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 Bess Truman

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Bess Truman

  • Original Name Elizabeth Virginia Wallace
  • Birth 13 Feb 1885 Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
  • Death 18 Oct 1982 Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
  • Burial Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
  • Memorial ID 19671

Presidential First Lady. She was the wife of the 33rd United States President Harry S. Truman. She was the eldest child and only daughter of David Willock and his wife Madge Gates. As a child, she developed the reputation of being a tomboy. "The first girl I ever knew who could whistle through her teeth," said a classmate. After her father's sudden death in 1903, she moved with her mother and three brothers into the home of her maternal grandfather, George Porterfield Gates. With this relocation, she and Truman became high school classmates and started dating. Some sources state that actually met for the first time as children in Sunday School. After Truman returned from World War I, the couple married on June 28, 1919; their only child Mary Margaret born on February 17, 1924; and after her husband was elected Missouri Senator, the family moved to Washington D.C. in 1934. She was happy being a wife and mother; although very intelligent and religious, she had no political agenda of her own. At the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, her husband became President of the United States on April 12, 1945, after serving only eighty-two days as Vice President. With this event, she became the country's First Lady. She was noted for her hats and her ability to be a beautiful gracious First Lady while wearing one. Considered one of the hardest-working of the White House hostesses, she did what was required of her even when it did not please her. A reporter once asked her what she wanted to do when her husband was no longer President, and she responded, "Return to Independence." Being a much more private person compared to her predecessor Mrs. Roosevelt, she held only one press conference while being First Lady: "I am not the one who is elected. I have nothing to say to the public." She had been a widow for ten years when she died in her home of congested heart failure. At 97 year old, she was the longest-living First Lady to date. Perhaps one of the best documentations about the character of First Lady Bess Wallace Truman was published in an April 1949 article in "McCall's" magazine. The magazine quoted Jonathan Daniels, former Press Secretary to President Franklin Roosevelt, as saying "Bess Truman is a lady unchanged by the White House and determined to remain always what she is."

Bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 21 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 19671
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Bess Truman (13 Feb 1885–18 Oct 1982), Find A Grave Memorial no. 19671, citing Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .