It Was His Boyhood Reading, Harry Truman Recalls, That Prepared Him for When His "Terrible Trial Came"

December 18, 1962

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It Was His Boyhood Reading, Harry Truman Recalls, That Prepared Him for When His "Terrible Trial Came"
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 430

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      Background

      No one has ever taken history, or algebra, or Latin, and not at some point asked, querulously, “when am I ever going to need to use this?”  The answer, according to Harry S. Truman, is when you are struck by lightning one day and wake up to find yourself president of the United States.

      I had to study whether I wanted to or not.  Read the Old & New Testaments King James translation three times before I was fifteen, and all the histories of world leaders and heroes I could find.  Our public library in Independence had about three or four thousand volumes, including the encyclopedias! Believe it or not I read ‘em all – including the enclo’s. Maybe I was a damphool [damn fool] but it served me well when my terrible trial came.

      Harry Truman was a farm boy with only a high school education, but by reading about world leaders, he prepared to be one.

      Autograph Letter Signed, 2 pages, octavo, on his personal letterhead, Independence, Missouri, December 18, 1962. To ex-Secretary of State Dean Acheson.
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      HARRY S. TRUMAN 
      INDEPENDENCE, MISSOURI

      Dec. 18, 1962

      Dear Dean:-

      I've been reading your Saturday Evening Post article.  Tried to call you soon as I read it.  It gave me many memories of my growing up.

      We had almost the same experiences.  Only your experiences were in the great state of Connecticut and mine were in Missouri.  You had white people who helped out and we had black and brown - but the experiences were almost the same!

      At the time of the Spanish American War, the twelve and fourteen year olds organized a company.  That company marched, carried 22 rifles, killed the neighbor's frying chickens and camped out until 

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      our parents put a stop to it. Then I had to study wherther [sic] I wanted to or not.  Read the Old & the New Testaments - King James translation three times before I was fifteen, and all the histories of world leaders and heroes I could find. Our public library in Independence had about three or four thousand volumes, including the ten encyclopedias!

      Believe it or not I read 'em all - including the enclo's  Maybe I was a damphool [sic] but it served me well when my terrible trial came.

      You know better than anyone.  Hope your trip abroad was a happy one.  Sincerely, your friend and great admirer,

      Harry S. Truman