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Portraits: Harry S Truman   Leave a comment

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Aileen Conkey,© Harris & Ewing Studio

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Aileen Conkey, © Harris & Ewing Studio

Harry S Truman (1884 – 1972)

The 33rd President of the United States, 1945 – 1953

AKA: Give ‘Em Hell Harry

From: Missouri

College: Spalding’s Commercial College (withdrew), University of Missouri – Kansas City (withdrew)

Married to: Bess Wallace

Children: Margaret

Party: Democratic

Previous Jobs: Railroad timekeeper, clerk, mailroom clerk, farmer, Captain in the National Guard, haberdasher, judge of the County Court, US Senator, Vice President

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the National Gallery of Art; gift of Mrs. Augustus Vincent Tack, 1952

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the National Gallery of Art; gift of Mrs. Augustus Vincent Tack, 1952

In His Words:  “Have fired 500 rounds at the Germans, at my command, been shelled, didn’t run away thank the Lord and never lost a man. Probably shouldn’t have told you but you’ll not worry any more if you know I’m in it than if you think I am. Have had the most strenuous work of my life, am very tired but otherwise absolutely in good condition physically mentally and morally.” (letter to Bess Wallace, 1918)

“People are very much wrought up about the Communist bugaboo.”

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself.”

“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.”

“I am not worried about the Communist Party taking over the Government of the United States, but I am against a person, whose loyalty is not to the Government of the United States, holding a Government job. They are entirely different things. I am not worried about this country ever going Communist. We have too much sense for that.”

In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, "The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job."

In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, “The President–whoever he is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”

“Some of my best friends never agree with me politically.”

“Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me. I’ve got the most terribly responsible job a man ever had.” (the day after he became President)

“No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however, is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected.”

“If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word.”

“If wars in the future are to be prevented the nations must be united in their determination to keep the peace under law.”

On the atomic bomb: “We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans. We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.”

“I have read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an eight ulcer man on a four ulcer job … Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes and perhaps a supporter below.” (Letter to critic Paul Hume, as quoted in TIME magazine, December 18, 1950)

On tight money: “It reflects a reversion to the old idea that the tree can be fertilized at the top instead of at the bottom — the old trickle-down theory.

Truman was so widely expected to lose the 1948 election that the Chicago Tribune ran this incorrect headline.

Truman was so widely expected to lose the 1948 election that the Chicago Daily Tribune ran this incorrect headline. Historians now believe that pollsters used telephone surveys to predict Dewey’s victory, and thus did not properly estimate the number of Truman voters that did not have telephones.

Not true: In Truman’s book Plain Speaking, he did say this:

“My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.”

The often-quoted next line, however, never was written by Truman:

“I, for one, believe the piano player job to be much more honorable than current politicians.”

It is not known who applied that sentence to Truman’s actual quote.

True: His middle initial, S, was a tribute to both of his grandfathers’ names, but did not stand for anything.

He met his future wife, Bess, when he was 6 years old … in Sunday School at their Baptist church.

He proposed to Bess in 1905. She turned him down . There were married in 1919 after an extended courtship.

Truman was not accepted for an appointment to West Point, and then rejected by the National Guard because of his poor eyesight.  He overcame his 20-50 eyesight and passed the vision test by memorizing the eye chart.

In 1940, Truman used his chairmanship of the Committee on Military Affairs to investigate the fraud and abuses he saw on the military bases as the nation prepared for war. The press dubbed it “The Truman Committee,” and its success launched Truman to the national stage.

President Truman made some of the most crucial decisions in history. As WWII reached its final stage, Japan rejected a proposed surrender. Truman, after consultations with his advisers, ordered atomic bombs dropped on two Japanese cities devoted to war work: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese surrender quickly followed.

In 1948, President Truman ordered desegregation of the armed forces.

In 1951, he was part of the first transcontinental TV broadcast.

The first family lived across the street from the White House in Blair House during the extensive renovations of the White House, 1948 – 1952.

The Official Portrait: Martha Greta Kempton studied at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts before emigrating to the US in 1926. After painting Bess Truman, she painted 5 portraits of Harry Truman, the first of which became the Official White House Portrait.

Harry Truman, official White House Portrait

Harry Truman, signature

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