Chapter Fourteen - Graduation, Gen Accounting Office and Army Audit

	Graduation from the University of Alabama was a significant
event in my life. The jobs as a professional auditor with The General
Accounting Office and The US Army Audit Agency were also events I will
never forget.

	I graduated from the University of Alabama in February, 1955,
two and one half years after enrolling. It was fifteen years after I
graduated from high school. There were two years in the CCC and service
in three branches of the armed forces, as well as a marriage and a
divorce between high school and college.

	My Father came in on the bus from Arkansas for my graduation. He
had remarried, this time to a woman he said he knew when he was a very
young man. He had a severe nose bleed and went to a hotel and was not
able to attend my graduation. He told me that an FBI agent had visited
him in Arkansas. I had applied for a job with the FBI and they were
doing a check on me and had visited my Father. He said they knew about
his drinking and my Brother's drinking. I told him they turned me down
because of it. They are very particular about who they hire and felt
that the life my relatives had lived would compromise me as an agent.
Dad was very sad that his life had kept me from getting a job I wanted
so much. I had made a hundred on their written test but had flunked the
background test.

	Dad left after the graduation. I told him I loved him very much.
It was just a few days later that his wife called and said he was dead.
He had another nose bleed on the way home and had got off the bus and
had a doctor pack it. He packed it too tightly and that caused his
death. No one ever knew who the doctor was. Dad's wife said he got up
early and went out and sat in a rocking chair while she cooked
breakfast. He was dead when she went for him. She had a funeral there
and then I had Dad shipped to Tuscaloosa and buried there. There were
only five or six people at the funeral. Dad is buried next to my
brother, Herman.

	I was becoming a little concerned. I was almost 33 years old
when I graduated and was being told at most job interviews that I was
maybe a little too old to fit in their plans. I was interviewed by one
national accounting firm and the guy interviewing me laughed when I told
him my age and said they did not hire the elderly. I told him I was not
interested in a job with his firm, that I only wanted to compare what
unprofessional firms such as his were paying with what the better firms
were paying. He complained to the university that I had insulted him. I
was asked about it and told them people like this guy could not be
insulted, but it would be a good idea if it was possible.

	I was offered a job by a carpet manufacturing company in
Mississippi and by a large national company that made cooking oil but
neither job appealed to me. Then a representative of the Federal
Government's General Accounting Office interviewed me. I knew after five
minutes discussion that I wanted to work for GAO and started trying to
impress him. He looked at me and said, "Shit, man, do you want the job?
Say yes and it is yours, you don't have to impress me." I said that I
did want the job and he put an agreement on the table and told me to
sign. It was that simple and I had my first professional job. I was
hired by Milt Waring from the General Accounting Office in Atlanta,
Georgia. He told me I would need enough money to live for about three
weeks after I got to Atlanta as I would have to work two weeks and then
get paid about a week after that. He said I could make it on $200 if I
was careful and if I got into financial problems to let him know and he
would help.

	I arrived in Atlanta on the Sunday before a Monday reporting
date. I tried three hotels before I found one with a rate I felt I could
afford. I checked in and then located the building General Accounting
Office (GAO) was in so I would know where to go the next morning. It was
hard to sleep that night, so I didn't. The next morning I reported to
GAO and was sent to the office of the regional director. I expected to
spend five minutes with him and then be turned over to someone else. I
stayed in his office all day and all day the next day. He was interested
in new employees and in assuring they got off on the right foot. He went
over every course I took at the University with me and had questions
about them. He was very interested in the fact that I had received an A
in report writing. He gave me a large number of GAO reports and asked
that I read them and make notes on what I considered their good points
and their bad points. He then told me he was going to do something a
little unusual. He was going to give me a private office and all the
work papers from a large audit they had made and he wanted me to write a
proposed audit report.

	I got a private office and people started bringing in large
boxes of working papers. The regional director, Mr Madison, took a few
minutes showing me the codes they used and then told me I was on my own
and had two weeks hassle free time to come up with something. There were
so many working papers that I decided to use a process of elimination to
reduce the volume to something workable. I dumped all the papers and
sorted them and those I considered not significant I put back in the

	The main significance of the audit was that someone made a
decision the U.S.A. needed another chlorine plant to produce an
ingredient needed in the manufacture of nerve gas. The plant was built
at a cost of around $20,000,000 and it was decided it would be a
Government Owned, Contractor Operated (GOCO) plant. A contract was
issued for the operation of the plant. About this time a survey was
finally made on the need for another chlorine plant and it was decided
that the capability for making chlorine was already something like 2000
percent of the requirement and there was no need for the new chlorine
plant in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The contract for operation of the plant
should have been terminated but was not. The contractor hired a full
operational staff and paid them for a full year to report to the plant
daily and sit and do nothing. The Contracting Officer then renewed the
contract for a second year and the entire staff required to operate at
full capacity was paid a second full year to report to work and sit and
do nothing. The contract was then renewed for a third year. After the
third year the plant was declared excess and was sold by the Government
to Diamond Match Company for less than two million dollars. Diamond
Match Company then sold the mercury in vats at the plant for
$13,000,000, making a profit of almost $12,000,000. They then sold the
plant for more than they paid for it.

	There were copies of both informal and formal letters from the
GOCO contractor to the government procurement officer thanking him
specifically for extending the contract twice to permit the contractor
time to relocate his key people. It was obvious the contracting officer
knew there was no need for the plant and had paid several millions of
dollars as a favor to the contractor. It was also obvious that the
contracting officer could have saved millions by reducing the contract
to a stand-by crew instead of a full operational level.

	The audit was so significant that efforts to write the report
had been unsuccessful.  I sat down and wrote a report with the
expectation it would meet the same fate as previous efforts. When I
finished, I took the report to Mr Madison. He opened a desk drawer and
pulled out several reports and asked me to read them. They were the
previous efforts. He told me he had asked several supervisory auditors
to write the report and then had written one himself and he had not been
satisfied with any of them. He read my report at least three times. We
then went to my office and he checked some of the work papers. We went
back to his office and he called someone in and handed them my report.
He asked him to coordinate it and give him any reasons they found not to
issue it, but not to make changes. The next day my report was issued and
sent to GAO headquarters for staffing and to be issued to the Congress.

	In the meantime I had run low on money and had moved from the
hotel to the YMCA, where I got a bed for one dollar a day, and low cost
meals. I realized that the pay I would receive as a GS-5 auditor trainee
($3415.00 per year) would not support living in a hotel. A good room in
a hotel was $5.00 per day. Atlanta was considered my home and I would
not draw per diem until I left Atlanta.

	I was finally assigned to an audit as a member of a five man
audit team to make an audit in Nashville, Tennessee. This meant I would
get $7.00 per day travel expense. Milton Waring was the team chief and
we were to leave from the GAO building. I met them in the parking lot
and we were all scheduled to go in Milt's car. We stood around the car
looking at our luggage and four large boxes of working papers from the
previous audit and five of us. Milt said we were just not going to fit
and went to ask Mr Madison to approve a second car. He came back with Mr
Madison. Mr Madison finally got all the luggage in the trunk and then
had all five of us get in the car. He pushed three boxes of working
papers in the back seat and one in the front seat and said there seemed
to be plenty of room. We were miserably cramped and had not left the
parking lot. Milt sat there awhile and got out and went back to Mr
Madison's office. They both came back in a few minutes and Milt asked Mr
Madison if he would like to make the trip cramped like that. Mr Madison
said he would do it for GAO. Milt then asked, "And where would you put
this year's working papers on the return trip?" Mr Madison thought about
it and asked if any of us had a larger car, then finally approved a
second car. Milt told me that GAO computed the dollar savings versus
dollar expenses and Mr Madison tried to keep expenses as low as
possible. He said Mr Madison's job was authorized at the GS-15 level and
he refused to accept the promotion and was a GS-13, just to save GAO

	When we got to Nashville we checked in at the hotel and got in
the elevator. It was operated by a Black lady. There were at least
twelve people in the elevator. Milt asked the operator, "Where is the
best place for a man to get a piece of pussy in this town." There was
utter silence in the elevator and then the operator told him, "That is
not in my department. If you have wishes I suggest you contact the
management for help." Milt got off at the fourth floor and I rode on up
a couple more floors. The operator asked me if I heard that man and I
said I did. She asked me if I didn't get on the elevator with him and I
told her I never saw him before. I got off the elevator and found the
stairs and walked back down. I soon learned that Milt always took the
direct approach.

	I was on two short audits where I got temporary duty travel pay
and then I was assigned to an audit of General Services Administration
in Atlanta. The audit had been going on almost two years and it looked
like it would continue forever. It was hard to meet expenses when I was
on an audit in Atlanta. The people in GSA were very unfriendly due to
the length of the audit. The working conditions were unpleasant. The
girls had been advised not to date us even if we were single. Very few
of them would even speak to us.

	Jim Blackburn and a couple more I had gone to school with at
Alabama stopped by the GSA site one day and said they were on the way to
an interview with Army Audit Agency in the Peachtree 7 Building. They
would go to a three week audit school in Washington, D.C. and would
start off at the GS-5 level and be promoted to GS-7 in six months. All
their audits would be out of town. Mr Madison's policy was to require
one full year at GS-5 level before promotion to GS-7. I asked my auditor
in charge for leave and went to the interview at Army Audit Agency with
Jim. I was offered a transfer provided GAO would release me.

	I went back to GAO and talked to Mr Madison about a transfer. He
said he had big plans for me but I would have to serve a full year as a
GS-5. I asked if it was legal to promote me and he said I had entered in
a trainee program designed for promotion in six months but he felt
everyone should serve a year. I told him that I wanted to be released
and he released me. I transferred to Army Audit Agency without a break
in service. Milt came over a day or two later and was very upset with me
for leaving GAO. He said Army Audit Agency (AAA) was not a professional
organization and he was going to tell the director what he thought of
him while he was there. About a week later Milt was back and I thought
he had come to visit me but the director had made him an offer while he
was telling him off and Milt had transferred to AAA.

	The Atlanta office of AAA had five new auditor trainees and we
went to a three week school at the Dodge Hotel in Washington, D.C. There
were trainees in attendance from AAA regions all over the country. There
were about fifty of us in all. The classes were held in large rooms in
the Dodge Hotel. We received $7.00 per day to pay for our rooms and
meals. There were other government employees staying at the hotel and
several of them told me they were paying a dollar per day less for their
rooms than the employees of Army Audit Agency. I asked the hotel manager
about it and he said AAA had arranged to charge each of us an extra
dollar per day to pay for the rooms used for our training classes. I
asked him to give me an itemized bill showing the dollar charge as
training class rooms and he agreed.

	The training was excellent, with many speakers on many different
subjects. The speaker on ethics was a Black man from California named
Campbell. He made what should have been our dullest subject one of the
most interesting. We had a coffee break after his first talk and he
found our Atlanta group and asked if he could have coffee with us. He
knew this was probably the first time any of us had ever been trained by
a Black person and he was interested in our reaction. He was pleased
that we felt his talk was the most interesting so far. He was originally
from the South and was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and had an
excellent practice in California. He was a regular speaker at all the
AAA training classes and paid his own expenses and did not charge AAA.
We came to know him well before the training was completed and I
corresponded with him for several years.  It was my first experience
with an intelligent Black person that I knew was intelligent.  I was
raised to believe it was not possible for a Black person to be
Return to Fireclay Menu
Chapter Fourteen Concluded

Back to Chapter Thirteen