The presence of America’s 33rd President Harry S. Truman dominates downtown Independence, Missouri. He lived here, governed from here, and built his presidential library here.
His image is silhouetted on streetlight banners. Plaques embedded in the city sidewalks through the Truman District and neighborhood map a 2.7 mile trail of key places in Harry’s life. It’s called the Truman Walking Trail. Clinton’s Soda Fountain on the corner at 100 W. Maple Street still serves ice cream. It’s the place where Harry had his first job. And, the Victorian house where he lived from 1919 until his death in 1972 remains known as the “Summer White House.”
Our “road trip” brought Ed and me to Independence in early September when I took a job in Kansas City. We thought our two-years of travel experiences had ended. Instead, we became tourists in our new home – Harry’s town. Bit-by-bit, the historic nature of Independence captivated Ed and I. Was it coincidence that when we arrived I had been reading a biography written by David McCullough: Truman? Ed frequently remarks that it is “freaky” to be in Independence since he considers July 4th – “Independence Day” – as his start date for our “road trip.”
Harry’s own road trips are chronicled around Independence. He bought a car to travel from his family’s rural farm to Independence to court Bess Wallace, the woman he married. The town’s train depot is noted for his whistle-stop presidential campaign and trips to Washington, D.C.
For eight years, Harry guided the U.S. as President and a world leader. He made the difficult decision to drop the atomic bomb in World War II. He helped form the United Nations, NATO, and the Marshall Plan. He ordered the Berlin Airlift. The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence contains his presidential papers and a replica of his White House office. His gravesite and that of his wife Bess are in the courtyard.
Every step in Independence, whether in the Presidential Library and Museum or strolling the Truman District. Harry feels like a good neighbor. He’s had such humble beginnings that to call him “Truman” seems cold. He’s Harry and his spirit is everywhere in town.
Harry S. Truman Library & Museum
500 W. U.S. Highway 24
September 26 & 27, 2009