Our 33rd President: 1945-1953
Just the Facts:
- His parents couldn’t agree on a middle name so the initial “S” was put on his birth certificate (it doesn’t stand for anything).
- Before president, he owned a “haberdashery,” which was a fancy word for a hat or clothing store.
- Truman loved to play the piano.
- He was the only president since 1900 that didn’t attend college.
- His motto was: “The Buck Stops Here.”
- He was very honest.
- First Lady Bess lived longer than any other first lady – until 97 years old!
Harry was born in Missouri and lived on a farm. He had a lot of chores as a child, such as cutting wood and getting water from the well. He graduated from high school but didn’t go on to college because he needed to help support his family. He did a lot of odd jobs, including bookkeeper, farmer, and railroad timekeeper. Harry read a lot and loved Mark Twain’s books.
He fought in France during World War I and rose through the ranks to become a “major.” After the Great War, he returned home and opened a mens clothing store (a “haberdashery”) – unfortunately it was a failure and he lost a lot of money. After that, he decided to go into politics. He worked for the political boss in Missouri, who helped him win elections. Eventually, Truman represented Missouri in Congress. Then, FDR picked Truman as his vice president when he ran for his fourth term.
Truman became president when FDR died suddenly the beginning of his fourth term. Within months, Germany surrendered and World War II was over in Europe. Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Soon after, Japan surrendered and World War II in the Pacific was over as well. He created the Marshall Plan, which helped Europe to rebuild after World War II ended. He also helped to create NATO, an agreement among America and its European allies to come to each other’s aid.
The rest of Truman’s presidency was taken up with concerns about communism. His foreign policy was guided by the Truman Doctrine, which stated that America would help any country that was fighting communism. This doctrine put America at odds with the Soviet Union and brought about the Cold War (it lasted for 40 years). It also put America in the middle of disputes all over the world, including the Korean War.
Harry met his future wife, Bess, when he was six years old. They were in Sunday school and went to elementary school together. They married in 1919 (after he served in World War I) and they had one daughter, Elizabeth. While at the White House, some people called them the “three musketeers” because they were such a tight family and always together.
Bess didn’t like the social life in Washington DC and the lack of privacy in the White House. She did help Harry in private, however – she gave him advice and reviewed his speeches. His nickname for her was “The Boss.” After his presidency, Harry and Bess returned to Missouri. Harry was active in politics until he died at 90 years old.
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”
“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.”