David McCullough, whose “Truman” won the Pulitzer Prize, became a best-seller and helped elevate the stature of President Harry S. Truman, will be main speaker and honoree next spring at the Truman Library Institute’s annual gala.
“We’re thrilled to have him in Kansas City,” said Alex Burden, executive director of the institute.
McCullough has come to Independence and Kansas City many times over the years – he spent nearly a decade here on research for “Truman” and speaks highly of Independence – but Burden said this will be his first visit since 2007 focused on Truman.
The Wild About Harry gala, the institute’s major annual fundraiser, is set for April 19 at the Marriott-Muehlebach Hotel in downtown Kansas City. The institute is the Truman Library’s non-profit partner, and it supports many library programs financially and otherwise.
McCullough will be given the institute’s Legacy of Leadership Award, which Burden said was not just for telling the Truman story “but also his advocacy for presidents, presidential libraries and learning about history.”
“Truman” published in 1992, not only won a Pulitzer Prize but was a best-seller. Burden said McCullough “elevated Truman to a level of consciousness in America that he had never had before.” He noted that McCullough was able to draw upon papers that had been made public only after Truman’s death in 1972 and then analyzed and cataloged by archivists, and that allowed him to tell a richer and full story about the 33rd president.
Several awards bear Truman’s name, and now McCullough will be the only third person to have been given the three most well known – the Truman Good Neighbor Award (1993), the Truman Public Service award given by the city of Independence (1993) and the Legacy of Leadership Award. The others are both former U.S. senators, Kit Bond of Missouri and Bob Dole of Kansas.
McCullough, 84, has won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography twice, in 1993 for “Truman” and in 2002 for “John Adams.” He won the National Book Award in 1978 for “The Path Between the Seas,” about the building of the Panama Canal. He is working on a book, set for release in 2019, on the settlement of the old Northwest, what today comprises Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and northeast Minnesota.
The Truman Library Institute also continues to raise money toward a $25 million goal for a major expansion of the library. At the moment, it’s working on major donors, such as a recent $500,000 gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation.
“It’s going really well. We’re in the quiet phase,” Burden said.
The expansion would rework the permanent exhibits on Truman’s life and presidency and put all of that story on the main floor. That opens space downstairs for larger temporary exhibits that can greatly drive museum attendance. The library is aiming for an opening date of April 12, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the day Truman became president.