Jon E. Taylor is professor of history at the University of Central Missouri, where he teaches courses in American history. Taylor has written four books on the life, political career, and legacy of Harry Truman. He is currently working on a book about the significance of Truman’s Senate career.
Truman and Pendergast, 1922-1944
One of the most complicated friendships during Harry Truman’s life was his long-lasting relationship with Tom Pendergast, who became a Kansas City political kingpin in the early 1920s and 1930s through his use of strong-arm tactics and personal wealth. However, by 1940, Truman’s political fortune hit a snag when Boss Tom was convicted of federal crimes and sent to Fort Leavenworth to serve time. Truman could no longer depend upon the boss for political support for his upcoming 1940 Senate reelection campaign. This presentation explores Truman’s relationship with Pendergast and explains how he was able to craft a political strategy to win reelection in 1940 despite the fact that Pendergast was jailed. It also assesses the lasting impact that Truman’s interactions with the Kansas City political machine had on his career.
Several noted Missourians played significant roles in World War I, including Harry Truman. Historians have identified Truman’s military service in World War I as a turning point in his life and later political career. This presentation examines Truman’s decision to enter military service in 1917, tracks his command of the 129th field artillery as it traversed the fields of France during the war, and assesses the significance of his military service on his political career.