Harry S Truman

Honorary Award Winner

Sworn in as the 33rd president after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sudden death, Harry S. Truman presided over the end of WWII and dropped the atomic bomb on Japan.

Harry S. Truman was born in Missouri on May 8, 1884. He was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vice president for just 82 days before Roosevelt died and Truman became the 33rd president. In his first months in office he dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, ending World War II. His policy of communist containment started the Cold War, and he initiated U.S. involvement in the Korean War. Truman left office in 1953 and died in 1972.
Early Life
Harry S. Truman was the first of three children born to John Anderson Truman, a farmer and mule trader, and his wife, Martha Ellen Truman. Harry was named in honor of his maternal uncle, Harrison Young, but his parents couldn’t decide on a middle name. After more than a month, they settled on simply using the letter “S” as a tribute to both his maternal grandfather, Solomon Young, and his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shipp Truman.
Truman grew up on the family farm in Independence, Missouri, and did not attend college. He worked a variety of jobs after high school, first as a timekeeper for a railroad construction company, and then as a clerk and a bookkeeper at two separate banks in Kansas City. After five years, he returned to farming and joined the National Guard.
Military Career
When World War I erupted, Truman volunteered for duty. Though he was 33 years-old—two years older than the age limit for the draft—and eligible for exemption as a farmer, he helped organize his National Guard regiment, which was ultimately called into service in the 129th Field Artillery. Truman was promoted to captain in France and assigned Battery D, which was known for being the most unruly battery in the regiment. In spite of a generally shy and modest temperament, Truman captured the respect and admiration of his men and led them successfully through heavy fighting during the Meuse-Argonne campaign.
Early Involvement in Politics
After the war, Truman returned home and married his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace, with whom he had one daughter, Mary Margaret. In 1919, he made a foray into business when he and an associate set up a hat shop in Kansas City. The business failed at the start of the Great Depression in 1922, and Truman owed $20,000 to creditors. He refused to accept bankruptcy and insisted on paying back all the money he borrowed, which took more than 15 years.
About this time, he was approached by Democratic boss Thomas Pendergast, whose nephew James served with Truman during the war. Pendergast appointed Truman to a position as an overseer of highways, and after a year, chose him to run for one of three county-judge positions in Jackson County. He was elected judge, which was an administrative rather than a judicial position, but he was defeated when he ran for a second term. Truman ran again in 1926 and was elected as a presiding judge, a position he held until he ran for senator.