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Archive for the month “September, 2013”


September 25, 2013



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President Grover Cleveland issued a presidential proclamation 119 years ago today, September 25, 1894, granting a pardon to members of the Church of Latter Day Saints who had engaged in polygamous marriages deemed unlawful by the government of the United States.

Marriages between one man and more than one woman was illegal in the United States at that time and remains so to this day.

Four years earlier,  the president of the Church issued a manifesto stating that polygamous marriages would no longer be sanctioned.

Then, in 1893, President Benjamin Harrison issued a conditional pardon to Mormons which required them to remain monogamous.

Having been convinced that Mormons were in compliance with the law, President Cleveland issued his proclamation the following year restoring their property and civil rights previously taken away by the government. 

 The Edmunds-Tucker Act, passed in 1887, had legally dissolved the Church of Latter Day Saints because of the church’s practice, at the time, of polygamy*. The act was repealed in 1978.

*Polygamy is defined as a marriage including more than 2 partners as opposed to monogamy which involves no more than 2 partners.  The only form in which the practice of polygamy is legally recognized, in the countries which allow it, is “polygyny,” where one man takes multiple wives.

If a married individual marries another person while lawfully married it is classified as bigamy.



Laramie, Wyoming (JFK+50) 50 years ago today, September 25, 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke in the University of Wyoming Field House here in Laramie.

The President said…

“I am…glad to come on this conservation trip and have an opportunity to speak at this distinguished university. 

We are attempting…to develop the talents…which require..education, which will permit us in our time, when the conservation of our resources requires entirely different techniques than were required 50 years ago, when the great conservation movement began under Theodore Roosevelt…and these talents, scientific and social…must be developed at our universities.”

Earlier in the day, President Kennedy spoke at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks after receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree and again upon his arrival at the airport in Cheyenne.

JFK concluded the day speaking at the Yellowstone County Fairgrounds in Billings, Montana where he said…

“The potential of this country is unlimited and there is no action which any of us can take in Washington which gives us greater confidence in the future…than to leave our city…and come west to Wyoming, Montana, California, and recognize that in this golden area…that a great writer from my own State of Massachusetts, (Henry David) Thoreau, was right when he said…

“Eastward I go only by force; Westward I go free.  I must walk towards Oregon and not towards Europe.”


“Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, 1963,” United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1964.


September 16, 2013


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty years ago today, September 16, 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued the following statement in response to the previous day’s bomb explosion at the 16th Street Baptist Church  in Birmingham, Alabama which took the lives of four African-American girls.

“I know I speak on behalf of all Americans in expressing a deep sense of outrage and grief over the killing of the children yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama. 

It is regrettable that public disparagement of law and order has encouraged violence which has fallen on the innocent. 

 If these cruel and tragic events…can only awaken this entire Nation–to a realization of the folly of racial injustice and hatred and violence, then it is not too late for all concerned to unite in steps toward peaceful progress…

Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall* has returned to Birmingham to be of assistance…and bomb specialists of the FBI are there to lend every assistance in the detection of those responsible…

This Nation is committed to a course of domestic justice and tranquility–and I call upon every citizen, white and Negro, North and South, to put passions and prejudices aside and to join in this effort.”


Burke Marshall


*Burke Marshall (1922-2003) was born in Plainfield, NJ.  He served in the US Army intelligence corps during WWII and received his law degree from Yale in 1951.  

Marshall worked 10 years at the Covington and Burling Washington, D.C. law firm specializing in anti-trust law and was appointed assistant attorney general by RFK in 1961.

From 1961-1964, Burke Marshall was head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.  He died at his home in Newtown, Connecticut.


“Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:  John F. Kennedy, 1963,” United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1964.


Plymouth, England (JFK+50) The passenger ship, Mayflower, with 102 passengers on board, departed 393 years ago today, September 16, 1620, bound for Virginia.


Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
by William Halsall
Pilgrim Hall Musuem (1882)


The passenger list included a number of religious dissenters**, who referred to themselves as “Saints,” and entrepreneurs who were known as “Strangers” to the dissenters.

The Separatists were in quest of establishing a new colony in America far from the control of the state Church of England.

The 90 foot wooden ship was blown 500 miles off course during the voyage and landed on Cape Cod on November 21, 1620.

One month later, the Mayflower docked off the coast of what would become Plymouth, Massachusetts.

**Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony referred to his group in his Journal as “pilgrimes,” but the term Pilgrim was not applied to these people until the early 1800s.



September 15, 2013


Birmingham, Alabama (JFK+50) Fifty years ago today, September 15, 1963, a bomb explosion at the 16th Street Baptist Church here in Birmingham resulted in the deaths of four African-American girls.

The victims included 11 year old Denise McNair, 14 year old Carole Robinson, 14 year old Addie Mae Collins and 14 year old Cynthia Diane Wesley.

The four young girls were attending Sunday school classes when the blast decimated their classroom wall.

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sent a telegram to President John F. Kennedy telling him that he would issue a plea for non-violence in response to the tragedy but asked that the federal government “step in.”

The leader of the Civil Rights Movement sent another telegram to Alabama Governor George C. Wallace.  

Dr. King said…

“Your irresponsible and misguided actions have created in Birmingham and Alabama the atmosphere that has induced continued violence and now murder.”

16th Street was the largest black church in the city.  

According to Herb Boyd’s account in  “We Shall Overcome,”

“Nineteen sticks of dynamite placed underneath a stairwell exploded and destroyed the northeast corner of the church.”

Boyd writes that the church’s pastor, John H. Cross, tried to calm the crowd as police arrived and, in fact, stopped a woman from throwing a brick at a police officer because she thought the police had been in on the bombing.

Civil rights activist John Lewis, who arrived in Birmingham a few hours after the bombing, said…

“I remained there for the funeral…and it still pains me when I go and visit Birmingham even today…”

According to Diane McWhorter, the church was targeted because its members were active in the Movement and it was just across from Kelly Ingram Park where dogs and fire hoses had been used on civil rights marchers.

In addition to the 4 dead, more than 20 more people were injured in the bombing.

In the afternoon two more black youngsters, 16 year old Johnny Robinson and 13 year old Virgil Ware, were shot by police.

Governor Wallace sent 500 National Guardsmen along with 300 State Troopers to the city.

The first of the four girls to be buried was Carole Robinson. The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth said at the service…

“You by your loss have made a payment on this great thing called freedom.”

The other three girls were buried a day later with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering the eulogy.

Dr. King said…

“They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity.”

In 1965, FBI agents recommended four suspects should be charged in connection with the murders, but Director J. Edgar Hoover blocked prosecution.

In the mid 1970s, however, charges were finally brought against Robert Chambliss, a former KKK member.  He was convicted of first degree murder in the death of Denise McNair.

Another suspect, Herman Frank Cash, died before charges could be brought against him.

In May 2000, Thomas Blanton, Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry were indicted  and charged with four counts of first degree murder.  Blanton was found guilty and sentenced  to life and a year later Cherry was convicted and received the same sentence.

The 16th Street Baptist Church has become a shrine of the Civil Rights Movement.  It receives more than 80,000 visitors each year.


“JFK Day by Day: A Chronicle of the 1,036 Days of John F. Kennedy’s Presidency,” by Terry Golway and Les Krantz, Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia, 2010.

“We Shall Overcome:  The History of the Civil Rights Movement As It Happened,” by Herb Boyd, Sourcebooks, Inc., Naperville, Illinois, 2004.




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