Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman succeeded to the presidency after Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death in 1944. Born in Lamar, Misouri, Truman served in World War I with the American Expeditionary Force. He returned from duty and became a county judge, running for that office with the support and encouragement of the Thomas J. Pendergast's Democratic machine. Truman eventually ran for the U.S. Senate and won in 1934. Roosevelt selected him as his vice-presidential running mate in 1944. Truman's candidacy for president in 1948 caused a rift in the Virginia Democratic Party, as conservative followers of Senator Harry F. Byrd tried to prevent his nomination and to free Democrats to vote Republican in the general election. These conservatives disliked Truman's efforts to address civil rights, including his commission to study the issue and his executive order to desegregate the armed forces, as well as his support of labor unions. Truman carried Virginia in 1848 with 48.2 % of the vote, although his Republican opponent polled 41.3 % and States' Rights candidate Strom Thurmond tallied 10.4 %. Truman campaigned in 1960 in Southwest Virginia in Abingdon at an "Acres for Democrats" rally. Presidential candidates had ignored Southwest Virginia, and Appalachia generally, and the Kennedy campaign was the first in a generation to campaign in the region. Three thousand turned out in Abingdon to hear Truman and 12,000 turned out to hear Kennedy in Bristol. (Washington Post, September 22, 1960)