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 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.
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.
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.