Milestones: Weekend, June 24-25, 2023
ICONIC ABOLITIONIST PREACHER — He may have been born on June 24, 1813 in Connecticut, but Henry Ward Beecher belonged to Brooklyn. The famous Congregational clergyman and orator used his pulpit at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights to argue for many of his period’s controversial issues, among them, women’s suffrage, temperance, Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the abolition of slavery. Beecher used drama and sensation in his abolition fight; for example, in 1856 he raised money to provide rifles — nicknamed “Beecher’s Bibles” to antislavery settlers in Kansas. And he led a mock auction of a young light-skinned black girl named Pinky (Sally Maria Diggs) — to raise the funds that bought her freedom. Beecher found himself in the center of one of the major scandals of the 19th century when Mr. Tilton sued him in civil court for allegedly stealing the affections of Mrs. Tilton. Beecher was ultimately exonerated.
Debby Applegate, a student at Amherst, who become fascinated with the life of this 19th-century alumnus, later wrote the book “The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize.
PORTUGUESE FIGHT THE DUTCH, IN CHINA — Macau Day celebrates Portugal’s victory over the Dutch at the Chinese port city of Macau, on June 24, 1622. Macau was strategically important both to Portugal and the Dutch, the latter of which wanted to use the territory for a trading post, and deny its rival, Portugal of access, as well as cut off the Philippines to Spain. The battle took place on June 24 — the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist. The Dutch executed a decoy invasion but also came in from the East. When the Portuguese commander realized the Dutch strategy, he led a band of locals, including some Dominican friars, Catholic priests, and black slaves, in a fierce counteract that became the biggest rout of Dutch soldiers in history, and the only one they fought on Chinese land.
Formerly a Portuguese colony, Macau is now under China’s rule.
ANCIENT LATVIAN TRADITION — Like Portugal and many northern European countries Latvia in the Baltic region celebrates St. John’s Day on June 24, concurrently with a Midsummer Night Day. The Latvian festival of Jāni, which commemorates the summer solstice and the name day of Janis, or John, is one of Latvia’s most ancient as well as joyous rituals. This countryside festival centers on fertility and the start of summer.
Some Latvian traditions for the two-day festival of Līgo and Jāni are burning bonfires, making wreaths, eating a special cheese, and picking a variety of herbs that gathered on Midsummer Day would vanquish evil spirits and bring blessings and health to the people.
AMATEUR RADIO STILL THRIVES — The American Radio Relay League and the National Association for Amateur Radio co-sponsor Amateur radio’s weekend “open house,” held annually across the North American continent during the last weekend of June, this year on June 24–25. During the open house, “Ham” radio operators set up and demonstrate temporary, portable communications stations in public places that run on battery or solar power. They also educate on the science, service, and importance of amateur radio to local communities.
An amateur station that Hyman supposedly shared with Bob Almy and Reggie Murray, which was said to be using the self-assigned call sign HAM (short for truncations of their names), thus came to represent all of amateur radio. However, others claim that story is just a legend.
THE MANASSA MAULER” — Name: JACK DEMPSEY, born June 24, 1895 as William Harrison Dempsey, was a world heavyweight boxing champion from 1919 to 1926. He gained the moniker “The Manassa Mauler,” because of the Colorado town where he was born and because he fought like a brawler. On Independence Day, 1919 in an upset win, Dempsey knocked out the widely-favored Jess Willard who, at 6’6 was much larger than Dempsey, who was only 6’1.”
After his boxing career, Dempsey gained more fame, this time as the owner of the eponymous “Jack Dempsey’s Broadway Restaurant, in the Brill Building between 49th and 50th St. Here Dempsey enjoyed both success and celebrity status, as did the restaurant’s famous cheesecake, of which French President Charles DeGaulle during his lifetime was a customer — at least according to a (published) letter that Mr. Dempsey himself sent to New York Magazine.
PIE PLATE FLYING OVER MT. RAINIER — It was on June 24, 1947 that a Boise, Idaho pilot reported seeing an unidentified flying object (UFO) shaped like a pie plate, over Mount Rainier in Washington state. The pilot, Kenneth Arnold, who was flying above 9,000 feet, saw flashes of light and then nine “saucer-like” objects flying at incredible speeds. It was from this sighting that UFOs gained the moniker “flying saucer.”
According to an article published in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, Pilot Arnold’s story went viral, with the major news agencies all wanting the story. Even a cartoon strip was based on the sightings. But Arnold did not really welcome the fame, and he spent the rest of his life trying to explain what remains a mystery.
CUSTER LOST THIS ONE—The Battle of the Little Bighorn is also called “Custer’s Last Stand.” Considered the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876, The Battle of Little Bighorn was waged on June 25-26 of that year and resulted in a major defeat of the U.S. forces. The combined force of several indigenous nations — the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes — fought against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (of Civil War fame). The battleground stretched along the Little Bighorn River, within the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory. While some historians say the war began over land that the Lakota had seized from other tribes, the larger conflict was the white settlers’ seizing of Indian land. This battle’s outcome was disastrous for the United States; Custer and several family members fighting with him were killed.
The Plains Indians called the fight the Battle of the Greasy Grass.
KOREAN CONFLICT —Civil war broke out on the Korean peninsula on June 25, 1950 when the armed forces of northern Korea invaded southern Korea. Following the end of World War II in August 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union divided Korea along the 38th parallel into two occupation zones, with the Soviets administering the northern zone and the Americans administering the southern zone. Cold War escalation resulted in the two zones becoming two sovereign states: the communist People’s Republic of Korea in the north, and the capitalist the Republic of Korea in the south. Neither recognized the other’s legitimacy, however. When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, the Soviet Union allied with the north, while the United States assisted the south, in what became the first in a series of U.S. “intervention wars, to limit Soviet power and imperialism in southeast Asia.
After three years of fighting and repeated captures of Seoul, an armistice was signed at Panmunjom on July 27, 1953, formally dividing the country in two — North Korea and South Korea, and a demilitarized zone (DMZ) was created. However, no peace treaty was signed and the two Koreas are locked in conflict. The TV series M.A.S.H. about a mobile hospital unit depicted life for U.S. soldiers and medical staff during the Korean Conflict.
INDEPENDENCE FOR SLOVENIA — Civil war broke out in Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, considered the boiling point in decades of totalitarian communist rule. Igniting the war were the declarations of independence from Yugoslavia by Slovenia and Croatia. Ethnic clashes between the Croatians and Serbians (Croatia’s neighbor to the east) in the Balkan region spread to Slovenia. Fighting also erupted in 1992 fighting at Bosnia-Herzegovina, between Serbians and ethnic Muslims. U.S. peacekeeping efforts were not entirely successful and the war was prolonged to 1995. Today, the former Yugoslavia consists of six republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro, with Serbia being the largest in area.
Strategically important for its location on the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia shares borders with Italy to the west (and has claimed the Italian region of Trieste), Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, and Croatia to the south. Although it borders Italy, Slovenia’s language is in the Slavic group rather than Romance.
FIRST COLOR TV BROADCAST — The Columbia Broadcasting System was the first network to send color broadcasting over the air, on June 25, 1951. CBS stations in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, DC carried the broadcast, even though the public did not have the color sets necessary to see the four-hour program, which was titled simply, “Premiere.” At the time of the premiere, CBS itself reportedly owned fewer than 40 color receivers, and color TVs would not be affordable for another decade, although RCA did produce the first such set in 1954.
Appearing on that first program was Arthur Godfrey, and Ed Sullivan, who would go on to host his own variety show, although in monochrome; the Bil Baird Marionettes, who would later appear in The Sound of Music, and of course CBS executives William S. Paley, and Frank Stanton, according to the website, Eyes of a Generation.
THE OTHER MRS. ROBINSON — June Lockhart, probably named for her birth month, was born on June 25, 1925, and as of press time, is still living, at age 97. She is the daughter of Canadian-American actor Gene Lockhart, who came to prominence on Broadway in 1933 in “Ah, Wilderness!” and as Judge Henry X. Harper in the 1947 classic, “Miracle on 34th Street.” Known for her “mother” roles, such as in the series “Lassie,” about a collie who worked for the Forest Service.
June Lockhart played the capable wife and mother, Dr. Maureen Robinson on the 1960s Sci Fi program Lost in Space. A biochemist, she was a cook, gardener, and source of wisdom and common sense, even in a more male-oriented TV period.
DYSTOPIAN NOVELIST — George Orwell, known for his dystopian novel, 1984, was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903 in India. Briefly involved in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell worked at the BBC during World War II. Blair adopted his pen name when writing the autobiographical Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). His political allegory Animal Farm in 1945 and 1984, which he wrote while dying of tuberculosis. That novel was completed in 1948.
‘All Animals Are Equal but Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others’ is a slogan from Animal Farm, in which the non-humans wage war against the farm’s owner, take control of the farm, and compose their own seven commandments.
SCHOOL PRAYER BANNED — The United States Supreme Court, on June 25, 1962, ruled with a 6-3 margin that, that a prayer read aloud in public schools violated the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The landmark case, Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), fought the establishment of a non-denominational prayer that the New York State Board of Regents had written for school children. The plaintiffs were not atheists but rather members of the Jewish faith, Unitarians, and Society for Ethical Culture. They argued that this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment), which states, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. “However, the majority seem to have dismissed the second half of the clause, which reads, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Indeed, Associate Justice Potter Stewart wrote in his dissent that Establishment Clause was only meant to prohibit the establishment of a state-sponsored church, and not prohibit all types of government involvement with religion. Justice Stewart stated that the prayer’s non-denominational approach, along with the provision that students could leave the room, removed the constitutional challenges.
THE RIGHT TO DIE — The United States Supreme Court on June 25, 1990 upheld a patient’s right to die, in its 5-4 decision in the landmark case Cruzan v Missouri. The decision stated that a person who has clearly been known to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment, and who has articulated this, has the right to die. However, the ruling also declared that the state or medical authority also has the right to first require it was acceptable to require “clear and convincing evidence” of the specific individual patient’s wish to remove life support. The case involved an incompetent young adult. The court recognized the right to refuse treatment in the case of competent adults, but there was more gray area in the Cruzan situation.
While the court did not rule more generally on the existence of a right to die, it limited the decision to evidentiary burden. However, Cruzan did have a profound effect on how patients and their families approached end-of-life care, particularly in the proliferation of written advanced healthcare directives, stating their desires while still being able to communicate.
CARLY SIMON BORN — Award-winning singer/songwriter Carly Simon turns 80 on June 25. Born in 1943, she is the daughter of Richard L. Simon, who was co-founder of the publishing house Simon & Schuster. She has some Black ancestry, from a maternal grandmother, was of Pardo (Portuguese, Indigenous, and African) heritage, and was descended from freed slaves. Sexually assaulted at the age of seven, Simon developed a serious stammer a year later. Psychiatry proved useless, but music helped. Simon turned to singing and songwriting. “I felt so strangulated talking that I did the natural thing, which is to write songs because I could sing without stammering, as all stammerers can.
Simon once said of her hit song, “Anticipation, it “came down from the universe into my head and then out my mouth, so it bypassed the mind.” Carly Simon also attributed her dyslexia to her success as a singer-songwriter.
See previous milestones, here.
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