Your Week in History: Elections and insurrections - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Your Week in History: Elections and insurrections

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank Nov. 10, 1975. (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Wikimedia Commons) The SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank Nov. 10, 1975. (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Wikimedia Commons)
Jeanette Rankin, shown here, was the first woman elected to Congress. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Jeanette Rankin, shown here, was the first woman elected to Congress. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Butch Cassidy, seated far right, and the Sundance Kid, seated far left, are shown here with their gang, The Wild Bunch in 1900. The two were allegedly killed Nov. 7, 1908. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Butch Cassidy, seated far right, and the Sundance Kid, seated far left, are shown here with their gang, The Wild Bunch in 1900. The two were allegedly killed Nov. 7, 1908. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
British Gen. Bernard Montgomery at the Second Battle of El Alamein in November 1942. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) British Gen. Bernard Montgomery at the Second Battle of El Alamein in November 1942. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
U.S. paratroopers under heavy fire during Operation Hump on Nov. 8, 1965. (Source: U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons) U.S. paratroopers under heavy fire during Operation Hump on Nov. 8, 1965. (Source: U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons)

(RNN) – It's the first week of November and you know what that means - Politicians Gone Wild!

It's not nearly as fun as it seems because this is all about elections. If you're unfamiliar with our political process, allow to me to offer a brief explanation of what happens on Election Day.

Election Day is when we go to the nearest church, fire station or abandoned warehouse where the opposite political party of the one you support has deemed you must venture and mark a box next to the least objectionable liar's name (add in a three-hour wait if you live in south Florida). If your guy wins, he's a beacon of hope in barren wilderness of destitution and is the greatest elected official of our time, and if those evil monsters from the other party weren't standing in his way he would've ended all the problems of the world. If your guy loses, it's the end of all humanity and the world is a black hole of despair from which there is no escape.

Hooray democracy!

A more eloquent description of the election process is given by Will McAvoy in Season 1 of The Newsroom. He says, "Every two years we drive to the fire station and overthrow the government and there's not a policeman in the street." But that is … uh … WRONG!

Every two years we collectively go vote for the very people we've spent the last two years complaining about and then spend the next two years wondering why nothing changed. (Hint: It's because we keep electing people who don't care what we think because they aren't held accountable by the people who vote for them. In other words, it's the manifestation of the idea that "Congress is awful, but my congressman is good.")

Anyway, here's what happened a few times we allegedly overthrew the government.

Abraham Lincoln was elected Nov. 6, 1960. This time we actually did try to overthrow the government because Jefferson Davis was elected president of the Confederacy exactly a year later. Do you know who finished second in the election to Lincoln? It was John C. Breckenridge, who swept the Southern states but lost his home state of Kentucky to John Bell. Lincoln faced three serious challengers but won a majority of the electoral votes anyway (he won plurality of the popular vote, but not a majority).

Lincoln won a massive majority Nov. 8, 1864, for his second term.

No election has been more controversial than that one, but there are still some that can be put in the discussion. The election of 1876 was nearly as controversial when Rutherford B. Hayes was installed as president following the Compromise of 1877.

Hayes officially won the Nov. 7 election by one electoral vote, but there is so much controversy and fraud surrounding the numbers that there's really no way to know. There were 20 disputed electoral votes, any one of which would have given the election to Democrat Samuel Tilden. The Compromise of 1877 resolved the issue by giving all 20 votes to Hayes in exchange for a promise to remove federal troops from the South and end Reconstruction.

It is still the smallest margin of victory in a presidential election and the only time the winner of a majority of the popular vote lost the election.

In modern times, the prize for most controversial election goes to 2000 when George Bush edged Al Gore on the anniversary of that election - Nov. 7. Votes in Florida are still disputed and the winner of the state was set to win the election.

It was a disaster in many ways and still hasn't been fully resolved. (Florida was the only state not to confirm its results on Election Day last year, but it didn't factor into the overall result.) Bush was declared the winner Dec. 12, 2000, and the election was marked by Gore being declared the winner in Florida, Florida being taken away from Gore, Bush being declared the winner in Florida, Gore conceding, Gore un-conceding and then Gore demanding recounts that were never finished. It's only the fourth time the winner didn't receive plurality of the popular vote.

Aside from 1876 and 2000, the other times it happened was John Quincy Adams' controversial win in 1824, known as the Corrupt Bargain (the only time the candidate with the most electoral votes didn't win), and Benjamin Harrison's win over Grover Cleveland on Nov. 6, 1888.

Harry Truman won the presidency Nov. 2, 1948, by a wide margin over Thomas Dewey, but the Chicago Tribune disagreed.

Franklin Roosevelt, the only president elected more than twice, was elected Nov. 8, 1932, Nov. 3, 1936, Nov. 5, 1940, and Nov. 7, 1944. His wife, Eleanor, died on the anniversary of his last election in 1962.

Some other notable elections include John F. Kennedy winning over Richard Nixon on Nov. 8, 1960, Ronald Reagan winning the most one-sided presidential election over Walter Mondale on Nov. 6, 1984, Bill Clinton became the last candidate to unseat an incumbent president Nov. 3, 1992, Jimmy Carter became the last Democrat to win a majority of Southern states, sweeping them Nov. 2, 1976, to win over Gerald Ford, George Wallace became the last third party candidate to win a state, taking five Southern states Nov. 5, 1968, and Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected president Nov. 4, 2008.

In other notable election happenings, Susan B. Anthony defied the law against women voting and earned a $100 fine Nov. 5, 1872, Douglas Wilder was elected as the first African-American governor since Reconstruction on Nov. 7, 1989, in Virginia, David Dinkins was elected as the first African-American mayor of New York City on the same day, Hilary Clinton became the first first lady to be elected to any office when she was elected as a senator from New York on Nov. 7, 2000, Colorado became the second state to let women vote Nov. 7, 1893, and Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress on Nov. 7, 1916.

Rankin represented Montana and is notable for being one of the members of Congress who voted against entering World War I and the only one to vote against declaring war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor, after which other members of Congress tried to persuade her change her vote, but she refused. She was repeatedly hounded by angry mobs due to her decision.

Here are some of the events of note that happened between Nov. 4 and 10.

Life and Death

After a couple of weeks of paltry connections to John Wayne, we're back in business today. I'll start with Nov. 5, 1960, which is the day of the death of Johnny Horton, who wrote the music for North to Alaska, and Ward Bond who was in several movies with the Duke, including The Searchers, The Quiet Man, Fort Apache and They Were Expendable.

Another connection can be found Nov. 5 with Roy Rogers, who was born that day in 1911. Rogers is one of the most famous performers of all time and was the star of The Roy Rogers Show. Aside from his individual fame, he was in Dark Command with Wayne.

Richard Burton is another actor who achieved great personal fame and can be connected to Wayne. Burton was born Nov. 10, 1925, and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, which is a record for an individual who never won one. He was the highest paid actor in the world during a time when Wayne's fame was at its peak and both were in The Longest Day.

Cameron Mitchell had a long career as an actor in movies, TV and Broadway. He was born Nov. 4, 1918, and is most well-known for roles in Death of a Salesman, Les Miserables, Carousel and How to Marry a Millionaire. He was also in They Were Expendable with Wayne. Mitchell was also in No Down Payment with Sheree North, who died Nov. 4, 2005, and was famous for roles in a series of movies of varying success, but made her biggest splash on TV in several small roles, including one on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

North also played Cosmo Kramer's mother on Seinfeld and has a brief appearance as a long lost lover trying to bilk money from Wayne's dying character in The Shootist.

Steve McQueen was good friends with Wayne, but was never in a movie with him. McQueen rose to stardom with roles in Bullitt, The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape and died Nov. 7, 1980.

Quote machine Will Rogers was born Nov. 4, 1879, legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite was born Nov. 4, 1916, composer John Phillip Sousa was born Nov. 6, 1854, authors Bram Stoker (1847) and Margaret Mitchell (1900) were born Nov. 8, Vivien Leigh, who was the star of the film adaptation of Mitchell's book Gone with the Wind, was born Nov. 5, 1913, MySpace creator and friend of every user Tom Anderson was born Nov. 8, 1970, person who is liked Sally Field was born Nov. 6, 1946, TV grandmother Doris Roberts was born Nov. 4, 1930, Barbie inventor Ruth Handler was born Nov. 4, 1916, Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio was born Nov. 4, 1961, and American author Winston Churchill was born Nov. 10, 1871.

Actor and golf "expert" Art Carney was born Nov. 4, 1918, and died Nov. 9, 2003.

French Gen. Charles de Gaulle died Nov. 9, 1970, and his wife, Yvonne, died Nov. 8, 1979. Two long-time staples of 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney and Ed Bradley, died this week. Bradley died Nov. 9, 2006, and Rooney died Nov. 4, 2011, each shortly after their appearances on the show ended.

Henry Wirz, the only person executed during the Civil War for war crimes, was hung Nov. 10, 1865, and convicted Beltway sniper John Muhammad was executed Nov. 10, 2009.

Leroy Robert Parker and Harry Longabaugh were thought to be killed in a shootout in Bolivia on Nov. 7, 1908. Better known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the duo were the most successful bank robbers in American history. Two men believed to be them were severely wounded in a shootout and killed themselves. Their bodies could not be identified and attempts to find their graves to conduct DNA testing have been unsuccessful.

Both men are alleged to have lived in anonymity long after 1908 with some evidence proving particularly strong. All that is known for certain is that they were in Bolivia at the time of the shootout and after the shootout were never positively identified anywhere. Cassidy is alleged to have lived until at least the early 1930s and Sundance until 1936. The remains of a man purported to be Sundance were exhumed from a grave in Utah and tested in 2008 and, though inconclusive, did not seem to support the theory.

John Henry "Doc" Holliday died of tuberculosis at age 36 on Nov. 8, 1887, and Mary Jane Kelly, the last of Jack the Ripper's victims, was killed Nov. 9, 1888.

Overlooked Anniversaries

Twenty-nine men were killed when the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975. The ship was a 729-foot freighter that operated on the Great Lakes hauling iron ore. It was largest ship on the lakes at the time of its launch and is still the largest ship to have sunk there. It broke its own hauling record several times.

It sailed into a large storm Nov. 9 and diverted course to avoid the worst of the storm, but started taking on water due to heavy winds and large waves. The ship stayed afloat for several hours and the last communication from it was the captain saying, "We are holding our own." But soon after that statement, the ship was lost on radar. It sank without sending a distress signal.

All the members of the crew were killed. The ship's wreck was located four days after it sank, but the bodies of the men were never recovered (though one was found in the wreckage). There are still many theories surrounding its sinking and the ship is largely remembered because of the song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot honoring the ship after it sank. The song was released a year after the wreck and tells the story of the ship's final voyage, but was altered in 2010 due to investigations revealing some of the original details were wrong. The song contains a few inaccuracies, including saying the ship was headed to Cleveland. In fact, it was going to Detroit.

Montana became a state Nov. 8, 1889. Montana has Glacier National Park and is the site of Custer's Last Stand. It can stick around.

Guy Fawkes was arrested Nov. 5, 1605, while planning an assassination attempt on James I. Fawkes was planning to blow up the House of Lords while James was speaking there the next day. The day is celebrated as to remember the king's escape from the failed assassination attempt, but Fawkes' image is now sometimes used to represent anti-government sentiments, particularly by the online activist group Anonymous.

Jane Goodall witnessed chimpanzees using tools - the first nonhumans observed doing so – Nov. 4, 1960, Meet the Press debuted Nov. 6, 1946, the first issue of Rolling Stone was published Nov. 9, 1967, Theodore Roosevelt made the first official presidential visit outside the country Nov. 9, 1906, to inspect the Panama Canal, Sesame Street debuted Nov. 10, 1969, King Tut's tomb was found Nov 4, 1922, David Livingstone was found by Henry Stanley and greeted with the famous line "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" Nov. 10, 1871, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed Nov. 7, 1940. (By the way, 1940s newsreels are unintentionally hilarious.)

Something About Sports

One of the best World Series ever played ended Nov. 4, 2001. The 2001 World Series was historic for several reasons, including the first time the World Series had been played in the Mountain Time Zone, the first time it had ended in November and taking place in New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Arizona Diamondbacks won the first two games at home and the New York Yankees won the next three in New York. All three of the Yankees' wins came by one run. When the series returned to Arizona, the Diamondbacks won 15-2 to set up a Game 7. The Yankees led 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, but legendary closer Mariano Rivera blew the save and the Diamondbacks won 3-2 on a single to the outfield by Luis Gonzalez.

It denied the Yankees their fourth straight World Series championship and earned the Diamondbacks a title in their fourth year of existence - the fastest any expansion team has ever won a championship in any sport. Sports Illustrated chose Game 7 as the best postseason game of the decade. It was also the first time since 1991 all seven games had been won by the home team, and it hasn't happened since.

Garry Kasparov became the youngest world chess champion Nov. 9, 1985, Magic Johnson retired from basketball and revealed he had HIV on Nov. 7, 1991, Art Modell announced he was relocating the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore on Nov. 6, 1995, and the NFL was granted antitrust exemption Nov. 8, 1966, paving the way for the merger with the AFL and the creation of the Super Bowl.

The first Breeder's Cup was held Nov. 10, 1984. The Breeders' Cup Classic was won by Wild Again in a dramatic three-horse sprint to the finish. This year's Classic was Saturday and was won by Mucho Macho Man, who finished second last year, in a photo finish similar to the first race.

The Week in Warfare

The Battle of Tippecanoe was fought Nov. 7, 1811, and turned William Henry Harrison into a national hero. Harrison, who was then the governor of the Indiana Territory, took about 1,000 men to an Indian settlement known as Prophetstown. It was named after Tenskwatawa, who was Tecumseh's brother and was known as "The Prophet," and was the leader of the Indian confederation camped there.

Harrison overwhelmed and destroyed the settlement, though casualties were low. The battle is controversial over whether it was as big a victory as Harrison claimed because tensions with Tecumseh's tribe escalated quickly after the battle. Nevertheless, Harrison earned the nickname "Tippecanoe" following the battle and was elected president in 1840 over incumbent Martin Van Buren.

The Second Battle of El Alamein was fought from Oct. 23 to Nov. 11, 1942, and ended with the first successful Allied offensive in Europe since fighting began in 1939, and occurred before the United States had fully mobilized troops.

Winston Churchill said of the battle, "This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." And later that "before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat."

The Beer Hall Putsch, an attempt by Adolf Hitler to overthrow the German government, was halted Nov. 8, 1923, and Hitler survived an assassination attempt while celebrating its 16th anniversary in 1939.

The first jet-to-jet dogfight was Nov. 8, 1950, and Operation Hump was carried out Nov. 8, 1965. Operation Hump was an attempt to drive the Viet Cong out of its heavily protected defensive positions. It was successful, but the outnumbered American and Australian forces took heavy losses following a surprise attack.

Lawrence Joel was the first living African-American to receive the Medal of Honor, the first medic to receive it in Vietnam and also received the Silver Star for his actions during the battle. He died in 1984, and the battle is commemorated in the Big & Rich song 8th of November.

The United States Marine Corps was founded Nov. 10, 1775. It's also the birthday of Marine Michael Strank (1919) who was one of the men who raised the flag over Iwo Jima, the famous image of which was reproduced for the Marine Corps Memorial, which was dedicated Nov. 10, 1954. The National Museum of the Marine Corps opened Nov. 10, 2006.

Strank is in the middle and is barely seen in the picture. He was killed in battle six days later, the same day as Harlon Block, who is the man closest to the base of the flag in the picture and was born Nov. 6, 1924.

Holiday You Should Celebrate

Nov. 7 is Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, which sounds fantastic, but Nov. 6 is Marooned without a Compass Day, and that could save your life. I watch the Discovery Channel a lot and particularly love the survival shows. They give me the totally baseless confidence I would need if I ever had to start a fire in the woods with only a shoestring and pocket lint and set a trap to catch a squirrel.

Take this day to watch one of the most underrated movies of all time, Cast Away, and learn how to avoid an exploding airplane, turn an ice skate into an axe, paint a face on a volleyball using your own blood, turn an imperceptible spark into a raging inferno (it only counts if you sing and dance around like a complete idiot) and make a raft out of a couple of sticks and half a port-a-potty. (Epic beard-growing is optional.)

Preview of next week

"I am not a crook."

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