Interviewer's Name: Troy Davis
Interview Date and Location: The interview was conducted on March 25, 2011, in suite 303 in the Liberal Arts North Building at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Context Notes: Interview and transcription completed in conjunction with the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project at Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
At one point during the interview Mr. Marshall's cell phone rings and he turns the phone off. Throughout the interview Mr. Marshall hits the table with his hands while discussing certain topics about Charlie Wilson. Finally, Mr. Marshall and Davis both laugh and chuckle when remembering certain stories about Charlie Wilson.
Tapes and Interview Record: The original recordings of the interview and a full transcript are held by the East Texas Research Center, R. W. Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas
Transcription Notes: The policy of the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project has been to eliminate false starts and crutch words from transcriptions when determined not to affect the meaning and flow of the spoken word. Obviously, and admittedly, this is a subjective endeavor and all care was taken to maintain the integrity of the interview.
The interviewer Troy Davis is identified as DAVIS. Bill Marshall is identified as MARSHALL.
DAVIS: This is Troy Davis speaking. It's Friday March 25, 2011. It's about 12:35pm and we are in suite 303 in the Liberal Arts North Building, on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University. I'm here to talk to Mr. William Marshall, Bill Marshall.
MARSHALL: Bill, yeah.
DAVIS: The late congressman Charlie Wilson's first district director out of the Lufkin office.
DAVIS: Talking to Mr. Marshall this afternoon is part of the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project and thank you for participating.
MARSHALL: It's my pleasure.
DAVIS: I thought we might start with a few questions about you yourself then move into a discussion of your experiences with Congressman Wilson. So, let's begin at the beginning. When and where were you born?
MARSHALL: I was born in Bryan, Texas. September 23, 1946. Uh, with you know, I'm going to go ahead and go on up to junior high school. We moved. My father was working oil pipelines
MARSHALL: So we moved, you know, we moved around some cause they'd finish a job, we'd move to the next town. And about 1955 he got a job with Dow Chemical Company and we moved to the Lake Jackson, Freeport, Texas area. That's where I went from third grade on through high school. I graduated high school from Brazosport High School. I then went to one year of engineering school at University of Houston and I found out I was not going to be an engineer.
DAVIS: [Davis laughs] Yeah.
MARSHALL: I've always been involved with politics. I did my first campaign in 1958. I was twelve years old. I was campaigning for Ralph Yarbrough.* I was handing out hand bills and knocking on doors and putting things on people's windshields. I'd always been interested in politics. I had an uncle who worked for Lyndon [B.] Johnson for thirty years. And, I always had my interest there so I came to SFA [Stephen F. Austin State University] and got my degree in political science and economics here. Graduated in January of '70. I then went to work for State Farm Insurance as a claim representative in Lufkin [Texas]. And while I was attending SFA I had a professor named Charles Simpson. I don't know if you know him or not?
[*Ralph Webster "Smilin' Ralph" Yarborough, was a United States senator and leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in Texas from 1957-70. See, Mark Odintz, "YARBOROUGH, RALPH WEBSTER," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/ articles/fyags), published by the Texas State Historical Association.]
MARSHALL: But, I was working and I came by, he and I became friends, student, you know, professor . . . friends. And I went by his office one day and said, "Hey I got some time. Who we going to campaign for?" And he said, "Charlie Wilson". And I said, "Well, I got some time, you know."
DAVIS: That's exactly what I was going to ask questions that would of lead [Davis laughs] . . .
MARSHALL: Yeah, and so I mean. And so Charles Simpson, you know, he said "What are you doing right now." I said, you know, "I'm off the rest of the day, let's go." So we went over to the campaign headquarters and I started working in the campaign and Charlie got elected. They offered me the district, we called them district assistants then. They call it district directors now. I mean, the nomenclature changes.
DAVIS: Right, yeah. So that was in '72?
MARSHALL: Seventy-two. It was the '72 election. And I went to work for Charlie. I went to work for him in January 3rd. I think that's when they take office, 1973. And I left Charlie in 1977.
DAVIS: Okay, yeah, that was going to be one of my questions when you first, so, you hadn't met Charlie before you started working on . . .
MARSHALL: On the campaign. I hadn't met him. I heard of him, but I had not met him. I knew I did not want the congressman who was currently in office, in office.
DAVIS: Oh yeah.
MARSHALL: As a student here this was that congressional district of John Dowdy.*
[*A US Representative from Texas (Democrat); born in Waco, McLennan County, Tex., February 11, 1912; graduated from high school in Henderson, TX, 1928; attended the College of Marshall (now East Texas Baptist University), 1929-1931; private study of law; court reporter, 1931-44; lawyer, private practice; district attorney, third judicial district of Texas, 1945-1952; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-second Congress by special election to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of US Representative Tom Pickett, and reelected to the ten succeeding Congresses (September 23, 1952-January 3, 1973); was not a candidate for reelection to the Ninety-third Congress in 1972; died on April 12, 1995, in Athens, Texas.]
DAVIS: John Dowdy.
MARSHALL: And, pretty sure. Well, John Dowdy was convicted of bribery and his wife Johnny Dina Dowdy was running. That's who Charlie, that was his main opponent there was, I think there was one other opponent but I don't remember that name.
MARSHALL: But the opponent was, John Dowdy's wife. Like I said, John Dowdy had been convicted of bribery.
DAVIS: Uh-huh, oh, okay.
MARSHALL: So he couldn't run again.
DAVIS: So that's spelt D-O-W-D-Y.
DAVIS: John Dowdy. And what was the wife's name again?
MARSHALL: Johnny Dina was what I remember.
DAVIS: Oh, okay.
MARSHALL: You can double check, I think that's, that's what I remember. That's 1972 to now and . . .
DAVIS: Yeah, Yeah.
MARSHALL: That's almost forty years.
DAVIS: Some things have probably faded a little bit.
DAVIS: So, Johnny Dina Dowdy.
DAVIS: Alright. Well when you first met the congressman did, were you with your professor? Did he introduce you?
MARSHALL: Yes, yeah, yeah. Charles Simpson introduced me to him because Simpson, Charles Simpson, had known Charlie for a while. I think he worked in his '68. I think Charlie Wilson had a 1968 [Texas] senate election.
MARSHALL: And I'm pretty sure Charles Simpson worked, you know, knew him and did some stuff for him at that point.
MARSHALL: And like I said, he just said we have a candidate to go work for and I said, "Okay."
DAVIS: Yeah, Yeah, sounds good. So, I guess he was a . . . First Charlie was a . . . state representative?
MARSHALL: He was a state representative from 1960 to '66 . . . which means that they didn't take office until '61. And they were out of office in '67 and he ran for the Texas Senate '66 through '72 and then took over from '73 to '97 [in the US House of Representatives].
MARSHALL: His twenty-four years there.
DAVIS: Yeah. What were your first impressions of Charlie? [Marshall chuckles] When you first met him?
MARSHALL: First impressions, he was very . . . down to Earth is what I found out about him. You know, we talked about stuff. I said I just want to campaign for you and I really want to get these other people out of office. [Davis laughs] I think you're a fresh voice, you know, you have a lot of potential. And we talked about certain things. And . . . a lot of it, he was on the campaign trail doing his stuff and I was usually with Ian Foley.* I don't know if you, you probably seen Ian down there. But Ian and I would go out and we would do our campaigning. We put up a lot of signs . . .
[*Ian Foley was a longtime friend and campaigner for Wilson, starting in his Texas Senate days in 1968.]
MARSHALL: . . . going through the district.
MARSHALL: Nailing up those Charlie Wilson signs.
DAVIS: Doing sort of the foot soldier type of stuff.
MARSHALL: Yeah, yeah. Campaigning, you know.
DAVIS: Yeah, yeah. Did you get a chance when you first got to know the congressman as to what, what motivate him, motivated him to get involved in politics and public life?
[Davis and Marshall chuckle.]
MARSHALL: He, how do I put it? Charlie enjoyed being in the public eye.
MARSHALL: I was a lot more private than Charlie was. I'll be quite frank. I enjoyed a lot of the public stuff that we did. But he was a lot more in a public life and he liked it. There's no doubt that he liked the . . .
MARSHALL: . . . the press coverage, that he liked his pictures [Davis laugh] . . . being in the paper on the television set or whatever, he did enjoy it. He, he no doubt about it.
DAVIS: So, sort of a natural politician . . .
MARSHALL: Yeah, Charlie was very a natural politician. Very natural. He, you know, when he went in a room, he was shaking hands and talking with people. A lot of times I'd have to remind him who somebody was, you know, like okay who's that in the corner over there. And sometimes I didn't know them but a lot of times I did because I was in the district all the time.
MARSHALL: Uh, that's what he had me for.
DAVIS: Yeah, yeah.
MARSHALL: For some of that . . . when I was coming on with Charlie. Vietnam was a big deal and in mine was we needed a, how do you say, save our face and get out of Nam. And Charlie was talking that. He wasn't being a dove as they did in those days, the doves and the hawks.
DAVIS: Right, right.
MARSHALL: He was, knowing that we needed to get out of Vietnam.
MARSHALL: But we had to do it in an honorable way and in a peaceful way. It didn't totally end up that way but, he was wanting us to get out because we had been there too long. It wasn't like a McCarthy type of exit. That McCarthy was wanting to do. It was more of a . . . let's, let's do this in a, you know, in a stream line fashion, in a . . .
DAVIS: Maybe without just abandoning . . .
MARSHALL: Yeah, just not like, "Okay, pull the troops we're gone. Leave it."
MARSHALL: It was like, we've got to do this in a systematic well thought out plan.
DAVIS: Yeah, yeah.
MARSHALL: So, that was some of it. And, like I said, we left in '75, is when we got out of Vietnam.
MARSHALL: And it was a little chaotic at the end.
DAVIS: Yeah, yeah.
MARSHALL: So . . .
DAVIS: So, he was, of course, I mean, the general public, what they know about him was the things covered in the movie and so forth. But he was interested in foreign affairs and foreign policy . . .
DAVIS: . . . well before, before that. It sounds like so.
MARSHALL: He was on the veterans' affairs and the foreign relations committees. He was always concerned with the veterans.
MARSHALL: There's no doubt about it. Charlie's deal when he talked with us is, take care of the home folk.
MARSHALL: And it was, how do you put it, it was almost, the mantra, or drilled in your head, we had to take care of our constituents.
MARSHALL: And Charlie . . . he did. He wanted to take care of the constituents with their, you know, problems and I didn't do a whole lot of case work. I did some but not a whole lot, there, a lot of that was done in Washington but that's what it was, helping the constituents.
MARSHALL: And . . .
DAVIS: That's what's meant by case work, like somebody had a problem.
MARSHALL: With Social Security or the Veterans Administration or IRS, we didn't, IRS was the toughest one, but [Davis laughs] nobody wanted to mess with them.
DAVIS: Yeah, yeah.
MARSHALL: So. I mean just tell, but some people did have problems and some of them we could get worked out. There was some interesting things we got to do in that line. So . . .
DAVIS: That's what I was going to ask you too. You told me a little about your basic duties for the congressman during campaigns when the campaigns weren't going on what?
MARSHALL: Being a federal employee you could not campaign.
DAVIS: Oh, okay.
MARSHALL: Now the campaigning I did was before . . .
DAVIS: Before . . .
MARSHALL: I was hired on. And what we would do is when it, if, if I was having to take him around for campaigns or whatever or do that part, then I would get off the federal payroll, and I would get on the campaign payroll.
DAVIS: Hmm, yeah.
DAVIS: So there was a process . . .
DAVIS: . . . for doing that so. . .
MARSHALL: [Marshall continuously hitting the table with his hand for emphasis] They would do that, they would drop you off the House of Representatives federal employee payroll and put you on the campaign payroll.
DAVIS: Oh, that's interesting.
MARSHALL: Yeah, sometimes they drop me off for two or three months, if I, if they were going to need it.
MARSHALL: You know, I would say the '76 election, was one of the few times that we had to do it, that I was there. We only did, '74 we really didn't have any competition so we didn't have to quote, "campaign." Seventy-six there was some competition. I think his name was Richard Brown.
DAVIS: Richard Brown.
MARSHALL: And he was from like Hill Top Lakes.
DAVIS: Okay. And just Brown like the color I guess then?
MARSHALL: Yeah, just the color. And that was the '76 election, I'm pretty certain, then they pulled me off then because we did have to do some campaigning
DAVIS: Right, right.
MARSHALL: And, anyway, a lot of my regular duties, mine was like, Charlie would come in from Washington we would have meetings with the Lion's Clubs, the Rotary Clubs, the Kiwanis or . . . you know, the Chamber of Commerce, different counties in different cities. You know, we'd have meetings, you know, they'd set all his schedule up in Washington. And then I would drive Charlie around . . .
DAVIS: Take him around.
MARSHALL: Yeah. Like I was telling Peggy Love [one of Wilson's caseworkers in the 1970s, who also interviewed, twice, for this oral history project] last night. In all probability those first five years that I worked for Charlie I was probably alone with Charlie more than anyone on the staff.
DAVIS: Oh, really? Yeah.
MARSHALL: Well, from the stand point, I'd pick him up the airport in Houston. We'd drive. I mean it's just him and I in the car driving to Lufkin. Then I'd pick him up the next morning, we'd drive to Orange or just all over the district where all these meetings and stuff were. And sometimes he'd and I'd be in the car alone eight and ten hours at a time.
DAVIS: Wow, yeah.
MARSHALL: So, a lot of them didn't, you know.
MARSHALL: If he's up in Washington he's either in the committee meetings or he's on the floor.
DAVIS: Right, yeah.
MARSHALL: You know, so I got to spend a lot of individual time with Charlie. I got to know him very well.
DAVIS: Yeah, and almost everything you did was, was here in East Texas?
MARSHALL: Yes, I stayed in the district. I'd go to Washington some, but not very often. And more of that was, "Let Bill see, this part of it," you know.
DAVIS: So that you could do your . . .
MARSHALL: So that I could understand my job a little better. If you don't see what's going at the other end, it's awful hard to visualize or conceptualize it, and when I did I had a better feeling. Plus I got to see, I had got to meet the staff in Washington face to face, which, you know, they had heard me talk to him on the phone and everything else and, same thing, they're putting a face with a voice. And it kind of humanized it or made it a little more personal to where, you know, you knew the people a little bit better. And it was a good thing, you know, good communication.
DAVIS: Yeah. Generally speaking, from what I understand, and obviously correct me if I'm wrong, but in terms of the congressman's voting record he was pretty much what we would consider fairly liberal. More so than what you would think East Texas was in general. Is that correct or?
MARSHALL: It depends on the issue.
MARSHALL: Charlie used to explain it this way. In congress, think of it as a hand. You got your way out liberals, your moderate liberals, you got middle of the roaders, moderate conservatives, and very, very conservatives, you know, and that's how congress is. Whether it's, and I'm not saying democrats liberal, I mean, there's, you know, just liberal issues. And the vote, you would have to try and get three of them together
MARSHALL: Because it was somewhat divided between those five areas and some things Charlie was liberal, some things Charlie was as conservative as some of these guys over here in the moderate to very conservative. Charlie was very much a hawk. He was very much on the defense of our country, I mean, Naval Academy graduate. He wanted our country protected . . .
DAVIS: So that regarded, be very much on the side of the more conservative.
MARSHALL: More conservative ones. A lot of folks never understood why he was pro-Israeli. In his district, Charlie use to also make the joke, "He, there's only six, you know, Jewish heritage people in the whole district," and they could never understand why he was so pro-Israeli. Well it's the only democracy in the Middle East that was somewhat of an ally, yeah.
DAVIS: But when it came to things, like more social issues or economic issues here at home, he might be, might been a little more . . .
MARSHALL: I'd say moderate liberal. That's how I would classify it. He was for, you know, not robbing the bank to pay them. You know we got these people who have some issues that we need to address and, yeah, he was, and on yeah, here, here's the white elephant in the room and on the race relations, Charlie was the first congressmen from this congressional district to ever of hire a black person, ever.
DAVIS: Well I heard him speak at . . . I think Arthur B. Temple,* there was, I may be wrong about the person, but Charlie spoke at sort of a memorial thing for him, down in Diboll . . .
[*Arthur B. Temple, Jr., b. 1920, d. 2006, often called "Big Pop" by Wilson and others, especially as Charlie was close friends with Arthur's son Buddy, was a businessman and philanthropist. He was born in Texarkana, Arkansas, the son of Arthur Temple, Sr. and Katherine Robson (Sage) Temple. His grandfather, T. L. L. Temple, founded the Southern Pine Lumber Company, and Arthur Jr. grew up in the lumber business. After leaving the University of Texas in 1938 he worked as a bookkeeper at a company lumber yard at Paris and in 1941 became manager of another company lumber yard at Lufkin, making it one of the company's most profitable. He eventually became executive vice president and general manager of Southern Pine Lumber Company in 1948, and in 1951, following the death of his father, president. Following Time Inc.'s 1973 acquisition of Temple Industries, Temple became vice chairman of the media conglomerate, and after Time Inc. spun off Temple-Inland in 1984 Temple served as board chairman of that company until 1991 and emeritus board chairman until his retirement in 1994. For more on Temple, see Austin American-Statesman, April 13, 2006; Lufkin Daily News, April 12 and 13, 2006; The Pine Bough, December 2006, pp. 10-18; Vertical Files, The History Center, Diboll, TX; and Who's Who in America, 1988-89.]
MARSHALL: Diboll, for Arthur B. Temple when he passed away?
DAVIS: Right, yeah. He addressed some of those racial issues . . .
MARSHALL: Arthur Temple was very . . . how do you put it, he may have been a rich man, and he was a rich man, but he had a feeling for people. I can guarantee you that, I know that man did.
DAVIS: Right. That was Charlie's main point, I think, in his talk.
MARSHALL: That he was, oh yeah. There's no doubt, I mean, with what I was around of Arthur Temple, and it wasn't a front. You understand, I sometimes was with the front, but I was also in the back rooms, And it didn't change. It wasn't, you know, "Let's do this and I will look like a good guy." But, you know, back here, "Nah, I don't like the-." You know, it wasn't that. It was sincere and it was open, and it was, you know, because I always thought, "Okay, they're going to come back here and it's going to be something different," you know, I was always, now I'm like twenty-seven years old now. And I'm kind of, "Now they're going to come back here and, you know, do the good."
DAVIS: It's a real deal.
MARSHALL: Yeah, make the good-old-boy deal of, you know, yeah, we are going to say all this but it wasn't. It was what was said up here was said back there. And more or less, once I got to know everybody and players and all this, there was more said back here first, and then went out, but it didn't change and it was very open and very sincere. Charlie was Pops' bad boy. I mean he, but he was open about it.
DAVIS: Right, right he wasn't, that's one thing that I read about him that there was no hypocrisy.
MARSHALL: No, he was not a hypocrite. He, you know . . . when [Speaker of the House, D-MA] Tip O'Neal appointed him to the Ethics Committee everybody in the world was just [Davis and Marshall laugh], and Charlie's deal was, well, "Who else would know better than me" [Davis and Marshall laugh].
DAVIS: Well actually of the things you already just went into, just gone into relate to this next question. I think I know the answer. Would you characterize the congressman as ideological or would you say he was more pragmatic minded. [Marshall chuckles.]
MARSHALL: Here's, somebody asked me, I mean before you, you know, and here's what I would came back with: Charlie was a pragmatic ideologist. I mean, he had his ideas and his visions, but he also, what [movie actor] Clint Eastwood said "A man got to know his limits." It's kind of the same thing. Charlie, he, you know, he had some issues he wanted to get taken care of, but he also knew everything is not going to get done. I mean, you know, you can be, well, "We got to go and do this." Well, you can't just waste resources, you know. Be pragmatic about how you going to use your resources and do what you can. That's how I put Charlie, you know . . . and I'm not trying to walk the fence, I'm not trying to be a politician on this. That was my, you know, like I said, I've answered that question before for other friends of mine, you know, after they read the book [Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile], they were trying to figure him out also. And that's how, that I, you know, that's how I saw it.
DAVIS: I will guess you always, you know, realize you have to win elections and you can't get everything and . . .
MARSHALL: Can't get everything every time, every minute. One of the best things Charlie did to me for East Texas, for me, was, one, just represented them. Hopefully, the people of East Texas really realize what he did for this district. The one thing that I saw, now I did a lot on it too, was when they got the Big Thicket National Preserve,* that some now, that's not just for people in the second district. That's for people in the United States. I don't know if you ever been to it or looked into it, it's really, you know, I'm like, like I said, twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old. And these people are talking these ferns and, you know, virgin pine trees and which at the point I'm pretty naïve, I just been out of college a few years, I really not read a lot about the Big Thicket, you know, to me it was a big forest. You know, that, because that's just how I looked at it, but once they started pointing out all these things, I'm going wait a second, yeah, no other place in the United States do these things grow. So, and I got into it, and I'm going, you know, yes we got to get the Big Thicket National Preserve and Charlie got it through his first term in congress and it had been thrown around in Congress for over twenty years. [*Congress passed legislation that created Big Thicket National Preserve in 1974, largely thanks to Wilson, establishing the first national preserve in the National Park System. The Big Thicket is nearest Beaumont in southeast Texas. While no exact boundaries exist, the area occupies much of Hardin County, Liberty, Tyler, San Jacinto, and Polk Counties and is roughly bounded by the San Jacinto River, Neches River, and Pine Island Bayou.]
DAVIS: Oh, really
MARSHALL: Um-hm, so . . .
DAVIS: Somebody, I believe he had a lot to do with the Toledo Bend Reservoir is that correct, or am I thinking about a different . . .
MARSHALL: Well with the Sabine River Authority, Sims . . . you get my age some of these Sim Collins was a big member of the Sabine River Authority. And I want to say Toledo . . . when he was in the legislature [Marshall hits hands on table] is when Charlie worked on Toledo Bend. I'm pretty sure because Toledo Bend was already built when Charlie, because I used to fish Sam Rayburn and Toledo. And Toledo was already there way before Charlie took office, but I'm sure when he was in the [Texas] senate, because he was, Charlie was, also very big with the Trinity River Authority, he was, you know, that was in his district when he was a senator and that's when they built Lake Livingston. Then they built Lake Conroe. I know he did some stuff with Lake Conroe.
DAVIS: And, again, you touched on a lot of this, but I would think to be as successful in politics as he was for as long as he was he must have been very much focused on serving his constituents in practical ways, cutting through red tape to get people what they needed. Can you think of some specific examples of when he did that kind of thing?
MARSHALL: I'll tell you a story. I don't know if I need to tell this one or not. Anyway, they been getting a call from a veteran out of Zavalla [Texas] and . . . and how do you put it, they said, "He's calling our office all the time, can you go out and see him and meet with him in person and see if you can appease him of what his problem is or look in to see what it was." I said, "Sure." So, I called the man up, he was a veteran, World War II veteran. And I call him up to find out, you know, "Tell me some more, give me, you know, give me your information, let me call the V. A. [Veterans Affairs] and I'll come out to see you too." So, I called the V. A. up and got my liaison contact and . . . I told him who I was calling about, he says, "Oh yeah, I know," and he said, "He wants the ambulance doesn't he?" I said, "Yeah," and he said, "Every time he gets drunk [Davis laughs] he wants an ambulance to come to him because his, his wounds are hurting him." And I said, "Well, you know." And they said, "Probably in the last three years," they said, "we have sent an ambulance to him in Zavalla, which is down the third dirt road on the right, and [Davis laughs], you know, and we'll pick him up and he goes here. He dries out, he wants to go home, he wants the ambulance to take him back home," he said, "we have done this like four or five times in the last two or three years." I said, "Okay, I'm going to go out and see him and talk to him and see what it is." So I go, I call him up and I say, "I'll meet you at like 8:30 on, you know, week day morning." And I go out and its literally, you know, you go to Zavalla, you turn down this road and you take the third dirt road and, anyway, I get to his house and I turn up and there's his house, I mean, we're talking about out in the boon docks. I go up, knock on the door, he comes up, he lived alone, no car, that's why he was wanting the ambulance and he is drunker than Cooter Brown. This is like 8:15, 8:30 in the morning [Davis laughs] "How ya doing" [spoken with slurred speech to emulate a drunk talking]. You know, just really into it, and I told him you know, want to talk to him, "I want to get some more information," you know. Well, he had a can of beer, not, not I mean, I'm talking about an old coffee can, I'm taken it that it was beer because of its color, it could have been, it could have been just straight scotch or something, and in this one he had his cuspidor or what, you know, he's spitting his chewing tobacco in it. So we're talking, he's sipping, and he's getting drunker and drunker now, is like, I'm there about thirty minutes now, and he reached over and he picked up the wrong can and sucked it down [laughter].
DAVIS: So he needed the ambulance . . .
MARSHALL: [Marshall laughs] Yeah, so I'm looking at him, he got this brown stuff just coming, you know, I am, I was telling Peggy [Love] on the way over here, I say, my stomach was just [Marshall makes a noise to describe the feeling, sounds phonetically like ch, ch, ch, ch], then he, just takes the beer and drinks it and, of course, the beer was just coming out of his face too, [Davis laughs] and I get all the information I get from him and, like I say, he was very inebriated. So, just as I'm getting ready to leave and I look at the door to go out and there's his rifle next to the door and I'm going "Oh My God," because I'm not promising him that I'm going to get him an ambulance and I'm going to look in to it. Well, I need, you know, he was getting semi-belligerent, and, "I got to have this, I got to have," and I said, "Let me get, let me do what I can," you know, "let me make some phone calls." "I got to get back to it," like, thank God I didn't have a cell phone then. "I'll get back and I'll call, and I'll call you back," you know. So as I'm walking out, I'm going, "I hope he doesn't follow me," or just whatever, so I get out and I hear him coming and I don't turn around because I'm not, I said "Bill, I'm going to get to my car and open the door," and that's when I turn around, and I turned around and he was on the porch without the rifle. I was very relieved [Davis laughs] and I said, I can't remember his name. I said, "Mr Smith, I'll see you later. I'll give you a call," and . . . this is the last thing that man ever said to me or whatever, Siege Howell, [Davis laughs again] Siege Howell. And I'm going, this is an American, you know, he, anyway he was actually a prisoner of war at one point and been wounded and this stuff and was going that way and I was going Nuh-nuh. I left, I called [Wilson's first Administrative Assistant Charles] Simpson up in DC and I said, "I don't know what we're going to do with this guy," and I told him what happened, he said "Oh my God." You know, I said, you know, "We'll call the V. A.," and I call the guy back. I said, "I called the V. A. They're going to be contacting you," and I never know what happened after that . . . he was out in left field somewhere.
DAVIS: It takes all kinds of things.
MARSHALL: But, you know, in a lot of the case work, there was some, you know, the federal government does screw up. And a lot of our cases there were the, some of the easiest ones, the people didn't get their social security check and, you know, they live for the social security check, or their V. A. check and sometimes the computer didn't pick it, you know, or didn't spit it out that time, or it got, you know, I worked at, to go to SFA [Stephen F. Austin State University] when I was going there, I was a mailman at the Nacogdoches Post office, so I know that letters stick together, they'll deliver the one, the other stuck up, and you can't tell the difference. I mean, their right there, and I'm sure, you know, anyway, checks would get lost. That was probably one of the easiest ones because they could verify, because they said, you know, they already canceled that check. It won't, you know, go through and we could get them out, take them about two or three days to get them the other one and that just, you know, you were doing some good for some people. Because if they went through it a lot, if they went through it themselves, they'd get their check, but it may be a month, you know, because they well, we'll make sure you didn't cash it and trying to get another one.
DAVIS: [Davis laughs] Right, next question deals with sort of where different sort of dynamics within the Democratic Party when Congressman Wilson was in office. I know that Texas Democrats were generally a lot different, I would say than the national Party leadership during his years.
MARSHALL: Sure, in the Texas legislature, I go talk, just a state legislature, there'd be people as conservative as any Republican in it, but in Texas the Democratic Party was the only way to go, you may be a conservative Democrat or a liberal Democrat, but you still a Democrat. At that point, I would say up until well John Tower* was elected in, in '61 [Marshall hits the table with his hand] in a special election when [former US Representative, Senator, Vice-President, and President] Lyndon Johnson ran for vice president and senate and, of course, he took the vice president job and left his senate seat. Well, they had to have a special election. John Tower won that. And that was the first Republican state wide office holder for a long time, yeah for a long time.
[*John Goodwin Tower (1925-1991), first elected in 1961, was the first Republican Texas US Senator since Reconstruction (1870s). He served from 1961 to January 1985, notably serving as the chairman of the Tower Commission that investigated the Iran-Contra Affair.]
DAVIS: Since Reconstruction probably [Davis is correct] . . .
MARSHALL: Right, you're probably right, since Reconstruction. And, but the main way the whole state was run, it was Democrat. I'd say in the late seventies is what I'm, is what I'm trying to remember, somewhere in there some of the, you know, like [former US Vice-President and President] George [Herbert Walker] Bush was a Republican congressman from Houston, Bill Archer* and these, these were, you know, they were starting to become more and more . . . [Marshall's cell phone rings] Let me turn it off. I'm sorry. I thought, I thought I was going to turn it off at lunch. I apologize.
[*William Reynolds "Bill" Archer, Jr. (born 1928) served two terms in the Texas House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971, famously changing party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 1969. He then served in the US House of Representatives as a Republican from 1971 to 2001, including a stint as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Buddy Temple was born in Texarkana, Arkansas and grew up in Lufkin, Texas. A long-time (best) friend of Wilson's, as Charlie worked for Buddy's father Arthur Temple, Jr., Buddy graduated the Lawrenceville School in 1960, he attended the University of Texas at Austin from 1960 to 1961, when he joined the U.S. Army and served until 1963. After working in various businesses, including Temple Industries, from 1964 to 1966, he ran Exeter Investment Company as Vice-President, President, and Chairman from 1968 to 1982, and 1986 to 2002. Buddy began his public service when he was elected member of The Texas House of Representatives for four terms, 1973 to 1981. Running for Governor of Texas in 1982, he served on the Texas Railroad Commission and as Chairman, from 1981 to 1986. Buddy serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Temple-Inland, Inc., Chairman of the Board of First Bank & Trust, East Texas, and Chairman of the Board of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation. Buddy is the past Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute.]
So the real race was the [Democratic] primary, the, you know, because once the primary was over, the general was a slam dunk. I mean, because there was, if there was Republican opposition, so much of it was token, just, "Hey we got to put somebody up; get them on the ticket so we keep our name in front of the people." But that's how, you known, it was mostly the Democratic Party. If Charlie were running today, I to tell you the truth, I don't know if he would be running on the Republican or Democratic ticket. I really, I really don't. I'm sure he would probably still be on the Democratic one, but I understand that he kind of got, you know, on the outs with some of them because so much of it has changed.
DAVIS: That's what I was going to ask. What was, it probably changed over time, but what was his attitude toward the national leadership of the Democratic Party or his relationship with the leadership.
MARSHALL: It was okay. I don't think it was, you know, strained in any way. Buddy Temple* would be a good one for you to talk, you know, to get on that because Buddy was, Buddy he did, he did Charlie . . . at his funeral one of the things Buddy spoke about, he said that's one thing, I guess I'm looking more at the what, what Buddy was saying, that people lost their respect for each other in the House. There's a lot of "he said, she said, they said" point, finger pointing, more than it was in the older days, you know, there's lesser respect for each other and that's what was getting Charlie, meaning, you know, and Buddy even said it, Charlie and I talked about it and Charlie said he didn't think he wanted to be part of that. Now this is me for this, so Buddy would be the better source on that part, but that, that the civility has diminished so much in the last fifteen years or so . . .
[*Buddy Temple was born in Texarkana, Arkansas and grew up in Lufkin, Texas. A long-time (best) friend of Wilson's, as Charlie worked for Buddy's father Arthur Temple, Jr., Buddy graduated the Lawrenceville School in 1960, he attended the University of Texas at Austin from 1960 to 1961, when he joined the U.S. Army and served until 1963. After working in various businesses, including Temple Industries, from 1964 to 1966, he ran Exeter Investment Company as Vice-President, President, and Chairman from 1968 to 1982, and 1986 to 2002. Buddy began his public service when he was elected member of The Texas House of Representatives for four terms, 1973 to 1981. Running for Governor of Texas in 1982, he served on the Texas Railroad Commission and as Chairman, from 1981 to 1986. Buddy serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Temple-Inland, Inc., Chairman of the Board of First Bank & Trust, East Texas, and Chairman of the Board of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation. Buddy is the past Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute.]
DAVIS: That Buddy Temple?
MARSHALL: Arthur Temple the third. They call him Buddy.
DAVIS: He was good friends with Charlie . . .
MARSHALL: Oh yeah. He was, in fact, Charlie was with Buddy when Charlie died [in Lufkin, TX]. Yeah, they were in the car, and in fact, Buddy was trying to take him to the hospital. They were in a meeting and Charlie said, "I'm not feeling good," now this is being relayed to me through Buddy talking and he said, "Let's go." So they started going to the hospital and Charlie subsequently passed away.
DAVIS: I guess, kind of related to some of those same issues, Charlie's career in congress really spans several presidential administrations ago, [Richard] Nixon, [Gerald] Ford, [Jimmy] Carter.
MARSHALL: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush one [George Herbert Walker Bush], No, [Ronald] Reagan for eight, Bush one, [Bill] Clinton, there was Clinton, there was Clinton, was the last one because Charlie, you know, that was Clinton's first term [when Charlie retired from Congress in 1996].
DAVIS: Right, which of those president's do you think he most respected in his, in his own view of things?
MARSHALL: He liked Carter and I know he liked Reagan, later on, not, not say the first Reagan Administration [1981-84], but the second one [1985-88]. I think, you know, especially during that, let's see, got to get it right , probably the, you know, cause, cause Reagan took over in '80 [Reagan was elected in 1980, but took office in 1981] and, and that Afghan stuff started in '84, l'85 and that's, you know, I think Charlie and Reagan got a lot of mutual respect in that second term. I don't think, there was, was, I wasn't around with Charlie then, but I kept up with new reading and staying in contact with, you know, other staffers and that's how I saw it. I don't know about Bush one . . . and I don't know how he really did with Clinton, I really don't, I was on the road so much then I couldn't keep up, you know, when you're working six, twelve's, you're away from home, you just, all you want to do on your time off, all you want to do is sleep and eat. So . . .
DAVIS: I guess on the flip side, do you know of any of those presidents that he might not have had much respect for.
MARSHALL: Nixon, no ands, ifs, buts, or maybes. None of us had it for him. I'm going to give you a real graphic of how I describe this to my friends, they all, you, always a Democrat. I say, "No, I'm not always a Democrat." I said, "Folks, this is how I put my perspective on it. Any ocean at the bottom is, well, poop" [Davis laughs]. "Right above that is Richard Nixon. Right above that is Bill Clinton." Now, I mean, that's how, and I said, and I'm trying to be as frank as I can about it. "That's how I feel about him, with, with the way they did things."
DAVIS: Yeah, and Charlie defiantly felt that way about Nixon?
MARSHALL: About Nixon. Clinton, I'm not going to say that was, that was my opinion. Nixon scared us . . . the Saturday night , which, when he fired Archibald Cox, and the next one and the you know all this stuff that breaking into the Democratic National Party, so people they say big deal.* They say you don't understand. This is, as you know, this is politics. This is the illegal use of breaking and entering you condone, you say it's okay to plant bugs in your oppositions office. There's nothing wrong with intelligence, which is, you know, follow them around, listen to them, video record them, that, that's fine there, their, their fair game in public. But for them to do that, break the law . . . and then all the stone walling. Do I think Nixon had planned to break in? I really don't, but he tried, he tried to cover it up, and sometime the conspiracy was more than the act, you know, that was to me you . . .
[*The "Saturday Night Massacre" refers to President Richard Nixon's dogged determination to dismiss Archibald Cox as the special prosecutor of the Watergate Scandal. Specifically, On October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliott Richardson to do so, but he refused and was summarily fired. Richardson's replacement, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus was then ordered to fire Cox, refused, and then fired. Eventually, Robert Bork served two months as interim Attorney General before William B. Saxbe assumed the position officially.]
DAVIS: So, he was interfering with the enforcement of the law.
MARSHALL: Yeah, I mean if I'd been Nixon, you guys are gone. I didn't authorize this, I didn't forward or see anybody or Republican National Committee cause did it. You guys are gone. You know, I'm sorry.
DAVIS: Smarter on his part if he came out with that approach.
MARSHALL: A lot smarter.
DAVIS: I would guess Charlie would have had a lot more to do with the Speakers of the House, how did he get along with various speakers?
MARSHALL: With . . . let see . . .
DAVIS: Because there was Carl Albert.*
[*Carl Albert (1908-2000) served as a Democratic US Congressman from Oklahoma from 1947 to 1977, including a stint as the Speaker of the House from 1971 to 1977. During Wilson's tenure in the House from 1973-1996, the Speakers of the House were, in order, Carl Albert (till 1977; D-OK), Tip O'Neill (1977-1987; D-MA), Jim Wright (1987-89; D-TX), Tom Foley (1989-94; D-WA), and Newt Gingrich (1995-Wilson's retirement in 1996; R-GA).]
MARSHALL: Carl, I met Carl Albert. He got along with Carl pretty good, then after Carl, I got to think a minute here [Marshall hits the table with hand]
DAVIS: I think it was Tip O'Neal [Speaker of the House, Democrat from Massachusetts, from 1977-1987].*
[*During Wilson's tenure in the House from 1973-1996, the Speakers of the House were, in order, Carl Albert (till 1977; D-OK), Tip O'Neill (1977-1987; D-MA), Jim Wright (1987-89; D-TX), Tom Foley (1989-94; D-WA), and Newt Gingrich (1995-Wilson's retirement in 1996; R-GA).]
MARSHALL: Tip O'Neal. Tip loved Charlie. I can tell you this right now. Story, I heard Charlie telling this story. Tip was still Speaker when Charlie was doing some of this stuff in Afghan, and . . . Charlie's mother called the Speaker of the House and she wanted assurances from Tip O'Neal that her son, her boy would not be hurt when he was in Afghanistan [Davis and Marshall laugh]. Charlie tells, Charlie told that story and he said, "Tip O'Neal calls me and said 'Charlie, I don't care what you do, I do not want to answer to your mother ever again about your, you know, about you doing anything crazy and stupid in Afghanistan.'" You know, he goes, now, "I promise Tip, I, I be good. You know I wouldn't do anything too crazy, okay."
DAVIS: I know Jim Wright [D-TX; Speaker of the House from 1987-89] wasn't around for very long as Speaker, but since he was from Texas [Ft. Worth area], was there any special . . .
MARSHALL: Charlie, Jim Wright came to the district a few times to speak, you know, at fundraisers for Charlie and that kind of stuff. He and Jim, from my recollection, got along, I don't know how he did with Newt [Gingrich; Republican Speaker of the House from 1995-1999].
DAVIS: Yeah I was going to ask . . .
MARSHALL: I mean, I really don't, I mean, Charlie, how do I put it? Charlie's deal was, you know, he wanted, he wanted his district taken care of in that he would kind of sideline some of those fights that in the long run don't matter to the district: "Why am I going to take these hits from these other guys when I don't need to." So he, when I first hired on with Charlie, the game plan at that point, we're talking '72 because we talked, was in '78 he was going to run against Tower, for the senate in '76. Charlie got on the House Appropriations Committee and I knew then he's not running for the Senate, that's when I, that's when I was, I decided on my own I wanted to get my career going and that's when I left, was after he made that decision to the House on the Appropriations Committee and, and he should have, he did a little finagling there. I don't know if you know the story there or read about it. Okay, on the House Appropriations Committee. I mean, it's all a portioned, like, Texas would have so many seats and it's all apportioned like, you know, so many Republicans, so many Democrats, and the Democrats are apportioned by the populations of the state, and once the state has a person on that committee, if somebody on that committee leaves from that state, then that state gets another one and it's done on seniority. But Charlie, only been in four years. Dick White* was the next one, Democrat from El Paso, was next up on the, I mean, he was on the seniority list [White had about 6 years seniority on Wilson]. He was the next one up. Because there were people more senior than White, but they were already on. They had already worked their way up on their committees higher so Dick was the richer, was the next one up. But Charlie went to the caucus, the Texas Caucus. He out maneuvered him. And Charlie got on the House Appropriations, which just blew all of us away. You know Charlie said, "I'm go try to get it," and all of us, staff and other people, are going, "Okay Charlie." You know I mean don't tell Charlie you can't do something. And it surprised, it surprised me, and I know it surprised [Charles] Simpson. But he said Charlie went to the caucus and they went over him. It was the first time in the Texas caucus history that they didn't give it to the one with the seniority. And that was in '76.
[*Richard "Dick" White (1923-1998) was a Democratic congressman from El Paso who served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1955 to 1959 and in the US House of Representatives from 1965 to 1983.]
DAVIS: Yeah, now that would be one of the most, I guess, Ways and Means, maybe is the . . .
MARSHALL: Ah yeah, Ways and Means is all the, you know, starts all the taxing laws and the Appropriations is the one here, and my wife didn't even understand this. I said Cindy [Marshall's wife] you don't even understand how powerful the House Appropriations Committee is. Well the President does stuff. I said the President does nothing till these, till it comes out of committee and till it goes to House floor. It ain't going to happen. It's not going to happen. And I said, "All Appropriation Bills originate in the House of Representatives, not in the Senate and not in the executive department, it's this committee. Now think about that! We're talking how big is the budget now, and this committee controls a lot of that and the Ways those are, the two most powerful in my opinion, the house Ways and Means, and the House Appropriations because all taxing bills and all appropriations bills have to originate by the constitution in the House of Representatives."
DAVIS: Right! Yeah, so once you got on that committee, I mean, that was powerful enough that he lost interest in the Senate, yeah, because that's the best he could . . .
MARSHALL: I mean, you know, that's a very prestigious job and Charlie worked his way up in the committee and, like I said, he was on the one he got more of the black ops, or whatever you want to call it for getting money to the Afghans you know.
DAVIS: Right, as a result, for being on that committee. Well, when was the last time you saw . . . you stopped working for him in '77.
MARSHALL: Seventy-seven. I'm trying to think the last time I saw him . . . He was getting, I was working in Beaumont, Hurricane Rita, in 2005. And he was getting . . . I think that is the last time I saw him. He was getting an award from the Big Thicket Association . . . for stuff he had done, you know, through the years, and then, plus, after he got out, what he still did for the Big Thicket National Preserve. And Charlie didn't, I mean this, you know, ten years or so, eight years after he'd retired, and like he had told the guys, "I don't make too many, I don't accept too many awards anymore," he said. "But this is one that I cherish," and I saw him and I talked to him for a few minutes . . . that was the last time I saw him. I'm pretty sure that was 2005. It was like November, December 2005, something like that.
DAVIS: I guess . . . he lived in Lufkin after he was congressman?
MARSHALL: Yeah, well after he was congressman. He started Wilson Associates; I think was the name of it. Wilson and Associates, or Wilson Associates and he was doing some . . . probably lobbying work, something like that. He had, you know, people who wanted to . . . you know, get him to help them figure out how to get things done in Congress, and I think Charlie just got, I guess when he got tired of all the lack of civility on the Hill, and I would say he moved back to the district, like, in 2000, I think. I think he did it for about two or three years in D. C. I'm trying, trying to remember, you know, and I talked to him on the phone a couple of times . . . anyway that's . . .
DAVIS: But it's getting fed up with the incivility; had a big, when you talk to him those times, did he complain about that kind of thing?
MARSHALL: No, we were talking about some other things. He talked about the, like I said, that's what Buddy was relating about the civility. I'm just assuming, that's an assumption on my own part, that I think he just got tired of the rat race of D. C. and wanted to get a little . . .
DAVIS: To get back to normal?
MARSHALL: Yeah. You know, he was probably approaching seventy. You know, "I got enough money, I don't need to put up with the stuff any more so. . ."
DAVIS: Just to kind of began to wrap things up, is there anything in particular you might want to add that you think is important for people to know or understand about . . .
MARSHALL: About Charlie?
DAVIS: Yeah about Charlie.
MARSHALL: Charlie had his way. I mean he had his way to do things and he had . . . now he was very grateful for his job. He always thanked the people you know, yeah, "I may like to drink and carouse" and, and there's no doubt I can tell stories on that myself. But it went back to the mantra. "Take care of the home folk" and that's what kept him elected in my opinion because they know he delivered, you know, well I, I mean, I hear, I hear this over and over again when I was out there. Charlie took care of my grandmother's social security. Me and my dad, aunts, uncles we're all go vote for Charlie. Anytime he asked for our vote and he needs it, we're going to be there. And after you start doing that enough, you're going to stay in as long as don't get crazy.
DAVIS: Right, yeah, so he cared about them and sometimes . . .
MARSHALL: Oh he was open about, he said, "Guys, you know, yeah . . ."
DAVIS: Yeah sometimes with the media you hear politicians . . . you get the impression that, that their never supposed to do anything wrong, that their not supposed to be human, even, and nobody ever had that misconception about Charlie done something like that.
MARSHALL: About Charlie, he had two DWIs [Driving While Intoxicated charges]. I mean there's no hiding him. He, you know, "Yeah, I screwed up." He was . . . and like I say, I'm trying to sum it up real quick as to, how to put it, he never was into himself, you know. Yeah, he lived. He liked the press coverage. He liked his name out there, but he was never afraid to laugh at himself. He was never afraid to, you know, "Hey that's me." And I'm, you know, he wasn't obnoxious about it. Some of them to me like Tom Delay.* And some of those guys, they're obnoxious, or were obnoxious with their power, and I never, I never saw it in Charlie. And, you know, when I'm looking away from it, I tried not to, I tried to be pragmatic and look at it and, and try to make a judgment because I thought about all this, you know, even before the book, I know what Charlie was doing over in Afghan. He just, he was a how do you put it? He liked to have the power, but I would say that the power he used, Charlie didn't profit from it.
[*Tom Delay (born 1947) served in the US House of Representatives, as a Republican, from 1984 to 2006, including a stint as House Majority Leader from 2003 to 2005, before he resigned because of criminal money laundering charges in connection to his campaign financing. Pending a verdict, Delay even went on to participate in the highly popular reality TV show Dancing With The Stars in 2009. He was found guilty in January 2011 and sentenced to three years in jail but remains free on bail.]
DAVIS: He didn't do it for himself
MARSHALL: He didn't do it for himself. He did it, you know, he saw a wrong and tried to right it. I mean, it that's how you want to say it. He saw the Russians in there just annihilating the Afghans, I mean, you know, when the Russians were putting booby traps in toys and dropping them into Afghan and the kids are picking them up and their blowing off their arms or feet, that not, that's not a very human thing to do and I think that's a lot of what triggered Charlie to do what he did in Afghan. But that ain't all Charlie did. That's what he's known for. But there's a lot of other stuff out there that he did of helping the home folk. So . . .
DAVIS: I think that's a good place to . . .
MARSHALL: That's a wrap? Fine with me.
DAVIS: Well, thank you for very much Mr. Marshall.
MARSHALL: Oh, it's my pleasure, defiantly my pleasure . . .