When President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away in 1945, his running mate Harry S. Truman succeeded him and became the 33rd President of the United States. He was born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri, and now we’re looking back at the popular President on what would’ve been his birthday!
As a child, Harry enjoyed playing the piano and reading. Unable to afford college, Harry finished high school and went on to work a variety of jobs including oil drilling and banking. He joined the army during World War I in 1917, serving in France until 1919. Shortly after, he married his wife, Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace.
The transformative experience of fighting in the war drove Harry to pursue politics. He was elected as an administrative judge of the Jackson County Court in 1922, but was not reelected in 1924. He was then elected the presiding judge for the county court and served two terms. He became a U.S. Senator in 1934, and replaced Vice President Henry Wallace for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s campaign.
Truman served as Vice President for less than three months before FDR passed away on April 12, 1945. He was called urgently to the White House, where newly widowed Eleanor Roosevelt informed him of the news. When he asked if there was anything he could do for her, she responded, “Is there anything we can do for you? You are the one in trouble now!”
World War II ended soon after Truman took office. In August of 1945, when the Japanese refused to surrender, Truman authorized the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an act that was very controversial. He firmly believed that further fighting with Japan would have resulted in more casualties than the bombings and did what he believed would be best for his country. Acts that he passed throughout the rest of his presidency created the U.S. Air Force, CIA, and NSA.
After the beginning of the Korean War and some unpopular decisions Truman made, his presidency reached the lowest approval rating of a president still in office at the time. Nobody really expected for Truman to be reelected in 1948. In fact, there’s a famous picture of him holding up a newspaper on Election Night declaring that his opponent–Thomas Dewey–had won the election!
During his second term, President Truman would survive an assassination attempt and contribute to Civil Rights legislation. In hindsight, he is considered now to be one of the most popular presidents in history. He passed away on December 26th, 1972 at the age of 88 due to complications from pneumonia. He would be 129 today, so happy birthday, Harry S. Truman!