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S Dot or S Not
“Give ‘em Hell, Harry,” his supporters cried, but President Truman replied in that flat Missouri accent, “I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
What was the truth concerning the letter “S” as his middle name? According to his biographers the “S” was a compromise, a tribute taken from the names of his grandfathers, Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. It is a southern thing, it seems, to use initials as a name and Harry’s mother’s people were southerners.
President Truman was later heard to say the use of the period after the “S” dated after 1962, as he didn’t use the period after the “S” for most of his life, but it appears in some signatures and not in others.
When he was born on May 8, 1884 his parents, John Andrew Truman and Martha Ellen Young Truman, decided to name him Harry after his mother’s brother, Harrison Young, but they could not agree on a middle name. His father’s father was Shipp Truman and his mother’s father was Solomon Young. Finally a compromise was reached to use the letter S for both of his grandfathers. Experts on the subject consider “S.” to be an initial for a name, but the letter “S” with no period is used as a name. So which is it in the case of Harry S. or Harry S with no period? Either way was okay with our common sense Missourian, Harry. The choice is yours, but we all agree that “The buck stops here” for President Truman.
President Truman served almost 4 years after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and 4 more years after being elected in spite of predictions of his defeat. Remember the picture of Harry holding up the front page story of Dewey’s victory? He traveled the nation by train in the so called “Whistle Stop Campaign” in which he reached out from the end of the rear car to speak to the common people.
He said, “My own sympathy has always been with the little fellow, the man without advantages.”
Another well known Truman quote was “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
President Truman served his country, then chose to step aside rather than run again for office. He was happy to resume his life in Independence, MO as “Mr. Citizen.” Today he is considered to be among our best Presidents in view of the many things he supported. Oh, yes, we know about the bomb, but there was also the Fair Deal, the Marshall Plan, and desegregation of the military among many other things.
He was the decider. “All my life, whenever it comes time to make a decision, I make it and then forget about it.” He did not believe the President should pass the buck when facing a tough decision. That responsibility is his, and that’s his job.
Harry S Truman wrote several interesting books including his autobiography. He was never a rich man and the sale of those books supplemented his meager retirement income. In my opinion the best biography of Truman was written by David McCullough entitled just “Truman.” It was a prize winner and a very interesting one to read. Check with the local library for it, or others, and enjoy learning more about our fellow Missourian who became President of the United States.
Contributed by Marilyn Goodwin