Days before Harry Truman was first elected to the U.S. Senate on Nov. 6, 1934 — before he served as vice president under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and before he went on himself to be the 33rd president of the United States — he made a campaign stop in Pacific on Friday, Nov. 2, at the now historic McHugh-Dailey Mercantile Building on South First Street.
“He spoke on the third floor of that building,” said Carol Johnson, coordinator of this year’s Truman Day Dinner sponsored by the Franklin County Democratic Central Committee and a Pacific alderwoman.
Next month, another Truman will speak to an audience in that same location.
Clifton Truman Daniel, President Truman’s eldest grandson, will be in Pacific for a series of events, some private and one public — he will be the guest speaker at the annual Truman Day Dinner on Saturday, May 11, at the Pacific Eagles Hall, 707 W. Congress. (See sidebar for complete details.)
But before that, Daniel — who has written two books, one on his grandfather and another on letters written by his grandmother, Bess Truman, to Harry Truman — will hold a private book signing on the third floor of the McHugh-Dailey Building. This will be an invitation-only gathering for city officials and others on the Truman Day planning committee.
The building, which had been closed for renovations, reopened in February with a new business, Pacific Brew Haus, on the first floor. The third floor, which was once used as an opera house, also has been renovated and is available for meeting or party rentals.
This is one of many historical connections that Johnson has made between President Truman and the city of Pacific recently.
‘Found Connections All Along the Way’
Johnson was in the Kansas City area for business last year when the idea came to her to book a Truman descendant to be the guest speaker at the Truman Day Dinner.
Finding a dynamic and interesting speaker is always the goal of these types of events, said Johnson, and many times it ends up being an elected official.
“I was staying in Independence near President Truman’s home . . . and I thought to myself, ‘Don’t worry about getting an elected official. Let’s concentrate on what it’s really about.’
“I looked up (Truman’s) family, where they are today, and found his grandson and saw that he does speaking engagements.”
It seemed an ideal fit to have Truman’s grandson speak at the 35th annual Truman Day Dinner, said Johnson. She found out later, through research in planning the event, that it was even more fitting than she first realized.
“I found connections all along the way,” Johnson remarked.
That includes a front-page story from a 1934 issue of Meramec Valley Transcript noting that Truman was going to stop in Pacific at the McHugh-Dailey Building just days before the Senate election.
Also, this year’s Truman Day Dinner will be held at the Pacific Eagles Hall, and as it turns out, both Harry and Bess Truman were members of the Eagles, said Johnson.
The event is being held on Mother’s Day weekend, and it is believed that Fran E. Hering, a past grand worthy president of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, who made the first known plea to create the holiday.
A member of the genealogy society, Janet Daniel, is married to Jim Daniel, a distant cousin of Clifton Truman Daniel.
Finally, Pacific resident Jim Schwinkendorf served as railroad officer in charge for the 1995 movie, “Truman,” about President Truman’s 1948 whistle-stop campaign. The movie, which stars Gary Sinese as Truman, won an award for Best Movie Produced for TV.
Truman also made political visits to Washington, both during his time as a senator as well as his 1948 presidential re-election campaign, when he made whistle-stops on the train.
Truman Was a Veteran
Before he ran for public office, Truman enlisted in the military, first in the Missouri Army National Guard from 1905 to 1911 and again when the United States entered World War I.
According to the Truman Library website, www.trumanlibrary.org, “When the United States entered World War I in 1917, he helped organize the 2nd Regiment of Missouri Field Artillery, which was quickly called into Federal service as the 129th Field Artillery and sent to France.
“Truman was promoted to Captain and given command of the regiment’s Battery D. He and his unit saw action in the Vosges, Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. Truman joined the reserves after the war, rising eventually to the rank of colonel.
“He sought to return to active duty at the outbreak of World War II, but Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall declined his offer to serve.”
After World War I, Truman returned home to Independence, where he married Bess Wallace in 1919. They had one child, a daughter, Mary Margaret Truman, born in 1924.
“Truman was elected in 1922, to be one of three judges of the Jackson County Court,” the Truman Library site reads. “Judge Truman whose duties were in fact administrative rather than judicial, built a reputation for honesty and efficiency in the management of county affairs. He was defeated for reelection in 1924, but won election as presiding judge in the Jackson County Court in 1926. He won reelection in 1930.
In 1934, Truman was elected to the U.S. Senate for Missouri and was re-elected in 1940.
“Truman gained national prominence as chairman of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program,” the Truman Library website notes. “This committee, which came to be called the Truman Committee, sought with considerable success to ensure that defense contractors delivered to the nation quality goods at fair prices.”
In 1944, Truman was the vice presidential candidate to President Roosevelt and then assumed the presidency in 1945 after President Roosevelt died in office.
Grandson to Share Memories, Talk About New Book
Clifton Truman Daniel, the oldest son of the late Margaret Truman and her husband, former New York Times Managing Editor E. Clifton Daniel Jr., said he was unaware of his grandfather’s campaign stop in Pacific in 1934, but that he is excited to learn more about the many connections between President Truman and the city.
Daniel, who lives in Chicago, is a former journalist and public relations executive and honorary chairman of the board of the Truman Library Institute, the nonprofit partner of the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence. He is the author of “Growing Up With Grandpa: Memories of Harry S. Truman” (1995, Birch Lane Press) and “Dear Harry, Love Bess: Bess Truman’s Letters to Harry Truman, 1919-1943” (2011, Truman State University Press).
He is currently at work on a book on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Daniel told The Missourian that his speech at the Truman Day Dinner will include details of all three of those subjects — growing up the grandson of President Truman, the letters his grandmother wrote to his grandfather and now the bombings that ended the U.S. war with Japan in 1945.
None of these topics were ones he went looking for, but that presented themselves to him, particularly the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“I’ve had occasion over the years to meet various survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Daniel said.
“I didn’t go looking for survivors. They came to me.”
The book he is now writing looks at both perspectives. In no way, he stressed, is it an “apology,” something reporters asked him about during a visit to Japan last August for memorial services.
“It was emotional . . . tough,” Daniel told The Missourian.
At a press conference afterward, the second question presented to him was, “Are you here to apologize?” to which Daniel promptly replied, “No!”
“Then why are you here?” the reporters asked.
“The only way to get over this, to heal, is to reach out to each other,” said Daniel, “. . . to honor each other’s sacrifices.”
The “apology question” came up several times during the visit, Daniel said, but his Japanese host finally settled it by pointing out that if Japan asks for an apology over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then America will ask for an apology for Pearl Harbor, and then where does it end? Apologies could go on and on.
Daniel said working on his new book has brought him in touch with people like a 93-year-old Marine captain who now lives in Minnesota, but who was in Nagasaki after the bombing.
He told Daniel there was a large pile of Japanese officers’ swords, and that the American soldiers were encouraged to take one to bring home as a souvenir.
“Most were ceremonial,” said Daniel, “but he found one . . . that he was almost sure was a Japanese samurai sword.”
That Marine captain brought home the sword, but now, decades and much research later, he is preparing to return it to the original owner’s family.
“There are these stories of people doing nice things,” said Daniel
Daniel believes his grandfather would be “disappointed” with the polarization today in American politics, especially TV and radio shows “purporting to be news, but that are nothing more than opinion.
“He was about more cooperation.”
Daniel noted that his grandfather’s love of politics came from his father, who was a political appointee as a road overseer in Jackson County in the early 1900s.
“He loved local politics, and he passed that on,” said Daniel.