Margaret Truman

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Margaret Truman
Truman in 1951
Truman in 1951
BornMary Margaret Truman
(1924-02-17)February 17, 1924
Independence, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJanuary 29, 2008(2008-01-29) (aged 83)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Resting placeHarry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Independence, Missouri, U.S.
OccupationSinger, writer, historian
Alma materGeorge Washington University (BA)
GenreMystery fiction, biography, autobiography
Years active1947–2008
(m. 1956; died 2000)
Children4, including Clifton Truman Daniel

Mary Margaret Truman Daniel (February 17, 1924 – January 29, 2008) was an American classical soprano, actress, journalist, radio and television personality, writer, and New York socialite. She was the only child of President Harry S. Truman and First Lady Bess Truman. While her father was president during the years 1945 to 1953, Margaret regularly accompanied him on campaign trips, such as the 1948 countrywide whistle-stop campaign lasting several weeks. She also appeared at important White House and political events during those years, being a favorite with the media.[1]

After graduating from George Washington University in 1946, she embarked on a career as a coloratura soprano, beginning with a concert appearance with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1947. She appeared in concerts with orchestras throughout the United States and in recitals throughout the U.S. through 1956. She made recordings for RCA Victor, and made television appearances on programs like What's My Line? and The Bell Telephone Hour.[2]

In 1957, one year after her marriage, Truman abandoned her singing career to pursue a career as a journalist and radio personality, when she became the co-host of the program Weekday with Mike Wallace. She also wrote articles as an independent journalist, for a variety of publications in the 1960s and 1970s. She later became the successful author of a series of murder mysteries, and a number of works on U.S. First Ladies and First Families, including well-received biographies of her father, President Harry S. Truman and mother Bess Truman.

She was married to journalist Clifton Daniel, managing editor of The New York Times. The couple had four sons, and were prominent New York socialites who often hosted events for the New York elite.[2]

Early life[edit]

Mary Margaret was born at 219 North Delaware Street in Independence, Missouri, on February 17, 1924,[3] and was christened Mary Margaret Truman (for her aunt Mary Jane Truman and maternal grandmother Margaret Gates Wallace), but was called Margaret from early childhood. She took voice and piano lessons as a child (at the encouragement of her father, who famously played piano) and attended public school in Independence until her father's 1934 election to the United States Senate, after which her education was split between public schools in Independence and Gunston Hall School, a private school for girls in Washington, D.C.[4]

In 1942, she matriculated at George Washington University, where she was a member of Pi Beta Phi,[5] and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and international relations in 1946.[4] In June 1944, she christened the battleship USS Missouri at Brooklyn Navy Yard, and spoke again in 1986 at the ship's recommissioning. She studied singing with Estelle Liebling, the voice teacher of Beverly Sills, in New York City.[6]

On April 12, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. His Vice President Harry Truman assumed the presidency when Margaret was 21.



Truman with her mother in Washington DC in 1948
Truman portrait by Greta Kempton, c. 1947

When Truman was 16 years old, she began taking voice lessons in Independence from Mrs. Thomas J. Strickler, a family friend. After classical vocal training, Truman's singing career began with a debut radio recital in March 1947, followed shortly thereafter with her professional concert debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She sang professionally for the next decade, appearing with major American orchestras and giving several national concert tours.[2] Some of her credits include concert appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the National Symphony Orchestra, the NBC Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Saint Louis Symphony among others. While she never performed in staged operas, she did perform opera arias in concert. Her performances were mainly of both sacred and secular art songs, lieder, and works from the concert soprano repertoire. In 1951 and 1952, RCA Victor issued two albums by Truman, one of classical selections, the other of American art songs.[2] She also made recordings of German lieder for NBC. A 1951 Time Magazine cover[7] featured Truman with a single musical note floating by her head. She performed on stage, radio, and television through 1956.[2]

At the beginning of her career, critical reviews of Truman's singing were positive, polite or diplomatic in tone, with some later reviewers speculating that negative opinions were held back out of deference for her father as a current sitting United States President.[2] This practice was broken in 1950 when Washington Post music critic Paul Hume wrote that Truman was "extremely attractive on the stage... [but] cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time. And still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish." The review angered President Truman (who was dealing that same day with the sudden death of his childhood friend and White House Press Secretary Charlie Ross[8]), who wrote to Hume, "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!"[9] Hume wanted to publish the letter, but Washington Post publisher Philip Graham vetoed the idea. However, Hume showed the letter to a number of his colleagues, including Milton Berliner, music critic of the rival Washington Times Herald, which published a story. The Post was then forced to acknowledge the letter, which drew international headlines, becoming a minor scandal for the Truman administration. Reviewers after that felt more free to be honest in their reviews of her performances, with mixed criticism for her singing thereafter.[2]

Acting, radio, and journalism[edit]

Truman's professional acting debut occurred April 26, 1951. She co-starred with James Stewart in the "Jackpot" episode of Screen Directors Playhouse on NBC radio.[10] On March 17, 1952, Truman was guest soloist on The Railroad Hour in a presentation of the operetta Sari.[11]

Truman also performed on the NBC Radio program The Big Show. There she met writer Goodman Ace, who gave her advice and pointers; Ace became a lifelong friend, advising Truman even after The Big Show.[12][13] She became part of the team of NBC Radio's Weekday show that premiered in 1955, shortly after its Monitor program made its debut.[14] Paired with Mike Wallace, she presented news and interviews aimed at a female listening audience.[13][15]

She appeared several times as a panelist (and twice as a mystery guest) on the game show What's My Line? and guest-starred[clarification needed] more than once on NBC's The Martha Raye Show.

In 1957, she sang and played piano on The Gisele MacKenzie Show.[16]


Truman's full-length biography of her father, published shortly before his 1972 death, was critically acclaimed. She also wrote a personal biography of her mother and histories of the White House and its inhabitants (including first ladies and pets). Truman published regularly into her eighties.


From 1980 to 2011, 25 books in the Capital Crimes series of murder mysteries, most set in and around Washington, D.C., were published under Margaret Truman's name.

Professional ghostwriter Donald Bain (1935–2017) acknowledged in the March 14, 2014, issue of Publishers Weekly that he had written "27 novels in the Margaret Truman Capital Crimes series (mostly bylined by Truman, my close collaborator – my name is on only the most recent entries, released after her death)."[17]

In 2000, another ghostwriter, William Harrington, had claimed in a self-written obituary before his apparent suicide that Margaret Truman and others were his clients.[18]


She served on the board of directors for the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum and the Board of Governors of the Roosevelt Institute, and served as a Trustee for her alma mater.[19]

Personal life[edit]

On April 21, 1956, Truman married Clifton Daniel, a reporter for The New York Times and later its managing editor, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Independence; he died in 2000. They had four sons:

Popular culture[edit]

Italian dress designer Micol Fontana, who designed Truman’s wedding gown, was invited to be a surprise guest on the TV show What's My Line? in New York City, just six days before the Truman/Daniel wedding on April 21, 1956, in Independence, Missouri.

Later years and death[edit]

In later life, Truman lived in her Park Avenue home.[19] She died on January 29, 2008, in Chicago (to which she was relocating to be closer to her son Clifton). She was said to have been suffering from "a simple infection" and had been breathing with the assistance of a respirator.[23] Her ashes and those of her husband were interred in Independence in her parents' burial plot on the grounds of the Truman Library.[24]



Book Year Notes
Souvenir: Margaret Truman's Own Story 1956 OCLC 629282
White House Pets 1969 OCLC 70279
Harry S. Truman 1973 ISBN 0-688-00005-3
Women of Courage 1976 ISBN 0-688-03038-6
Letters From Father: The Truman Family's Personal Correspondence 1981 ISBN 0-87795-313-9
Bess W. Truman 1986 ISBN 0-02-529470-9
Where The Buck Stops: The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman 1989 ISBN 0-446-51494-2
First Ladies 1995 ISBN 0-679-43439-9
The President's House: 1800 to the Present 2003 ISBN 0-345-47248-9


The Capital Crimes series:

Book Year Notes
Murder in the White House 1980 ISBN 0-87795-245-0
Murder on Capitol Hill 1981 ISBN 0-87795-312-0
Murder in the Supreme Court 1982 ISBN 0-87795-384-8
Murder in the Smithsonian 1983 ISBN 0-87795-475-5
Murder on Embassy Row 1984 ISBN 0-87795-594-8
Murder at the FBI 1985 ISBN 0-87795-680-4
Murder in Georgetown 1986 ISBN 0-87795-797-5
Murder in the CIA 1987 ISBN 0-394-55795-6
Murder at the Kennedy Center 1989 ISBN 0-394-57602-0
Murder at the National Cathedral 1990 ISBN 0-394-57603-9
Murder at the Pentagon 1992 ISBN 0-394-57604-7
Murder on the Potomac 1994 ISBN 0-679-43309-0
Murder at the National Gallery 1996 ISBN 0-679-43530-1
Murder in the House 1997 ISBN 0-679-43528-X
Murder at the Watergate 1998 ISBN 0-679-43535-2
Murder at the Library of Congress 1999 ISBN 0-375-50068-5
Murder in Foggy Bottom 2000 ISBN 0-375-50069-3
Murder in Havana 2001 ISBN 0-375-50070-7
Murder at Ford's Theatre 2002 ISBN 0-345-44489-2
Murder at Union Station 2004 ISBN 0-345-44490-6
Murder at the Washington Tribune 2005 ISBN 0-345-47819-3
Murder at the Opera 2006 ISBN 0-345-47821-5
Murder on K Street 2007 ISBN 0-345-49886-0
Murder inside the Beltway 2008 ISBN 0-345-49888-7
Monument to Murder 2011 ISBN 978-0-7653-2609-6

As of 2021, six further novels in the series had been published under Truman's name as "with Donald Bain" or "with John Land."[25]


  1. ^ Truman, by David McCullough, 1992
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Margaret Truman, 83, Singer and Author". The New York Sun. January 30, 2008. Archived from the original on January 31, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  3. ^ "Margaret Truman".
  4. ^ a b "Margaret Truman Daniel bio". Truman Presidential Library. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
  5. ^ "Notable Pi Phis". Archived from the original on July 13, 2010.
  6. ^ Dean Fowler, Alandra (1994). Estelle Liebling: An exploration of her pedagogical principles as an extension and elaboration of the Marchesi method, including a survey of her music and editing for coloratura soprano and other voices (PhD). University of Arizona.
  7. ^ Time, February 26, 1951.
  8. ^ Truman, by David McCullough, 1992, Simon and Schuster
  9. ^ "Truman's Letter to Paul Hume". Truman Library, Independence Mo. December 6, 1950. Retrieved June 2, 2011. Years later Margaret Truman recalled, "I thought it was funny. Sold tickets." (Staff writer, Truman's only child dies at 83, NBC News, January 29, 2008, retrieved January 29, 2008.)
  10. ^ "Margaret Truman To Star Tonight On Radio Drama". Las Cruces Sun-News. New Mexico, Las Cruces. Las Cruces Sun-News. April 26, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved November 14, 2015 – via Open access icon
  11. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 16, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved May 23, 2015 – via Open access icon
  12. ^ Thomas, Bob (November 2, 1951). "Tallulah Bankhead Praises Margaret Truman's Talents". Reading Eagle. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  13. ^ a b House, Allan (November 11, 1955). "Margaret Truman Gets a Kick Out of Radio-TV". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  14. ^ "'Monitor' to debut on KDKA Sunday". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 10, 1955. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  15. ^ "Radio:Woman's Home Companion". Time. November 28, 1955. Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  16. ^ "The Giselle MacKenzie Show". Archived from the original on June 20, 2009. Retrieved May 15, 2009.
  17. ^ Bain, Donald (March 14, 2014). "A Novel of My Own". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  18. ^ "William G. Harrington, 68; Wrote Mysteries and Thrillers". The New York Times. November 16, 2000. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  19. ^ a b Gelder, Lawrence Van (January 29, 2008). "Margaret Truman Daniel Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  20. ^ "Truman celebrates heritage, history with grandson of US president". Kirksville Daily Express. September 15, 2011. Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  21. ^ Daniel, Clifton Truman (2009). "Adventures with Grandpa Truman". Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  22. ^ "Hit by Cab, a Grandson of Harry Truman dies". The New York Times. September 6, 2000. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  23. ^ Goldstein, Steve (January 31, 2008). "First Daughter". Obit-mag. Archived from the original on January 1, 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2010.
  24. ^ Meyer, Gene, "The ashes of Margaret Truman Daniel are put to rest in her roots", Kansas City Star, February 23, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2008.
  25. ^ "Margaret Truman Books in Order". Book Series in Order. August 12, 2015. Retrieved March 22, 2021.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Cover of Time Magazine
February 26, 1951
Succeeded by