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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pardoned: Public Goon Number 1

Everyone remembers that Richard Nixon commuted the sentence of Jimmy Hoffa, but few people remember that Gerald Ford pardoned Teamster legend David Beck.

Beck once entertained the idea of going to law school. And he later observed that, given his numerous courtroom appearances, such training “would have come in handy.” But, instead, the path of the high school dropout’s life seemed to be set on December 1, 1924, when he was elected secretary to a Laundry Driver’s Union. Shortly thereafter, Beck attended his first meeting of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and was given a five hundred dollar a month job as part-time general “organizer.” He then became a full-time “organizer” for the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Laura H. Ingalls - Just One Flight Too Many!

Laura Houghtaling Ingalls was born in New York, but studied music and language in Vienna and Paris. She spent some time as a concert pianist, nurse, secretary, ballet dancer, and actress, but eventually made herself famous as a stunt pilot. She went on to become the first woman to graduate from a government approved flying school.

On May 3, 1930, Ingalls hopped into an airplane at Lambert-St. Louis, flew to an altitude of about eight thousand feet and started flying in loops. One hour and three minutes later, she had set a new women’s record for consecutive loops - three hundred and forty-four! The previous record had been a mere forty-six. Ingalls told reporters, afterward, that she was “terribly disappointed” that sixty-six additional loops could not be officially counted because she had to stop to pump gas from a reserve tank.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not Your Average German Pirate

The plan was fairly simple, for its type.

Five men (four with experience at sea) would travel to New York, board the ship known as City of Sparta and seize control. If killing were necessary, so be it. Claming to be subjects of Germany, the men would find their way to the Captain’s private cabin and locate a certain chest. Inside that chest would be two thousand British pounds concealed in a bag. The men would enjoy the loot, continue to navigate the ship to their liking and become popular idols, perhaps even legends, among the German people. The brilliant nature of the scheme and seemingly high probability of its success were heartily reinforced by the fact that it was conceived under the influence of large amounts of alcohol poured in the saloons of Hoboken, New Jersey.

New Category: NOTABLES

Several readers have expressed interest in posts which have featured historical sketches and biographies of notable federal clemency recipients. With these readers in mind, we have created a new link on the right side-bar, under OTHER CATEGORIES which is entitled NOTABLES. Here, readers can see the entire collection of such posts in an single click. We understand that notability is a somewhat subjective notion, but that has rarely slowed us down before! - The Editor

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kansas: Remembering "Red Kate"

Kate Richards O’Hare (a.k.a. “Red Kate”) was the first “important” figure to be indicted under the Espionage Act. She was born in 1876 on a farm in Ottawa County, Kansas, and spent some time as a schoolteacher and bookkeeper before becoming a machinist’s apprentice. As a result, she was one of the first female members of the International Association of Machinists. The young Richard's was also deeply religious (Campbellite Disciple of Christ) and active in the Florence Crittenton Mission and Home and the Kansas City Crittenton Mission. Her sympathies were particularly directed toward the problems of alcoholism and prostitution.

She also began to familiarize herself with the writings of Henry George and attended union meetings. But the critical event in Richard's life was a dance, which featured a speech by the legendary socialist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. The seventy-year-old Jones referred Richards to other prominent socialists and she joined a socialist group. In 1901, she enrolled in the first class of the International School of Socialist Economy, a “training school” for Socialist party workers. One year later, Richards married one of her twenty-four fellow students, Frank P. O’Hare. It actually took the two young socialists all of four days to realize that they were meant to be married (they divorced in 1938).

Mrs. O’Hare’s fame and popularity as a socialist speaker increased considerably. She was soon considered second only to Eugene V. Debs so, in 1910, a run for public office only seemed logical. O'Hare was actually the first woman to ever to run for Congress in the state of Kansas. Three socialists were already in the state legislature, but O’Hare gathered a mere five percent of the vote in a four-candidate race. She later ran for a position on the board of education in St. Louis and became the first woman to run for the United States Senate. O'Hare also ran for a seat in the Missouri state legislature. But the popularity and interest generated by her public speaking never seemed to translate into high levels of support in voting booths.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Speaking of All-Time Great Election Frauds!

From 1900 to 1930’s Archer Parr (1860-1942) established himself as the “boss” of Duval County, Texas. Archer eventually passed his political kingdom on to his son, George B. Parr. Together, they became known as the “Dukes of Duval.”

The elder Duke (Archer) was elected county commissioner and rose in the ranks of the Democratic Party after a prominent tax collector met a shotgun blast. The poor fellow had unwisely chosen to eat lunch, in the middle of the day, in a public restaurant. With a power vacuum to exploit, Parr immediately undertook the business of bribing voters, inflating voting turnout statistics and, if necessary, creating voters and votes. In 1914, he won a seat in the state Senate, but soon found himself under the eye of investigators. Parr was re-elected in 1918 when Duval County provided him with thirteen hundred votes and a one hundred and eighteen vote victory. The sheer closeness of the race was stressful in itself, but the cynics were overly occupied by the seemingly trivial fact that Duval County had less than a thousand eligible voters.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Governor From the Midwest is Convicted.

On August 31, 1923, Warren T. McCray, Republican Governor of Indiana, sat down in the Rainbow Room of the Hotel Severin (Indianapolis) with a group of one hundred and fifty bankers and lawyers. There was some good news and some bad news.

The good news was that the Governor had a little over three million dollars in personal assets and he was the proud owner of almost sixteen thousand acres of land. Most of the people in the room were probably not all that amazed because they were quite familiar with McCray’s amazing life story. At the age of fifteen, he began working at his father's bank and assumed ownership bank when his father died in 1913. McCray also owned several grain elevators and a livestock farm where he bred Hereford cattle and, on occasion, sold single bulls for as much as twenty five thousand dollars. Warren T. McCray became known as the “Hereford King.” But there was some bad news as well.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Explorer. Oil Man. Liar. Pardoned!

On September 1, 1909, Dr. Frederick A. Cook sent a cable to the New York Herald which read:

REACHED NORTH POLE APRIL 21, 1908

The news of Dr. Cook’s achievement spread throughout the United States, and made headlines in Paris and Berlin. It looked like the story of the century was about to unfold in the pages of a struggling newspaper. But, consistent with a theme in Cook’s life, newspapers in London were somewhat skeptical of his claim.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rostenkowski, Dead

Former Illinois Democratic Representative Dan Rostenkowski, who plead guilty to two (of seventeen original) counts of mail fraud and went to federal prison for a year and a half, has died at the age of 82. Rostenkowski served 18 terms in Congress, but feared that his obituary would generally be "Dan Rostenkowski, felon." Bill Clinton, however, granted the Chicagoan a presidential pardon, and the application was supported by former Republican President Gerald R. Ford (whose judgement in matters related to clemency is, of course, legendary). NPR reports Rostenkowski admitted to "hiring people on his congressional payroll who did little or no official work - but took care of his lawn, took photographs at political events and family weddings, helped his family's business and supervised the renovation of his house." Rostenkowski argued that his fraudulent use of thousands upon thousands of tax payers' dollar was a mere violation of House rules and not an actual "crime." Good bye, Dan. Good riddance! See full story here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

An Explanation to Remember: The Pardon of Wright Lancaster

William McKinley’s pardon of Wright Lancaster may have featured the most detailed “official” justifications for an individual act of clemency in the history of the Presidency. Lancaster’s pardon is explained over the course of fourteen pages of the Annual Report of the Attorney General for 1901. In sharp contrast, the typical explanation for an act of clemency that year (and most of the years before and after) took up all of three or four lines.

Lancaster was actually just one of several “prominent” individuals indicted for conspiracy and the murder of John C. Forsyth. He, Luther A. Hall (an “active” and “somewhat unscrupulous attorney”) and Charles Clements were charged with the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment while others were simply found guilty on the charge of conspiracy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Curley Politics: Fake Hate / Care Never Quite Out of Style

Time magazine reports that Rep. Andre Carson (D-Indiana) told a reporter that he and Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) recently left the Cannon House Office Building and were subjected to a group of individuals chanting "the N-word, the N-word, 15 times." Jim Clyburn (D- South Carolina) called the behavior of protesters "absolutely shocking" and added that he had "heard people saying things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus."

While there are those who will leap at the opportunity to redirect heat from wildly controversial (if not unpopular) legislation, and of course those who will rejoice at every opportunity they can find to declare political opponents "evil" and portray themselves as the victims of "hate" ... we, frankly, cannot get past the simple, bothersome suggestion that there actually was such behavior, in this day and age. For that reason, we choose to leap at - and rejoice over - the fact that, to date, there appears to not be a single shred of evidence that that any of these things happened, other than 1) the word of persons who made the claims 2) reporters willing to report such claims  for sensational effect, all the while using words like "apparently" and "evidently" and 3) partisan cheerleaders who are simply in it for the smear.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Henry Starr: A Life of Crime (Pardon and Parole)

He started robbing banks on horseback in 1893 and he ended up robbing his last in an automobile in 1921. His led a gang of bank robbers before he was twenty-one years old and, on his death bed, proudly boasted that he had robbed more banks than any man in America. His grandfather was suspected of 20 murders and his uncle rode with the James Gang. In sum, Henry Starr a.k.a. the Cherokee Bad Boy was a perfect candidate for federal executive clemency.

Starr's first arrest was for horse theft. His cousin put up two thousand dollars for bail, but Henry failed to return for trial. While making an appearance on “Wanted” posters, Starr quickly joined two others in a string of railway depot and store robberies. In an attempted arrest, he shot and killed U.S. Deputy Marshall Floyd Wilson. The last three shots apparently came at close range and after Wilson was already suffering from the effect of a wound that was probably fatal. Starr hoped on the dead Marshall’s horse and calmly rode away. Starr later justified his actions as follows: “They started the fireworks.”

Francis Townsend: The Man with a Plan

Francis E. Townsend was a retired doctor who (unlike Abraham Lincoln) was born in a log cabin in northern Illinois. He moved to the Los Angeles area, lost most of his savings in the stock market crash of 1929 and was forced to re-enter the medical profession. Townsend chose to focus on care for indigent elderly persons in Long Beach and his experiences in that environment prompted him to consider ways in which America could take care of its older citizens. Eventually, he concluded sales taxes could be used to develop a pension for persons over sixty-years of age.

On September 30, 1933, the sixty-six year old Townsend began his great political adventure with a letter to the Editor of the Long Beach Press Telegram. He then wrote additional letters to several newspapers and began circulating petitions. In February 1934, Townsend formed Old Age Revolving Pensions, Ltd., which spearheaded a national movement for a pension plan. Within fourteen months, there were fourteen thousand Townsend Clubs with memberships ranging from one hundred to seventeen hundred. Publicity surrounding later congressional hearings boosted interest and support in the Townsend Plan to the point that Townsend was able to boast of more than three million supporters and a Weekly with an annual circulation of seventy-five thousand.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Very Colorful Joe Don Looney

Joe Don Looney was a high school football star and moved on to become a two hundred and thirty pound running back with "breakaway" speed at the University of Oklahoma. He actually sat on the sidelines as a “third string” player during most of his first game at the University of Oklahoma. But he brazenly told Sooner coach Bud Wilkinson to put him in at the end of the game - that is, if Wilkinson was truly interested in winning. Uncharacteristically, the Coach gave in to the challenge and sent the bench warmer onto the field. Looney stuck his head in the huddle and told quarterback Monte Deer to just give him the ball and watch him score. Most of the Oklahoma offense looked at the back of Looney’s jersey in amazement as he sprinted sixty yards for the game-winning touchdown. It was a colorful, storybook beginning that would, unfortunately, wear thin quick.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Madison's Pirate Pardon: Celebrating New Orleans' Jean LaFitte

Jean LaFitte was the youngest of three boys who was born near France, in Haiti or in Spain, depending upon who you read. He and his cross eyed brother, Pierre, came to America some time between 1802 and 1804 and may have set up a blacksmith shop in New Orleans while taking up residence on Bourbon Street. By 1910, Jean was the leader of a privateering/smuggling operation that had forty warehouses, a fort, ships, cannons and three to five thousand employees.

The organization generally targeted slave ships, but was agreeable to plundering any vessel that might yield a profit. The booty was brought from Barataria Bay through bayous to New Orleans, where Pierre would take care of storage and inventory. Whether the Baratarians deserved the title “pirates” or mere “smugglers” seems to be an issue among historians. But, either way, there was no small irony in the fact that LaFitte rarely got on ships himself. The man who usually dressed in black and tipped his extravagant hats to admirers, tended to get seasickness.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wilbur B. Foshay's Amazing Story

Wilbur Burton Foshay’s first important business venture was the United Gas Improvement Co. of Hutchinson, Kansas. In 1914, he borrowed two thousand dollars and moved to Minneapolis, where he started another utilities outfit. Then, in 1916, he borrowed another six thousand dollars and launched Wilbur B. Foshay Utility Company. The venture, which started with one employee in a small office in the First National-Soo Line Building in Minneapolis, eventually became Foshay Enterprises.

A federal judge once described Foshay's business legacy as a "Napoleonic adventure" in which Foshay discovered that he could sell stocks and securities of utility companies if people believed the companies were making large current incomes on the invested capitol. Indeed, Foshay's basic strategy was to buy up utility companies, manage them, then sell stock in his utility empire. By 1929, he had thousands of employees and many thousands more of investors.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Scales Commutation: Bravery? or Mere Bureaucracy?

Junius Scales was a native of Greensboro, North Carolina, a member of a prominent family and a graduate of the University of North Carolina. But he was also a Communist. That caused him some grief.

Scales found himself indicted on the charge that, from January 1946 to November 18, 1954, he was a member of the Communist Party with knowledge that it advocated violent overthrow of the government. On April 22, 1955, he was sentenced him to six years in prison. On March 26, 1956, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear Scales’ appeal. As the case sat on the Court’s docket, Scales renounced his membership in the Party, observing that he was “shaken” by revelations of Stalin’s terror. The Court reversed Scales’ conviction on October 15, 1957, but did not rule on the constitutionality of the membership clause of the so-called Smith Act.

Scales’ striking victory was short-lived.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Amazing Case of Charner Tidwell

On March 22, 1922, Warren Harding granted a pardon to a person that many considered to be the American version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Charner Tidwell was from a well respected family, and just seventeen years old when he was convicted of the murder of one Jim Brown (a husband and father of three children) and sentenced to life in prison.

Bad things seemed to happen to those that were involved in putting young Tidwell away. The constable that arrested him drove his own car under the wheels of a speeding train. The U.S. marshal who detained him died of tuberculosis. The district attorney in the case experienced an "untimely death" as well. So, the judge who sentenced Tidwell, being somewhat superstitious, decided to visit the young man in prison. Unfortunately, the visit happened to come on a day that the prisoners had scheduled a riot. The judge was shot dead in the chest.

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