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Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son, made his last public appearance on the occasion of the dedication of America’s monument to his father in Washington, D.C. He was 78. Todd would die four years later. You can read about his fascinating life in my essay, “Dodging The Shadow of Greatness,” at http://www.chilit.org. (go to “papers online by author”, and look under ‘E’.)

On this day in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. The monument was first proposed in 1867, but construction didn’t begin until 1914; the cornerstone was set in 1915. Architect Henry Bacon designed it to resemble the Parthenon, believing that a defender of democracy should be memorialized in a building that pays homage to the birthplace of democracy. The monument has 36 marble columns, one for each state in the union at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. On the south wall is inscribed the Gettysburg Address, and on the north, his second inaugural address. There’s a persistent myth that one of the words in the inaugural address is misspelled, but it’s not true. Stonemasons did accidentally carve an “E” where they meant to carve an “F,” but it was filled in immediately and no evidence remains.

The marble and granite chosen for the monument came from Massachusetts, Colorado, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, and Alabama. Bacon intended to show the divided nation coming together to build something of lasting significance.

Sculptor Daniel Chester French studied photographs of Lincoln for years; his Lincoln appears somber, even care-worn, one hand closed in a fist and the other in a more relaxed position. Though it’s commonly thought that the sculpture’s hands are forming the American Sign Language letters “A” and “L,” the National Park Service reports that this was French’s way to show Lincoln’s strength and compassion. There’s also a rumor that the profile of Robert E. Lee – or Ulysses S. Grant, or Jefferson Davis – can be seen in the locks of the sculpture’s hair, but the National Parks Service insists that these are merely wayward strands.

The monument was dedicated in front of an audience of more than 50,000 people. Even though Lincoln was known as the Great Emancipator, the audience was segregated; keynote speaker Robert Moton, president of the Tuskegee Institute and an African-American, was not permitted to sit on the speakers’ platform. Just over 40 years later, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. would give his “I have a dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in front of an audience of 200,000.

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Yesterday, Vicki and I attended a life celebration for the friends and associates of Al Golin, a legendary Chicago PR man who has recently died. It was a warm opportunity to reminisce about Al, and to see, for the first time in a long time, and perhaps for the last in some cases, many of the people whom I’ve been associated with for the past 40-some years since I went to work with Al on the McDonald’s PR account in 1974. Together, we helped serve hamburgers and french fries to millions of people, brought some good and happiness into many lives, while living out our own stories among friends. Al’s family stood by him, as did we all, one more time, just yesterday.

J. Edgar Hoover was named acting director of the FBI on this date in 1924, beginning a term that would span nearly 50 years, and establish the United States Department of Justice as we know it today.

Hoover was born to two government civil servants in Washington, D.C., in 1895. He took a job with the Library of Congress right out of high school and took night classes to earn his law degree. He graduated in 1917 and joined the Justice Department. He rose through the ranks quickly and was soon appointed leader of the General Intelligence Division. He was the driving force behind the “Palmer Raids” of 1919 – a series of raids conducted without search warrants that led to the arrest of hundreds of suspected radicals.

He made no secret of his ambition to run the Bureau of Investigation, as it was known then. President Calvin Coolidge named him acting director in May 1924, and he was formally named director by the end of the year. He made it his mission to separate the bureau from politics, and fired anyone who was, in his view, a political appointee. He made it more difficult to become an agent – candidates must pass rigorous interviews, background checks, and physical tests, and at one point it was said to be harder to get into the Bureau of Investigation than it was to get into an Ivy League college. Hoover also established forensic evidence labs. He took on gangsters and organized crime in the 1930s, arguing that because gangsters crossed state lines, they could and should be apprehended by federal agents, rather than state and local law enforcement, whose resources were often inadequate to the task.

Hoover also made it the mission of the bureau to root out suspected subversives and communists during the Cold War. To get around the restrictions placed by the Supreme Court on the agency’s investigations, he formed the Counter Intelligence Program. COINTELPRO went after any groups that Hoover considered subversive, including the KKK, the Black Panthers, and the Civil Rights Movement. He criticized a free breakfast program for urban poor children that was run by the Black Panthers, saying it was a recruitment tool for the organization and called the program “potentially the greatest threat to efforts . to neutralize the BPP and what it stands for.” He ordered illegal wiretaps, searches, and even burglaries to compile files on many parties, including Martin Luther King Jr., whom Hoover “the most dangerous Negro in the future of this nation.” He also kept immense files on Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley. When Charlie Chaplin – whose FBI file was almost 2,000 pages long – left the United States for a promotional tour in Europe in 1952, Hoover revoked his re-entry permit. Hoover also pushed to have John Lennon’s immigrant visa revoked; he had a huge file on Lennon that was kept under wraps until just a few years ago, and when it was released, it turned out that most of the information it contained was already common knowledge. A memo in the file reads: “Lennon has encouraged the belief that he holds revolutionary views, not only by means of his formal interviews with Marxists, but by the content of some of his songs and other publications.”

No president was willing to fire Hoover, or even ask him to retire, even when he passed the government’s mandatory retirement age of 70. Lyndon Johnson was quoted as saying, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” Hoover died in office in 1972, at the age of 77.

Given today’s announcement of the sudden firing of FBI chief James Comey, one can reasonably wonder why senior intelligence and investigative leaders are being removed (ne: “purged” by President Trump? Is the President covering something up, or otherwise removing those who are or might investigate and potentially prosecute him and members of his administration? Smells a little like a Watergate in the offing?

“Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”

YES he did.

What?

Small, resentful, peevish, demeaning, taking his political frustrations out on the American people.

This is the act of an American President?

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