Milestones: Tuesday, October 10, 2023
CHARLEMAGNE’S GRANDFATHER — THE 8th-CENTURY FRANKISH CHRISTIAN LEADER CHARLES MARTEL DEFEATEED AN ARMY OF SPANISH MOORS ON OCT. 10, 732, at the Battle of Tours near Poitiers, France, thus ending their foray into Western Europe. The Muslim governor of Cordoba, Spain, Abd-r-Rahman was killed in the fighting. The illegitimate son of Pepin, powerful mayor of Austrasia and ruler of that era’s Frankish kingdom, Charles Martel actually prevailed against Pepin’s three legitimate grandsons for inheritance rights and became mayor of the Franks, expanding his territory and ensuring that his family would be entrenched as the ruling dynasty. Some 35 years later, Charles Martel’s grandson, Charlemagne, became a medieval emperor ruling much of Western Europe until the early 9th century C.E. He was a skilled military strategist whom Pope Leo III proclaimed the Holy Roman Emperor.
The 1972 Broadway production of the musical Pippin reverses the generations, as Pepin the Short was actually Charlemagne’s father. However, playwright Roger O. Hirson’s version depicting Pippin (Pépin) as the son of Charlemagne (Charles the Great) rather than as his father may also have been an imagined son of the emperor.
NAVAL ACADEMY FINALLY ESTABLISHED — THE UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY OPENED AS THE NAVAL SCHOOL, IN ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND ON OCT. 10, 1845, with 50 midshipmen students and seven professors. Known as the Naval School until 1850, it offered a curriculum that included mathematics and navigation, gunnery and steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy and French. Five years later, in 1850, the school officially became the U.S. Naval Academy, with a new curriculum, necessitated in part because an earlier youth cohort received hands-on experience aboard shift and had instigated a mutiny. The new curriculum required midshipmen to study at the academy for four years and to train aboard ships each summer — a format that is still in place, according to the U.S. Naval Academy’s website.
Although an early navy was established as early as the Revolutionary War, Congress in its thrift did not fund it. U.S. President John Quincy Adams in 1825 urged Congress to establish a Naval Academy “for the formation of scientific and accomplished officers” — that didn’t happen for another 20 years. Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft finally established the Naval School in 1845, but without Congressional funding.
INTERCEPTED HIJACKERS — THE U.S. NAVY’S FIGHTER JETS INTERCEPTED A PLANE WITH A GROUP OF TERRORISTS WHO HAD HIJACKED THE ITALIAN CRUISE SHIP ACHILLE LAURO, on Oct. 10, 1985. Navy F-14 fighters intercepted an Egyptian airliner attempting to fly the Palestinian hijackers to freedom and forced the jet to land at a NATO base in Sigonella, Sicily, after its crew were denied landing clearance at other Mediterranean-region airports. Three days earlier, on Oct. 7, four heavily-armed Palestinian terrorists had hijacked the Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, taking as hostages about 320 crewmembers and 80 passengers, 11 of them Americans. The hijackers, identifying themselves as members of the Palestine Liberation Front — a splinter group whose actions that the better-known Palestinian Organization and its leader, Yasir Arafat, condemned, demanded the release of militants which the Israeli government had imprisoned. The hijackers demonstrated their demands by killing an elderly America Jew named Leon Klinghoffer, pushing him overboard — wheelchair and all.
Even though the Egyptian aircraft was also carrying negotiators and P.L.O. officials, U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief Ronald Reagan ordered the Navy’ fighter jets to intercept it and arrest its occupants.
CLASSIC AMERICAN OPERA — GEORGE GERSHWIN’S OPERA PORGY AND BESS PREMIERED ON BROADWAY on Oct. 10, 1935, after a protracted period of delays, development, and an early version of a hybrid work environment. The production had a nine-year journey, from the time that George Gershwin, inspired by a book, contacted author DuBose Heyward to collaborate on a musical. However, tied up with other commitments, Gershwin could not begin composing the project for several years; when he and brother Ira finally started, it was mostly by mail, with in-person meetings rare. Even working “hybrid,” they produced some of the most classic songs of American musical theater history, including “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.”
The original Broadway production received very mixed reviews, and some of the songs had been cut. However, the Houston Grand Army in 1976 staged a full revival production of Porgy and Bess to much acclaim, and the show gained its place in American opera.
NIXON’S VP RESIGNS — VICE PRESIDENT SPIRO T. AGNEW RESIGNED IN DISGRACE, on Oct. 10, 1973, about 10 months before Richard M. Nixon would also resign from the presidency. The same day that Agnew resigned, he pleaded no contest to a charge of federal income tax evasion in exchange for having charges of political corruption dropped. He was sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $10,000. Agnew, a past governor of Maryland before Nixon chose him as running mate, was subsequently fined $10,000, sentenced to three years’ probation, and disbarred by the Maryland Court of Appeals.
President Nixon, acting under the decree of the 25th Amendment nominated Congressman Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, who faced approval by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Ford, who was sworn in as vice president on Dec. 6, 1973, would wind up becoming the 38th president the following August, upon Nixon’s resignation.
FIRST LADY OF THE AMERICAN THEATER — HELEN HAYES, born on Oct. 10, 1900 in Washington, D.C., became known as “the First Lady of the American Theater. She played Mary Stuart in “Mary Queen of Scots,” but perhaps her greatest moment on stage was as the long-lived Queen Victoria in the play “Victoria Regina.” On film, Hayes won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her first major film role in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931) and, 40 years later, won an Oscar statue Best Supporting Actress for her role in Airport.
A lifelong Republican, although not a political activist, Hayes delivered a seconding speech to George H.W. Bush’s nomination during the roll call at the 1988 Republican National Convention, according to a United Press International article by Anne Saker published that August.
See previous milestones, here.
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