A brief moment of remembrance for Margaret Truman Daniels, who died this week at the age of 83. The daughter of Harry S Truman, before becoming a bestselling author, was a classical singer who ended up on the receiving end of one of the most famous bad reviews in history. “Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality. She is extremely attractive on stage,” wrote Washington Post critic Paul Hume in December of 1950. “Yet Miss Truman cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time—more so last night than at any time we have heard her in past years.”
Then-President Truman didn’t find that terribly illuminating, and fired off an intemperate response to Hume: “I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful,” &c., &c. After Truman’s letter became public, mail to the White House was reported to run 80-20 in the President’s favor.
In that other 20 percent was a letter from Mr. and Mrs. William Banning of Connecticut:
As you have been directly responsible for the loss of our son’s life in Korea, you might just as well keep this emblem on display in your trophy room, as a memory of one of your historic deeds. One major regret at this time is that your daughter was not there to receive the same treatment as our son received in Korea.
Enclosed with the letter was a Purple Heart. Truman kept the letter and the medal in his desk drawer for many years.