Grateful American® Foundation

Written by Ed Lengel

Harry Truman’s Child

Harry Truman was the unlikeliest of presidents. Born in 1884 in Lamar, Missouri, and largely self-educated, he served as an artillery captain in World War I, then as a county court judge. He might have remained in rural obscurity, had it not been for his intelligence, ambition, and a lot of luck. After years of campaigning and hard work, he spent a decade as a U.S. Senator before being nominated and elected vice president to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth-term ticket. His sudden death on April 12, 1945, catapulted Truman to the presidency; suddenly he felt as if a bale of hay had fallen on him, as did his publicity-shy wife, Bess Wallace Truman, and their daughter Margaret.

Mary Margaret Truman

Born in Independence, Missouri, on February 17, 1924, Margaret Truman (she preferred her middle name), shared her father’s public life from an early age. Even when Harry was a court judge, she could be seen by his side, pulling a cord to unveil a statue of Andrew Jackson. When he became a U.S. Senator, Margaret told reporters that it was much more fun living in Independence than in Washington, D.C. Still, she had to divide her time between home and the capital, attending public school in Independence for part of the year, and Washington’s Gunston Hall Academy  for the rest.

She remembered “a feeling of transiency” during her DC visits. “You came and stayed and you were polite and then you went home.” [1]

While Harry Truman was a senator, his family lived in an apartment at 3016 Tilden St. NW, just off Connecticut Avenue.  Margaret was miserable. “I hated being cooped up on the upper floor of an apartment house,” she remembered. “I could never go outdoors alone, and the apartment was like a prison.” It was hard to be close to her father, too, because he “brought home mountains of work, and long after I was in bed, he would be reading and studying his problems, so that he could learn to cope with them.” At Gunston Hall, she “wandered lonely as a cloud,” not being as athletic or as easily sociable as the other girls, until one day they held a screeching contest to see who could scream at the highest pitch. Margaret easily won, hitting “F above high C.” From this unlikely beginning, a career was begun. [2]

In 1942 Margaret graduated from Gunston, and enrolled in George Washington University; she received a B.A. in history in 1946, with Harry Truman delivering the commencement. At the same time, she worked intensively on her music and singing lessons. After graduation, she moved to New York City for further training, and made her radio debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on March 16, 1947. She was so devoted to her craft that she kept a baby grand piano in her sitting room at the White House. During the summer of 1948, it fell through the floor—partially–confirming the president’s suspicions that the White House needed emergency repairs and structural renovations, that took more than three years to complete. [3]

The Truman’s and their entire staff were relocated across the street.

Margaret worked hard to make it on her own, but she couldn’t always emerge from her father’s shadow. Critics who disparaged her singing were sure to provoke an angry blast from the president. When his presidency ended in 1953, she transitioned from performing to television and radio hosting. She settled in New York City, married Clifton Daniel, an editor with the New York Times, in 1956, and had four sons.

She served on the board of directors at the Harry S. Truman Library, authored a long-running series of Washington-based murder mysteries, and passed away in 2008.

[1] Sedalia Democrat, Dec. 27, 1934; Stanberry Herald, Aug. 5, 1937; Miami News, Sept. 25, 1956;

[2] Miami News, Sept. 25, 1956.


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