Milestones: Thursday, June 29, 2023
HIS BRIDGE CONNECTS TO NJ — GEORGE WASHINGTON GOETHALS was born in Brooklyn on June 29, 1858, even if his bridges don’t lead people here. Goethals has international fame as chief engineer of the Panama Canal and first civil governor of the Canal Zone. The son of immigrants from Belgium, Goethals excelled academically and was awarded an appointment at the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating second in his class before his commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Corp. of Engineers. After Panama won its independence from France (with a military assist from the U.S.) then-President Theodore Roosevelt, believing that a passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was vital to U.S. interests, appointed Goethals as chief engineer of the Panama Canal. Under the disciplined Goethals’ leadership, the canal’s construction was completed in 1914 — two years ahead of schedule.
Goethals, who won several military and academic awards, became in civilian life the first consulting engineer of the Port of New York Authority (now the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey). The Goethals Bridge, one of the authority’s bridges between northern Staten Island and Elizabeth, New Jersey, was named for him. It is not to be confused with the Outerbridge, which connects the southern end of Staten Island with Perth Amboy, NJ.
ABOLISHED-BUT ONLY TEMPORARILY — The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, on June 29, 1972 decided that the death penalty, also known as capital punishment, as applied, was a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” The landmark case, Furman v. Georgia, involved a William Furman who, in the process of burgling William Micke’s home, accidentally shot and killed Micke. The court found that the death penalty, in the “arbitrary and capricious ways” it was being administered at the federal and state levels, particularly along racial lines, was unconstitutional. The conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger was one of the four dissenters; although he often ruled along liberal lines.
Four years later, on July 2, 1976, the Supreme Court, still led by Chief Justice Burger, overturned their earlier decision and ruled that the death penalty was not cruel and unusual punishment after all. This was largely a consequence of new state laws on the death penalty that set more consistent guidelines.
COMPOSED MUSIC FOR MYSTERIES — The American composer BERNARD HERRMANN was born in New York City (although borough not specified) on June 29, 1911. His parents, who changed their name to Herman (and then later, Hermann), were a middle-class Jewish family from Ukraine. A pioneering composer, Bernard Hermann worked with the directors Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese and Alfred Hitchcock, composed the music for Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947), “The Day the Earth Stood Stil”l (1951), Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960), “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “Vertigo”, “Welles’s “Citizen Kane” (1941) and Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” (1976), among others, including TV series, “The Twilight Zone” and even “Lost in Space.”
During the 1956 remake of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” Bernard Hermann conducts the Covent Garden Chorus and London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in the climax scene. Although invited to compose the film’s score as well, he found that Sir Arthur Benjamin’s “Storm Cloud Cantata” was eminently suitable to the movie’s plot and mood.
LARGEST PUBLIC WORKS PROJECT — The INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM, a network of controlled-access freeways, throughout the United States, and with nationally unified construction and signage standards for construction and signage, came into being on June 29, 1956 with President Dwight D. Eisenhower signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (with the longer, formal name of Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways), providing $33.5 billion, into law. Whereas an earlier United States Numbered Highway System, established 40 years prior (1916) had already established a rather impromptu and ad hoc network of roads (such as U.S. 1 (north/south) or Route 66 (east/west), the new freeway system, with the word “Defense” in its formal name, also had the purpose of created roadways for military vehicles needing to respond to national emergencies, as the United States was in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
One of the consequences of the Interstate Highway System’s construction is that many older, established neighborhoods were demolished. When communities in the path of a proposed freeway protested, several of the planned Interstates were re-routed or even abandoned.
ACTOR TURNED POLITICIAN — Ronald Reagan and Fred Thompson (past U.S. Senator from Tennessee) weren’t the only actors who were also politicians. FREDERICK LAWRENCE GRANDY, born June 29-1948, an American actor playing Gopher on the sitcom “The Love Boat,” as well as in sitcoms “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Welcome Back Kotter,” later became a member of Congress, a Republican representing Iowa. He served four terms, declining in 1994 to run again, and later became CEO of Goodwill Industries and a commentator on National Public Radio.
Even though his political interests pre-dated his acting career, Grandy once told “People” magazine’s James S. Kunen in a 1985 interview that “if there were no Gopher, there would be no Fred Grandy for Congress.”
CO-FOUNDED MAYO CLINIC — WILLIAM JAMES MAYO, born on June 29, 1861 was, with his brother, Charles Horace Mayo, a physician who became one of seven founders of the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Upon William’s 1880 graduation from medical school, he joined his father’s practice, which in 1919 became the Mayo Clinic. Their early test came in the aftermath of an Aug. 21, 1883 tornado, which killed 29, injured 55 people and destroyed a third of their town. Young William J. Mayo and his family, who had escaped harm, set up an ad hoc hospital in the town hall for relief work. Mother Alfred Moes and the Sisters of Saint Francis were called in to serve as nurses, even though their training was in education rather than medicine. Following the emergency, Mother Moes approached the family medical patriarch about establishing a hospital. Thus, St. Mary’s Hospital was born and incorporated into a hospital complex as it expanded.
Now a 2,-059-bed teaching hospital, the Mayo Clinic Hospital – Rochester is ranked first on the 2019–20 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals Honor Roll.
EARLY CHURCH FATHERS — Christians around the world observe SAINT PETER AND PAUL DAY on June 29 to commemorate the ministries and dual martyrdom of both these first-century A.D. apostles. The observance, established in the third century, A.D., commemorates the crucifixion of St. Peter (by legend, upside-down) and Paul, whom the Roman emperor Nero beheaded.
Moreover, Turkey on June 29 celebrates another anniversary of St. Peter, the occasion on which he first preached Christianity at Antakya, with ceremonies at an early Christian cave. Peter and Paul each wrote Epistles that are found in the Christian New Testament.
FEAST OF THE SACRIFICE — The Islamic lunar calendar designates June 29 this year as Eid-Al-Adha: Feast Of The Sacrifice, which commemorates the Biblical patriarch Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to God, and it is observed as part of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca. Islam, which honors all the Biblical patriarchs and prophets, on Eid-Al-Adha, celebrates God’s substitution of the lamb for Ishmael’s life and is observed by giving the first third of the meat from a roasted lamb to the needy, with the rest being shared with one’s family and friends.
The Islamic date is Dhu al-Hijjah 10, 1444. Islam came into being as a revelation during the 6th century after Christ, who is also considered a prophet in this religious tradition.
AMERICAN/RUSSIAN COLLABORATION — A SPACE MILESTONE was achieved on June 29, 1995, a few years after the end of the Cold War, when the American space shuttle Atlantis docked with a Russian space station MIR for the first time, resulting in the biggest craft ever assembled in space. The cooperation between the two nations led to the building of the International Space Station.
Today, the International Space Station, which involves five space agencies, from the United States (NASA), Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada, is the largest modular space station in low Earth orbit, and established through intergovernmental treaties and agreements, serves as a gravity and space research laboratory.
PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE — Name: JAMES VANDERZEE, born on June 29, 1886, was a pioneering African-American photographer as the Black Community grew culturally, politically and socially, and became the semi-official photographer of the Harlem Renaissance from the 1920s up to World War II. Vanderzee chronicled luminaries, including Marcus Garvey, but also dancers, street preachers and prosperous citizens.
Vanderzee also showed an early aptitude in music, and aspired to be a concert violinist. But as he gravitated to photography, even setting up an impromptu darkroom, he discovered a new passion.
SUBWAY CONTRACTS RULED CONSTITUTIONAL—The New York Court of Appeals on Saturday June 29, 1912 upheld a decision affirming the constitutionality of the city’s proposed contracts to build a new subway system by the Interborough and Brooklyn Rapid Transit Companies, according to a front page story in that day’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle. That decision upheld clauses that allow the preferential treatments, which were at the heart of the issue in litigation brought before the New York State Supreme Court against the Public Service Commission and the two transit companies as test cases, and then retried in the Appellate Division before reaching New York’s highest court. The decision removed the last obstacle to the contracts being awarded and the dual transit plan being implemented.
The jurist deciding the case was Judge Abel E. Blackmar, who had extensive experience as an attorney fighting railroad companies, the Eagle reported. At the time of this case, he was serving on the bench in the Supreme Court, Second Judicial District. Judge Blackmar in 1917 was appointed to the Appellate Division/Second Department and, in 1921, became that court’s presiding justice.
See previous milestones, here.
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