THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – APRIL

Many significant events have occurred in April.  Below please find some of them:

April 2, 1513 – Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed at present-day St. Augustine, and claimed FL on behalf of Spain.  St. Augustine is the oldest city in the continental US.

April 2, 1982 – Argentinian troops seized the Falkland Islands, a British territory just off the Argentinian coast, thus beginning the Falkland Islands War.    Britain recaptured the islands on June 15.

April 3, 1860 – Pony Express mail service commenced in St. Joseph, MO.

April 3, 1865 – Richmond. the capital of the Confederacy, surrendered.

April 3, 1948 –  President Truman signed the Marshall Plan, an economic aid package that is largely credited with halting the spread of communism in post-War Europe.

April 3, 1995 –  Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.

April 4, 1949 – NATO was created.

April 4, 1968 – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

April 6, 1896 – The first “modern” Olympics was held in Athens.

April 6, 1917 –  The US entered WWI.

April 8, 563BC – Celebrated as Bhudda’s birthday.

April 8, 1913 – The US ratified the 17th Amendment to the Constitution mandating the election of US senators by direct popular vote instead of appointment by State legislatures.

April 9, 1865 – Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant ending the Civil War.

April 9, 1866 –  The US passed the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, which granted AAs the rights and privileges of US citizenship.

April 10, 1942 – The Bataan Death March began.

April 10, 1945 – The Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated by US troops.

April 11, 1968 –  The US adopted the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

April 12, 1861 – The Civil War commenced as Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter.

April 12, 1945 – FDR died in Warm Springs, GA of a cerebral hemorrhage.

April 12, 1961 – Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first human in space.

April 14, 1828 – Noah Webster published the first American-style dictionary.

April 14, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln was mortally wounded by assassin John Wilkes Booth at Ford Theatre.  He died the next day.

April 15, 1912 – The “unsinkable” Titanic, which had struck an iceberg the previous night, sunk.  Some 1,500 of the 2,224 persons on board perished.

April 17, 1961 – The so-called Bay of Pigs invasion, which was intended to precipitate the overthrow of Fidel Castro, failed disastrously.

April 18, 1775 –  Paul Revere embarked on his famous “Midnight Ride” to warn the Patriots that “the British [were] coming.”

April 18, 1906 – The infamous San Francisco Earthquake and fire began.

April 18,1942 – A squadron of airplanes led by General James Doolittle successfully bombed Tokyo, providing a much-needed morale boost to Americans by demonstrating that Japan was not invulnerable.

April 19, 1775 – Patriots fire the “shot heard ’round the world” at Lexington, which marked the commencement of the Revolutionary War.

April 19, 1943 – The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto began armed an insurrection against their Nazi captors.

April 20, 1999 – The “Columbine Massacre” occurred in Littleton, CO, leaving 13 dead and 20 more wounded.

April 21, 1836 – Texans under the command of Sam Houston decisively defeated a Mexican force at San Jacinto (near present-day Houston), which led to Texas’ independence from Mexico.

April 21, 1918 – Baron Manfred von Richtofen, the infamous “Red Baron” who was credited with some 80 kills, was shot down over France.

April 22, 1889 –  The “Oklahoma land rush” began.

April 24, 1800 – The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, housing some 145 million items, was established.

April 26, 1986 – The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded, spreading a radioactive cloud extending over much of Europe.

April 26, 1994 – Apartheid in South Africa officially ended as the country held its first multiracial elections with some 18 million blacks participating.  Nelson Mandela was elected President.

April 28, 1789 –  Led by Fletcher Christian, the crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied against Captain William Bligh.

April 30, 1789 –  George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the US.

April 30, 1948 – Palestinian Jews declared their independence from the British and established the State of Israel.

Birthdays – 4/2/1805 – Hans Christian Anderson (Danish fairy tale author); 4/5/1856 – Booker T. Washington (AA educator); 4/10/1847 – Joseph Pulitzer (publisher); 4/13/1743 – Thomas Jefferson; 4/16/1867 – Wilbur Wright (aviator pioneer); 4/16/1889 – Charlie Chaplin (silent film comedian); 4/17/1837 – John Pierpont Morgan (financier); 4/18/1857 – Clarence Darrow (renowned attorney); April 20, 1889 – Adolph Hitler; 4/22/1870 – Vladimir Lenin; 4/23/1564 – William Shakespeare (writer); 4/23/1791 – James Buchanan (15th US President; 4/25/1874 – Guglielmo Marconi (invented the radio; 4/27/1791 – Samuel F. B. Morse (telegraph inventor); 4/27/1822 – Ulysses S. Grant (civil war commanding general and 18th US President); 4/28/1758 – James Monroe (Founding Father and 5th US President); 4/29/1863 – William Randolph Hearst (publisher).

 

 

 

 

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BARBARA BUSH

Barbara Bush was one of the most popular and respected First Ladies in recent times.  She was known for her complete lack of pretense, glamor and vanity.  For example, she made no effort to color her hair or wear fancy designer clothes.  Moreover, she freely admitted her passions were gardening, the church and her family.  I never heard anyone utter a negative comment about her.  She brought dignity to the office of First Lady.  To me, she was everyone’s grandma (and I mean that in the nicest, most respectful way).  What you saw was what you got.  At times, it appeared that she was more popular than George.

Barbara Pierce was born on June 8, 1925 in New York City.  She was raised in the affluent suburban town of Rye in Westchester County, which is just north of the City.  Her father was the president of McCall Corporation, which published the popular women’s magazines McCall’s and Redbook.  Barbara was a distant cousin of Franklyn Pierce, the 14th president of the US, and the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

She met George at a dance when she was but 16.  They had a whirlwind romance, not uncommon in wartime.  Just 18 months later they were engaged and he was off to war as a navy bomber pilot. They were married on January 6, 1945 while George was on “leave.”

Bush family members readily identify Barbara as the glue of the family.  Like most husbands of that generation George was busy with his careers – Navy pilot, oilman, corporate executive and, of course, politician.  Meanwhile, Barbara raised the family.  Apparently, their respective areas of responsibility and authority were well defined.  “I don’t fool around with his office,” she once said, “and he doesn’t fool around with my household.”

It seemed like the family was never in one place long enough to establish roots.  They moved some 30 times during their 73 years of marriage.  Through it all, Barbara raised their six children.  The family also included 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

George entered politics in 1963 as Harris County (TX) Republican Party Chairman.  As he worked his way up the political ladder over the next 30 years Barbara had to adjust to life as a public figure.  She did so with aplomb, immersing herself in various charities and women’s groups.

At times, her political views diverged from those of her husband’s and many of his key supporters. For example, She was pro-choice on abortion, opposed the sale of assault weapons, and supported the Equal Rights Amendment. On one occasion her forthright manner did get her into some difficulty.  During the 1984 campaign she referred to Geraldine Ferraro, VP candidate on the Dem ticket against George, as “that $4 million – I can’t say it, but it rhymes with ‘rich.’ ”  She apologized to Ferraro, and the matter blew over.

As Second Lady she adopted the cause of literacy.  Using the power and influence of her office, she worked tirelessly with various literacy organizations giving speeches, researching the causes and publicizing the issue.  To her, literacy was “the most important issue we have.”  Probably, she was influenced, in part, by the fact that her son, Neil, was struggling with dyslexia.

Barbara did not seek the limelight, but she could be a very effective speaker, and she was not afraid to speak her own mind.  For example, when George announced his candidacy for president in 1988 Barbara became only the second candidate’s wife to address the convention.  [Can you guess who was the first?  See below.]  One of the highlights of her speech came when she forthrightly told the assembled delegates “what you see with me is what you get.  I’m not running for president – George is.”  In addition, when she gave the commencement speech for Wellesley College’s graduating class of 1990 “American Rhetoric” ranked it as number 45 on its list of the Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century.

The Bushes 73 years of marriage was the longest of any presidential couple.  Furthermore, Barbara was only the second First Lady to bear a son who was also elected president.  [Can you name the other one?]

CONCLUSION

Barbara was the recipient of several awards and honorariums.  For example, she was a longstanding member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the recipient of the DAR Medal of Honor.  In addition, she was the recipient of honorary degrees from some 30 colleges and universities.

In recent years Barbara was in ill health.  In 2008 she was hospitalized for abdominal pains and underwent surgery on her small intestine.  In 2009 she had an aortic valve replacement.  In 2013 she was hospitalized for pneumonia.  In addition, she was suffering from congestive heart failure, pulmonary disease and Graves’ disease.

Finally, on April 15 she chose to cease further treatment, except for “comfort care.”  She passed away on April 17.  Barbara was one of those few people who truly made a difference.

Rest in peace Barbara.  You will be sorely missed.

Quiz answers: (1) Eleanor Roosevelt (1940).  (2) Abigail Adams (husband of John; mother of John Quincy)

JACKIE ROBINSON’S LEGACY

Number 42. Does that have any special meaning for you, or is it just another number? Baseball fans, civil rights advocates, and students of history will recognize it as the uniform number worn by Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It should be noted that that uniform number has two other major significances:

It is the only number to have been retired by every major league baseball team (1997); and since 2004, every year on April 15 on what is known as “Jackie Robinson Day,” every player wears that number in tribute to Jackie Robinson in recognition of the anniversary of his debut in the major leagues in 1947. On that historic date Jackie became the first African American to play in the major leagues since the 1880s.

In order to put this in its proper perspective one must realize the racial situation in 1947.

  1.  Segregation was the law of the land. “Jim Crow” was alive and well.
  2. The Brown Supreme Court decision integrating public schools would not come until 1954.
  3. Even the armed forces would not be integrated until 1948.
  4. A disproportionate percentage of MLB players were from the South and espoused all the values, attitudes and experiences of the region regarding AAs.  Most of them had never played ball with an AA.  Many had rarely even associated with one as peers.
  5. The prevailing attitude among players, sports writers, and fans was that AAs were not good enough and did not have the “temperament” to succeed in MLB.
  6. Very few of us lived through that era, and consequently, we cannot imagine the circumstances Jackie had to overcome.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. His parents chose his middle name in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt, who had recently died. He was the youngest of five children. One of his older brothers, Mack, would later earn some notoriety by winning the silver medal in the 100 meter dash in the 1936 Olympics, (the Games held in Berlin at which Jesse Owens embarrassed Adolph Hitler and the Nazis by winning four gold medals).

Jackie’s parents were sharecroppers and barely scraping by, so in 1920 they moved to Pasadena, California seeking a better life.  In high school and college Jackie excelled in five sports – baseball, basketball, football, track and tennis. Basically, he was an all-around athlete who excelled in any sport he tried. At UCLA he became the school’s first athlete to “letter” in four sports (all of the above except tennis). One of his teammates on the 1939 UCLA football team was the future actor, Woody Strode. Ironically, statistically, at least, baseball was his worst sport of the four.

In 1941 Jackie left UCLA just shy of graduating to play semi-pro football, but in early 1942 he was drafted and stationed at Fort Riley in Texas. He applied for admission to OCS. Initially, his application was rejected as few blacks were accepted at the time, but following a personal appeal from Joe Louis, the reigning heavyweight boxing champ, he was accepted.

Jackie’s tenure in the army was marred by one unfortunate incident in which his fiery temperament got him in trouble. While riding an Army bus one day the driver told him to move to the back. Jackie refused. As a result he was nearly court-martialed for insubordination and other trumped up offenses. A conviction would have changed the course of his life and, possibly, the country’s as well, but he was acquitted.

In 1945 Jackie signed to play for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues. Unbeknownst to him, Branch Rickey, President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was looking for a Negro to break the major leagues’ “color barrier,” which had been in place since the 1880s. He had compiled a list of the best players in the Negro leagues and was evaluating them for suitability. There were many players better than Jackie, notably Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, but due to age, temperament and other factors, they were all eliminated in favor of Jackie. Rickey knew the first AA player would have to “turn the other cheek” to a great deal of verbal, physical and emotional abuse. Otherwise, it might be many more years before the next one got a chance. When he told Jackie this, Jackie was shocked and replied “Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” Rickey’s famous reply was that he was seeking a Negro “with guts enough not to fight back.”

To make a long story short, Rickey signed Jackie. He played for the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers AAA minor league affiliate in the International League, in 1946. He “tore up” the league, winning the MVP award. The next year he made his debut in the major leagues.

To me, his debut was one of the most significant events not only in baseball history, but also in the country’s history.  There was tremendous resistance not only from other Dodgers, but from players on other teams as well. Luckily, Dodger management was behind Jackie 100%. When some Dodgers players threatened to quit, strike or demand a trade, the team’s manager, Leo Durocher, a fiery, no nonsense person himself, nipped the rebellion in the bud. He declared: “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f****** zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays.”

Players on other teams also threatened to strike, but MLB Commissioner “Happy” Chandler quelled that rebellion quickly as well. Nevertheless, Jackie had to endure a tremendous amount of prejudice and abuse on and off the field (name calling, spiking, being hit by pitches, separate lodging and restaurants on the road, etc.). Eventually, other blacks would join him in the majors. Their life was very difficult, and some could not survive, but many more did.

CONCLUSION

Rickey chose well with Jackie. In baseball parlance, he “knocked it out of the park.” Attendance soared and not just in Brooklyn but in every other city as well. Black people came in droves to see their hero, Jackie Robinson, play. In those days, attendance was the primary source of ball clubs’ revenue, so Jackie made money for everyone.

Not only did Jackie “take” all the abuse without incident, he starred on the field and became an integral part of one of the most storied teams in baseball history, the “Boys of Summer.” In a ten-year period from 1947-1956 that team dominated the National League. It won six pennants, lost another in a playoff and lost another by one game.

Among Jackie’s many MLB accomplishments:

  1. Rookie of the year in 1947 (the first one).
  2. National League MVP in 1949.
  3. Appeared in six World Series.
  4. World champion in 1955.
  5. First ballot hall of famer in 1962.
  6. Member of the MLB All-Century team.

Jackie was extremely versatile, Although he came up as a second baseman, he also played first, third and the outfield. Many times, he was among the league leaders in fielding at his position. He was one of the best “clutch” players I have ever observed. He could beat you with the bat, the glove or on the bases. I have never seen a better baserunner or a tougher competitor. When on base, he would drive the opposing pitcher crazy with his antics. He was always a threat to steal a base. I saw him steal home in the 1955 World Series. When caught in a rundown he often escaped, which, generally, was a rarity. His aggressive style of play was unique for the 1940s and 1950s.

As an example of his extreme competitive nature, one story will suffice. In the decisive third game of the 1951 playoff with the NY Giants, when the Giants’ Bobby Thompson hit the game winning home run, all the Dodgers left the field immediately with their heads down in defeat. All except for Jackie. He watched and made sure that Thompson touched all the bases on his home run trot. He would not accept defeat until Thompson had completed his circuit.

Jackie retired from baseball after the 1956 season worn down by age and diabetes, but he did not retire from life. For example, he became very active in the civil rights movement; he became the first black to serve as vp of a major corporation (Chock Full O’Nuts); he went into broadcasting; and he acted in a movie of his own life story.

Ultimately, however, his fierce competitiveness could not overcome ill health. Jackie died on October 24, 1972 at the relatively young age of 53 from complications of heart disease and diabetes. I’m sure that all the stress he had to endure on the playing field also contributed to his early demise.

Jackie’s legacy, however, lives on. There are countless, statues, schools, parks and roads named in his honor. Moreover, every time a black or other minority takes the field in the major leagues, the NFL or the NBA, he owes a debt to the pioneer who made it all possible.  So, today, as you watch your favorite team play with all players on both teams wearing “42” take a minute to appreciate the special achievement of one Jack Roosevelt Robinson.

STORMY, DUE PROCESS AND SYRIA

I’m baaack!  Perhaps, you didn’t know or care that I was “gone” for a while, but I was out of commission for a couple of weeks due to surgery.  At this point, I feel compelled to catch up on a few items at once by opining on what I consider to be a few particularly troublesome matters that developed during my absence.  As you can glean from the title of this blog I have taken the liberty of combining three separate topics into one blog.

Firstly is the misplaced values of the media.  In order for our system of government to function as the Founding Fathers intended the media must be objective, fair and skeptical.

Unfortunately, much, if not most, of the media has been so blinded by its irrational hatred of President Trump that it has become substantially out of touch with the pulse of the public.  I’m not only referring to what some have labeled “fake news.”  I realize that characterization is debatable depending on one’s political leanings.  Rather, I am referring to the media’s “pushing” stories they feel cast President Trump in a negative light and downplaying other more significant issues.

There have been innumerable examples of this over the last 18 months, which, due to space and time limitations, I will not reiterate here.  Consider, however, the latest example –  the treatment of the Stormy Daniels matter.

What do you think the most significant issue is for the US at the present time, Stormy Daniels’ salacious accusations regarding President Trump, or the war in Syria, or, perhaps, the erosion of due process?

On the one hand, we have a woman rather generously described as an “adult film actress” revealing she had a relationship with President Trump before he even began to campaign for office.  Somehow, her salacious and rather irrelevant story merits extensive news coverage, including slots on 60 Minutes and Anderson Cooper.  Big yawn!  I say, who cares what Mr. Trump did or did not do with Daniels before he even thought about running for President?   Hello!  He was a billionaire businessman with an ego and a libido.  Private matter.

Do you really  care about this story?  I don’t, and according to the latest Quinnipiac survey, neither do 77% of the American public.  We did not elect Mr. Trump for his moral character.  Additionally, the story has not affected the President’s approval ratings.  The only person this story hurts is Melania, who unfortunately, has become collateral damage.

Secondly, most of the media is overlooking the significance of the FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen’s law office.  Cohen is Mr. Trump’s personal attorney on the Daniels case.  Ostensibly, the FBI was seeking evidence relating to the Daniels case, but it also seized other records as well.  Moreover, Politico reports that the FBI ordered Cohen to disclose his full client list.  Many lawyers, such as the renowned Alan Deshowitz, are concerned that this action constituted a blatant attack on attorney-client privilege as guaranteed by the due process provision of the Bill of Rights.  I am not an attorney, but it concerns me.  It should concern everyone regardless of one’s political leanings, because it creates a slippery slope that could affect anyone of us next.

Last, but not least, is Syria.  We are faced with a rapidly escalating war in the most volatile region in the world in which innocent women and children are being gassed and which has a realistic potential of escalating into a direct confrontation between the US and Russia.  Most of us would agree that the use of chemical weapons is intolerable, but there is disagreement as to what to do about it.  Some even doubt that Assad was the perpetrator.  The choices appear to be (1) do nothing, it’s not our fight; or (2) retaliate with bombardment or some other military or economic action of varying severity.  There are plusses and minuses and room for legitimate debate regarding any action or non-action.

Anyway you slice it, however, Cohen and Syria are far more significant than Daniels and yet until yesterday had been receiving far less media coverage.  The Cohen matter chips away at the constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights of ALL of us, and the Syria situation has the potential to bring us closer to nuclear war that at any time since the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis.  (It would not surprise me if half of Americans do not even know where Syria is.)

CONCLUSION

Last night the US carried out a targeted, surgical strike against various of Syria’s chemical weapons facilities.  Mr. Trump acted in the best way he could under the circumstances..

  1. He made sure he had the moral high ground.
  2. It was a surgical, targeted strike with no or minimal collateral damage.
  3. He acted with the concurrence of our European and Middle East allies.
  4. It was not a solo action.  Other countries, such as the UK and France actively participated.
  5. He sent the best message to Assad and others of his ilk that certain heinous actions will not be tolerated.
  6. Now, we await Russia’s response and hope that cooler heads prevail.
  7. The situation is very fluid.  Stay tuned.