Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

FAQ: Did Truman have a girlfriend? Was he really true to Bess?

According to Trumanís biographer, David McCullough, who was interviewed on C-Spanís Booknotes, on July 19, 1992, by Brian Lamb, Mr. Truman was loyal to his wife.

Booknotes Transcript (excerpt)


Author: David McCullough

Title: Truman

Air Date: July 19, 1992

LAMB: Was he loyal to his wife?

McCULLOUGH: He certainly was, absolutely.

LAMB: No funny stuff?

McCULLOUGH: Never, never, never. In fact, there is a scene in Potsdam where he gets into his car to drive back to his quarters and an Army officer puts his head in the window of the car late at night and tells him, "Mr. President, I can arrange anything you'd like while you're here, anything in the way of wine and women." And Truman is absolutely livid.

LAMB: Can I read it? I happened to have underlined it when I read it. I wanted to ask you about that. "Listen, son, I married my sweetheart," Truman said. "She doesnít run around on me and I don't run around on her and I want that understood. Don't ever mention that kind of stuff to me again." "By the time we were home," Boring remembered -- that was the Secret Service man -- "he got out of the car and never even said good-bye to that guy." Now, what in the world would an officer ever be doing saying this to a President?

McCULLOUGH: Who knows? Almost unimaginable. He was offering to be a procurer for him.

LAMB: Did you find this out strictly from that Secret Service man?


LAMB: That's never been published before?

McCULLOUGH: No. Many of the Secret Service people that I interviewed have never been interviewed before. I spent one long night with Jim Reilly, who was the head of the Secret Service to Thailand. At the end of the evening, I thanked him for giving me three or four hours of his time. He hadn't just been with Truman; he'd been with Roosevelt, he'd been with Churchill, Stalin, and I said, "Thank you. And I want to particularly thank you when I think of how often you must have been asked these questions." He said, "Mr. McCullough, I've never been asked these questions."

Truman's affection, his devotion to Bess, is a very major part of his life. It's a very touching aspect of the story, and it's entirely true. The reason we have all these letters is because he was so devoted to her. His courtship of her is just one of the great stories that I know of, of sort of pre-World War I middle America Ė this young fellow out on the farm who's in love with the daughter of a prominent, by the terms of Independence, well-to-do family. It's an uphill struggle. The family does not want her to marry him. It's his first campaign, and he pursues her. He doesn't let defeat discourage him. He's cheerful. He's devoted. He's loyal to her. He seems always to want to please her in the letters. He seems to be asking her always, "How am I measuring up?"