Truman’s Little White House Museum Receives Lambda Chi Pin
By Tad Lichtenauer | Managing Editor
After the 56th General Assembly & Stead Leadership Seminar concluded in early August in Miami, Board Member David Huffine extended his stay to present the staff of the the Truman Little White House in Key West, Florida with his Lambda Chi Alpha pin.
The Little White House was the winter White House for Harry S. Truman (Missouri-Columbia HON), the 33rd president of the United States, for 175 days during 11 visits. The Little White House provided warmth and rest for Truman. He often would invite cabinet members and foreign officials for fishing trips and poker games.
Nicknamed Truman’s “man cave,” Margaret Truman wrote about her mother saying: “Mother saw it as an all-male setup and thought Dad would have a better time horsing around with Charlie Ross (his press secretary) and Admiral Leahy (his Navy aide), playing poker and drinking a little bourbon beyond the range of her critical eye.”
In his research, Huffine had discovered that Lambda Chi Alpha is listed in Truman’s fraternal associations display at the Little White House but there wasn’t any official jewelry. With his donation that oversight is now rectified.
How Truman Became a Lambda Chi
In August 2006, Lambda Chi historian. Dr. Michael Raymond (Miami-OH) wrote an article for the Cross & Crescent piecing together the story about how Truman accepted his honorary membership into Lambda Chi Alpha and the infamous interview with Victor Swyden that provides the most confirmation about Truman’s initiation.
Raymond wrote in his article:
“Deep in the archives of the Truman Presidential Museum and Library is a transcript of an interview with Victor F. Swyden (Missouri-Columbia 1936) concerning his recollection of how Truman became an honorary member of Lambda Chi Alpha. Swyden was a member of the Kansas City Council in 1963. The interview, conducted by Neil M. Johnson, took place on April 10, 1984, and reveals the following: Swyden: …while he was a senator and just before I went into the service, my fraternity offered him honorary membership. It didn’t materialize until after I was in the service. He became president, and then he became an honorary member of our fraternity, the Lambda Chi Alpha, in Columbia, Missouri. There are only two who have ever received that honor; they were President Truman and Senator (John) Danforth. Johnson: Is that a social fraternity? Swyden: Yes. It’s on the campus of the University of Missouri. Johnson: So he accepted honorary membership? Swyden: Yes. I’ll never forget. We had read in a news bulletin, that I got when I was overseas, that there was a matter of hours in which Mr. Truman disappeared; nobody knew where he was. He was up at the Power and Light Building being initiated into the Fraternity. They told me — I don’t know — they used my diamond pin so he could be initiated. Johnson: Your diamond pin. Swyden: Yes, so he wore my pin once. Johnson: When would that have been? Swyden: I’d like to give you the exact date, but it would have to be 1944 because I remember I was in the Pacific at that time, and I got a letter from home telling me about it.”
Thank You Brothers
Thank you to David Huffine for extending the legacy of Truman’s membership in Lambda Chi Alpha and making sure the Little White House has the proper representation that our fraternity should receive for this elite member of our organization. Thank you Mike Raymond for capturing the history of Truman’s legacy.
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