Harry S. Truman and wife, Bess, in Retirement


Harry S. Truman and wife, Bess, in Retirement

Edited by David Barth 10 August 2012.

Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many, or more important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 32 Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house in which he lived, in Independence, Missouri. His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service detail to protect them as all former presidents have now.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don 't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."

On May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don 't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food. Presidents after Truman make the American Public pay for their travel expenses and food while they serve in the White House.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale. Nearly every politician in the Federal Government becomes a millionaire.

Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!"

Harry S. Truman and wife, Bess, in Retirement
Harry S. Truman and wife, Bess, in Retirement
in their modest home in Independence, Missouri