President Harry S Truman: Little-known Facts and Trivia

Some little-known facts and trivia about the President of the United States Harry S Truman.


--The "S" in Harry S Truman is not an abbreviation--it is Truman's complete middle name. His parents could not agree on whether to honor his father's father, Anderson Shippe Truman, or his mother's father, Solomon Young, and so the noncommittal initial was accepted as a compromise.

--Truman's mother, the daughter of an old-line Confederate family, had been briefly locked up in a Federal "internment camp" during the Civil War and she never quite forgave either President Lincoln or the U.S. Government. Many years later, when she came to visit her son in the White House and was offered accommodations in a particularly historic room, she said she would rather sleep on the floor "than spend the night in the Lincoln bed." At the age of 92, back in Independence, Mrs. Truman broke her hip when she tripped in her kitchen and the President flew out to see her. Looking up at him from her bed of pain as he walked into the room she said: "I don't want any smart cracks out of you. I saw your picture in the paper last week putting a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial."

--Many Americans have heard about the sign Truman kept on his White House desk, with its famous inscription: "The Buck Stops Here." Less well-known is the motto that graced his desk when he was a senator. A quotation from fellow-Missourian Mark Twain, it read: "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

--Truman had been President for less than 2 days when he phoned an Administration official to inform him of a presidential appointment. The official wanted to know if the President had made the appointment before he died. "No," Truman snapped, "he made it just now."

--In March, 1947, while visiting Mexico City, Truman made an unscheduled stop at Chapultepec Castle, where 100 years before American troops had stormed the heights. Supposedly the only Mexicans alive after the assault were 6 teen-age cadets--but they committed suicide rather than surrender. Against the hysterical warnings of his aides and protocol experts, the President of the U.S. went to the monument to Los Ninos Heroes, placed a wreath on it, and bowed his head in tribute. The cadets in the color guard burst into tears. Later, it was said that nothing in the history of the 2 countries has ever done more to cement their relationship. Reflecting on the incident in his retirement, Truman recalled that he had been told that his "pro-Mexican" gesture would alienate the State of Texas. "I said, 'What the hell. Any Texan that's damn fool enough to be put out when a President of the U.S. pays tribute to a bunch of brave kids, I don't need their support.' So I went out there, and I put a wreath on that monument, and it seemed to work out all right."

--In 1956, the former President traveled to England, where he received an honorary degree from Oxford. The Latin citation praised him as the "truest of allies," but addressed the man from Missouri as "Harricum Truman." Student cheers of "Give 'em hell, Harricum!" followed the ceremony.

--While Truman was campaigning for John Kennedy in 1960, the Associated Press reported that in one of his speeches he had said that "anyone who voted for Nixon and Lodge ought to go to hell" and that Nixon "never told the truth in his life." Later, Truman denied having made the 1st statement, but added "they can't challenge the 2nd."

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