The Death and Funeral of Harry S. Truman
“The Nation to which he gave so much will honor his memory in admiration and respect, and the other countries for which he helped keep freedom alive will remember his name with gratitude.” –President Richard Nixon (December 26, 1972)
President Harry S. Truman died at 7:50 a.m. on December 26, 1972. The nation mourned, honoring the 33rd President with military pomp and memorial services at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum. His widow, former First Lady Bess Truman, and their daughter, Margaret Truman Daniel, chose to keep the ceremonies subdued and close to home instead of holding a full state funeral in Washington, D.C. Some 75,000 mourners passed through the Truman Library as he lay in state on December 27 and 28. Funeral services and burial in the Truman Library courtyard, in a spot he personally selected, were conducted on December 28.
Since that moment and those ceremonies, President Truman’s reputation for decisiveness and straight talk have made him one of the most respected and frequently quoted former Presidents. His legacy includes a host of critical decisions that still shape the world today.
The Truman Library’s online photo database includes nearly 200 photos documenting the death and funeral of President Truman. We have collected 24 of our favorites.
The President Is Dead
Following the death of former president Harry S. Truman, the flag is lowered, shades are drawn and the street is barricaded at 219 N. Delaware, the family home in Independence, Missouri. (December 26, 1972)
Officers from the United States Fifth Army and Truman Library staff gather in the Library’s Research Room to discuss procedures and preparations for the funeral of former President Harry S. Truman. (December 26, 1972)
The body of former President Harry S. Truman arrives at the George C. Carson Funeral Home in Independence, Missouri. (December 26, 1972)
Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Carson (Carson Funeral Home) and staff member Helen Luckey (standing) discuss details of the funeral of former President Harry S. Truman. (December 27, 1972)
Elizabeth Costin Safly participates in arrangements for the funeral of former President Harry S. Truman. (December 27, 1972)
Arrival of the Hearse
The hearse carrying the flag-draped casket of former president Harry S. Truman arrives at the Truman Library. (December 27, 1972)
Members of the honor guard carry the casket of former president Harry S. Truman up the steps of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. The casket lay in state in the lobby of the Library until the funeral on December 28, 1972. The pallbearers are, front to rear right side: casket bearer team leader Sgt. Lyle Gray, Army; Seaman Richard Seid, Navy; S/Sgt. Bill Taylor, Air Force; Sgt. Tim Phillips, Marines. Front to rear left side: Sgt. Juan Escobar, Marines; Seaman James Brainard III, Coast Guard; Seaman David Elmendorf, Navy; Sgt. Greg Kulick, Army. (December 27, 1972)
First Family Farewells
Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his family arrive to pay respects to the late former president Harry S. Truman. With former President Johnson are his wife, Lady Bird Johnson (center), daughter Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and her husband Charles Robb, and daughter Luci Baines Johnson Nugent with her husband Patrick J. Nugent. (December 27, 1972).
President Richard M. Nixon and Patricia Nixon arrive at the Truman Library to pay their respects to former president Harry S. Truman. (December 27, 1972)
President Richard Nixon (second from left) speaks with Margaret Truman Daniel (left) while E. Clifton Daniel, Jr. (third from left) and First Lady Pat Nixon (far right), look on. They are standing outside the Truman family home in Independence, Missouri. All others in the background are unidentified. (December 27, 1972)
A Grateful Nation
Crowds of people fill the driveway of the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, to pay their respects to former President Harry S. Truman as his body lay in state in the lobby of the Library. The line continues along United States Highway 24 in front of the Library. (December 27, 1972)
Kansas City Area Transportation Authority buses shuttle mourners from the sports complex to the Truman Library. In order to meet the demand, buses run as often as every three minutes. (December 27, 1972)
An estimated 75,000 citizens stand in line for an average of two hours to pay their last respects to the former WWI captain, judge, senator, vice-president and commander in chief. (December 27, 1972)
The members of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, send a floral tribute to their beloved Captain Harry, who brought every boy home from the WWI battlefields of France. (December 28, 1972)
Photographers and television camera crews set up cameras on the roof of the Truman Library during preparations for President Truman’s funeral. (December 26, 1972)
A view of the Truman Library courtyard, prepared for the former president’s burial. (December 28, 1972)
Father John H. Lembcke, Jr. (in white robes) walks out to the grave site for former President Harry S. Truman in the courtyard of the Truman Library. Military personnel are walking behind Father Lembcke, carrying Mr. Truman’s casket. Other invited guests are lined up in front of wreaths and floral tributes in the foreground. (December 28, 1972)
Mrs. Bess Wallace Truman and the Daniel family arrive at the grave site. (December 28, 1972)
Service members prepare to fold the flag draped over President Truman’s casket. (December 28, 1972)
Father John H. Lembcke, Jr. presides as officiating minister. Bess W. Truman and Margaret Truman Daniel are seated near the head of the casket. An unidentified man presents the folded United States flag that lay on Mr. Truman’s casket to Mrs. Truman. (December 28, 1972)
Members of the military prepare for the firing of the cannons for the 21-gun salute. (December 28, 1972)
Reverberations from the 21-gun salute damaged just one window in the vicinity: the plate glass window in the office where President Truman worked, nearly continuously, during his post-presidency. “Truman’s Working Office,” preserved as it was on December 26, 1972, may be viewed with Museum admission at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum.
All images featured in this post are part of the extensive online photography collection of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
Related articles by Brian Burnes:
– “Truman’s Death”
– “Truman’s Funeral”
View more photos from this album on Flickr.