Staff Photo Rod Aydelotte
A Waco High School librarian was weeding out old, little-read books from the stacks on Thursday when she paused at an autobiography of Harry S. Truman.
The librarian, Carri Nowak, opened to the title page of “Mr. Citizen” and saw the publication date: 1960. And under the title was an autograph that appeared to be from the former president himself.
She called the school district’s library specialist, Lisa Monthie, who at first thought she was saying a student had signed the book.
The librarian first thought was to weed the book.
That discovery led to a bit of sleuthing by Waco Independent School District officials. Monthie called Waco ISD social studies content specialist Robert Glinski, who contacted the director of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. The museum confirmed the signature appeared to be written by hand, not mass-produced.
Signed memoirs by Truman are not exceedingly rare, though they are not commonplace either. Copies start at about $200 at online booksellers.
What was baffling was that such a prize book ended up in a high school library, with the front card showing it was being checked out as early as 1962.
The front card shows it was part of the collection of Richfield High School, which opened in 1961 at the current Waco High School campus at 2020 N. 42nd St. The schools merged in 1986.
The last few checkout dates do not include the year, but it appears that the book has not been checked out in more than 30 years.
Glinski is trying to discover if Truman signed the book when he visited Waco in October 1960, soon after the book was published.
In town for a tour supporting presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, Truman delivered a barn-burning speech against religious bigotry.
After spending the night at the downtown Roosevelt Hotel and having a steak dinner at the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas, Truman headed to the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum for a speech in front of 5,000, the Tribune-Herald reported at the time. Along the way, he reminisced fondly of his previous visit to Waco as a sitting president in 1947, when he received an honorary doctorate from Baylor University.
At the coliseum, Truman chided Protestant preachers for telling their flocks not to vote for a Catholic candidate. He said he would have “exploded” if a Catholic priest “had stood up in church and said I ought not to be elected because I was a Baptist.” He said “religious bigotry is a regular earmark of a dictatorship.”
Meanwhile, the Waco Baptist Association met to pass a resolution reprimanding Truman for “his conduct and his manner of speech as a Christian, a Baptist and a guest in our midst.” The association also resolved to “encourage our churches and people consider seriously the men nominated for the presidency as to their allegiances other than to the Constitution of the United States.”