Truman also evidenced his concern for improving social services by his fiscal
initiatives. In his first "budget" as Presiding Judge he increased the indigent
widows' account 20 percent, from $15,000 to $18,000 and for dependent children
60 percent, from $12,000 to $20,000.
44 Through his two terms as Presiding
Judge he steadily increased county activities in social services. Incidentally, his
increases came well before the economic collapse of the Great Depression and
the rapid failure of many private relief agencies. When he entered the court in 1923 the cost of care for the county's indigent dependents was $550,000, by 1930 it was already over one million dollars.
During his years as Presiding Judge, Harry Truman grew and matured as an
energetic, creative, bold progressive reformer. He developed into an astute political leader, intelligent in discerning structural impediments in the jelly-rigged
governmental organizations and knowledgeable enough to seek out and identify
new models and new functional organizations to cope with a rapidly evolving
world. When he left Jackson County in 1934 the county government was deeply
marked by his brief presence.
These points are detailed at length in the author's forthcoming manuscript: Harry
S. Truman: The County Years.
To date there exists no adequate narrative on Truman's first fifty years; Jonathan Daniels
, The Man of Independence ( Philadelphia, 1950) remains the sole work substantially addressing the early period of his life. Cabell Phillips, The Truman Presidency
( Baltimore, 1966) has eighteen pages on Truman before the Senate; Bert Cochran, Harry Truman and the Crisis Presidency ( New York, 1973) has forty-six pages on his
first fifty years, and Robert Donovan Conflict and Crisis ( New York, 1977) has nothing
on the pre-Senate years. The most recent work, and the only one advertised as a "full
biography," is Harold Gosnell Truman's Crisis (Westport, Conn., 1980). While that
book has ninety-five pages on Truman's early life it is almost totally devoid of new
scholarship; the chapters on the early county years are based overwhelmingly upon dated,
Richard S. Childs, "Ramshackle County Government," Outlook 113 ( May 3, 1916), 44-45. H. S. Gilbertson, The County: The Dark Continent of American Politics,
( New York, 1917); William L. Bradshaw, "The Missouri Count Court: A Study of the
Organization and Function of the County Board of Supervisors in Missouri", The University of Missouri Studies 6 ( April 1, 1931); "Steps Toward Improved County Government", Public Affairs, March 31, 1927, Kansas City Public Service Institute.
"Disjointed County Government", Public Affairs, March 10, 1927, Kansas City
Public Service Institute.
Bradshaw, "The Missouri County Court," pp. 29, 41.
Minutes-Local Government Committee, Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, March 24, 1927.
In Truman's first election in 1922 the local ballot had sixty-two names on the
Democratic ticket alone. The voter selected candidates from the State Superintendent of
Public Schools to the constable force in each of the seven townships. The constitutional