Harry Truman’s birthday, May 8, is drawing near, and this year the calendar of events surrounding the 33rd president’s legacy is especially full.
• A 130th birthday celebration on the Independence Square. There will be tours of the Truman Courthouse at the middle of the Square and a large birthday card for people to sign. It goes in a time capsule a week later.
Merchants plan a sidewalk sale. The trolley that takes visitors to sites around town will be $1, and restaurants will serve fried chicken, one of Truman’s favorite meals. A pancake fundraiser for the Independence Square Association also is planned.
• Buck Day at the Truman Library on U.S. 24 in Independence. Admission is $1. Normally it’s $8 for adults. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The library has two permanent exhibits, one on Truman’s presidency and one on his life and times. A short documentary introducing the Truman story plays throughout the day. Also, there is a popular replica of the Oval Office.
The library’s current special exhibit is “Spies, Lies and Paranoia,” which covers key events of the Cold War, the McCarthy era and related elements that came out in pop culture in the late 1940s and ’50s. Truman was president during much of that time. The exhibit is free with museum admission.
• A walking tour of the Harry S. Truman Historic District National Historic Landmark, led by Truman historian Jon Taylor, examining how Independence and the Man from Independence influenced each other. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Truman Home and Ticket Information Center, 223 N. Main St. It lasts about 90 minutes. Register through the Mid-Continent Public Library.
May 8, Truman’s birthday
• Wreath-laying at 9 a.m. at the Truman Library, where Harry and Bess Truman are buried. The event is open to the public, and no admission is charged.
• A celebration in the main lobby of the Truman Library. There’s cake and punch. It starts at 1:30 p.m. and lasts until the last piece of cake is gone. Truman, as portrayed by re-enactor Niel Johnson, an Independence resident and former Truman Library archivist, will receive birthday wishes and greet visitors from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
• Truman Day is a state holiday in Missouri. State offices are closed, as are city offices in Independence.
• Jackson County will seal an 80-year time capsule. Last September, the county rededicated the Truman Courthouse after extensive renovations. The ceremony was 80 years to the hour from a 1933 rededication of the same building after a renovation effort overseen by Presiding Judge Harry Truman. (This was three years before he was elected to the U.S. Senate and nearly 12 years before he became president.)
The county has been pulling together materials, around the theme “What did 2013 mean to you,” for a time capsule to be opened in 2093.
• The Harry S. Truman Public Service Award, presented by the city of Independence, is given to Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, whose district includes most of Eastern Jackson County. The ceremony is at 2:30 p.m. at the Truman Library, and a reception follows. It’s free and open to the public.
• The “Talkin’ Truman” series at the Truman Library features David Jackson, of the Jackson County Historical Society, whose new book is “Winding the Clock on the Independence Square: Jackson County’s Historic Truman Courthouse.” It’s from 11 a.m. to noon in the Whistlestop Room at the museum.
• It’s Mothers Day, and not only do moms get free admission to the Truman Library (hours are noon to 5), but there’s a presentation on America’s first ladies. Andy Och, who recently completed “First Ladies: Influence and Image” for C-SPAN, has traveled the country to find the stories of each first lady from Martha Washington through Michelle Obama. He speaks at 2 p.m. in the library’s State of Missouri Auditorium.
• The annual Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award is presented to Leon Panetta, a former congressman, director of the CIA and secretary of defense. The ceremony is at a luncheon in the Imperial Ballroom at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. The Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation grew out an annual birthday banquet for Truman put on by friends and supporters. It was held each year in Kansas City after he left office, and since 1973 – just after Truman died – the foundation has given the award to a well-known public figure.
• There is a Truman connection to Thomas Hart Benton, who painted the mural – “Independence and the Opening of the West” – that greets visitors in the main lobby of the Truman Library. A presentation, “Thomas Hart Benton: His Life & His Murals,” is at 11 a.m. in the Whistlestop Room at the Library. Steve Sitton, administrator of the Thomas Hart Benton Home Historic Site in Kansas City, offers a visual tour through Benton’s home and studio, where Benton lived from 1939 to 1975. He’ll also discuss the 14 murals Benton created during his career. This year is the 125th anniversary of Benton’s birth, and there are several events this year remembering him and highlighting his art.