Seattle

Cabinet Meeting of September 30, 1955

This PDF contains documents from the Eisenhower Library relating to the Cabinet meeting held September 30, 1955. This was a very unusual Cabinet meeting in that it occurred six days after President Eisenhower had a massive heart attack while on vacation in Denver, Colorado. (Ike at first blamed the chest pains on the raw onion on the hamburger he had eaten at lunch before a round of golf.)

Eisenhower’s heart attack had the President incommunicado with Washington – unable to accept telephone calls or sign documents. (He would not be allowed to meet with a Cabinet member until October 11 and would not leave the hospital in Denver until November 11.) This was twelve years before Congress proposed the 25th Amendment to the Constitution which now allows the Vice President to take on the formal role of Acting President during periods of presidential ill health, so much of the Cabinet meeting of September 30 was concerned with how the government would go about its business in the absence of the President. It was agreed that White House Chief of Staff Sherman Adams would relocate to Denver for the duration of the President’s hospitalization to be the “channel for presentation of matters to the President.”

Vice President Nixon had been briefed by telephone by Eisenhower’s doctors and said that “the President would soon be able, doctors permitting, to accomplish necessary routine signatures.”

This was also the first Cabinet meeting since the House of Representatives had voted down the President’s bill to fund construction of the Interstate Highway System on July 27. At Adams’ suggestion, the Cabinet decided to establish a Cabinet Committee to figure out the next steps towards getting an Interstate bill enacted in the next session of Congress (Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Defense, and the White House to be members, with Labor to be an ad hoc member). They also decided not to publicize, for the time being, that such a Cabinet Committee had been created. (General Lucius Clay, who chaired the President’s advisory committee that had proposed the Interstate funding plan in January 1955, was said by Adams to be ill and unavailable to resume his work.)

When looking back on how Eisenhower said in spring 1960 that he was surprised and dismayed about the extent to which the new Interstates were extending into cities, it is important to remember that the Bureau of Public Roads sent the “Yellow Book” of maps of urban interstate extensions to Congress on September 28, 1955 (in an attempt to woo urban legislators into supporting the bill funding the construction). Given that Eisenhower was on bed rest in Denver during that time and not allowed to read newspapers, it is not surprising that the release of the Yellow Book would not have been one of the things his staff thought important enough to bring to his attention.

This PDF file consists of five documents:

  • A one-page memo dated September 26 from Cabinet Secretary Max Rabb to White House Chief of Staff Sherman Adams suggesting that a Cabinet meeting be held.
  • A two-page agenda prepared by Rabb in advance of the meeting.
  • Seven pages of detailed minutes of what was said during the meeting.
  • A three-page “record of action” memo detailing the actions agreed to during the meeting.
  • A two-page summary of the meeting dated October 6 ย prepared for President Eisenhower himself.