This blog was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of The Northern Light Magazine.

On December 3, 2011, Most Worshipful Brother Terry L. Seward, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, made Brother Clifton Truman Daniel a Mason at sight. In August 2021, he was inducted into the class of 33° Honorary Members of the Scottish Rite, NMJ, serving as Exemplar for his class. He has been a Scottish Rite Mason since 2014 and is a member of the Valley of Chicago.

Illustrious Brother Daniel is the oldest grandson of Most Worshipful Brother and President Harry S. Truman. Brother Daniel served as guest speaker at a Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library event to celebrate the opening of The Masonic Hall of Fame exhibition. His grandfather is among the 10 inductees who grace the walls of the new museum installation – big shoes to fill, Brother Daniel admits. “I was made a Mason at sight 10 years ago because of my grandpa, and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since,” he confessed.

Combine that with being the son of E. Clifton Daniel, Jr., former New York Times Managing Editor, and author/actress Margaret Truman, Brother Daniel said his career choices were heavily influenced by his parents and grandfather – though he didn’t know his grandfather was the president until the first grade, when his schoolteacher asked him about it.

At age 6, as they went around the room introducing themselves by name, he respectfully said his name and his teacher prompted him further. “Wasn’t your grandfather president?”

Freemason and President Harry S. Truman and grandson Clifton Truman Daniel
Brother Harry S. Truman and grandson Brother Clifton Truman Daniel

At the end of the day, he couldn’t wait to get home and inform his mother. “Mom did you know that Grandpa Truman was President of the United States?” he asked. His mother of course said yes, and further explained to him, “Any little boy’s grandfather can be president. Don’t let it go to your head.”

Now in his 60s, Brother Daniel still keeps that advice close to his heart. Approachable and down-to-earth, he is humble about his upbringing. A fan of Mark Twain just like his grandfather Truman, he says he lives by the words of Mark Twain, who said “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

In his 20s, Brother Daniel said he wanted to be an actor, partly because he thought it would be a great way to command the same attention that his grandpa Truman received. Brother Daniel recalls, walking into a room with his grandfather, who always stole the show, and he’d think to himself, “What am I, chopped liver?”

By age 26, he decided he no longer wanted to pursue acting, so he got a job as feature writer and editor for the Morning Star and Sunday Star-News in Wilmington, North Carolina. “My dad got me the job; it was owned by the New York Times,” Brother Daniel explained. He stayed at that job for 30 years and as he got older, people started to tell him, “You know, you look like your grandpa.”

Those comments about his resemblance to his grandfather sparked an idea. ‘Maybe I’ll go back to acting,’ he thought. Beginning October 2017, Brother Daniel took on the role of his grandfather in “Give ’Em Hell, Harry,” a biographical and humorous play on the life of President Truman. Brother Daniel’s role as his grandfather marks the first time in history a U.S. president would be portrayed onstage by a direct descendant, and he certainly doesn’t take that lightly.

Freemason Clifton Truman Daniel portraying President Harry S. Truman in the play “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry.”
Brother Clifton Truman Daniel portraying his grandfather Brother Harry S. Truman in “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry.”

He says it’s not so much his grandfather’s mannerisms and accent that are challenging as it is memorizing the lines for the one-man play. Many hours were spent going through his lines while mowing the lawn and performing other tasks. Still, he says his one job as a performer is easier than the many responsibilities his wife, Polly, has – she is responsible for the hair, make up, and costumes to transform him into Harry Truman.

“I rediscovered my grandpa in my 30s. And I rediscovered him as a human being,” Brother Daniel said.

He’s helped to tell his family’s stories ever since. Brother Daniel is the author of the 1995 book Growing Up with My Grandfather: Memories of Harry S. Truman, and in 2011, he released Dear Harry, Love Bess: Bess Truman’s Letters to Harry Truman 1919-1943. When he is not writing or acting, Brother Daniel is available for speaking engagements and lectures. Learn more on his website: