#OnThisDay: Presidential Succession Act of 1947

Today’s topic is somewhat obscure and isn’t given much thought by the average citizen until it comes into play. When it needs to be put into action, it is of monumental importance.

The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on July 18, 1947. To fully appreciate US Presidential Succession, however, we need to first look at the United States Constitution and the Presidential Succession Acts prior to 1947. Later in this post, we’ll learn about what has happened on this matter since 1947.

My post today is longer than usual, but please read on. You might learn something. I did!

US Constitution, Article II, Section I, Clause 6

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The vice president is designated as the first in the presidential line of succession by Clause 6 in Section I, Article II of the US Constitution. That is all many Americans know, since we’ve never lost a sitting president and sitting vice president at the same time… or lost a president who has assumed the office due to the death or incapacity of his predecessor.

Clause 6 also gives Congress the authority to provide for the line of succession after the vice president.

US Presidential Succession Act of 1792

The Presidential Succession Act of 1792 designated the US Senate president pro tempore as next in line after the vice president, followed by the Speaker of the House.

US Senate Practice in the 1800s

During most of the 19th century, the US Senate assumed it could elect a president pro tempore only during the absence of a vice president. With Congress only being in session approximately half the year at that time, concerns were raised over the high mortality rate of the era. What if the president and vice president both died or became incapacitated during Congress’ adjournment?

The solution was for the vice president to voluntarily exit the Senate chamber before the current session of Congress ended. While the vice president was out of the room, the Senate would elect a president pro tempore.

That scheme sort of worked for decades, but then vice presidents from the minority political party started fearing that in their absence from the Senate chamber, someone not from their political party might be elected. To remedy that, some vice presidents refused to leave the chamber while the vote was taken.

Congressional Action in 1886

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

No deed goes unpunished, and it seems that Congressional members are always looking for something they can change and take credit for. In 1886, Congress changed the presidential succession order after the vice president cabinet secretaries in the order in which their federal departments had been created.

No Act of Congress goes uncriticized. Proponents of the 1886 Act maintained that the office Senate pro tempore is filled based on parliamentary skills and not on the person’s executive skills.

The Death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945

Vice President Harry Truman was in House Speaker Sam Rayburn’s office enjoying a glass of bourbon when they received word that President Roosevelt had died and Truman was to take the oath of office for the Presidency as quickly as possible.

Mr. Truman was friends with Sam Rayburn and had a somewhat strained relationship with Senate President Pro Tempore Kenneth McKellar. It came as no surprise then when President Truman started campaigning for a change in presidential succession.

Arguing that Sam Rayburn had been chosen by his Congressional peers to be their leader in the office of Speaker of the House, Truman pushed for a change in the law.

This was completely political. Although Truman, Rayburn, and McKellar were all Democrats, Truman preferred Rayburn over McKellar and saw his chance to reinstate two elected officials in the line of succession after the vice president and before cabinet members. Cabinet members, of course, are not elected. They are nominated by the sitting US President and reflect the governing philosophy or the President.

The Presidential Succession Act of 1947

President Truman prevailed. The result was the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, which established the line of succession as the vice president, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President Pro Tempore, followed by the cabinet secretaries in the order in which their departments were created.

When House and Senate Leaders are in Opposition to the President

Of the 76 years since the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the Speaker of the House has not been from the President’s political party 44 years. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate has not been from the President’s political party for 36 of those 76 years.

Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

As we have witnessed in recent years, these situations can create stalemates in Congress when it comes to a US President being able to get his legislative issues passed into law. It boils down to the balance of power between the three branches of the federal government and the system of checks and balances. Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s a bad thing. It all depends on which political party or philosophy you align yourself with and how quickly you want to see the laws of the land changed.

The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1967

Until the adoption of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1967, there was no way to replace a deceased, incapacitate, or resigned US vice president or one who had moved into the office of US president due to an unexpected vacancy in that office.

Prior to the 25th Amendment, therefore, the office of vice president remained vacant until the next presidential election. That meant the Speaker of the House was first in line if something happened to the president.

With the 25th Amendment in place when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned, President Richard M. Nixon had the authority to nominate Gerald R. Ford on October 12, 1973. Mr. Ford was confirmed by Congress on December 6, 1973. It is ironic, then, that Gerald Ford became the president when Richard Nixon was forced to resign. I was majoring in political science in college at the time. It was a great time to participate in political debates. There was never a dull moment in poli sci class!

When Presidential Succession becomes a concern, it suddenly becomes a big concern

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1962, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became the President. Next in line for the office were 73-year-old Speaker of the House John W. McCormack and 86-year-old Senate President Pro Tempore Carl Hayden.

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash (I couldn’t help but notice there’s not a woman or a person of color in the entire photo. It’s an image that epitomizes government in the US in the early 1960s.)

Our current US president is 79 years old. He might run for reelection in 2024. Regardless of one’s political leanings, age is an issue. That said, though, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that a 73-year-old and an 86-year-old in the year 1962 were definitely considered elderly. Seventy-three isn’t considered as old as it did in 1962 – and I’m not just saying that because I’m in my late 60s.

Spiro Agnew resigned as vice president in 1973. When that happened, Carl Albert was in line for the presidency. I’ve read that Mr. Albert had an alcohol problem and didn’t want to be president; however, when Gerald R. Ford became president less than a year later, Mr. Albert was still next in line. That was not a good situation for the country.

Think back to the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. “He who shall not be named” was the US president. He was hospitalized with Covid-19. What if he had died and Vice President Mike Pence had also succumbed to the virus? Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was next in line and from the other major political party. Even if you’re a Democrat, you must admit such a transition of power would have created political havoc in our country.

This possible scenario, along with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, raise the question of presidential succession anew. It has been suggested that the Secretary of Homeland Security should be elevated from last in the line of succession to a higher position in that line

What do you think?

Is it time for Congress to revisit the line of presidential succession?

I think it is, but members of Congress and the American public are too polarized in 2022 for anything of such importance to be considered. Everything today is decided along political party lines – even in the US Supreme Court and perhaps within the US Secret Service.

When the political pendulum swings back to a more moderate place of common sense and an adherence to the philosophy that all elected officials should only work for the common good, perhaps then the issue of Presidential Succession can be revisited.

Since my last blog post

My sister and I enjoyed an overnight trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. (By the way, I wrote a vintage postcard book by that name a few years ago and it’s still available on Amazon and from Arcadia Publishing. You just might like to read it and see the postcards which all date prior to 1970, with most being from the 1940s and 1950s. Pardon the shameless plug for my book. I must blow my own horn.)

The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison

It poured rain on us most of the way to Boone on Sunday, and then dense fog set in and blocked our views along the Blue Ridge Parkway most of the way to Asheville. Even so, it was good to get away if just for a couple of days.

Upon returning home, I took the plunge and purchased access to Atticus writing software. I’ve started my first book on the platform, which formats one’s writing ready for electronic and print publication. That first book is tentatively called The Aunts in the Kitchen: Tried and True Recipes from the Aunts in Our Family.

I read a book that’s been on my “To Be Read” (TBR) list for several years. One down, 300+ books to go.

It’s been a good week.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m listening to and reading books by some authors I’ve not read before.

Take time for family, friends, and a hobby.

Remember the four-year-old little girl in Ukraine who was pushing her baby stroller one minute and was killed by a Russian rocket the next; the surviving children in Uvalde and the parents who lost children in the domestic terrorist attack there; and the orphaned two-year-old boy, the partially-paralyzed little boy, and all the grieving and traumatized people in Highland Park. Unfortunately, the list could go on and on.

Photo by Rux Centea on Unsplash

Value each day you have.

Janet

Three Books Read in June 2022

The month of June brought a nice variety of books to me. I found myself listening to one on a Playaway device while I walked, listening to one on CD, reading part of a very long print book, as well as parts of a couple of e-books.

Here are my thoughts on three of those books.


What Happened to the Bennetts, by Lisa Scottoline

What Happened to the Bennetts, by Lisa Scottoline

A pickup truck driver appears to want to carjack the Bennett family in this latest book by Lisa Scottoline, but nothing in this novel turns out to be as it seems. In the incident, the Bennett daughter is killed. Her parents and brother are put in the witness protection program, but it soon becomes clear that all the FBI agents aren’t on the up-and-up.

The book is written in first-person, from the viewpoint of Mr. Bennett.

For my taste, this novel was longer than it should have been. Perhaps that’s because I was listening to it on Playaway from the public library.

My main takeaway from the novel was how innocent, victimized people can have their lives turned upside down when forced to enter the witness protection program for their own safety.


A Sacred Oath, by Mark T. Esper

A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times, by Mark T. Esper

When I requested this book by former US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, I didn’t realize it was more than 700 pages long. I admit that I didn’t read every word of it.

Secretary Esper writes about his efforts to modernize and improve the US military.

The book did refresh my memory about some things that Trump did while in the White House. Secretary Esper’s book gives some details of conflicts he had with Trump. Esper was especially irritated about Trump’s constant attempt to politicize the military.

He writes about how he and Gen. Mark A. Milley felt duped and used by Trump on June 1, 2020 when he instructed them to go with him to see the damage that had been done to St. John’s Episcopal Church the night before during protests against the murder of George Floyd. It turned out to just be a political photo op for Trump, which made Secretary Esper incredibly uncomfortable.

Secretary Esper writes about Trump’s dislike for Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and the president’s knee-jerk request that the Department of Defense pull 9,500 military personnel and their 10,000 to 20,000 family members out of Germany in three months.

And there was Trump’s grandiose desire for a military parade in Washington, DC that would have rivaled those typical of Russia, China, and North Korea.

I hope Secretary Esper spoke for most of us when he wrote the following:

“The most shocking and troubling event of the Trump presidency was the organization and incitement of a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and stopped the constitutional process Congress was following to affirm the election and transfer of power to a new president. I never thought I would see what happened on Capitol Hill that day.”

It’s a sad narrative when the US Secretary of Defense has to see himself as a buffer between the US President and the US Constitution. I’ve just hit the highlights.


The Alzheimer’s Prevention Food Guide, by Sue Stillman Linja, RDN LD and SeAnne Sefaii-Waite PhD RDN LD

The Alzheimer’s Prevention Food Guide, by Sue Stillman Linja, RDN LD and SeAnne Sefaii-Waite PhD RDN LD

After reading about the MIND diet, which is based on the theory that we might be able to postpone getting Alzheimer’s Disease for a few years by eating certain foods and avoiding certain other foods, I found The Alzheimer’s Prevention Food Guide at the public library.

I found it to be a thorough, yet simple, food guide. It is well organized and takes a great many foods one-by-one and tells exactly why each one is good for us and why it is particularly good if you’re trying to take steps to possibly postpone Alzheimer’s Disease. Among the benefits listed for each one are anti-inflammatory, cognitive function, nerve function, memory, cell regeneration, and sleep enhancement.

The foods addressed in the book are all healthy. Their connection to Alzheimer’s isn’t totally proven, but what do you have to lose by giving them a try?


Since my last blog post

I appreciate Sally Cronin highlighting my June 27, 2022 blog post on her blog, https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2022/07/02/smorgasbord-blogger-weekly-july-2nd-2022-writing-d-g-kaye-with-wendy-van-camp-review-olga-nunez-miret-stress-david-kanigan-idioms-janet-morrison-wip-stevie-turner-personalities-cheryl/ . (That’s a long URL. I hope it works!) My blog has been visited by a number of Sally’s readers. If you’ve never visited her blog, I highly recommend it. She blogs about book, music, and throws in some humorous videos and cartoons. It really is a smorgasbord.

I’ve continued to work on my genealogy.

I’m considering buying Atticus writing/book publishing software to help me get some of my projects e-published or possibly published in paperback form. I’ve been impressed with their customer service. I e-mailed them a question and have received two prompt and helpful replies!


Until my next blog post

I hope you have at least one good book to read and a rewarding hobby to relax with.

Spend some quality time with family and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine; Uvalde, Texas; and the people of Highland Park, Illinois – especially the orphaned two-year-old boy and the partially-paralyzed little boy.

Janet

9 Little-Known Facts about the Declaration of Independence

Since Independence Day in the United States falls on a Monday this year, I thought it only fitting to blog about it today. Next Monday, I’ll do my usual first-Monday-of-the-month blog about the books I read the previous month.

In an effort to take a slightly different approach to today’s topic, I decided to write about a few of the little-known facts about the Declaration of Independence.

Photo credit: Tim Mossholder on unsplash.com

1. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776. The Second Continental Congress voted on it on July 4, but it would be August 2 before most delegates signed it. One reason for the delay was that it took two weeks for the document to be written in a clear handwriting on a piece of parchment.

2. Five men – including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin — were given the task of overseeing the reproduction of the document. The copies were printed by John Dunlap in his Philadelphia print shop and distributed to each of the 13 American colonies. Of the perhaps hundreds of copies printed at that time, only 26 remain.

3. When a copy of the Declaration of Independence reach New York City, George Washington read it aloud from in front of City Hall. That was on July 9. Before the day was over, a riot of sorts broke out and resulted in the tearing down of a statue of King George III. (That 4,000-pound statue was sent up the East River before British troops in New York harbor could stop them. It was eventually melted down and turned into 42,000 musket balls for the Continental Army.)

4. Richard Stockton, one of the Declaration signers from New Jersey, was captured by the British on November 30, 1776. For months, he was mistreated and nearly starved until he broke down and recanted. He swore his allegiance to King George III and was subsequently released. (He took an oath of loyalty to New Jersey in December 1777.)

5. In 1989, a man in Philadelphia purchased a picture frame for $4.00 at a flea market. Much to his surprise, in the back of the frame was an original John Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence! It was sold to TV producer Norman Lear in 2000 for $8.1 million.

6. In 2009, an original John Dunlap copy of the Declaration was found in a box of papers the British captured from the Americans during the Revolutionary War. It has since found a home at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

7. Just two or three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were moved from the National Archives in Washington, DC to Fort Knox in Kentucky. The Declaration was encased in 150 pounds of protective material to ensure its transport by train from Washington to St. Louis. From St. Louis, it was taken by the 13th Armored Division of the U.S. Army to Fort Knox. Those documents were returned to the National Archives late in 1944.

8. Two signers of the Declaration of Independence were just 26 years old. They were Thomas Lynch, Jr. and Edward Rutledge, both of South Carolina.

9. The University of Virginia owns two rare copies of an early printing of the Declaration of Independence. One of those possibly belonged to George Washington. After Washington died in 1799, Tobias Lear (I wonder if he’s an ancestor of Norman Lear?) who was a personal secretary of Washington’s in his later years, is thought to have stolen some of Mr. Washington’s papers.


On this 4th of July, I wish all Americans at home and abroad a Happy Independence Day! On this 246th anniversary of the creation of the Declaration of Independence, this experiment in democracy is under attack from within the nation.

The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution held fast and survived the attempted coup on January 6, 2021, but there are those within our country’s borders who still believe “the big lie.” They proved on January 6, 2021 that they are willing to trample on the very ideals and human rights verbalized in those documents. Democracy is far more fragile than any of us realized until that infamous day.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence (and the women in their families!) were willing to risk their reputations, their earthly possessions, and their very lives. The least we can do 246 years later is to stand up against our country’s enemies – both foreign and domestic — by letting our voices be heard in the public arena and, most importantly, at the polls.

Be sure to vote in all elections. You owe it to future generations. Otherwise, they might not have the luxury of voting, and July 4 could just become an insignificant average day for them. Don’t let that happen.

Happy 4th of July!

Photo credit: Jim Strasma on unsplash.com

Janet

P.S.   Remember the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde, Texas.

#Idiom: Pleased as Punch & #Idiom: Horse of a Different Color

It’s been a while since I blogged about an idiom, so I selected “Pleased as Punch” and “Horse of a Different Color” for today. Idioms come and go, usually without notice. Then, one day, you think about one and realize you haven’t heard it said in a long time. It’s probably been replaced by a new one.

“Pleased as Punch”

“Pleased as Punch” is a saying I heard growing up, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard it. It’s probably been decades. I had no idea how it came about. I thought it was just an example of alliteration that caught on as a saying.

I also didn’t know that “Punch” was supposed to be capitalized. Again, I thought it came about only because “Pleased” and “Punch” both started with the same, strong “P” sound. Shows what I knew.

I recently learned that this idiom dates back to the mid-1800s and the character named Punch in the Punch and Judy shows. According to The American Heritage dic-tion-ar-y of Idioms,by Christine Ammer, Punch “is always happy when his evil deeds succeed.” (Images of a smiling Donald J. Trump, Sr. come to mind.)

Now, I know, and so do you. File this tidbit away in case you’re ever a contestant on “Jeopardy” or “The Chase.”

“Horse of a Different Color”

Photo credit: Gene Devine on unsplash.com

This idiom popped into my head last week, and I realized I hadn’t heard it said in quite some time. Curious about its origins, I reached for my trusty reference book, The American Heritage dic-tion-ar-y of Idioms,by Christine Ammer, which I purchased for either fifty cents or a dollar several years ago when the public library was drastically weeding its collection.

The saying, “Horse of a Different Color” or “Horse of Another Color” means, “Another matter entirely, something else,” according to Ms. Ammer’s book.

She goes on to say that, “This term probably derives from a phrase coined by Shakespeare, who wrote, ‘a horse of that color’ (Twelfth Night, 2:3), meaning ‘the same matter’ rather than a different one. By the mid-1800s the term was used to point out difference rather than likeness.”

My conclusion

It seems we don’t hear as many idioms as we used to. Is that a result of the homogenization of American English? Society presses us to drop our regional accents. As a southerner, I’ve felt that, and it makes me sad. I think our regional differences in our speaking make the United States a more interesting place to live. I hate to see us losing those little differences. I hear it in the voices of my great-nieces who live in Georgia. My accent is much more southern than theirs even though they have lived in Georgia their entire lives. It makes me sad.

Since my last blog post

My blog post today is short and light-hearted because I’ve been spending every spare minute (when not reading!) to work on my family genealogy. My sister and I are working on a project that we want to finish this fall. Time is not on our side!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have one or more good books to read and a rewarding and relaxing hobby.

Make time to read and enjoy that hobby. And, by all means, make time to enjoy family and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

A Book Chock-Full of Gems

Early last summer, I finished reading Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase. It’s a collection of Ms. L’Engle’s statements about writing and other topics. You might be familiar with her Newberry Medal winner A Wrinkle in Time or one of her other 49 books.

Madeleine L’Engle {Herself} is a book to be savored. Each page is a quote of something Ms. L’Engle said or wrote about life.

Each quote is a gem. Therefore, I allowed myself to read no more than two pages per day. I wanted the reading of the book to last as long as possible. My few minutes with the book each day soon became my favorite part of the day. I’ve tried finding another book of equal quality and richness that I can read in tiny snatches each day, but nothing has measured up to this book.

It’s one of those rare books that I visit again and again. I enjoy just reading and savoring each random page.

I considered making memes of Ms. L’Engle’s words of wisdom for Facebook, Twitter, or my blog, but there was no way to settle on just a few. To use all of them or even a sizeable percentage of them would put me under the jail for copyright infringement.

Therefore, I’ll share just a few quotes from the book with you, and leave it to you to pamper yourself by reading the entire book.

From page 19, “Again and Again”

Photo credit: Jason Heung on unsplash.com

“With free will, we are able to try something new. Maybe it doesn’t work, or we make mistakes and learn from them. We try something else. That doesn’t work, either. So we try yet something else again. When I study the working processes of the great artists I am awed at the hundreds and hundreds of sketches made before the painter begins to be ready to put anything on the canvas. It gives me fresh courage to know of the massive revision Dostoyevsky make of all his books – the hundreds of pages that got written and thrown out before one was kept. A performer must rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, making mistakes, discarding, trying again and again.”

From page 164, “Creativity in Children”

Photo credit: Catherine Hammond on unsplash.com

“I don’t think all children have to write, but I think they all have to read. Reading is an incredibly creative act. Once a schoolchild asked about all the illustrations in my books and was a little bit surprised that they’re not illustrated. He’d read them and seen the illustrations in his own mind. So to read a book is to create a book. To read a book is to listen, to visualize, to see. If the reader, child or adult, cannot create the book along with the writer, the book is stillborn.”

From page 145, “Story Is Revelatory”

“Your point of view as a human being is going to come over in your work whether you know it or not. There’s no way you can hide it. So if you are a Christian, your work is going to be Christian. There’s no way you can hide that. If you’re not, you can talk about Jesus all you like and it’s not going to be Christian. If you are someone who cares about human beings, that’s going to come over in your work. If you are indifferent to the fate of other people, that’s also going to show.

“You cannot hide yourself, and that’s a very scary thing – particularly true, oddly enough in fiction. Sometimes in nonfiction you can hide yourself behind statistics and facts, but in fiction you are writing story, and story is revelatory. One of the wonderful things that comes out of story is that you not only find out more about your characters, ultimately you are helping to write your own story.”

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re like me, you have more books you want to read than you have time to read them.

Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase

After reading the above quotes from Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase, I hope you’ll decide to add that book to your collection. You’ll want to read it more than once.

Make time for a hobby. I’ve let my dulcimer sit in its case in the corner of the room for so long that the case needs to be dusted. That’s never a good sign if you’re trying to learn how to play a musical instrument.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Miranda v Arizona, 1966

It was just a month ago that I blogged about the 1954 US Supreme Court landmark decision, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka. I referred to the fact that our legal framework is under attack by the current sitting US Supreme Court. I fear the overturning of Roe v Wade will be just the tip of the iceberg. Time will tell.

Americans now know that we cannot take any of our freedoms for granted. The Trump-inspired insurrectionists’ attack on the US Capitol on June 6, 2021 surely taught most of us that, if nothing else.

“Miranda Rights”

One of the assurances we have in the United States stems from a landmark decision issued by the US Supreme Court on this date in 1966: Miranda v Arizona. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Miranda Rights” if you watch any police procedural television series set in the United States.  

Photo credit: Logan Weaver on unsplash.com

Since the Miranda v Arizona decision, “you have the right to remain silent…” when being arrested. I’ve never been arrested, and I hope I never will be. You never know, though, when something like that might happen. Many people are falsely accused and arrested due to that or by cases of mistaken identity or are falsely singled out due to the color of their skin or for having the same name as someone for whom there is an arrest warrant. That last one can happen to anyone.

If you’re ever arrested in the United States of America – rightly or wrongly – you’ll be glad that on June 13, 1966, the US Supreme Court proclaimed that you must be informed of your rights by the arresting police officer. You have the right to remain silent. If you relinquish that right, anything you say can be held against you in a court of law. You have a right to legal counsel – either a lawyer you hire or one appointed for you by the court if you cannot afford to hire one yourself.

Miranda v Arizona was decided by a 6 to 3 majority of the US Supreme Court. The majority ruled based on the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution. Dissenting justices argued that the law wasn’t necessary and that police officers inclined to conduct questionable interrogations would just ignore the decision.

I think most Americans know enough about the law now that they are aware that they “have the right to remain silent” and that they “have a right to legal counsel.” An informed citizenry will help keep police officers with questionable motives and tactics in check. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. My black friends can attest to that.

The original Miranda Case

In a nutshell, Ernesto Miranda was convicted after confessing under police interrogation that he was guilty of kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery. The conviction was overturned by the Miranda v Arizona US Supreme Court decision. Mr. Miranda was tried again, convicted, and sentenced to 20-30 years in prison.

Seeing Miranda v Arizona in action

I served on a jury in my county’s Superior Court in the 1970s. The case before us was a child neglect matter due to a mother keeping her children out of school based on a religious belief that the world was going to come to an end on a specific date in the near future.

The mother’s reasoning was that her children didn’t need an education, since the world was going to end in a few months. It appeared to be an open-and-shut case until the woman’s attorney informed the judge that his client hadn’t been read her Miranda Rights. The case was immediately dismissed.

Since my last blog post

I had the privilege of watching and listening to four free webinars offered by Chad R. Allen. He offered lots of useful information about book publishing and, specifically, how to write a successful book proposal.

I also watched and listened to a free webinar by Geoff Affleck about how to advertise on Amazon.

Until my next blog post

Keep reading! I hope you have a good book to read this week.

Make time to enjoy a hobby.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

4 Books Read in May 2022

I read a somewhat odd combination of books last month. I’m sharing my thoughts about them in today’s blog post.


The Last Green Valley, by Mark Sullivan

This historical novel is based on the story of a real family. In light of the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, I think this was the perfect time for me to read it.

a novel of Ukraine
The Last Green Valley, by Mark Sullivan

With the backdrop of the history of the Holodomor (“The Horror”) of 1932-33 during which Joseph Stalin starved to death more than four million Ukrainians, the book demonstrates a deep-seated anger between Russia and Ukraine. After World War II, Stalin sent millions to work camps (including many to Siberia) and they were never heard from again. This history puts this year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine in perspective. No wonder Ukrainians would rather die than live under Putin’s thumb! They’ve tasted freedom, and they aren’t going back!

During World War II, Ukrainians were caught between Stalin and Hitler. That is where The Last Green Valley begins with the Martel family.

The Martels are of German ancestry and they live in Ukraine in the early- to mid-1940s. They’ve survived Stalin’s attempt to starve them. Now, World War II rages on and the Martels are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Do they take their chances with Stalin’s Russian Army or do they trust Hitler’s troops to guide them safely out of Ukraine? They choose the Germans and there begins the family’s horrendous trek across Ukraine, Hungary, and Poland.

This book is a novel of the human spirit, faith in God and in our fellow human beings. It is also a book of man’s inhumanity to man. In the end, it is also a story of the dream called America.

The book’s “Afterword” will refresh your memory about Ukrainian-Russian history.

You might recall that I read Mark Sullivan’s novel, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, in December 2019 and blogged about it on January 13, 2020: The Other Books I Read in December 2019. I tried listening to The Last Green Valley last May and wrote about that experience in my May 14, 2021 blog post, 3 Books I Tried to Listen To in May. I found reading it to be a much better experience than trying to listen to it on CD. It’s great to have options.


Finding Me: A Memoir, by Viola Davis

I rarely read a memoir, but I was drawn to Finding Me: A Memoir, by actor Viola Davis. I’ve admired her acting talents since seeing the movie, “The Help,” or perhaps before on TV, but I had no idea how bad her childhood was until I read her new book.

Finding Me, by Viola Davis

Ms. Davis grew up in a poor, abuse-filled home in a predominantly white town in Rhode Island. Her father regularly beat her mother and the children were unable to shut out the noise of those beatings. There were rats in the house they rented and extensive times when there was no electricity of hot water. She writes about how hard it is for a poor child to compete in school when they have no way to stay clean and they’re always hungry. These are things I’ve never faced in my entire life. I’m incredibly blessed.

A few key teachers, mentors, the Upward Bound program, and her first taste of theater pulled Ms. Davis out of that deadend environment and enabled her to see where her talents lay. And we are all now reaping the benefits of her incredible journey.

She writes about the racism she experienced in Rhode Island and New York City. She was accepted at Juilliard in New York City, where they tried to train all acting students to be white actors. There was only other other Black person in her class at Juilliard and only 30 Black students in the entire student body of 856 (all disciplines.)

The students at Juilliard were forbidden to perform anything but opera, ballet, and the European classics.  They were told singing Gospel music, playing jazz, participating in tap or modern dance, etc. would “ruin your instrument.”

Ms. Davis writes about a life-changing and life-affirming experience she had after her second year at Juilliard when she was awarded a scholarship to travel to The Gambia with a group led by Chuck Davis, an African dance choreographer out of the North Carolina School of the Arts.

She continued two more years at Juilliard and graduated from that prestigious fine arts school, but her heart and soul were opened by the beautiful innate talent she saw and heard in The Gambia, and it was really through that experience that she found herself.

In later life, her father got himself under control and Ms. Davis was able to have a loving relationship with him and her mother that she had been denied as a child.


The Rowan Story, 1753-1953: A Narrative History of Rowan County, North Carolina, By James S. Brawley

I was delighted to be able to check out a copy of this book from the Cabarrus County Public Library. It contains many tidbits of information that will enrich the historical novel I’m writing.

The Rowan Story, 1753-1953: A Narrative History of Rowan County, North Carolina, By James S. Brawley

The novel I’m writing now actually comes before the one I wrote first. Now, Book One is Book Two, since the one I’m working on now needs to be Book One. I got so involved in imagining the backstory for the first one I wrote, I decided that backstory needed to be a book of its own. Will either book ever be published? That remains to be seen, but I enjoy the process of writing and doing the research.

What does any of this have to do with Rowan County? In Book One, Sarah and her brother and their father leave the mountains of Virginia and travel down The Great Wagon Road. A stopover in Salisbury in Rowan County turns into the family settling down there. Book Two finds Sarah living in The Waxhaws settlement in Lancaster County, South Carolina.


Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s, by Meryl Comer

This is probably the saddest book I’ve ever read. At its publication in 2014, the author’s husband had had early onset Alzheimer’s Disease for nearly 20 years. He was diagnosed at the age of 58 and had been a physician and medical researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC.

Slow Dancing with a Stranger, by Meryl Comer

The author is an advocate for more research into Alzheimer’s Disease and is pushing for more studies of people before they show signs of the disease. Her hope is that such studies will help researchers to discern how to diagnose the illness earlier – while the patient can still have a good quality of life.

She writes in detail how the disease not only destroyed her husband’s life and stole his personality, his ability to control bodily functions, his ability to talk or communicate in any way, his ability to swallow except for droppers of water, etc. She also details the care she provided 24/7 and the caregivers she hired to assist her. The toll it took on her was incalculable.

I’m glad I read it. When I started reading it, I thought it would be a book I’d recommend to my family members who are dealing with the early stages of the disease in their mother. By the time I finished the book, I thought their reading it would only be profoundly depressing at this early stage in their journey.

An online search revealed that the author’s husband died in 2020.

Since my last blog post

I took a week off from writing my blog last week. Since my last blog post of May 23, there was yet another mass shooting in a school in the United States. This one was in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. In addition to two teachers, 19 precious children were massacred.

We have to find the courage to stop the madness in the United States of America. Until the National Rifle Association and its clones/wannabes stop financing political campaigns, nothing will change. Until elected officials on Capitol Hill and in the state legislatures develop backbones, nothing will change. Their “thoughts and prayers” ring hollow.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have at least one good book to read or write. I received a complimentary copy of the hot-off-the-presses 3rd edition of LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens. I look forward to reading this edition and seeing the changes Ms. Givens made from an earlier edition I read.

Find time to relax and enjoy a hobby.

This afternoon I’ll watch/listen to the fourth in a series of four free webinars about writing a book proposal offered by Chad R. Allen. The three sessions so far have been very helpful.

Remember the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, 1775

In case you think I’m spending too much time this month blogging about our local history, just keep in mind that May is an important month of historical events in Cabarrus County, North Carolina.

My May 2, 2022 blog post, __#OnThisDay: 251st Anniversary of 1771 Gunpowder Plot__ was about patriots’ blowing up the king’s munitions just off the Great Wagon Road in present-day Cabarrus County.

Today, my blog is about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775 while present-day Cabarrus County was part of Mecklenburg County and its citizens played just as important a role in the declaration as anyone living in what is present-day Mecklenburg County.

Friday, May 20, 2022 was the 247th anniversary of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

A recreation of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

But what about the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence?

I blogged about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 21, 2018. To refresh your memory, or to introduce you to the topic if you aren’t aware of it, the following nine paragraphs are reblogged from that post:

My immigrant ancestors were among the Scottish Presbyterian pioneers who settled old Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Years of discontent in the American colonies were piled on top of the anti-British Crown feelings they brought with them across the Atlantic.

Weary of unfair taxes imposed by the Crown and the discrimination they were subjected to as Presbyterians slowly brought the settlers to the boiling point. An example of the persecution these Presbyterians felt were the Vestry and Marriage Acts of 1769. Those acts fined Presbyterian ministers who dared to conduct marriage ceremonies. Only Anglican marriages were recognized by the government.

In May of 1771 a group of young men from the Rocky River Presbyterian Church congregation in the part of Mecklenburg County that later became Cabarrus County, disguised themselves by blackening their faces and under the cover of darkness ambushed a shipment of Royal munitions traveling north on the Great Wagon Road. The supplies were destined for Rowan County to put down the Regulator Movement.

Blowing up three wagons loaded with gunpowder and other supplies, the teens and young men who perpetrated the deed were declared outlaws by the Royal Governor and had to go into hiding until May 20, 1775 when all the citizens of Mecklenburg County were declared to be rebels against the British Crown.

On May 20, 1775, the citizens of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina declared themselves to be free and independent of the rule of Great Britain. It was a sober and sobering declaration not entered into lightly. Those American patriots meant business, and they knew the risks they were taking.

Archibald McCurdy, an Elder in Rocky River Presbyterian Church, heard the document read from the steps of the log courthouse in Charlotte. When he got home, he and his wife, Maggie, listed everyone they knew of who could be trusted in the coming fight for American independence.

No original copies of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence survive today. The local copy was lost in a house fire at the home of one of the signers. The copy taken to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia by Captain James Jack on horseback was also lost. Later, signers of the document recreated it from memory.

Nevertheless, those of us who were raised on stories of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the brave souls who risked their lives to sign it know that the document was real. The blood of the American patriots still flows in our veins and their spirit of freedom still beats in our hearts.

Don’t mess with our freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or our freedom of assembly!

Until my next blog post

I’m considering taking a week off from writing my blog, unless something interesting comes along and begs to be written. Next Monday, May 30, is Memorial Day in the United States of America. It is a day to remember all the men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the armed forces of the United States.

I hope you have a good book to read until I blog again on June 6.

Take time for a relaxing hobby and spend some time with friends and family.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, 1954

The recent “leak” that the United States Supreme Court is on track to abolish the 1973 landmark decision Roe v Wade should stand as a wake-up call to all Americans.

Even a 49-year-old Supreme Court decision that has stood the test of time and numerous challenges, can be undone by five Supreme Court Associate Justices who claimed under oath before Congress that they had no intention of voting to undo that 1973 Court decision.

This begs the question, “What comes next? What other US Supreme Court decisions will be wiped away by this Court which was “stacked” by our former president and the radical “right” in Congress?

If I just “stepped on your toes,” so be it.

Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, 1954

This brings me to the topic of today’s blog post, which I chose months ago because it is the anniversary of another landmark US Supreme Court decision, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka. It was 68 years ago today that the Court published its unanimous decision on that case, which made it illegal to have separate public school systems based on race.

Photo credit: CDC on unspash.com

Until Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, it was legal for states to have “separate but equal” school systems for the different races. Everyone knew there was nothing equal about them, but they were legal in the eyes of the law.

The Brown v Board of Education of Topeka decision overturned the 1896 US Supreme Court case, Plessy v Ferguson. Plessy v Ferguson is proof that the US Supreme Court can make terrible mistakes. That decision ruled that having “separate but equal” school systems for each racial group was all right, and now it was deemed legal under the U.S. Constitution.

I grew up in the racially-segregated South. Before you get too puffed up about being from one of the other sections of the United States, though, take a moment to consider your childhood. Segregation might not have been mandated where you lived, but were your community and schools racially-integrated prior to the 1960s?

In a recent conversation with a friend from the Midwest, I said that our public schools here in Cabarrus County, NC were integrated when I was in the seventh grade. That was 1965. The person I was talking to made an interesting remark: “I lived in a non-segregated state, but I didn’t go to school with black students until high school. I lived in a farming community and there just weren’t any black people.”

Since I also grew up in a farming community, I found it strange that there weren’t a mix of white people and black people where she grew up. It was interesting to hear her perspective on the issue.

To our more-enlightened 21st century minds, it seems ridiculous that prior to Brown v Board of Education of Topeka it was legal to have racially-segregated public school systems. Since I was born in 1953, 1954 doesn’t seem very long ago. (Please stop rolling your eyes. If you don’t already understand, you will someday.)

The dual school systems didn’t disappear overnight – not by long shot. They continued here in Cabarrus County until the beginning of the 1966-67 school year. The previous school year, students had the option of attending the school not designated for their race. Few students chose to do that. For instance, in the previously all-white school of 1,000 students that I attended, only three black students chose to enroll in 1965. Looking back on it, I can’t imagine the courage it took for them to do so.

The following school year, the previously all-black schools in the county were closed. The buildings weren’t even used! I believe that’s proof in and of itself that the school board members knew that previously all-black schools weren’t on par with the previously all-white schools. Or, perhaps they knew that most white parents wouldn’t want their children assigned to those previously all-black schools. They carried a stigma which was based on racial bias and a deep-seated prejudice.

What a luxury the school board had then to let school buildings sit empty. It was just a couple of years before the county’s population started growing so fast that the school board was never again able to build schools fast enough to keep up.

The mid-1960s were volatile years as school desegregation took place. Southern states were held up by the national media as a backward place where white people resented black people and wanted their schools kept separate. That’s what we were told and we didn’t know any better until race riots broke out in Boston in September 1974 when the public schools there were ordered to desegregate.

In conclusion

In light of this history and what I read last week in Viola Davis’ memoir, Finding Me, I’m left to conclude that people everywhere are prejudiced against people who don’t look like they do.

We see racial profiling and discrimination all over the United States. Housing redlining takes place every day as mortgage lenders find ways to disguise such practices which limits where people of color can purchase homes. Every time I think this no longer takes place, investigative reporters uncover proof that I’m wrong.

I’ve come to realize that the desegregation of public schools didn’t always translate into equal opportunity. Students of all races and economic backgrounds experience different levels of support and nurture at home. Those of us who grew up in happy homes were blissfully unaware that some of our fellow students were subjected to abuse and neglect in their homes. Teachers — knowingly or unknowingly — bring their own prejudices into the classroom. So do students. It’s human nature, and it’s something we all need to be aware of as we interact with one another in our daily lives. You don’t know what the other person might be going through in his or her personal life.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have one or more good books to read this week.

Take time for a hobby, family, and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

6 Books Read in April 2022

In case you checked out my blog post last week expecting it to be about the books I read in March, I’m sorry you were disappointed. I hope you found last Monday’s topic of interest, though. It dealt with my favorite local history story.

Today I’m writing about some of the books I read last month. There was quite a variety, as this is all part of my journey as a writer.

The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett

The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never read a Ken Follett book until last month. I don’t really know why. What prompted me to read this particular novel by him was another book I was reading, Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman. The Zuckerman book was recommended by author A.J. Mayhew of The Dry Grass of August and Tomorrow’s Bread fame.

The Man from St. Petersburg was filled with political intrigue during the early years of the 20th century. A Russian anarchist comes to London to assassinate a Russian prince who is in England trying to work out an alliance between Great Britain and Russia against Germany. It is assumed that war is coming, so it’s time for countries to choose sides.

Personal secrets are revealed along the way in this novel that will keep you turning pages. It was written in 1982, but I hope your public library still has a copy in case you haven’t read it.

Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman

Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman

This book, referenced above, has been very helpful to me. It takes The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett; The Godfather, by Mario Puzo; The Witness, by Nora Roberts; and Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell and examines how they were outlined and written. The main focus is on Ken Follett’s book. It was interesting to see four different outlines of The Man from St. Petersburg to see how even a good writer like Follett went through the process of outlining, making changes, and making more changes before he produced the final product.

The Younger Wife, by Sally Hepworth

The Younger Wife, by Sally Hepworth

I became a fan of Sally Hepworth’s novels when I read her third novel in 2017, The Mother’s Promise. Shortly thereafter, I read her second novel, The Things We Keep. Since then, I’ve read The Family Next Door, The Mother-in-Law, The Good Sister, and last month I read The Younger Wife.

The Younger Wife is Hepworth’s seventh novel. I just realized I’ve never read her first one, The Secrets of Midwives. It’s been on my to-be-read list for years.

The Younger Wife deals with several difficult issues, including Alzheimer’s Disease and how it affects the entire family and not just the person who has the illness. It also deals with physical and psychological abuse. I can see how, if a person is living with those traumas or has lived with them, this might not be a book for them to read.

A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia

I was delighted to find an online copy of this book online because it supplied me with little tidbits of information that I found interesting as I continue to research life along the Great Wagon Road in Virginia for the historical novel I’m writing.

Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash

Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash

If there ever was a bargain “how-to” book for fiction writers, this book is it. I paid $2.99 plus tax for it for Kindle. In it, Ms. Nash spells out how to “outline” a novel. I never have followed the old outline model we had to use in elementary school (and probably high school, too) because it was too confining. I could never write an outline that way for a book.

I usually write my outlines in paragraph form if I’m writing a novel or short story. I’ve taken a number of writing classes and I’ve read more how-to-write-a-novel books than I care to admit. For some reason, some things fell into place as I read Ms. Nash’s book.

The idea that if something happens there has to be a reaction finally fell into place for me. I already knew it, but Ms. Nash’s book drilled it into me that as I’m planning/outlining a novel I have to make a conscious effort to make sure everything happens for a reason and everything that happens has consequences.

I know, you’re probably saying, “Well, duh!” Perhaps it was Ms. Nash’s explanation, but I finally got it! In the past, I concentrated on the actions in my outlines and didn’t always give equal consideration to planning every reaction.

One of the points Ms. Nash makes in the book is that if you’ll use her way of outlining – which she calls “the inside-outline,” your novel won’t fall apart in the middle. If you follow her advice, there will be tension throughout your novel and your reader won’t lose interest.

Power Penmanship: An Illustrated Guide to Enhancing Your Image Through the Art of Handwriting Style, by Janet Ernst

I mentioned this book in passing in an earlier blog post. I checked it out of the public library out of curiosity. I soon found myself doing the writing exercises and enjoying it. My handwriting isn’t terrible, although taking shorthand in high school nearly ruined it. I thought I could probably improve on my penmanship, so it was worth reading the book. It has made me aware of several letters I’ve become sloppy with, so I’m trying to do better.

Since my last blog post

In last Monday’s blog post, I promised to write a little more today about my trip to a bookstore in Concord, North Carolina. Since the big-box bookstore at the shopping mall closed years ago, Concord had been in need of a bookstore. A husband-and-wife team opened Goldberry Books at 12 Union Street, South in downtown Concord in November 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the store until recently.

It is a beautiful, store that offers both new and top-quality used books. My sister and I browsed for probably an hour. It was very quiet when we arrived, but by mid-afternoon customers were flooding in. The best I could tell, although I couldn’t see all of the children’s section in the back, there were at least 25 people there when we left. The best part was the excitement exhibited by the numerous children. It made my heart sing.

If you’re traveling on Interstate-85 through North Carolina, take a break and drive into Concord. It has a quaint downtown with various restaurants and shops and many Victorian homes on both ends of Union Street have been lovingly restored.

Disclaimer: I wrote this about Goldberry Books and the city of Concord on my own free will just because I thought they both needed an endorsement. Here’s the link to Goldberry Books: https://www.goldberrybooks.com/.

I love public libraries, but I also love independent bookstores! Goldberry Books is an excellent one.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. As usual, I’m reading several at the same time.

Make time for a hobby, friends, and family.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet