President Harry S Truman: Life After the Presidency

About the life of President Harry S Truman in retirement after he had finished his terms as president.


In January, 1953, a reporter asked Truman to name the 1st thing he had done after returning to the white frame house in Independence. The former President thought for a moment, then replied: "I took the suitcases up to the attic."

In retirement, Truman read extensively, answered mail, and worked on his memoirs. He also enjoyed talking with neighbors and old friends and could often be seen eating lunch at drugstore lunch counters. He seemed to enjoy his quiet home life with Bess, and for the 1st time they were free of his mother-in-law (who died in 1952), an impossible old woman who had publicly predicted that Harry would lose to Dewey in 1948.

Truman's main interest was in the construction and organization of the Truman Library, which was formally dedicated in 1957. Even into his late 70s, Truman took particular pleasure in addressing assemblies of schoolchildren at the library and delivering homespun lectures about American history and the founding fathers. The old man also found time to campaign actively for Democratic candidates. In the presidential election of 1960, Truman worked particularly hard to insure the defeat of his old enemy, Richard Nixon.

At his 80th birthday, Truman told reporters: "Remember me as I was, not as I am," and in his later years he deteriorated noticeably. Nevertheless, he continued to dismiss all suggestions that he had been a great President. On May 6, 1971, he refused to accept the Congressional Medal of Honor, which Congress had planned to present to him on his 87th birthday. "I do not consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, congressional or otherwise," he wrote.

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