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Truman, Harry S. (1884–1972)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


President of the United States (1945–53). Born in Missouri, he could not afford to go to college and so worked on the railroad, as a bank clerk and then as a farmer from 1906–17. He served in the artillery in France in 1918 as a captain and after the First World War unsuccessfully ran a haberdashery business. He had joined Kansas City's Pendergast organization before the war and with the backing of its political machine he was elected to the county court (an administrative agency) in 1922 and as presiding judge in 1926. For the next eight years he was Jackson County's chief administrator. He entered the Senate in 1935 as a Democrat, supported Roosevelt's New Deal and caught the attention of party leaders as head of a committee investigating the national defense programme in the Second World War. Relentless yet fair, he exposed enormous waste and fraud in defence contracts. He was chosen as running‐mate for FDR, whom he hardly knew, in the 1944 election, as many democratic party bosses were hostile to Vice‐President Henry Wallace, whom they regarded as too liberal. When Roosevelt died in 1945 Vice‐President Truman automatically became President. Forthright, approachable and modest, he was the first modern American President without higher education. International relations dominated his presidency. The Second World War was still going on and though decisions concerning the defeat ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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