Joseph B. Eastman: Servant of the People

Joseph B. Eastman: Servant of the People

Joseph B. Eastman: Servant of the People

Joseph B. Eastman: Servant of the People

Excerpt

During the Hoover administration, when Joseph Bartlett Eastman had been for more than a decade on the Interstate Commerce Commission, he was lunching with three friends in the grillroom of the New Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C. One of them said to Joe-- everybody called him "Joe"--"I hear you've just turned down a big railroad job at a salary of more than $50,000." "It could be," he cautiously admitted. "It isn't your first offer, is it, Joe?" "Maybe not," was the modest answer, in the laconic tradition of Calvin Coolidge. Then I put in my oar--he was a year ahead of me at Amherst--and asked, "Aren't you ever tempted to accept a position with an enormous income, as compared with what you get slaving for the government, and with a lot less grief?" "Well," replied Joe, "probably it is an expensive luxury for me to stay on here, just as it would be to own a yacht--but I guess I can afford it!"

This characteristic remark reveals one pervasive element of his personality. From the day he was graduated from college until his death nearly forty years later, Joe Eastman enjoyed working for the American people, not for management or for labor, not for railroad operators or railroad employees or shippers, but for the citizens who paid his salary. He was thinking of the good of the entire population, not of one section or of any pressure group. Although he never ran for office and was even in doubt as to which party he belonged, he held one appointive job after another, in gradually widening areas. His appointment in each case was made, not through political influence, but more often in spite of it, because he was regarded as an expert who could be trusted. When Eastman died, at the age of sixty-two, worn out like an overdriven internal combustion engine, it was said of him that he had "set a pattern of intelligent devotion to the public welfare which, if extensively rec . . .

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