GEORGE Howard Gillelan of Annapolis writes: "Harry S...

THEO LIPPMAN, JR.

October 26, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN, JR.

GEORGE Howard Gillelan of Annapolis writes: "Harry S. Truman has been in the news recently. What does the middle initial stand for?

"I know and you probably know. I wish you'd inform your readers about this trivium. Speaking of which, I don't think you've ever addressed the provenance of the name of Florida's Senator Connie Mack."

I'm a sucker for writers who use six-bit words like "trivium" and "provenance," so here goes:

1. The "S." in Truman's name literally stood for nothing. As David McCullough notes in his new biography "Truman," this was "a practice not unknown among the Scotch-Irish, even for first names."

The reason Harry's parents went with just an "S." was that they could not decide whether to honor his maternal grandfather -- Solomon Young -- or his paternal grandfather -- Anderson Shippe Truman. Their solution honored both.

This led to some confusion. When Chief Justice Stone swore in Truman as president in 1945, he began, "I, Harry Shippe Truman. . ." And Truman replied, "I, Harry S. Truman. . ."

In 1956, a fan of Truman's, a Polish-born electrician by the name of Andreas Malz, had his own name changed to "Harry Solomon Truman." Truman saw a news story about this, prompting him to reminisce to a friend that his opponents had once tried to stir up anti-Semitic voters against him by listing him as Harry Solomon Truman in campaign literature.

Truman once told his crony Harry Vaughan [in a letter included in "Off the Record/The private papers of Harry S. Truman," edited by Robert Ferrell]: "If I had the family name, I would be proud of it, but I haven't."

He wasn't always so proud. When he was 86, his daughter Margaret recalled in her biography "Harry S. Truman," HST told her, "To be honest, I didn't like either of the old men very much at the time. But when I looked back as an adult, my respect and admiration for them grew with every passing year."

By the way, the period after the S has often been in dispute. Purists say since S stood for nothing, it was not an initial and needed no period. But Truman usually used a period when he signed his name.

2. Connie Mack III is not the Florida senator's real name. It's Cornelius McGillicuddy III. He is named after his father, Cornelius McGillicuddy Jr., a Florida businessman, who also chose to be known as Connie Mack, and was named after his father, Cornelius McGillicuddy, the owner-manager of the old Philadelphia Athletics baseball team.

The first McGillicuddy had his name shortened by sports writers of the day, either because they could not spell "Cornelius" and/or "McGillicuddy" or because Connie Mack fit in a one-column headline and Cornelius McGillicuddy didn't.

Senator Mack, though never changing his name legally, has been "Connie Mack III" since school days. His name appears that way on the ballot.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.