This Day in History
1936 — Chophouse Massacre. Gangster Dutch Schultz and three of his associates were gunned down in the Palace Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey. Schultz had proposed assassinating U.S. Attorney Thomas Dewey to a Mafia commission but was turned down. He left the meeting in a rage and other Mafia members, worried he was out of control, decided to eliminate him. Two hitman working for Jewish mobster Louis Buchalter carried out the assignment. The four men targeted survived for a while but all succumbed to their wounds in a Newark hospital. Schultz gave an ambulance attendant $10,000 in cash to insure he would receive the best medical care possible. Schultz lived for a day and the attendant, concerned he’d be indebted to the mobster if he survived, stuffed the $10,000 back into Schultz’s hospital bed as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
Probably a wise decision. I do wonder who ended up with that ten grand though.
1956 — Beginning of the Hungarian Revolution. Students, frustrated by the oppressive rule of the Communist Party, protested on the streets in Budapest. The protests grew and demands were made but after unarmed protestors were gunned down by the secret police in a public square, violence flared. A large statue of Stalin was torn down and decapitated, the Soviet red star was pulled off buildings and hated officials of the Communist regime were beaten and sometimes executed. Young women and men armed themselves with rifles and Molotov cocktails while the Soviets responded by sending in tanks. Savage street fighting broke out with Hungarian freedom fighters battling from rooftops and sewer tunnels. Initially the rebellion was successful and Soviet forces withdrew. But on November 4th Russia launched Operation Whirlwind and brutally crushed the revolution within a week. Over 2,600 Hungarians were killed and the leaders of the provisional government were arrested and executed. In the aftermath approximately 22,000 people were imprisoned and another 200,000 fled Hungary to seek refuge in western Europe. The 23rd of October is now a national holiday in Hungary.
I had a friend, Dennis, who has since passed away. Dennis was in an airborne division stationed in Germany at the time of the uprising. The freedom fighters were desperately hoping, even believing, the U.S. or the U.N. would come to their aid. Dennis told me his unit saddled up, even boarded planes, thinking they might be on their way to Budapest. It was probably only a readiness exercise for no outside aid arrived to help those brave freedom fighters.
1958 — Springhill Mine Bump. The Springhill coal mine in Nova Scotia, at 14,000 feet, was one of the deepest in the world. A “bump” is an underground earthquake caused by the collapse of the pillars supporting the tunnels dug into the mine. At 8:06 in the evening the bump occurred creating three shock waves that felt like a small earthquake to those above ground. Some escaped but 174 miners were trapped underground. Rescue operations began immediately and continued until November 1st when the last group of survivors were brought out. 99 miners were rescued and 75 died in the mine. The public spotlight was on the survivors and their rescuers for a time, and one of the miners, Maurice Ruddick, was chosen as Canada’s “Citizen of the Year.”
Down in the U.S., in the state of Georgia, an aide to the governor saw this incident as an opportunity to promote tourism in their state. So he invited a group of miners, including Maurice Ruddick, to Georgia for a free vacation. Only after the invitation was made public did he learn that Ruddick was Black. This turned into a public relations nightmare for the governor, Marvin Griffin, who was a die-hard segregationist. He said Ruddick and his family could come but would have to stay in a separate trailer. The other miners said no, if Ruddick couldn’t stay with them, they wouldn’t go. Ruddick realized they needed the vacation however so he agreed to the governor’s terms. They all went to Georgia and Ruddick was segregated from those with whom he was trapped underground.
Principle trumped humanity, as is so often the case with politicians.
1835 — Adlai Stevenson. Vice President. Stevenson served as VP from 1893–1897 under Grover Cleveland. In 1900 he again campaigned for that position as the running mate of William Jennings Bryan. Earlier in his career Stevenson served as Postmaster General. A Democrat, he fired many Republicans in the postal department and replaced them with southern Democrats. This put him in good stead with Democrats and was why Cleveland selected him as Vice President. Stevenson was the grandfather of Adlai Stevenson III who unsuccessfully ran for President in 1952 and 1956.
Politics ran in the blood in that family.
1931 — Jim Bunning. Baseball player, politician. Bunning is the only person to have been elected to both the baseball Hall of Fame and the U.S. Senate. He pitched in the major leagues from 1955 to 1971 and served in the Senate for Kentucky from 1999 to 2011. Bunning pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964 and in his first term in the Senate he was ranked as the 2nd most conservative Senator. By the time of the 2010 campaign he had fallen out of favor with the Kentucky voters and he had Republican challengers in the primary. He feuded with the Republican Party and called Senator Mitch McConnell a control freak. He ran out of fundraising money and was replaced in the Senate by Rand Paul. Bunning died in 2017 at age 85.
There is an annual baseball game pitting Republican members of Congress against their Democrat counterparts. Having a Hall of Fame pitcher, even at an advanced age, swung the odds in favor of the Republicans.
1957 — Paul Kagame. President of Rwanda. Or as some refer to him, Rwanda’s “Benevolent Dictator.” Kagame came to power after the Rwanda genocide of 1994 when Hutus massacred between 500,00 and 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. First he was Vice President, then President. Under his guideance Rwanda has made huge strides forward in promoting equality for women, technological opportunities, and environmental protection. Kagame, a Tutsi, wanted to make sure the government was inclusive and not Tutsi-dominated and he removed ethnicity from citizens’ national identity cards. A peace, if uneasy, now exists between Hutus and Tutsis. Rwanda ranks high among African countries in health care and education. Kagame also rules with an iron fist and controls the media and suppresses political opposition. Kagame has changed the constitution so he could continue to run for president and now could possibly remain in power until 2034.
I’ve read a number of accounts about how progressive Rwanda is, usually tempered with warnings about Kagame’s heavy handedness. The fear is once he is no longer in control, old hatreds will resurface and erupt, much like Yugoslavia after Tito died.