Harry S Truman 33rd President of the United States
Birth and Childhood • Born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri • Born to John and Martha Truman • Grew up on his grandparents’ farm in Grandview • When Harry was six, the Trumans moved to Independence, MO to receive proper schooling • Harry loved reading, history, and music • Harry had poor eyesight, so he was forced to wear thick glasses • Harry was an excellent student • Graduated in 1901
As A Young Adult • Initially, Harry didn’t attend college because his family didn’t have the money • Studied for 2 years in the 1920’s towards a law degree, but eventually had to stop because of financial troubles • He worked as a timekeeper on the Sante Fe Railroad for 6 months • Harry was told to quit his job and come back to help on the farm because his family struggling
Truman and World War I • Harry worked on the family farm until he left to serve in WWI in 1917 • Truman was chosen to be an officer, and then battery commander in an artillery regiment in France. His unit was known for its discipline problems.
Bess Truman At the end of the war (1919), Harry returned to Independence and married his long-time love interest, Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace, on June 28 of that year.
Mary Margaret Truman • Later, the couple would have a daughter. • She was born on February 17, 1924, • Later, she would pursue a career as a singer, and would write biographies of her parents. • She would later marry a reporter, Clifton Daniels, in 1956, and together they would have four sons.
The Haberdashery • When Harry returned to Independence in 1919, he decided that he did not want to be a farmer anymore, so he sold his farm. • Instead, he opened a haberdashery (a men’s clothing store) with one of his friends from the Army, Eddie Jacobson. • The store was prosperous for a short while, however, a recession in 1921 caused the store to become bankrupt. • Fifteen years later, Truman would still be paying off debt on the shop.
Pendergasts/ County Administrator • In 1922, Truman was elected as a judge (an administrative, not judicial, job) of Jackson, with help from the Pendergasts • The Pendergasts were a powerful (and corrupt) family in Kansas City and the surrounding Jackson County, and even held sway elsewhere in the country • Truman served his term (2 years), and was not reelected in 1924 • As a judge, Truman created the “Ten Year Plan”, in which he built 224 miles of roads and a new county courthouse
‘The Senator From Pendergast’ ? • Truman wanted to run for either Governor or Congress, and approached the Pendergasts to ask for help, who initially rejected him but later grudgingly accepted to back Harry • In 1934, Harry ran for Senator of Missouri and won • Worked diligently, spoke little, listened often • Ignored by many, esp. Franklin D. Roosevelt • Had yet to be taken seriously
Reelection !! • In 1940, Henry ran for reelection for Senator • This time was much harder- he had no support from the Pendergasts or FDR • Truman campaigned tirelessly & combatively • This is to be a common theme in Truman’s political life- he was usually the underdog • (esp. 1948 run for White House)
The Truman Committee • In 1941, Truman took a 10,000- mile tour of military bases • He saw many cases of military wastefulness, so he made a Senate committee intended to investigate this • Senior military officials opposed the idea • However, congressional leaders advised FDR that it would be better for Truman to head such a committee than someone less sympathetic to the President • They also said the committee wouldn’t cause much trouble because the committee’s budget was $15,000 and was to investigate billions in defense • Saved estimated billions of $ in cost overruns
…As a Senator Left: Truman in one of his hundreds of committee hearings Below: Truman with Tom Connally of Texas in 1941 Right: Truman as a busy Senator. He would later say his years as senator were the happiest in his life.
Nomination for Vice President • Truman was selected as Franklin Roosevelt's vice presidential candidate in 1944 • Advisors to Roosevelt said that the incumbent VP, Henry Wallace, was too liberal • Truman was nicknamed the ‘Missouri Compromise’ because of his appeal to the party center • Truman did not want to serve as VP, but he reluctantly did so anyway because he felt it was his duty to the country
Vice President… • Sworn in on January 20, 1945 • Vice Presidency was relatively uneventful • As VP, he presided over the Senate, attended parties and receptions, and shook endless numbers of hands • Thought he wouldn’t like being VP, however, he actually loved the ‘round of social engagements’ • Only met twice with President Roosevelt • Roosevelt didn’t keep him informed- domestic affairs, how things were unfolding in Russia, the Manhattan Project, etc. • Didn’t even meet Secretary of State (Stettinius) • Vice President for only 82 days…
…To President • On April 12, 1945, Roosevelt died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage (Roosevelt’s health had been deteriorating for months) • Truman was completely uninformed about world affairs or domestic policies- Roosevelt had told him practically nothing • Upon assuming the presidency, Truman asked all of Roosevelt’s Cabinet to remain in place “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me” -Truman to reporters on becoming President
The Truman Doctrine • A set of international policies put forth by Truman • Arose from a speech Truman gave to Congress • Declared that the U.S., as the leader of the free world, must support democracy worldwide and fight against communism • Requested $4 million in aid to both Turkey & Greece to help rebuild their countries (from WWII) and to fight against (the Soviet Union’s) Communism • “ I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. • I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. • I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.” – Truman, March 12 1947, before a Joint Session of Congress
The Marshall Plan • A.k.a. the European Recovery Plan (ERP) • Named after Secretary of State at that time, George Marshall • Enacted in June 1947 by US as a way to help rebuild Europe after WWII • Another goal of the ERP was to prevent communism from gaining a stronghold in war-torn countries • In total, the US spent $13 billion on this • Ended abruptly in 1951 when we became involved in the Korean conflict Secretary of State Marshall
"Every segment of our population, and every individual, has a right to expect from his government a fair deal.” -Truman, 1949 State of the Union address to Congress The Fair Deal • Was a broad legislative agenda of Truman’s & a major push to transform the U.S.’ wartime economy to a peacetime one • Called for national health insurance • Influenced LBJ’s enactment of Medicare • Called for the repeal of the anti-union Taft- Hartely Act • Instigated an aggressive civil rights program • Integrated the armed forces • First president to address the NAACP • The Fair Deal wasn’t too successful- only the Housing Act of 1949 was ever enacted
The Berlin Airlift • On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked all access to 3 sectors of Berlin • On June 25, Truman approved a plan to supply the blockaded city with food and other supplies by air. • The airlift worked- ground access was granted again on May 11, 1949 • It was one of Truman’s greatest foreign-policy achievements, and it significantly helped his presidential campaign in 1948
1948 Election • In the spring of 1948, Truman’s public opinion rating stood at 36% • The ‘New Dealers’ in the Democratic Party tried to give the nomination to General Eisenhower, who was very popular, but Eisenhower refused • The other candidates included: • Strom Thurmond – Dixiecrat Party • Henry Wallace – Progressive Party • Thomas Dewey- Republican Party • In almost unanimous predictions by pollsters and the press, Dewey was projected to be the winner. He seemed unstoppable…
Meet the Candidates… Top Left: Harry Truman -Democrat Bottom Left: Thomas E. Dewey -Republican Bottom Middle: Strom Thurmond -Dixiecrat Bottom Right: Henry Wallace -Progressive
A popular cartoon from the election of 1948. Dewey was projected by most to easily win the presidency. What’s the Use?
Victory!! • In his campaign for the presidency, Truman traveled 21,928 miles on his ‘whistle-stop campaign’- making brief appearances at a number of small towns over a small amount of time • At the end of the election, Truman was the winner: • Truman- 303 electoral votes • Dewey- 189 electoral votes • Thurmond- 39 electoral votes • Wallace- no electoral votes • The country was flabbergasted. Not a single polling organization, radio commentator, journalist, or political “expert” had predicted a Truman victory.
Truman’s Second Term • NATO- Truman was a strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It established a formal military peacetime alliance with Canada and many European nations that hadn’t fallen under Soviet control during WWII • Truman successfully guided the treaty through the Senate in 1949 • People’s Republic of China- On December 21, 1949, Chiang Kai-Shek fled to Taiwan from Mao Zedong’s Communist Army • In June 1950, Truman ordered the U.S. Navy into the Taiwan Strait to prevent conflict between the warring Communist government and government-in-exile
The Korean War & General MacArthur • On June 25, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea, and the South Korean Army was quickly pushed out of their capital, Seoul. This precipitated the Korean War. • Truman promptly urged the UN to intervene, which it did. • On April 11, 1951, Truman fired General MacArthur from all his posts in Korea and Japan because MacArthur had disregarded Truman’s explicit orders. This was a hugely unpopular decision by Truman- after this, many called for his impeachment. • An armistice was signed on July 27,1953, ‘ending’ the conflict.
…Most Famous Balcony in History • In 1948, Truman ordered that a balcony be added to the White House’s second floor, arguing that it would ‘balance’ the look of the White House. This decision was largely unpopular. • A short while later, engineering experts concluded that the building was in a dangerously dilapidated condition. These findings weren’t released until after the 1948 election. Ironically, the only safe place was Truman’s new balcony (“Doesn’t that beat all!” he said.) • The decision was made to demolish and rebuild the whole interior of the White House, while retaining the famous exterior of the structure. • The work lasted from December 1949 to March 1952. • Meanwhile, Truman lived across the street at Blair House.
Assassination Attempt • On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate Truman at Blair House. • Truman wasn’t harmed, but White House policeman Leslie Coffelt was mortally wounded. • Torresola was also shot and died on the spot. • Collazo was sentenced to death, but was later commuted to life in prison. • Ironically, Truman had done a lot more for Puerto Rico than other Presidents. He appointed the first the first native to serve as governor, allowed Puerto Rico to determine its relationship status with the United States, and extended Social Security to them.
After the Presidency • Truman decided to worked to raise private donations to build a presidential library. • After his presidency, Truman was practically broke- if weren’t for his army pensions and some property he had inherited from his mother, he would have been broke. • As it was, Truman was forced to take out a loan. • He decided to publish memoirs of his life; these proved to be great successes. • In 1956, Truman decided to take a trip to Europe with his wife. In Britain, he received an honorary degree in Civic Law from Oxford University. • On December 26, 1972, Truman died from multiple organ failure. Bess Truman died 10 years later, on October 18, 1982.
Fun Facts • Truman’s vice-presidential acceptance speech was less than a minute long • Truman was a key figure in the establishment & recognition of Israel • Truman’s mother, a Confederate sympathizer, refused to sleep in Lincoln’s bed during a visit to the White House • Truman’s middle initial, S , doesn’t actually stand for anything. It was actually a compromise between both of his grandfathers’ middle names, Shippe and Solomon.