Margaret Truman, the only child of President Harry S. Truman and Bess Wallace Truman, trained as a singer before becoming a writer. She was best known for her series of murder mysteries set in Washington, DC.
Mary Margaret Truman was born on February 17, 1924, in a house on Delaware Street in Independence, Missouri. Known as Margaret, she attended a number of public schools in Missouri, and Gunston Hall, a private school for girls in Washington, DC, from 1934 to 1942.
Margaret spent a great deal of time sightseeing around Washington, DC and in the Smithsonian Museum. As a result, she was able to greatly impress her classmates with her knowledge of the museum. Margaret began making many friends in Washington and became a member of DOTS (Daughters of the Senators). Due to her love of the theater, she performed in many Shakespeare plays during her school years. Interested in singing, she began voice lessons at the age of sixteen.
Truman graduated from Gunston Hall in 1942 and enrolled at George Washington University (GWU). In 1943, while attending the university, she christened the battleship USS Missouri at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At GWU, she received an associate in arts degree in 1944 and a bachelor’s degree in history in 1946.
On March 16, 1947, Margaret made her concert debut singing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra over a nationwide radio hookup. Her first outdoor appearance as a singer was on August 23, 1947, at the Hollywood Bowl, before a crowd of approximately 20,000 people. She began her first concert tour later that fall in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and on December 11, 1947, she sang in Washington, DC at Constitution Hall. This was her first Washington concert, and the first time her parents heard her sing in public.
Truman accompanied her father during his successful campaign for reelection in 1948, making numerous appearances. From the fall of 1949 through 1952, Truman continued her concert tours, also appearing on national television on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town, and in 1951 and 1952 she traveled throughout Europe accompanied by friends.
After her father left the White House in 1953, Margaret Truman moved to New York City to continue her work with NBC. She had signed a contract with them in 1951. On May 27, 1955, she substituted for Edward R. Murrow on his television show, Person to Person, where she interviewed her parents.
In 1955 Truman met Clifton Daniel, an assistant to the foreign news editor of the New York Times. The couple married on April 21, 1956, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Independence. They became the parents of four sons: Clifton Truman, William Wallace, Harrison Gates, and Thomas Washington. The family moved in 1973 from New York to Washington, where Daniel became chief of the New York Times Washington Bureau. He retired from this post in 1977, and the family moved back to New York.
From 1977 until the time of her death, Truman served as secretary to the board of trustees of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, on the board of directors of the Harry S. Truman Library Institute, and as a member of the Truman Centennial Committee. In 1984 she was the recipient of the Harry S. Truman Public Service Award presented annually by the City of Independence to honor an outstanding American citizen.
In addition to her 1956 autobiography, Souvenir: Margaret Truman’s Own Story, Truman was the author of numerous fictional murder mystery stories set in the Washington, DC area. The first book in the series, Murder in the White House, was published in 1980, and she wrote a mystery almost every year after until her death. She was also the editor of Letters from Father: The Truman Family’s Personal Correspondence, and Where the Buck Stops: The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman.
Margaret Truman died in Chicago, Illinois, January 29, 2008, following a brief illness. She was eighty-three years old.
Text and research by John C. Konzal
References and Resources
For more information about Margaret Truman’s life and career, see the following resources:
The following is a selected list of books, articles, and manuscripts about Margaret Truman in the research centers of The State Historical Society of Missouri. The Society’s call numbers follow the citations in brackets.
- Truman, Margaret, with Margaret Cousins. Souvenir: Margaret Truman’s Own Story. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956. [REF F508.1 T7713]
- Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
The website contains both a biographical sketch and a memorial tribute to Margaret Truman Daniel.