Harry S Truman
Served 1945-1949 (became President upon the death of Roosevelt), 1949-1953
Harry S Truman was born May 8, 1884, in Lemar, Missouri, at the family home. His middle initial “S” does not stand for anything. As a boy, he played the piano rather than sports because of poor eyesight, and then became involved in his father clothing business. Harry took many jobs as a young man, including timekeeper, mailroom clerk, bank clerk, bookkeeper, and finally postmaster, before he was off to war where eventually he mustered out in May 1919 as a major.
Truman married Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace on June 28, 1919, and they had one daughter, Margaret. The family was affectionately often called the “Three Musketeers.”
After losing a venture into the clothing store business, Truman decided to enter politics in Missouri, and with the help of old buddies and the “Pendergast Machine,” was elected a judge. From there, Truman launched into national politics by becoming a U.S. senator and winning two terms. As a senator, he got the attention of President Roosevelt, who asked him to be his Vice President for the 1945 election because of the work he had done saving the taxpayers millions of dollar during World War II.
When Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, Truman became President. He followed Roosevelt’s war plans, and 25 days later, the Germans surrendered. He gave the order to drop the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, as he believed he saved American lives. On August 14, 1945, the Japanese surrendered. Truman always believed he made the right decision.
Truman won the 1948 election against Thomas E. Dewey. Although newspapers, most notably the Chicago Tribune, predicted victory for the Republicans, Truman won with 303 electoral votes vs. 189 for Dewey. Alben Barkley was Truman’s Vice President for his term of office 1949-1953.
“Give ’em Hell Harry” was how many people remembered Truman, for his honesty and integrity. He was the only President to take office during a war and the first President to talk to the nation on television.
Margaret Truman, the President’s daughter, had an Irish Setter named Mike at the White House for a time, but the Trumans were not animal-oriented When the President gave away a cocker spaniel, a gift from a woman in Missouri, dog lovers nationwide were angered.
The most difficult decision of Truman’s second administration came in l950 when he sent troops to South Korea to fight an invasion by the communist army from North Korea. In the spring of 1952, Truman announced he would not run for reelection. The Republican Congress had passed an amendment to the Constitution limiting the Presidency to two terms, but this did not apply to him as he had less than two full terms. Truman backed Adlai Stevenson, grandson of Cleveland‘s second Vice President. Stevenson lost the election to General Dwight Eisenhower, and later Truman admitted that perhaps he should have run again.
However, he and his wife moved back to Independence, Missouri where he wrote his memoirs and worked on the Harry S Truman Library, dedicated in 1957. On December 26, 1972, at the age of 88, he died of respiratory failure and was buried alongside his wife in the courtyard of his library.