The President's Man: Leo Crowley and Franklin Roosevelt in Peace and War

By Stuart L. Weiss | Go to book overview

8
Alien Property Custodian, I

D uring most of 1941 Crowley enjoyed a very comfortable year. The FDIC ran so smoothly he easily found time to fill the void in Wisconsin's Democratic leadership left when Charlie Broughton resigned as national committeeman; he completed Standard Gas's SEC-sanctioned divestiture of San Diego Gas and Electric; and, though much of his debt from the early thirties remained, he was better off than at any time since the depression began. He returned his federal salary, but Standard Gas paid him $65,000 a year, and investments brought in another $2,000 annually. He lived well. At the Christmas season just past, reporters had seen him leave with a train compartment sagging with gifts for his extended family in Wisconsin; and daily they noted his hand-tailored suits, that he ate at Washington's best restaurants, and that he loved the racetrack. Much of this they reported. They did not write about the many nights he played poker or talked politics on the Mayflower's balcony. They did not write about the many evenings he spent in his suite answering requests for favors from folks in Wisconsin. Perhaps they accepted such work as the natural burden of the politician, too banal to report, but Crowley found writing more than a political act. He personalized his responses. He enjoyed this opportunity to interact with and help people. Like the president he served, perhaps more so, he cared.1

Crowley's world, as that of most Americans, changed with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Many years later, Crowley recalled an intense discussion with the president in the Oval Office that crisis-ridden evening. " Leo, I've got a job for you," the president had told him. "The only scandal in Woodrow Wilson's administration was with the alien property custodian in World War I. I want you to take it on."2

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