A life of Harry Truman

Category: Accounting

Book Review of "Man of People: A life of Harry S Truman"

Harry Truman was the 33rd president of the United States (1945-53), who led his nation through the final stages of World War II and through the early years of the Cold War, vigorously opposing Soviet expansionism in Europe and sending U.S. forces to turn back a communist invasion of South Korea. He was born on May 8, 1884, Lamar, Mo., U.S. and died at the age of 88 on Dec. 26, 1972, Kansas City, Mo. This paper is a book review of a book that describes Harry Truman as a man and provides readers with an overview of his life. The book selected for this paper is "Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman" by Alonzo L. Hamby published by the Oxford University Press, Incorporated, and the publication date is September 1995. There are 760 pages in this book.

Hamby offers the best portrait yet of Truman's complex personality, revealing an insecure, ambitious man of honor, a partisan loyalist, and a champion of big government. Americans cherish him less for what he did than for whom he wasan ordinary man who worked his way up the political ladder to the summit of power. A man who had aspirations and ambitions and one who fulfilled those through the strength of his character and integrity and left The American a heritage of honor and ambition.

Harry S. Truman is remembered today as an iconthe plain-speaking President, 'Give 'em Hell Harry,' the chief executive who put 'The Buck Stops Here' on his desk. But Alonzo L. Hamby shows that there was more to Truman than the pugnacious fighter so prominent in popular memory. Insecure, ambitious, a man of honor, a partisan loyalist, an agrarian Jeffersonian Democrat who became a champion of big government, Truman was a complex figure who fought long and hard to triumph over his own weaknesses. In Man of the People, Hamby offers a gripping account of this distinctively American life, tracing Truman's remarkable rise from marginal farmer in rural Missouri to shaper of the postwar world. Truman comes alive in these pages as he has nowhere else, making his way from the farmhouse, to the front lines in France during World War I, to the difficult small-business world of Kansas Cityall the time struggling with his deep feelings of inadequacy and immense ambition.

The book is a reflection of not just his personal but also his political life and his rise to fame and his presidency and the struggle that went along with it. Truman was the eldest of three children of John A. and Martha E. Truman; his father was a mule trader and farmer. After graduating from high school in 1901 in Independence, Missouri, he went to work as a bank clerk in Kansas City. In 1906 he moved to the family farm near Grandview, and he took over the farm management after his father's death in 1914. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Trumannearly 33 years old and with two tours in the National Guard (1905-11) behind him--immediately volunteered. From this point on began his descend up, which wasn't easy. Who would have though in his home town that the son of a farmer would some day be President of the United States, but the honor and ambition that was as much a part of Truman as was his physical self were what got his there. And that is something that has been portrayed and done so convincingly in this book by Hamby.

Hamby also offers the best account yet of Truman's critical years in the Senate, covering not only his World War II probe of the defense program but also his neglected and revealing populist investigations of the railroads during the 1930s. He demonstrates that Truman was one of the most popular and respected members of the upper house. Hamby is particularly acute in his portrait of Truman's volatile presidency.

He criticizes some aspects of the decision to use the atomic bombs against Japan but concludes that, considered in context; the act was understandable and justified. However that is a rather debatable issue in it's own and there many that will side and many who will oppose the justification of this issue and the consequences of Truman's decisions. Hamby, providing new insight into the Cold War, identifies the Turkish and Iranian crisis of 1946 as crucial turning points in Truman's attitudes toward the Soviet Union. Thoroughly covering Truman's struggle for 'liberalism in a conservative age,' Hamby also sheds great light on the president's Fair Deal domestic program.

The man Hamby presents in a beautifully constructed and scrupulously researched manner as a portrait of Truman that strips away the mythologizer's varnish to give us the authentic, gutsy politician whose life was a potent testimony to burning ambition, good judgment, and blind luck.

Following David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning narrative Truman (LJ 6/1/92) and Robert Ferrell's scholarly Harry S Truman: A Life (LJ 12/94), is there need for another comprehensive Truman biography? Hamby as a noted Truman historian does just that and provides it. Unlike McCullough, Hamby offers an analytical model for viewing Truman, a liberal president serving in increasingly conservative times. Current fascination with Truman, Hamby notes, has more to do with his typically middle-class struggle to achieve success than with what he actually accomplished as president. Truman, an honest politician operating in a corrupt political environment, was overly defensive about his family and his association with the Pendergast political syndicate of Missouri. Yet with the unraveling of the New Deal and World War II consensus, he was successful in mustering bipartisan support for his great foreign policy successes the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine and, to a lesser extent, his progressive civil rights plank. This balanced assessment, although well written, lacks McCullough's narrative grace. Yet it presents a more dispassionate interpretation that will be welcomed by students of the presidency and public administration. Strongly recommended for large presidential studies and Truman collections.

Hamby in the end wrote a bibliographic essay and in that essay he quoted all his sources, some of, which were through primary research and some were the existing material on the 33rd president of the United States.

However what makes this book convincing is that it is firstly written by someone who was a noted historian of Truman and secondly the manner in, which it is written and the subject matter, make it very hard but be convinced of the image as the true Truman that's is portrayed. The chapters in themselves have been named in direct active voice as quotes of Truman for instance Chapter 30 is called "We've Got to Stop the Sons of Bitches": Korea: The Downward" Spiral Begins, June 25, 1950-April 11, 1951 on page 534 of the book. Similarly the epilogue is titled, "Epilogue: Who He Was, What He Did, and Why We Care" on page 635.

The book is titled in a way so as to make it clear that is the biography of man and one who was liked and respected by the people of his country. He was the 33rd President of the United States and he led his country through some of the worst times. War! And he also made some of the decisions that may have turned half the world against him, but in the end it was just him and the man that he was that the people were endeared to and not his presidency.


"Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman" by Alonzo L. Hamby published by the Oxford University Press, Incorporated, and the publication date is September 1995."