Harry Truman

Wikimedia Commons

This St. Louis on the Air program will be re-broadcast on Monday, May 30 at noon. You can listen live online here. It was initially aired on July 22, 2015. 

During the summer and fall of 1948, President Harry S. Truman’s risky journey toward a second term turned out to be one of his greatest campaigning decisions.

After a 31,000-mile train ride across the country and 352 speeches during what’s known as his “Whistle Stop Tour,” Truman won the presidential election against then New York Governor Thomas Dewey.

President Harry Truman signed this official portrait during his first term in office. The autograph reads: To the Key Club, a great organization in a great city, St. Louis, with best wishes and happy memories. Harry S Truman
Harry S Truman Library & Museum

If you're surprised to find some courts and state offices in Missouri closed Monday, you might not know about Truman Day — an official state holiday celebrating the president who was raised in Independence, Mo. 

In the summer of 1953, Harry and Bess Truman threw 11 suitcases in their new Chrysler New Yorker and headed east. They planned to drive from their home in Independence to Washington, D.C., and back.

President Harry Truman had been out of office for only a few months. The trip had a June 26 deadline: Truman had to be in Philadelphia for a speaking engagement. So with Harry behind the wheel and Bess monitoring his speed, the Trumans stopped in diners, hotels and gas stations in a road trip that would be unimaginable today.

Ulysses S. Grant
(via Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Library of Congress)

Four presidents have ties to the St. Louis area, and each has left his mark on it.

Ulysses S. Grant came to St. Louis in 1843 after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and farmed in the St. Louis area for six years. He met his future wife here; Julia Dent was the sister of one of Grant’s classmates at West Point. The two were married in St. Louis in 1848. Grant led the Union armies to victory in the Civil War, and was elected the 18th president of the United States, taking office in 1869.

Wikimedia Commons

On July 15, 1948, President Harry S. Truman received the Democratic nomination for president – hardly an upset as he was already president. He took his first oath of office on April 12, 1945, following the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Truman’s entrance to politics, however, hardly suggested a rise to the presidency. He grew up on a farm, worked as bank clerk and ran a men’s clothing business that failed. After that, politics looked like the only good career option.

At that point, political boss Tom Pendergast largely ran Kansas City politics.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I tend to confuse ideological people. Conservatives consider me a liberal; liberals — or progressives, as they now self-identify — accuse me of being a reactionary. I feel like the last kid chosen for a ball game at recess: neither team wants me.