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Harry S Truman was the 33rd president of the United States. He was born on 8 May 1884 and died on 26 December 1972 after a career as a bank clerk, postmaster, World War I soldier and haberdasher before becoming President.

He was born in Lamar, Missouri to John and Martha Truman but did not attend school until he was eight. He graduated in 1901 and was the only president who served after 1870 not to earn a college degree. He had aimed at joining West Point but was prevented by poor eyesight.

Truman worked at a series of clerical jobs and returned to the family farm in 1906 and remained there until 1917 when he enlisted for military service after joining the National Guard.

America had entered World War 1 and prior to leaving for France, Truman was sent to Fort Still in Oklahoma where he was chosen to be an officer and then battery commander in an artillery regiment in France.

The war brought out his leadership qualities, resulting in his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard. At war’s end, Truman returned home where he settled down and married Bess Wallace in June 1919. The couple had one daughter, Margaret, born in February 1924.

Truman entered public life with the support of the Kansas City Democratic machine when he was elected as a judge of the County Court in Jackson County, Missouri. He performed his duties in office with diligence and was notable for several popular decisions including an extensive series of roads to cope with the increasing amount of traffic, construc­ tion of a new County Court building and monuments honouring pioneer women.

In the 1934 election, Truman cam­ paigned successfully as a New Deal Democrat to win Missouri’s open United States Senate seat in support of President F D Roosevelt. He was sworn in as Vice­ President on 20 January 1945 but only held the position for 82 days when he had to take over the leadership role after President Roosevelt died.

Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 to strengthen the United States during the Cold War against Communism and reorganised military forces by creating the Department of Defence, the CIA, the US Air Force as a separate entity from the US Army and the National Security Council.

On 25 June 1948, the Allies initiated the Berlin Airlift, one day after the Soviet Union blocked access to the three Western­held sectors of Berlin. Although it had never been tried before, the airlift worked, dropping food and other supplies from military airplanes.

The Berlin Airlift was considered to be one of Truman’s great foreign policy successes and significantly aided his 1948 election campaign. An attempt to assassinate Truman in November 1950 by two Puerto Rican nationalists failed when one was shot dead.

Truman announced on 29 March 1952 that he would not run again for president after a change to the constitu­ tion which did not allow a president to serve more than three terms in office.

He retired to his mother­in­law’s house in Independence, Missouri and worked to build a presidential library which he donated to the Federal govern­ ment to maintain. Over the following years, he wrote and put together his memoirs in two volumes which were successfully published in 1955–56.

Harry Truman was initiated on 9 February 1909 in Belton Lodge No 450 in Belton, Missouri. He then joined Grandview Lodge at Grandview, Missouri and served as its first WM. In September 1940, he was elected the 97th Grand Master of Masons of Missouri and served until 1 October 1941.

However, Truman had a bad fall in the bathroom of his home in 1964 which limited his physical movement. On 5 Dec­ ember 1972 he was admitted to hospital with lung congestion from pneumonia which developed into multiple organ failure, leading to his death at age 88.

Article extracted from Freemason magazine, December 2018, pages 16 to 17.

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