Route 66, The Mother Road, Main Street of America, Will Rogers Highway, is decommissioned in the National Highway System, bypassed by more modern “interstate highways.”
In 1857, Navy Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale, working for the US Army Topographical Engineers, charted a wagon road across the western US.
In the 1920’s, amidst Congressional acts creating a national highway system, Tulsa businessman Cyrus Avery and businessmen in Springfield, Missouri began lobbying for a highway that would roughly follow Beale’s route, and incidentally draw business away from Wichita to Tulsa, OKC and numerous other small cities between Chicago and L.A.
In 1926 they got their way and Route 66 was born.
For the next several decades small communities were connected by the highway, the trucking industry took off due to it’s influence, travelers stopped at new motels, drive-ins, etc…the entire culture of America was changed as Americans were able to see their country on vacations easily.
In the 50’s, Congress approved President Eisenhower’s proposals for an interstate highway system, born from his youth as an Army officer when he traveled across the country on insufficient roads.
By the 70’s, the interstates had rendered Route 66 obsolete, and by 1985 it was decommissioned.
85% of the route still exists, and has become a tourist hotspot for those that miss the romanticism it engendered. Traveling it’s route is definitely on my bucket list!
A new Navy fighter, the F6F Hellcat, flies for the first time.
When WWII started, the F4F Wildcat was the primary Navy fighter. Both built by Grumman, the cats served their pilots well.
The Wildcat was too slow and ungainly to compete with the Japanese Zero well, but it held it’s own. It was so well built that it was hard to knock out of the Pacific skies, and it’s weight made it better in a dive.
Grumman took it’s advantages and improved on it with the Hellcat, which was just as tough but faster than the Zero, and armed with 6 .50 cal. machine guns.
The Hellcat and the F4U Corsair would sweep the Pacific of Japanese air power. But the Hellcat would hold the title…having downed 5,271 enemy aircraft, she holds the title for destroying more enemy aircraft than any other fighter type.
Illinois “circuit” lawyer Abraham Lincoln, running to be the Senator from that state, gives a speech at the capitol of Springfield and gains the Republican nomination.
One of his most famous speeches, the “House Divided” speech did not gain him the job of US Senator from Illinois, that would go to his opponent, Stephen A. Douglas.
However, published nationally, it did launch him onto the national stage, along with his series of debates against Douglas, which would gain him the Presidency two years later.
The speech was prophetic, as Lincoln told his listeners that after recent events, the nation could no longer expect to be half free and half slave, but must be all one or the other.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.
President Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, which would give 160 acres of western lands to anyone who would farm it successfully for 5 years and build a residence upon it (often a sod building).
The Act would encourage vastly expanded settlement of the west; bad news for Native Americans, good news for those newer Americans wanting to improve their lot in life.
Congress had attempted to pass similar acts in 1852, 1854, and 1859, but each time the attempts were shot down by Southern Democrats who were afraid that if the west were populated it would result in more “free” states, which would result in more votes against slavery.
Once the Republican Lincoln was elected, and the Civil War began, the Southern Democrats were no longer part of the equation.
The Republicans soon passed the Homestead Act and the settlement of the west began in earnest. By the end of the war 15,000 settlers (some of which were merely pawns for land speculators) had accepted their lands. Eventually 80 Million acres would be settled.
In 1898 the Supreme Court had ruled in Plessy v Ferguson that keeping blacks people and white people separate on railroad cars was constitutional, as “separate but equal” did not violate the 14th Amendment.
This was quickly perverted to all public facilities being segregated.
In the 1954 Decision of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas the Supreme Court Ruled that 3rd grader Linda Brown could attend a white school, and that segregation was illegal.
Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall led the team that won the case.
Misconceptions. US General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing leads a force south across the border with Mexico to assist in the chase of Mexican rebel Pancho Villa.
I knew this. I also knew that Pershing served as the commanding US General during WWI. What I didn’t know? He was born during the Civil War, was a leading cadet during his time at West Point…leading the contingent at the funeral of Ulysses S. Grant.
He fought Apaches and Sioux during his career.
He served in the 10th US Cavalry, the famous “Buffalo Soldiers”, or the original African-American soldiers (we had a Buffalo Soldier that came to the City Hall cafeteria routinely before his passing…what an honor).
The surprise for me was that I thought “Black Jack” was because he was seen as a pirate or a gambler…instead the cadets he supervised while a strict instructor at West Point hated him, and because he served in an African-American command, they called him “N****R Jack”….later amended to “Black Jack”…and it stuck.
He served in that same regiment as they charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, then served in the Philippines. Roosevelt took a liking to him, appreciating his abilities, and made him an envoy to Tokyo in 1905…so he served as an observer to the Russo-Japanese War, then received his generalship by appointment by TR.
In 1915 Pershing was commanding the Presidio in San Francisco when his regiment was reassigned to Ft. Bliss, Texas because of the problems with Mexico.
After a year there, he sent for his family to join him…only to find out that his wife and three daughters had died in a house fire at the Presidio…leaving only his young son to join him.
After his exploits in Mexico, along with young George S. Patton, he would become the commanding General of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI, becoming the mentor to the likes of Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, George C. Marshall, Omar Bradley and many others. What a life!
On a strict party line vote (we’ve heard that a lot lately) of 48 Republicans for and 8 Democrats against, Methodist minister Hiram Rhodes of Mississippi is confirmed as the first African-American US Senator, the first African-American member of Congress.
Rhodes had been a minister, had helped raise the first two black regiments to fight in the Civil War, had been a veteran of the Battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi.
Ironically he had served in Lincolnton, North Carolina as a barber with his brother, and served in a seminary in UNION county, Indiana.
Democrats had attempted to use the 1857 Dredd Scott decision, A ridiculous Supreme Court decision that decided black people were not citizens, as a basis for preventing Rhodes from attaining the Senate seat.
After the election of Abraham Lincoln, a known Republican abolitionist, South Carolina had seceded from the Union in December, 1860. The other Southern states had not yet seceded, the Confederacy not yet formed.
The commander of Ft. Sumter in Charleston (SC) Harbor asked for supplies and more men.
President Buchanan’s administration (Lincoln was not yet in office) dispatched the civilian ship Star of the West to resupply the island fortress.
As the ship entered Charleston Harbor cadets at the Citadel fired upon her and she turned about to escape, continuing to take fire. She suffered only light damage.
Despite this attack, when Lincoln assumed the office of President, other states having seceded, he stated that the North would not fire the first shot…that war would only occur if the states that had seceded fired the first shot.
At the same time he refused to give up Federal forts in the south.
In April Confederate General PGT Beauregard would order an attack on Ft. Sumter, beginning the Civil War. Some historians consider the attack upon the Star of the West to be the beginning of the Civil War, but the attack on Ft. Sumter is generally considered to be the initiation of hostilities.
The University of Oklahoma Sooners win at the Orange Bowl.
30 games into a historic 47 game winning streak, legendary OU football coach Bud Wilkinson led his team to victory at the Orange Bowl. Wilkinson set the standard for the program.
All of that very nearly never happened.
Wilkinson had been part of several football victories in Minnesota during the thirties.
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Bud did what many American heroes did, he put his life on hold and joined up. In his case, it was the U.S. Navy.
So it was that Bud became a member of yet another legendary team. The crew of the USS Enterprise had earned 20 Battle Stars during the war.
On May 14, 1945, Lieutenant Charles “Bud” Wilkinson was the Hangar Deck Officer. The Big E was maneuvering violently to avoid an onslaught of Kamikaze planes off the coast of Japan. Finally one of the suicide planes got through, and crashed into the flight deck just aft of the forward aircraft elevator. The explosion sent a large part of the 15 ton elevator 400 feet into the sky. Fourteen men were killed, 60 wounded.
The hangar deck was devastated, 25 aircraft aboard were destroyed.
Lt. Wilkinson happened to be standing on the opposite side of a girder from the blast…by Bud’s reckoning, had he been three feet closer to the explosion, he would have been killed. (Barrett Tillman, “Enterprise”, 2012)
How many Bud Wilkinsons did we lose? And how many owe their success in life to a matter of seconds which saved the coach’s life that day?
Bud Wilkinson would begin his OU odyssey two years later, leading the program from 1947 to 1963.