Nixon & Elvis

Nixon and Elvis at the White House
Nixon and Elvis at the White House

On December 21, 1970, President Richard Nixon met singer Elvis Presley at the White House. Presley expressed his patriotism and his contempt for the hippie drug culture. (This is one of my favorite Nixon photos. Another is one of him bowling.) Below is a handwritten letter Elvis had written during his flight to Washington.



Family of Early Supreme Court Justice Sues for Letters

James Iredell (1751-1799)
James Iredell (1751-1799)

The Associated Press is reporting that the family of one of the first U.S. Supreme Court justices is suing to get the 18th century jurist’s letters returned from the North Carolina state archives after a century of safekeeping. Justice James Iredell was nominated by President George Washington to the Supreme Court in 1790. The News & Observer of Raleigh has more coverage.

James Iredell . . . was a prolific letter writer.

His scrawled communications to family, friends and 18th-century colleagues offer a rich and textured glimpse of the infancy of this country and state. The words of the political essayist and ardent Federalist once were transported by horseback over a land he would help shape.

The “collection . . . contains many of Iredell’s writings and a letter from King George V. [Litigant Harvey Wilson] Johnson and other Iredell heirs say the manuscripts and papers were lent, not given, to the state a century ago.”

“They’re extraordinarily valuable,” said Willis Whichard, a former state Supreme Court justice who has written a book about Iredell. “The collection offers quite a window into the formation of the national government and its courts.

Iredell, who hailed from Lewes, England, immigrated to North Carolina in 1767 when he was 17. His father, a merchant, had fallen ill and his business had failed. . . .

Once there, he studied law under Samuel Johnston, who would become North Carolina’s sixth governor.

Though he was employed by the British government, Iredell became a strong supporter of independence from parliamentary rule for the colonies. . . .

At 23, he authored “To The Inhabitants of Great Britain,” becoming one of the most influential political essayists at the time.

He also was influential in North Carolina. In the late 1770s, he helped organize the court system that allows his heirs to wrangle over ownership of his letters and manuscripts.

. . . On Feb. 10, 1790, when Iredell was 38, George Washington nominated him to the Supreme Court, putting him in line for a post that would keep him on the road and away from family.

“He wanted to hear from people,” Whichard said. “He would fuss at his family and friends if he wasn’t getting mail from them.”

His nine years on the court circuit took a toll on his health. He died in October 1799, weeks after his 48th birthday. He left behind a widow and three children, including a 10-year-old son, his namesake, who would become a U.S. senator and the state’s 23rd governor.

History of the bench

In recent years, scholars have realized the dearth of materials about the Supreme Court before John Marshall, the fourth justice who is credited with helping to shape American constitutional law. Because of that, the papers of justices are becoming more valuable in academic circles.

Many of the papers and manuscripts of Iredell and his politically successful son were passed from family member to family member until they ended up with Col. Charles E. Johnson, brother of James Iredell Johnson, who served 12 years as Raleigh’s mayor in the early part of the 20th century.

Other descendants of Justice Iredell and relatives of Col. Johnson have contributed to the collection. Former Raleigh Mayor James Iredell Johnson donated a letter from King George V on Sept. 1, 1918. Cousins donated an oil portrait of former Gov. Iredell.

A letter signed by Iredell is for sale on the Live Auctioneers Web site, and though the asking price is $3,000 the starting bid is $1,000.

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Historical Collection have Iredell manuscripts, as does an Eastern North Carolina society dedicated to the statesmen. But most known materials are housed in the state archives.

“It would be tragic for those papers to get into private hands where they might not be properly preserved or available for scholarly research,” Whichard said.


Huge Storms Heading Toward LA

A satellite image of the Pacific Ocean offers a dramatic preview of the storms that are expected to batter Southern California on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. . . .

A northern cold front is expected to move into the Los Angeles basin Monday afternoon, mashing up with subtropical moisture that has been sitting off the Pacific coast for several days. Periods of intense rainfall through Wednesday will bring another 5 inches to coastal plains and valleys and up to 10 inches in the mountains.


Actor Barry Fitzgerald

Barry Fitzgerald (1888–1961)
Barry Fitzgerald (1888–1961)

I just finished watching Union Station, a film with William Holden and an Irishman named Barry Fitzgerald. It’s a good film. Holden and Fitzgerald give good performances. It also features Nancy Olson, who I remember from The Absent-Minded Professor.

Fitzgerald as Inspector Donnelly was great. Although I am unfamiliar with him, he is obviously one of those terrific character actors so typical of Golden Age of Hollywood. His role in Union Station is somewhat similar to Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca. Fitzgerald even has his own postage stamp, issued in Ireland.


‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’

I had never heard of this crazy flick until a few days ago, but I will be looking around for it (online, Netflix streaming, and DVD). The title alone gives one an idea of what to expect, and, of course, the shot above confirms it. It’s now in the public domain, so hopefully someone has posted it on YouTube or something. Santa Claus versus Martians? Let’s make a movie! Whose idea was that?


The Problem of Pain

I’ve always wondered about L. Ron Hubbard, particularly his sanity, and this photo and story just prove my assumptions.

American science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard uses his Hubbard Electrometer to determine whether tomatoes experience pain, in 1968. His work led him to the conclusion that tomatoes “scream when sliced.”

I eat a lot of tomatoes, and I have yet to hear a single one cry in pain when I sink my teeth into its delicious flesh. (And furthermore, I consider the tomato a veggie not a fruit.)

For a serious look at this subject check out C.S. Lewis and his book The Problem of Pain.


London 1683: Philip Johnson, Guilty of Murder

With close DNA matches among some folks named Hill and Johnson (see the Hill DNA Project results for Group 27), I was curious to find a murder case in London from 1683 with those very names.

The killer was named Philip Johnson and the victim was a baby named John Hill. Johnson was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to what was called transportation, basically meaning he was deported, to where I don’t know, but the colonies in America was a good possibility.

Philip Johnson, Indicted for the Murder of John Hill, an Infant of about half a year Old, the manner thus: The Mother of Hill kept a publick House in St. Martins Parish , where of a Sunday night, at the beginning of the last Moneth, Johnson came in to drink Brandy, and after one Quartern would have another, and go drink it in a private Room with one he called his Wife, which the Landlady refusing him, he threatened revenge before Saturday following, and on the Wednesday after about eight at night, came in a very rude manner, and breaking her Windows, with other abuses, saying he had not yet revenge enough, the Woman running to strike him, or defend her Goods with the Child in her Arms, he struck it on the Head with his stick, of which blow it dyed about seven hours after. Yet the Jury being of Opinion that he had no premeditated Malice to the Child, but as it was accidentally in the Womans Arms whom he might strike at, they found it Man Slaughter .