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Presidents' Children: Margaret Truman

Times were different in the 1950s than they are today. When a newspaper reviewer gave President Harry Truman's daughter Margaret a bad review for a singing performance that the first daughter had given, her father the President sent the reviewer a letter threatening to respond with violence if he ever met the reviewed. I'm guessing that such a response, if given today, wouldn't be treated the same way by the media today. But Harry Truman was nothing if not blunt, and he certainly loved his only child so much that he responded like an angry bear whose cub was threatened if anyone ever tried to harm her physically or emotionally.



Margaret Truman was not only a singer, she was also a successful author who wrote both a series of murder mysteries and a number of works on U.S. First Ladies and First Families, including a biography of her father. One of her obituaries described her as "a witty, hard-working Midwestern girl with talent."

Mary Margaret Truman was born in Independence, Missouri on February 17, 1924. She was named for her aunt Mary Jane Truman and her maternal grandmother Margaret Gates Wallace. She was called Margaret from early childhood. She attended school in Independence until her father's 1934 election to the U.S. Senate, after which her education was split between schools in Washington, D.C. and Independence. In 1942, she began attending George Washington University, where she earned a B.A. in History in 1946. While her father was president, he tried to protect her from media scrutiny, though she occasionally took on official duties. In June 1944 for instance, she christened the battleship USS Missouri at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (In 1986, two years before her death, she spoke again in 1986 at the ship's recommissioning).



Margaret Truman received formal operatic vocal training. Her singing career began with a debut radio recital in March 1947. Reviewers were not always kind when reviewing her performances, which incurred the wrath of her father. In 1950, Washington Post music critic Paul Hume wrote that Truman was "extremely attractive on the stage, but cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time. And still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish." An angry President Harry Truman wrote a letter to Hume, in which he said "Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!" Despite the bad reviews, she continued performing professionally on the stage, on radio and on television until the late 1950s. A 1951 Time Magazine cover featured her with a musical note floating by her head. She also performed on the NBC Radio program The Big Show. It was there that she met writer Goodman Ace, who became a lifelong friend and mentor. She became part of the team of NBC Radio's Weekday show that premiered in 1955, shortly after its Monitor program made its debut. Along with the famous newsman Mike Wallace, she presented news and interviews targeted at a female listening audience.

Margaret Truman appeared several times as a panelist (and once as a mystery guest) on the NBC fifties game show What's My Line? and was also a guest several times on NBC's The Martha Raye Show. In 1957, she sang and played piano on The Gisele MacKenzie Show.

Margaret Truman was also a prolific author. She wrote a biography of her father that was published shortly before his death, and was critically acclaimed. She also wrote a biography of her mother and a history of the White House and its inhabitants (including first ladies and pets). She also wrote a series of murder mysteries set in and around Washington, D.C. published under her name, though it is alleged that some of these were ghostwritten. Her mystery "Murder at the White House" was made into a movie entitled Murder at 1600. Truman published regularly into her eighties. She also served on the board of directors for the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum and the Board of Governors of the Roosevelt Institute.

On April 21, 1956, Margaret Truman married New York Times reporter (and later editor) Clifton Daniel at Trinity Episcopal Church in Independence. The couple had four sons: Clifton Truman Daniel (born 1957), William Wallace Daniel (born May 19, 1959, died September 4, 2000), a psychiatric social worker and researcher at Columbia University, Harrison Gates Daniel (born 1963), and Thomas Washington Daniel (born 1966). Her husband died in 2000.



In her later years, Margaret Truman lived in her Park Avenue home in New York City. She later moved to Chicago, to be closer to her son Clifton, and it was there that she died on January 29, 2008. Her ashes, and those of her husband, were interred in Independence, in her parents' burial plot on the grounds of the Truman Library.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
kaishin108
May. 9th, 2015 02:49 am (UTC)
I loved reading her books and will probably read a few of them again. Yes, she really is a great writer. I had no idea she was also a singer. From the point of view of a father, I can understand why he was upset about her bad review but yes, that would not be accepted in the same way today!
kensmind
May. 9th, 2015 02:06 pm (UTC)
I've never read her mystery books. Thanks for letting us know how sge is as an author.
sparklediamant
May. 13th, 2015 07:09 am (UTC)
And here's a recording of her singing- I couldn't resist checking it out as a singer myself: http://youtu.be/yQXbmADoC1w

I think she sounds very good in the upper range but her lower range isn't as polished. At least she stuck it out through the criticism!
kensmind
May. 14th, 2015 03:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this. I was curious about what she sounded like.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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