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  • Senate to the White House

    Democratic National ConventionAs 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.

    Campaigning 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 Missouri Compromise

    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."

    Truman taking the oath of officeThe 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
    Hill,

    " 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."