Harry S. Truman, 1884 - 1972

portrait of Harry S. Truman
Official presidential portrait by Greta Kempton
Harry S. Truman signature

Born: 8 May 1884, Lamar, Missouri
Died: 26 December 1972, Kansas City, Missouri

After high school Truman worked as bank clerk, but prospects were bleak and he came home to the farm. He fought in World War I, returned home, married Bess, and became a haberdasher. When that business failed he went to work for Thomas J. Pendergast, Democratic boss of Kansas City, largely to present an honest face for the corrupt party machine. During his second senate term, moderates demanded that Franklin Roosevelt drop the liberal Henry Wallace as running mate and Truman joined the ticket. Less than three months after the inauguration he became president on FDR's death. His presidency included the only use of atomic weapons, a takeover of the railroads to end a strike, the formation of the UN and NATO, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, a come-from-behind reelection victory over Thomas Dewey, the Korean War, the beginning of the US' involvement in Viet Nam, an assassination attempt, and the reconstruction of the White House. During this tumultous period he had both the highest and lowest approval ratings of any president according to Gallup. (THe elder Bush set a new record for approval in 1991, and the younger Bush did it again in 2001. Dubya tied Truman for the lowest approval level in 2008 according to several polls, but not Gallup.)

Note: We've always shown his name as "Harry S Truman" at QOTD, without the period. With some regret, although he never had a middle name, we're reinstating the period because that's how he wrote it.

Biography from Wikipedia and the White House website

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