Harry S. Truman with HamHarry S. Truman with Ham


NAME: Harry S Truman. He was named after a maternal uncle Harrison Young. “S” was his full middle name. Undecided whether to give him the middle name Shippe, after his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shippe Truman, or Solomon, after his maternal grandfather, Solomon Young, his parents affixed the initial to represent both.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Truman stood 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 185 pounds when he became president, 175 pounds during his last year in office. He had blue eyes, brown hair that was mostly gray by the time he became president, a droopy nose, and a round full face. He had a slow heartbeat and chronic low blood pressure. He was extremely nearsighted and wore eyeglasses from age 6. Otherwise his health was generally sound. He dressed fashionably in tailor-made suits; he was named one of the ten best dressed senators.

PERSONALITY: “To really understand Harry S Truman,” wrote his daughter, “you must grasp the importance of humility in his thinking.” ┬áTo brag about himself or claim credit for something in public was anathema to him. “But,” Margaret Truman added, “this practice of humility never meant that dad downgraded his worth, his accomplishments, in his own mind.” Indeed, he was supremely confident of his own judgment. He acted boldly, and decisively. Once he made a decision, he forgot about it and went on to something else. He was earnest, incorruptible, and blunt in speech. Like Andrew Jackson, he was notorious for his explosive temper and salty language. To some it was refreshing to see a president honest enough to blow off steam in public. It disturbed others, like David Lilienthal, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, who worried that his temper might set off World War III. Although irascible, Truman was not moody or prone to depression. He thrived on the rough and tumble of politics. “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” was his much-heralded philosophy. Truman delivered prepared addresses poorly in a flat voice marked by a distinct Missouri twang. But out on the stump, he fired up crowds with off-the-cuff speeches, characteristically of simple, straightforward sentences.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

Harry S. Truman with Ham

Franklin D. RooseveltDwight Eisenhower