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Truman
Cover of Truman
Truman
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The Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Harry S. Truman, whose presidency included momentous events from the atomic bombing of Japan to the outbreak of the Cold War and the Korean War, told by America's beloved and distinguished historian.
The life of Harry S. Truman is one of the greatest of American stories, filled with vivid characters—Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Wallace Truman, George Marshall, Joe McCarthy, and Dean Acheson—and dramatic events. In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man—a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined—but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. The last president to serve as a living link between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Truman's story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on newly discovered archival material and extensive interviews with Truman's own family, friends, and Washington colleagues, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary "man from Missouri" who was perhaps the most courageous president in our history.
The Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Harry S. Truman, whose presidency included momentous events from the atomic bombing of Japan to the outbreak of the Cold War and the Korean War, told by America's beloved and distinguished historian.
The life of Harry S. Truman is one of the greatest of American stories, filled with vivid characters—Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Wallace Truman, George Marshall, Joe McCarthy, and Dean Acheson—and dramatic events. In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man—a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined—but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. The last president to serve as a living link between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Truman's story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on newly discovered archival material and extensive interviews with Truman's own family, friends, and Washington colleagues, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary "man from Missouri" who was perhaps the most courageous president in our history.
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    Chapter 1

    Blue River Country

    As an agricultural region, Missouri is not surpassed by any state in the Union. It is indeed the farmer's kingdom....

    The History of Jackson County, Missouri, 1881

    I

    In the spring of 1841, when John Tyler was President, a Kentucky farmer named Solomon Young and his red-haired wife, Harriet Louisa Young, packed their belongings and with two small children started for the Far West. They had decided to stake their future on new land in the unseen, unfamiliar reaches of westernmost Missouri, which was then the "extreme frontier" of the United States.

    They were part of a large migration out of Kentucky that had begun nearly twenty years before, inspired by accounts of a "New Eden" in farthest Missouri -- by reports sent back by Daniel Morgan Boone, the son of Daniel Boone and by the fact that in 1821 Missouri had come into the Union as a slave state. The earliest settlers included families named Boggs, Dailey, and Adair, McCoy, McClelland, Chiles, Pitcher, and Gregg, and by 1827 they had founded a courthouse town called Independence, pleasantly situated on high ground in Jackson County, in what was often spoken of as the Blue River country. Those who came afterward, at the time of Solomon and Harriet Louisa Young, were named Hickman, Holmes, and Ford, Davenport, McPherson, Mann, Noland, and Nolan, Freeman, Truman, Peacock, Shank, Wallace, and Whitset, and they numbered in the hundreds.

    Nearly all were farmers, plain-mannered and plain-spoken, people with little formal education. Many of them were unlettered, even illiterate. They were not, however, poor or downtrodden, as sometimes pictured -- only by the material standards of later times could they be considered wanting -- and though none were wealthy, some, like red-haired Harriet Louisa, came from families of substantial means. She had said goodbye to a spacious Greek Revival house with wallpaper and milled woodwork, the Kentucky home of her elder brother and guardian, William Gregg, who owned numerous slaves and landholdings running to many hundreds of acres.

    The great majority of these people were of Scotch-Irish descent. They were Baptists and they were Democrats, and like Thomas Jefferson they believed that those who labored in the earth were the chosen people of God. They saw themselves as the true Americans. Their idol was Andrew Jackson, Old Hickory of Tennessee, "One-man-with-courage-makes-amajority" Jackson, the first President from west of the Alleghenies, who was of their own Scotch-Irish stock. It was for him that Jackson County had been named, and like him they could be tough, courageous, blunt, touchy, narrow-minded, intolerant, and quarrelsome. And obstinate. "Lord, grant that I may always be right, for Thou knowest I am hard to turn," was a line from an old Scotch-Irish prayer.

    With their Bibles, farm tools, and rifles, their potent corn whiskey, their black slaves, they brought from Kentucky a hidebound loathing for taxes, Roman Catholics, and eastern ways. Their trust was in the Lord and common sense. That they and their forebears had survived at...

About the Author-
  • David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other acclaimed books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, Brave Companions, 1776, The Greater Journey, The American Spirit, and The Wright Brothers. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. Visit DavidMcCullough.com.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine David McCullough, host and narrator of several PBS series and documentaries, does a wonderful job of tracing the life story of our thirty-third president, Harry S. Truman. This is a double treat; not only is Truman a meticulously researched and fascinating biography, but McCullough's narration is thoroughly engaging and entertaining. His even-paced, expres-sive presentation and the quiet power behind his words bring many emotions to the trials and triumphs of this great American. Hearing Truman's own voice from recordings of his speeches and his piano rendition of The Blackhawk Waltz enhance this audio experience far beyond that of just reading the book. A.A.B. Winner of AUDIOFILE Earphones Award (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 15, 1992
    Cracker-barrel plain in speech and looks, this seemingly ordinary man turned out to be one of our most dynamic presidents. It was Harry S. Truman who ordered the atomic bomb dropped, halted Communists in Turkey and Greece, initiated the Marshall Plan, NATO and the Berlin Airlift, ordered desegregation of the armed forces, established the CIA and the Defense Department, committed U.S. forces to Korea and upheld the principle of civilian control over the military by firing Gen. Douglas MacArthur. McCullough ( Mornings on Horseback ) has written a surefooted, highly satisfying biography of the 33rd president, one that not only conveys in rich detail Truman's accomplishments as a politician and statesman, but also reveals the character and personality of this constantly-surprising man--as schoolboy, farmer, soldier, merchant, county judge, senator, vice president and chief executive. The book relates how Truman (1884-1972) overcame the stigma of business failure and debt (as well as the accusation that he was ``bellboy'' to Kansas City's Pendergast machine) and acquired a reputation for honesty, reliability and common sense. McCullough pays considerable attention to Truman's family, especially his fervent and touching courtship of Bess Wallace, the idolized love of his life. Her mother never felt Truman was good enough for her daughter, even after he became president. The book's re-creation of the 1948 presidential campaign, during which Newsweek 's poll of 50 political writers predicted that the incumbent would lose the election to Thomas Dewey, is the most complete account of that surprise victory to date. The book is an impressive tribute to a man whose brisk cheerfulness and self-confidence were combined with a God-fearing humility; a great and good man who, in McCullough's opinion, was a great president. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC main selection; History Book Club and QPB alternatives; author tour.

  • AudioFile Magazine The 33rd President of the United States saw his country through the end of WWII, the creation of the State of Israel, Civil Rights legislation, and numerous other momentous events. Nelson Runger presents McCullough's thorough biography of Truman, showing great proficiency for Truman's vocal characteristics. Runger's re-creation of Truman's voice captures all the flat, nasal Missouri straightforwardness heard on archival broadcasts. His portrayals of Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Thomas Dewey, and others echo their vocal characteristics, as well. In the longer narrative passages, Runger succumbs to a rhythmic, soporific pace. Fortunately, these paragraphs lead to dialogue before too long. R.P.L. (c) AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine
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