by lindsey leverett

Harry S. Truman. ÓEarly Life Harry S. Truman, the oldest of three children born
to Martha Ellen Young Truman and John Anderson Truman, was born in his
familyŐs 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 (ŇBessÓ) 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 worldŐs greatest leaders. Early Career In 1901, when Truman
graduated from high school, his future was uncertain. College had been ruled
out by his familyŐs 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. TrumanŐs widowed mother in Grandview, Missouri. For the next ten years,
Truman was a successful farmer. He joined Mike PendergastŐs Kansas City
Tenth Ward Democratic Club, the local Democratic Party organization, and on
his fatherŐs 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 MissouriŐs 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 menŐs
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, MikeŐs
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