Harry Truman's 1948 Presidential
Campaign in Uvalde and San Antonio

Harry Truman and Jack Garner in Uvalde. San Antonio Light front page, 9/27/1948
When Truman arrived in El Paso in September 1948, he was the first Democratic presidential hopeful to feel the need to campaign in Texas, due in large part to the Dixiecrat defections led by Strom Thurmond. Only a few hundred people came to see the seventeen car train in Del Rio, but it was 1:30 AM, and Truman was asleep. It was a different scene in Uvalde at 7:15 AM the next day, Sunday September 27. There he was met by a crowd of 12,000. His old friend, former Vice-President John Nance Garner, met him at the depot and the two, plus entourage, including Texas Senator Sam Rayburn and Governor Beauford Jester, went for breakfast at Garner's nearby residence. When Truman had entered the senate under something of a cloud, Garner had showed Truman every courtesy, and despite his antipathy towards Franklin Roosevelt, whom he felt had cheated him of his own chance to run for the presidency in 1940, "Cactus Jack," as Garner was called, remained friendly with Truman. In fact Truman and he had met on a train in Uvalde when Truman was on a similar campaign swing when running for the vice-presidency four years earlier, in 1940, although that was a much more muted meeting. Truman would return to Uvalde eleven years later to join in Garner's 80th birthday celebrations.
Southern Pacific steam locomotive 709, which pulled Truman's POTUS (President Of The United States) presidential election train from El Paso to San Antonio in September 1948. "POTUS" then headed north to Austin, Temple, Waco, etc on the MK&T.
 
The "Ferdinand Magellan" presidential railroad car at the Gold Coast Railroad History Museum in Miami, Florida
When the presidential train arrived in San Antonio, it was greeted by a tumultuous crowd. It was almost a perfect day, cloudless yet only 81 degrees, falling to 51 degrees overnight. The first person on board was former San Antonio congressman Maury Maverick. It was estimated Truman was seen by some 200,000 people including a very young Ira Lott, whose father took him to see an actual sitting US president. The presidential car, the heavily armored "Ferdinand Magellan," built for Franklin Roosevelt, stopped, as planned, some distance from Sunset Station, at the intersection of Wyoming Street, where the Alamodome now stands. While FDR preferred a sedate pace of only 35 MPH, Truman, whose first job after high school was for the Missouri Pacific, and who remained enamored of all things railroad for the rest of his life, preferred 80 MPH. The Southern Pacific 709 was more than capable and as the train, denoted as "POTUS" (President Of The United States) had automatic clearance over all other trains, passenger and freight, he was able to get his wish all along his vast journey of over 20,000 miles. While the SP 709 was scrapped in 1955, the Ferninand Magellan presidential car is on display at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami Florida.
Harry Truman, Texas Governor Beauford Jester and San Antonio Mayor Alfred Callaghan in car at the Alamo. San Antonio Express, May 27 1948
 
Harry Truman receiving a sombrero from Ramon Galindo of the San Antonio Mexican Chamber of Commerce. San Antonio Express front page, 9/27/1948
Truman declined to campaign on the sabbath, so his three speeches in San Antonio were brief and anodyne. His first stop was Sunday service at the First baptist Church. From there he went to Milam Park and the the Old Spanish Governor's Palace, where he threw a coin into the fountain for good luck. When asked what he had wished for, he said it was not for what most people would have thought but actually, for a world at peace. Since the Berlin airlift was at a crucial point, this was well received. After a visit to the Alamo, where he made only a brief comment from a dais erected for the occasion, he had lunch with a select group of only forty people. The big event came later in the evening before six hundred invitees. Once again he did not mention the election campaign. There was no such embargo on Sam Rayburn, the former House Speaker, and another long time friend of Truman, whose speech was what the more partisan folks in the crowd wanted to hear.
Time photo of Harry Truman on rear of train during 1948 presidential election campaign
 
Time photo of Harry Truman on rear of train during 1948 presidential election campaign
Following the event, the Trumans, his campaign staff and the reporters, were taken to the Missouri Kansas & Texas railroad station where the train awaited to take him north to Austin, Temple, Waco, Fort Worth and Dallas. At some point he was joined by a Texas congressman making his first senate bid, one Lyndon Baines Johnson. Truman announced his support for his candidacy, despite the cloud surrounding LBJ's surprise upset victory of only 79 votes out of millions cast, and allegations of ballot rigging. Truman's political instincts usually served him well. When no one else believed he could win in 1948, he never had any doubt. Though advised not to campaign in Texas, he was met by throngs everywhere he went and carried the state handily, despite the Dixiecrats.
Time photo of Harry Truman on rear of train during 1948 presidential election campaign
 
Time photo of Harry Truman on rear of train during 1948 presidential election campaign

 

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