October 26, 2020

Crawley Pens Commentary on Harry S. Truman for Great Presidential Lives

Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley recently offered commentary in The Free Lance-Star on the life of Harry S. Truman as part of his virtual “Great Presidential Lives” series. The online series is available at https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/.

When Vice President Harry S. Truman learned of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945, the realization that he would now be president made him feel, he told reporters, “like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

Truman had ample reason to be thunderstruck. And the American people generally shared his trepidation. They knew little about this successor to the legendary FDR, and what they did know was not reassuring.

For one thing, he had been vice president only during Roosevelt’s fourth term and thus in office for only a few months. His career prior to that was undistinguished, having held sundry jobs with indifferent success before winning election to the U.S. Senate in 1934.

Plain in both appearance and speech, he did not look or sound “presidential.” In short, few people have ever attained the presidency so seemingly ill-equipped for the job. Yet it was his fate to be faced with some of the most crucial problems of 20th century America. Read more.