Your Week in History: Mass suicide and an unsolved hijacking - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Your Week in History: Mass suicide and an unsolved hijacking

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One of three known photos of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, PA, on Nov. 19, 1863, when he delivered the Gettysburg Address. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) One of three known photos of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, PA, on Nov. 19, 1863, when he delivered the Gettysburg Address. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Billy the Kid, shown here, was purportedly born Nov. 23, 1859. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Billy the Kid, shown here, was purportedly born Nov. 23, 1859. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The sign marking the entrance to Jonestown, Guyana, where more than 900 people committed suicide Nov. 18, 1978. (Source: Jonestown Institute/Wikimedia Commons) The sign marking the entrance to Jonestown, Guyana, where more than 900 people committed suicide Nov. 18, 1978. (Source: Jonestown Institute/Wikimedia Commons)
The USS Leyte Gulf sails under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge during Fleet Week in New York City in 2008. The bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened Nov. 21, 1964. (Source: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons) The USS Leyte Gulf sails under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge during Fleet Week in New York City in 2008. The bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened Nov. 21, 1964. (Source: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)
Game 2 between Massillon and Canton in 1906, shown here, was the subject of much controversy. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Game 2 between Massillon and Canton in 1906, shown here, was the subject of much controversy. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

(RNN) - This week marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

If you own a TV, you already knew this because the coverage and various TV specials produced commemorating the event are impossible to miss. A much longer and more in-depth look at the assassination will come in a separate article later, including a chronological slideshow of Kennedy's arrival in Dallas, assassination and funeral.

But until then, here are the basics. Kennedy was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963, which was a Friday. The 50th anniversary is also on a Friday. Lee Harvey Oswald, his alleged assassin, was killed by Jack Ruby on Nov. 24, 1963. Both men were buried Nov. 25, 1963, on John F. Kennedy Jr.'s birthday - Kennedy in a lavish funeral at Arlington National Cemetery attended by dozens of foreign dignitaries, and Oswald in a funeral in Fort Worth, TX, so sparsely attended that reporters on hand to cover it were forced to act as pall bearers.

Kennedy's grave is one of the most visited sites in Arlington, and his marker includes an eternal flame. Oswald's marker lists only his last name.

Kennedy's death overshadowed the deaths of Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis and Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, both of whom died the same day. It also came on the same day as the release of With the Beatles, the Beatles' second studio album.

Some other people connected to the assassination were born around the same time. President Kennedy's brother, Robert Kennedy, the attorney general at the time of the assassination, was born Nov. 20, 1925, and Joe Kennedy, their father, died Nov. 18, 1969. John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy, President Kennedy's children, were born Nov. 25, 1960, and Nov. 27, 1957, respectively.

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison was born Nov. 20, 1921. Garrison brought the only criminal trial associated with the assassination and tried to prove a conspiracy was involved.

The defendant, Clay Shaw, was acquitted in a trial dramatized by the Olive Stone movie JFK.

Here are some of the events of note that happened between Nov. 18 and 24.

Life and Death

Alan Young was born Nov. 19, 1919. He is most well known as Wilbur Post, the owner of a talking horse, on Mister Ed and as the voice of Scrooge McDuck. He never starred in anything with John Wayne, but the two were good friends who met through their wives.

Geraldine Page was born Nov. 22, 1924, and won an Oscar for her role in The Trip to Bountiful. She received seven other nominations, including one as a lonely widow alongside Wayne in Hondo, which was her first credited film role.

Larry Hagman died Nov. 23, 2012, and rose to stardom as astronaut Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie and J.R. Ewing on Dallas. He also had a minor role in Superman and was in In Harm's Way with Wayne.

James Coburn starred in Affliction, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and Hell is for Heroes, and died Nov. 18, 2002. Goldie Hawn starred in Cactus Flower, Bird on a Wire and The First Wives Club and was born Nov. 21, 1945. Boris Karloff played Frankenstein's monster and was the narrator of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and was born Nov. 23, 1887.

James Garfield was born Nov. 19, 1831, Joe Biden was born Nov. 20, 1942, Abigail Adams was born Nov. 22, 1744, Franklin Pierce was born Nov. 23, 1804, Zachary Taylor was born Nov. 24, 1784, and Chester Arthur died Nov. 18, 1886.

Billy Sunday was born Nov. 19, 1862, which was a Wednesday. Rick Monday was born Nov. 20, 1945, which was a Tuesday.

Serial killer Ted Bundy was born Nov. 24, 1946, Voltaire was born Nov. 21, 1694, reality TV "star" Snooki was born Nov. 23, 1987, and twerking enthusiast Miley Cyrus was born Nov. 23, 1992. Queen frontman Freddie Mercury died Nov. 24, 1991, and astronomer Edwin Hubble was born Nov. 20, 1889.

The first baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was born Nov. 20, 1866. His death comes next week on Nov. 25, 1944.

Billy the Kid was born on or about Nov. 23, in or around 1859. No one really knows. He is believed to have been born William McCarty Jr. in New York City, though no records to support that claim have ever surfaced and the identity of his biological father isn't known.

Overlooked Anniversaries

One of the most reproduced, copied and famed speeches ever given was delivered Nov. 19, 1863. Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address in a ceremony to dedicate the Soldiers' National Cemetery just more than four months after the Battle of Gettysburg was fought on that site.

For such a famous speech, little about it is actually known, including the exact wording and the place where Lincoln was standing when it was delivered. At least three locations are believed to be the correct one and five original copies of the speech survive today - all differ from each other and from newspaper accounts of the speech. Two are at the Library of Congress, including the one Lincoln is believed to have used while he spoke, one is at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, one is privately owned and held by Cornell University and one is on display in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House.

It's the wording of the copy in the White House that has come to be accepted as the actual speech and is engraved on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial because Lincoln himself wrote it, titled it and dated it, and it is the only copy bearing his signature. But it was transcribed months after the speech was given for the purpose of being put on display and differs from all other copies.

Lincoln's speech was actually the second speech of the day and he wasn't the featured speaker. Former Secretary of State Edward Everett gave the featured speech, talking for more than two hours before Lincoln spoke for roughly two minutes.

Everett later wrote to Lincoln saying, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes." Ironically, Lincoln's long-remembered speech contains the line "the world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here."

That should be a lesson in brevity and humility for all politicians.

William Tell allegedly shot an apple off his son's head with an arrow on Nov. 18, 1307, Apollo 12 - the second mission to the moon - landed Nov. 19, 1969, the impeachment of President Bill Clinton began Nov. 19, 1998, a whale attack on the fishing vessel Essex inspired Moby-Dick on Nov. 20, 1820, Einstein revealed his mass-energy equivalent leading to the formula E=mc2 Nov. 21, 1905, Toy Story was released as the first entirely computer generated feature-length movie Nov. 22, 1995, the first jukebox was put into use Nov. 23, 1889, Doctor Who debuted Nov. 23, 1963, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was published Nov. 18, 1865, railroads instituted time zones Nov. 18, 1883, On the Origin of the Species was published Nov. 24, 1859, Microsoft Windows 1.0 was released Nov. 20, 1985, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened as the longest suspension bridge in the world Nov. 21, 1964, and the first push-button telephone entered service Nov. 18, 1963.

Steamboat Willie was released Nov. 18, 1928, and it is considered the debut and "birthday" of Mickey Mouse. The cartoon is notable because it is one of the earlier cartoons to have synchronized sound. It was the third Mickey Mouse cartoon produced, but the first to be released.

The Temple of Jerusalem was restored Nov. 21, 164 B.C., and the event is celebrated annually as Hanukkah.

A mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, was orchestrated Nov. 18, 1978. More than 900 members of the Peoples Temple committed suicide, including the group's leader, Jim Jones. The incident popularized the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" as a euphemism for accepting an idea without question. It's inaccurate, though, because the group drank Flavor-Aid laced with cyanide rather than the more recognizable Kool-Aid.

The "revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world" were done in the belief the community would be taken over by Communists. More than 300 of the dead were children. Jones himself was found with what investigators determined to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound and his blood contained lethal levels of pentobarbital, though it was believed prolonged drug use had built up his tolerance to it. It's believed he was one of the last to die.

Jones also made an audio recording during the suicides where he urges them to hurry so they won't "fall into the hands of the enemy" and to not resist or cry in order to "die with dignity." Some survivors of the community have said it wasn't a mass suicide and that Jones orchestrated a mass murder.

In connection with the suicides, Rep. Leo Ryan of California was murdered at an airstrip near the settlement by members of the Peoples Temple. The event was the largest deliberate loss of American lives until Sept. 11, 2001.

Ethiopian Airlines flight 961 was hijacked Nov. 23, 1996. The plane crashed when it ran out of fuel and the crash was caught on film by a tourist at the nearby Comoros Islands. Of the 175 passengers, 125 died, and it was the deadliest hijacking until Sept. 11, 2001, but it's also the only water landing of a wide-bodied airliner with survivors.

The only unsolved hijacking in American history took place Nov. 24, 1971. A man using the name Dan Cooper claimed to have a bomb, and when the flight from Portland, OR, to Seattle landed, he demanded $200,000 and four parachutes. He then ordered the plane to take off and head to Mexico, but he parachuted from the back staircase after the plane was airborne.

There are several theories as to his identity, but the man has never been identified or located. In 1980, some of the money he was given was found in the woods. A large portion of the money remains missing and has never turned up in circulation.

North Carolina became a state Nov. 21, 1789. The SEC Network will be based in Charlotte, NC, when it debuts next August, so by default North Carolina has to stay.

A man wearing a Max Headroom mask interrupted the signal of two Chicago TV stations Nov. 22, 1987, for roughly a minute. The culprit has never been identified.

Something About Sports

Last week I missed the infamous "Heidi Bowl," which was played Nov. 17, 1968. The Oakland Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final minute to beat the New York Jets 43-32, but the East Coast missed the exciting finish because it was interrupted by the premier of the made-for-TV movie Heidi. (Here's an analysis of the event, featuring Bob Costas getting the day wrong. NFL rules now prohibit this from happening again. Here's what it was like live, featuring some gloating/complaining by the movie's director.)

The first major scandal of professional football occurred Nov. 24, 1906, in a game between the Canton Bulldogs and the Massillon Tigers. Massillon accused Canton of fixing a two-game series to force a decisive third game to make additional money from tickets. The charges stem from Canton having signed most of Massillon's best players on the offseason. No proof of the allegation was ever found.

Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight in boxing history with a knockout victory over Trevor Berbick on Nov. 22, 1986. Tyson was 20 years old and won easily in the second round.

The Week in Warfare

The HMHS Britannic, a sister ship of RMS Titanic, was sunk Nov. 21, 1916, after hitting a mine. It was the largest ship sunk during World War I, but only resulted in 30 deaths.

The German Sixth Army was surrounded at the Battle of Stalingrad on Nov. 22, 1942. The battle lasted from August 1942 to February 1943. Adolf Hitler had claimed the army would never leave the city and supplies were airlifted in, but failed to reach the cutoff forces, resulting in heavy losses to equipment and starving soldiers.

The Cairo Conference was held Nov. 22, 1943, by the leaders of the United States, Great Britain and China. Five days later, the Cairo Declaration was issued, warning Japan that the Allies would continue waging war until they received an unconditional surrender.

The firebombing of Tokyo began Nov. 24, 1944.

Holiday You Should Celebrate

Have a Bad Day Day is Nov. 19, which is pretty absurd. Fittingly, Absurdity Day is Nov. 20.

Nov. 23 is Eat a Cranberry Day and National Cashew Day. I'm not sure what the best way to combine those two is, but it shouldn't be hard.

Preview of next week

"It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark…"

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