On the 8th day of May in 1884, Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri. He was the eldest of the three offspring of John and Martha Young Truman. Her parents could not decide on his middle name and settled to use the initial S in honor of his grandfathers, Solomon Young and Anderson Shipp Truman.
Harry Truman at age 13, 1897
His father was a mule trader and later worked as a farmer. The Truman family moved to different small towns in Missouri before settling finally in Independence when Harry was 6. The young Truman was born with poor eyesight and required him to wear thick glasses. Prohibited to play sports to avoid breaking his glasses, he got separated from the boys and hardly made any friends, even with the girls. In solitude, Harry turned into a prodigious reader, having able to read every book in the town’s public library. He also had a passion for music and became an excellent pianist.
Despite being an excellent student, his family’s dire finances were unable to finance his college education. His poor eyesight also didn’t help as it prevented him from attending West Point, a military academy. After graduating from high school, Harry worked in different jobs, including oil drilling, farming, and banking. However, his father required help on their family farm, forcing Harry to quit his job, return home, and work there for a decade.
The Love Affair
Returning home, however, went to be fruitful in terms of Harry’s ‘heart.’ He was able to reunite with his childhood friend Bess Wallace. He first met her when he was 6, and they were struck by each other ever since. Due to their social status, however, Harry never tried to pursue the well-off Bess Wallace.
In another encounter in their hometown, Harry finally got the courage and courted Bess for long nine years. In 1917, Bess finally accepted his proposal. However, World War I commenced in 1917, halting their wedding their plans.
A Glimpse of His Leadership
Truman in military uniform, 1918
In 1918, Harry arrived in France as a first lieutenant. Soon enough, he was promoted as a captain – thanks to his innate talent in leading people. Though he was appointed to handle a group of unruly military men, he wasn’t shaken and didn’t condone their ill behavior. The tough Harry earned his soldiers’ respect and placed them with high regard. They followed all his instructions, guiding them until the end of the war without any loss of life. This type of leadership has been a peek of what would become the hallmark of his presidency.
In April 1919, Harry returned home and married Bess two months later. He never enjoyed farming and, instead, dreamt of being a successful businessman. Along with his companion in the Army, he started a haberdashery business in Kansas City. It was very promising at first, but the clothing store had to close after three years.
Shifting To Politics
While Harry had other profitable undertakings after his first business failed, he was never content and yearned to find something he was actually good at. In 1922, he ran and won as a judge in Jackson County, Missouri. Harry became renowned for his exemplary work, centering on honesty, integrity, and solid work ethics. He lost his second attempt for the post in 1924 but was again re-elected in 1926, a position Harry held until 1934.
Truman Sound Car in his Senate campaign in 1934
Due to his popularity, he was invited by the Missouri Democratic Party to run for Senate. He accepted the proposal and devoted all his efforts campaigning across all states. Finishing only high school, Harry was never blessed with excellent public speaking skills. But, his incredible record as an Army captain and a county judge was able to catapult him to success, toppling his Republican counterpart.
Harry Becomes President
During World War II, Harry was appointed to lead the Truman Commission. The said Senate committee investigated fraud and unnecessary spending on contracts under the National Defense Program. He became responsible for saving the U.S. government millions of dollars, gaining his fellow senators and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s nod. Harry was re-elected as Senator in 1940.
When the election was drawing near in 1944, the Democratic Party was seeking Vice President Henry Wallace’s replacement. Impressed by Harry’s previous work, Roosevelt tapped him to be running mate on his fourth term, which he had won.
Harry S. Truman, taking the oath of office in April 12, 1945
However, on April 12, 1945, only less than three months after being elected, Roosevelt died due to poor health and exhaustion. With that, Harry S. Truman was thrust to become the 33rd President of the United States. The unexpected death of Roosevelt wasn’t easy, and Harry had to face some of the most pressing problems faced by any national leader.
A few of these issues included deciding to drop the atomic bomb to put a halt on World War II, the task of reconstructing Europe and Japan, and the new era of American foreign policy. The domestic condition wasn’t trouble-free as well. In fact, it was brimmed with decisions on ceasing unemployment, supporting war veterans, and issuance of civil rights executive orders. While he was not as famous as other more renowned presidents, Harry S. Truman is believed to be one of the greatest leaders in American History.
Harry S. Truman died on December 26, 1972, in Kansas City, MO, at the age of 88.