Cleveland Monroe Bailey

"Personalities In Your Government"
Radio Broadcast
August 5, 1956

One of the most dramatic battles in the session of Congress now ended was the fight over federal aid for school construction. And one of the men who led this fight this year - as he has for many, many years, was West Virginia's Cleveland Bailey.

The short, bald Bailey worked harder for this bill which eventually went down to defeat, than almost any other man in Congress. As Bailey told Congress during the debate, "The Holy Scriptures are replete with exhortations that we care for and properly train our children. "We members of Congress, have for the past several weeks and even months been devoting time, energy and the taxpayers money to material things. Back of this effort has been the profit angle and the desire to boost business and to stabilize our own and international economy. "Today we are faced with a more basic problem, and I refer to your youth who will be the citizens of tomorrow. "Our America, if it is to survive in this trouble world must get back to the fundamentals on which the Republic stands. No nation is greater than the people who compose it. Democracy cannot thrive on ignorance. Its citizenry must be an educated citizenry. "Good schools are good business - as an investment there is no better than our young people."

During the long, and sometimes bitter debate over the school bill, Bailey hovered over the microphone at the committee table. Not an argument got be him. He answered every objection that was made to the bill. Some of the standard often used arguments, he let go having not only made his position clear on them many, many times before on the House floor, but also having filled the Congressional records with reams of copy refuting those points.

School aid is a complicated subject. But probably no man knows it better in Congress - or anywhere else for that matter - than Bailey. It all started with him a long time ago - at least on the national scale. When he was first elected to Congress in 1944 he became interested in it. But it wasn't until 1949 that he stood on the diving board and jumped into the educational pool. During the 80th and 81st Congress he fought for a general school aid bill. But this bill was harassed by many obstacles. Finally, Bailey and some others who were determined to do something to help the American public school system thought the course of least resistance would be federal help for local school construction. Today our population is mounting every second of the day and night. And, preportionately the school population is going up. It's a rare school district in the United States today which hasn't had to consider expanding its present educational facilities.

Many areas, witnessing a great industrial boom, have been wrestling with the challenge since the early days of World War II. Others were only caught up in during the last five years when the great World War II and post-World War II baby crop came of school age. Although Cleveland Bailey fought the good fight on the floor of the House for passage of a school construction bill, his work there was only a small percentage of the overall work he has put into the struggle. Most of that, like with any other issue, has been done in Committee. There, Bailey sat patiently at the long, involved hearing which preceded drafting the bill. Expert after expert testified for and aginst the measure. Each of them left the witness table, impressed with the knowledge - the ready, able g[r]asp - which Bailey had of the subject which, until that moment, they thought they alone possessed. But after the open hearings and the long, long days of testimony there came the closed doors session. The sessions at which the House Education - Labor Committee tried to hammer out a bill which would be presented to the full membership of the House of Representatives.

Day after day, Bailey rejuggled his own work schedule so that he could handle all his other duties as a member of Congress and yet spent as much time as he could in committee sessions. The records show that he was probably the most faithful in attendance, even though it meant - to him - coming into his office at the crack of dawn and working until late at night so that his own West Virginia constituents would be taken care of on all the many other matters which flow acress [sic] a Congressman's desk during the course of the day. The wirey Bailey, however, thrives on hard work. He moves with a head down leps [sic] which carries him rapidly from office to committee to the floor of the House. Usually occupied with his thoughts he grunts his "Hello" to other members who pass him.

Once, as two of his colleagues passed him, one turned to the other and said, "You think Bailey is just walking over to the floor of the House don't you?" "Sure," replied the other, "that's just what he's doing." "You're wrong," said the first member, "walking over to the House is just one of the things he's doing right now. More important than that he's thinking of probably a dozen other things he's going to do when he gets back to his office."

Bailey was born and raised on Middle Island on the Ohio River, [sic] He was the youngest of eleven children. His early days were spent working on the farm and attending public school. After St. Mary's High School, Bailey attended West Liberty State and then he moved on to Geneva College at Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. While at Geneva, Bailey reached his peak as an athelte [sic]. He played the outfield on the baseball team, rating as the club's best hitter. He was a fast, shifty back on the football team. Those were tough days, those football days, little Geneva was always the opening day opponent for the University of Pittsburgh at Forbes Field. The Pitt line never average less than 230 or 245 pounds. And Bailey, at that time, weighed less than 175 pounds. Recalling it today Bailey sez, "The Pitt line was real tough. I'd get going on an off-tackle play and them those big boys from the coal fields would hit me...

"Why you won't believe this, but sometimes it would take us the whole season to get over that one opening game with Pitt - but we won our share of games from teams in our own class."

Bailey had gotten into condition for football by a series of rough, rugged jobs. Besides farming he worked two summers with the Eureka Pipe Line Company laying 12 and 16 inch gas pipes. Heavy, sweaty work but paid well in those days and it also paid off in a hard, conditioned body as well.

After Geneva, Bailey took a business course at Beaver Commercial College and then went to work for Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation at Pittsburgh. After a few years he was transferred to what is now the Woodlawn plant. He was sent there as chief clerk in the production department. Says Bailey, "I think a man has to spend some time in private industry. It's a good apprenticeship for government service, although I believe working in business alone is not enough for a government servant. He should have a broader base than just a business career."

Bailey, when he mentions a broader base, should know what he is talking about. He left the steel industry to run for superintendent of schools in 1912. Defeated, he accepted a post as school principal and two years later moved to Clarksburg where he served as a district superintendent of schools. "But then I got into something that I really loved," Bailey explains, "I went into the newspaper game, I was a reporter and then city editor and finally editor of the Clarksburg Exponent." During part of this time he was serving as a member of the city council. And in 1932 he became assistant state auditor and in 1941, state director of the budget. This latter job was where Bailey got his grasp of the real mechanics of government. Men have served years in various spots in city, town, country and state government, but they have never grasped its mechanics - for the simple reason that they were never given that opportunity.

First as assistant state auditor and later as director of the state budget, Bailey had an opportunity to really study government with a microscope. He knew where the money was coming from and, more important in knowing the workings of the government, he had to know where each dollar was going. And where the dollars go - that's what makes up the government.

In 1944, Bailey came to Congress. And he took office with a background matched by few members of Congress. Although Bailey is best known in recent months for his work in support of the school construction bill, he has not confined his work in Congress to any one project. Working from the basic concept of helping others, Bailey has fought for better wages for workers, protection to West Virginia industries and mine safety as well as an all out effort to safe-guard the interest of his farm constituents and legislation in behalf of the veteran.

One of Bailey's great problems has been the influx of imports which have hurt the glass, pottery, clothespin, independent oil and coal industries in his district.

To help them Bailey led the fight to provide an escape clause in the renewal of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act. Says Bailey, "I think if the average worker in America is doing all right, if he is making a decent wage and able to provide a few of the luxuries of life for his family - if we have all those things thriving, everyone is thriving."

It was this philosop[h]y that led Bailey to fight for a boost in the minimum wage from 75 cents an hour to one dollar an hour. Bailey, like everyone from West Virginia, is justly proud of the craftsmanship of the West Virginian worker. Bailey points out that his state has some of the most skilled work men in the world. Says Bailey, "Our handmade glass work, for example is beautiful and far superior to the imported work that was competing with it in the market. "It's a funny thing but the greatest competition was coming from a Communist satellite - Czechoslovakia. So when I led the floor fight that cancelled out this trade I was not only helping the workers in my district I was helping aim a blow at communism...and every blow that we can throw in that direction counts."

Like other members of Congress, Bailey has watched with deep interest the present unrest breaking out behind the Iron Curtain. The revolt of the workers in Poznan, for instance, he regards as symptomatic of what is yet to come. "It's beginning to look as if the workers behind the Iron Curtain have taken that Communist propaganda seriously. You know, that long time exhortation, "Workers of the world unite". And now, says Bailey, "I think the workers behind the Iron Curtain are uniting - in an effort to win freedom and to restore the dignity of man."

And that's the story of the little man who packs the big wallop in Congress - Cleveland Bailey of West Virginia. The man who represents the 12 counties of the Third District.

He's had a long and challenging career and after watching him in action on the floor of the House, one gets the idea that there are still many action-packed years before him.

Government and Politics

West Virginia Archives and History