Beilue: Bond with President Truman in battle paid off for Amarillo man

The year was 1949, and the position for postmaster had been open in Amarillo about a year. In those days, filling this was a big deal.

 

There was much anticipation in late July, but it seemed a foregone conclusion that one of the more prominent citizens in town was in line for the job. It was so much so that it seemed to be a done deal.

At a luncheon on July 28, 1949, Congressman Eugene Worley announced the new postmaster. The declaration was met with a murmer by those in attendance.

“When they announced, ‘Gordon B. Jordan,’” said his daughter, Barbara Caldwell, “my mother said she heard someone behind her say, ‘Who the hell is Gordon B. Jordan?’”

The Amarillo Times had a screaming Pearl Harbor-was-bombed-sized headline that afternoon: “JORDAN WILL BE NEW POSTMASTER.”

At his home on Ong Street, Jordan may have felt like the cat who swallowed the canary. This quiet bank teller at Amarillo National Bank had a friend in a high place.

Harry Truman, president of the United States, was plenty high.

“We had a big picture of Truman in my parents’ bedroom,” Caldwell said, “and Daddy said that if he got that job, he would move it to the living room. When I dropped by the house, it was in the living room.”

At a reunion of their World War I battery and division the previous month in Little Rock, Ark., Jordan had angled over to the president and made mention that his old lieutenant was certainly interested in that Amarillo postmaster position.

“President Truman said, ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t want postmaster jobs we have open in Austin or Oklahoma City?’” Caldwell said. “When Daddy said ‘no,’ Truman said, ‘OK, you got it.’”

On today, Armed Forces Day, it is a reminder there are few bonds forged like those in battle. They don’t know social status. Time seldom dulls the fraternity. Few forget when putting lives in each other’s hands.

Likely no area soldier went to battle alongside anyone more famous than did Lt. Jordan 100 years ago when he served directly under Capt. Truman in Battery D of the 129th Field Artillery in the 35th Armored Division in France during World War I.

Jordan was one of 10 children from Tulia, all of them living in a dugout. Born in 1892, Jordan enlisted in September 1917, five months after the U.S. entered the war. Truman and Jordan first met at Fort Sill in June 1918.

They were in battle together in France, providing support for George Patton’s tank brigade, and were on crucial assaults against the Germans in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and in a fight that came to be known as the “Battle of Who Run.” Many in Truman’s battery began to run when Germans started to overpower their position until Truman laced them with profanity and got them back.

Truman wrote to his future wife, Bess Wallace, every day during the war. It later became a book, “Dear Bess.” Three times Jordan is mentioned:

“Both of my lieutenants are all wool and a yard wide. One of them, Jordan by name, came back with the horses and the other two pieces to pull me out, and I had to order him off the hill.”

“Lieutenant Jordan is from the plains of Texas, has a southern drawl, is tall, and has brown eyes. He can ride anything that has a back to sit on and is my horse lieutenant. He moves the battery with skins and cripples when it has to be done that way.”

“Lieutenant Jordan of my battery and I walked across the little creek which had a high sounding river name and over which all the bridges had been destroyed.”

When Jordan eventually went to Amarillo, and Truman to the White House from 1945 to 1952, that bond did not break. Jordan and wife Meta went to the inauguration in 1949 after all members of Truman’s Battery D received invitations.

In 1951, Jordan and Meta met with Truman for 15 minutes in the Oval Office. His daughter has a copy of Truman’s itinerary on Sept. 19, 1951: 9:45 a.m. (Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Jordan of Amarillo, Texas) OFF THE RECORD.

“Mother wrote me a letter and said she cut her leg shaving before meeting the president,” Barbara said. “She said, ‘Do you think the president will notice?’”

When Truman died the day after Christmas 1972, all of his old Battery mates received golden engraved invitations and a special designation to sit at the funeral. Jordan flew to Kansas City for the service.

“When he got to Kansas City, they announced that no one get off the plane,” said Caldwell, 86. “I can hardly tell it, but Daddy said a young lieutenant got on the plane, came to him and said, ‘Are you Lt. Jordan?’ My daddy said he was, and he saluted him and said that he was at his service.

“A limo was waiting for them, and that young lieutenant stayed with him the whole time. He said he stayed outside his room, and told him if he needed anything, he’d get it for him.”

Truman knew what he was doing with Gordon Jordan. He would go on to be Amarillo postmaster, respected by all who worked for him, for 14 years until retirement in 1963. Jordan died in 1986 at age 94. Two years later, the post office at 8301 W. Amarillo Blvd., next to the UA theater today, was given his name.

For a president and a postmaster, it was “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

Jon Mark Beilue is AGN Media columnist. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or 806-345-3318. Twitter: @jonmark beilue.

How to go

What: Armed Forces Day Celebrating Freedom & Honoring Service Banquet

Where: Amarillo Civic Center Complex North Exhibit Hall, 401 S. Buchanan St.

When: 6 p.m. today

How much: Free with reservation

Information: 806-681-1418 or jrbarnes0407@gmail.com

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