Harry S. Truman was an American politician and farmer who served as the 33rd president of the United States from 1945 to 1953. He was a member of the Democratic Party and a former vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt. He led the nation during World War II, the Cold War, and the Korean War, and authorized the use of nuclear weapons. He also implemented the Marshall Plan and NATO, and proposed civil rights legislation.
- Early life and career
Harry S. Truman, (born May 8, 1884, Lamar, Missouri, U.S.—died December 26, 1972, Kansas City, Missouri), 33rd president of the United States (1945–53), who led his country through the final stages of World War II and through the early years of the Cold War, vigorously opposing Soviet expansionism in Europe and sending U.S. forces to turn back a co...
Truman was the eldest of three children of John A. and Martha E. Truman; his father was a mule trader and farmer. After graduating from high school in 1901 in Independence, Missouri, he went to work as a bank clerk in Kansas City. In 1906 he moved to the family farm near Grandview, and he took over the farm management after his father’s death in 1914. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Truman—nearly 33 years old and with two tours in the National Guard (1905–11) behind him—immediately volunteered. He was sent overseas a year later and served in France as the captain of Battery D, a field artillery unit that saw action at Saint Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. The men under his command came to be devoted to him, admiring him for his bravery and evenhanded leadership.
Returning to the United States in 1919, Truman married Elizabeth Wallace (Bess Truman), whom he had known since childhood; they had one child, Margaret, in 1924. With army friend Edward Jacobson he opened a haberdashery, but the business failed in the severe recession of the early 1920s. Another army friend introduced him to Thomas Pendergast, Democratic boss of Kansas City. With the backing of the Pendergast machine, Truman launched his political career in 1922, running successfully for county judge. He lost his bid for reelection in 1924, but he was elected presiding judge of the county court in 1926, again with Pendergast’s support. He served two four-year terms, during which he acquired a reputation for honesty (unusual among Pendergast politicians) and for skillful management.
In 1934 Truman’s political career seemed at an end because of the two-term tradition attached to his job and the reluctance of the Pendergast machine to advance him to higher office. When several people rejected the machine’s offer to run in the Democratic primary for a seat in the U.S. Senate, however, Pendergast extended the offer to Truman, who quickly accepted. He won the primary with a 40,000-vote plurality, assuring his election in solidly Democratic Missouri. In January 1935 Truman was sworn in as Missouri’s junior senator by Vice Pres. John Nance Garner.
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He began his Senate career under the cloud of being a puppet of the corrupt Pendergast, but Truman’s friendliness, personal integrity, and attention to the duties of his office soon won over his colleagues. He was responsible for two major pieces of legislation: the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, establishing government regulation of the aviation industry, and the Wheeler-Truman Transportation Act of 1940, providing government oversight of railroad reorganization. Following a tough Democratic primary victory in 1940, he won a second term in the Senate, and it was during this term that he gained national recognition for leading an investigation into fraud and waste in the U.S. military. While taking care not to jeopardize the massive effort being launched to prepare the nation for war, the Truman Committee (officially the Special Committee Investigating National Defense) exposed graft and deficiencies in production. The committee made it a practice to issue draft reports of its findings to corporations, unions, and government agencies under investigation, allowing for the correction of abuses before formal action was initiated.
- Alfred Steinberg
- Harry S. Truman’s Early Years. Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, in the farm community of Lamar, Missouri, to John Truman (1851-1914), a livestock trader, and Martha Young Truman (1852-1947).
- From County Judge to U.S. Vice President. In 1922, Harry Truman, with the backing of Kansas City political boss Thomas Pendergast (1873-1945), was elected district judge in Jackson County, Missouri, an administrative position that involved handling the county’s finances, public works projects and other affairs.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Dies In Office. In 1944, as Roosevelt sought an unprecedented fourth term as president, Truman was selected as his running mate, replacing Vice President Henry Wallace (1888-1965), a divisive figure in the Democratic Party.
- Harry S. Truman’s First Administration: 1945-1949. Upon assuming the presidency, Harry Truman, who had met privately with Roosevelt only a few times before his death and had never been informed by the president about the construction of the atomic bomb, faced a series of monumental challenges and decisions.
1934 1940 33rd President of the United States Presidency timeline Executive actions Foreign policy Truman Doctrine international trips Cabinet Judicial appointments Supreme Court candidates First term Second term Presidential and Vice presidential campaigns Post-presidency Presidential library Death National historic Site v t
During his few weeks as Vice President, Harry S. Truman scarcely saw President Roosevelt, and received no briefing on the development of the atomic bomb or the unfolding difficulties with Soviet...
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