Saturday, October 20, 2012

President Truman ... backing his daughter's singing abilities

Margaret Truman
(undated photo)
Margaret Truman, an aspiring singer and daughter of President Harry S. Truman, was 26 when she performed at Washington’s Constitution Hall before 3,500 people in December 1950. But her efforts were panned by Washington Post critic Paul Hume, who wrote that she had “a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality … cannot sing very well … is flat a good deal of the time … has not improved in the years that we have heard her … [and] still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.”

Hume’s review incensed President Truman, and he let Hume know about his anger in a letter written the same day. In part, it said that  “I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert … It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man [Hume was 34] who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock … it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and a least four of your ulcers are at work. Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below! Pegler [Westbrook Pegler was a columnist disliked by President Truman], a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope that you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.”

The letter itself was sold by Hume in 1951, and has remained in private hands since, according to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.  Today, the letter is reportedly among the collections of the private Harlan Crow Library in Dallas.

Margaret Truman, while finding little success as a singer, became an accomplished radio and television host. She also authored an acclaimed biography of her father, a personal biography of her mother, and nonfiction works about previous presidents and families who lived in the White House. She also wrote numerous works of fiction, primarily murder mysteries set in the Washington area, remaining active into her 80s.

Margaret married Clifton Daniel, a New York Times reporter and later managing editor of that paper, in 1956. They had four children – all boys.  Margaret was 83 when she died in 2008.  


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