Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

FAQ: Who was Truman's vice-president?

Alben Barkley ran for Vice-President of the United States on the 1948 Democratic ticket with President Truman. As Vice-President, his popular nickname was "the Veep."

Barkley was born on November 24, 1877, near Lowes, in Graves County, Kentucky. His parents were tenant farmers who raised tobacco. After the family settled on a wheat farm in Hickman County, Kentucky, in 1891, Barkley attended Marvin College, graduating in 1897. He attended one year of law school at Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, and then returned to Kentucky to clerk for two attorneys before successfully passing the bar exam (graduation from law school was not a requirement at that time).

Opening a law office in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1901, Barkley married Dorothy Brower, in 1903, and they had three children: David Murrell, Marion Frances, and Laura Louise. Barkley soon entered politics and was elected County Attorney in 1904. He became a County Judge in 1909, and was thereafter elected to Congress. Beginning in 1913, he served 7 terms in the House of Representatives. In 1927, he became a United States Senator and later advanced to the position of Majority Leader.

In 1944, both Harry S. Truman and Alben Barkley made President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s short list for vice-presidential running mates. Truman was chosen by Roosevelt, became President upon Roosevelt’s death in 1945, and asked Barkley to run with him on the 1948 ticket. In 1949, Alben Barkley became the thirty-fifth Vice-President of the United States. Following the death of his wife, he married Jane Hadley in 1949, at the age of seventy-one.

After Truman chose not to run again in 1952, Barkley could not obtain his party’s nomination for President because of his age. He did, however, run again for Senate, in 1954, and won. He died in 1956, fittingly, in the middle of a rousing campaign speech.

The University of Kentucky Library’s Division of Special Collections and Archives houses Barkley’s papers. Their biography notes that,

"Because of his (Barkley’s) legislative experience, Truman insisted on his inclusion in all cabinet-level meetings and on the National Security Council, which made him the first working Vice-President in United States History. With his outstanding talent for public speaking, Truman made him the administration’s principal spokesman and commissioned a vice-presidential seal and flag from the army’s Heraldic branch."