Harold L. Ickes

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Harold L. Ickes

Harold LeClair Ickes (March 15, 1874February 3, 1952) was an American politician. He served as Secretary of the Interior for thirteen years, from 1933 to 1946, and was known as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's point man for the New Deal.


sorted chronologically

  • This is what the "New Deal" means to me, an era of acute social consciousness and realization of mutual responsibility, a time of reciprocal helpfulness, of greater understanding and willingness to work together for the good of all.
    • Speech to the Associated General Contractors of America (Jan. 31, 1936) as quoted by Jason Scott, Building New Deal Liberalism: The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933-1956 (2006)
  • Relations between the United States and the Third Reich opened in 1939 on a distinctly sour and strident note. It began when Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, speaking to a Zionist Society dinner in Cleveland at the end of 1938, declared Hitler had taken Germany back to "a period when man was unlettered, benighted, and brutal." The November pogrom demonstrated Hitler counted "the day lost when he can commit no crime against humanity." Ickes attacked Ford and Lindbergh for accepting decorations from the "same hand" that was "robbing and torturing thousands of fellow human beiongs."
    • Zionist Society Dinner Speech, Cleveland, OH (Dec. 1938) as quoted by Michael Zalampas, Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich in American Magazines, 1923-1939 (1989) p.171
  • It is impossible to carry the American people along with you on a program of caution to forestall a threatening position.
  • In the early days our forefathers could cut down a forest or exhaust the fertility of a farm and then blithely move to a new forest or a new farm... The highest concept of statesmanship was to make it possible for the eager, aggressive pioneer to possess, to despoil and then repeat the process indefinitely. ...[Shortsided and unchecked greed resulted in] denuded forests, floods, droughts, a disappearing water table, erosion, a less stable and equable climate, a vanishing wildlife.
    • as quoted by Douglas H. Strong, Dreamers & Defenders: American Conservationists (1988) Ch. 7 "Harold Ickes," p.157

Quotes about Ickes[edit]

  • Ickes symbolized for black (and many white) Americans the engaged, moral reformer, committed to the cause of assuring the underdog an elevated status in the American system. In 1936 he told a gathering of black Americans that he had "always felt it to be my privilege, no less than my duty, to do everything in my power to see that the Negro was given that degree of justice and fair play to which he is entitled." It was his sense of "fair play" which led him to support Marian Anderson in her celebrated conflict with the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939 and to introduce her to a huge throng massed before the statue of Abraham Lincoln. The Journal of Negro Education remarked that the "brevity and force" of Ickes' speech that day was destined to rival Lincoln's Gettysburg address. Due largely to Ickes' efforts, a number of prominent blacks were brought into the administration during the thirties and forties to serve as race relations advisers in the New Deal departments and agencies.
    • John B. Kirby, Black Americans in the Roosevelt Era: Liberalism and Race (1982) p.21, citing "Address of Secretary Harold L. Ickes Introducing Marian Anderson," Journal of Negro Education 8 (April, 1939), 260
  • One man alone was clearly inadequate to keep the government honest when it came to race. [Clark] Foreman, in consultation with Ickes, sought to deal with these obstacles in two ways. The answer to inhospitality to outsiders was to press for the appointment of a racial adviser within each agency and department. The solution to the problem of multiple jurisdictions was to bring these advisers, or other representatives of the various federal offices, together on a regular basis to examine the way in which the New Deal policies were affecting blacks.
    • Clark Foreman to Harold L. Ickes (Dec. 13, 1933) Department of the Interior Papers, Record Group 48, Office Files of Harold L. Ickes, Box 9, National Archives, as quoted by Nancy Joan Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln: Black Politics in the Age of FDR (1983)


  • What we were striving for was a kind of modified form of communism.
    • Reported in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 52, indicating that President Ronald Reagan had attributed this quote to Ickes in December 1981.

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