Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Where Were You…When the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor 75 Years Ago?

December 4, 2016

Not born yet?

Most people weren’t.

But a few of us were. I was 11 years old on that “Day of Infamy” That’s what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the day that took America into World War II.

As was said on CBS Sunday Morning, one of the best programs on TV in my view, that attack on December 7th, 1941 changed the United States from an isolationist nation to a global superpower.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that many people can remember exactly where they were when cataclysmic historical events happen. Here’s some of what I wrote about the Pearl Harbor attack in my memoir The Newsman:

  On December 7th. 1941, my father was in his usual Sunday afternoon state, asleep in his easy chair. After lunch, he would turn on the radio and listen to the live CBS broadcast of the New York Philharmonic. Actually, he didn’t listen consciously to most of it, because within minutes of turning on the radio, he would fall asleep and sleep through the entire concert. However, I learned that he was not as asleep as I thought he was. One Sunday, I decided since he wasn’t listening to the symphony, I would tune to something that would appeal more to eleven-year-old me.  As my hand reached for the dial, he said, without even opening his eyes, “Don’t touch that dial.” You better believe I did not touch that dial. He never fussed at me at all. If I did something that displeased him, he would, without uttering a word, engage in corporal punishment.

On December 7th it wasn’t I who roused him from his napping; it was interruption of the program by CBS announcer John Daley, who told the nationwide symphony orchestra audience that Japanese planes had attacked Pear Harbor. Everyone, including young me, knew that meant we would be going to war.

When I went out to play on that sunny December 7th afternoon after the news bulletin about Pearl Harbor broke, I remember telling my buddy Carlton Bussey who lived a few doors down from us,  “This means war. A lot of people are going to be killed.” He solemnly agreed. There was no whooping and hollering and rebel-yelling that we had seen in Gone with the Wind when someone came running into the plantation house with the news that Fort Sumter had been bombarded by Rebel artillery.

 

Advertisements

Why I Enjoyed the Swan House More Than…

April 19, 2015
Emily Inman's Parlor in the Swan House in Atlanta's tony Biuckhead.

Emily Inman’s Parlor in the Swan House in Atlanta’s tony Biuckhead.

…the Civil War exhibit at the Atlanta Historical Society Center.  I didn’t enjoy the Swan House more because of any shortcomings of “The Turning Point: the American Civil War,”  because it is a very impressive exhibit of  some 1400 Civil War artifacts, but because it really brings home just  how horrific that war was. 670,000 people died in that war, many of them from dysentery.  And to think that if a man owned 20 or more slaves in the Georgia, South he was exempted from being drafted.  Yes, it was a “rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight,”  as a a lot of the poor farm boys who were doing most of the fighting said.  This idea is very effectively explored in David William’s Rich Man’s War: Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the Lower Chattahoochee Valley. I read it about ten years ago. It really came to mind again as I walked through that exhibit at the Atlanta History Museum.  

  The Swan House, built in 1928 ,  gives us a good idea of what it was to be really rich in Atlanta in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Located in very tony Buckhead,  it was built for Edward and Emily Inman whose fortune was made from investments in cotton brokerage, real estate, and banking.  He didn’t get to enjoy the house but three years because he died in 1931. But, Emily lived there until 1966 when she sold it to the Atlanta Historical Society for $500 thousand. It  took $5.4 million to restore it. 

I saw it with a fine group of folks who are members of the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning.  One of them,  my friend Julie Bray, asked me if I would like to live in the Swan House. With no hesitation, I said “No. It would be like living in a museum.” Of course it would, because it now IS a museum.   

 

TED is a Good Friend to Have

January 18, 2015

When I go walking, quite often it’s with a good friend called TED.

TED tells me some really interesting things when I put in my two miles daily – well, most days – on a treadmill.

For instance, the other day David Christian, one of the many intelligent, engaging speakers on TED, told me the History of the World in 18 Minutes.

Now, that might seem something really impossible to do, but, amazingly, he does a pretty good job of it.

Check it out at   www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history?language=en and we’ll discuss it in our next post.

 

 

 

Happy 90th Birthday to my “Old Friend” from Plains

October 2, 2014

Carter - Plains 3  015

Yes, I can claim to be an “old friend” of President Jimmy Carter. That’s because he called me that when I met and shook hands with him at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains in July.  A group of my friends and I attended his famous Sunday school class.  That handshake was really special because visitors were asked not to try to shake hands with him.  Too many really firm  handshakes cause problems for someone who  has been around for nine decades.  I was going to follow instructions not to do it, but when he recognized me, his face lit up as he grabbed my hand, shook it, smiled his famous smile and said, “Oh, my old friend. How have you been?” I only chatted with him briefly because there was a line of people behind me waiting to have their pictures taken with him and Mrs. Carter.

It was truly an honor to hear those words “my old friend.”  President Carter – I could call him Jimmy and he wouldn’t mind, I’m sure – but, I don’t.  I like  calling him “President.”  Not only because he is one of the people in this world that I  respect and admire the most,  but because so many people were truly shocked when he was elected President of the United States. I wasn’t. I figured he was going to win from the time that he and Martin Luther King, Sr. joined and raised their hands to sing “We Shall Overcome” with the rest of the delegates at the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City.

I was in New York attending a dinner CBS News had for affiliated stations’ news departments during the presidential nominating primaries. One of the CBS staffers raised the question of who might get the Democratic Party nomination.  After a list of names was suggested by those around our table, I said, “What about Jimmy Carter?” The New York fellows almost laughed at the thought. I was thinking how sweet it would be if he got the nomination.  How sweet it was. And how much sweeter it was when he won.

The first time I saw him at a 3rd  Congressional District Democratic Convention at the Rylander Theater in Americus in the 1960s, just based on his looks and charisma, I said to myself that man is going places in politics.  That’s when I started covering the man who would rise from chairman of the Sumter County School Board in 1961 to become the 39th President of the United States in 1977.  

Jimmy Carter is not only a brave man,  but, more importanly, he is a good man.

TIME WILL TELL

August 11, 2014

GEORGE WILL’S COLUMN ON NIXON EMPHASIZES THE ROLE OF  LAPSED TIME IN PROVIDING THE WHOLE TRUTH OF A HISTORICAL EVENT

As I read George Will’s latest column in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer , I had to reflect on the experiences I  had in Dr. Craig Lloyd’s Columbus College’s (now Columbus State University) historiography class. When I researched for a paper on the role that yellow journalists William Randolph Hearst’s New York  Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World  newspapers played in starting the Spanish-American War, what really stood out was that, generally,  histories written contemporaneously could not be trusted as much as those written years or decades after the events depicted.

That doesn’t mean that contemporary history doesn’t have value. Many historians believe it  is very valuable, but new information revealed over the years can revise what was believed to be factual when written contemporaneously.

Now, forty years after Watergate, we learn why former President Richard Nixon risked his presidency by ordering that notorious burglary.  George Will reported in his column that ran in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer that  Ken Hughes, who studied the Nixon tapes for more than ten years, points out in his book, Chasing Shadows: the Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, that “Nixon ordered the crime in 1971 hoping to prevent the public  knowledge of a crime he committed in 1968.”  Will says Nixon’s prior crime in 1968 was to interfere, as a private citizen, with U.S. government diplomatic negotiations concerning the Vietnam War.  He said Nixon was worried that supposed documents in a safe in the Democratic headquarters would reveal “his role in sabotaging negotiations that might have shorten the war.” 

A lot of historical documents are sealed by public figures for opening at a future date after the owners of those documents have been dead for, say,  50 yearsSo, historically, the microscope of  time plays a big role in giving us the  whole truth about  historical events.

The Making of the Modern Middle East Mess

July 29, 2014

What a time to be reading Scott  Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia.  The moment I  saw the book’s cover, I knew  I had to read it because one of the most impressive movies I have ever seen is David Lean’s 1966 masterpiece epic Lawrence of Arabia.

T.E. Lawrence, British soldier who played a key role in leading the Arab Revolt that helped  bring down the Ottoman/Turkish Empire in World War One.

T.E. Lawrence, British soldier who played a key role in leading the Arab Revolt that helped bring down the Ottoman/Turkish Empire in World War One.

With the daily Middle East  horrors being shown just about every day on TV, it’s interesting the learn how the modern Middle East was formed a hundred years ago when World War One started in 1914, and the role that T.E Lawrence played in that formation, and about how the United Kingdom and France arbitrarily drew up the borders of the  Middle East nations that resulted in the carving up o the defeated Ottoman empire.  It also delves into the beginning of the formation of Israel. And it tells us about early American  involvement in it all.

The full and very appropriate title of the book is Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

 

 

 

Sunday Morning with Almost-90 President Carter

July 20, 2014

President Carter Says China is Headed Toward Having the World’s Largest Christian  Population

Carter - Plains 3  015

  As usual, when he is there, the Maranatha Baptist  Church at Plains, Georgia was packed Sunday morning.  A new friend who formerly lived in South Dakota, Bill Harlan, had said that he and his wife Marjorie, would like to attend one of President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school classes.  So Carol and Don Nahley, Sidney and Ed Wilson, the Harlan’s, and Julie Bray and I motored to Plains.  It was a delightful experience.  

On October first, President Carter will be 90.  You would  never know it by the way he conducts his Sunday school class.  He is still not only intellectually impressive and witty,  but does not move like a man who has been around that long.  He was on his feet and in motion for the entire lesson, which lasted almost an hour.

The main point of his talk was that all Christians are missionaries, that Christ himself was a missionary. After normalizing relations with China in 1979, he tried to get missionaries back into the country. He asked for three things: Freedom of religion,  the printing of bibles, and allowing missionaries back into China. He got two of them. China agreed to allow freedom of religion and the printing of bibles, but it wouldn’t allow missionaries to return.  Now, President Carter said, China is on its way to having the  world’s largest Christian population. Sometimes it only takes one person to get the job done and, it seems, one missionary to China, President Jimmy Carter, was the man to do it.   

 

Happy 238th Birthday, America!

July 4, 2014

240px-Fourth_of_July_fireworks_behind_the_Washington_Monument,_1986

And, a belated Happy Resolution of Independence Day.  July 2nd, 1776 was the day that the Continental Congress passed the Resolution of Independence.  The Declaration of Independence was signed and dated on July 4th, 1776.  Bet you didn’t know that. Neither did It until I looked up Independence Day on Wikipedia.

 

I

A Blogger’s Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning

June 29, 2014

Being a UU, I know that Unitarian Universalists do not have a creed, but UU communities affirm and promote Seven Principles. The Fourth one, “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” is the one that concerns us for this post. I am examining how that principle applies to the body of work that I have produced for this blog, which is a Personal blog. WordPress, which hosts more than 60 million websites including this one, says Personal “is the broadest category and includes blogs about personal topics like politics, music, family, travel, health, you name it.”

Since I started this blog in 2008, there have been 690 posts. There is no way we can examine each one, so let’s take a look at the one that has gotten and continues to get the most hits. The August 19, 2009 post AN EMOTIONAL WILLIAM CALLEY SAYS HE IS SORRY not only continues to get a lot of hits, but continues to get comments from readers.

Former Army Lt. William Calley, the only person convicted of participating in the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War, including a lot of  women and children,  used the occasion of speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus (Georgia), to apologize for his  role in the war crime.  My report was picked up by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, carried by all McClatchey newspapers , and fed by the L-E to the Associated Press,  causing it to be reported around the world.

I can’t speak  for others, so I’ll just concentrate on what I  see to be true in the report.  One significant truth to me is that some human beings of any nationallity are capable of unspeakable acts. Another one is that not only are some people incapaable of that, but they will actively oppose those who are.    

 What’s the meaning of the story?  For one thing, to me, it again raises the point that  war is an insane way for nations to resolve conflicts.  For another,  it shows that political leaders can get a lot of people killed unnecessarily and can be disingenuous about justifying their lethal actions.    

I realize that it may have an entirely different truth and meaning for you. Please feel  free to click on the comment button and let me know how you feel about the subject.  I do request that comments be civil, not too profane, and sans name calling. 

 

Experiencing Jefferson

September 30, 2013
Monticello

Monticello

If “you gotta be there” ever applied, it would certainly be when we’re discussing Thomas Jefferson.  I’ve read and heard a lot about the 3rd President of the United States, but it wasn’t until I toured Monticello that I really grasped the genus of the man.  Taking pictures inside the house is a not allowed, which is why I have to tell you about, instead of showing you, his cutting edge technological achievements such as a copying machine on his desk.  It hooked up two pens so that he could have a copy of everything he wrote.

Tour group standing on a portion of one of the concourse wings which expand Jefferson's home, making it much larger than it looks.

Tour group standing on a portion of one of the concourse wings which expand Jefferson’s home, making it much larger than it looks.

Standing there in front of his neoclassical home, which he designed, I could almost feel his presence.  Our tour guide told us that he wanted the house to look smaller than it really is.  It appears to be a one-story structure, but it has three floors.  It also has concourse wings which house, among other things,  the kitchen, storage areas, a stable,

Original dormatory rooms and faculty homes at the University of Virginia, designed by the school's founder Thomas Jefferson.  They are still being used.  Only oustanding students are allowed to occupy the dorm rooms, and some professors still live in the faculty homes.

Original dormitory rooms and faculty homes at the University of Virginia, designed by the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson. They are still being used. Only outstanding students are allowed to occupy the dorm rooms, and some professors still live in the faculty homes.

As our guide told us, Jefferson was a great promoter of democracy and equal rights,  the founder of the University of Virgina, where he planned for educational opportunities to be available for not just the wealthy; however,  only free white males who owned property were accepted.  The principal writer of the Declaration of Independence who proclaimed liberty for all, owned up to 200 slaves, and freed only a handful during his life and none in his will.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virgina.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia

Someone asked me, “Did your guide mention Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemmings, the slave who historians now assert bore up to six of his children?”  Definitely.

Yes, he was human like the rest of us, but he was anything but ordinary. He was an original thinker,  an inventor, architect,  diplomat, the first Secretary of State, speaker of five languages, Governor of Virginia, Vice President and President of the United States.  All of this has even greater meaning when you visit Monticello.  I’m really glad I got to see it and, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you do.