to the White House
the 1944 election approached, concern that President Roosevelt
might not survive another term and distrust of Vice President
Henry Wallace led Democratic leaders to seek a new running
mate for FDR. Senator Truman emerged as the Vice Presidential
choice at the Democratic Convention in Chicago.
from coast to coast, Truman helped Roosevelt win election
to an unprecedented fourth term. But once in office, Truman
was kept at arm's length from the administration. Then,
on April 12, 1945, Roosevelt suddenly died, leaving an unprepared
Truman to take over the Presidency after serving as Vice
President for only 82 days.
The choice of Roosevelt's running mate in 1944 posed a challenge
for Democratic Party leaders who distrusted Vice President
Henry Wallace and feared that Roosevelt might not survive
another term. As a moderate border-state Senator, Truman
was a "Missouri Compromise" - a nominee acceptable
to both liberal and conservative Democrats. Truman repeatedly
said he didn't want the job. Then, at the Democratic National
Convention, he heard Roosevelt's voice booming over the
telephone: "Well, you can tell the Senator that if
he wants to break up the Democratic Party in the middle
of the war, that's his responsibility." The call to
duty did the trick: Truman agreed to be nominated.
Trying to Make a Job
Vice President Truman made a good impression at the whirlwind
of social engagements he attended. But in truth, he was
the "forgotten man" of the Roosevelt Administration.
After the Inauguration, Truman met with the President only
twice. His main job was presiding over the Senate. Anticipating
struggles between the legislative and executive branches
after the war, he did what he could to set the stage for
smooth post-war governance. Truman lamented, " I am
trying to make a job out of the vice presidency and it's
quite a chore."
Moon, the Stars, and All the Planets
Just after five o'clock on April 12, 1945, Truman received
an urgent summons from the White House. When he arrived,
Mrs. Roosevelt told him, "The President is dead."
Truman asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
But Mrs. Roosevelt responded, "Is there anything we
can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now."
At 7:09 that evening, Harry S. Truman was sworn in as the
33rd President of the United States. The next day, Truman
told reporters on Capitol
Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know if
you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when
they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the
moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."