John’s Believe It or Not… November 3rd

* 1999 – Beverley McLachlin first woman appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. * 1964 D.C. residents cast first presidential votes. * 1903 Panama declares independence. * 1957 The Soviet space dog. * 1979 Communists and Klansmen clash in Greensboro.

Laika the Soviet Space Dog

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did you know…

* 1999 – Beverley McLachlin first woman appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada 2000–present, lawyer, and jurist, (born 7 September 1943 in Pincher Creek, AB). Born into a rural Alberta farming family of modest means, McLachlin rose to become the first female chief justice of a Commonwealth high court, and also the longest-serving chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Raised near Pincher Creek, Alberta, McLachlin was the eldest of five children. Her parents, Eleanora Kruschell and Ernest Gietz, were fundamentalist Christians who ranched and farmed.In 1967 McLachlin married Rory McLachlin; he died of cancer in 1988. The couple had one son, Angus. In 1992, she married Frank McArdle.

McLachlin had not considered a career in law until she was persuaded by her first husband, and by a professor, that a tough-minded woman could break through the institutional barriers of the predominantly male legal profession.

In 1980, at the age of 37, McLachlin was appointed to the County Court of Vancouver. A year later, she was elevated to the B.C. Supreme Court and in 1985, to the B.C. Court of Appeal. In 1988, she became Chief Justice of British Columbia.

In 1989, at 45, McLachlin’s meteoric rise culminated in her appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. Eleven years later, on 7 January 2000, she became the country’s 17th chief justice and the first female chief justice of a Commonwealth nation’s supreme court. In mid-2013, McLachlin passed William J. Ritchie as the longest-serving chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

McLachlin arrived at the country’s highest court at a fractious time. The presiding chief justice, Antonio Lamer, was an outspoken former criminal lawyer from Montréal. Under his leadership, a slim majority of the court — dubbed the Gang of Five — was refashioning aspects of criminal law perceived as unfair to the accused, such as the ability of police to interrogate suspects and the admissibility of confessions.
Conservative-minded politicians and police, already skeptical about the degree of change rooted in early Charter of Rights decisions, had become increasingly vocal opponents of the Lamer court.

Concerned by the public clamor that can result from contentious decisions, McLachlin found herself largely an outsider to the Gang of Five. Once she took over as chief justice, the court became a more centrist institution. She sought unanimous decisions among the nine justices whenever possible and became the main spokesperson for the court.
In judgments, speeches and media interviews, McLachlin extolled the virtues of an independent court whose role was to act as a check on democratic excess, yet which respected the ultimate supremacy of elected officials.

Chief Justice Supreme Court of Canada Beverley Mclachlin
Chief Justice Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin (Daily Hive)

* 1964 D.C. residents cast first presidential votes.

On this day in 1964, residents of the District of Columbia cast their ballots in a presidential election for the first time. The passage of the 23rd Amendment in 1961 gave citizens of the nation’s capital the right to vote for a commander in chief and vice president. They went on to help Democrat Lyndon Johnson defeat Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964, the next presidential election.

Between 1776 and 1800, New York and then Philadelphia served as the temporary center of government for the newly formed United States. The capital’s location was a source of much controversy and debate, especially for Southern politicians, who didn’t want it located too far north. In 1790, Congress passed a law allowing President George Washington to choose the permanent site. As a compromise, he selected a tract of undeveloped swampland on the Potomac River, between Maryland and Virginia, and began to refer to it as Federal City. The commissioners overseeing the development of the new city picked its permanent name—Washington—to honor the president. Congress met for the first time in Washington, D.C., on November 17, 1800.

The District was put under the jurisdiction of Congress, which terminated D.C. residents’ voting rights in 1801. In 1961, the 23rd Amendment restored these rights, allowing D.C. voters to choose electors for the Electoral College based on population, with a maximum of as many electors as the least populated state. With a current population of over 550,000 residents, 61-square-mile D.C. has three electoral votes, just like Wyoming, America’s smallest state, population-wise. The majority of D.C.’s residents are African Americans and they have voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in past presidential elections.

In 1970, Congress gave Washington, D.C., one non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives and with the passage of 1973’s Home Rule Act, Washingtonians got their first elected mayor and city council. In 1978, a proposed amendment would have given D.C. the right to select electors, representatives, and senators, just like a state, but it failed to pass, as have subsequent calls for D.C. statehood.

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. (Maiden on the Midway)

* 1903 Panama declares independence.

With the support of the U.S. government, Panama issues a declaration of independence from Colombia. The revolution was engineered by a Panamanian faction backed by the Panama Canal Company, a French-U.S. corporation that hoped to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with a waterway across the Isthmus of Panama.

In 1903, the Hay-Herrán Treaty was signed with Colombia, granting the United States use of the Isthmus of Panama in exchange for financial compensation. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty, but the Colombian Senate, fearing a loss of sovereignty, refused. In response, President Theodore Roosevelt gave tacit approval to a rebellion by Panamanian nationalists, which began on November 3, 1903. To aid the rebels, the U.S.-administered railroad in Panama removed its trains from the northern terminus of Colón, thus stranding Colombian troops sent to crush the insurrection. Other Colombian forces were discouraged from marching on Panama by the arrival of the U.S. warship Nashville.

On November 6, the United States recognized the Republic of Panama, and on November 18 the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty was signed with Panama, granting the United States exclusive and permanent possession of the Panama Canal Zone. In exchange, Panama received $10 million and an annuity of $250,000 beginning nine years later. The treaty was negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Hay and the owner of the Panama Canal Company. Almost immediately, the treaty was condemned by many Panamanians as an infringement on their country’s new national sovereignty.

On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal was inaugurated with the passage of the U.S. vessel Ancon, a cargo and passenger ship. After decades of protest and negotiations, the Panama Canal passed to Panamanian control in December 1999.

Theodore Roosevelt, assisted by John Hay, 'taking' Panama: cartoon by Charles Green Bush from the New York World, 1903.
Theodore Roosevelt, assisted by John Hay, ‘taking’ Panama: cartoon by Charles Green Bush from the New York World, 1903.

* 1957 The Soviet space dog.

The Soviet Union launches the first animal into space—a dog named Laika—aboard the Sputnik 2 spacecraft.

Laika, part Siberian husky, lived as a stray on the Moscow streets before being enlisted into the Soviet space program. Laika survived for several days as a passenger in the USSR’s second artificial Earth satellite kept alive by a sophisticated life-support system. Electrodes attached to her body provided scientists on the ground with important information about the biological effects of space travel. She died after the batteries of her life-support system ran down.

At least a dozen more Russian dogs were launched into space in preparation for the first manned Soviet space mission, and at least five of these dogs died in flight. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1. He orbited Earth once before landing safely in the USSR.

Laika in her capsule
Laika in her capsule (

* 1979 Communists and Klansmen clash in Greensboro.

Five members of the Communist Workers Party, participating in a “Death to the Klan” rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, are shot to death by a group of Klansmen and neo-Nazis. Seven others were wounded.

Members of the Communist Workers Party had organized the anti-Ku Klux Klan rally and march and were joined by a group of local African American mill workers. A caravan of cars carrying Klansmen and neo-Nazis arrived to disrupt the march, and videotape shows demonstrators initiating the violence by kicking and striking the Klan and Nazi vehicles. The Klansmen and Nazis then opened fire, shooting six demonstrators. The communists, who were carrying concealed weapons, then returned fire. When the gun battle ended, five demonstrators were dead or dying, and seven were wounded.

In 1980, six Klan and Nazi members were put on trial on murder and rioting charges. During the trial, evidence came to light indicating that the Greensboro police, and perhaps the federal government, were aware of the probability of violence at the rally but did little to prevent it. Edward Dawson, a paid informant for the Greensboro Police Department and former FBI informer in the Klan, had helped plan the massacre and had notified the Greensboro police of the details, while Bernard Butkovich, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agent undercover in the local branch of the American Nazi Party, had supplied some of the firearms used. When the scheduled time arrived for the Klansman and neo-Nazis to disrupt the march, the tactical squad from the Greensboro Police Department assigned to monitor the march was suspiciously absent.

The six defendants were acquitted on all charges on the grounds that they had fired on the demonstrators in self-defense. In 1984, a federal trial likewise ended in acquittals. In 1985, a North Carolina jury found two Greensboro police officers, five Klansmen and Nazis, and Edward Dawson liable for the “wrongful death” of one of the demonstrators who was killed and ordered them to pay nearly $400,000 in damages. The jury also ruled that there was no conspiracy between the Klan, local police, and the federal government to disrupt the rally or injure the protesters.

In 1979 a clash between white supremacist groups and protestors in Greensboro left five dead and 12 badly injured. The incident gained national attention
In 1979 a clash between white supremacist groups and protestors in Greensboro left five dead and 12 badly injured. The incident gained national attention (Greensboro News & Record)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                 

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                           

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

15 thoughts on “John’s Believe It or Not… November 3rd”

  1. I don’t believe there was no conspiracy between the Klan, local police, and federal government to disrupt the rally or injure protesters. In matters concerning the government, much goes on behind the scenes that the public isn’t privy to. But on a positive note … wonderful to see a woman appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada! Love these history posts, John 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My heart kind of swelled when I read about Laika. I thought how lonely she must have been up there al by herself… And the others, too. I wonder if she was scared. Or did they keep her sedated all the time (do you know)? Lordy! The bit about the KKK and the Clans could have come right out of yesterday’s newspaper. I guess it’s really true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cheryl, I found one source that said that the dogs were sedated, but they didn’t give any details. Fifteen dogs died between 1951 and 1960 when there were about 30 suborbital flights. I think Laika died on her second flight. They always chose strays thinking they would be physically hardier than purebreds.

      Tomorrow’s newspapers may well carry stories of history repeating with anti-Trump demonstrations in a few major US cities. Alt-Right groups are vowing to oppose them and carry weapons.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Today’s “Believe It Or Not” was particularly eye-opening for me. I did not know about Beverley McLachlin and I’m so heartened by her contribution. I remember when D.C. residents first voted. Residents were an island unto themselves and unfairly could not join in the democratic process until then. Your account of the Soviet space dogs brought home again how these faithful animals help us. Finally, your story of the Communists and Klansmen clash in Greensboro was a powerful reminder that such events are rarely as simple as they might seem. Troublemakers are often the pawns of unidentified others who use rhetoric and money to set the divisive stage. What’s that quote about history repeating itself? Thank you for starting my day with thoughtful reflection. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I fear that the Greensboro incident may repeat itself tomorrow when anti-Trump demonstrators in several US cities will be challenged by alt-Right groups who are urging their members to bring weapons. Oremus. Thanks for your insightful comments, Gwen!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe this is true because these alt-Right groups are driven by passion rather than reason. Hate is at the core of their belief systems. It is tough to overcome the hate that is taught in the home. Thanks for commenting, Opher.

      Liked by 1 person

I love comments & questions! Please share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s