Saturday, September 8, 2018

"Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, and a Civil Rights Battle"

I make a book recommendation: "Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, and a Civil Rights Battle", by Kristen Greene. 

The book has a Greensboro tie. It is a fascinating story about Prince Edward County VA (Farmville) public schools completely closing down for five years (1959-1964) in reaction to Brown vs The Board and opening a 'whites only' academy with the public school money. There was no school option for children of color in the county during that time. (It was the only school system in the country to completely close down as a result of Brown v Board.). 

The Prince Edward Academy (whites only) was going broke in 1993 when billionaire JB Fuqua contributed $10M dollars to upgrade it. He hired creative, brilliant, private school turnaround specialist who grew up in Greensboro and graduated from Page in 1967. She turned this tainted, rundown school around, made it diverse, progressive, academically and athletically strong and moved it into the 21st century. 

It’s a story of the old South, civil rights and segregation, the struggle for forgiveness, reconciliation and atonement. Ruth Shuping Murphy, who JB Fuqua hired and made President and Headmaster, is featured prominently in the book. JB Fuqua (born in Farmville) is also the donor for whom the Duke Business School is named. 

It is fascinating history, story, and a great read.  My wife and I took a day trip to Farmville VA.  We visited the Moton Civil Rights museum (in the old, dilapidated black high school from which black students walked out in 1951), the Fuqua School, and the black First Baptist Church where Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy came and spoke and to lend support to the black community.  I will be attending a lecture at Elon University on Wednesday, September 12, given by author Kristen Greene. The book is the 'community read' for Fall at Elon.  I will update my blog afterward. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Harrison's of the 19th Century, Collecting, and a Symmes Family Tie

Although I am a collector of early 20th century political items, I have developed a minor interest in 19th century political item collecting.  As I became involved with it, I recalled that my wife, the former Jean Courtland Symmes, is a direct descendant, on the paternal side of her family, of prominent 19th century politicians and Presidents of the United States, William Henry and Benjamin Harrison. While I intend to keep my focus on early 20th century political collecting, this recollection has heightened my interest in adding additional 19th century items to my collection.  

William Henry Harrison was an American military officer (prominent in conflicts with Native Americans and leader in the famous Battle of Tippecanoe), a politician (Whig), and the ninth President of the United States.  He died of pneumonia thirty-one days into his first term in office.  Harrison was a son of Founding Father Benjamin Harrison V and paternal grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States. He was the last president born as a British royal subject in the original thirteen colonies before the American Revolution (1775-1783).

William Henry Harrison was born the seventh and youngest child of Benjamin Harrison V and Elizabeth Bassett Harrison at Berkeley plantation along the James River in Charles City, Virginia, February 9, 1773. He attended Hampton Sidney College, and in 1795, at age 22, met Anna Tuthill Symmes of North Bend, Ohio. She was daughter of Anna Tuthill and Judge John Cleves Symmes , who served as a Colonel in the American Revolutionary War.  William and Anna Symmes Harrison had ten children including Elizabeth Bassett (1796-1846), John Cleves Symmes (1798-1830), father of future US President Benjamin Harrison, Benjamin (1806-1840), and Mary Symmes (1809-1842).

Benjamin Harrison, (1833 - 1901), was an American politician and lawyer (Whig and Republican), who was elected the 23rd President to the United States in 1888, defeating the Democratic incumbent, Glover Cleveland. He was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the great grandson of Benjamin Harrison V, a founding father, and son of John Scott Harrison and Elizabeth Ramsey Harrison.

The above pictures from my collection include a large, period portrait of William Henry Harrison, and a 19th century and 20th century collection of period pieces, reunion pieces (such as Gettysburg), anniversary pieces (such as Washington's birthday), and advertisement pieces, among other items.  In addition to the large portrait item, there are three prominent 19th century Harrison pieces in the collection: a vintage die-cut hat ad (center of frame) and a cabinet card (bottom center) of Benjamin Harrison and his wife, and a portrait card of William Henry Harrison (upper left).

An interesting and politically prominent 20th century Harrison and Symmes family descendant was Harrison Matthews Symmes (1921-2010), brother of my wife's father, Andrew Harriss Symmes, Sr., (1923-2016). A dear friend of my immediate family, Harrison served as US Ambassador to Jordan (1967-1970), US Under Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs (1963-1966), and Resident Director of Mount Vernon (1977-1980).

Saturday, March 31, 2018

1920 Cox / Roosevelt Ticket

James M. Cox was born on this day in 1870.  He was Democratic nominee for President in 1920.  You will recognize his running mate.  He is modern day Cox Communications.  They were soundly defeated by a GOP ticket of Harding and Coolidge.

This pin is 'the flagship', 'the holy grail' of buttons of the American political memorabilia collecting hobby (along with a few other Cox / Roosevelt jugate buttons). (I do not own it).

Friday, March 30, 2018

Giancarlo Stanton - A Reason to Read The Box Scores in 2018

Giancarlo Stanton has amazing, mammoth power. He is an amazing athlete. And to top it off, in 2018 he is a New York Yankee hitting in the line-up just behind 6 feet 9 in, 285 lb. Aaron Judge. 
For a baseball fan, the most exciting play in all of sports is a home run.  The most prized records in all of sports are home run records.  Stanton will make this baseball season most exciting.  He hit 59 home runs in 2017.  He has begun the 2018 season with two tape measure shots in his opening game as a New York Yankee.
Stanton's HR in the first inning of Opening Day measured 426 feet. The exit velocity was measured at 117.3 mph, the fastest for a batted ball at Rogers Centre in Toronto since Statcast began tracking in 2015. The previous fastest exit velocity at the park was held by Judge (113.6 mph).
According to, Stanton's first-inning homer also had the hardest exit velocity for any home run hit to the opposite field since Statcast has tracked such things. His homer in the ninth to straightaway center off Tyler Clippard wasn't quite as hard (109.4 mph) as the first, but it did travel farther (434 feet).
Stanton hit 39 home runs in a short minor league season in Greensboro in 2008.  He will definitely provide reason to read the box scores in 2018.  Take a look at his opening day shot here.  Enjoy the summer.  At this point, he is the most Ruth-esque player of our lifetime.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Genetic Testing - Brief Summary

Fascinating is the human genome project and services such as 23andme.  Do we want to know that we have a genetic mutation that predicts Alzheimer's disease, cancers, asthma, obesity, diabetes, etc.?

Genetic testing is the process of having your DNA sequenced and associating your DNA sequence with possible health outcomes.  Genetic testing can predict possible health outcomes for you and your children.

DNA consists of 4 bases: G, A, T, and C. Your entire genetic makeup (your genome) consists of 3,000,000,000 base pairs in a specific order.  All of us are 99.5% identical at the DNA level.  That, of course, means we are unalike related to 150,000,000 base pairs.

As we inherit gene combinations from our parents, and as they are mapped, simple genetic diseases become predictable. But most human traits are multi-factorial. That is, most traits, including many chronic diseases, are the end result of multiple factors. These factors are be both genetic and environment (nature and nurture).

The relative impact of genetic versus environmental factors varies in each case, making many diseases hard to predict from genetic information  Each disease may have both positive and negative genetic inputs: the balance a of your personal genetics, in addition to environmental factors, ultimately determine your risk of disease.

We now know genetic risk factors for many diseases including Alzheimer's, cancers, asthma, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and others. I encourage you to read about 23andme and learn more.  We are just beginning to understand many of the genetic inputs into human disease, but the science has progressed amazing fast due to technology enhancements, and the benefits to managing health outcomes related to what we learn can be huge.

......Another fascinating Elon University Life-Long Learning Class, presented by Elon Professor Dave Parker, PhD., Biochemist and Applied Molecular Biologist (University of Manchester (UK),  University of Michigan, and Duke University).  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Writing Your All-Important Life Story

I feel moved to write a short encouragement to you regarding your personal story.  Do not leave this world without telling people who you are.  I have taken a shot at it.  It, like my life, is a work in progress.

My course at Elon University yesterday (I am in a life-long learning program for people over age 55) was about writing your life story.  It was taught by a past Elon Chaplain who specializes in this subject.  

To get started, he encourages prospective writers to begin by writing paragraphs about memories that matter.  Additionally, he asks such questions as: what places have you called home?  Who were the key people in those places? Who were your mentors and what was their story? What key events shaped your life?....within your family or friends, and what national or world events? Recall a moment when you found your own voice, spoke up for yourself, and in doing so announced a perspective to the world different from your friends or family.

When did your life take an unexpected or unwanted change? Was that change harmful or beneficial in the long run? We're encouraged to explore vocational choices, our faith perspective and core values, skills that enriched our lives, special trips/vacations we took, special interests/hobbies.  He encourages us to reflect upon our childhood, adolescence, adulthood, matures years, our families and professional life, our intimate friendships. We are encouraged to be open and honest and to think about the big questions. Where have we been?  What have we done with our lives?

And very importantly to me, we must reflect on, nearly daily, and make a part of our story, what are we doing with our lives now, and where are we going.  What are our plans and dreams and goals for our lives going forward? How will we continue to be the people God would have us be?  How will we continue to enjoy and enrich our lives, the lives of others, and contribute to a better world?  

Again, I encourage to you to begin this process. Reflect. Maybe begin by telling your story to a trusted friend. There is a great deal of help on google under 'how to write my memoir.'  Happy reflecting. Go tell your story.  Final tips:

Why write about your life?

12. To find you: You won’t know how brilliant you are until you see yourself on paper where you’re honest, not judging yourself and no one is watching.
Write to hear your voice.
11. To find the next step on your path: To consider where to go next, it helps to understand how your past choices got you to today.
Write where you’ve been.
10. Because there is value in remembering: You write, and you remember. Writing pulls from places we don’t visit in our daily lives.
Write to remember.
9. Because you’re bound to learn something: Writing about your life gets you to wondering why something happened, or how you got this way.
Write to dig deeper.
8. To feel better: Your story may have some pain in it. On the page the fear is gone, the sting relieved.
Write to get through the tough parts.
7. Because you have a lot to be grateful for: You’re fortunate—in your family, living in this time, being loved.
Write to tap into your gratitude.
6. To pass on some enlightenment: You’ve learned a lot in your experiences, travels, and relationships. You’re a warehouse of wisdom.
Write to share your message.
5. To show the rest of you: There is more to you than spouse, worker, sibling and friend. You have opinions, feel passionately, and live with your heart.
Write to show your full self.
4. To share the strength and the failures: If you decide to let someone read your writing, (and you don’t have to) you just might spare your reader having to learn the hard way.
Write to share your story.
3. To get your side of things on the record: There is always someone who tells a version of the truth that simply isn’t how you remember it.
Write to tell it your way.
2. To leave a piece of yourself behind: Our writing lives on, is savored and treasured by others and has a depth of connection our loved ones crave.
Write to leave a piece of yourself for someone.
1. Because you can. We are the only species that can communicate this way. Studies prove that the physical experience of pulling our stories, finding our words, and sifting through our memories releases the bliss chemicals, helps center us.

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