Today in History, May 17, 1954:

In 1898 the Supreme Court had ruled in Plessy v Ferguson that keeping blacks and whites separate on railroad cars was constitutional, as “separate but equal” didn’t violate the 14th Amendment.

This was eventually perverted to all public facilities being segregated.

In the 1954 Decision of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court Ruled that 3rd grader Linda Brown could attend a white school, and that segregation was illegal. The Civil Rights evolution in America had begun. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall led the team that won this case.

H. Norman Schwarzkopf Stared Down into Baby Charles Lindbergh’s Shallow Grave…

Today in History, May 12, 1932:

H. Norman Schwarzkopf looks down into the recently found shallow grave of infant Charles Lindbergh, Jr. in a field not far from the Lindbergh home.

The Lindbergh baby had been kidnapped from his home on March 1st, the ransom paid, but the child was not returned to his parents.

Schwarzkopf, a West Point graduate and WWI veteran, had been appointed in 1921 by the Governor of New Jersey to create, organize and train the New Jersey State Police.

It was in this capacity that he led the investigation of the Lindbergh Kidnapping, the “Crime of the Century”. He would prove that the baby had been killed accidentally as he was being carried down a ladder from his second floor bedroom.

When a new governor took office, Schwarzkopf would be sacked. Politics.

He would return to the US Army when WWII broke out, where he would be tasked to use his logistics and organizational talents to train the Iranian police, a country where the US was setting up railroads to supply the Soviet Union for the fight against Germany.

After the war, Schwarzkopf would also help set up the security forces of the Shah of Iran…back before the Iranian revolution made that country enemy #1.

Two years after he investigated the Lindbergh kidnapping, his son, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. would be born.

And as most know, “Stormin’ Norman” would follow his father to the middle east in the service of his country nearly six decades later.

The elder H. Norman Schwarzkopf would take part in the intrigue and skullduggery of the Middle East during the forties and fifties after solving the Lindbergh Kidnapping; his namesake would go back to the volatile region with him father’s background and wisdom, but to kick ass and take names.

“A Very Sacred Intercession”

Today in History, May 8, 1919:

“Five little minutes only. Five silent minutes of national remembrance. A very sacred intercession. Communion with the Glorious Dead who won us peace, and from the communion new strength, hope and faith in the morrow. Church services, too, if you will, but in the street, the home, the theatre, anywhere, indeed, where Englishmen and their women chance to be, surely in this five minutes of bitter-sweet silence there will be service enough.”

Australian WWI veteran Edward George Honey sends a letter to The London Evening News suggesting a moment of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of each year…when the WWI Armistice was signed in 1918.

He had been angered at the rowdy partying when the Armistice occurred, and felt the event should be recognized with reverence.

The British government soon agreed, and Remembrance Day was established, about the same time that Veteran’s Day was established in America.

Commissioner Roosevelt

“Do you remember the fun of him, Mrs. Robinson?  It was not only that he was a great man, but, oh, there was such fun in being led by him!”

Today in History, May 6, 1895:

Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as the President of the Board of Police Commissioners of New York City, effectively, the Police Commissioner. That’s right, TR was a cop. He instituted numerous policies to root out corruption in the city’s police department, making several enemies along the way. Officers on the beat grew used to Commissioner Roosevelt showing up at all hours of the day and night. The corrupt officers hated him; the honest officers loved him. He was tireless and relentless, a trait his family was well aware of, and that the national politicians were soon to become well acquainted with.

At this point in his storied life, Roosevelt had “built his body” as a sickly child, successfully completed studies at Harvard, traveled Europe, become a NY state legislator, lost his mother and wife the same day after the birth of his daughter, and secluded himself to the Dakota Territory in grief.  While in the west he took on his persona as a “cowboy”, having chased and captured thieves, fought in barroom fights, raised cattle, and hunted frequently.

NYC was TR’s hometown, and when he got the job as Police Commissioner he was driven to rid not only the police department but the city of it’s rampant corruption.  He would make “Midnight” walks around the city, catching officers sleeping or taking solace in the bawdy houses.  He also worked against real corruption within the department, making enemies.

Roosevelt also took steps to provide the officers training, firearms and equipment they’d never had before, intent on making them into a professional agency.  These efforts won him many fans within the rank and file.

One of his less popular actions…obviously a mistake…was when he ordered all of the houses of liquor closed on Sunday.  The only problem is that the high society Roosevelt did not realize working class German and Irish voters worked 6 days a week…Sunday was their only day to “throw one back.”

Of course after his adventures on NYPD Roosevelt went on to be Under Secretary of the Navy where he helped build a modern force, the Colonel of the Rough Riders in Cuba, NY Governor, Vice-President, President, and then adventurer and hunter.

You never know what will be the final epitaph or testimonial for someone.  To this day it can be argued whether Theodore Roosevelt was more hated or more loved by the officers he worked with.

However a chance encounter at his funeral near Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, NY in January of 1919 proves TR’s influence for me.

As the mourners trailed out after the service, a Police Captain stopped Roosevelt’s sister, Corinne.  It had been nearly a quarter century since the man had worked for “The Commissioner.”  Do you know how much time hardens a policeman?  The Captain was in tears, overcome.

“Do you remember the fun of him, Mrs. Robinson?  It was not only that he was a great man, but, oh, there was such fun in being led by him!”

The Battle of Alcatraz

Today in History, May 4, 1946:

Call in the Marines! The Battle of Alcatraz.

On May 2nd, three inmates on D Block of Alcatraz prison managed to overtake the block of cells. One of them managed to expand and crawl between bars leading to the catwalk above the cells and overpower the guard there.

Soon they had imprisoned the guards in two cells and taken their weapons. Now they only needed to find the key to the “yard” and they could steal the island’s launch to escape. However by the time they found the key, they had tampered with the lock so much that a security feature kicked in and they were sealed inside.

Over the next couple of days they fired on guards outside and on the guards they had imprisoned inside, killing 3 and injuring 14.

The Warden called for help from Marines stationed at the nearby Treasure Island Naval Base, many of whom were fresh from fighting Japanese hidden in caves in the Pacific. The Marines assaulted D Block with machine gun fire, grenades and mortars. When the guards went to secure the building, they found the three ringleaders dead in a utility corridor to which they had retreated. Two more inmates would later be executed for their role in the attempted escape.

Living Where You Please – Shelley v. Kraemer

Today in History, May 3, 1948:

The US Supreme Court hands down a decision in Shelley v Kraemer, asserting housing rights for minorities.

In 1906 a nice two-story home was built in the 4600 block of Labadie Street in a neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri. In 1911 residents of the neighborhood established a covenant which was common in America in the early Twentieth Century; the agreement ensured their neighborhood would remain “white only.” Home owners agreed not to sell to African-Americans or Asian-Americans.

In 1930 the Shelley family moved to St. Louis from Mississippi to escape pervasive racial bias. They were raising their six children when in 1945 a home owner agreed to break the covenant and sell them the house on Lebadie Street.

Another owner, Kraemer, filed suit to prevent the sale. The local court ruled in favor of the Shelleys, the Missouri state court against them. The case was then appealed to the US Supreme Court.

In a decision reminiscent of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Court set things right. The covenant was a private, not a state agreement. Therefore, the court system did not have the authority to prevent the covenants. This also meant the courts could not ENFORCE them. The Fourteenth Amendment protections of equal enforcement of laws and property rights had been been upheld.

How to Live Life with Honor; How to Die with Grace. Lou Gehrig Taught Us All

Today in History, April 30, 1939:

“The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth.”

Lou Gehrig played his 2,130th consecutive game in major league baseball, and his last.

A member of the original New York Yankees “Murderer’s Row” (1927), by ’39 Gehrig’s health was obviously failing and in his last game he failed to hit a single ball.

Two days later he walked up to the coach Joe McCarthy, “I’m benching myself, Joe.”

The fans were in shock when it was announced that Gehrig would not be playing. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with ALS, a disease that slowly degraded the body, but fiendishly left the mind entirely in tact, now know as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

1939 was an eventful year…Hitler’s Nazi party was preparing to take over Europe, war raged in the Orient, Gone with the Wind took to the silver screen.

But after the news about Lou Gehrig spread, July 4th was designated Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.

Fans, dignitaries, teammates and the press filled Yankee Stadium beyond capacity and the country watched. After Babe Ruth and many others gave their tributes, Lou stepped to the microphone and announced that he was the Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth, in spite of “catching a bad break”. There wasn’t a dry eye in stadium, likely few in the country.