Little Bits of History

June 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2017

1987: US President Ronald Reagan gives a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin. Between 1961 and 1989, a barrier wall was part of the Berlin landscape. Construction began on August 13, 1961 by the German Democratic Republic. The Berlin Wall separated West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and East Berlin. The wall grew with time until it stretched 96 miles and was 11.8 feet high at the concrete segments. Guard towers were included and looked over the “death strip” – an area patrolled to keep anyone from exiting from the Eastern Bloc into the free west. Before the Wall went up, 3.5 million East Germans escaped across the border between Eastern and Western Germany.

Reagan, President from 1981 to 1989, addressed the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and later President of the Soviet Union on this day. But this was not Reagan’s first request to bring down the wall. In June 1982 while visiting West Berlin, he first posed the question as to why the wall was even needed. In 1986, after the Wall had stood for a quarter of a century, a West German newspaper posed a question to the President and asked for a timeline for dismantling the Wall. Reagan answered, “I call upon those responsible to dismantle it [today]”.

On June 11, 1987, about 50,000 people had demonstrated against Reagan and his presence, once again, in Berlin. While he was there, large portions of the city were closed off to prevent more anti-Reagan rallies. But it wasn’t just Germans upset with the outspoken President. Within his own administration, there were several senior staff members who were against his bringing up the Wall issue again as it might worsen already tense East-West relations. It was thought Reagan might offend
Gorbachev after years of attempting to create a better relationship between both the leaders and the countries they led. Speechwriters were told to leave the now iconic phrase in the speech.

Reagan arrived in Berlin earlier in the day. He and Nancy Reagan were taken to the Reichstag where they could see the wall from the balcony. At 2 PM, while standing in front of two panes of bulletproof glass, Reagan challenged his Soviet opponent to tear down the wall. The speech also called for an end to the arms race between the two nations. While it received little press at the time and was considered to be “absurd” or “openly provocative, war-mongering speech”, the Wall did eventually fall. Little if any credit goes to Reagan or this speech, but rather it was a series of political changes which allowed for the dismantling of the wall as well as what it stood for.

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate.

Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, ‘This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.’

Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom. – all from Ronald Reagan

Brzeżany Massacre

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2015
Building a ghetto wall in Warsaw

Building a ghetto wall in Warsaw

June 12, 1943: Over 1,000 Jews are killed by Nazis. The Jewish Diaspora has been happening for millennia beginning with the exile which began when the Assyrians expelled them in 733 BC. Eventually Jews could return to Jerusalem and were in and out of their homeland over the centuries by the time the Romans took over the area in 63 BC. The city was destroyed in 70 AD by the same Romans and the Jews began to migrate outward and into Europe. When they arrived in a city, they often lived in the same region which became known as the Jewish quarter. This was sometimes by choice, but also sometimes by decree. Nazi Germany set up ghettos for Jews (and sometimes Gypsies) throughout the region under their control.

Under the Nazis, there were three distinct types of ghettos. Open ghettos did not have walls or fences and these were the norm at the beginning of the War. Some places had extreme restrictions on when someone could enter or leave the ghetto, but most were simply areas of the city where Jews were sent to live. Closed or sealed ghettos were found mostly in German occupied parts of Poland. Jews were forced to live in these walled off portions of the city under pain of death. They were unsanitary and crowded and filled with disease. Many starved to death and outbreaks of dysentery and typhus were common.

The last and most serious type was the destruction or extermination ghetto which were gaining in frequency as the Holocaust continued. They were tightly sealed off and the Jewish people were imprisoned within the walls. They were held inside only until they could be deported to one of the camps or were summarily killed at the site. On this day, the Jews living in the Brzeżany, Poland ghetto were rounded up and forced to the old Jewish graveyard. Once there, they were shot. About 1,180 Jews died. A few were able to escape. The reason for the “low” number of deaths was that many Jews had been killed in other pogroms prior to this date. For instance, in December 1941 about 1,000 Jews were killed in the Lityatayn forest.

Today, Brzeżany is Berezhany and located in the Ukraine in the Termopil Oblast (district). The region has been occupied for centuries and was first mentioned in 1374 when it was granted status by the Governor of Galicia. The town came under Polish control in the 14th century. After World War II, the area was under the Soviet Union’s control and became part of Ukraine in 1991. The city covers about 5 square miles situated on what was once a lucrative trade route. Today, there are about 18,000 people living there. Their chief manufacturing endeavors center around glassworks and furniture building.

That’s the difficulty in these times: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered. It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. – Anne Frank (born on this day as well)

Now in the light of past and present events the bitter truth must be spoken. We feared too little and we hoped too much. We underestimated the bestiality of the enemy; we overestimated the humanity, the wisdom, the sense of justice of our friends. – Chaim Weismann

The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect: You have no right to live among us as Jews. The secular rulers who followed had proclaimed: You have no right to live among us. The German Nazis at last decreed: You have no right to live. – Raul Hilberg

Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings. – Heinrich Heine

Also on this day: If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered.
Medgar Evers – In 1963, this Civil Rights leader was assassinated.
Son of Sam – In 1978, David Berkowitz was sentenced.
Wedded Bliss Redux – In 1967, Loving v. Virginia was decided.
National Sport – In 1939, Cooperstown opened the Baseball Hall of Fame.

National Sport

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2014
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

June 12, 1939: Cooperstown, New York gets a new attraction. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 25 Main Street and was dedicated on this date. It was founded by Stephen Clark, owner of a local hotel. Prohibition had devastated the local hops industry and the Great Depression had stopped tourism in its tracks. Something needed to be done to bring people back to the small town (population less than 2,000) in eastern New York. In 1905, National League president Abraham Mills erroneously claimed Abner Doubleday from Cooperstown as the inventor of the national sport. This became the seed for bringing the Hall of Fame in and was instrumental in early marketing.

The term “Hall of Fame” doesn’t only mean the building, but also refers to all those inducted – players, managers, umpires, executives, and pioneers of the game. The first five to be named were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. About twenty more were selected prior to them all being inducted during the Hall’s 1939 opening. As of January 2014, there were 306 people inducted into the Hall. During the 2013 ceremonies, 12 Hall members who were not honored during World War II travel restrictions were also honored. These included Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby. The 2014 ceremonies are to be held on July 27. Also included are 37 men who have received the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.

Today, players can be inducted via an election process of either the Baseball Writers Association of America or the Veterans Committee which now has three subcommittees. A final ballot will consist of about 25 to 40 candidates. Although there are rules for being eligible to be placed on the ballot, these can be waived in special cases. This was done in the cases of Addie Joss and Roberto Clemente. In 1936, all players were eligible for inclusion, even active ones. Between 1937 and 1945, there was no waiting period after retirement and so any retired player was eligible. The five-year wait was established in 1954. A special election was held for Lou Gehrig since he was terminally ill at the time and no elections were held in 1940 or 1941. This special election permitted Gehrig to be entered into the Hall while he was still alive.

Today, Jane Forbes Clark (the founders granddaughter) is the chairman of the Board of Directors. Jeff Idelson has been the director since 2008. About 300,000 people enter the museum each year, meaning Clark’s idea to increase tourism really worked. The three stories of the museum display only parts of the memorabilia at a time. They have 38,000 artifacts and 2.6 million library items such as newspaper clippings and photos, and 130,000 baseball cards.

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. – Rogers Hornsby

Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world. – Babe Ruth

Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead. – Jackie Robinson

The thing I like about baseball is that it’s one-on-one. You stand up there alone, and if you make a mistake, it’s your mistake. If you hit a home run, it’s your home run. – Hank Aaron

Also on this day: If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are murdered.
Medgar Evers – In 1963, this Civil Rights leader was assassinated.
Son of Sam – In 1978, David Berkowitz was sentenced.
Wedded Bliss Redux – In 1967, Loving v. Virginia was decided.

Medgar Evers

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2013
Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers

June 12, 1963: Medgar Evers, aged 37, is shot in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi in 1925. In 1943, at the age of 17, he dropped out of high school to enlist in the Army. He fought in the European Theater during World War II and was honorably discharged after the war. He had risen to the rank of Sergeant. As was his right by virtue of being an American citizen and having been doubly procured by virtue of his military career, he registered to vote. He, his brother, and four friends went to vote in 1946. These black men were kept from voting by an angry, armed mob of 15-20 white men.

Evers vowed to work toward change. He went to college, married, got a job, and worked for racial equality. He worked with the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), a Civil Rights and self-help organization. He was a key player in organizing boycotts of establishments where African-Americans were treated unfairly. He and his brother went to national RCNL conventions where 10,000+ like-minded citizens met to discuss discrimination and ways to overcome it.

Evers applied to the University of Mississippi Law School and was instrumental in bringing desegregation to the institution of higher learning. Emmett Till, a 14-year-old, was brutally murdered in a racially inspired crime in 1955. His murderers were acquitted. Evers was leading a private investigation into the teen’s death. Evers became a target for segregationists. On May 28, 1963 a Molotov cocktail, a hand-thrown incendiary bomb, was thrown at Evers’s house. On June 7, he was almost run over by a car. Evers made a short speech on TV and the threats escalated.

Evers was returning home after meeting with NAACP lawyers. As he got out of his car, he was shot in the back. He staggered forward 30 before collapsing. He was taken to the local hospital and was dead within the hour. Ku Klux Klansman Byron De La Beckwith was arrested. He was brought to trial twice and the all-white juries remained deadlocked. In 1994, with new evidence in possession of the courts, De La Beckwith was again brought to trial. He was convicted of Evers murder on February 5, 1994. De La Beckwith appealed the decision without success and died in prison in 2001, aged 80.

“The gifts of God should be enjoyed by all citizens in Mississippi.”

“You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea.”

“I don’t know if I’m going to heaven or to hell, but I’m going from Jackson.”

“When you hate, the only one that suffers is you because most of the people you hate don’t know it and the rest don’t care.” – all from Medgar Evers

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Medgar Evers was the third of five children of James and Jesse Evers. The family also included two children from Jesse’s first marriage. They owned a small farm and James also worked at a sawmill to support his family. Medgar walked 12 miles to school in order to earn his high school diploma. After returning from the war, he went to Alcorn College (historically, a black college) to earn his degree in business administration. He married a classmate in 1951. In 1954, his application to University of Mississippi Law School was rejected. He then helped with James Meredith’s attempt to enroll in the early 1960s. On this day, just hours after John F. Kennedy’s civil rights speech aired on national television, Medgar Evers was assassinated in front of his home. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Also on this day: If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are murdered.
Son of Sam – In 1978, David Berkowitz was sentenced.
Wedded Bliss Redux – In 1967, Loving v. Virginia was decided.

Wedded Bliss Redux

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2012

Mildred and Richard Perry Loving

June 12, 1967: The case of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) is decided by the US Supreme Court. Mildred Loving married Richard Perry Loving in June 1958 in the District of Columbia. They did this in order to elude the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. This was an act passed in Virginia whose purpose was to prevent people of different races from marrying. In fact, should a white person marry someone of non-white lineage, they would be guilty of a felony.

Mildred was of African and Rappahannock (Native American) descent. Richard was Caucasian. The laws were different outside the state and the couple were married legally. They returned to their home in Caroline County, Virginia and were in violation of the law. Police broke into their home and caught them sleeping in their own bed. The police had hoped to find them engaged in sex, another offense. Mrs. Loving pointed to their marriage certificate, hoping to appease the police, but instead it became evidence of their “crime.”

Virginia law, Section 20-58, prohibited couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia. Their crime was miscegenation, or the mixing of racial groups. The sentence for this serious affront to the sensibilities of the citizens of Virginia was a prison term of one to five years. The Lovings were each sentenced to one year in prison on January 6, 1959. The sentence was suspended for 25 years if the couple left the state of Virginia. They moved to the District of Columbia.

On November 6, 1963 the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion on their behalf in Virginia asking the judgment to be set aside as it was unconstitutional. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees all persons, regardless of race, equality under the law and no State had the right to supersede the Constitutional rights of the Lovings. By October 28, 1964 with their motion still not decided, the Lovings began a class action suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The court battles continued until the case was finally brought to the US Supreme Court where it was heard on April 10, 1967. The case decision was handed down on this date with a 9-0 vote which declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws were in disagreement with the Constitution and would be struck down. The case of Pace v. Alabama (1883) was thus overturned and all race-based legal restrictions were ended in the US.

What a happy and holy fashion it is that those who love one another should rest on the same pillow. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. – Simone Signoret

One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again. – Judith Viorst

The sum which two married people owe to one another defies calculation. It is an infinite debt, which can only be discharged through eternity. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Also on this day:

If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are murdered.
Medgar Evers – In 1963, this Civil Rights leader was assassinated.
Son of Sam – In 1978, David Berkowitz was sentenced.

Son of Sam

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2011

David Berkowitz

June 12, 1978: David Berkowitz is sentenced. He was born on June 1, 1953 and named Richard David Falco. He was called the Son of Sam and dubbed the .44 Caliber Killer, citing his weapon of choice. After his arrest, he confessed to six murders and admitted to wounding seven others. He was responsible for eight shootings between July 29, 1976 and July 31, 1977. He later recanted and admitted to only two shootings and three people killed with a fourth wounded.

Berkowitz was adopted when he was only days old and had a “somewhat troubled” childhood. An intelligent child, he had a lackluster academic career, instead leaning toward petty crime. His adoptive mother died when he was 13 and he did not care for his father’s second wife. He claimed his new step-sister got him interested in witchcraft and the occult. He served honorably in the US Army from 1971 to 1974.

He joined a cult in 1975 and claims these people got him involved in violent crime beginning with killing dogs. Donna Lauria was killed and Jody Valenti shot about 1:19 AM on July 29, 1976. Valenti had not recognized their assailant. The next attack was on October 23 with two people shot, but surviving. In November, two more were shot and survived. In January 1977, two people were shot with one dying and in March a woman was killed on her way home from a college class. In April two people were killed and in June two more were shot and survived. Two more were shot, with one surviving as the killing spree ended in July 1977.

Berkowitz was questioned on August 11, 1977 and confessed to the Son of Sam murders. He claimed Sam, a neighbor, had a dog who was possessed by an ancient demon and the demon had commanded Berkowitz to kill. He was sentenced to 365 years in prison. He was given added time for assault in prison. He became a born-again Christian in 1987 but states he deserves to “be in prison for the rest of my life.” That is where he remains to this day.

“I am deeply hurt by your calling me a wemon [sic] hater! I am not. But I am a monster. I am the “Son of Sam.” I am a little brat.” – opening of the Son of Sam letter

“Police: Let me haunt you with these words: I’ll be back! I’ll be back! To be interpreted as — bang bang bang, bank, bang — ugh!! Yours in murder, Mr. Monster” – closing of Son of Sam letter

“Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood. Hello from the sewers of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks.” – opening of the Breslin letter

“Please inform all the detectives working the case that I wish them the best of luck. “Keep ’em digging, drive on, think positive, get off your butts, knock on coffins, etc.” Upon my capture I promise to buy all the guys working the case a new pair of shoes if I can get up the money. Son of Sam” – closing of the Breslin letter

Also on this day:
If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are murdered.
Medgar Evers – In 1963, this Civil Rights leader was assassinated.

If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2010

Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman

June 12, 1994: On this date, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman are found slain outside of Simpson’s condo. Simpson’s dog, covered in blood, led neighbors to the bodies. Both Simpson and Goldman were stabbed and slashed with Simpson’s head nearly severed from her body. Nicole was 35 when she died; Ron was 25. There has been speculation about the relationship between the two victims. Ron was referred to as Nicole’s friend.

Nicole was born in Germany and the family moved to California where she grew up. She was working as a waitress in 1977 when she met O.J. Simpson. She had just turned 18. At the time, O.J. was still married to his first wife. After his divorce, Nicole and O.J. married on February 2, 1985. They had two children before they divorced in 1992. Goldman was born in Illinois and moved to California during his freshman year of college. He was working at a restaurant and was a tennis instructor.

O.J. Simpson, Nicole’s ex-husband, ex-football player, actor, and Hertz rental car spokesperson, was accused of the murders. He was arrested after a televised “slow speed” chase. O.J.’s highly televised trial began on January 23, 1995. The double homicide case was billed as “The Trial of the Century.” There have been over 80 books written on the murders and subsequent trials. On October 3, 1995. O.J. was acquitted of the murders.

However, in a subsequent civil trial he was ordered to pay $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages or $33,500,000 to the Brown and Goldman families after he was found to be liable for their deaths. O.J. has continued to have legal difficulties since the night of the murders. He has failed to pay the Goldmans the monies they were awarded. He is now serving time at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada as Inmate #1027820 on a kidnapping and robbery charge. He was sentenced to 33 years and will be eligible for parole in nine.

“The very emphasis of the commandment: Thou shalt not kill, makes it certain that we are descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood as it is perhaps also in ours.” – Sigmund Freud

“The consequences of our crimes long survive their commission, and, like the ghosts of the murdered, forever haunt the steps of the malefactor.” – Sir Walter Scott

“If murder is forgiven, Heaven will find it hard to bear.” – Chinese Proverb

“Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck.” – Robert Shapiro, O.J.’s lawyer

Also on this day:
In 1963,
Medgar Evers was assassinated.
In 1978, David Berkowitz, Son of Sam
serial killer, was sentenced.