Category Archives: Profiles

Biographical commentary on famous people – of note – and maybe not so.

Whitey Ford, Beloved Yankees Pitcher Who Confounded Batters, Dies at 91

‘Take me out to the Ballgame…’ ~ when it was still a ‘sport.’

An irrepressible son of New York City, Ford joined the pantheon of baseball legends who dominated the 1950s and ’60s.

Whitey Ford pitching batting practice at the Yankees’ spring training camp in 1971, four years after retiring. A Yankee for his entire career, he won 236 games, the most of any Yankee, and had a career winning percentage of .690. Ernie Sisto/The New York Times

Whitey Ford, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame left-hander who was celebrated as the Chairman of the Board for his stylish pitching and big-game brilliance on the ball clubs that dominated baseball in the 1950s and early ’60s, died on Thursday night at his home in Lake Success, N.Y., on Long Island. He was 91. The Yankees announced his death. Continue reading

The Mike Wallace Interview with Ayn Rand

Sixty years later, we are on the brink of financial collapse and dictatorship. She correctly anticipated the trajectory of the United States, and was a visionary.

Wallace: “Do you actually predict dictatorship and economic disaster for the United States?”

Rand: “If the present collectivist trend continues and if the present anti-reason philosophy continues, then yes, that is the way the country is going.”

Josiah Henson: The forgotten story in the history of slavery

His life partly inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He was entertained at both Windsor Castle and the White House. He rescued more than 100 enslaved people. But barely anyone has heard of him.

Josiah Henson, photographed in Boston, 1876

From its very first moments, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s debut novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a smashing success. It sold out its 5,000-copy print run in four days in 1852, with one newspaper declaring that “everybody has read it, is reading, or is about to read it”. Soon, 17 printing presses were running around the clock to keep up with demand. By the end of its first year in print, the book had sold more than 300,000 copies in the US alone, and another million in Great Britain. It went on to become the bestselling novel of the 19th century.

Before reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I only knew that Stowe’s novel had been credited with influencing the debate at the heart of the American civil war. I had an expensive education, but sadly I learned very little about black history at school; by my early 20s, only names such as Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman still rang a bell. All that changed when I discovered that Stowe’s novel was based on the life of a real man, named Josiah Henson, whose cabin in Ontario was just a few hours from my home… Continue reading

H.L. Mencken Quotes on Government, Democracy, and Politicians

Today (September 12th) is H.L. Mencken’s birthday. The “Sage of Baltimore” (pictured above) was born in 1880 and is regarded by many as one of the most influential American journalists, essayists, and writers of the early 20th century. To recognize the great political writer on his birthday, here are 12 of my favorite Mencken quotes: Continue reading

David Crockett

The modern actor Billy Bob Thornton once said David Crockett in the film The Alamo was his favorite role. John Wayne played him, too. Every boy who grew up before the 1970s wanted to be Crockett. He was the “king of the wild frontier,” the man who wrestled bears and jumped rivers, the man with the sharpshooter’s eye who tamed the wilderness. He was larger than life; as one historian wrote, “His life is a veritable romance, with the additional charm of unquestionable truth. It opens to the reader scenes in the lives of the lowly, and a state of semi-civilization, of which but few of them can have the faintest idea.” Crockett was so popular because he was one of us, a common man without advantages who achieved great things on his own merit. He was the quintessential American. Continue reading

Hey, useful idiots: Karl Marx was a racist and anti-Semite

Walter E. Williams: His devotees who destroy property also don’t care about people of color.

Most people who call themselves Marxists know very little of Karl Marx’s life and have never read his three-volume “Das Kapital.” Volume I was published in 1867, the only volume published before Marx’s death in 1883. Volumes II and III were later edited and published in his name by his friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels. Most people who call themselves Marxist have only read his 1848 pamphlet “The Communist Manifesto,” which was written with Engels.

Marx is a hero to many labor union leaders and civil rights organizations, including leftist groups like Black Lives Matter, Antifa and some Democratic Party leaders. It is easy to be a Marxist if you know little of his life. Marx’s predictions about capitalism and the “withering away of the state” turned out to be grossly wrong. What most people do not know is that Marx was a racist and an anti-Semite. Continue reading

George Armstrong Custer… and All That

Years ago I saw a bumper sticker for a car that said “Custer died for your sins.” I don’t know who put it out, some Indian group or what, but I felt it was a bit on the blasphemous side. Jesus Christ died to pay for my sins and then He arose from the dead on the first Easter morning. Custer had nothing to do with it, thank heaven! He would have been a pitiful savior.

Quite awhile back now someone gave me a book by Stephen E. Ambrose called Crazy Horse and Custer. The paperback version was published in 2003, so I assume a hardback version came out sometime previous to that. Continue reading

Activist, Brigitte Bardot

Last year, singling out screen legends such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich, who died alone, Bardot told Dalya Alberge: “The majority of great actresses met tragic ends. When I said goodbye to this job, to this life of opulence and glitter, images and adoration, the quest to be desired, I was saving my life.”

However, Bardot’s views and her strong opposition to Islam in France have led to her being condemned by French courts for anti-Muslim comments, and fined. She faced French judges five times for “incitement to racial hatred” between 1997 and 2008.

In 1996, she pointed to her grandfather and father’s battles against German invaders in two world wars, and to her own rejection of lucrative Hollywood offers during her “cinematic glory.” Ms Bardot wrote: “And now my country, France, my fatherland, my land, is, with the blessing of successive governments, again invaded by a foreign, especially Muslim, overpopulation to which we pay allegiance. Continue reading

Descendants of Frederick Douglass Read From One of the Greatest Speeches in American History

Without leadership, the mob may win and the resulting chaos will benefit no one except those who foment it.

Americans used to have great reverence for the spoken word. Before radio and TV, there were political speeches and the great orators were prized for their ability to move audiences to laughter, to tears, or to rage.

It’s ironic that some of the most famous and beloved Americans were terrible public speakers. Jefferson stammered his way through his first inaugural. Washington hated to speak in public — partly because his teeth kept slipping.

Abraham Lincoln’s speaking voice was a high-pitched, nasally whine. But what he said moved mountains. The Gettysburg Address redefined freedom and liberty in a way that everyone understood and believed. His second inaugural address (the shortest in history) — “With malice toward none and charity for all” — became public policy the minute he uttered it. Continue reading

JFK’s Cold War Chains

President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev took the measure of each other when they met for the first time, in Vienna in 1961. (Google Images)

Editor’s note: The past is prologue. The stories we tell about ourselves and our forebears inform the sort of country we think we are and help determine public policy. As our current president promises to “make America great again,” this moment is an appropriate time to reconsider our past, look back at various eras of United States history and re-evaluate America’s origins. When, exactly, were we “great”?
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Don’t Cheer Woodrow Wilson’s Cancellation

Rather than taking scalps of our own, what the right needs is an arms-linked defense of our history, culture, art, and institutions, imperfect though all that might be.

First things first: Woodrow Wilson was a deplorable bigot and one of the worst presidents in American history. He re-segregated the federal government, glamorized the Ku Klux Klan, screened The Birth of a Nation at the White House, and opposed Reconstruction and black suffrage (Dylan Matthews has more on Wilson’s racism). In common with many progressive intellectuals of his time, he was a champion of eugenics. He sank the United States into the pointless carnage of World War I. He viewed the Constitution as outmoded and sought to snap its restraints on executive power. Continue reading

Charles Mason: A Voice of Reason

Charles Mason

Today, as it was a hundred and sixty years ago, America stands on the edge of an ever-widening chasm of cultural, ideological, political, racial and sectional divisions. In 1860, there was at least one prominent voice of reason that cried out to end the nation’s mad rush into the abyss, that of Charles Mason of Iowa. Mason was a Northern Democrat who not only understood the conflicting issues that were then pulling the nation apart, but reasonably viewed the rights and wrongs of both secession and slavery, as well as strongly opposing Lincoln’s invasion of the South to militarily force the departed States back into the Union. Like many others in both the North and South, Mason did not approve of secession, but felt that as there was nothing in the Constitution to bar a State from abrogating its contract with America and peacefully withdrawing from the Union, that it was solely a matter for the people of each State to decide on their own. His fervent hope though was that if secession did become a reality and a new Southern nation created, that the two countries could then begin to negotiate their differences in a peaceful manner, somehow resolve them and ultimately reunite. Continue reading

Benjamin Salinas Westrup: The Strange Turns of Life

In 1840, the young Queen of England, Victoria, married her first cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, nephew of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, King of the Belgians. Victoria and Albert were of the same age, both born in 1819.

Victoria came to the throne in the nick of time; she turned 18 in 1837, and thus became heir to the throne of England just a few months before the decease of her uncle, King William IV of England. Her father, Prince Edward, son of King George III, and heir to the throne, had died when she was a baby. Thus, Queen Victoria was a grand-daughter of King George III. Continue reading

Nancy Green ~ Aunt Jemima

Portrait of Green as Aunt Jemima, by A. B. Frost

Nancy Green (November 17, 1834 – August 30, 1923 was a storyteller, cook, activist, and the first of several African-American models hired to promote a corporate trademark as “Aunt Jemima”.

Green was born into slavery on November 17, 1834, near Mount Sterling in Montgomery County, Kentucky. She was hired in 1890 by the R.T. Davis Milling Company in St. Joseph, Missouri, to represent “Aunt Jemima”, an advertising character named after a song from a minstrel show. Davis Milling had recently acquired the formula to a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour from St. Joseph Gazette editor Chris L. Rutt and Charles Underwood and were looking to employ an African-American woman as a Mammy archetype to promote their new product. In 1893, Green was introduced as Aunt Jemima at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, where it was her job to operate a pancake-cooking display. Her amicable personality and talent as a cook for the Walker family, whose children grew up to become Chicago Circuit Judge Charles M. Walker and Dr. Samuel Walker helped establish a successful showing of the product, for which she received a medal and certificate from the Expo officials. Continue reading

The Pardon of Jefferson Davis and the 14th Amendment

On October 17, 1978, President Jimmy Carter officially restored the full citizenship rights of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis, signing an act from Congress that ended a century-long dispute.

Davis is most remembered today as one of the leaders of the Confederacy, along with General Robert E. Lee. In 1976, Lee’s citizenship was restored by Congress, also about a century after Lee’s death after the Civil War. The restoration of Davis’ citizenship soon followed.

In posthumously restoring the full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, the Congress officially completes the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the States,” the resolution read on October 17, 1978. Continue reading

God’s Country Shall Not Be Damned

In Memory of Dr. Neil Compton, Arkansas Hero, 1912-1999

Neil Compton of Bentonville, Arkansas, my beloved hometown, stands as a paragon of civic virtue. Born in Falling Springs, western Benton County, he lived with his family on Upper Coon Creek until the age of eleven, when he moved to Bentonville upon the election of his father, David, as Benton County Judge. After his undergraduate and medical education at the University of Arkansas, Compton served as a health officer with the State Board of Health, and later served in the Medical Corps of the United States Naval Reserve in the Fiji Islands during the Second World War. His former home, just off of the Bentonville Square, serves as the center of Compton Gardens, comprised of nearly seven acres of walking trails and native woodland plants. Compton Gardens now connects to our world-renowned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, as well as the rest of the magnificent Bentonville trail system. I have many a fond memory there, and vividly remember my first visit in the fourth grade. Incidentally, it was this fourth-grade teacher that instilled in me my passion for the natural world. Continue reading

The Enslaved Household of the Grant Family

Caricature of Ulysses S. Grant inebriated. (Library of Congress

Women are often overlooked in history for their role in the institution of slavery. First Lady Julia Dent Grant, wife of President Ulysses S. Grant, was a steadfast slave mistress for more than half of her life—an often forgotten part of her identity. Though Grant himself grew up in an abolitionist family in the free state of Ohio, his marriage to Julia Dent led him to become involved in slavery while the two lived in Missouri on Julia’s family estate. As a result, Ulysses Grant was the last U.S. president to have owned an enslaved individual. Grant’s legacy as the respected Commanding General of the Union Army, and his efforts as president to protect black citizenship have long obscured his personal slave-ownership, as well as that of his beloved wife. Continue reading