The day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died while in office, the nation was stunned, to say the least. The whole world was in turmoil over World War II. Vice President Harry Truman was sworn in that evening and then the people of Independence were stunned. Was their favorite son up to the task. Would Independence be thrust into the national limelight? Would life here ever be the same again?

So, The Examiner's editor, William Southern, stepped up to the plate. Col. Southern was 80 years old at the time and wrote a very popular column entitled Solomon Wise. He wrote in his column that he had known Harry Truman since he was a school boy:

“Harry Truman of Independence, Missouri, is now President of the United States. He will be a good president. Of course, we who know him so well and love him so well, feel humbled, but we are not disturbed. We have no fear and no doubts about the matter. We know that Harry Truman is honest and patriotic, an ideal of what a real American should be and we know that under his hand the United States will certainly fulfill her greatest destiny.

“We lift our hands in prayer and in faith.

“Harry Truman comes into the mightiest office in the world with years of preparation and training. Ten years, ten good years in the Senate of the United States has given him to know what it’s all about. His experience has brought him close to the mighty forces which govern our land. His training gives him to know where to turn and there is not a man in the Senate or in Washington for that matter, who is not a friend of the new President.

“President Truman is a man of the people, a typical American. Born of pioneer stock, he came up through the teachings of high principles. He has honest integrity and strong character and understanding.

“I think the nation may rest secure in the knowledge that such a man is today at the head of State.”

In 1953 when Truman left the White House, he returned easily to his home in Independence. Winston Churchill once wrote of the pain a statesman feels when the mantle of power suddenly drops; when on whose favor meant everything one day, meant nothing the next. Harry Truman apparently felt no such twinges. He returned home as naturally as the day he left it. He busied himself with the magnificent Truman Library (which he saw as a memorial to the presidency, not to himself) and sometimes would answer the phone there at 7:30 a.m. before the staff had arrived. He dropped gracefully from the pinnacle of power to a pleasant life around the square in Independence, writing, speaking, traveling, while he could, and enjoying family.

In the last analysis, Harry Truman did seem to be an ordinary man in the best sense of the phrase: Without vanity, pretension or vain glorious ambition. His qualities of intellect and character were most unusual. His name defines an era – the Truman Years. He was a man who suddenly found himself in the mainstream of human events and whose special gift was to act decisively and with courage to change the course of history.

Harry Truman's ancestors date back to the pioneer days of Jackson County, which was settled in 1827. His maternal grandfather, Solomon Young, a Kentuckian, came to Jackson County in 1841. His paternal grandfather, Anderson Shipp Truman, also a Kentuckian, came to Jackson County in 1846. Nancy Tyler Holmes, Harry Truman's great-grandmother, was a relative of President John Tyler of Virginia, 10th President of the United States.

Reference: Files of The Examiner.

In cooperation with The Examiner, Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups.

-- To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to or call him at 816-896-3592.