Did you Know?

The “S” in Harry S Truman’s Name Does Not Need a Period

In 1949 and 1950, I attended 7th and 8th grades in Rolla at Benton School, which was built in 1909.
Main Photo
A young Georgia Sooter Beydler, photographed around the time she wrote a letter to President Truman.
Left: A young Georgia Sooter Beydler, photographed around the time she wrote a letter to President Truman. Right: The letter is a treasured possession Beydler has saved for 70 years.
Image Source
Photos Courtesy of Georgia Sooter Beydler and Sam Beydler
Opening Sentence
Missouri native Harry S Truman was our President then and my parents and I had great respect for him. One very clear memory I have of school days in Rolla is of the day — 70 years ago — I decided to write a letter to the President.

A classroom discussion about the President's name prompted me to verify what I knew as true concerning his middle initial and the names of his grandfathers. I shared this information with the class and I had the feeling not everyone believed me. So, during the first week of February 1949, I wrote and mailed a letter to the President to get confirmation. About a week later, I arrived home from school and my mother met me at the door with excitement. She said, "Look what you got in the mail today from the White House!"

We were very excited and she had scissors ready to cut open the envelope, as one certainly would not tear an envelope with a return address that said, "THE WHITE HOUSE – OFFICIAL BUSINESS." We were thrilled as we read each word, especially "My dear Georgia" as the salutation from the Secretary to the President. The letter went on to say that President Truman's parents decided to give him the initial "S," with no period, in place of a middle name. The gesture was in honor of his grandfathers, Shippe and Solomon.

Later, and with much pride, I shared the letter with my classmates at school, who also reveled in the fact that I had received a letter from the White House with confirmation about the President's middle initial. None of us knew anyone who had received a letter from the White House. As an aside, I believe most Rolla residents will notice Vichy Road was spelled "Vicky" on the envelope and letter, but our postmaster and mailman made sure this very special correspondence made it to our home.

Editor’s note: Missouri State Parks, a division of the Department of Natural Resources, operates both Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site and Harry S Truman State Park. Learn more about these and other state historic sites and state parks on the Missouri State Parks website.

Georgia Sooter Beydler and her husband, Bill, live in Springfield, Missouri, and are the grandparents of two. Two of their five children are members of the department’s Communications staff; Van Beydler, public information coordinator for the Division of Environmental Quality in Jefferson City, and Hylan Beydler, division information officer for the Missouri Geological Survey, a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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