Showing posts with label Notables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Notables. Show all posts

Friday, August 16, 2013

JFK Stuff: Powerful, Dramatic ... Wrong.

We have noted John F. Kennedy's pardon of jazz great Hampton Hawes (here and here and here). So we are pleased to see this piece appear at the DailyBeast, entitled, "The Jazz Pianist that John F. Kennedy Saved," and written by Ted Gioia The piece begins with an anecdotes suggesting Hawes heard John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address while serving a ten year sentence for a drug conviction. Hawes supposedly said, in response, "That’s the right cat ... looks like he got some soul and might listen” and decided that he would apply for a presidential pardon! Notes Gioia:
Against all odds, President Kennedy responded. Although many major jazz stars spent time in prison on narcotics charges during the middle decades of the 20th century, only Hawes received a presidential pardon. Fifty years ago, on August 16, 1963, JFK granted executive clemency to the pianist, and thus allowed one of the most talented jazz artists of the era to resume his career. The Hawes pardon would be one of Kennedy’s last executive acts. Only 98 days later, Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK in Dallas, not far from the prison Hawes recently left. Kennedy only granted clemency to 43 people during his last year in office. Hawes received pardon number 42.
It sure would be nice to know who the "many major jazz stars" were, but we know pardons, And we know pardon data. That's what we do.

Hampton Hawes' clemency warrant is actually dated August 14th (not the 16th - click on image to the left to see an image of the warrant). Hawes was not one of only 43 people granted clemency in Kennedy's last year in office (year three of the term). Kennedy granted 268 pardons that year. If the author meant a twelve-month period, the figure is 268. And after the day Hawes was pardoned, President Kennedy went on to grant 78 additional pardons before being assassinated. Goodness.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Edward Snowden: Pardon? Are You Serious?!

A presidential pardon for Edward Snowden? Come on! Don't be ridiculous! Well, yes, "ridiculous" is right.

Unless, of course, you are a regular reader of this blog. In which case, you would be well aware of the fact that a presidential pardon for Mr. Snowden would most certainly not be the strangest thing in the history of intelligence / espionage / and spying. Not even close.

Recall some of our recent posts:

1. Speaking of Captured Spies
2. The Spy Who Didn't Love Us (and was Pardoned)
3. The First Spy Pardon
4. Laura H. Ingalls - Just One Flight Too Many
5. Lincoln and the John Yates Beall Incident
6. Not Your Average German Pirate
7. John Deutch, And Why Not?
8. Context: How Soon We Forget
9. Clemency for Terrorists? Traaaaa-dition!
10. Kansas: Remembering "Red Kate"

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Mafia, the Murder Stable and Presidential Mercy

Author Virgil W. Peterson notes that, in the early 1900’s, Ignatio Lupo (a.k.a. Ignazio Saietta, a.k.a. “Lupo the Wolf”) was “the most important leader in the Sicilian-Italian underworld.” Lupo came to the United States in 1899, at the tender age of twenty-two. He had fled from Sicily after committing a murder and settled in East Harlem.

Author Carl Sifakis observes young Lupo gained an “awesome reputation” over the next few years as “the most desperate and blood thirsty criminals in the history of American crime.” Indeed, it became “common” for Italians to cross themselves at the mere mention of his name of the “most proficient and deadliest” racketeer in New York. Conventional wisdom was that Lupo was also behind countless episodes of torture in a building in Italian Harlem affectionately known as the “Murder Stable.” In 1901, a New York police detective who was assisting the Secret Service in an investigation of plots to kill President McKinley raided the structure at 323 East 107th Street. The property, owned by Lupo, was searched and diggings uncovered the remains of at least sixty murder victims.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Case of Joe Martin (and the Headless Corpse)

The following post is from a paper presented by P.S. Ruckman, Jr., at the “Theodore Roosevelt: Life, Times and Legacy” conference. Louisiana State University (Shreveport). October 17-20, 2012. 

One day, Ernest Adams picked up a club and attacked Joe Martin, a citizen of Yell County, Arkansas. Martin managed to escape and retreated to his own home. Adams went to a friend’s house, borrowed a Winchester rifle and made his way to the Martin residence. As he approached the front door, Adams saw Martin sitting in a chair with his 4-year-old daughter, Nora, in his lap. Adams then threatened to kill Martin, but Martin pled with Adams not to have the poor taste to commit murder right in front of his family. So, Adams forced Martin down a road and along a path.

Later, Martin's family heard a rifle shot coming from the woods. But, to their general astonishment, Joe Martin emerged alive. And Ernest Adams was nowhere to be seen. Martin later claimed that, as he and Adams were walking along, they both thought that they heard the sound of another man’s footsteps in the woods. In that slight moment of concern and hesitation, Martin grabbed Adams’ gun and a struggle ensued. Martin said he then shot Adams in self-defense.

Later, the body of a man was found floating in the Red River. It was wrapped in a bed quilt that was later linked to Martin. Unfortunately, the head of the corpse had been removed. As a result, the identification process was said to have been “very incomplete.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Solomon Hotema's Witch Hunt

Throughout his life, Solomon Hotema practiced law, served as a judge and discharged his duties “in an able and conscientious manner.” According to the Annual Report of the Attorney General for 1903, he was “a man of wealth and high standing among his people” (the Choctaw Indians) and “very charitable.” Yes, Hotema led an “exemplary” life, but for one small flaw.

The Annual Report noted, “for many years” he had been in the habit of “getting drunk.” A judge had also observed that, while drunk, Hotema “manifested a disposition to be combative and also a disposition to use deadly weapons.” For example, on the morning of April 14, 1899, Hotema threw back a few stiff ones and went to the house of one Vina Coleman. In the past, Hotema had “always been on most friendly terms” with Coleman. But, on this morning, Hotema was “more or less under the influence of liquor.” So, he took Coleman’s life with a single shotgun blast. A small child nearby was also injured. A startled fifteen-year old attempted to flee the premises. But, Hotema spotted him, then shot and “badly wounded” the boy. The merciless gunman then hopped on a horse and rode away from the Coleman residence. As he approached a second home, Hotema shot and killed a man. With more buckshot and plenty of time, he rode to a third house and shot and killed another woman.

Hotema’s trial was reported to have “caused a big stir” throughout “a large portion of the country” and, at trial, his lawyers certainly had their hands full. They quickly agreed to argue that their client was not guilty by reason of insanity. But the position of the defense was not simply based on the fact that Hotema was intoxicated at the time of the murders, or that he had a ten-year habit of intoxication and violence.

The defense informed the courtroom that Hotema’s community had been hit with an epidemic of meningitis nine years earlier. Many lives were lost and among them was Solomon Hotema’s little daughter. As the death toll reached “alarming proportions,” Hotema and others consulted an individual who lived nearby. This specialist (described by the New York Times as an “Indian witch doctor”) diagnosed the loss of life as the clear result of the practice of witchcraft in the community and, in a sense, he also prescribed a cure by specifically naming the individuals who were witches.

Hotema (who was also a Presbyterian minister) was surely familiar with the Biblical command to kill witches (Exodus 22:16) - a command which is much more forceful and clear than the typical warning against “strong drink” (see Proverbs 20:1). Indeed, in a statement that issued from jail shortly after the arrest, Hotema said he had always “been for peace” but the “evil practice of magic” had “been among the Indian people for a number of years.” Thus, he decided to “sacrifice” his own life “for the Lord’s cause.”

Hotema numbered himself with “the law breakers” and “humbly” submitted his “neck” to the gallows.” And the defense lawyers simply ran with it. Their client murdered three people in cold blood because he believed all of them were witches. The jury was left to implicitly wonder, “How insane was that?” Incidentally, there are no known indications of how the intoxicated Choctaw witch hunter felt about the spiritual status of the fifteen-year old boy or the infant.

Hotema was tried for the murder of the second and third victims and acquitted by the jury on the ground of insanity. When he was next tried for the murder of Vina Coleman, the jury was unable to agree upon a verdict. So, before the judge sent the jury away for deliberation at the end of the third trial, he gave careful instructions. First, he noted that, as far as guilt or innocence was concerned, it was “not material” whether the evidence showed Hotema had any specific “motive” for killing Coleman. If the killing was intentional and without justification, then there was simply no need to search for a “motive.” The jury was then told that Hotema’s “recent use of whiskey” could not be considered a “defense” in the case. Finally, the judge informed the jury Hotema may very well have had a sincere belief in witches. But, if Hotema also believed he had “the right” to kill persons whom he believed to be witches, he might have to suffer the consequences. The punishment would depend on whether the belief was the “insane delusion” of an unsound mind, or the “erroneous conclusion” of a sane person.

Hotema was found guilty of murder (without qualification) and, on February 14, 1902, sentenced to hang. His lawyers appealed the conviction, of course, and the sentence was reversed. But the result of Hotema's dramatic re-sentencing was nothing more than a new date with the hangman's rope. A second round of appeals went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Justice Peckham wrote the Opinion of the Court in the case Hotema v. U.S. (1902). Peckham and a unanimous Court held the trial judge had “properly laid down the law” in regard to the responsibility of Hotema and his “alleged mental condition.” Peckham also noted the “distinction” between the erroneous opinion and insane delusion was “somewhat difficult” and the line could not be “easily drawn.” But, the Justice explained, “it exists.” The most interesting section of the Court’s opinion came at the end. Peckham noted the trial court had committed “no legal” error and that the justices were therefore “bound” to affirm its judgment. But Peckham could not help but note that, before the third trial, one jury acquitted Hotema on “two distinct and separate murders” on the ground of insanity and a second jury could not reach a decision. It took a third jury (and a lot of instructing!) to convict Hotema. Peckham observed:
The question whether, upon consideration of the facts, the extreme penalty of the law should be carried out upon this defendant, is one which must be addressed to the consideration of the executive, as it is not one over which this court has jurisdiction.
Attorney General Philander Chase Knox picked up on the Court’s cue and called upon Dr. A.B. Richardson, a “noted alienist” and superintendent of the Government Hospital for the Insane, to review the case. Dr. Richardson submitted a “full and satisfactory” report that concluded the “tribal and racial characteristics” of Hotema had been “largely obliterated” by “education,” but were “renewed and strengthened by the use of intoxicants.” Hotema's sentence was thus commuted - to life imprisonment - on October 28, 1902.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What They Don't Teach in Con Law: Roy Olmstead

Roy Olmstead was born in 1886, to a family of farmers in Nebraska. In 1904, he moved to Seattle, Washington and worked in a shipyard before joining the Seattle Police Department. Roy impressed his superiors and rose through the ranks, but saw opportunities for profit when Washington State prohibited the manufacturing and selling of alcohol in 1916.

So, he began his own bootleg operations and was eventually identified driving around a roadblock set by Prohibition Bureau agents. Olmstead was fired from the force, but established himself more firmly as "the Good Bootlegger" (because his operations failed to feature prostitution, gambling, gun-running, narcotics trafficking, etc.). Indeed, he did not allow his employees to carry firearms.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Merciful President v. Harsh (Incompetent) Bureaucrat(s)

The New York Times made the announcement on May 1, 1907, in a headline that read: MAY PARDON JANUARY. The brief article that followed informed readers that President Roosevelt might exercise the pardoning power in the case of John William January of Missouri by granting a commutation of January’s sentence “at once” or by granting a “outright” pardon. Roosevelt was reported to have become “interested” in the case.

January, whose real name was Charles William Anderson, was charged with breaking into the Post Office at Hennessey, Oklahoma, with the intent to commit larceny. The Federal Court at Guthrie sentenced the twenty-one year old to five years in prison in December of 1895. January was considered a “model prisoner” but, eventually, he decided that he would rather do other things. The Times originally reported January had served “the greater part” of his sentence, but he escaped from Leavenworth in October of 1898. That is, he served thirty-four months of a sixty-month sentence. On the other hand, with allowances for good conduct, January could have been released as early as sixteen months after the day he decided to escape.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lincoln and the John Yates Beall Incident

John Yates Beall, a young, well-educated Virginian, from a wealthy family, found himself looking at the gallows on February 25, 1865. It must have seem like an unexpected ending to a man whose dedication to his religious beliefs were strong, indeed, so compelling, that they even steered him away from billiards tables.

Beall served as a private under the legendary Stonewall Jackson for a brief period of time, but received a serious chest wound in October of 1861. He then buddied up to a nephew of Robert E. Lee's and got audiences with the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Beall was soon given two small boats and a handful of men and granted the title of "acting master" in the Confederate Navy. But he was rarely provided with specific orders or assignments. Instead, Beall acted as a kind of "privateer," randomly appearing here and there to destroy a lighthouse, cut a telegraph wire or capture a trading vessel. As will be seen, the ambiguous nature of Beall’s position eventually carried over into his work.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pardoned: The Duchess of Dearth

According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, Dorothy Rivers operated the Chicago Mental Health Foundation, the Pritzker-Grinker School for handicapped children and the Quality of Life Shelter (a home for pregnant teenagers). The seemingly admirable nature of her efforts attracted generous outside support.

The Pritzker-Grinker School was awarded more than two million dollars in special education contracts with the Chicago School Board between 1985 and 1994. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services awarded more than seven million dollars in contracts to Rivers for the housing needs of pregnant teenagers. Rivers also landed five million dollars in grants and funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On top of all of that, Rivers ran a shelter for the homeless and was "visible" in charitable undertakings geared toward the black community, such as Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH.

At the same time, the long-time Democrat and "social activist" Rivers had a life-style of symptomatic of fame and fortune. She was chauffeured to Neiman Marcus where she spent eight hundred dollars on a purse and thirty-five thousand dollars on a sable coat (which accompanied five fur coats). Her accounts at Elan Boutique and Allison's La Parisienne were also quite impressive. Rivers assisted her son in the purchase of a Mercedes Benz and spent more than two hundred thousand dollars in an effort to launch a record company.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

OPA on Posthumous Pardons and Marcus Garvey

The Jamaica Observer reports that Presidnet Obama has "flatly rejected" a request for a posthumous presidential pardon for "Jamaica's first national hero," Marcus Mosiah Garvey (see our writing on Garvey's story here). The report says Florida-based Jamaican-born attorney Donovan Parker "has been writing to president Obama every week since January requesting a posthumous pardon for Garvey." The Sunday Observer acquired a copy of one such letter as well as the "first ever" reply from the White House."

The reply, actually from White House Pardon Attorney, Ronald Rodgers says:
"It is the general policy of the Department of Justice that requests for posthumous pardons for federal offences not be processed for adjudication. The policy is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the clemency process is better spent on pardon and commutation requests of living persons.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Remembering Ellis H. Parker (The American Sherlock Holmes) is featuring an excellent story on an individual that PardonPower has been thinking about for years, the "American Sherlock Holmes," one Ellis H. Parker. More specifically, the piece, written by Danielle Camilla, focuses on the grandson of Parker, Andrew Sahol, who is "methodically piecing together a mystery in search of the truth."

Sahol is also attempting to land one of those ever-so-popular posthumous pardons for his grandfather - something which was sought almost immediately following the great detective's death while serving out a six-year federal prison sentence with his son, Ellis H. Parker, Jr. (who was pardoned by Harry Truman). Mr. Sahol now claims to have "documented proof" that Ellis H. Parker was "framed."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Quite the Pair: Herbert H. Bigelow and Charlie Ward

Hubert Huse Bigelow was the chief executive officer of Brown and Bigelow, a company in St. Paul, Minnesota which produced playing cards and calendars. Industry magazine described him as "one of the foremost citizens of the Midwest." His partner, Hiram Brown, was actually quite apart from the day to day operations of the company, but Bigelow was famous for a meticulous management style and a tendency to wear unnecessarily cheap suites.

When the Sixteenth Amendment created the federal income tax, Bigelow simply ignored the law and became the first "big-name" target of government prosecutors. As a result, he was convicted on June 24, 1924. Bigelow was fined ten thousand dollars and sentenced to two years in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Prison life was not exactly comfortable for businessman Bigelow. Indeed, he constantly felt as though his life was being threatened. Something had to be done, or someone was going to have to step in and provide protection. As U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle described it, Bigelow just happened to meet a man “in the cell next to him” and the two became "friends.” But others would claim that Bigelow’s lawyer, Will Oppenheimer, arranged for his client to meet and share the same cell with one Charles Allen Ward, the man who would provide the necessary protection.

Ward had been in prison for almost four years by the time he “met” Bigelow. He was born in Seattle and, after high school, went from a job selling newspapers to a job shining shoes. This led him to work as a commercial fisherman and driving dog-sleds. He even managed a hotel before moving to Tijuana to run his own casino.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Presidents, Pardons and Athletes

In honor of Barry Bonds, a repost from July of 2008:

I recently chatted with an enthusiastic and well-informed reporter about professional athletes and the pardon power. The interview was, of course, prompted by speculation regarding baseball's Roger Clemens (who has not been convicted of anything) and former track and field star Marion Jones (who received a 6-month sentence for lying to federal investigators). There is also a long-standing call for the pardon of deceased boxer Jack Johnson (who was charged with violating the Mann Act). The discussion gave me a chance to reflect on my memories of athletes and the pardon power. Having personally gone through the clemency warrants of thousands of individuals from 1789 to 2001, word by word, those memories were actually more distinct than I might have guessed.

Athletic prowess seemed to first show up in warrants in the 1800s. My memory is that they involved private foot-races, where individuals placed bets, or illegal fights of some sort. In some instances such events were actually rigged, so fraud was piled on top of gambling in prosecutions. My memory is also that these offenses were generally committed in the District of the Columbia, where the president exercises the pardon power much like a state governor.

The first appearance of more wide-scale, organized athletic events that I recall was during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. It stood out in my mind because Roosevelt was a boxing fan and the pardons were for a couple of boxers. Roosevelt also pardoned John L. Lennon, the nephew of boxing legend John L. Sullivan (who lobbied for the grant personally and without even an ounce of criticism from the media). I am not certain if that is a comment on Roosevelt, Sullivan or the media of the day.

Since the good old days, the stories of numerous athletes have appeared in clemency applications and warrants. Racing greats Junior Johnson (NASCAR legend) and Rick Hendrick (the "King of NASCAR") have received presidential pardons. Stunt pilot Laura H. Ingalls tried to secure a pardon for years, but never succeeded. She had been attached to the Nazis, so it was a tough sell. Joe Don Looney was a standout at the University of Oklahoma and an interesting character in the National Football league. He was pardoned for drug possession. Charles "Tex" Harrison was an All-American at North Carolina Central University and became a Harlem Globetrotter. Eventually he became the coach of the Globetrotters. This blog has also reported on former Kansas City Royals star Willie Mays Aikens who had pardon applications declined by both Clinton and Bush. Of course, there are others that are around the edges of the world of athletics - George Steinbrenner (who made illegal contributions to the campaign of Richard Nixon), Jimmy "the Greek" (pardoned by Gerald Ford), etc.

Do professional athletes enjoy any kind of "advantage" in the pardon process? Our data on pardons are so thin, it is not possible to render anything close to a scientific answer. But it would seem reasonable enough to theorize (if not assume) that professional athletes enjoy - if anything - the potential "advantage" of access. It is an advantage, of course, that is shared with all persons who are public figures. Granted, fame can be a double-edged sword in this circumstance. It can bring greater scrutiny and greater criticism.

Nonetheless, it would probably be easier for Roger Clemens or filmmaker Ken Burns (who supports the pardon for Jack Johnson) to walk into the White House, or the office of anyone else in the administration, than it would be for any of the seemingly nameless, faceless thousands that have applications waiting in the Office of the Pardon Attorney. And, if the Clinton pardon scandals taught us anything at all, it is that access can be terribly important. It does not necessarily determine the outcome (there were some who had access who failed), because there are certainly other constraints (both formal and informal). But it is apparent that access can, in some circumstances, win the day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Prodigy, Rising Star, That Went to Prison

Edward Fretwell Prichard, Jr. was marked by Central Press as one of the six brightest students in America. As a result, the prodigy was treated to an all-expense paid tour of Europe and got a chance to meet Benito Mussolini.

Prichard entered Princeton University when he was only sixteen years old, but became involved in (and eventually the President of) the school’s Woodrow Wilson Democratic Club. Later, “Prich” worked with the Democratic Party on Franklin Roosevelt’s presidential campaign. He also became an editor for the school’s newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, and made the honor roll. Along the way, he gained a reputation as a formidable debater and orator.

Prichard graduated at the top of his class but made the New York Times his senior year after throwing a three-keg “beer party” in his dorm. He then found himself suspended from Princeton indefinitely. The party was thrown after he had debated the constitutionality of the New Deal with Colonel Henry Breckenridge (candidate for the United States Senate). Prichard was declared the winner of the debate by a vote of ninety-six to seventy-two.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Robert Redford on the Most Famous Non-Pardon?

The Editor is intrigued to learn that Robert Redford will be releasing a new movie this week, The Conspirator, which will cover the story of the trial of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination. Many are surprised to learn that several of those convicted in the conspiracy (Dr. Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Edward Spangler) were recipients of executive clemency via the hand of Andrew Johnson. But, in many ways, the most intriguing story is that of the presidential pardon that was not given, a pardon that was intended for Mary Eugenia Jenkins Surratt, the first female executed by the U.S. Government and, actually, the last, until Ethel Rosenberg. So, it will be quite interesting to see how director Redford will handle this critical aspect of the story.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Remembering Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born on the northern coast of Jamaica. His mother, Sarah, had eleven children, but only two (Marcus and a sister) reached adulthood. His father and grandfather were master masons who built  houses but were eventually reduced to making tombstones and vaults for coffins. Marcus’ lucky break occurred when he was apprenticed to the printing offices of his godfather, Alfred E. Burrows. There, he quickly learned the trade and devoured books and newspapers. Eventually, Marcus landed a position in the government’s printing office and started his own (albeit short-lived) newspaper.

Garvey left Jamaica in 1910 and traveled to Ecuador, Venezuela, Columbia and throughout Central America. He returned home briefly in 1912, then headed for England and the Continent. While in London, he spent many hours in the visitor’s gallery in the House of Commons and took his place in Hyde Park’s notorious Speaker’s Corner.

On August 1, 1914, Garvey announced the creation of a new organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (or UNIA). The organization had several “goals.” Among them were the promotion of “the spirit of race pride and love,” assistance to “the needy,” civilization of the “backward tribes of Africa,” universities and colleges for the “education and culture” of boys and girls “of the race,” and the promotion of “Christian worship among the native tribes of Africa.” By 1916, the UNIA had attracted one hundred members, but Garvey was not pleased with what he perceived to be a lack of enthusiasm.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Long-Forgotten Unforgettable Father Feinler

In June of 1921, the New York Times took Warren Harding to task for his pardon of former military Chaplain Franz J. Feinler. Feinler, who lived in South Dakota but was born in Germany, entered into service with the Army in 1909 as a Roman Catholic chaplain. He achieved the rank of Captain in the 13th Infantry and served overseas in 1917.

But General Pershing sent Feinler home and the Captain/chaplain was charged with having uttered “treasonable language” and having “endeavored to dissuade men in the army from taking part in the war against Germany.” Among eighteen specifications considered by a military court, Feinler was said to have justified the sinking of the Lusitania and the execution of a female British spy (Miss Edith Cavell) by the Germans. He was also accused of having uttered "disrespectful and contemptuous language" against Woodrow Wilson - ah, those were the days, eh? In 1918, Feinler was court martialed in Honolulu and sentenced to fifteen years at hard labor, a sentence that was then approved by the President.

But Father Feinler’s sentence was later reduced to four years by the War Department. In May of 1920, he was released on parole from the penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Secretary of War John W. Weeks then recommended his pardon. So, Feinler went from a fifteen-year sentence approved by President Wilson to a prison sentence of less than three years and a full and complete pardon from Warren Harding.

A Times Editorial described Feinler’s pardon as generally “beyond comprehension.” It suggested “professional politicians” might have understood Harding’s actions, but “nobody else” would. For that reason, the Times boldly predicted President Harding and Secretary Weeks would soon “discover” that a “good many people” disagreed with them. And the number of protestations would be “vastly larger than that of the people who [thought] what they did was wise.” The Times argued the “liberation of a criminal” like Feinler would do little to win or retain votes. But such pardons are “sure” to “cost the loss of a lot of them.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Other Basketball Great from North Carolina

Charles "Tex" Harrison was a star basketball player at North Carolina Central and became the first player from a predominately black school to be named "All-American." He went on to become a long-time star of the world renowned Harlem Globetrotters. But Harrison found more serious competition than the Washington Generals when Customs Service officials at Houston’s International Airport arrested him in the 1960's.

Harrison was charged with "unlawful possession of narcotics without paid transfer tax" because he was caught carrying less than an ounce of marihuana and hashish. A conviction followed on November 24, 1965, and Harrison was fined two thousand dollars. The sentence was, however, modified on January 21, 1966. Harrison was given five year’s probation and the fine was reduced to only five hundred dollars.

Friday, November 26, 2010

From Alcatraz to the White House

The 1991 autobiography of Nathan Glenn Williams carried the catchy title, From Alcatraz to the White House.

Williams claimed that, from the time he was a small boy, he had a “burning desire” to be a gangster. As far as he was concerned, he had "seen enough movies” to educate himself in the gangster lifestyle. So, he was convicted of burglary, car theft, robbery, assault and criminal vandalism ... all before he was fifteen years old! After adding forgery, kidnapping and discharging a firearm during the commission of a felony to the list, Williams found himself convicted of being an “habitual criminal.”

A jury of his peers needed only five hours to reach a guilty verdict decision and the judge gave him “life in prison.” During the sentencing, the judge also informed the 23-year old Williams that he was the youngest person in the United States ever to be convicted of being an habitual criminal.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Congressman With Too Many Wives

C.C. Bowen was a member of the United States House of Representatives from the State of South Carolina. He was born Christopher Columbus Bowen in Providence, Rhode Island, but the family moved to Georgia when he was eighteen years old. There, he farmed, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1862. He actually practiced law in Charleston before he decided to enlist in the Confederate Army.

The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress simply notes Bowen “served throughout the war as a captain in the Coast Guard.” But authors Jane H. Pease and William H. Pease observe Bowen forged the signature of a commanding officer, one Colonel William P. White, on an extended leave pass in order to go on a gambling binge. After his capture, Bowen was court-martialed, stripped of his rank and dishonorably discharged. In the spirit of calculated revenge, Bowen attempted to arrange for the murder of the officer that had caused him such grief. Thus, one author may have been prone to understatement when he wrote that Bowen was "a mischievous fellow who would stop at nothing in trying to accomplish his purpose." But the cover up of the murder for hire scheme was not done well. Bowen and the private who actually did the shooting were soon arrested. As fate would have it, Federal (Northern) troops arrived in Charleston and had all prisoners released!

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