Students and residents waited anxiously on Hillsborough Street for President Harry Truman to make his way to the N.C. State Fairgrounds. He was in town campaigning and trying to bring some unity to a Democratic Party somewhat fractured by the civil rights issue.
He also was trying to win a re-election campaign that few predicted he would.
So on this day in 1948, Truman made his way to the state fair to address a crowd of 25,000. And he got to see NC State’s ROTC cadets on display in a parade during the visit.
Truman told the crowd that the only way to defeat “big-money Republicanism” was for Democrats to stand together. He referred to Congressional Republicans as “a wrecking crew,” claiming they had cut agriculture and farm programs, in an effort by Truman to capture the southern agrarian vote.
The incumbent would win re-election the following month in what many historians consider one of the greatest upsets in American political history. Pollsters had predicted Thomas Dewey, Truman’s Republican challenger, would win the election.
Truman’s upset led to one of the most indelible images in U.S. politics — a victorious Truman holding a Chicago Daily Tribune that had prematurely and incorrectly pronounced his defeat.