It was on this date, April 30th, in 1900, the legendary John Luther “Casey” Jones perished when his passenger train collided with a freight in the small Mississippi town of Vaughn. Jones, a staunch union member, devoted family man, brave engineer (he once saved a young girl from being run over by a train), was also known as something of a risk-taker, which may or may not have had anything to do with his fatal accident.
Casey had taken over a train from a fellow engineer who had fallen ill. He was making up time, running at about 75 mph, when he came into Vaughn on a foggy early morning. Too late, he spotted the freight train. Yelling at his fireman to jump, he vainly tried to stop his locomotive. He was able to slow its speed to 35 mph, but it still rammed the back of the freight. Jones was killed, but his passengers escaped serious injury.
Jones was immortalized in a ballad written by a friend, Wallace Saunders. Versions have been sung by Mississippi John Hurt, Pete Seeger (who turns 90 this coming Sunday), Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, folk/bluegrass buddies who would later be part of the nucleus of the Grateful Dead, wrote a song, “Casey Jones” recorded by the Dead on their album, “Workingman’s Dead.”
Also on this date:
1812 – The Pelican State, Louisiana, joins the Union.
1885 – The Boston Pops is formed
1904 – The ice cream cone is introduced to an appreciative public at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
1939 – Lou Gehrig plays his final game for the Yankees, and FDR becomes the first president to go on television
1940 – One Belle Martell becomes the first woman to be licensed as a prize-fight referee
1945 – Arthur Godfrey’s radio program debuts; he would broadcast daily until April 30th, 1972
1975 – Saigon falls
If today’s your birthday, many happy returns. You celebrate with actors Eve Arden, Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster), Cloris Leachman, Jill Clayburgh, and Perry King, as well as with the great Willie Nelson, Percy Heath, bassist for the Modern Jazz Quartet, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Vermont Royster (no, he wasn’t from here), filmmaker Jane Campion, basketball player Isiah Thomas, and singer/songwriter Mimi Farina.
In the news, the Brits formally ended combat operations in Iraq today.
Chrysler’s going into bankruptcy, but the feds are going to be there to hold the company’s financial hands until they reach an agreement with Fiat (which worries me; I owned a Fiat in the 1970s. Car was junk.) NY Times has an interesting piece on how the collapse of America’s auto industry may end up being good for the UAW, as it now owns big chunks of Chrysler and GM stock. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll see some workplace democracy, similar to Europe’s, out of all this.
My friend, columnist Marie Cocco, has a great piece on this at http://www.postwritersgroup.com.
Meanwhile, 631,000 new unemployment claims. Consumer spending was down in March, as well.
Swine flu is now an all-but-declared pandemic. CDC is reporting 100 cases in 11 states. Huffington Post reminds us that Maine Republican Susan Collins, normally referred-to as a moderate in the Senate, argued for scratching funding for this sort of thing in this year’s stimulus package:
“Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill? No, we should not.”
In fairness, she might argue that she didn’t oppose the funding per se, but just didn’t want it in that bill. As a former Senate staffer, I get the procedural point, but it’s still not persuasive, at least not to me.
Slate has a piece on the US Supreme Court’s hearing arguments on whether to nullify the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Apparently, there’s a 4/4 split, with Justice Kennedy appearing to be the crucial swing vote. It’s worth noting the Chief Justice Roberts, working for the Reagan administration in the 1980s, tried to gut the Act. NPR had a good story on it last night. Nina Totenberg is really a terrific reporter, and Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, who wrote today’s piece, is no slouch, if a trifle less objective in her tone (not that that’s a criticism).
My favorite headline of the day, from Al Jazeera (English): “UN Says Egypt Pig Cull Real Mistake.”
Otherwise, much is Right With the World. My Cardinals, at 15-7, own the best record in Major League Baseball going into a weekend series against the Nationals. Much of this is due to their offense, which is tops in the NL in batting average and runs scored and second in Slugging Percentage. Defense is still a problem, with 20 (or more) errors in 22 games. Not acceptable. Pitching has largely stepped up in the wake of the loss of Chris Carpenter to the DL, although last night’s winner, Adam Wainwright, was a bit wild.
The last time the Redbirds got off to this good a start was 2006, when they just missed a monumental collapse in September, reminiscent of the Phillies in 1964, and made it to the Series, which they won in five over the Tigers.
Oh, and if you’re in Burlington, VT, this Sunday, take in – or join! – the COTS Walk, the big spring fundraiser for the Committee on Temporary Shelter, Vermont’s largest homeless provider. Details at http://www.cotsonline.org.