We’ve lived in Kansas City for 13 years. In those 13 years, we’ve often commented that we need to visit the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, MO (a suburb of Kansas City). However, it has never happened. Until today…
Linda correctly decided that we’d have to put it on the schedule to actually make it there. After visiting the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum several weeks ago in Abilene, KS, we put Truman on our calendar to go visit.
We learned the story of how he fell in love with Bess Wallace Truman (he returned a cake pan to her family from his aunt that lived across the street). They’d actually finished high school together in 1901, but the courtship started years later after he’d been working on the family farm in Grandview (now a suburb of Kansas City). We learned of his time in WWI as an officer, his opening of a haberdashery business (which failed in the early 1920s due to the economy) and his election as a judge under the guidance of Boss Tom Pendergast (head of the political machine). Fortunately, he was a clean man and garnered a reputation for doing the right thing.
Soon, he became a Senator and headed to D.C during the early WWII years. Appalled at the waste on government contracts for military spending, he requested the formation of an investigatory committee and became its chairman. He furthered his reputation as a fair and honest man and quickly gained nationwide recognition.
At the 1944 Democratic Convention, he was a surprise addition to the ticket (the Party didn’t want the current VP, Wallace, to become President as FDR was likely to die during the upcoming term). FDR won again – and died from a stroke 82 days into the term.
Harry Truman became President in April 1945. Germany was giving up and Japan was up against the ropes. Truman had many decisions to make, including the use of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshoma. Other controversial decisions he made during his 2-term presidency included desegregation of the military and recognition of Israel as a country.
The museum did a really great job of presenting all of this and treating it fairly – openly acknowledging the controversy of his decisions. Certainly, the desegregation and the recognition of Israel were very smart decisions. The use of the atomic bomb certainly had it positive and negative consequences.
After completing the museum and visiting the gravesite of Harry and Bess Truman, we then toured the home at 219 North Delaware Street – about a mile away from the museum. This is the house in which Bess grew up – and where they moved into when they got married. The lived there until their death (he died in 1972 and she died in 1982). The house has been kept exactly as it was left in 1982. Very cool.
After visiting the Eisenhower and Truman Presidential Libraries, we will need to add a few more. The Hoover Library is located in Iowa and The Clinton Library in Arkansas – those are all easy day trips, right?!