Margaret Truman Daniel dies

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Margaret Truman Daniel, the only child of former U.S. president and famously proud father Harry Truman who became a author of popular murder mysteries, died on Tuesday at age 83, the Truman Library said.

(From right), former president Harry S. Truman, his wife Bess Truman, and his daughter Margaret Truman are seen in a 1951 photo from the U.S. National Archives. REUTERS/National Archives/Handout

Daniel, a long-time New York resident, died in a care facility in Chicago from complications from an infection contracted recently, said library director Michael Devine.

After living for decades in the same New York apartment, she moved to Chicago to be closer to the eldest of her four sons, Clifton, Devine said in a telephone interview from the Independence, Missouri, library.

Margaret Truman did not let being the president’s daughter keep her from pursuing first a singing career and then one as a mystery writer that took off after her father’s death in 1972.

It was her singing and his fatherly protection that ignited President Truman’s well-known temper, leading him to write one of the most famous presidential letters in history.

After Washington Post music critic Paul Hume panned one of her vocal recitals -- “Miss Truman cannot sing very well” -- Truman responded from the White House that the review was “poppycock” and the critic was a “frustrated old man” who was “off the beam.”

“Some day I hope to meet you,” the president wrote Hume, ignoring the fact the critic had called his daughter “extremely attractive.” “When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

Margaret Truman continued her musical career for several more years, and became a radio and television host.

Later she turned to writing books. First they were books about her family and life in the White House but beginning in 1980 she established her own genre, Washington-based mystery novels.

The titles of these 19 novels, many still in print, all included a famous landmark in the U.S. capital such as “Murder in the White House,” “Murder in the Supreme Court” and later, when a political scandal had made it one of the most well-known buildings in the country, “Murder at the Watergate.” “Murder on K Street” was published last year.

“The reviewers praised her descriptions of the Washington social scene, and the places she described were dead-on,” Devine said. “She bumped somebody off in just about every public building in Washington.”


Margaret Truman was born February 17, 1924, in Independence, Missouri, and moved to Washington a decade later when her father was elected to the U.S. Senate.

By the time she graduated from George Washington University in 1946, her father had become president and he delivered the commencement address and handed her diploma.

She took her first voice lesson when she was 16 and made her concert debut singing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on a nationwide radio hookup in 1947.

Her singing career continued for the next decade with numerous concerts, including one at Carnegie Hall in New York, and appearances on television shows like Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town” program.

In 1955, she substituted for Edward R. Murrow on his popular “Person to Person” show and interviewed her parents after they had moved out of the White House. She became a radio program host, interviewing prominent writers on a feature called “Authors in the News.”

In 1956, she married Clifton Daniel, who in the 1960s would become managing editor of The New York Times. He died in 2000, the same year their son William was killed in a New York traffic accident -- dealing her a double blow, Devine said.

She was an avid supporter of presidential libraries, including her father’s, in partnership with other children of former presidents.

She is survived by three sons and five grandchildren.

Editing by David Wiessler