Harry S Truman

Harry Truman photo

Early life and career

Harry Truman was born on May 8, 1884, to John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen Young
Truman in Lamar, Missouri. Truman had two siblings, and his family resided on a
farm in Independence, Missouri. Truman began school when he was eight years old,
and his main interests included music, history, and reading. He graduated high school
in 1901 and worked several odd jobs, including clerical work as well as working
for a railroad company. In 1905, he enlisted in the National Guard, and served until
1911. He proposed to sweetheart Bess Wallace in 1911, but she said no. He promised
that he’d be making more money before asking her again.

World War I

Before WWI, he rejoined the national guard and was sent to a training camp in Oklahoma.
Truman became an officer and later, a battery commander in France. His headed Battery
D, 129th Field Artillery, 60th Brigade, 35th Infantry Division, which was known
for discipline issues. Truman was able to get his men to cooperate, and they ended
up not losing a single man under Truman’s command. His military career paved way
for his involvement in politics upon returning to Missouri. After the War, Truman
attended night classes to pursue a law degree; however, he dropped out after losing
his job.

Entrance into politics

After Truman returned to Missouri, he married Bess Wallace (1919) and they had one
daughter together (1924). In 1922, he was elected to the Jackson County court judge,
which was actually an administrative position. Later, he was elected as presiding
judge in 1926, and re-elected in 1930. He laid out the “Ten Year Plan,” which included
public works projects, road construction, new buildings, and commemorative monuments.
Truman participated in the 1934 election for US Senator from Missouri. He first
defeated two other democratic candidates, and then, when running again the republican
candidate for the official title, he won that race as well. Although Pendergast,
Truman’s backer, was not able to be as present in the 1940 election, Truman defeated
his opponents, winning by 8,000 votes. In the November election, Truman won by a
mere 2% of the popular vote.

Vice Presidency and World War II

FDR knew
that his health was deteriorating before the election in 1944. He also realized
that the Vice President, Henry Wallace, was not very popular, and Roosevelt wanted
to replace Wallace. Critics said that Wallace was “too far to the left.” However,
many people also realized that the next Vice President would, in fact, be the next
President as well, as it was not likely that FDR would survive another four years
in office. Although Truman did not campaign for the role, FDR wanted him nominated
for Vice President on the ballot. They won the election, and FDR died on April 12,
1945, just several months after being reinstated as President. Although he felt
as though he was unprepared to assume the office of President, Truman took over
upon FDR’s death. He wanted the support of FDR’s cabinet members, but told them
straightaway that he would be the one making the decisions. In August, just months
after assuming the presidency, Truman authorized the use of the atomic bomb on Japan.
After Nagasaki and Hiroshima were both attacked, Japan agreed to surrender; Tokyo
was next on the list of cities to bomb. Truman upheld the idea that, by using the
atomic bombs and coercing Japan into surrendering, he was actually saving hundreds
of thousands of lives on both sides.

Reelection and the strike

Little planning had been done here in the US as to what would happen when the War
ended. This lack was mostly due to the fact that experts believed that, after war
in Europe was over, it would take at least a year to beat Japan. However, upon the
sudden termination of the War, life in the US was thrown into chaos, without plans
for a smooth transition from wartime to peacetime. There was no agreement amongst
Congress members as to what course the economy should take. Truman was, however,
to make several significant impacts on civil rights, as he secured some things,
like voting rights and fair employment policies.

In April of 1952, the United Steelworkers of America were scheduled to begin striking;
however, Truman told his Secretary of Commerce to take over many of the nation’s
steel mills, nationalizing them. He stated that he needed a consistent supply of
steel for munitions to be used in the Korean War. In June of that same year, the
Supreme Court found this to be an unconstitutional action, and argued for a separation
of powers.

After the presidency

After Truman left the office, he had only his military pension to financially support
himself and his wife. There was no benefit package at that time for former presidents.
He took to writing his memoirs of being in office, and sold them for a one time
payment of $670,000; however, he ended up with only $40,000 after taxes were taken
out and he paid his assistants. The next year, Congress passed the Former Presidents
Act, which stipulated that a former president would receive a yearly pension after
his time in office.

He was eventually given an honorary Civic Law degree from Oxford University; he
also got to meet
Winston Churchill
. He and his wife, Bess, were presented with the first
two Medicare cards, which was reminiscent of his struggle for government health
care while he was president. Harry Truman died on December 26, 1972, at 88 years
old.

Scroll to Top