Who is Bill Josephson And What Does He Have To Say About "The Midnight Ride of Warren Wiggins"? Post 18

Among the large cast of characters who created the Peace Corps Administration in the very early days of the agency was Bill Josephson who came to the agency as the Deputy General Counsel when he was 26 or 27. Josephson is most important in these early days as he worked with Warren Wiggins in the drafting of The Towering Task. Here’s a little of Josephson’s background.
     In September, 1958, he went to England to write a doctoral dissertation in history at St. Antony’s College, one of the two graduate colleges at Oxford University. He dissertation was on what the other Americans, other than President Wilson and Colonel House, were doing at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The thesis never got written as Josephson met and married a young lawyer from London.
     Josephson was from South Orange, New Jersey, and with the help of a scholarship, went through the University of Chicago in three years, then enrolled in Columbia Law School where he was editor of the Columbia Law Review. After graduating in ’55, he spent a summer in Europe at the Salzburg Seminar, then joined one of New York’s most distinguished law firms–Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, all of this before going to England.
     While he was in London, Earl Reynolds [on the other side of the world] staged an anti-bomb demonstration by sailing his yacht, Phoenix, into the Pacific testing area. Just before leaving for England, Josephson had helped find Reynolds a lawyer. Reynolds was tried and convicted while Josephson was still overseas. In 1959, Josephson returned home to look for a job in Washington, and while awaiting his clearance he went to work briefly for an old friend, Joseph Rauh, former president of the Americans for Democratic Action.
     Rauh had conducted Reynolds’s unsuccessful defense and was planning an appeal. Meanwhile, the defendant, Earl Reynolds, wanted to be released on bail so that he could take a teaching job in Japan. Josephson argued for bail before Justice William O. Douglas and won Reynolds’s release–the first time, recorded in history any way, that a defendant in a Federal criminal action was granted bail so that he could leave the country.
     Working with Rauh, Josephson also defended Arthur Miller against contempt of Congress charges growing out of the playwright’s refusal to testify concerning alleged left-wing colleagues. Josephson then got his Washington job, working for the International Cooperation Administration, and it was there that he met Warren Wiggins and assisted him in preparing his study of prospective Peace Corps policy entitled, The Towering Task. Here is some of what Josephson has to say about events surrounding the writing of The Towering Task, the document that launched the Peace Corps.
     “Warren and I did not begin working on The Towering Task until shortly before Christmas week, 1960,” Josephson writes.”Prior thereto, we had prepared papers on our own for the incoming administration on the deteriorating situation in Vietnam and what to do about it and the reorganization of the International Cooperation Administration. Neither papers seemed to find favor with anyone….Everywhere we went [in government agencies] people asked us what we thought about the Peace Corps, and Warren finally said to me that if we wanted to make an impression on the incoming administration in foreign affairs, we would have to respond to the repeated requests for thinking about the Peace Corps. Accordingly, we went to work.
     “We did not know, we will never know, which of the copies of The Towering Task,that we circulated in early January 1961, was the copy that reached Shriver. We did give a copy to Wofford, but somehow I have always had a feeling that it was not Wofford’s copy that reached Sarge, even though they worked cheek by jowl…..
     “ICA was preparing its own Shriver briefings on the Peace Corps, and we gave a copy of our paper to the incoming Director, Henry Labouisse. My strong hunch has always been that the copy that Sarge got was the copy that was sent to him through bureaucratic channels.
“An important aspect of Warren Wiggins’s credibility is the fact that he had actually served overseas, in Norway as an economist in the Marshall Plan, and in the Philippines and in Bolivia with the late Harold Stassen’s Mutual Security/Foreign Operations Administration and ICA. At the time of the writing of The Towering Task, he was the Deputy Director of ICA’s Far East Division.
     “Warren may have said, as you have him saying on page 14 [my interview of Warren that appeared in RPCV Writers & Readers Special Issue that appeared January 1997] “We considered the Department of State the enemy.” I do not agree with that. We always knew that we had to live with the Department of State, and the Peace Corps always enjoyed very strong support from Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Undersecretary Chester Bowles. We did strongly believe the Peace Corps should be completely independent of the foreign policy bureaucracy for two reasons, so that it could be itself and so that people overseas would hopefully perceive it as independent.
     “Warren is certainly right in saying that there never was a telegram from Shriver. I do not remember exactly how Warren got invited to the Shriver meeting. I was out of town. But I do clearly remember his report of the Shriver meeting. Among others there was the incoming Secretary of the Treasury, Douglas Dillon, who also was the outgoing Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs, who thus was effectively Warren’s and my ICA boss through a career Foreign Service deputy, Jack Bell, whom Warren later describes when he talks about how hard he tried to communicate effectively with Sarge. President Kennedy’s Special Counsel, Ted Sorenson, was there. According to my recollection of Warren’s description, in front of everyone was a copy of The Towering Task, and Sarge asked everybody to take a few minutes to read it, because he thought it was the best thing that had been written about the Peace Corps.”
     That paper, written by  Wiggins and Josephson, would become the working document upon which the Peace Corps was build, and its “midnight” arrival in the hands of Shriver and the Task Force at the Mayflower Hotel would in Peace Corps lore become known as the “Midnight Ride of Warren Wiggins.”

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