Margaret Truman, also known by her married name, Margaret Truman Daniel, was born Mary Margaret Truman on February 17, 1924, in the heart of the Midwest, in Independence, Missouri. Her father, Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, became the thirty-third president of the United States on the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 12, 1945. Her mother was Elizabeth “Bess” Virginia Wallace Truman. Margaret attended public school in her hometown but also Gunston Hall, a girls’ boarding school in Washington, D.C., winning prizes for her mastery of English and Spanish. She majored in history and international relations and earned a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in 1946, studying piano and voice on the side. Her father was also an amateur pianist and would often accompany her singing.
From 1947 to 1954, Margaret Truman performed as a coloratura in programs featuring operatic arias and light classics on the stage, radio, and television. Her reviews were mixed. She also did some summer stock acting. On April 21, 1956, she married New York Times reporter and later editor E. Clifton Daniel, Jr., at Trinity Episcopal Church in Independence, becoming Mary Truman Daniel. Her husband died in 2000. The couple had four sons—Clifton, William, Harrison, and Thomas—born between 1957 and 1966.
Truman became fairly well known in the literary world by publishing some girlhood recollections in 1956 but especially because of the biographies of her father in 1972 and her mother in 1986. Eventually, she wrote books on White House First Ladies, pets, and the history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and its inhabitants. Although she had long been an avid reader of mystery novels, her initiation into the genre was the result of a casual conversation with her publisher.
Truman launched her Capital Crimes series mystery novels in 1980 with the best-selling Murder in the White House and followed it with many other volumes. Considering that she once remarked that writing was the hardest and most exacting career she had ever had, her literary output was remarkable. Her honors include honorary degrees from Wake Forest University (1972), from her alma mater George Washington University (1975), and Rockhurst College (1976). She was a trustee of the Harry S. Truman Institute and of George Washington University and held various directorships. She also won other forms of recognition such as the selection of her Murder in Georgetown (1986) by the Mystery Guild. Truman died in Chicago, Illinois on January 29, 2008 at the age of 83.