Today in Black History, 2/28/2015 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 2/28/2015

• February 28, 1899 Albert C. Richardson of South Frankfort, Michigan received patent number 620,362 for an insect destroyer. His invention allowed insects to be destroyed on plants and trees without injuring the shoots or foliage. Richardson received patents for several other completely unrelated inventions. He received patent numbers 255,022 March 14, 1882 for a hame fastner, 446,470 February 17, 1891 for a butter churn, 529,311 November 13, 1894 for a casket lowering device, and 638,811 December 12, 1899 for an improvement on the design of the bottle. Not much else is known of Richardson’s life.

• February 28, 1922 The Arab Republic of Egypt gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Egypt is located in the northeast corner of Africa and the southwest corner of Asia. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, the Red Sea to the east and south, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. It is approximately 387,000 square miles in size and the capital and largest city is Cairo. Egypt has a population of approximately 84,550,000 people with 90% Muslim. The official language is Arabic.

• February 28, 1945 Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith, college hall of fame football player and actor, was born in Orange, Texas. Smith played college football at Michigan State University where he earned All-America honors in 1965 and 1966. He was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 1967 National Football League Draft and was the first African American selected number one overall to actually play in a professional game. Over his nine season professional career, Smith was a two-time Pro Bowl selection. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and his jersey number 95 was retired by Michigan State in 2006. After retiring from football in 1976, Smith made a number of television and film appearances, including appearing in five of the six “Police Academy” movies. Smith died August 3, 2011.

• February 28, 1956 Adrian Delano Dantley, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Washington, D. C. Dantley played college basketball at the University of Notre Dame where he was a two-time All-American and the 1976 National Player of the Year. He was also the leading scorer on the United States men’s basketball team that won the Gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympic Games. Dantley was selected by the Buffalo Braves in the 1976 National Basketball Association Draft and that year was named Rookie of the Year. Over his 15 season professional career, he was a six-time All-Star and two-time NBA scoring champion. He also continued his education and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1978. Dantley retired after the 1991 season and his uniform number 4 was retired by the Utah Jazz in 2007. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. Dantley served as an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets from 2003 to 2011.

• February 28, 1967 Matthew Leonard, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died in action. Leonard was born November 26, 1929 in Eutaw, Alabama and served in the United States Army during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. On this date, Leonard was serving as a platoon sergeant with Company B, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division near Suoi Da, South Vietnam when his platoon came under attack. Leonard’s citation partially reads, “Although the platoon leader and several other key leaders were among the first wounded, P/Sgt. Leonard quickly rallied his men to throw back the initial enemy assaults. During the short pause that followed, he organized a defensive perimeter, redistributed ammunition, and inspired his comrades through his forceful leadership and words of encouragement. Noticing a wounded companion outside of the perimeter, he dragged the man to safety but was struck by a sniper’s bullet which shattered his left hand. Refusing medical attention and continuously exposing himself to the increasing fire as the enemy again assaulted the perimeter, P/Sgt. Leonard moved from position to position to direct the fire of his men against the well camouflaged foe. Under the cover of the main attack, the enemy moved a machine gun into a location where it could sweep the entire perimeter…………..P/Sgt. Leonard rose to his feet, charged the enemy gun and destroyed the hostile crew despite being hit several times by enemy fire. He moved to a tree, propped himself against it, and continued to engage the enemy until he succumbed to his many wounds. His fighting spirit, heroic leadership, and valiant acts inspired the remaining members of his platoon to hold back the enemy until assistance arrived.” President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the medal, America’s highest military decoration, to his family December 19, 1968.

• February 28, 1967 James Anderson, Jr., the first African American United States Marine recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, died in action. Anderson was born January 22, 1947 in Los Angeles, California. He enlisted in the marines in 1966. He was promoted to private first class after graduating from recruit training and sent to Vietnam as a rifleman, 2nd Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. On this date, his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, “Company F was advancing in dense jungle northeast of Cam Lo in an effort to extract a heavily besieged reconnaissance patrol. Private First Class Anderson’s platoon was the lead element and had advanced only about 200 meters when they were brought under extremely intense enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. The platoon reacted swiftly, getting on line as best they could in the thick terrain, and begun returning fire. Private First Class Anderson found himself tightly bunched together with the other members of the platoon only 20 meters from the enemy positions. As the fire fight continued several of the men were wounded by the deadly enemy assault. Suddenly, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the Marines and rolled alongside Private First Class Anderson’s head. Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he reached out, grasped the grenade, pulled it to his chest and curled around it as it went off. Although several Marines received shrapnel from the grenade, his body absorbed the major force of the explosion. In this singular heroic act, Private First Class Anderson saved his comrades from serious injury and possible death.” In recognition, the Congressional Medal of Honor was posthumously presented to Anderson’s family by President Lyndon B. Johnson August 21, 1968. The United States Navy preposition ship, PFC. James Anderson, Jr., and the James Anderson, Jr. Memorial Park in Carson, California are named in his honor.

• February 28, 1968 Juanita Hall, musical theater and film actress, died. Hall was born November 6, 1901 in Keyport, New Jersey. After receiving classical training at Julliard School, she became a leading Broadway performer. She performed the role of Bloody Mary, a Pacific Islander, in the musical “South Pacific” for 1,925 performances on Broadway and became the first African American to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for the role in 1950. She reprised the role in the 1958 film version of “South Pacific.” She also performed on Broadway in “Flower Drum Song” as a Chinese-American.

• February 28, 1970 James Amos Porter, artist and “father of African American art history,” died. Porter was born December 22, 1905 in Baltimore, Maryland. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University in 1927, he accepted a position at the university as instructor of painting and drawing. He received the 1933 Schomburg Portrait Prize from the Harmon Foundation for his painting “Woman Holding a Jug” (1930). He earned his Master of Arts degree in art history from New York University in 1937 and published “Modern Negro Art,” the first comprehensive study in the United States of African American art, in 1943. Porter taught at Howard for more than 40 years and was the director of The Art Gallery from 1953 to 1970. He was selected one of the best art teachers in the nation in 1965 and was presented the award by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. The James A. Porter Colloquium on African American Art is held annually at Howard.

• February 28, 1977 Edmund Lincoln “Rochester” Anderson, hall of fame radio, television and film actor, died. Anderson was born September 18, 1905 in Oakland, California. He began his show business career at 14 in a song and dance act called Three Black Aces. Anderson was best known for playing Rochester van Jones, the valet for Jack Benny on radio and television. He first appeared on the show in March, 1937 and remained with the show until 1955. Anderson also appeared in more than 60 films, including “What Price Hollywood?” (1932), “Jezebel” (1938), “Gone With the Wind” (1939), and the all-Black musical film “Cabin in the Sky” (1943). His last film appearance was in the 1963 comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Anderson was one of the highest paid performers of his time and he invested wisely and became very wealthy. His home in Los Angeles was opened as Rochester House in 1989 and is dedicated to helping troubled men transition into society. Anderson was posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2001.

• February 28, 1998 Robert Todd Duncan, baritone opera singer and actor, died. Duncan was born February 12, 1903 in Danville, Kentucky. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Butler University and his Master of Arts degree from Teachers College at Columbia University. He debuted in New York City in 1933 with the Aeolian Opera, a Black opera company. Duncan originated the role of Porgy in “Porgy and Bess” in 1935 and played the role more than 1,800 times. In 1936, he led the cast in protesting the policy of segregation at the National Theater in Washington, D. C. Duncan stated that he “would never play in a theater which barred him from purchasing tickets to certain seats because of his race.” Eventually, theater management gave in and allowed integrated seating for the first time. Duncan became the first African American to sing with a major opera company when he performed with the New York City Opera in 1945. Duncan also had a successful career as a concert singer with over 2,000 performances in 56 countries. Duncan taught voice at Howard University for more than 50 years and after retiring opened his own voice studio. He was awarded the 1984 George Peabody Medal of Music from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at John Hopkins University.

• February 28, 2011 Peter John Gomes, theologian and educator, died. Gomes was born May 22, 1942 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Bates College in 1965, his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1968, and his Doctor of Divinity degree from New England College in 1974. Gomes was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968. From 1968 to 1970, he taught Western Civilization at Tuskegee Institute. In 1970, Gomes was appointed Pusey Minister in the nondenominational Memorial Church of Harvard University. From 1974 to his death, he held the chair of Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard. He also was a visiting professor at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. He was named 1998 Clergy of the Year by Religion and American Life. His publications include “The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart” (2002), “Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living” (2004), and “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About thhttp://www.opheliadevore.com/wp-content/gallery/model/odv-pen-in-well-1939.jpge Good News?” (2007). He also published ten volumes of sermons.

• February 28, 2014 Emma Ophelia DeVore, the first prominent African American model in the United States, died. DeVore was born August 12, 1922 in Edgefield, South Carolina. She began modeling at 16 and as a fair skinned African American gained contracts throughout Europe. Determined to create a market for non-White women in the U. S., DeVore established the Grace Del Marco Agency in 1946. The agency has been a stepping stone for countless household names, including Diahann Carroll, Richard Roundtree, Cicely Tyson, and others. She received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Allen University in 1974. DeVore was featured in “I Dream a World,” a collection of portraits and biographies of Black women who helped change America, in 1989. She was honored by the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Fashion Arts Xchange, Inc. in 2004 for her contributions to fashion and entertainment. She was also chief executive officer and publisher of The Columbus Times newspaper in Columbus, Georgia.

Today in Black History, 2/27/2015
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