From a eulogy for a member of the Truman Cabinet by the president of Georgetown University:
There will not be many more times when we in Washington can honor a friend who came to us out of the last century. John Wesley Snyder was born in Jonesboro, Ark., in 1895, and after Vanderbilt University served as a lieutenant in the Field Artillery during World War I. After 20 years as a banker, he entered public service in 1931 and from 1946 to 1953 was secretary of the Treasury.
He used to talk easily about his service during World War II, working for the armies that would no longer let him join, but his real pride "came from what he helped do once the war was over: the reconversion of hundreds of plants to peacetime use; the understandings that made commerce and business possible in the terrible winters of '46 and '47. He was proud, too, of his part in the Marshall Plan and the strong Treasury support it found, and proudest of all of the one program he himself designed and sold to the president, the GI Bill.
After he left the Treasury, John stayed in Washington and had a gift for living in the capital. His was kindness in a tough town, honesty without a touch of acid. It was a delight to sit through a political dinner with him. He would run his eye across the dais and, as quick as a Chinese brush painter, analyze and annotate the famous faces. There was never bitterness or unkindness. Those John called fools he usually saved by saying they were kindly ones; those he called unkind he pardoned for their folly. He was at his best when he himself played host, as at the parties he gave for all surviving secretaries of the Treasury each time a new one was appointed. He told me once, "It does these young'uns good to see somebody who can remember Grover Cleveland." To wander the corridors of Washington beside him was to meet everybody, for he knew everybody and everybody knew him. Here after all was a secretary of the Treasury who had in three separate years balanced the federal budget.
The operative word for John was service. He gave it unstintingly and simply. When Mr. Truman (as John always called him) asked him to serve as secretary of the Treasury, he at first hesitated, but the president insisted. The day he was sworn in he handed the president an undated letter that said simply, "Dear Mr. President, As of this date I submit my resignation as Secretary of the Treasury." As so often happened with John's stories, the compliment ended up on someone else's shoulders. At the Eisenhower inauguration, while they were both watching the parade, Mr. Truman reached into his pocket and handed him that letter. All he said was, "John, I don't think I'm going to need this now."
John Snyder was something very American, the citizen in service to the nation and to the works and people that make it up. What was so beautiful and attractive about John's service was that he never called what he gave a "gift," always gave as though he paid a debt, always seemed to feel he gave no more than he owed.