Jul. 2, 1998


by W. D. Snodgrass


Today's Reading: "Nocturne" by W.D. Snodgrass.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 on this day, prohibiting discrimination in employment and establishing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Act also guaranteed voting rights, and banned discrimination in restaurants, hotels, and theaters.

BARRY GRAY, the radioman who created the talk show format, was born on this day in Red Lion, New Jersey, 1916. He started off as a DJ in California and Florida, before WMCA in New York hired him in 1950. His show mixed discussion, opinion, and a little music, and was broadcast from Chandler's Restaurant on East 46th Street, midnight to 3 a.m. He was on the air for nearly 40 years. He died a year and a half ago.

It's the birthday in 1908 of Supreme Court justice THURGOOD MARSHALL. He was born and raised in Baltimore, named for his grandfather "Thoroughgood," who was a Union army soldier in the Civil War. After law school he went to work for the NAACP and became chief of its legal staff in 1940. He won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court; among them, Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, which declared unconstitutional the "separate but equal" system of racial segregation in public schools of 21 states. In 1967 he became the Court's first African American Justice, and served for the next 24 years.

It's the birthday in Germany, 1877, of HERMANN HESSE author of Siddhartha (1922), Steppenwolf (1927) and other books. He didn't care much for school when he was a boy, so he was apprenticed in a factory that made tower-clocks. He didn't take to that either, but he finally landed a job in a nearby bookstore, which he loved and where he began writing poems and stories. His first novel, Peter Camenzind, came out in 1904 and was about a failed and dissipated writer. It was a hit and over the next four decades he published a new novel or short-story collection every three or four years.

It was on this day in 1865 that WILLIAM BOOTH FOUNDED THE SALVATION ARMY. Booth was a 36-year-old itinerant preacher working in Whitechapel, one of London's worst slums, and his congregation was largely made up of the area's homeless. To bring some sense of order into their lives he established the Army along military lines, complete with uniforms: ministers were officers, parishioners were soldiers. He took a special interest in alcoholics and worked to get them educated, housed, and employed. Today the Salvation Army is in more than 90 countries, with a membership of 1.5 million.

It's the birthday in Paris, 1847, of MARCEL-ALEXANDRE BERTRAND, the geologist who first put forth the theory that certain mountains were formed by the folding of the Earth's crust. He did most of his work in the 1880s and '90s, spending summers climbing the French Alps. In 1887, he developed what he called a "wave concept" of mountain building, where massive folds of earth were heaved onto one another during successive geological periods.

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