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Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman

  • President, US, 1945–1953
  • Born: May 8, 1844
  • Died: December 26, 1972

Harry S. Truman was born in 1884, in Lamar, Missouri.  In 1901, he graduated from Independence (Missouri) High School, marking the end of his formal education.

After graduation, Truman worked a series of jobs in the Kansas City area, including as a clerk for the National Bank of Commerce and Union National Bank, before enlisting in the Missouri National Guard. After 1906, Truman worked on the family farm in Grandview, Missouri, with his parents and brother, and when he left the National Guard in 1911, he continued to work in the Grandview area as a road overseer and postmaster. Truman reenlisted in the National Guard in 1917 and served briefly in World War I.

Following the war, Truman returned to Missouri and married childhood friend Bess Wallace. From 1919 to 1922, he ran a men’s clothing store in Kansas City, which failed in the postwar recession. He then turned to local politics in Jackson County, Mo., where he served as a presiding administrative judge from 1926 to 1934. At the end of his second term as a judge, Truman was elected to a Missouri seat in the US Senate as a Democrat.

On July 21, 1944, Truman was nominated as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s running mate and was elected to the vice presidency on November 7. Six months later, Roosevelt’s death thrust Truman into the White House.

As he oversaw the end of World War II, Truman faced new domestic challenges as the nation’s economy transitioned from wartime to peacetime. Returning veterans faced high unemployment rates, and inflation skyrocketed as price controls on some goods were removed. Concerns over the economy led to the Full Employment Act of 1946, which created the Council of Economic Advisers and the congressional Joint Economic Committee.

With the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950 and a new need to issue more debt to finance the US entry into the war, the Truman administration pushed the Federal Reserve to leave interest rates at a low level, even as the Fed sought to raise rates in order to attack soaring inflation.

In an attempt to reconcile their differences, Truman, Treasury Secretary John Snyder, and members of the Federal Open Market Committee held a series of meetings. To this day, a Jan. 31, 1951, meeting between Truman and the FOMC remains the only time the entire committee was summoned to the White House. In spite of the talks, the conflict soon spilled over into Congress and into the press. Eventually, the matter was settled with the Treasury-Fed Accord in March 1951, a milestone event in the Federal Reserve’s independence.

Truman's administration ended on Jan. 20, 1953. After attending Eisenhower's inauguration, he left Washington by train and headed back to Missouri. He would lease office space at the Kansas City Fed’s downtown headquarters, where he wrote his memoirs and awaited the completion of his presidential library in Independence, Mo. He died in 1972 at the age of eighty-eight.

Written by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. See disclaimer.

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