Harry S. Truman

Early Life and Political Career

He grew up on a farm near Independence, Mo., worked at various jobs, and tended the family farm. He served as a captain of field artillery in France in World War I. On his return from the war he married (1919) Elizabeth (Bess) Virginia Wallace; they had one daughter, Mary Margaret. After a brief partnership in a haberdashery store, Truman turned to politics and, with support from the Democratic machine of Thomas J. Pendergast, was elected judge (1922–24) and president judge (1926–34) of Jackson co., Mo. He attended (1923–25) the Kansas City school of law.

In 1934 he was elected a U.S. Senator. In the Senate he was a firm supporter of the New Deal policies of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the administration was cool toward Truman because of his connection with Pendergast. By 1940 the Pendergast machine had been broken, and Truman had a hard fight for reelection. In his second term he achieved national prominence as chairman of a Senate committee to investigate government expenditures in World War II. His vigorous investigations revealed startling inefficiency and bungling on war contracts. Because he was acceptable both to the conservative Democrats and the New Dealers as well as to powerful labor leaders, Truman was nominated for Vice President in 1944 and was elected to office along with President Roosevelt.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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