Ranked #6: Nobody had a tougher mission when entering office. Truman made some hard decisions and fortunately for the US, they were the right ones. It was a critical time in US history and there was no room for mistakes. Everything got dropped in his lap after FDRs death and he practically had no guidance.
Summary: Truman was a sincere, plain-spoken man. When I say plain-spoken, I mean he was blunt. He was incorruptible. He also had a temper and used foul language when he needed to vent. At the time, some people found his honesty invigorating. Others were frankly scared of the man. He was known to make fearless decisions and go on with the next issue without second guessing himself.
Bio: He always had an underlying confidence and seem to get stronger with every political obstacle that stood in his way. He had the proven ability to whip up crowds whenever he was stumping across America. Ironically, with this vibrant personality, he was known to have a slow heartbeat and was diagnosed with chronic low blood pressure. He stood about 5’ 10” and was almost painfully nearsighted.
He enjoyed walking two miles every morning and liked to play low-stakes poker. He was also a fine pianist, able to play Mozart, Strauss, Chopin and Bach. He appreciated fine art like da Vinci and Rubens but found modern art like Picasso to be trash. He did not smoke and drank an occasional bourbon or white wine.
Unlike others to have reached the office of the Presidency, Truman held various jobs like being a time keeper for a railroad, a mailroom clerk, a bank clerk, a book keeper and even established a haberdashery. He also lost money in a lead and zinc venture as well as oil exploration. After such a lack of success he decided a career in the public sector was worth a try. He somehow managed to become a county judge, eventually a US Senator and followed that by being the Vice President for Franklin Roosevelt's 4th term.
He became President after the death of FDR. Considering the state of affairs of the country, it was not going to be easy since there were two world wars happening. At the time, Eleanor Roosevelt approached Harry and said, “Harry, the President is dead.” Truman replied, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Eleanor shook her head and said, “Is there anything we can do for you? You are the one in trouble.” Harry, of course, rose to the occasion.
In all, Truman’s foreign policy established the core of American foreign policy for the latter 20th century, if you take into account that he ended two world wars, ushered in the atomic age, helped create the State of Israel and was at the inception of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Truman also made the brave and controversial decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan that accelerated the end of the war in the Pacific.
Truman left office being quite unpopular with Americans. However, as time rolled along, his popularity experienced a resurgence, and he came to be viewed more as a feisty, “every man,” rather than some Washington DC political career man. While in office, Truman found himself in some complicated circumstances and had to make some incredibly difficult decisions. He confronted all problems that faced him and never looked back. I’m not sure there were many contemporaries that could have performed as well as he did.
Truman spent much of his post-presidency being active in politics, establishing a “Presidential Alumni” with President Herbert Hoover. He always had an opinion, whether it was welcomed or not. He died at the age of 88 of heart failure.
Pros: His actions brought a quick end to World War 2. Expanded Civil Rights. Recognized the state of Israel. Fought against Jim Crow laws.
Cons: Dropped two atomic bombs on Japan killing mostly innocent people. Threatened other counties with nuclear annihilation.
Born: May 8, 1884, Lamar, Missouri
Died: December 26, 1972 (aged 88) Independence, Missouri
Term: April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953 (assumed term & 1 term)
Political Party: Democrat
Education: University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law