Truman, Margaret (1924—)

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Truman, Margaret (1924—)

American first daughter and writer. Name variations: Margaret Truman Daniel. Born Mary Margaret Truman in Independence, Missouri, on February 17, 1924; daughter of Harry S. Truman (president of the United States) and Bess Truman (1885–1982); attended Gunston Hall in Washington, D.C.; George Washington University, B.A., 1946; married (E.) Clifton Daniel (an award-winning foreign correspondent and managing editor of The New York Times; died February 2000); children: Clifton Truman Daniel (b. around 1957); William Wallace Daniel (died on September 4, 2000, age 41); Harrison Gates Daniel; Thomas Washington Daniel.

The much-desired, only child of Bess Truman and Harry S. Truman, Margaret Truman was born in 1924, after Bess had suffered a number of miscarriages. Margaret attended public school in Independence until 1934, when her father was elected to the U.S. Senate, then transferred to Gunston Hall, a private school for girls in Washington. She received an associate's degree from George Washington University in 1944, the year her father was elected vice president, then went on to receive her B.A. degree from that institution in 1946. Her father, having succeeded to the presidency after the sudden death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, delivered the commencement address and presented her with her degree. Margaret viewed her brief residency in the White House as a mixed blessing; she enjoyed meeting interesting people, but deplored the lack of privacy.

A lover of music like her father, who played the piano, Margaret had studied voice from the age of 16, and following college, she embarked on a concert career. Truman made her professional singing debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, on March 16, 1947, on its weekly network radio program, which her parents listened to from the "Little White House" in Key West, Florida. That August, she made her stage debut with Eugene Ormandy and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony, and then toured some 30 cities across the country. Because of the prominence of her family, Margaret found it difficult to obtain an objective evaluation of her talent; most reviewers tended to hedge on the side of kindness, although a few of the bolder among them questioned her proficiency.

In 1948, Margaret took a detour from singing to assist her father with his reelection campaign, then began performing again in 1949. Coached by Metropolitan Opera star Helen Traubel , she made a television appearance on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" in 1950 and undertook another concert tour in 1951. A now-legendary exchange between Harry Truman and Washington Post music critic Paul Hume may have been instrumental in bringing the curtain down on Margaret's singing career, which ended shortly after her last tour. In a review of her concert in Washington, D.C., on December 5, 1950, Hume praised her personality but added that she "cannot sing very well" and "she is flat a good deal of the time." The president was incensed. "I have just read your lousy review," he wrote. "I never met you, but if I do you'll need a new nose."

After giving up singing, Margaret conducted her own radio show, "Authors in the News," for seven years, and also co-hosted the radio show "Weekday," with Mike Wallace. Allen Ludden, the producer, called her "a joy to work with, a nice, dignified, kind of square lady who was very good on the show." In 1955, substituting for Edward R. Murrow on his "Person to Person," she interviewed her parents.

On April 21, 1956, Margaret Truman married Clifton Daniel, then a foreign correspondent for The New York Times who would subsequently serve as its managing editor. Between 1957 and 1966, the couple had four sons: Clifton Truman, William Wallace, Harrison Gates, and Thomas Washington. Having written her autobiography, Margaret Truman's Own Story, during her engagement, Margaret continued to write following her marriage, turning out biographies of her parents, Harry S. Truman (1973) and Bess W. Truman (1986), as well as a series of mystery novels, all set in Washington, D.C. The latest of the novels, 14 in all, came out in 1999. She also wrote a collective biography, Women of Courage (1976), which includes chapters on Kate Barnard, Prudence Crandall, Elizabeth Blackwell, Margaret Chase Smith , and Mother Jones .

Margaret has served on the board of directors of the Harry S. Truman Library Institute, a non-profit corporation formed to support the library's educational activities, and was the secretary to the board of trustees of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, which provides assistance to student pursuing careers in Government. In 1983 and 1984, she served on the Executive Committee of the Truman Centennial Committee, which planned the observance of the 100th anniversary of her father's birth. She was also the 1984 recipient of the Harry S. Truman Public Service Award, presented annually by the city of Independence to an outstanding American citizen.

Aside from a brief period in the 1970s, when Clifton was chief of The New York Times' Washington Bureau, the Daniels made their home in New York City, where Margaret still resides. Her husband died in February 2000, and later that year, on September 4, the couple's second son William, a well-respected social worker who worked with the mentally ill, died at age 41 after being struck by a taxi cab on Manhattan's Park Avenue. The Daniels' eldest son Clifton told an interviewer that although his mother was devastated by the deaths of her husband and son in such a short period of time, "she has her chin up."


Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography Yearbook 1987. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1987.

"Private Citizen," in People Weekly. September 25, 2000.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Truman, Margaret (1924—)

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