All posts by sleuthboss

Mussolini founds the Fascist party

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mussolini-founds-the-fascist-party

Benito Mussolini, an Italian World War I veteran and publisher of Socialist newspapers, breaks with the Italian Socialists and establishes the nationalist Fasci di Combattimento, named after the Italian peasant revolutionaries, or “Fighting Bands,” from the 19th century. Commonly known as the Fascist Party, Mussolini’s new right-wing organization advocated Italian nationalism, had black shirts for uniforms, and launched a program of terrorism and intimidation against its leftist opponents.

In October 1922, Mussolini led the Fascists on a march on Rome, and King Emmanuel III, who had little faith in Italy’s parliamentary government, asked Mussolini to form a new government. Initially, Mussolini, who was appointed prime minister at the head of a three-member Fascist cabinet, cooperated with the Italian parliament, but aided by his brutal police organization he soon became the effective dictator of Italy. In 1924, a Socialist backlash was suppressed, and in January 1925 a Fascist state was officially proclaimed, with Mussolini as Il Duce, or “The Leader.”

Mussolini appealed to Italy’s former Western allies for new treaties, but his brutal 1935 invasion of Ethiopia ended all hope of alliance with the Western democracies. In 1936, Mussolini joined Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in his support of Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, prompting the signing of a treaty of cooperation in foreign policy between Italy and Nazi Germany in 1937. Although Adolf Hitler’s Nazi revolution was modeled after the rise of Mussolini and the Italian Fascist Party, Fascist Italy and Il Duce proved overwhelmingly the weaker partner in the Berlin-Rome Axis during World War II.

In July 1943, the failure of the Italian war effort and the imminent invasion of the Italian mainland by the Allies led to a rebellion within the Fascist Party. Two days after the fall of Palermo on July 24, the Fascist Grand Council rejected the policy dictated by Hitler through Mussolini, and on July 25 Il Duce was arrested. Fascist Marshal Pietro Badoglio took over the reins of the Italian government, and in September Italy surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. Eight days later, German commandos freed Mussolini from his prison in the Abruzzi Mountains, and he was later made the puppet leader of German-controlled northern Italy. With the collapse of Nazi Germany in April 1945, Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and on April 29 was executed by firing squad with his mistress, Clara Petacci, after a brief court-martial. Their bodies, brought to Milan, were hanged by the feet in a public square for all the world to see.

Jim Morrison prompts a “Rally for Decency”

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jim-morrison-prompts-a-rally-for-decency

“Dear Mike,” wrote the recently inaugurated President Nixon to Miami-area teenager Mike Levesque in a letter dated March 26, 1969, “I was extremely interested to learn about the admirable initiative undertaken by you and 30,000 other young people at the Miami Teen-age Rally for Decency held last Sunday.” The event of which Nixon spoke was organized in response to an incident at a Doors concert some three weeks earlier, when a drunk, combative and sometimes barely coherent Jim Morrison allegedly exposed himself to the crowd at Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium. The alleged exposure, whether it took place or not, created serious legal problems for Morrison. It also created an opportunity for socially conservative Floridians and their celebrity supporters to speak out against the counterculture at the massive “Rally for Decency” held at Miami’s Orange Bowl on March 23, 1969.

The Associated Pressdescribed the event as being part of “a teen-age crusade for decency in entertainment.” On hand to support that crusade was a handful of celebrities not normally associated with the youth market: Kate Smith, Jackie Gleason, The Lettermen and Anita Bryant, spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission. Ms. Bryant, who would later become an outspoken opponent of gay rights, was not the only grownup to make political hay out of what began as a sincere event organized by the teenage members of a Roman Catholic youth group. On March 24, the day after the rally, President Nixon’s daily news summary included a mention of the event along with a handwritten note from a young aide named Pat Buchanan: “The pollution of young minds…an extremely popular issue; one on which we can probably get a tremendous majority of Americans.” Eight months later, Nixon would give his famous “Silent Majority” speech, and 23 years later, Buchanan would make a serious bid for the Republican presidential nomination running as a veteran of the so-called “Culture Wars.”

As for Jim Morrison, the incident that sparked the Rally for Decency led to his conviction seven months later on charges of profanity and indecent exposure. Sentenced to six months’ hard labor in a Florida prison, Morrison left the United States for France while his conviction was under appeal. He died in Paris in July 1971.

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Patrick Henry voices American opposition to British policy

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/patrick-henry-voices-american-opposition-to-british-policy

During a speech before the second Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry responds to the increasingly oppressive British rule over the American colonies by declaring, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Following the signing of the American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, Patrick Henry was appointed governor of Virginia by the Continental Congress.

The first major American opposition to British policy came in 1765 after Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a taxation measure to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. Under the banner of “no taxation without representation,” colonists convened the Stamp Act Congress in October 1765 to vocalize their opposition to the tax. With its enactment on November 1, 1765, most colonists called for a boycott of British goods and some organized attacks on the customhouses and homes of tax collectors. After months of protest, Parliament voted to repeal the Stamp Act in March 1765.

Most colonists quietly accepted British rule until Parliament’s enactment of the Tea Act in 1773, which granted the East India Company a monopoly on the American tea trade. Viewed as another example of taxation without representation, militant Patriots in Massachusetts organized the “Boston Tea Party,” which saw British tea valued at some 10,000 pounds dumped into Boston harbor. Parliament, outraged by the Boston Tea Party and other blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in the following year. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British.

With the other colonies watching intently, Massachusetts led the resistance to the British, forming a shadow revolutionary government and establishing militias to resist the increasing British military presence across the colony. In April 1775, Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to Concord, Massachusetts, where a Patriot arsenal was known to be located. On April 19, 1775, the British regulars encountered a group of American militiamen at Lexington, and the first volleys of the American Revolutionary War were fired.

Leading Mexican presidential candidate assassinated

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/leading-mexican-presidential-candidate-assassinated

Luis Donaldo Colosio, Mexico’s ruling party’s presidential candidate, is gunned down during a campaign rally in the northern border town of Tijuana.

As a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the political party that held power in Mexico for most of the 20th century, Colosio became the protégé of future Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and was elected to the Congress and Senate. In 1988, he was the campaign manager of Salinas’ successful presidential campaign and the same year was named PRI party head. In 1992, President Salinas appointed Colosio social development secretary. He became increasingly reform-minded in this capacity; although his promises to reduce Mexico’s widespread poverty failed to stop anti-government guerrilla activity in the state of Chiapas. Salinas designated Colosio his successor in late 1993, making him the PRI candidate and thus the favorite to win the presidential election scheduled for August 1994.

Colosio campaigned as a man of the people and often appeared without the protection of bodyguards. On March 23, 1994, he was assassinated at a campaign rally in Tijuana. Mario Aburto Martinez, a factory worker, was arrested at the scene and later convicted as the sole shooter. During the next few years, however, evidence was uncovered suggesting a conspiracy that may have led all the way up to President Salinas’ office. Colosio had promised to fight Mexico’s rampant political corruption, of which Salinas, who had ties to organized crime in Mexico, was guilty.

In the wake of the assassination, Salinas appointed Ernesto Zedillo the PRI presidential campaign. Zedillo was elected in an election unusually free from fraud, and served as Mexican president until 2000. Salinas spent the late 1990s in exile but returned to Mexico in 2000. His administration has been implicated in other political assassinations, and in 1999 his brother Raul was convicted of ordering and financing the September 1994 murder of Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, the secretary general of the PRI.

Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hollywood-icon-elizabeth-taylor-dies-at-79

On this day in 2011, actress Elizabeth Taylor, who appeared in more than 50 films, won two Academy Awards and was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, dies of complications from congestive heart failure at a Los Angeles hospital at age 79. The violet-eyed Taylor began her acting career as a child and spent most of her life in the spotlight. Known for her striking beauty, she was married eight times and later in life became a prominent HIV/AIDS activist.

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London, England, on February 27, 1932, to an American art dealer and his wife, a former actress. In 1939, the family moved to Southern California, and in 1942 Taylor made her film debut in There’s One Born Every Minute. At age 12, she rose to stardom in 1944’s National Velvet, later moving on to adult roles such as 1951’s A Place in the Sun, for which she garnered strong reviews. As one of Hollywood’s leading stars in the 1950s and 1960s, her credits included 1956’s Giant, with Rock Hudson and James Dean; 1957’s Raintree County, with Montgomery Clift and Eva Marie Saint; 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Paul Newman; and 1959’s Suddenly, Last Summer, with Clift and Katharine Hepburn. The latter three films each garnered Taylor Oscar nominations, before she took home best actress honors for 1960’s Butterfield 8, with Laurence Harvey and Eddie Fisher, and 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, with Richard Burton.

Off-screen, Taylor’s colorful personal life generated numerous headlines. In 1950, the 18-year-old actress married hotel heir Conrad Hilton. The union lasted less than one year, and in 1952, she wed British actor Michael Wilding. The couple had two sons before divorcing in 1957. That same year, Taylor wed producer Mike Todd, with whom she had a daughter. A little over a year later, Todd died in a plane crash. In 1959, Taylor married singer Eddie Fisher (who left his wife Debbie Reynolds for Taylor); the union ended in 1964. Days after her divorce from Fisher was finalized, Taylor wed Welsh actor Richard Burton, with whom she co-starred in 1963’s Cleopatra. (Playing that film’s title role, Taylor became Hollywood’s highest-paid actress at the time.)

The public was fascinated by Taylor and Burton’s lavish lifestyle (among his gifts to her was a 69-carat diamond) and tumultuous relationship. The couple, who adopted a daughter, divorced in 1974, remarried the following year and divorced again in 1976. Taylor later called Mike Todd and Burton, who died in 1984, the great loves of her life.

In 1976, Taylor wed Virginia politician John Warner, who went on to become a U.S. senator. The pair divorced in 1982. In the 1980s, Taylor, who battled addictions to alcohol, drugs and overeating, spent time at the Betty Ford Center. In 1991, she married construction worker Larry Fortensky, whom she met at the treatment center. After a wedding ceremony at entertainer Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch in California, the couple divorced five years later. In addition to her addiction issues, Taylor suffered from a variety of health problems throughout her life, ranging from hip replacements to smashed spinal discs to a brain tumor.

In addition to her film career (her last silver-screen appearance was a cameo in 1994’s The Flintstones), Taylor’s legacy includes her work as a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS. Starting in the 1980s, the actress helped raise millions of dollars to combat the disease.

Taylor was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, the same place where her friend Michael Jackson was interred.

Arab League formed

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/arab-league-formed

Representatives from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen meet in Cairo to establish the Arab League, a regional organization of Arab states. Formed to foster economic growth in the region, resolve disputes between its members, and coordinate political aims, members of the Arab League formed a council, with each state receiving one vote. When the State of Israel was created in 1948, the league countries jointly attacked but were repulsed by the Israelis. Two years later, Arab League nations signed a mutual defense treaty. Fifteen more Arab nations eventually joined the organization, which established a common market in 1965.

Equal Rights Amendment passed by Congress

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/equal-rights-amendment-passed-by-congress

On March 22, 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment is passed by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states for ratification.

First proposed by the National Woman’s political party in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was to provide for the legal equality of the sexes and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. More than four decades later, the revival of feminism in the late 1960s spurred its introduction into Congress. Under the leadership of U.S. Representative Bella Abzug of New York and feminists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, it won the requisite two-thirds vote from the U.S. House of Representatives in October 1971. In March 1972, it was approved by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states.

Hawaii was the first state to ratify what would have been the 27th Amendment, followed by some 30 other states within a year. However, during the mid-1970s, a conservative backlash against feminism eroded support for the Equal Rights Amendment, which ultimately failed to achieve ratification by the a requisite 38, or three-fourths, of the states.

Because of the rejection of the Equal Rights Amendment, sexual equality, with the notable exception of when it pertains to the right to vote, is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. However, in the late 20th century, the federal government and all states have passed considerable legislation protecting the legal rights of women. The Equal Rights Amendment, in its most recently proposed form, reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”

Naval hero killed in duel

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/naval-hero-killed-in-duel

U.S. Navy officer Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Wars, is mortally wounded in a duel with disgraced Navy Commodore James Barron at Bladensburg, Maryland. Although once friends, Decatur sat on the court-martial that suspended Barron from the Navy for five years in 1808 and later opposed his reinstatement, leading to a fatal quarrel between the two men.

Born in Maryland in 1779, Stephen Decatur was reared in the traditions of the sea and in 1798 joined the United States Navy as a midshipman aboard the new frigate, United States. That year, he saw action in the so-called quasi-war with France and in 1799 was commissioned a lieutenant. Five years later, during the Tripolitan War, he became the most lauded American naval hero since John Paul Jones.

In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. Sustained action began in June 1803, and in October the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by Tripolitan gunboats. The Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be used as a model for building future Tripolitan frigates, and on February 16, 1804, Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured vessel.

After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force sailed into Tripoli harbor and boarded the Philadelphia, which was guarded by Tripolitans who were quickly overpowered by the Americans. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire. Famed British Admiral Horatio Nelson hailed the exploit as the “most bold and daring act of the age,” and Decatur was promoted to captain. In August 1804, Decatur returned to Tripoli Harbor as part of a larger American offensive and emerged as a hero again during the Battle of the Gunboats, which saw hand-to-hand combat between the Americans and the Tripolitans.

In 1807, Commodore James Barron, who fought alongside Decatur in the Tripolitan War, aroused considerable controversy when he failed to resist a British attack on his flagship, the Chesapeake. Decatur sat on the court-martial that passed a verdict expelling Barron from the Navy for five years. This began the dispute between Decatur and Barron that would end 13 years later on the dueling grounds in Maryland.

In the War of 1812, Decatur distinguished himself again when, as commander of the USS United States, he captured the British ship of war Macedonian off the Madeira Islands. Barron, meanwhile, was overseas when his Navy expulsion ended in 1813 and did not return to the United States to fight in the ongoing war with England. This led to fresh criticism of Barron from Decatur, who later used his influence to prevent Barron’s reinstatement in the Navy.

In June 1815, Decatur returned to the Mediterranean to lead U.S. forces in the Algerian War, the second Barbary conflict. By December, Decatur forced the dey (military ruler) of Algiers to sign a peace treaty that ended American tribute to Algeria. Upon his return to the United States, he was honored at a banquet in which he made a very famous toast: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!”

Appointed to the Navy Board of Commissioners, Decatur arrived in Washington in 1816, where he became a prominent citizen and lived a satisfying life politically, economically, and socially. In 1818, however, dark clouds began to gather when he vocally opposed Barron’s reinstatement into the Navy. The already strained relations between the two men deteriorated, and in March 1820 Decatur agreed to Barron’s request to meet for a duel. Dueling, though generally frowned on, was still acceptable among Navy men. On March 22, at Bladensburg in Maryland, Decatur and Barron lifted their guns, fired, and each man hit his target. Decatur died several hours later in Washington, and the nation mourned the loss of the great naval hero. Barron recovered from his wounds and was reinstated into the Navy in 1821 with diminished rank.

Prolific, best-selling author James Patterson is born

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/prolific-best-selling-author-james-patterson-is-born

On this day in 1947, James Patterson, one of the world’s top-selling novelists, is born. Best known for his thrillers, Patterson, the creator of the Alex Cross detective series and the Women’s Murder Club series, among others, has written books in a variety of genres, from historical fiction to young adult. His novels have sold an estimated 220 million copies around the world.

Patterson, who was raised in Newburgh, New York, graduated from Manhattan College in 1969 and later dropped out of Vanderbilt University’s graduate program in English literature. He moved to New York City and worked as a copywriter at an advertising agency while writing his first novel in his spare time. After multiple rejections, that book, a thriller titled “The Thomas Berryman Number” was published in 1976. It won an Edgar Award for best first mystery novel by a U.S. author; however, sales were modest.

Patterson continued to publish novels, with limited commercial success, until the 1993 release of his breakout hit “Along Came a Spider,” featuring African-American detective and psychologist Alex Cross. Patterson had another best-seller with 1995’s “Kiss the Girls,” also featuring Alex Cross. In 1996, Patterson, then a top executive at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, retired to write full time. That same year, he published the novel “Miracle on the 17th Green” with the assistance of a co-author. Patterson eventually began collaborating with a team of co-authors on almost all his books, allowing him to publish multiple best-sellers each year. He typically comes up with the idea for the book, pens a detailed outline then revises the chapters his co-author drafts. In 2010 alone, Patterson released nine titles, including his 17th Alex Cross novel as well as books in his “Maximum Ride” young-adult fantasy and science-fiction series, his “Witch and Wizard” children’s supernatural series and his Michael Bennett detective series.

Whatever their genre, Patterson’s books are known for being fast-paced with short chapters and little back story or description. Critics, including author Stephen King, have skewered Patterson’s writing. In 2010, Patterson told Time magazine: “I am not a great prose stylist. I’m a storyteller. There are thousands of people who don’t like what I do. Fortunately, there are millions who do.”