tv First Ladies Influence Image CSPAN December 25, 2013 9:00pm-10:31pm EST
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continues with a look at the life and times of bess truman. followed by a discussion of the health care law. then the congressional gold medal ceremony honoring native american code talkers. later, another look at our year in review on the nsa surveillance and data collection programs. ♪ >> president harry truman liked to refer to his wife, bess as "the boss." family was her number one priority. she spent a good time of her white house years home in missouri. she served as first lady on her own terms. good evening and welcome. here to tell you more about bess truman, a white house historian. his latest book is called "the imperial season."
nicole is a history professor and the author of the biography of harry truman. thank you for being here. nice to meet you. where we left off last week was the death of franklin roosevelt. the call comes into harry truman that he is needed. >> he is having a drink with his cronies. a lot of politics were accomplished by relaxing and having a more cordial atmosphere. he received a phone call and he said he just knew. the story goes that he ran to get to his car and the white house. he was sworn in two hours later. >> they went and got her and did not tell her anything. it was not a surprise to anyone
at the white house at all. they knew roosevelt was going. >> no one expected it so quickly. >> he looked horrible. the last campaign. he had spoken to the congress sitting down. he was ashen. his inaugural real address had to begin in from the white house. he was stood up. the audience was out front. it was not really a surprise to anyone. >> two hours later in the cabinet room at the white house, harry truman was joined by his family and took the oath of office delivered by the chief justice. how surprise was the nation? did they know who harry truman was? >> they knew he was the vice president and knew his name. he had gotten some acclaim for
his truman committee. he was a very admired said in washington. even his own mother was nervous for him. >> what about bess truman? where was she? what do we know? >> she is with them their. i do not know. roosevelt approved him for vice president and thought it was a good idea. he was well known in washington but he was not a household term. a picture like a king or something. the very idea of his declining, most people did not understand he could not walk. >> he kept that well hidden. >> the trumans are now the first couple. the roosevelts had been in the white house for 13 years. that is the longest stretch of any president in a white house.
>> 14 grant was taken out of -- because of his condition. also ms. roosevelt's nature as you saw in the last show. they liked to have everything around them all the time. they were table people. they had tables in front of things. his things were in easy reach. thousands of things. pictures, all sorts of things. imagine what the trumans faced when they went in there with the squares on the wall. the floor would jiggle like that. the transition was they had a little apartment in town. they took the piano from it. >> did they go immediately to the white house? >> no. the trumans thought they could stay into their apartment until the white house. they offered mrs. roosevelt as much time as she needed. she took two weeks. by then, the trumans realized security wise, they could not stay in their apartment. i love the story that as eleanor
roosevelt watched them pack up their belongings, she went across the street to say goodbye to the trumans and she warned bess, watch out for the rats. they had seen a rat across the terrace recently. >> the white house is full of rats. >> right. they went to take a tour and were appalled. >> she was thrust into the job. harry truman was thrust into the job. >> did she have any guidance? >> her first problem was eleanor roosevelt probably had -- probably meaning well, set up a press conference. a tradition was started about press conference. bess truman went to the secretary of labor and said, do i have to do that? is it ok to set my own tone? she was assured she could do what she wanted and put a lot of thought into it and decided it was not something she would do
and never did hold a press conference. >> edith was the old-time white house social secretary and went there with mrs. woodrow wilson the second. stay through all through the roosevelt's and everything. she was the admiral's his life. she knew everything to do, where the bodies were buried, everything. she handled the press conference. >> he other thing we should establish early on is that the trumans got their support from one another. >> they were a partnership 100%. >> the ushers worked in the white house described them as the closest knit family they had seen. >> can you talk a little bit about what you know about how they supported one another?
>> they reminded me a lot of the carters. they were together a lot and like to read and discuss things and enjoy being together. margaret and the president were musical. they liked to listen to records and stuff like that. it was very much the same thing i think. intimate, personal. that is how they lived. >> we will go back in time and tell you a bit of the biography of this woman who came to serve as first lady. let me tell you how you can become involved in our program. your comments make this special and interesting. there are three ways to do that. you can dial in throughout the program. you can also tweet us. we have a conversation already underway at the c-span facebook page. you will see a photograph of the
trumans. you can post a question there. we will work in as many as we can. thank you for it your purchase -- percent -- your participation. one thing you should know is the house, how far is that away from the major city? >> 10 miles away. >> it is a national site run by the national park service. it has been closed to cameras for more than 30 years. the park service was willing to open it up to c-span for the series. we will see encouragement of truman's grandson. throughout this program, you will see inside a tour given by mr. daniel that helps us understand the people his grandparents were. let's begin with a tour of the home. >> we are on the back porch of my grandparents home. this is the way we came in and how family came in through the kitchen door.
came into the kitchen, and the first place i always headed was back here to the pantry. i do not see it, but there was always 18 mean here, a nice round tin, filled with brownies. i always made sure the tin was in here before i went anywhere else in the house. once i made sure the brownies were in the tin, the next stop had to be my grandfather's study. whenever you came into the house, he did not meet us at the airport as we got older. once you came to the house, you had to stop here and say hi to grandpa and this is where you found him most of the time as i was getting older. if i wanted to talk to grandpa, that is where i looked. he was always reading. my grandmother and mother sat in those chairs and often read in the here with them. my grandmother and mother used
to start fighting. my grandfather was -- would read down to the end of the page and look up and try to decide whether or not the fight was escalating to the point he should get out of the room. if everything was ok, he would go to the next page and read down and check again. this is the formal dining room. this is where we ate the evening meal every day. breakfast in the kitchen and a sandwich or something for lunch. this is where we ate all formal dinner meals, the dining room. my grandmother sat at that end of the table, closest to the kitchen, i think. if we go through here, we are in the center of the house in the foyer. you will notice the biggest portrait in the house is that of my late mother. she was their only child and
only can seemed -- conceived after my grandmother suffered two miscarriages. she was 39 after she was born and was very precious to my grandparents. they were very close little family unit. my grandfather spoiled her. my grandmother was more the disciplinarian. the three of them were very tight as a family. she was their only child. if we go through this way, we are in the living room. this chair is where my grandmother did her reading after my grandfather passed away. this is often where my grandmother sat. she loved murder mysteries. she had stacks of them on either side of the chair. she would have one step over here, books she had not read, and she would read and put them down and they would be donated or put on the shelf. this is where she spent a lot of her time. she gave a lot of the murder mysteries to my mother, who
dedicate -- did the same thing. my mom eventually became a mystery writer. >> you see the house in independence missouri that was a house the trumans lived in throughout their married life. how did they meet? >> they met when they were five years old in sunday school. i am not sure whether that's distinctly remembers it but harry spoke of the girl with the beautiful eyes and claims he fell in love with her that day and as far as we know, he never did look at another woman. it was a lifelong love affair for the trumans. they had a very different lifestyle, a different kind of background. can you tell us a bit about the family that elizabeth wallace came from and what harry truman early years were like to request the family owned a store in town and manufactured a flower. they were considered a little more upscale than the trumans.
there was a truman farm. some of the land they farm was mrs. wallace's. bess' mother. there was that difference. that difference surfaced all during their lives. let me read you this letter here written while he was president in june 29, 1949. he is writing to bess. 30 years, i hope to make you a happy wife and happy mother. did i e i do not know. all i can say is i have tried. there is no one in the world anyway who could look down on you or your daughter. no one in the world who could look down on you or your daughter. that means much to me. i never cared for social position or rank for myself, except to see those dear to me were not made to suffer for my
shortcomings. he was president of the united states still feeling that way. it comes through his letters to her almost as an apology. christ never felt good enough? >> part of that, keep in mind her mother is still living with them. that is her mother's house they move into. they never had their own marital home. then her mother lives in the white house with him a lot of the time. it is thought that is hard of her hesitation for accepting harry truman. her mother did not approve. >> never really thought well of her? even when he became president? >> apparently not. >> he never set a negative word upon her death. he wrote a lovely piece saying he did not understand mother-in-law jokes because he had such a great one. >> she died in the white house. he sent a note to the chief oscar and said, mother wallace
made arrangements for us to return. >> we will return to independence and learn more through their eyes of the story of how harry and bess met. >> when my grandfather visited independence, 26 miles from where he lives at the time, in 1910, he often stayed across the street at the no one house, where his aunt and two cousins with. one afternoon, he was over there with his cousins and the family, and his and brought in a cake plate my great grandmother had. he had given her a cake and miss -- she had cleaned the cake plate and was asking if anybody would take it back over and my grandfather moved with what my mother once described as something approaching the speed of light and grabs the plate and ran over and rang the bell on the front door in the hopes my grandmother would answer the door and she did.
she invited him in. that was the beginning of their formal courtship in 1910. they first met in sunday school when my grandmother was five and my grandfather was six. they were baptists. the presbyterian church down the street here had a very good sunday school and that is what my great grandmother truman was most interested in. she took him over to talk to the reverend. as she was talking, sunday school was in session. as my great-grandmother was talking to the reverend, my grandfather noticed this little girl sitting in sunday school class with what he described as beautiful blue eyes and long golden curls. he sort of fell in love with her right then and there. as far as anybody knows, he never looked at another woman. >> there is the story of a courtship from the grandson. >> the other thing that is
interesting is their courtship lasted many years. he had businesses and went off to wars. how long did it take before they got married? >> he first unofficially proposed in 1913 after their courtship in 1910 started. she did not write him a letter back but you can tell from her second -- his second letter to her where he said, if i bought a ring, would you wear it on your left-hand? no answer. >> what was harry truman's role in world war i? >> great danger. he was in combat, at the front, leading his men. writing to bess and carrying her picture with him every day. >> one has to realize he was a no-nonsense organized manner. roosevelt was not. he was.
things ran this way and he got things in shape and he stayed in the reserve. he enjoyed the company of men. it was not that he's sought out the company of women. he was a mason. while he was president, he maintained an interest in military and military people. a profound effect on his life. >> time to begin bringing in our callers. we will start with gary in independence, missouri. you are living in the trumans hometown. how has that informed your opinion of them? caller: very highly of truman. i live just a couple doors down from him. everywhere we look, we see truman. the more and more the years go by, just as much as the american public would like to see truman back in the white house, we really appreciate him as well. >> do you have a question for our guest? >> i do.
she had a low profile as first ladies -- first lady. i was wondering how the press responded to her and did harry have any concerns for her to be out in the public more? >> i will take the first part of your question about how the press responded. at first, they were clamoring to get more information and were very aggressive in calling her secretaries and asking where she was going to go and what she would wear. it is not that bess would not speak to people. she would invite the newspaper women because largely women journalists covered the first ladies. she would invite them over for things like tea or go to their lunches but she would insist on it all being off the record. she was a private person and wish for a private life. >> how were their early years?
>> he ran a men's clothing store. that is where he gets into some depth. -- his debt. he did insist on paying it off and he eventually does. he is still involved in the family farm. he is trying to do all of these things to make himself more. he does become interested. -- >> in those days, a huge scandal, suicide. a great stigma on their family prayer chatter her mother. his critics plain why she wanted to keep her family life private. she wants to shield her mother and brothers from having the
press dig through her family history. >> it was a terrible thing for everyone. nobody ever understood why. she left in colorado and lived there for a year. then came back and moved into the house with the mother and children. >> stephen is up next. caller: it made me think of the reason why her partnership with harry truman, like the gentleman was talking about before, it seemed like they had an equal partnership, surely unusual in that day in time. i think the reason why was because she had realized her parents marriage, there was something lacking in that.
margaret truman was saying she was back-and-forth with that over the years. that is the reason why they had a close partnership. i know something else, i do not know if you all discussed this or not. the trumans were the first ever to host the first integrated inauguration -- inaugural ball in 1949. i was just curious and we were talking about women's rights, for instance, what she thought about feminism. i know in the early 80's, katie sent her an article in the feminist movement. whether she would have been for the e.r.a., but also her opinions about civil rights for black people. her husband had often used derogatory terms, but he was also the one who really set the course for the modern civil rights movement in 1948.
>> thank you. that is a lot to work with here. how about her views of feminism? >> she certainly would not have called herself a feminist. she did believe her marriage was a partnership. she once famously said a politician, his wife's job was to sit there, be quiet, and make sure her hat was straight. >> here is the question -- >> i would not say she did what she wanted -- it was a partnership. >> this is part of what marriage is all about. ms. truman grew up.
she was in a time of very strong feminism. she was obviously in there. there are different layers to feminism. >> absolutely. >> one of her friends was a well-known journalist who went on all sorts of adventures and bess cheered her on. it is different from other people's notions of feminism. >> do you know how she got the nickname "the boss?" >> harry started calling her that. she did not mind the nickname until harry introduced her as the boss ann-margret as the boss's boss. the reason that irritated bess so much is she thought people would think margaret was spoiled.
>> there was a controversy because he paid her salary. how did they handle that? >> straightforward. they said other people did it, bess did the work, and this is just people trying to stir up problems. >> their first time in the white house, bess said to the media, "you do not need to know who i am. i am not the president." we have one of the very few pieces of film available of bess truman as first lady. this is a famous one. one of her first press events was the christening of airplanes. it is interesting to see. you can see how open it was at that time. that did not exactly go as planned and you will see why. we will watch next.
>> it gives me great pleasure -- the purchase has made possible by the ladies of the confessional club. [indiscernible] sincere desire the comfort and solace derived from them by our fighting men will let them know we stand firmly behind them wherever they are. >> the national airport with wins, one each for navy and army, ready to be christened by bess truman, who, with her daughter, margaret, will do the honors in her first public appearance. mrs. truman is in for a surprise. the champagne bottle has not been properly prepared, etched to break the glass on impact. now, mrs. truman, unaware her bottle is not repaired -- [laughter]
all's well that ends well. [inaudible] >> it was a very unfortunate event. >> her little speech was charming. it reminded me of mrs. roosevelt. maybe that went with the time. >> she does not want people to laugh at her. this is a former a vent -- formal event. >> she had been in washington and had been a senator's wife. she was active in the congressional clubs and when they got to the white house, she knew exactly what to do and that there is discussion, too. they were among the most formal entertainers the white house has
ever had. >> next is a call from susan from pennsylvania. you're on the air. caller: hello. i just wanted to mention i enjoyed the series greatly. it is the best thing on television. another thing, a few years ago, i read a book by margaret truman about bess and i was wondering, in the book, it had a lot of letters and so forth. i was wondering if those are still put together, compiled in a book, or anything like that, or what other information we could read about bess and harry truman, as well as margaret. >> was the book called dear bess?
caller: it was not. it was almost like a diary. it was very informative. before that, before i read that, i did not ever see anything in a library or anything, about bess truman. >> there has been a lot of scholarly work. a lot of what we have are the works by margaret and her grandson. we use the letters in the truman library and are available for people to do research and any hooks you read will talk about those letters and use them as a reference. do you want to say why we do not have the letters from bess? >> she burned them. she said do not do that and think of history.
she said, i am. mrs. washington, mrs. harding, and mrs. truman, are the three first ladies who burned their letters. what a loss it is. >> we are fortunate she did not burn the letters from harriet. she did not want her words recorded. it was a partnership and she was the silent partner. >> on that note, you are asked this question. how did this in form -- >> greatly. there is a little bit of controversy whether he consulted her about dropping the atomic bomb. the stories say he did not consult her about that but he consulted her about everything else. thank you for the question.
>> it was such a scary thing. roosevelt trembled at the thought. >> she spent quite a bit of time in his attendance. >> an awful lot. >> can you think of any other in the way has? >> i cannot. washington had the season and she was always there from december to spring, whether you had five or four official white house dinners. she presided over those with all good reviews. >> we had a question earlier about how harry truman might have else about his wife's aversion to being in public and i found one source on that, carl anthony's book on first ladies. i wanted to read a little bit to you and the audience about the
>> anything to add to that or do you disagree with anything? >> i do not. i was looking at that the other day because harry was strongly hinting he would like us to be a little more involved. she put her foot down. it was not that she did not want to be involved in his life for his decision and just did not need to do so publicly. >> she did what she had to do. she did those kinds of things. the extras, ms. roosevelt had a column and this and that. she was not going to do that. that was her life. maybe she was more of a feminist than anyone. >> she was not going to do what she was told there is this is a different take. she wrote --
>> she had time to talk things out and they would discuss it in the evening. when they became president, your decisions multiply rapidly. it is not that he did not want to consult her but he did not have time to consult her on everything. she came around. >> harry truman had a lot of decisions to make. we have a few highlights of his first term in the white house, including the end of world war ii, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and the end of world war ii with japan. the cia established israel recognized as you mentioned earlier, the integration of the military and the marshall plan, some of the big decisions she
had before him. you mentioned she did not share in the atomic bomb decision. >> there is a little dispute about that. she knew about the creation of the atomic tom, but whether he had time to get in touch with her before giving the order, probably not. he is not home. he is across the world. >> just another example of some of the letters harry wrote to bess. he talked about how lonely he was in 1945. here is some of what he wrote to her. -- >> what do we learn from truman
about that? >> he was in april. >> july, august. >> yes. finally, he says to her later than this he is trying to get the departments in order to weed out the people he does not want and then he will sit down and tell them exactly what he wants done. >> i think that letter, that is one thing it tells us. he makes a straightforward assessment of stone. -- of stalin. i like him. he does not spend two pages going on about politics. even though this is one of his shorter letters, he is filling her in on important events and he misses her. >> i want to answer a question on twitter. --
>> they can open it. you can go if you want. i can go as a private citizen and visit it. you can bring cameras. we appreciate their help with that. early on, and let me preface this. two different folks on facebook asking about the trumans and their attitude towards race relations. one of my favorite harry and bess stories, asking about whether or not he integrated the military. later on, a viewer writes, suggesting in several books about truman i have read, they were prejudiced about after them -- with that as our launching pad, tell us what you are led to
believe. >> the congressman was upset because the daughters of the american revolution had invited bess and he was offended because they would not let african-american musicians to form in constitution hall. he thought bess truman should refuse to attend it by an organization that had that policy. a public rather was written, i do not approve of this racial prejudice and i do not believe that should be in the art at all, but we cannot stop a private organization from making their own policies. she said she already excepted the invitation and would not back out now. she went and adam responded by calling her the last lady of the land, which did not go over well with the president. >> the whole thing must have
infuriated the president. the same thing had happened. the constitution hall would not take her. they would not. it was performed at the lincoln memorial. they knew that you're the trumans knew that. the issue was get the newspapers against roman. -- against the trumans. i was sure the president had private words on that one. >> wasn't the larger record on race relations? >> you have to put the trumans in context of their time and where they grew up and understand many people will talk about how truman used derogatory terms in the letters and that is not ok. that is how people spoke at the time. harry truman did a remarkable job separating his public and private sphere.
even though he also famously said he did not want margaret to marry african-american, at the same time, he desegregate the military even though it is political unpopular. anti-lynching law. he helps to establish israel. he is a man who does not let his personal opinions affect his policy. >> on your last show with ms. roosevelt, she referred to the japanese as "japs." it is the way people talk. >> right, on this note, on facebook -- >> we know there was any of those on the decision you the >> she certainly would not have
objected to it in any way. she probably would have thought it was a right thing to do. she was lonely when harry was over in world war i. she thought all servicemen should be treated equally. >> marty is on next. caller: i went to visit the museum in missouri. i wonder, after mr. truman died, was bess there by herself or did margaret move in with her? he worked with paul a weil and drop the bomb on your shema. -- involved in dropping the bomb on hiroshima. he never really wanted to talk about that too much and never really liked. he did because he had to do it. did truman have the same feeling?
>> who would not? i do not think there is anything written about it. but he had to stop the war. >> it was a military decision. in my opinion, any president would have done the same thing because no president can defend losing more american lives. >> it was not going to stop. the japanese part of it. that is how we would answer that, i guess. >> there is a great clip. harry truman spent a lot of time in the library after. he would speak to school children and that was often one of the questions he was asked. kids wanted to know and truman was very forcefully defend the decision to drop the atomic bomb and its unit to children. >> known would've blamed him for that. >> on twitter -- you mentioned early on they
opened the 1946 social season in washington. this is significant. it had been ended in the war. this does not seem like it would be in the truman's personal style. >> president truman, one of the most interesting and about him to me, it is something different from him and something bigger that he was representing. he knew nobody better insult the office. when the social season survived, they were sticklers. quite tight, black tie, even close, and all that. these dinners, mr. west in his memoir said the white house had never been so formal and devoted to diplomatic precedent. everything was exactly as it had been before roosevelt.
>> they only got one social season. >> yes. they did entertain from time to time but they had to move out. >> a major renovation. almost every president talked about, the first lady had done renovation. we will talk about that later. one thing we did do is the addition of the balcony. today, always referred to as about 20. -- as the truman balcony. tell us about it. >> it was done basically for spite. he had a west wing prepared and the roosevelt staff -- it and doubled a west wing. a long addition with a large auditorium for press conferences. it passed through congress and then congress rescinded it. he was as mad as he could be.
the reason -- congress that he was defacing the white house. he got it in his head to build a porch on the south side of the white house where there was no access and he did it on his own and took it out of the household budget. he did not ask congress or anyone any get an architect he respected who was around the white house a lot. they build that balcony. it is the truman balcony because that is what he did during >> how did they use it once finished? >> they use it all the time i could patio. practically every president after that wrote him a letter that one thing they're glad he did was add the balcony. they like to sit on it. off of the oval room, the yellow room upstairs. >> what is the view? >> stunning. magnificent. the jefferson memorial, and the washington monument, which
[indiscernible] and washington just at your feet. height limitations. a beautiful, beautiful view. for film footage during the centennial, showing the view from that is just dutiful queen elizabeth there. >> tell the audience about the german private life in the white -- the trumans private life in the white house, especially with all the momentous things going on. >> they did not get much time to relax. it is very busy. bess spends a lot of time traveling back and forth to independence. that is not just her being spiteful. she still feels she has to be the caretaker for her mother's death mother. they have family business taking care of. when they are in the white house together, they would do the same things they did at home. they would read and enjoy an evening cocktail and they liked listening to music and a chat
with market. -- with margaret. you are talking about the truman balcony and how they use it. >> one of the things we often talk about is the first lady image and how they might have influenced. we are seeing this more and more as the years regressed. is bess known for that? >> she certainly did not dress poorly or unfashionably. i do not think she was mocked. when we look at the first ladies that come before her, we do not think about them having a fashion that. bess was a stylish lady. her high school said friends talk about -- she took pride in her parents and liked to go shopping. >> she looked just like the woman her age ought to. >> yes. >> we are going to visit the truman president library in missouri and learn more about
bess truman's file. >> we are going into one of our collection storage spaces where we have artifacts and hats and close to truman's time in the white house. that's always had an excellent sense of style. one of her friends noted she always wore stylish clothes or workloads more stylishly than her friends did. this is a hat made by one of bess truman's favorite designers in washington dc. it has got a brown feather on it. she wore this hat when princess elizabeth and her husband prince philip came to the united states in october of 1951. that is one of the nice things about working in the library is that we have a lot of artifact and photos and documents and you can put the whole thing together
and tell all of this story altogether, which goes along with one of the hacks we have over here. this is a hat we did not originally know all about. we have no idea what event she might have worn it at and it is write a hat. in the process of going through ms. truman's papers, we located a letter she had written. this is a handwritten draft of a letter she would've given. she says, i am simply delighted with my hat! i am happy it is mine. she said she wore it at one of the most important occasions queen juliana was here and had many things said about it. when we read that letter, we realized we had photos of that event. we can look back and know what hat she wore. we would look through the photos and found a good one of her
where you can see what she is wearing and then we took the photo and compared it to one of the half in our collection and realize we have the hat and it is nice to connect the documents to the artifact and tell the whole story altogether. another interesting part of bess is that she was a very private person and this is a dress that demonstrates that. this is a dress she wore in 1952 to the jefferson jackson day dinner where president truman officially announced to the people he would not run for president in 1952 and it was an important event for bess. she would not be in washington dc in 1952 and would come home to independence. we have a number of photos of her wearing the stress. we did not originally have it. bess donated this dress to her church and someone there bought
it and realized what it was and then turned around and donated it to the library. that signaled to people how she felt about her time at the white house, not that she didn't necessarily like it, but it was something that was really important her. >> that dinner was two days after they moved back into the white house. thinking of clothing, the president was pure palm beach dresser. very modern and kind of young. he was a trim man in shape and he walked like a madman. his own military antiwar double colored shoes and good-looking and pressed and just fine. he was aware of close himself. >> on twitter --
>> absolutely. one of her highlights of her early days in the white house, she invited in 1946 her entire bridge club from independence to see then to the weekend. this is the type of thing bess was doing it for herself and for her friends to have a good time, but it was the thing that laid well in the press because her friends were so excited to be there and she showed them the town, took them out to lunch and musicals and shopping. they enjoyed the white house. her women friends were very dear to her and she kept many of her friendships throughout her entire life. >> in mississippi, you are on the air. caller: michigan. we had the pleasure of going to independence and touring the house and they had to go in through the back door just like
the family. seeing the presidential library, which we really enjoyed, but my question is really about the truman financial circumstances. you mentioned it was quite controversial she was paid, perhaps they needed the money. certainly, the president was the reason congress has established a pension for retiring presidents. i wonder if their financial circumstances might have let them not to do as much entertaining and so forth as previous presidents who had their own budget. >> absolutely, financial reasons was why he puts it on the table. margaret describes her mother as a penny pincher. it was a good thing she did. finances were often very tight. it was ironic for truman's second term. no one expected the democrats to win.
that pesky congress approved a bill that would double the president posited salary. from $50,000 to $100,000. imagine their dismay when harry truman received that money. as the caller also mentioned, presidents did not have pensions before truman. they did not have security. >> hello, hosea. >> good evening. my question is about the assassination attempt on president truman. how did that affect the truman family and what was his political opinion on the question? -- the puerto rican queestion? -- question? >> he had definitely favored independence for puerto rico. that is what is strange.
he made two speeches one to congress and one there, favoring the independence of puerto rico. these were two killers who came along november 1, 1950, assaulted and attempted to run into the house and got tangled up in a stream door and the shooting started and a very wonderful young secret service man was killed. the trumans were both there and they were on their way to arlington cemetery and were getting dressed to go to a dedication of the general who died in the war and requested to be buried in arlington. there were going to his dedication. this is truman said, "harry, they are shooting at our policeman." they yelled, get down, get down. it was a messy thing. the one of the assassins who survived was sent to prison and president carter released him
from prison after 40 years. >> this was during the second term. they were living -- we have not yet gotten to why they spent so much time there. the election. did bess truman want harry to run for reelection? >> she did not try to stop them. does she want to be the first lady still? no. this was a partnership. she knew in his heart of hearts, that is what he believed was best for the country. she supported him. >> so many people would remember. you said earlier everyone was expecting duly to win. -- dewey to win. >> explain why chairman was expected to lose.
-- truman was expected to lose. >> he was not popular at the time. the economy was not going as fast as he could have. >> he was liberal. >> people were tired. not liberal enough for many people. he could do very little right in 1948. his own party did not really support him. it was not 100% certain he would even get the nomination. he campaigns on a congress that will not work with them or get anything done. and he campaigns on foreign policy. this is where one of everyone's favorite truman stories comes out. vice president shall nominate tells him on a train, go out there and give him hell. one of the reporters -- these things happen. give him hell, harry. >> he had done that before, once when the machines had gotten him elected in missouri, and they fell apart and he ran again on
his own. >> he does in 1940. >> he spoke to people and got in personality as a stomper. >> he was not a great orator. we do not look at truman speeches like a lincoln speeches. in a small group and small crowd, he could win anybody over. >> they got him elected, brought him to the people. >> what was media coverage like? >> it was radio and print. he brought us into television. it was toward the end. >> the polling was so far ahead that they stopped polling a couple weeks before the election took place. that was why the numbers were so off. >> they spent a lot of time on
the train. they were always ready. >> we do not talk about key west. how did they use key west? >> he used it to go fishing and swimming. one of the secret service men who used to go with said he had a tricky like to do. he'd like to hold you under the water until you thought you were going to drown. he enjoyed the company of men. poker and all of that. bess did not go many times. margaret had a public persona. she was kind easy with the press. people liked her. >> watching some b roll, footage without sound. it looks like he could relax there.
>> he absolutely did. it reminds me his fashion sense was remarked when he went to key west. >> they cut up a lot. they did. they took the movies of them jumping up and down. he let go. when he was with the masons. he went to alexandria to the masonic building. he said, hi, i am harry. >> you imagine a president being that casual today? >> no. >> and why not, because of the media? >> it has changed. they do not have them freedom to move around. >> harry truman was elected. a busy second term. some the highlights. and the establishment of nato. the korean war. the assassination attempt. the 22nd amendment. how challenging a time was the second term?
>> the first year was said to be their happiest in the white house. they thought here is the chance, harry thought because this was when the fair deal started. it really started to kick off. then things go horribly wrong. largely because of korea. that shattered the economy and the people's faith in him and their willingness to understand. >> he threw a lot of mud. >> bess spent more time in the white house. >> she was going back and forth.
because of family issues. they reestablish their partnership. they get over the personal tensions they had in the early days when she was feeling a little left out. their union is happier and steadier for a second term. >> let's take a a call from lewis. >> what was mrs. truman's opinion about her husband's association with tom pendergast? i know you mentioned him, what was her thinking and her opinion about tom pendergast? >> thank you. a good question. he was a political boss.
in missouri. he was a king maker. he and his son, mrs. truman's family knew him. i doubt if she thought much of him. she probably thought he was just fine. truman said in his letters, he is going that way. that is how he got into office. he quickly began to splinter off from that. to answer your question, i cannot imagine she doubt much of them because she knew him. >> how politics were done in kansas city. >> they were a prominent family. she knew him. >> robert is in branson west, missouri. you are on the air. >> i was wondering if bess truman ever attended former or future first ladies funerals. thank you. >> gosh, i do not know. but i know three first ladies
attended her funeral. a very good question. >> she lived such a long time. >> she probably went to mrs. roosevelt's funeral. when did mamie eisenhower -- >> much later. >> there would not have been a huge opportunity. probably not expected. that is a tough one. >> i do not know. >> i did not believe they had any pets. >> no. >> actually, she was interested in health care. she believed, she urged harry to increase funding to the national institute for health.
you can look at the numbers in a second term. that budget goes up. she thought people should have better health care. but he proposed universal health care. >> one of the reasons he was so unpopular. >> i want to tell you about a book. to a question about bess truman's portrait. it has been published by our partners in the series, the white house historical association. it has all of their portraits and biographies of each of them. there -- you see the little yellow bubble. it is a special edition for first ladies. if you're interested in this, it is a global on our website at c- span.org/firstladies. her white house portrait was done. we have a video that explains
some of the background about bess truman's official portrait. [video clip] >> this painting was original painted as my grandmother's official white house portrait. in the 1960's, lady bird johnson went looking for portraits of first ladies to rehang in the white house. she looked high and low but she cannot find my grandmother's official portrait. she called my grandmother and said mrs. truman do you know where the portrait is? my grandmother said it is on your wall. mrs. johnson said, you're not supposed to have that. my grandmother said it is my painting. that is where it's going to stay. mrs. johnson tried a couple of more times and she gave up. she had acopy painted. there were two copies made. one of them hangs in the truman library down the road. >> i do not know who did the portrait.
[laughter] i can look it up. we have to tell the story about the renovation to the white house. trumans were there are almost eight years in the white house and spent less time in the building than any other president. absolutely. >> it was falling down. the piano almost fell through the floor. the engineer was worried it would fall on them. >> and there was an engineering
survey. members of the crew, the ceiling in the east room had dropped 40 inches. he said he walked in there. it was considered a fire trap. they recommended that they moved out. they said they wanted to paint it. after the war, when truman was there, the house was kind of empty upstairs and the floor jiggled and teddy roosevelt loved houses that did that. the plaster began to trickle down. from the light fixtures. they found they had to get out. they moved across the street. plans were done. they wanted to tear it down. that was the easiest thing to do. george washington had built the walls and truman would not hear of it. they were never touched. they wanted to take a bulldozer in through one of the doors. they wanted to open the with pick axes. he said stop and they took the bulldozer down.
they reassemble them. that house was rebuilt in steel and concrete. and then, that is a steel frame on the inside. it was believed to be bomb proof. they moved over to blair house where they lived most of the time. they loved it. they thought it was beautiful. it had never been decorated or anything. >> more intimate. she won at the original structure to remain. he consulted with her because of why it was falling down in the first term. there were convinced somehow the present would blame the white house. they waited until he was reelected. >> did living in the blair house
have any influence on his presidency? >> it might've allowed him to relax a little bit more. >> he ate every meal by himself. on the silver stuff like that. >> one of my favorite stories, when she was in independence and he was in the white house and he was convinced he could hear the ghosts of his predecessors wondering the halls. bess thought it was funny. until she heard a crash. >> he took the insides out. how much of the original white house was preserved? >> a mantelpiece were preserved. not much was preserved. pressed wood. the architect was really the hero. there was all of the original
pine. they insisted they be put back in the home. i do not know what to the percent is. next year is the 20th anniversary. about 30% of it was torn down. the walls are 100%. the percentage of that is the house i do not know. some of basements were dug. one secret one was dug. truman ordered them to spend $100,000 of the budget. it was done secretly. secretly out of the park service budget. >> we have some film or video of when the president introduced the white house to the nation. what was the public reaction?
>> people thought it was beautiful. it was all done by a department store today. chuck made the decision. mrs. truman and the president refused to make decisions on wallpaper. they said it was not their house above for the future. the staff made most of the decisions. they beat everybody down. hundreds of dollars of yard. >> how much influence did bess have and the rebuilding? as much as she wanted. >> they felt they were not going to live there long.
>> what is your question? >> i have two questions. was she a sports fan? did she root for the cardinals? the second question, you mentioned harry overcame his prejudices. i heard the story that one time when they came to the house, he said he cannot elect him in because he was jewish and the family was anti-semitic. >> one of harry's best friends, one of his army buddies was jewish. he was the one who ran in the men's clothing store with.
the truman's certainly did associate with the jewish people. >> was he the best man? >> i think bess's brother was the best man. [laughter] he was a dear friend. >> a twitter viewer. i wanted to know where the rest of money to fix the white house? >> congress. would you believe they cost about $5.5 million? think of what it would be today. >> peter is in boston. >> any other first ladies -- [inaudible] >> she admired roosevelt. they were friendly. mamie eisenhower before she was the first lady when bess was the first lady they took a spanish class together and the white house. washington ladies learned spanish. bess was very fond, there was later a rift.
bess was fond of mamie. they enjoyed the company of the kennedys. >> they did not like joe kennedy. >> i mentioned our website which has all of the video. lots of other video you have not seen here. you can go to www.c- span.org/firstladies. if you go there now, you will find clifton truman sharing another story about his grandmother. the 1952 election. and have run again? >> and yes, but bess could not take another four years.
they were in their 60's. 69 he would've been. she did not think he could take it. they were in good health for their age. korea and mccarthyism was starting to spread. they were getting worn down. >> it was pretty clear who was going to win. he was a hero. >> what was the truman- eisenhower relationship? >> he hinted he might support eisenhower if he wanted to run as a democrat in 1948. he really admired eisenhower for a long time.
eisenhower was aloof from all of the letters we see. truman was highly offended during the transition when eisenhower do not appear to want to take his advice. a big social snub occurred on inauguration day. it is customer for the incoming president to stop at the white house. eisenhower said he wanted to be picked up at his hotel. truman said, no. he and mamie arrived at the white house but they would not come inside. they sat in the car. the president of the united states had to walk out to him. you can feel the tension. >> after the integration, truman was almost forgotten. he was almost thrown out. he had no pension or anything coming to him. one of the members of the secret service took an annual leave to
accompany them back on the train. nobody told them good bye until they got to the train station. there were met by 100 people cheering them. >> i think there were more. there was another time when nobody had turned out. i think when they left there were more. when they returned home, there were thousands in independence. they were gratified. >> he had trouble with the thousands. the story about him getting out of the car. his glasses were gone. the crowd pushed him. this handkerchief was gone. they build an iron fence. they did not expected the crowd. people walking by and wanted to see them. a story about margaret coming on the porch and yelling at somebody to go away. they found that it was a mental patient or something like that. very different. >> the city of independence put
an off-duty officer on the porch. >> bess would not allow them in the house. >> when she would go back home to independence, she would not allow secret service to go inside. >> she wanted to live as normally as possible. >> did they go anyway? >> not that i know of. >> hello. hello? your question. >> i had the privilege of corresponding with mrs. truman twice after her husband's death. i sent her a copy of attribute i wrote for our school paper. she responded with a nice letter. she had terrible arthritis. she made the effort to be down
home. margaret's book about her mother, she comments that the president was very protective of mrs. truman concerning her father's death. her cousin told margaret about her grandfather's death. she had a fit about that. it is very unusual. that was a very interesting footnote to the truman family history. she was at mrs. roosevelt funeral with her husband. there are pictures. >> how to do get so interested in the trumans? >> interesting enough, hours before robert kennedy was killed and that got me interested in politics in general. since then, i have become particular aficionado of the presidents. politics in general. 1932-present. >> thank you for your call.
years after the presidency, one of the things they did was interview for national television in 1955. talk about the interviews. who were they interviewed by? >> their daughter, margaret. >> we have a program that was on cbs. "person to person." a big hit program at the time. it was the only television interview that bess truman ever did. how about that? you will see that now. [video clip] >> and tell everybody why you went back to missouri instead of staying in washington. >> there was no question about coming home. is there reason enough? >> i will buy that. >> mother, are we still getting a lot of visitors? >> yes.
>> all of the time? >> every day. [indiscernible] we can see your cousins across the street. [indiscernible] your cousins were not at home. what about the time somebody pick your tulips? >> oh, someone became started to pick all of my beautiful white tulips. i asked her what she was doing and she said she didn't think of mrs. truman would care about her tulips. [laughter] she helped herself. >> all the work you did on them. >> mother, you had secret service men around.
at least dad and i. >> yes, i miss washington. i miss washington a lot. completely happy at home. >> i remember -- >> i did. ed murrow wanted me to ask you >> [indiscernible] >> good. >> mother, let me switch from a washington to kansas city. how is your baseball team doing? >> pretty good. we'll have a good team. >> and did you see anything good on tv lately? >> a few good things.
i have not been able to find a wrestling match. >> do want to say a few words about politics specifically or in general? >> no, neither category. >> your mother never talked politics. >> that is a clip. person to person interview by margaret truman of her parents. they come across as plain folks. >> they were and they value that. they like a good laugh. they were normal people. she was not popular when he left the white house. it took many years for his reputation to be reestablished. >> why were so many people going to see them?
>> he was a hometown hero. they probably thought they go walk up and say hello to the truth as they had in the past. >> how did they spend their post white house years and they were long was? >> he wrote his memoirs. he never received pension. he needed the money. bess edited every word. that was their project. >> he was intimate to the library. it was a matter of history. he did in the original design himself. >> if you visit there today you can see the office. one of the striking things is a looks out of his future gravesite. >> the great story what he said
i can see bess is going to lay next to me and i will say one day i can see myself a seeing like going to the office and she will say harry you ought not. >> we are seeing pictures of the grave site right now. margaret truman had four sons. you saw clifton truman is very involved in the legacy of its grandparents. one of those four sons passed away. not sure if the others are involved in the library. there's one story and we are running out of time. a great story. somebody asked, i would like to know about the trip she took my car leaving the white house. did they do it, just the two of them? >> there are good stories. >> from washington to missouri. >> a wonderful book.
>> people were passing them on the road and nearly having accidents. he was in a convertible. they recognize they just passed the president and though first lady. we have a few minutes left. somebody's asking, we should ask it, what is bess's greatest contribution to the role of first lady? >> for demonstrating you could be a strong influential partner and you do not have to be on the front page or a tv. it does not have to be public. >> and she supported her husband when he became the president. she supported him. she was very aware. >> harry died in 1972 and she died in 1982. how did she spend the 10 years after he died? >> she was at home.
she tried to keep up her correspondence. >> she had rheumatoid arthritis. she had a caregiver. and several at the end. she died at home. >> i imagine that was the way home.died in the hospital andst >> how should we remember? >> i think we should remember the way she wanted to be remembered. that you can be a wonderful influencial first lady even if it at the't know time. >> she did that. >> did she have then any of first on the role lady? or was she really truly her own person? own would say she was her person. >> absolutely. >> it is not really possible any more. mrs. reagan said she would play cards with her friends which is something bess truman would have done. my goodness, you would think committed treason. mrs. truman would have responded iying it is my life and