Presidential Middle Names
February 20, 2012 by staff
Presidential Middle Names, Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the United States (1945-1953). As President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States (1945), he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his unprecedented fourth term.
During World War I, Truman served in combat in France as an artillery officer in his National Guard unit. After the war, he joined the Democratic Party political machine of Tom Pendergast in Kansas City, Missouri. He was elected a county official and in 1934 United States senator. After he had gained national prominence as head of the wartime Truman Committee, Truman replaced vice president Henry A. Wallace as Roosevelt’s running mate in 1944.
Truman faced many challenges in domestic affairs. The disorderly postwar reconversion of the economy of the United States was marked by severe shortages, numerous strikes, and the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act over his veto. He confounded all predictions to win election in 1948, helped by his famous Whistle Stop Tour of rural America. After his election, he passed only one of the proposals in his liberal Fair Deal program. He used executive orders to end racial discrimination in the armed forces and created loyalty checks that dismissed thousands of communist supporters from office.
Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri, the oldest child of John Anderson Truman (1851-1914) and Martha Ellen Young Truman (1852-1947). His parents chose the name Harry after his mother’s brother, Harrison Young (1846-1916), Harry’s uncle. His parents chose “S” as his “middle name” to please both of Harry’s grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. The initial did not stand for anything, a common practice among the Scots-Irish. A brother, John Vivian (1886-1965), soon followed, along with sister Mary Jane Truman (1889-1978).
In his autobiography, Truman stated, “I was named for … Harrison Young. I was given the diminutive Harry and, so that I could have two initials in my given name, the letter S was added. My Grandfather Truman’s name was Anderson Shippe [sometimes also spelled 'Shipp'] Truman and my Grandfather Young’s name was Solomon Young, so I received the S for both of them.” He once joked that the S was a name, not an initial, and it should not have a period, but official documents and his presidential library all use a period. The Harry S. Truman Library has numerous examples of the signature written at various times throughout Truman’s lifetime where he uses a period after the S. The Associated Press Stylebook has called for a period after the S since the early 1960s, when Truman indicated he had no preference.
His father John Truman was a farmer and livestock dealer. The family lived in Lamar until Harry was ten months old. They then moved to a farm near Harrisonville, then to Belton, and in 1887 to his grandparents’ 600-acre (240-ha) farm in Grandview. When Truman was six, his parents moved the family to Independence, so he could attend the Presbyterian Church Sunday School. Truman did not attend a traditional school until he was eight.
As a young boy, Truman had three main interests: music, reading, and history, all encouraged by his mother, to whom he was very close. As president, he solicited political as well as personal advice from her. He got up at five every morning to practice the piano, which he studied twice a week until he was fifteen. Truman was a page at the 1900 Democratic National Convention at Convention Hall in Kansas City.
After graduating from Independence High School (now William Chrisman High School) in 1901, Truman worked as a timekeeper on the Santa Fe Railroad, sleeping in “hobo camps” near the rail lines; he then worked at a series of clerical jobs. He worked briefly in the mailroom of the Kansas City Star. Truman decided not to join the International Typographical Union. He returned to the Grandview farm in 1906 where he remained until entering the army in 1917. During this period, he courted Bess Wallace and proposed to her in 1911. She turned him down. Truman said that before he proposed again, he wanted to be earning more money than a farmer did.
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