Bess Truman Rocks The Back Porch & Her Only Recorded Interview

Bess Truman out back on the controversial White House balcony her husband built.

Bess Truman out back on the controversial White House balcony her husband built.

Labor Day may have ended the ceremonial end of summer but its not official until September 21 and in certain parts of the country, the ninth month can be more beastly muggy than the eighth one.  Few places seem more unbearably steamy than Washington, D.C., sometimes well into October. It’s no wonder how back in the day before air-conditioning that elected officials would adjourn for the entire summer and head to the cooler hills or ocean shore.

The "summer" White House in Independence, Missouri.

The “summer” White House in Independence, Missouri.

That is, unless you were the new President trying to oversee the end of World War II in the summer of 1945. And every summer for the next seven years…

Then, you would have headed to Missouri, where it got so hot, humid, sticky, and close  you likely wished you had never left Washington.

Unless, of course, you were the new First Lady.

Bess Truman's willfully grim public image.

Bess Truman’s willfully grim public image.

Bess Truman had her reasons for trying to get out of Washington as often as possible and remaining in Independence, Missouri as long as possible.

Bess Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Bess Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt.

For a full twelve years, longer than any presidential spouse in history, Eleanor Roosevelt had just left the role of First Lady and altered it forever with her special brand of social activism.

Mrs. Roosevelt had been willing to investigate the neglect of entire demographics, from African-American domestic workers, to veterans of World War I, to European refugees, to young, women government workers, to coal miners.

And she’d gone there herself to investigate, whether it was the Pacific war theater, crowded urban slums, the wasteland of the Dustbowl or down deep in the coal mines of West Virginia.

“I’m not going down into any coal mines,” Bess Truman snapped when she realized the press expected her to continue on in Mrs. Roosevelt’s precedent-shattering path.

Bess Truman's mother Madge Wallace with her nurses on the White House South Lawn. (Truman Library)

Bess Truman’s mother Madge Wallace with her nurses on the White House South Lawn. (Truman Library)

There was also her querulous invalid mother Madge Wallace to deal with.

All her married life, Madge had belittled Harry Truman, embarrassing Bess. That her son-in-law was now President made no difference to Madge. She kept insulting him and emotionally manipulating her daughter.

The situation was at its worst when Mrs. Wallace came to live at the White House, with her nurses and boxes of tissues and complaints about Harry firing General MacArthur.

Only once did Bess put the old bird in her place.

It was far easier to deal with her by going home to the gingerbread Victorian Gates Mansion in Independence, Missouri.

Harry and Bess Truman reading in their Missouri parlor. (Truman Library)

Harry and Bess Truman reading in their Missouri parlor. (Truman Library)

The house had been owned by her father, a thriving flour mill baron, but Mrs. Wallace inherited it and there Bess was raised. Although the press and the public called it “President Truman‘s house,” or “The Summer White House,” he knew better than suggest that it was owned by anyone other than Mrs. Wallace.

Bess Truman most of all hated the nosy Washington reporters, always poking around into her business.

She refused to hold press conferences with them or even to grant one good formal interview.

In response to one question submitted in writing, about her intended wardrobe for an even, the First Lady scribbled back that what she wore was “nobody’s d[amned] business.”

Bess Truman, Christmas-shopping with daughter Margaret, was not pleased at being recognized and photographed.

Bess Truman, Christmas-shopping with daughter Margaret, was not pleased at being recognized and photographed.

Her secretary thought better of offering that response. What Bess truly feared was that the press would somehow learn that her father had committed suicide by shooting himself in the Gates Mansion.

It was bad enough that photographers began to trail Bess Truman, who refused to give up driving her own car or doing her own shopping – until it became impossible.

Making small talk with a Senate wife and a Cabinet wife. (Life)

Making small talk with a Senate wife and a Cabinet wife. (Life)

The more she was in Washington, the greater the chance a reporter could randomly besiege her about a hat or some other “personal” issue.

She wasn’t especially interested in hearing about some worthy project from a group of socially prominent women who wanted their picture taken with the new First Lady.

She overtly detested large events of rooms packed with hundreds of overheated “committee women,” as she called them in  hats and wearing gloves, all examining her clothes or trying to chat her up.

She derisively called all this “First Ladying.”

Margaret Truman, far left, seems happyy enough but Bess Truman, far right, looks ready for the reception to end. (Truman Library)

Margaret Truman, far left, seems hapyy enough but Bess Truman, far right, looks ready for the reception to end. (Truman Library)

She would agree to appear at charitable events or pose  for pictures with children for causes helping them, often preferring, however, that her daughter Margaret come along too, in case there were reporters to be dealt with.

Margaret was breezy, light-hearted and didn’t mind personal publicity.  She could often be counted on to serve as interference with reporters.

Her very first public ceremonial event, however, proved to be especially embarrassing for a woman who once prided herself on athletic prowess.

It was the dedication of a hospital airplane in the waning days of World War, and she was expected to christen it with a bottle of champagne.

Here is the hysterical event as reported on a newsreel of the era:

It’s not like she didn’t see all this coming.

The Trumans leave the White House Inauguration Day luncheon for FDR, Bess Truman looking glum as if she knows what's next. (Truman Library

The Trumans leave the White House Inauguration Day luncheon for FDR, Bess Truman looking glum as if she knows what’s next. (Truman Library

The summer before, when she learned that her husband, then the U.S. Senator from Missouri was being offered the place of Vice President on the Democratic Party ticket, to run with President Franklin D. Roosevelt for his unprecedented fourth term.

Just from looking at pictures of FDR she saw what was coming. “What if he should die?” she angrily asked her husband, “Then you’d be President!”

And he did, not even three months after FDR was into his fourth term. Just then, the Axis was about to fall to the Allied Forces. Bess Truman got through her First Ladying as best she could.

As the summer of ’45 approached, President Truman focused on winning the war in the Pacific.

And just when he felt he needed the emotional support and practical advice of his wife, Bess Truman left him, heading home to momma in Missouri.

It was the comfort of mundane  tasks Bess Truman sought out back home. It was as if she dared the intrusion of First Ladying to get in the way of her stubborn refusal to accept the new reality of her husband’s new status – or her own.

Bess Truman tends to her roses at home.

Bess Truman tends to her roses at home.

Amazingly, even in wartime, she was able to prove herself right, no Secret Service agents limiting her movement. As she recalled proudly, she lost them “early in the game.”

She took great pride in her roses and tulips, trimming and spraying them herself, while eyeballing the work of a local who moved her vast green lawn.

She kept her regular Tuesday Bridge Club meetings, playing cards with old friends.

She headed with Vietta Garr, the housekeeper, to the local supermarket to do some shopping in the early morning, before the thermometer began to rise.

She strolled the neighborhood, nodding a how’do to folks she knew well.

As the Missouri mugginess set in, however, mostly Bess Truman just sat on her back porch.

Bess Truman enjoys her back porch at home.

Bess Truman on her back porch at home, “sitting a spell” as she often described it.

Daughter Margaret later wrote explicitly about this period of estranged separation between a President and First Lady. Bess Truman’s simmering resentment was not just a result of what had been thrust upon her, but also what was taken away.

Harry and Bess Truman out on the lawn, back home in Missouri, rocking away.

Harry and Bess Truman out on the lawn, back home in Missouri, rocking away.

Accustomed to serving as Truman’s primary political adviser, she was now being left out of the loop on matters such as the details of his negotiations with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill at Potsdam. Truman returned home briefly. To the reporters and photographers who came with hm from Washington to Independence, there seemed nothing amiss.

Strolling the neighborhood during the last summer of his presidency, Truman came home to vote in a primary but returned right away. Bess stayed home for the summer -as usual.

Strolling the neighborhood during the last summer of his presidency, Truman came home to vote in a primary but returned right away. Bess stayed home for the summer -as usual.

The President ritualistically made his morning “constitutional” around the neighborhood, Bess once joining him.

They even sat a spell together in the heat and enjoyed their midday supper of sorghum biscuits,  mustard ham and greens, and fresh peach ice cream.

According the their daughter, however, the President found his wife even more contentious and unwilling to compromise.He went back to Washington without her.

And dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

Bess Truman "First Ladying." (Truman Library)

Bess Truman “First Ladying.” (Truman Library)

Whether at her own volition or the President’s pleading, Mrs. Truman returned to the White House shortly thereafter.

One night they closed themselves away in the study (now the Yellow Oval Room) with some of the famously strong old-fashioneds that Bess used to order up. The next day, Truman ordered the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki, forcing the Japanese surrender. In 1962, he told reporter Marianne Means that Bess Truman had weighed in on his decision.

At the Inaugural Gala, Bess Truman seemed almost stunned. She had four more years.

At the Inaugural Gala, Bess Truman seemed almost stunned. She had four more years.

If Bess Truman felt a renewed sense of purpose in her husband’s work, she still refused to compromise on FIrst Ladying.

She made appearances. But her grim expressions made clear her unhappiness.

That first Christmas of his presidency, Truman would find himself at odds with Bess again, this time for her complaining that he hadn’t spent enough time in Missouri.

In a sense, Bess Truman never did yield to her stubborn refusal to embrace her public role. After completing the four year term of Roosevelt, Truman ran for his own full term in 1948.

Bess Truman was not encouraging, never convinced he would win – which would mean going home to Missouri for good. She lost.

Sometimes, too much is made of a photograph, snapped in a second of human reaction. Still, overlooking the Inaugural Gala in 1949, she hardly looked pleased.

Bess Truman and her bridge club gals at Shanghri-La, sitting a spell. (Truman Library)

Bess Truman and her bridge club gals at Shanghri-La, sitting a spell. (Truman Library)

The Tuesday Independence Bridge Club. (Truman Library)

The Tuesday Independence Bridge Club. (Truman Library)

If she couldn’t have her back home porch to rock on, however, Bess Truman made good by bringing Missouri to Washington.

Her happiest moment as First Lady was the week when her entire Tuesday Independence Bridge Club came to visit her.

The Trumans sit a spell in Key West, their vacation place of choice. (Truman Library)

The Trumans sit a spell in Key West, their vacation place of choice. (Truman Library)

They even went up to Camp David (then called Shanghri-La), where the highlight was dangling their legs in the pool and then sitting a spell on the flagstone terrace, gabbing.

When winter got too cold in Washington, Bess Truman and Margaret joined the President down at his favorite sun spot, Key West in what became known as “the Little White House.”

Bess Truman sitting on a boat, as Margaret suntans. (Truman Library)

A naval aide and Bess Truman sitting a spell on a boat, as Margaret suntans. (Truman Library)

In the face of Missouri-like humidity there, she enjoyed a little bit of fishing, but mostly just sitting a spell.

In 1948, it was determined that the White House was unsafe to continue living in, a major renovation on the old house was undertaken, the interior gutted, steel beams placed inside to shore up the four original walls, a preservation move which Bess Truman had publicly supported.

Bess Truman didn’t mind moving out of the White House, even if it wasn’t back to Missouri but rather just across the street where she and Harry and Margaret would relocate.

Bess Truman with Margaret in the back garden of Blair House.

Bess Truman with Margaret in the back garden of Blair House,

Servants, friends and family all suggest that the First Lady far preferred living at the smaller and cozier Blair House for nearly four years.

There was no official back porch for her to rock, but the building did afford a cozy enclosed garden.

When it was impossible for her to get back to Missouri for months on end, Bess made do with whiling away in the back of Blair House, just…sitting a spell.

Bess Truman managed to endure the First Ladying until that blessed day of January 20, 1953 when she was able to turn the tasks over to her successor and old friend Mamie Eisenhower.

Bess and Mamie.

Bess and Mamie.

While her husband was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Mamie lived in Washington and she’d joined Bess Truman’s weekly Spanish language classes in the White House through 1945.

Rarely had anyone seen Bess Truman smile so broadly and unabashedly as the day she was able to show Mamie Eisenhower around the White House and hand the keys over to the place.

With that, Bess got back to Missouri for good.

Harry ande Bess Truman rock a spell on the back porch of their Missouri home

Harry ande Bess Truman rock a spell on the back porch of their Missouri home

Just why she so loved her home and so loved being in Missouri is something Mrs. Truman never felt the need to explain.

In fact, she never felt the need to explain much to anyone. In a radical shift from Eleanor Roosevelt, who delivered speeches and granted interviews on hundreds, perhaps thousands of radio and television broadcasts, Bess Truman did not even want there to be a recording made of her voice.

Once safe and sound back in Missouri, however, she relented on just one occasion, giving a huge scoop to the television interviewer who happened to be her daughter Margaret.

Even Margaret was curious about her mother’s homebody nature in her questioning.

Here is that recorded television interview of Bess Truman, conducted in their home.

Bess Truman is delightfully relaxed,and a bit sarcastic in the exchanged  quips with her earnest daughter. To many Americans watching at the time, she likely seemed like the lady who passed eggs over the back fence to neighbors.

Harry Truman at the poker table with some of the boys. (Truman Library)

Harry Truman at the poker table with some of the boys. (Truman Library)

And it must have startled more than just the Independence Tuesday Bridge Club to learn that Bess Truman, who never received without her white gloves, was a big wrestling match fan.

Former President Truman was, of course, also interviewed.

While it can only be a matter of speculation, one does wonder if, in an effort to lure away his beloved Bess from the long hot summers in Missouri and back to live with him during the long, hot summers in Washington, Harry Truman defied the critics to put in the biggest and best back porch in the country.

Like all Presidents, Harry Truman made policy decisions which some of his successors sought to rescind. As will be seen in a forthcoming article, however, no President or First Lady ever regretted the presence of the Truman Balcony.

Not even Bess.

Harry and Bess Truman reading on the Truman Balcony on a muggy weekend in Washington. (scanned, original Truman Library)

Harry and Bess Truman reading on the Truman Balcony on a muggy weekend in Washington. (scanned, original Truman Library)


Categories: First Daughters, First Families, First Ladies, History, Presidential Homes, Presidents, The Trumans

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33 replies »

  1. Another great article! I was looking forward to the last Youtube with the interview, but it would not start. Is it possible to fix it? Anyway….a wonderful peek into Bess….thanks!

    • Dear Cynthia Quinn:

      Thanks very much not only for your comment but feedback – because of you writing, I went to check on it and I had the wrong url. I’ve fixed it now – and greatly appreciate you writing. Hope you enjoy.

      • There is a yiddish expression-“Farbissina Punim”…which means “sour puss”. From all I have read about Bess Truman this expression seems to fit. Of course i could be wrong-i was not (none of us were) privy to private evenings of leisure spent with the Trumans and Margaret-but I go the impression that she really had no use for what the job of First Lady could have and should have entailed. Harry Truman became president with the world literally on his shoulders. Roosevelt did not include him in his inner circle-and he was under enormous pressure when he took office in 1945. He adored Bess-in fact had since they were children-and she certainly advised him on important issues…but
        her frequent trips back to Missouri when he needed her with him and her obvious distaste for public life could not have made his life easy.
        However-Love is blind. Whether Bess was anti semitic-or it was her mother-i don;t know.
        Let’s just say that there were probably few Yiddish “bon mots” tossed around the big house on North Delaware Street!

        Funny though-Harry’s best friend was Eddie Jacobson-who-if I am not mistaken-was largely responsible for getting the President to recognize Israel.
        While Bess was not my choice for favorite First Lady-I think Harry Truman was a great President.

        Richard Klein
        New York, NY

        • Thanks Richard – yes, I think being a public figure was an oppressive life for her. Bess Truman was also friends with Bernard Baruch. I think efforts to depict her as anti-Semitic are rather forced, considering it comes third-hand and in only one posthumous instance. I’ve found this true with many public figures – one remark, one person recalled many years later, especially about Presidents and First Ladies and their entire public profile is set in stone. I also don’t think she was particularly interested in entertaining or traditional domestic chores. I think she really enjoyed her women friends and physical activity, even though when she reached middle-age she was no longer playing tennis or shotput but just taking long walks and swimming.

          • You are right-i guess i should give her(or at least her memory) a break. It can’t have been easy for her-thrust into the public spotlight as she was. i also can imagine that the thought of the circumstances of her own fathers death becoming public fodder must have terrified her.
            Plus-her mother sounds like she gave Bess enough of a hard time. What a character old Mrs Wallace must have been! In contrast Harry’s mother sounds like an adorable old lady!

          • i think you’re being really kind calling Madge Wallace a “character.” I think she was self-centered and oppressive to deal with. Also I think Bess Truman felt a sense of inadequacy coming after Eleanor Roosevelt who was like superwoman. I also don’t wnat to change your mind or ideas -I like hearing other people’s perspectives, always informs my own. It’s another good thing about being a genuine political Independent. 🙂

          • Hi Richard –
            Except President Truman’s “adorable old mother” – refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom – and not because she was afraid of ghosts!

          • I think if you looked up “passive aggressive” in the dictionary a photo of Madge Gates Wallace would accompany the description! Margaret’s excellent book on her mother didn’t spare her maternal grandmother, noting that old Madge kept strict tabs on her none-too-successful sons and their put-upon and often fed-up wives. Bess seems to have been the glue that kept her family together and Harry Truman was nearly super-human to have put up with the old lady’s gentle put-downs for all those years.

        • It’s interesting to me that Bess Truman is now seen as such a stolid almost unfriendly woman. While it’s true that she was not a fan of the press or coverage of herself, she was known to be a warm, friendly and very humorous woman by those who knew and were entertained by her. I recall reading a biography of her last year – part of a university’s (can’t remember which one… Kansas?) series on First Ladies. She seems to have been well-liked in Washington and by those who came to the White House for the sort of run of the mill entertaining required of the First Lady. I’ve never had the sense that she either neglected her duties or carried them out in a less than appropriate way.

          As far as her trips to Missouri, didn’t they generally coincide with the summer and holidays? Times when most of official Washington was away? Of course, most of Washington was escaping the heat while, as you mentioned, Bess was jumping from the frying pan into the stove that was Missouri!

          Finally, on the matter of anti-Semitism, I agree with you, Carl, that it’s a stretch to prove. Not only do you have the president – highly influenced by Bess on all other matters – recognizing Israel, but no real indication that Mrs. Truman discriminated in any way during her years at the White House. Your point about taking very singular experiences and spinning them out to suggest larger implications is correct. We tend to focus too much at the micro level in our study of the motivations of historical figures rather than looking at their larger patterns. The micro informs the macro, to be sure, but taken on its own can often give the wrong impression. Did that even make sense?! Ha ha.

          Love this discussion. Interesting as usual!

          Jake

          • I think it was not that she didn’t carry out her public role in an “appropriate” way (which often meant to those in the know back then in a way which Mrs. Roosevelt had not), it was that she didn’t carry them out enthusiastically. I think she was often very unhappy being there. It’s always odd to me that she and Mamie Eisenhower are lumped together because I think the latter was very happy in her public role and was extremely conscientious about it and thus made a concerted effort to define the boundaries. Also, over the 8 years of the Eisenhower Administration one sees a definite arc of growth and understanding in the First Lady, particularly her increased involvement in the public awareness campaign of heart disease, for which she gets no credit. In this respect, Bess Truman is very much the last “old-school” type who did not associate herself and is thus not recalled in history for being associated with any one particularly public issue, under-served demographic, legislation or social cause. Mrs. Coolidge’s work on behalf of deaf children was really limited to supporting a fundraising campaign just specifically for the Clarke School of the Deaf, where she had once taught – so I think she was the last before Mrs. Truman, along with Edith Wilson who had zero sense of the public being part of a “constituency” for a presidential spouse. Even Ida McKinley became known for her support of single, widowed or divorced women who had to work to support themselves.

  2. I’ve been looking for this clip for some time. I’ve always admired and liked Bess Truman. She was a very “real” person. I’ve read that, despite her distaste for public events, she was actually a charming and fairly popular hostess with a great sense of humor. Not the impression we get from so many pictures of her! Thanks for including some really great shots of her smiling… The effect is almost the same as seeing a photo of Queen Mary with a grin!

    • Thanks for writing Jake – yes, I agree. She also had a wicked sense of humor. And sometimes wicked, literally. I know that as a young reporter Liz Carpenter tried so many times to interview Bess because she’d heard that she was a kind person. And then at a massive tea when she approached near, she overheard Mrs. Truman tell India Edwards of the women’s Democratic committee, to be sure and spill hot tea on the hands of the young reporters so she would stop writing her. Yow! I think it was said totally in humor and fun – but just like the zingers with Margaret, I think that was her modus operandi for keeping folks in check….

      • I hadn’t heard that one! That would be a rather effective way to keep people away!

        My favorite, and oft-repeated, Bess Truman quip relates to Thanksgiving. Paraphrasing, but… When asked by reporters if it was true that she poured bourbon down the throat of the turkey to tenderize the meat, Bess instructed her secretary to reply that, “No, we pour the bourbon down the guest’s throats and they just THINK the turkey is tender.”

  3. The Trumans on the back porch are hysterical. There’s a kind of unusual interplay between Margaret and her mother evident throughout, almost painfully so somehow–perhaps a sort of lifelong humor, built up from childhood between an only daughter and her parents, in which outsiders have no real part. She seems to bait her mother especially, anticipating the responses, while Harry seems to hold himself aloof from the proceedings. And those accents: wow! I kept trying to imagine JKO on the porch with them–unsuccessfully, of course. Bess was really something else. I was also trying to imagine her young, and the 20’s soundtrack helped. I’ll bet she was a champion at the Charleston.

  4. Thank you for the insight into Bess Truman! She seemed like a real pistol, basically kind-hearted, but not about to brook any perceived “nonsense” (which she probably considered most of “first ladying” to be). I think I’ve known a few strong ladies like her, so she does seem quite real and rather loveable to me.

  5. I think this is the most I have heard Mrs. Truman speak –

    Thanks again for making this blog possible.

  6. Dear Mr. Anthony,
    I had read that Mrs. Wallace, Mrs. Truman’s mother was prejudice – however, I have also read that Mrs. Truman never allowed a Jew into her home in Independence – do you know if this is true or just a terrible rumor?

    • That is a story which has gained recent currency. It was recorded by David Hume, a presidential speechwriter who said that television journalist and producer David Susskind said that former President Truman, with whom he was working on a biographical interview documentation did not invite him inside the Gates-Wallace Mansion, based on the wishes of his wife because of his faith. And yet, I have somewhere a photocopy of a photograph showing Henry Kissinger emerging from the Gates-Wallace Mansion in the early 1970s, along with his wife Nancy and President Nixon and Mrs. Truman. So Kissinger was absolutely invited in. It what Susskind later claimed to Hume was true, might it also be true that Truman was using this as an excuse or baiting Susskind? He said many things as an elderly man (and this is according to Merle Miller) that were not true – for example that General Eisenhower had written him (Truman) a letter asking permission to divorce his wife. What is in the documentary record is a letter General Eisenhower had written Truman asking permission for his wife to be allowed to join him in Europe immediately after the war. To date, this accusation is based on verbal claim. There is no way to prove if Susskind told the truth. Perhaps Mrs. Truman simply did not like him for his identity as a demographic she was indeed quite overtly hostile towards – members of the media, be they male, female, old, young, all faiths and colors and political leanings. Recently Bess Truman’s voluminous papers have been opened. Perhaps eventually some corroborating documentation will emerge to either prove or disprove this rather serious claim based on second-hand recollection.

      PS – Here’s the link to image of the Kissingers and Mrs. Truman – its from 1975 and she entertained them both in her home – so that dispels that horrible story:
      http://www.nps.gov/hstr/historyculture/images/kissinger.jpg

      And here’s the link to Mrs. Kissinger’s oral history recollection of the visit:
      http://www.nps.gov/hstr/historyculture/upload/Kissingers-5-7-92-6-25-92.pdf

  7. I guess I could never divorce my strong feelings against Truman for Hiroshima and had never heard anything really about his wife one way or the other. I had always surmised that she was basically a shallow woman and especially after Eleanor who could or would want to follow that act! That interview certainly proved the point and the President looked very nervous and apprehensive about what the old girl might let slip. Thanks for sharing that rare clip.

  8. Thanks for your work writing about former presidents and first ladies. Each article has brought many new insights. I’m a Jackie-phile and really enjoyed your recent series on her. But I was especially interested in reading more about Bess Truman after seeing the PBS documentary on Truman (by David McCullough) where the hostility toward Harry by Bess’ mother was revealed. Although I don’t admire Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons, I can’t help but think he deserves a posthumous award for living through such severe family hostility–while being such an apparently loyal husband.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to this article on Bess until just now, and the video of her interview has been removed. I checked YouTube and don’t see it there either. Is the video available elsewhere?

  9. It’s startling to note than in her later years Margaret Truman Daniel had just about the same vocal tone and flat no-nonsense Missouri accent as did her mother. Margaret even looked like Bess Truman as the years wore on. It’s interesting that daughter and mother, while close, kept each other at arm’s length after the death of Harry Truman. In his book, Clifton Truman Daniel notes that while daughter and mother spoke often on the phone, Margaret seldom visited her mother in Independence. Also interesting but perhaps understandable, when I have visited the Truman home the guides almost always note that while Margaret had the right to use the upper floor of the Truman home after her parents died, she did not choose to do so.

    Still, it’s comforting to think that perhaps the Truman family, mother, father and daughter, are up in heaven right now, “sitting a spell!”

    • Thanks so much for your comment John – agree on the voices. I think Margaret Truman reached out more to her mother than the other way around. I know that when Bess Truman was aged and widowed her daughter urged her to move in with her in New York – and the former First Lady said something like she would rather die. Pretty stark response!

  10. This is fascinating — but the video won’t come up — says it’s “Private” — has it been taken down? Would love to hear it…

    • Lynn – Sorry for the delay. I have made it public again. I am currently talking to folks about a project which may be utilizing this video and others like it so was asked to keep it private. I will keep it public for a short duration hopefully during which you will have a chance to view it. Thanks for writing again.

  11. Carl, thanks for posting the Bess Truman gem just like Harry she was a straight shooter. Was this 05.27.1955 when Margaret took Edward Morrow’s place on Person to Person and took the chance to get this scoop. I love the way that HST is silent until the end when Margaret asked her Mummy (instead of the Mother she had used through out the interview). I think hoping to get some comment if he wanted to say afew words on politics specifically or in general to which Bess replied No not in either category thank you and HST said Your mother never talks politics.

    You do a great job keep up the great work

    • Thank you Mark for your kind observations about the website. I’ve let longer and longer periods of time lapse between new articles being published – it really just does consume an enormous amount of time, despite the satisfaction. And yes – I am almost certain it is the same one. Cheers and thanks again Mark.

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