Second presidential inauguration of Harry S. Truman
Harry Truman delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in for his second term in office.
DateJanuary 20, 1949; 75 years ago (1949-01-20)
LocationUnited States Capitol,
Washington, D.C.
Organized byJoint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies
ParticipantsHarry S. Truman
33rd president of the United States
— Assuming office

Fred M. Vinson
Chief Justice of the United States
— Administering oath

Alben W. Barkley
35th vice president of the United States
— Assuming office

Stanley Forman Reed
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
— Administering oath

The second inauguration of Harry S. Truman as president of the United States was held on Thursday, January 20, 1949, at the East Portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This was the 41st inauguration and marked the commencement of the second and only full term of Harry S. Truman as president as well as the only term of Alben W. Barkley as vice president. Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson administered the presidential oath of office while Justice Stanley Forman Reed administered the vice-presidential oath of office.

It was the first televised U.S. presidential inauguration[1] and the first with an air parade.[2] Truman also restarted the tradition of an official inaugural ball, which had disappeared since the inauguration of William Howard Taft in 1909.[1]


The inaugural celebration, organized by Melvin D. Hildreth, lasted the full week from January 16–23.[3][4] The New York Times described it as "the most splendiferous since Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to lift the pall of gloom of 1933 with brave words proclaiming the New Deal".[5] Some confusion was generated when thousands of people received souvenir "invitations" that were in fact not valid tickets to inaugural events.[6][7]

1.3 million people reportedly stood on Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues in Washington, D.C., to watch the inaugural parade. Six hundred warplanes flew overhead, and army soldiers marched with new weaponry on display. Some of the marching units were racially mixed.[8] During the parade, Truman was saluted by retired general and future president Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the president of Columbia University.[9] Truman drew media attention for 'snubbing' southern Governors Strom Thurmond and Herman Talmadge during the parade.[10][11]

Lena Horne, Dorothy Maynor and Lionel Hampton performed at the inaugural gala—the first African Americans to appear at this type of performance.[12]


The inaugural ceremony took place on January 20, 1949. Truman took the oath of office administered by Chief Justice of the United States Fred Vinson.[13] Truman then delivered an address and departed with the parade.[14]

According to one analysis, the delayed arrival of members of Congress created a break in succession of Truman's terms as president: the 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1933, states that a president's term ends at noon on January 20 after the election.

As some members of Congress arrived 10 minutes late, and took another 10 minutes to take their seats, Vice President Alben W. Barkley was inaugurated at 12:23, technically serving as president for six minutes until Truman was inaugurated at 12:29.[7][15]

In the inaugural address, sometimes called the Four Point speech, Truman discussed economic growth and opposition to Communism across the globe.[13][16] This moment is often identified as the beginning of development policy in relation to Third World.[17][18]

Millions of people watched the inauguration, broadcast as a single live program that aired on every network. (Millions more listened on radio).[19] Many schoolchildren watched from their classrooms.[20] Truman authorized a holiday for federal employees so that they could also watch.[5] The ceremony, and Truman's speech, were also broadcast abroad through the Voice of America, and translated into other languages including Russian and German.[21] According to some calculations, the 1949 inauguration had more witnesses than all previous presidential inaugurations combined.[20][22]


Despite being widely attacked as communists, thousands of members of the Civil Rights Congress arrived in Washington, D.C., to protest the inauguration.[23] The group protested Smith Act trials of communist leaders, as well as unfair death penalty sentences for African Americans.[24][25] They also called for a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission and the abolition of the House Un-American Activities Committee.[26]

See also


  1. ^ a b "The 41st Presidential Inauguration: Harry S. Truman, January 20, 1949". United States Senate. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  2. ^ Shannon Humphrey, "Three-time war vet reflects: John G. Corley II, of Gloucester, flew in Truman's air parade in 1949, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War", Newport News Daily Press (McClatchy), February 20, 2009; accessed via ProQuest.
  3. ^ Jane Krieger, "Truman Inaugural to be Gala Show", New York Times, December 12, 1948, p. E7; accessed via ProQuest.
  4. ^ "Truman Calls For Simple, Inexpensive Inaugural", Washington Post, November 30, 1948, p. B1; accessed via ProQuest.
  5. ^ a b Anthony Leviero, "Truman appeals for unity in party to aid peace aims", New York Times, January 19, 1949, p. 1; accessed via ProQuest.
  6. ^ "Inauguration Invitations Are Problem: Thousands Think Mere Souvenirs Are Admittance Tickets", Washington Post, January 15, 1949, p. 1; accessed via ProQuest.
  7. ^ a b "Inauguration Upsets Those Who Didn't Plan It That Way", Washington Post, January 21, 1949; accessed via ProQuest.
  8. ^ "Democracy in Action in Inaugural Parade", Baltimore Afro-American (NNPA), January 29, 1949.
  9. ^ Philip Potter, "Truman Calls For Bold World-Aid Plan; 1,300,000 Line Route Of Inaugural Parade", Baltimore Sun, January 21, 1949, accessed via ProQuest.
  10. ^ Westbrook Pegler, "Truman Snubs Leader of Dixiecrats", Milwaukee Sentinel (KFS), January 21, 1949.
  11. ^ "Truman Curt to Thurmond; Turns Back on Talmadge", Washington Observer (UP), January 21, 1949.
  12. ^ "Cream of Nation's Talent Stars at Truman's Inaugural Gala", Baltimore Afro-American, January 29, 1949.
  13. ^ a b Venice Spraggs, "Truman Restates Equality Credo At His Inaugural", Chicago Defender, January 22, 1949, p.1; accessed via ProQuest.
  14. ^ Harlan Trott, "Solemnity Keys Truman Inaugural", Christian Science Monitor, January 20, 1949; accessed via ProQuest.
  15. ^ Bill Bartleman, "From past to present: Truman-Barkley ceremony a record-setting event", Paducah Sun (McClatchy), January 18, 2009; accessed via ProQuest.
  16. ^ George Ronald, "Truman Bitterly Attacks Communism in Washington Inaugural Speech", Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, January 20, 1949.
  17. ^ "The genealogy of development", Business World, December 1, 1998; accessed via ProQuest.
  18. ^ Eric Helleiner, "The Development Mandate of International Institutions: Where Did it Come From?", Studies in Comparative International Development 44 (3), September 2009; accessed via ProQuest.
  19. ^ Wayne Oliver, "Millions to See Truman in Telecast of Inaugural", New York Times, January 16, 1949, p. L4; accessed via ProQuest.
  20. ^ a b "10,000,000 See Inauguration By Television: Total Greater Than All Witnessing Previous Ceremonies", Baltimore Sun (AP), January 21, 1949; accessed via ProQuest.
  21. ^ "World to Hear Truman Inaugural Ceremonies", Christian Science Monitor (Associated Press), January 19, 1949; accessed via ProQuest.
  22. ^ "More Persons Expected to View Inauguration By Video Than Combined Previous Witnesses", New York Times, January 20, 1949; accessed via ProQuest.
  23. ^ Tony Smith, "Reds in Capital for Protest Rally", Pittsburgh Press, January 17, 1949.
  24. ^ Walter Winchell, "Some More Notes of a Newspaperman", Wilmington Star-News, February 7, 1949.
  25. ^ Tony Smith, "Capital to Cut Loose In Big Noisy Inaugural for Truman Thursday", Pittsburgh Press, January 16, 1949.
  26. ^ "3,000 'Freedom' Crusaders Demand Civil Rights Laws", Baltimore Afro-American, January 29, 1949.