The famous frontiersman Daniel Boone dies in Missouri

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-famous-frontiersman-daniel-boone-dies-in-missouri

On September 26, 1820 the great pioneering frontiersman Daniel Boone dies quietly in his sleep at his son’s home near present-day Defiance, Missouri. The indefatigable voyager was 86.

Boone was born in 1734 to Quaker parents living in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Following a squabble with the Pennsylvania Quakers, Boone’s family decided to head south and west for less crowded regions, and they eventually settled in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina. There the young Daniel Boone began his life-long love for wilderness, spending long days exploring the still relatively unspoiled forests and mountains of the region. An indifferent student who never learned to write more than a crude sentence or two, Boone’s passion was for the outdoors, and he quickly became a superb marksman, hunter and woodsman.

Never satisfied to stay put for very long, Boone soon began making ever longer and more ambitious journeys into the relatively unexplored lands to the west. In May of 1769, Boone and five companions crossed over the Cumberland Gap and explored along the south fork of the Kentucky River. Impressed by the fertility and relative emptiness of the land–although the native inhabitants hardly considered it to be empty–Boone returned in 1773 with his family, hoping to establish a permanent settlement. A Native American attack prevented that first attempt from succeeding, but Boone returned two years later to open the route that became known as Boone’s Trace (or the Wilderness Road) between the Cumberland Gap and a new settlement along the Kentucky River called Fortress Boonesboro. After years of struggles against both Native Americans and British soldiers, Boonesboro eventually became one of the most important gateways for the early American settlement of the Trans-Appalachian West.

Made a legend in his own time by John Filson’s “Boone Autobiography” and Lord Byron’s depiction of him as the quintessential frontiersman in the book “Don Juan,” Boone became a symbol of the western pioneering spirit for many Americans. Ironically, though, Boone’s fame and his success in opening the Trans-Appalachian West to large-scale settlement later came to haunt him. Having lost his Kentucky land holdings by failing to properly register them, Boone moved even further west in 1799, trying to escape the regions he had been so instrumental in creating. Finally settling in Missouri—though he never stopped dreaming of continuing westward—he lived out the rest of his life doing what he loved best: hunting and trapping in a fertile wild land still largely untouched by the Anglo pioneers who had followed the path he blazed to the West.

READ MORE: 8 Things You Might Not Know About Daniel Boone 

Four 20-game winners

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/four-20-game-winners

On September 26, 1971, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer wins his 20th game of the year, becoming the fourth Orioles pitcher to win 20 games in the 1971 season. This made the 1971 Orioles pitching staff the first since that of the 1920 Chicago White Sox to field four 20-game winners.

The Orioles began the 1971 season as the two-time defending American League champions and the defending World Series champions. The team was led by two Robinsons: outfielder Frank, a two-time MVP and the 1966 winner of the “triple crown” (leading the American League in home runs, runs batted in and batting average), and Brooks, an excellent hitter and one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball history. The team’s impressive defense featured four eventual 1971 Gold Glove winners–shortstop Mark Belanger, second baseman Davey Johnson, center fielder Paul Blair and Brooks Robinson–as well as three pitching aces: Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar. To many in baseball, the team, with legendary manager Earl Weaver at the helm, was considered nothing short of unbeatable.

As it turned out, the team was even better than expected thanks to the stellar play of its fourth starting pitcher, the previously unremarkable Pat Dobson. Dobson played so well that he reached the 20-game plateau before Jim Palmer, the most celebrated of the team’s aces and a future Hall of Famer. By the time Palmer took the mound on September 26 against the Cleveland Indians, the Orioles had already clinched the American League East and were readying themselves for a playoff showdown with the Oakland Athletics. Palmer dismantled the Cleveland offense with his typical pinpoint precision and control, giving up only three hits on the way to a 5-0 Oriole victory, for his 20th win of the season.

Palmer ended 1971 with 20-10 record and a 2.71 earned run average, while McNally went 21-5 with a 2.89, Cuellar went 20-9 with a 3.08 and Dobson finished 20-8 with a 2.90. After beating the A’s in the playoffs, the Orioles lost a heartbreaking seven-game World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, led by superstar Roberto Clemente.

First American soldier killed in American Phase of Vietnam War

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-american-soldier-killed-in-vietnam

Lt. Col. Peter Dewey, a U.S. Army officer with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Vietnam, is shot and killed in Saigon. Dewey was the head of a seven-man team sent to Vietnam to search for missing American pilots and to gather information on the situation in the country after the surrender of the Japanese.

According to the provisions of the Potsdam Conference, the British were assigned the responsibility of disarming Japanese soldiers south of the 16th parallel. However, with the surrender of the Japanese, Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh declared themselves the rightful government of Vietnam. This angered the French colonial officials and the remaining French soldiers who had been disarmed and imprisoned by the Japanese. They urged British Maj. Gen. Douglas D. Gracey to help them regain control. Gracey, not fond of the Viet Minh or their cause, rearmed 1,400 French soldiers to help his troops maintain order. 

 The next day these forces ousted the Viet Minh from the offices that they had only recently occupied. Dewey’s sympathies lay with the Viet Minh, many of whom were nationalists who did not want a return to French colonial rule. The American officer was an outspoken man who soon angered Gracey, eventually resulting in the British general ordering him to leave Indochina. On the way to the airport, accompanied by another OSS officer, Capt. Henry Bluechel, Dewey refused to stop at a roadblock manned by three Viet Minh soldiers. He yelled back at them in French and they opened fire, killing Dewey instantly. Bluechel was unhurt and escaped on foot. It was later determined that the Viet Minh had fired on Dewey thinking he was French. He would prove to be the first of nearly 59,000 Americans killed in Vietnam.

Fifty-nine-year-old Satchel Paige pitches three innings

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fifty-nine-year-old-satchel-paige-pitches-three-innings

On September 25, 1965, the Kansas City Athletics start ageless wonder Satchel Paige in a game against the Boston Red Sox. The 59-year-old Paige, a Negro League legend, proved his greatness once again by giving up only one hit in his three innings of play.

Leroy Page was born on July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Alabama. Page’s family changed the spelling of their name to Paige to differentiate themselves from John Page, Leroy’s absent and abusive father. “Satchel” got his nickname as a boy while working as a luggage carrier at the Mobile train station. When he was 12, his constant truancy coupled with a shoplifting incident got him sent to the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama. It turned out to be a lucky break, as it was there that Paige learned to pitch. After leaving the school, he turned pro.

From 1927 to 1948 Paige served as the baseball equivalent of a hired gun: He pitched for any team in the United States or abroad that could afford him. He was the highest paid pitcher of his time, and he wowed crowds with the speed of his fastball, his trick pitches and his considerable bravado. Just for fun, Paige would sometimes call in his outfield and then strike out the side. From 1939 to 1942, the Kansas City Monarchs paid up for his services and were justly rewarded: Paige led the team to four consecutive Negro American League pennants from 1939 to 1942. In the 1942 Negro League World Series, Satchel won three games in a four-game sweep of the Homestead Grays, led by famed slugger Josh Gibson.

Paige’s contract was bought by Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians on July 7, 1948, his 42nd birthday. He made his major league debut two days later, entering in the fifth inning against the St. Louis Browns with the Indians trailing 4-1. He gave up two singles in two innings, striking one man out and inducing one batter to hit into a double play. The Indians lost the game 5-3 in spite of Paige’s contribution. That year Satchel Paige went 6-1 with a solid 2.48 ERA for the World Champion Cleveland Indians and was named to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Team for the American League in 1952 and 1953, when he was 46 and 47 years old respectively.

On September 25, 1965, Paige’s three innings for the Kansas City Athletics made him, at 59 years, 2 months and 18 days, the oldest pitcher ever to play a game in the major leagues. Before the game, Paige sat in the bullpen in a rocking chair while a nurse rubbed liniment into his pitching arm for the entire crowd to see. Any doubts about Paige’s ability were put to rest when he set down each of the Red Sox batters he faced except for Carl Yastremski, who hit a double.

Arguably the greatest pitcher of his era, Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. He died in 1982. 

Little Rock Nine begin first full day of classes

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/central-high-school-integrated

Under escort from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, nine Black students enter all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three weeks earlier, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had surrounded the school with National Guard troops to prevent its federal court-ordered racial integration. After a tense standoff, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent 1,000 army paratroopers to Little Rock to enforce the court order.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in educational facilities was unconstitutional. Five days later, the Little Rock School Board issued a statement saying it would comply with the decision when the Supreme Court outlined the method and time frame in which desegregation should be implemented.

READ MORE: Brown v. Board of Education: The First Step in the Desegregation of America’s Schools

Arkansas was at the time among the more progressive Southern states in regard to racial issues. The University of Arkansas School of Law was integrated in 1949, and the Little Rock Public Library in 1951. Even before the Supreme Court ordered integration to proceed “with all deliberate speed,” the Little Rock School Board in 1955 unanimously adopted a plan of integration to begin in 1957 at the high school level. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed suit, arguing the plan was too gradual, but a federal judge dismissed the suit, saying that the school board was acting in “utmost good faith.” Meanwhile, Little Rock’s public buses were desegregated. By 1957, seven out of Arkansas’ eight state universities were integrated.

In the spring of 1957, there were 517 Black students who lived in the Central High School district. Eighty expressed an interest in attending Central in the fall, and they were interviewed by the Little Rock School Board, which narrowed down the number of candidates to 17. Eight of those students later decided to remain at all-Black Horace Mann High School, leaving the “Little Rock Nine” to forge their way into Little Rock’s premier high school.

In August 1957, the newly formed Mother’s League of Central High School won a temporary injunction from the county chancellor to block integration of the school, charging that it “could lead to violence.” Federal District Judge Ronald Davies nullified the injunction on August 30. On September 2, Governor Orval Faubus—a staunch segregationist—called out the Arkansas National Guard to surround Central High School and prevent integration, ostensibly to prevent the bloodshed he claimed desegregation would cause. The next day, Judge Davies ordered integrated classes to begin on September 4.

READ MORE: The Story Behind the Famous Little Rock Nine ‘Scream Image’

That morning, 100 armed National Guard troops encircled Central High School. A mob of 400 white civilians gathered and turned ugly when the Black students began to arrive, shouting racial epithets and threatening the teenagers with violence. The National Guard troops refused to let the Black students pass and used their clubs to control the crowd. One of the nine, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, was surrounded by the mob, which threatened to lynch her. She was finally led to safety by a sympathetic white woman.

Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann condemned Faubus’ decision to call out the National Guard, but the governor defended his action, reiterating that he did so to prevent violence. The governor also stated that integration would occur in Little Rock when and if a majority of people chose to support it. Faubus’ defiance of Judge Davies’ court order was the first major test of Brown v. Board of Education and the biggest challenge of the federal government’s authority over the states since the Reconstruction Era.

The standoff continued, and on September 20 Judge Davies ruled that Faubus had used the troops to prevent integration, not to preserve law and order as he claimed. Faubus had no choice but to withdraw the National Guard troops. Authority over the explosive situation was put in the hands of the Little Rock Police Department.

READ MORE: Why Eisenhower Sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock After Brown v. Board

On September 23, as a mob of 1,000 whites milled around outside Central High School, the nine Black students managed to gain access to a side door. However, the mob became unruly when it learned the Black students were inside, and the police evacuated them out of fear for their safety. That evening, President Eisenhower issued a special proclamation calling for opponents of the federal court order to “cease and desist.” On September 24, Little Rock’s mayor sent a telegram to the president asking him to send troops to maintain order and complete the integration process. Eisenhower immediately federalized the Arkansas National Guard and approved the deployment of U.S. troops to Little Rock. That evening, from the White House, the president delivered a nationally televised address in which he explained that he had taken the action to defend the rule of law and prevent “mob rule” and “anarchy.” On September 25, the Little Rock Nine entered the school under heavily armed guard.

Troops remained at Central High School throughout the school year, but still the Black students were subjected to verbal and physical assaults from a faction of white students. Melba Patillo, one of the nine, had acid thrown in her eyes, and Elizabeth Eckford was pushed down a flight of stairs. The three male students in the group were subjected to more conventional beatings. Minnijean Brown was suspended after dumping a bowl of chili over the head of a taunting white student. She was later suspended for the rest of the year after continuing to fight back. The other eight students consistently turned the other cheek. On May 27, 1958, Ernest Green, the only senior in the group, became the first Black person to graduate from Central High School.

Governor Faubus continued to fight the school board’s integration plan, and in September 1958 he ordered Little Rock’s three high schools closed rather than permit integration. Many Little Rock students lost a year of education as the legal fight over desegregation continued. In 1959, a federal court struck down Faubus’ school-closing law, and in August 1959 Little Rock’s white high schools opened a month early with Black students in attendance. All grades in Little Rock public schools were finally integrated in 1972.

READ MORE: The Civil Rights Movement

Ben Johnson wins gold, temporarily

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ben-johnson-wins-gold-temporarily

On September 24, 1988, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson runs the 100-meter dash in 9.79 seconds to win gold at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Johnson’s triumph, however, was temporary: He tested positive for steroids three days later and was stripped of the medal.

Ben Johnson moved with his family to the suburbs of Toronto from his native Jamaica as a teenager, and soon after began sprinting with the Scarborough Optimists track and field club, coached by Canadian national track and field coach Charlie Francis. In 1984, Johnson qualified for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, where he finished third in the 100 meters with a time of 10.22 seconds, less than three-tenths of a second behind American gold-medal winner Carl Lewis. 

At the 1987 world track and field championships in Rome, Johnson ran the 100 meters in a mere 9.83 seconds and set a new world record, giving notice to the world that he was more than a contender. Though Carl Lewis ran a personal best of 9.93 seconds, he was forced to settle for second place. Just as Johnson seemed to be reaching his peak, however, he injured his hamstring. After a re-injury in May 1988, the conventional wisdom was that he would not be at full strength in Seoul. Meanwhile, at the American Olympic trials, Lewis ran the fasted 100 meters to that time—a wind-aided 9.78 seconds—and resumed his position as the favorite going into the Olympics.

On September 24, in the 100-meter final, Johnson lined up in lane 6, while Lewis took his position in lane 3 and fellow contender Linford Christie of Great Britain lined up in lane 4. Johnson got off to an explosive start, and though Lewis was known for his closing speed and set an American record—a non-wind-aided 9.92 seconds—in the event, he simply could not catch up and finished several full strides behind Johnson. After the race, Johnson declared to reporters, ”The important thing was to beat Carl. That was my main goal, not the world record. Just to beat Carl Lewis to win.”

On September 27, Johnson tested positive for steroids. He denied willfully using steroids, instead claiming that an herbal drink he’d been given before the race had been spiked. The International Olympic Committee refused to accept his explanation, and Johnson was stripped of the gold medal, which was then given to Carl Lewis.

Chicago 8 trial opens in Chicago

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/chicago-8-trial-opens-in-chicago

The trial for eight antiwar activists charged with inciting violent demonstrations at the August 1968 Democratic National Convention opens in Chicago before Judge Julius Hoffman. Initially there were eight defendants, but one, Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers, denounced Hoffman as a racist and demanded a separate trial. The seven other defendants, including David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE); Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden of MOBE and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); and Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman of the Youth International Party (Yippies), were accused of conspiring to incite a riot.

At the height of the antiwar and civil rights movements, these young leftists had organized protest marches and rock concerts at the Democratic National Convention. During the event, clashes broke out between the protesters and the police and eventually turned into full-scale rioting, complete with tear gas and police beatings. The press, already there to cover the Democratic convention, denounced the overreaction by police and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s handling of the situation.

The Chicago Seven were indicted for violating the Rap Brown law, which had been tagged onto the Civil Rights Bill earlier that year by conservative senators. The law made it illegal to cross state lines in order to riot or to conspire to use interstate commerce to incite rioting. President Johnson’s attorney general, Ramsey Clark, refused to prosecute the case.

READ MORE: 7 Reasons Why the Chicago 8 Trial Mattered

Shortly after the trial began, Seale loudly protested by attempting to examine his own witnesses. Judge Hoffman took the unusual measure of having Seale bound and gagged at the defendant’s table before eventually separating his trial and sentencing him to 48 months in prison.

With encouragement from defense attorney William Kunstler, the seven other defendants did whatever they could to disrupt the trial through such acts as reading poetry and chanting Hare Krishna. While the jury was deliberating their verdict, Judge Hoffman held the defendants in contempt of court for their behavior and sentenced them to up to 29 months in jail. Kunstler received a four-year sentence, partly for calling Hoffman’s court a “medieval torture chamber.” Five of the Chicago Seven were convicted of lesser charges.

In 1970, the convictions and contempt charges against the Chicago Seven were overturned on appeal. Abbie Hoffman remained a well-known counterculture activist until his death in 1989. Tom Hayden went on to a career in politics (and marriage to actress Jane Fonda). He died in 2016.

READ MORE: Protests of the Vietnam War 

John Paul Jones wins in English waters

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/john-paul-jones-wins-in-english-waters

During the American Revolution, the U.S. ship Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones, wins a hard-fought engagement against the British ships of war Serapis and Countess of Scarborough, off the eastern coast of England.

Scottish-born John Paul Jones first sailed to America as a cabin boy and lived for a time in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where his brother had a business. He later served on slave and merchant ships and proved an able seaman. After he killed a fellow sailor while suppressing a mutiny, he returned to the American colonies to escape possible British prosecution. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, he traveled to Philadelphia and was commissioned a senior lieutenant in the new Continental Navy. He soon distinguished himself in actions against British ships in the Bahamas, the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel.

READ MORE: How a Rogue Navy of Private Ships Helped Win the American Revolution

In August 1779, Jones took command of the Bonhomme Richard and sailed around the British Isles. On September 23, the Bonhomme Richard engaged the Serapis and the smaller Countess of Scarborough, which were escorting the Baltic merchant fleet. After inflicting considerable damage to the Bonhomme Richard, Richard Pearson, the captain of the Serapis, asked Jones if he had struck his colors, the naval signal indicating surrender. From his disabled ship, Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight,” and after three more hours of furious fighting it was the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough that surrendered. After the victory, the Americans transferred to the Serapis from the Bonhomme Richard, which sank the following day.

Jones was hailed as a great hero in France, but recognition in the United States was somewhat belated. He continued to serve the United States until 1787 and then served briefly in the Russian navy before moving to France, where he died in 1792 amidst the chaos of the French Revolution. He was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1905, his remains were located under the direction of the U.S. ambassador to France and then escorted back to the United States by U.S. warships. His body was later enshrined in a crypt at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

READ MORE: The Appalling Way the British Tried to Recruit Americans Away from Revolt

Captain Ernest Medina is acquitted of all My Lai Massacre charges

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/medina-is-acquitted-of-all-charges

Captain Ernest Medina is acquitted of all charges relating to the My Lai Massacre of March 1968. His unit, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade (Light) of the 23rd (Americal) Division, was charged with the murder of over 200 Vietnamese civilians, including women and children, at My Lai 4, a cluster of hamlets that made up Son My village in Son Tinh District in Quang Ngai Province in the coastal lowlands of I Corps Tactical Zone.

Medina had been charged with murder, manslaughter and assault. All charges were dropped when the military judge at the Medina’s court martial made an error in instructing the jury. After the charges were dropped, Medina subsequently resigned from the service. There were 13 others charged with various crimes in conjunction with the My Lai Massacre, but only one, Lt. William Calley, was found guilty. Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 22 civilians, but his sentence was reduced first to 20 years, then 10 years, and he was ultimately paroled by President Nixon in November 1974, after having served about one-third of his sentence. Medina died in 2018. 

READ MORE: How the Army’s Cover-Up Made the My Lai Massacre Even Worse