Truman
"Early Life Harry S. Truman, the oldest of three children born to

Martha Ellen Young Truman and John Anderson Truman, was born in his family's
small frame house in Lamar, Missouri, in 1884. Truman had no middle name; his
parents apparently gave him the middle initial S. because two family relatives
names started with that letter. When Truman was six years old, his family moved
to Independence, Missouri, where he attended the Presbyterian Church Sunday
school. There he met five-year-old Elizabeth Virginia ("Bess") Wallace, with
whom he was later to fall in love. Truman did not begin regular school until he
was eight, and by then he was wearing thick glasses to correct extreme
nearsightedness. His poor eyesight did not interfere with his two interests,
music and reading. He got up each day at 5 AM to practice the piano, and until
he was 15, he went to the local music teacher twice a week. He read four or five
histories or biographies a week and acquired an exhaustive knowledge of great
military battles and of the lives of the world's greatest leaders. Early

Career In 1901, when Truman graduated from high school, his future was
uncertain. College had been ruled out by his family's financial situation, and
appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was eliminated by his
poor eyesight. He began work as a timekeeper for the Santa Fe Railroad at $35
per month, and in his spare time he read histories and encyclopedias. He later
moved to Kansas City, where he worked as a mail clerk for the Kansas City Star,
then as a clerk for the National Bank of Commerce, and finally as a bookkeeper
for the Union National Bank. In 1906 he was called home to help his parents run
the large farm of Mrs. Truman's widowed mother in Grandview, Missouri. For the
next ten years, Truman was a successful farmer. He joined Mike Pendergast's

Kansas City Tenth Ward Democratic Club, the local Democratic Party organization,
and on his father's death in 1914 he succeeded him as road overseer. An
argument soon ended the job, but Truman became the Grandview postmaster. In 1915
he invested in lead mines in Missouri, lost his money, and then turned to the
oil fields of Oklahoma. Two years later, just before the United States entered

World War I, he sold his share in the oil business and enlisted in the U.S.

Army. He trained at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, but returned to Missouri to help
recruit others. He was elected first lieutenant by the men of Missouri's

Second Field Artillery. World War I World War I began in 1914 as a local

European war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Though U.S. President Woodrow

Wilson tried to remain neutral, the United States was drawn into the war in

April 1917. Truman sailed for France on March 30, 1918, and as a recently
promoted captain was given command of Battery D, a rowdy and unmanageable group
known as the Dizzy D. Truman succeeded in taming his unit, and the Dizzy D
distinguished itself in the battles of Saint-Mihiel and Argonne. In April 1919

Truman, then a major, returned home, and on June 28 he married Bess Wallace. The
following November, Truman and Eddie Jacobson opened a men's clothing store in

Kansas City. With the Dizzy D veterans as customers the store did a booming
business, but in 1920, farm prices fell sharply and the business failed. In the
winter of 1922 the store finally closed, but Truman refused to declare
bankruptcy and eventually repaid his debts. Entrance Into Politics Truman turned
to the Pendergasts for help. Jim Pendergast, Mike's son, persuaded his father
to give Truman permission to enter a four-way Democratic primary for an eastern

Jackson County judgeship, which was actually a job to supervise county roads and
buildings. Mike refused to support Truman. In addition, one of the other
candidates was supported by the Ku Klux Klan. Truman was advised to join the

Klan, but he objected to its discriminatory policies against blacks, Jews, and

Roman Catholics. Nonetheless, by campaigning on his war record and Missouri
background, Truman won the primary and in the general election. In January 1923
he was sworn into his first public office. A year later the Trumans' only
child, Mary Margaret, was born. United States Senator After a long, hard battle,

Truman soundly defeated his Republican opponent. On January 3, 1935, Truman was
sworn in as the junior senator from Missouri. Truman's common sense and
knowledge of government and history impressed two of the Senate's most
influential men. One was vice president John Nance Garner,