Jun. 20, 2000

Once I Pass'd through a Populous City

by Walt Whitman

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: June 20, 2000

Poem: "Once I Pass'd through a Populous City," by Walt Whitman.

Summer begins today in the Northern Hemisphere. The Summer Solstice is at 9:48 P.M. Eastern Time.

Itís the birthday of pianist Andre Watts, born in Nuremberg, Germany (1946). He became a star in 1963 at the age of 16 when conductor Leonard Bernstein asked him to fill in, at the last minute, for soloist Glenn Gould in a concert with the New York Philharmonic.

Fats Wallerís revue Hot Chocolates opened on Broadway on this day in 1930: it featured Louis Armstrong, who sang "Ainít Misbehaviní."

Itís the birthday of war hero Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier in World War Two, born near Kingston, Texas (1924). His family was poor; he supported them by hunting with a borrowed .22 rifle. At 17, he lied about his age to get into the Army. His unit went from Casablanca to Sicily to Anzio to France; of its 235 men, Murphy and a supply sergeant were the only ones who survived. Murphy received the Congressional Medal of Honor as well as 23 other medals. When the war ended, he returned to a tumultuous welcome in America, and appeared on magazine covers and in movies, including one about his life, To Hell and Back (1955).

Itís the birthday of guitarist Chet Atkins (Chester Burton Atkins), born outside Luttrell, Tennessee (1924), to a family of fiddlers and singers. He built his own crystal radio set and listened to Merle Travis, with his fingerpicking style, and learned how to play it for himself. He said, "I didnít have any idea we were poor. Back then, nobody had any money. We were so poor, and everybody around us was so poor, that it was the forties before any of us knew there had been a Depression."

Itís the birthday of playwright and memoir writer Lillian (Florence) Hellman, born in New Orleans (1905). Sheí s the author of The Little Foxes (1939), The Childrenís Hour (1934), and other plays.

Itís the birthday of writer Charles W(addell) Chesnutt, born in Cleveland (1858) the first important African American novelist. The child of free black parents, he grew up in the south during the Reconstruction. Returning to Cleveland, he passed the Ohio bar exam, and started a prosperous business as a legal stenographer—but his ambition was to write fiction. He wrote a number of novels, including The House Behind the Cedars (1900), and The Marrow of Tradition (1901), focusing on light-skinned blacks like himself.

On this day in 1865, Walt Whitman was fired from his job as a clerk for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington because some critics had called his new poetry collection, Leaves of Grass, a dirty book. It contained his "Calamus" poems, about a love affair with another man.

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