• Bess Truman's birthday celebrated at library

  • Although a flawed man who wasn’t always good, many people still describe Lyndon Baines Johnson as great, the director of the LBJ Presidential Library said Wednesday afternoon in Independence.

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  • Although a flawed man who wasn’t always good, many people still describe Lyndon Baines Johnson as great, the director of the LBJ Presidential Library said Wednesday afternoon in Independence.
    Today, nearly a half-century after Johnson assumed the presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy and four decades after Johnson’s death, Americans are finally recognizing the 36th U.S. president for his modern reforms rather than as the president who held office during the outbreak of the Vietnam War.
    Mark Updegrove, director of the presidential library and museum in Austin, Texas, since September 2009, shared this, among other insights he gained while researching and writing “Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency.” He spoke at Wednesday’s observance of the 128th anniversary of Bess Wallace Truman’s birth. The Independence Pioneers Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution co-sponsored the 25th annual observance at the Truman Library.
    Updegrove played excerpts from seven telephone recordings made during Johnson’s presidency, just snippets of the more than 600 hours in existence. The sampling included talks with Martin Luther King Jr., Harry Truman, U.S. National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and others, illustrating Johnson’s strong personality known famously as the “Johnson Treatment.”
    “One of the great things about my job – and there are many – is that there are still people who knew Lyndon Johnson who are kicking around,” Updegrove said. “Everybody who knew LBJ has a story to tell.”
    To Updegrove, many described Johnson as colorful, charismatic and a complex character, a man who rarely heard the word “no.” But, as demonstrated in the telephone recordings on Wednesday, at least one person said “no” to Johnson during his presidential career.
    That person was none other than Bess Wallace Truman.
    In 1964, Johnson called Harry Truman and asked the former president to take Bess and Lady Bird Johnson to the funeral of King Paul of Greece. Johnson said he couldn’t attend himself, but that the next three finest Americans who could attend would be Harry and Bess and Lady Bird.
    “I don’t think she can go...” Harry said of Bess.
    “Well, we’ll send a maid with her. We’ll send somebody to take care of her. She can sleep all the way over, and that Lady Bird will fix her a good old-fashioned bourbon and water, whenever she wants it,” Johnson said, immediately followed with laughter by those in attendance Wednesday.
    Harry Truman also laughed. “Let me consult her about it.”
    Bess Wallace Truman died on Oct. 18, 1982, at her home at 219 N. Delaware St. To this day, her death at age 97 makes her the longest living presidential first lady in U.S. history.
    Three years later, Regent Jane Mallinson started the Independence Pioneers Chapter celebration of Bess Wallace Truman’s birthday. The annual tea and commemoration program relocated to the Truman Library in 1988.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Independence Pioneers Chapter also recognized Dr. Bridget McCandless, an internal medicine specialist in Independence, for her excellence in community service. McCandless co-founded the Shared Care Free Clinic in 2000 and now serves as its medical director, serving uninsured, low-income adults with chronic medical conditions. The Shared Care Free Clinic serves adults between the ages of 18 to 64 who don’t have any form of medical insurance, including Medicare.Coincidentally, in 1965, President Johnson signed the Medicare Bill into law at the Truman Library, with Harry and Bess present, in the room where Wednesday’s event took place.
    “Her compassionate and concern for the health and well-being of the less fortunate in this community has improved the lives of many individuals and their families,” Joann Walker, a past regent of the Independence Pioneers Chapter, said of McCandless. “...She has impacted the lives of thousands of needy families in her community through her love and compassion for those less fortunate.”

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