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Margaret Truman Daniel Dies at Age 83
At the White House, she fetched aspirin for a visiting Winston Churchill and exchanged pleasantries with military leaders. She christened the battleship Missouri, aboard which the Japanese signed documents of surrender, ending World War II on Sept. 2, 1945.
Like the president, Mrs. Daniel soon tired of living in the White House. She called it the Great White Jail, once saying "it was like living in a national monument."
After graduating from college in 1946 with a history degree, she took intensive voice lessons and launched her career as a singer. Her fees ranged from about $1,500 for a concert onstage to about $3,000 for a radio broadcast.
On Dec. 5, 1950, she did a program by Schumann, Schubert and Mozart at Constitution Hall in Washington.
Washington Post music critic Paul Hume wrote in his review: "Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality. She is extremely attractive on stage. 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."
After the president read the review the next morning, he wrote 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. When you write such poppycock . . . it shows conclusively that you're off the beam. . . . Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below."
Hume was stunned by Truman's letter, and Post editors planned to publish it after having its authenticity verified. But Philip L. Graham, the publisher, vetoed the idea. He said he had received several angry letters from Truman and had published none of them.
Hume later told Milton Berliner, the music critic of the Washington News, about the president's letter. Berliner told his editors, who promptly ordered up a story. The wire services picked it up, and it was printed all over the country.
In 1956, Mrs. Daniel wrote her first book, "Souvenir," a memoir of her childhood in Missouri, her years at the White House and her career as a concert singer. The New York Herald Tribune's book review section called it "a gracefully written tale of an average American girl drawn by chance into the White House."
She followed with "White House Pets" (1969) and a 1972 biography of her father, "Harry S. Truman," who died that year. The Christian Science Monitor called the biography, which sold more than 1 million copies, a "closeup of an undramatic man dramatically thrust into awesome power -- and coping with it."
In her first mystery, "Murder in the White House," Secretary of State Lansard Blaine, a man with a shady past as a businessman and a history of womanizing, is found strangled in the family quarters of the White House.
Characteristic of the critical appraisal was the review by William French in the Globe and Mail of Toronto: "Miss Truman seems to have studied Agatha Christie on how to introduce false leads, point to the wrong suspect and generally confuse the issue. She does this with a certain amount of technical dexterity, but it's too mechanical and juiceless."