Day in History 3 April – Jesse James – Sarah Vaughan

Jesse_james_portraitOn this day in 1882, outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, member of the James-Younger Gang, legendary figure of the Wild West, hero to some and murderer to others, younger brother of Frank James, Jesse James died in his home in St. Joseph, Missouri at the age of 34 when he was shot in the back of the head by Robert Ford.  Born Jesse Woodson James in Clay County, Missouri, near the site of present day Kearney, on 5 September 1847.  Jesse and Frank were Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War.  Apparently at one time or another one or both of them rode with William Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson.  They were accused of participating in atrocities committed against Union soldiers.  After the war, as members of one gang or another, they robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains.  Despite popular portrayals of James as a kind of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, there is no evidence that he and his gang used their robbery gains for anyone but themselves.  The James brothers were most active with their gang from about 1866 until 1876, when their attempted robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, resulted in the capture of Cole, Jim and Bob Younger.  Frank and Jesse continued in crime for several years, recruiting new members, but were under increasing pressure from law enforcement.  Jesse married is first cousin Zerelda Amanda Mimms.  The Final Footprint – The death of Jesse became a national sensation.  The Fords made no attempt to hide their role.  Robert Ford wired the governor to claim a reward.  Crowds pressed into the little house in St. Joseph to see the dead outlaw.  The Ford brothers surrendered to the authorities but were evidently dismayed to find that they were charged with first degree murder.  In the course of a single day, the Ford brothers were indicted, pleaded guilty, were sentenced to death by hanging and two hours later were granted a full pardon by Governor Thomas T. Crittenden.  The governor’s quick pardon suggested he knew the brothers intended to kill James.  The implication that the governor conspired to kill a private citizen startled the public and added to James’ notoriety.  After receiving a small portion of the reward, the Fords fled Missouri.  Later the Ford brothers starred in a touring stage show in which they reenacted the shooting.  Suffering from tuberculosis (then incurable) and a morphine addiction, Charley Ford committed suicide on 6 May 1884, in Richmond, Missouri.  Bob Ford operated a tent saloon in Creede, Colorado.  On 8 June 1892, a man named Edward O’Kelley went to Creede, loaded a double barrel shotgun, entered Ford’s saloon and said “Hello, Bob” before shooting Ford in the throat, killing him instantly.  O’Kelley was sentenced to life in prison.  O’Kelley’s sentence was subsequently commuted because of a 7,000 signature petition in favor of his release. He was pardoned on 3 October 1902.  Jesse was initially interred at the James Family Farm just outside Kearney.  James’ mother Zerelda Samuel wrote the following epitaph for him: In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son, Murdered by a Traitor and Coward Whose Name is not Worthy to Appear Here.  Eighteen months after Jesse’s wife’s death in November 1900, Jesse’s body was moved from the James Family Farm to rest next to hers at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kearney.  Debate continues over whether to place Jesse in the context of regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the American Civil War or as a manifestation of frontier lawlessness or alleged economic justice.  Cultural depictions of Frank and Jesse and the Youngers proliferate in literature, movies and music.  In Willa Cather‘s My Antonia, the narrator reads a book entitled ‘Life of Jesse James’ – probably a dime novel.  In Charles Portis‘s 1968 novel, True Grit, the U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn describes fighting with Cole Younger and Frank James for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Long after his adventure with Mattie Ross, Cogburn ends his days in a traveling road show with the aged Cole Younger and Frank James.  During his travel to the “Wilde West,” Oscar Wilde visited Kearney.  Learning that Jesse had been assassinated by his own gang member, “…an event that sent the town into mourning and scrambling to buy Jesse’s artifacts,” “romantic appeal of the social outcast” in his mind, Wilde wrote in one of his letters to home that: “Americans are certainly great hero-worshippers, and always take [their] heroes from the criminal classes.”  Frank and Jesse make an appearance in Wildwood Boys (2000) by James Carlos Blake.

In his adaptation of the traditional song “Jesse James”, Woody Guthrie magnified James’s hero status.  “Jesse James” was later covered by the Anglo-Irish band The Pogues on their 1985 album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, and by Bruce Springsteen on his 2006 tribute to Pete Seeger, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.  A somewhat different song titled “Jesse James”, referring to Jesse’s “wife to mourn for his life; three children, they were brave,” and calling Robert Ford “the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard,” was also the first track recorded by the “Stewart Years” version of the Kingston Trio at their initial recording session in 1961 (and included on that year’s release Close-Up).  Echoing the Confederate hero aspect, Hank Williams, Jr.‘s 1983 Southern anthem “Whole Lot Of Hank” has the lyrics “Frank and Jesse James knowed how to rob them trains, they always took it from the rich and gave it to the poor, they might have had a bad name but they sure had a heart of gold.”  Rock band James Gang was named after Jesse James’s gang. Their final album, released in 1976, was titled Jesse Come Home.  Warren Zevon’s 1976 self-titled album Warren Zevon includes the song “Frank and Jesse James”.  The album contains another reference to Jesse in the song “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” with the lyric “Well, I met a girl in West Hollywood, I ain’t naming names. She really worked me over good, she was just like Jesse James.”  Linda Ronstadt covered the song a year later with slightly altered lyrics.  In her album Heart of Stone (1989), Cher included a song titled “Just Like Jesse James”, written by Desmond Child & Diane Warren.  This single, which was released in 1990, achieved high positions in the charts and sold 1,500,000 copies worldwide.  The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band‘s album Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy features the song “Jesse James”, ostensibly recorded on a wire recorder.  In 1980 a concept album titled The Legend of Jesse James was released.  It was written by Paul Kennerley and starred Levon Helm (The Band) as Jesse James, Johnny Cash as Frank James, Emmylou Harris as Zee James, Charlie Daniels as Cole Younger, and Albert Lee as Jim Younger.  There are also appearances by Rodney Crowell, Jody Payne, and Rosanne Cash.  In 1999 a double CD was released containing The Legend Of Jesse James and White Mansions, another concept album by Kennerley about life in the Confederate States of America between 1861-1865.  In 2012 Clay Walker released “Jesse James” as the fourth single from his 2010 studio album She Won’t Be Lonely Long.

There have been numerous portrayals of Jesse in film, including two wherein Jesse James, Jr. depicts his father.  A partial list includes: Jesse James(1939) played by Tyrone Power with Henry Fonda as Frank James and John Carradine as Bob Ford; Jesse James at Bay (1941) played by Roy Rogers; Kansas Raiders (1950) played by Audie Murphy; A Time for Dying (1969) again played by Murphy; The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972) played by Robert DuvallThe Long Riders (1980) played by James Keach with Stacy Keach as Frank James, David Carradine as Cole Younger, Keith Carradine as Jim Younger, Robert Carradine as Bob Younger, Dennis Quaid as Ed Miller, Randy Quaid as Clell Miller, Christopher Guest as Charley Ford, and Nicholas Guest as Robert Ford; The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (1986) played by Kris Kristofferson with Cash as Frank James and Willie Nelson as Gen. Jo Shelby; Frank and Jesse (1994) played by Rob LowePurgatory (1999) played by J.D. SoutherAmerican Outlaws (2001) played by Colin FarrellThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) played by Brad Pitt, with Casey Affleck as Bob Ford.


On this day in 1990, jazz singer, Grammy winner, Sailor, Sassy, The Divine One, Sarah Vaughan died at her home in California at the age of 66 from lung cancer.  Born Sarah Lois Vaughan on 27 March 1924 in Newark, New Jersey.  She had a contralto vocal range and her voice is one my favorites in music.  Her singing ability was envied by many including Frank Sinatra who reportedly said that “Sassy is so good now that when I listen to her I want to cut my wrists with a dull razor.”  Vaughan was married three times: George Treadwell (1946–1958 divorce), Clyde Atkins (1958–1961 divorce) and Waymon Reed (1978–1981 divorce).  The Final Footprint – Vaughan is interred in Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield, New Jersey.  Her grave is marked by an individual upright marker with the inscription “THE DIVINE ONE” and the term of endearment “BELOVED DAUGHTER AND MOTHER.”

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Day in History 2 April – Harvey Penick

On this day in 1995, golf professional, coach, writer, Harvey Penick died in Austin, Texas at the age of 90.  Born on 23 October 1904 in Austin.  Penick was the golf coach at the University of Texas from 1931 to 1963, coaching the Longhorns to 21 Southwest Conference championships in 33 years, including 20 out of 23 seasons from 1932 to 1954 (1932–38; 1940–47; 1949–52; 1954).  He coached the following members of the World Golf Hall of Fame: Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls, and Kathy Whitworth.  In 1992, he co-authored (with Bud Shrake) Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book.  The book became the highest selling golf book ever published.  In my opinion, Penick was perhaps the most gifted instructor of the mental game who ever lived.  He said; “once you address the ball, hitting it to the desired target must be the only thing in your life. Allow no negative thoughts, and focus on your goal.    Penick and Shrake collaborated on four more golf books, the final three published after Penick’s 1995 death.  During his final illness, he gave lessons from his deathbed to Crenshaw.  The day after serving as a pallbearer at Penick’s funeral, Crenshaw began play in the 1995 Masters Tournament.  With the memory and spirit of his longtime friend and mentor to guide him, he became the second oldest Masters champion, winning his second Masters at the age of 43.  Upon sinking his final putt on the 18th green, Crensaw doubled over with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands, crying.  One of my all-time favorite sporting moments.  I watch the Masters on television every year and I was riveted to every moment of that tournament in 1995.  In the post-tournament interview, Crenshaw said: “I had a 15th club in my bag.”  Penick was married to Helen Holmes (1928-1995 his death).  The Final Footprint – Penick is interred in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery in Austin.  His grave is marked by a individual upright granite marker with the term of endearment; BELOVED FRIEND AND TEACHER.  Helen was interred next to him upon her passing in 2006 at the age of 101.  Other notable final footprints at Austin Memorial Park include James Michener, Frank Hamer, Bibb Falk and Noble Doss.

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Day in History 1 April – Scott Joplin – Marvin Gaye

Scott_Joplin_19072On this day in 1917, composer and pianist, The King of Ragtime, Scott Joplin died from tertiary syphilis and a resulting descent into insanity, in Manhattan State Hospital, a mental institution at age of 49.  During his brief career, he wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas.  One of his first pieces, the Maple Leaf Rag, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.  Joplin was born into a musical family of laborers in Northeast Texas.  He grew up in Texarkana, where he formed a vocal quartet, and taught mandolin and guitar.  Joplin began publishing music in 1895, and publication of his Maple Leaf Rag in 1899 brought him fame.  The score to his first opera, A Guest of Honor, was confiscated in 1903 with his belongings, owing to his non-payment of bills, and is considered lost.  He continued to compose and publish music, and in 1907 moved to New York City, seeking to find a producer for a new opera.  Joplin never married.  The Final Footprint – Joplin was buried in a pauper’s grave that remained unmarked for 57 years.  His grave at Saint Michaels Cemetery in East Elmhurst was finally given a marker in 1974.  Joplin’s death is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music format, and in the next several years it evolved with other styles into jazz, and eventually big band swing.  His music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album of Joplin’s rags recorded by Joshua Rifkin, followed by the Academy Award–winning movie The Sting, which featured several of his compositions, such as The Entertainer.  The opera Treemonisha was finally produced in full to wide acclaim in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize.


On this day in 1984, singer-songwriter and musician, The Prince of Motown, The Prince of Soul, Grammy winner, Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father during an argument at his parent’s home in Los Angeles the day before his 45th birthday.  Born Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr. on 2 April 1939 at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.  One of the giants of music.  Where does one start a list of favorite Gaye songs; “Can I get a Witness”, “What’s Going On”, “Let’s Get it On”, “Sexual Healing”, to name just a few.  Gaye was married twice; Anna Gordy, Berry Gordy, Jr.‘s sister (1964-1977) and Janis Hunter (1977-1981 divorce).  The Final Footprint – Gaye was cremated and his cremains were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

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Day in History 31 March – John Donne – Charlotte Brontë – Selena

JohnDonneOn this day in 1631, English cleric and poet, John Donne died at the age of 59 in London.  Born 22 January 1572 in London.  Donne is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets.  His works are noted for their strong, sensual style and include sonnets, love poems, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs, satires and sermons.  His poetry is noted for its vibrancy of language and inventiveness of metaphor, especially compared to that of his contemporaries.  Donne’s style is characterised by abrupt openings and various paradoxes, ironies and dislocations.  These features, along with his frequent dramatic or everyday speech rhythms, his tense syntax and his tough eloquence, were both a reaction against the smoothness of conventional Elizabethan poetry and an adaptation into English of European baroque and mannerist techniques.  His early career was marked by poetry that bore knowledge of English society and he met that knowledge with sharp criticism.  Another important theme in Donne’s poetry is the idea of true religion, something that he spent much time considering and about which he often theorized.  He wrote secular poems as well as erotic and love poems.  He spent much of the money he inherited during and after his education on womanising, literature, and travel.  In 1601, Donne secretly married Anne More, with whom he had twelve children.  In 1615, he became an Anglican priest.  The Final Footprint – Donne was buried in old St Paul’s Cathedral, where a memorial statue of him was erected (carved from a drawing of him in his shroud), with a Latin epigraph probably composed by himself.  Donne’s monument survived the 1666 fire, and is on display in the present building.  An excerpt from “Meditation 17 Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions” serves as the opening for Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, and also produces the book’s title:

… any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee..

—Donne, Meditation XVII


CharlotteBronteOn this day in 1855, sister of Emily and Anne, novelist and poet, Charlotte Bronte died with her unborn child, aged 38 in Haworth, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.  Born in Thornton, west of Bradford in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on 21 April 1816.  The eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels have become classics of English literature.  She first published her works (including her best known novel, Jane Eyre) under the pen name Currer Bell.  Charlotte received a proposal of marriage from Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father’s curate, who had long been in love with her.  She initially turned down his proposal and her father objected to the union at least partly because of Nicholls’s poor financial status.  Charlotte became increasingly attracted to Nicholls and by January 1854 she had accepted his proposal.  They gained the approval of her father by April and married in June.  They took their honeymoon in Banagher, Co. Offaly, Ireland.  The Final Footprint – Charlotte was interred in the family vault in the Church of St Michael and All Angels at Haworth.


Selena09On this day in 1995, singer-songwriter, Grammy winner, The Queen of Tejano, Selena was murdered in Corpus Christi, Texas at the age of 23.  Born Selena Quintanilla on 16 April 1971 in Freeport Community Hospital in Lake Jackson, Texas.  The most successful and popular star in the history of Tejano music.  Her world-wide appeal extended far beyond Tejano.  Selena was killed by Yolanda Saldivar, the president of her fan club and manager of the singer’s chain of beauty salons and boutiques.  Selena believed that Saldivar had stolen over $30,000 from her businesses.  Selena was married to Chris Pérez.  The Final Footprint – Selena is interred in Seaside Memorial Park in Corpus Christi in a private estate.  Pavers lead up to the estate.  Her grave is enclosed in a gated fence.  The grave itself is marked by a full ledger bronze marker featuring a relief of her face and the inscription; “HE WILL ACTUALLY SWALLOW UP DEATH FOREVER, AND THE SOVEREIGN LORD JEHOVAH WILL CERTAINLY WIPE THE TEARS FROM ALL FACES”.  ISIAH 25:8    On 12 April 1995, two weeks after her death, George W. Bush, governor of Texas at the time, declared her birthday “Selena Day” in Texas.   Warner Bros. produced Selena (1997), a film based on her life starring Jennifer Lopez.  Selena’s life was also the basis of the musical Selena Forever starring Veronica Vazquez.  In June 2006, Selena was commemorated with a museum and a bronze life-sized statue, Mirador de la Flor, in Corpus Christi.  Selena ¡VIVE!

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Day in History 30 March – James Cagney

On this day in 1986, Academy award winning actor, James Cagney died at his Dutchess County farm in Stanfordville, New York, of a heart attack at the age of 87.  Born James Francis Cagney, Jr. on 17 July 1899 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City.  His father was Irish and his mother was half Irish and half Norwegian.  He won acclaim and awards for a wide variety of roles.  Cagney was married once to Frances Vernon (1922-1986 is death).  The Final Footprint – Cagney is entombed in the mausoleum at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.  President Ronald Reagan gave the eulogy.  Other notable Final Footprints at Gate of Heaven include; Babe Ruth and Billy Martin.

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Day in History 29 March – Georges-Pierre Seurat

On this day in 1891, Post-Impressionist painter, Georges-Pierre Seurat died in Paris at the age of 31.  Born on 2 December 1859 in Paris.  In my opinion, his most famous work is, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886), which altered the direction of modern art by initiating Neo-impressionism, and is one of the icons of 19th century painting.  Apparently, he lived secretly with his young model, Madeleine Knobloch, whom he portrayed in his painting “Jeune femme se poudrant”.  Seurat said;  “Art is Harmony.  Harmony is the analogy of the contrary and of similar elements of tone, of color and of line, considered according to their dominance and under the influence of light, in gay, calm or sad combinations”.  The Final Footprint – Seurat is entombed in the Seurat family private mausoleum in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.  Other notable Final Footprints at Père Lachaise include; Honoré de Balzac, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Georges Bizet, Maria Callas, Chopin, Colette, Auguste Comte, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Molière, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Marcel Proust, Sully Prudhomme, Gioachino Rossini, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Simone Signoret, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Oscar Wilde, and Richard Wright.

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  • The Suburbs, 1882-1883, Museum of Modern Art, Troyes
  • Fishing in The Seine, 1883, Museum of Modern Art, Troyes

  • The Laborers 1883, National Gallery of Art Washington, DC.

  • Study for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,, 1884-1885, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

  • Bathers at Asnières, 1884, National Gallery, London

  • View of Fort Samson 1885, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

  • Circus Sideshow (or Parade de Cirque), 1887–88, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

  • The Seine and la Grande Jatte – Springtime 1888, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

  • The Models, 1888, Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA

  • Gray weather, Grande Jatte, 1888, Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • The Eiffel Tower 1889, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

  • The Circus, 1891, Musée d’Orsay Paris

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Day in History 28 March – Virginia Woolf – Dwight D. Eisenhower

VirginiaWoolfOn this day in 1941, writer Virginia Woolf put on her overcoat, filled its pockets with stones, walked into the River Ouse near her home in Lewes, East Sussex, England, and drowned herself, at the age of 59.   Born Adeline Virginia Stephen at 22 Hyde Park Gate in London on 25 January 1882.  In my opinion, one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century.  During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a central figure in the influential Bloomsbury Group, an influential group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists.  Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One’s Own (1929), with its famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  Woolf suffered from severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life, thought to have been the result of what is now termed bipolar disorder.  Virginia Stephen married writer Leonard Woolf on 10 August 1912.  Despite his low material status (Woolf referring to Leonard during their engagement as a “penniless Jew”) the couple evidently shared a close bond.  The ethos of the Bloomsbury group encouraged a liberal approach to sexuality, and in 1922 she met the writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West, wife of Harold Nicolson.  After a tentative start, they began a sexual relationship.  In 1928, Woolf presented Sackville-West with Orlando, a fantastical biography in which the eponymous hero’s life spans three centuries and both sexes.  Nigel Nicolson, Sackville-West’s son, wrote “The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her”.  After their affair ended, the two women remained friends until Woolf’s death.  The Final Footprint – Woolf’s body was not found until 18 April 1941.  Woolf was cremated and her husband buried her cremated remains under an elm in the garden of Monk’s House, their home in Rodmell, Sussex.  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a Tony Award-winning 1962 play by Edward Albee.  It examines the breakdown of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George.  The title is a pun on the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” from Walt Disney’s The Three Little Pigs (1933), substituting Woolf’s name.  Martha and George repeatedly sing this version of the song throughout the play.  The film adaptation was released in 1966, written by Ernest Lehman, directed by Mike Nichols, and starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, George Segal and Sandy DennisMichael Cunningham‘s 1998 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Hours focused on three generations of women affected by Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway.  In 2002, a film version of the novel was released starring Nicole Kidman as Woolf, a role for which she won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Actress.  The film also starred Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep and featured an award-winning score by American composer Philip Glass.

On this day in 1969, five-star general and the 34th President of the United States, Ike, Dwight David Eisenhower died of congestive heart failure at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C. at the age of 78.  Born 14 October 1890 in Denison, Texas.  During World War II, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, with responsibility for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO.  A Republican, Eisenhower entered the 1952 presidential race and won by a landslide, defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson and ending two decades of the New Deal Coalition holding the White House.  In the 1956 election, he would again face Stevenson, easily winning re-election.  Richard M. Nixon would serve as his vice president for both of his terms in office.  Eisenhower graduated from the U. S. Military Academy in West Point.  He married Mary Geneva “Mamie”Doud (1916-1969 his death).  Eisenhower retired to the place where he and Mamie had spent much of their post-war time, a working farm adjacent to the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The Final Footprint – Eisenhower is entombed in a small chapel, the Place of Meditation, on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas.  The day following his death, his body was moved to the Washington National Cathedral’s Bethlehem Chapel where he lay in repose for twenty-eight hours.  On March 30, his body was brought by caisson to the United States Capitol where he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda.  On March 31, Eisenhower’s body was returned to the National Cathedral where he was given an Episcopal Church funeral service.  That evening, Eisenhower’s body was placed onto a train en route to Abilene.  Nixon, by this time president himself, said of Eisenhower’s death; “Some men are considered great because they lead great armies or they lead powerful nations.  For eight years now, Dwight Eisenhower has neither commanded an army nor led a nation; and yet he remained through his final days the world’s most admired and respected man, truly the first citizen of the world.”  There are many tributes and memorials to Eisenhower.  My personal favorite being the Eisenhower tree which overhangs the 17th fairway at Augusta National Golf Club, where he was a member.  Evidently the tree proved to be quite an obstacle for him when he played the course.  He asked the club to remove the tree and they refused.

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Day in History 27 March – James VI and I

On this day in 1625, King of Scots James VI and King of England as James I, died at Theobalds House, England at the age of 58.  Born on 19 June 1566 at Edinburgh Castle.  As the eldest son and heir apparent of the monarchy he automatically became Duke of Rothesay and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.  James was baptised “Charles James” on 17 December 1566 in a Catholic ceremony held at Stirling Castle.  He became King of Scotland when he was just thirteen months old on 24 July 1567, succeeding his mother Mary, Queen of Scots, who had been compelled to abdicate in his favour.  In 1603, he succeeded the last Tudor monarch of England and Ireland, Elizabeth I, who died without issue.  He then ruled England, Scotland, and Ireland for 22 years, often using the title King of Great Britain.  Under James, the “Golden Age” of Elizabethan literature and drama continued, with writers such as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Sir Francis Bacon contributing to a flourishing literary culture.  Sir Anthony Weldon claimed that James had been termed “the wisest fool in Christendom”, an epithet associated with his character ever since.  James was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.  Both Mary and Darnley were great-grandchildren of Henry VII of England through Margaret Tudor, the older sister of Henry VIII.  James was the first cousin twice removed Elizabeth I.  Mary’s rule over Scotland was insecure, for both she and her husband, being Roman Catholics, faced a rebellion by Protestant noblemen.  James married the fourteen-year-old Anne of Denmark, younger daughter of the Protestant King of Denmark Frederick II.  The couple were married formally at the Bishop’s Palace in Oslo on 23 November 1589 and, after stays at Elsinore and Copenhagen, returned to Scotland in May 1590.  The stability of James’s government in Scotland and in the early part of his English reign, as well as his relatively enlightened views on religion and war, have earned him a positive evaluation from many recent historians.  The Final Footprint – James was entombed in Westminster Abbey.  Bishop John Williams of Lincoln preached the sermon, observing, “King Solomon died in Peace, when he had lived about sixty years … and so you know did King James”.  “As he lived in peace,” remarked the Earl of Kellie, “so did he die in peace, and I pray God our king [Charles I] may follow him”.  Other notable Final Footprints at Westminster include; Robert Browning, Lord Byron, Geoffrey Chaucer, Oliver Cromwell, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Edward The Confessor, Elizabeth I, George II, George Friederic Handel, Samuel Johnson, Ben Jonson, Charles II, Edward III, Edward VI, Henry III, Henry V, Henry VII, Richard II, Rudyard Kipling, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Milton, Isaac Newton, Laurence Olivier, Henry Purcell, Mary I, Mary II, Mary Queen of Scots, Thomas Shadwell, Edmund Spenser, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Dylan Thomas, and William III.

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Day in History 26 March – Ludwig van Beethoven – Walt Whitman

Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler

On this day in 1827, composer and pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven died in Vienna at the age of 56.  Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, now in present-day Germany.  Beethoven was likely born on 16 December 1770.  He moved to Vienna in his early 20’s, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist.  His hearing began to deteriorate in the late 1790s, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after becoming completely deaf.  In my opinion, Beethoven is the crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music and he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.  My favorite Beethoven composition is his Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, the “Emperor Concerto”.  Beethoven never married though he apparently had several loves.  He met Giulietta Guicciardi in about 1800 and mentions his love for her in a letter to a friend.  Beethoven dedicated to Giulietta his Sonata No. 14, popularly known as the “Moonlight” Sonata.  Marriage plans were thwarted by Giulietta’s father and perhaps Beethoven’s common lineage.  Perhaps Beethoven proposed to Josephine Deym, at least informally.  While his feelings were apparently reciprocated, she turned him down possibly due to the fact that she was born of nobility and he was a commoner.  It is also likely that he considered proposing (whether he actually did or not is unknown) to Therese Malfatti, the dedicatee of “Für Elise” in 1810; his common status may also have thwarted those plans.  Apparently while staying in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz, he wrote three love letters to an “Immortal Beloved.”  While the identity of the intended recipient is the subject of ongoing debate, the most likely candidate, based on people’s movements and the contents of the letters, is Antonie Brentano, a married woman with whom he had begun a friendship in 1810.  The Final Footprint – Beethoven was initially interred in the Währing cemetery, north-west of Vienna, after a requiem mass at the church of the Holy Trinity (Dreifaltigkeitskirche).  The funeral procession on 29 March 1827 was attended by an estimated 20,000 Viennese citizens. Franz Schubert, who would die the following year and would be buried next to Beethoven, was one of the torchbearers.  Beethoven’s remains were exhumed for study in 1862, and moved in 1888 to Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof, the largest and most famous cemetery among Vienna’s nearly 50 cemeteries.  His grave is marked by a large marble monument.  Eddie Van Halen‘s middle name “Lodewijk” was derived from Beethoven (Lodewijk is the Dutch version of Ludwig).  Other notable Final Footprints at Zentralfriedhof include; Johannes Brahms, Antonio Salieri, Schubert, Johann Strauss I, Johann Strauss II.  In addition, a cenotaph was erected there in honour of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Walt_Whitman_-_George_Collins_CoxOn this day in 1892, poet, essayist, journalist, teacher, government clerk, volunteer nurse during the Civil War, The Father of Free Verse, Walt Whitman died in Camden, New Jersey at the age of 72.  Born Walter Whitman on 31 May 1819, in West Hills, Town of Huntington, Long Island.  A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works.  In my opinion, Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon.  His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.  First published in 1855 with his own money, Leaves of Grass was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic.  He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892.  Whitman never married.  The Final Footprint – A public viewing of his body was held at his Camden home; over one thousand people visited in three hours. Apparently, Whitman’s oak coffin was barely visible because of all the flowers and wreaths left for him.  Four days after his death, he was entombed in the private mausoleum he had built at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden.  Another public ceremony was held at the cemetery, with friends giving speeches, live music, and refreshments.  Whitman’s friend, the orator Robert Ingersoll, delivered the eulogy.  Later, the remains of Whitman’s parents and two of his brothers and their families were moved to the mausoleum.  Whitman has been claimed as America’s first “poet of democracy”, a title meant to reflect his ability to write in a singularly American character.  A British friend of Walt Whitman, Mary Smith Whitall Costelloe, wrote: “You cannot really understand America without Walt Whitman, without Leaves of Grass… He has expressed that civilization, ‘up to date,’ as he would say, and no student of the philosophy of history can do without him.”.  Poet Ezra Pound called Whitman “America’s poet… He is America.”.  Andrew Carnegie called him “the great poet of America so far”.  Whitman considered himself a messiah-like figure in poetry.  William Sloane Kennedy, speculated that “people will be celebrating the birth of Walt Whitman as they are now the birth of Christ”.  The literary critic, Harold Bloom wrote, as the introduction for the 150th anniversary of Leaves of Grass:

If you are American, then Walt Whitman is your imaginative father and mother, even if, like myself, you have never composed a line of verse. You can nominate a fair number of literary works as candidates for the secular Scripture of the United States. They might include Melville’s Moby-Dick, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Emerson’s two series of Essays and The Conduct of Life. None of those, not even Emerson’s, are as central as the first edition of Leaves of Grass.

Whitman’s vagabond lifestyle was adopted by the Beat movement and its leaders such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in the 1950s and 1960s as well as anti-war poets like Adrienne Rich and Gary SnyderLawrence Ferlinghetti numbered himself among Whitman’s “wild children”, and the title of his 1961 collection Starting from San Francisco is a deliberate reference to Whitman’s Starting from Paumanok.  Whitman also influenced Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and was the model for the character of Dracula.  Stoker said in his notes that Dracula represented the quintessential male which, to Stoker, was Whitman, with whom he corresponded until Whitman’s death.  Other admirers included the Eagle Street College, an informal group established in 1885 at the home of James William Wallace in Eagle Street, Bolton, to read and discuss the poetry of Whitman.  The group subsequently became known as the Bolton Whitman Fellowship or Whitmanites.  Its members held an annual ‘Whitman Day’ celebration around the poet’s birthday.  Whitman’s poetry has been set to music by a large number of composers including: Kurt Weill, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius, Paul Hindemith, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Benjamin Britten, Leonard Bernstein, Ned Rorem, Ronald Corp, George Crumb, Roger Sessions and John Adams.  The Walt Whitman Bridge crosses the Delaware River near his home in Camden.

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Day in History 25 March – Buck Owens

On this day in 2006, singer and songwriter, Buck Owens died in his sleep at his ranch in Bakersfield, California at the age of 76.  Born Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. on 12 August 1929 in Sherman, Texas.  Evidently Buck was a donkey on the Owens farm and one day Alvis, Jr. announced that his name was also Buck and it stuck.  Owens settled in Bakersfield in 1951 and pioneered what came to be known as the Bakersfield sound.  From 1969 to 1986, Owens co-hosted the TV series Hee Haw with Roy Clark.  My favorite Owens’ songs are “Together Again” and “Love’s Gonna Live Here.”  Owens was married four times all ending in divorce; Bonnie Campbell, Phyllis Buford, Jana Jae Greif, Jennifer Smith.  The Final Footprint – Owens is entombed in the The Buck Owens Family Private Mausoleum “Buck’s Place” at Greenlawn Southwest Mortuary and Cemetery in Bakersfield.

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