Today in 1998 Governor Zell Miller covered the expected basics, such as schools, roads, hospitals, etc. in his $12.5 billion budget proposal for fiscal 1999 to the Georgia state legislature.
His unexpected request was for $105,000 of taxpayer money to provide Classical music CDs to every child born in the state of Georgia. At this point, the governor hit “Play” on a tape recorder he had brought with him and he treated the gathered lawmakers to an excerpt from the “Ode to Joy” of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. “Now don’t you feel smarter already?” asked Miller. “Smart enough to vote for this budget item, I hope.”
Governor Miller was inspired by something called “The Mozart effect”—a term coined by writer Don Campbell in his 1997 book, “The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit.” Campbell’s book popularized the idea that listening to classical music, and the music of Mozart particularly, brought about increased cognitive abilities. The theory rested on slim scientific evidence concerning temporary and barely measurable increases on standardized tests of visual-spatial reasoning capabilities among adults. These results became the notion that “Mozart makes babies smarter,”
In the years since 1997, researchers have cast doubt on any claims of a measurable “Mozart effect.”
Representative Homer M. (Buddy) DeLoach said, “I asked about the possibility of some Charlie Daniels or something like that, but they said they thought the classical music has a greater positive impact. I guess I’ll just have to take their word for that.”
Today in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed t making Robert C. Weaver head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making him the first Black cabinet member. Weaver held positions in several Democratic administrations. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, Weaver served as a special assistant with the Housing Authority. In 1940, he was appointed to the National Defense Advisory Commission. From 1955 to 1959, Weaver served as rent commissioner for the state of New York, and then went on as head of the Housing and Home Finance Agency under President John F. Kennedy.
Today in 1942 representatives of nine German-occupied countries met in London and declared that all those found guilty of war crimes would be punished after the war ended. The core of the declaration was the promise of “the punishment, through the channels of organized justice, of those guilty of, or responsible for, these crimes, whether they have ordered them, perpetrated them, or participated in them.”
Today in 1990 Douglas Wilder of Virginia became the first Black governor in the U.S. as he took the oath of office in Richmond.
Happy birthday Horatio Alger, Jr., prolific 19th century author, who was born today in 1834 at Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Alger is best known for his many formulaic juvenile novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty. His writings were characterized by the “rags-to-riches” narrative, which had a formative effect on America.
Alger died July 18, 1899, at Natick, Massachusetts at age 67. He had published around 100 novels and collections.
Rest in peace Arthur “Doc” Barker who was killed today in 1939 trying to escape from Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay.
He was spotted climbing over the wall and ordered to surrender. Barker continued tying pieces of wood together into a makeshift raft. Guards shot as he waded into the water.
Doc Barker, with his brothers Herman, Lloyd, and Fred, and their mother, Ma Barker, formed one of the more infamous criminal gangs of the 1920s and 1930s. On January 8, 1935, FBI agents, led by Melvin Purvis, captured Doc Barker in Chicago, Illinois. Eight days later, Fred and Ma Barker were pinned down at their hideout in Florida. A massive gun battle left both of them dead.
Rest in peace Stephen Foster, America’s first professional songwriter, who died today in1864 at the charity ward of New York’s Bellevue Hospital. He was age 37. Foster was born July 4, 1826, at Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.
His first hit was “Oh! Susanna,” which he sold to a publisher for $100 in 1848. In 1849, he was hired to write songs for the minstrel troupe of E.P. Christy; “The Old Folks at Home” (also known as “Swanee River”) was among the most popular. Between 1850 and 1860, Foster wrote many of his most famous songs, including “Camptown Races” and “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Copyright laws were rarely enforced in music at the time, and he got little financial payment from the widespread performance and publication of his songs. In 1857, economic difficulties led him to sell all rights to his future songs for just under $2,000. Near the end of his brief life, he lived alone in New York City and suffered from alcoholism. Foster composed more than 200 songs in his lifetime, many of which are still popular today.
Rest in peace Ernie Kovacs, a comedian who hosted his own television shows during the 1950s and is said to have influenced such TV hosts as Johnny Carson and David Letterman and later popular shows as Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, The Uncle Floyd Show, Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, The Electric Company.
Kovacs died today in 1962 at the age of 42 after crashing his Chevrolet Corvair into a telephone pole at Los Angeles, California, while driving in a rainstorm. Kovacs was born January 23, 1919 at Trenton, New Jersey. He was awarded a posthumous Emmy in 1962 and inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1988.
The Corvair was later made infamous by Ralph Nader’s groundbreaking book “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile” (1965).
Rest in peace Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, farmer, teamster, buffalo hunter, bouncer, saloon-keeper, gambler, miner, wanted outlaw, and lawman, who died today in 1929 at Los Angeles at age 80. Earp was born March 19, 1848, at Monmouth, Illinois.
Ironically, the fame that eluded Wyatt in life came soon after he died. Stuart Lake published “Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall” (1931) an inaccurate biography that portrayed Earp as a brave and virtuous instrument of frontier justice. Dozens of similar books and movies followed, ensuring Wyatt Earp a place in popular American mythology of the Wild West.
Wyatt Earp’s ashes are buried at Colma, California (near San Francisco), with his “wife” Josephine Marcus in the Marcus family plot of a Jewish cemetery.