TRUMAN AND PENDERGAST by Robert H. Ferrell

TRUMAN AND PENDERGAST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A study of Truman’s career from his 1922 start in politics through his surprising reelection to the US Senate in 1940, focusing on his relationship with the corrupt Pendergast political machine that ruled Kansas City, Mo. Presidential scholar Ferrell (History emeritus/Indiana Univ.; The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge, 1998, etc.) depicts Thomas J. Pendergast finding many electable assets in the feisty Truman after appointing him to a rural office not directly involved in the city machine. Honest, principled, hardworking, and optimistic, Truman was a WWI veteran who had soldiered with Pendergast’s nephew; he was also a Mason, a Baptist, a farmer, a businessman, and a regular guy with many loyal friends. Popular with the electorate, plain Harry performed well in his political jobs while saving taxpayer funds. He was, however, taken by surprise when Boss Pendergast was sent to prison in 1939 for tax evasion. (See The Kansas City Investigation, p. 775.) After his 1935 election to the US Senate, Truman had to overcome claims by his opponents that he was “the senator from Pendergast.” One of Ferrell’s anecdotes shows the new senator (“the country boy”) being importuned by President Roosevelt (the sophisticated aristocrat) to change his vote in favor of FDR’s compliant choice for Senate majority leader, Alben W. Barkley; Truman refused and voted for opposing candidate Pat Harrison. The “Comeback Kid” of his time, Truman overcame his underdog status in a tough campaign by going to the people and traveling extensively to win reelection to the Senate in 1940—tactics he would employ with similar success in the presidential race of 1948. Enhanced by fresh research, this is a valuable behind-the-scenes account of the rise of a plainspoken, no-nonsense, ordinary man to extraordinary levels of power and accomplishment.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8262-1225-5
Page count: 184pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1999




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