Harry Truman campaigns in Seattle for John F. Kennedy on October 27, 1960.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 6/02/2004
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 4307
On October 27, 1960, former president Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) urges voters in Seattle to vote for Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) in the upcoming presidential election. Before a breakfast meeting with a group of labor leaders, Truman walks the streets of Seattle, both for exercise and to speak with the public.

Truman spent the night in the Presidential Suite in The Olympic Hotel. The 76-year-old statesman awoke early in the morning on October 27 for his morning constitutional -- a brisk walk around downtown Seattle.

He left his suite at 7:03 a.m., telling reporters that he was three minutes late because he had been "talking to Scoop Jackson, and couldn't get him off the phone. I told Scoop he didn't need to come here because I was already converted."

Walking and Talking

Leaving the hotel, Truman walked north along 5th Avenue to Pike Street, west to 4th Avenue, and down 4th to Spring Street before returning to the hotel. Surprised passersby greeted Mr. Truman, and many shook his hand. Truman noted that, "People are nice. I don't want anything and don't have anything to give away, but they're nice and I appreciate it."

He talked with reporters about the Kennedy campaign, counting off the nine states he had already visited while stumping for Kennedy. "I don't know whether I'm doing any good," he said, "but I'm giving it a good try." He wouldn't predict the outcome of the election, claiming that he didn't like "political prophets and pollsters but they have their right to their opinion, same as do I."

Along the way, Truman recalled previous visits to Seattle, including the time he dedicated a state rehabilitation center on 4th Avenue in 1948. He stopped in front of the new downtown library to admire its architecture, but pointed to the United States Courthouse and said, "There's a building I like. I held lots of hearings in there during the war." During World War II, Truman had chaired the Senate's Special Subcommittee to Investigate National Defense Contracts.

Harry Gives 'em Hell

Back at The Olympic Hotel, Truman had a breakfast meeting with more than 50 of the state's top labor leaders. He let them know that before he left Missouri, his wife warned him to clean up his language. Recently, while visiting in Texas, he told voters that if they did not vote for Kennedy, "they could go to hell."

He didn't tell local labor leaders that, but instead warned them that if they didn't support Kennedy, "You'll get what's coming to you. I won't feel sorry for you."

Afterwards, Truman got a haircut at the hotel's barbershop while chatting with Senator Warren Magnuson (1905-1989). From there, he left to give a speech at the University of Washington. The next day he spoke in Tacoma.

Sources: "Truman Takes Brisk Walk Here After Slight Delay," The Seattle Times , October 27, 1960, p. 1; "Truman Tones Down Salty Language," Ibid., October 27, 1960, p. 1.

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