State Historical Society of Missouri
President Harry S. Truman:
Independent Baptist From Independence
BY ROBERT BOLT*
A story that made the rounds when the Trumans occupied the
White House had a distinguished woman hurrying to the Executive
Mansion, urging Bess Truman to intercede with her husband concerning
his language. The concerned lady had become aware that the president
had labeled a comment he had heard as "a bunch of horse manure." In
response to the woman, who thought the statement vulgar, Mrs.
Truman calmly replied, "You don't know how many years it took to
tone it down to that."1 Anecdotes such as this, Truman's penchant to
excoriate certain individuals and the fact that he on occasion interjected
"damns" and "hells" into his public utterances have led some to
♦Robert Bolt is a professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
He holds the B.A. degree from Calvin College, the M.A. degree from the University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the Ph.D. degree from Michigan State University, East
1 J. B. West, Upstairs at the White House: My Life With the First Ladies (New
York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, Inc., 1973), 78.