If the title of Randy Turner's latest book brings to mind Missouri's only homegrown President, Harry S. Truman, then he's done his homework.
The full title "The Buck Starts Here! Harry S. Truman And The City of Lamar" informs the reader that the book will delve into a specific area of Truman's life - his hometown of Lamar, Missouri.
Most biographies of Truman cite Independence, Missouri as his hometown although Lamar gets a brief notation as Truman's birthplace. And, although Truman was born in Lamar, his parents moved before his first birthday so he had no memories of living there.
In fact, as readers of the book will learn, Truman's first trip back was an accident. During his first - and only -term as Jackson County Eastern District Judge, Truman was on the way to Joplin, to a convention at the Connor Hotel when he struck a pothole that damaged his car. He changed course for Lamar for repair purposes. Truman didn't linger and in a letter written to his wife, Bess, he wrote that the town hadn't changed much.
He wouldn't visit it again until 1934 when, after two terms as a Presiding Judge in Jackson County, Truman ran for a Senate seat. That summer, he twice visited Lamar while on the campaign trail.
Turner's book is not so much the story of Harry Truman but the tale of Lamar. Lamar takes center stage as the community that produced Truman and gained some small fame as Truman rose in the arena of national politics.
Although Lamar was proud of their native son, despite his brief ten months of life in the city, when Truman became Franklin Delano Roosevelt's vice-presidential candidate for his unprecedented fourth term, local citizens made a bold move. They invited Truman to accept and announce himself as the vice-presidential candidate in Lamar.
They knew it was a long shot but they sent a telegram and to their surprise, Truman accepted.
He returned to Lamar on August 31, 1944 but first he visited both Joplin and Neosho. In Neosho, he toured Camp Crowder. The next day, he arrived in Lamar where the town's population swelled by between 10 and 12 thousand. On live radio, Truman asked Americans to vote for the Roosevelt-Truman ticket.
As history shows, they won but in a matter of months, Roosevelt died and Harry Truman became President of the United States.
Turner's book is not a mere portrait of Truman as reflected in Lamar's mirror. It's as much the behind the scenes story of the Lamar community, a tale about the people of Lamar. Newspaper editor and longtime resident Arthur Aull figures prominently in the book. So do many others.
In chronicling Truman's connections to Lamar, Turner also captures the flavor of the small town. This is rural Missouri and Harry Truman's Missouri.
Truman fans will appreciate the glimpses of the man who became President but many others will also savor the Lamar he captures within the pages of the book. In the title, he echoes Truman's own words in The White House - The Buck Stops Here - but reverses it to Truman's humble beginnings.
Truman's birthplace is now a Missouri state historical site.
It's a book worth reading on multiple levels and is available on Amazon.com. It's engaging and Turner's journalist style of writing and attention to detail will hold the reader interest.
Randy Turner is a retired English teacher and a former newspaper journalist who spent more than twenty years as a reporter and editor.