Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A tribute by Jill Dennison
Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was a giant among men. He led by his words, his actions, and the way he lived his life. Today, I have the distinct privilege to welcome one of the most gifted bloggers I know and my very good friend, Jill Dennison, to Words To Captivate. Jill has taught college courses in the USA on Black History in America and is an ardent fan of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On this 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination, it is fitting that Jill shares with us how important this leader was in his own day and continues to be in the present because his work is not yet done. Thank you, Jill, for agreeing to be my guest today.
Every now and then an individual passes through this world who leaves behind an indelible mark, who is credited, deservingly, with having changed the world. Such an individual will be recorded in the annals of history long after the rest of us are but a vague and distant memory to future generations. Often, it seems, these individuals do not live long, leave much undone, but still, they made a difference far greater than those who may live to be a hundred. The life of one such man was cut short exactly fifty years ago today. That man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are numerous King biographies, some excellent. Many have written of his life, have paid tribute to him in a variety of ways. It is not my intent to add another to the tall stack, but merely to look at what it was that set MLK apart, that made him the shining star that influenced presidents and ordinary folk alike. And to pay a bit of tribute to a great man, and speak briefly of the legacy he left that, though it seems to be forgotten sometimes, is still with us today, even though Dr. King is not. Three things, I think, set Martin Luther King apart from the rest: his uncanny ability to know the right words for the right time, his oratory ‘gift’, and his peaceful, nonviolent approach.
Some things cannot be learned – not from a textbook, not from parental or church guidance, nor even from life’s experiences. King’s timing in most things was impeccable, and it wasn’t something he learned, but rather just a knack he had. He knew when it was time to speak softly, but knew when it was time to raise his voice. He knew when the time and cause were right, such as when he organized the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955-56. He seemed to simply understand that Rosa Parks was the right cause and that the timing was right.
To this day, I cannot listen to King’s I Have A Dream speech without a chill running through me and tears welling in my eyes. Never before nor since have I heard anybody who could speak like Martin Luther King – not even John F. Kennedy, though he was an excellent orator. There was something about Martin, though, that made people listen, whether he was speaking quietly or booming into a microphone. You might not agree with what he was saying, but you could not help but listen. This, too, was a gift – it was not a learned skill, not even a talent really, not something practiced – it just was.
Martin Luther King was, above all else, a peaceful activist. Despite this, he was arrested and sent to jail no less than 29 times during his life! One of those times was for driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone – no racial profiling here! It was during one of his stints in the Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1963 that King penned what would become his most famous written document, Letter From A Birmingham Jail. He wrote the letter on newspaper margins, scraps of paper and smuggled-in legal pads. He had no notes or reference materials. His letter is timeless and so much of it still resonates today, 55 years later. For example, he called out the white church for being an “arch supporter of the status quo,” and castigated its ministers for failing to recognize the black man as their brother. We look at the evangelical Christian churches today and wish we could send a copy of King’s letter to each and every one. The letter is long … nearly 7,000 words … thus I cannot replicate it here but will include a link to the .pdf file for anyone who would like to read it.
And later that year, in August, Martin gave his iconic I Have A Dream speech that touched the hearts of so many.
Many, perhaps most, believe that King was killed because he was becoming too radical, steering further than just wanting “whites only” signs taken down. His focus had expanded to include the war in Vietnam, and in 1968 he was trying to build an interracial coalition to end the war in Vietnam and force major economic reforms. There are many theories about his assassination that I steer clear of, for as with the assassination of JFK almost five years earlier, I suspect the full truth will never be known. I prefer, instead, to focus on his legacy, to remember and remind others of the timeless lessons that he left us. The essence of Martin Luther King’s legacy, I think, can be summed by a few of his most poignant quotes:
Did Martin Luther King put an end to racism? No, of course not. But he showed the world that it is possible, with determination, strength, and courage, to make a difference without the use of violence. He proved to us that it is possible to love everyone as brothers if we just open our hearts and our minds. Sadly, far too many have forgotten this, and today when I look around, I see nobody with those innate qualities Dr. King had that gave him the power to change the world, to open people’s hearts and minds with words rather than guns. We need another Dr. Martin Luther King. After 50 years, we still miss Dr. Martin Luther King.
A Bit of MLK trivia …
• He skipped two grades and left for college before formally graduating high school. Entering Morehouse College at the age of 15, he was accepted as part of an early admittance program that was aimed to boost enrollment during the war. Dr. King received a bachelor’s degree at age 19.
• Upon marrying his wife, Coretta, he realized that it was not very easy for him to go on a honeymoon due to his skin color, so they ended up having it at a friend’s funeral parlor.
• On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in Blumstein’s department store when he was approached by Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry said, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and she plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest. The tip of the blade came to rest alongside his aorta, and King underwent hours of delicate emergency surgery. Surgeons later told King that just one sneeze could have punctured the aorta and killed him. From his hospital bed where he convalesced for weeks, King issued a statement affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his mentally ill attacker.
• In 1964, at the age of 35, King won the Nobel Peace Prize. To this day he is still the youngest male to ever receive it.
• On June 30, 1974, as Dr. King’s mother, 69-year-old Alberta Williams King played the organ at a Sunday service inside Ebenezer Baptist Church. Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and began to fire shots. One of the bullets struck and killed Ms. King, who died steps from where her son had preached nonviolence. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer. The shooting also left a church deacon dead. Chenault received a death penalty sentence that was later changed to life imprisonment, in part due to the King family’s opposition to capital punishment.
• As a result of helping organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted 385 days, King was not only arrested but his house was also bombed.
• There are two places outside of the United States that celebrate MLK day: Toronto, Canada, and Hiroshima, Japan.
How, we ask ourselves, did a sexual predator with a volatile temper and no knowledge of how government works, become the president? How is this possible in what was once among the freest nations on earth? Quite simple … we all have preconceived notions of what we want, and if something stands in the way of achieving those goals, we simply … look the other way.
A nominee for Supreme Court justice refuses to answer questions, is caught lying during his confirmation hearings and then is accused of having sexually assaulted one or more girls during his early years. The republicans have been ordered by Donald Trump to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, regardless. What to do, what to do? Look the other way.
The human race, as well as most other living creatures, is on a collision course with disaster unless we make some tough choices in the very near future. …
* July 30th – 1609 – Samuel de Champlain joins skirmish against Iroquois – kills two chiefs with his arquebus. * July 31st – 1965 J.K. Rowling born * August 2nd – 1990 Iraq invades Kuwait * August 4th – 1944 Anne Frank captured * August 5th – 1957 American Bandstand goes national
July 30th to August 5th
* July 30th – 1609 – Samuel de Champlain joins skirmish against Iroquois – kills two chiefs with his arquebus.
The founder of Quebec City and one of the most charismatic figures in Canadian history, Samuel de Champlain opened up the St Lawrence river and extended French influence throughout the Great Lakes basin.
Samuel de Champlain was born in 1580 and by the time he passed way in 1635, he was known as the father of New France. He was a protestant which was unusual for a Frenchman of that age and grew up on the west coast of France in the seaport of Brouage. He became a sailor and learned the skills of navigation and cartography.
In 1608 Champlain sailed from Honfleur France in command of the Don-de-Dieu along with two other ships. The ships arrived at Tadoussac on the St Lawrence in June of 1608 and continued by small boat on to the site of Stadacona which was the Iroquois village that Jacques Cartier had made contact with. The village was abandoned, possibly due to inter-aboriginal warfare between the Iroquois and the Algonquin’s or the devastating effects of European diseases such as smallpox for which the Indians had no natural immunity.
On July 3rd, 1608 Champlain landed with his settlers and established a new settlement named Quebec City. They began work immediately and built several multistory buildings. During the first year, once the deep snows of Quebec had fallen, the dreaded disease of scurvy and smallpox also set in. 20 of the twenty-eight settlers who stayed for the winter died.
In 1609 Champlain made contact and formed friendly relations with the Huron, the Algonquin, the Montagnais and the Etchemin. The mighty Iroquois were their enemy and they appealed to Champlain to help them with their fight against them. Champlain and 9 of his soldiers set out with 300 Algonquin’s to explore the Iroquois lands to the south and travelled south along the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain.
Champlain and his party had not run into any Iroquois so 7 of the 9 soldiers and most of the Algonquin were allowed to return to Quebec City. Subsequently, they ran into an Iroquois war party of over 200 warriors. On July 30th the 200 Iroquois attacked Champlain, his 2 soldiers and his 30 Algonquin warriors near present-day Crown Point, NY. Champlain fired his arquebus at them and killed 2 of the Iroquois leaders with one shot. This was the first encounter that the Iroquois had experienced with gunpowder and they immediately scattered and fled. The battle lines between the French with the Algonquin’s and the English with the Iroquois was now set for the next 150 years.
* July 31st – 1965 J.K. Rowling born
On this day in 1965, Joanne Rowling, better known the world over as J.K. Rowling, the author and creator of the celebrated Harry Potter book series, is born near Bristol, England. Beginning in the late 1990s, Rowling’s seven Harry Potter novels became international blockbusters, selling over 400 million copies and being translated into more than 60 languages. The books also spawned a series of movies, video games and other merchandise that made Rowling one of the wealthiest people in the entertainment industry.
Rowling attended England’s University of Exeter, where she studied French, and later worked for human-rights organization Amnesty International in London and as a language instructor in Portugal. The idea for Harry Potter came to Rowling when she was riding a train from Manchester, England, to London in 1990. She began writing the first book that night. Rowling finished the book while living in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she struggled financially as a single mother and battled depression. Her completed manuscript was turned down by a number of publishers before she got a book deal with Bloomsbury Publishing in August 1996.
The first Harry Potter book debuted in Great Britain in 1997 under the title Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The book was released in the United States the following year and renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Children and adults alike were captivated by the story of the bespectacled boy wizard Harry, his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, their adventures at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry’s struggles against his enemy, the evil Lord Voldemort.
On November 16, 2001, the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, opened in America and was a huge box-office success. It was directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire) and starred British child actor Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron and Emma Watson in the role of Hermione. A roster of celebrated actors took supporting roles in the film and its various sequels, including Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Richard Harris and Gary Oldman.
The seventh and final (according to Rowling’s predetermined plan) Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, debuted in U.S. bookstores on July 21, 2007. Like all the previous Harry Potter books, it is slated to become a movie, to be released in 2010. To date, the Harry Potter films are the most financially successful series in history, having surpassed both the Star Wars and James Bond franchises.
* August 2nd – 1990 Iraq invades Kuwait
At about 2 a.m. local time, Iraqi forces invade Kuwait, Iraq’s tiny, oil-rich neighbor. Kuwait’s defense forces were rapidly overwhelmed, and those that were not destroyed retreated to Saudi Arabia. The emir of Kuwait, his family, and other government leaders fled to Saudi Arabia, and within hours Kuwait City had been captured and the Iraqis had established a provincial government. By annexing Kuwait, Iraq gained control of 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves and, for the first time, a substantial coastline on the Persian Gulf. The same day, the United Nations Security Council unanimously denounced the invasion and demanded Iraq’s immediate withdrawal from Kuwait. On August 6, the Security Council imposed a worldwide ban on trade with Iraq.
On August 9, Operation Desert Shield, the American defense of Saudi Arabia, began as U.S. forces raced to the Persian Gulf. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, meanwhile, built up his occupying army in Kuwait to about 300,000 troops. On November 29, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq if it failed to withdraw by January 15, 1991. Hussein refused to withdraw his forces from Kuwait, which he had established as a province of Iraq, and some 700,000 allied troops, primarily American, gathered in the Middle East to enforce the deadline.
At 4:30 p.m. EST on January 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm, the massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, began as the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire on television footage transmitted live via satellite from Iraq. Operation Desert Storm was conducted by an international coalition under the supreme command of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf and featured forces from 32 nations, including Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
During the next six weeks, the allied force engaged in an intensive air war against Iraq’s military and civil infrastructure and encountered little effective resistance from the Iraqi air force or air defenses. Iraqi ground forces were helpless during this stage of the war, and Hussein’s only significant retaliatory measure was the launching of SCUD missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saddam hoped that the missile attacks would provoke Israel to enter the conflict, thus dissolving Arab support of the war. At the request of the United States, however, Israel remained out of the war.
On February 24, a massive coalition ground offensive began, and Iraq’s outdated and poorly supplied armed forces were rapidly overwhelmed. By the end of the day, the Iraqi army had effectively folded, 10,000 of its troops were held as prisoners, and a U.S. air base had been established deep inside Iraq. After less than four days, Kuwait was liberated, and the majority of Iraq’s armed forces had either surrendered, retreated to Iraq, or been destroyed.
On February 28, U.S. President George Bush declared a cease-fire, and on April 3 the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 687, specifying conditions for a formal end to the conflict. According to the resolution, Bush’s cease-fire would become official, some sanctions would be lifted, but the ban on Iraqi oil sales would continue until Iraq destroyed its weapons of mass destruction under U.N. supervision. On April 6, Iraq accepted the resolution, and on April 11 the Security Council declared it in effect. During the next decade, Saddam Hussein frequently violated the terms of the peace agreement, prompting further allied air strikes and continuing U.N. sanctions.
In the Persian Gulf War, 148 American soldiers were killed and 457 wounded. The other allied nations suffered about 100 deaths combined during Operation Desert Storm. There are no official figures for the number of Iraqi casualties, but it is believed that at least 25,000 soldiers were killed and more than 75,000 were wounded, making it one of the most one-sided military conflicts in history. It is estimated that 100,000 Iraqi civilians died from wounds or from lack of adequate water, food, and medical supplies directly attributable to the Persian Gulf War. In the ensuing years, more than one million Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the subsequent U.N. sanctions.
* August 4th – 1944 Anne Frank captured
Acting on a tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captures 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. They occupied the small space with another Jewish family and a single Jewish man and were aided by Christian friends, who brought them food and supplies. Anne spent much of her time in the “secret annex” working on her diary. The diary survived the war, overlooked by the Gestapo that discovered the hiding place, but Anne and nearly all of the others perished in the Nazi death camps.
Annelies Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander, both of Jewish families that had lived in Germany for centuries. With the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam to escape the escalating Nazi persecution of Jews. In Holland, he ran a successful spice and jam business. Anne attended a Montessori school with other middle-class Dutch children, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, she was forced to transfer to a Jewish school. In 1942, Otto began arranging a hiding place in an annex of his warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam.
On her 13th birthday in 1942, Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. Less than a month later, Anne’s older sister, Margot, received a call-up notice to report to a Nazi “work camp.” Fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, the Frank family took shelter in the secret annex the next day. One week later, they were joined by Otto Frank’s business partner and his family. In November, a Jewish dentist—the eighth occupant of the hiding place—joined the group.
For two years, Anne kept a diary about her life in hiding that is marked with poignancy, humor, and insight. The entrance to the secret annex was hidden by a hinged bookcase, and former employees of Otto and other Dutch friends delivered them food and supplies procured at high risk. Anne and the others lived in rooms with blacked-out windows, and never flushed the toilet during the day out of fear that their presence would be detected. In June 1944, Anne’s spirits were raised by the Allied landing at Normandy, and she was hopeful that the long-awaited liberation of Holland would soon begin.
On August 1, 1944, Anne made her last entry in her diary. Three days later, 25 months of seclusion ended with the arrival of the Nazi Gestapo. Anne and the others had been given away by an unknown informer, and they were arrested along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them. They were sent to a concentration camp in Holland, and in September Anne and most of the others were shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In the fall of 1944, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister Margot to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in early March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British less than two months later.
Otto Frank was the only one of the 10 to survive the Nazi death camps. After the war, he returned to Amsterdam via Russia, and was reunited with Miep Gies, one of his former employees who had helped shelter him. She handed him Anne’s diary, which she had found undisturbed after the Nazi raid. In 1947, Anne’s diary was published by Otto in its original Dutch as Diary of a Young Girl. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 50 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the nearly six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.
The Frank family’s hideaway at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam opened as a museum in 1960. A new English translation of Anne’s diary in 1995 restored material that had been edited out of the original version, making the work nearly a third longer.
* August 5th – 1957 American Bandstand goes national
Television, rock and roll and teenagers. In the late 1950s, when television and rock and roll were new and when the biggest generation in American history was just about to enter its teens, it took a bit of originality to see the potential power in this now-obvious combination. The man who saw that potential more clearly than any other was a 26-year-old native of upstate New York named Dick Clark, who transformed himself and a local Philadelphia television program into two of the most culturally significant forces of the early rock-and-roll era. His iconic show, American Bandstand, began broadcasting nationally on this day in 1957, beaming images of clean-cut, average teenagers dancing to the not-so-clean-cut Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” to 67 ABC affiliates across the nation.
The show that evolved into American Bandstand began on Philadephia’s WFIL-TV in 1952, a few years before the popular ascension of rock and roll. Hosted by local radio personality Bob Horn, the original Bandstand nevertheless established much of the basic format of its later incarnation. In the first year after Dick Clark took over as host in the summer of 1956, Bandstand remained a popular local hit, but it took Clark’s ambition to help it break out. When the ABC television network polled its affiliates in 1957 for suggestions to fill its 3:30 p.m. time slot, Clark pushed hard for Bandstand, which network executives picked up and scheduled for an August 5, 1957 premiere.
Renamed American Bandstand, the newly national program featured a number of new elements that became part of its trademark, including the high school gym-like bleachers and the famous segment in which teenage studio guests rated the newest records on a scale from 25 to 98 and offered such criticisms as “It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.” But the heart of American Bandstand always remained the sound of the day’s most popular music combined with the sight of the show’s unpolished teen “regulars” dancing and showing off the latest fashions in clothing and hairstyles.
American Bandstand aired five days a week in live national broadcast until 1963, when the show moved west to Los Angeles and began a 24-year run as a taped weekly program with Dick Clark as host.
* 1996 – Atlanta Olympics – Donovan Bailey wins 100 m sprint in record 9.84 – rowers Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle first Canadians to win three Olympic golds. * 1974 House begins impeachment of Nixon. * 1953 Armistice ends the Korean War. * 1921 Insulin isolated in Toronto. * 2003 Bob Hope dies at 100
It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…
* 1996 – Atlanta Olympics – Donovan Bailey wins 100 m sprint in record 9.84 – rowers Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle first Canadians to win three Olympic golds.
It was at the Centennial Olympic Games that Canada recorded its best-ever medal total in a non-boycotted Games, winning 22 medals, highlighted by three gold medals. Two of those came from the track, where on back-to-back Saturday nights Donovan Bailey first captured the title of world’s fastest man with his victory in the 100m in world record time of 9.84 seconds and then anchored the 4x100m relay team (also featuring Carlton Chambers, Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert, Bruny Surin) to gold. Bailey was just the second Canadian to win double gold in athletics at the same Games, following Percy Williams in 1928, who was also the last Canadian to win the 100m.
The other gold medal was just as historic, as rowers Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle won the double sculls to become Canada’s first ever three-time Olympic gold medallists, having won double gold four years earlier in Barcelona. The rowing team accounted for six medals. McBean and Heddle joined the quad sculls for a bronze medal. The women’s eight won silver, as did single scullers Silken Laumann and Derek Porter along with the men’s lightweight four. Also on the water, Caroline Brunet won Canada’s only canoe/kayak medal of the Games, taking silver in the K-1 500m.
* 1974 House begins impeachment of Nixon.
On this day in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommends that America’s 37th president, Richard M. Nixon, be impeached and removed from office. The impeachment proceedings resulted from a series of political scandals involving the Nixon administration that came to be collectively known as Watergate.
The Watergate scandal first came to light following a break-in on June 17, 1972, at the Democratic Party’s national headquarters in the Watergate apartment-hotel complex in Washington, D.C. A group of men linked to the White House was later arrested and charged with the crime. Nixon denied any involvement with the break-in, but several of his staff members were eventually implicated in an illegal cover-up and forced to resign. Subsequent government investigations revealed “dirty tricks” political campaigning by the Committee to Re-Elect the President, along with a White House “enemies list.” In July 1973, one of Nixon’s former staff members revealed the existence of secretly taped conversations between the president and his aides. Nixon initially refused to release the tapes, on grounds of executive privilege and national security, but a judge later ordered the president to turn them over. The White House provided some but not all of the tapes, including one from which a portion of the conversation appeared to have been erased.
In May 1974, the House Judiciary Committee began formal impeachment hearings against Nixon. On July 27 of that year, the first article of impeachment against the president was passed. Two more articles, for abuse of power and contempt of Congress, were approved on July 29 and 30. On August 5, Nixon complied with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring that he provide transcripts of the missing tapes, and the new evidence clearly implicated him in a cover-up of the Watergate break-in. On August 8, Nixon announced his resignation, becoming the first president in U.S. history to voluntarily leave office. After departing the White House on August 9, Nixon was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford, who, in a controversial move, pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974, making it impossible for the former president to be prosecuted for any crimes he might have committed while in office. Only two other presidents in U.S. history have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
* 1953 Armistice ends the Korean War.
After three years of a bloody and frustrating war, the United States, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and South Korea agree to an armistice, bringing the Korean War to an end. The armistice ended America’s first experiment with the Cold War concept of “limited war.”
The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when communist North Korea invaded South Korea. Almost immediately, the United States secured a resolution from the United Nations calling for the military defense of South Korea against the North Korean aggression. In a matter of days, U.S. land, air, and sea forces had joined the battle. The U.S. intervention turned the tide of the war, and soon the U.S. and South Korean forces were pushing into North Korea and toward that nation’s border with China. In November and December 1951, hundreds of thousands of troops from the People’s Republic of China began heavy assaults against the American and South Korea forces. The war eventually bogged down into a battle of attrition. In the U.S. presidential election of 1952, Republican candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower strongly criticized President Harry S. Truman’s handling of the war. After his victory, Eisenhower adhered to his promise to “go to Korea.” His trip convinced him that something new was needed to break the diplomatic logjam at the peace talks that had begun in July 1951. Eisenhower began to publicly hint that the United States might make use of its nuclear arsenal to break the military stalemate in Korea. He allowed the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan to begin harassing air raids on mainland China. The president also put pressure on his South Korean ally to drop some of its demands in order to speed the peace process.
Whether or not Eisenhower’s threats of nuclear attacks helped, by July 1953 all sides involved in the conflict were ready to sign an agreement ending the bloodshed. The armistice, signed on July 27, established a committee of representatives from neutral countries to decide the fate of the thousands of prisoners of war on both sides. It was eventually decided that the POWs could choose their own fate–stay where they were or return to their homelands. A new border between North and South Korea was drawn, which gave South Korea some additional territory and demilitarized the zone between the two nations. The war cost the lives of millions of Koreans and Chinese, as well as over 50,000 Americans. It had been a frustrating war for Americans, who were used to forcing the unconditional surrender of their enemies. Many also could not understand why the United States had not expanded the war into China or used its nuclear arsenal. As government officials were well aware, however, such actions would likely have prompted World War III.
* 1921 Insulin isolated in Toronto.
At the University of Toronto, Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolate insulin–a hormone they believe could prevent diabetes–for the first time. Within a year, the first human sufferers of diabetes were receiving insulin treatments, and countless lives were saved from what was previously regarded as a fatal disease.
Diabetes has been recognized as a distinct medical condition for more than 3,000 years, but its exact cause was a mystery until the 20th century. By the early 1920s, many researchers strongly suspected that diabetes was caused by a malfunction in the digestive system related to the pancreas gland, a small organ that sits on top of the liver. At that time, the only way to treat the fatal disease was through a diet low in carbohydrates and sugar and high in fat and protein. Instead of dying shortly after diagnosis, this diet allowed diabetics to live–for about a year.
A breakthrough came at the University of Toronto in the summer of 1921, when Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolated insulin from canine test subjects, produced diabetic symptoms in the animals, and then began a program of insulin injections that returned the dogs to normalcy. On November 14, the discovery was announced to the world.
Two months later, with the support of J.J.R. MacLeod of the University of Toronto, the two scientists began preparations for an insulin treatment of a human subject. Enlisting the aid of biochemist J.B. Collip, they were able to extract a reasonably pure formula of insulin from the pancreases of cattle from slaughterhouses. On January 23, 1921, they began treating 14-year-old Leonard Thompson with insulin injections. The diabetic teenager improved dramatically, and the University of Toronto immediately gave pharmaceutical companies license to produce insulin, free of royalties. By 1923, insulin had become widely available, and Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine.
* 2003 Bob Hope dies at 100
On this day in 2003, the legendary actor-comedian Bob Hope dies at age 100 in Toluca Lake, California. Known for entertaining American servicemen and women for more than five decades, Hope had a career that spanned the whole range of 20th-century entertainment, from vaudeville to Broadway musicals to radio, television, and movies.
He was born Leslie Townes Hope, the fifth of seven sons, on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, England. In 1907, Hope’s family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. As a young man, he began his entertainment career as a dancer and vaudeville performer. During the 1930s, he appeared in Broadway musicals, along with such performers as Fanny Brice and Ethel Merman. In 1934, Hope wed the nightclub singer Dolores Reade; the marriage would endure until his death. In 1938, Hope, who became known for his snappy one-liners, rose to national fame with his own radio show on NBC and his first feature film, The Big Broadcast of 1938.
In 1940, Hope co-starred in the box-office hit Road to Singapore with Bing Crosby. The film, about a pair of singing, wisecracking con men, was the first of seven “Road” movies the pair would make. Hope appeared in more than 50 feature films during his career. He hosted the Academy Awards 18 times, although he never won an Oscar himself, an occurrence he turned into a long-running joke. However, he did receive five special awards from the Academy, including two honorary Oscars. Hope was also a top entertainer on TV and from 1959 to 1996 he made 284 “Bob Hope specials” for NBC.
Starting with World War II, Hope began entertaining American troops at military bases around the world. His USO tours traveled to military bases during times of war (Vietnam, the Persian Gulf), as well as times of peace. He was so beloved for his work with the military for more than half a century that Congress passed a resolution in 1997 making Hope an honorary veteran. It was one of the countless honors that Hope received throughout his career. In 1998, he was granted honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth.