When you commit to writing a book, you begin an unpredictable and engrossing journey that can be simultaneously frustrating and exhilarating. Along the way—if you're lucky—a handful of people contribute to your ultimate success … a book that, you hope, will inform readers for generations to come. In my case, during the seven-year-long period in which I documented Harry Truman's remarkable political courage as the United States' pioneering civil rights president, I was aided by a diverse group of people to whom I am indebted.
The initial catalyst for my book on Harry Truman's grossly underappreciated civil rights crusade was David McCullough's book Truman. During my first year of teaching as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University in 1993, David McCullough joined me in my classroom and shared his views about Harry Truman. McCullough's insights prompted me to do long-overdue research on the thirty-third president—a man I had cavalierly dismissed as a squeaky-voiced high school-educated presidential accident.
Because civil rights was an important element of my course at Georgetown on the modern American presidents, I determined to dig much deeper into the motivation for Harry Truman's politically high risk efforts to make racial equality a reality for the country's thirteen million African American citizens in 1946.
Following David McCullough's appearance as a colecturer before my students at Georgetown, Rex Scouten subsequently lectured with me about Harry Truman for the next six years. Rex Scouten began his remarkable White House career as a young U. S. Secret Service agent working on President Truman's personal detail; using his direct contact with the thirty-third president as a base, Rex generously shared his insights about this very special president—the first of ten presidents whom he served before retiring in 1997 as the curator of the White House. Importantly, Rex also guided me to others, such as Truman presidential aide George Elsey whose precise recollections about his extensive firsthand dealings with President Truman proved critical to my efforts to document the federal civil rights crusade that Harry Truman stubbornly launched shortly after he inherited the presidency from Franklin Roosevelt.