Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with William G. Colman
COLMAN: Political Science. Then I went on to the University of Chicago to begin work toward a Ph.D. I studied under Charles Merriam and Leonard D. White.
Q: Two of the greats.
COLMAN: I was there two quarters, and it was then decided in Missouri that they would move the merit system office from St. Louis to Jefferson City, the State capital. Congress, in the meantime had broadened the amendment to the Social Security Act by extending the merit system requirement to state public welfare and public health. So it was necessary to install a merit system in the health and welfare departments of the state government as well as perfecting the one in unemployment compensation. I was contacted because of my earlier experience in St. Louis to come out and set up the larger system.
I went to Jefferson City in April of 1940. A Merit System Council appointed by the governor was in overall charge and I was the Merit System Supervisor. I went through the whole process of setting up rules and regulations, getting positions classified, examinations held, and registers of eligibles established. I completed that for the agencies and they began to appoint their new employees off of the merit system registers. By that time it was late 1941 and I was then asked by the Director of State Personnel in Louisiana (perhaps with the encouragement of Albert Aaronson of the Social Security Board) to go down and do the same thing in Louisiana that I had done in Missouri. I arrived in Baton Rouge in early October and set up shop and laid out the installation schedules.
Pearl Harbor occurred in December. Rather coincidentally, I received a telegram from Charles Mills in Washington who was in the Office of Emergency Management asking if I would be available to take a position in the Classification Section of the Personnel Office of the War Production Board (WPB). My natural instincts, perhaps like those of numerous people at that time, told me that I might have a better chance of not getting called to military duty if I were working for the Federal Government and particularly in the War Production Board. It was like a magnet; it drew me to Washington. There, for a brief period of about two months, I was a Classification Analyst under the immediate supervision of Arthur Tackman. However, the Personnel Director of the War Production Board then declared that he would no longer ask for deferments of employees from military service and I applied to the Navy for a commission and was commissioned an Ensign in May of 1942. I put in four years in the military, all in personnel management work.