billie holiday - 1995 US postage stamp - catwalker

This Day in History – May 16th – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… MAY 16

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1860 – Republican Convention.

The convention was held in Chicago from May 16th through the 18th. The platform they adopted included language dealing with slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act, and the preservation of the Union. Language that was already making Southern states uneasy. Abraham Lincoln was nominated as its candidate for president on the third ballot. After he was elected Lincoln chose all of his main competitors for president for his cabinet, as well as other political rivals.

There is a good book written about this, “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

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1868 – Senate votes to acquit Andrew Johnson.

Thirty-five senators found Johnson guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors nineteen senators voted innocent. That was one guilty vote short of the two-thirds majority necessary to end Johnson’s presidency. The surprise swing vote was Republican Senator Ross from Kansas, he had been expected to vote guilty. There is controversy and speculation over why he changed his mind. The man next in line to become president was Benjamin Wade, and Ross and Wade were political enemies. Another theory revolves around a slush fund set up by Johnson’s supporters. There is speculation some of that fund flowed to him. Maybe not however, for in his book “Profiles in Courage,” John Kennedy lists him as a hero. Ross lost his next re-election bid, switched to the Democratic Party, and in 1885, with Democrat President Grover Cleveland in office, was appointed governor of the territory of New Mexico. After Johnson’s term was over he returned to his home state of Tennessee, and in 1874 was elected to the Senate, returning to the same body that tried to end his presidency. He died five months into his term as a senator.

I wonder how it would play out now if Bill Clinton returned to Arkansas and ran for the Senate. A wee bit of hysteria you think?

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1947 – Billie Holiday arrested for the possession of narcotics.

Holiday, a popular African-American singer, was also a drug addict. Many nights she closed her act with a song called “Strange Fruit.” It was a protest song of sorts, a song calling attention to the lynching of African-Americans. The song drew the ire of the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. Anslinger had a low opinion of jazz as a form of music. From Politico.com here is an excerpt from a memo he wrote about jazz: “Unbelievably ancient indecent rites of the East Indies are resurrected” in this black man’s music. The lives of the jazzmen,” he said, “reek of filth.” However his department mostly failed to bring marijuana-using musicians to justice, so he instead had them focus on one woman, Billie Holiday. She was arrested and spent eighteen months in a federal prison, and when she was released, was denied a cabaret license so she couldn’t perform in nightclubs, causing her career to suffee. She did play larger venues though, selling out Carnegie Hall for example. But she again succumbed to drugs and her health failed. Emaciated, her liver cancerous, she checked into a hospital in New York. Even then Anslinger couldn’t leave her alone. Doctors had started Holiday on methadone, her health improved, and she began gaining weight. According to Progressive.org Anslinger had her handcuffed to the hospital bed, had his men remove all gifts such as flowers, a record player, magazines, and ordered the staff to stop administering methadone. Billie Holiday died a few days later.

One was a federal officer, sworn to protect and serve, the other a nightclub singer. I’ll let you decide which one brought more good into the world.

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Birthdays:

1912 – Studs Terkel.

Writer. Terkel won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 1985 for “The Good War,” an oral history book about World War Two. Terkel’s style was to interview people and then write their stories. He did this with a number of topics including the Great Depression and race relations in America. Based in Chicago his whole life, he hosted a radio show there for forty-five years where he interviewed people. In 2010 the president of the Chicago History Museum had this to say about him: “For Studs, there was not a voice that should not be heard, a story that could not be told.”

I liked his books, there was always a sense of decency in his writing.

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1931 – Hanicka“Hana” Brady.

Auschwitz victim. Hana Brady was a Jewish Czechoslovakian girl who died in the gas chambers in 1944. Years after she was murdered the suitcase she carried to the concentration camps became the subject for both a film and a children’s book. A simple suitcase became an effective symbol to convey the reality of what happened to so many children. Hana Brady was only 13 and had been at Auschwitz for only a few hours when she died.

Too sad for comment.

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1941 – Aldrich Ames.

Spy. Ames joined the CIA in 1962 and was serving as an agent in 1985 when he began selling information to Russia. His betrayal caused a dozen other CIA operatives to be arrested and more than likely executed. Although the CIA was aware there was a mole in their midst, he continued to sell secrets to Russia until March 1993, when he was finally arrested. This despite the fact that Ames was alcoholic, bought a $540,000 house with a cash payment, drove a Jaguar, and had monthly credit card bills that exceeded his monthly salary. Ames was convicted of spying in 1994, and is currently serving a life without parole sentence in a federal prison.

An alcoholic living a lavish lifestyle eludes detection for almost nine years? And this was while the CIA was searching for a traitor in their midst. Doesn’t inspire much confidence in this supposedly super agency assigned to protect us, does it? After seeing what it had become, President Harry Truman regretted having created it.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers.

Sources:

OnThisDay.com

Senate.gov

ConstitutionCenter.org

Politico.com

Progressive.org

Wikipedia.org

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We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Billie Holiday postage stamp, circa 1995)  – catwalker / Shutterstock.com

billie holiday - 1995 US postage stamp - catwalker - embed

* Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (video) – ReelinInTheYears66 / YouTube.com

* Studs Terkel (video) – University of California Television (UCTV) / YouTube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

December 3

December 5

December 8

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 13

* December 15

December 16

December 18

* December 19

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 25

December 28

January 1

January 3

* January 4

January 6

January 7

January 8

January 11

* January 12

* January 14

January 15

January 17

January 19

January 22

January 23

January 24

January 28

January 29

February 1

February 2

February 3

February 5

* February 9

February 10

* February 12

February 14

February 15

February 20

February 21

February 22

February 25

February 28

February 29

March 2

March 4

March 6

* March 9

March 11

March 12

March 14

March 15

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 22

March 23

March 27

March 28

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 4

April 6

April 9

* April 11

April 13

April 16

April 18

April 21

April 22

April 23

April 26

April 28

April 29

May 1

May 2

* May 3

May 5

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 11

* May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 25

September 26

September 27

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 4

October 5

October 7

October 10

October 11

* October 12

October 14

October 15

October 16

October 18

October 20

October 24

October 25

October 26

October 27

October 30

October 31

November 1

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 6

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 11

November 13

November 14

November 15

November 16

* November 17

November 18

* November 19

November 20

November 23

November 24

November 26

November 28

November 29

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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