Most Missouri state offices will be closed on Friday, in observance of Truman Day. Harry Truman, America’s 33rd President, was born 137 years ago in southwest Missouri’s Lamar. He was born in 1884.

Former President Harry Truman was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians on February 18, 1991 in Jefferson City. The sculptor was
William Williams (file photo courtesy of House Communications)

Truman was vice president in 1945, when President Franklin Roosevelt died. President Truman served as the nation’s 33rd president, from 1945 to 1953. State Rep. Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs) describes President Truman as inspiring and fascinating.

“He was a man that overcame tremendous hurdles in his life. I mean, even throughout his political career. As president even,” Richey says.

President Truman implemented the Marshall Plan to help rebuild western Europe’s economy after World War II, and he also issued the executive order that integrated the U.S. military. He also started the Truman Doctrine.

Truman was an underdog in the 1948 presidential election, against Republican Thomas Dewey and two other candidates who had been Democrats: segregationist South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond ran on a state’s rights platform, and former Vice President Henry Wallace was the Progressive Party nominee.

Richey notes President Truman checked into a famous Excelsior Springs hotel on election day 1948.

“Rather than remaining in Kansas City and Independence for that evening, he retired to Excelsior Springs and spent the evening at the Elms Hotel. And the hotel has the records on it, it’s fascinating: he had a sandwich, buttermilk and a massage,” says Richey.

While polls that fall showed Governor Dewey winning the race, historians note the polls were conducted primarily by telephones, which were very expensive at that time. Truman ran as a populist and won. Truman ran a “whistle stop” campaign, visiting the country by train.

Richey says tourists travel to Excelsior Springs from all over the world to visit the Elms Hotel and Spa. He says about 65,000 people stay at or tour the hotel and spa each year.

“It’s really interesting to think that in Excelsior Springs Missouri, the president of the United States of America, the most powerful man in the world at the time, was in a hotel room sleeping, thinking that he was going to lose his re-election bid. And he’s awakened by his staff: you just won,” Richey says.

Richey praises President Truman, describing him as an example of a regular American playing a pivotal role on the world stage.

Truman left the White House in 1953 and returned to Independence. In 1965, then-President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare bill at the Truman Presidential Library. He presented the first two Medicare cards to Truman and his wife Bess. Truman fought for health care, while in office.

Former President Truman died in December 1972 in Kansas City, at the age of 88. He was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in Jefferson City, in 1991. His bronze bust is still on display at the Statehouse.

Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s full interview with State Rep. Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs), which was recorded at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City on May 6, 2021:

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