Serving as the 33rd President of the United States from 1945-1953, MWB Harry S. Truman is well known for launching the Marshall Plan, leading the Cold War through the Truman Doctrine and NATO, and for intervening in the Korean War. He also lived his life dedicated to the craft, ultimately becoming the second President to also serve as Grand Master. Read on to learn more about his life in Masonry and beyond.
Born in Missouri on May 8th, 1884, Harry S. Truman spent most of his childhood on his family’s 600-acre farm. He served in the Missouri National Guard from 1905 to 1911, then rejoined during World War I, serving in France as an artillery officer and eventually a battery commander. His military experience allowed him to cultivate his leadership skills; his impressive record in the National Guard ultimately paved the way for his political career.
He was first elected to public office as a county official in 1922, and then joined the Senate in 1935, which he served in until 1945. He received the nickname “Give ‘em Hell Harry” for his ability to work in a bipartisan manner and pose difficult questions to powerful people. He first gained national recognition and caught the eye of the Democratic Party in 1941 for being chairman of the Truman Committee, which claimed to find and correct problems in Federal Government wartime contracts, like waste and inefficiency. He then served as the Vice President to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for only 82 days in 1945 before succeeding to the presidency following President Roosevelt’s sudden death.
Germany surrendered only a few weeks into his presidency, but the war with Imperial Japan carried on. While still controversial to this day, Harry S. Truman forced their surrender by approving the use of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He saw it as a necessary evil, avoiding additional future invasions and sparing the lives of hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese soldiers. President Truman also helped found the United Nations in 1945, issued the Truman Doctrine in 1947 to contain Communism, and enacted the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe. He also oversaw the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and the creation of NATO in 1949, an effort to provide security among western nations from the Soviet Union.
MWB Harry S. Truman is known as one of the most dedicated men to have joined Masonry. He was a member of a large number of Orders even while serving as Senator, Vice President, and President. On February 9th, 1909, he received his first degree after petitioning Belton Lodge No. 450 in Belton, MO. While his father was not a member, both of his grandfathers were; he also had various cousins, siblings, and nephews that were Masons. MWB Truman was elected as the Junior Warden of his lodge in 1910, and became a key figure in organizing the Lodge in Grandview, MO, becoming its first recorded Master when it was formally chartered.
In 1912 he entered the Scottish Rite Lodge of Perfection and Chapter Rose Croix in Kansas City; he completed the Scottish Rite Degrees in 1917 before leaving for the war. Through the York Rite he received the Chapter and Council degrees in Kansas City in 1919, and in 1923 was honored as a Knight Companion of the Red Cross of Constantine. From 1925 to 1930 he served as District Deputy Grand Master and Lecturer for the newly formed 59th Masonic District. He then proceeded to enter the Missouri Grand Lodge line, ultimately serving as Grand Master from 1940 to 1941.
While his primary interest was the Blue Lodge, he also was honored in the Scottish Rite by being coronated as a 33* Honorary in October of 1945 for both his service to Freemasonry and the United States. He also received the Gourgas Medal by the Northern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. On May 18th, 1959, MWB Truman was presented with the fifty-years award; he was the only U.S. President to reach that golden anniversary in Freemasonry. On December 26th, 1972, Harry S. Truman passed away in Kansas City, MO due to complications from pneumonia at the age of 88. He is remembered for striving to live his life committed to our tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
Interested in learning about other Masonic Presidents? Read our blog on the lives of Ohio natives James A. Garfield, Warren G. Harding, William H. Taft, and William McKinley.
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