Historic Truman Courthouse
The courthouse located at 112 West Lexington Avenue in Independence served as one of the two sites that Truman worked at while serving first as eastern district judge from 1922-24, and then as presiding judge from 1926-34 in Jackson County. The first courthouse was constructed in 1836 and has been remodeled multiple times since. Truman oversaw the 1933 remodeling of the courthouse in the colonial revival style. Today the courthouse serves as the home of the Jackson County Historical Society. They provide guided tours and historical interpretation. In addition to that, they also operate a History Center, an Archives and Research Center, the Old Jail, a gallery of George Caleb Bingham paintings, and Harry S. Truman's office and courtroom. The courthouse also now houses offices for Jackson County’s Assessment, Collections and Recorder of Deeds Departments, as well as the Independence Tourism Department.
Listen to the audio to learn more about Harry S. Truman's early political life!
Truman Historic courthouse during recent renovations
Jackson County Courthouse ca 1900
Jackson County Courthouse 1960
Reproduction of an engraving of the first Jackson County courthouse in Independence, Missouri, probably dated around 1844.
Jackson County Presiding Judge Harry S. Truman is speaking at the dedication of the Jackson County Courthouse in Independence, Missouri in 1933.
President Gerald Ford speaks at the dedication of the Harry S. Truman statue in front of the Jackson County Courthouse in Independence, Missouri.
Backstory and Context
The courtroom is significant because of its connection to Truman who made his name in politics while serving as judge of Jackson County. As a county administrator, Truman improved county finances, built a county road system, and oversaw the construction of a county hospital.1 Truman’s tenure as county judge provided the foundation for his future political career as a U.S. Senator, Vice-President, and later as President.
According to Edgar Hinde, Truman friend and former postmaster for the City of Independence, Truman, “was a power in politics around here. Because everybody respected Truman. They knew he was absolutely honest and everybody had a lot of respect for him. He ran the county in the proper manner and he conducted himself in the same way. He had a lot of power, I'll tell you. He had a lot of followers.”2 This quote shows the importance and success of Truman at home and beyond and it sums up some of the strengths of his character. For these reasons and more, the courthouse has also become a symbol for many politicians trying to associate themselves with Truman. Many presidents have also given speeches on the courthouse steps.
1. "Jackson County Courthouse, Independence." Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum. Accessed August 18, 2017. https://www.trumanlibrary.org/places/in21-22a.htm.
2. "Oral History Interview with Edgar Hinde." Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum. Accessed August 18, 2017. https://www.trumanlibrary.org/oralhist/hindeeg.htm
Holmes, M. Patricia. "Jackson County Courthouse." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. October 18, 1972. https://catalog.archives.gov/OpaAPI/media/63819272/content/electronic-records/rg-079/NPS_MO/72000713.pdf.
McCullough, David. Truman. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Pasley, Jeffrey L. “Big Deal in Little Tammany: Kansas City, the Pendergast Machine, and the Liberal Transformation of the Democratic Party.” In Wide-Open Town: Kansas City in the Pendergast Era, edited by Diane Mutti Burke, Jason Roe, and John Herron, 32–56. University Press of Kansas, 2018.
"The Truman Courthouse." Accessed August 18, 2017. Jackson County Historical Society. http://jchs.org/truman-courthouse.
Truman, Harry S. Letters Home: By Harry Truman. Edited by Monte M. Poen. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2003.
Photos: Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum