Harry S. Truman: The Man from Independence

By William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview
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TRUMAN AND THE COURTS

President Truman's approach to the judicial area of government may be discerned in a number of ways. In general his attitude in part may be explained by reviewing his early background as a public official dealing with many programs related to personal values and the role of government, matters which could become the subject of litigation in the courts. A president's actions must take into account the reaction of the courts.

The first chapter in this section is indeed of a more general nature on Mr. Truman's values as displayed in his work as a county official in Missouri. Since his title as judge actually signified the chief county executive official, it certainly should not be connected to the judiciary. Yet his experience in this role gave him an opportunity to work out his initial conceptual mold on the role of government as it might later emerge when as president his actions would be subject to court review.

Next we have a case study in which one of President Truman's most significant executive actions was reversed by the Supreme Court. His seizure of the steel industry in 1952 during a labor dispute is analyzed here on the basis of several rationales but principally through the model of James David Barber centering on presidential personality. The court decision went against the President with Tom Clark, a former attorney general in his cabinet, included in the majority opinion.

After he left the White House, Harry Truman frequently stirred as much controversy in recalling presidential action as he did with comments while in office. Mr. Truman once characterized his appointment of Tom Clark as his biggest mistake as president. The last paper in this section explores that provocative evaluation and seeks to shed the light of perspective on it.

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