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  Bess Truman

by John T. Marck

First Lady: 1945 to 1953

Wife of President Harry S. Truman

Born: February 13, 1885 Died: October 18, 1982

Elizabeth (Bess) Virginia Wallace was born in Independence, Missouri, the daughter of David Willock and Margaret Gates Wallace. She grew up in her grandfather's house, in a time when Independence still had small town quality. Her father committed suicide when she was young, her mother in her solace, looked upon Bess as the star of the family. Harry Truman, being close in age to Bess, always admired her from their first meeting. He would ride his horse from his farm to visit her quite often, but Bess's mother was not pleased that she was seeing a farmer. The World War however changed her mind, as Harry became a First Lieutenant which impressed Bess's mother. Before he was scheduled to go to France, they became engaged. Harry returned from the war a distinguished major, and the two were married on June 28, 1919, in Independence. They lived in the Wallace house during their first years of marriage, an arrangement that had its advantages due to various financial problems. The Truman's had one child, Mary Margaret, who was born in 1924. During Mary Margaret's school years, she was the victim of an attempted kidnapping, resulting in her being carefully raised and looked after.

Upon Harry's election to the Presidency, Bess handled the reporters through a press secretary, changing Eleanor Roosevelt's press conference style. The press hated her for this change, but eventually learned to respect her. Bess was a good hostess in the White House, but during the second term, they lived for three years across the street in Blair House.

When the Presidency was completed, the Truman's retired to Independence, and Bess was hopeful that they might live in private. Her husband however was not able to live in obscurity, resulting in their home being locked and barricaded from the curious public.

Finally, as a result of this being done, Bess finally achieved the private life she liked, until her death on October 18, 1982. Bess had survived her husband by almost ten years.

Copyright 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. From The First Ladies of the United States by John T. Marck.