Bond Harkens to Truman

The Two Share Much More Than a Desk

Posted November 6, 2007 at 6:45pm

Sen. Kit Bond (R) and former President Harry Truman share more than just their home state of Missouri. They also share a desk, an office and a little bit of personal history.

[IMGCAP(1)]“The two Truman suites have now become our suite, and this reflects some of Missouri in which I’ve had a personal interest,” Bond said with a smile.

There are touches of Truman sprinkled throughout Bond’s space on the second floor of the Russell Senate Office Building. Handwritten letters from the 33rd president to his wife hang in Bond’s blue conference room. One letter, dated June 18, 1935, reads, “Maybe when I go to Hell they’ll give me some other punishment and I won’t have to answer letters to people who want what I can’t give them.”

Bond sits behind a large desk that was once used by the former Missouri statesman and president, and the walls are decorated with photos and sketches of Truman.

Bond said he draws inspiration from these reminders of his predecessor. “Harry Truman is known for the sign on his desk that read ‘The Buck Stops Here.’ When Truman made a decision, he stood by it,” Bond said. “That courage of conviction is very much needed in our leaders no matter where or when they serve. Serving the people of Missouri … I strive to show that same leadership.”

Some of the relics have a more personal —though maybe not as inspirational — connection. Hanging behind the reception desk is a photo of Truman in 1946 on the day of Winston Churchill’s Fulton, Mo., “Iron Curtain” speech. At first glance, it is just a photo of a political predecessor, but when asked, Bond notes a family tie.

The Senator’s grandfather was slated to act as the private-sector host for the British parliamentarian, but Truman, having been snubbed during an earlier visit to Audrain County, would not allow Churchill to stay there.

“[Truman] spoke one evening in Mexico, Mo., and normally a leading Democrat would invite the distinguished candidate to spend the night at their home, but nobody would invite Harry Truman to their home because he was part of the Pendergast machine,” Bond said, referring to Tom Pendergast, a Kansas City man who helped politicians get elected during the Great Depression. “So the sheriff of Audrain County allowed him to spend the night in the quarters over the jail and Harry never forgave Audrain County for that. He said, ‘If I’m not good enough for Audrain County then Audrain County isn’t good enough for Winston Churchill!’”

Bond’s grandfather had spent quite a bit of time preparing for Churchill’s stay, even going so far as to build a large gate to make way for a grand entrance.

Family is another theme in Bond’s office. In the blue conference room, Truman’s letters are joined by two giant fish mounted high on the wall. The fish, which are quite colorful, look almost fake. But Bond is quick to say he caught them himself.

“This is the fish I caught July 4, 1977, when I was on the last fishing trip with my father,” he said, pointing to a large, silver fish mounted above a set of shelves. “I caught a big fish on the Fourth of July, about a 42-pounder, and the next day he went back to the same place and caught a 49-pounder,” Bond said. The Senator added that the largest fish he has ever caught was a 150-pound halibut, which took a half-hour to reel in.

The shelves of Bond’s cluttered personal office are decorated with photos of his family, one of which is of his father on that last fishing trip back in 1977; he also has a few photos of his son posing with his catch of the day.

“One of my most favorite things is taking my son fishing,” he said, smiling and pointing to a photo of his son at 6 years old, holding a striped bass.

When Bond is not legislating or fishing, he enjoys watching baseball. A ball with the Kansas City Royals logo sits on a glass- enclosed shelf, while a St. Louis Cardinals doormat greets those who enter through the front door of the office.

The conference room is adorned with two green stadium seats. The seats are remnants of the old Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals once played. Bond’s staff presented the seats to him as a birthday gift.

“I’m still trying to get my wife to decide where we’re going to keep them at home, but in the meantime it’s seating for guests who come in here,” he said.