Search transcripts:    Advanced Search
Notable New     Yorkers
Select     Notable New Yorker

Moe FonerMoe Foner
Photo Gallery

Session:         Page of 592

And he'd say, “Yeah, go do it.”

And then, that's all. I wouldn't do things without checking with him. But once you said this is what you want to do, he said “Go do it.” So that I could do those things, and that was the relationship I had with him virtually until the very end. I would say, “We ought to do this.”

And he'd say, “Okay.”


What kind of a leader was Davis -- in this period, at least? Maybe it changed over time.


Well, even in this period, first of all, he was very, very committed and committed to working people, very close to working people. He pretty much could sense what would unite them, what would involve them, what they'd fight for, and what the union needed. He was extremely gifted. For example, this is a simple thing. My younger daughter, Peggy, who knew Davis as a child, when she read the article in New York magazine, she was terribly unhappy. She called me three times that day. I said, “Look, don't worry about it.”

She said, “What do you mean, don't worry about it? Look what he says about Leon Debs. He makes him look like a schmuck.” She said, “That's one of the most brilliant men I ever knew in my whole life.” And that's a very important thing. Davis was knowledgeable in many, many areas. Very often he thought he knew everything in every area, but he had a breadth of knowledge that was unusual. Remember, he did not have a lot of schooling, and yet he was able to master the most difficult financial operations. He knew more about the operations of drugstores than the chain managements knew. And they admitted it. They would come to meet with him about proposals. He developed the idea of the prescription drug program. Why? It was a good thing and it will help the industry. The first prescription drug program was set up for the -- I remember the union -- carpenters. He was able to convince the carpenters to set it up, and he put in a person from our union, a pharmacist, Jack Sherman, to administer the program. It was the first one. Because he understood that. In the question of health and benefits and pensions, he mastered that stuff, and he could see issues two, three years ahead. He could sense what we would have to get two, three, four years from now, what we need, what the problem is going to be in this industry, what's going to happen here. He was able to master it and apply it to organizing workers and to uniting workers and to inspiring workers. He was a very tough character. He was very tough to deal with from a platform, very tough. He had a tendency to be very, very autocratic in the way he'd run things. Nevertheless, he built an enormously powerful instrument -- in the

© 2006 Columbia University Libraries | Oral History Research Office | Rights and Permissions | Help