On August 28, 1957 at 8:54 PM, United States Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina rose to address the United States Senate. Twenty-four hours and eighteen minutes alter, at 9:12 PM on August 29, the Senator relinquished the floor. He had just completed the longest filibuster in US history. Senator Thurmond’s filibuster was an attempt to stop the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 that was the bill being considered on that date. So what does someone talk about for over 24 hours? Here is a sample of what Senator Thurmond spoke about.
- Thurmond read the voting laws of all 48 states (at the time) in their entirety.
- Thurmond read the entire United States Criminal Code.
- Thurmond read the Declaration of Independence.
At the end of his filibuster, Thurmond encouraged his colleagues to vote against the bill. His filibuster did not have the hoped-for impact. His long-winded opposition failed to chance a single vote and the Senate passed the bill.
Featured Image: “Strom Thurmond.” By Leffler, Warren K., photographer. – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Call number: LC-U9- 6571-17 [P&P] Digital id:ppmsca 19604, Public Domain.
On August 26, 1980, an IBM photocopier was delivered to the Harvey’s Resort and Casino in Stateline, Nevada on the shores of Lake Tahoe. That’s it!
Just kidding. This was not ordinary photocopier – and it wasn’t actually ordered by Harvey’s Casino. The copier delivered on that morning caused some confusion in the casino and after the deliverymen left, management inspected the unexpected machine. Inside the machine, they found a note to the bomb squad saying that this was actually a non-defusable bomb with multiple fail-safes that would not even allow the machine to be moved further. Casino management called in the police and the FBI bomb squad arrived and evacuated the building. The bomb was among the biggest the FBI had ever seen in its long history. The detailed ransom note demanded $3 million to be paid in unmarked $100 bills in exchange for the instructions about how to move the device so the authorities could do a controlled explosion. Authorities x-rayed the machine and developed a plan of action, however their attempts to defuse the bomb failed causing a large explosion that caused extensive damage to the Harvey’s Casino. Thankfully, no one was killed or even injured thanks to the earlier evacuation. The creator of the bomb was soon discovered to be 59-year old John Birges, Sr. who had built the bomb out of anger at a massive gambling debt he had amassed at Harvey’s. Birges was convicted and died in a Nevada prison in 1996.
On August 23, 1973, Jan Erik Olsson of Stockholm Sweden entered the Kreditbanken in the Norrmalmstorg Square in the center of the city. Brandishing a sub-machine gun, he took four bank employees hostage and demanded 3 million Swedish crowns (about $730,000) and the release of a friend from prison. The hostage situation devolved into a 6 day standoff with Swedish authorities, during which Olsson and his hostages underwent a strange bonding experience. The hostages started identifying with their captor and vice versa. On top of that, all involved – hostages and kidnapper alike – took on a hostile “Us vs. Them” view of the outside world that was trying to hurt them. This feeling was heightened by the presence of armed police and hostage negotiators outside of the bank. Nor was this just a passing emotion – indeed, Olsson’s victims visited him during his ten-year prison sentence. This strange and seemingly counter-intuitive reaction to such a stressful and traumatic experience has come to be known as Stockholm Syndrome – a mainstay of TV crime dramas.
Featured Image: “Kreditbanken in the Norrmalmstorg.” By Tage Olsin – Own work (Photo taken by me), CC BY-SA 2.0.
On August 22, 1485, the infamous Battle of Bosworth Field took place in Leicestershire, England. In this battle, the sickly Yorkist king, Richard III faced off against his Lancastrian Tudor enemy, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. On this fateful day, Richard III was killed on the field, marking the end of the Wars of the Roses that had ravaged England for some three decades. Richard’s body was quickly buried at the Church of Greyfriars in the city of Leicester, as Henry Tudor was in a hurry to return to London to be crowned as King Henry VII. From then, Richard’s grave was lost to the mists of history until 2012 when an archaeological dig funded by the University of Leicester found a skeleton on the former site of the Church in what was now a car park. DNA tests and carbon dating have led the archaeologists to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that they had found Richard III – the last English monarch to die in battle.
Featured Image: “Ricahrd III.” By Unknown artist; uploaded to wikipedia by Silverwhistle – Richard III Society website via English Wikipedia, Public Domain.
On this date in 1975, fifty-three people were taken hostage in the American Insurance Association (AIA) Building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Their captors were five members of the terrorist group the Japanese Red Army who was looking to overthrown the Japanese government and to contribute to a worldwide Communist revolution. Among the captives were the United States consul and a Swedish diplomat. American hostage negotiators sprung into action, but were hampered by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s regular reminders that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. However, it soon became clear that the JRA were not asking anything of the U.S., but rather of Japan at which point Japanese negotiators took over. Japanese negotiators agreed to release several prisoners being held for previous acts of terrorism in exchange for the JRA ending the stand-off. The five JRA fighters demanded and receiving a plane to Libya on which they took several hostages and released them upon arrived safely in the country controlled by Muammar Gaddafi. It’s amazing how acts of terrorism were handled during the 70s!
On July 4, 1910, in Reno, Nevada, two men stood opposite of each other in a boxing ring – Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries. This was no ordinary bout, however. It was the for the heavyweight championship and it was the first time a Black boxer (Johnson) had stepped into the ring for such an important fight. Jim Jeffries entered the fight undefeated under the nickname “The Great White Hope” – showing just how racially charged the fight was. Johnson defeated Jeffries in 15 rounds – a result that triggered race riots. Johnson broke through a color barrier that later athletes would often get credit for, largely because, after the fight, Johnson was prosecuted and convicted under the Mann Act – based on charges that he had crossed state lines for immoral purposes, i.e., to be with a white woman. The defeater of the Great White Hope’s reputation was vanquished by the stroke of a judge’s pen.
Featured Image: “Jack Johnson.” By Bain News Service – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a30007, Public Domain.
On May 19, 1780, New England residents looked around in confusion. It was noon. Why were the birds singing their evening songs? Why was it getting dark? What on Earth was going on? As the people talked, they decided that a big storm must be near. So they waited, and nothing came. Now they started seriously worrying and in good eighteenth century fashion, decided that this must mean the world was coming to an end!
What caused this strange darkness? It was not until the early 21st century that we had a probable answer. A University of Missouri study on Ontario trees found evidence for a massive forest fire in the province during the Spring of 1780. As has happened on a few occasions since, large Canadian forest fires can have weird effects on weather in the Northeastern United States. We have not had another event quite like the Dark Day, but as recent as 2002, a fire in Quebec caused major haze across the region.
Ross, John. “Dark Day of 1780.” American Heritage. Fall 2008.