Elizabeth "Bess" Wallace, First Lady

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Elizabeth "Bess" Virgina Truman (Wallace)

Also Known As: "/Bess/", "Bess"
Birthdate: (97)
Birthplace: Independence, Jackson, Missouri
Death: October 18, 1982 (97)
Independence, Jackson, Missouri
Place of Burial: Independence, Jackson, MO, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of David Willcock Wallace and Margaret Elizabeth "Madge" Wallace
Wife of Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the USA
Mother of Margaret Truman Daniel

Occupation: First Lady
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Elizabeth "Bess" Wallace, First Lady


Whistle-stopping in 1948, President Harry Truman often ended his campaign talk by introducing his wife as "the Boss" and his daughter, Margaret, as "the Boss's Boss," and they smiled and waved as the train picked up steam. The sight of that close-knit family gallantly fighting against such long odds had much to do with his surprise victory at the polls that November.

Strong family ties in the southern tradition had always been important around Independence, Missouri, where a baby girl was born to Margaret ("Madge") Gates and David Wallace on February 13, 1885. Christened Elizabeth Virginia, she grew up as "Bess." Harry Truman, whose family moved to town in 1890, always kept his first impression of her -- "golden curls" and "the most beautiful blue eyes." A relative said, "there never was but one girl in the world" for him. They attended the same schools from fifth grade through high school.

In recent years their daughter has written a vivid sketch of Bess as a girl: "a marvelous athlete--the best third baseman in Independence, a superb tennis player, a tireless ice skater--and she was pretty besides." She also had many "strong opinions....and no hesitation about stating them Missouri style--straight from the shoulder."

For Bess and Harry, World War I altered a deliberate courtship. He proposed and they became engaged before Lieutenant Truman left for the battlefields of France in 1918. They were married in June 1919; they lived in Mrs. Wallace's home, where Mary Margaret was born in 1924.

When Harry Truman became active in politics, Mrs. Truman traveled with him and shared his platform appearances as the public had come to expect a candidate's wife to do. His election to the Senate in 1934 took the family to Washington. Reluctant to be a public figure herself, she always shared his thoughts and interests in private. When she joined his office staff as a secretary, he said, she earned "every cent I pay her." His wartime role as chairman of a special committee on defense spending earned him national recognition--and a place on the Democratic ticket as President Roosevelt's fourth-term running mate. Three months after their inauguration Roosevelt was dead. On April 12, 1945, Harry Truman took the President's oath of office--and Bess, who managed to look on with composure, was the new First Lady.

In the White House, its lack of privacy was distasteful to her. As her husband put it later, she was "not especially interested" in the "formalities and pomp or the artificiality which, as we had learned..., inevitably surround the family of the President." Though she conscientiously fulfilled the social obligations of her position, she did only what was necessary. While the mansion was rebuilt during the second term, the Trumans lived in Blair House and kept social life to a minimum.

They returned to Independence in 1953. After her husband's death in 1972, Mrs. Truman continued to live in the family home. There she enjoyed visits from Margaret and her husband, Clifton Daniel, and their four sons. She died in 1982 and was buried beside her husband in the courtyard of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Elizabeth Wallace Truman was William Philo Hibbard's 4th Cousin

Early life

Elizabeth Virginia Wallace was born to David Willock Wallace (1860-1903) and his wife the former Margaret Elizabeth Gates (1862-1952) in Independence, Missouri and was known as Bessie during her childhood. Harry Truman, whose family moved to town in 1890, always kept his first impression of when he saw her at Sunday school: "Golden curls" and "the most beautiful blue eyes." A relative said, "there never was but one girl in the world" for him. They attended the same schools from fifth grade through high school.

After graduating from William Chrisman High School (then known as Independence High School) she studied at Miss Barstow's Finishing School for Girls in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1903 her father committed suicide and she returned to Independence to be with her mother.

Marriage and family

The First World War altered the Trumans' steady courtship. Lieutenant Truman proposed and they were engaged before he left for France in 1918. They were married on June 28, 1919 and lived in her mother's home. There were two stillborn children and several miscarriages before daughter Mary Margaret (1924-2008).

As Harry Truman became active in politics Bess Truman traveled with him, sharing his platform appearances as the public had come to expect of a candidate's wife. His election to the Senate in 1934 took the family to Washington, D.C.. He was elected Vice President in 1944. Upon F.D.R.'s death on April 12, 1945 Harry Truman took the presidential oath of office. Bess Truman kept her composure and became the new First Lady.

  • First Lady, born in Independence, MO. The daughter of a farmer, she and Harry Truman were childhood sweethearts; they married in 1919 in Independence, Jackson Co., MO. Although a private person, she exerted considerable influence over Truman's public career. The Trumans had one child, (Mary) Margaret Truman who after a brief career as a singer, retired to marry; later she became a writer. Following the presidency, Bess lived quietly until her death. [Source: biography.com.] Bess is buried beside her husband, Harry S. Truman, at the Truman Library, Independence, Jackson Co., MO.

For more information, click on: <a href=http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=19671>Bess Truman</a>.

First Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Virginia (Wallace) Truman is buried in the Courtyard of the Truman Presidential Library.

Elizabeth "Bess" Virginia (Wallace) Truman was First Lady of U.S. President (1945-1953) Harry S. Truman.

The American generational descent from Thomas Bliss of Hartford to First Lady Elizabeth Bess Truman with husband President Harry S. Truman is

Gen. 1: Thomas of Hartford and Margaret (Hulins) Bliss; Gen. 2: Mary (Bliss) and Cornet Joseph Parsons; Gen. 3: Joseph Jr. and Elizabeth (Strong) Parsons; Gen. 4: Abigail (Parsons) and Lt. Ebenezer Clark; Gen. 5: Ebenezer Jr. and Jerusha (Russell) Clark; Gen. 6: Ebenezer III and Eunice (Pomeroy) Clark; Gen. 7: Jerusha Russell (Clark) and Samuel E. Gates; Gen. 8: George Williams and Sarah D. (Todd) Gates: Gen. 9: George Porterfield Elizabeth (Emery) Gates: Gen. 10: Margaret Elizabeth (Gates) and David Willcock Wallace; Gen. 11: First Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Virginia (Wallace) and President Harry S. Truman.

First Lady "Bess" Truman and Floyd Bliss Hanson are 9th Cousins, and Bliss Descendants.

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Elizabeth "Bess" Wallace, First Lady's Timeline

February 13, 1885
Independence, Jackson, Missouri
February 17, 1924
Age 39
Independence, Jackson County, MO, USA
October 18, 1982
Age 97
Independence, Jackson, Missouri
Independence, Jackson, MO, USA