OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) – Harry Truman paid off his last debt Wednesday.
The former president, actually longtime Truman impersonator Niel Johnson handed $56.63 to Truman’s former paperboy, who said he never was paid for about six months worth of newspapers delivered to Truman’s Independence home in 1947.
“Honesty was one of my policies,” Johnson told George Lund.
The account was settled, with interest, before a large crowd at the Tallgrass Creek retirement community in Overland Park, where Lund, 80, now lives.
Before the ceremony, Lund said he wasn’t sure he wanted the debt to be paid.
It had always made for such a great story.
“And I thought that if I ever got paid, I wouldn’t be able to tell the story again,” said Lund, a retired architect.
The story surfaced a year ago.
After attending a Truman continuing education program at his retirement community, Lund mentioned that Truman still owed him from his newspaper route.
In 1947 Lund, then 15, delivered The Independence Examiner to Truman’s door for about six months.
Lund then handed off the route to a successor, saying if Truman ever made good on the approximately $7.50 owed, he wanted it.
But he never got it.
The story suggested a slightly different Harry Truman than the one who worked for more than 10 years to pay off debts related to his downtown Kansas City haberdashery, which failed in 1922.
Truman Library archivists consulted the vast archive of Truman family financial documents released last year but found no unpaid Examiner invoice from the late 1940s amid the canceled checks and household receipts.
But representatives of the Truman Library Institute, the library’s nonprofit support organization that paid off the bill, never demanded one.
“More than anything, it’s a fun story,” said Judy Turner, the institute’s development officer. “And being that this is May, Mr. Truman’s birthday month, it seemed a good time to honor, recognize and remember him. We also thought this would be a good way to reiterate how the buck stopped here.”
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