“White House Kids” Series – Margaret Truman Daniel

Being a child of a President of the United States cannot at all times be pleasant – being the only child of a United States President, arguably one of the greatest President’s in our nation’s history, is a daunting fate. However, Margaret Truman, daughter of 33rd President Harry S. Truman, carried this burden with grace and dignity becoming not only the darling of the American people, but successful in her own right.

Margaret Truman, circa 1945.

Mary Margaret Truman was born on February 17th, 1924 in Independence, Missouri to Elizabeth “Bess” Truman and Harry Truman. No siblings would follow. For the next ten years Margaret would attend primary and elementary schools in Independence; when her father was elected to the United States Senate in 1934 her education was henceforth split in two, spending half the time in Missouri and the other half in Washington. Being so young and having her father in a Senatorial position meant Margaret had an unconventional, but albeit happy childhood. Senator Truman proved himself to be an adept and skilled politician that kept the interests of the American people always at the forefront of every decision. He was an ardent supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal as well as unions, making him equally as popular among fellow Democrats as he was among the American people. Truman really earned his stripes during his tenure as leader of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, better known as the Truman Committee. This body, formed in 1941, was created to identify and redress issues relating to US war production that included waste, inefficiency, or potential war profiteering. Under his leadership, the Truman Committee became one of the most successful Senate investigative committees in U.S. history, saving somewhere between ten to fifteen million dollars (between $204 and $315 million dollars at today’s rates) and the lives of countless American servicemen. Truman’s fine work on this committee was one of the leading factors in President Roosevelt’s decision to nominate him for Vice President during his 1944 campaign. The life of the entire Truman family would be forever-changed because of this nomination.

A 1943 hearing by the Truman Committee. Harry Truman sits in the center. 

While her father was succeeding in the Senate, Margaret was succeeding elsewhere. In 1942 she began attending George Washington University studying history and joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Margaret began classical voice training at this time under the tutelage of Estelle Liebling who honed the skills of coloratura soprano Margaret. After graduating in 1946, Margaret began her operatic career, her first professional appearance in 1947 with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The life of the Truman family would be again forever altered on April 12th, 1945 when President Roosevelt died and Harry Truman assumed the presidency. In an interview later in life, Margaret would recall her mother sobbing on the phone after her father alerted her of the President’s death. 1945 was a difficult year worldwide – for the Truman’s it was especially tumultuous. Margaret remembered how stressed her father was upon ascending to the Presidency; he had spent essentially no time with President Roosevelt, and was kept in the dark about the United State’s atomic program and most of the strategic endeavors of the war effort. Margaret and Bess tried to alleviate some of the stress on the President by conducting many of his social engagements.

The Truman Family, 1945.
Margaret performing, 1949.

Following the war, Margaret became less directly involved with her father’s presidency. She did, however, ride alongside him during his nationwide 1948 whistle-stop campaign when he was running for his (technically) first term in office. Margaret continued to perform across the country, even appearing on several radio shows during which she starred with Jimmy Stewart and Mike Wallace. On April 21st, 1956 Margaret married Clifton Daniel, a reporter for the New York Times who would later become editor of the newspaper. The pair would have four sons. Margaret lived with her family in New York for the remainder of her life and joined its elite society. In 1972, Margaret published a biography of her father simply titled Harry S. Truman which received critical acclaim. She continued her writing career, and in 1980 published the first book in her Capital Crimes series, a mystery series set in or around Washington DC. While the books were published under her name, ghost writers completed most of the actual writing – Margaret was more of a contributor since she had actual experience living in DC and an understanding much of the underworld political current that runs through the city even today. Twenty-five Capital Crimes books were published, with an additional nine non-fiction books Margaret did write: biographies on both her parents, a book on the First Ladies of the United States, one on White House pets among others.

Clifton and Margaret on their wedding day, reception held at the Truman home in Independence. Her dress was designed by Italian designer Micol Fontana.

Margaret died on January 28, 2008. Her ashes were interred alongside her husband and parents on the grounds of the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

Margaret seated next to a picture of her father, 1977.

Written by Katie Costanzo, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum.

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