Influence

Category Archives: Influence

The end of slavery

At the close of the eighteenth century the slave trade was a thriving and very big business. Prominent families held slaves and interests in the slave business, a vast swathe of people depended on slavery for their livelihoods, and public opinion was undisturbed by it. When Clarkson threw in his lot with a small group of Quakers in opposition to the trade the odds of success were seemingly impossible.

On May 22, 1787 Clarkson and about a dozen others met in the James Phillip Bookstore for the first official meeting of the Committee of the Slave Trade. They devised a strategy to gather intelligence on the trade, expose it’s inhumanity via pamphlets, posters and public lectures, and build momentum for a banning of the British slave trade. Clarkson became their only full time anti slavery campaigner. He travelled tirelessly throughout England seeking to gather intelligence on the slave trade and to draw people’s attention to its cruelty and inhumanity.

The task was incredibly difficult. Few of those involved in the slavery business would talk to him; he received death threats, and at least one attempt on his life; many mocked him. In that first year he noted

I began now to tremble, for the first time, at the arduous task I had undertaken, of attempting to subvert one of the branches of the commerce of the great place which was then before me…. I questioned whether I should even get out of it alive.

Yet the tide of opinion began to turn. Petitions containing thousands of names started to find their way to Parliament. More people joined themselves to the cause, including the potter Josiah Wedgewood, who crafted a relief of a kneeling slave with the words “Am I not a man and a brother?” that became a popular and influential adornment, and parliamentarian William Wilberforce, who championed the cause in Parliament. Hundreds of thousands stopped using sugar, the major slave produced good in England, and slave-free sugar started appearing. The autobiography of freed slave Olauda Equiano became a best seller and many heard him speak.

Within five years of that first meeting at the James Phillip bookstore public opinion had turned against the slave trade. Parliament however would take longer to conquer. William Wilberforce was the spearhead of the parliamentary campaign.

So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would; I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition

Like Clarkson, Wilberforce met with fierce opposition and derision. Admiral Horatio Nelson for example, condemned “the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies”. He also found the support of colleagues such as the Prime Minister, William Pitt.

Bills against the trade were moved in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805, all without success, until on February 27, 1807 a bill for the abolition of the slave trade passed the House by a vote of 283 to 16.

The anti slavery activists had assumed that once the shipping of slaves was outlawed slavery would collapse. This assumption proved naive. While no more slaves were shipped, slaves continued to be held on British owned plantations in the West Indies and their children enslaved. This set off continued campaigning. A mass uprising of slaves in 1831 signalled the oppression of slaves was no longer sustainable, and in 1833 the Emancipation Act finally saw the end of British slavery.

It took fifty six years, but who’d have thought that from that meeting of a dozen people in the James Phillip Bookstore on May 22, 1787, armed with nothing but their determination and their voices, would issue such a result?

One small voice can start a revolution

In 2004 Victor Yushchenko stood for the presidency of the Ukraine. Vehemently opposed by the ruling party Yushchenko’s face was disfigured and he almost lost his life when he was mysteriously poisoned. This was not enough to deter him from standing for the presidency.

On the day of the election Yushchenko was comfortably in the lead. The ruling party, not to be denied, tampered with the results. The state-run television station reported “ladies and gentlemen, we announce that the challenger Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated.”

In the lower right-hand corner of the screen a woman by the name of Natalia Dmitruk was providing a translation service for the deaf community. As the news presenter regurgitated the lies of the regime, Natalia Dmitruk refused to translate them. “I’m addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine” she signed. “They are lying and I’m ashamed to translate those lies. Yushchenko is our president.”

The deaf community sprang into gear. They text messaged their friends about the fraudulent result and as news spread of Dmitruk’s act of defiance increasing numbers of journalists were inspired to likewise tell the truth. Over the coming weeks the “Orange Revolution” occurred as a million people wearing orange made their way to the capital city of Kiev demanding a new election. The government was forced to meet their demands, a new election was held and Victor Yushchenko became president.

Philip Yancey writes

“When I heard the story behind the orange revolution, the image of a small screen of truth in the corner of the big screen became for me an ideal picture of the church. You see we as a church do not control the big screen. (When we do, we usually mess it up.) Go to any magazine rack or turn on the television and you see a consistent message. What matters is how beautiful you are, how much money or power you have. Similarly, though the world includes many poor people, they rarely make the magazine covers or the news shows. Instead we focus on the superrich, names like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey.… Our society is hardly unique. Throughout history nations have always glorified winners, not losers. Then, like the sign language translator in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, along comes a person named Jesus who says in effect, Don’t believe the big screen – they’re lying. It’s the poor who are blessed, not the rich. Mourners are blessed too, as well as those who hunger and thirst, and the persecuted. Those who go through life thinking they’re on top end up on the bottom. And those who go through life feeling they’re on the bottom end up on the top. After all, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

Source: Philip Yancey, What Good Is God, pages 184-186

Shaping a Pulitzer Prize Winner

Geraldine Brooks won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel March. Her love for books was nurtured by a woman named Althea Glasby, a friend of her grandfather’s. One day Geraldine’s grandfather mentioned to Miss Glasby that his little granddaughter loved to read. From that day forward a parcel arrived for Geraldine every birthday and every Christmas. Each parcel contained an expensively bound, lavishly illustrated edition of a book carefully selected for Geraldine. Inscribed in the front cover of each, in flowing script, were these words, “To Geraldine, with love from Althea Glasby”.

Geraldine Brooks never met Althea Glasby. She has no idea what inspired this woman to start sending her the books. But this is what she had to say, “I have no idea what this woman spent so much time and thought on a child she didn’t know… Whatever the reason, I wish I could thank her in person. I wish I could tell her how those books shored up a love for the written word that grew over time into a career and a calling. I would like to give her one of the books I’ve written, nice, hardback first edition. The signature wouldn’t be as fine and fluid as hers, but in my own pedestrian scrawl I would say thank you, for the gifts that helped to lead me to a life in books.”

Source: story details in McCrindle, The Power of Good, Hybrid Publishers 2011

St Patrick

At the turn of the 5th century the Roman Empire was on the verge of collapse. With it’s power crumbling, the coast of Britain was subject to attacks by violent Irish slave traders. In 401 a 16 year old boy named Patrick was taken in one of these raids. Stripped from the comforts of his home life and a future which would have included a classical education and career, Patrick was made the slave of an Irish chieftain and assigned the role of shepherd. The life of a shepherd-slave was miserable – isolated for months on end in mountains that were bitterly cold, in a land where he did not know the local languages, and experiencing times of severe hunger.

Such severe circumstances drove the young man to God. His grandfather had been a Christian priest, and Patrick turned to his family’s faith. He spent his bitter days in constant prayer. As he did, a deep love of God and a profound sense of God’s Spirit at work within him grew in the young man.

Six years after his kidnapping Patrick had a dream-vision. In his sleep he heard a voice say “Your hungers are rewarded: you are going home.” He sat up, startled, and the voice continued: “Look, your ship is ready.” Patrick got up and started walking. Two hundred miles later he came to the coast and saw a ship. No ship was about to give passage to a fugitive slave and the captain told the young man to move on. But Patrick knew this was his ship. He spent some time in prayer and before he had finished one of the sailors came after him with the message that he could sail with them.

It takes him two years but finally the young man arrives home to Britain. His overjoyed parents beg him not to ever leave them again. But one night Victorious, a man who he knew in Ireland, appears to him in a vision. Victorious holds a letter with the heading “The Voice of the Irish”. The young man then hears a voice of a multitude crying “We beg you to come and walk among us once more.”

Try as he might Patrick cannot put the Irish out of his mind. The visions keep coming until finally he gives in. He enrolls to be trained for the ministry and emerges some time later an ordained priest and bishop. And so a young bishop by the name of Patrick heads off to become the first known missionary to Ireland. His mission is astonishingly successful. The Irish rapidly embrace the Christian faith. By the time of his death Christianity has been established across Ireland, the Irish slave trade has ended, and murder and inter-tribal warfare have markedly decreased.

One of Patrick’s greatest achievements was the salvation of Western civilisation. After the “barbarians” overran the Roman Empire nearly all the great literary works were destroyed. Hundreds of years of learning literally went up in flames. But there was a place the Latin books were copied and preserved – in the monasteries established by Patrick throughout Ireland. When Europe emerged from its Dark Ages it was to the monasteries of Ireland that they turned to recover their learning.

 

Source: Reported in Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilisation (Hodder, 1995)

The Red Mahogany Piano

Many years ago, a man named Joe Edwards was a young man in his twenties working as a salesman for a St. Louis piano company. They sold pianos all over the state by advertising in small town newspapers and then, when they had received sufficient replies, they would load their little trucks, drive into the area and sell the pianos to those who had replied.

Every time they would advertise in the cotton country of Southeast Missouri, the company would receive a reply on a postcard which said, in effect, “Please bring me a new piano for my little granddaughter. It must be red mahogany. I can pay $10 a month with my egg money.” The old lady scrawled on and on and on that postcard until she filled it up, then turned it over and even wrote on the front – around and around the edges until there was barely room for the address.

Of course, the company could not sell a new piano for $10 a month. No finance company would carry a contract with payments that small, so they ignored her postcards.

One day, however, Joe Edwards happened to be in that area calling on other replies, and out of curiosity he decided to look the old lady up. He found pretty much what he expected: The old lady lived in a one room sharecroppers cabin in the middle of a cotton field. The cabin had a dirt floor and there were chickens in the house. Obviously, the old lady could not have qualified to purchase anything on credit – no car, no phone, no real job, nothing but a roof over her head and not a very good one at that. Her little granddaughter was about 10, barefoot and wearing a feedsack dress.

Joe explained to the old lady that he could not sell a new piano for $10 a month and that she should stop writing every time she saw the ad. He drove away heartsick, but his advice had no effect – the old lady still sent the same post card every six weeks. Always wanting a new piano, red mahogany, please, and swearing she would never miss a $10 payment. It was sad.

A couple of years later, Joe owned his own piano company, and when he advertised in that area, the postcards started coming to him. For months, he ignored them. But then, one day when Joe was in the area something came over him. He had a red mahogany piano on his little truck. Despite knowing he was about to make a terrible business decision, he delivered the piano to the old lady and told her he would carry the contract himself at $10 a month with no interest, and that would mean 52 payments. He took the new piano in the house and placed it where he thought the roof would be least likely to rain on it. He admonished the old lady and the little girl to try to keep the chickens off of it, and  left, sure he had just thrown away a new piano.

But the payments came in, all 52 of them as agreed – sometimes with coins taped to a 3×5 inch card in the envelope. It was incredible!

Joe put the incident out of his mind for 20 years. Then one day he was in Memphis on other business, and after dinner at the Holiday Inn he went into the lounge. As he was sitting at the bar having an after dinner drink, he heard the most beautiful piano music. He looked around, and there was a lovely young woman playing a very nice grand piano.

Being a pianist of some ability himself, he was stunned by her virtuosity, and moved to a table beside her where he could listen and watch. She smiled at Joe, asked for requests, and when she took a break she sat down at his table.

“Aren’t you the man who sold my grandma a piano a long time ago?”

It didn’t ring a bell, so Joe asked her to explain.

She started to tell him, and suddenly Joe remembered. It was her! It was the little barefoot girl in the feedsack dress!

She told Joe her name was Elise and since her grandmother couldn’t afford to pay for lessons, she had learned to play by listening to the radio. She said she had started to play in church where she and her grandmother had to walk over two miles, and that she had then played in school, had won many awards and a music scholarship. She had married an attorney in Memphis and he had bought her that beautiful grand piano she was playing.

Something else entered Joe’s mind. “Elise,” I asked, “It’s a little dark in here. What colour is that piano?”

“It’s red mahogany,” she said, “Why?”

Source: reported by Joe Edwards.

The Starfish

A man was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up. Left on the sand by the receding tide the starfish were certain to die as the sun dried them out. The man also saw a boy picking up starfish and flinging them back into the sea. Planning to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, the man walked up to the boy and said, “I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day? Surely such an industrious and kind hearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?” The boy looked up at the man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, “It makes a difference to that one.”

Source unknown.

The Fishtank

Once upon a time  two brothers  bought fishtanks. The younger brother’s setup was very simple – a fishbowl with some gravel and weed. The older brother’s was much more elaborate – a larger, enclosed tank with a filter, lighting and much better decoration.

The younger brother rarely cleaned his tank. The older brother was vigilant in keeping his tank clean.

The older brother  couldn’t understand then why his fish died but his brother’s lived.

It turns out the cleaning chemicals the older brother was using were toxic to fish. Whenever he cleaned the tank tiny traces of the chemical remained, but these were enough to keep fish targets down.

Which all goes to show that when it comes to serving others good intentions aren’t enough. If we want to have transformative impact we need to match good intentions with good practise.

Mr Holland’s Opus

The movie Mr Holland’s Opus tells the story of a musician who struggles to find success in life. Mr Holland dreams of composing a magnificent symphony that will be played by orchestras across the world. The problem is the real world presents him with bills that have to be paid. He takes a job as a high school music teacher, figuring that after four years of teaching he’ll have saved enough to quit and do nothing but compose music. He absolutely hates teaching, but when his wife unexpectedly falls pregnant the savings earmarked for a life of composing have to be sacrificed to a mortgage. Throughout the course of the movie we see a remarkable change in Mr Holland. He comes to love teaching. He finds ways to inspire his students to love music, but not only that, to find their self confidence. This becomes his passion and his source of fulfilment. Thirty years pass, Mr Holland is about to retire, and his dream of becoming a famous composer remains unfulfilled. On his final day as a teacher he packs up his desk, and heads for his car. On the way he hears music coming from the auditorium. Intrigued he goes to see what’s happening. He opens the door to find the auditorium filled with his students from the past 30 years. They’re playing a piece of music he wrote. It’s a concert in his honour. One of Mr Holland’s former students delivers a speech:

“Mr Holland had a profound influence in my own life, yet I get the feeling that he considers the greater part of his own life misspent. Rumour had it that he was always working on that symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr Holland isn’t rich, and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our own little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. And he would be wrong. Because I think he has achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched. And each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. And we are the music of your life.”

Information Please

A man tells the story about a special friend he made while just a boy. When quite young, Paul’s father had one of the first telephones in their neighbourhood. Paul was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when his mother talked to it.

Then Paul discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was “Information, Please” and there was nothing she did not know.

“Information, Please” could supply anybody’s number and the correct time. Paul’s first personal experience with this genie-in the-bottle came one day while his mother was visiting a neighbour. Amusing himself at the tool bench in the basement, Paul hacked his finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. He walked around the house sucking his throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.

The telephone!

Quickly, Paul ran for the foot stool in the parlour and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, he unhooked the receiver in the parlour and held it to his ear. “Information, Please,” he said into the mouthpiece just above his head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into Paul’s ear.

“Information.”

“I hurt my finger,” Paul wailed into the phone.

“Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.

“Nobody’s home but me” Paul blubbered.

“Are you bleeding?” the voice asked.

“No,” he replied. “I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”

“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. He said he could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger,” said the voice.

After that, Paul called “Information, Please” for everything. He asked her for help with his geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped him with his maths. She told Paul that his pet chipmunk, which he had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts. Then, there was the time Petey, the pet canary died. Paul called and told her the sad story.

She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child, but Paul was inconsolable. He asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?”

She must have sensed his deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow he felt better. .

When Paul was nine years old, his family moved across the country to Boston. Paul missed his friend very much. “Information, Please” belonged in that old wooden box back home, and he somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.

As he grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left him. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity Paul would recall the serene sense of security he had then. He appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on his way west to college, Paul’s plane put down in Seattle. He had about half an hour or so between planes. He spent 15 minutes on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what he was doing, Paul dialled his hometown operator and said, “Information, Please.”

Miraculously, he heard the small, clear voice he knew so well, “Information.”

He hadn’t planned this but he heard myself saying, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, “I guess your finger must have healed by now.” Paul laughed. “So it’s really still you,” he said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time.”

“I wonder,” she said, “if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.” Paul told her how often he had thought of her over the years and asked if he could call her again when he came back to visit his sister.

“Please do,” she said. “Just ask for Sally.”

Three months later Paul was back in Seattle. A different voice answered, “Information.” He asked for Sally. “Are you a friend?” She asked.

“Yes, a very old friend,” Paul answered.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” she said. “Sally has been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”

Before he could hang up she said, “Wait a minute. Is this Paul?”

“Yes,” Paul replied.

“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you.” The note said, “Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.”

 

Application: Listening – Information Please gave Paul one of the most precious yet simple gifts a person can give, the gift of listening.

Application: Hope, Death, Heaven. “There are other world’s to sing in”. Beyond death lies the hope of a new life.

Application: Community, Friendship. This story reminds us that we need each other. Information Please and Paul both had their lives enriched in powerful yet simple ways by the gift of their friendship with one another.

Application: Children. We adults often make the mistake of dismissing the concerns of small children. Yet coping with the death of a budgie or telling someone that you’ve hurt your finger are the things that are important to a small child. Sally reminds us of the importance of being attentive to the needs of children, not expecting them to function as mini adults but nurturing their journey as children.

 

Source: Unknown.

Why Desmond Tutu Became an Anglican Priest

All of us have heard of Desmond Tutu, but few of us will know who Trevor Huddleston is. Yet without Trevor Huddleston there may have been no anti-apartheid leader named Tutu.

Asked by the BBC to identify the defining moment in his life Desmond Tutu spoke of the day he and his mother were walking down the street. Tutu was nine years old. A tall white man dressed in a black suit came towards them. In the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture of respect. But this day, before a young Tutu and his mother could step off the sidewalk the white man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her!

The white man was Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican priest who was bitterly opposed to apartheid. It changed Tutu’s life. When his mother told him that Trevor Huddleston had stepped off the sidewalk because he was a man of God Tutu found his calling. “When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God” said Tutu.

Huddleston later became a mentor to Desmond Tutu and his commitment to the equality of all human beings due to their creation in God’s image a key driver in Tutu’s opposition to apartheid.

 

Source: This story has been widely reported including by Tutu himself in a 2003 interview with the BBC and in Tutu’s Nobel Prize ceremony.

The Person God Uses

What sort of person does God use? Imagine a group of people gathered before you. You need to select from among them those most likely to play a pivotal role in God’s plans for humanity. They are so at ease with you that they open up and share their darkest secrets. One tells you that after a night of heavy drinking he was sexually abused by one of his own sons. Another confesses that he gave his wife to another man to sleep with. Yet another plotted with his mistress to kill her husband. Another murdered a man and is still on the run from the law. One is a prostitute. Another has a lifestyle marked by violence – he even killed people to impress a girlfriend and his prospective father-in-law. Yet another confesses that he cheated his brother out of his inheritance.

Could you use them? I hope so, for they are the heroes of faith described in Hebrews 11. Noah is the man who got drunk and was sexually abused; Abraham is the man who gave his wife to sleep with another; David is the one who plotted to have his mistress’ husband killed. Moses is the one who murdered an Egyptian and was never brought to account for it. Rahab was the prostitute. Samson is the man whose life was marked by violence and who killed to impress his girlfriend. Jacob is the person who cheated his brother out of his inheritance.

Scripture shows that God uses very flawed people indeed!

 

Source: Scott Higgins

A Workable Plan

Is it possible for a small group of people to make a difference to the practises of multinational corporations? In at least some cases it is, as was proven by a group of sociology students from Eastern College in the USA. Set an assignment in which they were asked how a small group of Christians could bring about significant social change these students focussed upon the practises of the Gulf and Western Corporation in the impoverished country of Haiti. Their proposal was so audacious one of the students said “why don’t we do it?”. Why not take this beyond a college paper and actually put their proposal into action?

Their method was simple. Along with their professor, Tony Campolo, each student purchased a share in Gulf and Western and showed up to the annual general meeting. As shareholders they were entitled to have a say in the running of the company, and one by one stood up, read passages from the bible that condemned injustice, then asked why Gulf and Western was treating the people of Haiti unjustly. They wanted the company to address the issue of low wages for the sugar workers, to do something about the fact that they’d made the country more and more dependent on a single crop, and to provide education and medical services for the people.

The purpose was to shame the directors into action, and they were effective. The directors of Gulf and Western invited the students to meet to talk the issues over. Eighteen months later Gulf and Western released a plan to act in a socially responsible way in the Dominican Republic. They would partner with Mt. Sinai Medical Center to create health services in Dominican Republic communities, would set aside substantial amounts of quality land to produce food for the Dominican people, and would institute a variety of educational programs that included working with Eastern University to develop a new university that would train teachers, lawyers, nurses, and engineers. Over the next five years Gulf and Western spent half a billion dollars following through on their plans. And the lives of thousands were dramatically improved.

Source: Reported in Tony Campolo You Can Make a Difference and Let Me Tell You a Story.

His Father’s Son

Let me tell you two stories about two men who came from Chicago, USA.

Story Number One:
Chicago’s O’Hare International airport is named after one of Chicago’s most famous and heroic sons. Butch O’Hare was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington during the Second World War. About ten weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbour Butch O’Hare was flying his single engine Grumman Hellcat fighter plane off the Gilbert islands.  He and another pilot were the only ones aloft when O’Hare spotted a group of nine Japanese bombers heading straight for his aircraft carrier, the Lexington. O’Hare knew the odds were against him – the other fighter planes on the carrier were refuelling and would not have time to take off. It was up to Butch and the other Hellcat to stop the Japanese bombers. The odds were dramatically reduced when Butch discovered the machine guns on the second Hellcat had seized. It was just Butch O’Hare and four minutes between the Japanese bombers and the 2000 crew aboard the Lexington.

Butch dove in and started the attack. The crew of the Lexington watched as he engaged the Japanese bombers – their guns training in on his Hellcat fighter. With astonishing skill Butch O’Hare emerged victorious, shooting down five of the nine Japanese bombers and badly damaging another. The last three were taken out by planes that managed to get off the decks of the Lexington while the air battle raged above them.

President Roosevelt later described Butch O’Hare’s actions as “one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation.” Butch was promoted two ranks and designated the US Navy’s first “Ace” of World War 2.

Story number two:

Some years before World War 2 a millionaire lawyer known as “Easy Eddie” was involved in illegal gambling rackets with the notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone. Eddie had the patent rights to the mechanical rabbits used in dog racing and he and was brought into the Hawthorne Kennel Club by Capone as a major partner. The races were usually always fixed and although dog racing was illegal Capone and Eddie kept the matter tied up in the courts. This allowed them to continue to run their tracks. When dog racing was finally declared illegal Eddie and Capone simply switched their tracks over to horseracing, which was legal, and continued to fix races and rake in money.

In addition to his race track interests Eddie performed a variety of legal services for the Capone Mob. He looked after mob members arrested for murder, gambling and prostitution and set up elaborate real estate and stock transactions for Capone, himself and other insiders of the gang.

There was however another side to Eddie. Eddie was a father. He had a son and daughters whom he loved dearly, and the wealth he had amassed allowed him to shower everything money could buy upon his beloved children. And in many ways he was a good father. Eddie sought out the best schools for his children and spent lots of time with them attending their school productions and sporting events, and just hanging around together.

But there was one thing Eddie’s money couldn’t buy – integrity and respectability. Eddie’s son finished high school and declared he wanted to go into the naval academy at Annapolis. But to get there you needed more than money. You needed the approval of the congressman for your state.

Eddie decided his son’s future was more important than his own. He approached the authorities and indicated he would be willing to testify against Capone. On the basis of Eddie’s witness Al Capone went to jail for 11 years and his stranglehold on Chicago was broken. Eddie’s son also got into the Annapolis Naval Academy. But for Eddie the price was severe. Capone swore he would kill Eddie and in 1937 Eddie was gunned to death as he drove his car home from work. In his pocket the police found a poem which read:

The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.

I know what you’re thinking. What do these two stories have to do with one another? Well, you see, Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s son.

 

Source: Adapted from Illinois Police and Sheriff’s News archives 1939-1949