the U.S. 
Supreme Court. 

Born in Oakland and 
raised in Berkeley. Mr. 
Olney received his 
bachelor s and law degrees 
from UC-Berkeley, where 
he later taught law and 
criminology; in recent 
years, he helped organize 

the Earl Waren oral history 
project at the Bancroft Lib- 

He began his career as 
deputy district attorney in 
Contra Costa County, then 
joined District Attorney 
Warren s staff in Alameda 
County and later practiced 
law briefly with his father s 
firm in San Francisco be 
fore joining Attorney Gen 
eral Warren in Sacramento. 

A veteran of service in the 
Pacific with the Fourth 
Marine Air Wing in World 
War II. he attained the rank 
of lieutenant colonel. After 
the war, he became chief 
counsel for a study of or 
ganized crime in California 
and in 1953, President 
Dwight Eisenhower named 
him assistant attorney gen 
eral in charge of the crimi 
nal division in the Justice 

Mr. Olney drafted the 1956 
Civil Rights Act, forerunner 
of the 1960 s legislation. In, 
1958, Olney was named by 
Chief Justice Warren to take 
charge of the administra 
tion of federal courts. In this 
job, he began training prog- 
rams for judges and 
pioneered efforts which led 
to the founding of a federal 
judicial center near 
Lafayette Park in 

Returning to his Berkeley 
home in 1967, he became 
West Coast advisor for the 
American Society of Com 
posers, Authors, and Pub 
lishers. He belonged to San 
Francisco and California 
Bar Associations and re 
ceived an honorary degree 
from Mills College. 

Mr. Olney s grandfather,,; 
was a former mayor of Oak- . 
land and a founder of the 
Sierra Club. His father ,\ 
Warren Olney, Jr., was an* 
associate justice of the 
California Supreme Court. i 

Survivors include his) 
widow, Elizabeth; two! 
daughters, Elizabeth An-; 
d er son of Berkeley who is an j 
attorney in Oakland, and* 
Margaret Olney of Ber-j 
keley, an author; and a son J 
Warren Olney, IV, reporter 
for KNBC-TV in LosC 
Angeles. There are six- 
grandchildren. : 

Memorial services are 
scheduled for Saturday, 
Jan. 6, at 11 a.m. in the-? 
chapel of Berkeley s First? 
Congregational Church at/ 
Dana and Durant Avenues-- 
The family suggests memo-?! 
rial donations to the Smith-:- 
sonian Institute or to the-? 
Friends of Alta Bates Com-j 
munity Hospital in Ber-9 


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Warren Olney III, whose oral history memoir is bound herein, was much 
more than simply a memoirist for the Regional Oral History Office s Earl 
Warren Project. He helped initiate and organize the project, which 
eventually numbered over one hundred interviews documenting Earl Warren s 
California career in public office. He served as an invaluable advisor 
in choosing interviewees and suggesting the critical areas to be covered 
in their oral histories. Most of all, with his own lifelong love and 
knowledge of history, he provided an oral history memoir that is a rich 
source of information and a model of a carefully presented document that 
is as accurate as he could make it. 

Because of Mr. Olney s importance to the Earl Warren series, the 
interviews with him spanned almost the entire period of the project. The 
interviews commenced with two sessions on July 28 and 30, 1970, conducted 
by Amelia Fry, and covered his distinguished family, Berkeley, California 
childhood, and education at the University of California, Berkeley. Sub 
sequent interviews, held in 1972, 1974, 1976, and 1977, were conducted by 
Miriam Stein, for a total of eighteen sessions. Most of the sessions were 
held in the den of the spacious Olney home in north Berkeley. When circum 
stances dictated, recordings took place in his law office in Oakland, where 
he kept some of his papers and memorabilia. 

Mr. Olney s careful preparation for the interview series and his devotion 
to accurate detail are evident on every page of the memoir. He gathered 
together his extensive collection of papers: clippings, scrapbooks, corre 
spondence, reports, government and legal documents, and photographs, and 
carefully reviewed them, taking special care to double check doubtful facts 
and accounts with other documentary sources or eyewitnesses. When sources 
new to him came to his attention (books, for example, discovered by the 
interviewer) , he eagerly reviewed them and incorporated this material into 
his account. He had a clear concept of the information that was important 
to capture for the record, and he conducted his interview sessions with 
economy and efficiency. 

The tapes were transcribed, then edited lightly for clarity by the inter 
viewer. Mr. Olney was nearing the end of a long and careful review of the 
transcription when he passed away on December 20, 1978. He had made exten 
sive additions and corrections, with two goals in mind: to provide as 
historically accurate a document as possible, and to provide a memoir for 
his family. However, since Mr. Olney s revisions were not completed, the 
reader is urged to apply extra diligence. 


In the summer of 1978, Mr. Olney was interviewed by writer and legal 
scholar Dori Dressander, in preparation for her book on civil rights during 
the Eisenhower administration. During these interviews, Mr. Olney reviewed 
and expanded upon his recollections of several events he had discussed in 
the Regional Oral History Office s interviews. Upon completion of her book, 
Miss Dressander will deposit transcripts of her interviews in The Bancroft 
Library, and the reader is urged to consult them in conjunction with this 
volume. Footnotes herein indicate where the Dressander interview corrects 
or clarifies points in this volume. 

Mr. Olney s extraordinary memoir documents important aspects of 20th 
century California and federal history of law, criminal justice, and law 
enforcement. It also sheds valuable light on the development of Earl 
Warren s career, describes the contributions of the distinguished Olney 
family, and vividly describes the adventures of a boy growing up in early 
20th century Berkeley. 

Miriam F. Stein 

10 December 1979 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 


[Interview 1: July 28, 1970]* 

Fry: Why don t you start out and tell us about your grandparents. 

Olney: My paternal grandfather was Warren Olney, Sr. He was born in a 

small log cabin in Indian country in Iowa in 1841. He was one of 
eight children, and was the eldest. His father, William Olney, 
the second of that name, had been born in upper New York State. 
As a boy he had come with the senior William and the rest of the 
family in a flatboat down the Allegheny River and the Ohio River 
to Marietta, Ohio, where they remained for a few years, and then 
moved farther west to Illinois. 

The senior William moved the whole family to Iowa when it was 
first opened up for settlement. The younger William married there 
and settled on a remote tract taken from the Sacs and Fox Indians 
by the treaty ending the Black Hawk War. He built a one-room cabin 
where my grandfather was born on March 11, 1841. All of this is 
related in the little autobiography my grandfather started to write 
just before he died. Have you seen that? 

Fry : No . 

Olney: Maybe I d better show it to you. [shows interviewer book, Warren 
Olney. 1841-1921**] 

*For a guide indicating the sequence of interviews as taped, see 
page 488. 


Available in The Bancroft Library. 

Olney: This was published just for the family in 1961. On his eightieth 
birthday Warren Olney started to write the story of his life for 
the benefit of his grandchildren. He had hardly got started when 
he died, but he had written quite a little about his boyhood in 
Iowa. He was staying out at the Mt. Diablo Country Club, but he 
got ill while he was out there with bronchitis, and died as a 
result of it. So he never finished this. This little beginning 
was written in longhand. 

At the time of his death they were going to throw those hand 
written pages away, and I grabbed them and kept them. Some forty 
years later my aunt, Ethel Olney Easton, got interested in publish 
ing her father s account of his experiences at the battle of Shiloh. 
I showed these handwritten pages to her and said, "If you re going 
to publish that, you d better put in these pages, too." This 
account was for members of the family. There s a great deal of 
detailed information about his early life, his father, and his 
forebears in there, too. As much as he knew. 

Fry: Good. Then all we need to put on the tape is information that will 
supplement this . 

Olney: Yes. My grandmother was Mary Craven. She and my grandfather met 
at a little college, Central College, in Iowa, just before the 
Civil War, and were married after the war. She came, then, to 
California with him. Her background is quite similar to his. 

My mother s father was Dr. John Knox McLean. There s a little 
book about him. He was born in Jackson, New York, in March of 1834. 
He graduated from Union College in 1858 where he was elected to Phi 
Beta Kappa. Then he entered Princeton Theological Seminary and 
graduated with a Doctor s degree. He came to California in 1871 
and became minister of the First Congregational Church in Oakland 
in 1872 where he served for twenty- three years. He then became 
president of the Pacific Theological Seminary, now known as the 
Pacific School of Religion, which he served for seventeen years. 
He died in 1914. 

Fry: Can you give me the title of that book? 

Olney: It s called John Knox McLean; A Biography. It s by John Wright 
Buckham, printed in 1914 by Smith Brothers in Oakland.* 

*Available in The Bancroft Library. 

Olney: His wife, my grandmother, was Sarah Matilda Hawley. She was born 
and brought up in Salem, New York. She met my grandfather there 
when they were both very young. She married my grandfather when 
he was pastor of the Congregational Church of Springfield, Illinois, 
where he served for four years. She lived to be ninety-eight. 

Fry: Why did her family come out here? 

Olney: She was married in the East. She knew my grandfather in the East, 
and her family didn t move out here. The rest of both families 
remained in Salem. 

Fry: Are the McLeans reasons for coming out recorded? 

Olney: Yes. They had been in a church at Springfield, Illinois, when 

Grandfather got a "call" to the First Congregational Church here 
in Oakland. The church had a vacancy. They asked him to come, so 
he came and took it over. He served for twenty- three years and he 
was succeeded by Dr. Charles R. Brown, who carried the church on 
for ten or fifteen years, and then became dean of the Divinity 
School at Yale. The Browns became very close friends of my parents 
as well as my grandparents on both sides. 



Olney: My father was born on October 15, 1870 in San Francisco. He was 
the oldest of five children, three sons and two daughters. The 
family moved to Oakland. They built a house at 427 29th Street in 
Oakland when he was quite young . 

My grandfather had done quite well as a lawyer. He hadn t 
practiced very long in San Francisco, but he had done well enough 
to build his own home. He sent my grandmother with the children 
on a lengthy trip to Iowa to visit her relatives and his. Without 
her knowing it, he went ahead and got an architect, and designed 
and built this house on 29th Street in Oakland. [laughter] 

Fry: A brave and bold man. 

Olney: Poor Grandma came home and was faced with this house about which 
she had never been consulted, and she lived in it the rest of her 
life. We ve never understood how this could be done . [laughter] 
It was a nice old home, and we all got to love it very much, 
especially the grandchildren. 

Lest you get the impression that my grandfather was the family 
autocrat, I think I should tell you another story about the family. 
For some years my grandfather Olney owned a ranch out in Stone 
Valley at the base of Mt. Diablo. It was not a large acreage, but 
Grandfather planted a walnut orchard and raised oats and a few 
other crops, as I remember. Grandmother had a vegetable garden 
with corn and the most delicious watermelons I have ever tasted. 

However, the ranch was hard to get to from Oakland. The best 
way was to take the S.P. [Southern Pacific] train to Martinez and 
then take a branch line that ran south through the San Ramon Valley, 

Olney: getting off at Danville. You needed someone to meet you with a 
horse and buggy at Danville as the ranch was a good three miles 
from the station. The only other way to reach the ranch was to 
drive by horse and wagon over the Fish Ranch Road through Walnut 
Creek and Alamo, and this was an all-day trip, although it was not 
really much longer in time than the railroad. 

Notwithstanding these difficulties, Grandfather and Grandmother 
spent a good deal of time at the ranch, and they very much liked to 
have their children and grandchildren out there with them. The 
ranch was not very popular with Grandfather s daughters-in-law or 
even with his daughters. The men liked it well enough, when they 
could get out there, and, of course, we grandchildren adored it. 

It must be admitted, however, that under Grandfather s ownership 
the ranch had acquired certain rather unattractive features. For 
example, the original entrance was by a curving road across a 
pleasant field to the front door. For reasons unknown Grampa 
fenced this off so the only approach was from a road to the side 
of the house. On making this approach one first crossed a rickety 
old bridge across the creek and arrived at a large and odiferous 
hog pen with only a rail fence keeping the hogs and slop off the 
road . The entrance to the house by this route was through the 

The house was a two-story clapboard affair made out of lumber 
that was supposed to have been brought around the Horn and certainly 
looked like it. The rooms were papered, but the bedroom ceilings 
were for some reason covered with an Osnaburg-like material that 
sagged between its fastenings. There were mice in the walls and 
they would come out at night and race squeaking across the sagging 
cloth on the ceilings. My mother, for one, did not enjoy lying in 
bed watching their little footfalls on the cloth above her. 

In 1910 or 1911 Grandfather took an extended trip to Egypt, 
Palestine, and Europe. He took my grandmother and their then 
unmarried daughter Ethel with him. He gave his general power of 
attorney to my father to meet any emergency while he was gone. He 
left home talking about retiring to the ranch when he returned 
from Europe. 

His train had hardly crossed the Sierra Nevada when my father, 
acting under the power of attorney, put the ranch up for sale to 
the cheers of all the family, the grandchildren excepted. Poor 
Grampa came home to no ranch. As you can see, Grandfather did not 
have his own way all of the time or even much of the time, although 
he would from time to time take the bit in his teeth. 

Olney: In 1920 my father was a candidate for re-election as associate 

justice of the supreme court of California, having been appointed 
to that position March 1, 1919 by Governor W.D. Stephens to fill 
the vacancy caused by the resignation of Justice Sloss. In connec 
tion with his re-election campaign a short biographical statement 
was published which gives his educational and professional history 
in succinct form. It reads as follows: [reproduced on following 

I have quoted that biographical sketch only because it gives the 
facts about my father s education and early career more accurately 
than I could off the top of my head. Incidentally, the political 
campaign for which the sketch was prepared is something of a 

Father s campaign for re-election was managed by Jesse H. 
Steinhart of San Francisco and was simplicity itself. The voting 
was to be at the general election in November 1920, but the campaign 
began as early as January. On the 26th of that month Father s 
candidacy for re-election was announced by Mr. Steinhart by means 
of sending a letter on the subject to every lawyer in the state. 
The letter was signed by forty-five lawyers from all parts of the 
state. These were all outstanding lawyers of the day and the list 
was a very potent one. 

The addressees were asked to respond to Mr. Steinhart if they 
were willing to assist in Father s re-election and the response was 
excellent. To the best of my knowledge, all they were ever asked 
to do was to spread the word about Father and to ask the local 
newspapers to publish the announcement of his candidacy and some 
of the biographical material. I do not believe there was ever a 
campaign fund established. I have no recollection of any billboards, 
newspaper advertisements, or even election cards although it does 
seem as though there must have been something along that line. Of 
course, radio and TV did not exist. 

I do not recall Father addressing any political meetings as part 
of his campaign, but I do know that between January and the election 
in November, Father made an effort to visit as many county court 
houses around the state as possible where he would call upon the 
superior court judges. These were out and out campaign visits and 

Biographical Sketch of Warren Olney, Jr. 

Warren Olney, Jr., was born in San Francisco October 15, 1870. He was the son of Warren 
Olney, a prominent lawyer of San Francisco, well known throughout the state and a veteran of 
the Union Army in the Civil War. He married in 1899 and has three children. 

Warren Olney, Jr., was educated in and graduated from the public schools of Oakland, Cali 
fornia, after which he attended the University of California for four years, spent one year in 
graduate work at Harvard, and completed his legal education at Hastings College of Law, graduat- 
in^ at the head of his class from that institution. 


After graduating from law school in 1894 he engaged in the practice of law with his father 
in San Francisco. 

One year later, in 1895, ne was appointed assistant professor of law at the Hastings College 
of Law, and continued in that position until 1902. 

In 1902 he resigned from that position and became a lecturer at the newly founded School 
of Jurisprudence at the University of California, from which position he resigned later on in order 
to devote himself exclusively to his private practice. In 1907 he became general attorney for 
the Western Pacific Railroad Company, then being built into the state. 

In 1910 he became a member of the firm of Page, McCutchen, Olney and Knight, of San 
Francisco, which firm was later to be known as McCutchen, Olney and Willard, and from which 
firm Mr. Olney resigned upon his appointment to the Supreme bench in 1919. 

In 1911 Mr. Olney was .appointed attorney for the Board of Regents of the University of 
California, from which position he likewise resigned upon his appointment to the bench. 

Mr. Olney, at the present time, is one of the Trustees of the Hastings College of Law, of 
San Francisco. 

During the war Mr. Olney was appointed a member of the State Registration Bureau, which 
had charge of arranging for and carrying through the matter of registration for the draft, and 
upon the organization of the Draft Boards he was appointed a member and became chairman of 
the Federal Exemption Board of Division One, Northern District of California. 

He was also appointed a member of and became chairman of the State Military Welfare 
Commission and served in that capacity throughout the war. He also served as a member of the 
Advisory Cabinet of the State Council of Defense. 

In February, 1919. Mr. Olney was appointed associate justice of the Supreme bench, to 
fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Mr. Justice Sloss. 

Recently Mr. Olney was one of the persons agreed to by both sides to arbitrate the differences 
between the street and interurban railway company operating on the east side of San Francisco 
Bay, and its men, in regard to wages, hours and working conditions. Justice Olney was made chair 
man of the board and within less than thirty days after its appointment the board made an award, 
which has received the commendation of both sides for its fairness and justice. 


Olney: there was no subterfuge about it. My brother and I accompanied my 
father on a number of trips about the state during this period and 
he never missed a judge or a courthouse. We, of course, waited 
outside during these visits. It seems hard to believe now that any 
campaign for a state-wide office in California could ever have been 
so simple. 

Representing the University of California Board of Regents 

Olney: I do recall that Father was attorney for the Board of Regents when 
I was a boy. I see here the years were 1911-1919. I remember that 
because by virtue of it my brother and I had permission to swim in 
the University of California swimming pool. [laughter] Nobody 
else could among our friends . 

I do recall that it was during this period that Mr. and Mrs. 
Peder Sather were making gifts to the University, and my father was 
not only counsel to the Board of Regents, but he was personal attor 
ney for Mrs. Sather. He was her attorney at the time she made her 
decision to give the money for the campanile. My father told me 
that he had endeavored to persuade her not to give the money for 
that purpose, but to give it for faculty endowment. But she wanted 
to have a physical monument to her husband, as well as giving some 
thing for the University. Father later thought the campanile was 
so successful that he became reconciled to her having left the money 
for that purpose. He thought it was a pretty good campanile when 
they got it built. 

Fry: Professor Leon Richardson told in his interview about going over 
and picking out the bells in this large expansive field, in 
Holland, I believe. 

Olney: Yes. 

Fry: I wonder if he had talked to your father. Do you remember them 
discussing this question? 

Olney: Well, I don t. But he was over at our house and we were at their 
house very often. So I m sure they did talk about it. 

Of course, I remember President Wheeler, but until I read this 
here [interview outline] , I was never aware of the fact that he 
went to pieces in office. I didn t know that. I didn t know there 
was any three-man troika that had to try to fill in at that period. 

Olney: We also knew General he wasn t General then David Prescott 

Barrows. He was a graduate of Pomona College, and my mother s 
father, Dr. McLean, was one of the founders and original trustees 
of Pomona College. My mother served there as dean of women, at 
one time. My mother knew David Barrows when they were both 
children attending my grandfather s church in Oakland. 

The Barrows family moved to the Ojai Valley at an early date. 
I am under the impression that David Barrows was a student at 
Pomona during the year or so that my mother served as dean of 
women, but I am not sure about this. On further thought, I must 
be wrong about this because they were of the same age. 

At any rate, they knew one another very well. 
Fry: When was she dean of women there? It was before you went there. 

Olney: It was before she was married. She was just out of school and had 
had only one year teaching English at Stanford University. She 
was hardly more than a glorified housemother! [laughter] Pomona 
was a very small college. There were only a few students, and the 
duties weren t onerous. That was the period when my father was 
courting her. He used to come to see her at this dormitory, Smiley 
Hall, and she d entertain him in the parlor while all the girls 
would sit on the stairs and watch them through the transom, 

Fry: A reverse chaperone. 

Olney: Dr. Barrows, you know, went to the Philippines and was there for a 
long time, directing education there. When they came back to 
Berkeley, we saw a great deal of them. They moved into a house on 
Regent Street, which was only a few blocks from our home on Dwight 
Way. Our two families once celebrated the Fourth of July together 
with a picnic in Strawberry Canyon shortly after the Barrows return 
from the Philippines. 

Fry: Is it true that President Barrows read the Declaration of Independ 
ence in a resounding basso on the Fourth of July? His granddaughter 
told me that this is what she remembered; she had to sit through 
this on every Fourth of July. [laughter] 

Olney: Well, I wouldn t doubt it. His granddaughter, however, must be 

talking about occurrences many years later probably at their ranch 
in Acalanes Valley. 


Do you remember that? 


Olney: I wouldn t doubt it. That makes him sound as though he was a very 
stuffy man. He was anything but. He was not. He was a very 
friendly, genial, sympathetic, kindly man, very much interested in 
students and all young people. 

Fry: Yes. I remember reading that we practically had a riot on campus 
among the students when he decided to resign and go back to teach 
ing, because they all wanted him to remain as president. 

Olney: Yes. That s true. I have always entertained a very great affection 
and admiration for him, and I used to think that he had led the kind 
of life that I would like to lead. He was a very active man. He d 
been to the Philippines, and he also was on the American Expedition 
ary Force that went to Siberia in 1919 or 1920 during the Russian 

Fry: Didn t he also go to Mexico? 

Olney: Yes, he went to Mexico. He was a good friend of Madera s, the 

assassinated president. After his retirement, in typical fashion, 
he went to Africa and took a trip down the Niger, which I thought 
was a great thing to do. 

When World War II came along, I was married, of course, and I 
had children of my own, but I thought I ought to go into the service, 
and he was the one that I consulted about it. He was always iden 
tified with the army and with the National Guard. I told him that 
I wanted to go into the service, but not as a lawyer, and not for 
an office job. I thought I wanted to go into the marine corps, 
because that was a fighting outfit. 

We had a long discussion and he gave me a lot of very sound 
advice. He said he d seen the marines during his whole career. 
He said it sounded disloyal to the army to say so , but he said it 
was just exactly what I had in mind. The marines were indeed the 
fighting outfit, and that the chances of my seeing some action 
were far better in the marine corps than they ever would be in 
the army. 

Fry: Was he president when you were at UC, or had he just stepped down? 

Olney: No. He was president the first year, anyway, that I was at UC, and 
that was the year that he left the presidency and went back into 
teaching. Then William Wallace Campbell was the president, until 
I graduated . 

I took Dr. Barrows courses, of course, just because I liked 
him so much. 


Fry: What did he teach? 

Olney: Political science, and it seems to me I had a history course from 

him too. But political science was the usual course that he taught. 

Fry: He led such a vigorous, active life that I ve always associated him 
with Teddy Roosevelt, but I don t know whether he really was a 
Rooseveltian type in his outlook and beliefs or not. 

Olney: Well, he wasn t a flag-waver like Teddy Roosevelt, a big-stick man, 
and that kind of stuff. David Barrows wasn t that type. He was a 
very patriotic man, and in those days that kind of patriotic enthusi 
asm wasn t regarded with scorn the way it is now. So he may well 
have recited the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. 
I know that we always made a great day out of it. We always got a 
lot of firecrackers and blew up stuff. [laughter] 

Fry: I ve heard people say that in addition to this he was a pretty good 
scholar, and had a good, critical mind. 

Olney: Well, I m not in a position to evaluate it. 
Fry: You were on the other end of the generation. 
Olney: Yes. 

Western Pacific Railroad 

Olney: Now, going back, there s little else about my father s connection 
to the University that I recall. I remember his work with Western 
Pacific, of course, and that he was their general attorney and 
general counsel. The Western Pacific was the last one of these 
transcontinental railroads that was completed. The first train 
didn t come over the tracks full of passengers until 1910. It was 
recent enough so I can recall it . 

During the building of the railroad, and afterwards, there was 
a lot of litigation because contracts would be made for the build 
ing of tunnels, or fills, or things of that sort. Payment was 
usually so much per yard of material that was moved, and the amount 
of payment would depend on what kind of rock it was, whether it was 
soft or hard, and things of this kind. So there were always a great 
many disputes and unsettled questions about practically every fill 
and curve and tunnel that they had on the railroad. 


Olney: To settle these things, they naturally took geologists to go out 

and actually make an inspection of the rock and the fill, and take 
measurements, samples, and all that sort of thing. Since there 
were no trains running on the line, and tracks were down, they used 
to hitch a locomotive to the president of the railroad s private 
car, and they d all go snorting up the line until they got to the 
place in question. Then the geologists would get out with their 
little hammers and knock a few rocks off and take samples, and do 
a little surveying, or something of this nature. Father took my 
brother and me on those trips many times. 

Fry: You got to go along! 

Olney: Oh, yes. Sometimes we could ride in the cab of the locomotive. One 
time we borrowed the private car, and I guess we were gone for maybe 
eight or ten days. We went up to Blairsden, where the Feather River 
Inn now is. The car was put on a siding there, and we went on a 
fishing trip up to Gold Lake. I have pictures of that, with my 
father, grandfather, brother, all in this buckboard that we took up 
to Gold Lake. Then we came down from the lake and the railroad 
would drop our car down through the Feather River Canyon, and put 
our car off on a siding where we could go fishing for a day or so 
at a time. There was no highway or road in the Feather River Canyon 
at that time, only the railroad. Since the railroad wasn t being 
used, there was nobody. The fishing was simply superb. 

So I remember my father s being counsel, all right, for the 
Western Pacific. 

Fry: There goes my image of you as a rugged third- or fourth-generation 
back-packer. [laughter] 

Olney: The president s car was the most luxurious form of travel I ve ever 
seen. I ve never experienced anything like it. That was a great 
thing . 

In those days, winter sports weren t very popular that I know of, 
but Father got interested in them, and so we took the private car 
and got the Southern Pacific to take it up to Truckee. They left 
us off on the siding up at Truckee one winter, and we lived in this 
car and went sleighing and skiing and tobogganing, and things like 
that. An elegant time. We would come back and live in the car. 
It had a cook, and a porter to handle all the berths. [laughter] 

Not all our trips were in the private car. Most of the one-day 
trips were in a caboose. This was fun too because we could climb 
up to the little house on top and look out the windows ahead over 
the oiler and locomotive and see where we were going. The caboose 
was chummy too, but it didn t really rate with John and me because 
it didn t have any such food as we were given on the private car. 


Fry: Could I ask you a serious question about Western Pacific? If 

Western Pacific was that late, 1910, that was when the railroad 
commission was established, I believe, in 1911. Apparently the 
Western Pacific doesn t share in the inglorious past of Southern 
Pacific in the political history of our state. Is that right? 

Olney: They were competitors, I would say. 
Fry: So it didn t control the legislature? 

Olney: Oh, no! It had nothing to do with that. The Western Pacific was 
never a political power like the Southern Pacific. 

Fry: I ve noticed in the memorial* that there was a sentence or two by 
one of the men who wrote the memorial about your dad in which he 
mentioned "private interests," and I didn t know what this meant. 
I suppose he was talking about the fact that your dad, before he 
went on the court, had been a lawyer for Western Pacific. The 
memorial said that his association with private interests did not 
make any difference, and that your dad was a very outspoken man 
who always adhered to what he thought was right, regardless of his 

Olney: Well, I think what they were referring to was not just the Western 

Pacific, but that my father had always represented business interests 
of one kind or another. Western Pacific was one, but he represented 
the Great Western Power Company, and then he was not infrequently 
special counsel for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and for 
Southern California Edison in their water case, and things like that. 
The firm also represented a great many steamship companies; they had 
an admiralty section in the firm. They were attorneys for the Kern 
County Land Company, and Shell Oil Company, and companies like that. 

Fry: I see. Then the point is well taken, that once he was on the bench 
he was able to see the whole picture, not just the successful 
business interests. 

Olney: He was appointed to the state supreme court as associate justice 
by Governor Stephens, due to the resignation of Judge Sloss. He 
enjoyed his work on the court very much. I was old enough at that 

*See Eustace Cullinan and Hon. Curtis D. Wilbur, "Warren Olney, 
Jr. Memorial" in the Warren Olney, Jr. papers in The Bancroft 
Library . 


Olney: time to be driving a car, and Father had a car. It was a great big 
seven-passenger Cole Aero Eight. Several times when the court would 
meet in Los Angeles I drove him down in that buggy. 

I can recall one occasion when the San Diego Bar Association had 
a lunch for the supreme court, and we drove most of the court down 
in the Cole Aero Eight. I drove them down, but Father liked to 
drive, and coming home he did the driving. Along about Orange, 
somewhere in Orange County, the siren blew behind us, and the cop 
came alongside, and pinched nearly the whole state supreme court, 
[laughter] For speeding. 

Those judges had to run for office, you know. Judge Frank 
Kerrigan was sitting on the court pro-tern at that time. He was 
going to have to run in six or seven weeks, or something like that, 
and he was very concerned when this whistle blew. I remember his 
saying, "Let me handle this, boys!" 

When the car stopped, out he gets. He had his card, and he 
introduced himself to the officer and said, "I m Judge Kerrigan, 
associate justice of the state supreme court." The officer looked 
very skeptical at him, so he had these others get out, and he 
introduced them, "Justice So-and-So, and So-and-So." Each pre 
sented his card. Finally he got down to Angelotti, who was the 
chief justice, and by this time the cop s chin was down to his 
waist. He didn t know what to do. He finally scratched his head, 
shut up his book, and said, "Well, just don t do it again." 
[laughter] He got on his motorcycle and drove off. 

Judge Angelotti would never let me forget that incident. 
"Warren," he said, "you lost the chance of a lifetime you just 
lost it." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "You had your 
camera right with you. You should have had that officer line us 
all up there in front of the car, and taken a picture!" [laughter] 

Fry: That would have set you up for life. 

Olney: Yes. I d have done well on the supreme court. [laughter] 

Fry: I ll bet that s a big family story in that officer s family too. 

Olney: Yes. I ll bet it is. 

Fry: Could I back up a minute? When your dad was appointed to the Board 
of Regents, was that an appointment by Hiram Johnson? 

Olney: He was elected president of the alumni association and was a regent 
ex officio. 


Fry: I think that was later, wasn t it? At that time the president of 
the alums was not 

Olney: He was counsel for the regents. I don t think he was appointed 

Fry: He was not on the board, but he was counsel? 

Olney: Yes. He was the lawyer for the regents. 

Fry: That wasn t anything Hiram Johnson would have done, then? 

Olney: No. The regents picked their own lawyer. 

Fry: Then later on he was a member of the regents ex of f icio? 

Olney : Yes . 

Political Matters 

Fry: Was he close to Hiram Johnson, would you say? 

Olney: Yes, he was. Father was very much interested, and so was my grand 
father, in the graft prosecutions in San Francisco in 1908, or along 
in there, which was when Hiram Johnson got his start. (You know 
Johnson was assisting [Francis] Heney [assistant district attorney 
of San Francisco] in that prosecution. Heney was shot at the trial, 
and Hiram Johnson took over.) My father and Johnson became good 
friends. Then Johnson had a lieutenant governor, John Eshleman, 
and Father was a very good friend of Eshleman s, a very good friend 
of his indeed. Eshleman became the first chairman of the railroad 

I remember Hiram Johnson coming to our house for lunch one time, 
an occasion when they were having some problem with the deaf school 
that s up there on Warring Street, between Dwight and Derby [in 
Berkeley]. It was a school for the deaf, dumb, and blind at that 
time. The president of the school was a Dr. Wilkinson. He was 
the father of Mrs. Maude Richardson, Leon Richardson s wife. 

There were some kind of charges that were brought against Dr. 
Wilkinson that required an inquiry that brought the governor to 
Berkeley. The whole thing was explored. It was without any basis, 
as I recall, but I remember Johnson being at the house, and my 
father and the governor being very friendly indeed. 


Olney: After World War I, when the League of Nations was proposed by 

Woodrow Wilson, my father and grandfather believed that that was 
the only hope we had of avoiding another war like World War I. 
They were very much interested in supporting the League and did 
everything they could, made speeches and gave money and whatnot. 

Hiram Johnson, of course, opposed the League. He was just as 
bitter as could be. Johnson was always a very bitter kind of man. 
You re either for him or agin 1 him, in his mind, and if you weren t 
supporting him and were supporting the League, why, he just had no 
use for you. My father supported Herbert Hoover, because of this 
League issue, when he ran for the Senate against Johnson and was 

Fry: When Hoover ran against Johnson? 

Olney: Sure, Hoover ran against Johnson one time and was beaten, before he 
was president. It was in the primaries he ran, the Republican 
primary, I think. 

Fry: That must have been the final straw, at any rate. 

Olney: Yes. My father and Johnson were never able to make up this 
difference they d had. 

Fry: During all this, did Hiram Johnson come to your house more than 

Olney: Well, I remember once distinctly. I m not sure whether he came more 
than once. I think he did, though. 

Fry: Would you rate your father as a progressive in a Hiram Johnson 

Olney: Well, my father started out being a Democrat. I know he was a 

delegate to the Democratic state convention that endorsed William 
Jennings Bryan when he was running against McKinley. My mother 
was a Republican and my father was a Democrat. My mother acquired 
a very large, extraordinarily ugly tomcat, whom she named Bryan, 

Father was very interested in supporting Hiram Johnson, and so 
was my grandfather, and they also were very keen in supporting 
Theodore Roosevelt, although my grandfather had been very much 
opposed to McKinley because of his involvement in the Philippines. 
Grandfather thought our sending troops to the Philippines to 
suppress the native insurrection was a ghastly mistake. He had 
the same feeling about our involvement in the Philippines that 


Olney: many people have about the Vietnam War. He just thought that was 
morally indefensible, as well as being politically unsound. He 
thought we would regret that we ever got involved in that. Grand 
father put an article in the Oakland newspaper that is about as 
strong a denunciation of our national conduct as I have ever read. 
I still have a copy of it. But Roosevelt, on the other hand, they 
liked very much even though he was a big navy man, and seemed 
inclined to get us involved everywhere. 

Grandfather and Father had a hard time knowing from one election 
to the next just who they were going to support. They changed their 
views many times about people and about issues. But I would describe 
both of them as being very progressive for their day. Neither of 
them were opposed to change, and both of them realized that the 
regime, and the system under which they were living, was anything 
but perfect; it needed improvement. 

Fry: Did they support Wilson in 1912 against Taft? 

Olney: No, they supported Roosevelt. I remember that. That s the first 
election I can remember anything about . I do not believe either 
of them ever supported Wilson. I think they harbored a great dis 
trust of the man. 

In the 1916 election that, of course, is the one in which 
Charles Evans Hughes came out here to California and made the 
mistake of giving Johnson the brush-off. [laughter] But we 
weren t in California at the time of the election. My parents 
took my brother and me on a three-months tour of the East. It 
was a purely educational sight-seeing tour for us boys. We were 
in Boston at the time of the election, and witnessed the torch 
parade. I guess it was the last political parade with torches 
that they ever had in Boston. It was a big one, celebrating 
Hughes election. Then we woke up the next morning to find our 
state had beat him. I don t know which side they were on at that 

Both my father and grandfather felt that our involvement in 
World War I was inevitable. We simply could not afford to see 
the Allies defeated. They never supported Wilson on any slogan 
that he kept us out of war. But whether they voted for Hughes or 






Olney : 
Olney : 

not, I don t know. I think they might have. My father was probably 
glad he was in the East, and didn t have to vote, unless it was on 
an absentee ballot, because he would have been torn both ways. 

If your father was a delegate to the Democratic state convention 
when Bryan was running, did he ever get that active in partisan 
politics again in the state? 

I don t think so. 
other convention. 

He was never a delegate, that I know of, to any 

He was more active, though, than that fact would suggest. His 
profession, and his work, and his clients brought him into contact 
with people in public office and with people who were supporting 
and responsible for candidates, to a great extent, and he was always 
very concerned about candidates, opposing some and supporting others. 
He would do this privately, and it was effective, that way. 

I understand that there was a complaint on the part of Southern 
California party leaders that a great deal of the money traditionally 
came from a group of men in San Francisco that wielded influence 
because they could choose their own candidates of either party and 
work up a good enough campaign fund that they could help them get 

I think that was true. 

Yes . Maybe you can give us information on who these people were? 

No. I can t. 

Spring Valley Water Company 

Olney: You were wondering about my father s clients. There was an important 
one that I d forgotten to mention and that s the Spring Valley Water 
Company. The Spring Valley Water Company, and its precedessor, The 
Spring Valley Water Works, was a privately owned corporation which 
had been in the business of supplying water for domestic and indus 
trial use to San Francisco since the 1850s. It had built and owned 
all of the reservoirs and water pipes for delivering water to the 
city and also owned all the possible sources of water for the city 
which might be developed in San Mateo and Alameda counties. It had 
a water monopoly in the city of San Francisco. 


Olney: There was, understandably, constant friction between the water 

company and the city over the water company s rates which were set 
by the city s board of supervisors. There had been a number of 
proposals over the years for the city to build its own water system 
with sources in the Eel River, the Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, or one 
or another of the Sierra rivers. The Tuolumne River, with a 
reservoir to be built in Hetch Hetchy Valley, was regarded as the 
most feasible of these proposals. 

The Spring Valley Water Company had long been one of Mr. E.J. 
McCutchen s clients, but after Father and Mr. McCutchen became 
partners Father did an increasing amount of work for Spring Valley 
and a number of its officers. The matter is of some interest here 
because my father and grandfather were on opposite sides of this 
very important and explosive issue. Spring Valley was the principal 
opponent of the city s plan to dam Hetch Hetchy and bring its water 
to San Francisco and my father s firm was the company s legal coun 
sel. My grandfather, on the other hand, was very active in organ 
izing support for the Hetch Hetchy project. The following is a 
brief statement of the background of the controversy: 

In the fall of 1908, in order that San Francisco might proceed 
with its Hetch Hetchy plans, a joint resolution had been introduced 
in Congress providing for the exchange of lands between the city 
and the federal government lying within Yosemite National Park. 
This was a requirement of the permit the city had received from the 
Secretary of the Interior. The city had secured options to purchase 
a number of privately owned tracts within Yosemite National Park 
boundaries and stood ready to exchange them, acre for acre, for the 
government s land on the floor of Hetch Hetchy Valley. By the trade 
the city would have its ownership of land in the national park 
confined to the floor of Hetch Hetchy, while the government would 
acquire all the privately held land outside Hetch Hetchy. 

Dr. A.H. Giannini, who was chairman of the Supervisors Committee 
on Public Works, and Marsden Manson, the city engineer, were sent to 
Washington to appear before the Public Lands Committees. They were 
assured there would be no difficulty in securing the passage of the 
joint resolution to effect this land exchange. 

The hearing before the House committee opened with City Engineer 
Manson presenting the city s petition followed by a statement from 
Dr. Giannini. Secretary of the Interior Garfield gave his reasons 
for granting the permit to the City of San Francisco. At this 
point a hurricane of protest blew up. Letters and telegrams were 
received from individuals and conservation organizations from all 
over the country protesting the invasion of a national park for 
water and power development and the loss of Hetch Hetchy Valley by 


Olney: flooding. The leaders in this well-organized blitz of protest were 
mostly Sierra Club members. They included John Muir, William E. 
Colby, C.T. Parsons, J.N. Le Conte, and William F. Bade 1 . These were 
among my grandfather s closest and most valued friends. 

The city representatives did not know who had stirred up the 
storm of opposition at the hearing, although they seem to have 
suspected the Spring Valley Water Company, since that company had 
opposed the Hetch Hetchy project from the beginning. 

The tremendous protest caused an adjournment of the hearings. 
A day or so later the committee held an executive session and 
immediately afterwards Dr. Giannini reported to Mayor Taylor that 
while the city s representatives were not invited, they had noticed 
on passing through the hall that the meeting was being held and 
that Mr. E.J. McCutchen, attorney for the Spring Valley Water 
Company (and my father s partner), had appeared without announce 
ment or notice and was addressing the committee, presenting legal 
objections and opposing the resolution of exchange 

Dr. Giannini called for reinforcements for the city and Mayor 
Taylor immediately responded by sending to Washington a five-man 
committee composed of Warren Olney, Sr., ex-Mayor of Oakland; 
James D. Phelan, ex-Mayor of San Francisco; City Attorney Percy V. 
Long; Walter McArthur, editor of Coast Seaman s Journal; and J.D. 
Galloway , C . E . 

In January, 1909, the hearings were reconvened. Again the 
committee was deluged with letters and telegrams from all parts of 
the country and Mr. McCutchen was also on the ground representing 
the Spring Valley Water Company. He charged that the city s real 
object in seeking the Hetch Hetchy permit was to use it as a club 
to force Spring Valley to sell its system to the city at the city s 
own price. A strange alliance was in evidence between the Sierra 
Club and other conservationists and the Spring Valley Water Company. 
The effect of their joint efforts was to prevent the City of San 
Francisco from developing a municipally owned water system. 

The protests were too much. The city representatives could see 
there was no hope and they requested that the resolution be with 
drawn from further consideration and returned home.* 

*My source for the above statements: Taylor, Ray W., Hetch Hetchy, 
The Story of San Francisco s Struggle to Provide a Water System 
for Her Future Needs, Orozco, San Francisco, 1926. 


Olney: Of course, this was not the end. The city continued its fight for 
Hetch Hetchy. Grandfather became incensed at his old Sierra Club 
friends who had organized the protest against the resolution in 
Congress. He was convinced that they had permitted themselves and 
the club to be used as a front by the Spring Valley Water Company 
in its determination to keep San Francisco from owning its own water 
supply. He led nearly half the membership in resignation from the 
club in protest against the club s abetting the machinations of 
Spring Valley. The conservation issue he regarded as a fake and 
mere smoke screen for the water company s selfish purposes.* 

I was much too young to know anything about the matters I have 
just recited, but this fight went on for years, the city finally 
winning out when the Raker Act was signed into law by President 
Woodrow Wilson in 1913. But I was old enough at this time to 
discover, along with all of Grandfather s other grandchildren, that 
the split of opinion in our family about something called "Hetch 
Hetchy" was so great and was such a sore subject that it must not 
be mentioned in Grandfather s house. 

Nevertheless there was no hint of estrangement between my grand 
father and father over Hetch Hetchy or over the part the Sierra Club 
was playing and I think this throws a revealing light on both these 
men. Their attitudes toward one another always evidenced the 
warmest affection and the greatest respect whatever their differences 
may have been about Hetch Hetchy. 

Fry: How did your father feel personally about Hetch Hetchy? 

Olney: He felt that Hetch Hetchy should not have been flooded. He felt 
that conservation-wise it was going to be needed. Grandfather 
didn t. Also, my father did not have the same deep antagonism to 
all private water companies that my grandfather did. Grandfather 
just thought private water companies were an abomination, that by 
the very nature of water water was so necessary no community 
ought ever to have its water supply in the hands of any private 
concern, where they could tell the community what they had to pay 
for water. He thought that was completely wrong. 

Fry: You mentioned to me, before we turned the tape recorder on, about 
your grandfather s experiences when he ran for mayor of Oakland. 

See Appendix A. 


Olney: Yes. This is what soured him on water companies old man [William] 
Dingee of the Oakland Water Company and later the Contra Costa Water 
Company and the Peoples Water Company. In 1902 Grandfather was 
elected mayor of Oakland on the water issue. I still have one of 
his campaign addresses which explains his view on water companies. 
He just lumped together Spring Valley and every other privately owned 
water company in the state. 

Fry: You said the board of supervisors had the right to set the rates, 
and this led to a great deal of bribery. 

Olney: Yes. Yes. In Oakland it surely did and, I believe, in San Francisco 

Fry: Who was head of Spring Valley Water Company? Was it anyone impor 
tant? Groping back in my memory here I connect this with something. 

Olney: Well, I m wondering if it wasn t Bourn. There was a man named 

Bourn; Father was his counsel too. The Spring Valley Water Company 
was reorgznized more than once and it had several presidents over 
the years. I remember the names of A.H. Payson and S.P. Eastman 
as having been Spring Valley presidents at one time or another, but 
the only one I can remember as a person was W.B. Bourn (known in 
mining circles as Billy Bourn) . 

He was the owner of the fabulously rich Idaho-Maryland Mine in 
Grass Valley. In 1909, and I suppose for some years before and 
after, Mr. Bourn was president of the Spring Valley Water Company 
and was also, I believe, its principal stockholder. He built a 
magnificent brick mansion surrounded by water company property in 
San Mateo County which he named Faloli. The mansion still stands 
in the woods, but I think it is now owned by the City of San 

Years later in the 1920s Mr. Bourn bought the Lakes of 
Killarney in Ireland, including the castles and villas on the 
estate. For some years he and Mrs. Bourn resided there raising 
horses. Eventually he made a gift of the entire estate to the 
National Trust and now it is publicly owned. 

The only reason I remember Mr. Bourn is because of his automobile. 
About 1909 or 1910, when I was only five or six years old, and while 
he was president of Spring Valley and my father was counsel for the 


Olney: company, Mr. Bourn owned a seven-passenger Fierce-Arrow touring car 
with a chauffeur. He loaned the "machine," as it was usually called 
in those days, and the chauffeur to my father to make an inspection 
of the company s works in the Pleasanton-Sunol area accompanied by 
his family. 

We were living in Berkeley at the time and my recollection is 
that we took the streetcar to First and Broadway where we met the 
Fierce-Arrow and its driver as they got off what was known as the 
"Creek Ferry" the only ferry capable of carrying horses, wagons, 
and automobiles. 

This, I believe, was my first ride in an automobile. My mother 
wore a large hat with a heavy veil to keep it on. My father wore a 
cap and both parents wore dusters and really needed them, there 
being no paved road. My brother and I had nothing extra except the 
tremendous thrill of the automobile ride. 

We traversed Dublin Canyon and emerged onto the flat land just 
northwest of Pleasanton. Here we inspected a large artisian well 
and some underground percolation galleries that Spring Valley had 
developed. Then we drove south through Pleasanton on our way to 
Sunol. Several miles out of town our road went underneath the 
railroad tracks followed by a sharp turn to the left. As we 
rounded the turn, we suddenly encountered a lady in a buggy going 
the opposite direction. Her horse shied and stood on his hind 
legs, overturning the buggy and throwing the lady to the ground. 
The chauffeur jammed on the brakes and Father leaped from the car 
and seized the horse s bridle. We all got out to pick up the 
pieces. The young lady did not seem to be badly damaged, although 
the experience certainly did not freshen her up. We learned that 
her home was less than a mile away, so the buggy was righted and 
we took her home. I think she rode in the Fierce-Arrow and Father 
drove her horse and buggy. 

After this harrowing experience, we went on to the Water Temple 
at Sunol. Here we were taken underground once more into the per 
colation galleries and then to watch the mixing of waters from many 
sources in the temple as they started their long trip through the 
Spring Valley pipes to the San Andreas Reservoir and San Francisco. 

On the water company property and about a half a mile from the 
Water Temple was an old ranch house which the company kept staffed 
for the use of visitors. We had limitless quantities of fried 
chicken prepared by a Chinese cook, followed by ice-cold water 
melons. While our elders stayed in the house and, I suppose, 
talked about business, my brother John and I climbed trees and 
played on the expansive lawns around the house. 


Olney: From here on my memory of that day grows dim. It seems probable 

that we went up Alameda Creek to where the Calaveras dam was being 
built a distance of about three or four miles but I cannot say 
that I remember this. Indeed, I cannot remember how we got home, 
although I think it was through Niles Canyon. (The canyon was 
familiar to John and me because we had been through it several 
times in the Western Pacific private car.) The vagueness of my 
memory from this point on is due, I suspect, to my being asleep. 
The excitement of that first automobile ride, the thrill of all 
the pouring waters, the rearing horse and overturning buggy, to 
say nothing of the fried chicken and watermelon, was more than 
enough, I am sure, to exhaust a five- or six-year-old boy. This 
is, of course, why I remember Mr. Bourn s presidency of the Spring 
Valley Water Company. 

Fry: At any rate, Bourn was very close to your father? 

Olney: Yes. My father represented Bourn on many of his personal matters 
and occasionally but not regularly on his mining interests. I 
remember when the Argonaut mine had that terrible fire at Jackson 
they got into a lot of litigation over that, and Father represented 
the Argonaut. I am not sure, however, that Mr. Bourn had any 
interest in the Argonaut. 

Fry: So your father was able to be counsel and attorney for these 

interests, but at the same time, on public issues he seemed to 
be on the side of general public interest. 

Olney: Oh, yes. He was. He never let the representation of his clients 
determine his views on public issues . 

Fry: That s what that sentence meant, then, in his memorial. 

Associate Justice, California Supreme Court 

Fry: Are you ready to go on to his period as associate justice? 

Olney: Sure. I can take you over that very briefly, because I can only 

add to what I already said. Father was appointed associate justice 
of the supreme court of California on March 1, 1919 by Governor 
Stephens to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Justice 
Sloss. In November 1920 he was elected without opposition for a 
new term. In July 1921 he resigned to re-enter private practice. 
I know that he enjoyed his work very much on the court; that there 
were times later on when he would read decisions of the court and 


Olney: wish he was still on there, because he didn t always agree with 
them, but he left simply because he couldn t live on his salary. 
At that time associate justices got paid $8,000 a year. He had 
three children that he was trying to educate. He thought we were 
expensive! [laughter] 

That was just about the time you three kids were going to college, 
wasn t it? 

Yes. Then, there was another thing that used to annoy him very 
much. There was then a provision in the state constitution that 
supreme court justices could not be paid unless they submitted 
affidavits that none of the court s cases had been pending more 
than ninety days, or something like that. There was one member 
of the court in particular who was very dilatory, and who would 
have an awful time making up his mind, and he d get way behind, 
and it meant that none of the justices could get paid. Sometimes 
they were well over a year in arrears in their pay. They had to 
finance this with loans from the bank, which Father felt was a 
pretty tough way of trying to finance himself and his family on 
such a low salary. 

Yes, you d lose part of your salary right there in the interest 
rates. Was this set by the legislature at that time? 

It was in the constitution. It got in there, I think, on an 
initiative along about 1911 with many of these other attempts at 

As an effort at court reform. 
Something like that. [laughter] 

Well, I noticed the memorial says that shortly after your father 
resigned, they were able to get the remuneration increased. 

Well, that might be because he resigned! [laughter] 
Yes, maybe that s what he accomplished. 

What department did he have? Were the departments divided up 
into types of cases then? 

In the court? No. 

There s a note here that he was the bar association president at 
some time. Do you know anything about that? 


Olney: Yes. He was president of the San Francisco Bar Association. 
Fry: Were there any particular issues that he became involved with? 

Olney: My grandfather had been president of it, too, before that. No, I 
don t know of any issues. 

Fry: All right. 

Service on the Draft Board 

Fry: The World War I experience that he d had on the draft board must 
have been a difficult one for him. 

Olney: Yes, that was. It was a review board that he was on. 

Fry: My notes say that he was a member of the State Registration Bureau, 
in charge of registration for the draft, chairman of the District 
Exemption Board of Division 1, and it was these draft exemptions, 
apparently, that his board had to review. 

Olney: Yes. That s right. It was a little different set-up than we ve 

had since. It was exemptions that he was concerned with. I remem 
ber his doing it, of course, and spending a lot of time on it, but 
that s all I remember about it. 

Fry: Do you know what the State Military Welfare Commission was, of which 
he was chairman? 

Olney: I ve never even heard of it, although I notice it is mentioned in 
his Biographical Sketch of 1920. 

Fry: He was chairman from 1917-1918, and I don t know whether this was 
a part of the draft set-up or not. 

Olney: I do not know. 

Fry: There was a reference to labor, too. There s a speech in The 

Bancroft Library in which he addresses the annual conclave of the 
building trades council and assures the members that they are making 
progress and warns against mistakes of violence, and of not living 
up to agreements. He assures them of the necessity of the right to 
picket, and says that this is being accepted more and more. 


Olney: I don t recall that. I don t know of a reason for it. There was a 
time when he was an arbitrator of a strike. I think it was the Key 
System strike. It had been a rather bitter strike. It was settled 
finally by arbitration, and he was one of the arbitrators. I think 
that probably a speaking invitation of this sort came out of his 
having arbitrated that strike. 

Fry: Well, they printed it right on the front page of their labor paper, 
so I gathered that he must have been looked upon as somebody very 
important and relevant at the time. 

Olney: The only thing I remember about the arbitration I don t even know 
how it came out was that a day or two after it was over, and the 
decision was announced, during the afternoon, a package was delivered 
at our house. It was a big package. When Father came home he opened 
the thing up. I ll never forget his horror! [laughter] It was a 
great, big, silver punch bowl, with a big ladle and everything else. 
It was inscribed to him, and it was from one of the parties in the 

Oh, gosh, he was fit to be tied. He got that thing back in the 
box and he got it out of the house. He returned it immediately. 
This was at dinner-time, but he wouldn t even eat his dinner until 
that thing was out of the house. Oh, was he burned! [laughter] 

Fry: You don t know which side it was that sent it to him? 

Olney : No . 

Fry: That could have been a real trap. 

Olney: Oh, yes. 

Now what s next? 

Antitrust Action 

Fry: He was called by the Attorney General of the United States to be 
counsel or something for a radio case. There s just a small 
reference to this. Maybe you could describe what that was? 

Olney: Well, this is one of the more important things that he did. What 
year was that? 

Fry: I don t have the date on that. It s not listed in his small bio 
graphies in Who s Who. 


Olney: William D. Mitchell was the attorney general at the time, and John 
Lord O Brien was the assistant attorney general in charge of the 
antitrust division. 

Fry: Was this when you were in his law office? 

Olney : Oh , no . 

Fry: It was before that? 

Olney: Well, now, let me see. Herbert Hoover was the president; that s 
when it was. Yes, I guess I was out in Martinez. This must have 
been 27, 28, 29, or 30 somewhere along in there. Yes, that 
would be right. 

Fry: All right, that gives us a clue, then. 

Olney: Herbert Hoover, I m quite sure from what I ve been told by my 

father s partners and others, wanted to put my father on the United 
States Supreme Court, when a vacancy came along. But he thought he 
might have trouble doing it, because Father s clients had been 
exclusively from the business interests, and he d never represented 
labor unions. He represented corporate interests. 

This antitrust suit was brought by John Lord O Brien, the assist 
ant in charge of the antitrust division, William D. Mitchell being 
the attorney general. It was against Radio Corporation of America, 
General Electric, the telephone company (American Tel), Westinghouse, 
and there may have been some more large corporate defendants like 
that in the case. They were charged with forming a patent pool in 
which they had pooled all their patents, and would issue licenses 
only to people who would take a license for all the patents in the 
pool. The government claimed that was a violation of the antitrust 
law, and filed suit accordingly. The people who were on the short 
end of the deal were the smaller radio manufacturers like Zenith 
and Admiral I remember them, in particular. This was before TV, 
but there was an awful lot of money involved in that lawsuit, a 
terrible amount of money involved in it and in the consequences of 

The attorney general asked Father to become special assistant 
and to take charge of this lawsuit against these big companies, for 
the government. 

Fry: Is this frequently done, bringing in an outside person? 

Olney: Sure. In fact, I did it myself, sometimes. I mean, I both retained 
people and I ve been retained. It s frequently done. 


Fry: I see. Am I correct in seeing your connection here between the fact 
that Hoover wanted to appoint him to the Supreme Court but was afraid 
of his business connections, and this job? 

Olney: I think he gave him this job as a sort of an Air Wick. In this 

litigation he would be representing the public, against entrenched 
business interests of this kind. 

Fry: Against the business interests, so that he could appoint him with 
fewer questions from the Senate. 

Olney: I think that s what he had in mind, yes. But I m only guessing at 

Anyway, Father took the case, and this meant he had to go back 
there to Washington and Wilmington where the case was to be tried. 
It s a long, long story. There s a book called The Corrupt Judge, 
written by a man who collected all the known cases of corruption of 
federal judges.* This radio case got mixed up with some of these 
judges who were indeed corrupt, and a lot of this is in the book. 

The case ran along for a long time. It was successful. It 
ended up on the eve of trial with a consent decree. The defendants 
came in and consented to a permanent injunction against this pooling 
that they d been engaged in. The decree is still on the books. 
It s still in effect and it s still binding, and every once in a 
while the government has to haul somebody up on a charge of contempt 
for violating the decree in some way. 

Fry: So this had the same significance as legislation? 

Olney: Oh, yes. It was a landmark case in radio. It resulted in breaking 
up a large illegal patent pool and patent monopoly. 

My father went to Washington on this litigation, and he and my 
mother were overnight guests of the Hoovers in the White House 
several times in connection with it. After it was settled, they 
returned here, and then a vacancy came up on the United States 
Supreme Court. This was through the retirement of Mr. Justice 
Edward T. Sanford. There was the usual speculation about who was 
going to be appointed. 

Joseph Borkin, The Corrupt Judge; An Inquiry into Bribery and 
Other High Crimes and Misdemeanors in the Federal Courts. 


Olney: I received a letter some years ago from one of my father s partners 
about this. I asked him about it once, because he had told me 
about some questions that had been asked of him by people in the 
Justice Department. He had been aware that they were considering 
my father for filling that position. But the nomination finally 
went to Judge John Parker, the chief judge of the Fourth Circuit 
Court of Appeals. The Senate refused to confirm Judge Parker due 
mainly to the opposition of John L. Lewis and the United Mine 
Workers. Up until this past year, this is the only nomination to 
the Supreme Court that was ever turned down by the Senate! 

Then President Hoover nominated Owen J. Roberts, of Tea Pot Dome 
fame, to fill the spot and he was confirmed without controversy. 

When I went back to Washington and became director of the 
Administrative Office, Judge John Parker was still chief judge of 
the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and, as such, a member of the 
Judicial Conference. When I met him, since I had the same name as 
my father, he spotted me immediately, and was very friendly and 
very kind to me. He remarked to me about my father. I think he 
was trying to sound me out a little as to how much I knew. I 
didn t know anything, hardly, but I think also he was wondering if 
I was aware of the fact that my father had been considered for the 
same appointment he had been considered for. [laughter] 

Fry: Is there anything in the press at that time about this? 
Olney : No . 

U.S. Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure 

Fry: Later on you started working in your father s office again in the 

30s, and while you were there he was a member of the United States 
Supreme Court s Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure for 
the U.S. District Courts. 

Olney: Yes. That s a much more important thing than it sounds. Here s a 
documentary history of it. [hands interviewer a book] 


Fry: The name of this is "Rules of Civil Procedure for "the District 

Courts of the United States: A Documentary History, 1934-1938." 
Now this has Warren Olney, Jr. s name on it. Does each copy have 
a name on it? 

Olney: Each member of the committee was given a bound copy with his name 
on it. 

Fry: So if someone is looking this up, is that all they need to know, 
what I just read? 

Yes. This is very well known. These rules are still in use. 
Apparently this had very far-reaching effects on rules. 

Yes, it did, and on procedure in litigation in state as well as 
federal systems, because the federal rules worked so well that 
state after state adopted them. They re used in most states as 
well as the federal courts now. 

What had occurred was that the federal courts had tried for 
years to have rules that were the same as the rules of the states 
in which they sat. With forty-eight states you had forty-eight 
separate systems of federal rules, and some were good and some 
weren t. Then there was a difference in jurisdiction in civil 
litigation between ordinary law courts and the chancellor s court, 
the equity courts. In the federal court the same judge would sit 
as a judge in equity, or a judge at law, but the two systems were 
different, and the rules were different; the pleadings were differ 
ent. Then they also sat as admiralty courts, on maritime matters, 
and they had still another separate system of rules. 

Instead of leaving this to the Congress, or the legislature 
(which is almost an impossible way of going about it) , Charles 
Evans Hughes, who was the Chief Justice of the United States, 
conceived the idea of the Supreme Court having an advisory com 
mittee to make a complete revision of the rules of procedure in 
civil cases that would be applicable to all federal courts and 
disregard the rules of local state courts, and also that would 
abolish this procedural distinction between equity and law. 

They assembled a committee of about sixteen to eighteen people. 
They were judges, lawyers, and scholars from all parts of the 
country, trying to get a geographical distribution, and also a 
difference of experience and point of view and whatnot. The 
chairman of the committee was William D. Mitchell, a Democrat who 
had been attorney general under Presidents Coolidge and Hoover. 
He was attorney general at the time my father had the radio case, 
for example. 


Olney: From 34 to 38 they proceeded to work on the subject with periodic 
meetings. They worked like the dickens, as you can see from these 
things. They had a staff that saw this thing through, and they 
finally came up with a set of rules which was approved by the 
Supreme Court, and then was adopted and put into effect. I have 
here a copy of the American Bar Journal from April, 1939. I 
couldn t figure out at first why I had kept this, but it s simply 
because of the article they have on the new rules. 

Fry: Is it true that those rules used some of the western state rules as 
a model? 

Olney: Yes, they did in some respects, in such things as discovery (that 
is, methods of finding out what your opponent s case is about so 
you can be reasonably prepared when you get into court) they did 
follow procedure which was very, very like the California procedures. 
That was one of the western contributions. 

On the other hand, there were other procedures, such as starting 
a lawsuit without even filing a complaint in the clerk s office, and 
things of this kind the service of process which were entirely 
eastern innovations. They were complete novelties to us. I remem 
ber Father coming back from one of the meetings and telling about 
this procedure, and we were both scratching our heads and wondering 
how in the world that thing would ever work! But he said, "The fact 
is that it does. It does work and, of course, it s so much cheaper 
and so much simpler than what we ve been doing. I m very much 

Fry: So they put that in too? 
Olney: Oh, yes. 

If my father was reviewing his own professional activities, I 
think he would regard his work on that committee as one of the more 
important things he did. 

Fry: I understood that also this was significant because it tended to 
remove rule making itself from the legislative branch. 

Olney: That s true. That s right, yes. 

Fry: And has this been followed pretty much, since? 

Olney: Oh, yes. The Congress doesn t monkey with it, not any more. 

Fry: It s not monkeyed with any more, but what about state legislatures? 


Olney: We ve always had a code of civil procedure, which was enacted by 
the legislature, which gave some additional rule-making authority 
to the court. Just what it is now, I don t know. I haven t been 
in the California courts for so long, and there have been many 
revisions. I don t know what they re doing. But the procedures 
in state courts in California and in the federal courts today are 
so alike that a lawyer has no difficulty in going from our court 
to another. 

Fry: Can a lawyer also handle a case in any part of the country? 

Olney: Yes, indeed. I guess my father was still a member of the committee 
when he died in 39, because the committee was still functioning, 
with Attorney General Mitchell as chairman, when I went back to 
Washington in 1953. 

Fry: It was? So this 39 article, then, was not a swan song, or its 
final report? 

Olney: Oh, no. The committee continued. They didn t have any terminal 

facilities. [laughter] There wasn t any provision for getting rid 
of them. After the rules were adopted, they would, nevertheless, 
meet every once in a while to see whether or not there was anything 
that needed revision. After about five years they did come up with 
one or two suggested revisions. I think they had mostly to do with 
condemnation cases, which the Supreme Court didn t like, so they 
wouldn t approve those. 

But they still kept the committee on. It got to be a very 
embarrassing thing, because the members got altogether too old. 
They got in their dotage, and they just kind of fumbled around. 
As they would die off, the vacancies wouldn t be filled, and 
there d be only a few left. 

One of the first things that Earl Warren did when he became 
chief justice was to abolish this ancient committee. They had 
really performed magnificently. Their achievement was very, very 
great, and everybody knows it. After they were terminated, the 
federal courts were without any advisory committee for a couple of 
years. The Chief Justice felt he had to do that to go without 
one in order to avoid any appearance of having fired the old 
committee, you see, and gotten a new one. There was nothing they 
could do with that old committee. They had to get rid of it that 

Then they reconstituted a new set of committees. Each member 
of these committees was appointed for a fixed term. I had a great 
deal to do with these new committees. The Chief Justice decided 


Olney: that he would get legislation from the Congress authorizing the 
Supreme Court to have committees of this kind, so that their 
expenses could be included in the judicial budget and appropria 
tions. When I became director, that legislation was pending. It 
hadn t been enacted, and my first job was to try to get that 
through, which I did. 

Fry: You became an instant lobbyist for the Supreme Court? 
Olney : Right . 

Fry: Who helped you get the legislation through? Were our California 
Senators helpful? 

Olney: Well, no. They were mostly judges who helped me on it, people 

like Judge John Biggs, chief judge of the Third Circuit Court of 
Appeals, and Judge Albert Maris of the same court, and others. 
This wasn t controversial. It was just a matter of satisfying 
Congress that something good would come out of it. They had the 
very good example of the first committee. Under that legislation 
the Chief Justice appointed an overall committee on rules with 
Judge Albert Maris as chairman and subsidiary committees on civil 
rules, one on criminal rules, on bankruptcy rules, on admiralty 
rules, and there s a fifth I guess it was evidence. They were 
advisory committees that functioned in the same way as the old 

Fry: These are all for procedures, right? 

Olney: Yes. The admiralty rules committee, for example, succeeded after 
three years of awfully hard work in coming up with a set of rules, 
that were adopted, which merged the procedures in admiralty with 
those of general civil litigation, so there s now only one set of 
rules. The distinction is abolished, much to the disgust of the 
admiralty bar, who liked their special titles and things of this 

Fry: They had a very special thing going there. 

Olney: Sure! [laughter] The reports of all these committees on special 
subjects went through Judge Maris 1 overall committee to coordinate 
the whole thing, and to avoid any overlaps or duplications, and to 
work for consolidation of procedures. 

Fry: That was instead of evidence? 


Olney: We had an evidence committee later. We re getting pretty much off 
the subject. I was merely giving you this so you d see that it is 
an important thing that my father was doing, and why he regarded 
the work of the rules committee of which he was a member as 
important work. 

Fry: Were all of these new committees under your wing? 

Olney: Each committee had its own reporter and staff. We merely did the 
housekeeping for them. 

Water Resources 

Fry: We re completely free now to just discuss those things that you feel 
were other dimensions of your father. He was involved in some com 
mittees on water. He was on the California Joint Federal-State 
Water Services Commission, appointed by Governor Young, in 1929. 
In 1931 Governor Rolph appointed him to the Honorary Advisory 
Committee of the Water Resources Commission, and I wonder if you 
remember anything about that? 

Olney: Yes, I do. The water problem at that time was primarily in the 

Colorado River. The Hoover Dam was being discussed and considered, 
and worked on. Then there were some flood control problems and 
other problems in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. It was 
about that time that the first suggestions and the first studies 
were made of the feasibility of having a water system like the one 
they have in the valley now, with Shasta Dam and the system of 
canals going right down to the southern end of the valley and on 
to Los Angeles. It was the very beginning of preliminary considera 
tions and discussions of that kind. 

My father had conducted a large number of water cases. That s 
why he was on these committees. 

Fry: Were those his cases for power companies, the Pacific Gas and 
Electric Company account? 

Olney: Yes, primarily. For example, one of the major water cases in the 
state is the so-called Herminghaus case, Herminghaus vs. Southern 
California/Edison. It involved water rights on the Kings River, I 
think it was, and it was an immensely important lawsuit with very, 
very far-reaching consequences. The real question at issue was the 
extent to which the common-law doctrine of riparian rights would 
apply in the state of California as against the rights of appropria 
tion. Now, in common law there isn t any such thing as getting 


Olney: water rights by appropriation. That comes from Spanish law, 

primarily, and Mexican law, and from the West. Father succeeded 
in losing the Herminghaus case in the state supreme court so that, 
of course, made him a recognized authority on the subject. 

[Interview 2: July 30, 1970] 

Fry: In 1929 it was the California Joint Federal-State Water Services 
Commission that your father was appointed to by Governor Young, 
apparently. Was he especially close to Governor Young? 

Olney: They went to college together, and Governor Young used to live in 
Berkeley, down on Etna and Derby Streets for a time. Father had a 
lot of stories about Governor Young. I remember one in particular 
about Young being caught as a freshman on the streetcar that ran 
along College Avenue. Some sophomores took him off the streetcar 
and tied him up and put him in a bush. My father, who, I think, 
was a senior at that time, and some others came along and found 
C.C. Young and others there, all tied up, and turned them loose, 
[laughter] I think that was their first meeting. But they knew 
each other after that, of course. 

Fry: Joe Beck was very proud of the part that he played in grooming 

C.C. Young for governor, and he wanted to tell us all about this 
on tape, and then he died before we could get to him. Beck felt 
that Young was one of the outstanding governors. 

Olney: Well, I have no way of evaluating governors. I know that during 
the time he was governor, and afterwards, he was regarded as a 
very good governor, a great improvement on what had gone before. 
Stephens was regarded as a far better governor than Friend 
Richardson, who succeeded him. But that s only in the circle of 
people who I happened to hear talking about governors. 

Fry: I d like to back up. You had mentioned to me that you were aware 
of your father being involved in the 1922 fight. Was it a public 
versus private power and water fight? It was a referendum. 

Olney: There was an initiative measure to try to get state approval for 
a water development program that involved the water resources in 
Northern California as well as on the Colorado River, as I recall. 
I only know that my father took an active part in trying to support 
that, in spite of the fact that he was not infrequently retained by 
the power companies. That s all I remember about it. 

Fry: He was supporting the public 


Olney: Yes. He was in favor of the initiative, which was defeated. 

Fry: Then you think that this other committee, in 1929, was the study 
commission that Young appointed. 

Olney: Well, I m thinking about this, but my recollection is that there 
was a series of political fights after 22 in an effort to get 
various water plans, more or less similar, approved. They were 
beaten by the well-organized opposition of the power companies, 
every time. 

This commission that you speak of was sort of a compromise, an 
interim device, as I recall. They decided that instead of trying 
to propose a specific, definite program, they ought to lay a founda 
tion by an adequate, intelligent study of the problem, with recom 
mendations from a body whose recommendations would carry some public 

That, I think, was the purpose of it, not to support any 
particular program, but to look at them all and evaluate them all, 
and then try to make recommendations as to what the state should 
do, as far as its future was concerned. They came up with one 
proposal in 1931, a water resources program which eventually was 
carried out. It included both the Central Valley and the Colorado 
River . 

Fry: Yes. In 1931 what was called the State Water Plan was presented to 
the legislature. In 1933 it was finally passed, and then it became 
the Central Valley Project, and this is what we re still arguing 
about today. 

The 1931 committee that he was on must have been a continuation 
of this 1929 study commission. 

Olney: I dare say. 

Fry: The governor changed. Governor Rolph was in, and it became the 

Honorary Advisory Committee of the Water Resources Commission. By 
that time the purpose would have changed, I guess. 

Olney: Frankly, I don t remember. At the time that these things were 

happening that is, from 20 onwards I was married, and living in 
Martinez and north Berkeley, and only knew about these things from 
what I read in the paper and what my father might occasionally say 
to me about it. 

Fry: Okay. Then the most we can do is just establish the fact that he 
was involved in these first steps in getting the water plan under 


Olney: Yes, he was. 

Fry: Probably if anyone wants to know anything more they can go to the 
reports of these commissions and find out. But the interesting 
thing about your father is that he was able to represent PG&E and 
Southern California Edison in cases, and at the same time maintain 
his own integrity in his public opinions on the power issue. 

Olney: I remember that the power companies were sort of lying in wait for 

the proponents of the measure, because they thought that even though 
the public were to build the dams and the transportation of water, 
and that kind of thing, they could control the distribution of power. 
They alone had the lines, and they thought that they could prevent 
public power from being introduced into the picture, and that s 
what they were really concerned about. Now, after that was passed 
in 31, there was an awful fight about that, particularly from Shasta 

I remember my uncle, Louis Bartlett, ex-mayor of Berkeley, was 
very, very strongly in favor of public ownership of the power lines. 
My recollection is my father was not. I m not sure about that. I 
would think that he may well have opposed public ownership of those 
electric power lines, but I don t recall. But I didn t want to give 
you a wrong impression. 

Fry: Do you know what your father felt when the Hetch Hetchy Dam was 
built, and then the power came through and was sold at San Fran 
cisco instead of being retailed directly from public power lines 
to the reisdents of San Francisco? After a big fight, PG&E finally 
got the right to distribute that power. Do you remember his talking 
about that? 

Olney: I don t remember what his views on it were, but at that time he was 
counsel for, and his firm represented, the Spring Valley Water 
Company. They were not in the power business, however. I think 
that was before the consolidation of Great Western Power and PG&E. 

Fry: Yes, I think it was before that. 

Olney: At that time he was representing Great Western Power, not PG&E. I 
don t think Great Western Power got itself concerned in that fight, 
because their lines didn t come down here. They were up around the 
Sacramento area. So I doubt if he had anything to do with that. 
No doubt he had some views about it, but I don t know what they 


Views on "Court Packing" 

Fry: Then the other thing that we didn t mention last time and that I 

wish you could tell us something about was the work that he did to 
alert the general populace about the dangers of a president 
[Roosevelt] adding judges to the Supreme Court. 

Olney: He felt very, very strongly about that and thought that it was the 
responsibility of the bar to alert the public as to what was 
involved in it. He thought that the crux of the plan was simply 
to overturn decisions of the Supreme Court that the administration 
didn t agree with. There d been a whole series of decisions holding 
the NRA [National Recovery Act] unconstitutional, the AAA [Agricul 
tural Adjustment Act] unconstitutional, and a few other things like 
that. He felt that this was merely a political move to stack the 
court and to reverse those decisions. He and a former president of 
the American Bar Association, and others in the East who were 
equally concerned, tried to organize a campaign against the court- 
packing plan through bar organizations. My father made a speech or 
two on the subject and wrote a good many letters, and things like 
that, in connection with it. 

Fry: We have one of those speeches in the Olney papers in The Bancroft 
[Library] , and then you gave me one of his speeches last time I 
was here. 

Olney: I ve always thought it was interesting that the Attorney General of 
the United States who proposed that plan was Robert Jackson, who 
later became himself a justice of the Supreme Court. My father was 
very active in beating that plan in Congress. When I went to 
Washington, Robert Jackson was the leading spirit in an American 
bar crime commission, and he asked me to be a member of that com 
mission [laughter], which I did! 

Fry: You didn t have any problems working with him, I gather, even 
though your father had fought against him. 

Olney: None whatever. He was a very delightful man to work with. 

Fry: Had his views changed at all on this question? Or did you ever 
approach him on it? 


Olney: I think they had. I never asked him about it. It was all past 

history at that time. It was very curious the way it worked out. 
This happened because Roosevelt, who had been in office for a long 
time, had not made a single appointment to the Supreme Court, and 
there didn t seem to be any prospect of it. Very shortly after 
this, he made a large number of appointments to the Supreme Court 
and soon it had a majority of his appointees. 

Fry: So he accomplished the purpose. 

Olney: But the whole idea of a president or an administration trying to 

get its ideas through the Supreme Court by stacking the membership 
of the Court has never worked. Furthermore, a president never can 
anticipate how any of those justices are going to vote, whether he s 
appointed them or not. A great many presidents have gotten very 
great surprises from their appointees. 

Hunting and Packing 

Fry: I think that s the last thing on our outline about your father, 
unless you d like to add what sort of a man he was like to be 
around. Was he lively and bubbly, or was he quiet and gentle? 
Kind of give us a Reader s Digest type of description of him! 

Olney: Well, he was not "bubbly". He was reserved, but not quiet. He 
was always very active physically. He played tennis regularly 
up until the time he was sixty anyway, maybe older. Then he took 
up golf, and he played golf up until the time he died, and he 
enjoyed that very much. He d been a football player in college, 
and then a referee for football games after that. He enjoyed 
trout fishing and deep-sea fishing very, very much, especially 
trout fishing. 

When he was a young man he did a good deal of traveling around 
the mountains in California. He took many, many pack trips. His 
particular area was the Cascades, up around Mount Shasta, and 
places like that. I know he climbed Shasta at least four or five 
times. He used to love the place. 

Incidentally, my mother s father, Dr. J.K. McLean, climbed. 
Mount Shasta at least three times. On one occasion he remained on 
the summit for two or three days, keeping company with a man from 
the United States Geological Survey. The Survey was trying to 
exchange heliographical signals between Mount Shasta, Mount St. 
Helena, and some peaks near Lake Tahoe (Mount Lola) for triangulation 


Olney: purposes. Of course, they had to wait for the right day for 
visibility, but they succeeded. The flash from Shasta to St. 
Helena was reported to be the longest distance heliograph signal 
received up to that time. The official report of this incident 
makes mention of Dr. McLean s assistance and suggests naming a 
small knob on the summit for him. 

Father and his friend Charlie Bentley this was before either of 
them were married they d go up to Redding or Red Bluff and pick up 
a couple of mules and put their sleeping bags and food on them and 
they d go right into those mountains and be gone for weeks at a 

They covered enormous distances. My father used to scratch his 
head in later years and wonder how in the world they ever got so 
far in a single day as they did on some of those trips I [laughter] 
But they stayed away from trails pretty much they just went across 
country and saw a great deal of it. 

Fry: He, as a young man, was a charter member of the Sierra Club. 
Olney: That s right. 

Fry: Was he active in the Sierra Club outings? It sounds like he more 
or less went off on his own. 

Olney: Yes, he was. He and my mother went on either the first or the 
second outing the club had. 

Fry: With John Muir? 

Olney: I don t know about Muir. Will Colby led it. They went into the 
Kern Canyon that year. I know my mother went on only one of the 
trips. I m not sure how many Father went on. Most of the trips 
that he took were on his own, rather than with the club. 

Fry: Yes. It sounds like he was enough of a pro that he enjoyed sort of 
going with his mules and his friends. 

Olney: Along in 1918 he had occasion to meet Jay Bruce, who was the official 
mountain lion hunter for the State of California. He met him up at 
Wawona . 

Fry : You mean that the state hired a person to hunt down mountain lions? 

Olney: Sure. He was on salary, and then he also got a bonus of $20 for 

every lion that he turned in. He d be called to different counties 
of the state where the lions appeared, and he d go out and hunt them. 


Olney: My father got acquainted with Bruce and liked him, and then my 

brother and I and my father went on hunting trips with Bruce three 
or four times. The longest trip was in the area just north of 
Yosemite. We started from Buck Meadows on the Big Oak Flat Road 
and went north across the Tuolumne River, up above Hetch Hetchy 
into Cherry Valley and back. Cherry Valley is covered with a 
reservoir now. We were gone a couple of weeks, something like 
that. This was in the summer of 1919. 

Bruce came up to Shasta County at least two or three times, and 
made his headquarters at the Bollibokka Club that my father and 
others founded. It s on the McCloud River. With that as the head 
quarters, Bruce made a lot of trips out there. He must have been 
there a couple of weeks. My brother and my father and I went out 
with him two or three different times in the spring of 1919, using 
the club as a headquarters. 

Fry: He was a real expert, wasn t he, in getting around in the mountains, 
and knowing them? 

Olney: Oh, yes, he was yes, he did. 

Fry: I mean, lacking a railroad mogul s private car, this would be the 
next best thing, I guess, going out with a man like this! 

Olney: Well, it was if you wanted to hunt. As a young man, Father did a 
lot of deer hunting. We had a lot of deer heads and rattlesnake 
skins around the house when I was a boy that Father had mounted as 
trophies. I ve done a lot of squirrel shooting and things like that, 
and the idea of hunting mountain lions was very appealing to me. 
But on this trip into Cherry River, Bruce s dogs had been without 
any meat for a couple of weeks. He d been feeding them on pancakes, 
and they were getting pretty ratty and weak. He had authorization 
from the Fish and Game Commission to shoot animals for food purposes 
if he needed to. 

Fry: Had he deliberately kept his dogs on pancakes, so they would get 

Olney: Oh, no. This was because we hadn t gotten anything; we hadn t 

caught up with anything. So he decided there were plenty of bears 
around that he d shoot a deer or a bear to get some meat. We treed 
a bear, and I was given the great privilege of shooting this bear. 
He was up in a big yellow pine tree, way up on a high branch, 
standing on a branch with one paw against the trunk of the tree, 
looking down at us, with these dogs snapping around down below, 
[laughter] I got a great thrill out of being allowed to zero in 
on that bear. 


Olney: I shot him right through the head. Down he came with a tremendous 
crash, you know, and the dogs all pounced on him and worried him 
and whatnot, and the more I looked at this, the more he looked like 
a baby with a fur coat. Oh, I had the most awful revulsion. I just 
felt like a murderer. And I ve never been able to do any shooting 
since. It cured me! 

Fry: It s interesting that the viewpoint of the whole Sierra Club has 
changed to an anti-hunting, preservation-of-wildlif e view, too, 
since then. 

Olney: Oh, well, yes, certainly. Of course, this was 1919 that I m 

speaking of. Our population was very small. We had animals all 
over the place. 

Fry: You were seventeen years old? 

Olney: Yes. Mountain lions were thought to be something that ought to be 
exterminated: they killed deer, they killed sheep and lambs and 
things of this kind. Why, there was a bonus of $20 a head for 
anybody that killed one! 

It s closed season on mountain lions in California today. It s 
the same old story of finding that the predators have a very import 
ant, necessary place in the balance of nature. But we didn t think 
in those terms at all. We ve had to learn these things the hard 

Fry: And then you had your very personal lesson! 

Olney: Oh, yes! It wasn t any ecological thought that I had; it was just 
that I thought it was so cruel and horrible. 

Fry: Yes. Bears are sort of appealing animals, too. 
Olney: They are, yes. 

Fry: At any rate, I gather that you were able to have a lot of outdoor 
life and activity when you were growing up. 

Olney: Oh, yes. 

Fry: And you learned to carry a pack on your back? 

Olney: A knapsack, yes, and a bedroll once in a while. 

Fry: How many pounds did you carry? 


Olney: I don t know, but I don t recall ever having to carry very much. 
Most of the packing I did was after we got married, during the 
Depression. We didn t have money for a vacation, and Elizabeth and 
I would do the same thing that my father used to do. We went up in 
the mountains and we d just get a mule or a horse and pack it and 
walk, did our own packing. We covered nearly the whole Sierras 
that way. 

Fry: You did? 

Olney: The only area that we haven t explored thoroughly is the Kern, 

which is the most southern part. We ve covered everything else, 
and a lot of it many times. We did this for well over ten years. 
Then when our children were ten we didn t take them before they 
were about ten we did the same thing with them, too, took them 
along . 

Fry: Backpacking equipment is greatly improved now. When you first 
started out, the bedrolls were extremely heavy, and I wondered 
what difference you see in this now? 

Olney: Well, they were heavy, and that s why we always took an animal and 
never did any backpacking. We could get an animal a mule or a 
pack horse for $1.50 a day. If you took it on a weekly rate it 
was less than that. Our food was very carefully planned out. We 
used to use the Sierra Club list that Dr. Hildebrand got together, 
and used that as a base. We had our own modifications, but it was 
very light, very compact, and very adequate. It really kept us in 
fine shape. But we used a mule or horse always because of the 
heaviness of the bedroll, and things of this kind. 

Elizabeth and I developed a pretty efficient division of labor 
in packing the animals. She always put on and fitted the harness. 
She put on the saddle blankets and also put on the pack saddle and 
set them and cinched them with great care. I balanced and loaded 
the kyaks or pack boxes or whatever we were using. I loaded the 
bedrolls and utensils and we slipped on the canvas cover for the 
load together. Then I tied the whole load together with the 
diamond hitch that being the only hitch that I knew how to throw. 
Our system worked very well. On our many trips not one of our 
animals ever developed a saddle sore or any other injury or ailment. 
Furthermore, we never lost a pack or even had one slip. I usually 
led the lead animal with the others tied in a string. At night we 
always staked our lead animal, relying on the others to stay around, 
which they usually did. 

Fry: Did you ever get snowed in? 

Olney: We got snowed on, but we never got snowed in. Just snow that fell 
during the night, or something like that. 




Fry: I guess we ll go on into chapter three, if we re not already in it, 
on your childhood. 

Olney: Life in Berkeley when I first remember it was very different than 
it is now. I m speaking about the years around 1909 and 1910 when 
I was five and six years old and we were living in a house which is 
still standing at the corner of Warring Street and Channing Way. 
One of my most vivid recollections of this period is my dislike for 
the clothing which I had to wear. My clothes were no different from 
what other boys in the neighborhood were wearing and I suppose they 
disliked theirs as much as I did mine. 

My regular garb started with a porous knit union suit. Over that 
I wore a pantywaist with garters. The garters held up long black 
stockings which were mandatory. Our pants were always knicker 
bockers that fastened above the knee and were of corduroy or some 
other reasonably tough material. We wore a shirtwaist that tied 
around the waist with a string which was tucked into the top of 
the pants. More often than not we wore neckties. We wore button 
shoes that came up above the ankles and had to be fastened with 
button hooks. They were supposed to be black, but they rarely were 
because of the scuffing they took. A good part of the time we had 
large holes in the knees of our stockings due to falling down when 
at play. Sometimes we wore little leather knee guards over our 
knees that fastened with elastic bands and that were supposed to 
protect the stocking in case of a fall. 

When we got really dressed up, my brother and I were put in 
sailor suits with sailor collars in the back and large, floppy 
sailor hats. These clothes were as uncomfortable as they sound, 
and how we loathed them. 


Olney: About this time a family from New Zealand moved into our neighbor 
hood. Their boy, Noel Izet, was clothed New Zealand style. A loose 
shirt with open collar and short sleeves, short pants and wool socks 
that ended below the knees and low, brown shoes. Just about the 
sort of clothes that everyone wears today. How we envied Noel. We 
thought he was the luckiest boy on the block. 

Transportation in our neighborhood was very different from what 
it is now. There was indeed one automobile in our neighborhood, 
belonging to the McFarlands, complete with chauffeur, but no one 
else had an automobile. Just a block below us on Piedmont Avenue, 
north of Channing Way, lived a Miss Fish. She lived in an elegant 
house and garden and had a stable with a pair of matched horses and 
a fine carriage with a top that could be put back. She had a coach 
man to drive it and to care for the horses. Occasionally she would 
take one or two of us neighborhood children for a ride, something 
that we really enjoyed. We would sit on the front seat facing Miss 
Fish and riding backwards with a pair of pug dogs that she usually 
had as passengers. No one else in the neighborhood owned any private 
transportation . 

My Grandfather McLean s church was still located at 12th and Clay 
Streets in Oakland some five miles away and my mother, of course, 
made sure that my brother and I went to Sunday school there. To get 
there we walked down Channing Way two blocks to College Avenue and 
took the streetcar for five cents. 

There were residences along College Avenue as far as Alcatraz 
but no places of business. From Alcatraz to the top of the Broadway 
hill where College Avenue meets Broadway in Oakland, it was mostly 
open country. A very pretty creek with live oaks on its banks ran 
where the Chimes Theater was later built and there was a wooden 
bridge for the streetcar to cross. From the top of the Broadway 
hill down to 14th and Broadway there were scattered residences with 
a great many vacant lots. 

At 22nd Street and Broadway was the Key Route Inn. This was the 
terminus for the Key Route trains which ran to the Ferry Terminal 
located where the eastern end of the San Francisco Bay Bridge is 
now. There were, of course, many other Key Route trains fanning 
out to Berkeley, Elmhurst, and Piedmont. However, on 22nd Street 
in Oakland the line ended at Broadway and there the company had 
built this large inn some three or four stories in height right 
over the car tracks. The architecture was supposed to be Eliza 
bethan. It was fully equipped with guest rooms and a dining room. 

14th and Broadway was the center of business in Oakland at that 
time. In the basement of the large building on the northeast 
corner there was a barber shop and this was the most accessible 


Olney: barber shop to our home in Berkeley. Mother took my brother and me 
there for our haircuts. There must have been some four or five 
barber chairs. In back of the chairs were glass cabinets with 
shelves loaded with shaving mugs. The safety razor had not been 
invented and most men got their daily shave in the barber shop. 
Regular customers had their own mugs, usually with their names on 
them, and their own shaving brushes. Berkeley did have -a barber 
shop on Shattuck Avenue near Addison Street, but the transportation 
was so lacking that it was quicker and easier to go for a haircut 
in Oakland than it was to get to the barber shop in Berkeley. 

My father was, of course, commuting daily to San Francisco. He 
would have to walk down Charming Way to College Avenue and catch a 
streetcar that went south on College to Alcatraz Avenue and then 
west on Alcatraz to Adeline Street. Getting off at Alcatraz and 
Adeline, there were two lines of transportation to San Francisco. 
One was the Key Route with its electric cars which ran to the 
terminal I have already mentioned. The other was a steam railroad 
of the Southern Pacific Company which ran to the Southern Pacific 
mole where its Transconinental trains met the ferry. The mole was 
not far from where the BART tunnel goes below the surface on its 
way under the bay. For a long time the fare to San Francisco was 
ten cents each way. Both the Key Route and Southern Pacific ferries 
had restaurants aboard and the Key Route was noted for its corned 
beef hash. 


When the family went to Grandfather Olney s home on 29th Street 
in Oakland, as we often did on Sunday, we almost always took the 
streetcar. There was no taxi service, but there was a livery 
stable in town. It was located on Kittredge Street across from 
the present California Theater. The stable had a cab which was 
pulled by a single horse and was usually driven by a Mr. Fitzpatrick, 
Father and Mother used it only on the most formal occasions and then 
had to make arrangements at least a day ahead of time. 

At this time there was a huge vacant area in the neighborhood of 
40th and Shafter Streets in Oakland. This lot was used by all the 
circuses and traveling shows that came to town. I can remember 
being taken to one by my Grandfather Olney and it was notable indeed. 
It was Buffalo Bill s Wild West and the cast included Buffalo Bill 
himself; Annie Oakley, the famous rifle shot; and a troop of Indians 
who had been present at Custer s last stand. I still remember Annie 
Oakley s incredible marksmanship. Little glass balls were projected 
into the air at great heights and at all angles and she would break 
them one after the other with a rifle shot, never missing. 


Olney: The Indians were a tremendous sensation. They were there in full 

regalia, riding their horses bareback, and they whooped and hollered 
as they tore around the ring chasing a stagecoach with Buffalo Bill 
and others and exchanging blank shots at each other, making a most 
satisfactory racket. 

By 1911 and 1912 the transportation situation began to change. 
Grandfather Olney bought a Rauch and Lang electric automobile for 
Grandmother. The body was finished like an elegant carriage. It 
had plate glass windows all around, very good light grey upholstery, 
a small glass vase for flowers, and silk roller shades for all the 
windows . 

The driver steered the car with a horizontal lever. He pushed 
the lever forward to turn left and pulled the lever back towards 
himself to turn right. The power was applied with a vertical lever 
at the left side of the driver s seat. The lever was pushed forward 
to make the car go and pulled back to turn the power off . The tip 
of the lever had a button which rang a loud bell instead of a horn. 
Top speed on the level was about fifteen miles an hour and the 
driving range between charges was about forty to forty-five miles. 
At first Grandfather used to take the car to the shop to be charged, 
a distance of three or four blocks, and a recharge took not less 
than four hours . Soon Grandfather had his own charging unit 
installed in the barn where the horse stalls had been. 

The electric came equipped either with pneumatic tires or with 
solid rubber tires. Grandfather chose the latter to eliminate the 
problem of punctures and blowouts. This had some curious results. 
The solid rubber tires were flat on the street with vertical sides 
and the distance from the wheels on one side to the other was just 
a little bit shorter than the standard distance between railroad 
and streetcar rails. In the blocks along College Avenue between 
Russell Street and Bancroft Way, asphalt paving had recently been 
laid. I believe this was one of the first asphalt pavings to be 
laid in Berkeley. This was all very well for streetcars and the 
ordinary automobile with pneumatic tires, but the electric, with 
its flat, hard rubber tires and slightly narrower width, could get 
caught between the rails and be unable to get out no matter how 
hard the steering lever was pushed or pulled. More than once we 
were treated to the sight of Grandmother or Grandfather moving 
gently along in their electric on College Avenue, past our house 
where we were then living, and forced to go all the way to Bancroft 
where the car tracks made a turn. When the tracks turned, the 
electric would jump the rails and get out of the trap. The electric 
enabled Grandmother to go marketing and to visit the cemetery, but 
it wasn t good for much else. 


Olney: In a few years Grandfather bought a gas car for himself. This would 
have been about 1913 or 1914. This was a Studebaker Roadster. 
Grandfather said that Studebaker had made very fine wagons during 
the mining days and if they made good wagons they probably made 
good automobiles. Grandfather s car had the gearshift and clutch 
that was usual at the time. But the way he operated it was not so 
usual. He had been told to depress the clutch, put the shift in 
first gear, and release the clutch, and then do the same thing with 
second and third gear. 

He did this in the most literal fashion. He would step on the 
clutch, put the shift into first gear, and then simply take his 
foot off the clutch, starting the car with a jerk that was enough 
to snap one s head off. Then, speeding the car up, he would again 
depress the clutch and with the same deliberation put the shift 
into second gear, taking his foot off with a second jerk that was 
nearly as violent as the first. The same thing took place when he 
put it into high, only the jerk wasn t so severe. Somehow Grand 
father never learned to drive the car any other way. 

He wasn t a very popular driver and I guess his little Studebaker 
didn t like it much either. One Sunday, when the whole family 
happened to be assembled on his front steps and front lawn, he 
drove the car in from the street on his way to the barn in the back. 
There was a depressed gutter at the edge of the street, which would 
give the car quite a bounce if it was moving at any considerable 
speed. On this day Grandfather hit the gutter and both the rear 
wheels fell off. My father and my uncles laughed so hard, I thought 
they would expire. Later examination in the shop showed that these 
jerky starts of Grandfather s had so twisted the axles that they 
had finally twisted the wheels to the point where they both broke 

Our house on Warring Street had no yard or space around it. The 
vacant lots in the neighborhood were fast being built upon, with 
the result that there was no place for us boys to play, excepting 
in the street. This distressed my mother, with the result that we 
moved from Warring Street to a larger house at the corner of College 
Avenue and Dwight Way. 

This house had a very large L-shaped fenced back yard with plenty 
of room for a garden, and back of that a great deal of open space 
for us boys to build tree houses, dig tunnels and earth fortifica 
tions, and build swings and pigeon lofts, all on our own property. 
At the back of the lot on Dwight Way was a garage. But since we 
had no automobile, the garage was rented to my father s friend 
Charles Merrill, who did have one. The Merrills lived in a very 
large house which they had built for themselves on Warring Street, 


Olney: but it had been constructed without any garage. Their chauffeur, 
known to us as Hongy, had a good four-block walk to the garage 
every time the Merrills wanted to use the car . 

About the first privately owned automobile to appear in our 
Dwight Way neighborhood was the property of the William Gorrills, 
who were old friends of my parents and known to us as Uncle Billy 
and Aunt Kitty. They had won the car in a contest and it was a 
Ford Model T. Since the self-starter had not yet been invented, 
it had to be cranked by hand.. Not infrequently the motor would 
backfire when starting and this would cause the crank to fly around 
like crazy in a reverse direction. Two or three arms were broken 
before it was realized that after giving the crank a strong pull 
to turn over the motor, the handle should always be released like 
a red-hot coal so that the arm would be out of the way in case of 
a backfire. Broken arms for Ford owners were about as common in 
those days as broken legs are for ski enthusiasts today. It could 
be safely assumed that a man with his arm in a sling was the owner 
of a Model T. 

About 1916 or 1917 my father decided to buy a car. He considered 
seriously getting an Ohio electric but finally settled on a gas car 
made by the Dodge Brothers. This was quite a unique car; it had a 
four-cylinder motor with a self-starter. It had an^electric horn 
with a button that was located on the lefthand wall of the car by 
the driver s seat. To blow the horn you hit the button with your 

Our car was unique for the area in that it had a sedan body with 
glass windows. Up to then the only cars we had seen in our area 
had fabric tops which could be put down and side curtains with 
isinglass windows for wet weather. The magazines had pictures of 
a few more expensive makes of cars with sedan bodies with glass 
windows, but there were none in our area. Ours was said to be the 
first Dodge sedan in Northern California. That distinction didn t 
last long; the Dodge sedan became very popular and was soon seen 
almost everywhere. 

A few years later Father bought a large seven-passenger sedan. 
It was a Cole Aero Eight painted a dark navy blue and it had cream- 
colored wire wheels. Cole claimed its cars would get superior 
mileage on tires and it had an advertising slogan, "15,000 miles 
on tires" if you got ten, you were lucky. 

Like all cars of the period, the Cole had running boards on both 
sides and these were often used for carrying extra supplies. My 
mother and Grandmother McLean were fond of making weekend visits to 
Saratoga where they stayed at a boarding house run by some people 


Olney: named Lunblad, and I usually drove them on such trips. The distance 
was only about sixty miles, but in preparation for the trip I would 
strap onto the running board on the driver s side three cans, one 
containing water for the radiator, the second containing engine oil 
for the crank case, and a third containing extra gasoline. It might 
well be necessary to use one or all of these cans on such a trip; 
the most frequent need was for extra oil. 

Of course, I had to provide for punctures too. It was remarkable 
to go to Saratoga and back without one or more flat tires. We did 
not have demountable wheels and so I could not carry an inflated 
tire. I carried an extra casing and extra inner tubes, a set of 
patches and vulcanizing equipment. If the puncture was just a nail 
hole, which was the commonest cause, I would jack up the wheel, 
take the tire off, pull out the inner tube, and vulcanize the patch 
on the tube right then and there, and then put the tube back in the 
casing and put it on the wheel. 

Then the tire had to be inflated. The only way of doing this 
with the Dodge was with a hand pump and it would take twenty minutes 
to a half an hour to inflate a tire to the necessary sixty-five 
pounds. The Cole, however, had an air pump under the front seat 
which was driven by the motor, so it could blow up its own tires 
without someone having to do it by hand. Today it is fun to see 
these old cars in a museum. They look pretty snazzy when they re 
all polished and shiny and are only driven for a few blocks in a 
parade. But in their hey day they were utterly unreliable and a 
trip of any length in one was more of an ordeal than an adventure. 

Household shopping was very different in my childhood. There 
were no supermarkets and housewives did not go to the grocers to 
pick up their supplies for the family. In Berkeley there was a 
large grocery store named Sills located on Shattuck Avenue. Every 
weekday morning men from Sills would cover the town taking orders. 
These men rode in light buggies pulled by a single horse. A long 
leather tether was attached to the bridle of the horse with a heavy 
iron weight at the other end. The weight was carried in the buggy 
with the tether still attached to the bridle. When the order man 
arrived at a customer s house, he would throw out the weight, which 
would anchor the horse, and then go to the house to inquire if there 
was any grocery order for the day. The housewife would tell him her 
needs, which he would write on his pad, giving a copy to her and 
taking the original back to the store. Each order man would cover 
a whole neighborhood. When the orders reached the store they would 
be packed in delivery wagons pulled by two horses and delivery would 
be made in the afternoon. 


Olney: The grocery business was conducted in this way before automobiles 
and for a long time afterwards. Indeed, this kind of business was 
done even after the telephone appeared. One reason for this was 
that there were two competing telephone companies, the Home Tele 
phone Company and the Pacific Telephone Company. Each had its own 
customers and was independent of the other and one could not make 
a call from one telephone system to the other. A few people had 
both systems install telephones in their houses, but most telephone 
customers had one or the other, while the majority of homes had no 
telephones at all. Many people regarded the telephone as a nuisance 
and more trouble than it was worth and with this kind of service one 
can see why. 

When I was a boy we had long distance telephone service only up 
and down the Pacific coast. One could not telephone to Chicago, 
New York, or Washington, D.C. This made those cities seem very far 
away indeed. The first transcontinental telephone line was not 
completed until 1915, the year of the Panama Pacific International 
Expositon in San Francisco to celebrate the opening of the Panama 
Canal. At that Exposition, the telephone company had a very popular 
display of their recently completed transcontinental line. A whole 
room full of people was provided with telephone receivers and then 
one was selected to make a telephone call to some Atlantic seaboard 
city. When the call was put through, everyone in the room was 
allowed to listen in on this miraculous exchange of voices from one 
side of the continent to the other. Of course, the parties to the 
conversation were informed of the people listening in. This 
exhibition drew very large crowds all year long of people who 
wanted to hear a voice from the other side of the continent. 

Another thing that was very different when I was a child was our 
money. In California and, indeed, all over the West, paper money 
was unknown and coins were used exclusively. The penny was copper 
and the five-cent piece was nickel. The dime, half dollar, and 
dollar were real silver. Five dollars, ten dollars, and twenty 
dollars were in gold pieces. I suppose there were coins of larger 
denomination, but I don t remember ever seeing one. I did not see 
any paper money until I was taken to Boston, New York, and Washing 
ton when I was twelve years old in 1916. Our gold coins were as 
strange in the East as their paper money was in the West. I remember 
Father offering a gold coin to pay for some theater tickets in New 
York City, only to have the man look at the coin with the greatest 
skepticism. He bounced it on the counter to hear it ring, he looked 
at it under a very strong light, and finally he even bit it. In the 
end he finally accepted it, though it was evident he had never seen 
a gold coin before. I mention these bits about our communications 
and our money because they tend to illustrate how really isolated 
we were out on the Pacific coast from the rest of the country at 
that time. 


Fry: I wanted you to say a little bit more about your mother. We talked 
at great length about your father, and maybe you could tell us what 
sorts of things she was interested in, and so forth. We do have 
that short interview from her.* 

Olney: Yes, I m sure you do, and I m not going to try to cover everything 
that was in there. She was an only child. Her father and mother 
moved to Berkeley when he became president of the Pacific Theological 
Seminary, as it was called at that time. It s now the Pacific School 
of Religion. My grandfather McLean built a house on Channing Way, 
just below Piedmont Avenue. We were living in a house on Channing 
Way and Warring Street, just about a block away, so that as small 
boys my brother and I used to go down there very often. But my 
grandfather McLean became senile about 1913 and had to go to a 
hospital. He died in 1914. My mother s mother was not in very 
good health, and never had been. In spite of the fact that she was 
a semi-invalid most of her life, and had only one eye, she lived to 
be ninety-eight. 

My mother had to make some choices that I know were difficult for 
her. And the choice that she made was to take care of her mother. 
There were many, many occasions when she would very much have pre 
ferred to take trips with my father and take part in his activities, 
and things of that kind, which she felt she couldn t do without 
neglecting her mother. And that went on, my grandmother McLean 
not dying until 1930 or 31. 

But my mother was, I thought, a very intelligent mother with 
good judgment. She treated my brother and sister and me very well 
indeed. We had the greatest affection for her, but she didn t leave 
us at loose ends. She was never a strict disciplinarian, but she 
saw that we were fully occupied, and gave good direction to our 

For example, when I was twelve and my brother was fourteen and 
this was at her instigation she and my father took the two of us 
on the railroad trip, first to Boston, and then to New York, and 
then to Washington, B.C. They took us out of school for the purpose, 
and we must have been gone about three months, sight-seeing, and 
visiting such friends as they had. They thought that we ought to 
see something more of the country than we had. We had never been 
outside California before. She left my sister home because she was 
too small. 

*Mary McLean Olney, Oakland and U.C., 1880-95. 


Olney : 

Olney : 

Olney : 

Olney : 

Olney : 

She also was active in many civic things. She was on the national 
board of the YWCA for years. I guess that s in the interview with 
her. She was active in helping purchase Asilomar for the YWCA. 
She was always interested in Pomona College because of the connec 
tion of her father with it, and later, for years, was a trustee of 
the college. 

Her father was? 

No, my mother was. This was in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, 
and, I think, into the 60s. 

Was this your mother who was the dean of women there? 
Yes, years ago, when she was a young woman. 

What are some of the other activities that she kept you boys involved 
in here in Berkeley, as she channeled your energies? 

This is a little difficult to say. It was a day-to-day matter. 
There was one thing about my bringing up that was a little peculiar, 
I thought. [laughter] When summers would come around, I would want 
to get a job, and my father wouldn t approve of it. He said, "There 
are too many boys who need those jobs, and you can get along without 
it, and it isn t right for you to go taking a job from somebody who 
needs it." So I never had a job until I got out of law school. I 
never earned a nickel! [laughter] Except sweeping the sidewalk or 
something out in front of the house. This was peculiar because my 
older brother did have a job nearly every summer. I have never 
understood this. 

But this meant they had to keep us occupied in the summer. One 
summer, when I was ten, my mother took my brother and me for seven 
weeks to Yosemite. We stayed at what was called Camp Ahwahnee, long 
since defunct. It was a tent-platform affair. It was perfectly 
marvelous. There were no automobiles. They hadn t got in there 
yet; you had to go up by train. And there wasn t anybody to speak 
of in the valley, anyway. You could wander all around the floor of 
the valley and not see anybody. 

That seems incredible! In the summer? 

Oh, yes. Sure. I mean, if you went down to the village, of course, 
or to the Sentinel Hotel or in Camp Curry, there were plenty of 
people. But we used to go down and swim in the Merced River and we 
never took any suits. Didn t have to. And we would go over to 
Yosemite Falls walk over there and back or we would go up to the 
top of the falls, and not see anybody the entire time. 


Fry: This was when you were how old? 

Olney: I was ten. 

Fry: So that would have been 1914? 

Olney: Yes. We were in Tuolumne Meadows in August, 1914, when World War I 
broke out in Europe. I have described our experience in the fore 
word I wrote for my grandfather s biography that we mentioned 

They sent us back again in 1916 to Yosemite. My brother, I, and 
a friend named John Baldwin. This time they sent a young man along 
to take care of us, Victor Doyle. Victor had just graduated from 
college. He d been president of the student body at Berkeley. We 
then went to Camp Ahwahnee, and Vic rode herd on us for a good many 
weeks, and then took us on a pack trip. We went up to Merced Lake 
and to Babcock Lake. 

Then in 1918 I again had a lengthy summer in Yosemite. This 
time we stayed at Yosemite Falls camp that had just been built, and 
I didn t need anybody to nurse me. I spent most of the time, when 
I wasn t walking around, working in the swimming pool. I didn t 
get paid for it! [laughter] 

Fry: That was all right; as long as it was slave labor, your father would 
approve! [laughter] 

Were you all by yourself this trip? 

Olney: Oh, no. My mother was along, and my sister was there, and my 

grandfather came up for a lengthy stay with us, too. So there was 
a group. This was a little different from what my friends were 
doing. They all had jobs! [laughter] But if you re going to do 
that with a child a boy in particular you do have to give thought 
and make plans as to what to do to keep him busy. 

Fry: Then how do you teach them to handle finances, if you don t let 
them take a job? Were you given an allowance that you had to 
manage or anything? 

Olney : No . 

Fry: You were really underprivileged! [laughter] 



Fry: I guess we should find out something about your schooling. You 
went to the Berkeley public schools? 

Olney: I started in the first grade; I think I was seven. I went to a 
private school known as Miss Randolph s, which was located at 
Derby and Belrose Avenue. I went there in the first grade and I m 
the only person that I know of who ever flunked the first grade! 
[laughter] I did! They wouldn t promote me. 

Fry: Why wouldn t they promote you? 

Olney: I only know they wouldn t. And this made my mother very, very 
indignant. So she took me out of this school and put me in the 
public school. I went to Emerson School. Having flunked the first, 
I was started there in the third. 

Fry: On the basis of your sterling record? [laughter] 

Olney: I went to Emerson School with a great many boys and girls who ve 

been friends all my life. One was Henry Colby; that s Will Colby s 
son. He and I lived across the street from each other on Channing 
Way. We lived on Channing and Warring, and they lived on the other 
corner. We went to Emerson together, we went to University High 
together, and we went to the University of California together 
joined the same fraternity roomed together for a time. So I ve 
known him a long, long while. 

And then Scott Elder is another one that I knew at Emerson. He 
lived down on Etna Street. This is Paul Elder s son. Paul Elder 
had a famous bookstore in San Francisco. 

Fry: I always thought they were in San Francisco. 

Olney: No, they lived in Berkeley. Scott was a year or so ahead of me, 

but we also remained very good friends in high school and college. 
He joined the same fraternity. Later on we became law partners for 
a brief time. He now lives right across the street from me. 

Fry: Oh, is that right? 

Olney: Yes. His grandchildren and ours were both here for dinner last 

Fry: What a continuity. It s very unusual these days. 
Olney: Yes, it is. 


Fry: At Emerson did you have any more problems? 

Olney: I did, yes. I think I must have been a little difficult as a boy. 
There were one or two teachers there that I liked very much, and 
there were one or two for whom I developed a terrible antipathy. 

Fry: That sounds about par for the course. 

Olney: I guess so. I had a hard time with them. I just moved along 

gradually at Emerson, but by the time I got through with the sixth 
grade there that was as far as it went I was a year and a half, 
at least, behind my own age group. So then I went to A to Zed 
School, another private one. Cora Williams ran it at that time. 
It was down on the corner of Dana and Channing Way. I did three 
years work in two down there. 

Fry: What kind of a school was that? 

Olney: It was a preparatory school for college work. I had some teachers 
down there who got me interested in things. 

Fry: You must have been around thirteen or fourteen then? 

Olney: Something like that. I remember the teacher, a Miss Kingsley, I had 
who taught me ancient history and aroused an interest that s lasted 
me all the rest of my life. I ve always been fascinated with the 
subject. I do a great deal of reading in it still. 

But by that time I was ready to go into the tenth grade, and I 
went to what was known as University High School, down in Oakland. 
It was on Webster and 48th Street. It was the dream child of some 
body at the University of California in the Education department. 
It was set up for teacher training, and education students from 
the University were sent down there to get training, practical 
experience, teaching at the high school level. They also had a 
staff, of course, of more experienced teachers. 

I must say I thought the group of high school teachers they 
assembled there were one of the finest at the time. They were 
really excellent, deeply interested in their work and in their 
students, intelligent people who were trying new things, new 
methods, new subjects, all sorts of things. It was an experience 
that I remember with great pleasure. 

Fry: Can you give us an idea of what sort of new methods were tried out 
on you? Something that you remember especially? 


Olney: I remember a Miss Brown that we had who taught history. She thought 
that there were enough interested students, at high school level, to 
actually try a seminar, a history seminar, and she organized one. 
I was fortunate enough to be included in it. It was excellent. We 
each developed a project, a subject that we pursued ourselves. I 
took Chinese history, and spent hours and hours and hours in the 
public library in Berkeley running down stuff on Chinese history, 
and then I wrote about ninety pages, outlining the history of China; 
I drew maps for it. 

Fry: You picked a long history! 

Olney: Yes. All that sort of thing. I don t know any other high school 
where they did that sort of thing at that time. We had an English 
teacher, a Miss Merrilees [spelling a guess], who taught us poetry, 
composition, things of that kind, who was equally ingenious. She 
later went to Stanford, and rose very, very high indeed in the 
English department there. 

Fry: Well, it sounds like from about this time on you were pretty fired 
up yourself. 

Olney: I was in certain subjects. There were some things that left me 

colder than a fish. I never could do geometry and had a rough time 
with algebra, but there were other things that 

Fry: History and English? 

Olney: I liked history and English. That was about it. 

Fry: How did you feel about sciences, or did you have many of those? 

Olney: Oh, we had biology. I never could seem to grasp them very well. 
Just didn t have the mentality for it, I guess. 

At the beginning of my senior year, Mr Boran, the principal, 
called me into his office and told me my scholastic record was so 
poor that I could not graduate with the rest of my class in June. 
The blessed teachers whom I have named above heard about this and 
they took hold of me and I finished the year with, I believe, an 
A- average and did graduate. 


Boy Scouting 

Fry: I kind of got the impression that you must have learned a great deal 
about what we would call biology or ecological biology on your trips 
and things, especially if you went with someone who was so well 
acquainted with the area. Colby s son he probably knew a lot that 
rubbed off on you. Am I guessing wrong? 

Olney: Well, I think you are. I didn t get very much from Henry. I became 
a Boy Scout, and we had an unusual troop here in Berkeley. We had a 
scout master; H.C. Keran was his name. He was a manual training 
teacher. It was a small troop. I have a picture of us upstairs. 
There were only about twenty of us, I guess, that were in it. But 
instead of sitting around town and doing tests and things of this 
kind, we used to take trips all over the place. One summer Mr. 
Keran loaded us into an old Pope Hartford that belonged to the 
Berkeley school system, and we were going to make our own camp up 
on the Gualala River. 

This old car got us as far as Guerneville, on the Russian River. 
Going up a hill, it broke an axle. So there we were. We had to 
back the thing down and get it towed in and, as I say, it was a Pope 
Hartford, which was pretty antique even then, and naturally there 
weren t any parts for it. So it had to stay there for weeks. 

We had to abandon going to Gualala, but what Mr. Keran did do 
was to put us in the baggage car of the train that used to go down 
the Russian River to Duncan Mills. We got off the train at Duncan 
Mills and went over to the butcher shop and asked the butcher if he 
had any idea where we could camp around there. He said, "Sure. 
You go back across the trestle, and down the river about two hundred 
yards, and there s a creek that comes in there. And the creek is 
good drinking water. It s a good spot." 

So that s exactly what we did. We stayed there for two or three 
weeks. We got a little rowboat, built a mast for it, and sailed it 
down to Jenner, sailed it back. We caught fish, and shot rabbits, 
and that was our main meat supply. But we learned an awful lot 
about trees, plants, fish, and animals from Mr. Keran, not only 
on that one, but on other trips. We were pretty self-sufficient. 

Fry: Yes. Actually it sounds like you were living off the land. 
Olney: We were well, not completely. 
Fry: But for your meat and so forth. 


Olney: Sure. We did our own cooking, of course. I remember it as a great 

Fry: It was an unusual scout troop! 

Olney: Yes, it was. 

Fry: You didn t spend all your time raking leaves or tying knots. 

Olney: Oh, no. 

To become a first-class scout at that time, the tests included 
taking a fourteen-mile hike by yourself, and then writing an account 
of what you saw. Another part of it, another test, was to make an 
intelligent map of some area. I took the first test by going up 
Mt. Tamalpais with my friend and fellow scout, Henry Beaumont. I 
went over to Mill Valley and then up to the West Peak of Tamalpais, 
and down Potrero Meadows and over to Rock Springs and back again, 
and wrote an account of it, which I still have. 

Fry: Oh, you do? 
Olney: Yes. [laughter] 

Then, to make a map, the Berkeley scouts had a camp over near 
Lafayette, and I went up on top of the hill and drew a map of 
Lafayette, which I also still have, and it s one of the funniest 
affairs. I didn t know how to make conventional signs for the map, 
so I drew in houses and put letters to indicate what they were. I 
did put a cross on top of the church, but I wrote in the labels on 
these things. Well, strange as it may seem, there were so few 
buildings in Lafayette that they are all there, all the buildings 
that one could see, and they re all labeled: blacksmith shop, 
saloon, auditorium, things like that. I even put in the orchards 
with trees, and where the fences were. You can see the Oakland, 
Antioch, and Eastern Railway coming around, and you can even see 
the creek that comes down through Lafayette. There were foot 
bridges on that creek, crossing it. 

Fry: You got those in? 

Olney: Oh, yes. That s all in there, but it certainly doesn t look much 
like it does today. 

Fry: That sounds like an interesting historical document. [laughter] 
Do you still have that, too? 

Olney: Yes, I still have that. 


Fry: I think that that ought to be kept somewhere. It would really be 
an interesting thing for someone who wants to do something on the 
history of Lafayette. 

Olney: I showed it to Jim Holliday, director of the California Historical 
Society, not long ago when he was here. 

Fry: He lives over there. 

Olney: Yes. In fact, it includes the area where his house is. 

Fry: It does? You mapped way up in the hills, too? 

Olney: Oh, yes. Way up on the top, so I could look down on this thing. 
He s on the other side from where we were, but it shows the ridge 
that he s on. 

Fry: That would be an interesting map, especially one that s drawn by 
a third-generation Olney member. 

Olney: That reminds me. You see, this was during World War I, and one of 

the things the Boy Scouts did was to undertake to sell Liberty Bonds, 
There were several Liberty Bond campaigns. But the one I remember 
most is the first one. 

We actually did sell some Liberty Bonds. We were given forms to 
fill out. I mean, we didn t collect money or anything like that; 
these were subscriptions. We had subscription forms to fill out, 
which I still have. Also, we had a pamphlet which was entitled, 
"Every Scout to Save a Soldier." This was one of George Creel s 
effusions, another one of those propaganda bits that he put out. 
[laughter] I don t know whether you ve got that in The Bancroft 
Library, but you ought to, because it s a gem! 

Fry: I ll bet we don t. That would be fun, along with the form, which is 
a fairly straight document, I guess. 

Olney: I won a medal from the Treasury Department for selling bonds, and 
I still have that. 

Fry: I ll bet that was pretty heady stuff for a Boy Scout; you were 
practically an inch behind the front lines. 

Olney: Oh, gosh, I should say so! 


Outdoor Adventures with a Friend 

Clney: My closest friend at this time, and the one who induced me to join 

the Boy Scouts, was Leonarde Keeler. His father was Charles Keeler, 
a well-known poet, and his mother was a Bunnell, an old Berkeley 
family. Leonarde s mother had died long before I knew him, and he, 
his father, and his sister Eloise were living with his grandmother, 
Mrs. Bunnell, on Dwight Way almost across the street from us. 

Leonarde was one of the most brilliant, adventuresome, and 
original boys I have ever known. The Boy Scouts and particularly 
Troop 9 were just made to order for him. He was our patrol leader 
and in addition to the troop expeditions he stimulated three or 
four of us in the patrol to take many overnight camping trips with 
him. He surpassed us all in qualifying for merit badges and became 
what I believe was the first Eagle Scout in Berkeley. For a long 
time he was the only Eagle Scout in town. 

I learned more about living out of doors from Leonarde than from 
any other person. One winter during Christmas vacation, Leonarde 
and I went on a trapping expedition for a couple of weeks. The 
territory we trapped was on Diamond Mountain, west of Calistoga in 
Napa County. 

Leonarde had gotten hold of a brochure put out by one of the 
fur companies in St. Louis, listing the going prices on pelts 
including raccoons, wild cats, coyotes, and other animals which 
we knew were in abundance on Diamond Mountain. So we went out and 
bought ourselves an assortment of suitable traps. We selected 
Diamond Mountain because we knew the country, having been there 
together the summer before, and knew the animals were there. 

To get there from Berkeley we had to take the ferry to San 
Francisco, then take the Montecello Steamship Ferry to Vallejo, 
where we took an electric train which ran up the Napa Valley to 
Calistoga. We paid a man with an automobile to drive us as far 
as he could up Diamond Mountain and then when the mud got too much 
for his car we carried all our food, bedding, traps, and rifles on 
our backs up to the log cabin we had borrowed for a headquarters . 
It took several trips in the rain to get all our gear up the 

On subsequent days we laid out three lines of traps located and 
baited for appropriate animals according to instructions in a book 
we had with us. The traps were so far apart that it took us a full 
day to cover each line. This meant that we were visiting each trap 
about once in three days. 


Olney: One night we had a terrific storm with strong wind and much flashing 
of lightning and banging of thunder. This happened to fall on the 
very date prophesied for the end of the world by a publicity-seeking 
religious nut whose forecast had been a feature in the newspapers 
for weeks. As Leonarde and I huddled in our sleeping bags with all 
the uproar going on around us, we kept asking each other whether 
that prophet was really as nutty as he was supposed to be. 

In checking our trap lines, we found a number of traps sprung 
but empty. Most were untouched. The coyote trap was never 
approached and we realized the coyote was beyond our skill. A 
skunk was our first victim. We shot him to get him out of the 
trap and then skinned him. This was not a success, as in the process 
we managed to get the fur so saturated with scent that the pelt was 
useless and we had to throw it away. Most of our raccoon traps were 
set in streams. To avoid leaving our scent on the ground we would 
enter the stream and then walk upstream in the water, being careful 
not to touch any stone above the surface. The trap was set in a 
pool or riffle two or three inches below the surface. It was 
anchored to a long spike driven into the bottom of the stream bed. 
The bait was a small fragment of mirror shiny side up. 

Several times we found these traps sprung but empty. After 
perhaps a week we found one of these traps sprung with something in 
it. It was the forepaw of a coon. He had been caught and then, 
being unable to get loose, he had gnawed off his own paw in order 
to get free. Leonarde and I looked at each other. A realization 
of the suffering we had inflicted and would continue to inflict by 
continued trapping came over us for the first time. Why we didn t 
realize this from the beginning and before we had spent our money 
on the traps, I do not know. But we didn t. 

Leonarde and I did not say very much to each other about this. 
We just pulled up all our traps and buried them in a large hole 
under a log where no one could find or use them again. That is how 
Leonarde and I learned about trapping. 

Retribution: Two Episodes with the Berkeley Police 

[Subsequent to the interview, Mr. Olney wrote out the following 
account to be added to the manuscript.] 

Olney: Leonarde went through high school with us at University High and 

entered the University of California at Berkeley. About this time, 
he became acquainted with August Vollmer, Berkeley s Chief of Police, 
and with Dr. John Larson, who was experimenting with a rudimentary 


Olney: so-called "lie detector." Leonarde became very much interested 
in this and developed a machine of his own which was called the 
Keeler Polygraph. 

When Vollmer took a temporary leave of absence from Berkeley 
to become acting Chief of Police of the City of Los Angeles for 
two or three years, Leonarde went with him. Sometime later 
Leonarde went to Chicago where he carried on his polygraph work 
professionally in the crime detection laboratories of Northwestern 
University. He must have been an unusually useful citizen, as 
the City of Chicago honored him one year with an award for his 
public service. I, unfortunately, lost touch with Leonarde when 
he went to Chicago and never saw him again. He died a good many 
years ago. 

It is a rather curious fact that Leonarde Keeler, who devoted 
most of his life to crime detection, and I, who spent so many years 
in law enforcement work, were both arrested and "grilled" by the 
Berkeley police once, while we were still in high school, because 
they suspected us of having robbed a Chinaman at the point of a gun. 
I was literally snatched off the street by Officer H.P. Lee and 
taken to the Berkeley Police Department for questioning about this 
matter. Bright lights were shined in my face and I was questioned 
by Inspector Frank Waterbury a very model of a Keystone cop. 
Leonarde was rounded up and given a similar working over because 
I admitted that he was with me on what the police regarded as the 
day in question. 

I remember that the police began their questioning of me by 
asking me where I was on a specific date two or three weeks earlier. 
I had not the foggiest recollection and this seemed to deepen 
Waterbury s suspicion against me. Finally, after many questions 
and blank answers, he asked if around that time I had driven my 
father s Cole Aero Eight into Oakland s Chinatown. That was a 
question to which I could answer "yes." Then I was asked if I 
had a revolver with me and I answered "yes" to that too. Then he 
wanted to know who was with me and I told him Leonarde Keeler and 
Jimmie Green another high school classmate. This seemed to cinch 
the case, as orders were issued to round up Leonarde and Jimmie. 
They could not find Jimmie, but Leonarde was brought in shortly and 
they grilled him as they had me. His story was the same as mine. 

We told the police the truth, of course. On the fatal day 
Leonarde, Jimmie Green, and I, among many others, were preparing 
for a circus we were putting on at our high school. Leonarde was 
putting on a number of magical disappearances which he performed 
with a huge sheet of plate glass and he wanted to shoot off a 
blank with each transformation and disappearance in order to 
distract the audience at the moment of change. Leonarde s sister 


Olney: Eloise, who kept two or three boa constrictors as pets, was 

putting on some kind of a snake dance and needed some incense 
for atmosphere. For the pistol we borrowed my father s 38 
revolver and we went to Maxwell s Hardware on Fourteenth Street 
near Broadway in Oakland to get some blanks. I took the pistol 
with me to show to the salesman to make sure that the blanks he 
sold me were suitable in that particular gun. Then to get Eloise 
her incense we drove down Webster Street, stopping in front of a 
Chinese store which Leonarde ran in to to make the purchase. When 
he came out we drove to the school without incident. 

For a time Inspector Waterbury seemed to regard our statements 
as good as a confession, but after a lot of telephoning to the 
Oakland Police Department, Leonarde and I were told to go home and 
the police would call us when we were wanted. 

Eventually we learned from Chief Vollmer, after our parents had 
raised cain about our arrest, what had caused it. The Oakland 
police had received a report from some citizen that he had seen a 
big black sedan with two boys with a pistol in front of a Chinese 
store when a third boy ran out of the store and jumped into the 
car, which drove away. The citizen witness supposed the store 
had been robbed and had taken the license number of the car. In 
due course H.P. Lee spotted the license number of Father s car, 
which I happened to be driving, and ran me into the police station 
for questioning. This may have been good police work, but the 
weakness in the case against us was that there never was a Chinaman 
or anybody else who had been robbed. 

Years later, when I was a deputy district attorney in Contra 
Costa County, we were investigating an extortion case that slopped 
over into Berkeley and I encountered Inspector Frank Waterbury 
once more. I reminded him of the grilling he had given us and 
asked, "Frank, do you still believe Leonarde Keeler and I robbed 
that Chinaman?" His reply, which nearly stunned me, was, "Oh, 
just a boyish prank." I learned that there are some people who 
just never can be convinced of innocence once a suspicion has 
entered their minds. 

At this time I had an opportunity to even the score with 
Inspector Waterbury. It was 1929 and I was a deputy district 
attorney of Contra Costa County with an office in Richmond. Early 
one morning the Richmond police came into my office with a very 
strange letter, which had been recieved the day before by a 
Richmond real estate man named Persico. The letter had been mailed 
in Florence, Arizona, and contained a most curious piece of paper 
with the letter. The letter was signed, "The Black Feather Gang." 


Olney: The police told me that some four or five years before Persico had 
received a letter signed in the name of the Black Feather Gang 
demanding payment of ten thousand dollars in hard cash under threat 
of being killed. The money was to be put in a sack and placed at 
night in a certain railroad culvert in Richmond. A sack full of 
metal washers was prepared and placed in the culvert according to 
directions and the police watched for days for a pick-up. None was 
ever made and there was no further communication from the Black 
Feather Gang until this letter mailed to Persico from Arizona. 

The author of the Arizona letter asserted that he had been the 
leader of the Black Feather Gang, which had had ten or twelve 
members, now all dispersed; that the gang had attempted on two 
occasions to shoot Persico because of his failure to get the 
demanded money to them, but they had been foiled both times by a 
woman who knew their plans and who had saved Persico s life by 
deliberately standing in the line of fire as a shield; that the 
author was awaiting execution in the state prison at Florence and 
had long since repented of his gang activities; that he wanted 
Persico to know that there was no longer any Black Feather Gang 
and that he was no longer in any danger. 

The Arizona letter added that the woman who had twice saved 
Persico s life was named Mary Lopez and lived at an address in 
west Berkeley. In case Persico had any feeling of gratitude 
toward her, the Arizona author had enclosed a piece of paper which 
would be meaningless and valueless to any other person, but which 
would be understood by Mary Lopez and would be of very great value 
to her. 

The piece of paper, which had been enclosed with the letter, 
appeared to have been originally a sheet from an eight-by-ten pad. 
It had been torn in two diagonally and only one piece was contained 
with the letter. One side of the paper had a portion of what 
appeared to be a map. There appeared to be a shore line, what 
looked like a ferry slip, and one or two spots with special 
markings. It was obvious that the map had been drawn before the 
paper had been torn and that more of the map must be on the 
missing piece. The other side of the paper had lines of what 
looked like code writing and here again the indications were that 
more of the writing must be on the missing piece. 

The police had ascertained from Persico that he had once known 
a woman named Mary Lopez who many years before had been a tenant 
in one of his Richmond apartments. He did not know what had 
become of her but thought she had moved to Berkeley. Under the 
circumstances we agreed that the police ought to try to find Mary 
Lopez and interview her about the gang and about the mysterious 
piece of paper. 


Olney: The police departed from my office, but before long they were back 
with Mary Lopez in tow and they were also accompanied by my old 
friend Inspector Frank Waterbury of the Berkeley Police Department. 
Since this part of their investigation was in Berkeley, protocol 
had required that the Richmond officers call first at the Berkeley 
Police Department to tell them what they were doing and Inspector 
Waterbury had been assigned to assist on the case. 

Upon his assignment Waterbury had immediately told the Richmond 
officers that the Black Feather Gang had been well known to the 
Berkeley police. He said they were Chicago mobsters who were more 
or less hiding out and who had been engaging in extortion and 
carrying on other rackets while they were away from their Chicago 
base. He said that while here they had used a large sedan with a 
slot cut in the side through which they could fire a machine gun. 
This astonishing information put the Richmond officers in a state 
of considerable excitement. They thought they must be on to some 
thing big . 

They and Inspector Waterbury had no trouble in finding Mary 
Lopez at the address given in the Arizona letter. She was obviously 
willing to talk freely about the Black Feather Gang, so the officers 
brought her to my office for questioning because there was a 
reporter available to take her statement. 

Mary Lopez was a short, stolid Mexican woman of about forty years 
of age with only one eye. She said she had first met the Black 
Feather Gangsters at a dance and then had gotten to know them well 
enough to have attended many of their gatherings, social and other 
wise. She said she had heard them plan the Persico extortion and 
then plan to shoot Persico on two occasions when they did not get 
the demanded money. She said she had indeed frustrated these plans 
by getting in the way, once on the street and once in a market, so 
that Persico could not be hit. She was pretty vague as to the 
reason for this daring action, saying only that she did not want to 
have her friends commit so serious a crime. She said she had 
attended a number of secret meetings of this gang, at one of which 
they had buried a large cache of arms and at another when a large 
amount of loot in the form of money had been buried. 

When the mysterious paper that had been enclosed in the Arizona 
letter was shown to Mary, she opened her handbag and produced the 
matching half. When the torn pieces were put together, the diagram 
turned out to be a crude map of Point San Pablo and the shore as 
far south as the Santa Fe Ferry. Mary seemed able to read the code 
writing on the other side of the paper without trouble and told us 
it was directions for finding the arms cache and the buried loot, 
the locations of which also appeared on the map. 


Olney: This put the officers in a great state of excitement. Inspector 
Waterbury was most emphatic that since this was loot of the Black 
Feather Gang, the amount must be very large indeed and our first 
duty, now that we could locate it, was to find it and make it 
secure. It was agreed that the search should be made at once. 

The police got hold of some picks and shovels. They also brought 
along a couple of pointed steel rods about twenty feet long which 
they kept on hand for probing in the ground for buried bootleg 
liquor. Who can resist a search for buried treasure? I could not 
and so I went along too. It took several cars to take us with the 
digging equipment. I rode in the first car with Mary Lopez and the 
map. We came first to the place where the cache of arms was sup 
posed to be buried, but nobody wanted to stop to look, although 
Mary said she could point out the exact spot. When we got to the 
tip of Point San Pablo, we had to get out of the car and climb with 
our digging equipment to the top of a steep hill. Here, according 
to Mary Lopez and the map, was the spot, between a buckeye tree and 
a boulder on the very summit of the ridge. 

It seemed a most unlikely spot. The ground was very hard and 
looked as though it had not been disturbed since the beginning of 
time, but Mary insisted this was the exact spot where she had seen 
the loot buried, so the digging began. 

It was now about eleven thirty in the morning and it was a hot 
summer day. No one had thought to bring any lunch or even any 
water. As I sat on top of the big boulder watching the digging and 
watching Mary Lopez from time to time, the whole situation began to 
seem more and more preposterous to me. Finally, I announced I was 
taking Mary Lopez back to my office where I could have more of her 
story taken down by the reporter. Most of the Richmond officers 
decided to leave too. Frank Waterbury, however, elected to stay 
and dig. He was determined not to let that treasure escape. So it 
was agreed that the officers who took Mary Lopez and me back to town 
would return to help Frank Waterbury with his digging just as soon 
as Mary had finished giving her statement. 

When we got to my office and the reporter had been called in, I 
asked Mary Lopez to sit down on the other side of my desk. I said, 
"Mary, I don t believe this story you have been telling us. I don t 
believe there ever was any Black Feather Gang. I believe you your 
self wrote this letter that I hold in my hand even though it was 
mailed in Arizona. I believe you yourself made the map and that 
there never was any arms cache or any buried loot. I think it must 
have been you who wrote the letter to Mr. Persico some years ago 
demanding the ten thousand dollars under threat of being killed. 
Now, why are you doing all these things?" 


Olney: "It is all because of Mr. Persico," she said, and without any urging 
she launched into a long story about how Persico, years before when 
she was living in one of his apartments, had cheated her out of the 
money she had managed to save up over a period of years for violin 
lessons for her young son. It was a pitiful story and one that 
seemed easy to check out even though it had happened some years back. 

She said that she had felt that Persico ought to be made to pay 
her the money he had taken from her in this swindle and when he had 
refused to do so she had written the extortion note to scare him 
into putting up the money. She had seen the police watching the 
railroad culvert and had realized her scheme to get the money would 
not work. 

More recently when she had needed the money even more she thought 
she might be able to get Persico to give her something if she could 
make him believe she had saved his life from the Black Feather Gang. 
So she had written the latest letter to Persico with the piece of 
map inside which she herself had drawn and sent it to her sister in 
Florence to be mailed from there. She insisted her sister did not 
know what was in it. 

When this story was fully tested and developed for the reporter s 
record, I asked the two Richmond officers to make without any delay 
certain inquiries that would either corroborate or refute Mary s 
story about what Persico had done to her. 

"But what about Inspector Waterbury?" they asked. "Shouldn t we 
bring him in first? He s probably still digging away on Point San 

"No," I said, "The case comes first. Inspector Waterbury will 
have to wait while these essential details are run out." 

They did not demur to this but went about their business. I 
think they were inwardly much annoyed with Waterbury, as his talk 
about the Black Feather Gang being Chicago mobsters who were well 
known to the Berkeley Police had made fools out of us all. Indeed, 
I do not think that any of the Richmond officers would have fallen 
for this story of Mary Lopez if they had not been set up for it by 
Waterbury s boasts of his knowledge of the Black Feather Gang. 

The Richmond officers were not gone long and they came back with 
evidence that established quite clearly that Mary Lopez had indeed 
been badly cheated by Persico in the dealings they had had years 


Olney: Now it was time for the officers to go for Inspector Waterbury. 
They brought him into my office about five thirty or six in the 
evening. He was obviously exhausted. He had been digging all 
afternoon. His hands were blistered and he was terribly stiff. 
He had had no lunch and nothing to drink until the officers had 
picked him up. They had told him about Mary s confession on the 
way in and he was boiling with rage. 

"Why didn t you come and get me as soon as you found out this 
story was a fake?" he demanded. "Why did you leave me swinging 
that pick all afternoon like a convict on a rock pile?" 

I smiled my sweetest smile at him. 

"Why, Inspector, in criminal investigation the case always has 
to come first. There were a few details of Mary s confession that 
just had to be checked out without delay. We knew you would under 
stand . " 

As he glared at me and I smiled at him, I knew he understood, for 
it was only that very morning that we had been talking about my 
arrest on suspicion of holding up a Chinaman. I only wished that 
Leonarde Keeler could have been present. 

Pomona College 

[Mr. Olney s written account ends and the transcript of the inter 
view resumes at this point.] 

Fry: We have you, then, just about up to college. Am I leaving out 

anything? Were you a maestro on the viola, or anything like this? 

Olney: Oh, no. I used to play the accordion once in a while, the jerker 
type accordion. I learned to play it only by ear. I had a friend 
who had one and he loaned it to me. But I m left-handed, and I 
suppose this is why this happened. I learned to play the stupid 
accordion upside down. [laughter] I d play the melody with the 
left hand and the bass with the right, and I ve never been able to 
reverse it. Later I did try to play the piano accordion, but you 
can t do that upside down! [laughter] I was never a success on the 
piano accordion. 

Fry: When you went to the University of California, then, you were able 
to continue the same friendships. Was it much of a change for you? 


Olney: I went from high school to Pomona College. The reason for that was 
my brother s experience. He was two years older, and he had gone 
through the same high school I had, and he d gone to the University 
of California in 1919 and 20. That was the first year the Univer 
sity got hit with the immense expansion that followed World War I. 
Prior to that time it had been a pretty small kind of operation. 
But they got flooded with students and were not adequately equipped 
either with faculty or with buildings or anything else needed. My 
brother had a dismal experience. He didn t like it at all. And so 
the second year he went to Pomona, and found he liked that very much. 
So I thought, and so did my family, that probably I would like Pomona 

So I went down there with a high school friend, Rudolph ver Mehr, 
whom I had also known in grammar and high school. We went down 
together, leaving San Francisco on the steamship Yale. At that time 
the best way to go to Los Angeles was by ship. 

We sailed at six in the evening and we landed at San Pedro at 
nine in the morning. We had dinner on board. It was an elegant 
trip. We went out the Golden Gate and we could see Santa Cruz and 
the lights of Carmel as we went down. And then my recollection is 
that we went inside the Channel Islands. I m not too sure about 
that, because we had stayed up so late I slept through that! 

Then we got to San Pedro and had to take the big red cars to get 
to Pomona. They had that Pacific Electric system, for which they 
are now shedding tears. It was undoubtedly the finest inter-urban 
system that any metropolitan area ever had. They had their own 
rights-of-way. The tracks weren t running down the middle of public 
streets in most of the area. It extended from San Pedro and Santa 
Monica into downtown Los Angeles, and then clear out to Pomona and 
San Bernardino and over to Riverside. 

Fry: If they just had that now! 

Olney: That s the way we got to Pomona, taking the red cars into the 

station in Los Angeles, where we had to change cars. It was forty- 
five minutes, something like that, from Los Angeles to Claremont, 
where Pomona College is. We got out there, and found we had to 
live in a rooming house, very nice place. But the day we got there 
it was something like 106, so we got off to a red-hot start. 

Fry: That s a shock for someone who s lived in the Bay Area all his life! 
[laughter] And spent summers in the Sierras. 


Olney: One thing I can say for it is it didn t have smog, at that time. 
There were these beautiful orange orchards all around. I enjoyed 
my year at Pomona very much. I made a lot of friends there. But 
they were all new, and I did encounter some things about them which 
made me decide I d much rather go to Berkeley. 

One of the curious things about it was the student body as a 
whole was almost completely local. They were people who d all been 
to the same high schools together, right near by, and they knew 
each other. Rudy and I were very much outsiders. I thought they 
were extraordinarily provincial in their interests. I remember two 
of the boys who lived in our house with us came from Riverside, and 
neither of them had ever been on the north or east side of the 
mountains that ring that Los Angeles area. As far as they were 
concerned, nothing existed beyond the mountains. 

Fry: The world was the Los Angeles basin, I guess. 

Olney: I hadn t been quite used to that, so I came up to Berkeley the next 

University of California 

Fry: Did Berkeley have students from all over like it does now? 

Olney: Oh, yes. I should say so. From everywhere. It always has, as 
long as I ve known it. I used to be on the campus a great deal 
when I was still in high school and later. There had always been 
a Chinese club and a Japanese club down on Etna Street where I used 
to do most of my playing as a small boy. Filipinos had their club. 
There were students from every sort of country. We used to have 
them at our house . Some of them came through the YWCA that my 
mother was much interested in, some through our church, and some 
through the YMCA. Do you know Harry Kingman on the campus? 

Fry: He was head of the Y, wasn t he? 

Olney: Yes, of Stiles Hall. He had been a professional ball player, 
played for the New York Yankees, I think. He came to Berkeley 
when I was still a young boy and used to come to our house for 
Sunday dinners. He was active in our church. Harry was interested 
in foreign students all his life. Later on he was very well known 
for that; he was even then. Harry and his wife, Ruth, are now 
living on the next block to us, and I asked him about his coming to 
our house when he first came to Berkeley. He has no recollection 
of it at all. But I know he did, several times. 


Olney: By the time I got to the Berkeley campus they d made a great deal 
of progress in meeting this unexpected emergency of the sudden 
expansion and things were under reasonable control. But it was 
already a very big place. I think we had fourteen thousand students 
in it at that time. That s a big institution. The result was that 
there were very few people in my own class that I really knew at all 
well. Now, at Pomona, my class was only about thirty-five and I 
knew every one of them by name. This was never true at Berkeley. 
The only real way of getting acquainted was through a fraternity, or 
through some extra-curricular activities, like the Daily Cal or the 
Blue and Gold, or something like that, possibly a team or a debating 
society, and occasionally somebody that you would meet in class and 
find congenial. 

Fry: So how did you get acquainted with other students? What groups did 
you join? 

Olney: I had an awful lot of friends, of course mostly local. I m a local 
boy myself. [laughter] I joined a fraternity. 

Fry: Was it you or your father who was Beta Theta Pi? 
Olney: That was my father. I was an Alpha Delta Phi. 
Fry: You didn t join your father s fraternity? 

Olney: No, the reason being that so many of my friends who preceded me were 
in Alpha Delta Phi, like Henry Colby and Scott Elder, in particular, 
and I thought I d like to be in the same one. 

One of the more notable occurrences when I was on the campus was 
the Berkeley fire which took place in September of 1923. We had 
had several days of very low humidity accompanied by a high wind 
from the north. Finally the wind broke a power line in Wildcat 
Canyon, starting a grass fire which quickly swept up the ridge into 
the eucalyptus trees and then over the ridge into the houses of 
Berkeley on the west side of the ridge. The fire swept through 
north Berkeley with amazing rapidity and eventually reached Hearst 
Avenue on the north side of the University campus and in places 
reached Spruce Street on the west. There are plenty of accounts of 
the fire elsewhere, so I m not going to try to cover it. 

I first learned of the fire while having lunch at the Alpha Delt 
House, which was located then on the corner of Channing Way and Dana 
Street. We had a very distinguished alumnus in our fraternity named 
Ralph Merritt who had done a great deal for the fraternity and the 
University. He owned a very nice house on the west side of Arch 
Street opposite what are now the grounds of the Pacific School of 
Religion. That property was just an empty hillside at the time. 


Olney: We Alpha Belts knew that the Merritts were in China and when we 
realized that the fire was heading for their house, we went over 
there to see if we could save it. It was a stucco house with a 
slate roof. We climbed on the roof and put out the falling embers 
with wet sacks. We probably could have saved the house if the water 
supply hadn t given out. We used all the water in the house, in 
cluding that in the toilet bowls, but it was not enough. 

When the Merritts house finally caught fire and we realized we 
could not stop it, we thought we should save as much of the furni 
ture as we could. Accordingly, we moved everything we could lay 
our hands on to the empty hillside across the street. This included 
a grand piano. In our struggles to get the piano across the street 
and up the hill out of the reach of the flames , we managed to break 
off its rear leg so that the piano finally came to rest with its 
front legs intact but its rear end at a crazy angle resting on the 
ground. Since we had saved the piano bench too, I put the bench in 
front of the keyboard and played the piano for a while since there 
was nothing else to do. Someone took my picture playing the piano 
with the burned out city in the background. Later it was published 
in the newspapers and elsewhere, with the result that I got a great 
but wholly undeserved reputation as a piano player. Our efforts on 
behalf of Brother Merritt turned out to be quite misguided. We 
should have left all the furnishings in the house, for they were 
covered by fire insurance. 

I had a very undistinguished career on the Berkeley campus. For 
years, I d been under the impression that I was a fair-to-middling 
student. But when I joined the marine corps in 42, they insisted 
on a transcript of my college records, and I got it and was abso 
lutely horrified by what appeared on that record! [laughter] If 
I d been my father, I think I would have raised cain about it. It 
was really pretty bad. I had completely forgotten it. I flunked a 
number of courses, and it had gone absolutely out of my head. If 
you d asked me in 42 I d have said, "I never flunked any courses," 
but I did. I had to make them up, you know. I was on probation 
two or three times because of my bad grades. 

My grandfather McLean was a member of Phi Beta Kappa at Union 
College, my father was a member of Phi Beta Kappa -at California, 
my son Warren was a member at Amherst, my granddaughter Kim 
Anderson was a Phi Beta Kappa at Scripps, but I never came close. 
Elizabeth and I got married while I was in law school and after 
that I got really good grades. 

Fry: When did you know that you wanted to study law? 

Warren Olney III, 19 years old, 

Warren Olney, Jr., Mary McLean Olney, 
and their sons John McLean Olney and 
Warren Olney III (at left), ca. 1909. 

Warren Olney III, rescuer of furniture, Berkeley Fire 1923. 


Olney: I was always interested in history and majored in that from the 
start, and I had history professors whom I enjoyed very much. 
Professor John James Van Nostrand was one, and then there were 
Professor George M. Calhoun and Professor Ivan Linforth in the 
Greek and Latin department, who gave courses in English on all 
sorts of matters that related to Greece, such as the Greek plays, 
the origins of Greek business and commerce, and courses in Greek 
law, things of this kind. 

I got so interested in Professor Calhoun that I took a lot of 
his courses. They were very small. There were very few people 
interested in stuff like that; there d be only ten or fifteen, and 
I liked that. But I had intended to go into history, with the hope 
that I might be an archeologist. Not only the historical interest 
in it, but that kind of deductive thinking, trying to trace and 
reconstruct from traces, appeals to my mind. I find I enjoy doing 
that sort of thinking where there has to be a lot of imagination 
involved in it. That s what an archeologist does, and besides 
that it can be very active. You go to very extraordinary places. 

Fry: Extremely physically demanding. 

Olney: Sure, and that appealed to me. That s what I intended to do. 

But when I was a junior, at the end of my junior year, my father 
and mother went to Europe and they took me along during the summer. 
The year before, I had renewed my childhood acquaintance with 
Elizabeth Bazata, who was going to Mills College, and we made up 
our minds we wanted to get married, and became engaged. But we 
knew it was going to be a long engagement. I think that the fact 
that we were engaged was one reason why the family decided they 
would take me to Europe! [laughter] We went to England and to 
France and Italy. 

When the time for school came around, my mother and father and 
sister stayed on, and I came home by myself to go to school. On 
the way home I got to thinking that it would be my last year in 
college, and the notion of being engaged and wanting to get married, 
and being in archeology and history, just didn t seem to go together. 
I knew that to get into that kind of work I would first have to 
qualify myself as a teacher of history. I d have to do considerable 
teaching. And I had to get a grounding and establish myself, and 
it would take a long time. It would be years and years and years 
before anybody would ever want to pay me to go out and dig up any 
thing. So I did wonder if there wasn t some alternative that I 
could follow that had a prospect of getting married a little earlier 
than that . 


Olney: In canvassing in my own mind what was available, I thought of the 
law, and knowing that my grandfather and father had both been 
lawyers in the very area where I liked to live, and I had the same 
name, I thought, very frankly, that that would probably be an asset. 

I didn t know anything about the law. I knew nothing about it. 
Father never talked about it. He never urged me to be a lawyer, or 
anything. He didn t discourage me, but he never assumed I was going 
to be a lawyer or anything of the sort. But when the time came to 
register, I thought, "I m an idiot. I ought to at least find out 
more about it. It might be something I d like to do." I consulted 
my friend Professor Calhoun about this and he urged me to take the 
law courses, saying that he himself had secured a law degree and 
that his legal background had been of much value to him in his 
historical studies. 

At that time there wasn t a separate law school. They had a 
department of jurisprudence, and one could be a major in juris 
prudence as an undergraduate. To do that you could take your last 
year of undergraduate work in the department of jurisprudence and 
graduate with an AB degree. Then, if you took two more years of 
jurisprudence, you could receive a JD degree and be eligible to 
take the bar examinations. 

Well, it was made to order for me, and I felt that if I tried 
that, at least before I graduated I d find out whether it was or 
wasn t for me. If I didn t do it, I wouldn t know whether law was 
something I wanted to do or not. So I registered as a jurisprudence 
major, and when my parents came home and discovered what I d done, 
they were absolutely astonished. They couldn t figure out what in 
the world I had in mind. [laughter] I didn t give them much of an 
explanation excepting to say, "Well, I thought before I got out of 
college I d better find out a little more about the law." 

So I did begin the study of law, and was so ignorant that I 
didn t know what the words "defendant" and "complainant" and 
"appellee" and "appellant" meant. I had to look them up in the 
dictionary in that first year. [laughter] 

Fry: I see that you mean it, that your father never talked about law at 

Olney: Well, "plaintiff" I knew what that meant because it has a plaintive 
sound to it, but the rest of it [laughter] 

Fry: So you liked it, I gather. Was your father pleased that you were 
going into law? 


Olney : 

Olney : 
Olney : 

Olney : 

Olney : 


He never said. I think he was. He was very helpful to me, of 
course, when I was in law school. 

Was this when he was on the California Supreme Court? 

Oh, no. This would have been in 25. 

25 this was after he left. Yes, 24 and 25. 

Yes. I remember when I was in law school we had a big noise in 
Alameda County over the appointment of a new district attorney. 
Earl Warren was appointed district attorney then, and shortly 
after that he had to run. He ran for office while I was still in 
law school, against some fellow named Preston Higgins. We looked 
them over and we thought Higgins was a jerk! We didn t know any 
thing about Warren. 

You mean the law students. 

I wasn t too keen about law school. I found I could do it. 
There were some parts of it that interested me. I liked Max 
Radin s course in Roman law and legal history very much. Every 
body else detested it! [laughter] But it appealed to me. I 
thought it was excellent. I would like to take it all over again. 
It would mean even more to me now. 

Right down your alley in ancient history. 

Yes. I enjoyed that. I liked my fellow students in law school 
very much better than any other group that I d ever studied with. 
All of them seemed to like each other pretty well. 

It interests me that you liked Max Radin s course. How did you feel 
later on when Earl Warren was attorney general, when the question 
was raised of Max Radin s appointment to the California Supreme 
Court in 1940? 

Well, I liked Max very much; he was a very likeable, charming man, 
and all that. But he had a couple of real strikes against him when 
he was nominated. The one that I think was most serious was not his 
liberal views; it was his writing to the judge, interceding in a 
case that the judge had under consideration. It was a very unwise 
thing to have done. 


It wasn t that he didn t know that he shouldn t do that, 
law professor! 

He was a 


Olney: Well, it s a curious kind of blind spot that he exhibited. I don t 
mean to suggest at all that there was anything discreditable about 
his motives, or anything of the sort, but he should have had a 
better appreciation of the absolute necessity for never communicat 
ing secretly with a judge on a matter he has to consider. There s 
no doubt about what he did. [laughter] Oh, my gosh! 

It s sort of like the thing that [Judge Clement] Hainesworth 
showed up with [after President Nixon nominated him for the Supreme 
Court], [laughter] You can t understand how he could have failed 
to realize the possible consequences of making a stupid investment 
in that bowling outfit when he d had this bowling case before him 
and under consideration. I don t think there was a crooked thought 
that entered his mind on that, but, boy, if he hasn t got any 
better sense than that, he can t very well deal with some of these 
ticklish problems facing the Supreme Court. 

Fry: Was this the main strike against Radin, or did you say there were 

Olney: Well, this is the reason that I always understood that Earl Warren 
turned thumbs down on him. Warren was on that commission. It 
surely wasn t Radin s so-called liberal views, or espousal of 
liberal causes. Warren wouldn t have turned him down for that. 

Fry: Yes, that sounds inconsistent with the rest of Warren s life. 


[Interview 3: August 5, 1970] 

Joining the Office 

Stein: How did the Contra Costa County District Attorney s Office and the 
Alameda County office compare, in terms of law enforcement? 

Olney: I think the best way to illustrate some of the differences in law 
enforcement methods and conditions in Contra Costa County and 
Alameda County in the 1920s is to relate how I happened to go into 
the two offices in the first place. 

I graduated from law school in 1927 and took my bar examination 
in August of that year. I went into the Contra Costa County 
District Attorney s Office. I started on October 15, 1927. 

When I finished law school and passed the bar, I felt that my 
education had really only begun. While I had met the technical 
requirements, I was very, very short on practical experience. 
Although mine was not a narrow upbringing, it was sheltered, and 
I had never had a job in my life until after I got out of law 
school. I realized that this meant that I was very short of 
practical experience and in dealing with people. I really knew 
nothing about business, I knew nothing about government in any 
practical way, and on top of that I was a very shy boy. I believed 
when I got out of law school that if I was ever going to be a 
lawyer, I would have to get over that shyness, and I would have to 
learn to try cases. The idea of trying cases and appearing in 
court before a jury was a frightening one to me. I felt that if I 
didn t meet that at the outset, I would be under a very great handi 
cap all through my career. 


Olney: I discussed this with my father, because it seemed to me very 

unlikely that I would get much in the way of trial experience in 
the kind of law office that he had. While they had many cases 
that went on trial, they were large cases, quite important; they 
were not the things that they could turn over to a greenhorn to 
get experience with. And my father confirmed that, that that would 
be the case. 

I told him that I had thought the course I ought to follow was 
to try to go into a district attorney s office, because I knew 
that I d have to try cases there. They d be given to me, and I d 
just have to do it. I thought that after some experience there I 
would try to go into a city attorney s office, because there you 
work on municipal problems of all sorts and kinds, non-criminal, 
and I thought I would get a good view of what local government was 
like. Then perhaps later on I would give consideration to going 
into private practice somewhere. I had always hoped I might 
practice someday with my father, because I was very fond of him. 

My father told me he thought that was a wise course for me to 
follow. I asked him if he had any idea what district attorneys 
offices I might consider going into. I knew that there were a lot 
of them that I wouldn t be caught dead in. 

Stein: Which were those? 

Olney: Well, San Francisco was one. 

He said that there were two very good offices that he knew about, 
and he knew the district attorneys in both those offices. He doubted 
that they had openings, but at least I could go and see them. The 
two offices were in Alameda County and in Contra Costa County. I 
went over to see both the district attorneys. 

I think I went in to see Earl Warren, in Alameda County, first. 
I ll never forget it. The office at that time was in the old court 
house on Broadway, between Fourth and Fifth Streets, and the district 
attorney s office was up on the second floor in an annex to the old 
courthouse. It was a ramshackle old wooden structure, with high 
ceilings and carpets on the floor, but it was a noisy sort of place. 

I went in to see Earl Warren after lunch one day. He greeted 
me I d never met him before and sat me on the opposite side of 
the desk while we had a talk. I was absolutely overwhelmed with 
the odor of liquor in this place, which I thought came from his 
breath. [laughter] Although he was sober enough, I was convinced 
that he must have had a pretty alcoholic kind of lunch to smell the 
way he did. Although in every other respect our conversation was 
most satisfactory, I really left there with the impression that he 
was a lush. 


Olney: This was during Prohibition, and I knew, of course, that one of the 
district attorney s principal headaches was the enforcement of the 
Prohibition law, and I did not want to serve in the office with a 
district attorney who had so little regard for his own responsibil 
ities that he wasn t even observing the law that he was supposed to 
enforce. In other words, I got a very unfavorable impression. 

Stein: That s quite a contrast to what everyone says about him during 
Prohibition, isn t it? 

Olney: Yes. 

In due course I went to Martinez and saw Archibald B. Tinning, 
who was the district attorney there, a man, of course, who s not as 
well known as Earl Warren, but a very, very charming, delightful 
man, and one of the best district attorneys that I have ever 
encountered. He was excellent. He was very friendly and cordial 

Stein: How long had he been DA? 

Olney: I think he was in his second term. He had been district attorney 

long enough so that he was that year the president of the California 
District Attorneys Association. My recollection is that Earl 
Warren wasn t president of that association until quite a few years 
later, although he was always very active in it. 

Mr. Tinning had been in private practice, and he had a private 
practice all the time he was district attorney. It was a partner 
ship known as Tinning and DeLap . This was expected . The salaries 
paid to district attorneys and deputies in their offices were always 
very small, and it was expected both that the men in the office and 
the district attorney himself would engage in private practice, and 
that the county would be just another client, in a sense. 

One of the things I observed about Mr. Tinning, and have never 
forgotten, was how scrupulous he was to avoid not only any conflict 
of interest, but anything that could possibly suggest a possible 
conflict between any of his private clients and the county or 
between himself and the county. He was scrupulous on this. 

He also had excellent concepts of a district attorney s respon 
sibilities for law enforcement. There was at that time a majority 
of district attorneys, I think, who took the attitude that they had 
no responsibility for the police or the sheriff s office or for law 
enforcement at all, that their responsibility was nothing more than 
to present to the court cases as they might be brought to them by 
the investigating officers. If they didn t bring any cases, there 
was nothing that they needed to do. 


Olney: That was not Mr. Tinning s concept at all. He thought that the 

district attorney was under an obligation to provide some leader 
ship in the county for law enforcement. And he did provide that 
as best he could with the sheriff and the various police chiefs we 

Stein: He worked closely with them? 

Olney: Yes, he did. He was energetic and efficient in trying to enforce 
the Prohibition laws, which a great many district attorneys were 
not, and which our sheriff was not. He had almost as much trouble 
with our sheriff as Earl Warren was having with his sheriff in 
Alameda County. 

It was in that connection that I next came in contact with Earl 
Warren. There was a still that was discovered unexpectedly on 
Bethel Island in Contra Costa County, a very large one. 

Stein: How was it discovered? 

Olney: Some deputy sheriff, as I recall, was out there and saw somebody 

run into a barn, which aroused his suspicion. He went over to the 
barn and looked in, and here was this big still in operation. The 
two or three men who were there scattered. Two of them were 
arrested, as I recall. 

Then there was an intensive investigation to try to find out who 
the people were who were responsible for the still. It was dis 
covered that the barn had been leased that was the usual thing 
and the land-owner claimed he knew nothing about what was going on. 
But there had been heavy shipments of blackstrap molasses brought 
in there that they used to make the liquor from, and there were 
shipments of yeast. We picked up papers all over the place little 
labels that gave us some idea of where the cooperage had come from, 
where the copper columns and things of that sort had been made, and 
we conducted an investigation to try to put all those pieces 
together . 

The big wooden vats, we discovered, had apparently been made by 
a cooper who lived in Hayward, and this brought me down to Oakland 
along with the investigators from the Contra Costa District 
Attorney s Office, to get their assistance in trying to locate the 
cooper and get a statement from him. I went in to see Earl Warren 
about this, and quickly got a very different impression, I might 
say, than I had before. But I might say that during this intervening 
time when I was in Contra Costa County I couldn t help, of course, 
but hear a great deal about Alameda County and about Earl Warren, 
and I learned in no time that the impression that I had gained was 
absolutely mistaken; it was the complete reverse of the situation, 


Stein: Could you ever figure out why you smelled liquor in the first place? 

Olney: I certainly did. When I went to work there, I discovered that the 
district attorney s office was doing most of the raiding of the 
bootleggers and stills in the county, and when they would get a 
still they d bring it in to the courthouse, and they were storing 
them in the basement. [laughter] The particular place where they 
stored them was in a great big room that s right under where the 
district attorney had his office. [laughter] 

Stein: So you were sitting right over a still. 

Olney: And all these fumes were coming up there from the still. I smelled 
it later, but then I knew exactly what it was. [laughter] 

Stein: Did you ever tell Earl Warren about that? 

Olney: I didn t then. I ve mentioned it to him in later years, and he was 
absolutely horrified, because he was completely unconscious of it. 
Apparently his secretaries were, too, because he said that no one 
had ever spoken to him about it before. But that s what happened 
to me, and I think I probably would have gone to work for him in 
the first place if it hadn t been for those terrible odors, 

But when I went there on this still case, we received such very 
strong, unstinted help in developing our case that I knew they were 
playing the same kind of a ball game that we were trying to play 

Then later on I saw him in Eureka at a meeting of the district 
attorneys association. As I said, Archibald Tinning was the 
president of it that year, and I was asked by him to go up. There 
were many things that the association discussed, and Earl Warren 
and his office were quite active in it. 

One of the things that came up for discussion was a proposed 
amendment to the penal code relating to bad checks. Up to that 
time the forgeries were, of course, punishable, but writing a check 
knowing there were insufficient funds was not in itself a penal 
offense. This proposed legislation would have made it a penal 
offense to write a check knowing that there were insufficient funds 
in the bank to meet it. It was a proposal strongly supported by 
innkeepers and hotel-keepers and merchants and people of that kind. 

I had been asked by Mr. Tinning to do the research as to whether 
a statute of that kind was constitutional. And Harry Miller, in 
Earl Warren s office, had been asked to draw a memorandum on the 


Olney: same thing. We both reported. We both concluded that the statute 
would be constitutional, but we differed as to whether it was 
desirable. Harry Miller and Earl Warren s office thought it was 
desirable. I did not. I thought it was undesirable. Whether Mr. 
Tinning agreed with me or not, I don t really recall, and he was 
presiding, so he didn t take a position. 

I thought it was undesirable, because I thought it was merely 
using state machinery and law enforcement to substitute for a 
reasonable amount of diligence that innkeepers and merchants ought 
to assume themselves. However, the statute was passed, and it is 
the law now, and has been ever since. 

Stein: About what year was this? 

Olney: This was 1928. At any rate, that report, I think, brought me to 

Earl Warren s notice, in a way in which I hadn t been before. He d 
only seen me when I came to ask him for a job. 

When I went to work in Contra Costa County, although they allowed 
me to go there, they had no opening in the office, and I didn t have 
any salary. I was there for nearly a year without any salary. 

Stein: Was that a common practice at the time? 

Olney: It was, yes. You couldn t get into offices, and private offices 

were paying something like sixty-five dollars a month. [laughter] 
I wasn t losing very much! 

In Charge of the Richmond Office 

Olney: Just as I was going to leave Martinez after the first year, their 

deputy in Richmond, which was the largest city in the county, died, 
and there was a vacancy. Mr. Tinning offered it to me. I grabbed 
at it, and had the magnificent salary of $225 a month, which was 
really just rolling! I was plush compared with what had gone 
before. [laughter] 

Now, when they assigned me there, I was all by myself. Up to 
that time, being in Martinez, I had company. Mr. Tinning was 
there, and his chief deputy, James Hoey. Rex Boyer was the other 
deputy in Martinez. They were older men, experienced men, who were 
very, very helpful to me on any practical problem that arose. But 
there were very, very few cases being tried. I tried one jury case 
in the justice court in Walnut Creek and then I tried a manslaughter 


Olney: case no, it was a driving while intoxicated case; that was it in 
the superior court, a jury case, while I was there. But those were 
the only two jury trials that I had in the whole year. 

Stein: Were there just the four of you in the office? The DA and Mr. 

Olney: In that office. But there was also the office in Richmond where 
the man was who died. So when I went down to Richmond I was all 
alone. Mr. Tinning s partner, Tony DeLap, had his offices on the 
same floor in the same building and was very generous with his time 
when I would get stumped, but naturally I was reluctant to impose 
on him very often. Most of the time I had to take care of things 
by myself. Richmond was the largest city in the county so that I 
really had quite a little to do. 

Now, you were asking me about procedures, and this is what 
occurred down there. I developed some procedures of my own which 
certainly worked very well, but later when I went to Alameda County 
and would have occasion to tell my new chief, Earl Warren, what I 
had done in Richmond, he was horrified. [laughter] He said that 
it showed what a very great difference there was in the counties 
and in conditions in the counties; that it would be impossible to 
do in Oakland or Alameda County what I had done in Richmond. 

My office in Richmond was on the fourth floor of the American 
Trust Company building there, at McDonald and Tenth. The police 
department was down at Point Richmond. We had a justice court 
Arthur Alstrom was the justice of the peace which was in the next 
block to my office. Judge Alstrom, like everyone else in the legal 
set-up of the county, was also engaged in private practice. So he 
was there in his offices he used his chambers for offices and his 
little courtroom was there, too. 

Now, I was blessed with an excellent secretary. Besides being 
an ordinary secretary, she was a court reporter, and a very good 
one. I had learned by experience that in handling criminal cases, 
nine times out of ten, when persons are arrested they want to talk. 
They re anxious to get these matters off their minds, and they want 
to tell you about it. They nearly always talk to the police about 
it, try to explain why they did it, what their justifications were. 

The practice then had been for the police to write these state 
ments down either in their reports, or sometimes they would have 
the statements signed. In due course a preliminary hearing would 
be held before the committing magistrate, who in this case would be 
Judge Alstrom. If the evidence was sufficient to show that there 
was probable cause for believing that a crime had been committed 


Olney: and that the defendant had committed it, Judge Alstrom would make 
an order holding the defendant to answer in the superior court in 
Martinez. Then a complaint would be filed against the defendant in 
the superior court and he would be produced to be arraigned and to 
enter his plea. In those days there was no provision for providing 
counsel for a defendant who was unable to hire his own until he got 
to the superior court for arraignment. If he was unable to make 
bail, the defendant would have to remain in the miserable lock-up 
in the Richmond police station until after the preliminary hearing, 
when he could be transferred to the more comfortable county jail. 
The lapse of time before transfer was likely to be a week or ten 

Stein: Would that mean that the defendant wouldn t have an attorney 

Olney: He wouldn t have an attorney and he d be in jail, most of the time, 
until this was all done. 

I suggested to the police that on matters of any moment, when 
they had somebody that they arrested who wanted to talk, that 
instead of taking them down to the police station they d best bring 
them directly into my office, and I d take the statement with my 
secretary. This was done. They did that as a matter of routine; 
they d bring them in, and I d take statements. 

Well, then-Z realized that when this was done, more often than 
not after this would happen, they would ask me, "Can t I do some 
thing to get this over with? Can t I get this matter on its way?" 
I would explain that the law did not permit a defendant to waive a 
preliminary hearing and that we could not have a hearing without 
witnesses and getting the witnesses for the hearing was bound to 
cause delay. However, there would be no such delay if the defendant 
himself chose to take the witness stand and to tell his story under 
oath so the judge would have adequate evidence upon which to hold 
the defendant to answer in the superior court. 

Since the defendant had just gotten through confessing to me, 
he usually was quite willing to repeat it all to Judge Alstrom. 
In such case I would telephone the judge to arrange for the hearing 
and then down we would go right then and there to his office with 
the court reporter. The judge always advised the defendant fully 
as to all his rights and explained his situation to him carefully 
and made sure the defendant understood what was going on and that 
he wished to take the witness stand himself and testify under oath 
as to what had happened and what he had done, knowing what the 
consequences of his testimony might be. 

Then we would have a preliminary hearing, but it would consist 
of the defendant s taking the witness stand himself, and my examin 
ing him under oath about the case. The judge would make his holding 


Olney: order based on that, and then the man would be sent directly to 
Martinez, to the county jail there, and wouldn t have to be kept 
at all in the city lock-up in Richmond. In due course the defendant 
would come up for arraignment in the superior court in Martinez, and 
counsel would be appointed to represent him. At the arraignment 
counsel was given a copy of the transcript of the preliminary hear 
ing. The transcript, of course, was nothing but the confession of 
his client made under oath in open court. 

Well, with our present kind of procedure, it sounds a little bit 
incredible that something like that could have been developed, and 
yet it isn t, really. The leading authority in the United States 
on the subject of evidence at that time was John Wigmore. In his 
great work on evidence is a lengthy discussion of this matter of 
taking statements from people when they re arrested. He discussed 
all the different alternatives that have been tried in various parts 
of the world, and he strongly advocated a procedure very much like 
what I described, of having an arrested man taken immediately before 
a magistrate or a judge and questioned about the crime. He would 
have gone much farther, not simply allowed someone to rest on the 
Fifth Amendment, but would have permitted a holding order if anybody 
wanted to take the Fifth Amendment, on that alone. So it wasn t so 
outrageous as it might seem in view of more recent developments. 

I followed that procedure in I don t know how many cases, but I 
was only in Contra Costa County, I think, two years, so I must have 
been in Richmond a year. I don t know how many times I did that, 
but there was no instance where there was anything more than an 
outraged complaint by the lawyer who was eventually assigned to the 
case. He felt he had no alternative except to plead the man guilty 
when he got the case. What was the matter with making a lawyer 
plead a guilty man guilty? We weren t playing games. The procedure 
was never reversed; it was never even questioned on appeal in any 
instance that I know. The superior court judges did not feel that 
it was unfair, did not object to it. They could have, of course. 

I didn t have any feeling at the time, and the truth is that I 
don t now, that I had overreached those people, or done anything 
that was unfair to them or unjust, and there was no instance that 
I know of where there was anything like a failure of justice, or 
something of that sort on it. However I must say that after a good 
many years more of experience, I can see how dangerous it would be 
to institute a system of that sort in one of our very busy courts. 
These cases that I speak of wouldn t come up as often as once a 
week, if that often. 

When I went to Alameda County, as I did eventually, I mentioned 
this procedure to Earl Warren, and, as I say, he was horrified at 
it. Not because he thought that I d done anything unfair, or that 


Olney: there had been miscarriages in any of these cases, he didn t think 

that, but he was very apprehensive about what he regarded as dangers 
that could crop up in administering justice in a large court with a 
large calendar with a procedure as informal as that. 

Nothing like that was ever followed procedurally in Alameda 
County. There they always had either a grand jury indictment or a 
preliminary hearing, usually the latter, and the preliminary hear 
ings were always conducted in a far more formal way. The prosecu 
tion was required to produce its witnesses and make a showing of 
probable cause with its own witnesses . They never called the 
defendant as a witness. He was never put on the stand unless his 
own lawyer wanted to put him on the stand. Nothing like that Contra 
Costa procedure was ever followed. 

Stein: Wasn t there an amendment to the California constitution that was 
considered and, I think, passed, in about 1934, that allowed a 
defendant to plead guilty right at the beginning? 

Olney: Yes, there was. There were a whole series of amendments. There 
were major amendments in criminal procedure in 1927. Then there 
were more in 1934, including amendments to the [state] constitution. 
I m a little uncertain about when it was that the defendant was 
first allowed to enter a plea of guilty at the preliminary hearing. 

Stein: I think it was in 34. 

Olney: It may be. I m not clear about that. I d have to look it up. 

Well, the reason for that was plain enough. There are a great 
many people who do not wish to and cannot contest the matter of 
their guilt. That means they want to have the machinery move 
rapidly so that their cases can be disposed of and if they re to 
start serving sentences, they can begin and get it over with or 
whatever other penalty there may be. Without that provision 
permitting a plea at the preliminary hearing, it meant that you 
simply had to wait, and often had to wait in jail, simply for the 
court to get around to hearing your case, when you didn t want to 
contest it anyway; you weren t going to go to trial. That s the 
reason this was introduced. I don t remember the safeguards that 
are in there offhand. I know there are safeguards. I do recall 
that you have to have counsel in order to enter the plea of guilty 
at the preliminary examination. 

Stein: Yes, you do. There were safeguards that protected that. Before 
you entered your plea, the magistrate had to send a messenger to 
get an attorney if you had an attorney that you wanted. 


Olney: Yes. Well, I don t remember the details of it, but I know there 

were safeguards in there to prevent defendants without counsel being 
overreached. Whether they were adequate or not is another matter. 

I left the Contra Costa District Attorney s Office because I 
thought I had had as much experience as I could expect to get there. 
I frankly was disappointed in not having more trial experience. I 
tried some cases. I had some trial experience, but not as much as 
I hoped to get. 

Stein: How were you trained when you first came into the Contra Costa 
County office? 

Olney: I was simply trained by being assigned first to writing legal 

memoranda on various points for the other lawyers. I was allowed 
to sit in court and carry the papers and whatnot while trials were 
going on. Because I was around there all the time I was asked to 
help them investigate and develop cases and prepare them for trial, 
to interview witnesses . 

There was a great deal of citation work. Complaints would be 
made. It was not necessary to make an arrest, so a citation would 
be issued, which was in the form of a letter, saying that a com 
plaint had been made and asking the person accused to come in at 
such-and-such a time to show cause why a warrant shouldn t be 
issued. I was asked to write many of those citations, and then to 
interview the people when they came in, this kind of thing. And 
then I was given more responsibility as they seemed to think I was 
capable of handling it . 



Olney: I went from the Contra Costa office to my father s office, and went 
into private practice in that office, and there did much the same 
thing. They assigned me to writing legal memoranda of various kinds 
until they could see what I was capable of doing. They asked me to 
help prepare cases for trial, which I did. 

The one really interesting case that I worked on over there 
involved the last of the Spanish grants in California. This was 
the grant of Mare Island, where the navy yard now is. The govern 
ment had brought suit against the landowners of the swamp lands 
that are north of the highlands of Mare Island. The navy yard 
itself is built on the highlands of the island. To the north 
there s about ten miles of what was originally swamp. It s been 
reclaimed with levees around it, and the Sears Point toll road ran 
across it around the north end of the Bay at that time. Although 
those lands had been occupied and used by people who thought they 
had title to them for many years, the government finally brought 
suit against them to remove them and take the lands on the theory 
that that part of the area was included in the original Mare Island 
grant which Governor Alvarado had made during Mexican times. 

My father s office represented the Sears Point road and one of 
the title insurance companies that insured the title on that property. 
The Mexican grant was a grant of the island by name alone, no descrip 
tion. It simply was a grant by the Mexican government of "Mare 
Island." Well, the question was, what was "Mare Island" at the time 
the grant was made? Now, the Mexican lawSpanish law, rather 
became important because it was different from common law with 
respect to where the ownership was with high tide. Under Spanish 
law, there remains to the sovereign not only the ocean and the beach, 
but the sovereign s ownership of the beach goes to the highest high 
tide. In the common law it goes only to the median high tide. 


Olney : 

Olney : 

Olney : 
Olney : 

Well, this meant that it became of very great importance to find 
out whether at maximum high tide water came over the neck of land 
that separated the highlands from these swamp lands. If it did, it 
meant the government s title was restricted to the highlands. On 
the other hand, if it did not, then the government was correct, and 
the swamp lands even under Spanish law would have been part of Mare 
Island . 

This meant interviewing all the oldest inhabitants we could find 
who might have some recollection as to what the natural condition 
was there before the levees went up and before the road was built 
and all these changes were made. I was assigned to help out on 
that, and had a wonderful time traveling around talking to old 
people, old hunters, and people like that, who might have some 
recollection of it. 


you did your bit of oral history. 

Yes. But it also involved my trying to find a desueffo that might 
throw some light on it. Under the system of grants, besides the 
document like a deed that describes what s granted, it was required 
that it be accompanied with a desueno, which is in the nature of a 
map or a diagram to show what the subject of the grant is. 

These original grants, or copies, and desuenos are all on file 
in the state archives. At that time they had never been sorted, or 
indexed, or anything. I had the delightful assignment of going up 
there and looking at all these desueSos, not merely for the one on 
Mare Island, which probably didn t exist, but it was thought that 
perhaps desuenos of neighboring grants might well show something 
about Mare Island, and since they weren t indexed, I had to look at 
them all. I found this quite an interesting thing. I believe that 
this has all been examined systematically now and hasn t a book 
been written on it? 

I don t know. 

Someone at Bancroft I think Becker has done this work. 

I ll look that up. 

Anyway, the case was carried on, but the trial of it was long after 
I left the office. 



Joining the Staff 

Olney: Earl Warren always picked the lawyers to serve in his district 

attorney s office himself and my appointment was according to form. 
Whenever word got abroad that there was a vacancy in the office, 
the district attorney was besieged by applicants, some of whom had 
political backing. Under such circumstances the applicants not 
chosen, as well as their backers, were sure to be disappointed and 
sometimes hurt and offended no matter who might have been selected. 
Earl tried to avoid this kind of situation as far as possible. When 
anyone on the staff expressed an intention to leave, Earl always 
asked him to withhold any announcement until he had had time to 
select a successor. Then he would announce the resignation and the 
appointment of a successor at the same time, thus avoiding the 
importunities of job-seekers as well as avoiding giving offense to 
them and their backers by passing them over in favor of someone else. 

In my case, Earl Warren telephoned me at my father s office some 
time around the end of August or first of September, 1930 to tell me 
that he anticipated a vacancy in the district attorney s office and 
to ask if I would be interested in filling it. After discussing it 
with him and with my father, I told him I was indeed interested and 
would accept the appointment if the vacancy developed. Shortly 
thereafter, Frank Ogden, who had been chief assistant district 
attorney, resigned to run for judge of the superior court and on 
September 10, 1930, Earl Warren announced that I had been appointed 
to fill the resulting vacancy in the office. 

I do not mean to suggest that I was appointed chief assistant in 
place of Frank Ogden. Ralph Hoyt received that appointment and there 
were resulting promotions all the way down the line. I was brought 
in to fill the vacancy at the bottom or nearly at the bottom. 


Stein: You came into the office on a salary? 

Olney: Oh, yes. Oh, something very handsome like $170 a month. I know 

it was less than I d gotten in Contra Costa County. But that salary, 
while the amount sounds low, really wasn t bad at all. We could live 
within it, and did. 

Organization and Administration 

Stein: What was Warren s office like at that point? 

Olney: It was large enough so that it had to be departmentalized. There 
was a civil as distinct from a criminal section of the office, and 
the lawyers who did civil work did not do criminal work, and vice 
versa, excepting as from time to time one would shift from one to 
the other, for the purpose of experience. But it meant that at one 
time a man wouldn t have both criminal and civil cases to handle; 
it would be one or the other. 

Then, of course, it had to be organized with a small staff at the 
city hall in Oakland. We also had one deputy in Berkeley to handle 
misdemeanors and preliminary hearings, things of this kind. They 
were separate offices. 

Then in the criminal work, which is what interested me, that was 
organized too. There were certain lawyers who would be assigned to 
try homicide cases, and there were others who handled large fraud 
cases, conspiracy cases, bank robbery cases, and cases like that. 
Of course, the more experienced lawyers tried more difficult cases. 
If we had more than one big fraud case, and more than one major 
homicide, and the regular men were occupied on that, the others 
somebody from somewhere else would take over. So there was nothing 
hard or fast about it. 

The one thing that was very noticeable about it, as compared with 
conditions today, was the rapidity with which we could get to trial 
and get the case disposed of. Just last night, knowing that you were 
coming, I looked in a carton I have that s got some old transcripts 
of cases that I was involved in. There s one in there that was a 
conspiracy of highj ackers to highjack bootleggers. They were major 
highjackings. There must have been half a dozen defendants in that 
case, and two major highjackings were involved in the evidence. It 
was a three-day trial. It required a great deal of preparation. 
But that case was brought to trial and was disposed of in about 
ninety days from the time of arrest. I don t think you can do that 
today . 


Stein: That s most unusual now. 
Olney : Yes . 

We had a policy and this was Earl Warren s doing entirely; and 
he imbued the whole office with it, and insisted on it a policy of 
moving the cases as rapidly as it was possible to move them. That 
meant not asking for continuances, and objecting as far as possible 
to continuances requested by the defendant, unless there was some 
really legitimate reason for it, that would interfere with the fair 
ness of the trial. But the pressure was always kept on us he kept 
it on us until it was second nature to us to see that there was a 
minimum of delay, and to keep going. 

Now, this required an awful lot of work. One reason I don t 
think they can do it down there today is because I don t think they 
work that way. We had to be down at nine in the office, and we were 
expected to stay at least until five-thirty, and to work at night if 
we needed to. We worked every Saturday expected to do that too. 
If we didn t have inspectors enough to run around and interview our 
witnesses to get the case ready, we were supposed to do that our 
selves, and we did. 

The result was that we could get cases to trial rapidly. Occa 
sionally something might happen we might get a four- or five-week 
trial that would tie up a whole department and cases would begin to 
back up. The moment that started to appear, our Chief would do what 
ever was necessary to meet that. Sometimes he would ask the chief 
justice [of the California Supreme Court] to assign a visiting judge, 
and that was often done. Judge Murray from Madera County used to 
come up, and so did Judge Trabuco from Mariposa County, because they 
didn t have much work down there and they were available. They would 
come and try cases when our calendar started to get at all congested. 
But I know that one of the reasons Earl Warren s office was so 
successful was that policy, of keeping that business moving. 

The statistics which substantiate the point appear in a letter 
which Ronald Beattie, the chief of the Bureau of Statistics, Cali 
fornia Department of Justice, wrote to me under date of November 9, 
1970.* In 1931-1932, the time from filing of the criminal charge 

See Appendix B . 


Olney: to final disposition in Alameda County superior courts was thirty- 
four days about half as long as it took in San Francisco and Los 
Angeles Counties during those same years. Today it takes twice as 
long in Alameda County and the delay can be attributed, principally 
at least, to postponement practices and inflexible calendars. 

Stein: How were decisions within the office reached? 

Olney: Well, I don t know just what you mean by that. I had a very good 

time in that office. I enjoyed it immensely, and one of the reasons 
was because when one of us was assigned to one of these cases you 
were on your own. You were independent. You could do it the way 
you wanted to do it, the way you thought it ought to be done. You 
didn t have somebody kibbitzing on you all the time, telling you, 
"Well, you ought to do this, or that, or the other thing." You could 
always go to the Chief or anybody else in the office and ask for some 
advice or suggestions, or something of that sort, but it was your 
case, it was your responsibility, and you handled it. 

However, you had to be prepared to be accountable for the results, 
and also for how you conducted it. There must not be any unfairness, 
any overreaching; you must not make agreements with defense counsel 
that you were not prepared to keep. You must not make agreements 
with them that you would not be prepared to read about in the news 
papers, and you must be prepared to explain or account for how you 
conducted yourself, the investigation, and the trial of the case. 

Decisions with respect to the cases were made by the lawyers who 
tried them, but decisions on the policies of the office, such as the 
need for promptness in trial, the need for thoroughness in prepara 
tion, the need for restraint and dignity in making arguments, those 
were set by Earl Warren personally. I don t mean to say that the 
decisions would have been different under any of the others, but 
that was simply the atmosphere in which we moved, and it all emanated 
from him. 

Stein: What was the role of staff meetings? 

Olney: Well, we had these staff meetings regularly on Saturday mornings, 
and the first thing that happened at one of those meetings was a 
report on the recent decisions of the district courts of appeal and 
the state supreme court. Very rarely did we have a United States 
Supreme Court decision to discuss. They were mostly state decisions, 
but somebody had been assigned in advance. We took it in rotation. 
Somebody s responsibility was to read all the decisions and report 
on them, explaining what they were, and then having a discussion of 
them. In this way we could keep reasonably current, without having 
everybody, separately, read all those decisions. We became aware of 
them. If next week something came up, we would realize there was 
this decision, and we would look it up, that sort of thing. 


Olney: Now, in discussing those cases, especially reversals, and why the 
reversals had taken place, we got a great deal from one another, 
and also from our Chief and his comments on them. And where there 
were reversals we tried to see, well, what is it that you shouldn t 
do? Is this something we ve been doing, or is this something we 
ought to be on the lookout for, and whatnot. 

Some of the lawyers used to think this was sort of an exercise 
in futility, because it isn t every week that you get a decision 
that s worth discussing very much, and when that was the case there 
would be just enough of a recitation of what the appellate courts 
had decided to make you familiar with it, and nothing much to talk 
about. But I thought they were very, very valuable sessions. I 
think it can be said that these discussions of recent decisions 
paid off because not a single criminal conviction in Alameda County 
was reversed during the years Earl Warren was district attorney. 

These weekly meetings also kept everybody in touch with everybody 
else. It was an occasion when many times we would raise problems 
of our current trials, and discuss them, things that had gone on. 
Sometimes our cases would have been in the newspapers, on some 
incident, and the participants would explain what really happened, 
which was usually vastly different from what was in the paper, 
[laughter] But I m sure it was the machinery that made it possible 
for Earl Warren to keep everything that went on in that office right 
in hand where he knew what was going on, and he was current, without 
having to police the place. 

Stein: I m very impressed with how he was able to do as much as he did, 
keep track of everything that was going on in the office, and do 
active work himself. 

Olney: Yes, he did. Occasionally he tried cases himself. Shortly before 
I went into his office, he had tried a highly sensational murder 
case. A man (Antoine) had killed his wife, cut up her body in 
little pieces, burned it in a stove while he was cooking meals for 
her babies, and buried parts of it in a sack out in the San Joaquin 
River. It was really a gruesome case. 

The main difficulty in it was they couldn t find enough of the 
body to make a very strong showing of the corpus delicti. All they 
were able to get was a piece of bone about as big as your thumbnail 
from underneath the bed, which the doctors identified as a piece of 
human skull. The rest of it was circumstantial. It was a difficult 
case to try indeed. They searched everywhere for the remains that 
hadn t been consumed in the stove without being able to find them. 
They didn t find them until after the trial was over. 


Stein: What was the name of that case? Do you remember? 

Olney: Antoine, I think it was. But the most shaking event of that trial 
was the day after the selection of the jury, when the trial had 
actually gotten started and it was apparent who the foreman was 
going to be. They discovered for the first time that that foreman 
had himself stood trial for murder in Oregon, only about a year or 
a year and a half before. Well, you can imagine how they felt about 
that. They had to go through the trial there was nothing to do but 
go ahead with it as though they knew nothing about it. 

Stein: Was that ever questioned later on appeal? 

Olney: When the trial was over, they discovered that it was the foreman who 
was the strongest not only for first degree, but for the death 

I understand that Earl did talk with the foreman sometime after 
the trial about this. The foreman said, "Well, yes. I d have told 
you if you d asked me, but you didn t ask me if I d ever stood trial. 
I was charged up there in Oregon and went through the process, and 
it was that experience that gave me very great confidence in our 
general system of law enforcement. I was on a boat it was a yacht 
a man fell over and drowned, and I was accused of pushing him off. 
We had a trial, and it was a fair trial, and I was acquitted, as I 
should have been. I don t think it s possible under our system to 
convict somebody for something he didn t do." 

Anyway, I only mention that as being the kind of a case that Earl 
Warren would be involved in himself. When I was there, he already 
had a tremendous reputation as a trial lawyer and as a district 
attorney. By that time, he had many, many more things to do than 
take care of routine trials. 

Eliminating Delays in Criminal Prosecutions 
[Interview 4: March 2, 1971] 

Stein: Could you tell me more about what Warren s policies were in bringing 
cases to trial? 

Olney: Yes, I can, and I think it was one of the most important aspects of 
his administration as district attorney. The policy which he fol 
lowed right from the beginning, from the time he became district 
attorney, was against delays in prosecuting criminal cases. The 


Olney: policy was to prosecute at the earliest feasible date. That policy 
was formulated into a rule which applied to all of us who were 
deputies in the office and particularly to the two deputies who 
handled the criminal trial calendar. They were the ones who set 
the date for trial. 

Stein: Who were they? 

Olney: When I first went into the office, it was Richard Chamberlain, later 
a superior court judge. He handled the calendar. Then it was 
Theodore Westphal, who was later chief assistant attorney general. 
Then it was, after that, Leonard Meltzer. I remember those three in 
particular. I think Bob Hunter handled it for a time, too. 

The practice at that time was for the district attorney, not the 
court, to handle the calendar. The office determined the case dates, 
when the cases would be ready for trial. The judges were prepared 
to try them whenever they were ready. Of course, as against civil 
litigation, the criminal cases had statutory preferences. If the 
criminal case was ready to go, the court felt that it must go; it 
had no alternative not that they wanted one but to go ahead with 
the trial. No deputy in the office had authority to request or 
consent to a continuance of a criminal trial. We were required to 
object to any and all postponements unless we first got the consent 
of the district attorney himself. Consent was never given excepting 
when there was a real, legitimate need for it. 

The rule was so well established by the time I got there that it 
never occurred to me to question it. I just accepted it and operated 
under it. I didn t think much about it. In later years, I realized 
that I d never heard of any other prosecutor s office that had any 
such rule. It had a profound effect on the office because you can 
not be representing the prosecution and always saying, "Your honor, 
we will be ready at the first available date," without being ready. 
You have to be ready! Necessarily, the case must be prepared, and it 
must be prepared in a very short time. This meant that when cases 
were assigned to us, we had to go to work on them immediately. This 
is why night work and weekend work were just regular routine in the 
place. It is the only way in which any such policy can be carried 

Now, while this was very strenuous and hard on us, it had certain 
great advantages as worksavers. It meant you only had to do things 
once. You only had to interview the witnesses once. You only had 
to go over the exhibits once. Then you went to trial. When trials 
are postponed, a busy prosecutor has to lay the matter to one side. 
When he picks it up again, nearly all the work of preparation has 
to be done over. This is very wasteful of the prosecutor s time and 


Olney: effort. We never had to do that. As a general rule, we could 

prepare the case, to to trial, and put the matter behind us. We 
did not have to juggle a dozen or so half -prepared cases all at 
the same time. 

Those policies had an effect on the personnel of the office, 
too; I mean the kind of personnel. A regular old-time prosecutor 
in his forties or fifties just isn t going to hold still for that 
kind of routine. That is altogether too demanding and too strenuous. 
They would retire or resign and leave. Some of the younger men 
also found it too demanding. We had a very rapid turnover of people 
in the office because of this. 

Stein: Was this turnover going on all the time? 

Olney: This turnover went on all the time. Young men would come in order 
to get the experience, just as I did. This was during the Depres 
sion and jobs were very hard to come by, especially in legal work. 
There were many of us who began by working for nothing and then 
would work for a time until we felt we had had enough experience. 
Then we d leave and do something else. The result was the personnel 
in the office was, on the average, of a very young age. We had very 
few of the older lawyers. There was a constant looking for exper 
ience and to get it those younger lawyers were willing to submit to 
this kind of routine. 

It has an effect, too, on the feeling of the lawyers in the office 
about each other and about the office. As a group they worked as a 
team. There was very little personal rivalry or ill feeling and far 
more cooperation between people in the office than you ordinarily 
find in legal work. I think this was a result of these policies 
with respect to trials and preparation. 

I used to wonder why Earl Warren adopted these policies, which 
were really quite unusual. I have heard him explain his reasons 
several times, the last time being within the past few months. He 
said he became district attorney by what was more or less a political 
fluke. He had no real political roots in Alameda County. He was 
neither born here nor brought up here. He came from Kern County. 
He simply came to Alameda County more or less by accident after the 
war and became a deputy in the district attorney s office. He was 
not allied with any political group in Alameda County. As a deputy, 
he had been assigned to work with the board of supervisors of the 
county and, since they had the appointment of Ezra Decoto s successor 
as district attorney when he resigned, they thought well enough of 
Earl Warren to make him district attorney. 

Stein: But it was still a very close fight, wasn t it? 


Olney: Well, there were some of the supervisors who wanted someone else. 

They wanted Frank Shay. But having become district attorney, Warren 
still had no political foundation. The only chance he had of sur 
vival as a district attorney was through excellence of performance 
in the office. It was the only chance he had, and he knew that. 

He also became aware very early when he was district attorney 
that there was widespread corruption in the county. As the months 
went by, he realized that sooner or later he was going to be faced 
with a general graft prosecution. There was corruption in city 
government, in county government. There were many indications that 
there was corruption somewhere, but no proofs. 

Now, he had known before any of these graft cases broke that 
something like that would happen eventually. One time he was in 
Sacramento and was talking with a man named Franklin Hichborn 
[leafing through a book] about the possibility of his being faced 
with a serious graft prosecution in Alameda County. Mr. Hichborn 
asked Earl if he had ever read Hichborn s book about the San Fran 
cisco graft prosecution. Earl said no, he had not. "Well," 
Hichborn said, "I ll send you a copy. I think you ll find it of 
interest." And he did. 

This is the book. [showing it to interviewer] 
Stein: What is the name of it? 

Olney: It s called The System, As Uncovered by the San Francisco Graft 
Prosecution. It was published in 1915 and the name of the title 
makes the subject self-evident. 

Well, Earl Warren read that book and it is a very, very interest 
ing account of the extensive graft prosecutions in San Francisco 
conducted by a special prosecutor named Francis J. Heney and what 
happened to them. The prosecution got off to a great start and it 
had tremendous backing in the community. All the newspapers 
supported it. All the business leaders, the churches, and so forth 
were in favor of it. 

The prosecution got a whole series of indictments. At one time, 
they had every member of the board of supervisors under indictment 
for accepting bribes. But they did not move those cases to trial. 
When they would try to bring them to trial, the defense would apply 
to the supreme court or the district court of appeals for a writ on 
this or that or the other thing and it would take them weeks or 
months to brief the matter and then the argument, and these cases 
were delayed. There were also many other cases that delayed. 


Olney: The point of it is that during this long period of delay the support 
for the graft prosecution began to dwindle. People got tired of 
reading about it in the paper. First one newspaper and then another 
would break away from supporting the prosecution. The people who 
had paid these bribes were very powerful, well-to-do businessmen in 
the community. They knew that if the bribe-takers were convicted, 
the bribe-payers would, in all probability, be faced with indictment 
and trial. They were hard at work trying to discredit the prosecu 
tion in every way. The result was that there was only one conviction 
that grew out of that San Francisco graft prosecution in spite of the 
tremendous effort and the vast amount of evidence and the number of 

That conviction was of Abe Ruef . Abe Ruef was the political 
fixer and middleman in most of these bribes. The only reason he 
got convicted was that during the course of his trial they finally 
brought him to trial in open court, in the presence of the jury, 
one of the spectators stood up and shot Heney, the prosecutor, 
through the head! 

It didn t kill him, but it knocked him out of the case, of course, 
and his assistant, Hiram Johnson, had to take over and complete the 
case. That s where Hiram Johnson made his name. But, of course, 
with a dramatic thing like that occurring in the middle of the trial, 
it may have upset the jury. Ruef was convicted. But he was the only 

Earl Warren says that he learned a lot from that San Francisco 
experience. He came to realize that if he was confronted with these 
graft cases, he must at all costs do everything to keep them moving 
and bring them to trial promptly and not get caught with the effects 
of long, drawn-out delays, because he could see from the nature of 
the kind of case that the very same factors would be at work to 
defeat a prosecution in his county. 

He told me that before any of these cases had surfaced, he saw 
Chief Jus.tice Waste; he was chief justice of the state supreme court 
and he d been a judge in Alameda County and that was why they knew 
one another well. Warren said he doubted that he would have had the 
nerve to bring the matter up with any other chief justice. 

He told Chief Justice Waste that he was apprehensive that there 
were going to be a number of serious graft cases in Alameda County, 
that if there were such cases he anticipated that the defense would 
make every effort to delay the trials and would apply to the court 
for stays and writs and things of this kind. He said to Chief 
Justice Waste, "Of course they are entitled to make applications 
of that kind. But there is one thing I would like you to know, 


Olney: and that is that if this occurs, and there are such applications, 

I and my office will be ready for a hearing at the earliest possible 
moment on any of them. I do hope that without even bothering to 
communicate with us you ll just set them for immediate hearing. 
We ll be there and we ll be prepared. We ll meet the issues." 

Well, it was a year or more later, I guess, before these cases 
broke at all. The first big one that came along was Harry Lesser. 
He was a big paving contractor and a real grafter. He had been 
paying off to city and county officers all down the line on paving 
matters. So they thought they would try him first because he was 
probably the biggest. He was defended by Theodore Roach, who was a 
very capable criminal lawyer from San Francisco. Lesser was indicted 
in due course. His case was set for trial very promptly. 

A few days before the trial was to begin, Roach applied to Chief 
Justice Waste for an order to prevent the case from being tried 
pending the determination by the supreme court of some claimed 
illegality in the proceedings. The story, as it was related to me, 
is that Chief Justice Waste looked over the papers and said to Mr. 
Roach, "If these allegations can be substantiated, Mr. Roach, perhaps 
you are entitled to relief. So I ll issue the restraining order and 
we will set it for a hearing." 

Roach said, "Thank you, your Honor, when will the hearing be?" 

Chief Justice Waste looked his calendar over and he said, 
"Tomorrow afternoon at 2:30." Roach was absolutely taken aback. 

He said, "Mr. Chief Justice, we can t possibly go that rapidly. 
The district attorney hasn t even been served with these papers." 

The Chief Justice said, "You can serve them this afternoon, can t 

v^ " 

He said, "Yes. 

"Well, you serve them this afternoon. At 2:30 tomorrow we ll 
have a hearing . " 

"Oh," he said, "I can hardly be ready myself!" 

"Well," the Chief Justice said, "aren t you the proponent in this 

"Oh, yes." 

"Well, the hearing will be at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon!" 


So they served the papers and at 2:30 the next afternoon, Earl 
Warren was over there and they had the hearing. Of course, the 
district attorney had had to work all night to get ready, but they 
were ready and they were there and they had the hearing. The Chief 
Justice made his ruling right from the bench. The application was 
denied. Roach hadn t been able to substantiate his allegations. 
The case went to trial without delay and resulted in Lesser s con 
viction on all counts. After that experience, defense counsel in 
the graft cases did not seek any more restraining orders to delay 
the trials. 

Practical experiences like this seem to have convinced Earl 
Warren that a policy in favor of prompt trials and against postpone 
ment and delay was the only sound way to run his office. He, 
personally, made all the necessary sacrifices of time and conven 
ience to live up to these policies and he expected his deputies to 
do the same. 

Earl Warren s office had acquired a good reputation before I got 
there and I don t mean to say that my presence had anything to do 
with it. When I left, it was still better known. I believe in the 
largest part this was due to these very policies I am speaking about. 
The office got a good name because it was so efficient and so effec 

Another thing that greatly contributed to the growing reputation 
of the office was Earl Warren s personal leadership of the law 
enforcement agencies in the county and through the state, too, in 
the state legislature. Those two things had a great effect. But 
the measure of what these trial policies produced is really in the 
records and statistics of the criminal cases. 

There is an editorial that was published in the Berkeley Daily 
Gazette for Tuesday, September 3, 1929, called "Getting Action on 
Crime."* In that editorial are listed a half a dozen major cases 
that we had in the office during that year, mostly murder cases 
and bank robbery cases, which show that the cases were prosecuted 
successfully, with vigorous defense from the best counsel in the 
community, within less than thirty days from the time of indictment 
until the completion of the case. Now, those cases were not excep 
tional. The average in the cases was about that. 

See Appendix C. 


Investigative Staff 

Olney: Now, there are some other things about the effect of trying to 

prepare and present cases as promptly as that that had an effect 
on the office, that are worth mentioning. 

A lawyer who has to prepare a criminal case can t do it all by 
himself. He has to have some assistance. He has to have some 
investigators. The Alameda County District Attorney s Office had 
a staff of investigators inspectors, we used to call them and 
their assignment was to assist the lawyers in getting these cases 
ready for trial. Since we had to work under such pressure all the 
time, our relationships I say "our"; I mean the lawyers relation 
ships with the inspectors became very close, very personal, and 
frequently we accompanied the inspectors on their investigations, 
actually talking with the witnesses at the same time. 

In the cases that I tried I don t know about the other lawyers; 
I think they probably did the same thing I always went to the 
scene, wherever it might be, in advance of the trial, and looked it 

Now, that staff of investigators was quite an unusual group in 
that they were very hardworking and very conscientious and could 
do their work well. But they were not trained in the sense that we 
now talk about training in criminology and police work and things 
of that kind. Such background as they had they got just by practical 

The inspectors were organized into a bureau. The captain was 
George J. Helms. Captain Helms had become an inspector for the 
district attorney one or two or maybe three district attorneys 
before Earl Warren. He had been a port captain for the city of 
San Francisco, but was asked by the Alameda County District 
Attorney s Office to investigate a county assessor who was taking 
bribes from a local water company. Captain Helms developed the 
case and the assessor was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted. 
The district attorney here appreciated the service and asked him 
to stay on and continue to work for him, and he did. Now, how 
many men there were in the inspectors at the time Earl Warren took 
office, I don t know. There were several, I think. 

Stein: I think there were three. 
Olney: Well, I don t remember. 


Stein: There was a man named Laughrey and another man, both of whom left 
fairly soon after Warren took over. 

Olney: Well, among those that I knew, that were there in my time, they had 
a lieutenant, Oscar J. Jahnsen. Oscar had a background of investi 
gative experience with the Coast Guard before he came. He was a 
very energetic and ingenious investigator. 

Then there was Charles R. Blagborne. I don t recall his back 
ground. He was older than most of the investigators we had. I 
believe that he had had Oakland Police Department experience. He 
worked on many fraud cases that I had. 

Then there was Chester B. Flint, who is still living. He came 
from the Oakland Police Department. A very conscientious, able man, 
he was in most active charge of the raids on Chinese gamblers and 
lotteries and houses of prostitution and bootleggers in the Emery 
ville area during those early days. Later on, in 34 and 35, he 
was assigned to intelligence work in the office. 

Then there was George G. Hard, who had a background of federal 
Prohibition enforcement experience. George came from Montana 
originally. He taught me how to pack a mule. 

Then there was George Henningsen. He lived in Hayward. He had 
been a contractor and built houses and things of that kind before 
he got into the district attorney s office. Another fellow with a 
similar background was Howard E. Tupper, who had been a carpenter. 
Now, both those men were quite adequate for the type of investigative 
work that we needed to have done. Later on we got a younger man, 
Louis J. Neeland. He had been an officer of a labor union, but he 
became an inspector. He was a very good one. 

The bureau was not overly organized. As cases were assigned to 
us lawyers, and we needed help in getting them ready, we would go 
and see Captain Helms and tell him what the case was, and he would 
assign one or another of these men to work on the case with us, and 
we worked on them together sometimes. If the case was a large one, 
there would be more than one person assigned to work on it. The 
coordination between the lawyers and the investigators on this sort 
of arrangement was very smooth. We never had any problem with those 
men. They did everything we ever asked them to do and more. 

They took a great interest in their work. Because their cases 
were being tried promptly, they were usually in court where they 
could see the results of their efforts. This, I am sure, contributed 
to their understanding of a trial lawyer s problems and to the 
respect that they came to have for the deputies who had presented 
the cases they had investigated or prepared. They took pride in 
making intelligent, painstaking investigations and preparing coherent, 
unambiguous reports. They scorned trickiness or any unfairness to a 


Olney: defendant because they were trained that way by Captain Helms and 

because they were able to see in their attendance in court that such 
methods nearly always backfire in the trial of a case. 

Stein: Did certain inspectors tend to work with certain deputies? Did they 
specialize at all? 

Olney: Oh, yes. That reminds me, there s one man who was there when I first 
went in whom I failed to mention and should by all means . This was 
Harry Piper. He was an investigator and he was assigned to the 
homicide cases primarily and was working with Charlie Wehr. He 
worked with Charlie and me for quite a time. He was a tiny little 
fellow and he had a screwed-up face that had almost an oriental 
cast. He could pass himself off as Japanese, and did on occasion, 

He was a most remarkable man in locating witnesses. He had a 
flair that exceeded the ability of anybody else we had. If we 
wanted to find somebody, Harry could always find him. 

His background was that of a jockey. He told us that he had 
ridden a horse in the derby in England, which we didn t believe. 
But somebody realized that the World Almanac carried all the derby 
riders for that race and we looked it up. Sure enough! There he 
was. [laughter] So he had ridden in that race. 

He lasted only about a year and a half, I think, after I came to 
the office. He was driving a county car one night and he managed 
to get drunk, which was clear out of bounds. He drove the county 
car off the road and had to get pulled out. When this was learned, 
he got fired. Then he took a job running the Berkeley City Pound. 
I don t know what s happened to him after that. 

There wasn t any real specialization among those investigators 
excepting on homicides. After Harry left, George Hard was usually 
assigned to homicide cases. But George might be working on one and 
we d have another homicide. So they d have to assign someone else 
and, furthermore, we didn t have homicide cases all the time, so 
George would frequently be working on other cases as they came along. 

Deputies on Call 

Stein: You mentioned yesterday that the deputies were organized in such a 
way that there was always someone who could be called on to take 
statements . 


Olney: Yes, that is true. This was particularly the case in connection with 
the murders, the homicides. There were always two of us who were 
assigned to those cases. One of us always had to be in town and be 
available on telephone call, night and day. It was usually the 
junior member of the team that stayed, whose phone was the one that 
was given. 

Stein: You were in that position? 

Olney: Yes, I was. It was a regular fireman s life. The phone would ring 
any time. But that was what went with the job, and gosh knows it 
was interesting. For somebody who was looking for experience as I 
was, I certainly got that, in large doses! 

But it had its drawbacks. It was very rough on family life and 
even on vacations. When the 1934 strike came along, I had been 
planning a pack trip for many months with my wife and four friends 
two friends and their wives. We were going to do our own packing. 
I made all the arrangements and worked the trip out. We were going 
up to Garnet Lake. But the strike came and they all left and I had 
to stay home. [laughter] I lost out on over a week. Only after a 
week I could get permission to go; I could go up and join them. 

Stein: Well, at least you got some of the trip in. 
Olney: Yes, I got some in. 

A Complex Fraud Case 

Stein: One of the questions I wanted to ask was, when you were talking about 
cases being brought to trial very quickly, there were always, of 
course, cases which were going to drag on just because they were 
large and complicated, like the Sheriff Becker graft case and Point 
Lobos murder case. 

Olney: Well, I don t mean to imply that we could dispose of every case 
within thirty days of the time the offense was committed. There 
were many cases where at the outset we didn t know who was guilty, 
didn t have the evidence, and it would take many, many months to 
develop it. 

There were fraud cases, for example, where we were confident that 
fraud was being committed but where we had no real complainant. A 
good example of it is the Cox Chemical case. There was a man named 
Cox who had a chemical laboratory in a canyon back of Hayward. He 


Olney: claimed that he had invented a formula which could be put into 
crude oil, or crude oil mixed with water, and it would separate 
out the gasoline without any cracking process, and produce a better 
grade and more gasoline than the oil companies could do with their 
process. He claimed that this was so efficient and so revolution 
ary that the oil companies were trying to put him out of business. 
He went around selling stock in this company. 

Well, we were convinced it was a fraud. We couldn t prove it. 
But that went on for years and we couldn t make a case because we 
couldn t get anybody to complain. The people who bought the stock 
were sold on the idea and they wouldn t be witnesses against him 
or testify as to the representations he made or whatnot. With cases 
like that, a prosecutor can do nothing but sit back and wait until 
it has run itself out and somebody realizes he s been cheated and is 
willing to testify. In that case it took years. There were many 
others like that, that took a long time. 

In the ship case, the Point Lobos case, it took many, many 
months, I think. It was a year or more before there was any infor 
mation as to who the guilty parties were. There was suspicion, but 
that was all. 

The thing I am emphasizing timewise is not the matter of the 
time it takes to investigate a case, but after the case gets into 
court, after the indictment is returned. 

Standards of Evidence 

Stein: Did you want to talk about what standards of evidence you set your 
self or Warren set? What was acceptable as evidence and what wasn t? 

Olney: Well, with respect to evidence, we used all the evidence that we 

could get. We did not hesitate to offer into evidence anything that 
the rules of evidence permitted. 

The rules were somewhat different then than they are now. At 
that time, under California law, if the evidence was material and 
tended to prove the matter at issue, it was admissible without 
regard to the methods that were used for obtaining it. An objection 
that a statement made by a defendant shouldn t be admitted because 
he hadn t been informed of his right to counsel or that a document 
shouldn t be admitted because it was obtained in a search without 
warrant issues of that kind seldom arose. The rules as to admis- 
sibility were considerably different. Also, we didn t have any 
legal ban against wiretapping. 


Stein: I was just going to ask about that. 

Olney: There was a state statute which prohibited the disclosure of tele 
phone or telegraph messages. That had been passed way back in the 
90s and was intended to forbid telephone and telegraph operators 
from giving people information about messages that they got. It 
had nothing to do with intercepting a message on the wires. 

The federal law didn t apply either. The federal law relating 
to telegraph and telephone messages was just like the state one. 
It was intended to prohibit people in those companies from disclos 
ing messages. 

There was a federal Radio Act that did prohibit the disclosure of 
radio messages. It applied only to radio. That amendment to the 
Radio Act was passed when they first started using the radio 
telephone. One of the very first places the radio-telephone was 
used was between Catalina Island and the mainland. However, anybody 
could listen in on the wave lengths the telephone company was using. 
People would telephone back and forth from Santa Monica to Catalina, 
believing they were talking in private. Finally, certain third 
persons picked up conversations between certain husbands and certain 
young ladies who were not their wives and then disclosed the conver 
sations with very unpleasant results. Congress then amended the 
Radio Act to make the disclosure by a third person of an intercepted 
radio message a crime. Congress could and did make the disclosure 
of the message a crime, but it could not and did not make the inter 
ception of the message a crime since it was being broadcast on an 
open wave length for anyone to hear. 

But those were the only restraints we had excepting the very 
practical one; and that is that there wasn t any equipment for 
intercepting telephone messages that was any good. As far as I 
was concerned, I had no moral scruples about it. I thought it 
would be a very good idea to intercept telephone messages in the 
course of criminal investigation if we could do it. 

Now, along about 1934, I think it was, the Attorney General of 
the United States called a national conference on crime to consider 
the important and voluminous reports of the Wickersham Commission 
on Crime, which had made a very extensive investigation into crime 
and produced studies on crime in all its aspects. 

Earl Warren was invited to go back to the national conference on 
crime and made a major contribution to it. At that time we first 
learned that there was equipment coming on the market which could 
be used for intercepting telephone conversations. Following the 
national conference on crime, Oscar Jahnsen was sent east to take 
the FBI training course in law enforcement methods and techniques. 
He graduated from the FBI academy. 


Stein: That answers a question. I was talking with Professor Arthur Sherry 
several days ago and he was wondering where Jahnsen learned any of 
the microphone and wiretapping techniques that he knew. 

Olney: He got that from the FBI school. In the FBI training he was trained 
in wiretapping, among other things. There was no law against it. 
We thought that was great! When Oscar got back, the office purchased 
some Edison equipment for recording intercepted telephone messages. 
It was like the old Edison phonograph. It had wax cylinders that 
went around. There was nothing electronic about it. It was mechan 

Those cylinders had to be replaced, I think, about every hour, so 
that to listen to somebody s line and make a record of it took an 
awful lot of manpower. This equipment was expensive. Our exper 
iences with it were very unsatisfactory. I do not remember any case 
of wiretapping while I was in the Alameda County District Attorney s 
Office. We did tap at least two telephone lines that I remember 
while I was in the attorney general s office. In only one instance 
that I can recall did we get anything of any value. As an investi 
gative technique, I never thought it had much value. I see that 
this week the federal government claims that they made a very large 
narcotic knockover here in Alameda County on telephone taps. I 
don t know whether they did or not. 

There were many times when we had informants whose safety was 
very precarious, so the newspapers were given the version that we 
had learned about various things on telephone taps. We had never 
tapped them at all, but we did not want it known that our informa 
tion came from informants . 

Stein: I guess that serves a good purpose, too, in making people be a little 
cautious . 

Olney: Well, that s true. Such experience as I have had with wiretapping, 
though, made me very, very doubtful about its general usefulness. 
And it is very indiscriminate. If you hang on a line, you get 
everybody who s on the line, not just the people you re interested 
in. This isn t healthy. Since that time, the techniques of wire 
tapping and bugging have developed so far beyond anything that we 
pictured at the time, that we all have a very different attitude 
towards telephone tapping as a means of investigation. In view of 
present technical capabilities, if there were no prohibition of 
indiscriminate interception of telephone messages, life would be 
almost unbearable. 

I must say, though, that my own feeling against telephone tapping 
is not based on moral scruples. I can see no valid objection to 
listening in on people plotting crime. I think that is entirely 


Olney: legitimate. If there is any way in which it can be done, I m all 
for doing it. But you can t permit that kind of thing if it is 
going to simply ruin social relations in general. Furthermore, it 
is a poor way to investigate. You just don t get enough. And it s 
wasteful! Expensive! The equipment and the manpower it takes to 
do it! I think there is very much less wiretapping than is thought, 
for that reason. It is not worthwhile. 

Coordination of Law Enforcement 

Stein: You mentioned earlier that Warren had made a very important contribu 
tion at the Attorney General s conference in Washington. 

Olney: He did, I am sure. He supported J. Edgar Hoover s efforts to 

strengthen the FBI and make it an effective federal law enforcement 
agency. Then, I think that Earl Warren got a great deal out of 
that conference. 

I don t know whether it was a result of that conference or not, 
but I know that after that conference he was always very sensitive 
to the importance of trying to support decent law enforcement and 
decent government in every county in the state, especially neighbor 
ing counties. He pursued this. He worked with, got personally 
acquainted with, the key officials, police chiefs, district attorneys, 
and others, and tried to develop organizations that would raise the 
standards, that would develop cooperation between law enforcement 
agencies all over the state. 

In his own county, when he took over, we had all these little 
municipalities, each with a separate police department. Most of 
them didn t speak to each other. The sheriff took the position 
that anything that happened in the incorporated areas was none of 
his business; he was only concerned with the unincorporated areas. 

Well, Earl had to start at that level in order to organize and 
develop a spirit of cooperation and law enforcement in his own 
county first, then through the Peace Officers Association and the 
District Attorneys Association. I think the real reason he was so 
interested in the legislation was that he recognized that that was 
the common interest that all of them had and that they could be 
brought together and gotten to cooperate and get acquainted. 


Reflections on Earl Warren s Career 

Olney: There is one thing that I want to say about being in the office at 

the time. I had no consciousness at all that I was working for any 
one anybody would call an unusual man. I never , never pictured Earl 
Warren as a Chief Justice of the United States or even as a governor! 

When I was in the district attorney s office, I thought it was 
improbable that he would ever be attorney general . The reason was 
his narrow political base. He had no organization, only his own 
office in Alameda County. I knew that these concerns about the 
state as a whole had made him very interested in the attorney 
general s office, so interested that he developed a series of amend 
ments to the state constitution relating to the attorney general, 
to make him the chief law enforcement officer of the state, to make 
the district attorneys and sheriffs somewhat accountable to the 
attorney general. 

He did that when he was still district attorney. He knew that 
U.S. Webb was not the kind of personality who would ever want to 
make much use of those provisions, but he went ahead and made them 
anyway. I know he thought it was unlikely that he would ever have 
occasion to use them or be attorney general and use them. When he 
finally decided that he would run for attorney general, he waited 
until U.S. Webb was ready to quit and then announced. I thought he 
would have a very difficult time getting elected. But he did not. 

Stein: By that time he had become active within the Republican party, 
hadn t he? 

Olney: Yes, yes, to some extent anyway. I don t know much about these 
activities, as I had left the district attorney s office and was 
with my father in San Francisco . 

After he became attorney general, he was very content with that 
position. It was made to order for him because he had fashioned it 
that way. He enjoyed the work; it interested him. It was broad 
enough in scope and he liked it. He would have remained there, I 
think, almost indefinitely if Governor Olson hadn t constantly 
baited him. 

We had no thought as to what Earl Warren s future would be when 
we were in the district attorney s office. 

Stein: A question that people ask us all the time is whether we think that 
Warren really changed from the time he was DA to the time he was 
chief justice, or if it was a continual development, so I ll throw 
that question out to you. 


Olney: Well, he certainly developed and development means change. I do not 
think he reversed his principles, if that s the kind of change you 
have in mind. He was always very scrupulous and very conscious, 
when it came to criminal law, of the weakness in position of most 
of the people who get charged with crime. It you take a look at 
what goes into the hopper, they really are the unfortunate ones of 
our society. Once they get caught in that machinery, they have very 
great difficulty. He was always sensitive to that. He developed 
the first decent sort of parole system for county jail prisoners 
that we ever had in the county. 

Stein: How did that work? 

Olney: Well, I don t know. He served on the parole board there to parole 
these fellows who were getting county jail sentences. I don t know 
the details of it. I had nothing to do with it personally, but I 
remember it well enough. He would never countenance anything on 
the part of his assistants that smacked of overreaching or unfairness 
or anything of that kind. But on the other hand, he believed that 
when he was district attorney his job was that of a prosecutor and 
that meant to present the case as fully and effectively as the facts 
and the law permitted. 

There were lines of conduct and of evidence, lines of conduct in 
court, and he felt that I ve heard him say that he thought he ought 
to go right up to the line. Not over it, but right up to the line. 

As governor he had great concern with the correctional system. 
When he became governor, he was faced with huge scandals in the 
Prison Board. They were selling pardons and paroles right out of 
the governor s office! He had to reorganize the whole system of 
corrections, which was done, and he brought in Dick McGee to head 
the department. It developed into one of the fine correctional 
systems of the time. This all had his very strong support, very 
great interest. 

When he became chief justice, his function was different. His 
position was different. There he was not an administrator. He had 
no way of setting policies or putting restraints on the conduct of 
the enforcement agencies or on the treatment of those convicted. 


The Gosden Case 

Stein: I do think it would be a good idea, if you would like to, if you 

would tell me a little bit about some of the cases you were telling 
me about yesterday, like how you got interested in the Gosden case. 
You could leave the story of the case itself to the newspaper 

[Some time after Mr. Olney tape recorded the high points of the 
Gosden case, he wrote out a full account of his participation in 
the case. This account, which begins on the following page, has 
been substituted here for the tape-recorded narrative.] 



This story is more about the workings of coincidence 
than it is about a criminal trial. If the cast of characters 
seem unrelated and the sequence of events which I recite seems 
disconnected, it is because that is the way they really appeared 
to me at the time. A great deal happened and it was a long 
time before anyone at all suspected that there might be some 
relationship between all these people and occurrences. A- 
pattern finally did emerge and it was a sinister picture indeed. 
The revelation came more by coincidence than by anything else 
and that is what this story is about. There was not just simple 
coincidence in this matter. Coincidence became piled on coinci 
dence and ir.ore coincidence on top of that, to a height or depth 
that is truly astonishing in real life. 

My connection with the people and events which culminated 
in the trial of Louis Gosden began in early December, 1934. 
At that time, I was Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County. 
Our District Attorney was Earl Warren. I had joined his staff 
in 1930. My purpose in so doing was to get practical experience 
in the trial of jury cases and to learn something about the 
art of advocacy. I asked for and was assigned to the trial 
of criminal cases. 

After trying the regular run of felony cases for two 
or three years, I was assigned to homicide cases. There were 
t*ro of us on this assignment. The number one man on the team 
was Charles Wehr. He was considerably my senior in age as 
well as in experience. As the number two man, a large part 
of my work was in preparing the homicide cases for trial. 
That is, in overseeing the completion of the investigation and 
the preparation of exhibits, processing the subpoenaes and the 
like, interviewing witnesses and being useful generally. 

Charlie was very generous about letting me take part 
in the trials. We usually alternated in the examination of prosecu 
tion witnesses and often I was permitted to cross-examine some 
of the defense witnesses. The key witnesses, of course, Charlie 
handled himself. As a rule, Charlie made the Opening Statements 
to the jury before the commencement of the taking of testimony, 
as well as the closing argument, leaving the opening argument 
to the jury to me. 

I suppose that Charlie thought that by this arrangement 
he was reserving the more vital parts of the presentation for 
himself, leaving the opening argument to me because he thought 
it not so important. If this was his reasoning, I came to consider 
it faulty. I found by experience that a good opening argument 
can oftentimes determine the result of the case. If rhetoric 
and forensics are ignored and the opening argument is based on 


a closely reasoned factual view of the evidence, the defendant 
can oftentimes be dug into an evidentiary hole so deep that 
he can never get out. 

Since it was my assignment to try homicide cases in 
Earl Warren s office, this very naturally kept alive my long 
continued interest in murder trials and in the whole subject 
of why people kill one another and what to do about it. My 
interest in murder trials goes back a long way. 

While in law school I formed the desire of learning 
to try jury cases and becoming an effective advocate. I read 
such books as Francis Wellman s The Art of Cross Examination 
and John C. Read s little volume entitled The Conduct of a 
Lawsuit. I noticed in books such as this that most of the 
examples of effective advocacy were taken from criminal as 
against civil trials. This led me to delve into that remarkable 
series of books called Notable British Trials. There were 
already possibly a hundred of these red-backed volumes, each 
devoted to the trial of some notable case. Some were old and 
some were new. Each volume includes a large part of the transcrip- 
of testimony or at least a detailed summary of the evidence. 
Very often the jury arguments of counsel on both sides are 
included in full. It was here that I found what seemed to 
me jury arguments that ware brilliant and effective. From 
their study, I came to believe that there are techniques in 
presenting evidence to a court which can be acquired and skill 
in making arguments which can be learned. I read a great many 
of these British trials from this point of view. Most of the 
cases were for treason or murder and of the murder cases I 
found that the poison cases as a group were the more interesting 
to me. They seemed to bring forth the most remarkable demonstra 
tions of skillful advocacy. 

I think there is a reason for this. Because the evidence 
in poison cases is usually circumstantial, proof requires putting 
together of one fact after another until the picture emerges, 
at first dimly, and then with greater and greater clarity as 
more and more facts are fitted into place. Finally, the true 
horror of deliberate poisoning of one by another becomes sharp, 
clear and irrefutable. This process in the courtroom affords 
the broadest scope to the personal skill of the advocate for 
the Crown, or the State, as he has full discretion to determine 
the order and time in the trial when each piece of evidence 
is presented. The clarity of the final picture of the crime 
and the degree of certainty about responsibility for its commissioi 
will often depend in poison cases upon the forensic skill of 
the prosecutor presenting his evidence, piece by piece, in such 
order and such manner that the relationship of each circumstance 
to all the others becomes firmly and permanently established. 

It is natural that a case where the proof must be pieced 
together in this way will produce interesting jury arguments 
for here the advocate must go over every piece of the mosaic 
and apply the light of reason to it as a total picture so that 
belief in its truthfulness is established beyond a reasonable 
doubt in the minds of the Court and the twelve jurors in the 


In poison cases, the professional opportunities for 
counsel for the defense are no less great than for Crown counsel 
or State prosecutors. The evidence for the prosecution must 
of necessity be complex and if the defendant s advocate can 
subject even one link of the chain of circumstantial proof to 
a reasonable doubt, the prosecution will collapse. No doubt 
there have been many poison cases where the rebuttal of evidence 
and the marshalling of facts and evidence by the defense have 
been outstanding, but the most admirable of these performances 
are lost to history since under our system acquittals and mis 
trials are not appealed and the records of such trials are therefore 
not preserved. 

My assignment to homicide in the District Attorney s 
office also led me to take some interest in the statistics on 
murder. Even then there were some statistics, at least on rates 
of murder, per hundred thousand of the population, between different 
states in the United States and the United States and countries 
in Europe. Of course, one fact that stood out conspicuously 
was the much higher rate of murder in the United States as compared 
with the rate in European countries. I cannot now recall the 
figures, but I do remember that the United States murder rate 
was many times higher than the rate in Great Britain, France 
and Germany. I believe that was true with respect to every 
European country where we have any figures . 

These same statistics had tables comparing the means 
used for commiting murders from country to country. It was 
no surprise to read that in the United States firearms were 
overwhelmingly the favorite means of murder. European nations 
seemed to vary considerably between one another in the use of 
knives, firearms, clubs and so forth in killing one another. 
This sort of thing could lead one to speculate as to differences 
in national character. 

In these tables, there was one figure with respect to 
the means of murder in the United States that at the time seemed 
to me very, very curious. The rate for murder by poison is not 
very high in any country but in the United States the rate for 
murder by poison was far lower than in Great Britain, France, 
Germany or any other European country. In a country as addicted 
to homicide as we are, why should poison as a means be so very 
low on the list of means in comparison to other civilized countries? 

It seemed to me there were some sinister implications 
from these statistics. A body with a gunshot wound or stab in 
the back is going to get into the homicide statistics regardless 
of whether the perpetrator is apprehended or even identified. 
The poisoner, on the other hand, will not get into homicide statis 
tics if he is successful. He relies upon secrecy and upon lack 
of suspicion. The possibility suggested itself to me that the 
reason the figures for death by poison in the United States were 
so low might be because our poisoners were not being suspected 
and their crimes therefore were not being registered in the statis 
tics. The foregoing is background, all of which had a bearing 


on what happened in December of 1934 when I was told that a 
representative of the Pioneer Mutual Life Insurance Association 
was demanding to see me about holding an inquest on one of their 
insured risks . 

One of my duties, as the number two man on the homicide 
cases, was regular attendance at the coroner s inquests. That 
is why this matter was referred to me. Having introduced himself 
as a representative of the Pioneer Mutual Life Insurance Association 
my visitor stated that his company had written a policy of life 
insurance on a young woman who had died shortly thereafter. 
They thought it might be suicide and they wanted an inquest to 
find out. The policy had been written on September 14, 1934, 
in the amount of $1,000, on a 23-year old housewife who had died 
the following November 21. The company insisted upon knowing 
the cause of death before paying the claim. 

I asked if there had been a medical examination of the 
insured before the policy was written and the answer was no. 
The insurance man said the application had been received in 
the mail and no medical examination had been required. On learning 
this I questioned the insurance man closely and made notes with 
paper and pencil as to the name and aidress of the Company, the 
name and address of the insured, the beneficiary, the amount 
of the premium, and so forth. 

The reason for this action on my part was that at that 
time our office was engaged in a campaign against fraudulent 
insurance companies that were operating in Alameda County. There 
had been a considerable number of fly-by-night insurance companies 
selling life, accident, and health insurance policies and collecting 
premiums from people in Alameda County. They would continue 
to collect money as long as they could. When the first claim 
would come in they would close the office and decamp and set 
up their offices somewhere else. Most of these companies were 
issuing policies without requiring a medical examination. I 
secured as much information as I could about the Company in this 
case with a view to passing it on to the lawyers in the office 
investigating the insurance racket. 

After I had gotten all the information that I could I 
asked the insurance man what the autopsy had shown as the cause 
of death. He said that as far as he knev; there hadn t been any 
autopsy and that s why the Company wanted an inquest. I pointed 
out to him that an inquest is a formal legal proceeding that 
is only held when there is some question about the cause of 
death, when evidence needs to be taken to determine its cause, 
and that in all cases where the cause of death was not readily 
apparent an autopsy was held to determine its medical cause and 
to enter the same in the death certificate. I told the insurance 
man that since their insured had died as long ago as November 
21, 1934, there was certain to be a death certificate on file 
in the County Clerk s office across the street and that if there 
had been any uncertainty as to the cause of death an autopsy 
would have been held and it would have been entered in the death 
certificate. I suggested to him that he examine the death certifies 
and then come back and talk to me further on whether an inquest 


was needed. He did this and returned in due course. He said 

there was indeed a death certificate on file and that it showed 

that an autopsy had been made by Dr. Tiffany, the Alameda County 

autopsy surgeon, and that the cause of death was reported as 

double lobar pneumonia. The insurance man told me that he did 

not desire to renew the Company s request for an inquest, that 

neither he nor the Company had realized that the cause of death 

had been established by an autopsy. He said the Company was 

satisfied and would require no further action by the public authorities 

The matter seemed to be at an end. 

On inquiry within our office, I was told that the Pioneer 
Mutual Life Insurance Association was not involved in the investiga 
tion of the insurance racket that was presently going on, but 
instead of throwing my notes away, I sent the folder and the 
card I had made to the general file. Why, I do not know. 

Among my duties as the junior lawyer assigned to the 

trial of homicide cases was keeping in touch with the local hospitals. 
Experience had shown oftentimes that on reaching the hospital, 
victims of homicide are capable of making statements before they 
die. These statements can sometimes be important pieces of evidence. 
Taking these statements from a dying person is not only a very 
sensitive and difficult thing to do, but they iriust be taken under 
very strictly observed circumstances in order to be admissible 
in evidence. A knowledge of the highly technical requirements 
that make a dying statement admissible in court is more than 
can be expected of the ordinary police officer. Accordingly, 
there developed an understanding that the doctors at the local 
hospitals would notify the District Attorney s office directly 
whenever they received someone whom they thought might be capable 
of making a statement before dying from criminally inflicted 
injuries. Most of these calls came in at night and it was my 
duty as the junior member of the team to respond. 

One night, probably in early January of 1935, I received 
a telephone call from Highland Hospital telling me that they 
had an 18 year old girl who had been badly butchered in a criminal 
abortion and whom they thought would probably die. They told 
me that she was still conscious and rational and that if I wanted 
to get a statement from her before she died, I had better get 
out there in a hurry. I got to the hospital, and found the patient 
was named Lydia Sanborn. She was fully conscious and stronger 
than I had expected. 

Victims of abortionists are usually reluctant to talk 
but Lydia Sanborn, to my surprise, had no hesitation in giving 
the full details on just what had occurred. She said that her 
pregnancy was due to a young boyfriend of her own age who lived 
somewhere in Kings County in the San Joaquin Valley. She had 
no address for him and did not know exactly where he lived. 
She had recently been employed in East Oakland by a widower to 
take care of his small daughter while he was away at work and 
he had been quite kind to her. When she confided to him the 
trouble she was in he offered to help her obtain an abortion. 


Her employer made arrangements with an abortionist in Alameda. 

He took her for the operation to an address in Alameda which 

she was able to remember and to premises she could describe inside 

and out in great detail. The abortionist was paid by her employer 

and the operation was performed and she was taken home. Things 

went wrong and when she became desperately ill, someone took 

her to Highland Hospital. 

The doctors at the hospital told me that the operation 
was very crude and .that Lydia had little chance of survival. 
Nevertheless, she did survive. In fact, she made a speedy recovery, 

If Lydia had died the resultant homicide would have been 
a case for Charlie Wehr and me to try. Accordingly, after talking 
to Lydia at Highland Hospital, I continued with the investigation. 
As early as possible the next morning I sent officers to bring 
Lydia 1 s employer to my office for questioning. I took a lengthy 
statement from him in the presence of a stenographer. Lydia s 
employer corroborated her in all particulars and gave us the 
name and address of the abortionist. He turned out to be an 
automobile mechanic by profession. Lydia s employer went home. 
A warrant was issued for the arrest of the abortionist and he 
was put in the county jail that afternoon. 

I realized that in order to make the case complete and 
secure, I should confront the abortionist with Lydia s employer 
and have her employer identify the man in front of him as being 
the man that he had paid and who had performed the operation. 
Otherwise, Lydia s employer might change his cooperative attitude 
by the time of trial and might take the witness stand and repeat 
his story and say to us, in effect, "Yes, everything I told you 
is true, only the defendant isn t the man I was talking about. 
It was somebody else." 

I decided to eliminate this possibility by having a 
confrontation and accordingly the next day I again sent for Lydia s 
employer and again had a stenographer present to take down what 
was said. Out of the presence of Lydia s employer I issued instruc 
tions for the abortionist to be brought over from the jail. 
This took some 10 or 15 minutes. Because I wanted to keep Lydia s 
employer in a talkative mood, I started questioning him about 
everything I could think of to use up time until the. abortionist 
was brought into the room. I went over all the detai Is of the 
case again and then had to branch out into other matters. I 
asked this man many questions about his daughter, about his former 
wife, about how long he had been a widower, and what had happened 
to his wife . 

He told me that his wife had died in November, that she 
had eaten some fish that had stood in an open tin can too long 
and that it had killed her, leaving him with a little daughter 
and no one to care for her while he was away at work. He had 
employed Lydia Sanborn, who was living across the street, to 
come in and baby-sit for the little girl when he was off on the 
job. After a lot more talk, all of which was, of course, included 
in the stenographic statement, the abortionist was brought into 


the room. Lydia s employer had no hesitancy about identifying 
the man before him as the person to whom he had paid the money 
and who had performed the operation on Lydia. The abortionist 
was returned to jail and Lydia s employer went home. I felt 
the abortion case was complete. Since no homicide had developed, 
it could be turned over to someone else in the office for trial. 

There was one more thing it seemed necessary to do. 

Since Lydia s employer was such a key witness, it was very important 
that he be available to testify at the time of trial. To guarantee 
his presen ce when needed, I placed a charge against him for 
contributing to the delinquency of a minor by taking Lydia to 
have the abortion performed, thereby putting him under bail. 
For me, the matter was closed - or so I thought. 

About the middle of January, 1935, I had a day to myself. 
A defendant whom I was assigned to try entered a plea of guilty 
on the very norning the proceedings were to commence, with the 
result that I had the entire day free. It seemed a good opportunity 
for me to make a social call on Mr. Archibald B. Tinning, the 
District Attorney of Contra Costa County in Martinez. Mr. Tinning 
had appointed me a Deputy District Attorney of Contra Costa 
County in October, 1927 and I had worked in that capacity for 
him for something over two years. During this period, I became 
very fond of Mr. Tinning. I had not seen him for quite a long 
time. So with a free day, I decided to drive out to Martinez 
and pay my respects, which I did. 

On the return trip, while driving alone through Franklin 
Canyon, I was thinking of the contrast in the kind of work I 
was doing in Alameda County and the work, or lack of work, I 
had had in Contra Costa County. During the years I was in Contra 
Costa County, I tried only two jury cases and the rest of my 
work was very quiet and orderly indeed. This was quite in contrast 
with the strenuous activity in the Alameda County District Attorney s 
office where in a few years I had tried well over 100 jury 
cases . In Contra Costa County there was nothing like the call 
out of bed at night on homicide cases, as was happening to 
me so frequently as to be almost routine. 

This brought to mind the call from Highland .Hospital 
in the middle of the night when I had gone out to interview 
Lydia Sanborn. I thought of the abortionist and how strong 
the case against him would be with the victim actually available 
to testify against him. It seemed to me that Lydia Sanborn 
would probably be an excellent witness. The only part of her 
story I didn t like was her account of the boyfriend who was 
supposed to have made her pregnant. It seemed to me that this 
probably wasn t too important, as the identity of the man responsible 
for pregnancy is not an issue in prosecuting an abortioner. 
Nevertheless, in this particular, Lydia s account was hazy 
and unsatisfactory and never had been really cleared up. I 
wondered if it was possible that the boyfriend might be a 
myth and whether her friendly employer who had arranged for 
the operation and had paid for the abortion might not have 


been responsible for the pregnancy. I recalled him as he 
appeared while being interviewed in my office as a pretty unsavory 
character, not at all the Good Samaritan type, an odd man with 
an odd name. I wondered what his origins were, Polish, Ukranian, 
Latvian, probably not a Western European, and his name, Gosden, 
what kind of a name is that? I couldn t assoociate that name 
with any language or nationality - in fact, I had never heard 
it before, and then it flashed into my mind that maybe I had 
heard that name befiore and that it wasn t completely unfamiliar. 

While driving along with nothing much to think about, 
I began racking my memory as to where I might have heard the 
name Gosden before. Finally I remembered, or thought I remembered, 
rather uncertainly, that Gosden had been the name given to 
me by the man from the life insurance company, a good many 
weeks before, as the insured upon which his Company was requesting 
an inquest. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed 
to me that the insurance man had used the name Gosden. But 
if so, it seemed a little strange that I had not recognized 
the name when Lydia Sanborn had first told me about her employer. 
But it was the middle of the night and I hadn t been thinking 
about odd names . 

At any rate, driving back from Martinez , I decided 
that when I got to the office, I would look at the insurance 
man s file, if I could find it, and see what the name of his 
insured had actually been. I had quite a time locating the 
file, because I had indexed it under the name of the insurance 
company, not the insured, and I couldn t remember the name 
of the company. I finally did find it under Pioneer Mutual 
Life Association and there in my notes was the name of the 
insured, Laura Gosden. Her husband was named as Louis Gosden. 
Naturally, I went across the street to the Clerk s office to 
look at the death certificate that the insurance man had said 
was on file. There it was - the deceased was Laura Gosden, 
1275 - 96th Avenue, Oakland; husband, Louis Gosden, died November 
21, 1934; cause of death, double lobar pneumonia; signed by 
the County autopsy surgeon. 

I took a copy of the death certificate back to my 
office with me, looking at that entry about pneumonia. My 
questioning of Louis about his wife and her death had been 
of no consequence and was only to use up time, but it didn t 
seem to me that death from pneumonia squared with what he 
had told me about the cause of her death. 

I got the file on the abortion case and looked at the 
transcript of the statement I had taken from Louis on the occasion 
when he had been confronted with the abortionist in my office. 
There was the question, "What happened to your wife, Louis, 
that she died?" There was the answer, "She ate some fish that 
had gone bad standing in an open can, and it killed her." 
How could a man believe that his wife had died from eating 
spoiled fish when the autopsy showed that pneumonia was the 
cause of death? It was also troublesome to realize that this 
housewife, however she may have died, had been insured only 


a few weeks before she passed away. According to my notes 
and what I had been told, the application for insurance on 
Laura Gosden s life had been received through the mail and 
there had been no medical examination. 

From here on, the investigation moved with very great 
speed indeed. We did a great many things, many of them simultan 
eously. We found that Laura Gosden had a father and mother 
and a sister, living in Oakland. We interviewed them, and 
also Laura s neighbors. 

Laura Gosden died about 1:00 in the morning of November 
21, 1934. We found from her relatives and friends that Laura 
had not been sick and indeed, on the day before, she had been 
unusually active. She had done the entire family washing and 
was seen hanging it on the clotheslines on the garage roof 
to dry. She had talked with her sister on the telephone, gone 
shopping and as late as 5:00 in the evening was seen by the 
neighbors sitting on her front porch with her small daughter. 
By 1:00 the next morning she was dead and the autopsy surgeon 
said it was double lobar pneumonia. 

From the neighbors we learned that about midnight on 
the night that Laura died, Louis had crossed the street and 
knocked on the door of Mrs. Delia Cereghino and asked her 
to call a doctor, as his wife was very sick. Mrs. Cereghino 
telephoned her own physician, Dr. Milton P. Ream, and when 
the doctor arrived, Mrs. Cereghino and two other neighbor ladies 
went to the Gosden house. They found Laura, in her pajamas, 
on the floor of the kitchen, undergoing terrible convulsions. 
The doctor described this later on from the witness stand in 
the following language: 

Question: What did you do then, Doctor? 

Answer: She began to shake from tremors, began to 
show evidence of having another attack, so we picked her up 
and carried her in and put her on the bed. 

Question: What happened as you carried her in? 

Answer: We picked her up, she became very stiff and rigid 
around the legs and arms, and ceased breathing. After she 
ceased breathing, she became very cyanotic, or black in the 
face, and we laid her down on the bed. By that time-, we -had 
her on the bed. I went out and prepared a hypodermic injection 
of morphine. While I was preparing this hypodermic, probably 
a minute or a minute and a half of time, Mr. Gosden came out 
and said it was all over and I rushed into the bedroom. She 
was still extremely cyanotic, dark in the face, and apparently 
she was not breathing at all, so I gave her artificial respiration. 
She started breathing, so I went back and finished preparing 
the hypodermic and gave that to her. Following the injection 
of the hypodermic, she quieted down and I requested the ladies 
present there to get me a glass of warm water and a teaspoonful 
of soda. 

Question: When you picked her up from the floor and 
took her into the bedroom, is that when this first convulsion 
that you ve just described began? Was she going into this convulsion 


when you picked her up and carried her into the bedroom? 

Answer: She was just starting into it and picking her 
up made her go into it more rapidly. She went right stiff. 

Question: About what time in minutes would you say 
that she was in the convulsion in which she was rigid? 

Answer: About three minutes . 

Question: Now, will you describe in detail her appearance 
during the time she was in that convulsion? 

Answer: At the beginning of the convulsion she was 
very gray and pallid. Tried to make sounds, sounds like groans, 
and as the convulsion became very severe, on handling her, she 
became dark in the face. Her face was contorted to a hideous 
grin, her teeth gritted, and her arms and legs became extremely 
rigid. Breathing stopped and her face became cyanotic. 

Question: Cyanotic is dark in the face? 

Answer: Yes . 

Question: How were her eyes? Could she move her eyes 
or were her eyes set? 

Answer: I didn t notice at first the convulsion except 
the tremor of the lids, but they became very set as the convulsion 

Question: Did you notice what the position of her neck 
or back was? 

Answer: Very stiff, rigid, chin was thrown up. 

Question: You mean, as you indicate, her head was thrown 

Answer: Her head was not throwr. back, but the chin 
was held up. 

Question: In the position you have indicated did you 
notice her feet or legs? 

Answer:. Very straight, stiff, rigid. The feet turned 

Question: You mean the toes? 

Answer: Yes. 

Question: And were her toes pulled down? 

Answer: Yes. As I remember, it was about like that, 
for instance. 

Question: How rigid was she when she was in this first 
convulsion, Doctor? 

Answer: Rigid enough that you could put your hand under 
her head and lift her without her bending in the slightest. 

Question: So she was if her feet and her head were 
suspended, her body would still remain suspended in the air? 

Answer: Yes . 

Shortly after this, Laura had another even more violent 
convulsion in the course of which she ceased breathing, her 
heart stopped, and she died. Dr. Ream gave us this same descriptic 
of Laura Gosden s death when we first interviewed him. Naturally, 
we asked Dr. Ream for his opinion as to the cause of death. 
He told us that he thought it was some kind of poisoning. Her 
husband had told him that Laura had eaten some spoiled fish 
but that the symptoms that he observed looked like the symptoms 


of strychnine poisoning. The Doctor told us he knew of no disease 
that could produce such symptoms . When we asked if it was 
possible for the death to have been produced by double lobar 
pneumonia, he laughed and thought we were joking. It was his 
opinion that the symptoms that he saw could not possibly have 
been produced by pneumonia. 

Early on in our inquiries, we talked to Dr. Tiffany, 
the Alameda County autopsy surgeon, showing him the death certifi 
cate which he had signed. Dr. Tiffany told us that he could 
not remember Laura Gosden from the large number of autopsy 
operations which he had performed and could only give us what 
his notes showed. He had entered in his notes that both lungs 
were badly inflamed. This is quite usual in death from pneumonia 
and he had concluded from these appearances that pneumonia 
was the cause. We asked Dr. Tiffany if he had been given any 
history of the woman s illness, and his records indicated that 
he had been given no information at all, only that the attending 
physician had been called in so short a time before death that 
under the statutes he was not allowed to sign the death certificate 
but was required to refer the case to the coroner for an autopsy. 

We repeated to Dr. Tiffany Dr. Ream s description of 
Laura s last illness and of the description we had obtained 
from neighbors and relatives of her apparently healthy condition 
the day before she died. Dr. Tiffany told us very emphatically 
that if these were the true facts about Laura Gosden, it was 
impossible that her death could have been due to pneumonia. 
He said Dr. Ream s description of the convulsions was unmistakable 
and could be caused only by strychnine, but he added that he 
could not account for what he himself had observed. Strychnine, 
a-ccording to Dr. Tiffany, does not act on the lungs, does not 
get into the lungs, and does not affect the lungs in any way 
and could not have produced the irritated condition which he 
was absolutely certain he had observed. While the evidence 
of strychnine as the cause of death was getting pretty strong, 
we realized that we would have difficulty in getting a conviction 
of murder unless we could explain the condition of the lungs 
that had led Dr. Tiffany to conclude that the cause of death 
was pneumonia. 

Of course we inquired into the insurance on Laura Gosden 
and found that in addition to the $1,000 policy written by 
the Pioneer Mutual Life Insurance Association September 5, 
1934, which was the policy mentioned to me by the insurance 
man, that a second policy in the amount of $10,000 had been 
written on the same day by the North American Accident Insurance 
Company, and that a third accident policy in the amount of 
$10,000 had been written on September 8, 1934, by Provident 
Life and Accident Company. We discovered that Louis Gosden 
had tried to collect on all three of these policies, making 
statements that showed very clearly that he believed all three 
of them were collectible under the circumstances of Laura Gosden 1 s 


We secured photographic copies of the applications 
for all three of these policies for insurance on Laura Gosden. 
-We also secured a photographic copy of the claim for payment 
of the Pioneer policy which was made out in Louis Gosden s 
handwriting and was signed by him. We also had other exemplars 
of Gosden s handwriting. Our handwriting expert confirmed 
what seemed to be apparent at first glance, that the signature, 
Laura Gosden, on all three insurance applications, had in fact 
been written by Louis Gosden. 

If Laura Gosden died of strychnine poisoning, where 
had the strychnine come from? Strychnine can only be purchased 
from a drugstore and every purchaser is required to sign an 
official register with a date, his name and address, and the 
reason for the purchase. We decided to examine all the poison 
registers in all the drugstores to which Louis Gosden might 
have convenient access. Gosden had ct peculiar easily-recognized 
type of handwriting and knowing that an alias might well have 
been used in the purchase, the examination of the poison registers 
was made by officers with samples of Gosden 1 s handwriting in 
their possession. After a long search with much pounding of 
pavement a poison register was found with an entry in Louis 
Gosden s handwriting. The drugstore was at the corner of 96th 
Avenue and East 14th Street, only a few blocks from Gosden s 
home. The register showed that on September 27, 1934, sixty 
grains of strychnine sulphate in a one-eighth of an ounce bottle 
had been sold to an individual using the name of L. N. Larson. 
The handwriting was the handwriting of Louis Gosden. The reason 
given for the purchase was "kill kitty". The Gosdens had no 
cat . 

We reasoned that if strychnine had been put into Laura 
Gosden s dinner, the poisoner had to get rid of that incriminating 
bottle, and that it might well be hidden somewhere around the 
house. A very thorough search of the premises was made without 
any discovery. However, we received some devastating information 
from one of the Gosden neighbors, a Mrs. Clara Gonsalves. 
Mrs. Gonsalves, who lived next door to the Gos den s, had been 
awakened during the night by Laura s cries of anguish. Looking 
through her own unlighted window, she saw Louis Gos-den emerge 
from his house, then proceed to stand in the shadow on the 
walkway between the two buildings. He remained there in the 
shadows for something like 45 minutes while his wife was agonizing 
alone in the house. Then he walked across the street to Mrs. 
Cereghino s house and asked that a doctor be called. When 
the walkway where Mrs. Gonsalves had seen Gosden standing was 
examined, it was discovered that it went past a small door 
underneath the house which could be opened to read the gas 
meter. Inspector Lloyd Jester, of the District Attorney s 
office, wriggled through this little door with his flashlight. 
At the back of the space, near a sewer pipe, his flashlight 
picked up the sparkle of broken glass. With great difficulty 
he was able to extract pieces, including the paper label, which 
was sticking to some of them. On getting outside he quickly 


determined that the glass pieces were from a small broken bottle. 
The label had the address of the drugstore at 96th and East 
14th Street, as well as the words strychnine sulphate. There 
were tiny fragments of glass on the sewer pipe under the house 
indicating that the bottle had probably been thrown through 
the door and had hit the pipe and shattered. A case of murder 
by poison against Louis Gosden was now getting very strong 
indeed, but there s.till remainded that perplexing question 
about the inflamed condition of the lungs that had led Dr. 
Tiffany to attribute the death to double lobar pneumonia. 

At this point in the investigation, being quite convinced 
that Laura Gosden had in fact died of strychnine poisoning; 
the question arose as to whether her body should be exhumed 
and tests made for the presence of strychnine. Dr. Gertrude 
Moore, the Director of the Western Laboratories and the outstand 
ing pathologist in the East Bay at the time and the best expert 
that we could find on the subject of strychnine poisoning, 
advised us that if the body had been properly embalmed, the 
presence of strychnine could, in all probability, be detected 
provided the strychnine was in the body at the time it was 
buried. Dr. Moore emphasized that if strychnine was found 
in the body, it would not be the strychnine that was the cause 
of death. She informed us that when strychnine is absorbed 
from the stomach and intestines into the body, its chemical 
composition is changed into quite different substances. These 
substances act upon the nerves, causing the nerves to induce 
intense muscular spasms. These spasms, she said, are of great 
violence and occur in all the muscles of the body. They usually 
come on in seizures, with three or four minutes between seizures, 
and with the seizures growing increasingly violent. Finally, 
the seizures become so strong and so prolonged that the chest 
muscles cannot fill the lungs with air and the victim suffocates 
and the heart stops. Substances that excite the nerves in 
this manner, according to Dr. Moore, are volatile and cannot 
be located or detected in a body after death. However, according 
to her, it is rare that all the strychnine taken by a victim 
is absorbed before death. Usually there are traces- and- sometimes 
sizeable quantities of strychnine left in the stomach or intestines 
This material will persist indefinitely and can be identified 
without possibility of mistake long after death. It is, as 
the Doctor continued to emphasize to us, the surplus strychnine, 
the left-over part that can be found and identified. We soon 
concluded that it was essential to test the body for strychnine. 

Accordingly, on February 26, 1935, with the prior 
permission of Laura Gosden s father and mother, her body was 
removed from the grave at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in 
Hayward in the presence of Dr. Gertrude Moore, the pathologist, 
Dr. Reams, her attending physician, Dr. Tiffany, the County 
autopsy surgeon, and others being present. The remains were 
taken to the Western Laboratories, for the performance of the 
chemical tests . 


There are three distinct chemical tests which can 
be used to detect the presence of strychnine. All of them 
are complicated and require time to conduct. Each of the 
three tests was performed twice by Dr. Moore, and it was ten 
days or two weeks before she informed us of the results. 
She reported a positive indication of the presence of strychnine 
in every test conducted. 

We had been able to accomplish the exhumation of Laura 
Gosden s body on February 26 without attracting the notice 
of the press. We thought it likely, however, that Louis Gosden 
would learn, in one way or another, that his wife s body had 
been removed from the grave and was being tested in a laboratory. 
We thought this might well cause him to disappear. To prevent 
this, we decided to charge him with the murder of his wife, 
Laura Gosden. On February 28, Gosde.n v/as brought to District 
Attorney Earl Warren s office by officers, where he was questioned 
by the District Attorney himself in the presence of a stenographer 
He made no important admissions but he did something which 
was even worse for him: He told the District Attorney a 
story which, in many particulars, we were able to prove was 
false. These statements and their falsity were later introduced 
into evidence against him at his trial. 

During, the days that we were waiting to learn the 
results of Dr. Moore s tests, Inspector George Hard of the 
District Attorney s office and I decided to run out another 
line of inquiiy. Laura Gosden s parents had mentioned to 
us that their daughter was Louis Gosden s second wife. They 
had been told that his first wife had died some years before 
when they were living in Sunnyvale. They knew nothing of 
the circumstances. Inspector Hard and I decided it would 
be well if we found out what they were. 

Having no name excepting Gosden and no address, we 
went first to the County Clerk s office to see whether there 
was any death certificate for a woman named Gosden in prior 
years , We found the name in the index and, looking at the 
appropriate record, we encountered a certificate of death 
for one Vivian Taylor Gosden, dated January 16, 1928. She 
was aged 17, had died in Sunnyvale, and her husband. was named 
as Louis Gosden. The certificate showed there had been an 
autopsy performed by the Santa Clara County autopsy surgeon 
who at the time was the eminent Dr. Frederick Proescher. 
After examining this certificate, Inspector Hard and I looked 
at each other in utter astonishment. The certificate showed 
that Dr. Proescher had ascribed the death of this 17-year 
old housewife to double lobar pneumonia. 

The record also contained the information that there 
had been an attending physician, a Dr. Tolbert Watson, of 
Sunnyvale. Inspector Hard and I went to the doctor s office 
in Sunnyvale to see him. We found the Doctor in his office 
and, after identifying ourselves, Inspector Hard and I asked 
the Doctor if he recalled the case of a young woman, 17 years 
of age, named Vivian Taylor Gosden, who had died in Sunnyvale 
on the 16th of January, 1928. 


"I certainly do," said Dr. Watson, "I shall never 
forget it. It was one of the most terrible deaths I ever 
witnessed. " He explained that he had been called late at 
night by a man who said his wife was desperately ill. He 
responded and was let into the apartment by the husband where 
he found the young girl, later identified as Vivian Gosden, 
undergoing the most agonizing convulsions. She was in one 
of these convulsions when he arrived. A little later she 
relaxed, her color came back and she was able to breath normally, 
but in three or four minutes she was again seized with even 
more violent convulsions. Every muscle in her body seemed 
to contract. Her toes were bent down, her back was arched, 
her face was contorted in a hideous grin, and there was an. 
absolutely board- like rigidity about her. Dr. Watson said 
the girl had at least two and possibly three of these seizures 
of increasing violence. During the last one she died. Dr. 
Watson told us he had had many cases and practiced many years, 
but this case was one he could never forget. 

We asked Dr. Watson what had happened after the death. 
He said he had referred the case to the coroner s office because 
he had been called in so shortly before death that he was 
not authorized under the statutes to sign the death certificate. 
He said he realized there would be an autopsy to determine 
the cause of death. We asked the doctor whether he had ever 
communicated the history of the case as he had seen it to 
the autopsy surgeon. He said, no, he had never been in touch 
with the autopsy surgeon at all. We asked if he knew what 
conclusion the autopsy surgeon had arrived at as to the cause 
of death and found that he did not know that either. 

We told Dr. Watson that we had not discussed the case 
with the autopsy surgeon though we had examined the death certifi 
cate and that the certificate showed the autopsy had been performed 
by Dr. Proescher, and that Dr. Proescher had indicated the cause 
of death as being double lobar pneumonia. 

Dr. Watson was absolutely astounded. He said, "If there 
is anything she didn t die of, it s pneumonia. That is absolutely 
impossible." "Well, 11 we asked, "what is your opinion as to 
the cause of death". "Well, I am no expert on toxicology," 
he advised, "but I think the girl got hold of something that 
poisoned her. What I saw I have always understood to be the 
classical symptoms of strychnine poisoning. I have not looked 
it up but I am not aware, offhand, of any disease or any other 
substance that causes the symptoms that I saw." 

Either from Dr. Watson or from the records of the death 
that were on file in the Clerk s office, Inspector Hard and 
I got the name from the undertaker who had handled the funeral 
and the embalming of the body of Vivian Gosden. We went to 
see him with the Oakland case in mind. He had records of the 
case and remembered it well enough. The undertaker told us 
that when he came to pay for the funeral, Louis Gosden had offered 
the proceeds of the $3,000 policy of life insurance which he 


held on the life of his wife, Vivian. However, on making inquiry, 
the undertaker had discovered from the insurance company that 
while application had been made, the policy was not yet in 
effect at the time that Vivian died. It was apparent, however, 
that Louis Gosden had believed that it was in effect. 

After getting the name of the insurance company, Inspector 
Hard and I were able to locate the agent who had taken the applica 
tion a Miss Dempsey. Because the circumstances were so strange, 
she remembered the. case even though it had occurred years before. 
Miss Dempsey said that Louis Gosden had made out the application 
for insurance on the life of Vivian in her office, Vivian not 
being present, and that thereafter he telephoned to her repeatedly 
to inquire whether the policy was actually in effect. She said 
he made this inquiry at least five times and that the last time 
he called he had said, "My wife is going to Santa Cruz. She 
is a very poor driver. If anything happens, I want to know 
if I am covered." Miss Dempsey said that her employer was annoyed 
by these telephone calls, that either because of this or by 
mistake she had told Louis Gosden on the fifth telephone call 
that it would be alright, that he was covered, that his insurance 
was in effect. The morning of the next day, Louis Gosden was 
down in her office to see about collecting on ifhe insurance. 
Miss Dempsey asked him what had happened. His reply was, "My 
wife was sick. I gave her some green pills and she died". 
It seemed understandable that Miss Dempsey would not have forgotter 
an incident such as this even after the lapse of seven years. 

If Vivian Gosden had died from strychnine poisoning, 
as appeared to be the case, the question arose, just as it had 
in Oakland, Where had the poison come from? Inspector Hard 
and I thought we should canvass the poison registers in the 
Sunnyvale area in drugstores just as we had in Oakland. Sunnyvale, 
in 1928, was a very small town indeed and the number of drugstores 
in the vicinity were comparatively few. The most likely drugstore 
most likely because it was convenient to the Gosden residence 
had changed hands several times during the seven years that 
had elapsed since Vivian Gosden s death. A poison register 
for 1928 could not be located. We never did succeed in finding 
any record of a sale of strychnine that might be relevant to 
our case . 

Inspector Hard and I were still running out the details 
of the death of Vivian Gosden in Sunnyvale when Dr. Gertrude 
Moore in Oakland announced that the tests for strychnine on 
the body of Laura Gosden had been completed. As mentioned above, 
the results were positive. Dr. Moore, in addition to testing 
for stry chine, had made the most thorough possible examination 
of the exhumed body. She stated that nothing could be found 
that was in any way inconsistent with Dr. Tiffany s observation 
at the autopsy. Dr. Moore said she did not question the accuracy 
of Dr. Tiffany s visual observation. She was sure the lungs 
had been inflamed, though not from pneumonia, just as Dr. Tiffany 
had reported. Dr. Moore was unable to offer any explanation 
of the cause of the inflammation. 


Since Vivian s death certificate, like Laura s, assigned 
double lobar pneumonia as the cause of death when all the other 
evidence in both cases pointed to strychnine, Inspector Hard 
and I realized that we must find the explanation for the reason 
that two autopsy surgeons in two different cases had apparently 
observed similar inflammation of the lungs on which they had 
both drawn the same conclusions, the conclusions in both cases 
being manifestly in error. 

At this point, Inspector Hard and I realized we must 
tackle the redoubtable Dr. Frederick Proescher, the autopsy 
surgeon of Santa Clara County, who had performed the autopsy 
on Vivian Gosden. I had serious misgivings about this. Dr. 
Proescher had the reputation of being one of the ablest pathologists 
in the country. He had recently achieved great notoriety, if 
not fame, as the pathologist for the State in the prosecution 
of David Lamson of Stanford University, who had been tried with 
immense publicity on a charge of murdering his wife in the bathtub 
by beating her on the head with a piece of pipe. On the witness 
stand-in that case, Dr. Proescher. had shown himself to be a 
man of very strong ideas, very forceful in their presentation, 
and very tenacious in his opinions and conclusions. He was 
a Prussian scientist, true to type. I was concerned as to what 
his reaction would be if someone suggested he might have made 
a mistake in the autopsy of Vivian Gosden and had ascribed her 
death to pneumonia when, in fact, she had died from strychnine 
poisoning. Nevertheless, we had no alternative but to make 
an appointment to see Dr. Proescher. 

Our reception by the doctor was cordial and friendly. 
1 opened the conversation by telling Dr. Proescher we desired 
to consult with him about the recent death of Laura Gosden in 
Oakland under circumstances that indicated more than a possibility 
of murder. The doctor had read about the case in the newspapers. 
We gave Dr. Proescher to read a copy of the statement made by 
Dr. Ream describing Laura Gosden s convulsions and other symptoms 
at the time of her death and asked him if he had any opinion 
as to what the cause might be. The Doctor said that he thought 
there could be no doubt whatever that the symptoms .that. Dr. 
Ream had observed were those of strychnine poisoning and nothing 
else. He said that no other known disease and no other poison 
could produce symptoms such as Dr. Ream had observed. We then 
told him about Dr. Tiffany s autopsy and how his notes showed 
that he had observed an inflamed condition of the lungs, which 
led him to ascribe death to double lobar pneumonia, mentioning, 
of course, that Dr. Tiffany had been given no history of the 
case and knew nothing at all of the symptoms exhibited when 
Laura died. Dr. Proescher said he was not in the least surprised 
with Dr. Tiffany s observations or with his conclusions. In 
fact, it was what he would expect. He explained that the convulsions 
of strychnine poisoning are usually accompanied with a good 
deal of vomiting and that it was to be expected that some of 
the vomit would get into the lungs, causing immediate and 


extensive inf lamination . He pointed out that strychnine leaves 

no physical signs in the body, that it can only be detected 

by chemical analysis, and that there was nothing that Dr. Tiffany 

could have seen that would have suggested strychnine, while 

the conditions of the lungs would be practically identical in 

appearance with that caused by pneumonia, even though the cause 

was quite different. 

I then brought out a copy of Vivian Gosden s death certifi 
cate signed by Dr. .Proescher himself and showing that seven 
years before he had performed an autopsy on Vivian and had ascribed 
the cause of death to double lobar pneumonia. The doctor had 
no memory of the case but he did have his notes. His notes 
showed that he had observed severe inflammation of the lungs . 
He had concluded from the inflammation that the cause of death 
was pneumonia. His notes indicated that he had received no 
history of the case, had been given no information concerning 
the circumstances under which Vivian died. 

We next handed to the doctor to read a copy of the state 
ment made by Dr. Watson describing Vivian s convulsion and other 
symptoms at the time of his attendance and her death. Dr. Proeschei 
response was immediate and emphatic, "There is not the slightest 
doubt". He said, "The woman did not died of pneumonia, she 
died of strychnine poisoning and nothing else". 

Sometime during this conversation we asked Dr. Proescher 
if he thought he had made a mistake at the time of Vivian Gosden s 
autopsy. "Certainly not", he bristled; "I never make mistakes, 
I performed the operation. My observations were accurate and 
as complete as could be expected in the absence of any other 
information, suggestion, or suspicion. The conclusion I reached 
as to the cause of death wc.s entirely reasonable and would have 
been reached by any other surgeon." 

We were told by Dr. Proescher as we had been told by 
Dr. Tiffany that there is no requirement of law that an autopsy 
surgeon be provided with a history of the case, and that it 
is very unusual for him to receive such information. Furthermore, 
the autopsy surgeon is under no duty to communicate the results 
of the autopsy to the attending physician. The autopsy and 
the death certificate may be public records but the- attending 
physician is not going to know what is in them unless he goes 
down to the county clerk s office and looks them up. If this 
is the general practice of autopsy surgeons and physicians in 
the United States, as I believe it is, I began to understand 
what had puzzled me for so many years the reason there are 
so few statistically reported murders by poison in the United 
States . 

In due course I related our conversation with Dr. Proescher 
to Dr. Tiffany and Dr. Moore. Both of them agreed that if, during 
convulsions, vomit were inhaled into the lungs, it would cause 
a highly inflamed condition which, on visual inspection, would 
be indistinguishable from the inflammation caused by pneumonia. 
Both of them agreed that with strychnine convulsions, such inhalati 
was not only possible but probable. Both of them believed that 


Dr. Proescher had indeed hit upon the true explanation for what 

he had observed at the autopsy on Vivian and what Dr. Tiffany 

had observed in the autopsy on Laura. Indeed, the two doctors 

pointed out, the fact that the identical inflammation of the 

lungs happened in two separate cases, both of which were undoubtedly 

cases of strychnine poisoning, proves that Dr. Proescher s explanation 

is right. Now we knew we had a murder case that was virtually 


Notwithstanding the strength of our case, Charlie Wehr 
and I, at this point, gave serious consideration to digging up 
the body of Vivian Gosden in order to have tests made for the 
presence of strychnine. Dr. Moore told us that while she could 
find in the medical literature no case where the interval between 
death and burial and the discovery of strychnine in the body 
had been more than two or three years that she was sure that 
the strychnine would last and could be detected as long as the 
body lasted. However, if the body had decayed to the extent 
that the internal organs could not be identified, then it would 
not be possible to find the strychnine because there would be 
no way of knowing what to test or what was being tested. In 
view of this advice, we thought we should get such information 
as we could as to the probable state of the body if it were exhumed. 

Accordingly, Inspector George Hard and I went to the 
cemetery in Santa Clara where Vivian had been interred. We intro 
duced ourselves to the cemetery manager, who was a young man 
in his naid- thirties with quite an enthusiasm for his business. 
He readily identified the plot where Vivian was buried on the 
cemetery map. He told us that the kind of casket that was used 
would have a good deal to do with the condition of the body. 
I- ventured the supposition that if the burial had been in a 
metal casket the chance of preservation might be quite good. 
"Oh, no", the cemetery manager said, "if they put you in one 
of those tin cans, you really boil." An ordinary wooden casket 
would be better, he explained, provided it was not airtight, 
provided the body had been properly embalmed, and provided it 
was buried in reasonably dry ground that did not become saturated 
with water in the winter season. The cemetery records showed 
Vivian had been buried in a wooden casket. 

The cemetery manager took us out to the plot where Vivian 
had been laid to rest in order that we might look at the surface 
drainage. The ground in the area was irregular and certainly 
some parts were higher than others so that it seemed probable 
that in wet weather some plots would collect water whereas it 
would run off from others. While we were looking over the lay 
of the land, the cemetery manager said to us, "See that plot 
over there where there has been some recent work done (pointing 
to a location nearby)? Well, that s where my mother-in-law is 
buried. Two, three weeks ago we had to do some work on a waterpipe 
near there, so as long as we were at it, I thought we might as 
well bring up my mother-in-law and see how she looked. She s 
been dead about a year and a half. She came out right well. 
As a matter of fact, I called up the wife and her sister so 
they could come down and see her. " 

"You mean to say," I said, "that after a year and a 


half she came out of the ground in as good condition as when 
you put her in?" 

"Well, no, not quite," he said. "We had to wipe off 
the mold, of course, but then, aside from a couple of green spots, 
she looked nice, real nice. Now, you can see that the ground 
over there is a little bit higher and is sort of sandy and drains 
pretty well. Now, this spot where Vivian is buried is a lot 
lower, and I am afraid the v/ater may accumulate here in wet weather 

"Well, can^you give us your opinion", we asked, "as to 
what we could expect to find if Vivian s grave was opened, consider 
ing the nature of its location and the length of time she has 
been buried. " 

"I don t think you would find much," he said. "After 
seven years in that location, you couldn t tell what s worms 
and what s you. " 

We decided against exhumation. I think that Dr. Gertrude 
Moore was a little bit disappointed in our decision. If she 
could have found strychnine in a body that had been buried for 
seven years, the case would get into the medical literature. 
I think she would have liked that. 

The indictment charging Louis Gosden with the murder 
of his wife, Laura, had been returned by the grand jury on March 
8, 1935. It took about a day and a half to select a jury of 
twelve and one alternate. The taking of testimony began on April 
8, 1935, and concluded on April 27, 1935. 

The testimony ended with a very dramatic incident. Testi 
fying in his own defense, Louis Gosden, while admitting that 
the insurance policies on Laura, and Vivian also, had been signed 
by him, claimed that they were taken out with the full knowledge 
and indeed at the request of his wives. To support this claim 
defense counsel called several members of the Gosden family to 
testify about statements that they said they had heard the dead 
women make at various times indicating their knowledge of the 
insurance which Louis had procured. The last of these witnesses, 
and indeed the last witness for the defense, was Lucy Gosden, 
the defendant s mother. She testified that Laura, and Vivian 
as well, had made certain statements to her which indicated that 
they had known all about the insurance. She even testified that 
insurance had been taken out on her own life by Louis,, who had 
signed her name to the application and the application was produced 
to support this testimony. The application, which was dated 
in 1928, bore the name Lucy Gosden, and the signature was indeed 
in Louis handwriting. On cross examination, Mrs. Gosden testified 
that this policy, which had been produced by the defense, was 
the only insurance that had ever been taken out on her life at 
any time. She was emphatic about this. The defense rested its 
case at this point. 

As soon as Mrs . Gosden had left the witness stand, having 
testified that no other insurance on her life had ever been taken 
out by anyone at any time, the prosecution offered in evidence 
two more policies in two different companies at a much later 
date, the applications for which were signed Lucy Gosden but 


in the handwriting of Louis Gosden. This completed the taking 
of testimony. The atmosphere in the courtroom was electric. 
The case was set for argument again the next day. 

When Louis Gosden was being taken back to jail after 
the conclusion of testimony, an incident occurred which ought 
to be included in this story. Since I did not see it myself, 
I will describe it in the words of Jane Eshleman, who covered 
the entire trial fpr the Oakland Post Inquirer, and who did see 
it. Under the headline "Gosden Shunned by Parents at Court Session 
Blow Stuns Death Trial Defendant", Miss Eshleman wrote as follows: 

"Shaken by the bitterest blow he has suffered since his 
trial began, Louis N. Gosden today waited in his county jail 
cell for the concluding phase of his murder trial, final arguments 
to the jury, scheduled for Monday. 

"The blow to the defendant, accused of the poison murder 
of his third wife, Laura, came in an out-of-court episode at 
the end of yesterday s session. 

"As he was being led back to his cell from the courtroom, 
Gosden raised his manacled hands in an awkward salute to his 
parents, Nick and Lucy Gosden, who have been in constant attendance 
at the trial. 


"But the gesture had no answer. Nick and Lucy turned 
away from their son, giving no sign of recognition. 

"Louis stopped, then dropped his eyes and walked from 
the room. 

"The episode came after Hart Schrader Jr. , handwriting 
expert, had declared that applications for two insurance policies 
naming Louis as the beneficiary and his mother as the insured, 
had been signed by the defendant. 

"Mrs. Gosden had testified yesterday morning that she 
knew of only one application for insurance on her life. 


"The document, introduced by the defendant, was in a 
different company than the two named by Schrader. 

"The state introduced Schrader s testimony in support 
of its theory that Gosden poisoned Laura and also h-is s-econd 
wife, Vivian, in the same "insurance racket". 

"Schrader s testimony yesterday was interrupted by an 
unusual episode. As he took the stand Melvin Belli, attorney 
for the defense, declared: 

"I don t know what this testimony will mean/ but we 
might stipulate to the signatures." 


"Deputy District Attorney Warren Olney, who was questioning 
Schrader, informed Belli of the expected significance of the 
criminologist s testimony. Then followed a conference of prosecu 
tion and defense attorneys with Judge Ogden. 

"Belli then asked permission for a private conversation 
with members of Gos den s family. 


"So Belli, his associates, Charles Carlstroem and William 
Cleacak; Nick and Lucy Gosden; Mrs. Emma Bellandi and Mrs. Mary 
Radelevich, the defendant s sister, adjourned to the judge s 
chambers . 

"Five . . .10 . . . 15 minutes ticked by on the courtroom clock 
and spectators filled the intermission with buzzing comment. 


"Finally he conferees filed out. The stipulation was 
withdrawn and Schrader s testimony continued over Belli *s objec 
tion that it was immaterial. 

"It was indicated the family conference was called to 
discover whether Mrs . Gosden had known of the insurance applica 
tions . 

"Prosecution and defense cases were rested at the conclusi 
of the session, with the agreement that defense attorneys may 
reopen their case Monday morning if they locate the agent who 
took the questioned applications. 

"Otherwise Monday s session will open with the prosecutior 
first argument to the jury. 

"It was indicated arguments would be finished some time 
Tuesday when the jury is expected to take the case." 

A small item of interest to me came out at the trial. Mr. 
Melvin Belli, lead counsel for the defense, developed from Louis 
father who was a witness that he had been born in Dalmatia and 
that the name Gos den was the approximate sound of the name 
in Slavonian. He sometimes spelled it Gozden, he said, because 
it sounds the same. When I was puzzling over this name on my 
way home from Martinez I never imagined that I would hear its 
origin explained from the .witness stand in a murder case. 

Even before the Gosden trial had begun Charlie Wehr 
had told me that he expected me to make the opening argument. 
Accordingly, I had been at great pains to prepare. I went back 
to the law school library and looked at some of the poison cases 
I had read about many years before in the Notable British Trials 
series. I found one tried, as I remember, in the 1860 s or 
1870 s, in which the issues were remarkably like those in the 
Gosden case. Of course the evidence was utterly different. 
In preparing my argument, I adhered very closely to this British . 
model. My framing of the issues and method for presenting the 
evidence with respect to them were practically lifted from this 
British case. I did not hesitate to put into my draft many 
sentences and even one or two paragraphs without change. In 
delivery, I did not need the draft I had prepared and used very 
few notes . 

In arguing a case to a jury, I see no reason why an 
advocate should not borrow from any source and to any extent 
that will serve his purpose. But I admit that when Charlie 
Wehr and Judge Ogden, after the case was over, spoke in 
high terms of my argument, I felt embarrassed, thinking of the 
amount I had cribbed from the Notable British Trial series. 


Anticipating the usual style of defense counsel, I kept 
my opening argument in low key. I did not raise my voice or 
use excited gestures, believing the hard facts of the case to 
be more eloquent than anything I could say. What followed, 
as reported in the paper, "in direct contrast to the State s 
attorney s soft spoken argument, Belli "s address opened with 
fiery oratory punctuated by pleading gestures and shouted. denials 
of his client s guilt. In my mind Louis Gosden is innocent 
and I pray to God, that I be given wisdom and wit and words to 
prove that to you , he cried." Charlie Wehr delivered a final 
argument that was the coup de grace. 

The jury deliberated only an hour and forty minutes, 
returning a verdict of guilty of murder of the first degree 
without any recommendation for leniency. Under the laws that 
existed at that time, this made the .imposition of the death 
penalty mandatory . 

After the jury had been discharged, the foreman came 
over to speak privately to Charlie Wehr and me. 

"I want to say that you boys presented the evidence 
very we 11", he said, "but I must tell you that all the jurors 
feel that you missed the most incriminating point in the whole 
case . " 

"Is that so", said Charlie," what was it that we missed?" 

"Why, the insurance on Lucy Gosden. That man was getting 
ready to murder his own mother! " 

Charlie looked at the foreman for a moment but all he 
said was, "Now that just shows how important it is to have alert, 
intelligent people in the jury box." 

Judgment of conviction was appealed to the. Supreme Court 
where, in due course, it was affirmed. In accordance with the 
judgment, Louis Gosden was executed. 

During the years 1933-4 there had been a great deal 
of agitation in California to change the means for carrying 
out the death penalty in criminal cases. Hanging had been the 
custom from the earliest days of the State. It was claimed 
that hanging was needlessly cruel and that death in a gas chamber 
was far more humane. The Legislature finally passed a statute 
abolishing hanging and substituting the gas chambe-r. just about 
the time of the Gosden case. The new law did not apply to Louis 
Gosden, however, He was the last man in California to be hung 
by the neck until dead. 

All of this happened a long time ago. At the time of 
this writing almost thirty-eight years have past since Laura 
Cos den s death. Yet, I am sorry to say, what to me was the 
most disturbing thing about the Gosden case is just as disturbing 
today . 

Anyone who reads this account will perceive that Louis 
Gosden was not only cruel, vicious and evil, but that he was 
also thoroughly stupid. His effort at concealment, for example, 
by using an alias when he bought the strychnine, yet going to 
the neighborhood drugstore to make the purchase, instead of 
some distant city where he couldn t be traced, is almost moronic. 


And yet, even though Gosden ended up on the gallows, it must 
be admitted that he was a successful murderer. 

Success in murder is killing and getting away with it. 
Louis killed Vivian Gosden and lived seven years without his 
crime being known. He killed Laura without detection and would 
have gone on indefinitely without being suspected excepting 
for the wildest most unlikely kind of coincidence. If the Pioneer 
Mutual Life Insurance Association had had a claims adjuster 
with enough experience to know the difference between an autopsy 
and an inquest Louis Gosden would not have been detected as 
a murderer. Any ordinarily experienced insurance adjuster, 
wanting to know whether Laura Gosden s sudden death could have 
been a suicide, would have gone to the County Clerk s Office 
to look at the death certificate, and seeing that the autopsy 
surgeon attributed death to double lobar pneumonia, he would 
have known that it was not a case of suicide and never would 
have gone to the District Attorney s office to demand an inquest. 
Neither I nor anyone else connected with later events, such 
as the abortion case, would have known that there had been insuranc 
on Laura s life and an autopsy attributing death to pneumonia. 
Without this knowledge there was absolutely nothing that happened 
later that could have aroused our suspicion about Laura s death. 
Louis in reality had gotten away with murder once again. 

The question that disturbed me at the time, and still 
does, is: How is it possible that a man as stupid as Louis 
Gosden could have killed twice without detection, each time 
literally before the eyes of a competent doctor? This I find 
very, very disturbing. The answer is, of course, that the regular 
routine for investigating a death from an unascertained cause 
is even stupider than Louis Gosden. The routine does not require 
communicating the history of the case to the autopsy surgeon. 
The routine does not require communicating the results of the 
autopsy to the attending physician. The gap in our defenses 
against murderers is so wide that even Louis Gosden could kill 
and kill and prepare for more killings without being discovered, 
until finally, by sheer chance, he fell under suspicion. 

Had Dr. Tiffany known of Laura Cos den s symptoms or 
had Dr. Ream known the results of the autopsy investigation, 
detection would certainly have followed. It is equally certain 
that Vivian s murder seven years before would have come to light 
right then and there if Dr. Proescher had known the case history 
or if Dr. Watson had been told of the autopsy findings. 

I continue to be disturbed because to the best of my 
knowledge, nothing has been done from that day to this either 
by statute or by medical practice to integrate the case history 
with the autopsy findings in the investigation of death from 
undetermined causes . 

This brings me back to the point where I started - 
the curiously low statistics on murder by poison in the United 
States. It has been a long time indeed since I have had any 


reason to study comparative statistics on homicide. It hardly 

seems necessary. Every day our newspapers are filled with accounts 

of homicides. In a year s time we have all read of hundreds. 

Yet how many have been killings by poison? How long ago was 

the last one? Can it be that here in the United States where 

we never seem to hesitate to use every other method of assassinations 

that we just do not kill each other by poison? 

[Mr. Olney s written account of the Gosden case ends at this point, and 
the transcript of the interview resumes on the following page.] 


The Del Mas so Case 

Olney: Did I say anything to you about the case of Mrs. Del Masso, who was 
charged with murder? 

Stein: No. What was important about that case? 

Olney: There was nothing important about the case. It was one of those 

routine killings that arise so often out of the rows people have who 
are living together. And yet the case has always stuck in my memory 
and it illustrates rather well, I think, how the trial deputies could 
work with the inspectors in the investigation and preparation of the 
case and also what kind of treatment we gave to evidence that tended 
to exculpate the defendant. Maybe I ought to tell you about it. 

Stein: Please do. 

Olney: Mrs. Del Masso was arrested for having shot and killed a man with 
whom she was living. I have forgotten his name. The arrest was 
made by the Oakland police. A preliminary examination had been held 
in the Oakland Police Court as a result of which Mrs. Del Masso was 
held to answer in the superior court on a charge of murder . She 
was represented by the public defender. At this point it fell to 
Charlie Wehr and me to present the case for the prosecution in the 
superior court and, as usual, I was assigned to get the case ready 
for trial. 

The testimony taken at the preliminary hearing established that 
Mrs. Del Masso had been living in East Oakland for some time with a 
big handsome brute of a man who was an ex-convict with a long record 
of violence. The neighbors had heard sounds of frequent arguments 
and quarrels for some weeks . Late one night the neighbors heard a 
lot of unusually loud arguments. Suddenly there was the sound of a 
shot followed by loud screams and Mrs. Del Masso came running out of 
the front door. She was all bloody and screaming that this man with 
whom she was living had been shot and was dead. 

The police were called and made the usual investigation. Mrs. 
Del Masso talked perfectly freely. Indeed, at the end, they had a 
hard time shutting her up. According to Mrs. Del Masso, she and her 
man had had an unusually nasty quarrel with a lot of shouting at one 
another. In the course of this she had yelled at him, "I would like 
to kill you!", whereupon he had gone to a cupboard from which he had 
taken a loaded 38 caliber revolver which he put into her hand. Then 
he stepped backwards in front of the fireplace and had jeered at her. 
"You haven t got the guts!", he told her. "I dare you to shoot me!" 
Mrs. Del Masso claimed she had burst out crying and had sunk onto 


Olney: the sofa behind her with the pistol in her hand and then had 

slumped to the floor when the pistol went off. She insisted she 
had not aimed or even pointed the pistol nor intentionally pulled 
the trigger. 

The police investigation made Mrs. Del Masso s story rather hard 
to believe. The shot could not have been better for someone who 
wanted to kill the man. The bullet had entered one of his eye 
sockets without touching the skull, had plowed through the brain 
and emerged from the top of his head. Death was instantaneous and 
the man, who had been standing in front of the fireplace, had 
toppled forward onto the floor where the police found the body and 
outlined its position on the floor with chalk. 

The police also found the bullet. It was a lead slug lying 
behind the man on the bricks of the fireplace. The bullet was not 
splattered or completely out of shape, but it had deep scratches 
on its side with material in them, some of which, though not all, 
was reddish like the bricks making up the sides of the fireplace. 
On the bricks of one of the vertical fireplace sides and about 
three and a half or four feet above the spot where the bullet was 
found, the police discovered a mark where a small spot of the sur 
face of the brick had been scraped away and there appeared to be 
lead markings in this scratching. Microscopic examination of the 
brick and the bullet by the police confirmed the fact that the 
materials matched and left little doubt that the bullet, after 
traversing and emerging from the man s skull, had hit the bricks 
of the fireplace and then dropped to the floor where the police had 
found it . 

The pistol had also been found by the police. It was lying on 
the floor in front of the couch, but as the couch was in front of 
the fireplace, it was only three or four feet from the dead body. 
It was the pistol particularly that made Mrs. Del Masso s claim of 
an accidental shooting appear very improbable. The pistol was a 
38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, almost new. It had been 
purchased by the dead man himself not long before. It was not 
hair-triggered but had a moderate trigger pull. It had a safety 
device to prevent accidental discharge which was in perfect working 
condition. This device was a panel in the butt of the pistol which 
had to be depressed before the trigger could be pulled or the weapon 
fired. There had to be pressure from one direction to pull the 
trigger and from the opposite direction to depress the panel on the 
butt before the pistol could be discharged. Furthermore, those 
opposite pressures had to be applied simultaneously or the weapon 
could not go off. It is impossible for such a weapon to fire by 
being dropped on any kind of a surface. It is designed to fire 
only when the butt and the trigger are squeezed by a human hand. 


Olney: It seemed certain in this case that the pistol had not fired as a 
result of having been dropped on the floor, that the shot that 
killed must have been squeezed off by somebody, and it seemed 
probable that that somebody must be Mrs. Del Masso, since there 
was no question of suicide and Mrs. Del Masso admitted having the 
pistol in her possession at the time of the fatality. The fore 
going facts had all been carefully developed by testimony and 
photographs at the preliminary hearing in the police court. Mrs. 
Del Masso s expressed desire to kill the man, followed by the 
perfect shot and the evidence that the shot must have been squeezed 
off by her, made a pretty strong case. When put to a jury, we 
thought the verdict might be anything from murder of the first 
degree to involuntary manslaughter. 

George Hard, one of our regular investigators for homicide cases, 
was assigned to work with me in preparing this case for trial. We 
got to wondering whether it was possible for us to develop evidence 
that would show more positively whether Mrs. Del Masso had or had 
not aimed that pistol when it was fired. We wondered if there was 
anything more in the room or the house that would throw any addi 
tional light on this question. With that in mind, we took the police 
court testimony and photographs and visited the premises. 

The house was still empty and had not been cleared up much. Most 
of the blood had been mopped up, but the chalk outline of the body 
was still marked on the floor. We discovered the photographs had 
given us a somewhat misleading impression of the place. Evidently, 
a wide-angle lens had been used for the pictures and we found the 
room was actually smaller than we had thought. The couch was closer 
to the fireplace than we had realized. 

We tried to reconstruct what had taken place according to the 
circumstances as we understood them and quickly concluded that our 
evidence did not make much sense. There was no doubt that the 
deceased had been standing on the bricks of the fireplace when the 
bullet hit him and had toppled forward on the floor. There was no 
doubt that the bullet had entered the eye socket and had encountered 
nothing to deflect it or alter the direction of its course until it 
had come out of the top of the man s head. There was no doubt that 
the bullet had ended its flight by striking the bricks at the side 
of the fireplace only three or four feet above the floor and had 
then dropped to the hearth. However, we found it impossible to 
reconcile these facts with any imaginable trajectory for the bullet. 

We experimented by ourselves standing in front of the fireplace 
and then twisting and turning our bodies and heads, trying to line 
up our eye sockets and the tops of our skulls with the mark on the 
bricks where the bullet had hit before dropping to the floor. The 
only position we could assume where there was anything near to a 


Olney: line between our eye sockets, the tops of our heads, and that bullet 
mark on the bricks was to stand backward, bent over and with our 
heads between our legs an absurdity. Something was wrong either 
with our facts, which seemed most unlikely, or with our deductions. 

After this frustration, we tried a different approach. We tried 
to reconstruct events exactly as Mrs. Del Masso had said they happen 
ed. She said her man had been standing in front of the fireplace 
presumably erect, as she made no mention of any unusual position. 
She said the pistol had gone off after she had sunk down onto the 
sofa and then slumped to the floor. She said the pistol went off 
when it hit the floor. 

To test this, George Hard and I stood on the bricks erect. We 
found that in that position a straight line from the tops of our 
heads through our eye sockets would meet the floor not far from the 
front of the couch. In reverse, however, that line would hit the 
ceiling and would come nowhere near the bullet mark on the bricks. 
There was no hole in the ceiling nor even a crack in the plaster. 
We did see something, however, that no one had noticed before. This 
was a dark gray mark on the unbroken plaster as though someone had 
marked it with a very broad lead pencil. The mark on the ceiling 
seemed to be in vertical line with the other points of reference 
with which we had been experimenting the spot on the floor where 
the pistol might have been, the eye socket and the top of the head 
of a man standing erect in front of the fireplace as determined by 
the chalk marks of the body and it was also in vertical line with 
the bullet mark on the fireplace. 

After these observations, George and I got an expert criminologist 
on the case without any delay. The mark on the ceiling was indeed a 
lead mark made by the impact and scraping of a broad piece of that 
metal. Further microscopic examination of the bullet disclosed that 
it had traces of the ceiling plaster in the cracks as well as the 
brick. It now seemed clear that the pistol must have been discharged 
on or near the floor, that the bullet had passed through the eye 
socket, brain, and skull of the man standing erect in front of the 
fireplace, and that the resistance of the brain and skull had been 
sufficient to slow the bullet just enough so that it did not crack 
the plaster but only ricocheted to the bricks of the fireplace, then 
dropping to the floor. 

For the bullet to follow such a course, it was evident that the 
pistol must have been at virtually the level of the floor. Perhaps 
Mrs. Del Masso had had the pistol in her hand when she slumped or 
fell from the couch, thus giving the necessary squeeze to both the 
trigger and the safety on the butt, but in any case, and no matter 
how perfect the shot appeared to be, it could not have been delib 
erately aimed, for it had been fired from the floor. It was an 
accidental killing after all. 


Olney: George and I went over our new facts with Charlie Wehr and he agreed 
that our deductions were almost certainly correct and that the pistol 
had neither been aimed nor intentionally fired. We could, of course, 
have presented these new facts to the court and moved to have the 
charges dismissed in advance of trial, but that is not what we did. 
Mrs. Del Masso had been arrested and charged with murder. All her 
neighbors and friends knew it. If the prosecution dismissed the 
charge, the matter would not receive much publicity and outsiders 
might well believe that the action was taken because of some pro 
cedural or other technical defect. We thought Mrs. Del Masso was 
entitled to a more complete public clearing than that. 

Accordingly, a few days later we brought the case to trial. We 
did this without telling the public defender or the court of our 
new facts and theory of reconstruction. We told the jury simply 
that we proposed to offer all the evidence that we had that related 
to the shooting and that it would be left to them to decide what 
crime, if any, had been committed. We then presented all the evi 
dence that had been taken in the police court, to which we added 
our discovery of the lead mark on the ceiling and the traces of 
plaster in the scratches on the bullet. We produced our expert who 
had made a large scale diagram of the probable course of the bullet 
through the man s eye socket, out the top of his head, ricocheting 
on the ceiling to the brick side of the fireplace, and then dropping 
to the floor. The diagram clearly showed that to attain the high 
vertical angle through the eye socket, the top of the skull, and the 
mark on the ceiling, the pistol when fired must have been at floor 
level in front of the couch and quite close to where the man was 
standing. An aiming of the pistol from that position would have 
been impossible. All of this was fully consistent with Mrs. Del 
Masso s statement to the police, which we had already put in evi 

Mrs. Del Masso was promptly acquitted by the jury. The outcome 
of the case got a lot of publicity because the prosecution had 
actually proved Mrs. Del Masso s defense for her. Mrs. Del Masso 
got a complete, well-publicized vindication. 

I think this case demonstrates that as prosecutors our objective 
was to develop the evidence and the facts whatever they might be and 
not to secure a conviction at any cost. I think it shows we did not 
withhold evidence which tended to exculpate the defendant. I think 
it shows, too, that we were not concerned with having a not guilty 
verdict on our trial records when we could easily have avoided such 
a verdict by dismissing the charges in advance of trial. 

I thought I should tell you about this. 


Stein: Yes, it s an interesting case. 

Olney: Mrs. Del Masso sent Charlie Wehr a Christmas card that year. 

Deputy Charles Wehr and the Point Lobos Shipboard Murder Case 

Stein: What were your impressions of Charlie Wehr as a deputy? 

Olney: Well, I was one of the few who could get along with him. The other 
boys respected him as a trial lawyer, but they didn t like to try 
cases with him. 

Stein: Why not? 

Olney: I don t know. I think it was some of the mannerisms that he had. 

He always loaded a lot of work on the junior member who was working 
with him, but that was all right with me because I was there for the 
experience. He used to drive us crazy by not being prompt in coming 
down to the office to interview people we had brought in that he 
wanted to talk to before trial. He d sometimes keep them sitting 
around there for a long, long time while he was doing something else. 
It wasn t good judgment and they didn t like it and it embarrassed 

But I could get along with him very well. He was an able lawyer. 
I learned a good deal from him. 

Stein: I ve talked to several people who indicated that they weren t 
entirely pleased with the way he handled the ship murder case, 
though I don t know what that was based on. 

Olney: Well, I don t know much about that either. I can t remember whether 
Charlie was involved in the trial of that case personally or not. 
I don t think he was. 

Stein: He was. He was the chief deputy in charge. 
Olney: Well, Earl Warren tried the case. 

Stein: Yes, Warren was in court, but I think Charlie Wehr did a good deal 
of the work. There were several deputies involved, but I think 
Wehr was in charge. 

Olney: After Charlie had died, I think it was, one of the women who served 
on that jury claimed that she d had some kind of dealings with 

Olney : 


Olney : 
Olney : 



Yes. Mrs. Julia Vickerson. 

Yes. Well, I have no information about it and no way of appraising 
it at all. I know that the story she told made Charlie look pretty 
bad. But I must say that during the years that I worked with him 
his conduct in every respect was excellent. I never saw anything 
out of the way. That story that she told came as a great surprise 
to me. At the time I wasn t willing to believe it. But I don t 

I think she contradicted herself in that story, 
the judge believed it either. 

I don t think that 


She was quite an eccentric character. 

Yes. Charlie Wehr wasn t around to explain what did happen. I ve 

always had enough faith in him so that I believed that it was untrue 

but without any real way of judging it. I just believe it is untrue 
because it seems so out of character for Charlie. 

Well, that s about all the questions that I had. Is there anything 
more that you wanted to add about the DA period that you thought was 

Olney: No, I think that s about all. 


[Interview 5: January 24, 1972] 

The 1934 Reforms 

Stein: Why don t we start by discussing steps that led up to the need for 
the 1934 state constitutional amendments reforming the attorney 
general s office. You ve mentioned that first of all there were 
some bank robberies in 1930 that began a series of steps creating 
coordination in law enforcement. Could you describe them? 

Olney: Yes, there were. First of all, there was a train robbery in Contra 
Costa County at a little station called Macavoy, where robbers on a 
Southern Pacific train crawled over the engine tender and held up 
the engineer. They compelled the train to stop at an intersection 
where others in the gang were waiting with an automobile, and they 
robbed the baggage car of a large amount of money cash it was 
that was to be the payroll for the Columbia Steel Works at Pittsburg. 
These robbers had no difficulty at all in making their getaway in 
the car. When the alarm came out to the sheriff s office and the 
Pittsburg police, they all went rushing to Macavoy, where the robbery 
had occurred, while the robbers were on their way elsewhere. 

About eighteen months later, there was a repetition of the same 
kind of robbery at Nobel, which is just on the west side of El 
Cerrito hill. There were no houses around in those days, just a 
little siding. Once more, the robbers on the train climbed over 
the tender, put the engineer under a pistol, and compelled the 
stopping of the train. There was an automobile there and they had 
mounted a machine gun on a flatcar so that they could cover the 
entire train. They went over to the baggage car with a suitcase 
full of dynamite and threatened to dynamite the car unless the 
clerks inside opened. 


Olney: Well, they opened it, and the car was ransacked, and once more the 
Columbia Steel Works payroll was taken away. And once more the law 
enforcement officers simply converged on Nobel when the word came 
in about the robbery. They found a few empty mail sacks around, 
but there was no organized coverage of the area to block off escape 
routes and search cars on the road, and these men escaped. 

In between these two train robberies, there had been a bank 
robbery. This was out at the little town of Rodeo in Contra Costa 
County. A gang there had come into the bank early in the morning 
when it was first opened and held up the bank and everybody in it 
at the point of a pistol, and got a considerable amount of cash. 
While this was going on, the local constable, Jerry McDonald, walked 
into the bank not knowing what was going on, and when he saw there 
was a robbery underway he started to reach for his pistol, and was 
immediately shot. They shot him twice. McDonald fell to the ground, 
but got his pistol out and did some shooting himself. 

He didn t die right away, and before he died, in the statement he 
made, he said he was sure he had hit the man who seemed to be the 
leader of this outfit. He said that he had aimed deliberately at 
him, and he could see the man stagger when the bullet hit him. It 
turned out later that Jerry McDonald was right. He had hit the 
bandit, but he was wearing a bulletproof vest and it only made a 
dent. The dented vest was found much later. But they got away 
there once more. Rodeo had only a few roads into the place, and yet 
it never occurred to anybody to cover those roads and to stop every 
body who was coming out. The officers all went into Rodeo with 
sirens blowing the one place where by that time the robbers would 
certainly not be found. 

Now, this kind of thing going on over a period of years made a 
big impression on law enforcement officers in Alameda and Contra 
Costa County, as well. All of us came to realize that there was a 
very real need for planning for this kind of an emergency, and that 
with a proper plan, so that the key road intersections could be 
covered, on short notice, with certain people assigned to do certain 
things, this kind of crime couldn t be successful. 

The first step that was taken along that line that I know of was 
by Earl Warren and Chief Greening of the Berkeley Police Department. 
They interested others in other law enforcement agencies, the 
sheriff s office and the Oakland police and whatnot, in working out 
an emergency plan for the kind of emergency that I ve just described. 
They didn t at first, as I recall, try to bring in anyone outside 
the county. But they worked on these plans. They had studies made 
of the roads and of the directions, and they also compiled a chart 
of the residences of the law enforcement officers as well as the 
offices, and they actually assigned certain officers to go to 


Olney: certain places whenever the proper signal came. Then these plans 
were actually tested in trial runs to see how they would work, and 
they seemed to work very well. 

Experiences of this kind, and many others as well, had led Earl 
Warren to the belief that one of the great weaknesses in law enforce 
ment all over the state was the lack of organization and coordination 
between law enforcement agencies at city and county and even the 
state level. He became convinced that it was necessary to change 

He gave some thought, I know, at the outset to the possibility of 
a system of state police, and then discarded that thought. That 
system had been tried in states like Pennsylvania, for example. He 
thought that it was important to continue to have local control of 
the law enforcement agencies , and that the necessary degree of 
coordination and cooperation could be achieved, still keeping local 

Then he came to the conclusion that the way this could best be 
done would be by authorizing the attorney general, who was the 
principal lawyer for the state, to participate in law enforcement, 
and become responsible for law enforcement, in about the same way 
the Attorney General of the United States is responsible for the 
enforcement of federal statutes. Under the federal system, the 
attorney general has this responsibility, but he does not himself 
head or operate the federal law enforcement agencies like the secret 
service and the treasury agents and customs and so forth. The FBI 
is the only federal agency that s in his department. 

There were other changes in the law that Earl Warren thought were 
highly desirable. But these had to do with procedures in court, 
such as permitting the judge to comment on the evidence, and not 
just sit on the bench like an owl, as was the custom. In the 
federal courts, from the beginning, the judge was always authorized 
to express his own views to the jury as to what he thought the 
evidence amounted to. 

Then there was the idea that if a defendant failed to take the 
stand to give his account of events which were in evidence against 
him, of which he must have had personal knowledge, it would be in 
order for the district attorney in argument, or for the court in 
its comments, to remark on the failure of the defendant to explain 
what had been offered in evidence against him. 

Then there was a fourth amendment that was more Earl s idea, I 
think, than anyone else s, and was more important than would seem 
to be the case. This would permit a defendant who was brought 
before a police court for arraignment, if he had counsel, to enter 
a plea of guilty, and then be sent without further delay direct to 
the superior court, where his case could be disposed of. 


Olney: Now, this saved a great deal of time in the process. As a matter of 
fact, about eighty percent, maybe more, of defendants arrested do 
not want to have trials. They want to enter their pleas and it s 
not fair to have them sitting around for months waiting to appear 
before a judge in order to have their cases disposed of when all 
they want to do is enter a plea of guilty. 

To accomplish these things the state constitution had to be amend 
ed, and so proposals were drafted. They were drafted, I think, in 
Earl Warren s office. I know one of them was, because I took some 
part in it. 

Stein: Which one was that? 

Olney: It was on permitting the judge to comment on the evidence. Signa 
tures were obtained, and they were put on the ballot. Now, it s of 
some interest that I find an article from the Tax Digest written by 
Earl Warren on all four of these proposals , explaining them and 
advocating their adoption. It s interesting to note that this 
article was published in the San Diego Transcript on November 6, 
1934. It s of interest because of what happened directly after that. 

Within a very few days, this sensational case broke in Santa Clara 
County where a young man named Brooke Hart was kidnaped and held for 
ransom. Ransom notes were received. (Let s see, what did I say the 
date of his kidnaping was?) 

Stein: The 9th of November. 

Olney: Yes, the 9th of November. Well, as you can see, it s only three 

days after Earl had been speaking about these amendments when this 
kidnaping took place. The investigation dragged for a few days. 
Finally the FBI cracked the case, and two men were arrested and 
made a confession that they had murdered Brooke Hart, and that his 
body was in the Bay near the San Mateo Bridge. 

Incidentally, the exact place where he was killed was on the 
part of the bridge that is in Alameda County. If these two men 
were to be tried for murder, they would be tried in Alameda County, 
and it would probably have devolved on Charlie Wehr and me to try 
the case. So, of course, we were interested in the matter right from 
the outset, as soon as the place of this murder was discovered. 

The kidnapers were put in the jail in Santa Clara County, and on 
November 17, I think it was, a mob broke into the jail and took them 
out to the square in front of the jail and hung them from a tree. 

Stein: It was the 27th. 


Olney: Oh, the 27th, yes. Well, of course, this kidnaping and the investi 
gation of the murder, followed by the lynching, got publicity all 
over California as well as all the United States, and brought the 
needs of law enforcement and law enforcement agencies before the 
public in a very, very vivid way. I think it s fair to say that 
Earl Warren took full advantage of that. The timing was right. I 
note an example of that. In a newspaper clipping dated November 
18th, there s a report that the Alameda County Anti-Racket Council 
had that day organized a special kidnaping squad for investigating, 
and for handling with emergency plans and investigation, kidnapings 
of the kind that they had had in Santa Clara County. 

Perhaps I should have made mention before this of what the Anti- 
Racket Council was. It was an outgrowth, I think one can say, of 
these planning functions that had begun after these train robberies 
that I described. Dick Chamberlain and others can describe this in 
far greater detail than I can. Dick Chamberlain took part in it, 
and I know that you have talked to him. 

As far back as June 17, 1933, a formal organization called the 
Anti-Racket Council was organized by Earl Warren. He was the first 
chairman of it, with the active participation of the FBI, the police 
chiefs in Alameda County, the sheriff s office, and other agencies. 
That had for its purpose the study of rackets. They were thinking 
primarily of extortion rackets at the time that were prevalent in 
other parts of the state and other parts of the country, and would 
have been prevalent here if proper planning and steps had not been 
taken to forestall this. 

We had had one example of an attempt by Chicago gangsters to 
start an extortion racket in the cleaning and dyeing business. They 
had formed a phony association and were demanding that all cleaners 
and dyers join the association and pay these dues, which were nothing 
but extortion money, and then when some of them did not, they hired 
people to go to the plants of the dissenting companies and throw 
acid on the clothes, which they did. But this was broken up with a 
criminal prosecution as promptly as possible. But it was a threat 
of that kind of organization that led Earl to believe that the way 
to forestall that was to study this kind of racket and to make plans 
with the agencies who would be concerned with it, and particularly 
to alert the law enforcement agencies as a group to what was going 
on, so that they would have a common fund of knowledge about this 
and could have a united front. This is what is involved in their 
exchanging information. This was not a system of running dossiers 
on private persons, things of this kind. It was an attempt to out 
line the techniques used in these organized efforts to extort money 
from business, industry, and sometimes from private individuals. 


Olney: Now, that had been an active organization starting in June, 1933, 
and when this kidnaping came along the occasion arose for setting 
up this kidnaping squad. The hope was that the authorities in Santa 
Clara County, Contra Costa County, and San Francisco would take 
active parts in it too. I don t know how active they were. My 
impression is there were occasions when they did take part, where 
information was exchanged with them, but I don t believe it was done 
on the same regular, routine basis on which this kind of information 
and planning was carried on in Alameda County. 

It was not long after the Hart kidnaping and murder that the 
election was held on these amendments to the state constitution, 
all of which were intended and designed to strengthen the organiza 
tion of law enforcement agencies and to eliminate technicalities in 
legal proceedings that seemed to be unnecessary. I have no doubt 
at all that the Hart kidnaping, as well as other sensational crimes 
of the time, had a great deal to do with the passage of those amend 
ments. They were passed overwhelmingly. 

Putting the Reforms to Work 

Stein: Once the amendments were in operation in the attorney general s 
office and I m talking now about after Warren became attorney 
general; we were talking about this the other day when we had lunch 
with the Chief Justice* I wonder if there was a problem with local 
law enforcement people trying to pass the buck to the attorney 
general s office to get out of a ticklish spot? I think he mentioned 
that one of the problems was that there was a very small number of 
investigators in the office, so it really wasn t possible for the 
attorney general to step in in too many cases. 

Olney: Well, that s quite correct. When the amendments were passed, U.S. 
Webb was still attorney general, and although I don t think he had 
any great enthusiasm for the amendments, he was an honest, able 
attorney general. He was getting to be a pretty old man, but he 
did not ignore them. 

*See Warren, Earl, an oral history interview currently in process, 
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 


Olney: He appointed an investigative staff in his own office. Henry Dietz 
was in charge of it. He had Red Griffin, who had been chief of 
police in Salinas, and Joe Schoales, who had an FBI background, and 
then he had Fred Henderson in Los Angeles, an investigator there. 
They were competent men, and General Webb moved in on a certain 
number of activities that were illegal. He took some steps with 
respect to gamblers. But he had not had the authority long enough, 
really, to make much impression or much headway until Earl Warren 
succeeded him as attorney general. 

Warren s first appointee in charge of the criminal work of the 
office was Charles Wehr, who came from the Alameda County District 
Attorney s Office. He was the man under whom I worked in the trial 
of the homicide cases there. At the time, I was in private practice. 
The first thing they tackled when Charlie came and took the position 
was the dog tracks. You have had from Earl Warren himself a better 
account of what happened to the dog tracks than I can give you.* I 
was not in the office. They did put them out of business, and they 
were out of business by the time I got there. 

Charlie died; he got leukemia, and died very suddenly, and it 
happened that my father, with whom I was practicing, had died in 
February. I decided not to stay in his firm, and Earl Warren asked 
me if I would come and take Charlie s position and head up the 
criminal work in the office. I went there, I believe, in May of 

I took over as the lawyer, but the man who was already there in 
charge as the chief investigator was Oscar Jahnsen. He was from 
the district attorney s office too, and a man with whom I had worked 
for years when I was in the district attorney s office. The others 
that General Webb had on his staff Earl kept. Henry Dietz, however, 
who had been the chief investigator, was a lawyer and wanted to 
practice law. He had been an FBI investigator. He had handled this 
investigative work for General Webb, but he became one of the lawyers 
in my legal actvities. 

We then had to meet in a practical way the effect of this consti 
tutional amendment, the fact that the attorney general had these 
responsibilities, and we found out that it s one thing to put it in 
law, or in a constitution, and it s quite another thing to carry it 

See Warren, Earl, an oral history interview, The Bancroft Library. 


Olney: out. Our resources were incredibly limited. We had for fifty-eight 
counties in this huge state only the investigators that I have named, 
and clearly you cannot police an area like that with such a small 

The most blatant and widespread violations of law that we had to 
meet were gambling, prostitution, and bunco rackets, to some extent. 
These are activities that cannot go on without the connivance, at 
least, and usually with the corruption of the local law enforcement 
agencies. When you find activities like that going on, somebody is 
being paid off, sometimes indirectly and not infrequently politically. 
It just is most difficult for a sheriff or district attorney or 
police chief to close down on activities that are being supported by 
the people who have appointed him or elected him. 

So our problem, the practical problem, was how, with a group such 
as we had, to get sheriffs and district attorneys to perform their 
duties, so that we would have an even-handed enforcement of the law 
throughout the state. We didn t succeed completely, but we did 
succeed to an appreciable extent. It was done by constant interviews 
with the officials involved at which we would present them with the 
facts. We were able, with the staff we had, plus the assistance we 
could get elsewhere, to develop the facts as to what was going on. 
We would lay these facts before the officials and in most cases that 
produced action. 

We found, especially with those where politics were involved, 
that the official who had failed to act was glad to be confronted 
with this, because he could then take what we had given him to the 
others concerned and say, "Look, I have no alternative. I ve got 
to go ahead. If I don t, the attorney general will do it. We ve 
got to shut this up, so we re going to do it." 

We were told privately, and once in a while publicly, that this 
kind of an approach was welcomed by them, and in most cases we got 
results. But there were others that were very reluctant, and where 
the sheriff s or police chief s real allegiance was on the other 
side. He was in favor of keeping things open, even though the law 
he was sworn to uphold was being violated. 

Stein: I remember that you or the Chief Justice mentioned a case in River 
side with gambling houses. 

Olney: That s true. Riverside was one of the most difficult counties that 
we had. It was typical of that kind of situation. Over and over 
again, we gathered evidence of very large, widespread gambling 
operations, especially around Palm Springs. Not only were these 
big gaming houses, but they were also centers for thieves, 


Olney: particularly fur thieves and jewel thieves, who would hang around 
there looking at the well-to-do people who would come there in the 
winter, and play these games, and then the thieves would tail them 
to their hotels, and there would be burglaries and robberies, right 
and left. 

It was not a healthy situation at all. But the ploy that the 
sheriff used on us repeatedly down there we had it in other places 
too was, "Well, boys, all these gamblers know my men. I can t get 
anybody in to run a raid because they know all my people. As you ve 
seen, when you ve sent this information to us and I ve sent my men 
out to close the place up, when they get there nothing is going on. 
That s because they know my men and they recognize them when they 
approach. You take it on. You have your boys go in there quietly 
and make the arrests." 

Well, that all sounds very well, but with four men we would simply 
be lost in the swamp if we ever got sucked in on that, so that we 
had to be very, very careful in limiting the direct action that we 
were going to take. The difficulty there is that if you act against 
one, you have to act against all, and we simply didn t have enough 
manpower . 

Now, we did succeed in maneuvering the sheriff on one occasion in 
a place called The Dunes, run by some brothers named Wortheimer. 
That was one of the biggest and the oldest down there, a place out 
in the desert. We did succeed in sending reports to the sheriff and 
getting him stirred up so that he decided that he was going to have 
to make a raid. So he sent word out somebody did to The Dunes 
that they were going to be raided, so the Wortheimers brought in a 
number of trucks and they loaded all the equipment in the trucks and 
took it out and hid it in the scrub around the desert. 

The difficulty in that, from their viewpoint, was that we had 
anticipated they would do that, and we had people out in the brush 
watching this operation go on. So we knew where the equipment was. 
On that occasion we did make our own raid after the sheriff s office 
had been there and said no gambling had been going on. We went in 
there and, of course, there was nothing happening when we moved in, 
but we had plenty of evidence from undercover operators as to what 
had been going on. We had pictures of where the equipment was taken, 
so we went out and we filled a whole warehouse full of their equip 
ment, and we took it down and forfeited it all. 

Stein: Who was out in the brush, these four investigators? 

Olney: Well, some of them were. We got others to help us on that. We had 
some one or two from the local district attorney s office. I don t 
remember we borrowed people when we could. They had to be properly 
deputized. We could do that. 


Olney: There was always a great question as to exactly what the constitu 
tional amendment authorized. It gives the attorney general certain 
responsibilities, and says that he can request written reports from 
sheriffs and all law enforcement agencies. We used to require 
written reports, I should say we did, but they wouldn t tell us 
very much. 

It also says that he can supersede a district attorney in the 
trial of a case if he deems it in the public interest to do so. 
That was used very, very rarely. I do not recall ever using it in 
a gambling case for the very reason that applies to the sheriff 
if the district attorney could duck his duties of prosecuting 
gambling cases by shoving that onto the attorney general s office, 
there would have been too many of them who would have done it. 

The times that we used that power to supersede were cases where 
there were allegations of graft in the local government, or some 
other possible conflict of interest with the district attorney, or 
even perhaps county officers in the investigation, and then we had 
no problem with it. We did it. 

But to this day it still remains unclear as to just what the 
attorney general s authority is over law enforcement. Since my 
day, I believe there have been some changes in the law. I know 
that when Bob Kenny became attorney general there was established 
what was known as the Department of Justice. We did not use that 
name. There was no such thing in our day. We were functioning 
like a department of justice, but the name was not used. Now there 
is officially a Department of Justice in the state government. 
There were some changes in the law, and I think changes in authority, 
at the time that was done, but I m not familiar with them. 

Stein: The attorney general is authorized to convene a grand jury if a 
county refuses to, or a county hasn t. Was that part of the law 
when you were there? 

Olney: Oh, yes. 

Stein: Was that ever used? 

Olney: Oh, yes. I believe that was part of the law before the amendments. 
I m not sure about that. That s only a vague impression I have. 
I m really not sure about that. But I know that in our day we felt 
we could convene a grand jury, but I can t remember a single instance 
when we did it. We appeared before a grand jury, but I don t think 
we ever felt we had to convene one, although it s possible we did. 


Stein: Is the Division of Narcotics Enforcement new, or was that there when 
you were? 

Olney: There was a California State Bureau of Narcotics that had no organiza 
tional relation with the attorney general s office. It was a separate 
investigative body, and I don t even remember who appointed the head 
of it. But the only connection that either the district attorney or 
the attorney general had with it was simply the duty of presenting 
their cases and handling their criminal work, their legal criminal 
work, which we did. 

Stein: I think that it s part of the Department of Justice now. 

Olney: I m under the impression that it is, too. It seems to me and I 

think this is coming back I think this is in Bob Kenny s day, and 
when this Department of Justice was created I think they put a lot 
of things in there, the Bureau of Narcotics, and a few other things 
like that, but we didn t have that, thank goodness. 

Stein: Verne Scoggins mentioned to us that Earl Warren was president of the 
National Association of Attorneys General, and in that office he did 
some lobbying in Washington. I wondered if you knew anything about 
that. What kinds of issues might he have lobbied for? 

Olney: I do not. I know that organization had a meeting in San Francisco 
at the time that Earl was attorney general, and I dare say that he 
was head of the organization at the time, but I have no recollection 
of their activities. I m sure I didn t go to their meetings. I 
wouldn t, because I was only on the staff, and that organization is 
for attorneys general and not their staff members. I have no recol 
lection of his doing any lobbying for them, if he did. 

Office Personnel 

Stein: How many other lawyers did you have in the criminal department? 

Olney: Well, the number varied from time to time, but I suppose there were 
half a dozen who did most of their work for me, under my direction. 

My work did not include all the criminal work in the office. For 
example, long before this amendment, from the beginning of the state, 
the attorney general always handled criminal appeals in the district 
courts of appeal and the supreme court. I never handled those. 
Those were never in my area. Once in a while there would be a case 
which came along that had an issue in it that was of big concern to 
us, and occasionally we would write the briefs. Once or twice I 


Olney: made the arguments myself; I did on the wire service cases, for 
example. But the run of the mill criminal appeal was handled in 
an organization in the office that was entirely separate from mine. 
I had all I could do with what you would call the investigative and 
enforcement aspects of the office. I was really trying to implement 
this new authority that the attorney general s office had, and I 
didn t take on what to that time had been the standard kind of 
criminal work. 

Now, there was a considerable flexibility in personnel in the 
office. People moved out of their slots frequently. When we made 
the raids on the gambling ships, we borrowed every able-bodied man 
we could find among the lawyers to take part in this. Some of them 
had had no connection at all with criminal work within the office. 
Occasionally one of our lawyers would be called on to handle some 
civil work, file an injunction, or something of that kind. So it s 
difficult for me to say, especially now, how big the staff was. 

Stein: Was the staff increased much over the couple of years that you were 

Olney: No. I don t think the number of positions in the office was in 
creased substantially, but assignments were changed. 

The reason that I think I m right on this, that there was very 
little increase in the number of positions, was because of the 
difficulties that Warren was having with Governor Culbert Olson. 
But there would be times when people would be added to my division, 
or whatever we called it section, I guess. I remember, for example, 
that early in 1941, we had a lawyer named Julian Thomas who was 
placed under me. Thomas had been admitted to the bar in the United 
States and then fought in World War I and after that had stayed in 
Paris and practiced law there with one foot in France and the other 
in this country. 

He had been compelled to flee just in advance of the Nazis, and 
came to this country destitute, and for reasons not clear to me 
came out to California. Earl gave him a job in the attorney 
general s office and assigned him to me. Now, there s an addition 
to my staff. We didn t use him for any of the sort of thing I m 
talking about, but used him for research on things that related to 
the war effort, civil defense, and the like. 



Tony Cornero s Early Career 

Stein: I m ready to move on to some of the cases. I think that the gambling 
ship story is important enough to get most of what we went over in 
our last conference on tape. So could you begin by just briefly 
describing some of Tony Cornero s early ventures? You mentioned 
when we spoke before that he first appeared in Panama. 

Olney: Tony was born in San Francisco and was named Anthony Cornero. How 
ever, his father died when Tony was quite young, and sometime there 
after his mother married a vinyardist from Napa County named Stralla. 
Tony adopted his stepfather s name and on all business matters used 
his full name of Anthony Cornero Stralla, or more often A.C. Stralla. 
In gambling circles and among rum-runners and bootleggers and to the 
press, however, he was always known as Tony Cornero. 

What I m saying now is based on information that I got from a 
remarkable federal investigator. His name is William Dresser, and 
he was attached to what was then known as the Alcohol Tax Unit of 
the Treasury Department. Later it had another name. He had a very 
distinguished career in the federal service. He retired a long time 
ago, but he was a man of great experience and judgment, and I have 
always accepted what he told me as gospel. I m sure that he had it 
right and it made a great impression on me, so I think I remember it 

I might say that the occasion on which I first got to know 
Dresser, although I had many dealings with him over the years, was 
after we had filed suits against the gambling ships. One of the 
suits that we filed was for penalties for operating a public utility 
without a license. That was based on the water taxi operation. 
They were running water taxis without a license from the Public 
Utilities Commission, and there are civil penalties of $2,500 a day 
for every day of operation, so that we were talking about $750,000 
or more. We had attached all the bank accounts and property that we 
could think of that belonged to Cornero or any of his associates. 


Olney: Dresser had read about this in the paper and realized that we must 
be trying to find out not only what Tony s assets were but who the 
people were who were associated with him in the venture. He just 
walked into the office and discussed the case with me. The reason 
for that was that he himself was trying to find Tony s assets and 
his associates and backers, because he had something like a one- or 
two-hundred-thousand-dollar tax assessment for unpaid alcohol taxes 
on an illegal still that Tony had been the front for down around 
Culver City some years before. The tax was unpaid and uncollected. 
So we had that in common. 

Well, Dresser told me that the first information that the federal 
government had about Cornero was years before in Panama. Tony had 
appeared in Panama with a considerable quantity of raw, uncut emer 
alds which he had claimed that he had prospected out of the mountains 
somewhere in Columbia, where they do, indeed, have emeralds. They 
had found that Tony had had a partner and the two of them had gone 
on a prospecting expedition, but that Cornero had come back with the 
emeralds and no partner. He had a story that some fatal accident 
had happened to his partner. No one could prove anything different 
ly, although the officers down there didn t think this was very 

The next time that Tony came to their notice was during Prohibi 
tion, and they knew Tony as the owner and operator of a series of 
speedboats big, powerful, ocean-going speedboats some around the 
San Francisco area, some in the Los Angeles area, that would go out 
at night in the fog, and meet these rum ships that were outside the 
twelve-mile limit, and load and come in and unload them on beaches 
around here. 

Tony Cornero was engaged in that sort of activity, but the federal 
government couldn t get anything on him, until one day a ship put in 
at New Orleans. It was on its way from somewhere in Scandinavia, and 
destined for either Tahiti or Samoa, somewhere down in the South 
Seas, and they put in to New Orleans on the way to the Canal to get 
supplies and whatnot. 

They had a load of liquor on board, properly manifested, for 
their cargo. But the captain of that vessel, while the ship was 
there getting itself ready to go on, went into the federal customs 
service there and told them that he had taken on this voyage in 
good faith, but had become convinced that this was an illegal rum- 
running operation, and that when he had sailed he d been told that 
the South Seas was their destination, but now he had received orders 
to divert the ship s course to the north after he got through the 
Canal. They were to meet some motorboats at such-and-such an inter 
section of latitude and longitude, where most of the cargo would be 
taken off, and then they would proceed on to the South Seas. He said 
he didn t want any part of that and he thought he d better report it. 


Olney: The customs people thanked him, but told him to go right along as 
planned. They d got the details of the place where they [the rum 
runners] were supposed to meet. Of course, what they wanted to do 
was make arrests of the people in the motorboats. 

The voyage proceeded according to schedule and they went to the 
place which was somewhere off the California coast and got there on 
the proper night. It was foggy as could be, but the motorboats 
arrived and they did unload a great part of the cargo into the boats 
when the Coast Guard put in an appearance. The motorboats then 
promptly cast off with what they had and took off with a roar and 
disappeared in the fog and they were never caught. 

Of course, this started a thorough federal investigation. They 
went to Scandinavia and found that the man who had ordered the cargo 
in Scandinavia was none other than Cornero. He d been over there 
himself and ordered this stuff. So they realized that he was a big 
operator, that he had big financing behind him to enable him to do 
all this. 

Then some years later they ran across a large still outside of 
Culver City where there had been an oil well with some tanks sort 
of a half refinery about it. It had been refurbished and the tanks 
were all painted with aluminum paint and looked nice and neat and 
the well pump would go up and down. [laughter] Nothing but a front 
for a great big still. 

Stein: They were pumping something, but it wasn t oil. [laughter] 

Olney: Yes. The trucks going in and out were carrying black strap molasses 
one way and alcohol the other, and this is where this tax lien came 
in. It was for the unpaid taxes. Some way or other they connected 
Cornero with ownership of that. But they never could find any 
property that Cornero had in his own name from which they could 
realize anything. 

Tracking Cornero s Backers 

Olney: Do you want me to go on with what Dresser told me about Cornero? 

He said that they had made the same effort that we had to try to 
find out who the people were who were putting up the money that Tony 
was using. They knew that he just didn t have money like that. And 
he [Dresser] told me that there had been a lawsuit during the Pro 
hibition period, when Tony was running schooners and motorboats, 
that involved one of the schooners that they knew was involved with 


Olney: Tony s business Tony s trade. They said the record of the case was 
in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, and the suit was 
between the owners of the cargo and the owners of the vessel. It was 
some kind of a hassle they d gotten into. Dresser said, "You can 
read the papers in the lawsuit and there isn t a word in them that 
would indicate there s anything illegal about this ship or the cargo." 
Of course, nobody could afford to put that in, and there wasn t any 
need for it to settle their argument. The dispute hadn t related to 
the character of the cargo. 

I can t remember whether Dresser said it was the owners of the 
cargo or the owners of the ship, but he was satisfied that Tony was 
financially interested in one side of that case and that the people 
who appeared there as owners either of the cargo or the ship were 
Tony s backers. But Dresser said that he didn t know who these 
people were and was never able to get any line on them or even 
connect them directly with Tony. 

I thought that we might get some additional information and had 
one of our investigators go down and look up this lawsuit and come 
back with copies of the complaint and of the answer, so that we had 
everybody s name who was in it. We looked these names over and they 
didn t mean anything to us. Most of them were the names of individ 
uals and we looked them up in directories and things of that kind 
and we couldn t find them anywhere. 

There were, however, one or two corporations. There was one that 
I remember distinctly called Burns-Philip, which was a corporation 
with a hyphenated name, and we did find that in the Los Angeles 
directory, which was a city directory, listed as importers. I also 
found it listed in San Francisco as importers, but the name was 
wholly unfamiliar to me. They had no big office or anything of that 
kind, and I thought it was some fly-by-night little local importer 
who had gotten involved in this thing. It wasn t until years later 
when I was in the South Seas myself that I learned that Burns-Philip 
was the huge Australian trading company that operated everywhere in 
the South Pacific. 

Shall I go into the rest of this? 
Stein: No, I think that story we have on the other tape. 

You did mention something when we talked the last time in connec 
tion with you and William Dresser both trying to find out who these 
backers were, that at one point Tony bought some ships in San Fran 
cisco Bay and that the attorney general s office got wind of it and 
you were able to tip off Dresser so that he could 


Olney: That s right. That happened along in November and December of 1939. 
Tony finally gave up and surrendered on the gambling ship litigation 
along in November, 1939. Even before that, a week or two before that, 
he was reported in the paper as negotiating deals for the purchase of 
ships that were lying out here in San Francisco Bay. I remember that 
they included some of the Admiral Line ships, which were big ships 
for the Pacific coast. Because of the Depression they were just at 
anchor out there. They would have been in mothballs if they d had 
any mothballs. They didn t have them then. 

Cornero had bought these ships was negotiating their purchase, I 
should say for a very low figure. That was reported in the paper. 
We were watching him and following him closely enough. I believe it 
was because of our attachments that we had on the banks that we got 
wind of the fact that there was going to be an exchange on those 
ships at the office of some particular bank on a given day, that the 
cash would be paid in and the title to the ships would be trans 
ferred into an escrow right at that time. 

So we advised Dresser about this, and he took advantage of it. I 
guess he got some information out of the banker I don t know what 
exactly, the time of day, and whatnot but it worked. He came in 
there with his tax lien before the ships were transferred and when 
the cash was there, and he got the cash and the government got paid. 

But I might say, it did not stop the purchase, which is another 
indication of the amount of cash that Tony had behind him, because 
they went ahead with this purchase anyway. It turned out to be very, 
very profitable, because the war had started in Europe in 1939 in 
August. This was along in November, and it was already apparent that 
the war was going to go on for some time. Tony was smart enough to 
realize that war always meant a terrific demand for ships, and any 
old ship, any old bottom you could get, was going to appreciate in 
value immensely and he bought up a lot of them. He made a lot of 
money that way. 

Meanwhile, the ordinary shipping people around here were just 
twiddling their thumbs. [laughter] 

Investigating the Ships 

Stein: You mentioned some things about the gambling ships themselves that 
I thought were very interesting. You mentioned that Oscar Jahnsen 
had made a tour of the ships and had written a very complete report. 


Olney: Earl Warren was determined to put those ships out of business, but 

he was also determined not to get into any more trouble over it than 
was necessary. These were pretty tough fellows, and if we were to 
make a sudden raid without warning, someone could well have gotten 
killed; at least there could have been an awful fight. And that 
would be justified, you see, if somebody came without warning, be 
cause these ships used to hijack each other. They had to keep 
guards on them all the time. They would rob each other whenever 
they got the chance. 

We thought the best way to avoid trouble was not to take them by 
surprise, but to let them know we were coming, because that would 
put them in an indefensible position if they resorted to violence. 
It would put them in a position of knowingly resisting the law 
officers, which they couldn t safely do. In addition, Warren always 
thought that with an operation of that kind, particularly one that 
had gone on for years, the fair thing to do was to give the man a 
chance to get out gracefully. He would save an awful lot of time 
and trouble and save an awful lot of money for the public if he gave 
them notice and they folded up. 

He decided to give them a formal notice to cease and desist. But 
before doing that he wanted to get the full and complete information 
on just exactly what this operation was. We had undercover operators 
whom we thought were reliable, who had proved to be in the past. We 
believed them, and we thought it would be a good idea if besides that 
we had one of our investigators give a last minute full inspection of 
the ship. So Oscar [Jahnsen] decided he d do it himself. 

I think he had someone with him; anyway, he made no attempt to 
conceal himself or reveal himself either. He just went on board on 
one of the taxis. But because of this hijacking business, all the 
ships had somebody right there on the platform watching everybody 
who came on. When Oscar went on board, he found Mike Connally 
acting as Tony s spotter. Mike had been around the legislature in 
Sacramento for years and then had become chief investigator for the 
liquor administration of the State Board of Equalization. He had 
been convicted of bribery in Alameda County and Oscar had worked up 
the case. 

Mike spotted Oscar Immediately, as soon as he came up the stairs. 
Oscar hadn t been on that ship five minutes when he was tapped on 
the shoulder by a man who said, "Welcome aboard, Mr. Jahnsen. I m 
Tony Cornero. Is there anything I can do for you?" And Oscar said, 
"Well, I recognize you, Mr. Cornero. There is. I ve come out to 
take a look at your operation." 


Olney: "Well," Tony said, "you re welcome to see anything you want to see. 
What we re doing out here is entirely legal. We re inside the law 
because we are outside the state boundary." 

Oscar said, "Well, I know you are in your view, but that s not 
accepted everywhere, so I guess it isn t up to you and me to decide, 
but I would like to see what the operation is." Tony took him all 
over the ship, everything. Tony showed him not only all the games 
and how they were worked and how they handled the cash and the food, 
but also how the anchorage worked, and what power they had, and how 
they could shift the position of the ship around depending on where 
the wind and tides came from everything. Oscar immediately came 
back and wrote a report which I think is one of the most remarkable 
investigator s reports I have ever read. It just went on for pages 
with detail after detail after detail. It s all there. I kind of 
wish I had a copy of it. 

Anchorage and Telephone Service 

Stein: Speaking of the anchorage, you mentioned that the anchoring system 
was quite a feat in itself because the ships were so far out. 

Olney: Well, I m no seaman, and I m only told this. That s an open coast, 
and in the winter it s subjected to very heavy storms, lots of 
storms, and there have been many sinkings there. In fact, when the 
Texas , another one of the ships anchored near the Rex, tried to go 
through the winter of 1940, she sank in the storm. The other ships 
used to come in during the winter and tie up. 

But Cornero kept his ship out there all during the winter with 
this remarkable system of anchoring. He had four anchors out there, 
but they were on cables, so that he could haul the thing around. He 
could maneuver the position of the ship and the waves never hit it 
broadside. It was almost as if he was sailing with the thing, al 
though he didn t really have power enough to make the ship move, but 
he could control the ship s position. 

It worked very well. They told me that there were groups of naval 
officers who came out there to inspect the set-up to see how this was 
done, because it was supposed to be really quite a feat. 

Cornero was a very smart, able, practical man. He wasn t edu 
cated. He got all his know-how in a practical way. As a rum- rummer 
with these motorboats, he had gotten to know the coast of California 
like the back of his hand. There wasn t a harbor or a cove or a 


Olney: rock around there that he didn t know, and he d had tremendous 
experience with the tides and the weather and even the wind and 
this kind of thing. And he was very ingenious, and I d say gutsy. 
He would tackle things like this where other people would be afraid 
of the risk. He tackled it and did it. 

Stein: Didn t he do something like that in getting the racing information 
to his boat? 

Olney: Yes, he certainly did. He puzzled us for a long time because he 
was operating a bookmaking establishment on the Rex which was the 
equal of the bookie joints that were operating on shore. We had a 
lot of them operating at that time. That was before we had tried 
to crack down on the racing wire service. For their operations 
they had to have this almost instantaneous report of the operations 
the results from the various race tracks. They d put the race 
results on a great blackboard, like a stock exchange board. 

Well, we found that Tony s service was just as fast and just as 
complete and adequate as anybody was getting on shore, but he was 
over three miles out at sea. We thought at first he must be doing 
this by radio, so we contacted the FCC, because that would be 
illegal, would be inviolation of the Federal Communications Act. 
They thought he must be doing it too, but they made a thorough 
check, and it wasn t being done by radio. 

Well, then we found that he did have a leased telephone line 
from the wire service headquarters in Los Angeles out to the end 
of the Santa Monica pier, and they had a little room out there. 
It was hardly bigger than a telephone booth, but had a man in it, 
a little room out there. Then we knew it must go from there some 
way to the ship. In due course we found there had been a cable 
run from that room out to the ship. That stuff came in on the 
speaker in the little room, and the man on duty would put a mike 
up against the speaker, and the race track information went through 
the cable and blasted out on board the ship. 

The curious thing about this was that this was all done without 
a permit. You needed a permit from the War Department to run a 
cable from shore to a ship three miles or more out at sea. Tony 
had applied to the War Department in Washington over and over again. 
He had lawyers working on it, and whatnot, but no success. They 
wouldn t entertain this idea, not because they cared anything about 
what he was going to do with the cable, but because they said it 
was impossible to make such a cable work. You can t run a tele 
phone cable of the kind he proposed to use that distance under the 
ocean and bring it on board a ship and have it work. The snapper 
on this was that it was working all the time! [laughter] 


Stein: That s really incredible. 

Had there already been legal efforts, even before Warren was 
attorney general, to get rid of the gambling ships? 

Olney: Yes, there had been, and I think at the time that we had our discus- 
tions out there at the Faculty Club*, that I had not yet checked 
this in the newspaper files. Had I? 

Stein: No. 

Olney: Well, it s all in there, exactly what had happened. 

A Brief History of the Gambling Ships 
[Interview 6: January 27, 1972] 

Olney: The gambling ships off the California coast had a long history. I 
believe the first one was the Joanna Smith and she operated in the 
1920s. I m not sure where she operated first. I think that it was 
off of Santa Barbara. Percy Heckendorf , later District Attorney of 
Santa Barbara County, told me this. 

Then that proved to be impractical. The channel was altogether 
too rough. They couldn t anchor her successfully, and then there 
was interference with the water taxis by the authorities on the 
shore, so she was later moved. I believe she must have operated 
three or four different seasons. 

I believe she finally was anchored in San Pedro Bay off Long 
Beach. By that time there were competitors in the field. Other 
ships gambling ships were operating, and there was a great deal 
of hostility between the operators of the various ships. The 
professional help, the gamblers, from one ship on one occasion went 
on board another and proceeded to play the games and run up heavy 
winnings. When the operators of that ship found out what was going 
on, why, there was a terrific fight on board. 

*Refers to a luncheon at the University of California Men s Faculty 
Club, at which Earl Warren, Warren Olney, and several members of 
the staff of the Regional Oral History Office were present. Tran 
scripts of the conversation will be deposited in The Bancroft 


Olney: On another occasion a group of men with guns came on board one of 

the ships and held it up and robbed it of the whole bank roll. The 
owners of that ship came to the conclusion that this job had been 
done or had been instigated by one of their competitors. So a week 
or so later they went on board the ship they thought was responsible 
for the hijacking, got everybody off, and set fire to it. It burned 
all night off of Long Beach down to the water line. My recollection 
is that that was the Joanna Smith. That s how she ended up. 

These activities were seasonal, of course, because of the weather 
(you can t operate those ships successfully in stormy and rough 
weather) ; but during the seasons they had operated in San Pedro Bay, 
Santa Monica Bay, and once, at least, in Santa Barbara, over a 
period of years. They were a terrific nuisance. There was always 
violence going on. There was one occasion when a well-to-do odds- 
maker, Zeke Caress, was kidnaped, and he was held for ransom out on 
one of those ships. Eventually he was ransomed. 

But besides these fights, ordinary customers were not infrequently 
beaten up if they made heavy winnings, and more often than not, 
right on board the ships. Complaints were made to the local police 
and the sheriff s office, but I can t recall their ever taking any 
action on any of these complaints. 

The long history of inaction (among other things) led us to a 
well-founded suspicion that some of the key law enforcement officials 
on the shore probably had financial interests in these ships. They 
could justify this in their own eyes, we thought, as not being 
bribery or a violation of the law if the ships were outside the 
limits of the state, because then the activities that they were 
engaged in were not illegal. They would claim that as far as the 
state law was concerned, they were not in violation of any statutes 
that they were under duty to enforce. It would be just as though 
they had an interest in a gambling house in Arizona or Nevada, or 
some place like that. 

Along in the late 30s, for two or three years, the gambling 
ship operators had a regular little song and dance they put on with 
the local law enforcement agencies. It would start off in the 
spring, as soon as the weather got good enough to run the taxis 
back and forth. The ships would open and they d advertise and 
they d go as long as they could. Pretty soon public pressure would 
build up in the district attorney s and the sheriff s offices. The 
county officials would make noises and threaten to close the ships 
down, and finally they d go out and they d make a raid, and some 
body would get arrested. The people arrested would be out on bail, 
and the case would be in the court. They would proceed in due 
course to have a preliminary hearing, and meanwhile the ships were 
operating all the time. 


Olney: Sometimes they would get around to a trial. They didn t always; 
sometimes the delaying tactics were sufficient to keep it from 
getting to trial, but if they did get to trial, if there wasn t an 
acquittal, there would always be an appeal. By then, so much time 
would have passed that it would be the end of the season; it would 
be along in September or October when the first storms could be 
expected. So with the end of the season, the ships would close 
down, and they d tow them back in, and they wouldn t be out there 
operating any more. The ship operators would promise not to do it 
again, so legal proceedings would be dismissed on the ground the 
case was moot. The next year they would do the same thing, only 
under different front names. 

Stein: Now, with these legal proceedings, were they brought on the theory 
that the ships were within the three-mile limit and therefore il 

Olney: Yes, and most of them were based on arrests. There were no proceed 
ings brought by any county officials on the notion that the ships 
were outside the three-mile limit. 

At any rate, it was a circumstance that bothered us, that no 
action had been taken about the violence. There were killings 
involved, too. The Long Beach police had repeatedly picked out of 
the Bay dead bodies floating around off shore. When they had holes 
shot in the back of their heads, it didn t look much like suicide. 
And then there had been an occasion when a killing had taken place 
on one of the ships that got into the federal court. It was the 
case of United States vs. Carrillo, decided in 1935. I have for 
gotten exactly how that case goes. 

I believe that that was a murder case in which the charge was 
brought originally in the state court and then Carrillo applied 
for a writ of habeas corpus to the United States District Court on 
the theory that the ship was on the high seas, and therefore the 
state could have no jurisdiction to try him for homicide. He claimed 
that he should have been tried in the federal court. I may be wrong 
about the circumstances under which this arose, but I do recall that 
the federal court held that the location of this ship, although more 
than three miles from shore, was inside a bay and therefore within 
the territorial limits of California. It was one of the cases that 
we later used as authority for our position. 


The Cornero-Adams Arrest and the Adams Appeal 

Olney: Now, the litigation which finally led to Earl Warren s gambling ship 
raids began before he was attorney general. The sequence goes like 
this: On May 5th, 1938, the S.S. Rex was opened by Tony Cornero to 
capacity crowds. It was located off Santa Monica, and it was sup 
plied with water taxis from the Santa Monica municipal pier. 

On May 13, the Rex was raided by officers from the district 
attorney s office, the sheriff s office, and the Santa Monica Police 
Department. The district attorney was Huron Fitts and the sheriff 
was Eugene Biscailuz. On that occasion, fifty-one persons, including 
Cornero, were arrested. 

On June 14, 1938, because the Santa Monica city authorities had 
halted the water taxi operations from the municipal pier, the Rex 
was moved to a point about four miles off Redondo Beach. That s 
still in Santa Monica Bay, but it s a different location in the Bay 
and the water taxis could operate from the city of Redondo Beach. 

On July 19, 1938, three of the operators of the Rex, including 
Cornero and Adams, were indicted by the Los Angeles County grand 
jury on bookmaking charges, a felony. Adams was the gambler who 
was in immediate charge of the bookmaking operation on board the 
Rex. The evidence of gambling was based entirely on the bookmaking 
operation. They didn t put into evidence anything about slot 
machines or roulette wheels or the like. On July 20th, that year, 
Cornero and Adams were arrested. 

On September 7th, 1938, the Rex, which had been operating all 
this time, was again raided while off Redondo Beach by the district 
attorney s and the sheriff s offices. On this occasion, Cornero 
and nine others were arrested on misdemeanor charges. A quantity 
of gambling equipment was taken ashore as evidence, and after this 
raid the Rex was moved again, this time beyond the twelve-mile 
limit, and preparations were made to re-open. 

But on September 23rd, 1938, Cornero and his employees were freed 
of the misdemeanor charges that had resulted from the raid of Sep 
tember 7th. They were freed by Judge C.A. Bridge, who concluded 
that the waters between Point Vincente and Point Dume were open 
seas, and within that area the state boundary followed three miles 
from the shore. 

Then, on September 26th, 1938, Cornero and Adams were put on 
trial on felony bookmaking charges that were based on the indictment 
that had been returned on July 19th. In October, Adams was convicted 
on this charge by a jury, but the jury disagreed as to Cornero, and 
the case against him was dropped. 


Olney: Earl Warren took office as attorney general in January, 1939. Adams 
took an appeal to the district court of appeal and on March 20th, 
1939, Adams conviction was reversed by the district court of appeal 
on the ground that the Rex was on the high seas at the time of the 
alleged offense of May 13th, 1938, and was not within the territorial 
limits and jurisdiction of the state of California. 

The first thing Earl Warren had to decide when he became attorney 
general was what to do about that decision. Should he accept it 
from the district court of appeal, or should he appeal it to the 
[California] Supreme Court? After consulting with Bayard Rhone, a 
deputy attorney general in U.S. Webb s office, and looking at his 
brief with the rest of us, he decided that we should appeal to the 
supreme court. We had nothing to lose by taking the appeal, anyway. 

We had to devise some way, without waiting for the supreme court, 
of bringing that operation to a halt, because they were piling in so 
much money. In those days we weren t using paper money very much in 
California. The gamblers used little except coin, those big silver 
dollars. They were quite heavy. They were taking in so many silver 
dollars every day that the bank in Santa Monica that handled Tony s 
account told them that they would close out the account unless he 
did something about meeting the expense of handling the weight. And 
so he had to buy a truck for the bank to haul all the cash. 

Well, naturally, the ship operators were not interested in the 
fine points of the law if they could operate in that fashion, and we 
had to stop them. That was our practical problem. 

On March 21st, 1939, Buron Fitts, the district attorney, ordered 
a petition for hearing of Adams case to be filed in the supreme 
court, according to the newspaper clippings, "...with the cooperation 
of Earl Warren, attorney general, assured in the matter." Thomas 
O Brien, the deputy district attorney who had prosecuted Harold Adams 
on the bookmaking charge, said he had already prepared the necessary 
papers to petition the supreme court for a review of the case. The 
newspaper says, "The petition will be filed in the name of the 
attorney general of this state and of the district attorney." 

There is what at first appears to be a discrepancy in the dates 
in the newspaper clippings with respect to the arrests on which the 
Adams case is based. May 6th is mentioned as the date of the offense 
of which Adams was convicted, but the raid and the arrest were May 
13th. The reason for this is the criminal charge was based on 
evidence which was secured by operators on May 6th, and the arrests 
followed later. 

On April llth, 1939, a petition for hearing of the Adams case 
in the supreme court was filed by Bayard Rhone, deputy attorney 
general. The petition was prepared in cooperation with the district 


Olney: attorney s office, and Thomas O Brien and Jerry Sullivan, who were 

deputy district attorneys. On April 18th, the supreme court granted 
the state a hearing on the Adams case, and the matter was put on the 
court s June calendar. 

On June 30th, 1939, the Los Angeles Times carried an item from 
which this is a quote: "District Attorney Fitts, who twice led 
night raids on the gambling ship Rex anchored off Santa Monica and 
Redondo, yesterday said that a pending ruling by the supreme court 
on gambling boat operations will determine his policy toward their 
operations. If the supreme court upholds the district court ruling 
saying the courts do not have the power to fix the three-mile limit, 
this office will be powerless to act, 1 Fitts stated." 

Legal Theories 

Olney: Now, I must inject a personal note here. I joined the staff of the 
attorney general s office under Earl Warren about the middle of May, 
1939. When I appeared there for duty, the first assignment that was 
given to me was to work on these gambling ship cases. A lot of work 
had been done already. The Adams case, the petition for hearing in 
the supreme court, had been prepared; the hearing had been granted; 
the briefs were being written by Bayard Rhone in the office in Los 

There were two points raised on that appeal. The first one was 
that the ship was located in Santa Monica Bay, which was a true bay 
under international law, and that meant that the limits of the state 
did not follow three miles from the shore, but were a straight line 
drawn three miles at sea from Point Vincente to Point Dume, all the 
area on the east of that line being within the state. That was the 
first point. 

The other point involved the interpretation of the Treaty of 
Guadalupe-Hidalgo , which set the international boundary between the 
United States and Mexico, and determined not only the land boundaries 
of the United States, but the sea boundaries along the California 
coast as well. The treaty describes a land line running from the 
east and hitting the Pacific coast at a place described in the treaty 
as one league south of the southern tip of San Diego Bay, and "thence 
one marine league into the sea, including the islands." The state 
constitution uses the same language. The point that was argued in 
the brief was that that language meant that the boundary the sea 
boundary ran from this point near the end of San Diego Bay in a 
series of straight lines extending outside the outermost of the 
Channel Islands, so that all the Channel Islands and all the water 
in between were under the jurisdiction of the United States and of 
the State of California. 


Olney: We thought that these points had merit, but we were by no means sure 
that we could win these cases in the supreme court . But that was 
not the matter that was assigned to me. Earl Warren told me that he 
had been down to Los Angeles after his election and had found that 
the gambling ships were so defiant and so arrogant that he would 
have to do something effective to stop their operations, or he 
couldn t possibly be taken seriously in his efforts to halt gambling 
on the shore. He said he discovered that the ships were taking full- 
page newspaper ads about their operations, all the games that were 
being played, where to take the water taxis, and the like; that they 
were posting billboards all around town with pictures of the ships in 
the ads; that they were advertising on the radio, "Come play on the 
ships"; and the Rex even had a skywriter that was writing in smoke, 
"Play on the S.S. Rex." 

Warren said, "With things like this going on, nobody can take us 
seriously when we re talking about dog tracks and gambling houses 
on the shore. We have to find some practical way of bringing these 
operations to a stop. And it s your job to figure out how to do it." 

Now, as I approached this, I found there had been work done in 
the attorney general s office before I got there. I know that Helen 
MacGregor had some connection with it. It may well be that she is 
the lawyer who first worked up the nuisance theory. At any rate, 
the idea of using the law on public nuisances was under considera 
tion. There were statutes which defined what a public nuisance was. 
It seemed to us that the gambling ships clearly came within the 
definition of the statutes. 

There were decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, 
and of the State of California, about a nuisance which has its 
origin in one jurisdiction but its effects in another, and those 
cases held that if the jurisdiction where the effects of the 
nuisance were felt can get physical control over the persons 
responsible, they can issue injunctions requiring them to abate the 
nuisance even though the cause of it might be outside their terri 
torial limits. And the way they enforce that is, of course, by 
locking the defendants up in jail until they cause the nuisance to 
be abated. 

Now, this was well thought out and pretty well developed, as I 
recall. But there was a contribution, in addition, which I made to 
this, and this was the one on which we finally acted. The nuisance 
theory, as I have outlined it, contemplated a lawsuit, that a com 
plaint would be filed and an order to show cause issued, and there 
would have to be a trial of the issues before the court would issue 
a final order directing the defendants to abate the nuisance and 
threatening to lock them up if they didn t. 


Olney: Well, that meant a lawsuit and a long delay, and we knew if we 

started that kind of litigation that our opponents would simply do 
everything they could to postpone the trial, to delay the proceed 
ings at every point, and meanwhile they would go ahead operating 
the ships and taking in huge sums of money. We realized we couldn t 
possibly get that case to trial against that kind of opposition 
before the end of the present season, and then they d fold up anyway 
because of the winter. And then they would go into court and move 
that the case be dismissed as moot because the ships weren t operat 
ing any more (they would probably tow them in for the winter) , and 
it would be over. And then the next season they d open up again and 
we d go through this once more. As I have mentioned, this had hap 
pened two or three times in years before with the district attorney s 
and sheriff s offices. 

It had happened so regularly that we no longer had any confidence 
in the genuineness of the intention of the district attorney s office 
and sheriff s office to really put these ships out of business. 
They d have these raids they were little more than token raids but 
each year the ships operated the full season and made the full profit 
and then they d start in all over again next season. 

Now, the more direct approach to this situation was an additional 
remedy which the statutes provided for public nuisance. This is the 
remedy of summary abatement. It means that if there is a public 
nuisance established, the law permits the public authorities to move 
right in on the property and stop the nuisance physically, without 
going to any court. Now, from our point of view, the tremendous 
advantage of that would be that we could abate the nuisance by our 
own physical intervention and they wouldn t be operating in the mean 
time. We were prepared to lititate their right to operate, but if 
we intervened physically by way of abatement, they couldn t operate 
while the litigation was going on. They would not be dragging their 
feet in the litigation. Indeed, if they thought they really had any 
legal standing, we could expect them to press for a prompt decision. 

Planning for Summary Abatement 

Olney: In consultation with Earl Warren and Oscar Jahnsen and others, we 
decided to lay plans for a summary abatement of those ships . But 
we felt that we had to keep these plans to ourselves because if our 
opponents on the other side became aware that we did intend to act 
directly and immediately, we were afraid that they would go into 
court and try to get a restraining order from the court against us 
in advance of our taking the necessary moves. Then we would be 
right in the middle of a lawsuit while the ships were continuing to 


Olney: So we made no secret that we were thinking in terms of public 

nuisance, but we were very secretive about any plan for summary 

The procedure which we had agreed on and outlined was to first 
serve a formal notice on each of the ships and their operators to 
abate the nuisance. We wanted to do this so that they could not 
claim that they were taken by surprise. We didn t expect that they 
would quit, but they might. This would make it clear that we were 
going to take some further course. They would probably expect a 
lawsuit to abate the nuisance by injunction. 

We wanted them to know that some action was going to be taken, 
because when we went out actually got men out to go on board 
those ships for the direct abatement we didn t want them to run 
any undue risks of being shot at or resisted if we could help it. 
We felt that if the ship operators knew that something was going 
to happen, that something would come, they would not think it was 
hijackers when our men arrived and cause any serious trouble. 

Well, a notice to abate the nuisance was prepared. It was a 
lengthy one. It listed some seven different grounds on which the 
ships constituted public nuisances in our opinion. The notices 
were taken out by law enforcement officers and openly and publicly 
served on the operators of the ships. The newspapers described it 
as a raid. It wasn t any raid at all. It was merely serving of 
these notices to abate. 

The notices were dated July 29th, and were signed by the attorney 
general, the district attorney, and the sheriff. But before this 
was done, we had to get ready for the next step. A complaint asking 
for a permanent injunction was being drafted with the same allega 
tions that were in the notice for an abatement, and we were working 
with the district attorney s and sheriff s offices in drafting this 
complaint. But at the same time, and without consulting anyone else, 
Oscar Jahnsen and I were laying plans as to how we were going to 
close those ships down physically. The things we had to go into 
turned out to be difficult and elaborate. 

We concluded the only thing that would stop those ships was to 
actually tow them into harbor. That meant that we would have to go 
on board and we would have to have them towed in. There wouldn t 
be so much difficulty in getting on board, but towing them in might 
be another matter. Only one of these ships had enough power on it 
to be able to move under its own power; that was the Mount Baker, 
also known as Showboat . The others were mere barges that were 
anchored and would certainly have to be towed. 


Olney: We realized they didn t even have enough power on board to raise 
their own anchors, and this would mean we would have to cut the 
lines. Well, anchors of that size are worth a good deal of money, 
and if we were to cut the lines, there would be a very considerable 
loss unless we could devise some way of marking the anchors on the 
bottom, so that later they could be hauled up. This means that we 
had to, and did, arrange to have floats made. They were made out of 
old oil drums with rings welded on them where you could attach a 
cable to them and put it on the anchor chain, and put a float out 
there, and you could find the anchor. We had to have these made. 

Then we realized that these were steel cables, I think, and in 
more than one instance a steel chain, and we would have to get 
welders to cut these, so we had to (and did) arrange for a crew of 
welders for each of the four ships, so that they could go out there 
and cut those chains and attach the floats and we could find the 
anchors later. 

Then, of course, we would have to tow the ships. Well, I think 
there was only one tow company down there at least, there was only 
one large enough to have four tugs available at one time. We went 
around and had some confidential talks with the management of this 
tow boat company. We had to tell them, of course, what we wanted 
the tow boats for. They said, as far as they were concerned, they 
were willing to take the job and they had the boats available, so 
that they could tow them in. We felt it was very important to move 
on all four ships at the same time, so we had to arrange for four 
tugs and their crews. 

But the tow boat management told us that they thought we might 
have a real problem because the maritime union rules prohibited 
the sailors on the tugboats from taking a line from anybody except 
ing a union member. Incidentally, the gambling ship boys had been 
smart enough to make their crews on these gambling ships members of 
the union. 

The tugboat people said, "Of course, if you can persuade the crew 
of the ship to pass the line, our people will take it without ques 
tion, but if they won t do it, and you ve got some deputy sheriffs 
or somebody passing the line, they may not be willing to take it." 

Well, to us, this was insurmountable. We could not go to the 
unions and tell them what we were doing. If we did, that would be 
just as good as telling the ship operators themselves. Not only 
were the permanent crew members of the gambling ships all members 
of the union, but the ships themselves had subsidized the union 
treasuries with all kinds of gifts, and things of this kind, for 
public relations reasons. And indeed, when the attorney general 
went to Los Angeles and announced his intention of closing the 


Olney: ships, the only vocal opposition came from the maritime unions. 
They objected to it on the ground that it would deprive some of 
their members of jobs. 

Well, Oscar and I decided that there was no way in which we 
could solve this tugboat problem in advance; we d simply have to 
go ahead and take our chances on what happened. We felt that if 
the ships were cut loose, and were just drifting, somebody would 
have to tow them in. The Coast Guard would probably order it, if 
nothing else. But there was that weak spot in our plan. 

Now, we also had to think of who we were going to get to go on 
board these ships, and what was going to happen when we got there. 
We decided that we must raid these ships in open daylight and not 
try it at night the way Fitts had done with his raids. But there 
was a manpower problem. We had only four investigators in the 
attorney general s office and it was obvious we were going to have 
to use personnel from somewhere else. We were hesitant about using 
the sheriff s men and the district attorney s men because we were 
very concerned about the unknown relationships that might exist 
there. And yet, they were the logical peace officers for it. 

Another problem came up when the attorney general got to Los 
Angeles when we were deciding to take action against the ships. 
When he took the matter up with the district attorney and with the 
sheriff, they were very, very reluctant to do anything more than 
they had done. They said they felt that it would be flying right 
into the teeth of the decision of the district court of appeal, 
and that they would be running a very great risk on their bonds if 
they were to go out there and take part in another raid on the 
ships when the decision of the district court of appeal was that 
the ships were outside of the state. It took a lot of arguing to 
induce them to realize that the nuisance theory which we intended 
to use as the basis of our action assumed that the ships were out 
side the state. This action could be taken anyway, even though 
they were beyond the state line. 

The thing, however, that really brought Fitts and Biscailuz 
around to agreeing that they would take part was the action of 
Mayor Bowron of Los Angeles. On July 27th, 1939, he made a public 
announcement that he would "cooperate fully with Attorney General 
Earl Warren in the attorney general s proposed drastic campaign to 
clean up gambling in Los Angeles city and county, and on land and 
sea." He told the newspapers and he told the attorney general that 
if he needed manpower to carry out this operation, it would be 
provided by the Los Angeles Police Department. 


Olney: Now, this, of course, put the sheriff and the district attorney on 
the spot. It forced them to agree that their men would take part 
in this operation under the attorney general s direction. Well, 
matters were moving quite rapidly, of course; they had to. The 
attorney general gave Fitts and Biscailuz a figure of how many men 
he thought would be needed from the sheriff s office and how many 
from the district attorney s office. There was to be an equal 
number of sheriff s deputies and district attorney s investigators 
for each of the four ships. I do not remember the number, but I 
think it was about twelve from each office for each ship. We needed 
that many to smother any possible resistance. 

We asked the sheriff and the district attorney to make their own 
decisions as to which men from their offices should be assigned and 
to give us their names, which they did. We also wanted to have 
people from our own office lawyers, in particular to go out on 
these trips to keep things under control. 

Oscar was assigned to handling the two ships in Santa Monica Bay, 
and I was assigned to handling the two in San Pedro Bay. We needed 
other people from our office to provide leadership for these board 
ing parties. We used all the investigators we had, and we also took 
a lawyer at least one from the attorney general s staff for each 
of the ships. These were men that we did not know very well. They 
were General Webb s people, and since this was the first trip to Los 
Angeles I made after being appointed, I in particular didn t know 
them. But we had confidence in them, and we took them in on our 
plans, and told them what they were expected to do. 

But then we also had to give thought to the conditions we would 
meet when we got on board . We thought that the ships might well be 
in operation and that there would be members of the public there. 
In fact, three of them were in full public operation. This is why 
we needed as many men from the sheriff s office as we did, in order 
to see that nobody got hurt if fights started, and things of that 
sort, and also that members of the public were taken off the ships 
as rapidly as possible. 

But we realized that if the ships were in operation, there was 
going to be a lot of money around on the tables, and also, whether 
they were operating or not, there would be the bank roll of the 
ships. They all had offices and security cages where the money was 
kept. And this, we realized, presented a delicate problem. We must 
take possession of the money immediately, and we must be able to 
account for it. We had to be able to account for it so we couldn t 
be accused of stealing any of it. Given a chance, they would accuse 
us of this. 


Olney: So to handle this, we decided the thing to do was take some account 
ants with each one of the boarding parties. We used Price-Waterhouse. 
They assigned two accountants for each of the boarding parties to go 
along and take immediate charge of all the money and finances. Their 
job which they carried out was to go on board and see that all the 
money was gathered up from the tables and taken to the cages, and 
then get the office manager of the ship and proceed to count it in 
front of him and give him a receipt and put it all in bags and get 
it into the boats and bring it in and put it in the vault of the 

This they did, and much to the great pleasure of the accountants. 
(I never saw men have a better time than they did; apparently it was 
quite a change from the ordinary accounting practice that they were 
accustomed to.) Well, with arrangements like this, you can see that 
it could take quite a number of water taxis to carry all these people 
out there. 

Stein: I was just going to ask where you got your boats. 

Olney: Well, this was a problem, too. We did have one great help. The 

Fish and Game Commission had patrol boats there were four of them 
that they made available to us, together with their crews. They 
were larger and faster than any of the water taxis, and very maneu- 
verable. But they were nowhere near big enough to carry all the 
people that we needed, so we rented water taxis. I think we had 
four water taxis plus a Fish and Game patrol boat for each of these 
ships. It was a regular fleet! 

It was not easy getting the Fish and Game Commission patrol 
boats, notwithstanding the willingness of the commission chairman 
to go just as far as he could to help us. He pointed out that his 
men were authorized to enforce the fish and game laws only and did 
not have the broad authority of peace officers. The patrol boats 
also were authorized for the same limited purpose and there might 
well be serious problems arising if the property, funds, or person 
nel of the commission were diverted to unauthorized purposes. 
Furthermore, the insurance carried by the commission on both boats 
and crews would be inoperative when they were used for something 
outside their regular jurisdiction and duties. 

These difficulties were met by our entering into a formal agree 
ment with the commission to charter their boats for a stipulated 
time period for an agreed rental and to employ their crews to 
operate the boats. We also took out separate insurance policies 
on both boats and crews to cover them while under our command. The 
crews were chosen for us by the chairman of the commission based on 
his personal knowledge of their individual reliability and willing 
ness to take part in this kind of an operation. 


Olney: When the time came I found myself, to my great surprise, the com 
mander for all practical purposes of a fleet of four patrol boats, 
sixteen water taxis, and seventy-five or one hundred men. We were 
to board and take possession of four large ships located in two 
widely separated bays and manned by hostile crews and all in the 
presence of unfriendly and excitable public participants. Quite 
an assignment for a young man who had never commanded so much as a 
corporal s guard. 

Olney: D Day for our operation was the day following the day we got the 
list of names from the district attorney s and sheriff s offices. 
We asked the sheriff s and the district attorney s men whose names 
had been given to us to report at 8:30 in the morning to Patriotic 
Hall, which is a hall we hired down on Figueroa Street, without any 
indications as to what the purpose of it was. Even the sheriff and 
district attorney did not realize we were going to act so soon. 

Well, they all showed up, and when they were there we locked the 
doors, and Oscar proceeded to explain what was going to happen. 
They were divided up into these four groups. He read the names of 
all the men who were to be in each boarding party, got them segre 
gated in the room, and told them that they were leaving from Patri 
otic Hall right then and there and were going out to take these 

Well, you never heard such a hollering and squawking "Oh, you 
can t do this." "I m not feeling well." "I ve got to meet my wife 
downtown." "Well, I ve got to phone home," and almost everything 
you can think of. But Oscar handled these people, not I, and he 
was absolutely adamant . No one was allowed to phone and no one was 
allowed off the hook either. We had buses out there. We loaded 
buses for Santa Monica and buses for San Pedro, and we tried to 
time it so we d get on board these water taxis and put to sea about 
the same time, so that there wouldn t be any more advance notice to 
anybody than we could help. 

Well, considering the difficulties, it worked remarkably well. 
We had more trouble in Santa Monica Bay than we did in San Pedro. 
When they went on board the Texas, which was in Santa Monica Bay, 
there was a crowd of people there playing. Our people did not 
remove the crowd fast enough. They stayed on until it was after 
dark. Somebody pulled the light switch and a regular melee started 
in the dark. They had some overly enthusiastic officers who pro 
ceeded to chop up crap tables and throw stuff overboard. There 


Olney: were a lot of pictures in the papers of this going on, which 

shouldn t have happened. Not with the public on board there like 
that. It got out of hand. It was not run the way it should have 
been run. 

On the other hand, with the Rex, they were going full blast and 
Tony was on board, and they pulled up their gangplank and got out 
their fire hoses and wouldn t let anybody on board kept them off 
with the hoses. Our people made no effort to force their way on 
board. This was on instructions, not to do that. There was lots 
of defiance and Tony got his name in the papers and all kinds of 
pictures. They accused us of being pirates and things of this kind, 
and at first it looked as though the law enforcement people were 
impotent. Actually, we were in control right from the very begin 

When Tony said the officers couldn t come on board, their response 
was, "Well, nobody s going to get off either." Tony had over six 
hundred people on board there, and there were a lot of housewives 
who wanted to get home and get dinner, and there were a lot of people 
with other people s wives who weren t supposed to be out there 
[laughter], and it wasn t long until the crowd got very indignant 
and very outraged with Tony for not doing something to get them off 
that ship . 

Stein: That s a very clever tactic. 

Olney: Oh, we could hear them holler! [laughter] When they d stood around 
there for a while, Oscar made a suggestion that he d bring water 
taxis in there one at a time to take all these members of the public 
off, on the agreement that none of the ship personnel and none of 
the gamblers would go off at the same time. Our men would make no 
effort to board while this was going on. And this was done; they 
took them all off. We had no doubt that some of the ship personnel 
went ashore at that time, but not enough to make any difference. 

But then there they were with all their hired help on the ship. 
Nobody could get on and nobody could get off. Now, this blockade 
made a difficult personnel problem for us, because our office with 
only four men could not keep that blockade up, so what we decided 
to do was to turn the full responsibility over to the sheriff s 
office. They had the men and they couldn t afford to admit that 
their blockade couldn t be successful. So Oscar and the other 
people from the attorney general s office came away. George 
Contreras, the under sher if f , and his people stayed. 

They sat out there three or four nights and days. Now, ostensi 
bly the ship was blockaded all that time, but we noticed with both 
interest and amusement in the litigation that followed that we 


Olney: received notarized affidavits from Tony Cornero sworn before a 
notary public in his lawyer s office in Santa Monica during the 
time he was supposed to be blockaded on that ship! [laughter] 

But in the meantime, of course, all of Tony s people were out 
there. Their wages were going on. The cost of this was the equiv 
alent of a very heavy fine every day. [laughter] So it didn t last 
too long, and Tony finally agreed that he would let our men come on 
board to make sure that there would be no further operation. Tony 
could get his people off while we proceeded to litigate. 

Now, in San Pedro Bay it was a little bit different. The ship 
that I went to was the Tango , which had formerly been owned by 
Tony. It was the biggest ship of them all, a better ship than the 
Rex. Tony had owned and operated that in former years, but he lost 
his financial interest in it in a crap game, and it was being oper 
ated by the others. 

The man who went out to the other ship, the Mount Baker, was 
Burdette Daniels from the attorney general s office, and he was in 
charge there. Now, the Mount Baker was in operation, and Burdette 
and his men had no difficulty at all in going on board, and they 
served their papers and proceeded as planned. The accountants did 
what they were supposed to do and the public was taken off the ship 
immediately. No problems developed there. 

When I went out to the Tango , they had gotten word in advance 
and there were no members of the public on it . The ship had a plat 
form on the side with a steel door that would roll up and down like 
a garage door. You worked it with a crank. They had that thing 
down so that nobody could get on. The reason for that set-up was 
because of the dangers of hijacking. They had to have some way of 
shutting off access. 

When we came up with our five boats, the captain and others were 
looking over the rail. I told them that I wanted to come on board 
and they said, "Nope, you can t come." So I said, "All right, we ll 
be back later." Then I took all our boats, the whole procession of 
them, and we went over to the Mount Baker to see how they were making 
out there, and found that everything was under control there. So 
then we started back to the Tango , but this time we took only the 
patrol boat and left everyone else behind. We weren t going to need 
them if the public wasn t there; I mean, not need them immediately. 

So there was only one boat that came up to the Tango . I had 
everybody else on the patrol boat below deck, so that the fellows 
that were driving the boat and I were the only ones visible. We 
came up again and I said, "I want to come aboard. I want to talk 
to you." Well, they cranked this door up so I could come on board 


Olney: and I stepped off onto the landing platform with my shoulder under 
the door. You know, if you do that, you can t crank those things 
down. So I held the door up and then everybody else came up from 
the bottom of the patrol boat. The sailor with the crank lifted it 
in the air as though to strike me, but one of our crew jumped on the 
landing, grabbed his arm, and threw the crank into the ocean. There 
was no other resistance. We signaled for our other boats to come 
over and we occupied the Tango . 

One of the things that I failed to mention that we had to plan 
for in advance was the liquor. They had liquor on all these ships. 
We knew that if we didn t want to have trouble, we had to be sure 
that that stuff was locked up and locked up immediately. And with 
a lot of the kind of deputy sheriffs we had who were going to have 
to stay on the boats, we wanted to make sure that that stuff was 
secure. We took out special locks and we took every precaution 
against anybody getting into the liquor on board the ships. 

When I finally got on the Tango . the tables were not in operation 
and were all covered over. We went into the office and found this 
huge amount of money. In those days, as I have mentioned before, 
they were using silver dollars, mostly. The amount of money was 
very impressive. I suddenly realized that we had actual physical 
possession of their bank roll and we did on all four ships! We had 
anticipated this to some extent. We had thought enough about it to 
have the accountants come along to handle the money, but it really 
did not occur to me until it was accomplished that if we got physical 
possession of the bank roll it would be decisive. Gamblers can t 
operate without money. There might be question as to whether these 
funds were subject to forfeiture, but to get them back they would 
have to bring a suit, which would take time, and they couldn t 
operate in the meantime. They could not operate as long as we had 
possession of their bank rolls. 

I did not send for any tugs or for any welders to cut any chains. 
The longer I was out there, the surer I was that we didn t have to 
tow those boats in now to keep them from operating. They would have 
to litigate with us without being able to operate in the meantime 
because we had the money. 

While I was out there, a Coast Guard cutter came steaming by and 
the skipper hollered that he had heard what we were doing and that 
we had no right out there and to get off. I said, "I ll come aboard 
and show you our authority." So they sent a boat over and picked me 
up and I went aboard his cutter. (I didn t want them coming on board 
the Tango . ) The commander, whose name was Greenwood, was quite 
hostile and said that we had no jurisdiction out there; we weren t 
any better than a bunch of pirates, using Tony s language. 


Olney: I said, "We are properly authorized law officers and we were acting 
under legal authority from our courts and you interfered with us at 
your own risk." 

I should have mentioned to you that besides the notice to abate, 
which we d served a day or so before, we also took with us felony 
warrants for operating bookmaking on the ships, based on the theory 
they were inside the state limits. It wouldn t do any harm to have 
them and to serve them if needed. 

We also had prepared our complaint for an injunction and had 
gotten a temporary restraining order against the further operation 
of these nuisances from Judge Wilson, and we had served that on the 
ships personnel. We we hit them with all the legal proceedings we 
could. I had the papers, at least, and could show them to the 
skipper on the Coast Guard vessel. After looking at the papers, he 
finally said, "Well, I guess you know what you re doing. I think 
I ll go over to Santa Monica Bay. There s trouble there." I did 
not tell Commander Greenwood that the attorney general had informed 
his superior, Captain Parker, of our plans in advance and had 
received his approval. 

Stein: Why do you suppose he was so hostile? 

Olney: He was very friendly with Tony Cornero. We ran across very buddy- 
buddy conversations between the two of them when I had a tap put on 
Tony s telephone. Cornero buttered up everybody he could, even the 
ministers. There was a minister in a little old church in Santa 
Monica, and every time he needed something like a new pulpit or a 
paint job or something like that, he d get it out of Tony. This 
Coast Guard commander had been given the same course of treatment, 
I think. 

Anyway, later in the day, another boat came out and circled us 
and hollered at us. This was a very swank motor yacht, beautiful. 
One of the men on it was a lawyer named Stratton from Long Beach. 
He was the attorney for the owners of the Tango , and identified 
himself, and wanted to know what we were doing out there on his 
clients ship. So I told him, "Well, if you want to come on board, 
I ll give you all the papers." He said, "Thanks, no." I said, "You 
can count on it that the attorney general s office will be happy to 
send them anywhere you want." So he said, "All right." Later on 
I got to know him better. For a time he was Fred Howser s first 
assistant when he became district attorney of Los Angeles County. 

I got word we had no telephone messages and no radio out there 
but I got word by somebody who came out in one of the boats (it was 
the skipper of the Coast Guard cutter) that they were having problems 
down in Santa Monica Bay. I didn t know what, and there wasn t any 
thing I could do about it, but from what I d seen on the Tango , I 


Olney: realized that we would be taking unnecessary chances, completely 
unnecessary chances, if we tried to cut those ships loose and tow 
them in as we had originally planned. It wasn t necessary, and so 
I sent a messenger to Oscar to tell him under no circumstances to 
cut the ships loose or to try to tow them in. We didn t need to do 

I also sent word to the attorney general that I was convinced 
that we didn t need to do it. I might say that while this was going 
on, Earl Warren and Huron Fitts and Eugene Biscailuz were in a suite 
of rooms that they had at one of the beach clubs at Santa Monica, 
and they could sit there, and with field glasses they could watch 
what was going on in Santa Monica Bay. They stayed there until it 
got dark. Because of this, we knew where they were, and if we 
needed to get any instructions we could get them. 

Well, when the night came, there was nothing to do but stay out 
there on the ships. I stayed on mine, Burdette Daniels stayed on 
his, Oscar stayed out on the boats blockading the Rex, and Paul 
McCormick, I think it was, stayed on the Texas. 

Stein: Was this when you slept on the crap tables? 

Olney: Well, I slept on the Tango . I guess I slept on a crap table no, I 
didn t. That was later when I slept on the Rex. 

Results of the Litigation 

Olney: The litigation went about as you would expect. The owners of these 
operations ran for cover when this raid took place, because they 
didn t know what they were going to get hit with. This was some 
thing that they had not expected. But they had to come out of the 
woodwork because we had their bank rolls as well as the ships ; and 
they did, through their attorneys. 

We quickly reached an agreement with the operators of the Tango 
that they would not attempt to operate the ship any more, that they 
would, in fact, agree to discontinue the ship s operation. They 
knew they couldn t operate again that season with the litigation 
going on. They agreed to tow the ship in themselves at their own 
expense, and to leave the gambling equipment on board to be deter 
mined whether it should be forfeited or not, if we agreed to release 
the bank roll, and we agreed to do that. 


Olney: That was done very quickly. The arrangement that we made with the 

Showboat, the Mount Baker (that was known by two names) was a little 
bit different. They refused to tow their boat in and refused to 
make any concessions about the gambling equipment. The only agree 
ment they would make is that they would not attempt to operate, and 
they would take everybody off and keep everybody off excepting the 
minimum crew that was needed to keep it at sea. And there were 
other guarantees that they gave us that I don t remember that they 
wouldn t operate in return for which we gave them their bank roll. 
I believe they consented to a preliminary injunction against operat 
ing gambling games on the ship. 

The Texas in Santa Monica Bay ended up with some similar arrange 
ment. I think it was just about like that with the Mount Baker, but 
they wanted to stay out at sea. They wouldn t bring it in, but just 
kept a minimal crew on board. They tried to go through the winter 
out there, but they got hit by a storm and the ship sank. 

With Cornero, after we got aboard, the arrangement was similar. 
The equipment would be left on the ship; whether it was subject to 
forfeiture would be determined at a later date. They consented to 
the preliminary injunction not to operate the games in the meantime. 
What other concessions we made to them, I don t remember. My recol 
lection is that in the case of the Rex we did not give them the bank 
roll. I m unclear about that. 

Well, the cases rattled along as you would expect them to. I was 
supposed to be overseeing the litigation for these cases, but we had 
accomplished our purpose, as you can see by what we had done. Those 
ships stopped their operations the day we went on board and they 
never operated again. We litigated. We ended up by winning the 
litigation. Judge Wilson decided that our nuisance theory was valid, 
and he issued a permanent injunction against each of the ship s 
managements and owners, not only from operating those ships, but 
from operating any similar ships in the future. Those were injunc 
tions against the persons involved. 

The Outcome for Tony Cornero 

Olney: But we went ahead with further litigation with Cornero. He got very 
obstreperous. In the injunction suit we wanted to take his deposi 
tion. He appeared with his lawyer, Louis Pink, to answer the ques 
tions, but he refused to answer any questions except his name. I 
asked him about the ownership of the operation, and who he was 
principal for, and things of this kind, and he wouldn t answer those 
questions, although his lawyer advised him to. So on the basis of 


Olney: this we cited him for contempt of court for failing to answer the 
questions. Judge Wilson ruled that the questions were proper and 
that he should answer them. When the questions were repeated, 
Cornero pleaded the Fifth Amendment to each and every one. 

We also brought a suit, with permission of the Public Utilities 
Commission, for operating the water taxis as a public utility with 
out a permit, with a $2,500 per day penalty for every day of opera 
tion without a permit. Neither Cornero nor the taxis had ever 
gotten a permit. So a suit for something like $750,000 in penalties 
was filed. The state, unlike a private person, in a suit for 
penalties of that kind can attach without posting a bond. So we 
attached a lot of things, bank accounts, all sorts of things. This 
is why I m quite sure we did not give Cornero back his bank roll, 
because we got his bank accounts attached, too, and a lot of other 
things . 

As part of our legal blitz against Cornero, we also had issued a 
felony warrant for bookmaking, a new one, in connection with the 
1939 operations, and had him arrested on that. He had a preliminary 
hearing before Judge William McKay. Judge McKay discharged him on 
the ground that the decision of the court of appeal was controlling, 
the ship was not inside the state, and so Cornero was dismissed. We 
later learned, almost at the same time, it was not an honest decision. 
It was paid for by Tony. 

Stein: Could you just tell the story briefly of how you found that out? I 
thought that was an interesting story. 

Olney: Well, we had a tap on Tony s telephone. In those days that was not 
regarded as illegal, either as a violation of state or federal law. 
The view was that it was not covered by the Federal Communications 
Act. There were no decisions of courts saying that it was illegal 
when the taps were made by law enforcement officers in the investi 
gation of crime. That is why we felt we had proper authority to do 

We heard this conversation between Tony and Judge McKay which 
left us in no doubt about the situation. 

With all this litigation, as you can see, it was getting very 
thick for Cornero. It was October, November; the season was all 
over. In August of 39 the war had started in Europe and the 
future of fancy things like the gambling ships was pretty question 
able. Tony was a very sharp operator and already, even before his 
troubles with the gambling ships were over, had perceived the rise 
in value of ship bottoms that was bound to occur because of the 
outbreak of hostilities, and he was actually in the process of 
trying to buy up other ships, not for gambling purposes, but for 
wartime trade purposes. He wanted to get out of all this litigation. 


Olney: He came to San Francisco with Jerry Giesler, who was his attorney 

at this time (in the criminal aspects at least) , to see the attorney 
general and to see about getting the litigation cleared up. Tony 
wanted to come into the conference, and the attorney general told 
Giesler that under no circumstances could Cornero come into his 
office, that his conduct had been outrageous, and he d be happy to 
talk to Giesler, but he wasn t going to have Tony around. So Tony 
cooled his heels in the reception room while Giesler explained that 
they were tired of the litigation and they wanted to discuss winding 
it all up. 

At that time the attorney general told Giesler that he thought it 
was a wise thing for him to do, and told him that it would be bound 
to come out sooner or later if litigation continued that Tony had 
paid for Judge McKay s decision and we could prove it. He told him 
frankly what we had. Giesler, who had represented Tony at that 
preliminary hearing, said this was a great deflation to his ego, 
that he had thought he had won that case through his own legal 
ability. But he asked permission to consult with his client, which, 
of course, he was given, and they talked somewhere privately in the 
building for an hour or more, and Giesler came back and (making no 
reference to this earlier conversation) simply said they wanted to 
end it on whatever terms the attorney general thought were fair. 

Well, we insisted that he consent to the entering of a permanent 
injunction against his operating any gambling ships then or in the 
future. We agreed to return the bank roll, I m sure. 

Now, I have in front of me some notes that were taken from news 
paper clippings that I think are correct, that in the settlement 
Cornero agreed that all of the gaming equipment would be destroyed. 
He agreed to pay $13,200 in abatement and costs. That was to 
reimburse the attorney general s office for the expenses to which 
the office had been put. There was $4,200 in taxes that he agreed 
to pay, and a $7,500 compromise claim with the Public Utilities 
Commission for operating a public utility without a license. 

The Rex was eventually sold. It was taken to Newport Beach and 
reconverted into a sea^going ship. I believe that the motor power 
was taken out and she was reconverted to a sailing ship. The Rex 
had been built as a sailing ship in England in 1886. Tony had re 
built her with two four-hundred-foot decks for gambling at a cost of 
$250,000. At any rate, she went on a voyage, as I understand, 
loaded with grain, and eventually was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean, 
so she came to an honorable end. 

The basis of the settlement was not to try to stick Tony for 
every penny he had. We tried to get back into the state treasury 
the amount of money that it had cost the state in the investigations 
and litigation, plus a moderate amount as fine. Now, these were 


Olney: figured on a rough basis. We did not press the criminal charges, 

the bookmaking indictments and things of that kind, because Tony had 
always claimed that he was operating within the law, that the law 
didn t reach him out there, and we couldn t say that he was in bad 
faith on that, especially after he had a couple of lower court 
rulings in his favor. 

Then there was the matter of the gambling equipment; that was 
still an issue. We insisted, and this was a hard thing for Tony 
to take, that the equipment still on board the Rex be forfeited, 
taken ashore and destroyed. They finally agreed to that. Now, it 
was in carrying that out that we had another little to-do with the 
ship itself. 

That was agreed to by Giesler, and even by Tony, but Tony always 
claimed just to be an agent. We got wind of the fact that others, 
who were going to claim that they were the real owners and were not 
bound by this agreement, were going to try to move the Rex or at 
least take the equipment off the ship so that we couldn t get at it 
and destroy it. Oscar and George Griffin and I and others went out 
onto the ship and we stayed overnight on that ship that time; that s 
when I think I slept on the crap table. At any rate, that s when I 
got to know Tony s captain of the Rex. We all had dinner together 
and stayed around there on that ship overnight killing time until 
this equipment thing got settled. 

Stein: What happened with the equipment eventually? Was it burned? 

Olney: We took the equipment ashore. I believe that the slot machines were 
dumped into the ocean because they would sink. They were metal and 
would sink, and they wouldn t be any good if you dredged them up. 
But anything that would float or was wood we burned. It was taken 
ashore and put in a pile and kerosene poured on it and burned. We 
were careful to take photographs of all of it from each of the ships. 
We destroyed the equipment on the Tango the same way. The Texas 
equipment went down with the ship except for the stuff that was 
thrown off and destroyed in the initial raid. 

The Mount Baker tried to haul up anchor and escape rather than 
surrender their equipment, and Oscar Jahnsen and others in one of 
the patrol boats which happened to be down there (I wasn t) saw the 
tug out there working with the ship, and they went out and went on 
board at the point of a gun and stopped them from doing it. We 
took that equipment off and after long litigation eventually 
destroyed that, too. 

The reason for destroying this was that we had had experience 
with gambling houses on shore where raids were made and equipment 
was left with the owners on the promise that it wouldn t be used 


Olney: again, that they would ship it into Nevada. But this stuff could 

always come back into our state again and claims would be made that 
it was with our connivance. So we didn t want this stuff coming 
back and it never did. 

The Nootka Sound Convention 

Stein: You mentioned when we were talking earlier, before the tape was 

turned on, that the question about the three-mile limit is still in 
the courts. 

Olney: Well, this is a point that has to do with the limits of the state 
that was never raised in this litigation at all. It s never been 
raised in any litigation that I know of. It was one that I worked 
out myself, but it came simply through information that I had about 
the Nootka Sound controversy of 1790. It has never occurred to 
anybody (as far as I know) who has been concerned with our seaward 
boundary that the Nootka Sound controversy and compact has any 
bearing on this. The history of this is all in Bancroft s works. 

Nootka Sound on the west side of Vancouver Island was a fur 
trading post. In the late 1780s, the English had succeeded in 
crossing Canada and the Hudson s Bay Company had put a trader or two 
in a little hut at Nootka Sound for trading purposes. This was 
the first settlement of any kind on the shores of the Pacific by 
anybody excepting the Spaniards. 

The Spaniards had always claimed that they had exclusive owner 
ship and jurisdiction of the Pacific Ocean because of Columbus s 
and Balboa s discoveries, confirmed by a papal bull of many years 
before in the 1500s, when the pope had divided the newly found 
areas between Spain on the one hand and Portugal on the other. The 
award to Spain included the whole Pacific coast of America and most 
of the Pacific Ocean, and Spain had always insisted on her exclusive 

The first intruders were the Russians, but they were all the way 
up in the Aleutian Islands. They alarmed the Spanish very much, 
and their intrusion was one of the reasons why the Spaniards sent 
out colonizing expeditions from Mexico into California. About 1789, 
they got wind of the fact that the English were on Nootka Sound, and 
they sent a naval expedition to Nootka. They proceeded to capture 
the English traders there, to reduce the trading post, to make 
prisoners of the traders, to take them to Acapulco, to send them to 
Spain, and they eventually were re-patriated to England. 


Olney: But this caused a tremendous international hullabaloo. The English 
at the time were spoiling for an excuse to go to war with Spain and 
started beating the war drums, and they undoubtedly would have gone 
to war with Spain excepting that their land allies in such a war, 
on whom they were counting, were the French. They were looking to 
France for the foot soldiers, and they came to the realization that 
the French monarchy was so shaky that it couldn t be relied on in 
any kind of a war. 

The result of all this was that there was a settlement at a 
conference between the Spanish and the English. In the resulting 
compact, Spain relinquished for the first time her claim to exclusive 
jurisdiction over the whole Pacific Ocean and recognized the right of 
the British to cruise there. She also recognized the right of the 
British to establish settlements on the Pacific coast in areas not 
occupied by the Spanish, i.e. north of Cape Mendocino. In return 
Great Britain agreed not to permit her subjects to engage in trade 
with the colonies of Spain contrary to Spanish law and also agreed 
that her subjects and ships would not approach the Spanish Pacific 
coast, i.e. the coast south of Cape Mendocino, closer than ten marine 
leagues. On this point the language of the compact is: "Art. 4. 
His Britannic majesty engages to take the most effectual measures to 
prevent the navigation and fishery of his subjects in the Pacific 
Ocean, or in the South Seas, from being made a pretext for illicit 
trade with the Spanish settlements; and with this view, it is more 
over expressly stipulated, that British subjects shall not navigate, 
or carry on their fishery in the said seas, within the space of ten 
sea leagues from any part of the coasts already occupied by Spain," 
Nootka Sound Compact, signed by Great Britain and Spain, October 28, 
1790. This established for Spain, as against Great Britain, a limit 
along the major part of the California coast of ten marine leagues 
or thirty miles. As against the rest of the world, Spain still 
claimed her ancient exclusive right to the whole ocean and its 
Pacific coast. 

Mexico succeeded to the Spanish title to California and consis 
tently claimed a limit of ten marine leagues offshore which no 
foreign ship could legally enter by virtue of Spain s ancient rights 
and the Nootka Sound Compact. 

The United States succeeded to the Mexican title to California 
and by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo acquired all Mexico s juris 
diction or claims to jurisdiction over the land and the bordering 

This is a very abbreviated sketch of the historical steps which 
seemed to me to make it possible for the United States and the State 
of California to claim a seaward limit along the California coast of 
ten marine leagues, or thirty miles, based on Spain s ancient claims 
to jurisdiction over the Pacific as subsequently limited by the 
Nootka Sound Compact of 1790. 


The California Supreme Court and the S.S. Rex 

Olney: Going back to the gambling ships and Tony Cornero and the S.S. Rex, 
I m not sure that I put in the factual data about the end of the 

It was on November 20, 1939 that the California Supreme Court 
announced its decision in the Adams case that the Rex was inside 
the territorial limits of the state of California. In that case 
they held that Santa Monica Bay was a true bay, that the sea bound 
ary of the state did not follow the line three miles offshore. On 
the contrary, it included all the bays, so that the sea boundary 
was three miles to the sea beyond a straight line going from Point 
Vincente to Point Dume. 

The opinion was written by Mr. Justice Shenk of the state supreme 
court, and when I read it I saw that the language used in describing 
the limit was that the sea boundary of this state was a line three 
miles west of a line drawn between the two points. 

That language bothered me because it, by implication, at least, 
foreclosed any later argument that the true boundary was even farther 
west. So I went down to see the justice in his chambers as soon as 
I read this, and asked him whether he or the court had had any inten 
tion of foreclosing an argument that under the Treaty of Guadalupe 
Hidalgo the line might go way around the outside of the islands, or 
whether under the theory of Spanish history and the Nootka Sound 
Convention it might extend even farther west than that. 

He said no, they had had no intention at all of foreclosing the 
state from making any such argument as that, because it hadn t been 
presented and the argument hadn t been considered. So he modified 
his opinion by inserting the words "at least" that the jurisdic- 
tional boundary was "at least" as far west as the line described in 
the opinion. 

Following this decision, we realized that Cornero knew the case 
was lost and we were concerned about that gambling equipment, lest 
he try to remove it from the ship. So Oscar Jahnsen and others went 
on board the Rex. It wasn t any full-scale raid, because there were 
only a few people on it, the captain and just enough of a crew to 
keep the Rex at sea. I think they had something of an argument 
trying to get on board, but they could do it and did. I went out 
there, too, not at the time they went but later, and stayed on board 
overnight for some reason; I can t remember what. The equipment was 
taken off and eventually destroyed. It was right about that time 
that Cornero went to the attorney general s office and agreed to give 
up the fight, as I have previously related. 


Stein: I think you mentioned after we turned the tape off last time that that 

conference between Warren and Cornero s attorney, Jerry Giesler, 

occurred just after the supreme court made the decision on the Adams 

Olney: I think that s correct. I don t have anything that fixes the date of 
that conference, but that s my recollection, that it was right after 
the supreme court decision. 

An Attempt to Revive the Gambling Ships 

Olney: After the war there was another curious resumption on Tony s part of 
gambling ship activity. By this time Earl Warren was governor, of 
course. I had left the marine corps and was in private practice in 
San Francisco. Cornero with his usual flair for publicity announced 
that he was going to resume operating a gambling ship and he had out 
fitted one very much like the Rex, a similar size and everything else, 
but this one was named the S.S. Lux. 

Now, the governor felt this was a direct challenge, almost a per 
sonal challenge, and he made publicly and privately many statements 
indicating that no matter what it took, he was going to see that that 
ship did not operate. But Tony wasn t daunted by any threats of that 
kind. Robert Kenny, the California attorney general, at the time was 
at the trials of the war criminals in Nuremberg. Fred Howser was 
district attorney of Los Angeles County and he had as his chief 
assistant a lawyer from Long Beach Stratton was his name a very 
able lawyer, indeed. Stratton had been counsel for the owners of the 
Tango at the time that I had raided it . He was the man who had come 
around in the motorboat to look us over when we were on board. 

Howser claimed that he didn t know how to go about preventing Tony 
from putting his ship back in operation. Stratton called me up and 
asked me if I would accept an appointment as special assistant to 
Howser to try to keep the Lux from operating. I told him that it 
wasn t necessary at all for them to get me or anyone else as a special 
assistant, that any lawyer that he had in the district attorney s 
office could do it single-handed, because in the settlement which we 
had made with Cornero in 1939, he had consented to a permanent injunc 
tion against himself, not only against operating the Rex, but against 
operating any kind of a gambling ship at any time off the California 
coast. All that was needed was to issue a citation to come into court 
and show cause why he shouldn t be punished for contempt for violating 
the injunction if he went ahead. It didn t require any raid or any 
special counsel. 


Olney: Well, nothing was done. No citation was issued. The ship was towed 
out to anchorage at sea and all the preparations were made to start 
operations again. Then, I understand, what occurred was that Governor 
Warren called up President Truman on the telephone and told him about 
this. Warren called the president s attention to the fact that the 
Lux was licensed by the United States as a sea-going vessel to engage 
in coast-wise trade, but that it was not equipped for voyages since it 
had no power of its own; it was only a barge. It was not engaged in 
coast-wide trade and couldn t engage in anything coast-wise. It was 
only a gambling barge. 

President Truman assured him that appropriate action would be taken 
and taken at once. Shortly afterward the governor got a phone call 
from the United States Attorney General, who at that time was Tom 
Clark. The attorney general also assured the governor that action 
would be taken very promptly, which it was. 

The United States Attorney in Southern California at that time was 
James Carter, and the Department of Justice instructed Carter to pro 
ceed at once to bring forfeiture proceedings against the Lux because 
it had departed from the purpose of its license to engage in coast 
wise trade. The officers went out there and went on board and for 
feited the ship and had it towed in, and that was the end of that 

Stein: One of the other things we talked about briefly last week was the 
question of offshore oil rights and the three-mile limit. Do you 
want to comment briefly on that? 

Olney: Well, you expressed an interest in it. I looked at a file that I 

had. You know, there is uncertainty about state boundary matters in 
California. There are some very curious things. So I stuck papers 
relating to these uncertainties about boundaries in a file. I had 
filed there a decision of the Supreme Court which was the last one 
that had to do with those oil lands. 

The case is entitled U.S. v. California and was decided May 17, 
1965. The majority opinion was written by Mr. Justice Harlan and the 
dissent by Mr. Justice Black. Mr. Justice Black thought that under 
the Submerged Lands Act of 1953, California should be entitled to 
prove that all the waters between her offshore islands and the main 
land were within her historic boundaries and hence were inland waters 
with ownership of the submerged lands in the state. The majority held 
the Submerged Lands Act foreclosed such a hearing and established 
ownership of the submerged lands in the United States. 

Mr. Justice Black s opinion is interesting to me because he recites 
some of the evidence supporting California s claim of "historic bound 
aries" but fails to mention the extent of Spanish and Mexican title, 
as recognized and limited by the Nootka Sound Compact, a title to 
which the State of California succeeded. 




[Interview 7: January 31, 1972]* 

Olney: The decade ending in 1939 with the outbreak of war in Europe was for 
me a period of gradually changing attitude toward military service. 
The commencement of open warfare in 1939 was followed by a series of 
rude surprises culminating with increasingly severe shocks in 1941 
and 1942 as the United States suffered one military disaster after 

During the 1930s no one in the office of the district attorney or 
the attorney general possessed any crystal ball that would foretell 
the future and during this period none of us had any greater awareness 
of the approach and imminence of war than people generally. In 1930 
and 31 a number of the lawyers in the district attorney s office were 
supplementing their very meager salaries by summer service in the 
Officers Training Camps or in the National Guard. Among these was 
Earl Warren himself as well as Dick Chamberlain, who at that time was 

Editor s note: In reviewing the transcript of his interview about 
the Japanese- American relocation, Mr. Olney substituted this account, 
which offers more detail and insight than did the original tape 

In a July 19-20, 1978 interview with writer Dori Dressander, Mr. 
Olney commented, "I hadn t looked at [this section on the Japanese- 
Americans] for months, and I was under the impression that it was in 
pretty bad shape. But when I read it over, I changed my mind. I 
think it s in very good shape, excepting it needs a concluding para 
graph or two." 


Olney : a deputy district attorney. I remember this particularly because when 
they went to the summer OTC camp, Dick held the higher military rank 
and Earl Warren, who was normally his boss, served as Dick s subor 
dinate. This service was no indication of a belief that war was 
approaching, nor did it indicate any special fondness for the army. 
To the best of my belief, it was motivated entirely by the desire to 
earn the pay. 

In my own case, I had a strong aversion for the military and was 
quite unwilling to serve for any amount of money. This aversion goes 
back to my college days when two years of training in the ROTC was 
compulsory at the University of California. For two years I was 
compelled to drill twice a week as a member of a machine gun squad, 
being required to help carry a part of the heavy tripod which served 
as a base for our water-cooled machine gun. My government issue 
uniform was heavy wool, olive drab in color, very scratchy, and with 
a high tight collar around the neck. It was unsightly and uncomfort 
able and contributed strongly, I am sure, to my hearty dislike for 
the army or the service in any form. 

Pacifism now became widespread. We saw such anti-war moving 
pictures as The Big Parade, What Price Glory, and The Four Horsemen 
of the Apocalypse, and we read such books as Farewell to Arms and 
All Quiet on the Western Front, which were produced as moving pictures 
as well. It was at this time that a large number of students at 
Oxford University in England took an oath together that never under 
any circumstances would they take up arms in the defense of God or 
king. These were the same men who eventually were to fight for long 
years, with great gallantry and dogged determination, against what 
seemed to be almost hopeless odds, in defense of God, king, and all 
the rest of us. The Oxford oath got world-wide publicity and I found 
myself very much in sympathy with it. I did not actually take the 
Oxford oath, but I can recall only too well expounding to my wife, my 
friends, and my associates, my own determination never, never to go 
to war in defense of anything. I considered myself a convinced 
pacifist. Eric Sevareid, in his autobiography entitled Not So Wild 
A Dream, describes the psychology of the time very well as he exper 
ienced it at the University of Minnesota. It was the same with us 
in Berkeley both on and off the campus. 

I cannot recall when my own ideas about participating in war began 
to change. It was so gradual that I was not aware that my thinking 
was becoming different. I was not particularly alarmed by Mussolini s 
seizure of power in Italy and the emergence of fascism as a doctrine 
and system of government. When I accompanied my father, mother, and 
sister to Italy in the summer of 1924, Mussolini was already II Duce. 
We saw his black-shirted ruffians everywhere, but on the surface every 
thing was quiet and peaceful and the trains did run on time. However, 
while we were there, the Italian newspapers were full of the kidnaping 


Olney: and murder of the anti-fascist political leader Matteotti and the 
suspicion was being voiced in the press that he had been killed on 
order of the fascist party and probably on the order of Mussolini 
himself. We did not like the look, sound, or smell of this, but 
we did not see that it portended anything for us. 

When Hitler came to power in January, 1933 and immediately began 
the rearmament of the German Reich, we all believed it showed a 
serious weakness and indecision on the part of France, England, and 
all the signatories to the Versailles Treaty. But I, at least, did 
not imagine that my country would ever be involved in the conse 

Hitler s anti-Semitism was a great puzzle to me at first. I 
couldn t understand it. I knew that there were some people who 
did not like Jews, just as I knew that there were some who did not 
like Irish, and others who did not like Russians, or Negroes, and 
some who did not like the English, but I had never experienced or 
imagined the virulent nature of Nazi anti-Semitism. At first I was 
very skeptical; I thought the news reports from Germany must be 
grossly exaggerated and that a civilized people would never behave 
that way. 

My own naivete on this subject led me into conduct towards some 
of my own friends which was almost unforgivable, although they did 
forgive me. Two of the lawyers in the district attorney s office 
were Jewish, Leonard Meltzer and Harry Miller. I worked on problems 
and tried cases with them and they were my associates and friends. 
In the telephone room of the office was a spindle used by the law 
yers for leaving notes and messages for one another. When the 
reports of anti-Semitism began emerging from Germany, I took to 
decorating my notes for Harry and Leonard, which I would leave on 
the spindle, with penciled swastikas. That was supposed to be a 

Finally news came from Germany of the notorious Night of Glass 
when the Nazi storm troopers broke the windows in every Jewish shop 
and desecrated every synagogue in the country. After reading about 
this, I went to see Leonard Meltzer in his office. I said to him, 
"Leonard, what is going on in Germany? Why do the Germans hate the 
Jews so much? Is the treatment of Jews really as bad in Germany as 
the papers say?" His answer was, "It is worse than the papers say. 
I cannot tell you why the Jews are so hated in Germany. I know 
nothing that would justify it. I only know that anti-Semitism has 
a long and bloody history in Europe and a long history in this 
country too." 


Olney: I apologized to Leonard and to Harry Miller for my swastikas and 
they forgave me because they knew how abysmally ignorant I was on 
the subject of the Nazis and anti-Semitism in general. There were, 
I suppose, in America millions of people like me. It was very hard 
for us to recognize on first sight the evil and the danger in anti- 
Semitism and fascism. 

I think that one reason that many of us like myself were slow in 
recognizing the danger from the Nazis and the fascists was that for 
years such international apprehensions as we had had been focused on 
the communists. We were well aware of the nature of communist 
tyranny, their objective of world revolution, and their constant 
effort to impede and break down democratic governments. The Nazis 
and fascists were strongly anti-communist and this inclined us to 
the fatuous belief that there must be something good about them and 
led us to discount, to a certain extent, the poisonous nature of 
their doctrines and theories. 

The 1930s brought many disturbing developments. In 1935 Mussolini 
made a totally unprovoked, unjustified attack on Abyssinia resulting 
in the military conquest of that country. The League of Nations was 
quite unable to invoke any effective sanctions against Italy. In 
1936 Hitler suddenly reoccupied the Rhineland in flagrant and open 
violation of the Treaty of Versailles with a secretly organized, 
heavily armed army, and neither the League of Nations nor France nor 
Britain was able to take any effective action against him. In 1936 
when civil war broke out in Spain, the Russians, Germans, and Ital 
ians all intervened with military advisers, armaments, and troops, 
and the struggle seemed to be a rehearsal for an international war 
in the future. In 1938 Hitler moved his armies into Austria and 
took over the country without resistance and a little later he gave 
Czechoslovakia the same treatment. 

Probably the biggest surprise of the 1930s was on August 23, 1939 
when the two great dictatorships, communist Russia and Nazi Germany, 
who had been at enmity for so long, suddenly signed a non-aggression 
pact. It was the signal for a common attack on Poland. Hitler 
attacked Poland on September 1st and Stalin a few days later. Poland 
was crushed and divided between the two dictators. Stalin, taking 
advantage of the situation, ordered the Red Army to overrun Estonia, 
Latvia, and Lithuania, all three quickly falling under communist 
dictatorship and Russian occupation. Tyranny was spreading world 
wide in the 1930s under the names of communism, fascism, national 
socialism, and in the Orient under the strange name of the East 
Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. 

In the United States, organizations as well as individuals 
appeared during the 1930s in support of each one of these tyrannies. 
Of these groups, the communists were the oldest, the most numerous, 



















Olney: the best organized, and probably the most active. Their policies 

and programs in the United States were taken from the Comintern and 
directed for the most part by Stalinist organizations in Moscow 
such as the OGPU. 

The Italian fascists also had their organizations in the United 
States. They included such organizations as OARA in U.S., the 
Fascist League of North America, Combattenti U.S.A., Woman s 
Auxiliary, Lictor Federation, American Union of Fascists, the Fasci, 
the Fascist Society of Italians Abroad in U.S., the Dante Alighieri 
Society in U.S., the National United Italian Associations, Council 
of Marconi, Gruppo Giovanile, Mario Morgantini Circle, Dopolavoro, 
and the Italian Chamber of Commerce. These were all more or less 
concealed fascist propaganda agencies active in California and else 
where . 

Early in the 1930s the Nazis set up in the United States an 
organization called the Friends of New Germany which later on became 
the German-American Bund. This was a paramilitary organization 
addicted to uniforms, arm salutes, and the Nazi greeting of "Heil 
Hitler." It was organized and disciplined like an army. Its 
national Fuehrer was one Fritz Kuhn, who was succeeded in office by 
Wilhelm Kunze. The organization had a national headquarters in New 
York with regional headquarters in other parts of the country, each 
of which was known locally as the "Deutsches Haus." These head 
quarters were in imitation of the Brown House of Munich, which was 
Adolf Hitler s party headquarters. Eleven western states comprised 
the Far Western Division of the Bund, which was controlled by a 
Gauleiter, one Hermann Max Schwinn, from the Deutsches Haus in Los 

The German- American Bunds ran summer camps where they engaged in 
military drill and maneuvers. They were in effect an auxiliary to 
the National Socialist party and government of Germany. They glor 
ified the leadership principle and one-man government and they spat 
upon the principles of democracy and ridiculed democratic leadership 
as weak and corrupt. In addition, the Nazis instituted a whole net 
work of undercover operations designed to penetrate secretly the 
economic, social, and political institutions of the United States. 
The German- American Vocational League, a very old organization, is 
one whose name I can remember which was used for these purposes. 
Others were I.G. Farben, VPA Organizations Abroad, Hitler Youth in 
U.S.A., and Winter Help Abroad. 

During the 1930s we also had a spate in California of home-grown 
organizations seeking the establishment of dictatorship in one form 
or another in our own country. This includes, of .course, all of the 
communist organizations, since the establishment of a dictatorship 


Olney: is a fundamental precept of Marxist-Leninism. But it also includes 
such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan, The United Men and Women of 
America, The National Patriots, The League to Save America First, 
The American Guards, The Silver Shirts, The National Copperheads of 
America, The Militant Christian Patriots, The American White Guards, 
and The Friends of Progress, to list only a few. These organiza 
tions were not merely engaged in supporting communism or fascism 
or Nazism abroad, but were also advocating either the establishment 
in the United States of the dictatorship of the proletariat or the 
leadership principles of Hitler and Mussolini. 

The appearance in our own country of anti-democratic organiza 
tions espousing the principles of dictatorship and military organ 
ization was not a matter of great concern to most Americans. In 
their origin and in their principles these organizations were so 
alien to American history, tradition, and temperament that it seemed 
most unlikely to us that any of them could ever rise to power or 
even influence in the United States. Most of us thought their 
leadership stupid, their principles unacceptable, and their methods 
of secrecy and deception repulsive. Until his assassination many 
of us were much more concerned about the demagoguery of Huey Long 
and the virtual dictatorship he had established in Louisiana and 
which he obviously intended to spread over the whole country by 
capturing the White House through election. 

Of course, the war in Europe from its beginnings in -1939 had been 
a matter of grave concern to people in the United States. Virtually 
all of us hoped and wished that American involvement could be avoided, 
But as time went on, the menace to the very esistence of the United 
States and other democratic countries posed by the dictatorships of 
Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, imperial Japan, and communist Russia 
became plainer and plainer. The possibility of American involvement 
became more probable as time went on. Somewhere along in this 
period I came to the realization that my own attitude towards the 
defense of the United States had changed. I knew that if our 
country was attacked or its existence seriously endangered, I would 
favor the country going to war and would be willing to join the 
armed forces myself if needed. As I thought of the 1920s and the 
early 1930s, it seemed to me that I must have been living in another 
world. I no longer considered myself a pacifist. 

The situation facing the United States at the beginning of the 
year 1941 was gloomy indeed. In California we knew that if war 
came, we would be as much involved as any other part of the country. 
The dictatorships seemed to be successful almost everywhere. Nazi 
Germany and Soviet Russia acting together had destroyed and absorbed 
all of Poland. The Russians had also gobbled the independent 
countries of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. In a lightning 
campaign of hardly more than six weeks, Hitler had destroyed the 


Olney: French army, which for decades had been considered the most powerful 
military force in Europe. France was occupied and under the heel of 
Nazi conquerors. The Nazis had overrun Holland and Belgium and 
occupied Denmark and Norway. In Scandinavia, only Sweden was left 
with any independence and she, surrounded by Nazi occupied territory, 
was busily engaged in supplying iron ore and steel for the Nazi war 
machine . 

Britain alone was holding out against the dictators. But she was 
in a desperate plight. The British army had gone down to defeat 
along with the French in the debacle on the Continent, and while an 
amazing number of British soldiers had been brought home in a 
spectacular evacuation from Dunkirk, all of their guns, ammunition, 
and other military equipment had been lost in the process. Except 
ing for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, Britain at the 
beginning of 1941 was almost unarmed and her cities and industries 
were being subjected to a terrible bombardment from the air by the 
Nazi Luftwaffe. The very lifelines of the British Isles were being 
cut by the Nazi submarine warfare, which by the beginning of the 
year 1941 had been accelerated to a point where British resistance 
must collapse if ship sinkings continued at the rate achieved by the 
U-boats . 

This desperate situation had caused President Roosevelt in his 
State of the Union message to Congress in January, 1941 to ask for 
"lend lease" legislation to permit the transfer of American destroy 
ers to Britain for use in her defense against German submarines. 
The legislation was passed, but not without a fierce battle in the 
Congress. The president also asked Congress for greatly increased 
new appropriations to manufacture additional munitions and war 
supplies to be turned over to those nations engaged in actual war 
with the aggressor powers. America would be, he declared, the 
"arsenal of democracy". These actions by our government were 
sufficient to have justified a declaration of war by the Nazis. 
They certainly made our eventual involvement in the war in Europe 
ever more probable. 

The Axis Powers, especially the Nazis, had developed subversion, 
espionage, and sabotage into an effective adjunct to warfare. This 
became the subject of examination and study in the attorney general s 
office during the last part of 1940 and all of 1941. The Germans had 
the assistance of an organized party of traitors in nearly every 
country they attacked. In Austria they had Seyss-Inquart and his 
Austrian Nazi party. In Czechoslovakia they had Konrad Henlein and 
the Sudeten German party. In Norway it was Vidkun Quisling and his 
Norwegian National Union. And in France there were a number of 
political parties advocating fascism and numerous traitors, the out 
standing one being Pierre Laval, who- became second in importance in 


Olney: the Vichy regime which occupied France under Nazi instruction and 
domination. These traitors and their followers had developed 
deceit, subversion, espionage, and sabotage to a high point. This 
was recognized as an innovation in warfare deserving of study and 
comprehension for an adequate American civilian defense. Our 
inquiries and studies of this matter did not involve, however, any 
investigation of persons, organizations, or movements because that 
was being done adequately by the Federal Bureau of Investigation 
and any parallel effort on our part might well interfere with their 

Of course, the national government was fully alert to the growing 
danger of our involvement in war. The administration sponsored a 
plan for civilian defense to be implemented and carried out by state 
and local government throughout the nation. The Federal Civilian 
Defense Program was developed with the war in Europe very much in 
mind. It was designed to meet the problems of a civilian population 
undergoing aerial and artillery bombardment and attacks by tanks and 
other ground forces. 

It was against the background of these events that Attorney 
General Earl Warren began the organization of the law enforcement 
officers of the state to meet the new and additional responsibilities 
which would fall upon them in the event of our becoming involved in 
war. A quite comprehensive study was made of the problems that had 
arisen in France and other countries from attacking armies and 
especially the problem of the civilian government in Britain arising 
from the aerial bombardment of the cities. A year or two earlier, 
because of the need for more effective law enforcement against 
organized crime, the attorney general had divided the state into 
several regions in each of which there had been established an organ 
ization of the chiefs of police, the sheriffs, and the district 
attorneys. Each region held regularly scheduled meetings and the 
attorney general made a practice of attending them in person. In 
formation was exchanged, ideas for better crime prevention were 
discussed, and enforcement projects were planned, developed, and 
reported. The fire chiefs were added to these regional organizations 
following the incendiary bombings of British cities because everyone 
realized the unusual danger from fire in California with its long, 
dry seasons and inflammable cities and forests. These regional 
organizations had not been created for any wartime purpose, but they 
could and did function very effectively as an organization for civil 
defense when the war came. 

During the late 1930s and 1940 and 41, the danger to the United 
States and all the western democracies from the military power and 
success of the Nazis had become so overwhelming and so immediate 
that it completely overshadowed in our minds any possible danger 


Olney: from Japan. Japan had been our ally in World War I, although her 
contribution had been only to seize the German-held islands in the 
Pacific. It was mildly disturbing to us to learn that when these 
same islands were put under Japanese jurisdiction by a mandate of 
the League of Nations, Japan immediately lowered a curtain of 
secrecy with strong indications coming from beneath the curtain 
that the islands were being heavily fortified. It was disturbing 
too to read about the ever growing dominance of the military over 
the civilian government in Japan. Civilian ministers were being 
assassinated with increasing frequency by organizations of military 
zealots. One such group actually tried to kidnap the emperor 
because he favored the more moderate elements in the Japanese 
government . 

It became evident that in foreign affairs the Japanese military 
had become uncontrollable. They provoked incidents which involved 
the country in large-scale military operations without the consent 
of or even against the orders of the civilian government. In 1931 
the Japanese army without any justification or authorization from 
the Japanese government occupied the city of Mukden, the capital 
of Manchuria, and also included in their occupation the whole zone 
of the Manchurian railway. In 1932 the Japanese army secured control 
of all of Manchuria by the creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo. 
That same year the Japanese army also landed in Shanghai and here 
for the first time they encountered heavy resistance from the 
Chinese. At the request of the Chinese government, the League of 
Nations appointed a commission to investigate on the spot Japanese 
activities in Manchuria. The commission was an able one and their 
inquiries were thorough. In due course they published their report, 
which declared that Manchukuo was an artificial creation of the 
Japanese General Staff and that the wishes of the local population 
had played no part in the formation of this puppet state. The 
League applied no sanctions, however, so the report had little 
effect. Indeed, in 1933, in defiance of the League of Nations, the 
Japanese army occupied and annexed the Chinese province of Jehol. 
These developments were accompanied by many brutal acts of arrogance 
by the Japanese military, not only against the Chinese, but also 
against all westerners and non- Japanese people. This course of 
conduct naturally aroused strong resentment in the United States 
and elsewhere. On December 12, 1937 Japanese naval aviators 
deliberately attacked and sank the U.S. gunboat Panay on the Yangtze 
River and fired on the British gunboat Ladybird and then seized it. 
But these actions were immediately disavowed by the Japanese govern 
ment and apologies were made. 

The Japanese militarists finally became so provocative that in 
July of 1940 the United States government placed an embargo on 
strategic materials and aviation fuel which was being sent to Japan. 


Olney: On September 27, 1940 the Japanese, notwithstanding, signed in 
Berlin the Tri-Partite Pact with Hitler and Mussolini. To the 
British and Americans this was further evidence that Japan was no 
better than Nazi Germany and fascist Italy and that the three 
"gangster nations" had joined forces to conquer the world. The 
United States retaliated immediately by adding scrap metal of every 
kind to the list of embargoes which had been announced in July. 
Even with all these hostile developments it certainly did not occur 
to me, and as far as I am aware to anyone else whom I knew, that the 
United States was in any danger of a declaration of war or of a 
military attack on our territory by the Japanese. 

On June 22, 1941 Hitler launched his sudden and unexpected attack 
upon Russia and the communist dictator, Stalin, his former associate 
in the mutual security pact between the Nazis and the communists 
which had triggered the war in 1939. During the first few hours the 
Luftwaffe wiped out sixty-six Soviet air fields and destroyed twelve 
hundred planes while ground forces swept forward capturing almost 
two thousand big guns, three thousand tanks, and two thousand truck- 
loads of ammunition. On July 24, while Hitler was sweeping into 
Russia, encircling and capturing large communist armies, the 
Japanese forced an agreement from the Vichy French to allow the 
entry of Japanese troops into Indochina. The American government 
reacted immediately and strongly. On the night of July 26, President 
Roosevelt ordered all Japanese assets in America frozen and Britain 
and the. Netherlands soon followed suit. As a consequence, all trade 
between Japan and the United States stopped. But the fact that the 
United States had been Japan s major source of oil imports left 
Japan in an untenable situation. It was described in the New York 
Times as "the most drastic blow short of war." 

During the following weeks the Japanese sent a delegation to 
Washington to negotiate for a lifting of the embargo and ostensibly 
to arrive at a mutual understanding that would lead to the preser 
vation of peace. These negotiations were adequately reported in 
the local press, and while they were recognized as being crucial, 
an actual military attack by Japan upon the United States seemed a 
very remote possibility indeed. Our general state of mind appears 
quite clearly from the items in the public press during the week 
before Pearl Harbor. I have recently been through the issues of 
the San Francisco Chronicle and have listed characteristic headlines 
and items as follows : 

December 1, 1941: 

1. Secession movement in the Siskiyous - meeting at Cave 
Junction, Oregon - new state to be formed from Southern 
Oregon and Northern California counties. 

2. USC and Duke will play in the Rose Bowl on New Year s. 


Olney: 3. Big battle on Moscow and Rostov fronts. 

4. British mop up in Tobruk - Rommel masses tanks for 
last struggle. 

5. Hull and Halafax exchange views on Japanese crisis. 

6. Japan s cabinet met for short session at home of 
Prime Minister Tojo. 

7 Russia s Ambassador Litvinov arrives at Manila. 

8. 7th Division United States Army may soon be 

9. Waste paper for Defense Week starts. 

10. Casualty rate at United States war games. 

11. Claudette Colbert in Skylark will start tomorrow. 

12. Contributions by community leaders Adrien J. Falk, 
R.B. Hale, J. Paul St. Sure, R.H. Shainwald, John S. 
Watson, on the question of: What abuses of its 
rights or power by organized lator are of particular 
concern to you, and how would you remedy them? 

13. Carl Sandburg - analysis and plea for U.S. unity to 
combat espionage. 

14. Tanforan opens full week of charity racing tomorrow. 

December 2, 1941: 

1. Italians in headlong flight on Africa front. 

2. Nazis say they are almost within sight of Moscow. 

3. Japan reopens U.S. talks - continues to rush to 

4. Lawmakers given a "ride" by Mankind United and 
Arthur S. Bell. 

5. Litvinov takes off from Manila. 


Olney: 6. Wiedemann gets bust in Nanking. Datelined 

Shanghai, December 1st: "The arrival in Nanking 
today of Captain Fritz Wiedemann, former Consul 
General in San Francisco and now Consul General 
in Tientsin, marked intensification of Nazi 
diplomatic activity in Japanese occupied China." 

7. Photo of H.M.S. Arkroyal sinking in the Mediter 
ranean on November 14th. 

8. War tension in the Pacific. 

9. Selective service - delinquents listed from draft 
boards in San Francisco numbered 76, 86, and 97. 

10. 250 women enroll for U.S. defense. 

11. Puget Sound - San Francisco troops take to boats, 
storm foe. 

12. America First eyes 42 votes. 

13. British sink Nazi raider in South Atlantic. 

14. Admiral Tom Phillips appointed to command British 
fleet in eastern waters. 

15. United Airlines advertises special flights to the 
Rose Bowl. 

16. Civilian defense - city needs 22,000 more regis 
trants. 10,000 air raid wardens and 12,000 
auxiliary firemen are needed. Enlistments are 
running only about 100 per day. 

December 3, 1941: 

1. Mayor Gable, 49th state leader and mayor of Port 
Orford, Oregon, dies. 

2. Assembly committee holds hearing on parole of Earl 
King, Ernest Ramsey, and Frank Conner (the ship 
murderers) - Stevens, a member of the Board of 
Parole, says, "It was greased." Earl Warren is 

to testify tomorrow. 

3. Soviet says victory at Rostov is complete. 

4. Why troops in Indochina? FDR asks Tokyo. 


Olney: 5. Nazis break out of British encirclement in the 

6. Huge plot to assassinate Duce foiled as reported 
from Rome. 

7. Two battleships, the new 35,000-ton Prince of 
Wales , one of the most powerful battleships in 
the world, and an unidentified capital ship, 
together with a large flotilla of other ships, 
arrived in Singapore. 

8. War alert - the entire Far East is on a war 
footing - the next move is up to Japan. 

9. Litvinov will arrive in San Francisco on 

10. America First plans for the 1942 elections. 

11. Civilian defense - here is a chance to become a 

12. Charity day at Tanforan tomorrow. 

13. Smitty Allen, the celebrated driver of dog teams 
in Alaska, has died. 

December 4, 1941: 

1. House passes drastic anti-strike bill. 

2. Warren calls the three paroles of the ship 
murderers a "blow to the law" in his testi 
mony before the committee. 

3. Litvinov lands at Midway Island. 

4. Hull - Japan talks have led nowhere. 

5 . U.S. arms Turkey . 

6. Nazis reported fleeing Marinpol in disorder. 

7. Libya battle is in a lull - desert armies 
reorganize - Nazis have the edge. 

8. Dr. Alexis Carrel will do research for Vichy. 


Olney: 9. Willkie will tour Australia. 

10. Aircraft report - that 50,000 a year goal is very 
near accomplishment. 

11. Inefficiency and graft block the Burma Road, but a 
lot of stuff gets to Chunking. 

12. Archbishop Curly - "Stalin may yet make war on the 

13. Heavy rains boost the season total. 

December 5, 1941: 

1. German rout in South Russia continues - forces 
withdrawn from Crimea to stem Russian tide - 
Moscow defenders take initiative. 

2. Threat to Turkey. Nazi troops reported massing 
on Bulgarian border . 

3. State of Jefferson inaugurates a governor (Judge 
John C. Childs of Crescent City) in Yreka. 

4. "X - 2" tells of four fascist schools in San 
Francisco - Sylvester Andriano, former San 
Francisco supervisor, is named. 

5. Litvinov due to arrive in San Francisco tomorrow. 

6. The draft - 52 in the Bay area are delinquent. 

December 6, 1941: 

1. Russians break new Nazi line, but Moscow again 

2. Britain declares war on the Finns. 

3. British smash Nazi attacks on their line in Libya. 

4 . Duce spreads fascism here hearing told - two 
leaders of Italian American colony give details 
to Assembly Un-American Activities Committee. 


Olney: 5. Pacific crisis - Japan answers FDR - "Troops in 
Indochina don t exceed treaty limit." Tokyo s 
answer soft and meaningless. "At Tokyo the new 
Japanese press spokesman continued to insist that 
everything could be all right if America and others 
would only understand . He said, We are amazed 
to find a big misunderstanding on the part of the 
United States government regarding our policy in 
the Far East. The whole statement seems to allege 
that we are following a policy of force and conquest 
in establishing a military despotism. They (Washing 
ton) have misunderstood our fundamental policy - the 
negotiations will continue in an effort to correct 
this misunderstanding. I do not think that the 
United States is delaying an agreement purposely. 
We have made clear that we have no territorial 
ambitions. " The new spokesman, Tomokazu Hori, 
former Consul General at Los Angeles, has evidently 
been installed to carry out the speak softly policy 
till things get a little clearer in Russia and the 
Near East. 

6. House votes $8 billion for defense. 

7. Serbs claim guerrilla successes. 

8. Parisians defy Nazis again. Two are attacked. 

9. Probe of ban on soldiers in local hotels. 

10. Induction speed-up is expected. 

11. Trenton, New Jersey. Bundists are set free - New 
Jersey Supreme Court reversed convictions of Wilhelm 
Kunze, leader of the German-American Bund, and others, 
for inciting hatred of Jews at Bund meetings, etc. 

December 7, 1941, a Sunday, was the day that changed all this. 
In the morning, as usual, I read my copy of the San Francisco 
Chronicle. It contained a section called "This World." Its cover 
was a picture of Admiral Phillips in Singapore. The article about 
him inside described him as "all brains." It also summarized the 
existing situation in the Pacific perfectly in the following 

"For the first time in a century, not a British mer 
chantman lay in Shanghai s harbor last week. All ships 
flying the Red Duster had scurried south from Shanghai s 


Olney : malodorous , muddy Whangpoo River to Hong Kong or 
Manila. The last Dutch ship had left quietly one 
night, and U.S. merchantmen had not come in for 
weeks . 

Shanghai s great garish International Settlement 
on the Whangpoo had been abandoned to the Japanese 
troops who pressed on all sides. In case of war, its 
loss would be inevitable and its defense suicidal. 
The last 700 U.S. Marines filed aboard a transport 
leaving behind on the jetty a tearful mob of Russian 
cabaret girls. 

Through Eastern Asia men took to arms and ships 
took to safe harbor and throughout the world lay the 
intense expectancy of war - Japan against the United 
States, Britain, the Dutch East Indies, and China. 

In Singapore thousands of volunteers were mobilized 
into active service. In Rangoon the docks were crowded 
with newly landed Indian troops, and the Burmese roads 
were lined with trucks carrying them north to the Indo 
china frontier, where the Japanese crouched to spring. 

In the Dutch East Indies the militiamen were called 
up and the Air Force mobilized. In Cavite and Olangapo 
U.S. Naval Stations in the Philippines total blackouts 
began. All leaves from the garrison of Corregidor 
Island, defending Manila Bay, were cancelled. In Hong 
Kong defenses were in an advanced state of readiness 
and planes roared over in mock raids. 

Whether or not real raids would come depended on a 
long drawn-out conversation in Washington, D.C. 
Japan s Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura, alone for nine 
teen months and with Special Envoy Saburo Kurusu for 
three weeks, had talked often with America s Secretary 
of State Cordel Hull. 

Men were mobilized and ships had fled last week 
because the climax had come. The United States had 
presented a document of fundamental American policies 
on which any settlement must be based. 

At week s end the Japanese had yet to reply, but 
official news agency Domei stormed, It is utterly 
impossible for Japan to accept. The American document 
cannot serve as the basis for further negotiations. 
In Washington Kurusu said bravely, I do not give up 
that easily. " 


Olney: This was disturbing reading on that quiet Sunday morning, but it did 
not seem to me to require any alteration in our family plans for the 
day. Our three children were fourteen, twelve, and four at the time, 
and Elizabeth put up a lunch and we all went to Golden Gate Park for 
a picnic. We took along some extra bread crusts and had our lunch 
at the edge of one of the lakes while the children fed the bread 
crusts to the ducks . Then we went to the part of the park called 
the Fleishhacker Zoo where there were swings, slides, and other 
amusements for children. Our visit was capped off about three 
o clock or four o clock in the afternoon by a ride on the miniature 
steam train. When we got on the train, a Japanese couple with their 
little child were on the seat in front of us. They were having as 
good a time as we were. It took the little train only a few minutes 
to make its circular trip, but during that time fresh newspapers had 
been inserted on the racks. Even before we stepped off the car we 
read the huge headline, "JAPS BOMB PEARL HARBOR." The Japanese 
couple in front of us said not a word. They just looked at each 
other with the most horrified, woeful expressions I ve ever seen. 
They knew, as we did, that the world would never be the same again 
for any of us . 

These first reports were only that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. 
There was nothing to indicate the extent of the damage. We supposed 
that the damage must have been slight since the Pacific fleet cer 
tainly had the capability of protecting itself. It never occurred 
to us that the fleet could have been caught by surprise. 

Our family went home from Golden Gate Park and, of course, I 
immediately telephoned the attorney general s office, but there was 
nobody there. Elizabeth and I then put in a brief appearance at a 
cocktail party and returned home to listen to the radio until late 
into the night. There was little on the radio excepting talk about 
the attack on Hawaii and a great deal of speculation as to where the 
attacking Japanese planes could have come from. Most of the com 
mentators thought the planes had come from the Japanese air base on 
Kwajalein Island in the Marshalls and only a few guessed the attack 
might have come from a fleet of aircraft carriers. 

I reported at my office in the attorney general s office early 
on Monday morning and immediately stepped into a flurry of activity 
so great and so confusing that I cannot now remember it all and have 
particular difficulty recalling the sequence of events. This was a 
strange period to live through. All our coastal cities were blacked 
out at night. This meant all houses and buildings without any light 
visible from the outside and traffic without any headlights excepting 
only a small allowable slit with insufficient light to illuminate 
the roadway but with enough so that one could be seen by an approach 
ing vehicle. One of my first duties was working with William 
Sweigert, Earl Warren s chief assistant attorney general, and "Bud" 


Olney: Carpenter, assistant counsel for the League of California Cities, 

in drafting a blackout ordinance for adoption by the coastal cities 
and counties in order to enforce the blackout. 

The army took immediate precautions against a possible Japanese 
landing. A system of air watchers was organized covering every mile 
of the Pacific coast. These were civilian volunteers organized under 
the direction of Army Air Corps officers. They were trained in the 
recognition of aircraft both "ours" and "theirs." They were supplied 
with field glasses and telephones and reported to a number of infor 
mation centers every airplane they saw in the air night or day. All 
flying along the coast was forbidden except for military aircraft 
and scheduled airlines. The airlines were required to fly with the 
windows obscured with shutters or curtains, so that the passengers 
could not see out and so at night the plane from the outside would 
show nothing excepting its running lights. Huge search lights were 
installed around points considered to be of strategic importance 
and they searched out and illuminated every aircraft that came near. 

At Mare Island and Vallejo a whole fleet of barrage balloons were 
installed. These balloons were unmanned and were on cables and could 
be raised or lowered as desired. Their purpose was to force attack 
ing Japanese bombers to fly high enough so that they could be hit 
with anti-aircraft fire. At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, 
all of the major airplane factories in the United States were in the 
Pacific coast areas of Seattle, Santa Monica, and San Diego. Their 
importance was beyond exaggeration. A tremendous effort was made 
to camouflage them. These factories were covered with huge nettings, 
and on the nettings there were erected dummy houses and other build 
ings, streets, trees, lamp posts, and everything else necessary to 
make it appear from the air like a suburban residential area. These 
were intended to deceive Japanese aerial reconnaissance and attack. 
Believing in the possibility of incendiary air raids, a system of 
civilian defense was organized with an air raid warden for every 
block in every coastal town and city, and all householders were 
asked to whitewash their attics and keep fire extinguishers in 
their houses, as such measures had been found to be helpful when 
London was bombed. 

Late in February, 1942 in Los Angeles there was an air raid alert. 
One night the radar spotted an unidentified object and some trigger- 
happy fellow let fly with an anti-aircraft gun. Other anti-aircraft 
batteries followed suit and there was a very considerable banging 
and quite a rain of metal from the sky, but nothing was hit. Of 
course, it alarmed everybody. We had a similar incident in San 
Francisco. It was a rather foggy night and the radar spotted some 
thing that could not be identified. The sirens blew and the entire 
city was blacked out. It happened that Elizabeth and I and two 
other couples were going to the theater that night and we were 


Olney: having dinner at Solari s on Post Street next to the St. Francis 

Hotel when the air raid alarm was sounded. The restaurant was, of 
course, already equipped with blackout blinds, so the lights were 
kept on at the bar and they served dinner. I left the party because 
1 felt that during an emergency of this kind I ought to be at the 
attorney general s office in the State Building. So I walked in the 
pitch dark from Solari s on Post Street to the State Building on 
McAllister. It was a unique experience. There was not one little 
pinpoint of light and there were no cars moving. It was almost like 
a dead city. I could hear people talking but no other sound. When 
I got to the State Building, I couldn t find any elevator working, 
so I walked up to the sixth floor where our offices were. Then I 
discovered that while this air raid was supposed to be going on, 
Oscar Jahnsen, the attorney general s chief investigator, and a 
couple of our secretaries had gotten stuck in the elevator between 
floors. They could hear the sirens and knew that an air raid was 
supposed to be in progress. By the time we got that elevator work 
ing they really had claustrophobia. 

Now, these air scares may sound amusing in retrospect, but they 
were certainly not funny at the time. It is really not fair to 
laugh at the military because they saw a blip on the radar and 
sounded the alarm. The radar is anything but foolproof. It will 
pick up a flight of ducks or even certain kinds of clouds. There 
can be no doubt that in both these cases some kind of unidentified 
object showed up on the radar screen. We now know that whatever it 
was, it was not a Japanese plane. However, it might have been, and 
in my opinion it was proper to sound the alarm lest it be too late. 
One need only recall the blips that showed up on the radar screen 
in Hawaii that were thought to be birds or perhaps some arriving 
American B-17s, when it turned out that it was an immense Japanese 
air armada heading directly for Pearl Harbor. 

Following Pearl Harbor, the federal authorities acted promptly 
to assure the country s internal security. On December 7 and 8, 
1941, President Roosevelt issued proclamations declaring all 
nationals of the nations with which we were at war to be enemy 
aliens. This followed the precedent of World War I and was based 
upon the same statutory enactment which supported the proclamations 
of President Woodrow Wilson in this regard. By executive action, 
certain restrictive measures were applied to all enemy aliens with 
out regard to their particular nationality. The Attorney General 
of the United States, through the Department of Justice, including 
the FBI, was charged with the administration and enforcement of 
these proclamations. When necessary fully to implement his action, 
the attorney general was assigned the responsibility of issuing 
administrative regulations. He also had the authority to declare 
prohibited zones to which enemy aliens were to be denied admittance 


Olney: or from which they were to be excluded in any case where the national 
security required. The possession of certain articles (such as radio 
transmitters, cameras, firearms, etc.) was declared by the proclama 
tions to be unlawful and these articles were described as contraband. 
The attorney general had authority to intern some enemy aliens as 
might be regarded as dangerous to the national security if permitted 
to remain at large. 

On the night of December 7, 1941 and during the days that followed, 
certain enemy aliens (German, Italian, and some Japanese) were appre 
hended and held in detention pending the determination as to whether 
they should be interned. These arrests were based on lists of sus 
pects previously compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 
the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the army s intelligence service, 
known as G-2. During the initial stages of this action, some two 
thousand persons were arrested. Some Japanese aliens were included 
in this number, but most were Germans and Italians. However, no steps 
were taken by the attorney general to provide for the collection of 
contraband and no prohibited zones were proclaimed. 

Towards the end of December, 1941, General John L. DeWitt, Command 
ing General, Western Defense Command, which included the areas of 
Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and 
Arizona, and whose headquarters were at the San Francisco Presidio, 
requested the attorney general to enforce the contraband prohibitions 
and to declare prohibited zones surrounding vital installations along 
the coast. General DeWitt s conclusion that this was a military 
necessity was based in part upon the interception of unauthorized 
radio communications identified as emanating from certain areas along 
the coast during the weeks following December 7th when nearly every 
ship leaving a west coast port was attacked by an enemy submarine, 
thus seeming to evidence conclusively the existence of hostile shore- 
to-submarine communication. 

General DeWitt s request led to a series of conferences in Washing 
ton and San Francisco between representatives of the War and Justice 
Departments. As a result, it was agreed that searches without warrants 
of the premises occupied by enemy aliens for the presence of contraband 
would be authorized. The Department of Justice agreed to declare pro 
hibited zones surrounding vital installations and to provide for the 
exclusion from these zones of enemy aliens. The extent and location 
of these zones were to be determined on the basis of recommendations 
submitted by the commanding general. Thereupon, General DeWitt sub 
mitted recommendations calling for the establishment of ninety-nine 
prohibited zones in the state of California and two restricted zones. 
These were followed by similar recommendations pertaining to Arizona, 
Oregon, and Washington. The prohibited zones in California surrounded 
various points along the sea coast, installations in the San Francisco 


Olney : Bay Area, particularly along the waterfront, and in Los Angeles and 
San Diego. The recommendations with respect to California were 
received by the attorney general on January 25, 1942. The attorney 
general, in a series of press releases, designated as prohibited zones 
the ninety-nine areas recommended by General DeWitt. 

Some evacuation was thus necessitated, but most of the enemy aliens 
affected were able to take up residence in or near places adjacent to 
the prohibited zone. For example, a large prohibited zone embraced 
the San Francisco waterfront. Enemy aliens living in this section 
were required only to move elsewhere in San Francisco. Only aliens 
of enemy nationality (German, Italian, and Japanese) were affected 
and they were all affected equally. No persons of Japanese ancestry 
born in the United States were required to move under this program. 

Some problems were presented which involved individual assistance 
and the Justice Department arranged for the Federal Security Agency 
to lend assistance in unusually needy cases. Tom C. Clark, then the 
west coast representative of the Antitrust Division of the Justice 
Department and later Associate Justice of the United States Supreme 
Court, supervised these activities and coordinated all the activities 
of the Justice Department during this phase of alien enemy control. 
It was in this capacity that I first met him. 

The proclamations with respect to the possession of contraband by 
enemy aliens and the declaration of zones prohibited to enemy aliens, 
which were the maximum measures authorized by peace-time and World War 
I laws, proved to be totally inadequate for meeting the situation on 
the Pacific coast. Notwithstanding these measures, there were many 
evidences of successful communication of information to the enemy 
concerning our military installations, three of which are illustrative. 
On February 22, 1942, the shore battery defending Goleta had been with 
drawn to be replaced by different guns. On February 23, a Japanese 
submarine shelled Goleta without opposition in an effort to destroy 
the oil installation there. At the time of the shelling, this was 
the only point along the coast where an enemy submarine could have 
surfaced and fired on an important installation without coming within 
the range of coast defense guns. 

This attack on the American mainland was an enormous shock to our 
civil population. It was the first time since the War of 1812 that 
an enemy military force had inflicted damage on the continental United 
States. It was the first time in all history that we d had an enemy 
ship on the Pacific coast. A little after this incident, a submarine- 
based aircraft dropped incendiary bombs near Brookings, Oregon in an 
effort to start forest fires. This, according to the army, was in 
the only section of the Pacific coast which could have been approached 
by enemy aircraft without detection by aircraft warning devices. At 


Olney: Astoria, Oregon a Japanese submarine surfaced and shelled our shore 
batteries there from the only position at which a surfaced submarine 
could have approached the coast line close enough to shell a part of 
the coast defenses without being in range of the coastal batteries, 
thus displaying a precise knowledge of the position and range of the 
coast defense guns at Astoria. Of course, there was also the Pearl 
Harbor experience, which involved a most detailed and accurate know 
ledge by the Japanese naval aviators of American patrols , naval dis 
positions, and so forth on the morning of December 7, 1941. (We know 
now that part of this information was supplied from Honolulu by Takeo 
Yoshikawa, a spy and an ensign in the Japanese naval intelligence.) 

The enforcement of the contraband proclamations was impeded by the 
fact that many Japanese aliens resided in premises owned by American 
born persons of Japanese descent. The existing law permitted spot 
raids without a warrant only on those premises occupied exclusively 
by aliens. Mixed-occupancy premises or those occupied solely by 
American citizens could be searched for contraband only by warrant 
based upon probable cause. The attorney general s proclamations of 
contraband and the declaration of restricted zones left unanswered a 
host of important, practical questions, some of which were listed by 
the army as follows : 

(a) "A fix is established on a radio transmitter. Trans 
mission of unlawful radio signals is established, but the 
location is determined only within a defined area such as a 
city block. Manifestly an accurate description of the pre 
mises, the operator s name, and a description of equipment 
cannot be furnished. What action can be taken?" 

(b) "The unlawful transmission of radio signals has been 
established through interception. A series of fixes deter 
mines the location of the transmitter within a general area, 
such as Monterey County. Further, there is convincing 
evidence of shore- to- enemy submarine communication. What 
action can be taken to isolate the area and conduct an 
effective search to locate the mobile unit?" 

(c) "An enemy alien is resident with a citizen, perhaps a 
relative such as a wife. While it cannot be proven that he 
owns or actually controls contraband, it can be proven that 
he has unlimited access to such. The situation is as 
potentially dangerous as if it could be proven that he 
actually owned or controlled the contraband. What action 
can be taken?" 


Olney: (d) "The dual citizenship problem is perplexing. Self- 
serving declarations of an election are of little meaning, 
particularly where conduct is incompatible with the so- 
called election. What methods exist or what steps are in 
contemplation looking toward the control of 1) dual citizens, 
2) disloyal, subversive citizens (where there has been no 
overt act detected)?" 

General DeWitt was putting these and other difficult questions to 
the attorney general as early as Jaunary 5, 1942. There was no 
answer to them under the then existing law and authority. Of course, 
at this time the War and Navy Departments and the Department of 
Justice were doing everything they possibly could to identify and 
take into custody all disloyal or subversive persons whether aliens 
or not. This was an important and necessary program, but it was no 
answer to the practical problems of defense that were plaguing General 

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 
no . 9066. It provided after its recitals: 

"Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as 
President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of 
the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secre 
tary of War, and the military commanders whom he may from 
time to time designate, whenever he or any designated com 
mander deems such action necessary or desirable, to pre 
scribe military areas in such places and of such extent as 
he or the appropriate military commander may determine, 
from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with 
respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain 
in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the 
Secretary of War or the appropriate military commander may 
impose in his discretion. . .Franklin D. Roosevelt, The White 
House, February 19, 1942" 

Executive Order no, 9066 was issued by the Commander in Chief as a 
military order made necessary by the military situation. It was 
designed and intended to be used by military commanders in defense 
of the Pacific coast. It was not issued in response to any civilian 
clamor or importunities. 

In the turmoil of the days and weeks immediately following Decem 
ber 7th, there was great confusion in the minds of us civilians as to 
exactly what had happened at Pearl Harbor and particularly as to the 
extent of the damage inflicted on our Pacific fleet. For military 
reasons the extent of the damage was not announced. Many of us sup 
posed the damage to have been rather light, as it never occurred to 
us, with all the tension and forebodings of the times, that the United 
States Navy could have been caught with its guard down and unprepared 
for an attack. 


Olney: As time went by, however, and we in the attorney general s office 

came into more and more frequent contact with both the army and the 
navy, we came gradually to realize the amazing extent of the damage 
which the Japanese had inflicted in only a few hours. We came to 
realize that Japanese airplanes flown from carriers somewhere in the 
Pacific (we knew not where) had in the space of only four or five 
hours blown up the battleship Arizona, capsized the Oklahoma, sunk 
the West Virginia and the California at their moorings, so heavily 
damaged the four additional battleships that completed the Pacific 
fleet that they could not leave harbor without repairs, killed over 
two thousand Americans and wounded two thousand more. We had to 
face the fact, along with the military, that the fleet on which the 
United States had expected to rely for our defense in case of war in 
the Pacific was suddenly at the bottom of the sea and that mastery 
of the Pacific Ocean had passed into the hands of the Japanese. 

But Pearl Harbor was only the beginning of defeat. Disaster suc 
ceeded disaster with stunning rapidity. On December 8th, Japanese 
planes attacked in the Philippines and without damage to themselves 
destroyed General MacArthur s air force as it sat on the ground. On 
December 10th, the United States naval base at Cavite was destroyed 
by fire and on the same day the Japanese made their first landing in 
the Philippines. On the same day, the Japanese made an amphibious 
landing on the coast of Malaya, putting ashore an army which moved 
through the jungle to attack Singapore from the rear. Also on that 
day, Japanese torpedo planes and fighters attacked the powerful British 
battleships the Prince of Wales and the Repulse off the coast of Indo 
china and sank them both - the first time in history that major battle 
ships while at sea and on the alert had been sunk by aircraft. These 
were the two British ships whose arrival at Singapore had been re 
ported in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 7th, and Admiral 
Phillips, whose picture had appeared on the cover of "This World" only 
three days before, had gone down with his ship and was dead. 

The Japanese quickly attacked and captured the American held island 
of Guam. On December llth, the Japanese attacked the small American 
garrison under Marine Major James Devereux on Wake Island with a 
light cruiser, six destroyers, two transports, and a landing party of 
560 infantry trained sailors. The American resistance was savage and 
the Japanese were forced to retire. Everyone knew the Japanese would 
return and that the garrison must have reinforcements and more ammuni 
tion if they were to hold out. Reinforcements and supplies were 
actually dispatched from Pearl Harbor, but the ships were so few in 
number and so lightly armed that they were ordered to return to Pearl 
Harbor before reaching Wake, being quite unable to contend with the 
Japanese navy. The Japanese did return on December 23rd and succeeded 
in landing 830 men. The 250 United States Marines and one hundred 
civilian volunteers fought to the last bullet, but in the end were 
forced to surrender. 


Olney: The inability of the United States Navy to relieve the garrison on 
Wake was the clearest possible demonstration of its weakness. It 
was certainly a shock to us Calif ornians . For the first time we 
civilians grasped the fact that our situation in the Pacific was 
really desperate. 

The disasters continued. The Japanese landed in Borneo and Hong 
Kong. They captured Bangkok and Siam without firing a shot. Shortly 
after Christmas, General MacArthur declared Manila an open city, left 
the Philippines, and retired to Australia. Most of the American 
troops trapped in the Philippines had been driven into Corregidor 
Island and Bataan Peninsula where they fought back very stubbornly 
and tied up a very sizeable Japanese force for months before they 
were forced to surrender. By January, 1942, Japanese planes from 
their island stronghold of Truk were bombing the Australians in 
Rabaul, and on February 19, the same day that President Roosevelt 
issued Executive Order no. 9066, Japanese carrier-based planes 
wrecked Allied shipping in the harbor at Darwin, Australia. On 
February 26th, a large Japanese expeditionary force was approaching 
the island of Java. The so-called ABDA Navy sailed out to meet 
them, including the American cruiser Houston, which had been host to 
President Roosevelt on four cruises. All of the ABDA ships were 
sunk with little loss to the Japanese. The Houston simply disappear 
ed and her fate remained a mystery until the end of the war when 
most of her crew was found in Japanese prison camps. The suddenness, 
number, and completeness of these Japanese successes made us fearful, 
understandably, I think, of more to come. Writing of the strategic 
situation at this time in his History of the United States Navy in 
World War II, Volume III, page 218, Samuel Eliot Morrison has 

"Anything might happen. Even strikes on Puget 
Sound, San Francisco, or the Panama Canal were 
not beyond the range of possibility." 

Surely the military believed this, as all their barricaded beaches, 
barrage balloons, air watchers, and camouflaged factories and black 
outs attested. There seemed to be, even to us amateurs, some logical 
reasons for a Japanese strike at the Pacific coast. There were no 
formidable defenses. There was very little military hardware avail 
able because we had been sending everything we had in the way of 
airplanes, guns, and munitions to Britain to enable her to survive 
in the war with Hitler. Most of the Pacific fleet was on the 
bottom and what remained was so badly damaged as to be inoperable 
for some months at least. We had no air force on the Pacific coast, 
as was evidenced by our inability to contend with the Japanese sub 


Olney: When the Union Oil Company oil tanker Montebello was torpedoed off 

Cambria in San Luis Obispo County, Abe Brazil, the district attorney 
of San Luis Obispo County, telephoned Attorney General Earl Warren 
to inform him about the occurrence and the excitement and conster 
nation in the little town of Cambria from where the burning tanker 
was plainly visible. In Cambria they were very upset because no 
planes had appeared and no defense measures seemed to be in progress. 
The attorney general then made a personal call on Admiral Greenslade, 
commanding the 12th Naval District, to ask if this could be true. 
The admiral replied that he could state in confidence that it was 
indeed true. The torpedoing of the tanker had occurred exactly as 
reported, but the admiral said nothing could be done about the sub 
marine because there were only four military planes operational on 
the entire Pacific coast and all four of these were fighters in 
capable of bombing a submarine. 

The Japanese, on the other hand, had virtually complete control 
of the waters off the entire Pacific, for the time being at least. 
They had sufficient cruisers, carriers, and planes with supporting 
ships to mount a strike almost anywhere. They had demonstrated their 
capability of fueling their ships at sea. They also had the two most 
powerful battleships in the world, the Yamato and the Musachi, both 
63,000-ton monsters carrying the heaviest naval guns ever built. 
Less than a year before in May, 1941, the less heavily built Nazi 
battleship Bismarck, without any accompanying air cover, had raised 
havoc with Allied shipping all over the North Atlantic, sinking the 
great British battleship Hood in the process. 

Virtually all of the American airplane factories were located on 
the Pacific coast, Boeing in Seattle, Douglas and Lockheed in Santa 
Monica and Burbank, and others in Los Angeles and San Diego. Our 
principal naval construction yards were, of course, at Bremerton, 
Mare Island, Hunters Point, San Pedro, and San Diego. A heavy 
strike at any or all of these targets seemed to be well within 
Japanese military capability. It seemed to us that there would be 
unusual advantages to the Japanese from such a strike. In addition 
to the actual damage which might be done, especially if they were 
to shell our factories and installations with the Yamato or Musachi, 
the psychological effects would be immense. A major part of our war 
effort would be diverted into building defenses for the Pacific 
coast. This would delay and impede our efforts to rebuild the 
Pacific fleet, to provide defense for Australia, and to supply 
tottering Britain. It would probably cause us to reduce the volume 
of arms and munitions that we were exporting and keep them in the 
United States to defend our own shores. The military not only saw 
all this but seemed to have other reasons of its own for believing 
that a Japanese strike against the Pacific coast was not only 
possible, but probable. Such was the external military threat we 
faced during the months after Pearl Harbor. 


Olney: Now, what was our internal situation during this same period? As 
mentioned above, beginning on the night of December 7, 1941, the 
FBI began a roundup of all known dangerous subversives, both aliens 
and citizens alike. This included the ringleaders in such organiza 
tions as the German- American Bund, the leaders of the militant 
Italian fascist organizations, and also the leaders of the more 
virulent home-grown American organizations such as The Silver Shirts 
in the Middle West and The Friends of Progress in Los Angeles. Most 
of these people remained in custody for the remainder of the war, 
although the leaders of The Friends of Progress in Los Angeles were 
freed within a week by order of Attorney General Biddle on the ground 
that while there was no lack of proof of their adherence to the 
principles of Hitler s Nazi regime, their promotion of the cause had 
gone no farther than verbal utterances and urgings and they had as 
yet committed no overt act. There were a few subversive Japanese, 
some aliens, some with American citizenship, who were caught in this 
initial roundup, but they were few indeed when compared with the 
number of subversive Germans and Italians and fewer still when 
compared with the total population in California of Germans, Italians, 
and Japanese. 

In January, 1942, when the ninety-nine prohibited zones and two 
restricted zones from which all enemy aliens were to be excluded 
were proclaimed by the attorney general on the recommendation of 
General DeWitt, they seriously affected the state s commercial 
fishing industry. The questions at once arose as to whether it was 
necessary to exclude all these fishermen from coastal water for no 
other reason than that they lacked American citizenship and in the 
eyes of the law were citizens or subj.ects of countries with whom we 
were at war. Should there be some exception to the exclusion order? 

Examination into the matter quickly disclosed important practical 
differences between the Italian and the Japanese fishermen. Most of 
the Italian alien fishermen had been resident in the United States 
for many years. They had come from Italy as young men, usually 
speaking no English, had taken up fishing for a livelihood and 
continued in it all these years. Most of them had married and had 
children who were, of course, natural born American citizens. These 
children had been educated in the public schools . Some of them had 
entered the professions and the business community, while others 
continued the fishing business with their fathers, but all of them 
were thoroughly integrated into their local communities. There were 
many Italian social and political organizations of which these alien 
fishermen were members, but these organizations were free and inde 
pendent and nearly always democratically organized. There were no 
controls from above and abroad as there were in Japanese and Nazi 
societies. Furthermore, the Italian fascist organizations in the 
United States had been under FBI scrutiny for several years and the 
dangerous subversives among them had been carefully spotted and 
listed. As a result they were already interned. 


Olney: There was an even more important distinction between the position 
of the alien Italian and that of the alien Japanese. The Italian 
navy posed no danger whatever to the security of the Pacific coast. 
The danger lay in the Japanese navy exclusively. The Italian 
fishermen in California coastal waters could be of no imaginable 
use or value to the Japanese navy when engaged in a bombardment, 
landing, or aerial strike, while Japanese fishermen could be helpful 
in such a case. It was because of differences and considerations 
such as these that an exception was made in favor of the alien 
Italian fishermen from the order excluding all enemy aliens from 
coastal waters. 

I have gone into this explanation at some length because in 
recent years it has been asserted that the reason for the difference 
in the treatment of the alien Italian and the alien Japanese with 
respect to exclusion from California s coastal waters was racial 
prejudice. It was no such thing. To have enforced the exclusion 
order against the alien Italian fishermen would have served no 
military purpose and would have added nothing to the security of 
the country. The situation was just the opposite with the alien 

Confronted suddenly and unexpectedly with the massive attack upon 
us by the Japanese empire, we suddenly discovered that we knew next 
to nothing about our enemy. We knew little more about our own 
Japanese population, either alien or American born. It is true that 
a few years before the Office of Naval Intelligence had detected a 
disgruntled American naval officer selling military secrets to 
Japanese agents. He was arrested, tried, and convicted and the 
Japanese who had corrupted him were expelled from the country. 
Army intelligence, known as G-2, was quite aware of the efforts of 
Japanese agents to gather intelligence about our military installa 
tions, equipment, and plans and had taken proper precautionary 
measures . 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, which had the 
assignment and jurisdiction of protecting the country against espi 
onage and subversion, had done little with respect to the Japanese. 
For years the Bureau s intelligence resources had been centered on 
the communists and, since 1939 at least, the Nazis and fascists had 
been given appropriate attention. In comparison, the Japanese had 
been almost igonred by the Bureau. As a result, there was practical 
ly no accumulation of official information about Japanese- American 
organizations, their aims, officials, and any potential danger that 
they might present. Only a few Japanese secret agents and spies, 
real or potential, had been identified. These were virtually all 
Japanese aliens who could be, and were, immediately taken into 
custody. As to the rest of the Japanese population living in the 


Olney: United States, the FBI knew next to nothing. The Bureau should not 
be criticized for this. The Bureau s resources were limited. It 
was proper to devote the resources available to the areas where the 
greatest danger appeared to lie. The Bureau was no more at fault 
than the rest of us for failing to understand and foresee the 
Japanese aims and course of action. 

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, we in the California 
attorney general s office were sought out by army intelligence, 
which was part of General DeWitt s command. They were very 
interested in having us draft and get adopted a uniform blackout 
ordinance, which would make it possible to enforce the blackout 
through regular civilian authority and legal process. They con 
sulted with us on a good many other matters as well, but right 
from the beginning they kept asking us for all the information we 
could give them about the Japanese population of the state. 
Naturally, we made every effort to respond to this request, but at 
the beginning we could be of no help at all, as we knew no more and 
indeed probably not as much about our Japanese population as the 
military did. Some things were well known or were easy to ascertain. 
In December, 1941, there were about 122,000 Japanese living on the 
Pacific coast. About 96,000 of this number were citizens of the 
United States by virtue of the accident of birth. The rest were 
Japanese born and were not eligible for American citizenship under 
the Oriental Exclusion Act. The alien Japanese were known as Issei 
and those born in the United States of Japanese alien parents and 
who under our laws were American citizens were called Nisei, or 
second-generation Japanese. Many of the Nisei (second-generation, 
American born Japanese) had been sent to Japan for the purpose of 
pursuing "cultural training." They were known as Kibei. During 
the 1930s there were so many Kibei in Japan that local Japanese 
leaders on the Pacific coast became embarrassed and an effort was 
made with the full support of the Japanese government to bring them 
back to the United States. The situation was described in an 
article published in the Hawaii Sentinel of January 27, 1938, as 
follows : 

"As a result of the Manchurian incident and the 
spectacular performances of Japanese athletics in the 
recent Olympic games, the love of Japan reached its 
boiling point among the second-generation Japanese, 
who possess American citizenship rights. 

Things Japanese attract them so much, that hundreds 
of these American born youths are returning steadily to 
Japan for education. So great is this exodus of promis 
ing youths, that Japanese on the Pacific coast are faced 
with a great catastrophy of losing their cherished rights, 
which took them almost fifty years to gain. 


Olney: At a great meeting, held recently by the Los Angeles 

Japanese Association and the Los Angeles Japanese Chamber 
of Commerce, it was unanimously moved to call back the 
second generation now in Japan. The Wakayama Prefectural 
Association in America formed an organization called The 
Association of Calling Back Second Generation and sent 
Shiro Fukioka, 59, General Secretary of Los Angeles 
Japanese Chamber of Commerce, as special envoy. The 
foreign office was so moved by Fukioka s plea, that it 
sent out word to all immigration organizations in differ 
ent prefectures to encourage a united drive, using this 
slogan, Second generation return immediately to America! 

Fukioka, who has spent nearly forty years in Pacific 
Coast States, says thus in part: There are roughly about 
20,000 American born youths between the ages of 18 and 25 
residing now in Japan. Being high school graduates, they 
are well versed with the conditions and things Japanese 
and would make ideal immigrants to North America." 1 

As a result of this drive, thousands of Kibei did return to the 
United States. Many of the returning Kibei who, of course, were 
American citizens, had been in Japan so long that they could not 
speak English. Many of them had served in the Japanese army or 
navy as required by Japanese law and in fulfillment of their duty 
to the emperor. 

It was also well known that the Nisei enjoyed dual citizenship. 
This was possible because under American law, Japanese born in the 
United States of alien parents were citizens of the United States; 
while under Japanese law, the children born of subjects of the 
emperor were Japanese citizens or subjects, no matter what their 
place of birth. Japanese law did provide that Japanese born in 
foreign countries might renounce their Japanese citizenship, if 
they so chose, by filing certain papers with the Japanese consulate. 
Some Nisei had followed these procedures and had renounced their 
Japanese citizenship, but they were very few. 

The principal reason the Japanese in the United States were 
anxious to have the Kibei returned to the land of their birth was 
because of the Alien Land Laws in effect in the Pacific coast states. 
These laws prohibited the ownership of agricultural lands by persons 
who were ineligible for American citizenship, and the purpose of 
these laws had been widely circumvented by the device of placing 
the legal title to agriculturan lands in the names of American born 
Japanese who were American citizens; that is, the Nisei. In Cali 
fornia, a very large and important part of the agricultural lands 
of the state was thus held by Japanese. This device worked quite 
well as long as the land-owning Nisei lived with their parents, but 
it became transparent when the Nisei went to Japan to live, as so 
many of them did. 


Olney: There was one aspect of Japanese society which was hardly known to 

and not appreciated at all by the American public generally, although 
it was well understood by the American Department of State and in 
American scholastic and religious circles. This was Shintoism. 
Prior to 1932 or 1933, there were many large religious groups who 
were active in Japan. At that time, a large part of the population 
was Buddhist, although there were many different sects. A large 
number were Christians, who were divided into many different denom 
inations. The majority, probably, were believers in Shinto. Shinto 
is a very old and complicated kind of religion. It had certain basic 
tenets. Central is the belief that the first emperor, Jimnu Tenno, 
who reigned in 660 B.C., was descended directly from the Goddess of 
the Sun and that the whole race, therefore, is descended from divine 
ancestors and, consequently, superior to any other race on the face 
of the earth. The Japanese Shintoist is taught from the cradle to 
revere the emperor as the Son of the Son Goddess. This same rever 
ence is displayed toward the parents and grandparents and manifests 
itself in ancestor worship. 

These beliefs were used by the militarists when they came to 
power to bind the Japanese together all over the world, creating a 
unique sense of nationalism. The militarists made Shinto the state 
religion. The militarists used their political power to break up 
all other religious organizations and to eradicate all other reli 
gious beliefs as far as possible. Confrontations and overt incidents 
were avoided, but the pressure against other religions and their 
practices was constant and effective. The result was the develop 
ment of a national fanaticism of extraordinary virulence. 

From the time of the accession of the militarists to power, the 
Japanese people were subject to psychological conditioning, propa 
ganda, and pressure in favor of Shinto beliefs. This accounts for 
their dream of world empire and world supremacy. It accounts for 
the determined, dangerous, and desperate character of the Japanese 
soldier in World War II. It accounts for the kamikaze pilots, who 
volunteered in large numbers for certain death, flying their planes 
like missiles to crash into American ships. It accounts for the 
determination of the Japanese army, navy, and civilian population 
to fight to the last man, notwithstanding the fact that their cities 
had been devastated by fire bombs and they were without hope of a 
successful outcome for the war. In 1941 and 1942, Shinto-based 
nationalism reached its most dramatic pitch. 

This development of Shinto attracted little attention at the 
time, but there was every reason for Americans to be concerned about 
it because Shintoism had been widely spread among our Japanese popu 
lation by means of the Japanese language schools. The Japanese 
language schools in California were established long before the 
accession to power by the Japanese military fascists. Japanese 


Olney: immigrants, like those from many other countries, have always 
wanted to maintain close ties with their original homeland. 
Japanese children in California were required by California law 
to attend school just like all other children. There they were 
taught in the English language and subject to the same curricula 
as everybody else. The Japanese community did not object to this, 
but they thought it insufficient. They wanted their children to 
know the Japanese language as well and to be educated in Japanese 
culture. Accordingly, they organized their own system of Japanese 
language schools. Classes were taught in the Japanese language 
and the subjects related to Japanese culture. The result was that 
all of the Japanese children attended the American schools as 
required by law and most of them attended Japanese language schools 
as well. For many years there was nothing objectionable about this 
system. Indeed, it had some incidental virtues. For example, the 
Japanese child was so busy going to two schools that he or she had 
little opportunity to get into trouble. This, no doubt, was one 
of the reasons for the very low rate of juvenile delinquency in the 
Japanese population. 

However, when the Japanese militarists began to lend the full 
support of the Japanese government to Shintoism, the situation in 
the schools changed. The appointment of Shinto priests or believers 
as teachers in the Japanese language schools was everywhere encour 
aged and, if necessary, pressure was applied. The educational 
program of the schools was directed from Tokyo and the divinity of 
the emperor and the unique origins of the Japanese race were heavily 
emphasized. It is estimated that there were more than 240 Japanese 
language schools in California alone. Some nineteen thousand Japan 
ese boys and girls attended these schools before Pearl Harbor. It 
is estimated that nearly $400,000 was spent in 1941 alone for the 
Japanese educational program directed from Tokyo. In November, 1933, 
there was founded, with its headquarters in Tokyo, an organization 
called Institute for the Education of Over-Sea Japanese. The purpose 
and objective of this organization was published in the Japanese 
newspaper Osaka Mainichi, which has been translated as follows: 

"The Institute of Over-Sea People s Education is an 
organization for infusing the Japanese spirit into the 
second generation of Japanese abroad. In other words, 
leave the second generation in the land of their resi 
dence, but don t let them forget the Japanese spirit. 
In buying, select Japanese goods, in voting, cast 
ballots for politicians friendly to Japanese." 

As late as February 17, 1941, the Japanese daily newspaper Rafu 
Shimpo , published in Los Angeles, touched on this subject in an 
article which reads, in part, and in translation, as follows: 


Olney: "Re-educational plan for the promotion of the father 
land. The Nisei who were born and raised in the foreign 
land are to come to the fatherland far away to find the 
company of the other sex. But they are confronted with 
difficulty coming from the differences of their habits 
and customs with those of the fatherland. Here comes 
the problem of re-education of the Nisei. 

Meantime, to make the abroad compatriots understand 
the position of the fatherland under the new regime of 
Pan-Asiatic principles, and to unite them to act for the 
realization of enlightened Asia, re-education of Nisei 
is necessary. So, Imperial Education Association made 
a budget of yen 100,000 for the education of Nisei. For 
this purpose, the Committee on Overseas Education of the 
Association, in cooperation with the Department of Educa 
tion and the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Govern 
ment and the Goain (Institute for the Promotion of Asia) , 
elected secretaries and established an office for educa 
tional guidance of the Nisei. The functions of the office 
at present are as follows: 1. Investigation of the 
educational conditions of Nisei, and of the living con 
ditions of the teachers abroad. 2. Establishment of the 
fundamental plan for the education of Nisei. 3. Assist 
ance in sending good teachers. 

At present, among the teachers abroad who are teaching 
Nisei, a good number of them want to come to the father 
land. Meantime, many of the teachers here in this country 
have the desire to go abroad to fulfill their ambitions. 
A proper disposal of this situation alone would make a 
new atmosphere in the educational field. So, this new 
project of the Association will be successful in every 

General information about the Japanese population which we 
acquired or developed in the state attorney general s office, we 
passed on to members of General DeWitt s staff, simply because they 
had requested us to do so. I doubt that it was of importance to 
them, because they had far better sources of information in the 
FBI, the Immigration Service, and Treasury agents. I doubt that 
we told the army officers anything that they did not already know, 
with one exception. This was information as to the exact parcels 
of land which were in possession of the Japanese in December, 1941 
and January, 1942. This information was developed through the 
following occurrences. 


Olney: The army was well aware that there were many vital military instal 
lations and many key civilian facilities needed in the re-armament 
program which had Japanese living next to them or at least very 
close. The army did not know whether these Japanese were aliens or 
American citizens and was still less able to distinguish between 
those who were loyal to the United States and those with strong 
affinities or allegiance to the Japanese empire. In the very first 
meetings that we in the attorney general s office had with army 
officers following Pearl Harbor, they expressed their concern about 
this matter and they asked about the possibility of using state laws 
if any were available to break up this proximity. 

We gave immediate attention to this and concluded that the en 
forcement of the Alien Land Law might produce the desired result in 
at least some instances. The law provided that if agricultural land 
came into the ownership of an alien ineligible for American citizen 
ship, the land would be forfeited and would escheat to the state. 
Inquiry convinced us that some of the agricultural land near some 
of the important strategic installations was, in fact, owned by 
Japanese aliens ineligible for citizenship and, hence, was subject 
to escheat proceedings and the ouster of those in present possession. 

Consequently, Attorney General Earl Warren called a conference of 
sheriffs and district attorneys on the subject of Alien Land Law 
enforcement, which was held in the State Building in San Francisco 
on February 2, 1942. His original intention had been to invite 
only the district attorneys and sheriffs of those few counties where 
we thought it was likely that there was a provable case. But at the 
suggestion of the army and navy and other federal authorities, he 
expanded the list of invitees to include the district attorneys and 
sheriffs from all counties where the federal government felt there 
was a security problem. This did not include all of California s 
fifty-eight counties, but nevertheless, the meeting was a large one. 
At the conference, it soon became evident that neither the sheriff 
nor the district attorney had information as to who was occupying 
what agricultural land and where the ownership lay, but all agreed 
that each county had one official who did have precisely this infor 
mation, and that was the county agricultural agent. His duties kept 
him in constant contact with all the agricultural lands of his 
county and with their occupants and owners. It was concluded, there 
fore, that with the assistance of the district attorneys and sher 
iffs, full information about Japanese land occupancy could be secured 
from each county agricultural agent and forwarded to the attorney 
general s office for transmission to the army. 

To carry out this program, we in the attorney general s office 
secured a set of maps of each county on a scale large enough to 
make it possible to indicate with respect to each parcel whether it 
was or was not owned or occupied by Japanese. The maps were on a 


Olney: uniform scale and it usually took three or four sheets to cover a 
single county. The maps for each county were sent to the district 
attorney and sheriff and they, in conference with the local agri 
cultural agents, marked each parcel of agricultural land which was 
occupied or owned by Japanese, and with this information the maps 
were then returned to the attorney general s office. Of course, the 
maps could not show who was a citizen and who was not or where the 
occupants loyalties lay. 

It had been our intention in gathering this information to use it 
in deciding where and against whom escheat proceedings should be 
filed for Alien Land Law violation. This program was carried out as 
rapidly as possible. The Alien Land Law cases were placed under my 
supervision and I assigned Sherrill Halbert to handle them (Sherrill 
Halbert later became a judge of the Superior Court of Stanislaus 
County and in the 1950s became a judge of the United States District 
Court for the Northern District of California) . A number of escheat 
proceedings involving lands adjacent to strategic installations were 
filed and pressed to a successful conclusion, taking their control 
and ownership out of the hands of enemy aliens. Later on the program 
was expanded into one of general enforcement of the Alien Land Law, 
with the resulting escheat of large land areas without regard to 
whether they were or were not near military or other important instal 

The county maps which had been prepared by the county agricultural 
agents, the district attorneys, and sheriffs for use in the program 
for the enforcement of the Alien Land Law, when received in the 
attorney general s office and put together, disclosed a situation 
with respect to Japanese land occupancy which none of us had ever 
suspected. The maps disclosed that from Point Reyes south, virtually 
every feasible landing beach, air field, power house, oil field, 
water reservoir or pumping plant, radio station, and other points of 
strategic military importance had several and usually a considerable 
number of Japanese-occupied properties in their immediate vicinity. 
The same was true with respect to military camps and other defense 
installations . 

While the location of many of these Japanese properties was un 
doubtedly mere coincidence, it did seem clear to us that the location 
of others was not. This seemed apparent because while all or prac 
tically all of these Japanese were ostensibly engaged in agricultural 
pursuits, there were a number of large agricultural areas having only 
a few strategic points in them, and the maps disclosed that in such 
areas the Japanese were congregated at the strategic points and at 
those points alone. The coastal plain of Santa Barbara County from 
Point Conception south to Ventura was an -example. This plain, though 
long, is quite narrow and lies between the Santa Barbara Mountains and 
the sea. Throughout its length, it was subject to intensive cultiva 
tion and all parts are equally open to cultivation and agricultural 


Olney: pursuits. Among the particular points on the plain which were re 
garded as of strategic importance were the El Capitain Oil Fields , 
Elwood Oil Field, Summerland Oil Field, Santa Barbara Airport, and 
Santa Barbara Lighthouse and harbor entrance. The Santa Barbara 
County maps disclosed that every one of these points was surrounded 
by Japanese-occupied properties and that there were no Japanese on 
the equally attractive agricultural areas between these points. 

The Santa Inez Valley was another example. At the lower end of 
the valley was Camp Cook, where the only armored force on the Pacific 
coast was stationed. There were Japanese farming around the bridge 
entrances to the fort, but there were no Japanese in the central and 
upper part of the valley, which was just as good or better agricul 
tural land. Another example was found in the Santa Maria area. 
There was a great deal of productive agricultural land in the Santa 
Maria-Guadalupe area, but the Japanese were not scattered here and 
there. Their property ringed the Santa Maria Airport and penetrated 
the oil field around Orcutt. 

We became much concerned about these patterns of Japanese land 
occupancy. It seemed impossible that they could be the result of 
coincidence alone. This ringing or blanketing by Japanese of 
strategic points throughout the state, we believed, must have had 
some plan and direction behind it. We were thoroughly convinced 
that the Japanese population in general was unaware that there was 
any pattern to their land occupancy and ownership. The idea of a 
giant conspiracy was too preposterous and was never entertained. In 
the attorney general s office we came to the conclusion that the 
explanation of these patterns was really quite simple and that it 
lay in the manner in which Japanese society in California was organ 
ized. At that time the Japanese population in California was very 
thoroughly organized. There were a large number of organizations 
covering every branch of life. There were Japanese agricultural, 
commercial, educational, social, religious, and patriotic associa 
tions in every Japanese community. Almost every Japanese in the 
state was included in one or more of these organizations. Although 
the several organizations in Japanese communities were concerned 
with different fields of activity, they were all quite closely inte 
grated by means of interlocking directors and officers, honorary 
advisers, and interlocking membership among the ordinary members. 
Furthermore, their leaders were seldom selected by a democratic 
process. The leadership was usually self -perpetuating, selecting 
their successors on the basis of special fitness. 

At the top of this organizational pyramid was the Japanese Associa 
tion of America in Northern California and the Japanese Central 
Association in Southern California. Their connection with the 
Japanese government had always been very close. When the Japanese 


Olney: Association of America was organized many years before, its by-laws 
provided: "Article 3: This association is organized by the local 
Japanese association under the jurisdiction of the Japanese Consulate 
General of San Francisco." The aid of one or another of these associa 
tions was usually invoked, according to the information we received, 
when a Japanese farmer wanted to acquire agricultural property. 
Inquiry would be made of the association as to the location of avail 
able parcels of land. The associations had such information and it 
would have been easy for the association officials to manipulate 
these inquiries and acquisitions according to a general plan. We 
had no proof of this, but we believed, nevertheless, that it was the 
explanation of the patterns disclosed by the maps. 

There was plenty of evidence that the Japanese Associations, as 
organizations, had supported and provided aid for the military cam 
paigns of the Japanese empire. This support had been publicized in 
Japanese papers throughout California. Some of the newspaper items, 
in translation, are as follows: 

"March 13, 1941. Thirty-two bales of tin foil were 
shipped to Japan through the Japanese Consulate General 
and were contributed by the Japanese Associations of 
Fresno County, Kern County, Delano, and San Bernardino." 

"July 6, 1941. Central California Japanese Associa 
tion announces the collection and transmission to the 
war ministry of the sum of $3,542.05." 

"March 6, 1938. G. Yoshida, San Francisco Japanese 
Association, yesterday sent 400 pounds of tin foil, 
making a record total of 2,800 pounds of tin foil which 
he has collected, according to the records of the Con 
sulate General s office." 

The Japanese Veterans Association, which was always highly 
militaristic, was similarly engaged: 

"March 20, 1941. It is announced that the War 
Veterans Associations in Japan, Germany, and Italy, 
in keeping with the spirit of the Axis treaty, have 
formed joint and advisory committees to aid and 
establish the new world order. There are three and 
a half million veterans and reservists headed by 
General Imei who have pledged their cooperation to 
Axis aims . " 


Olney: "July 6, 1941. The Japanese Veterans Association 
of America, in its sixty-sixth meeting, reported the 
collection of $5,968.00, making a total of 829,440.34 
yen collected and transmitted to Japan for the use of 
the military services, the collection being from 
Japanese organizations in the following places: Chico; 
Monterey; Tulare; Thornton; Richmond; Sonoma County; 
Eden Township; Alameda County; Mar in County; Lodi; 
Mountain View; Alvarado; San Bonito County; Contra 
Costa County; Watsonville; Santa Cruz; Redwood City; 
Vacaville; San Mateo; Bingham, Utah; Berkeley; Oakland; 
San Francisco; Pescadero; Salinas; Ogden, Utah; Reno, 
Nevada; Honeyville; Rock Springs, Wyoming; Idaho Falls, 
Idaho; Salt Lake City." 

The item also announced that during the five years since the out 
break of the China incident, the organization had collected 850,000 
yen for the aid of Japanese soldiers and a tremendous number of 
bundles for the Japanese soldiers overseas. At one time, the associa 
tion is said to have numbered eight thousand members. After the 
freezing of Japanese assets by order of President Roosevelt, the 
Japanese Veterans Association was dissolved. Some three hundred 
representatives were reported to have been present and the meeting 
closed with the showing of a Japanese motion picture entitled 
"Flaming Skies." 

It was the Japanese Veterans Association that sponsored the tour 
of Major G. Tanaka of the Japanese army and a member of the Army 
General Staff, who arrived in San Francisco on January 1, 1941 with 
full uniform, sword, and metals and toured the state, lecturing 
before various Japanese groups, eventually returning to Japan via 
New York. While here, he is reported to have said, "Japan and the 
United States will go to war this autumn." 

It seemed quite evident that the fanatical nationalism typified 
by Japanese Shinto had filtered into and taken hold of the leader 
ship of the principal Japanese associations in California. Men with 
such ideas could easily have steered Japanese agriculturalists to 
locations close to strategic installations where they might be of 
use in the event of the expected hostilities. 

Of course, we passed on to the army the information disclosed by 
the maps and such information as we were able to gather about the 
Japanese associations and organizations. 

Long prior to Pearl Harbor, the 77th Congress had authorized a 
select committee to investigate national defense migration. The 
committee was formed pursuant to House Resolution 113, "A resolution 
to inquire further into the interstate migration of citizens, 


Olney: emphasizing the present and potential consequences of migration 

caused by the national defense program." The chairman of the com 
mittee was Congressman John Tolan of California. The committee was 
particularly concerned with the wholesale migration of workers and 
their families from the states of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi 
to work in war industries in other parts of the country. The com 
mittee was holding hearings on this subject in New Orleans at the 
time of Pearl Harbor. With the outbreak of war and the exclusion of 
many people from military zones along the Pacific coast, the committee 
decided to hold hearings in a number of cities in the affected areas. 

In San Francisco, the committee set hearings for February 21 and 
23, 1942, on the subject of "Problems of Evacuation of Enemy Aliens 
and Others from Prohibited Zones." Attorney General Earl Warren, 
among others, was invited to testify. By the time the committee 
opened its hearings on February 21st, the inadequacy of the ninety- 
nine prohibited zones and two restricted zones designated by the 
attorney general at the request of General DeWitt and which applied 
only to enemy aliens and not to American citizens had become appar 
ent to everyone. With the federal authorities and state authorities 
unable to distinguish dangerously disloyal Japanese from those who 
were loyal, and with convincing evidence that the Japanese population 
did include an unknown number of citizens as well as noncitizens 
whose loyalties were with the Japanese empire, the question had 
already been raised as to what further measures were needed in the 
national defense. The attorney general was very reluctant to take a 
position on this matter and he did so only after consulting with the 
sheriffs and district attorneys with whom he had been working. They 
were unanimous in believing that it was impossible to distinguish 
disloyal from loyal Japanese, either among those who were aliens or 
those who were citizens, and that the only way to provide adequate 
security for the vital areas of California and the rest of the Pacific 
coast was to exclude all persons of Japanese descent, regardless of 
citizenship, from the area. 

Since the attorney general had come to the same conclusion himself, 
he decided it was the only position he could take and that he would 
have to accept the committee s invitation to testify. In his appear 
ance before the committee and in an extension of his testimony filed 
after the hearing, the attorney general gave the committee such 
information as we had about Japanese landownership , their location 
as shown by the maps of the counties, Japanese organizations, and, 
indeed, all the information we had been able to compile. He also 
explained why we found it impossible to distinguish disloyal from 
loyal Japanese. However, in discussing the nature of the danger 
that we faced, he limited himself to the subject of possible sabotage. 
No mention at all was made of the possibility of a strike by Japanese 
naval and air power. This was deliberate. The military believed that 
the Japanese did not know how seriously weak our coastal defenses 


Olney: actually were and they wanted nothing said in public that would 

suggest that anyone in authority in this country believed that such 
a strike was feasible. Accordingly, he spoke only of the danger of 
sabotage. Most of his listeners were acutely aware that he was 
really referring to the far greater and more serious danger of 
actual attack from the sea. Interestingly enough, while the com 
mittee was holding its second day of hearings on February 23, a 
Japanese submarine surfaced and shelled the oil installation at 

I have never believed that the Tolan Committee hearings were 
helpful to anyone. The basic question to be decided was whether 
the safety and security of the United States required that all per 
sons of Japanese descent be excluded from the Pacific coastal areas. 
This was strictly a military question. It was pointless for the 
committee to call local civilian officials and leaders to express 
their opinions in public as to what should be done. Witnesses 
could not be called from the military and even the committee realized 
they should not be called to testify. The hearings, in my opinion, 
were mere congressional meddling. 

Under all the circumstances, what could the military do? They 
knew that the Japanese had the capability for a major naval and 
aerial strike at our aircraft factories, shipyards, and naval bases 
facilities which were absolutely essential for the rebuilding of 
American military and naval strength. They had to assume that such 
an attack might well have been planned long ago as a follow-up in 
the event the Japanese achieved a high degree of success at Pearl 
Harbor. They knew the temporary helplessness of the United States 
Navy and the weakness of our coastal defense. They knew that such 
naval strength as we had left had to be devoted to keeping open the 
supply lines to Australia, where American troops had to be shipped 
and supplied with all of their armament to stop the Japanese attempt 
to overrun that continent. They knew that if the Japanese attacked 
the Pacific coast, it would be a desperate affair, and in the middle 
would be 122,000 Japanese civilians whose sentiments and loyalties 
it was impossible to gauge and whose conduct as individuals was im 
possible to predict. Furthermore, they knew that if any action at 
all was to be taken, it had to be taken immediately. If the Japanese 
were going to attack or even raid the coast, it had to be very, very 
soon. The Japanese would not and could not wait until we had built 
up our defenses and repaired our damaged fleet. These are all obvious 
considerations that must have gone into the decision which was finally 

On March 2, 1942, only eighty-five days after the bombing of Pearl 
Harbor, General DeWitt, under authority of President Roosevelt s 
Executive Order no. 9066, issued his order requiring the exclusion 
from the coastal states of California, Oregon, and Washington of all 


Olney: persons of Japanese descent, whether aliens or American citizens. 

The issuance of this order had the full approval of the War Depart 
ment and of the Roosevelt administration. In California, it was 
approved almost unanimously by the law enforcement officers of the 
state and it had very strong popular support as well. However, it 
was a military and not a civilian decision. It was believed to be 
necessary in order to meet an immediate and major danger to the 
safety of the country. I was convinced then and am convinced now 
that it was motivated by nothing else. 

Every effort was made to put General DeWitt s order into immediate 
effect. Time was vital. The sole purpose of the order was to get 
the Japanese out of the area before an attack, raid, or other trouble 
could materialize. The shortness of the notice and the brevity of 
the time to allow for preparation caused great hardship and loss to 
many Japanese and their families, but the requirements of time made 
such hardships unavoidable. There was some quite unnecessary un 
pleasantness that accompanied the Japanese exodus. Jeering signs 
were occasionally displayed. A few demogogic radio commentators had 
poisonous words to say. Some very unfortunate remarks can even be 
attributed to the military. General DeWitt was quoted (whether 
correctly or not, I do not know) as having said on one occasion, 
"The Japs are an enemy race," and on another, "Once a Jap, always a 
Jap." But these were really isolated incidents. Calif ornians, on 
the whole, had great sympathy for the Japanese and great regret for 
the hardships that they must undergo. There were countless acts of 
kindness towards these people who were being forced from their homes. 

General DeWitt s exclusion order went no farther than was neces 
sary. It did not order the Japanese into concentration camps. It 
only excluded them from the Pacific coast states and left them free 
to go anywhere else. Most of those who had the means did move to 
other states and settle there, but the majority of the Japanese 
lacked the means to relocate themselves in other places of their 
own choice, and many of the inland states objected strenuously to 
receiving large numbers of people who had been removed from the 
Pacific coast states as war risks. The only possible alternative 
was for the federal government to provide relocation camps in which 
the displaced Japanese could live for the duration of the war. I 
had nothing whatever to do with these relocation camps and never 
had the opportunity of visiting one, but I do know that the records 
show they were administered humanely and efficiently and with no 
more restraints on the occupants than the circumstances required. 
It is in my opinion a complete falsehood to liken them to the con 
centration camps of the Germans or the prison-labor camps of the 

During the thirty-three years since the end of the war with 
Japan, there has been mounting criticism of Executive Order no. 
9066 and the relocation of Japanese-Americans which was carried 


Olney: out under its authority. Some of this criticism has come from 

persons who supported the program at the time and were active in 
its implementation. For example, in 1972 the California Historical 
Society published a book entitled Executive Order 9066; The Intern 
ment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans. The book consists of photographs, 
for the most part, taken by Dorothea Lange and other obviously 
talented photographers. They portray the hardships of the relocation 
program in a most vivid and moving way. No one can question the 
authenticity of the pictures or the reality of the hardship and 
suffering which they portray, but they have no relevance to the 
basic question as to whether the exclusion of the Japanese was or 
seemed to be a military necessity. The book includes an introduc 
tion written by Edison Tomimaro Uno of San Francisco, who describes 
himself as an American of Japanese ancestry whose earliest recollec 
tions are of a desert relocation camp such as are portrayed in the 
book. He finds the pictures to be powerful reminders of his own 
experiences of over four years of camp life and of the experiences 
of his family and parents. He writes: 

"It was not until the winter of 1969 that this tide 
of Asian- American consciousness reached its peak. It was 
not until the pilgrimage to Manzanar, the desert camp site 
some three hundred miles northeast of Los Angeles, that 
these previously inchoate feelings found a concrete ex 
pression. It was not until the moment when we glimpsed 
the site itself, when we saw again its desert barrenness, 
the tattered remnants of the barracks, the tufts of sage 
brush and mesquite, until we felt again the sharp, early 
morning desert wind, that we fully perceived what was in 
the offing for us, that we perceived how tragic the past 
really was . 

We had been too busy too busy repairing our lives, 
too busy trying to catch up with careers cut short, too 
busy trying to make up for years snatched out of our 
lives yet with full enthusiasm to realize the Amer 
ican dream. 

Perhaps some of us were ashamed that it had even 
happened. We were like the victim of a rape we 
could not even bear to speak of the assault , of the 
unspeakable crime. Thus, for many years we had not 
even spoken of our imprisonment. And when we did 
speak of it, we were guarded. We dared not fully 
reveal the depths of our feeling about it. 

In fact, we were inclined in some ways to blame 
ourselves. Some Nisei (U.S. citizens by birth) had 
even gone so far as to suggest that we had been 


Olney: incarcerated because we had not made ourselves known 
to our Caucasian neighbors, that we should have been 
more open, less clannish, that we should have gone to 
the length of becoming two hundred percent Americans. 
Then, they reasoned, the Caucasians would have known 
us and trusted us and would have seen that our loyalty 
lay first, last, and always with America. For such 
people, the truth was simply too awesome to be faced. 
The truth was -that our unjust imprisonment was the 
result of two closely related emotions: racism and 
hysteria. . .History must be written by those who lived 
it. We must give full recognition to the facts that 
were responsible for such an outrage against the 
United States Constitution. Racism, economic and 
political opportunism were the root causes of this 
crime that is now a part of our American heritage. 
This, our legacy, is a reminder to all Americans that 
it can happen again." 

The book also includes an epilogue by the late Tom C. Clark, 
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In it, he 

"Soon after Pearl Harbor, at the instance of the 
Attorney General of the United States, I was appointed 
Civilian Coordinator for General John DeWitt, Commanding 
General, Western Defense Command, United States Army. 
It was his duty to protect our West Coast from subver 
sion as well as invasion, and it was my task to be his 
go-between with the public. Following my appointment, 
I was deluged by demands that regardless of citizenship, 
every person of Japanese descent must be removed from 
the West Coast. 

In the beginning, in an effort to force all removal, 
a curfew was instituted. . .but the threatening public 
attitude reached a fever heat that would permit nothing 
less than total mass relocation. Moreover, as Civilian 
Coordinator, I found a complete lack of understanding, 
respect, and regard for our fellow Japanese-Americans 
in the very communities where they were born, where 
they were reared, and where they worked. Some said 
that they were too clannish, too race-conscious, too 
emperor-oriented; that they would not cultivate American 
ways and could not be assimilated. But mutual under 
standing and respect is not a one-way street to be 
loved and to be respected, one must himself love and be 
respectful. Racial hatred coupled with economic and 


Olney: political opportunism kept hearts closed and fear 

predominant; it was a sad day in our Constitutional 
history. . .Despite the unequivocal language of the 
Constitution of the United States that the writ of 
habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite 
the Fifth Amendment s command that no person shall 
be deprived of life, liberty or property without 
due process of law, both of these Constitutional 
safeguards were denied by military action under 
Executive Order 9066. While the Supreme Court in 
Hirabayashi vs. U.S., 820 U.S. 81 (1943), and 
Korematsu vs. U.S., 323 U.S. 214 (1944), gave the 
Fifth Amendment some lip service on the basis that 
there might have been some saboteurs among the 
thousands of persons of Japanese descent who were 
incarcerated, it wholly ignored the fundamental 
principle that a free society judges by individual 
acts, not by ancestry. Even though some malefactors 
might have been present which was never proven 
the liberty of the many cannot be forfeited because 
of the guilt of the few. Indeed, the Department of 
Justice successfully handled a similar problem in 
volving persons of Italian and German extraction, 
dealing with them on an individual basis rather than 
by mass incarceration. The stubborn fact is, our 
fellow Japanese-American citizens lost their liberty 
simply and only because of their ancestry." 

Even the late Chief Justice Earl Warren, who as attorney general 
of California in 1942 had urged, as representative of the peace 
officers and district attorneys of the state before the Tolan Com 
mittee, the exclusion from the coastal areas of all Japanese regard 
less of citizenship, seems to have changed his mind in later years. 
In his recently published memoirs he has written: 

"I have since deeply regretted the removal order and 
my own testimony advocating it, because it was not in 
keeping with our American concept of freedom and the 
rights of citizens. Whenever I thought of the innocent 
little children who were torn from home, school, friends 
and congenial surroundings, I was conscience stricken. 
It was wrong to act so impulsively, without positive 
evidence of disloyalty, even though we felt we had a good 
motive in the security of our state. It demonstrates the 
cruelty of war when fear, get-tough military psychology, 
propaganda, and racial antagonism combine with one s 
responsibility for public security to produce such acts. 
I have always believed I had no prejudice against the 


Olney: Japanese as such, except that directly spawned by 

Pearl Harbor and its aftermath. As District Attorney, 
I had great respect for people of Japanese ancestry, 
because during my years in that office, they created 
no law enforcement problems. Although we had a size 
able Japanese population, neither the young nor the 
old violated the law." 


Elsewhere in his memoirs, the late Chief Justice writes: 

"In the meantime, Japanese military successes 
continued throughout the Pacific basin. One of our 
units composed of Californians was decimated and 
captured at Bataan and Corregidor, and our people 
were outraged by much publicized stories of the 
tortures and sufferings of captured U.S. soldiers. 
American propaganda portrayed the Japanese as 
having adopted the Hitlerian theory of a master 
race, departing from it only in asserting that they 
were the chosen ones, not the Germans. Published 
stories of their savagery and sadism charged the 

These are several severe strictures on the decision-makers of 
1942 in the military and the federal civil administration and on 
the people of California in general. With all due respect, I must 
challenge their validity. 

In the first place, they are factually inaccurate. They picture 
the exclusion order and the relocation program as a "get-tough" 
military policy carried out at the demand of an hysterical citizenry, 
stirred up and boiling over as the result of years of anti- Japanese 
agitation and more recent wartime atrocity propaganda. That picture 
will not stand scrutiny. 

It is true that during the first two decades of this century, and 
before, there had been much agitation in California against the 
Japanese, some of which was disgraceful and cruel indeed. This was 
the period of the Oriental Exclusion Act at the federal level and 
the Alien Land Laws at the state level. Many organizations, such 
as the Native Sons of the Golden West, urged boycotts and other 
measures against the Japanese. I remember that when my father was 
an Associate Justice on the California Supreme Court in the early 
twenties, my mother received a letter of reproof from the N.S.G.W. 
because she had parked her car in front of a Japanese market and 
made purchases there. 


Olney: But this sort of thing was pretty much ancient history by the 1930s. 
There were still occasional articles or radio broadcasts inveighing 
against the Japanese. William Randolph Hearst continued to ride his 
hobbyhorse of "The Yellow Peril" in his newspapers, and the N.S.G.W. 
and the Associated Farmers continued their support of the Alien Land 
Laws. But the great majority of Calif ornians were unimpressed and 
disinterested. There was an increasing willingness to accept Japan 
ese on the basis of equality. This was due, in part, to the growth 
of a more tolerant spirit generally and even more to the Nisei 
educated in American schools who proved themselves to be so intelli 
gent, competent, friendly, and attractive. During the years 1927 to 
1942, I was employed most of the time on criminal cases, either in a 
district attorney s office or the office of the attorney general. 
I cannot now recall a single hostile incident against the Japanese 
during those years. There may have been some, but if so, they cannot 
have been serious or I would remember them. 

A more persuasive piece of evidence that there was no great amount 
of hostility to the Japanese in California during this period is the 
demonstrable fact that they did not have the government on their 
backs. Had there been widespread, deep, under-the-surface hatred or 
fear of the Japanese, they could not have escaped the attention of 
the security and investigative agencies of the federal and state 
governments. Their organizations would have been infiltrated; their 
meetings, movements, and activities would have been covered and 
reported; and extensive dossiers on their leaders would have been 
compiled. Yet none of this happened. It is obvious that there were 
no feelings on the part of government officers or the public general 
ly that any such measures were necessary or desirable. This is 
totally inconsistent with the idea of an inflamed populace seething 
with hatred and fear. 

When Mr. Justice Clark writes that following his appointment as 
Civilian Coordinator for General DeWitt, he was "deluged by demands 
that regardless of citizenship, every person of Japanese descent 
must be removed from the West Coast," I do not question his recollec 
tion. We in the attorney general s office were deluged too, and I 
in particular, since I was assigned to handling such demands. I 
think half the crackpots in a state that is noted for its crackpots 
came in to see me. The rest were from organizations like the 
Associated Farmers or other groups who had Japanese competitors. 
To be sure, they were numerous and it did take time to see them all, 
as we had to do, but none of us, not even Tom Clark, I am sure, 
regarded these people or their demands as representative of 
Calif ornians as a whole. 

When Chief Justice Warren writes in his memoirs, "One of our 
units composed of Californians was decimated and captured at Bataan 
and Corregidor, and our people were outraged by much publicized 


Olney: stories of the tortures and sufferings of captured U.S. soldiers. 
American propaganda portrayed the Japanese as having adopted the 
Hitlerian theory of a master race, departing from it only in assert 
ing that they were the chosen ones, not the Germans," he gives the 
impression that the stories and pictures of Californian units 
captured on Bataan and Corregidor had been used as propaganda to 
gain support for the exclusion of all Japanese from the coast. 
Executive Order 9066 was signed by the president on February 19, 
1942, and General DeWitt s exclusion order was issued on March 2nd, 
while the surrenders on Bataan and Corregidor did not occur until 
the middle of April. It is difficult to see how stories and pictures 
of the surrender and of the sufferings and humiliations visited upon 
the captured could have been used as propaganda before the events 
occurred. Moreover, when the stories of the surrender and the 
pictures of the captives in their emaciated condition, sometimes 
surrendering, under humiliating and even gruesome circumstances, 
first appeared, they were made public by the Japanese government 
itself. The Japanese were eager to proclaim to the world, and to 
the other nations of Asia especially, the crushing nature of their 
victories and to demonstrate the superiority of the Japanese to the 
weak and faltering American and British soldiers. Furthermore, the 
stories were true and the pictures accurate, as has been well estab 
lished since the war ended. 

As for the Japanese belief in the divinity of the emperor and the 
divine origins of the Japanese race, there can be no doubt. The 
Japanese soldier demonstrated this belief by both word and deed in 
every battle in which he fought and the civilian population did the 
same. On Saipan almost 22,000 Japanese civilians two out of 
three perished needlessly. Almost the entire garrison at 
least thirty thousand died. All because of this faith. It took 
the atom bomb and the express order of the emperor to break it, and 
even then the country was brought close to revolution by those who 
persisted in these ideas and were determined that Japan would fight 
till the last man, woman, and child were dead rather than sue for 
peace from their racial inferiors. The American newspapers were 
certainly right in proclaiming that the Japanese had adopted theories 
of the master race and it can hardly be regarded as propaganda in the 
deprecatory sense for them to have said so. 


[Interview 8: April 27, 1972] 

Stein: How did the attorney general s office get onto The Friends of 
Progress in the first place? 

Olney: Well, this group, which was headed by Robert Noble and Ellis 0. 

Jones, was operating openly in Los Angeles during the fall of 1941. 
They were holding meetings two, three times a week at the Embassy 
Auditorium on Figueroa Street. They were getting sizeable crowds 
of people, several hundred people. 

Along about October or November, they got a good deal of notori 
ety by putting on a mock trial of the President of the United States 
on charges of treason. They had various witnesses who appeared at 
this trial and delivered harangues against the president. They had 
one called Blighted Youth. They had another, a war mother of some 
kind, and all sorts of people like that. They also had a man made 
up to look like President Roosevelt, and even mocked him by having 
him limp around with a cane, sit in a wheelchair, and things of this 
kind. All these "witnesses" denounced the president and then the 
assembly, by shouted vote, convicted him of treason. This particular 
meeting was covered by Life magazine with both text and pictures of 
the presidential trial. So we did not "get onto" The Friends of 
Progress. They were thrust upon us. 

This was just before the war started and things were pretty rough 
even then. This group was openly espousing the Nazi cause. Their 
meetings were full of praise of Adolph Hitler, whom they referred to 
as the savior of the world. They were loud in praise of his anti- 
Semitic program. They urged its adoption in the United States. They 
asserted that President Roosevelt was a Jew. They didn t talk much 
about the Japanese prior to Pearl Harbor; this was mostly about the 
Germans. None of the things that they were doing or saying were 
violations of any state law. Their activities were beyond our reach 
as state law officers. We felt if it was anybody s concern, it was 
the federal government s concern. 


Olney: In the two or three days following the Japanese attack on Pearl 

Harbor, the FBI rounded up all known German, Italian, and Japanese 
agents all around the United States. Arrested at the same time 
were the American born leaders of American Nazi and fascist propa 
ganda organizations like The Silver Shirts, the German-American 
Bund, the Ku Klux Klan, and other groups who were espousing the 
cause of our enemies and continued to do so after the declaration 
of war. Among those arrested were a half dozen leaders of The 
Friends of Progress, including Robert Noble and Ellis 0. Jones. 
The charge that was placed against these people early in December, 
including Noble and Jones, was sedition, a violation of the federal 

After three or four more days, Francis Biddle, who was the United 
States Attorney General, ordered the release of a considerable num 
ber of the people arrested by the Bureau, including Noble and Jones 
and the others of their group, on the ground that, in his opinion, 
they had not violated any law of the United States. However dis 
tasteful their pronouncements and conduct may have been, they had 
not been accompanied by any overt action against the United States. 
In his opinion, that meant that they were not to be arrested or 

Following their release, Noble and Jones and The Friends of 
Progress went back into action again, same place, same way, except 
that they were much more vitriolic than they had been before, and 
much more extreme. This, of course, was days and weeks after the 
war had been declared. When the press announced that our Far Eastern 
fleet had been sunk by the Japanese in the Macassar Straits, Robert 
Noble read the list of sunken ships to an open meeting of The Friends 
of Progress and the sinking of each ship was loudly cheered and 
clapped by the assemblage. They made many statements urging support 
for the Nazi cause. They told their audience that the attack on 
Pearl Harbor was fully justified because the Japanese had a better 
right to the Hawaiian Islands than we did, since there were more 
Japanese in the Islands than there were Americans. 

This kind of thing went on over a series of meetings. People in 
Los Angeles were getting stirred up about it; they didn t like it. 
Occasionally there would be a sailor or soldier or two who would 
go into the Embassy Auditorium to one of these meetings. There was 
danger of some real fights and riots. In February they published in 
their news sheet a poem entitled "The Boastful Bastards of Bataan" 
forecasting and exulting in the capture of MacArthur s troops by the 
Japanese. This was when our soldiers were at their last extremity 
on the Bataan Peninsula. They accused General MacArthur of personal 
cowardice and of having deserted his troops under fire and fleeing 
to Australia to avoid capture. 


Olney: Well, to us this seemed pretty extreme, and for the federal govern 
ment to fail to do anything seemed to us to lead to more trouble. 
So, we called up the FBI and asked them if they were planning to 
take any action against this group. We told them that if they were 
going to act we did not want to get in their way, but if they were 
not going to act we would take action if we could find any state 
law that was being violated by these people. The response we got 
was that the opinion of the attorney general would not permit them 
to take any action and if we could find any way to lock them up we 
had their blessing to go ahead. 

We got the books down from the shelves and looked them over. 
There was then a section of the Penal Code defining criminal libel. 
There s civil libel and criminal libel, and the definitions of the 
two are different. They re defined in the code. To maliciously 
and falsely make accusations against another that injure him in his 
profession and demean him is a violation of the criminal libel and 
slander statute. Accusing a professional military man, a general, 
of personal cowardice and deserting his troops under fire is about 
as tough a statement as you can make about him. If it s made 
falsely and maliciously, why, it clearly comes under the California 

So, we made a little investigation to find out who was respon 
sible for this broadside that had been put out with these statements 
in it. We developed our evidence and it ran back to Noble and Jones 
as being responsible for it. One or two of the others had also 
taken part in its preparation. All of the leaders of The Friends 
of Progress had taken part in disseminating the literature. 

But if we were to file a charge based on a criminal libel against 
General MacArthur, we had to be prepared to prove our case. That 
meant we not only had to prove that they had made these charges, but 
we had to prove that they were false in fact. How were we going to 
prove that General MacArthur, when he left the Philippines and went 
to Australia, was not deserting his troops but was acting under 
orders? We couldn t do it without getting help from the Pentagon. 

I telephoned Ed Shattuck, who at that time was general counsel 
for the Selective Service System under General Hershey Ed was a 
California lawyer and explained the situation. I said, "We re not 
anxious to get into this case, but the federal authorities feel they 
can t act because the Attorney General of the United States says 
these people have not broken any federal law. We have this state 
criminal libel statute which has been violated by the libel against 
General MacArthur, but we can t act unless we can prove the case. 
And that means we have to have somebody to testify that General 
MacArthur made that move from the Philippines to Australia under 


Olney: So, Ed said he d call us back and he did very shortly. He said, 
"I talked to General Marshall about this. General Marshall said 
that if you go ahead with that case, he will guarantee that there 
will be a witness present to testify that General MacArthur had 
orders from the President of the United States to go to Australia, 
and that he did not desert his troops under fire but went under 
orders." Then he said, "General Marshall thinks some action ought 
to be taken about these people, and he s willing to do this." I 
said, "This is all right, but a lot of time can go by between now 
and the time that we would actually have to call somebody as a 
witness. Do you know who would be available?" He said General 
Marshall had told him there were only two persons who could testify 
to those orders because they were highly secret at the time they 
were issued. Both were lieutenant colonels, but he said one or the 
other would be available. 

Well, to skip ahead, when we did get arou-nd to having the trial, 
there was only one of these officers available to testify. The 
other had been sent to Europe. His name was Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

Well, with these assurances from the Pentagon, we concluded we 
should arrest these fellows, which we did, for violating the Cali 
fornia criminal libel statute. We put them under bail. This got a 
lot of publicity in the Los Angeles newspapers. They were out on 
bail in maybe five or six days, as I recall. And here was the 
state, prosecuting these people for libeling a United States general 
in his profession. This apparently got under the hide of the U.S. 
Attorney General because without saying anything to us, the federal 
government then went around and arrested them on a federal charge 
of sedition. 

Well, when they made their arrest for sedition, we said to them, 
"Now, there isn t going to be any pulling and hauling over these 
fellows. We don t care who tries them as long as they get tried 
and aren t running around loose uttering this kind of stuff. But 
since we arrested them, you go ahead and try them and we ll pick up 
the pieces if there are any to pick up." So they did. They went 
ahead and tried them. They were in the U.S. District Court in Los 
Angeles and were convicted. 

In the meantime we d gone farther with our inquiries 

Stein: Can I just interrupt a second here? I read an article in Life 

magazine which had a very brief chronology of the trials. It said 
there that in August of 42, Noble was sentenced to five years in 
federal prison for violating the Wartime Sedition Act. Do you have 
any idea how they changed their minds from earlier not wanting to 
prosecute them for sedition? 


Olney: No, I do not, excepting that it made them look so darn funny, a 
state acting upon facts that were primarily of federal concern. 
That s all I knew about it. 

We had, besides these criminal libel charges against Noble and 
Jones, another layer of the organization that we could indict under 
a different law. This included a man named F.K. Ferenz, a fellow 
named James McBride, and two brothers, Van Meter brothers, who were 
really pretty weird. They liked to play at being storm troopers 
and used to wear German steel helmets and armbands with swastikas. 
They had big knives and bayonets with the swastika on them, and 
they used to sound off in their meetings about the time when they 
could go into action against all the Jews around town. There were 
two women also. They d done work for the organization, they were 
on the inside of it, and they knew all the plans and everything 
else. One was Noble s secretary. We couldn t very well leave them 
out, but we didn t take them very seriously. 

We found that we had a statute that had never been used, but it 
appeared that if it had any application to anybody, it applied to 
this group. It was a statute passed to hit the communists and it 
was called the Foreign Agents Registration Act. It had been passed 
about four or five years before. It provided that any organization 
which was foreign-controlled or foreign-supported engaging in propa 
ganda had to register with the California secretary of state. There 
were severe penalties for failing to register. We thought we could 
connect this group up quite tightly with official Nazi organizations. 
We developed what we thought was quite adequate proof on that sub 
ject. We could show that they consistently had followed the Nazi 
party line as it varied from one time to another, even on minor 
details. Then we had in F.K. Ferenz a man who was deeply involved 
in the German National Socialist party. We had some letters indicat 
ing he was registered and carried as a member in Germany of the Nazi 
party and was a member and leader of The Friends of Progress and 
kept them supplied with Nazi propaganda materials. 

Stein: You mentioned that none of you liked the statute very much. Why 
was that? 

Olney: In the first place, it was pretty vague. In the second place, the 

whole concept of the statute might be open to question as to whether 
it was constitutional. Here is a statute that says that if you re a 
foreign organization, you ve got to come in and register as such. 
In doing that you re providing the very information which may be 
used to incriminate you. The statute was copied from a federal 
statute that Senator McCarran and the old Dies Committee dreamed up. 
Jack Tenney and these Red-baiters up in the California legislature 
shoved this thing through. There it was on the books, and if it 
was a valid law it seemed to us it would apply to this group. This 
was wartime, and we didn t have any long-range objectives to be 


Olney : 

Olney : 


Olney : 

achieved by that statute. We were looking for anything that would 
make it possible legally to lock these people up, shut them up. 
We thought that was a desirable end. We had no compunctions about 
using the Foreign Agents Registration Act, even though if we d been 
in the legislature we never would have voted for such a bill. 

So, we arrested them and tried them, 
case ever tried under that statute. 

Was it declared unconstitutional? 

It was the one and only 

No, it was not. It was a lengthy trial. We started that case about 
the middle of August and it went every day until the end of October. 
The evidence that we put on was absolutely fascinating. Not only 
did we put into the record what had happened when MacArthur went 
from Bataan to Australia, but we had a background on Nazi organiza 
tion and their international plans. We had a former president of 
the Senate of the Free State of Danzig. He testified at length 
about his conversations with Adolph Hitler, that Hitler had spoken 
about the program they were going to follow with respect to the 
United States. 

Was this the high Nazi official that you refer to in your opening 
statement to the jury? 

Yes, it was. 

Do you remember his name? 

Yes. Hermann Rauschning. Another witness we had was Professor Malbone 
Graham from UCLA, whose specialty was national socialism. He had 
made a very extensive trip in Germany and Scandinavia studying 
national socialism. He had been present in Vienna at the time of 
the Anschluss and saw the Nazi troops arrive. He was able to 
describe what took place at the time of the parade in Vienna when 
Austrian children were rounded up by the Nazis to be shown in the 
movies throwing flowers to the soldiers. He had witnessed by 
accident a secret Nazi ceremony in KBnigsberg Castle when the Nazi 
gauleiters from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland were assembled 
to make the mystical touch of their swastika flags with the blood- 
soaked banner of the Nazi martyrs. He described in detail the Nazi 
program for uniting all persons of German blood and descent in the 
Nazi movement no matter where located or what their citizenship 
might be. 


Olney: We used all that as background and then showed the counterparts in 
California. We had moving pictures of German Day in Hindenberg 
Park in Los Angeles in 1938. It was a fascinating movie. At the 
park entrance were huge heads of General Hindenberg and Adolph 
Hitler. On the pathway leading to the open-air theater was a large 
plaque of Hitler with incense burning in front of it. At each side 
of the theater platform there were two huge banners in the typical 
Nazi style a great big banner with a swastika on one and an Amer 
ican eagle on the other. Then the movie showed the storm troopers 
with swastika armbands, goose- stepping in and taking their places. 
Then the speakers came on. This was 38 and, of course, the Spanish 
Civil War was going on. They had a couple of Nazi officers from the 
Condor Legion in uniform. Although this film did not have a sound 
track, you could see from their gestures what their speeches were 
about. With their hands they were demonstrating the maneuvers of 
their planes. Sitting up there alongside the Nazi officers were 
Mayor Shaw of Los Angeles, District Attorney Buron Fitts of Los 
Angeles County, and Herman Schwinn, the western gauleiter of the 
German-American Bund, who was there in Bund uniform. F.K. Ferenz, 
later one of the leaders of The Friends of Progress and a defendant 
in the case, was one of the speakers shown on the platform in the 
movie film. 

We also showed another movie which Ferenz had been showing around 
to members and anywhere he could get somebody to look at it. This 
one had a sound track. This was the official Nazi film of the 
Anschluss. It starts in with the Nazi guards at the Austrian border 
pulling up the border posts and sweeping the guards aside, then the 
tanks going across the border and down the roads into Austria, and 
then these massive fleets of aircraft overhead. Then you see pic 
tures of this joyous welcome. In all the towns they were going 
through, everybody was out there waving Nazi flags. When they come 
to Vienna, you never saw such a joyous populace, masses of little 
children throwing flowers. Dr. Graham, our witness, had seen this 
and he described where these little children in the picture came 
from. The Nazis had brought them in from all over the countryside 
and supplied them with these flowers. They were told to throw the 
flowers on the soldiers and then they were shipped on home. There 
wasn t anything spontaneous about it. It was staged for the Nazi 
cameras . 

Stein: I was wondering if they paid the people, or threatened them, or 

Olney: Oh, no. It was much easier than that. They just dragooned them. 
This was the movie that the Nazis showed all over Scandinavia and 
Poland and it scared the hell out of people. It was intended to 
impress them with Nazi military might, which it surely did. 


Olney: These two films we had seized from F.K. Ferenz, and the Nazi 

activities they showed one in Los Angeles and the other in Vienna 
were remarkably parallel. We showed both these films to the jury, 
and some of the defendants were emotionally stirred up by the 
pictures. One broke down and sobbed with apparent joy. Others 
were obviously thrilled, especially with the pictures of Field 
Marshal Goering and the Fuehrer, Adolph Hitler. 

Well, then we also had some other things that we used against 
Ferenz that were most remarkable. It was a set of letters. He had 
been in the United States at the time of World War I and was told 
to report for the draft but was excused as an Austrian citizen. 
They were going to put him in an internment camp, but never got 
around to doing it. But he had a sister who lived in Vienna and 
he corresponded with her quite regularly all during these years. 
Like so many Germans, he had never thrown anything away. 

Stein: I m sure he had it stored very neatly away, all labeled. 

Olney: Sure was. Here were letters from his sister. He didn t keep copies 
of the letters he had written, but you could see from what she said 
what he had written in many instances. They were really fascinating. 
They re down now in the Hoover Institute of War, Revolution, and 
Peace at Stanford University. That s where they belong. 

She writes to him about the Dolfuss regime and one of her letters 
said that they d been hearing in Vienna about this new political 
party in Germany, the National Socialist party. Then the letters 
go on, and there are more incidents she relates of riots and trouble, 
and finally Dolfuss assassination. She refers to the Nazis more 
often. Finally she writes him with exultation that she had gotten 
his letter and rejoices to learn that he, who has been so far away 
from Europe, from the homeland, for so long, is also a member of 
the National Socialist party. She writes that she and her husband 
had been members for a long time, and so was her son. She describes 
some of their party activities in very guarded language. She sent 
Ferenz the underground papers that the Nazis were publishing. 

She and her husband were running a ferry across the Danube and 
having a very rough time of it. But she was there at the time of 
the Anschluss and they went out to see the Nazis arriving. Her old 
man fell off a ladder and broke a leg. But it didn t dampen their 
enthusiasm at all. She was just keen for this for about ten days, 
not longer than that. 

And then she wrote and indicated that she thought that the Nazis 
were going much too far, that they were much too severe. The young 
men, including her son, had been conscripted for work and were 
building fortifications. She did not like these preparations for 
war. She described how they were treating her Jewish friends. 


Olney: Some fine old lady that all of them had known and loved they had 

her out scrubbing the sidewalk with a toothbrush. There were many, 
many indignities that she recited. Then she says that the food got 
worse, not better, under the Nazis. She wrote about the possibility 
of Ferenz coming home to Vienna. It seems he owned a theater in 
Los Angeles called the Continental Theater . It was a small cinema 
showing mostly foreign films. She had the idea that Ferenz could 
exchange his theater with some Jewish people that they knew who 
owned a very large theater in Vienna and were trying to get out of 
the country. She had taken this up with the local gauleiter and 
was trying to maneuver this exchange of theater properties. It 
never materialized. 

This was the kind of thing that went into evidence in this case. 
Now, all of the defendants were convicted on all of the charges. 
An appeal was taken to the district court of appeal. It must have 
taken a year and a half or two years probably to decide that case. 
They reversed the convictions of all of them. The court said that 
the evidence did show that The Friends of Progress were following 
the Nazi party line and were endeavoring to support the Axis Powers 
in the war, but that it failed to show that The Friends of Progress 
were foreign-controlled or dominated or supported, and that that 
was an essential element. The court held the Foreign Agents 
Registration Act did not apply to home-grown American Nazis. They 
reversed it on that ground . 

Well, unfortunately, when the case was argued there was nobody 
in the attorney general s office who d had anything to do with the 
case. And with a transcript of that length and intricacy, I don t 
think they worked it out well. I ve always felt that that element 
was satisfactorily established. We had a chart of the foreign 
connections of The Friends of Progress as established by the 
evidence. We did not introduce the chart into evidence. Perhaps 
we should have. The chart should have been included in the briefs 
filed with the district court of appeal. We had on the chart at 
least eight Nazi organizations. Some were party organizations and 
some were governmental organizations. [shows interviewer the 
chart ] Of course, this chart is nothing but spaces, but for every 
one of these spaces we had live testimony and documents establish 
ing the connection of the defendants that we had with these groups. 
So, we thought we had them. It really doesn t matter, because by 
the time the case was reversed, the menace or the danger that these 
people posed had long since passed. The war was over and the Axis 
Powers had been defeated. So that s the story of the case and how 
we got into the thing. 


Stein: Was the civil liberties argument ever raised anywhere along the 

Olney: Well, it may be that it was made; if it was, I don t know. You see, 
I was chief counsel in the trial of that case. There were four law 
yers for the prosecution, three from the attorney general s office: 
Lou Drucker, who was later superior court judge in Los Angeles, and 
Sherrill Halbert, who became a United States district judge in 
Sacramento, and I. Then there was Otis Babcock, district attorney 
of Sacramento County. The case was over in October of 42, and I 
went into the marine corps only two weeks later and didn t know 
what happened to the case after that. There were no complaints 
from the civil liberties people about that case that I know of . 

Stein: One of the reasons I ask is that Bob Kenny, in a manuscript of his 
that we have at the office, said that he raised objections to the 
bill when it first came up in the legislature. He was then a 
senator. He voted against it as being unconstitutional. By the 
time the case was appealed, he was attorney general. His office 
was forced to argue the case assuming the law was constitutional. 
He didn t comment on it any more than that; he just said that in 
his view it was fortunate that the appellate court reversed, but 
that it wasn t reversed on constitutional grounds. 

Olney: Well, I would agree with him. In the first place, what he says is 

absolutely accurate, of course. It was not a good precedent at all, 
and it could well be that the judges on the district court of 
appeal felt that it was a case that had to be reversed and it was 
better to do it on evidentiary grounds than it was on constitutional 
grounds. If that s the way they felt, I wouldn t quarrel with that 

Stein: Is this law still on the books, presumably? 

Olney: As far as I know. But I haven t looked at the California Penal Code 
for years. It s still there, as far as I know. 

Stein: I don t know if it s ever been used, but I just wondered if it was 
still sitting there. 

Olney: Well, I can t imagine that it s been used since, because there is 
this federal statute, Foreign Agents Registration Law, which is 
being used from time to time. So, if there is any occasion to 
have such a prosecution, I d expect it under the federal law. I 
can recall, for example, that when I was in the U.S. Department of 
Justice, we convicted a fellow named Frank for being an unregistered 
foreign agent of Trujillo, the San Dominican dictator. 


Olney: The whole idea of that statute gives me the creeps and there haven t 
been many prosecutions under it, and sooner or later it is going to 
have to undergo real thorough scrutiny. I have the same feeling Bob 
Kenny does, that in all probability it is not constitutional. 

Stein: Who were the defense attorneys in the case? Do you remember? 

Olney: They were appointed by the court. They were Sacramento lawyers. 
One of them was a former state senator. There were at least four 
of them. They were there in the local bar 

Stein: I m surprised that they didn t find friendly attorneys that were 

willing to take the case. I wondered if perhaps they had people in 
the organization who were attorneys. 

Olney: Not that I know of. There were few people friendly to The Friends 
of Progress and certainly no attorneys. 

Stein: The one last question I have is that you gave some indication of 

the size of the meetings and I wonder if you can remember now about 
how large a number of people you were dealing with in Friends of 
Progress and the related organizations. 

Olney: That was a very loose sort of thing indeed. They would rent this 
auditorium and try to get as many people as possible to come in 
from the street to listen to harangues and programs and so forth. 
With the mock trial, they were filling the place. After their 
arrest and then their release and their diatribes against the 
United States and the Allies, and praise of Hitler and Japan, the 
meetings were nowhere near as large. They were big enough I don t 
know five or six hundred, something like that, as I recall. I 
didn t attend any. 

Stein: Did you have agents from the attorney general s office attending the 

Olney: We had no agents in any of the meetings and we had no paid informants. 
The people we used as witnesses to establish what had been going on, 
what had been said and by whom most of them we got from the Ameri 
can Legion post. The American Legion got concerned with this group 
and they got a number of people together. I remember a man and his 
wife in particular; she was a very able secretary indeed. They went 
to these meetings regularly and then promptly went home and wrote 
up an account of what had transpired at the meeting. They didn t 
try to take notes during the meeting; they did it afterwards. The 
notes were very thorough and evidently they were very exact because 
at the trial there was never any dispute about who had said what. 
It was conceded that these things had indeed been said. The defense 
was sort of "so what?" 



State Border Disputes 

Stein: I have a couple of questions, to shift gears a bit, about the 
Annenberg case, which I don t think we ve talked about yet. I 
think most of the story is on the tapes with Warren. A couple of 
questions I have concern parts that you played in the story. In 
Leo Katcher s book on Warren*, he mentions that in investigating 
this case you found some maps that indicated that all of Lake Tahoe 
is in California. Do you remember that? 

Olney: He s wrong about that if he said that. The maps that I came up with 
are maps that showed that practically all of State Line Point was 
in California. That s where these gambling places are at the 
northern part of the lake. Not all of the lake; heavens, no. 

The basis of it is very simple. The boundary line that is 
described in the California constitution and the Nevada constitu 
tion, and the territorial act that created Nevada and Utah terri 
tories before statehood, and in every act of the United States 
referring to such things, is an astronomical line. It s the 120th 
meridian, starting at the intersection with the 42nd degree of 
latitude at the northern end of the state, running due south down 
that meridian to the 39th parallel of latitude, which was about in 
the middle of the lake; that s where the intersection would be. 
And then it goes at an angle in a southeasterly direction in a 
straight line to the point where the 35th parallel of latitude 
intersects the Colorado River. 

Leo Katcher, Earl Warren: A Political Biography (New York, 1967). 


Olney: Well, the question is: where is the 120th meridian on the ground 
as it runs north and south through Lake Tahoe? There has been a 
whole series of surveys, most of which were way off. I won t go 
through the whole series of them, but there was one in 1871 and 
1872, the von Schmidt Survey. That one was monument ed , and the old 
boys who located the place where the line was supposed to hit the 
shore of Lake Tahoe, the north shore, set up this monument, a big 
iron monument that s still there right on the tip of State Line 
Point. But that survey was not official and was not accepted by 
either state. 

Later, about 1898, the USGS [United States Geodetic Survey] made 
a survey at the request of both state legislatures. They located 
the meridian, the location of the true meridian. Both legislatures 
passed statutes accepting that as the true boundary. If you get a 
USGS map today, you will find two lines on it. One of them is the 
true meridian located by the 1898 survey coming down, and then 
they ve got this old one, the von Schmidt Survey, that they indicate 
on there too, simply because it s been monumented on the ground and 
people have been paying attention to it. 

But you can make a very, very strong case indeed that the land 
that lies west of the true meridian as shown on the USGS map is in 
the state of California. This would include well, I had a list of 
them once at least a dozen major casinos up there. There was only 
one at the time we got interested in the boundary location. This 
was Cal-Neva. They had a batch of telephones in there that were 
servicing bookies all over California. They wouldn t take them out 
and we couldn t get the telephone company to do much about it, so 
I decided we might as well give them the treatment. We worked up 
our case, which proved that they were actually located on the 
California side of the true state line. Not only did they have the 
telephones for the bookies and the gambling games, but they were 
also running bars and selling liquor in what was really California 
territory without paying any state liquor taxes or having any 
licenses. There were statutory penalties for that. So, we thought, 
"Well, maybe the thing to do is to organize a raid and just grab 
everything in the darn place, hit them with the works." So, I took 
this notion to the attorney general or was he governor then? 

Stein: No, I think Warren was attorney general then. 

Olney: I guess he was attorney general, if you say he was. He laughed and 
he said, "Well, maybe you think you got a bright idea, but you 
couldn t bring it up at a worse moment." He said, "The State of 
California has got troubles, interstate troubles, particularly over 
water from the Colorado River. All the states in the Colorado River 
basin are against us excepting the State of Nevada. Nevada is the 
only friend we ve got. This is no time for us to start biting a 
piece off the State of Nevada." He said, "Come around twenty years 
from now." 


Olney : 

Olney : 


Olney : 


Olney : 

Olney : 

I still don t know how matters have been worked out. When you go up 
that way, you can see that Nevada paves up to the old von Schmidt 
line, which is really in California. Everything is operated on this 
old unofficial boundary line. There was a time when divorces were 
hard to get in this state while they were easy in Nevada. But you 
had to reside in Nevada to get a Nevada divorce. One of the 
advertised attractions of Cal-Neva was that if you lived in the 
buildings on the Nevada side of the line, you were residing in 
Nevada, and many divorces were awarded based on such residence. 
But these buildings, and indeed all of Cal-Neva, were west of the 
true boundary as located by the official survey of 1898, which had 
been recognized by both states. 

Oscar Jahnsen was helping you on that, wasn t he? 

Yes, Oscar was helping us try to get rid of the telephones, 
not make up the maps or try to conduct any surveys . 

He did 

He had some recollection of the maps in his interview. I ve just 
been going over it, and he mentions that map story. So, I wondered 
if he helped you on the map. He also asked me to check the story 
out with you to make sure he d gotten it right. 

Yes. Well, he didn t dig up the maps; I did that. I went up there 
and took a bunch of photographs of these monuments in their then 
location. Joe Schoales went up there with me; no, it was John 
Hansen. It was later; it was later that I did that. That was 
during the Crime Commission period. Anyway, I ve kept up my interest 
in this. I ve got a file at home that s got all the maps in it, all 
the surveyor s notes, and everything else. It s an interesting 

You seem to have specialized in points of boundaries, with offshore 
boundaries and the California-Nevada line. 

You d think that a state boundary would be as certain and as well 
determined as any line you could find. But it isn t so. It s 
strange, the uncertainties that still persist. I told you about 
the one in Yuma, I m sure. 

I don t remember that story. 

The piece of the city of Yuma that s in California? Well, this was 
in connection with the Annenberg case. There was a big telephone 
installation over in Yuma that was supplying bookmakers in Cali 
fornia after their direct lines had been all discontinued. One of 
the main relay points for that service was in Bakersfield. And the 
fellow who was tied in with the Continental News Service from 
Chicago, who was in charge of the whole southwestern part of the 
country, was making his headquarters in Phoenix. 


Olney: Well, he d come down to Yuma from time to time to oversee his tele 
phone operation. Then he went to Bakersfield one time and got 
together with the bookmakers there and made their plans for working 
this thing out. Well, this was a conspiracy. We indicted them, 
all of them, including this fellow from the wire service, for 
conspiracy. He had gone back to Arizona and we tried to extradite 
him and were unsuccessful because the governor just wouldn t sign 
the papers. We had a big time trying to get him out of there with 
out success. 

Then I remembered a matter that I had read about in the California 
Historical Society Quarterly. The author was Francis Seely Foote, a 
professor at the University of California at Berkeley. He had 
written a small article "Notes" is what it was for the California 
Historical Society Quarterly, pointing out this peculiar quirk in 
the boundary in the southern part of the state. The line in question 
had been an international boundary between the U.S. and Mexico prior 
to the Gadsden Purchase. It was a part of the line that had been 
surveyed by the commissioners from the United States and Mexico 
following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo . The survey was run and 
actually monumented on the ground. The monuments are still there. 
Since the Gadsden Purchase, the line marks the boundary between 
California and Arizona instead of that between the U.S. and Mexico. 
There s a piece of the city of Yuma which is on the California side 
of that line. The reason for that is that the boundary line between 
the United States and Mexico (which is now the California- Arizona 
line) is described as running southwest down the center of the 
Colorado River to its intersection with the Gila River, and from the 
point where the center of Colorado intersects with the center of the 
Gila River the boundary runs in a straight line westerly to a point 
which is one marine league south of the southernmost end of San Diego 
Bay. Undoubtably the assumption was that the Colorado River was 
running from the northeast to the southwest. The fact is that it 
does that in general. But when it comes down to the mouth of the 
Gila River, it makes a bend and it goes north for quite a distance, 
a mile and a half, something like that, maybe more. Then it loops 
down and goes on down towards the southwest. The boundary line cuts 
across that loop. Yuma is right there, at the mouth of those two 
rivers. The part of the town that is in the loop is cut off from 
Arizona by the line and lies in California. 

Well, I had read this thing, and knowing by experience how very 
uncertain these lines are, and that one state can t get title 
against another state by adverse possession, I made some inquiries. 
I sent one of the boys from the attorney general s office over to 
Yuma to ask questions. He went over there and the first thing that 
he asked about was whether the city hall knew anything about this. 
"Why, sure, everybody knows about it," and they took him out and 
showed him the line. The international markers are right there, 
still, to this day. As a matter of fact, the Yuma city hall is 
on the north or California side of that line. 


Olney: Well, we got to wondering if we could make any use of these circum 
stances. We looked at the telephone room too, where this man used 
to come, but it unfortunately was on the Arizona side of the line. 
But anyway, I sent our fellows down there with a warrant because 
they knew they could work with the Yuma police. One day when this 
character was over at the telephone room, why, the Yuma police 
called him up and asked him if he wouldn t come down to the city 
hall. He said, "Sure." So he came down to the city hall and he 
was greeted on the steps by our boys with a warrant. They promptly 
took him into custody and threw him into an automobile, and you 
could hear him holler for blocks around. He claimed he was being 
kidnaped. They took him across the bridge and brought him into 
Bakersfield. He got a lawyer and they made a complaint to the FBI 
that he d been kidnaped across the state line. We showed Foote s 
article about the boundary to the court and we went ahead and tried 
and convicted him. They never raised the point in court; it was 
not adjudicated in the court. 

Another time when we used that same boundary point was on the 
telephone company. It concerned the same telephone room. Mountain 
States Telephone Company provides service in Arizona. They were 
providing the phone service for this room. I asked the counsel for 
the Pacific Telephone Company here if they wouldn t ask Mountain 
States to close down that telephone room, because it was serving no 
purpose except to violate the laws of the State of California. 
They would have been fully justified legally in discontinuing the 
service. Well, when Sam Wright, a lawyer representing Pacific 
Telephone with whom I had been talking, reported back, he said he 
had talked with Mountain States about it and he said, "They said 
they aren t going to do a darn thing about it, that they don t 
operate in the state of California, and it s none of our business 
what they do in Arizona." 

I said, "What do you mean they don t operate in California?" 
He said, "They don t, you know. Southern California Telephone 
Company owns the wires and operates the service in that area right 
up to the line, and then Mountain States takes over." I said, 
"Where s the line?" He said, "Out there. It s the middle of the 
Colorado River. Southern California Telephone Company owns the 
wires right up the middle of the river and Mountain States owns the 
lines on the other side." I said, "Mountain States is providing 
service at the Yuma city hall, aren t they, that area around there?" 
"Oh, sure." "Well," I said, "the fact is they are thereby providing 
service in the state of California. They are doing that, you know, 
without a certificate of public convenience and necessity from our 
Public Utilities Commission. There s a $2,500 civil penalty pro 
vided in the statute for every day of operation. How long have 
they been there?" 


Olney: Well, Sam thought I was kidding, and I said, "Sam, I m serious. 

There s a part of Yuma that s in the state of California." "Oh," 
he said, "that can t be the case. I drew those contracts myself." 
I said, "Well, maybe you did, but did you really research the 
boundary in that area?" "No, I didn t." "Well," I said, "part of 
the city of Yuma is on the north side of that former international 
boundary, and what is on the north side of that line is in the 
state of California." I brought this article of Foote s out and 
he read it. I thought he was going to fall off his chair. He said, 
"Give me twenty-four hours, will you?" I said, "Sure." 

In less than that, he called me up and he said, "I just want to 
tell you that that telephone room isn t operating any more." I 
don t know what they did about it, but it really bothered them 
enough to cause them to close down that telephone room. 

Prosecuting the Wire Services 

Stein: You told me at some point the story about how you and Warren went 
to Chicago to testify at the federal trial of the Annenbergs, and 
how the U.S. Attorney, whose name was Bill Campbell, was very 
impressed with that. I wondered if you could just tell that story 
briefly because I don t think we have that on tape. 

Olney: Well, this happened about November of 39, right after the gambling 
ship litigation came to an end. I remember it very vividly because 
I had been worked to a frazzle and my wife and I took a little trip 
up to the Calaveras Grove of Big Trees. It was cold as can be, 
beautiful though. 

When we came back, Earl said to me, "We ve got to do something 
about the wire service and the bookmakers in our state. I think 
the moment has come because the federal government is making very 
extensive moves against Annenberg and his Nationwide News Service 
in Chicago. If these people are really in earnest, now is the 
time for us to strike a blow in our own state." He said that he 
had received a request from the United States Attorney in Chicago 

Stein: Was this Bill Campbell? 

Olney: Yes, this was Bill Campbell, the Honorable William J. Campbell, 
United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. 
The request was for a statement from Earl Warren, as attorney 
general of California, about the wire service and the bookmaking 
racket as it existed in California. The statement was to be pre 
sented to the court in connection with the sentencing of Moses 
Annenberg. They had a number of indictments against Annenberg. 


Olney: They had a lottery indictment, an antitrust indictment, and an 

income tax indictment. He plead guilty to the income tax indictment 
and the government was very anxious to get a jail sentence. To do 
that they wanted to get before the judge the manner in which this 
money involved in the tax evasion had been made. It was a true 
racket, with all the violence and bloodshed and everything else that 
goes along with it. 

So, Campbell had sent requests to all the attorneys general and 
district attorneys, I guess. The only two that I m sure about, 
though, are Earl Warren and Tom Dewey of New York. But anyway, 
Earl said that he had decided that he was going to go in person, 
that he wasn t going to write any statement, because he wanted to 
be sure this thing was really on the up and up. He took me with 

We left from the Oakland airport here in a DC3 that was a 
sleeper plane. If you ve never been in a sleeper plane, it was 
fixed up with berths, upper and lower berths, just like a railroad 
car. When the berth was up, you d sit opposite each other like you 
did on a railroad car. Then a berth would come down from above, 
making an upper and lower berth. When you got into bed, they d put 
a great big strap around you. You had to sleep under this strap. 
Those DC3 s, you know when they land the tail goes way down, so 
that you were practically half standing up in this bed. It was a 
long, long flight. They stopped at Reno, Salt Lake, North Platt 
and, I guess, other places. We had our dinner on the plane and it 
was seven o clock the next morning before we got into Chicago. That 
was my first night flight. 

We went into the federal court without announcing ourselves to 
see what was going on and to watch the proceedings when the 
Annenberg case was called. We saw enough of it to convince Earl 
that that this was a good-faith prosecution and was a genuine effort 
to clean up this racket. So, he made himself known to Bill Campbell 
and Campbell put him on the witness stand and had him testify about 
the racket as it existed and he d encountered it in California. 
Campbell had received a statement of only two or three lines from 
Tom Dewey and no other response from anyone else. Earl Warren s 
trouble to appear personally made a tremendous impression on Bill 

A huge amount of work had been done by federal agents on the 
wire service at that time. They had a man named Samuel Klaus who 
was in charge of it, all around the country. He was a Treasury 
agent a Treasury lawyer, I should say and an investigator. He 
had worked out all the relationships in the organization of Nation 
wide News Service and the identity of these people. He gave us 


Olney: great encouragement about going ahead on our own against the racket 
in California and offered every assistance if we would move against 
the wire service here, which we did. 

We didn t expect litigation because our relations with the tele 
phone company were very, very different than they were between 
federal and state law enforcement agencies and telephone companies 
elsewhere. Our telephone company was never resistant about getting 
rid of the wire service. They would say, "We don t want to be 
giving service to a bunch of stinking racketeers, but we re obliged 
to serve the public in general. If you can give us any excuse, any 
valid legal protection so that we can deny service, you don t have 
to sue us; we ll go ahead and do it," which they did. They took out 
all lines without compulsion if we could provide them with adequate 
evidence of their unlawful use. The litigation they got into was 
litigation by the wire service and the bookies to try to get the 
service back, reinstalled, and that was a long, long story. We 
eventually filed that big injunction suit, and all the descriptions 
in there of what the wire service was nationally we got from Sam 
Klaus and from the work that the Treasury agents had done. Our 
contribution was the details of what the wire service was in Cali 

That case was reversed and thrown out by the California Supreme 
Court, as the Chief [Earl Warren] remembered.** And, you know, I 
thought he was mistaken about that. But he s right and I was wrong. 
The thing that threw me off was because I remember we didn t have 
any more wire service or bookie operations for some years. But the 
reason for it was that supreme court decision was in November of 
1941, but the Japanese attack and the outbreak of war were just a 
few weeks later. With hostilities, horse racing was closed down 
for the duration of the war all over the United States, or nearly 
everywhere. There was such a demand for communication services, 
there simply wasn t anything available for anything as stupid as a 
bunch of bookmakers. That s the reason bookmaking dried up. It 
wasn t because we won our case, which, as the Chief remembered, we 
didn t. 

*A copy of the attorney general s petition for injunction and the 
court s preliminary injunction are on deposit in The Bancroft 
Library . 

**Reference to conferences with Earl Warren. Transcripts are 
currently in production and will be deposited in The Bancroft 




Olney : 

Bookmaking revived during the 1950s and the time of the crime com 
mission. It was once more a pretty full operation. When Earl 
Warren was governor, we had more trouble with it, but did succeed 
in rooting out, once again, all the larger trunk lines. It s 
destroyed; it doesn t work any more and never will again. The 
reason for it is that to make that wire service work you have to 
have a huge nationwide organization of specialized people to do 
their jobs. You have to have the people at the track capable of 
smuggling the racing information out in such forms to make it 
usable. What they used to use were old-time telegraph operators, 
but they re all dead. They don t have anybody like that. Then you 
have to have an organization where the information from race tracks 
all over the country is pooled. And then you have to have a dis 
seminating network to distribute it back to the bookies. You can t 
organize that way any more. 

Now, just refresh my memory again about the supreme court case. 
Why did 

Well, what happened was that we filed this big injunction suit, got 
an injunction from Judge Wilson in the superior court in Los 
Angeles, prohibiting Russell Brophy, who was running the wire 
service there, and Kreling and Cohn, who were running it in San 
Francisco, from doing certain things, disseminating information 
and whatnot. They went ahead, in violation of the injunction, and 
continued to provide service in the manner in which it was prohib 
ited. We could prove sixty or more days of operation. 

We charged them with contempt, criminal contempt, for each day 
of operation that we could prove. They were found guilty and the 
judge imposed fines and sentences which were cumulative, because 
they were separate violations, one on top of the other. The 
results were that the sentences were very substantial, and so were 
the fines. 

They took an appeal to the California Supreme Court and the 
basic question was, was the original injunction a valid one? The 
supreme court held that it was not . They conceded that a gambling 
house was a public nuisance and was both a criminal offense and a 
civil tort. But they said that it did not follow from that that 
you could enjoin people who were aiding and abetting the maintenance 
of the nuisance. That was their theory of our case. So, they threw 
it out on that ground. It would have done us an awful amount of 
harm if the war hadn t come along at that very time, but it did. 
And the Chief is still upset about it; he still thinks that it was 
a very poor and very unwise decision. 


It sounds very strange to me. 

I wonder why they decided it that 


Olney: Well, you d have to ask them; they put it all in their opinion. 

No, they didn t put it in their opinion; that s another thing that 
irks the Chief. They put their major reasoning in an opinion about 
a gambling house in Monterey, which was just a little Chinese 
gambling place, in a case which was decided the same day. 

Stein: Oh, I remember that. Then they used that 

Olney: But the wire service case, which involved the biggest racket that 
we had in California, the court disposed of almost summarily and 
without much of an opinion. I ve never known how they got that 
way; I just don t know. I m not among those who attribute evil 
motives to judges that put out decisions I don t agree with. I 
don t think there s anything crooked about this decision at all. 
And I have a hunch they may have had second thoughts about it. 

Stein: Do you have the injunction that you filed?* It would be useful to 
include that in the Warren papers in The Bancroft Library. 

Olney: Well, perhaps it would, and of course its yours, because you got it. 
This includes the preliminary injunction on which these contempt 
proceedings were later based. But it also includes the original 
complaint. It lists all the defendants and, incidentally, the first 
defendant was Moses L. Annenberg, who was the president of the 
Nationwide News Service, the head of this racket. The second one 
is his son, Walter H. Annenberg, who was the acting head at that 
time, while Moses was pretty old. In fact, he died before he served 
out his sentence, and Walter H. Annenberg is now the Ambassador of 
the United States to Great Britain. Nixon named him as an ambassa 

Stein: Well, that s a success story for you. 

Olney: The rest of these are just the darndest bunch of hoodlums you ever 
saw. Well, here s James M. Ragen, Sr. A little later when he was 
riding from his office to his home in Chicago, a car came alongside 
his limousine and up went a curtain and they blasted him with a 
sawed-off shotgun. Ragen did not die, so they took him to the 
hospital in a critical condition. When he was reported as getting 
well, someone got into his room and killed him. Many of these 
other defendants are gangsters that were killed at a later period. 

On deposit in The Bancroft Library. 


Stein: Did any of them serve time as a result of this case? 

Olney: Well, no. This wasn t a criminal case; this was a civil case. 

Now, on the allegations, as I have explained, the descriptions of 
the general organization nationally, the Nationwide News Service 
and wire service, were based on evidence supplied to us by the 
Treasury agents , particularly Samuel Klaus . Now, when you get to 
the allegations about California, those were all produced by our 
own investigations. We have a list of who the heads of the service 
were, and then we have a list, just as an exhibit, of the addresses 
by number and street and town and county of all the bookmakers in 
the state of California that there were at that time. We got that 
by subpoenaing the records of the telephone company that had the 
direct wires. These places all had direct wires for the Nationwide 
News Service; nobody else could use the darn stuff. So that s 
where that came from, but it was supplemented, of course, by many 
on-the-spot investigations by our people to make sure these really 
were bookie joints. 

Stein: Well, I think that s all the questions I have. 



[Interview 13: December 6, 1976]* 

Setting up the Crime Commission 

Administrative Machinery 

Stein: Why don t we start with the establishing of the crime commission, 
and how and why Earl Warren chose to set it up. 

Olney: I don t have as much information on that as you might think. At 
the time, in the fall of 1947, I was practicing law privately in 
San Francisco. I had a partnership, Olney and Elder. We were in 
the Alaska Commercial Building. I read about the governor s inten 
tion of establishing a crime commission when it was in the papers, 
but he didn t consult with me and I had no occasion to see him or 
discuss it with him. There was some legislation that was passed 
which authorized the creation of these special study commissions on 

*Editor s note: This section, recorded considerably after all the 
other interviews had been completed, was only lightly reviewed and 
edited by Mr. Olney before his final illness, and should therefore 
be used with caution. The reader is referred to the reports of the 
crime commission, on deposit in The Bancroft Library, which offer 
a substantive account of the work of the commission. Mr. Olney s 
recollections in this section add anecdotal and human interest 
material that should be used in conjunction with the commission 


Olney: crime in the Department of Corrections. They were part of the 

Department of Corrections and under their general auspices. There 
were some five commissions, the one on organized crime being only 

Stein: If I could interrupt just a second: why were they put under the 
Department of Corrections? 

Olney: I think for budgetary reasons and administrative reasons. That was 
the only logical place to put them. But I don t know about that. 
That legislation was drawn without my having anything to do with it 
at all. 

After the legislation was passed, the governor talked to me about 
becoming counsel for the commission on organized crime. And he 
talked to me about some of the members, who he might select, who he 
could find that would be suitable to serve on the commission. I 
recall that, but that s really about the only conversation I had 
with him prior to the beginning of the commission s work, which was 
on November 1, 1947. 

On that day the governor had a large meeting in Sacramento where 
the membership of all these special crime study commissions met 
along with as many of their staff members as there were, as well as 
people from the Department of Corrections and elsewhere. Of course, 
in the Department of Corrections they were more interested in the 
commissions on adult procedures and juvenile justice and things of 
that kind than they were in the commission on organized crime. The 
meeting was presided over by Richard McGee, who was the director of 
the Department of Corrections, although the governor was there and 
got it off to a good start. 

My recollection is that that was a two-day meeting. It was not 
a public meeting, but it was a very large meeting, and besides these 
people who were to be active I believe that sheriffs, district 
attorneys, chiefs of police, the attorney general, and the Adult 
Authority were all present. So it was a discussion of "Where are 
we?" in dealing with the various facets of the problem of crime; 
how should we assess the present situation and what plans should we 
make about the future in these various areas. That s what we were 

I can remember some of the district attorneys who were there and 
the sheriffs and chiefs of police that I had known formerly before 
the war when I was in the attorney general s office. But I had 
never met Fred Howser or any of the people in his office, and 
neither had I heard anything particularly disquieting about him or 
them. The governor had told me that he had been hearing very up 
setting things about the attorney general s office and what was 



First Crime Commission: 11/1/47 - 6/30/50 
Commission Members: 

Admiral Standley, Chairman - U.S.N., retired. Former U.S. ambassador 

to Russia 

Gerald Hagar - attorney; past president, California State Bar 
William Jeffers - past president, Union Pacific Railroad; U.S. 

Rubber Coordinator, W.W. II 
Gen. Kenyon A. Joyce - U.S.A., retired; Commanding General, 9th 

Service Command, W.W. II. 
Harvey S. Mudd - president, Pacific Alkali Company; mining engineer 


Counsel : Warren Olney III 

Assistant Counsel: Arthur Sherry (after Jan., 1950) 

Investigators: John H. Hanson, Chief 11/5/47 - 11/30/48 

H.G. Robinson, Chief 12/1/48 - 6/30/50 

Virgil Wolfe 

Thomas Judge 

Edward Cochran 7/1/48 - 1/31/49 

H.R. Van Brunt (after Jan., 1950) 

Second Crime Commission: 10/8/51 - 6/3/52 
Commission Members : 

Gen. LeRoy P. Hunt, Chairman; U.S. Marine Corps, retired 

Harley E. Knox, former mayor, City of San Diego 

E. Wilson Lyon, president, Pomona College 

Edwin J. Owens, Dean of the College of Law, University of Santa 

T.M. Storke, president and general manager, Santa Barbara News 

Press Publishing Company 


Counsel: Warren Olney III 
Assistant Counsel: Alan A. Lindsay 
Chief Investigator: H.R. Van Brunt 


Olney: happening to law enforcement in the state. He had no way of 

evaluating it. He didn t know how much of it was true or how much 
was untrue. But he was fully aware that there were plenty of people 
who were anxious to make trouble for him and for Howser. He said 
that he was anything but close to Howser and that Howser had sort 
of ridden into office on his coattails at the election. But he said 
he thought that we would probably find out from the people that we 
knew in local law enforcement what was going on and could check into 
it and make reports as to what the situation was . 

He had already appointed John Hanson as the chief investigator 
for the crime commission. I think he appointed John before I was 
appointed. John had been for years the chief special agent in 
Southern California for the FBI. That was all during the war years, 
and during that period they weren t moving FBI agents around as 
they habitually did both before and after. So a man such as Hanson, 
who had been there for some years, had a tremendous background and 
personal knowledge of criminal activities in that area. 

Stein: I was interested in what you were saying about Bowser s background 
because one of the things I came across in my reading was that his 
sister had been arrested as a prostitute, but I guess that wasn t 
until a trifle later in 1949. 

Olney: I don t recall that. Now that you speak of it, I do remember there 
was some sex story, but I don t remember whether anything like that 
was ever authenticated or not. Certainly I didn t know it at the 
outset and it never figured to any extent with us because it wasn t 
our business. 

Stein: In setting up the crime commission I gather that, first of all, the 
commission was not given the power to subpoena. Is that true? 

Olney: That s right. 

Stein: I was wondering why that power had been denied the commission. 

Olney: Well, I can t give you much information on that either because that, 
of course, was in connection with the legislation which authorized 
these commissions, and I wasn t consulted about that. My recollec 
tion is that the original drafts of the legislation had conferred 
the subpoena power. I don t know whether it was on all five com 
missions or just on the one on organized crime. I think that they 
had a provision like that in there. 

But the subpoena power is a fearsome thing. It s a power that 
is easy to abuse, and legislators are properly concerned and should 
be concerned about to whom they re going to grant that power. To 


Olney: take an ad hoc commission of appointees of the governor when they 
didn t even know who the people were going to be and confer that 
power on them I think it s understandable that some of them would 
have considerable reluctance, and would not be willing to do it 
without a clear demonstration that it was necessary. 

As a matter of fact, it wasn t necessary. The second commission 
did get subpoena power, but it wasn t through any request of ours 
or any feeling I take that back; we may have requested it, at that. 
The one use that the subpoena power did have for us was that in 
obtaining documents and records, especially bank records or other 
business records, a company like that is reluctant to just reveal 
records on a request; but they may be very willing to give the 
information, copies of the documents, under a subpoena because it 
gives them a valid reason for doing that with the people who may 
be involved in the records. We have found that it would have been 
helpful and useful to have subpoena power on the first commission 
for that kind of thing, although we had virtually no problems getting 

When the second commission got subpoena power, the newspapers 
thought that we were going to hold public hearings and subpoena 
witnesses and bring them in and grill them, as their term is, cross- 
examine them and that kind of thing. We didn t do that with any 
body, for several reasons. The first one was that it wouldn t have 
served any useful purpose for us to do it. We wouldn t have gotten 
anything we didn t have anyhow. Another thing is that proceedings 
like that take a lot of time and they cost a lot of money. You 
have to have a room and a reporter and all that kind of thing, and 
we were trying to stay within our budget, so we didn t want it for 
that reason. 

Another controlling reason why we never subpoenaed any unwilling 
witness, even when we had the subpoena power, was because I enter 
tained very serious doubts as to the constitutionality of the thing. 
I doubted that a commission of that kind could be given subpoena 
power, and I was certain that if we ever did try to use it against 
an unwilling witness and he refused, there would be long drawn- 
out litigation, and the matter couldn t possibly be decided within 
the lifetime of the commission. So, it just made no sense to get 
involved in that kind of a hassle. 

Stein: I gather that the commission had its share of opponents in the 
legislature. Is that a fair assessment? 

Olney: Well, they did, yes. But they were the same group of people who 
would oppose any decent legislation against gamblers or anything 
else. There wasn t anything extraordinary about them. They were 
in a minority. 


Artie Samish and the Tom Keene Murder 

Olney: [referring to interview outline] 
the role of Artie Samish. 

I see here you re wondering about 

Stein: Yes. 

Olney: On that, I just don t know. 

Stein: He credits himself, in his autobiography that he wrote with the 

help of someone else, with getting legislation through. He tells 
the story fairly early in the book. He says, "I saw to it that the 
proposal got through the legislature." And then he talks about 
what an irony it is because, according to him, if he had known that 
you were going to be the power that you were on the crime commission 
he never would have let it get through because of what you did after 
wards, which he interpreted as this personal vendetta of yours, that 
you were out to get him and finally got him all those many years 

Olney: With respect to the passage of the legislation, I don t know what 

part, if any, he played in it. I just have no information about it. 
But it is true that we did eventually question Samish. And when I 
said that we made no use of that subpoena power, we made some use of 
it in that particular instance. That was when the second crime 
commission had virtually completed its work, and we were ready to 
prepare a report and not have any more commission meetings. In 
reviewing the situation to see what loose ends there might be, we 
had this bomb explosion in San Mateo County. What was the name of 
the man that got killed down there? That dog-race business? 

Stein: Tom Keene. 

Olney: Yes, Tom Keene. We had an extensive file on the investigation of 

Tom Keene s murder, and you ll recall that we had very solid infor 
mation and it s in our report that there was this large bookmaking 
ring at the Olmo stables in San Mateo County which was a layoff 
center for the whole western part of the country. 

Stein: What s that? 

*Arthur H. Samish and Bob Thomas, The Secret Boss of California: 
The Life and High Times of Art Samish (New York, 1971), p. 14. 


Olney: Well, it s a place where the money that bookmakers are afraid to 

carry can be laid off. An individual bookmaker has to keep his book 
in reasonable adjustment. The thing that he always has to be afraid 
of is that he s going to have a lot of money on some horse, a long 
shot possibly, that may come in and there will be very large amounts 
that he s got to pay out, maybe more than he can handle. 

That thing happens frequently in the bookmaking business. To 
prevent that, when he thinks he gets loaded up with too much money 
on one horse, he ll want to lay some of it off with some other book 
maker. It s just the way the insurance people operate with re 
insurance in one another s companies. And to do that they had these 
layoff centers. There were about five or six of them in the United 
States where certain bookmakers in certain areas could telephone in 
and lay off these monies, and there would be somebody sitting around 
the table who would be willing to pick it up. 

Now, that takes a lot of money. It takes big money to operate 
that way. And that s what they were doing at Olmo stables. And 
Samish was in that up to his ears. He had his men "Porky" Flynn, 
and I forget the name of the other one. [Mr. Olney later recalled 
that the second man s name was Jasper.] They were in and out of 
there. When we got reports about this we checked up on it by having 
people go and watch the place, and we saw them going in and out. 

We also had our own man who was sitting in there at the table, 
taking part in this thing. He s mentioned in our report by name. 
When we came to write this up we had to put his name in there or he 
would have stuck out like a sore thumb if we hadn t put it in there. 
So, he s in there. But he was giving us reports of what was going 

According to him, Tom Keene s murder was discussed at length by 
them around that table, not in any speculative way, but remarks were 
made that he only got what was coming to him and that he was a 
dirty welsher and things of this kind. From conversations he got 
and reported to us, we actually thought we knew who the man was who 
put the dynamite in the car, because he had a long record of dyna 
miting cars in just that fashion. He d done it before. He was a 
strong-arm man that they used to use to carry the money. 

Besides this business on telephones with the layoff centers, 
every so often there d have to be a reckoning where there was an 
actual exchange of cash. This was done by putting money in a 
satchel and sending it from San Francisco to Covington, Kentucky 
that was one of the main ones or perhaps to Hot Springs, Arkansas, 
or wherever the other center might be. A man actually carried it 
there. This dynamiter used to have that assignment. 


Olney: We knew that it was going on because our man on the inside told us 
what was going to happen, and we saw this fellow come with the 
satchel; he went down to the bank and got the money out of the bank; 
he was picked up by an escort of the San Francisco police and es 
corted to the airport. The police provided him a guard down to the 
airport. There were many other things that made us have great 
confidence in this informant we had. 

If you took the conversations that he repeated to us literally, 
if they really occurred the way he said they did, they indicated 
very strongly that those people not only knew who killed Keene 
but that they were the ones who were responsible for it because 
Keene had welshed on something like an eight-thousand-dollar bet 
and refused to pay. Eight thousand dollars was more money then 
than it is now. 

That was very hot information, indeed, and it involved Samish s 
two men and involved Samish himself . Samish himself was there at 
the table sometimes. We never felt we had enough information to 
present it to a grand jury or anything of that kind. This was hear 
say, at best. 

But when the commission was about to end, I became very much 
concerned about what we ought to do with that kind of a thing. I 
thought, "Suppose we don t do anything; we just fold and go out of 
existence. Then maybe in a year or so this Keene murder breaks wide 
open. Then it comes out that the crime commission had all this 
information pointing in this direction. The commission would be 
subject to the most terrific kind of public criticism and it would 
be claimed that they had swept the thing under the rug in order not 
to bother Mr. Samish with it." 

That didn t seem like a fair thing to do to the commission. I 
felt responsible for giving them some kind of guidance on things 
like that. So, I persuaded them that before we ended we ought to 
at least ask Artie Samish if he knew anything about it, and they 
agreed that we should do it. We could have done it publicly or 
issued a subpoena; it would have been in every newspaper in the 
state. So, in fairness to Samish, we sent Harold Robinson, our 
chief investigator at the time, over to see him. No, it was [H.R.] 
Van Brunt. Robbie [Robinson] had already gone with the Kefauver 

We told Samish that the commission would like to ask him some 
questions if he was willing to answer them, that we knew that 
publicity would be very harmful to him and we would do everything 
possible to avoid any publicity. We arranged to have the meeting 
in Boalt Hall [University of California, Berkeley law school] on a 
Sunday morning, and that s where we did hold it. 


Olney: Before we d gone that far, I thought we ought to do everything 
possible to check our informant as to whether he was telling us 
the truth. And although I never had too much confidence in the 
polygraph, it was in use at that time and there were many people 
who thought that it was highly successful. I guess in some 
instances it proved itself to be successful. 

Probably the best polygraph operator in the country at the time 
was Doug Kelly, who was on the faculty at the University of Cali 
fornia. He was in the School of Criminlolgy. He was very exper 
ienced. He was the psychologist who interviewed Hermann Goering 
in connection with the Nuremberg trials, so he had great standing 
and a reputation. 

I got a hold of Kelly and told him that we had an informant who 
had a long account of many events and that we were very concerned 
to find out whether there was any intentional deception about it, 
and wondered if he could be of any help. He said, "I can t be of 
any help to you with a polygraph alone because there are some 
people who just aren t fit subjects for a polygraph examination. 
You can get people in a mental state who may be suffering from 
hallucinations or something of that kind and they ll go ahead and 
relate the thing, and it won t register on the polygraph because 
they re doing it in perfect good faith although it has no reality. 
The machine isn t a lie detector. It s a truth detector, if any 
thing." He said, "The only way I could do that would be to first 
give him a complete psychiatric examination." 

So, we got a hold of our man and said, "What about it? Will you 
go on the couch?" And he said, "Sure." He went to see Dr. Kelly, 
or vice versa I don t know which way we arranged it and Kelly gave 
him a very thorough examination. Then ten days later we had him give 
him a second examination, and when he got through Kelly said, 
"There s nothing the matter with this man. He s as normal as apple 
pie. He s perfectly all right. He s a very fit subject." Then 
Kelly put him on the polygraph, and once again he examined him, I 
think, on three occasions two anyway on the polygraph. He got a 
completely flat record, which means an indication of a complete 
absence of any intentional deception. 

Stein: You were saying that that didn t necessarily mean that it was 

Olney: Yes, only that there was no deliberate deception involved. Well, 
it was because of that that we finally felt we were justified in 
asking Samish to come over and talk to the commission. The com 
mission and I discussed at some length about how this examination 
was going to be conducted, and we agreed that there was no use in 


Olney: asking Mr. Samish if he had anything to do with murdering Tom Keene. 
He wasn t going to say yes even if he had. The probability was that 
we wouldn t get any useful information out of him. But perhaps if 
we asked him questions about the Olmo stables and the bookmaking 
operation and things of this kind, we d get some reaction and some 
indication from him that might throw a little light on it. So we 
asked him to come and he did. I don t remember whether we had a 
subpoena or not. If we did, it was because he asked us to. We may 
have. We may have told him that if it was any comfort to him, we d 
give him one. 

Well, we had our meeting and the commission left it up to me to 
question him. They didn t ask him questions. And, of course, I 
had to fence all over the place to try to get information out of 
him without giving any clues as to what it was that was in the back 
of our minds. From his account that you showed me in his book, I 
can see that worked all right. He never did get any notion of what 
we were trying to get out of him. There s part of what he has in 
there, most of it, that s quite correct. 

I did question him at long length about this bookmaker friend of 
his, and he said that man was suffering from cancer, that he thought 
we were trying to make a case against him even though he was present 
ly dying of cancer. Well, he was dying of cancer; that jLs. correct. 
And I did badger Samish with all kinds of questions about him. But 
that isn t what the object was, to try to make a case against him, 
but to see if anything in the way of corroboration for the story 
that our man told would come out from Samish. 

Nothing did. He answered every question, showed no distress 
about anything that we asked him, no surprise. He denied knowing 
anything about the Olmo stables; he said he d never been there. We 
knew he had. He denied that "Porky" Flynn and the other man, whose 
name I can t remember [Jasper], had anything to do with it, although 
it was his money, his bank roll, that they were handling. But we d 
expected answers of that kind. 

So that was the only interview that we had with him and under a 
subpoena. We had no expectation of trapping him into saying some 
thing that would make it possible to present it to a grand jury. 
But we did feel that we would have been negligent, really, if we 
hadn t even asked him anything after all the information we had in 
that file. So that s our explanation of the incident. 

Stein: Another thing that Artie Samish said is that he started his political 
career in your father s law office as an errand boy. 


Olney: I think that s right. I ve heard that from John Parker, who also 
was an errand boy in the office, and the two were errand boys at 
the same time. I don t know how long they worked there; it wasn t 
too long until Samish left. He used to rib these boys about why in 
the world they stayed in a stuffy old place like that and didn t 
get out in the world and make some money. John Parker later became 
one of the senior partners in the firm. He s now dead. But Artie 
Samish, at one time, worked in the state legislature when he was a 
young man. And there one of his fellow workers in the legislature 
was Earl Warren. 

Stein: I was just going to ask if they held the same sort of position. 

Olney: It was 1919, I guess, right after the war. 

Stein: He got around, then. 

Olney: Yes. 

The Attorney General s Office and Organized Crime 

Stein: I wonder if you want to say anything about what the role of the 

commission was seen as. Its name suggests that it was set up as a 
study group. 

Olney: It was, and that s exactly what we thought we were going to do. 

There were indications that the rackets were starting to get out of 
hand. These indications came from people like Sheriff Jack Gleason 
of Alameda County; Charlie Dullea, who was the chief of police in 
San Francisco; Mayor [Fletcher] Bowron in Los Angeles; Frank Coakley, 
district attorney of Alameda County; and others in the District 
Attorneys Association and other district attorneys that Earl Warren 
and I had known for years. There were increasing indications of 
expanding gambling operations. 

You can go through a town and pretty well tell just by looking 
at what s on the street. When you see all these tip sheets out 
there by the cigar stores and things of that kind, you know per 
fectly well there s a book right near. That s the only reason tip 
sheets would be there. And the slot machines were not only reappear 
ing; they were spreading all over the place. 

Then there were these rumors that these officers were coming up 
with that somebody was organizing these characters, and that there 
was a system of payoffs involved. When that happens, one can be 
very sure that somewhere along the line there s corruption. You 
don t know where, but it has to be someplace because otherwise 
things would be stopped. 


Olney: We thought that it was probably weakness in the system in one 

locality and not in another. Our experience in the thirties had 
been that law enforcement varied enormously from county to county, 
depending on the personalities of the sheriff and district attorney, 
primarily, and that this was probably just the same sort of measles. 

But quite early we had this incident in Alameda County of Tony 
Heller, who was a "commission man." He was a sort of a layoff man 
and would handle stakes and hold stakes in bets on all kinds of 
events. He operated in Oakland, and then there were a couple in 
San Francisco that were bigger. I don t remember their names. 
Heller had been conducting this operation which was semi-legal, 
or maybe I should say only semi-illegal. Nobody knew for sure 
exactly what it was. He wasn t making book in the ordinary sense, 
and there was no real subterfuge about it. He was constantly quoted 
in the papers, just as the Las Vegas gamblers are now, on the odds 
on elections and the odds on this, that, and the other thing. 

But he suddenly got thrown in the can, and what had happened was 
that Buck Caddel, this new man in the attorney general s office, 
had suddenly appeared from Los Angeles and went down to Heller s 
place and had a conversation with Heller, as a result of which he 
immediately arrested him and took him down and booked him. He 
didn t have any evidence or anything else, and the Oakland police 
then went around to Heller s place and found enough papers around 
there so they thought they had a case, and they put a charge 
against him. 

This created real commotion, especially when Heller said that 
what had happened was that Caddel had come in there and told him 
that he wasn t going to be permitted to operate unless he paid off 
at so much a month to the attorney general s office. Frank Coakley 
and the Oakland Police Department and Sheriff Gleason were really 
excited about that. I think they ended up by making some kind of 
a charge against Buck Caddel. I guess they brought him before the 
grand jury; that was it. 

Anyhow, Buck Caddel had to have a lawyer. So his lawyer comes up 
from Los Angeles to represent him in this case. His lawyer turned 
out to be Murray Chotiner, who later was such a pal of Richard 
Nixon s. Chotiner s now dead. Then we found that Caddel had been 
to Santa Cruz and had hustled the slot machine operators down there 
around the pier. We began to get more and more concerned and thought 
there was something really rotten going on in the attorney general s 
office, and we couldn t ignore it. 

Stein: What did you do? 


Olney: We had to change our views many times as to what it really showed. 
There was a period when we thought that Fred Howser himself was the 
kingpin of the whole thing. Then as we went deeper into it we saw 
many things indicating that he wasn t at all, that it was beyond his 
control. We finally concluded that Fred probably knew very little 
about it. He had been put in just as a front man, and he was 
satisfied just to be a front man. 

Stein: And he had no idea? 

Olney: Oh, he had ideas, but he didn t care; he didn t know the details 
and wasn t taking any active part in it. Whether he ever got any 
money or not, we never knew. Of course, at first we thought he 
must, but it never showed up. And it didn t show up after he got 
out of office, either. His history is a strange one, and if we had 
known as much about his early history and how he became district 
attorney in Los Angeles County, we wouldn t have been as surprised 
by the unimportance of the role that he played. 

Buck Caddel was convicted and served a term, and then he got out. 
One day he was driving in his car in Burbank where John Hanson 
lived. John was our chief investigator, and he made the case, 
really. Well, John was out watering his garden, and Buck went by 
and stopped and came over to talk to him and discussed the whole 
thing with Hanson at length. He said, "You know, you boys always 
thought Fred Howser was the kingpin in this thing, but, you know, 1 
don t think I ever talked to Fred Howser more than three or four 
times in my life. I never took any orders from him. I always took 
them from [Duke] Bolger." And we had pretty much come to that con 
clusion before it was confirmed by Caddel himself. Caddel had no 
animosity at all as far as Hanson was concerned. He knew that John 
was just doing his job. 

Stein: That s interesting. We ve gotten on to that whole story by asking 
if the commission was a study group, and it sounds as though what 
happened was that you evolved into something that wasn t quite just 
a study group. 

Olney: Well, it wasn t. It became an investigative agency. Our whole 

staff and our entire effort had to turn into investigation. That s 
the only way you could get the information that was needed to make 
any kind of a report or to study or anything else on our subject, 
which was organized crime. We had to find out what was going on 
and who was doing it. So that commission followed a very different 
course than the other four commissions did. 

Stein: The other four remained primarily study groups. 
Olney: Oh, yes. 


The Crime Commission at Work 

The Role of the Public Utilities Commission: The Wire Services Cases 

Stein: I noticed that early in the report the Public Utilities Commission 
played a very important cooperative role. 

Olney: That was in connection with the wire service. The place where you 
look for organized crime is where the money is. Organized crime is 
an awfully vague kind of subject. But there are lots of crimes 
that can be organized that you wouldn t include within the usual 
meaning of that phrase. We intended it to refer to the kind of 
activity that is criminal in nature and is based on greed, and an 
organization to get rich by criminal means. At this particular 
time we found out that the place where the most money was, where 
you could really make money by breaking the law, was in the gambling- 
prostitution-narcotics areas. 

The bookmakers were the biggest of them all, as far as money was 
concerned. I had been through the wars with Annenberg and the 
Nationwide News Service before World War II, and when I got into 
this position with the crime commission I found that following the 
war, when racing was resumed it all closed down during the war but 
when it was resumed, the bookmaking racket revived along with it. 
That meant that we better take a good look at the wire service and 
who was operating and how it was working. 

Of course, Bugsy Siegel s murder came along right about that 
time, which was one of those spectacular assassinations that seemed 
quite clear that it had grown out of the wire service, out of con 
tests over that money. So we began investigating that. But besides 
getting the facts, we also wanted to do and have done the things 
that needed to be done that would bring it to an end. 

We had found out years before that the bookie racket cannot 
operate without that up-to-the-minute news that the wire service 
alone can provide. We took a look at their communications system. 
It was all done with the telephone company, and some with Western 
Union. We had no authority, no subpoena powers or anything else, 
but we have a Public Utilities Commission and we just went and 
talked our problems over with them. 

Harold Huls was the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission 
at that time. I had known him, I ve forgotten where; I know we 
were very friendly. But he said that he thought the commission 
ought to take a position that a telephone company ought not and 
need not provide service when they knew that the service was simply 
being used to violate the law. 


Olney: The Pacific Telephone Company, unlike those in the East, had always 
been very cooperative on this, and they had told us, "We don t want 
to be in the business of serving a lot of racketeers if we don t 
have to. But we re a public utility and that means we have to 
offer our service to the public, and we can t refuse anyone without 
substantial reason. If you ll give us the reason, we ll stop the 

That s what we did. Then, when they started pulling the tele 
phones out, the wire service and the bookies went before the Public 
Utilities Commission to try to get orders reinstating the service, 
without any success. That s a long litigation. The story of it is 
all in the reports. But there again, to our considerable astonish 
ment, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the thing from the 
attorney general of California. 

Stein: You mean he was arguing for the 

Olney: Yes, for the wire service. And he wouldn t appear and fight this 
battle before the Utilities Commission; we had to do it. I don t 
know how many days I spent in trial on that thing, a couple of 
weeks, I think, because the attorney general wouldn t. I had some 
authorization from the governor to do it. 

Stein: I was going to ask you, were you appearing, then, representing the 
State of California? Or the crime commission? 

Olney: Not the crime commission, no. I really can t remember. 

Stein: Well, that s not important. That s easily found by just going back 
to the records of the trial. 

Olney: I don t remember what hat I was supposed to be wearing. [laughter] 

Gathering Information 

Stein: I guess the next question on all this was how information was 
gathered. We talked about this coming back from lunch. 

Olney: We had a staff of investigators and they were all experienced men. 
They all had good personal relations with numbers of other regular 
law enforcement agencies like sheriffs and chiefs of police, or the 
FBI or the Treasury or whatnot. They went to those offices and 
were given a great deal of very, very valuable information. My 
guess would be that about 75 to 80 percent, maybe more than that, of 
the information we got for the crime commissions came from other law 
enforcement agencies first. 


Olney: But we made a different use of it. We were concerned with the whole 
state; they were only concerned with a city or a county, as a rule. 
It was their duty to try to make cases against individuals. We were 
not in the business of making cases. We were trying to get the 
picture of what it was in general, its methods and techniques, and, 
as best we could, information about who was involved. 

So our files and records were different from those of the ordin 
ary law enforcement agencies. We had files by counties, and we also 
had files by subject which included duplicate copies of the county 
material, so you could go to a subject file and get everything we 
had in every county on that subject. Or you could go to a county 
file and get everything we had that was supposed to be going on in 
that county. 

These men were very skillful in their reporting, I thought. They 
were very careful, meticulous, and extremely thorough. The amount 
of detail that s in the files and the reports is astonishing. But 
it proved to be very, very valuable. 

I may have stressed our other activities too much at the expense 
of what we did do in the way of studying, because we took these 
reports and put the things together and got a picture of the 
activities of the slot machine racket in all the various parts of 
the state, and the bookmaking racket, too, from these reports they 
got. But the basic information and most of the hard investigative 
work was done by the regular agencies who were interested in helping 

Maybe people don t realize it, but it is a fact that people 
engaged in law enforcement work want to be in an honest agency. 
They don t like to be in a place that s loaded with crooks and 
that s engaged in corruption, and they resent it very, very much. 
They feel like they ve been betrayed personally when they see these 
things going on. So to have a central place where this information 
could be deposited and accumulated and put to some use suited them 
very well. 

Stein: You mentioned that the commission itself never used telephone taps. 
Olney : Never . 
Stein: Why is that? 

Olney: It was against the law by that time. When you interviewed me 

before about the years when I was in the attorney general s office 
and in the Alameda and Contra Costa County offices, at that time 
we were of the view that there was no law that prohibited law 
officers from tapping telephones in the investigation of crime. 


Olney: The wording of the statute, to us, didn t seem to cover it, either 
the state or the federal statutes. But over the years there was a 
series of decisions by the United States Supreme Court in particular 
which changed our views as to what the law was. We were horrified 
to find that in one case we had a tap on when we read the decision 
of the Court that they were illegal. We sure got that off in a 
hurry, and never went back to it. 

Stein: You were telling me the story of how the Los Angeles police wired 
Mickey Cohen s house. That was somehow within the letter of the 

Olney: Well, all I know about it was this: We had a series of homicides 
where members of Mickey Cohen s gang were being killed off. Some 
of them were shot; there was one occasion when one of them was shot 
along with one of Fred Howser s men who was acting as a bodyguard 
for him or something that night. Then there were two or three 
others who just vanished, and the rumor went all over the under 
world that they d been knocked off. Of course, we made inquiries 
and investigations and became satisfied that they had, indeed, been 
killed, although their bodies were never found; no trace was ever 
found of anything. We were making inquiries of that kind and, of 
course, we were wondering what in the world was going on with 
Cohen s outfit. They were on the receiving end of this stuff. 

One of our investigators knew George White, who was the agent 
in charge of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in Northern California. 
George was a very rough customer, indeed. He was one of the tough 
est fellows that I have ever encountered. There was a fine young 
lawyer in Oakland who served with George White in the Burma theater 
during World War II, and he described George to me and he said, 
"George would just as soon kill a man as have a steak for break 
fast." [laughter] 

George was very enthusiastic about his job. He just loved raids. 
When he d go on a raid, he d always go right through the door. He 
never bothered to open it; he d just go right through it. He was 
an early-day Kojak. [laughter] But he was very friendly with us. 

One time he gave us an extensive transcript because of the light 
that it threw on what was going on in Mickey Cohen s gang. This 
was a transcript of conversations between Mickey and many of his 
other hoodlums and hoodlum friends. It was evident that there had 
been a microphone somewhere. It was pretty plain that it was in 
his house somewhere. We read it, and our interest in it was in the 
information, but we did not ask any questions about how it was done. 
There was nothing that we needed to know for our purposes. I 
thought the less we knew about it, the better. 


Olney: Later on a case came up that was pretty sticky. It involved a man 
arrested on a narcotics violation in Los Angeles, and he was taken 
before a magistrate and released on bail. He got in his car and 
drove across the Tehachapis and up the valley. There was some wild 
automobile ride that was involved in that. He was chased by the 
State Highway Patrol and some deputy sheriffs in the valley some 
where. They had a terrific chase at a hundred miles an hour or 
faster. They finally got him. He had a small amount of narcotics 
in the car. He threw the stuff out of the car and they were able 
to find it. That got the state authorities into the thing, as well 
as the federal. 

He was then taken back to Los Angeles, and then he proceeded to 
unload everything he knew to the law enforcement officers. I think 
he talked to the state people first and then they turned him over to 
White and he gave White more information. White wanted to use him 
before the federal grand jury. They went back to Fresno. This is 
awfully hard to remember now. 

How did we get into it? I know we did because I made a trip 
down to Bakersfield and I talked to that fellow myself in the Tajon 
Hotel in Bakersfield. There was some payoff in the state narcotics 
officers, according to him. 

Anyway, he went back to Fresno and was awaiting the federal grand 
jury hearing. One Sunday afternoon he was snoozing on the couch in 
the living room. He was alone his mother and father were in the 
other end of the house and somebody came into the house and shot 
him right through the head and killed him while he was asleep, and 
got away. It was to keep him from testifying. 

It was in that connection that these transcripts became of more 
interest than they had originally. I don t remember why, but they 
did. After that occasion, there was some reason for George White 
telling me where he got the transcripts. I thought it was something 
they had done; it wasn t. 

He told me that he had gotten them from the Los Angeles police, 
and that the story of it was that when Mickey Cohen had built a new 
house out in Beverly Hills someplace, the Los Angeles police had 
learned that the house was under construction. So they went in 
there while it was being built and put in wires, as you said, right 
along with the plumbing, so that the whole house was wired from 
inside the walls on this thing and they could listen to anything 
that was going on in the house. That s where these transcripts 
came from. You asked me if it was against the law, and I suppose 
it was. I don t know. We didn t do anything about it, didn t feel 
that we had to. 


Stein: Was this fellow you mentioned that was shot through the head in 
Fresno was that Abraham Davidian? 

Olney: That s it. Davidian. I guess that s described in our report. 
Stein: Yes, it is. 

Olney: I m afraid my memory is very hazy. I haven t read the thing 

Attorney General Howser 

Stein: I d like to talk a little bit about Attorney General Howser. It 

seems to me he s a fairly large feature in some of your investiga 
tions. Do I have it correctly that shortly after the commission 
was organized, at least his initial response was to give support to 
the commission? 

Olney: Yes. He was there at that initial meeting on the first of November 
in 1947 and made some remarks welcoming the commission and offering 
full cooperation in every way. I hadn t heard all these rumors at 
all. I took it at face value. I thought we were going to have a 
good relationship. 

Stein: Then I think it was Arthur Sherry who said in his interview that at 
some time after that, when you became aware of what was going on in 
his office, at any rate, Governor Warren called him back to Sacra 
mento for a meeting that, I believe, you were at. 

Olney: When he called Howser? 
Stein: Yes. 

Olney: No. I did not attend any meeting with Fred Howser and the governor. 
But the governor did what he had done many times before in dealing 
with this kind of situation. He called Fred Howser in and told him 
that he was getting these awful stories about bribery and corruption 
and the organization of rackets in his office, and that it was very 
distressing and causing him great concern, and that as governor he 
couldn t permit things like that to continue on. He said that he 
didn t know whether Howser had ever heard any of these things or 
not, but he wanted him to know that they were being said, there did 
seem to be some substance to some of it, and that he hoped that he 
would take every step to put an end to it. But I doubt that there 
was anyone else present. What Earl Warren did was to treat Howser 
just as he had treated Sheriff [Burton] Becker in Alameda County 
when he first had to deal with him. 


Stein: But I gather that Howser did absolutely nothing. 

Olney: Of course, he said he was horrified at all this and didn t know it 
and couldn t believe this kind of thing would go on, and he d make 
sure that anything like that would be stopped. But nothing was 

Stein: Was that before or after the prosecutions in Mendocino County? 
Olney: Before. 

Stein: I found clippings in the San Francisco Examiner or the Oakland 

Tribune. Howser launched a full-scale attack on you in about June 
of 1948. I copied down some of them. On June 16, 1948, the 
Examiner reported that you, in a telegram, had indicated that you 
had evidence that Buck Caddel lied and was implicated in the 
Mendocino bribery and shakedown, and that there had been some 
falsifying of some records that involved Caddel. Howser, in 
response, sent a telegram saying, "I m through being pushed around. 
The telegrams Olney and I exchanged today mean open warfare. Olney 
is a man who is misleading the crime commission and he should be 
unmasked." Your response, said the Examiner, was to laugh and say 
that you had no comment . 

Olney: [laughter] I remember. That s correct. 

Stein: That was followed a couple of weeks later by a press statement, I 
guess, a five-hundred-word blistering attack by Walter Lentz, who 
accused you of machinations and conniving, personal aggrandizement, 
and of being a political gnat trying to swell himself into public 
importance. He called you "a former political errandboy dropped 
from the attorney general s payroll who has a new state payroll job 
and developed into a political lawyer satiated with a desire for 
cheap publicity and an overweening ambition for personal aggrandize 
ment over what he hopes may become the political victims of his 
uncontrolled character assassinations." 

Olney: [laughter] Yes, I remember reading that. Some of my friends used 
to accuse me of putting Walter Lentz up to that particular state 
ment. They told me that that would have cost $100,000 to get that 
from some publicity agent, and here I was getting it free, 
[laughter] I m sure you didn t find any rejoinder from me to that. 

Stein: No, actually the Trib said that you were on a two-week camping trip 
in the High Sierra and you could not be reached for comment. 

Olney: Well, that was right. I was. 


Stein: I gather that the climax of that little dispute was that Howser 
then declared your job illegal and chopped you off the payroll? 

Olney: It wasn t anything crude like that. Somebody in his office wrote 
him an opinion that indicated my position was illegal and so I 
shouldn t be paid. And he expressed reluctance with having to go 
along with the opinion on it. This made Governor Warren very 
indignant and he said that he d pay me out of his own pocket if he 
had to. * 

Stein: Did it ever come to that? 

Olney: No. It produced a very bad reaction. It backfired on Howser. I 

don t know whether they recalled the opinion or reversed it or what, 
but they finally concluded that I was entitled to draw a check. 

Stein: I guess it was during that feud that this rumor was started that 

what you were aiming at in all of this was the attorney generalship. 

Olney: Yes, that s right. 

Stein: The defense attorneys in the Mendocino prosecution in their closing 
argument, according to the newspapers, charged that the case was a 
political scheme to smear Howser, and that the motivating factor, 
presumably, was your ambition to take his place as the state attorney 

Olney: Yes, I know that that was said. I didn t recall that it was said 
at that trial; I guess it was. Incidentally, I didn t attend the 
trial. I went up in connection with the investigations sometimes, 
but I was not present any time during the trial. But there were 
many, many statements made, not just by Lentz and Howser, but by 
others indicating that they thought I was getting ready to run for 
attorney general. The reason for it was because I was getting all 
this free publicity. I was in the headlines day after day after 
day. These boys were kicking me there and they were even spelling 
my name right [laughter], so I had all the makings of a politician s 

It gave me some concern as to what the commission members would 
think about this, because they didn t know one another very well 
and they didn t know me at all except in our acquaintance in this 
commission work. They were not politicians themselves. I felt 
they must be wondering, "Is this fellow really aiming to use us as 
a springboard to become attorney general?" 

I finally decided that I just better put it right on top of the 
table with them. In one of the meetings, I referred to all these 
statements and said that I thought they might wonder about it and I 

See Appendix D. 


Olney: wanted them to know what my intentions were, and that is that I 

was not going to run for any public office because of this activity. 
The reason was that I felt that if I did, it would be thought in 
many areas that I had just used the commission and that would 
degrade the public regard for the commission and for its work. So 
I said, "They can print anything they want, of course, but I want 
to tell you I m not going to run for attorney general or any other 
job." So it did bother me to that extent. 

Stein: Howser reiterated the theme that he was being persecuted by the 

crime commission in his address to the Union Square Optimists Club 
at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in May of 1949. He said that the 
crime commission was appointed, in his opinion, "by Governor Warren 
for personal attacks upon me and upon the attorney general s office." 
But he made a couple of other allegations in that speech that 
interested me. One was that he charged that the crime commission 
had no evidence, that all the evidence was hearsay. I wondered if 
that was just a smear campaign. 

Olney: Well, I don t know what he was referring to there because that 

speech was after Caddel s conviction. I don t know how to describe 
that. We did have an awful lot of hearsay, of course. But we 
weren t publishing that; we weren t using that. The things that we 
published were hard and factual, and we were satisfied they were 
very good evidence and would stand up in court. We were never even 
challenged on it. 

Stein: He also made a statement, and I ve seen this elsewhere and it con 
fused me: he claimed that two members of the crime commission had 
connections with the Santa Anita race track. 

Olney: Yes, I saw that. When I read that statement of his over this 

morning, I saw he made that statement, and I m not sure I know who 
he would be referring to. 

Stein: He was referring to [William] Jeffers and [Harvey] Mudd. 

Olney: It may be that they were on the Santa Anita board. I guess they 

must have been. Jeffers, of course, was former president of Union 
Pacific and was the rubber coordinator during the war. Harvey Mudd 
was president of the Pacific Alkali Company but also of Cyprus 
Copper Mines; he was a mining engineer particularly, and those big 
Cyprus Copper Mines were one of the companies with which he was 
associated. I don t know whether he was the president of the 
company or what. And men like that are the kind of people they 
like to get on a board of directors of nearly anything. I guess 
they both liked horses. I don t think they had much taste for 
bookmakers. [laughter] 


Stein: I wouldn t suspect so if they were sitting on the crime commission. 
But Bowser s statement confused me. I gather that at one point 
there was an abortive attempt to recall Howser. Do you remember 

Olney: No, I don t. 
Stein: A recall campaign? 

Olney: Oh, you had a statement marked in there that was made by a couple of 
San Francisco lawyers, members of the bar, criticizing Howser for 
neglect of duty and things of this kind? 

Stein: Yes, I think that was the one. 

Olney: I don t know anything about that. I never knew those two men, never 
met them either before or afterwards. I don t think anything ever 
came of that. I don t remember any effort to have him recalled. 

Drew Pearson and Ralph Allen 

Stein: Two things I wanted to ask you about before we get onto the book- 
making are Howser s libel suit against Drew Pearson and Ralph Allen, 
and then who Duke Bolger was and what he did. I don t know if you 
want to get into Ralph Allen, since we ve discovered that he wasn t 
the person we were thinking he was. 

Olney: Ralph Allen was very much involved with Drew Pearson. Does Pearson 
mention him in his book? He must. 

Stein: I think he does, yes.* 

Olney: I can put our dealings with Ralph Allen right in a nutshell. He got 
in touch with us and claimed that he had been working for a book 
maker in the years that Fred Howser was city attorney for the City 
of Long Beach. Under their charter, the city attorney prosecutes 
criminal cases, which isn t the usual situation. 

See Tyler Abell, ed., Drew Pearson; Diaries 1949-1959 (New York, 


Olney: Allen claimed that the bookmakers were paying off in cash to Fred 

Howser. I don t remember whether it was only for campaign purposes 
or not. I think it was just regular payoffs. Anyhow, he said that 
he himself had taken money from this particular bookmaker whom he 
named it was a place of business we knew all about and had given 
it to Fred Howser himself. If true, the information was important, 
but it happened a long time back and it was difficult to see how we 
could get corroboration for it or how we could disprove it. But we 

We talked to the man a long time and he was playing a cagey game 
with us. He wanted to get paid, and the more I talked with him and 
the more he told us about what he would be able to supply, the 
plainer it was that he was trying to tell us things that he thought 
we wanted to hear. It s difficult to deal with people like that. 
You can t just throw them out because sometimes they do know things. 
So we told him that we were not going to put him on the payroll, 
that we couldn t do that; but he had this long story to tell and if 
he would go to the time and trouble to put it in writing so that we 
could write it up and have it in usable form, we would pay him for 
it. He agreed to do that and he did. I think he made a seventeen- 
page statement. But the statement contained no information that 
gave us any way of leading into any corroborative evidence. We were 
just as badly off as we were before. So we paid him and thanked him 
and said we couldn t make any further use of him, and he went on his 

Apparently he got in touch with Drew Pearson and I think he must 
have sent Pearson a copy of the statement that he d given to us, 
because later on during the time of the preparation of the trial 
between Howser and Pearson, my recollection is that Pearson s 
attorney had a copy of that statement which he must have gotten 
from Allen. Pearson asked me once about Ralph Allen, when we were 
having dinner in the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, and again 
over the telephone; and Jack Anderson, who was also working for 
Pearson at the time, also asked me about him. 

I told him that we had taken the statement from Ralph Allen to 
find out what his story was but that we had been utterly unable to 
find any corroboration for it at all; that we were very suspicious 
that Allen was trying to tell us what we wanted to hear because we 
knew that he wanted to go on the payroll; and that we intended to 
make no use whatever of the story because we didn t think it could 
be supported with any proof . Pearson went ahead and used it in 
one of his broadcasts, some part of it, and it brought this libel 

Stein: And you were saying earlier that that was finally settled? 


Olney: The libel suit was filed by Fred Howser in the District of Columbia. 
He could have filed it in California and probably got service on 
Pearson; I don t know. It was always a little strange that it was 
filed three thousand miles away from his own base. 

But the case was tried. Roger Robb, who is now a judge on the 
United States Court of Appeals, represented Howser; and William P. 
Rogers, who was later deputy attorney general of the United States, 
then attorney general, and later secretary of state, represented 
Pearson. The case was tried, submitted to a jury, and the jury 
found for the defendant. 

Stein: Pearson was also involved in a federal suit that you mentioned at 
lunch, a federal case against Walter Lentz. 

Olney: Yes, he was. I knew a great deal about that, most of which I ve 
forgotten. There was some other witness. I think his name was 
[James T.] Mulloy. I guess it had to do with the Guarantee Finance 
Company, which was a bookmaking operation that the crime commission 
had exposed. 

The federal government took an interest in it I think it was 
because of the unpaid income tax aspects of it and wanted to call 
Mulloy before the federal grand jury. They took a statement from 
him. He gave testimony that was incriminating, not only to the 
Guarantee Finance people, but, I think, to Walter Lentz too. I may 
be wrong about that. 

Anyway, Lentz then got in touch with this witness, Mulloy, and 
got him to change his story. This upset the U.S. Attorney, Ernie 
Tolin, considerably. So they got a hold of Mulloy, and Mulloy 
switched once more and went back to his original story, and then 
told them about Lentz s importuning him on his testimony. The 
government filed a case against Lentz I guess it was an indictment 
against Lentz, I believe when he was in Fresno. He was tried there. 

Pearson was very active in that and I can t remember exactly why. 
His son-in-law, George Arnold, was very active in helping him in 
that case. And I was friendly with George. I tried to help George. 
My recollection is that the case was eventually tried and Walter 
Lentz was acquitted. 

Stein: Do you want to say a couple of words about Duke Bolger? 

Olney: Well, I don t think anything more than I have. Let me stop and 
think. I don t want to be repeating stuff that s in here. 

Stein: I m not sure that there is much in here. 


Olney: I guess there isn t. There s that whole gory affair of Bolger s 

dropping dead there, and then the money. Incidentally, the two San 
Francisco detectives who were handling it were later Kefauver s men. 

Stein: I think you may have told that story already. Is there anything 
else we need to say about bookmaking? 

Olney: I don t think so. 
Stein: How about slot machines? 

Olney: No, I think that s covered completely in our reports. And you asked 
me something about that before. 

Stein: I did have one question. I think that you made recommendations in 

your report of legislation that could be passed to curb slot machines, 
and legislation was passed in 1949, and I wondered if there was any 
direct correlation. 

Olney: Yes, indeed. It was our recommendation that did it. 
Stein: I see. Did any of you actually appear before the legislature? 
Olney: No, only our report. 

The George Rochester Suit 

Stein: I think gang violence is probably covered fairly thoroughly in 

your reports. The only thing that maybe isn t covered is the suit 
by George Rochester, who sued you in 1950. It was in March of 1950. 

Olney: Was that when it was filed, or is that when it was tried? 

Stein: I think that s when it was filed, so it may have not been tried 

until 1952. But at any rate, he sued you for libel in connection 
with charges that he had accepted checks from Jack Dragna. 

Olney: That s right. This grew out of a press conference that I held. 

Jack Dragna was a true Mafia type and he was the big Mafia man in 
Southern California at that moment. One of the things that they 
operated was the wire service for the bookmakers down there. He 
had a company, the name of which has slipped my mind, but it had 
a bank account in which the printed name of the company would be on 
the checks and by so-and-so, an officer. That was the company that 
operated the wire service and leased all the lines and everything 
else. That was the operation that the crime commission was quite 
interested in and hoping to stop. 


Olney: The Los Angeles police made a raid that had nothing to do with the 
bookmakers or the gambling. I think it had to do with Joe Sica and 
one of his violent crimes. Joe was a real killer. Anyhow, they 
made the raid, which included the office of this outfit that ran 
the wire service, and there they found cancelled checks for this 
outfit. There was a check signed by Jack Dragna as the president 
or secretary or treasurer or something; he was the man authorized 
to sign checks . 

Included in the cancelled checks were two or three checks payable 
to George Rochester, which were endorsed on the back by him and 
deposited in his account. I think at that time George Rochester s 
name was strange to me, although he was well known to other people. 
He had been a state senator from the south and had practiced law 
around Los Angeles. He was then made special assistant to the 
attorney general by Fred Howser, and at the time that these checks 
were found he was holding that position. I don t remember what his 
duties were supposed to be. Do you want me to find out? 

Stein: Only if you think it s important. 

Olney: My recollection is that it had something to do with law enforcement. 

Stein: Actually, that s probably in the newspapers. That s fairly easy for 
someone to check. 

Olney: Somebody on the staff brought my attention to who George Rochester 
was. I guess it was the LAPD [Los Angeles Police Department] that 
sent us photostatic copies of the checks and their endorsements 
which they had found. They knew who George Rochester was, that he 
was in the attorney general s office, and that this wire service 
was a matter of interest to us. When I got the photostats of the 
checks, I checked back with the LAPD to make sure that they were 
genuine, that there wasn t any mistake about them, and that the 
Rochester that was on those checks was the same fellow who was in 
the attorney general s office. Sometimes you get fooled with the 
identity of names . We found out it was the same person all right . 

So then I called the newspapermen and told them that I had a 
story if they wanted to come around and get it and I gave them an 
hour when they could come. I think it was the next day sometime. 
Half a dozen or so of them showed up and I d had duplicates made 
of these photostats. I reminded them of the commission s interest 
in the wire service and who Jack Dragna was, and said that we had 
come into possession of copies of these photostats of these checks 
which were of interest to me and they certainly might be of interest 
to them. I gave them the photostats. 


Olney: They, of course, at once asked me what the checks were for. I told 
them I hadn t the faintest idea. I didn t know what it was for. 
Maybe they could find out what it was for. 

That hit the front page, as you might imagine, in big letters, 
and the men who took that story were all good reporters. I got to 
know them pretty well. I ve got a lot of respect for them, for 
their accuracy. They submit their stories and then they re re- 
edited or edited; and then their rewrite men go to work on some of 
them; and then there are these fellows that write the headlines. 

The headlines they put on those things were just outrageous. 
They were flat accusations of bribery by George Rochester for 
acceptance of these checks from Jack Dragna, the head of the wire 
service. I never said anything about bribery to the newspaper 
reporters and I don t believe there was anything of that sort in 
their articles. This got in a lot of papers. 

Rochester was outraged and said that the checks had nothing to do 
with the wire service at all or with his duties in the attorney 
general s office, and he said that he was going to bring a suit for 
libel; that what I had done was absolutely unjustifiable and that 
one or the other of us ought to be forced out of the profession; and 
that he was going to bring a suit. He did. 

I think someone in Los Angeles drew the complaint for him, but 
they filed the suit in Alameda County because that was my residence 
and I could remove it there anyway, and served me. But they also en 
joined the newspapers. They enjoined the Chronicle, the San Francisco 
Daily News is that what they called it? It was the Scripps-Howard 
paper. And the Hearst paper. I don t think they include the 
Oakland Tribune or the Los Angeles Times; I m not sure. I don t 
think so. 

The suit had to be defended. I had a terrible time figuring out 
what to do. The law provided that under ordinary circumstances, 
when working for the state in that capacity that I was in and there 
is a suit for damages brought against me, I would be entitled to be 
defended by the state; but my defense would be provided by the 
attorney general. I didn t want to have Fred Howser defending me in 
a suit brought by one of his own special assistants. I talked with 
the governor about it and he said, "Go ahead and get private counsel 
of your own and we ll get you paid." So I did. 

I got Sam Berry in Oakland to represent me and he had some 

associates who were going to represent me, too. But not long 

before the trial, Sam came down with the shingles, a bad case of 

shingles. So I had to get another lawyer. The one that I thought 


Olney: would do a really good job for me was Sam Wright in San Francisco. 
He was with the firm of Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro. He worked 
for them; he was not a partner. I d known Sam for many years. Sam 
was counsel to the telephone company, too. Or I mean by that, he 
did Pillsbury and Madison s work for the telephone company. As a 
result, he knew all about the bookmakers and the bookmaking racket, 
and those things used to interest him. He was much more interested 
in that than he was in drawing contracts and wills or damage suits, 
so I knew he d have a good time with it, and he agreed to represent 

Then Rochester changed counsel. Mel Belli came and he represented 
Rochester. Mel made his usual flourish in the press and said he was 
going to represent Rochester free of charge. He only wanted to see 
justice done. Belli, you know, had never forgotten or forgiven us 
for hanging his client in the Gosden case. He s never forgotten that. 
So he volunteered to take this on. But he also made what I ve always 
thought was a very gross strategic error when he dismissed the news 
papers and left the suit against me alone. It s true that I couldn t 
get a free ride as far as counsel was concerned. With the newspapers 
in there, I might have gotten a free ride for legal defense. 

But when it came to the trial, the newspaper reporters were the 
very best witnesses I could possible get, and their papers weren t 
in the case. They weren t defendants in the case. They were in the 
position of not being parties to the case. They reported exactly 
what had happened, that I had simply given them the photostats. And 
they d asked me what the checks were for, and I had told them I 
didn t know. I didn t have any idea. But these headlines that were 
so damaging to Rochester had never originated in anything that I d 

The case was a lengthy one. It must have lasted, maybe, three 
weeks. It got into all kinds of details, for reasons that I really 
don t remember. But even the Davidian matter got into that. I had 
to testify about talking to Davidian down there in Bakersfield and 
things of this kind. I don t remember how that got in there. We 
were all over the landscape, but the jury returned the verdict for 
the defendant. It was a unanimous verdict, and it didn t take long. 

So that ended it, excepting paying my lawyers. I had a chance 
to go over the statutes thoroughly and realized that, in spite of 
what the governor said, the governor lacked any authority whatever 
to spend state money defending a private person in a private lawsuit. 
You can t do that with public money. So I went to Pillsbury, 
Madison, and Sutro and asked them to send me a bill. I said, "I m 
not going to permit you to do this for nothing, so don t try to tell 


Olney: me it s pro bono publico or something. I want you to give me a 

bill." Which they did. Which I paid. It was more than a year s 
salary that I had to account for. [laughter] So they managed to 
stick me with a year s salary in attorney s fees. 

Stein: And you were never reimbursed for that? That was simply out of your 
bank account? 

Olney: Yes. 

Stein: Besides all the time that you lost sitting at the trial. 

Olney: Yes, we spent a lot of time on it. But in working with Sam Wright 
on the case I had a good time too. 

Stein: I guess coming at the end of the crime commission s work, it was a 
good chance to review the whole picture, especially if you were 
going all over the landscape. 

Olney: It was. 

Stein: It was your own final report. 

Olney: Yes, that s right. I really hadn t thought of it that way, but 
there s something to that. 

Federal Intervention 

Stein: I gather that shortly after the commission closed up shop you became 
somewhat embroiled with the federal grand jury. Is it true that 
they subpoenaed the whole commission? 

Olney: Yes. 

Stein: What was the story there? 

Olney: In the final report of the commission in 1950 it was published 

November 15, 1950 we included a part three, Taxation of Organized 
Crime. It s some twenty pages in the report. The gist of it is 
that these racketeers were making an awful lot of money in personal 
income, and we cited cases like Sam Termini down in San Mateo 
County. We had a great deal of information on their personal 
expenditures, so that we could take their personal expenditures 
and figure what the income would have to be to cover that, and we 
got some pretty staggering figures. We were able to put in the 
report the fact that the Internal Revenue Service did not have a 
tax case jacketed against a single racketeer in California. 


Olney: We got that information out of the Internal Revenue itself. In 

fact, there was great indignation by the men in the Internal Revenue 
Service that that had happened. They were ashamed of it and tried 
to help us in every way they could when we were going to write this 

The gist of our report was that the state also was being gypped 
on its income tax because at that time the state had no facilities 
for making their own investigations. They simply relied on the 
federal government. If the federal government would make a case, 
then they d follow and make a case against the same person. But 
they didn t do anything independently. 

We recommended that they not do that. If the federal government 
wasn t going to do anything about the racketeers, we thought the 
state ought to. And, incidentally, they did enact the legislation, 
which we recommended, and set up an agency to do it. And they have 
their own agency now. That became public in 1950, the time that the 
Truman administration was coming under a great deal of public 
criticism because of corruption in the Internal Revenue Service. 
[J.W.] Snyder was the secretary of the treasury, and the Congress 
had been investigating charges of the fixing of tax cases in various 
parts of the country. 

This was a very hot subject politically as well as from an 
ordinary point of view of publicity. There were also some scandals, 
bad ones, in the office of the collector of internal revenue in San 
Francisco and some in Southern California, as well, that were going 
on. And all of that made the top Treasury people very, very 
sensitive. It seems that this report outraged John Snyder, and he 
made a demand on the Attorney General of the United States that the 
Justice Department do something about it and that they take us on 
in some way or another. 

The first we knew about that was when we got word that the 
federal grand jury in Los Angeles was about to issue subpoenas for 
Admiral Standley and all the members of the crime commission, as 
well as for me and John Hanson. When I heard about that, the 
various members of the crime commission, of course, kept calling 
me on the telephone, saying, "What s cooking? Are we going down to 
the grand jury, and what for?" [laughter] 

So, of course, I called Ernie Tolin, who was the United States 
Attorney, whom I knew, and asked him about this. He said, "Yes, 
we ve gotten orders from Washington that we ve got to present this 
thing to the grand jury. Of course, I don t think anything is 
going to come of it, but we want to have you tell the grand jury 
whatever information or whatever evidence you ve got that indicates 
that there s any wrongdoing." 


Olney: I told him that that was fine, but it was certainly not necessary 
to subpoena the members of the commission. I said, "You know how 
a commission of this kind works. Admiral Standley and others don t 
go around digging out the evidence. It s done by staff. They have 
no information about it excepting hearsay from our reports. If you 
want to get that, I ll appear and so will John Hanson." 

He finally said it made sense to him, but he d have to check. 
He said they were sending some man out from Washington to handle it. 
But he called me back and said they had agreed that it was not 
necessary for the members of the commission to appear, excepting 
Admiral Standley as chairman. They would like to have him appear 
and explain what the commission was. They knew he didn t have any 
personal information about these matters. So the admiral and I did 
appear before the grand jury in Los Angeles. 

We went in there and, to my amazement, the foreman of the grand 
jury then told Ernie Tolin, the United States Attorney, that they 
wanted to talk to us in private and they asked him to leave. He 
demurred at first, but they were insistent. So he did leave. We 
must have spent an hour and a half in there talking with the grand 
jury without any U.S. Attorney present, and there wasn t any formal 
record being made either. 

They were no more responsible for the subpoena than Tolin. They 
were wondering what in the hell we were doing there. But they were 
interested in hearing how the crime commission worked they read 
about it in the paper and what our methods were. They were 
particularly interested in this section and wanted to know what we 
based it on. [They asked] if we had any idea that there was 
criminal conduct going on in the federal service down there. We 
told them no, that we had no evidence of that and no reason to 
assert that that was the case. Perhaps it was merely a matter of 
policy. We only knew it was a fact that none of those hoodlums 
were paying a nickel in taxes when all the rest of us were bleeding 
at the pores. We thought then we just didn t know. [laughter] 
That was all there was to our appearance. We had these general 
discussions with them. They thanked us and said we d given them 
an interesting morning and we went on out and came on home. 

I didn t have any occasion to discuss it with Ernie Tolin at 
that time because I didn t know what they were getting at and I m 
sure he didn t want to talk to me about it. He was embarrassed by 
the whole business. But he d gotten his orders that he was to do 

The amusing thing about this: there was a man sent from Washing 
ton out there. In 1953 I became Assistant Attorney General of the 
United States in charge of the criminal division. I knew that if 


Olney: someone had been sent out from the Justice Department on the grand 
jury inquiry that called Admiral Standley and me, it must have been 
somebody from the criminal division who went out there. 

In due course I got the time to check back in the files and, sure 
enough, I found a file in the Justice Department about this with 
this terrific wail and blast from John Snyder to the attorney general, 
and then the assignment of a lawyer in the criminal division, who was 
still there, to go out to Los Angeles. He d gone out there. 

His name was Rufus McLean. I d been there long enough to get to 
know him quite well. We were having some turnovers in the office. 
I ve forgotten the section that he was in; I think it was general 
crimes. Anyway, I had to get a new section chief and I thought 
McLean was a good man for it. He was well qualified and I thought 
he d be a good man for it. 

So, knowing his past history, I thought I would have some fun 
with him. I sent for him and I had the file on my desk, and he came 
in and sat down, and I thumbed through this file. I said, "Rufus, 
I was looking at this about your last trip to California. Apparently 
you had quite a time out there." He got all red and very much con 
cerned. I said, "Did you ever get those hoodlums that you subpoenaed 
before the grand jury?" [laughter] 

He didn t know what to say. I finally said to him, "Well, I ve 
got something that I want to tell you. I want to make some changes 
around here. I want to find out if you d be the chief of the 
section," which was a promotion. He thought at first I was kidding, 
but then he realized that I wasn t kidding. So the man who was 
supposed to indict us became the chief of one of our sections later 

Stein: Did anything happen in the Internal Revenue Service as a result of 
your testimony or the report? 

Olney: That s a little hard to say. The collector in San Francisco was 
indicted and tried. But by 1953 the regime had changed. We 
prosecuted and convicted fourteen or fifteen in the Internal Revenue 
Service for taking bribes from racketeers for fixing cases, including 
the director of the Internal Revenue Service himself. We convicted 
the two top men. They served terms, and all the rest of these did 
too. But we didn t mention specific cases; we weren t talking about 
that. We talked about some of these expenditures where there was 
no investigation jacketed. I know there was a burst of activity, 
but just what it resulted in later on, I don t know. 



Did you ever find out why they sent Ernie Tolin out of the room? 

Yes. They weren t interested in trying to indict us or anything of 
the sort. They didn t know what Ernie had in his mind, and they 
wanted to find out from us what the score was, what we thought this 
was all about, why we were there, why they were supposed to be 
listening to us. And they didn t want to have somebody there with 
the usual question-and-answer thing as though they were trying to 
develop a case. 

Grand juries can run their own procedures if they want to. In 
the case of the collector of the Internal Revenue Service in San 
Francisco, they returned that indictment almost over the dead body 
of the U.S. Attorney. He was very much against it. They had a big 
row in the district attorney s office; one of the deputies resigned 
because the U.S. Attorney wouldn t go for the indictment. Well, 
that s the story of our appearance before the grand jury. 

Cooperation with Other Crime Commissions 

Olney: [referring to interview outline] One other thing: I see you ve got 
the Kefauver Commission mentioned down here. I don t recall exactly 
when it was that the Kefauver Commission was created, but it was 
during the period of our last crime commission when Harold Robinson 
was our chief investigator. John Hanson was the investigator for the 
first commission, and he had known Robinson because they were both FBI 

Olney : 

Robinson had done his FBI work in the East. He was an accountant 
by profession, not a lawyer, and he came to Santa Rosa and went into 
private work as an accountant. It was in connection with, I guess, 
the Mendocino case that we first used Harold Robinson because he was 
conveniently located in Santa Rosa and also his accounting background 
was very useful to us on some aspects of this thing. We used him more 
and more often until we finally got to a position where he took a full- 
time job with us as an investigator. And he was very good. I found 
that when Harry Truman was chairman of that war frauds investigating 
committee for the U.S. Senate following World War II, Harold Robinson 
had been his chief investigator. 

So he went back pretty far. 

Yes. And he d done an excellent job. The Truman Committee s job was 
a very fine one, a good job. So Robbie was very able and very exper 
ienced, and we were glad to have him. We were nearly through, getting 
along in our work on the second commission, and by that time John had 
left and Robbie was the chief investigator at my request. 


Olney: One day I got a phone call from Senator Kefauver and he told me that 
he was contemplating setting up a Senate committee to investigate 
organized crime. He was going to be the chairman of it and it had 
been authorized and they had their appropriation and were trying to 
put together a staff. He said that he was quite familiar with the 
work that we had done and he praised our work and said that he was 
trying to do pretty much the same thing for the country that we were 
doing in California. 

He wanted to know whether I would give him permission to ask 
Robinson if he would become the chief investigator for the Senate 
committee. He said, "I know that your matters may be in such a 
state that it would throw you into a tailspin and make too much 
difficulty." I said, "Well, I don t think it would. I know what 
you re planning to do and it s important, probably more important 
than what we re doing. We re nearly through, anyway. I think we 
could get along without Robbie." So he went along and asked Robbie, 
and Robbie did become the chief investigator for the Kefauver Com 

That meant that Robbie carried in his head an awful lot about 
organized crime in California, and it also meant that when the 
committee came out here and wanted to make any inquiries, they not 
only knew what Robbie had in his head, but we made sure that they 
had access to the files that we had so they could read all our 

Stein: What about the Chicago Crime Commission, which was operating at the 

Olney: The Chicago Crime Commission was an entirely different arrangement. 
That is a private organization, not supported by public funds. It 
is supported by donations from citizens of Chicago, corporations and 
others who are interested in reducing the crime rate. It s been 
going a long, long time. It s a permanent organization. I think it 
must have come into being in the 1930s. I m sure it was that far 
back. Virgil Peterson was the director, and he must have been the 
director for a quarter of a century, anyway, maybe longer. 

They had the same system of filing of information and making 
reports as we did. Their principal interest, of course, was the 
Chicago hoodlums the Capone gang and people like that. But they 
also had a wealth of information about the Purple Gang in Detroit 
and the rackets in Los Angeles and all over the country. They had 
far more information about rackets and racketeers than the FBI has 
ever had. 


Olney: During this period, I went back to Chicago and saw Peterson several 
times, and we had a regular exchange of information. He was con 
stantly supplying us with information. If we d get a name of some 
body we thought was an out-of-state hoodlum of some sort., we d just 
call him on the phone and ask him if they had anything on him and 
we d get back voluminous reports on him. Our last report, of the 
second commission, has got a great deal of information about Palm 
Springs and about these out-of-state racketeers who were moving in 
there. A great deal of that information came from the Chicago 
Crime Commission, from Virgil Peterson, who gave us the background 
of all these people. His reports were full of detail, exactness, 
dates, when, where, and all the rest, so they were usable and you 
could base statements on them and know that you were on sound ground. 

When the Kefauver Committee finally got to the point of taking 
testimony, they began in Washington, B.C. The first witness to 
testify in those hearings was Virgil Peterson. And I was the second 
witness on it. So we had very good relations with Peterson and the 
Chicago Crime Commission. 

Stein: How long did you testify before the Kefauver Committee? 
Olney: One afternoon and most of the next day, I guess. 
Stein: And that was mostly on California? 

Olney: Yes. They wanted me to summarize some of the same sorts of things 
you ve been asking about, only more in detail. I could do it then. 
I had the names and dates and places and things at hand. 

Stein: If those were public hearings, there would be a record of that. 

Olney: Oh, yes. I had a full set of Kefauver reports. There must be twenty 
volumes. It takes up about that much space on the book shelf, 
[gestures to indicate a length of five feet] And it concludes with 
an index, a name index, so that every name that s in there you can 
locate. I took that to Washington with me and they used it when I 
was in the Department of Justice because, as I said, there s more 
information in there about hoodlums around the country than you can 
get out of the FBI. 

The FBI would ignore these things. Hoover would tell you that 
there wasn t any such thing as a Mafia, that that was just a pipe 
dream from the Bureau of Narcotics. The reason these rackets got 
as big and powerful as they did is because the FBI just ignored 
them. They felt they weren t in their field and they didn t know 
how to crack them. 


An Assessment of the Crime Commission s Work 


Olney : 


Is there anything else that we ought to say about your work with the 
crime commission? 

I don t think so. 

You were saying at lunch how successful you thought it was. 
thought we ought to get that on tape. 

I just 

Well, I think in evaluating it you have to start in with what you 
expect to achieve. In this kind of activity there is no possibility 
of doing anything that s permanent. A lawyer or an investigator or 
anybody concerned with trying to achieve something in this area can 
never be like an engineer who can build a dam or build a bridge and 
then have something he can look at for the next fifty years, if it 
doesn t fall down. All that one can hope to do by decent law 
enforcement is to get it as decent and keep it as decent for as long 
as you can, knowing full well that people change, people come, people 
go, everything is different, the rackets themselves change, old ones 
go out and new ones come in. In that sense there never can be any 
permanent achievement or accomplishment. But if you have done your 
stuff and there has been an improvement, a holding of the line or an 
improvement in government, I think you can feel it s been successful 
for that period. And that s all you can expect. 

That s all we ever did. If it had not been for the crime commis 
sion, I think that the gambling rackets and prostitution and every 
thing else that goes along with it and general corruption would have 
just spread like a disease all through the state, and it penetrates 
all the avenues of government once you have it anywhere. And I 
think as a result of the crime commission s activities that was 
stopped for the time being. 

We had Pat Brown following as an attorney general who was an 
honest man and gave the office and the state a decent administration. 
What happens at the top is so vitally important to everybody else. 
It sets a standard and they want to live up to it and do. If the 
standard at the top is bad, everything goes bad. 

So I think the money was well spent and the effort was put in. 
I think we did as well as could have been expected. We didn t 
expect what we got into. But I think it had some accomplishments. 
If we hadn t had our commission, I don t think there ever would have 
been a Kefauver Committee inquiry. I doubt it. Kefauver has told 
us there wouldn t. 

Stein: That s interesting. 


Olney: And he told me that long after he was trying to get any investigators 
away from me. He had me on the witness stand when I was assistant 
attorney general. There was a to-do in the Tennessee Valley 
Authority about the Dixon-Yates contracts. It was some kind of 
contest. The contest was between public and private power, who 
was going to develop what. The administration had been on the side 
of the private power people, and Kefauver was interested in public 
power. There was something that came up; I can t remember what it 
was. But the Senator thought he could make some headway by trying 
to embarrass me and the administration as to why we hadn t prosecuted 
somebody in connection with these Dixon-Yates letters. He cross- 
examined me for a day or so about why I hadn t taken criminal action 
in these matters. I hadn t because I didn t think it deserved it. 
We were always very friendly in spite of scuffles like that . 

Stein: And that was when he told you that 

Olney: Yes, that was when he told us that he never would have had that com 
mission if we hadn t had ours. 

Stein: I think that about wraps it up. 
Olney: Very good. 

Relations with Commission Members and Preparation of Reports 
[Interview 14: December 7, 1976] 

Olney: I think I ought to say a word about how the reports of the Special 
Crime Study Commission on Organized Crime were put together and 
what our relations were in preparing the reports with the members 
of the commission. When I was first asked to become counsel for 
the commission by Governor Warren, he talked to me at considerable 
length about what my relations ought to be with the members of the 
commission, emphasizing the importance of treating them properly. 
The way we proceeded was simply following his advice as to what we 
should do. The members of both commissions were all eminent men. 
They were busy men; some were retired, but they were busy, neverthe 
less. They lived in different parts of the state. Most of them 
were not lawyers. On the first commission the only lawyer was 
Gerald Hagar. 

The governor warned me that efforts would be made by some people 
to try to undermine the staff with the committee members by people 
on the outside, and that the only way of meeting that was to be as 
close as possible to the members of the commission and to bring them 


Olney: in on all of the staff s activities so that they didn t have any 

feeling that the staff was going off on its own and running its own 
inquiries and investigations without even consulting them, and that 
they were just being used to sign papers that were prepared by the 
staff over which they had no knowledge. 

As a result of this, I made every effort to go and see members of 
the commission whenever I was in their vicinity. I made innumerable 
calls on those in Southern California when I was down there and other 
places. I didn t always succeed in seeing them, but I always reported 
in some way so that they knew that I had been there. Then when I did 
see them, I often brought along various memoranda that had been pre 
pared, investigative reports and things of that kind, that I thought 
might be of interest to them and might be revealing to them. They 
would read them and we would discuss them from time to time. 

With our general lines of investigation, we didn t undertake any 
of them without discussing it with the commission first. There would 
be a few things that would crop up very suddenly that we would inquire 
into where there wasn t any opportunity of consulting; but we made a 
decision at the outset that we d better begin with the bookmaking 
racket, and that was based on a general discussion at a commission 
meeting with all the members present and a review of what had been 
said by law enforcement officers in various places as to what the 
more serious rackets were in the state and where the big money was 
for these underworld characters. 

So we tried to keep them, and did keep them, just as current as 
possible on what was going on. Sometimes when something unexpected 
and sensational would happen, we would make special trips to see 
them to tell them what the facts really were. They d read about 
things in the newspapers and sometimes the accounts were a little 
bit garbled, but more often than not they were quite incomplete of 
necessity. So we would go out and see them and give them a complete 

When it came to preparing the reports, those, of course, had to be 
prepared by the staff and they relied very largely on the counsel 
our legal assistants like Arthur Sherry and Alan Lindsay to write 
them up. But we would prepare a draft and then discuss it with the 
commission members usually. More often than not we d be able to 
discuss only a part at one time. 

Jerry Hagar was here in Oakland and available and a lawyer. The 
other members of the commission looked to him to go over our work 
very carefully and satisfy himself that it would stand up. They 
wanted to be very sure that anything they were putting their names 
on was true, correct, and provable. They thought that he was well 


Olney: qualified to do this, which he surely was. He spent literally hours 
with us on our reports, not only reviewing the facts, but assisting 
us in drafting parts of it to make sure that the statements were 
precise and that we weren t slopping over with loose generalizations 
and things of this kind. 

His contribution to the report would be difficult to exaggerate. 
He had a great deal to do with its organization, with the kind of 
language that was used, and with the content, in that he was very 
careful to screen out anything that seemed to be doubtful when it 
came to proof. Not every member of the commission was in a position 
to do that. But when we would get the thing in final shape and it 
had been gone over and put together in this fashion with Jerry s 
watchful eye on it, at the meetings there would be a discussion and 
Jerry would describe some of the things that were not being included 
and why they weren t being included. 

Stein: What sort of things would those be? 

Olney: There were things in connection with the slot machine investigation 
and with the bookmakers, too, where we had pretty strong evidence 
that would be good enough to submit to a court, I would say, and let 
somebody make up his mind as to whether our sources were truthful or 
not. But in a report you can t very well do that. You need to be 
sure that your source is truthful. The other side doesn t get a 
chance to cross-examine him or anything of that kind. 

There were details in there about methods that they had used, 
various telephone taps and things of that kind that the wire service 
people were putting on each other; and we had pretty good, sound 
information, but he didn t think that the sources were good enough 
to be dignified with statements by a commission such as this, based 
on those sources. So we d take that kind of thing out. 

There was no editing, of course, of our drafts from the point of 
view of taking things out that might displease someone; there weren t 
any sacred cows or anything of that kind. I don t suggest that for 
a second. This was merely to make them sharper, clearer, and more 
pointed and more thorough, more difficult to attack. So much for 
how these reports were put together and the work of the members of 
the commission on it. Their part was, indeed, a lot more than just 
signing documents that had been prepared by a staff. 

Stein: I have one question about the report. Arthur Sherry tells the story 
that with one of the reports he had to rewrite it himself because 
there had been an unfortunate experience with a newspaperman or an 
ex-newspaperman who had been hired to help write the report, and the 
report got leaked to the Los Angeles Times before it was supposed to 


Olney: That s completely gone out of my mind. I just had forgotten that 
entirely. Do you know who the newspaperman was? 

Stein: I could find out. His interview ought to be down here. Do you want 
me to go find out? 

Olney: All right, because I just don t remember that at all. 
Stein: Let me go find it. 

[Pause while Mr. Olney reviews p. 121 of Arthur Sherry, "The 
Alameda County District Attorney s Office and the California 
Crime Commission," Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1976.] 

Stein: Well, you don t have any recollection of that, then? 

Olney: I have no recollection of it. It probably occurred. If Art said it 
did occur and he remembers it, I have no doubt that it did. But 
even reading that account, I still don t recall it at all. Part of 
the report that I do recall the boys writing, with which I had very 
little to do, was the final report of the second commission. Alan 
Lindsay prepared most of that. The reason was that by the time the 
report was being drafted, I had gone to Washington as assistant 
attorney general, so I wasn t here. 

Stein: That s right. That would be in 1953. 

Olney: Yes. That came out in May, and I went to Washington in January. 

The Commission Staff 

Olney: About our staff: Their names are all listed in the reports. They 
were an unusual group, I thought, of very able men. Arthur Sherry 
was just simply invaluable. I m sure that he described how he was 
drawn into the work of the commission by the necessity of our getting 
somebody to try the case in Mendocino County. Then he continued to 
help us. We worked together on everything there was. The organiza 
tion wasn t big enough to require much separation of function. We 
all did everything there was to do. 

With the second commission, Alan Lindsay became assistant counsel. 
He had a background of experience in the district attorney s office 
in Alameda County, but I had not known him until he expressed an 
interest in working on the commission staff. I needed someone and 


Olney: took him on, and it was probably one of the wisest things I ever 

did. He was just a superb assistant in every respect. He could do 
everything for the commission that I could do. 

At the same time that I was there to counsel with that commission 
I was also a professor in the [University of California] law school 
and was supposed to be teaching a full load. One of the things 
about these investigative operations is that things are always 
unexpected; you can t plan them and you have to be available and 
you have to act, so that sudden absences from the classroom were 
fairly common. But I found that Alan was quite capable of doubling 
for me in the classroom just as well, or better, as well as on the 
commission work. He did almost as much teaching, I think, that 
year as I did. 

When the commission work was over, these men went various places. 
Harold Robinson had already gone to the Kefauver Committee and had 
become their chief investigator. Tom Judge, who, I think, was on 
the staff of both commissions, went to the state of Washington where 
they had a state crime commission somewhat similar to ours. I guess 
it was a state senate committee inquiry that they had. He went up 
there. Van Brunt went back to his home town in Ontario, California, 
and he became mayor or councilman or something down there. Virgil 
Wolfe eventually joined me in Washington in the criminal division. 

One of the things that I tried to set up in the criminal division 
was a new section to deal with organized crime. I put Virgil in 
charge of that and he had a good background and a good fund of 
information. He was a former FBI man, but he had just as much 
difficulty in getting cooperation out of the FBI as all the rest of 
us did. It wasn t successful. 

Stein: Was that simply a jurisdictional dispute? 

Olney: No, no. It was temperamental. It came directly from Hoover. He 

simply was not willing to share information or share responsibility 
for investigations with anyone. His policy was to simply present 
cases to the lawyers in the Department of Justice that includes 
the U.S. Attorneys as well as those in Washington for prosecution 
and develop the cases. But he didn t think it was any function of 
the lawyers to have anything to do with investigations, with studies, 
with plans of campaign and things of this kind. 

Alan Lindsay also came to Washington and he became one of my 
assistants and was just as valuable to me in the Department of 
Justice as he had been on the crime commission. Then he returned 
to California and now he s a superior court judge in Alameda County. 


Stein: Oh, yes. I think his name appears periodically in the newspaper, 

Olney: Yes. Presently he has before him that case that involves the 
Harrises who were embroiled with Patty Hearst. 

Stein: Yes, that s where I saw his name. It sounds like several of the 
investigators had been associated with the FBI. 

Olney: Oh, yes. 

Stein: How had you known them? 

Olney: I didn t. And I didn t recruit them personally. John Hanson 
recruited some when he was chief investigator and then Harold 
Robinson recruited others when he was chief investigator. They, 
of course, were all interviewed by me and were subject to my 
approval. But they knew the investigators in the field much 
better than I did. 

Fred Grange and the Mendocino Trial 

Stein: You were telling me earlier about Fred Grange. This is a story 
that grew out of the Mendocino prosecution? 

Olney: Yes, this involves a man who turned out to be the key witness. The 
first intimation of anything serious in Mendocino County that we 
had was having Sheriff Broaddus of the county walk in and tell us 
that he had been approached by a man who had offered to pay him 
cash in return for freedom to operate slot machines up there at a 
particular place on the Redwood Highway. I ve forgotten the name 
of it. He wanted to know what to do. He had gone first to Jack 
Gleason, the sheriff in Alameda County, and Jack brought him over 
to see us. 

We agreed the thing to do was to go ahead with the deal and we 
would watch it and cover it and see who it was and what happened. 
Sheriff Broaddus did that and he made arrangements to meet this man 
and to have the money paid. We took moving pictures of him meeting 
the sheriff and handing him the envelope; the envelope contained 
money . 

Of course, the man was arrested. That man was named Fred Grange. 
I had run into Fred Grange before. This was in connection with Tony 
Cornero s gambling ship, the Rex, before the war. Grange was the 
bookkeeper and financial manager of the Rex. 


Olney: It seems that Grange had gone to the University of California at 

Davis and graduated in 1925. He was raising wine grapes up in Napa 
County on a ranch called Staggs Leap Manor, which belonged to his 
mother. His mother was well acquainted with Mrs. Stralla, who was 
Tony Cornero s mother, also engaged in raising grapes up in the Napa 

When Tony got involved in these gambling ship operations, he had 
great trouble because he was being stolen blind by the people who 
were working for him. He didn t have any proper set of books to 
keep track of things. Mrs. Grange heard about this from Mrs. Stralla 
and suggested to Mrs. Stralla that Tony ought to employ Fred. So he 
did. Fred went down there and he made the place honest, if you can 
imagine an honest gambling place. The result was that he became 
very good friends with Tony Cornero, and we encountered him on our 
raids on the gambling ship in connection with the money and things 
of this kind. 

When Sheriff Broaddus had this man arrested who was passing 
money, it turned out to be Fred Grange. The resort where they were 
talking about putting these machines was in the name of Tony s 
brother, Stralla, who was the mayor of St. Helena at the time, 
Louie Stralla. Then we were very sure that what we were hitting 
was another Cornero operation, this time on slot machines. Fred 
Grange was really quite a trophy to pick up actually passing money 
to the sheriff. 

We went ahead with the preparation of the case, expecting Fred 
Grange to be the major defendant. But sometime after the indictment 
was returned, I got a long distance telephone call from Los Angeles. 
It was a Los Angeles lawyer named Sammy Rummel, who was a smart, 
able lawyer, but had devoted his life and efforts to defending 
people in the underworld. He was a real hoodlum mouthpiece, and 
known as that. He called me on the phone and told me that he had 
something very important that he wanted to talk with me about and 
that he would come up to San Francisco to see me. He gave me no 
clue at all as to what it was about excepting that it was important 
and that he wanted to see me privately. 

I said, "Well, I m here in the office and you can come in any 
time you want." "No," he said, "I can t come to your office. I ve 
got to see you somewhere else. I ll get a hotel room and phone you 
and you come over and see me in the hotel room." I was very reluc 
tant to do this, not knowing what this was about or what I would be 
getting into. But knowing Rummel, I knew that it must be something 
important because he wouldn t be fooling around with me or playing 
games . So I agreed to do it and arranged with John Hanson and 
others so that when I went over to the hotel, they d cover me. 


Olney: In due course, a day or so later, I got a phone call from Rummel 

and he said he was in San Francisco and he was in a hotel up on Post 
Street someplace and would I come and see him. So I went up to see 
him. He had come up from Los Angeles just for that purpose. 

He said, "I came to see you about this Mendocino County case. I 
know you boys think you ve got a pretty clear idea what happened, 
what this was all about. But I ll tell you right now, you re wrong. 
It s a completely different picture. Fred Grange isn t the important 
figure in this that you people think he is, and I want to tell you 
that Fred is willing to tell you the full story, everything he knows 
about it." 

"Well," I said, "are you representing Grange?" He said, "No, I m 
not. But I ll tell you who I m representing, and this will explain 
why I can t come to your office. This has got to be secret. It 
must be kept secret. I was sent up here by Tony Cornero." I knew 
that he d represented Cornero from time to time. 

He said, "Tony Cornero has told Fred Grange he must go to you 
and tell you the whole story, and he ll do it. He ll plead guilty 
to his attempt to fix the sheriff. The only thing that he wants in 
return for the story is that he not go to prison. He s got that 
Staggs Leap Manor and his mother and his wife and three children, 
and there s nobody to run the place. If he can t take care of it, 
it isn t going to be taken care of and they ll lose it and they ll 
all be in a terrible mess." 

"Well," I said, "that s a big order and, of course, I don t know 
what his story is." 

"Well," he said, "you ll find it s an interesting one." 

I said, "I m not going to make any agreement with you or with 
Fred without knowing what the story is, of course, and we are not 
going to buy any pig in a poke. We will agree that if Fred wants 
to talk to us and tell us truthfully and fully everything that has 
happened, we will not use anything that he said against him at the 
trial or in any other way. But that s the best we could do. And 
as far as making any recommendations for his going to jail or not, 
of course, that s not up to us; it s up to the judge and what he s 
going to do. The most we could do would be to make a recommendation, 
and if Fred performs something that we thought was a service we 
might make a recommendation, but not otherwise." 

He said, "I think that he ll talk to you on that basis. I ll 
arrange to have him come in." 


Olney: I said, "What s Tony Coriiero got to do with this? What did he send 
you up here for?" 

"Well," he said, "Cornero s known Grange all these years you 
know he has and when Grange got into trouble the first thing he 
did was to go south to see Tony. As a matter of fact, they had a 
meeting out at Tony s house. Caddel and Lentz and others from the 
Howser office were there, as well as Grange, and they were all 
commiserating with Grange that he d gotten knocked off in this 
fashion and were feeling very sorry for him. But when they left 
and Tony was there with Grange alone, Tony said to him, Fred, these 
fellows aren t going to do anything for you. They won t give you a 
nickel. Not one of them offered even to assist you in your defense. 
The thing you need to do is go up and tell Warren Olney what hap 
pened, and don t worry about these fellows. Take care of yourself. " 

Well, this is what the man said, so I waited to see what would 
happen next. In due course, Fred did come up from the south and we 
made arrangements to talk to him. We interviewed him for a day or 
two with a court reporter while he told us all about his involvement 
in this, how he got into it and the part that these others played. 
It was evident that, if his story was true, Buck Caddel and Mulligan 
and all these others were deeply involved. This was a part of a 
scheme to set up a protection system all over the state. It was 
quite evident that Tony Cornero and Louie Stralla had nothing to do 
with this. 

We took this story from Fred Grange in great detail, thinking 
that we could find some corroboration for his story. But we checked 
everything out; everything that we checked was consistent with his 
story. He spoke of staying in various hotels, and various phone 
calls, and things of this kind, and all of that checked out. We 
found the registrations, we got the telephone records and they were 
consistent with his story, everything of that kind. 

But that isn t corroboration. To get corroboration, you need to 
have something that also shows not mere involvement in the actions, 
but shows a consciousness of wrongdoing on some person s part. And 
that was lacking. We couldn t find any corroborating evidence. I 
had told Rummel that if we couldn t find any corroboration, we 
weren t going to use Fred as a witness. It would have to be cor 
roborated. And after weeks of thorough investigation and the date 
of the trial getting close, we had no corroboration. 

Finally I realized that I must tell Rummel and Fred that he was 
just going to have to stand trial and tell any story on the witness 
stand he wanted to tell. We wouldn t use what he d told us against 
him, but we couldn t use him as a witness without corroboration. 


Olney: I had a difficult time in getting a hold of Rummel. He was a man who 
had innumerable irons in the fire, and I finally tracked him down in 
Las Vegas. So I flew all the way to Las Vegas in a thunderstorm one 
night to meet him at the airport in Las Vegas and tell him that we 
couldn t find any corroboration and that we weren t going to use Fred 
as a witness. He was going to have to be a defendant. He was very 
surprised that we couldn t get corroboration, and at first he thought 
I was pulling a fast one on him. But I persuaded him that we couldn t. 
That meant that Fred would have to get a lawyer and it was going to 
be pretty complicated. 

Admiral Standley, who was the commission chairman, was also a 
director of Pan American Airways, and he had taken a long inspection 
trip of Pan American s operations in the Pacific and in Hong Kong and 
places like that. He finally came back. He was due back about this 
time and we were going to have a commission meeting. I met him at 
the plane and drove him up to Ukiah; his old home was in Ukiah. He 
came from there. He d been gone for months. I hadn t seen him for 
a long time and he asked me how things were going and what the state 
was of this case in Mendocino County. I gave him a fill-in. 

On the way up, he mentioned to me the experience that he had had 
with Buck Caddel at the last commission meeting. That took place 
the very day that Fred Grange was arrested passing this money. We 
knew that the arrest was going to take place on that day. So we 
had deliberately called a commission meeting in Los Angeles and we 
asked Lentz and Caddel and others to appear at that meeting to 
discuss this slot machine situation. They were there in the meeting 
at the very time that the arrest happened. We were asking them 
questions as to whether they knew Grange and whether they knew a lot 
of other people. 

The admiral told me that after that meeting they went down to the 
men s room and Caddel was down there and so was the admiral. The 
admiral said to Caddel, "Mr. Caddel, I m not very experienced with 
the vocabulary that I ve been hearing today. What in the world is 
a bag man?" Caddel told him that the bag man was the fellow who 
went around and collected the protection money for officials. He 
said, "Like Mulligan. Mulligan s the bag man for this operation." 

When the admiral told me that I realized we had the corroboration 
we d been looking for from none other than the admiral. It was 
Caddel himself telling Admiral Standley that Mulligan was the bag 
man for this operation. We couldn t do any better. So I said, 
"Well, Admiral, would you tell me again just what was said." And 
he went over it carefully. I said, "Now, this is probably more 
important than you might think. Are you sure about it?" He said, 
"I m positive about it." And I said, "It s so important that you 
probably ought to be a witness to testify to it." "Well," he said, 
"I ll testify to it. It happened." 


Olney: At the last minute we switched signals and decided that we did have 
corroboration and we could use Fred Grange with the admiral to cor 
roborate him, and we did. It changed the whole complexion of the 
trial so that Grange, instead of being the main defendant, was a 
principal witness. 

During this period we got well acquainted with Fred Grange and I 
talked to him many times about Cornero. He told me this experience 
that he d had with Cornero during World War II. The gambling ships, 
of course, had been shut down just as the war got going, and Fred 
lost track of Cornero. He went back to the Napa Valley. But they 
weren t doing anything very much up there, weren t making any money. 

Fred got the idea that because you couldn t import champagne from 
France during the war the Germans were occupying the area that if 
you could import French champagne from Cuba, you could make a killing. 
He had some contacts and arrangements that convinced him that he 
could go to Cuba and be able to buy French champagne and ship it in. 
So he started off to make his trip and he got as far as Miami, 

He was by himself and he went out to a restaurant somewhere to 
eat and who did he run into but Tony Cornero. Tony was glad to see 
him and patted him on the back and said, "Let s go out and have a 
time," and they went out to some Florida gambling place out there. 
Tony moved into his hotel and took the next room and they proceeded 
to spend the next few days going all over Florida, looking at the 
Florida gambling operations [laughter], until Fred got just completely 
fed up with it and decided he wasn t making any progress on his deal, 
and he told Tony that he was going to leave the next day for Havana. 
Tony said, "Well, Fred, I m going to go with you." And he did. 

The two of them went to Havana together. They went to a hotel in 
Havana and got rooms together and then proceeded to look the town 
over. During the daytime Fred was trying to make his negotiations 
for the champagne and at night they d go out and look at the gambling 
houses in Havana. 

One night they went to a very, very plush gambling house. The 
gentlemen were all in evening clothes and the ladies in long dresses 
and it was a very plush joint. Tony was in there feeling no pain, 
and they visited the bars all the way along the line, and he got very 
vociferous and critical of the operation. He remarked in loud tones 
that they didn t know how to run a place and that this might be 
fancy but it was a jerk joint and you couldn t make any money in 
that kind of an operation, and derogatory remarks of that sort, with 
the result that a man came over, dressed in his evening clothes, and 
said, "Mr. Cornero, I ve been listening with interest to your comments 


Olney: on the inadequacies of our operation. And it does occur to me that 
maybe you have a point. I own this place. Perhaps you might like 
to buy it." After some more boasting around, Tony agreed to buy 
the damn thing and they entered an agreement right then and there 
to purchase it. 

The next morning when Fred and Tony woke up and they realized 
what they d done, he said, "My god, I ve got to take possession of 
that place in five days! Fred, you ve got to help me! I want you 
there as my manager. You ve got to help me on this thing." Fred 
said, "How can I help you? I can t speak Spanish." And Tony said, 
"Well, you ve got to. You ve got to learn. You ve got to do some 

They went down to breakfast and they were talking about where 
Fred could learn Spanish. Not knowing where else to ask, they asked 
their waitress where he could learn to speak Spanish. She spoke 
English well and she said, "Well, if you really want lessons, I can 
give you Spanish lessons." So they signed up. She undertook to 
teach Fred Spanish. In five days she did teach him to count, anyway. 

They took possession of this place and then Tony proceeded to run 
it in his fashion. His philosophy was that you made far more money 
out of a mass gambling operation than anything else. The two- or 
three-dollar bet was what he liked, not these big heavy bets. So 
they opened it up and had huge crowds of people coming in and out 
and made quite a success out of it. 

Meanwhile, Fred was trying to learn more and more Spanish. He 
was taking lessons from this waitress-teacher all this time. He 
got pretty proficient with his Spanish. 

They operated that thing for about two years and put it on a very 
well-paying basis. Then one night, just out of the dark, you might 
say, a gentleman appeared. It was the same man who d sold them the 
place in the first place. He was [Cuban President Fulgencio] 
Batista s chief of police in Havana. He said, "Mr. Cornero, Mr. 
Grange, I ve got a couple of tickets here for you. You re due to 
take the next plane for Miami. You ll be leaving in an hour and a 
half." [laughter] And that s all they had, an hour and a half. 
Then the police chief put them on the plane and shot them back to 
Florida without time to get anything. They d made enough money so 
that they weren t out of pocket. But they had turned the thing 
into a real profitable operation, so he just took it back. 

When Fred got to Florida, in due course he got a letter from 
his waitress-Spanish teacher reminding him that he had promised her 
that if he ever went back to the United States, he would do every 
thing he could so that she could come to the United States. She 


Olney: wanted to come to the United States. Fred says this was a strictly 
platonic relationship that they had, and he did make inquiry because 
he had given her these assurances. But he couldn t find any way in 
which a Cuban woman could come into the United States during the 
war, unless she got married to an American citizen. So he wrote 
her this and he got a letter back. 

She was in great distress because she d really been looking for 
ward to coming to the United States. This upset him considerably, 
so he wrote and said, "Well, if you really want to come and the only 
way you can do it is to get married, maybe you can get married by 
proxy and come as the wife of an American citizen." She agreed she 
would do that. So Fred was the proxy, and they got married by a 
telephone or cable or something . 

She came to the United States and she had no place to go, and he 
had had to claim responsibility for her. He sent for her and sent 
her up to his mother s ranch, Staggs Leap Manor. She was there as 
his wife, and she hadn t been there more than about ten days or two 
weeks and she came downstairs one day in tears. She didn t like the 
United States. It was too cold and the people just run around and 
are so busy and no time for anything and she didn t like it. She 
wanted to go home. So he shipped her back to Cuba. 

About two weeks after that he got a letter from her in which she 
changed her mind entirely and said Cuba was just awful. It s so 
sleepy and dull and nothing ever happens, and she wanted to come 
back to the United States. So he brought her back to the United 
States. Then he decided, "We re married, so why don t we be 
married." So they went to living together up at Staggs Leap Manor 
and, at the time that he was telling me this story, she had three 

Stein: So that was the wife, then, on whose behalf Rummel was appealing. 

Olney: Yes, that was his wife. Fred testified and after the case was 

over, when it came to his being sentenced, we gave the full story 
to the judge, and he put him on probation for something like four 
years, and Fred was able to keep the ranch going and keep it 
together. But he had an awfully hard time because everybody took 
advantage of him. They knew he was on probation and he just got 
cheated right and left all the time. There s no doubt that happened, 
and it was a very rough experience, indeed. 

After about two or three years of that, we went with him before 
the judge and gave him, again, the full story of what happened to 
Fred, and the judge terminated the probation to the period he d 


Olney: already served. But later he died. I don t remember whether it 
was tuberculosis or cancer, one or the other. And I don t know 
what s happened to the Cuban. 

Stein: For all we know, she might still be up there in Napa Valley. 

A Postscript on Two Underworld Figures 

Olney: The other part of it was that shortly after this, Rummel he had a 
house up in that canyon back of Hollywood; it s the main road that 
goes through the canyon through the hills back of Hollywood he had 
a very nice house up in there. He was representing some captains in 
the Los Angeles Police Department that the grand jury was investi 
gating, as well as his usual run of cases: gamblers and whatnot. 
He also was a lawyer for some of these Las Vegas gambling outfits. 
Late one night, after a session with the grand jury when his men 
had been down there, he came home to his house and was going up 
the steps and there was somebody in the bushes who blasted him with 
a sawed-off shotgun, threw the gun down, and vanished. It was a 
paid assassination. The gun was untraceable. No one was ever 
arrested for it, and really no one was suspected because Rummel had 
so many underworld contacts. There were so many people who had 
motives that you couldn t settle on anything. 

Then, not long after that, Tony Cornero, who was still in 
Beverly Hills, had his doorbell ring and there was a man with a 
box of flowers to present to him, only the box had a gun in it and 
he shot him right through the belly. It didn t kill him, but they 
had to take most of his ins ides out and he never was the same 
again. Life was tough for him. 

After that he got the idea of building a night club up in Las 
Vegas, and he had one built which is called the Stardust, I think. 
Once again, it was on other people s money. Tony never put up 
money of his own. It was always other people he got to put up the 
money. But the Stardust was finally constructed and it was getting 
ready to open, and they had retained Morton Downey, the singer, for 
the opening night. It was to be a big event. A night or two 
before it was to open up, Tony was in Las Vegas and he went across 
the street to the Dunes Club, I think it was, early in the morning 
and got into a crap game. He threw the dice out on the table and 
he toppled over on the table dead. Died of a heart attack right 
there at the gaming table. 

Stein: That s an appropriate end for him. 


Olney: Yes. Then they had a funeral. They removed his body to Beverly 
Hills and had a funeral at his home which was really quite an 
affair. It was attended by gamblers and hoodlums from all over 
the United States. Of course, it was well attended by police as 
well. They were taking down everybody s license number and identi 
fying the people who were there and all that kind of thing. Morton 
Downey took part in the funeral. This was reported in the paper. 
This is where I get my information on this. At the funeral he was 
to sing Tony Cornero s favorite hymn; they described it as a hymn. 
But the song that he sang was none other than "The Wabash Cannon- 
ball." [laughter] So he really came to an appropriate end, 
considering the kind of life he d led. 


[Interview 9: March 25, 1974] 

Teaching at Boalt Hall 

Stein: One of the things that I was curious about was that you mentioned 
that you were teaching at the University of California s Boalt 
Hall [law school] and at the School of Criminology before you got 
the call to come to Washington, and I wondered what you were 
teaching . 

Olney: Criminal law in both places. There was a course in the general 
principles and background of criminal law which I gave for the 
School of Criminology. O.W. Wilson was the dean at the time. And 
then I taught the initial course in the law school when I say 
"initial," I mean it was always a first-year course in criminal 

Stein: An introductory course. That sounds something like the courses 
that Arthur Sherry teaches now in both places. 

Olney: That s right. I also had another course. This was a seminar that 

I gave on organized crime. I had to limit that to keep it a seminar 
to something like, I think it was, fifteen students. I had those 
three courses. 

Stein: I guess by that time you were quite an expert on organized crime. 

Olney: I was familiar with some parts of it to say the least. Although 

I was a full professor and this was supposed to be a full teaching 
load, I was also still counsel for the second crime commission. I 
had Alan Lindsay helping me with the crime commission. Alan, I 
found, could also double for me in my courses. 


Olney: If it had not been for Alan, I don t think I could have kept things 
together, because the demands of the crime commission were very 
sudden, and I couldn t refuse them; I had to take care of them when 
the necessity arose. By having Alan working on both things with 
me, it made it possible to keep the courses going and still be 
counsel. I really think he was a better teacher than I, and I think 
the students did all right. 

Stein: Did you enjoy teaching? 

Olney: Well, I enjoyed the seminar very much, but I was very much disap 
pointed with the law school, with teaching the course there, because 
the class was so large it was something over one hundred students 
and this meant that I could not use the case book method of instruc 
tion, where you assign cases to be studied and then have a dialogue 
about them during the classroom hours, calling on one student after 
another. With that kind of a method, I couldn t possibly get around 
the class in the course of a whole year. 

So, I had to revert to lectures. I didn t know what else to 
revert to, how else to do it. This was disappointing. It meant 
that I was doing all the talking, and it also meant that I did not 
get acquainted with the students in my class. I don t know now who 
they were. Every once in a while I ll run across someone who says 
that he took that course, but I wouldn t have known it. 

Another thing about the school that surprised me very much, and 
I still don t regard it with approval, was the lack of any kind of 
plan or overview of what was being taught or how it was being 
taught . 

I had never done any teaching before I was asked to take on this 
position. I thought that of course there would be some sort of 
indoctrination course for new professors, new people who were under 
taking teaching, about methods, about lectures, about case books 
that were accepted, but particularly about examinations, which was 
a difficult thing to do, how to prepare proper examinations and how 
to evaluate them when you got the results. When I made inquiry 
about this, I was regarded as I don t know whether to say as an 
idiot, or somebody who was absolutely subversive. They thought 
that this infringed on academic freedom and it was simply against 
all precedent for one professor to make the slightest suggestion to 
another about how he might do this or might do that in conducting 
his courses. 

Well, no professor ever came in and listened to my courses to 
see how I was doing, and I realized that it would be out of order 
for me to go and sit in their courses and try to pick up something 
in the way of technique. Frankly, I don t think that was a good 


Olney: attitude. I don t know whether it still prevails or not, but I 

think it s ridiculous to talk about assists in teaching methods as 
being infringements on academic freedom. Well, so much for that, 
[telephone interruption] 

Anyway, when I did decide to take this appointment in Washington, 
Arthur Sherry is the one who succeeded me. He took over my courses 
and finished them. He and Alan had both been working on our final 
report for the crime commission, so that the final report went ahead 
and was put out and edited by Arthur and by Alan Lindsay. 

Coming to Washington 

[Subsequent to this portion of the interview, Mr. Olney wrote an 
account of why he joined the Justice Department. Since this 
account was more complete than the tape-recorded interview, it 
has been substituted here for the relevant portion of the interview 
transcript. ] 

Why I Joined the Department of Justice 

Olney: During these years of the Watergate scandals in the Nixon administra 
tion with their unsavory revelations of subservience, dishonesty, 
and malfeasance of many of the principal men in authority in the 
Department of Justice, I have been asked, delicately but nonetheless 
pointedly, by children, grandchildren, and friends who know that I 
served from 1953 to 1957 as assistant attorney general in charge of 
the criminal division, how I ever got into such a can of worms as 
the Justice Department.* 

If the Department of Justice can be called "a can of worms" now, 
it is also true that in 1952, and for some years before, the reputa 
tion of the department for honesty and integrity, and of the Truman 
administration generally, had been sinking lower and lower. Con 
gressional investigations had revealed widespread influence peddling, 
strong suspicions of wholesale fixing of income tax cases, and other 
acts of malfeasance. President Truman had been forced to fire his 
attorney general, former Senator Howard McGrath of Rhode Island, 
because of his refusal to disclose his own sources of income or the 
sources of income of his assistants in the Justice Department to a 
special appointee of the president s charged with the duty of 
investigating allegations of graft in the department. These and 
many other occurrences had badly shaken public confidence in the 
department. The general reputation of the department in 1952 was, 

See Appendix E. 


Olney: in my opinion, about as low as it has been during Richard Nixon s 
last years in office. Nevertheless, in January, 1953, I accepted 
appointment as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal 
division. What follows is my explanation of what induced me to 
undertake that responsibility. 

By the spring of 1952 the active work of the second Special 
Crime Study Commission on Organized Crime of the State of California, 
for which I had been chief counsel, was nearly at an end. I had 
resumed my full-time teaching activities on the Berkeley campus of 
the University of California in the School of Law and in the School 
of Criminology. At the same time the final report of the commission 
was being prepared and in this work I was being assisted by Alan A. 
Lindsay and Arthur Sherry, both of whom had been very active in the 
commission s work and knew it thoroughly. 

The commission s report would, of course, be drafted by the staff, 
submitted by the commission to the director of the Department of 
Corrections, and through him to Governor Earl Warren. 

1952 was an election year. As early as the spring it seemed 
probable that Governor Earl Warren would be a candidate for the 
presidency of the United States. I believed the governor would 
make a fine president, but I was in no position to take an active 
part in his campaign. During the summer the party conventions were 
held, the Democrats nominating Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, 
and the Republicans General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Neither candidate 
filled me with any very strong enthusiasm. It was true that Adlai 
Stevenson had a good record as governor of Illinois and was exper 
ienced in civil government and domestic politics, which is an 
important qualification for a president. During the campaign, 
Governor Stevenson did not make a very good impression on me, at 
least. He seemed to be brilliant and witty, but somehow uncertain 
and indecisive as to his objectives and even as to whether he wanted 
to be president at all. While General Eisenhower had never held a 
domestic public office, nor taken any part in domestic politics, he 
had had a most extraordinary background of experience in Europe, 
dealing with all kinds of different people and different nations. 
His record seemed to indicate that he had real powers of leadership 
and the ability to make decisions. 

During the campaign Elizabeth, my wife, and I vacillated between 
these candidates, although we both ended up voting for General 

There were two incidents in the campaign that caused me to have 
misgivings about the general. The first was the general s reaction 
or, rather, lack of reaction to a speech made by Senator Joseph 
McCarthy of Wisconsin, in which he referred to General George 


Olney: Marshall as a "traitor." General Marshall, in my opinion, was one 

of the great men of the age and as fine, true, and loyal an American 
as our country has ever produced . He was the author of the famous 
Marshall Plan which saved Europe from anarchy after World War II and 
he had been President Truman s secretary of state. Furthermore, 
Eisenhower was deeply obligated to General Marshall because it was 
General Marshall who had given Eisenhower his opportunities of 
command from the time he was only a lieutenant colonel and who had 
finally been instrumental in selecting General Eisenhower as the 
Commander in Chief for the Allied Armies in Europe. Yet, when 
Senator McCarthy made his outrageous accusation against General 
Marshall, General Eisenhower remained silent. Indeed, during the 
campaign he even appeared on one occasion in Wisconsin on the same 
platform with Senator McCarthy. To me this did not seem to show the 
moral courage to be expected of a President of the United States. 

The second incident of the campaign that gave me misgivings 
about General Eisenhower as a future president was his treatment of 
his running mate for the vice-presidency, Richard Nixon. During the 
campaign it came to light that Richard Nixon, while serving in the 
United States Senate, had been the recipient and beneficiary of a 
large slush fund contributed by a group of rich men in Los Angeles, 
the money having apparently been used by Nixon to pay travel and 
other personal expenses. This had all been done in secrecy. The 
public reaction was most unfavorable and there were demands from 
many fellow Republicans that his name be removed from the ticket. 
Nixon announced that he would go on television and make a public 
explanation of the slush fund. The result was what is usually 
called the "Checkers Speech," Checkers being the name of the Nixon 
family dog. The gist of Nixon s explanation of the slush fund was 
that he needed the money, but he accompanied this with an intolerable 
amount of corn about Mrs. Nixon s Republican cloth coat, in contrast 
to the mink coats of the Truman administration, and with tear- 
jerking remarks about the family dog, Checkers. After hearing the 
speech I thought there was no doubt that Nixon would be removed 
from the ticket, so I was very surprised to see on TV the next day 
General Eisenhower put his arm around Nixon and say, "Dick, you re 
my boy." Notwithstanding all this, I did vote for General 
Eisenhower . 

In November of 1952, General Eisenhower was elected President of 
the United States to take office in January, 1953. I had no expec 
tation that this election would affect me personally. Because of 
the extensive publicity I had received in my work for the crime 
commission, there was speculation in the press that the new 
administration might appoint me United States Attorney for the 
Northern District of California. This was no more than speculation 
and I did nothing to pursue it, although I admit I would have con 
sidered such an appointment seriously. Shortly after the election 
the newspapers reported that President-elect Eisenhower intended to 


Olney: nominate Herbert Brownell, Jr. Attorney General of the United States 
and William P. Rogers as deupty attorney general. I had never met 
Mr. Brownell and only knew that he had been General Eisenhower s 
campaign manager and was an old friend and political associate of 
Governor Thomas Dewey of New York. I did know Mr. Rogers, however, 
who was to be deputy attorney general. The circumstances are rather 
curious and are as follows. 

A year or two before, when the Special Crime Study Commission on 
Organized Crime was active and was receiving a good deal of publicity, 
Fred Howser, who was then attorney general of California, filed a 
libel suit in Washington, B.C. against Drew Pearson, the newspaper 
columnist, because of an article that Pearson had published in 
Washington and elsewhere in the United States, stating or at least 
intimating that he, Howser, had taken bribes from bookmakers some 
years previously when he was a city prosecutor in Long Beach, 
California. To represent him in this libel suit, Pearson retained 
William P. Rogers of Washington, D.C. 

Rogers came to California to interview witnesses in preparation 
for the trial. Pearson s newspaper story was based on a statement 
he had taken from an informer who had tried to sell the same story 
to the crime commission before ever talking to Pearson. Rogers 
interviewed me extensively about this informer and his story and 
whether we thought it was believable. I told Rogers that we had 
investigated the informer s story thoroughly but could find no 
corroboration for his statements. The informer wanted us to put 
him on the payroll and with this objective we suspected that he was 
merely telling us what he thought we wanted to hear. I told Mr. 
Rogers that we could not vouch for the informant s credibility, 
that we had not accepted his story, although we had not been able 
to prove that it was untrue. 

When the case came to trial, Mr. Rogers asked me to come to 
Washington to be available as a witness if needed, and this I did, 
taking Elizabeth with me. Mr. Rogers defended the case successfully 
without the necessity of having to call me as a witness at all, for 
which I was very glad. 

After the taking of testimony was over, Drew Pearson had a little 
dinner party at his unique house on Dumbarton Street in Georgetown. 
There Elizabeth and I met Mr. Rogers wife, Adele, for the first 
time. We were both charmed by her and Mr. Rogers as well and I was 
full of admiration for Mr. Rogers qualities as a trial lawyer. 
While I was getting to know Mr. Rogers, he was becoming equally 
familiar with the work of the Special Crime Study Commission on 
Organized Crime in California and with my work as its chief counsel, 
but I had no thought that this would affect my future. 


Olney: On a day in early December, 1952, I was in my office in the law 

school with Elizabeth, who was helping me with some of my personal 
files. The telephone rang and I asked her to answer it. I heard a 
voice open the conversation by saying to her, "Elizabeth, this is 
Bill Rogers in Washington. How would you like to come here to live?" 
There was quite a long pause and then, "Bill, now that you ask, I 
really do not think I would like to live in Washington." "Oh yes, 
you would," he said, "You would just love it here." After some 
more of the same, he asked to speak to me. 

When I got on the telephone he asked me if I knew that General 
Eisenhower intended to nominate Herbert Brownell to be attorney 
general and that he, Rogers, was to be nominated as deputy attorney 
general. I told him I had read about it in the newspapers. "Well," 
he said, "we want you to be an assistant attorney general and to 
take charge of the criminal division." 

I m not going to try to repeat any more of the conversation. I 
was taken utterly by surprise. I do recall expressing my gratifica 
tion and appreciation of the suggested appointment and I know that 
I was most emphatic that I did not want to leave California or the 
University, and did not believe that it was necessary for me to 
change my life and the life of my family so drastically. 

Mr. Rogers did not attempt to persuade me over the telephone to 
change my mind, but he did tell me that Mr. Brownell was requesting 
specifically that I come to New York to talk with him about the 
position. He made it clear that I would not be committing myself 
to any extent by making this trip. He made the point that the offer 
of a presidential appointment is usually regarded as an honor and 
that a decent respect for the honor and proper regard for the man 
offering it would indicate that at least I should talk the matter 
over with Mr. Brownell when he asked to see me and not reject an 
appointment as important as this right out of hand. I couldn t 
resist this line of argument and accordingly agreed to make the 

Mr. Brownell was in New York City and according to Mr. Rogers 
I could see him in Mr. Brownell s law office just as soon as I 
could get there. When I agreed to go I reminded Mr. Rogers that 
with the Korean War in progress I had no priority on the airlines 
and would therefore have to make the trip by railroad train. 

A day or so later I succeeded in getting a compartment on the 
Southern Pacific s City of San Francisco as far as Chicago. I had 
made my first transcontinental railroad trip at the age of twelve 
and I had made a good many thereafter. This trip to see Mr. 
Brownell was over the same route and I thought it would probably 


Olney: be my last transcontinental trip on a railroad train. I took a good 
look at the scenery which had become fairly familiar over the years . 
Because of the war conditions, it was impossible to make an advance 
reservation to travel from Chicago to New York. It was with very 
great difficulty that I finally succeeded in getting space on the 
Pennsylvania and finally arrived in New York. I notified Mr. 
Brownell of my arrival and at his request called upon him at number 
25 Broadway in the law offices of the firm of Lord, Day and Lord. 

I thought I was well prepared for my interview with Mr. Brownell. 
On the train on the way to New York I had had plenty of time to 
marshal all the arguments against disrupting my academic life in 
California. I knew that I did not want to go to Washington under 
any circumstances or for any position. I entered Mr. Brownell s 
office with the confident expectation of convincing him of the 
validity and sincerity of my reasons. In any case, after expressing 
my thanks for the confidence and honor he had done me, I would 
decline any appointment in Washington. I had discussed this at 
length with Elizabeth before leaving Berkeley and had assured her 
that this was the position I expected to take. 

It turned out that I was not prepared for Mr. Brownell. The 
press of the day liked to picture him as an astute, slick political 
type. I had had too much experience with the press to assume that 
this picture was true, but it is evident that I did not know 
exactly what to expect. Accordingly, it was with surprise that I 
found myself encountering a man who was obviously friendly, natural, 
and easy, who seemed utterly free of affectation and yet possessed 
a great personal dignity. He seemed to exhibit integrity in both 
manner and speech. Obviously he was highly intelligent and he 
seemed on first impression to be a man with powers of decision and 
one well qualified to run a large law office or administer a large 
governmental department. 

Mr. Brownell was not impatient with the reasons I advanced for 
wanting to continue my life in California and, indeed, showed under 
standing and sympathy for my position. He parried my personal argu 
ments by describing the extraordinary opportunity for public service 
in the Department of Justice under the then existing circumstances. 
The proper administration of justice, he believed, was the most 
important single function of government. Neither the legislative 
not executive branches of government could function effectively and 
attain their true ends excepting on a foundation of justice. To 
attain justice, the laws, both civil and criminal, in his opinion, 
must be applied humanely and intelligently to everyone alike without 
regard for race or religion or politics or economic power. Mr. 
Brownell said that as of that time, the Department of Justice was 
not well regarded by the public. There had been so many scandals 

June 5, 1976, 50th wedding anniversary of Elizabeth 
and Warren Olney III, with children Elizabeth Olney 
Anderson, Warren Olney IV, and Margaret Olney. 

Elizabeth and Warren Olney III departing from the 
Oakland Airport for President Eisenhower s inaugural 
ceremonies and his new post as assistant U.S. Attorney 
General and chief of the Justice Department crimes 

\ To fti o t-ir 1 Q ^ "5 


Olney: that the public had lost confidence, not only in the department but 
in the courts as well. He regarded this as a very serious matter 
and one which must be changed for the best interest of the country. 
He believed that the new administration had a great opportunity to 
make such a change and it was the hope of attaining this goal 
restoring public confidence in the administration of justice that 
had led him to accept appointment as attorney general. This was the 
work he hoped I would assist and share. 

Mr. Brownell said he thought the criminal division was of first 
importance. Because criminal cases always draw so much publicity, 
the public tended to judge the whole department according to how 
fairly and efficiently they felt the criminal law was being admin 
istered. In view of this he said that he felt he should have an 
assistant in charge of the criminal division in whom he could have 
sufficient confidence to delegate practically all the major decisions. 
This was necessary, he explained, because the department was so very 
large with so many intricate matters that no attorney general could 
expect to decide all important matters himself. He told me that if 
I were to accept the position, he would delegate to me full respon 
sibility for deciding the matters that came across my desk. There 
would be, of course, occasions when I would want to consult with 
him or when he would want to be consulted before action was taken, 
but these would be decisions reached by consultation and not march 
ing orders. He said there would be no interference in criminal 
cases from above, either from him or from any other department or 
agency or even from the White House, although he trusted that when 
I did take action I would always let him know in advance what to 
expect so that he would not be taken by surprise and would try to 
avoid giving offense elsewhere unnecessarily. He spoke of my past 
experience with organized crime and racketeers and expressed the 
hope that I would make good use of this experience and would develop 
more effective methods for dealing with the rackets at the federal 
level than had been used up to that time. He told me that this was 
one of the reasons he regarded me as particularly well qualified to 
take on the criminal division. 

As Mr. Brownell described his concept of what the Department of 
Justice could and should be, I heard him putting my own ideals into 
words. As he described the importance and urgency of the work to be 
done, I realized it was a conviction which I shared. And as he 
described what he thought should be done in the criminal division, 
I realized as I had not before that the work he was asking me to do 
was directly in line with and a logical development from the work I 
had been doing in California. Furthermore, as I watched him and 
listened to him, the conviction came to me that here was a man to 
whom I could be loyal and who would be loyal to me and who would 
support me as long as I was trying to carry out the kind of programs 
and concepts that he was describing. I began to realize that when 
asked, I could not in good conscience refuse to take part in such an 
important and worthwhile effort. 


Olney: I do not know how long we talked, but at the end I found myself, to 
my surprise, agreeing to serve. "Fine," said Mr. Brownell, "Now I 
want to take you to meet General Eisenhower." We went to the 
general s suite in the Commodore Hotel. There I was introduced to 
the general by Mr. Brownell, who told him I had agreed to take 
charge of the criminal division. The general expressed his gratifi 
cation, said he was sure the task would not be easy or simple, and 
he expressed his confidence in my ability to perform. 

Following this brief interview with General Eisenhower, I left 
Mr. Brownell and went back to my hotel wondering about the conse 
quences of what I had done. I have never regretted the decision. 
The experience of the following years has shown that the impression 
of Mr. Brownell that I formed at the first meeting was a true one. 
In my work in the criminal division he supported me without fail 
on everything that could be regarded as a moral or ethical issue. 
On lesser matters when his views differed from mine, he was always 
reasonable, he always explained his reasons, more often than not 
he ended convincing me that he was right, and even if he didn t, 
I was always able to retain full confidence in his motivation and 

I did not consult with anyone about accepting this appointment. 
It would have been most natural for me to advise with Governor Earl 
Warren, who had been my friend for so long, but I did not do so 
because when I left California I fully expected to decline the 
offer. I changed my mind and made the decision to alter the whole 
direction of my career on the basis solely of those few minutes 
when I first met with Mr. Brownell. 

I am not the only one who so responded to Mr. Brownell s person 
ality and leadership. Judge Stanley Barnes is another case in 
point. For some weeks or even months Mr. Brownell had difficulty 
in finding a man with what he regarded as proper qualifications to 
take on the antitrust division. He wanted someone with integrity 
and courage, with broad trial experience and recognized standing 
in the profession, but who had not been a representative of the 
big business interests that are the main target of the antitrust 
laws. Finally the name of Stanley Barnes was suggested. At that 
time, Stanley Barnes was chief judge of the largest trial court in 
the world, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, a position of 
much importance and good potential future prospects for anyone 
interested in a career on the bench. 

I had known "Stan" Barnes for years and one day he dropped into 
my office in Washington. He asked me how I liked being in the 
Department of Justice and then told me that he had been called back 
to Washington by Mr. Brownell, who had offered to recommend his 
appointment as the assistant attorney general in charge of the 
antitrust division. 


Olney: "Of course, I feel flattered and honored," he told me, "but I had to 
tell Mr. Brownell that I could not possibly consider it. I am very 
happy where I am and do not want to leave California." 

I made no comment about this and we went on to other things. 
However, when Stan got up to leave I said, "I am looking forward to 
seeing you again shortly." 

"What do you mean?" he said as he reached the door. 

"I think you will find that Mr. Brownell is a very persuasive 
man," I said, and Stanley left. 

Only a week or so later Stan was back in Washington and the first 
thing he said to me was, "You are indeed right. Herbert Brownell 
can be a very persuasive man." Stan had accepted appointment to 
the antitrust division. 

I do not happen to know the circumstances of the appointment of 
Mr. Brownell s other assistants, but I do know that he succeeded in 
bringing into the department to head the several divisions as fine 
a group of men and lawyers as I have ever known. They included 
John V. Lindsay, executive assistant to the attorney general; 
William P. Rogers, deputy attorney general; Simon Soboloff , solicitor 
general; J. Lee Rankin, office of legal counsel; Stanley N. Barnes, 
antitrust division; H. Brian Holland, tax division; Warren E. 
Burger, civil division; Perry W. Morton, lands division; and Dallas 
Townsend, office of alien property. The character and ability of 
these men under Mr. Brownell s leadership restored discipline and 
morale within the department and respect and good name outside the 
department. When Mr. Brownell resigned in 1957, the Department of 
Justice was no can of worms. It was an honest, well administered 
public law office of good repute. 

At the time I went to New York City to see Mr. Brownell, my 
daughter Margaret was studying in the Quaker School at Pendle Hill. 
Following my interviews with Mr. Brownell and General Eisenhower, 
she went to dinner with me and then we went to see the musical, 
"The King and I." It was Christmas Eve. The next morning, 
Christmas Day, I set out for home. At this time I was able to get 
air transportation on one of TWA s Constellations. There was no 
trouble about reservations. Indeed, on Christmas Day I had the 
plane practically to myself. The flight was unusually scenic. The 
Middle West and the Rocky Mountains were covered solid with snow. 
The visibility was unbelievably good. As we crossed the Mississippi 
and were flying over Iowa, the thought occurred to me that somewhere 
on the ground that was within the range of my eyesight was the place 
where my grandfather had lived with his parents only one hundred 
years before in a little one-room cabin with no shoes for his feet, 


Olney: no school, no money, as he has related in the account of his life 
that he started for his grandchildren. Here was I, the grandson 
whom he had known, on an incredible flight over what had been such 
a primitive backwoods only a hundred years ago. 

I arrived home in due course and on Christmas night announced to 
the assembled family that contrary to all the declarations I had 
made on departing for New York, I had accepted appointment as 
Assistant Attorney General of the United States and that we were 
going to move to Washington, D.C. This was probably not the most 
welcome Christmas present for Elizabeth. She was enjoying University 
life. Yet, she uttered no word of complaint but immediately began 
planning for the move. 

[the interview transcript resumes] 

Olney: Now, it was about Christmas that I had told Mr. Brownell that I 

would accept this appointment. The inauguration was on January 20, 
so we had to make arrangements to leave Berkeley and go to Washing 
ton. We kept our home here in Berkeley deliberately. The reason 
was that I was of the view that I wouldn t last long. 

The criminal division is the most explosive division in the 
department, and the political life of an assistant in charge of 
the criminal division is notoriously short. I was convinced that 
mine would be too, not because of disagreements or things of that 
kind that might arise between me and the attorney general I didn t 
think that would happen, and it never did but the cases and the 
matters that get into the criminal division are so often front-page 
matters and there are circumstances connected with them that are 
outside of anybody s control. There are decisions that have to be 
made, both at the beginning and at the end of these things, where 
frequently there is no right decision, and you re damned if you do 
and you re damned if you don t, either way. But you have to make 
the decision, and you are responsible. Sometimes these decisions 
can bring on consequences quite unforeseen, or you have to make the 
decision even if you can foresee them, but the row that is stirred 
up and the situation that is created may well be such that it just 
becomes impossible for you to stay in the office, and you have to 

Now, I knew that that sort of thing happened with great frequency. 
I expected it to happen to me, and so we always kept our home here, 
figuring that it wouldn t be very long until we d be back. 

Stein: Was that something that you had discussed with Brownell? 

Olney: No. I d talked with my wife about it and we decided not to sell 
the house and not to lease it for any extended period, not longer 
than a year at the most. 


Olney : 

Olney : 


So we kept our house all the time we were away, and this worked out 
very conveniently for us because oftentimes the house was vacant 
during the summer, and we could move in and use it ourselves, and 
have our children and our grandchildren here just as though we had 
been living here all along. So it worked out very satisfactorily. 
We were extremely fortunate in having good tenants most of the time. 
We only had one unpleasant experience with a tenant and that didn t 
amount to much. The rest of them were delightful people. 

One of them, however it was amusing because the internal security 
work that we had included the cases against people in the Department 
of State. One of them was John Service. McCarthy had been very 
critical of Service, and there were investigative reports pending. 
We leased our Berkeley house through an agent who was an old friend. 
The agent told us that before taking the place, the tenants-to-be 
wanted to be sure that I knew who they were, and it was none other 
than John Service. I thought that was a very decent thing, indeed, 
to make sure that I knew. I sent word back that it made not the 
slightest difference to me. If he wanted to be my tenant, I was 
delighted to have him. 

You didn t make your tenants sign a loyalty oath. [laughter] 
No, he didn t have to sign a loyalty oath. 

So with your house taken care of, you were ready to move back East. 
What happened then? 

We got ready and went back East to take this position. This time I 
was able to go by air, but I had nobody in the department that I 
knew, and I certainly wanted to have at least one person going there 
with me at the beginning that I did know, that I could ask to help 
out. The man I got for that purpose is Rex Collings. 

Rex had been in the law school the first year that I taught. He 
was on the Law Review. He was not one of my students, but I remem 
bered him because he was a very bright boy and he was a little 
different from the other students. He was a good deal older. He d 
had two or three beginning careers, including the marine corps, 
before he decided to be a lawyer and entered law school. He had 
gone from law school to the Department of Justice, and had had a 
job in the appeals and research section in the criminal division. 
Then he had been enticed away from there by the Los Angeles firm 
it s a very large firm down there well, Homer Grotty was the well- 
known lawyer who induced Rex to go with the firm in Los Angeles. 

I had not known Rex very well, but my friends on the faculty told 
me that they thought that he d be willing to go with me. I got in 
touch with him and he was . 


Olney: When we went to Washington this time, we took American Airlines. 

That was the fastest. There was no non-stop service then, and the 
best way of going was to take American in a DC-6, and then we had 
to change planes in Dallas. There was a plane from Los Angeles to 
Dallas. We got on that one and that went to Memphis. Then we went 
from Memphis to Washington. So we got on early in the morning and 
got off late at night. 

We had been able to get a reservation in the Wardman-Park Hotel 
it s now the Sheraton-Park and the place was just loaded with 
Republicans there for the inauguration. We got a little room which 
turned out to be right over the entrance, so we were awake all night 
with banging doors of cars. It was a terrible room. 

It was bitter cold and the room had steam heat. The radiator 
was hotter than anything and you couldn t turn the radiator off, so 
we had to open the window. So we had all these banging noises, but 
after that they moved us into a different room. That was sort of a 
housekeeping setup and we were quite comfortable there. 

I was told to check in at Bill Rogers office, at the firm of 
which he was a member. Although it was a New York firm, it had a 
Washington office which Bill had been operating. That made it a 
good place for us to meet and so forth. Well, I went down there 
and met Lee Rankin, who was to be the assistant in charge of what 
we eventually called the office of legal counsel. It had a different 
name then; I don t remember now what it was. The purpose of that 
office is advisory. It advises the president and it advises the 
attorney general. 

Lee and Mr. Brownell were very much preoccupied with preparing 
certain papers for the president- to-be, certain proclamations and 
things, official papers that needed to be carefully drawn, and they 
were working on that. 

When lunchtime came, I was somewhat at a loss, so I just went 
outside and went into a coffee shop. I saw a man sitting on a 
stool about to have a cup of coffee and thought I recognized his 
picture from what I d seen in the paper. So I asked him if he was 
Mr. Holland from Boston. He said he was. This was H. Brian Holland, 
who was to be the assistant in charge of the tax division. 

I introduced myself, so our first meeting was sitting on a stool 

in a coffee shop having a bit of lunch together. We ve become very, 

very good friends indeed, and so have our wives, too. But that s 
how I met him. 


Olney: Later on it wasn t that day my recollection is that we were 

invited up to one of the minor hotels that had little apartments 
in it. There I met Warren Burger. This was his room. We also 
became friends. 

Olney : 

One of the things that I might mention is that it turned out 
that I was older than these other men. I m older than Mr. Brownell, 
Although they all had children, I was the only one that had grand 
children at that time. This surprised me, because I had always 
been associated, in my work, with people who were older than I. 
Anyway, we all got acquainted. 

What was Warren Burger doing at this time? 

Warren Burger was a partner in the leading law firm in St. Paul, 
Minnesota. He had never held any public office or been in public 
work, but he had been very, very active in Republican politics in 
Minnesota and was a close friend and associate of Harold Stassen s. 


Olney : 

During the Republican convention, the principal candidates were 
Taft, Eisenhower, Stassen, and Warren. There was balloting for a 
time without any candidate having a majority, and then the Stassen 
delegation led by Warren Burger finally switched to Eisenhower. 
That started the bandwagon going, and then more and more delegates 
switched and Eisenhower became the nominee. 

Warren Burger was to be the assistant to take charge of the civil 
division, although it was then called the claims division. We got 
to know each other quite well. 

About the inauguration, none of us had been through such a thing 
as that before, and we found that we had to have proper hats, 
[laughter] Always in inaugurations, up to that time, people wore 
silk hats, silk plug hats. I had one that fitted me, because I d 
worn it at my wedding. I hadn t worn it since, but I could still 
put it on. But that was not needed. Eisenhower did not want us 
to have silk hats. He had one of these Homburg hats. So we all 
had to get Homburgs . There was such a run on Homburgs in Washing 
ton that they weren t easy to find. 

I can imagine that every hat store in the city was pretty much wiped 

Yes. I did find one. Then we managed to get tickets. There were 
two sets of tickets. One was to enable us to sit in the stands at 
the inauguration ceremony on the east side of the capitol, and the 
other set was for the parade. The ticket for the inauguration was 
for me only; it did not include Mrs. Olney. She had to fend for 
herself, and she did right well. She was able to sit right below 


Olney: the podium, had a very nice seat with the diplomatic wives. I sat 
back of the place where the two presidents were, and where the 
swearing in took place, with other members of the cabinet and so- 
called junior cabinet. The first assistants to cabinet officers 
were usually lumped together and they called it the junior cabinet. 
We were all up there together. I sat next to Ezra Taft Benson, 
who was to be the secretary of agriculture. 

Down below us I saw Earl Warren, as governor of California. The 
governors were all en bane around there too. We witnessed the giving 
of the oath to President Eisenhower and left to try to see the parade. 
Elizabeth and I failed to make connections, with the result that she 
stood on one side of the parade and I stood on the other side of the 
parade, neither of us knowing where the other one was, and standing 
up for its full duration. It was bitter cold. We finally made our 
way home, separately, and I think it took us hours to thaw out. 

Then we found that we had these tickets which were in the stand 
down around the White House. But we didn t know that and didn t 
know how to get there anyway. 

The Hollands had been in Washington before; Brian had been in 
the tax division during the Hoover administration. He knew what 
any inauguration was like, so he and Trudy stayed in their room and 
watched it on TV [laughter], which was the smart way to do it. 

When I left Berkeley I knew that I would need a dark formal 
overcoat for the inauguration and for other occasions in Washington, 
so I took the only one I had. It was a tailor-made overcoat that 
my father had had made by Bullock & Jones in San Francisco. My 
father died in 1939, so you can see how old it was. I had had no 
occasion to wear it in Berkeley and only used it for walking the 
dog on wet rainy nights, so it was known as "the walking the dog" 
overcoat. We had it cleaned for the inauguration and I wore it. 
Later I tried to find a new one, but we did not like any that we 
could find as well as that old one, so Elizabeth had it relined 
and I wore "the walking the dog" overcoat to the White House and 
everywhere else that I went in Washington. I still have it and it 
is as good as ever. I expect to pass it on to my son in due course. 
What a coat! 

After that swearing in on January 20, we were to report for duty, 
but we did not and could not take over our active work until we had 
been confirmed by the Senate. The attorney general and Brian 
Holland and I, as I recall, appeared no, I m mistaken. The attor 
ney general and the deputy attorney general appeared before the 
Senate committee, and they were confirmed right out of hand. Then 
I believe it was Brian Holland and I who were called before the 
committee. At that time we had a Republican Congress. The chairman 
of the committee was Senator Langer of North Dakota, a very strange 
man, indeed. 


Olney: There was no problem about Brian Holland, but they asked me a good 
many questions. I had supposed there was no problem about me, but 
Senator Langer told me that he wanted to see me in his chambers 
after the hearing. So when the hearing was over I went with the 
Senator, and he said to me in a loud voice which everyone could hear 
as we went out into the hall there was a crowd of people around 
and into the elevator, "You re going to be the next assistant in 
charge of the criminal division, are you?" "Well," I said, "Senator, 
not unless you confirm me." "Oh," he said, "we ll confirm you all 
right." He said, "You know, I m an expert on criminal law. I m 
the most expert member of the Senate on criminal law, especially on 
conspiracy." He said, "I m the only member of the Senate who s ever 
been indicted and convicted for conspiracy. Sure, they indicted me 
and they tried me for conspiracy." He said, "I know all about the 
law." [laughter] With everybody around. 

Stein: What had he been tried for? 

Olney: Well, he had been tried when he was governor of North Dakota. They 
played a very rough political game up there, and he had been tried 
on some charges of conspiring to improperly divert relief funds, 
something of that sort. He was a pretty high-handed old boy when 
he was governor. During the Depression, when there were federal 
funds made available for relief, the funds were given to the state 
to administer. Well, in North Dakota, Langer took this fund and he 
put it in the bank, and the name of the account where he put it was 
the William Langer Relief Fund. So everybody who got relief in 
North Dakota received a check drawn on the William Langer Relief 
Fund. Well, this, needless to say, drove the Democrats a little bit 
nuts, and it was out of troubles like that that this indictment broke 
forth. But they actually did try him, and he was convicted, but it 
was reversed on appeal. He made no secret of this. 

Well, he took me into his office and he asked me if I had once 
been a member of the Institute of Pacific Relations. I said, "No, 
I never was a member of that." I wasn t even too sure what it was. 
"Well," he said, "I ve got some FBI reports here that indicate that 
you were a member of that thing," And I said, "Well, I never was, 
Senator, and I don t know what it was. I have a recollection that 
during my father s lifetime, which would be prior to 1939 (he died 
that year), somewhere along, I guess, in 35 or 36, the institute 
was founded by Bishop Parsons and a number of others out here who 
were friends of my father s and whom he respected. I think that my 
father may have been a member of it at that time. But that s all I 
know about it. In recent years I know nothing about it." 

"Well," he said, "look at these reports." And he showed me the 
FBI reports on me. If the Bureau had ever found out that he had 
let me read their reports about me, they would never have given him 


Olney: any more reports. They are never supposed to show reports to the 
subject. But he showed them to me. They were the funniest things 
that I had read. They had gotten terribly confused between my 
father, my grandfather, and me becuase of the identity of names, 
and then my mother, who sometimes signed her name Mrs. Warren Olney, 
Jr. They had gotten some kind of mailing list or something of that 
sort which indicated that copies of the institute s publications, 
for a time at least, had gone to 2737 Belrose Avenue, which was 
my mother and father s address here in Berkeley. These mailings 
were after my father s death, however; although when I was in 
college I had lived at that address, I had been married since 1926 
and hadn t lived there since. So the Senator decided this was a 
lot of nonsense, but he said that he felt that he ought to satisfy 
himself in view of what was in the reports. 

Well, the net result was that they didn t get around to holding 
a committee meeting on me for something like three weeks. So that 
meant I went all that period without any pay. 

Stein: When you were hanging in limbo. 

Olney: Yes. So I ve always felt I had a justified grievance against those 
erroneous reports that the Bureau had circulating. 

Stein: The Bureau must have had a report of some man who was a hundred and 
fifty years old if it spanned the generations from your grandfather 
to yourself . 

Olney: Well, they didn t have anything about my grandfather in there, as I 
recall. They had some reference to my father having been mayor of 
Oakland, which, of course, he never was; it was my grandfather. 
There were some things like that that indicated that they didn t 
know very much about our family. 

Well, I did get confirmed, eventually, and then Brian Holland 
and I were sworn in in the Department of Justice in February, the 
oath being administered to us by Chief Justice Fred Vinson. We 
were greatly flattered that the chief justice came all the way 
down to the department to administer that oath to us. Then we 
were pretty much aboard. 

Organization of the Department 

Olney: It s worth mentioning somewhing about how Herbert Brownell got us 
organized. We didn t know one another prior to our appointments. 
Then there were two other persons, very important in the department, 
that we didn t know very well either. One of them was J. Edgar 


Olney: Hoover, who headed the FBI, and the other was James V. Bennett, 
who was the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, both of 
those being in the department. 

The immigration service was also in the department. But Herb 
did not fill that position of director of the immigration service 
until a great deal later, when General Swing was appointed to head 
it. So there was a vacancy there at that time. 

Well, Herbert invited us all to have lunch with him every day. 
The attorney general s office has a small but adequate dining room 
attached to the suite of offices that he has and a very small 
kitchen. And we did, of course, attend every day. This proved to 
be a very valuable and very wise thing, because as we were all 
sitting around at lunch we could discuss how we were all confronted 
with similar problems of secretaries, of trying to get familiar with 
our divisions, of all the people we were encountering for the first 
time, of all the new things that we were discovering about our own 
positions in work that was new. We went through all these exper 
iences together, and it gave us a feeling of all being on the same 
team, of mutual respect, and an understanding of one another s 
problems in the other divisions. 

This had a continuing effect during the entire time that I was 
there and that Herbert Brownell was there. There was never any 
jealousy between assistant attorneys general; there was never any 
intriguing between the assistants. We were always able to deal 
frankly and aboveboard, and to discuss our affairs without rancor 
or difficulty. It contributed a very great deal. 

Now, I mention that because those who have been in the department 
for a very long time will like Mrs. Salvatore Andretta, better 
known as Patricia Collins she has been in the department as a 
lawyer for forty-one years. She s served under a great many attor 
neys general. She had her husband have always been Democrats, but 
she is most outspoken on this subject. She said that this period 
when Herbert Brownell was attorney general was the only period in 
her experience where that kind of relationship existed between the 

Well, this made our work very pleasant. We never felt alone at 
all. We felt we had support. 

With respect to my own division, I did have Rex Collings, but 
he was still quite inexperienced. He had never tried any cases, 
for example. One of the reasons he came back with me was my 
assurance that in due course I would make it possible for him to 
try cases. I don t remember to what section I assigned him when he 
was first there. But I inherited a first assistant, and a second 


Olney: assistant, and section chiefs of various sections. I wasn t very 
favorably impressed, to be frank about it, although there was 
nothing against these men. 

Stein: What didn t impress you? 

Olney: Oh, just their manner and general appearance of capability. I 

doubted that they were very capable, but maybe they were more so 
than I thought. But very quickly I had this extraordinary exper 
ience with a case that involved Congressman Bramblett. 

The Congressman Bramblett Case 

Olney: Congressman Bramblett was a Republican from Monterey County, California 
He had gotten into the newspapers, I think, before the election. 
Drew Pearson had published stories about him. The gist of it was 
that Bramblett had put a number of different people on his congres 
sional payroll and then had required that they give him part of 
their salaries . 

Stein: So he was receiving kickbacks? 

Olney: Yes, that was the accusation. It had been in the newspapers. I 
had not been in the office very long, and I asked some questions 
about the Bramblett case and found that it was indeed pending there 
in the criminal division. I talked with the chief of the section 
which had jurisdiction and he told me that they had completed review 
of the reports the investigation was complete and had recommended 
against prosecution. They didn t think they had a case. 

I asked to see the file and it was sent in. I read the file 
myself from beginning to end. I was no expert in the federal 
criminal law. I had never tried cases in federal court my exper 
ience had been in the state courts and I was none too familiar 
with the federal criminal code. But as I read that file it seemed 
to me that there was a case there. I thought it was a provable, 
presentable case, but they had recommended against it. The 
memorandum which was presented for my signature to close out the 
case had been endorsed first by the man whose immediate job it was 
to review all the reports and come to a conclusion, and then the 
chief of his section had reviewed it. Then my two assistants both 
had reviewed it and both of them had initialed it, recommending 
that the case be closed. 


Olney: Well, I read it and then returned the file and had it sent back to 
file, but I did not close the case out. I did not initial it. I 
just sent it back to the files for the time being, because I didn t 
want it hanging around on my desk. 

A little later I got hold of Rex Collings and asked him to take 
out the file I guess I handed him the file, as a matter of fact 
and told him not to take a look at the review that had been made in 
the department, by the department lawyers. I wanted him to read the 
reports and to read the statutes and to give me a completely independ 
ent view as to whether he thought there was a case there or not, 
which he did. 

In due course he came in and said, "I don t understand what the 
question is. Of course, there s a case. What s the problem?" 

I said, "It s been reviewed here in the criminal division, and 
they say there s no case. They re recommending that we don t 

"Well," he said, "can I look at their memoranda now?" So I let 

him do that. He said, "It doesn t convince me. I think they re 

wrong. I think they re mistaken. This is clearly a legitimate 

That was the time when I sent the file back to be filed, but 
unendorsed. I thought about it for a time. After about a week, I 
asked for the file again. It was sent to me and I looked it over 
I m wrong about that I asked Rex to get it out. Rex looked it 
over and came into my office in a great state of excitement. He 
said, "There s a paper in that file that was not there when I read 
that case, and it was not there when you read it." He said, "Look 
at it." 

Here it was. This was an explicit order, signed by the attorney 
general, directing that case be presented to the grand jury. It was 
signed by Attorney General McGranery, on the nineteenth of January, 
the very day that he left office. Now, I know that paper was not 
in the file when I saw it, and it wasn t in there when Rex saw it. 
But there it was, a flat order. And this closing memorandum had 
been initialed on dates since then. 

Well, I thought about that for a while, and eventually I made up 
my mind that somebody was trying to fix me up, to get that case 
closed out and then make a big stink about it, and find out that 
I d closed that case out notwithstanding a recommendation or an 
order from a previous Democratic attorney general that we prosecute 
it. This man [Bramblett] was a Republican. 


Olney: I called in all four of the men who had initialed that closing 

memorandum the two assistants, the chief of the section, and the 
man who had reviewed the case in the first place and told them at 
the outset that I was going to have to take an action that might 
well be quite unjust to three out of the four of them. But I did 
not know who was responsible for this. I couldn t tell which one 
it was, but I knew it was one of the four. I went over what had 
happened. And I said, "This is a frame-up. Somebody is- trying to 
do this. Somebody pulled that sheet out of the file, knowing that 
we were going to read the file, so that we wouldn t see McGranery s 
order, and then put the order back in. Obviously, I can t live in 
peace and quiet if I think I have somebody like that around here. 
You gentlemen are just going to have to look for employment else 
where. You have all initialed the recommendation not to prosecute 
and you thereby have made yourselves responsible. I can t have any 
of you." 

Well, there was an awful to-do about it. But I just wouldn t 
recede from the position, and they all eventually left without any 
noise or problem. I had four vacancies as a result. 


Olney: By that time, I had learned to my astonishment that the criminal 
division also included internal security work, about which I knew 
next to nothing, and civil rights, about which I knew even less. 

The internal security work bothered me very much, because I 
knew that it was very important to have a good working relationship 
with the FBI on those cases. I couldn t have somebody who was a 
complete stranger to them. So I went in to see Mr. Hoover and told 
him I had a vacancy as a first assistant and I wanted somebody who 
had a really good background in internal security work. Did he 
know any lawyers that fitted that bill? He said he did, and he 
gave me four or five names. I looked them over, and Walter Yagley 
was the one that seemed to me to be best qualified. I called him 
up and had him come in and we had a talk. I checked out on his 
references, of course, and concluded that he would be good, so I 
appointed him. He became my first assistant, and it was a good 

Then I needed somebody else and I persuaded Alan Lindsay to 
come East. He became the second assistant, and a more faithful, 
loyal, energetic assistant no one ever had. He was tops. 


Olney: Then we had another interesting experience with personnel in the 
office. Herbert Brownell thought that each assistant ought to 
bring his own stenographer, if possible, because the place was 
notorious for leaks and things of that kind. He had the idea that 
it was secretaries that might well do a lot of talking outside of 
shop. So I did my best to recruit secretaries who had worked for 
me here on the coast, and there were quite a few of them. I 
couldn t persuade a one of them. [laughter] They just weren t 
interested in going three thousand miles and living in Washington. 

Of the secretaries that I inherited, there was a number-one and 
a number-two girl. Both girls were young. The number-one girl was 
very young, extremely young. Her name was Margaret A. Bailey, but 
she was known as Marty. I don t recall now how it was that she 
happened to be in that number-one position. She hadn t had it long; 
she hadn t had anything very long. She had been in the division 
for enough years so that she knew everybody and knew what was going 
on. She d expected to be replaced, but I couldn t find anybody to 
replace her. 

The longer I kept her, the better satisfied I was with her. Her 
work was excellent from the start; I never had any complaint about 
that. I began to have very great confidence in her discretion, 
because she had worked for two or three of my predecessors among 
whom was T. Lamar Caudle, for example who were the subjects of 
investigation and eventual prosecution. She was aware of these 
activities, but: never once did Marty ever say one single word about 
them or about their work or make any comment. I concluded that if 
she wouldn t talk to me about them, she wasn t going to talk about 
me to anybody else. So I kept her as long as she wanted to stay, 
which was quite a few years. Then she up and got married. 

My number-two girl was from North Carolina, and she hadn t been 
there for very long. She really was a hillbilly. I used to ask her 
if she d ever worn shoes before she came to Washington. [laughter] 

I couldn t understand her. She talked a language that, to me, 
was almost incomprehensible. And, to my disgust, I found that she 
couldn t understand me. She didn t think I could speak English, 
[laughter] We used to get into gales of laughter at one another 
because we would have an exchange and it would be perfectly plain 
that neither of us understood the other. But we got used to each 
other before long, and so I could understand her and she could under 
stand me, and she turned out to be a very fine secretary indeed. 

All the years I was in Washington, I had Washington secretaries. 
I have never seen a collection of better professionals than that 
group. They were very capable and totally reliable. While 


Olney: Washington is notorious as a place for gossip and things of this 

kind, in my day at least, the leaks were not coming from secretaries 
at all. And, to the best of my belief, they don t now. So I was 
never able to get any California secretary, and I used the ones I 
found there. 

The Bramblett Case Concluded 

Stein: Were you going to say anything more about the Bramblett case? 

Olney: Yes. We then had a complete new review made of the case and decided 
that it should be presented to the grand jury. It was and an indict 
ment was returned. The case was tried and Bramblett was convicted. 
It went to the Supreme Court on appeal and it was affirmed, and he 
served his term. Of course, he lost his position in the Congress. 

It also had a bearing on my dealings with Drew Pearson. When I 
was with the crime commission, the newspapers were always hanging 
around and trying to get stories. The policy that I always followed 
with them was to treat all newspapermen alike. I did not have 
private conferences with different reporters. I called them all in 
and told them all the same thing and answered the same questions all 
at once, so that nobody got scooped. And I would try to arrange 
these conferences at different times of day so that sometimes it 
would be the morning paper, sometimes it would be the evening paper 
that would get the stories first. They knew I tried to do this 
and were quite appreciative of it. But there was one exception that 
I always made and that was: if a newspaperman came to us and gave us 
a story or a substantial lead from which a case really developed, I 
always felt that he was entitled to the first break on that story. 
I used to tell them, "Give us a story and that s the way it ll be 
treated. We will see that you get the first shot at it." 

Well, Pearson was the one that blew the whistle on Bramblett. 
This didn t come from anybody else. This thing had been cooking 
around and he d almost forgotten about it. Well, when we decided 
that we had a case, and there was going to be an indictment returned, 
I called him up and told him that I had a story if he d care to drop 
in, which he did. I said, "The reason I m telling you this is 
because this originated with you, and I ve always gone on this 
policy, that if you start a story, you re entitled to finish it. 
We have gone into the Bramblett matter thoroughly and there ll be 
an indictment returned. We re going to go ahead and try it. I 
thought you ought to know it." 


Olney: Well, he expressed his appreciation for it. He said, "You know, 
there s something funny about that case. There s an awful lot of 
talk going on down in Democratic party headquarters about that case. 
Something happened. They were positive that you were not going to 
prosecute that case. They were positive you weren t, and they had 
told me that. I was just sort of waiting to see what was going to 
happen. But then something happened, and they got into an awful 

Well, I didn t tell him about this sheet being taken out and put 
back in the file, but I have always thought there was a connection. 
Anyway, that was the story of the Bramblett case and how I got room 
to appoint some of my own people in the criminal division. 

Stein: Have you seen the account of the Bramblett affair in Drew Pearson s 
diaries* that have just come out? 

Olney: No, I haven t. 

Stein: He says, among other things, that there was a rumor going around 
that Richard Nixon was going to try to stop the prosecution, and 
that there was a political war going on in California between the 
Nixon and the Warren forces about whether the case was going to be 

Olney: I never heard of that. I don t believe that there s the slightest 
truth in that. Well, I won t say that there might not have been 
some such rumor going around in Washington, but I don t think 

Stein: He also says that there was another paper discovered in the file 
that was a memo from a Washington attorney purporting to be a 
friend of yours interceding for Bramblett. 

Olney: That s true. That s true. Now, that paper was a letter that was 
in the file and it was written by Edward Bennett Williams, who, at 
that time, wasn t very well known. He s now, I suppose, the best- 
known criminal lawyer in Washington. It was a letter, signed by 
him, that was received after my appointment was announced and 
before we took office, interceding on Bramblett s behalf, and 
making some mention that he was a friend of mine. Well, I had 
never seen the man in my life. He was no friend of mine at all. 

*Tyler Abell, ed., Drew Pearson: Diaries 1949-1959 (New York, 
1974) . 


Olney: I was so put out about that, and so leery of a man who would do that, 
that I would never permit Williams in my office. He never came into 
my office, ever. I wouldn t let him in the place, nor Murray 
Chotiner; I wouldn t let him in the place either, and neither would 
Bill Rogers. 

Stein: Why? What had Chotiner done? 

Olney: Well, Chotiner was nothing but a two-bit crook. He was a very close 
associate of Fred Howser and those racketeers in Southern California, 
and had been right along. He was all mixed up in politics. He d 
gotten on the vice-president s train. Bill Rogers had some very 
unpleasant experience with him. I don t remember what. 

It was shortly after we took office that we heard that Murray 
Chotiner was running around making representations that he could 
square cases. Bill Rogers put out a memorandum to every assistant 
in the department that Murray Chotiner was not to be allowed in the 
place, not to let him come into your office, or talk to him. That s 
the way he was regarded 

[tape recorder off while Mr. Olney reads relevant portions of Drew 
Pearson s Diaries.] 

Olney: Well, our accounts of this thing are reasonably similar. 
Where are we now? 

The Investigation of Tom Clark 
Stein: You mentioned in your outline the Tom Clark investigation. 

Olney: Oh, yes. To my surprise, I discovered that in the general crimes 

section they had a very extensive investigation of Tom Clark under 
way. This goes back to the days when he was attorney general and 
there had been a number of ringleaders of what was known as the 
Capone mob who had been convicted and then paroled. There was a 
great scandal about the parole of some of those Capone mobsters. 
As a matter of fact, that incident was mentioned in one of our 
California crime commission reports. I don t remember now exactly 
what it was, but I know that we had mentioned it and it was a 
notorious affair. 

Well, I found out that when McGranery had become attorney general 
in August of 53, he had instituted this investigation of Tom Clark 
on the circumstances of this parole. The parole board was in the 


Olney: Department of Justice and they had two lawyers working on that case. 
I went into the room and talked with them about the case. There 
were stacks of FBI reports . I would have thought that they were 
about four feet high. They said that the investigation wasn t con 
cluded, so I said, "Without going any further, would you write me a 
summary of what you have to date: what the allegations are, and 
what, roughly, you think is shown by the reports, and the general 
direction that you think further investigation might go." 

They did summarize the thing for me. I concluded that it was 
just a mare s nest, and that there was nothing worth investigating. 
They were going round and round; there were no solid allegations 
for inquiry. Clark s connection with the parole was not close; it 
was quite remote. There was nothing solid to investigate. So I 
closed the case out. I mention this because there was this very 
considerable number of cases that had been started by Attorney 
General McGranery, some of which seemed to have merit and some of 
which didn t, which were underway when we got there. And that was 
one of them that I closed out. 

It was always a difficult thing for me to close out a case with 
out there being very solid reasons for doing it. I felt I had to 
have as solid grounds for stopping the investigation as I would have 
for returning an indictment. If I didn t, those things always get 
out and I knew that I might well be called to account somewhere for 
the action taken. I felt that I simply had to have solid ground for 
every one. So, with some of these better-known defendants we had 
it was not an easy thing to close them out. But with this one I 

Internal Security Work 

Budget Problems 

Olney: Perhaps now we might go to the internal security matters? 

Stein: Do you want to do that first, or your initial experiences with the 

Olney: Oh, yes. Well, the two things fit together pretty well. 

It seems to me it was about the week after I was sworn in that 
the hearings on the budget came up. I found that I was supposed to 
appear before the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee 
to justify the appropriations for the criminal division. The chair 
man of that subcommittee was John Rooney of New York. 


Olney: Well, I appeared, and we had an elaborate budget. The budget had 
been prepared, of course, by the administrative section in my 
division. The committee knew that I was not personally familiar 
with it, and they were very kind and reasonable in their treatment 
of me at that particular hearing. Each of the sections of the 
criminal division had its own activities and the supporting 
material for the budget described what the activities in the past 
year of the sections had been, how many cases they d handled, how 
many lawyers they had, what they expected in the coming year, how 
much money they were likely to need, and so forth. 

In presenting this, I learned for the first time that I had an 
extraordinary number of lawyers engaged in internal security work. 
It seems to me that there were more lawyers in that section than in 
the rest of the division taken altogether. They had reported a 
fantastic number of cases that were serious. [refers to the Annual 
Report of the Attorney General of the United States, 1953] The 
statement was that during the fiscal year they had received and 
processed 18,000 new cases involving violations of the laws relating 
to internal security, as well as 23,116 new cases of reported viola 
tions of the selective service law. Well, the selective service 
cases didn t bother me much, but those 18,000 internal security 
section cases certainly did, because I wasn t aware of any such 
large number of cases. 

Well, when I made inquiry after the hearings, when I first learned 
of this, I found the answer to it was in the way that they defined a 
case. I had supposed that when they were talking about cases they 
meant either cases that were actually in court or cases that were 
under preparation or investigation with an idea of presenting them 
to court. But not so. They were counting as cases every separate 
matter that came to the attention of the section, whether it was 
by casual correspondence or a phone call or whatnot. And this was, 
of course, building up a statistical total which made it possible to 
put out a figure like that for appropriation purposes. It also, of 
course, brought to my attention the very large number of lawyers in 
that section. I might say that when I took the position, I did not 
realize that these cases, or at least so many of them, would be in 
my division. I hadn t really thought about it. 

So I began making inquiries into what these lawyers were doing. 
I found that they were reviewing FBI reports on individuals, evalu 
ating the reports, and putting these individuals names on lists 
according to whether they felt they were more or less security 
risks and dangerous . 

Well, learning this from the work, I also learned from sitting 
around the luncheon table with Mr. Hoover and Mr. [James] Bennett 
that the civil defense program and this is Harry Truman s civil 


Olney: defense program we re talking about included planning in case of 
attack not merely for shelters for people to pop into, but elim 
inating all possible domestic threats and enemies. This had been 
carried out to the extent of making definite plans in a state of 
emergency for actually picking up suspected people and putting them 
into camps. Hoover and Bennett would discuss where these camps 
would be and how many could they handle at various places . 

Mr. Bennett who took a very dim view of the whole program, I 
might say was having to consider rehabilitating old prisoner of war 
camps that had been used in World War I. Well, the people they were 
going to put in there were the people who were on these lists that 
the lawyers in my division were evaluating. 

Stein: Could I interrupt a moment? I know the McCarran Act in 1950 

authorized the establishment of internment camps, but were these 
camps even before that? 

Olney: Oh, no, no. We re talking about 1954, after the McCarran Act was 

passed. Yes, I think it authorized something like that, but I never 
believed that there was anything like this going on. 

What was occurring was that the FBI would get information here, 
there, and the other place, and some of the information would suggest 
that the person might be a possible security risk. Maybe he belonged 
to an organization that was supposed to be made up of "baddies," or 
maybe his sister-in-law did, or something like that. And they would 
make an investigation and prepare a report. Now, Mr. Hoover always 
took the position that the Bureau would never evaluate those reports 
or any reports, that that was a job for the lawyers. The Bureau 
would get information, but it was up to the lawyers to decide if it 
meant anything or not and what the consequences should be. The 
lawyers who had to do this were the ones in the internal security 
section of the criminal division. 

And here were these lawyers sitting there, reviewing reports and 
trying to evaluate them, making decisions as to whether this name 
should go on the "Most Dangerous" list or the "Least Dangerous" list 
or something, or whether it shouldn t go on any list at all. The 
lists were huge. 

At that time, it s only fair to recall, we were in the Korean 
War. Eisenhower had promised to make a trip to Korea to try to 
bring the fighting to an end. The shooting was still going on. He 
did make the trip. It took a long time to get it to an end. There 
was always apprehension of not only intervention by the Chinese, 
as there was in Korea itself, but by the Russians also. There were 
all sorts of plans to meet a possible nuclear attack, civil defense 
plans that we were going through, so it was not so extraordinary 


Olney: that people like the Bureau, who were charged with that responsi 
bility, were thinking in terms of what were they going to do about 
picking up potential enemies in the event of an attack. But I 
didn t like to see all this responsibility thrown on the lawyers in 
my division who were not equipped to evaluate things like this. 

Stein: About how many names were on these lists? 
Olney: I don t know, but they ran into thousands. 

I didn t feel in a position to challenge the program that was 
going on. I thought it was useless, wasteful, and was being carried 
to an unnecessary extreme. So what I did was to discourage the 
program whenever the opportunity arose. When we would get vacancies 
and there was always a considerable turnover of lawyers in that sec 
tion, as you can imagine; they couldn t stand sitting there just 
evaluating these things for very long I gave instructions not to 
fill the vacancies. And then as many as possible of the good lawyers 
that we had in there, we transferred to other sections where their 
services were of some use. So the number of persons actually working 
on those cases became fewer and fewer. Although the reports kept 
coming in, my instructions were to just let them come and let them 
stack up. And that s what we did. 

I feel very sure that it wouldn t take long for the FBI to figure 
out what was happening. But they didn t make an issue of it. It 
was never brought up with me. I know that they were very, very glad 
when, about after a year or so, the internal security work was set 
up in a brand new division, with a new assistant in charge, 

Incidentally, an amusing thing happened, speaking of the budget 
and the statistics. While I still had the internal security work 
and had found this lack of definition of a case, I decided we had 
better have a definition of a case and make it run clear across all 
the sections in the criminal division. We defined a case as meaning 
a proceeding either in court or one where court proceedings were 
contemplated, and everything else was counted as "matters." It 
meant that the next time the budget was presented, we had a tremen 
dous reduction in the number of cases reported for the internal 
security section, and this had to be explained to the Appropriations 
Committee subcommittee. 

Stein: How did they take that? 

Olney: Well, they took it very well, asked no real questions about it, and 
accepted my explanation, the reason being that the internal security 
work was so strongly supported by the FBI, and Mr. Rooney, the sub 
committee chairman, was a very, very strong supporter of the Bureau. 
So, he was not about to cut down the appropriation for internal 
security work, no matter what we reported. 


Olney: When the internal security division was created that was on July 9, 
1954 and it absorbed, of course, all the work that had been in the 
criminal division, they reported, to my amusement, that at the 
beginning of the fiscal year 1955 there were 50,460 office cases 
pending in the internal security division foreign agents registra 
tion section. The new cases received during the year totaled 
13,228, or 728 less than the previous year, the number of cases 
handled totaling 63,688 cases, representing an increase of 7,169. 
[laughter] Well, there just weren t that many subversives in the 
country. Those were "matters" and those figures were decorations 
for Appropriations Committee hearings. 

Stein: I imagine that if that were true, there d be a subversive behind 
every bush. 

Olney: I should say. 

Stein: I just have one more question about the budget. You mentioned when 

you spoke to Mort Schwartz and Mrs. Fry that you brought John Airhart 
in to help you with the budget, and that he was an enormous help. I 
wondered if you could tell me a little bit about what he did. 

Olney: Well, yes, indeed, I can. The chief of the administrative section 
whom I inherited walked in on me one day and told me, "Goodbye," to 
my amazement. He was retiring. I didn t even know that he was 
eligible. But he retired and said he wouldn t be there next week. 
Came in on a Friday I never saw him again. 

Stein: Nothing like short notice! 

Olney: So I had to get an administrative man. I made inquiry around and 
Walter Yagley was helpful to me on that. He told me about John 
Airhart, who was not a lawyer, but he had been an administrative man 
in the RFC [Reconstruction Finance Corporation] . He had handled all 
the administrative work for the legal staff of the RFC, which was a 
very large staff indeed, with the usual problems of lawyers. I got 
in touch with Airhart. The RFC was being reduced to next to nothing. 

He came with us, and I put him in charge of the administrative 
section and it was a very, very good choice indeed. He was a true 
professional. He had had years of experience with lawyers and knew 
that they were professional men, and that you had to handle them 
differently than you do most personnel. He knew all about budgets. 
He had prepared many of them. And he knew what the committees 

John always prepared our budget in such a way that there was 
always room for the committee to cut. When we would talk with the 
committee members outside of hearings, they would insist on emphasiz 
ing the fact that the object of the committee was to cut the budget 


Olney: as much as to appropriate money. They expected us to have something 
in there that they could cut. If we didn t have something in there 
that they could cut, we d get cut anyhow. I could never see where 
it was, but John always had room in there so they could cut us and 
we could still go ahead. 

Without him I don t know what I would have done, because I m not 
a budget man and couldn t have put the budget together or hoped to 
justify it without his skillful preparation. 

Stein: That sounds like quite a political game to know how much to add on 
that can be cut out that will look good. 

Olney: Just like musical chairs. It is a game. I always detested it. 
Budget hearings are the things that I liked least about life in 
Washington, in large part because they are so dishonest. It s 
just fakery to a large extent. 

The usual thing is to have the hearing and then afterwards to 
give the committee clerk a list of the things that can be cut with 
out doing any damage. And that s what s done. The thing is that 
nobody gets fooled by that excepting the public. But that s the 
way Mr. Rooney always ran it, and we always had him all the time I 
was in the Department of Justice. I also had to appear before the 
same subcommittee including Mr. Rooney all the time I was director 
of the administrative office of the courts. So it was simply the 
same old story year after year. 

Stein: When was the internal security division made a separate division? 

Olney: Well, the internal security section of the criminal division became 
a separate division with an assistant attorney general in charge of 
it in, I believe, 1954. I can tell you exactly if my recollection 
here is correct. [refers to the Annual Report of the Attorney 
General of the United States, 1955] 

Yes, it was created as a new division on July 9, 1954. It 
absorbed all the functions of the department relating to internal 
security other than those assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investi 
gation and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The entire 
personnel of the internal security section of the criminal division, 
together with all the duties and responsibilities assigned to that 
section, were transferred to the new division. 

Stein: So after that you weren t directly concerned yourself with internal 

Olney: No. 


Stein: One of the other things I was wondering was, when you decided to 

reduce the amount of activity of the criminal division on the lists 
of subversives, the work of assessing the FBI reports to see who 
belonged on which lists, was there any opposition within the 
department to what you did? 

Olney: No, there was none. I didn t have occasion to consult with anybody 
about it because we needed the men and we needed the positions in 
other sections in the division. So I just went ahead and trans 
ferred those positions to other sections when vacancies would occur 
and as they were needed, and I just never mentioned the fact that 
the net effect was to reduce the number of people in the section. 
I did not consult with Mr. Brownell, although I think it is likely 
that he knew what I was doing and why. I did not consult him 
because I felt that if there was trouble, I should bear the onus. 
I was prepared to take the blame and did not want to involve him if 
it could be avoided. 

Now, I think we ve covered the budget, haven t we? 
Stein: Yes, I think so. Now we can move on to internal security. 

The Rosenberg Case 

Olney: Well, maybe I should mention the Rosenberg case first of all. The 
Rosenbergs were tried and convicted of violating the espionage law 
and, as you know, were executed. The case was tried and the sentence 
imposed before we took office, and, indeed, the conviction had been 
affirmed on appeal before we took office. There was some kind of 
application made to the United States Supreme Court for a stay and 
a chance to argue some new point which did occur after we were in 

Stein: Was that the one where the defense got Justice Douglas to issue a 

Olney: Yes, that was a little later. I don t remember who argued the 
matter of the stay in the Supreme Court, but my recollection is 
that it was the same government lawyers who had handled the appeal 
all the way through. They knew the case and we didn t. 

So the date of execution was set. Just before the execution, 
the defense attorneys made the usual rounds asking each individual 
justice for a stay, on some new point. They were turned down by 
everybody excepting Douglas. This was during the summer when the 
Court had disbanded and was on vacation. Douglas granted a stay. 


Olney: Well, when Chief Justice Vinson heard about this, he promptly 
ordered the Court to reassemble, notwithstanding that the term 
had ended, in order to hear the matter at once. And they did, on 
a very short notice, just a very few days notice. The Court con 
vened and a hearing was had on the morning of the day that had 
been set for execution. The argument was brief. The Court made 
its ruling right from the bench, denied the motion, and so, of 
course, the stay was lifted. 

That meant the execution was supposed to be carried out that 
very day. Well, the responsibility for carrying out that execu 
tion rested on James V. Bennett as director of the Bureau of 
Prisons. But federal executions were carried out according to 
the law of the state where the conviction had taken place. In 
this case they had been convicted in the state of New York, and 
New York had electrocution as their means of carrying out a death 
sentence. So these people were to be electrocuted. 

Well, the federal people had no executioner; they always used 
the state executioners. And it turns out that executioners are 
hard to come by. It isn t everybody who is willing to be an execu 
tioner. New York had had difficulty in getting one, but they had 
one. Arrangements had been made by Mr. Bennett prior to the stay 
by Bill Douglas, but when the stay was granted Bennett had not 
anticipated the speed with which Chief Justice Vinson would act 
and that the execution might go ahead. So when the stay was dis 
solved he had to scurry around and find the executioner to perform 
his duties that evening. 

Well, the executioner had gone trout fishing, and nobody knew 
exactly where he was. They had a terrible time finding him. The 
search, considering its purpose, was really kind of gruesome. 
They finally did locate him in upstate New York, in the mountains 
somewhere. They flew him out by helicopter down to Sing Sing. 
The execution was to take place, as I recall, at nine o clock in 
the evening . 

Not knowing whether there were going to be more stays or other 
delays or something of that kind, we had to be prepared for any 
kind of emergency that might take place. This meant that we 
assembled in the Department of Justice building, and we made the 
mistake of doing it in J. Edgar Hoover s office. I think we d 
have been better somewhere else. Hoover was there, and Mr. Bennett 
and I and the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. I 
don t remember whether other assistants were there or not. But we 
had to sit there in that room, with open telephone lines to Sing 
Sing to be in touch while time marched on. 


Olney: Now, what they were doing up at Sing Sing was doing their utmost to 
persuade the Rosenbergs to make confessions and tell the full story 
of what their espionage activities had been. They were hopeful that 
they could persuade them, hopeful right to the last. But they never 
did succeed. 

Well, a more gruesome experience I d never had in my life. It 
was perfectly ghastly. And then we got word that no, there was no 
intervention, and the time had come. They threw the switch and 
Julius Rosenberg died with the very first application, but Mrs. 
Rosenberg didn t. The doctor had to go and listen to her chest and 
her heart was still beating and so they gave her another jolt. It 
was just horrible, terrible. 

But that was the Rosenberg case. There wasn t anything we could 
do about it; we had no responsibility for it, you know, one way or 
the other. But we had to be spectators and participants to an 
extent in this thing. 

There was a good deal of agitation about the case. Judge Irving 
Kaufman had tried the case and he got a lot of mean and nasty letters 
and had to have a guard for a time, things of that kind. It was a 
very unpleasant experience, but a memorable one. 

Stein: I have a couple of questions about arguments in the case. In the 

television documentary on PBS* one of the assistants to the defense 
attorneys said that in her opinion the case never would have gotten 
to first base if it had been tried in the New York State court, but 
because it was tried in federal court there were different rules 
governing the admissibility of evidence in a conspiracy case. I 
wonder if you could explain that, because it wasn t clear to me. 

Olney: Well, I think that what she s talking about must be the accomplice 
rule. In New York State, and many states, there is a rule of 
evidence that a defendant cannot be convicted on the testimony of 
an accomplice alone unless it is corroborated by other evidence, 
or unless there are at least two accomplices who testify. But the 
testimony of one accomplice is not enough without corroborating 
evidence. There s no such federal statute. That s what I think 
she was talking about. 

*"The Unquiet Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg," PBS, March 15, 


Olney: I saw the TV show, too, and it had certain merits. They stuck very 
closely to the transcript and to the exhibits. But it had some very 
serious demerits, in my opinion. I think the reason that the thing 
was put together was because of the conviction on the part of the 
people who did it that the Rosenbergs were innocent and they wanted 
to make a documentary that would prove that. And that s what the 
show was about. So that s the slant that it takes. I wouldn t 
attempt to argue the Rosenberg case, but I do think it s a very 
dangerous thing to rely upon a movie film if you want to arrive at 
true conclusions, to base them on that kind of a documentary. 

There were some things about it that I thought were quite obvious 
sham. They spoke of the jury and indicated that they felt that it 
was a hand-picked jury of people who all came from the same walks 
of life and read the same papers and all this sort of thing. There s 
no justification for that. They didn t go into any detail. You ll 
notice when the camera went across the jury panel they skipped 
right over the black juror. They didn t even mention him. 

The inference was that the jury was prejudiced because there 
weren t any Jews on it. Well, there were Jews all over that case. 
The judge was a Jew. The two prosecutors were Jews. The clerk of 
the court was a Jew. I don t know how you could have a case that 
had more Jews in it. I don t know whether there were Jews on the 
jury or not. But I don t think that the panel was subject to that 
criticism; I don t believe it was hand-picked. 

Another thing that they did was make the flat accusation that 
Gold s registration in the hotel in Albuquerque was a forgery, and 
that it must be a forgery committed by the FBI. Well, I don t 
hold a brief for the Bureau or its agents, but I do not believe at 
all that Bureau agents indulge in forgeries. I don t believe that s 
the case. I don t think the thing was a forgery, or, if it was, that 
the Bureau had anything to do with it. 

It reminded me, as I think I mentioned to you before, of the play 
that was put out about Tom Mooney by people who wanted to get over 
the point to the public that Tom Mooney was innocent of the bombing 
of the Preparedness Day parade in San Francisco, back in 1916. If 
you went to the play, sure, you d come to that conclusion. But if 
you listened to the evidence in the case, it was another story. 

The Joseph Weinberg Case 

Olney: Now, I do think that it s worth talking about the Joseph Weinberg 
case following the Rosenberg case. 


Olney: The espionage that the Rosenbergs are alleged to have committed was 
after the Japanese and German surrenders, after the atomic bomb had 
been exploded in Japan and the open fighting had stopped. It was 
at a very crucial period, however, when the United States was doing 
its utmost to try to reach international agreement, including the 
Russians, for a pooling of all information about nuclear fission, 
so that we would not have an arms race in the nuclear field, so 
that we could avoid the horrors of a nuclear war. 

At the time, it was the Russians who were the most reluctant to 
take part in this. The reason was that they didn t want to enter 
into any such arrangements when they themselves didn t know how to 
make an atomic bomb. They were doing their best to try to find out 
how to explode an atomic bomb, and we were doing our best to keep 
it secret, for the time being at least. Everybody knew that it was 
only a question of time until scientists in any country or in every 
country would be able to do it. But you couldn t do it quickly. It 
was estimated that it would take the Russians something like six or 
seven years, I believe, to work this out. 

But they did explode their bomb very much sooner than anybody 
expected. It became very evident that this was the result of 
espionage. Klaus Fuchs was arrested in England and made a complete 
confession of all the information that he had supplied to them 
about the work at Los Alamos. It was in that connection that the 
Rosenbergs became involved. 

Well, in sitting around having lunch in the Department of Justice, 
as I described before, one day J. Edgar Hoover regaled us with how 
the FBI had first learned of the Manhattan Project, which, as you 
know, is the project that first developed the atom bomb. It seems 
that the Bureau was not informed at the outset that there was any 
such project, and knew nothing about it. 

According to Mr. Hoover s story, they were very apprehensive 
about Russian espionage. They did know that work was going on at 
the Atomic Energy Center at the [University of California at] 
Berkeley campus, that it was highly classified, very secret work, 
and that the work did have some weapon possibility in connection 
with it. They were keeping close tabs on everybody in this vicinity 
that they regarded as a Russian agent. Among those was a leading 
organizer for the Communist party, a fellow named Nelson. 

Stein: Was this Steve Nelson? 

Olney: Steve Nelson, yes. He was living in San Francisco and was a member 
of the party and a party organizer. Mr. Hoover told us that there 
had been a "bug" placed on Steve Nelson s telephone at home. The 


Olney: "bug" was not an ordinary telephone tap, but was in the base of the 
telephone itself, so that it would pick up not only what went on 
over the telephone, but also conversations in the room. 

He said that one day when they heard the telephone ring, Mrs. 
Nelson had answered and the man asked for Steve and said that it 
was important that he see him. Mrs. Nelson said that he wasn t 
there, that he was attending a meeting. He d be home before very 
long. The man said, "It s very important that I see him, and so 
I m coming right over," indicating that he was across the Bay. The 
agents did not recognize the voice, but as you can imagine, there 
was a reception committee for him when he appeared at the house. 
They did not recognize him when they saw him go in. He told Mrs. 
Nelson, as they got it over the "bug," that he must see Steve, and 
he would wait there for him. 

Well, Steve came in in due course, and Mrs. Nelson left them 
alone. The man told Steve that he had some extremely important 
information that he must pass on, and that it was in the nature of 
a formula that he wanted him to write down, as he didn t want to 
give him the paper on which he had it. So he dictated this formula. 
It was a complicated kind of formula, and Nelson had to ask him to 
repeat parts of it to get it right. This all came out over the 
"bug" and it was recorded and made available to the agents. 

After Nelson got the formula down, the man left. He was tailed, 
of course, across the Bay to Berkeley and they found out that he 
was Joseph W. Weinberg, a scientist employed at the Atomic Energy 
Project on the hill in Berkeley. 

Stein: At the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory? 
Olney: The radiation laboratory, yes. 

They also watched Nelson s house to see what he did. They saw 
him leave the house, and tailed him well, they heard him make a 
phone call over to the Russian consulate first. There were some 
cryptic remarks evidently making arrangements to meet, because 
Nelson left his house and went to a park where he met a man who had 
come from the Russian consulate. The two of them talked, the 
agents saw Nelson hand a paper to the man, the man went back to 
the embassy, and Nelson went home. 

Well, the FBI agents were mystified by this formula. It made no 
sense to them; they had no idea what it was. They made discreet 
inquiries of various scientists whom they thought might know, but 
they were unable to find anybody who had any idea what this was 


Olney: until finally they hit one man they got a tremendous reaction from 
him who just jumped up in the air with excitement and demanded to 
know where they got it. He knew what it was. It was some essential 
part of the work that was being done at the radiation laboratories 
as a part of the Manhattan Project. 

Well, then, of course, the Bureau was informed that there was 
this Manhattan Project, and it was super-secret and so forth. 

This incident took place long before the Rosenberg incident. 
This took place long before the bomb was exploded, when the exper 
imental work was still going on. We were in active warfare against 
both Germany and Japan at that time. The delivery of this informa 
tion by Weinberg seemed to me to be a far more serious offense than 
the one committed by the Rosenbergs, who had been executed. 

So after Mr. Hoover had related this, which was only by way of 
casual information over lunch, I went up to his office to see him 
and asked him about it. I said, "That story about Weinberg, is that 
provable?" And he said, "Yes, I think it is provable." I said, 
"It seems to me it s far more serious than the Rosenberg offense." 
He said, "I think it is too." I said, "There s no statute of limita 
tions on treason. And, if the evidence is available, is there any 
reason that you know why Weinberg shouldn t be prosecuted?" He 
said, "No." 

Stein: You mean all this time he hadn t been prosecuted? 

Olney: No, no. I asked him about that, why Weinberg hadn t been arrested 
and prosecuted, and he gave me a very good answer, which was that 
the work being done on the bomb was super-secret. They couldn t 
possibly prosecute Weinberg without revealing the existence of the 
Manhattan Project and the general nature of what the work was which 
was still underway. They just had to accept that they couldn t 
charge him at that time. But it did seem to me that they could have 
charged him later, after the bomb was exploded. But they didn t. 

He never gave me any further explanation. But in reading this 
book on Oppenheimer and Lawrence*, I do believe the explanation is 

Nuel P. Davis, Lawrence and Oppenheimer (New York, 1968). 


Olney: It s quite apparent from that book that there were two lines of 

approach toward the development of the atomic bomb. Lawrence had 
one with the radiation laboratory, in which the basic idea was 
bigger and better cyclotrons and a process that Lawrence thought 
would produce the bomb, but which actually never did. Oppenheimer 
had a somewhat different theory and a different approach which was 
being developed at Los Alamos, [New Mexico] , which actually did 

Well, Weinberg s information was about the nonproductive radia 
tion lab process , and there would have been good reason for hoping 
that the Russians would pursue the thinking that that was the 
process that had produced the workable bomb, instead of pursuing 
the Los Alamos thing, which they did through Fuchs and the 
Rosenbergs. So that may well be one of the reasons. 

At any rate, I thought the fellow ought to be prosecuted, if 
possible. We called for all of the old reports from the FBI and 
were going to review it with the idea of presenting it to the grand 
jury, but we never did get the essential reports. Of course, we 
would have had to have the record of the notes, at least, of what 
was taken down from the "bug." At that time the decisions on the 
Supreme Court on the use of telephone taps and "bugs" were nowhere 
near as stringent as they are now. I was quite prepared to go into 
court and present that evidence, notwithstanding the way in which 
it was gathered. In such a case I still think that we would have 
won it if we d been able to prove it. 

But Mr. Hoover told me eventually that the evidence simply wasn t 
available. Many of the agents had left the service, and they 
couldn t find the original notes. And then it turned out that it 
wasn t the FBI that had put in the "bug" anyhow. It was naval 
intelligence that had made the installation. This was during the 
war. Everybody and his uncle had an intelligence unit. And while 
they tried to work together, the confusion was immense. It was 
actually naval intelligence that had put in the "bug" and had 
gotten the formula. Bureau agents were working with them and they 
picked it up in that fashion, which made it impossible to go back 
and get the original evidence and the proofs. So we couldn t do 
anything about it. 

But we did have another case against Joseph W. Weinberg. And 
this was one of those annoying kinds of cases it was a perjury 
charge. Weinberg s connection with the communists had gotten out. 
He was hailed, along with a lot of others, before the Internal 
Security Committee. I guess it was a Senate committee. He was 
asked a lot of questions: whether he belonged to the party he said 
he did not and whether he had attended a particular meeting of the 
Communist party. Now, this meeting was held in a house here in 


Olney: Berkeley, when the party members were asked to come together to 
hear the explanation of why the Russians had signed the non- 
aggression pact with Adolf Hitler. It took some explaining. 

The man who had to make that explanation on behalf of the Commun 
ist party was named Paul Crouch. He d been a communist organizer 
for years, and a very active member indeed. Crouch had attended 
this meeting, and was able to fix the date by reason of the pact 
and so forth, and had given the official reasons for the Russians 
signing the pact with Hitler at that time. 

Now, Crouch, later on, not very long after that, because of the 
pact, became completely disillusioned with the communists. He just 
could not swallow that pact with Hitler. And while he always main 
tained his Marxist beliefs, the Russians and the Stalinist commun 
ists became anathema to him. He went to the FBI and told them 
everything he knew. Among other things, he told them about this 
meeting of the Communist party here in Berkeley where he d gone to 
explain the reasons for the Russo-German pact to the people assembled 
there. And he said that Joseph W. Weinberg was a member of the party 
and was there at that meeting. 

Well, he didn t know exactly where the meeting was. He said it 
was in north Berkeley and he d been taken there by somebody. It 
was in a residence. He was able to describe the residence, both 
inside and out, what kind of view they had, the arrangement of 
rooms, stairs, and all kinds of details. Nobody could figure out 
where there was a house like that. But the Bureau agents and the 
Berkeley police and others took Paul Crouch all over north Berkeley 
for several days and they finally went down here to Eagle Hill, 
just a few blocks from here. They no sooner got up on top of the 
hill when Crouch said, "This is the place. That s the house." 

This turned out to be a house that had been rented by Oppenheimer. 
Oppenheimer had been living there at that time. They didn t take 
Crouch into the house, but they had him describe it again very 
meticulously, and then they went in and they found that he was 
describing it with reasonable accuracy. So, they finally took him 
in and he recognized everything, but there was one thing that he 
said was different. He said, "There was no partition here; there 
was a doorway here." They checked back and found out that, sure 
enough, there had been a doorway there in 1941 that had been closed 
off later. 

Well, he did many things like that that convinced us completely 
that the man had actually been in the house all right. Otherwise 
he couldn t have described it in this fashion. We never had any 


Olney: reason for disbelieving him anyway. He was there and described this 
meeting. The other thing was that he also said that Oppenheimer was 
there at the meeting. 

Now, this turned out to be a sticker, because Oppenheimer had 
what seemed to be an airtight alibi that he was in Los Alamos on 
the day that this meeting was held. We could fix the date for a 
certainty. Oppenheimer on that same day had actually been driving 
his car [in Los Alamos] . He d bumped a fender or had some minor 
accident; it didn t amount to a damn, but it was enough that they 
had to get on the police blotter with the thing, and there was 
an actual record in the police station of this accident and 
Oppenheimer s signature was on the report or something there, to 
say nothing of lots of people whose recollection was that he was 
there in Los Alamos. We were satisfied from this evidence that 
Oppenheimer had actually been in Los Alamos both before and after 
the Berkeley meeting, but we thought he might have gone back and 
forth on an airplane. 

We checked all the airlines, but found out that the schedules 
were such that he could not have done it on regular scheduled 
flights. The Bureau thought that maybe he had made it by private 
plane. They checked all the private airplanes and everything else, 
but they couldn t find any record that there had been any such 
private flights . 

Meanwhile, the indictment for perjury against Weinberg had been 
returned in the District of Columbia. Billy Hitts was the assistant 
U.S. Attorney who was preparing it for trial. A day or so before 
it was to go to trial, he came down to see me. Well, we discussed 
the situation because we were faced with this alternative. We had 
to use Paul Crouch as a witness, of course, and if Paul Crouch was 
going to testify that Weinberg was there, we were certain that he 
would have to testify that Oppenheimer was there. That was his 
recollection. On that we were sure that he must be mistaken. If 
we went ahead, we would have to say very frankly to the jury, "On 
that point, we re confident that Crouch is mistaken. Oppenheimer 
has an alibi that he was in Los Alamos at the time of the Berkeley 
meeting. We concede that Crouch is mistaken about Oppenheimer s 
being present, but we are satisfied with the accuracy of the rest 
of his testimony." We couldn t have taken any other position than 
that Crouch was mistaken in that particular. Of course, that does 
obviously weaken his testimony. But nonetheless, in view of who 
Weinberg was, I just was very, very reluctant to see him escape 

But after going over every aspect of it, Billy and I decided to 
dismiss the indictment. The best thing was not to try to present 
that case at all. It would have been very, very unfair to 
Oppenheimer to have put on testimony, by a witness that we were 


Olney: vouching for, that he had been at a Communist party meeting of that 
character, when we ourselves were satisfied with his alibi, because 
of the publicity he would get. It would be all over the place. So 
we had to back away, and we dismissed the Weinberg case and Weinberg 
was never prosecuted or convicted of anything, in spite of the fact 
that, to this day, I think he was guilty of a far worse offense than 
the Rosenbergs . 

Stein: It seems strange to me that in a case of that magnitude the FBI 
would have let the records slip away like that. 

Olney: I suppose you are now talking about Weinberg s having given the 

formula to the man from the Russian consulate. Well, I don t know, 
but that s what happened. The agent who had the most to do with 
that matter is now a United States District Court judge in St. Louis, 
Missouri, James H. Meredith. He knew these same facts independently 
and from firsthand information. So it happened, all right, just the 
way Hoover said it did. 

The Owen Lattimore Case 
[Interview 10: April 8, 1974] 

Stein: Well, let s go on to Owen Lattimore. 

Olney: Well, the Lattimore case was a very unusual one. Owen Lattimore 
was a well-known writer and authority on China and a traveler in 
China. He had done a great deal of traveling and writing in years 
prior to the war. I believe he speaks Chinese. During the period 
of the warlords he had covered most of China. He used to write 
articles and books on China, some of which I had read. He was 
generally regarded as a real authority on China. 

But during this period when there were all these charges that 
our relations in China had been worsened by betrayals from inside 
our own government, his name got into the hopper along with a lot 
of others, simply because he was well known, I guess. He was 
called I m doing this entirely from my recollection and I may not 
be correct on all the details, but I think I remember it well 
enough in general my recollection is that he was called before 
one of the congressional committees (I don t recall whether it was 
a House or a Senate committee) and questioned at very great length 
about his acquaintances with people who then turned out to be 
Chinese communists. 


Olney: Of course, before the period of the Great March into northwest 

China by the Chinese communists, there was lots of doubt in every 
body s mind as to just who they were, the reason being that the 
Chinese were just fighting with each other all the time. There 
were all kinds of warlords and it was difficult for outsiders to 
differentiate between one set of warlords and others, and to know 
whether any one of these armies had any sincerity or any real 
purpose behind it. 

Mao Tse-Tung and his group appeared to be just another bunch of 
fighters. Lots of people came in contact with them [Edgar] Snow 
was one and finally became impressed with their devotion to 
principle. This was not just another warlord, but these were, 
indeed, people who had a completely new approach to what life in 
China ought to be. They used to call them "farmers" at one time. 
They were agrarian workers. Well, they were, because they had to 
raise all their own food, things of this kind. The communists, up 
until that time, the Russian brand of communists, had always been 
identified with city workers. These were agriculturalists. 

Well, Lattimore and Snow and others visited these people and 
wrote about them. It was on this basis that Lattimore was ques 
tioned in very, very great detail. He answered all of the questions 
completely. He was also asked questions about his activities more 
recently that is, in more recent years around the city of Washing 
ton. And he was asked some questions as to whether he had met some 
body from the Russian embassy and had lunch with him at such-and-such 
a place. Anyway, there were a lot of details of that kind on which 
he was questioned. 

Well, he tried to answer them, did answer them. Then evidence 
was brought forward showing that some of his answers were incorrect, 
that he had denied meeting people that he had met, that he had 
denied being in places where the proof was clear that he had been, 
and there were counts of perjury brought against him based on his 
answers to questions of that sort. They were really the kind of 
thing that anybody could have fallen into, without memoranda and 
with ordinary failure of memory. If one is questioned very closely 
and at length by someone who has records and other sources, differ 
ences of this kind are bound to appear. Well, the previous admin 
istration, for reasons that have never been clear to me, was very 
anxious to have Owen Lattimore indicted. 

Stein: Was this the previous administration of the Justice Department? 

Olney: Yes, this would be Attorney General McGranery. Sometime between 

the elections in November and the Eisenhower administration taking 
over in January, indictments against Lattimore were returned in 
Washington, D.C., based on perjury. So, we inherited that case in 
the form of an indictment already returned. 


Olney: Of course, the return of an indictment of this character against a 
man so well known created a great stir all around the country. 
There were a great many people in university circles who had known 
him well and were completely convinced of his innocence and felt 
this was a gross injustice. There were others who didn t know him 
so well who were extremely suspicious. 

It was within my authority to dismiss that indictment. I read 
the testimony and I read the reports. If I had been able to read 
the grand jury testimony and read the reports prior to any action 
being taken, I would have recommended against an indictment because 
it didn t seem to me that it was a provable case. There was enough 
there perhaps to call for as complete an investigation as you could 
make, on the chance that something more definitive in the way of 
evidence would show up. But on the basis of what was at hand at 
that time, it seemed very weak to me. 

But I didn t discuss this. I didn t pass the decision on to 
somebody else. I concluded that I ought to take the load on myself, 
and I decided that we ought to go ahead and try it. The reasons 
were: if we dismissed the case, there would be a tremendous com 
motion, claiming that influential people had stepped in and caused 
us to dismiss the case against Lattimore, just because he was a 
well-known and well-connected person. And there would be a great 
many people who would continue to believe he was guilty and, in 
fact, would think that that dismissal was just evidence that he was. 

On the other hand, if we went ahead and presented the case in 
public for what it was one never knows what s going to develop in 
a trial. Sometimes when cases go to trial, they turn out to be 
far stronger than the prosecutor thinks at the time he begins, in 
which case, if he was guilty, then he ought to be convicted. But 
on the other hand, if the case was as weak as it appeared to be or 
got weaker, and he was acquitted, then his name would be cleared, 
to a great extent anyway, by a jury and a court that had heard all 
the evidence and concluded that he wasn t guilty. So we decided to 
go ahead with it. That was my own judgment about it. 

But I, of course, did not go into the facts of that case to the 
extent a man would who was going to present it for trial. There 
you have to interview all the witnesses and examine all the evidence 
and complete the investigation and things of this kind, and I had 
no time or opportunity to do that. So I thought we should find an 
outside special prosecutor who was experienced and who would approach 
the thing with an open mind to investigate, prepare, and further 
evaluate the case. We would inform him, when he took it on, that 
if he concluded that the case was not triable and that the proof was 
not there, we would dismiss. On the other hand, if he concluded that 
it was a triable case, and he so recommended, then we would expect 
him to try the case, and not somebody else. 


Olney: Well, it seemed to me that putting the responsibility on him was 

pretty good insurance that we were going to get an evaluation that 
was a fair one. We got Leo Rover for the purpose. Now, Leo was no 
acquaintance of mine, but the deputy attorney general, Bill Rogers, 
had known him in former years. He, at one time, had been U.S. 
Attorney in the District of Columbia, I believe, during the Hoover 
administration. Then he was in private practice and had a broad 
experience as a trial lawyer. He agreed to take on the Lattimore 
case under the conditions that I ve outlined. 

It took him a long time to evaluate the thing and, indeed, we 
had to spend a good deal of money on that case, an enormous amount 
of money, in fact, because Leo thought that it was possible to trace 
the communist line of propaganda in Lattimore T s more recent writings, 
that when the line would change, Lattimore s line would change, and 
when it would shift to another direction, Lattimore would shift 
there. To work this all out, we used the Rand Corporation from that 
"think tank" in Santa Monica. Their experts were quite expensive 
and they did a great deal of work on this, all of which ended up by 
convincing Leo Rover that he had a case. So he went ahead and tried 

I can t recall the details of the trial. I know that there was a 
motion before Judge Youngdahl early in the case, which was granted 
by Judge Youngdahl , which ruled out some of the charges that Leo 
regarded as the major counts in the indictment. 

Stein: Yes, I think four of the seven perjury charges were thrown out. 

Olney: Well, after those four counts were ruled out by Judge Youngdahl, 
there wasn t very much left of the case. But Leo went ahead with 
what there was left, as I recall. I can t remember how that ended, 
whether the judge gave a directed verdict or what. 

Stein: According to the little bit of reading that I did, the case was 

Olney: Well, that may be. I guess what happened was that we concluded that 
without those four major counts, the rest of it wasn t worth trying. 
Somewhere along the line I think there was an appeal on the judge s 
ruling on those four counts. At any rate, it ended, and to our 
consternation Leo got so incensed at this adverse ruling that he 
made a very unwise blast at the judge in public. It got into the 
papers, and it was very embarrassing to us to have that happen. Of 
course, it made the judge furious, and his fellow judges also. 

It was disastrous for Leo himself . Apparently Leo had some 
ambition to be a district court judge, but he was never considered 
for a district court judgeship at any later time, but he was 
appointed to the municipal court. He undoubtedly would have been 


Olney: a district court judge if he hadn t blown his stack and fired off 
at the judge when he shouldn t have. Well, that was the Lattimore 

One of the curious things about it was that Lattimore was very 
much concerned with the Institute of Pacific Relations, and I think 
there were some of the counts in the indictment that related to his 
activities in that organization. That Institute of Pacific Relations 
is the same institute that showed up in the FBI reports on me that 
I referred to earlier. [laughter] 

Stein: So you might have found yourself in the same web. 

According to one account I read, in 1952 Lattimore was questioned 
by the McCarran Committee, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, 
and Senator McCarran, according to this author, "hounded the Justice 
Department relentlessly for months, demanding that it indict 
Lattimore for perjury, and so eventually it did." I wondered if 
you knew if that was accurate. 

Olney: I can t say that it was accurate, because the Justice Department 
they re talking about is the Democratic one. That s Attorney 
General McGranery, and that may well explain why the indictment 

That would be typical of Senator McCarran. He was, in my opinion, 
far more vicious than Senator McCarthy, and very much smarter, a 
thoroughly dangerous man in the Senate. He was the chairman of that 
subcommittee, and he was also chairman of the Senate Judiciary Com 

Herbert Brownell had not been attorney general very long when we 
had a judicial vacancy to fill. Bill Rogers, as the deputy attorney 
general, when there were judicial appointments to be made, would 
always consult with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee 
about the nominee in advance, to make sure that it wasn t someone 
utterly unacceptable to the committee, or that there was some reason 
that he didn t know why the name wouldn t be accepted and so forth. 

Well, I think it was the very first time that Rogers went to see 
McCarran about a judicial vacancy and a nominee to fill it that 
McCarran brushed that matter aside and said, "Bill, I want you to 
nominate so-and-so for such-and-such a vacancy," which also existed. 
This was a name that wasn t under consideration for that vacancy at 
all, but when the Senator had expressed himself in that way, we at 
least took a good look at the man, investigated him thoroughly, and 
found out that he was absolutely hopeless. He couldn t possibly get 
any support from the local bar, or any adequate support from the 
congressional delegation from the state where he was. He had what 


Olney: you could only describe as a bad character. So Rogers had to tell 
the Senator that we simply couldn t consider sending that name to 
the president as a nominee. 

Stein: What post was he being nominated for? 
Olney: For a judgeship, a federal judgeship. 

McCarran got into one of his typical rages and told Bill Rogers 
that he was going to approve and recommend that fellow or there 
wouldn t be a single judicial vacancy filled. He would not okay 
any judicial appointment until this one was made. 

Now, those were not empty words. McCarran had done the same thing 
with Truman in connection with a vacancy on the district court here 
in San Francisco, and he had been very insistent on filling it with 
a man that was regarded before he took the bench as not being qual 
ified. Truman held out for something like two and a half years, 
with that position vacant. McCarran did permit some of the other 
positions to be filled, but not that one. It remained vacant all 
the time. 

This threat, however, was that there wouldn t be any judges con 
firmed unless this one was. I remember Rogers coming back and tell 
ing us all about this at lunch, with the attorney general there. 
They were very, very disturbed, of course, and worried as to what 
they would do. Nobody could think of how to approach the problem, 
but we went on and went to bed and woke up the next morning to read 
in the paper that during the night McCarran had died. 

Stein: Well, that solved the problem. 

Olney: It surely did. Well, the Lattimore indictment that you asked about 
I wouldn t doubt that it had happened that way. But I can t say that 
I remember even that Lattimore was called to testify before the 
McCarran Committee. 

I do believe that Lattimore s experience before whatever com 
mittee called him, where he had answered every question, was one of 
the major reasons why later people who were called before those 
committees would take the Fifth Amendment. It was not because they 
necessarily felt they d done anything wrong, but because the ques 
tioning was being used not just to pull out the truth, but to try 
to lay a trap by getting some kind of a wrong answer along the line 
where there was contradictory evidence on which they could base a 
perjury charge. Lawyers, of course, advising their clients who were 
called as witnesses in that predicament, very properly would advise 
them to take the Fifth Amendment, not answer any questions. 



Olney : 

Do you have any other recollections of McCarran? 
that he was really more vicious than McCarthy. 

You said earlier 

No. Well, I might say this. He is the one who jammed through the 
Internal Security Act of .1950. He was the author of it and jammed 
it through. He got it passed over Truman s veto. That is a really 
thoroughly unwise statute, in many particulars. It s the one, of 
course, that has the provision in there for preparing lists of 
subversives to be locked up . This program that was in process that 
I described earlier was authorized under that statute. Well, that s 

The Jencks Case 

Stein: The next thing is the Jencks case. 

Olney: The Jencks case was a very unusual one. Jencks was a labor leader 
in the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers Union. He had signed an 
affadavit that he had never been a member of the Communist party 
in order to continue in his labor activities in that union. There 
was evidence to show that he at one time had been a member of the 
party. So he was tried for filing a false affadavit. One of the 
principal witnesses against him was an informant named Harvey 

Matusow had been an FBI informant on a number of different 
instances, but he had never been brought out into the open before 
and testified as a witness. He gave detailed testimony about 
Jenck s activities when he was himself a member of the Communist 
party as an undercover agent, and he implicated Jencks. Well, 
Jencks was convicted. The case was tried, as I recall, in New 
Mexico yes, that s right and sometime after the verdict was 
returned, Harvey Matusow signed an affadavit at the instance of 
the defense repudiating his testimony, and saying that his testi 
mony about Jencks and his party membership was untrue. 

Well, this brought on a motion for a new trial before the judge, 
and there was a highly formal hearing about which time Matusow was 
telling the truth, with a lot of evidence taken, of course, about 
the circumstances under which he d made this repudiation. It 
certainly caused great suspicion to arise about his motives in 
repudiating his testimony. The net result was that the court 
concluded that he d been telling the truth the first time, and 
that his repudiation was false. So the new trial was denied. 


Stein: Did they attempt to determine why he changed his mind? 

Olney: Oh, yes, sure. He d been monkeyed with by people on the defense 

side of the thing and the evidence was pretty clear that he d been 
paid some money for it, a considerable sum of money for it. Anyway, 
that was the conclusion they came to. Of course, the Jencks case 
went up on appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court made a 
decision which was a rather landmark case on the right of the 
defendants to examine statements in the hands of the prosecution 
that had been made by prosecution witnesses. 

This made the case more famous than anything else, and I won t 
go into that now except to say that the language of the majority 
opinion, which was written by Mr. Justice Brennan, we thought went 
altogether too far. We introduced a bill in the Congress, which 
the Congress passed, which limited the effect of the majority 
opinion. The bill which was passed was in substantial conformity 
with the concurring opinion that had been written by, I believe, 
Mr. Justice Burton. 

But there were certain things about this Matusow incident that 
made a great impression on me, although the case was not in my 
bailiwick; it was in the internal security division. In FBI 
reports, when they are recounting what confidential informants 
will say, they never use their names. They will say that it s a 
confidential informant, and then usually they will put in an 
adjective. They ll say that it s an informant of "unknown relia 
bility," or an informant of "questionable reliability," or an 
informant of "known reliability." 

Well, with Harvey Matusow, he appeared in the reports given to 
the lawyers trying the case as an informant of "known reliability." 
That was the reason that government counsel went barging right 
ahead without looking into his character or much else about him as 
a witness. But after he had repudiated his testimony, there was a 
loud to-do, of course, among the lawyers: "Well, how come we 
called this guy anyway?" It s all right to say he told the truth 
the first time, but it sure weakened his credibility to have him 
execute that affadavit. 

So they got to wondering, "Well, did the FBI give us any indica 
tion that there was anything doubtful about this man?" Tommy 
Tompkins, who was the assistant attorney general in charge of the 
internal security division, went up to the files to get the original 
FBI reports in which Matusow s story was given. There it appeared 
that Matusow was described as an informant of "known reliability." 
They also found an FBI agent there taking the file out, in the 
process of removing the first page and substituting another page, 
in which Harvey Matusow was described as an informant of "unknown 


Olney: There was a big stink. The Justice Department asked how come. The 
Bureau s explanation was that they thought that this ought to be 
changed in order that in the future no one would think that Matusow 
was of "known reliability." They were actually in the process of 
trying to change that record. 

Stein: Did you yourself write the legislation that went to Congress? 

Olney: I worked on several drafts and especially the final one which was 
enacted. There were several drafts proposed, many of which went 
altogether too far in the other direction. I don t know we had 
our own version. 

It was very hotly contested in the Congress. There were all 
kinds of debates and discussions and it ended up as a compromise 
piece of legislation. I always thought that the result was the 
proper result. The FBI was very indignant with us because we had 
consented to any kind of a compromise at all. They just wanted 
to reverse history and put it back as though there had never been 
any such decision. One of the reasons why I think it was a decent 
piece of legislation is because it s proved to be entirely practical 
and workable. Nobody s made any complaints about it. That s why 
it s still on the books. 

This is the only piece of legislation that was ever passed 
through the Congress in my time that anyone could claim altered a 
decision of the Supreme Court with respect to criminal procedures. 
There s been a lot of misunderstanding about what it was and why 
we got the bill passed, so ~L think I d better explain it in a bit 
more detail. 

When the Supreme Court reversed the Jencks conviction, it was 
by a majority opinion written by Mr. Justice Brennan, in which the 
general language was that the government was required by due process 
to make available to the defendant all statements that were in the 
government files that the defendant might have made and other evi 
dence that might conceivably bear on his innocence. The language 
of the opinion was broad and, we thought, quite ambiguous. There 
were only about, I guess, no more than four of the justices that 
joined in that opinion. 

Then there was an opinion by Mr. Justice Burton; I now do not 
recall whether it was a concurring or a dissenting opinion. I 
believe he concurred in the result, but dissented from the language 
of Brennan s opinion. He had a different procedure outlined in his 
opinion, quite a specific procedure that he thought ought to be 
followed in cases like this. 


Olney: Then there was a dissenting opinion written by Justice Tom Clark, 
which can only be described as a violent tirade against the idea 
of giving the defendant access to government files under any circum 
stances. It was full of alarums about what would happen, that this 
was going to lead to rummaging all through the FBI files, and we 
couldn t have any effective law enforcement with this kind of thing 
going on. It was a terrific blast at the Brennan opinion. The 
position taken in general was that the Court had delivered a major 
blow to law enforcement all over the country, that it would mean 
that it would be impossible for investigative agencies to secure 
statements from witnesses because there could be no guarantee that 
they could be kept confidential, and the like. 

Now, that dissenting opinion just brought out every newspaper 
in the country, you might say. They printed headline articles 
everywhere about how the Supreme Court had torpedoed the FBI and 
there was a great deal of consternation about it. The Bureau itself 
took it up. Hoover made statements that the Bureau was being 
terribly handicapped by this kind of a rule and things of this kind. 

Well, if one read the Brennan opinion, which was the statement 
of the majority of the Court, it didn t seem to us that that was 
what the Court was talking about at all. We thought, however, in 
view of this uproar and the vagueness of Brennan s opinion it was 
really a poorly written opinion that the best thing to do was to 
see if we could get some legislation which would put into statutory 
form the basic holding, the Brennan opinion, so that it would spell 
out the procedures that were to be followed. Now, we started to 
draft a bill along that line in the department almost as soon as we 
read that Jencks decision and saw these newspaper headlines. 

Stein: Would that have been Brownell s decision to go ahead? 

Olney: Yes. And that was drafted by me and Wilson White. Wilson White 

was the assistant attorney general in charge of the office of legal 
counsel. The bill was introduced in the House by Kenneth Keating 
and in the Senate by Joseph O Mahoney. In the Senate, [James] 
Eastland, [Estes] Kefauver, [John Marshall] Butler of Maryland, 
[Everett] Dirksen, [Matthew] Neely of West Virginia, [Charles] 
Potter of Michigan, and [Alexander] Wiley of Wisconsin were co- 
sponsors, so that it was a respectable group of sponsors that we 
had of a bipartisan type. Then later on, the White House press 
secretary, James Hagerty, announced that the administration would 
urge the passage of this bill. 


Olney: Well, this was Senate Bill S 2377. Now, In Mr. Walter F. Murphy s 
excellent book and study of this matter entitled Congress and the 
Court , there s a completely accurate description of the course 
that that bill had in the Senate and the drafting of a number of 
variations on it. 

I think it would be worthwhile to say what the original bill, 
number one, actually provided, and that was that "no statements 
or reports of a witness or person other than the defendant in 
the possession of the United States would be given to the defense 
in a criminal trial except under the narrow terms prescribed in the 
bill. After a witness had testified, the defense could petition 
the court for reports or statements of that witness bearing on the 
events to which he had just testified. The trial judge would then 
order the government to turn over to the court all such reports 
as are signed by the witness or otherwise adopted by him as 
correct. The judge would inspect these documents in camera, 
decide what portions, if any, related to the testimony, and give 
those portions and only those portions to the defendant. In the 
event the United States chose not to comply with the court order 
for the production of such reports, the judge was authorized, in 
his discretion, to strike the testimony of the witness from the 
record and allow the trial to proceed, or if the interests of 
justice require, to declare a mistrial."** 

Well, that was the original bill, as we drafted it. Now, in Mr. 
Murphy s book, the various changes that were insisted on that re 
sulted in Jencks bill number two are related. Similarly, he also 
relates the committee action in the House, and then the opposition 
that developed in the Senate, and then the Jencks bill number three, 
which was drafted, and the changes that were made. 

The changes that were suggested were well, take Jencks bill 
number three, which is the handiwork of George Arnold and Senator 
Joseph S. Clark in largest part. In that bill, the general form 
of S 2377 remained the same, but there were three major changes in 

*Walter F. Murphy, Congress and the Court (Chicago, 1962), pp. 127- 

: Murphy, p. 133. 



Olney: The first was that the "rights of the defendant were safeguarded by 
dropping the reference to person and restricting application of 
the law to statements or reports of a witness. "* Now, as Murphy 
points out, "since in legal parlance a corporation is a person, 
this change meant that the government would not be able to invoke 
the Jencks law to deny a defendant the right to examine business 
records seized in a tax, antitrust, or similar prosecution."** 
George Arnold was in the law office of his father, Thurmond Arnold, 
who represented a great many companies in both tax and antitrust 
matters; that was his field. George also was Drew Pearson s son- 

Well, I m going back to the Jencks bill number three again. 
An additional protection, and one shielding even more specifically 
any existing rights to pre-trial inspection, was that "relevant 
reports in the possession of the government could be ordered to be 
produced not only in accordance with the bill s terms, but also as 
provided in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure."*** Now, this 
would have meant an extension of discovery procedures in criminal 
cases. Discovery is a common practice in civil litigation; that is, 
finding out what the other fellow s got in the way of evidence in 
advance of trial. But it s not used, was not used at that time, in 
criminal cases. 

Stein: It s been expanded, however, since then, hasn t it? 
Olney: Yes, it has. 

Then there was a provision that relevant statements or reports 
were to be turned over directly to the defendant, unless the govern 
ment claimed that they contained privileged information the dis 
closure of which would be prejudicial to the public interest. Then, 
if that was the claim, they would give it to the judge to examine 
it in camera . 

The third change would enlarge this scope of the reports that 
would be made available. In the original bill, the defense could 
obtain only such statements as were signed by the witness or 

*Murphy, pp. 137-138. 
**Murphy, p. 138. 
***Murphy, p. 138. 


Olney: otherwise adopted or approved by him. But this would allow also 

those documents which contain a recitation or the substance of any 
oral or written statement previously made by the witness . 

In other words, the original bill would require the production 
only of statements which could be attributed to the witness in the 
legal sense. But the expanded bill would permit, or would require, 
turning over hearsay statements as to what the witness had said, 
for example, in an investigator s statement, written up hours or 
days after. 

Well, this would mean that a great many reports as to what the 
witness was said to have said would have to be turned over, whether 
they had ever been seen by the witness or could properly be attrib 
uted to him or not. Now, that was the kind of thing that bothered 
the FBI and bothered us very much. We thought that was going 
altogether too far. 

I ought to make mention of the fact that when these bills were 
introduced, the civil rights legislation was in the process of being 
debated and discussed in the House. So this piece of legislation 
and the civil rights bill and everything were all going on simul 
taneously, and it made it frightfully confusing, as you can see 
from the list of sponsors that we had on the Jencks bill. There 
were people who were on opposite sides on the civil rights matter. 

Stein: You must have felt like a juggler. 
Olney: Well, exactly. Very much so. 

I don t think I need to go much farther than this in this discus 
sion, because Murphy does cover it so completely. He describes how, 
on August 22, Jencks bill number five was circulated and this one 
was passed in the House. This was different from any of the bills 
that I ve mentioned to you. It kept going back and forth, putting 
in one and taking out other things. Number five was finally passed 
in the Senate by a voice vote, and then in the House. What they 
passed was the Department of Justice bill. 

Stein: Which was number one? 

Olney: Yes. Well, it was what was called Jencks bill number one. But this 
was under Keating s sponsorship. With the two bills passed, in 
different terms, they had to have a conference to try to work it 
out. They did have a conference. We were very much concerned that 
Jencks bill number five not be passed, because it had these pro 
visions in it that were just totally unacceptable and, we felt, 
were quite dangerous. 


Olney: To try to make our final pitch, Wilson White and I had lunch with 
Senators O Mahoney, Eastland, Dirksen, and then with Keating and 
several of the House conferees as well. Now, when we got together 
at that point, as Murphy relates, I tried to emphasize that there 
were only a few major points of disagreement. We tried to get 
Keating and O Mahoney to discuss a middle ground between the bills 
which would meet the Justice Department goals. Then after lunch 
Wilson White and I and Aubrey Casque, who was a counsel for 
O Mahoney s subcommittee, got together and in less than an hour 
we beat out a compromise bill which seemed to meet their require 
ments and was satisfactory to us. The conference accepted the bill 
without any problem. As a result it was passed. 

The bill as passed defined statements as "one, a written state 
ment made by said witness and signed or otherwise approved by him, 
or two, a stenographic, mechanical, electrical or other recording 
or transcription thereof, which is substantially a verbatim recital 
of an oral statement made to an agent of the government and recorded 
contemporaneously with the making of such a statement." As you can 
see, that wording did not include notes that somebody else made on 
their conversation. Well, it was passed. 

Now, the people who were friendly to the Supreme Court always 
contended that there was nothing in that legislation that was 
contrary to the position taken by the Court and the Brennan decision. 
Frankly, that s the view we always held. We did not think we were 
changing the Court s decision from what they had intended. We 
thought the only thing we were doing was making it specific. 

This had turned out to be very, very necessary, because after 
the Jencks decision, and before the bill was passed, we had an 
epidemic of rulings by judges from various parts of the country of 
the most unreasonable kind. On motion of a defendant they would 
order the government to turn over the whole government file, claim 
ing that they were required to do this by decision of the Supreme 
Court, and when the government wouldn t do it, why, they d dismiss 
the case. It was to get judges like that in line that we thought 
this legislation was necessary. 

There were others who tried to make it appear that Congress had 
rebuked the Court and had risen up in its wrath and changed the 
line of the decision, but we couldn t see that that had happened. 
Since that time there has been no agitation for any further legis 
lation or any reversal of the legislation or anything else. To the 
best of my knowledge, the courts and the government and defense 
counsel get along with the so-called Jencks Act without much 
difficulty. But it was a tough issue at the time, and getting it 
through the Congress was extremely complicated business because of 
this civil rights act which we were also pressing at the same time. 


Stein: I m still a little bit confused. How does the Jencks legislation 
differ from what now goes on in criminal discovery? It seems to 
me that in criminal cases now a certain amount of information is 
released to the defense. 

Olney: Well, there is a great deal of information that s released to 

defendants in advance of trial now, but that has not come by 

legislation from Congress, and very little of it by discovery 
rules in the court. 

What has happened is that the judges have gotten impatient with 
the attorneys on both sides who will go to the length of producing 
a lot of evidence and taking up a lot of court time proving facts 
which the other side is ready to concede. So they started in with 
pre-trial meetings of the attorneys in advance of trials. The 
judge knocks their heads together and says, "Now, boys, what is 
going to be the issue in this case? What s in dispute?" 

This has led to the U.S. Attorneys coming to the realization 
that it makes very, very little sense to hold back the gist of the 
government s case in advance of trial, that in many instances it s 
very much to the government s advantage to disclose the case. Very 
often it results in a plea of guilty, when they realize that the 
thing is unbeatable. But it s a great time-saver, anyway, because 
then there can be agreement on the things that are in dispute. 
That s the way discovery gets into criminal cases now, and it s 
not through either legislation or rules, or such as were involved 
in the Jencks case. 

Stein: Speaking of the Justice Department drafting legislation, someone 

in one of our other interviews mentioned that Brownell himself was 
very helpful in drafting legislation. 

Olney: Oh, he is an excellent draftsman. Yes, yes. There are many good 
lawyers who are not. But he is a good draftsman. During his 
tenure, he would always go over personally and with care any 
important piece of legislation, although it might be drafted else 
where in the department. Often he made improvements. 

The Harry Dexter White Affair 

Stein: I thought we might talk about Harry Dexter White now. 

Olney: All right. That is a very long story and a peculiar one. My story 
of the Harry Dexter White matter is quite different from what you 
would find in magazine articles and in books of the time and so 


Olney: It all stemmed from our desire in the criminal division to get our 
business under control. When I got there, I found that there was 
no real order about anything. Cases would come in and the file 
would be referred to a lawyer. Nobody would be very sure what 
lawyer, there was no system for following up on what he did with 
the case, and folders would be stacked around in offices. The 
general appearance of lawyers offices was desks and windows and 
everything with files piled all over them. Papers would come in 
and would go to the lawyers. They would accumulate in boxes. 
Sometimes they d get into the proper folders and sometimes they 
wouldn t . 

The result was that topside we had no idea what was going on. 
We felt that we had to know, we ought to know, what was going on in 
all our cases, or at least be in a position to get the information 
immediately. Besides, we had found that there were some of these 
files sitting out there that were matters of real importance that 
we knew nothing about. 

One of them was this heavy investigation of Tom Clark that we 
got on to by finding the file in one of these huge piles of files 
in a lawyer s office that related to that investigation. There was 
no record anywhere else about it. There was another inquiry about 
Judge Bazelon and some of the dealings that he had had when he was 
assistant in charge of alien property. 

Stein: What kind of judge was he? 

Olney: He was on the court of appeals of the District of Columbia. 

Well, the best way we could think of to get these cases in order 
and matters under control was to insist that the files be brought 
up to date, and then be issued by the filing room only when they 
were needed. We did this by sending out first a directive that the 
appropriate papers should be put into each of the files and the 
lawyers should send them to the general files and then redraw them 
if they needed them and leave the ones that they didn t need in the 
general files where they ought to be. 

Well, that worked fairly well, but it had to be followed up, some 
couple of weeks later, with a flat order that no one was to have any 
file in his office or on his desk on which he wasn t working unless 
he could account for it in some proper way. I don t remember the 
terms of the order, but I know it was as positive and had as severe 
a sanction as I dared put on it about what would happen if this 
wasn t done. 


Stein: It seems to me I remember in the Saturday Evening Post article* I 
read that you said that they might as well consider themselves 
fired, or something equally severe. 

Olney: It does relate that. I believe that is in that article and I guess 
maybe it was something like that. I know we made it as severe as 
we could, but whether it was in language like that or not, I don t 

Anyway, the result, of course, was that there was just a complete 
blizzard of files that hit the general file room. All sorts of 
stuff showed up, incredible materials that had been out of the files 
for many years. Some of the things had been quite important. Some 
of them had been badly neglected. 

Among these many papers which came in where these very extra 
ordinary reports about Harry Dexter White. These reports, class 
ified top secret, had been signed by J. Edgar Hoover personally and 
addressed to the attorney general, I believe, and then to General 
Vaughan, who was Truman s secretary, for the attention of the 
president. The reason for that was that Truman had asked Hoover 
not to send stuff to him directly but to send it through General 
Vaughan. These reports described this very large espionage ring 
of Russian agents. That is, they knew who the Russian connection 
was and there was a whole ring of people in government, particularly 
in the Treasury Department, who were supplying documents and things 
of this kind for transmission to the Russians. Harry Dexter White 
was one of them. 

White was Henry Morgenthau s number-one man in the Treasury 
Department. At the time this report was being written, he was 
under consideration for appointment as director of the it wasn t 
the World Bank, but it s something similar to that; it s an inter 
national banking organization. 

Stein: The International Monetary Fund. 

Olney: Yes, the International Monetary Fund: that was it. Well, that fund 
had complete control over the decisions that were to be made about 
the expenditures of American funds in the rebuilding of Europe. To 
have a communist agent in charge of that was certainly not in our 

Sidney Shalett, "How to Be a Crime Buster," Saturday Evening Post, 
March 19, 1955, p. 25. [See Appendix F. ] 


Olney: The reports were not vague. They were very specific not only about 
White, but about all the others that were named in them and what 
their functions were and what their activities had been and the 
like. Well, the remarkable thing about the matter was that White 
had been appointed by President Truman to the position of executive 
director of the International Monetary Fund after he had seen and 
notwithstanding these reports that established pretty conclusively 
that White was an espionage agent. 

I couldn t understand why something hadn t happened when this 
information got over to the White House. I took it up with Hoover 
and showed him the report, and he gave me a full account of how it 
had been prepared and who the informant was. There was never any 
doubt in their minds, or in mine either, about her reliability and 
accuracy. The tip-off came from a woman who was an intermediary 
between the Russian agent and the rest of these people, who had 
changed her mind about Stalinist communism and had informed the 
FBI about this ring. They had investigated thoroughly and found 
out that her story was entirely true. 

Well, Hoover said that he had discussed it with Tom Clark when 
he was attorney general and that he had sent the reports to Truman. 
But nothing was done. He was sure that Truman had seen it. No 
action had been taken. He had no explanation of why it hadn t been 
taken . 

Well, I thought that we ought to try to find out what had happened 
to these reports in the department. We made a quiet inquiry as 
thoroughly as we could to try to find out who in the department had 
had this matter on his desk all these years. We never could find 
out. We never did know. But it was there on somebody s desk. 

I then made out a memorandum, myself, to the attorney general 
and transmitted the whole thing to him so that he would be fully 
informed about this. I can t recall that I discussed it with any 
body excepting him and Bill Rogers. I think we all felt that it 
was too explosive for general discussion anywhere, and it was too 
mysterious as far as we were concerned. We were just baffled as 
to how this appointment could have happened in the face of informa 
tion of this sort. 

I don t remember the sequence of events I mean the intervals 
of time but it was somewhere not long after I had turned this 
over to Mr. Brownell that he was to make a speech before a business 
men s club in Chicago. Here again I m going entirely on recollec 
tion. Mr. Brownell tells me that my recollection is at fault, but 
I don t know whether it s at fault. My recollection is that I 
wrote that speech and put this material in it. 


Olney: It was earthshaking . It was like setting off an atomic bomb when 
it happened. I always felt very apologetic for having put that in 
the speech, because I know that I did not discuss it with him in 
advance. I thought that I was simply drafting a talk that he might 
make, that he might use, supplying material. I had no idea that 
he would use anything of mine without a very complete revision. My 
recollection is that what he gave was what I had written. 

On top of that, I thought the timing was terrible. It was the 
wrong place and the wrong period of time; it was just before an 
election. Mr. Brownell is an astute man. To let off a thing like 
that before an election doesn t help; he knows that. Lots of 
people think it does, but usually it has a bad reaction. I don t 
think, if he had really considered this in advance, that he would 
have done it at that time and place. But when I try to apologize 
to him for this, he won t accept it. He said, "Warren, that isn t 
the way it happened." He said, "Don t worry yourself about it. 
You didn t do anything out of line." 

Stein: Has he told you how it did happen? 

Olney: No, that s all he said to me about it. Well, anyway, it went off 
with a bang. I was horrified, not at the public revelation, but I 
thought that the timing of it was just unfortunate. 

Stein: Yes, I think that Drew Pearson said something in his Diaries. 

Olney: Yes, he does, sure. He draws the inference that that was planned 

and done deliberately in order to affect the elections. Well, Drew 
Pearson had a son-in-law, George Arnold, who was running in Califor 
nia for the Congress on the Democratic ticket against a Republican, 
and his Republican opponent used this stuff against him. So Pearson 
came to this conclusion, but that doesn t mean that that was the 
reason that it was done. I only know that this is the way the thing 
came to light, and that Mr. Brownell thought it ought to be given to 
the public . 

But another thing about it that appalled him at the time was that 
the papers twisted his language so that it sounded as though he was 
questioning the loyalty of Harry Truman. Well, he never had any 
intention of doing that. He was very, very upset to see how these 
remarks had been used. He didn t know why there hadn t been some 
action taken. But none of us ever had the slightest doubt that 
Harry Truman was as patriotic as we were or anyone else. To have 
this come out was awful. 


Olney: Of course, Truman flared up the moment that happened and he made 
some very unwise statements. He said, right off the cuff, when 
they asked him, that he had never seen the FBI reports. Then he 
changed his account and said that he had let the nomination go 
through because he thought that was the best way to "trap" White. 
Well, that s a lot of nonsense. It didn t make any sense. 

A curious incident with Governor James Byrnes of South Carolina, 
Truman s former secretary of state, may be worth mentioning here. 
You will recall that after Mr. Brownell s Chicago speech, when Harry 
Truman was confronted by the press, he first said that he had never 
read the FBI reports on Harry Dexter White, as Mr. Brownell had 
implied that he must have done in his speech. Later on he changed 
his account, saying that his memory had been at fault and that he 
had indeed read the reports and had decided to go ahead with White s 
appointment notwithstanding in order to permit the FBI to catch him. 

But there was an interval of some time between the time that 
Truman denied ever seeing the reports and his subsequent admission 
that he had read them. During that interim period I received a 
telephone call from Governor Byrnes. I had never met the man. He 
said he did not want to talk to Mr. Brownell but wanted to speak 
to me because I was the assistant in charge of the criminal division. 
He wanted me to tell Mr. Brownell that Mr. Brownell was absolutely 
right in believing that President Truman must have read the FBI 
reports on Harry Dexter White; that duplicates of the reports had 
been sent to him as secretary of state at the same time they were 
sent to President Truman; that he had written a note to President 
Truman telling him that he considered the reports a matter of major 
importance and they certainly should be read by him; and that later 
on he had discussed the reports with President Truman as to what 
should be done about the pending appointment of Harry Dexter White 
to be the American director of the International Monetary Fund. He 
wanted me to tell Mr. Brownell that he was willing to testify to 
this if necessary. 

Shortly afterwards President Truman issued his second statement 
to the effect that his memory had been at fault and that he had 
indeed read the FBI reports but had decided to go ahead with the 
appointment of Harry Dexter White notwithstanding. 

Well, one of the internal security committees, I think it was, 
called a public hearing. 

Stein: It was the Senate. 


Olney: Well, they had Mr. Brownell up there to explain all this and give 

his story, and this is the document that I handed you, which is his 
testimony before the Senate subcommittee.* This is what he read. 

It s one of those things that s bound to come to light; it s 
bound to become public. But none of us have ever understood at all 
why no action was taken. We don t know whether it was that Truman 
never- read the reports. Truman had an intense dislike for Hoover 
and, if you will read this recent book, Plain Speaking**, the brush- 
off that he gives Hoover is typical. He always disliked Hoover. He 
thought Hoover was messing around in a lot of things that weren t 
his business. And it may be that he just wouldn t read it. But, 
my goodness, Jimmy Byrnes read it and Tom Clark read it and, accord 
ing to Drew Pearson in his Diaries, [T. Lamar] Caudle knew about it. 
And all of these people knew about it at the time of White s nomina 
tion and appointment. 

Stein: And none of them spoke out about it? 

Olney: No, none of them spoke out about it. They seemed to get the informa 
tion there too late, or something. I don t understand it. 

Now, it s worth noting that many of the others that were named in 
that report besides White were later proved to be communist agents. 

Stein: What was the upshot of the whole affair, after Brownell gave his 
speech and there was all this to-do? 

Olney: Well, White was dead, and there wasn t much that did happen from it. 
Most of the others had gotten out of the country. Laughlin Currie, 
I think it was, went to Venezuela and became an advisor to the 
Venezuelan government and wouldn t come back. 

Stein: Nathan Gregory Silvermaster was a name that appeared often. 

"Remarks by Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr. to Subcommittee 
of the U.S. Senate Committee on Internal Security," November 17, 
1953. On deposit in The Bancroft Library. 

" : *Merle Miller, Plain Speaking. An Oral Biography of Harry S. 
Truman (New York, 1974) . 


Olney: Yes, he was an important figure, but I don t remember what happened 
to him. I just don t. I know that those who were available were 
all called before one committee or another. All of them took the 
Fifth Amendment. I don t recall that any of them were successfully 
prosecuted. The principal witness was Elizabeth Bentley, and I 
can t recall that we ever used her as a witness. 

Stein: Was she an informant? 

Olney: Yes, she was the one who was an informant. I think she s dead now. 

Stein: Had she been used in other cases also? 

Olney: Well, she knew I think I m correct in this Alger Hiss and Whittaker 
Chambers and worked with them too, and I believe that she may have 
testified in the Hiss case, for all I know. I m not sure. No, I 
guess she didn t, because the Hiss case was during the Democratic 
days and I don t think she d been uncovered at the time that this 
report came to light. So, I m too hazy to be exact on this. 

Stein: At the end of Brownell s remarks to the Senate Internal Security 

Subcommittee, he offers a couple of proposals for new legislation. 

Olney: Yes, the first was to allow the government to use wiretap evidence. 
That was never passed. The next was to allow grants of immunity to 
witnesses. There was eventually legislation on that subject. I 
don t think it was passed while he was attorney general. I think it 
was the Kennedy administration that passed that. 

Senator Joseph McCarthy 

Stein: Speaking of subversive activities, did you run into Senator McCarthy 
much? Did you have many dealings with him? 

Olney: Yes. I didn t have any dealings with him personally, but there were 
anti-McCarthy groups in the Congress who tried to keep Senator 
McCarthy from being seated and were opposing him in every way, and 
they had accumulated a whole mass of evidence which they wanted to 
use against him in the Congress. Drew Pearson, in fact, recounts 
this. Then they all got cold feet and there wasn t a single one of 
them who dared to protest his sitting. 

They had turned this over to Attorney General McGranery, who was 
in office, so that was one of the things that I inherited. They 
used to come in I can t remember who they all were, but I had 
numerous visits from many of them and they were urging us to take 
action against McCarthy. 


Olney: What they had was evidence of McCarthy s collecting money. He d go 
out and make speeches and talk about a "cause" or something like 
that and there would be contributions that would pour in, all kinds 
of them, mail and everything else. Then they had dug out the fact 
that McCarthy had not used these monies in any particular cause, 
but he was using them personally. He was buying and selling on the 
commodity market, and other ventures of that kind, which, if these 
were trust funds in any way, would have been embezzlement. They 
wanted us to proceed on that. 

Well, we would have been willing to proceed, and we always told 
them so. But where s the trust; for what purpose were these monies 
donated? And who is complaining that the money that he gave is being 
misused? When you talked to the people who gave the money, they 
said, "Well, that s fine, we gave him the money without any strings 
attached . He can use it for anything he wants . We believe in the 
man. If he can use it on the commodity market and make more money, 
well, that s great." [laughter] You can t make a case, not on that 
kind of evidence. 

Then we also had just as many complaints from the McCarthy people, 
who were trying to persuade us to take action against Senator 
[William] Benton and Senator Chester Bowles. They had complaints