Today in 1978 at San Francisco’s city hall, mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk were shot to death with a .38 pistol.
Supervisor Dianne Feinstein was the first to discover Milk’s body and announced to a stunned crowd: “As president of the Board of Supervisors, it’s my duty to make this announcement: Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed. The suspect is supervisor Dan White.”
White pleaded a diminished capacity, brought on by his consumption of junk food and the loss of his job. His “Twinkie defense” got him a five year sentence.
White committed suicide in 1985 after he was released from prison.
Today in 1868, at the Washita River near present day Cheyenne, Oklahoma, soldiers under command of Lt.Col. George Custer surrounded a Cheyenne village led by Chief Black Kettle during the night and with the regimental band playing “Garry Owen” charged at dawn, massacring the village. Within 15 minutes scores of sleeping Cheyenne were killed. When the “battle” was over, 103 Cheyenne including Black Kettle and women and children were dead and the village destroyed.
Black Kettle’s village was in fact on reservation land and guaranteed safety; a white flag flew on a staff. Custer didn’t bother with reconnaissance or attempts to identify the village or that the commander of Ft. Cobb had assigned the site to the village.
Custer’s rash and brutal attack was called a victory and helped establish him as an Indian fighter. Custer’s habit of rushing Indian encampments without recon would eventually get him into trouble at Little Bighorn.
Today in 1954 former government official Alger Hiss was released from Lewiston Federal Prison after serving 44 months of a five year sentence for perjury. He was not charged for espionage—spying for Soviet Russia—though testimony of confessed spy Walter Chambers implicated Hiss.
Hiss continued to maintain his innocence for the rest of his life. He wrote his version of his ordeal in the books “In the Court of Public Opinion” (1957) and his autobiography “Recollections of a Life” (1988). Both claim that he was a victim of the infamous “Red Scare” of the 1950′s.
Hiss did (and still does) have his sympathizers and believers. Others are convinced that Hiss was indeed a liar and a traitor. One side can present convincing evidence of government misconduct while the other can show evidence that Hiss was passing secret information, though it doesn’t seem Hiss accessed anything that compromised national security.
Alger Hiss was born November 11, 1904, at Baltimore, Maryland. He died November 15, 1996, at New York City. He was age 92.
Happy birthday Bruce Lee, iconic international action star and martial arts expert born today in 1940 at San Francisco, California, while his Chinese parents were on a cultural tour. Lee’s primary home was Hong Kong, though he lived in the US as an adult. He died in Hong Kong July 20, 1973 at age 32 of a brain edema believed to have been caused by a reaction to a pain prescription. Bruce Lee is buried in Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery.
Happy birthday Jimi Hendrix, innovative rock composer and guitarist born in Seattle 1942. Hendrix got his start performing with great names such a B. B. King and Sam Cooke. He died of a drug overdose in London September 1970 at age 27.