Today in history – 1876: “Wild Bill” Hickok draws Aces and Eights

The now-named dead man’s hand, called so after the legend that Hickok was holding a winning hand of black aces and eights when approached from behind and shot in the back of the head by a cowardly gunman.  From The History Channel:

“Wild Bill” Hickok, one of the greatest gunfighters of the American West, is murdered in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Born in Illinois in 1837, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok first gained notoriety as a gunfighter in 1861 when he coolly shot three men who were trying to kill him. A highly sensationalized account of the gunfight appeared six years later in the popular periodical Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, sparking Hickok’s rise to national fame. Other articles and books followed, and though his prowess was often exaggerated, Hickok did earn his reputation with a string of impressive gunfights.

After accidentally killing his deputy during an 1871 shootout in Abilene, Texas, Hickok never fought another gun battle. For the next several years he lived off his famous reputation, appearing as himself in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show. Occasionally, he worked as guide for wealthy hunters. His renowned eyesight began to fail, and for a time he was reduced to wandering the West trying to make a living as a gambler. Several times he was arrested for vagrancy.

In the spring of 1876, Hickok arrived in the Black Hills mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There he became a regular at the poker tables of the No. 10 Saloon, eking out a meager existence as a card player. On this day in 1876, Hickok was playing cards with his back to the saloon door. At 4:15 in the afternoon, a young gunslinger named Jack McCall walked into the saloon, approached Hickok from behind, and shot him in the back of the head. Hickok died immediately. McCall tried to shoot others in the crowd, but amazingly, all of the remaining cartridges in his pistol were duds. McCall was later tried, convicted, and hanged.

Hickok was only 39 years old when he died. The most famous gunfighter in the history of the West died with his Smith & Wesson revolver in his holster, never having seen his murderer. According to legend, Hickok held a pair of black aces and black eights when he died, a combination that has since been known as the Dead Man’s Hand.

[tags]Today in History, Aces and Eights, Dead Man’s Hand, Wild Bill Hickok[/tags]

Today in history – 2006-08-01

Complete text taken from The History Channel’s Today in History feature.

1966 An ex-Marine goes on a killing spree at the University of Texas

Charles Whitman takes a stockpile of guns and ammunition to the observatory platform atop a 300-foot tower at the University of Texas and proceeds to shoot 46 people, killing 16. Whitman, who had killed both his wife and mother the night before, was eventually shot to death after courageous Austin police officers, including Ramiro Martinez, charged up the stairs of the tower to subdue the attacker.

Whitman, a former Eagle Scout and Marine, began to suffer serious mental problems after his mother left his father in February 1966. On March 29, he told a psychiatrist that he was having uncontrollable fits of anger. He purportedly even told this doctor that he was thinking about going up to the tower with a rifle and shooting people. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t follow up on this red flag.

On July 31, Whitman wrote a note about his violent impulses, saying, “After my death, I wish an autopsy on me be performed to see if there’s any mental disorder.” The note then described his hatred for his family and his intent to kill them. That night, Whitman went to his mother’s home, where he stabbed and shot her. Upon returning to his own home, he then stabbed his wife to death.

The following morning, Whitman headed for the tower with several pistols and a rifle after stopping off at a gun store to buy boxes of ammunition and a carbine. Packing food and other supplies, he proceeded to the observation platform, killing the receptionist and two tourists before unpacking his rifle and telescope and hunting the people below.

An expert marksman, Whitman was able to hit people as far away as 500 yards. For 90 minutes, he continued firing while officers searched for a chance to get a shot at him. By the end of his rampage, 16 people were dead and another 30 were injured.

The University of Texas tower remained closed for over 30 years before reopening in 1999.

[tags]Today in History, UT shootings, A marine and his rifle[/tags]

Today in history – FBI founded

Man, I almost totally missed this. Here we are near the end of the day, and I’m just catching up on all my news. And given my interest in security, politics, and what the government is doing, I find this interesting. Today in history, 98 years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was founded.

On July 26, 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is born when U.S. Attorney General Charles Bonaparte orders a group of newly hired federal investigators to report to Chief Examiner Stanley W. Finch of the Department of Justice. One year later, the Office of the Chief Examiner was renamed the Bureau of Investigation, and in 1935 it became the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

When the Department of Justice was created in 1870 to enforce federal law and coordinate judicial policy, it had no permanent investigators on its staff. At first, it hired private detectives when it needed federal crimes investigated and later rented out investigators from other federal agencies, such as the Secret Service, which was created by the Department of the Treasury in 1865 to investigate counterfeiting. In the early part of the 20th century, the attorney general was authorized to hire a few permanent investigators, and the Office of the Chief Examiner, which consisted mostly of accountants, was created to review financial transactions of the federal courts.

Continue reading “Today in history – FBI founded”

Today in history – moon landing

In addition to being my older brother’s birthday, apparently humans first landed and walked on the moon today (assuming, of course, you discount any ancient alien races taking Egyptians to the moon, of course  🙂 ).  I meant to post this earlier today for edification of those who visit earlier in the day here, but I forgot.  Rather than steal more commentary from Wikipedia (which, in case you haven’t picked up on already, is one of my preferred sources for general information on a wide variety of subjects), I’m stealing details on the moon landing from the History channel today.

July 20, 1969

At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, speaks these words to more than a billion people listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

The American effort to send astronauts to the moon has its origins in a famous appeal President John F. Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” At the time, the United States was still trailing the Soviet Union in space developments, and Cold War-era America welcomed Kennedy’s bold proposal. Continue reading “Today in history – moon landing”

Today in history – July 18th

Random historical tidbits, intended to keep you ahead of the class.

[tags]Today in history[/tags]

Today in history – July 7th

Here’s a smattering of information about memorable events which have occurred in years past on this day.

  • A retrial verdict acquits Joan of Arc of heresy 25 years after her death (1456). — Sure, it’s a bit late, but I’ll bet her family was happy to know that she shouldn’t really have been executed…
  • United States begins first military draft; exemptions cost $100 (1863) — Hey, now there’s a good idea.  Sure, having money being the reason you get out of the draft has always been the case – but in this instance, it’s more clearly understandable how someone skipped facing the draft without the need for the cowardly run to another country.
  • In Memphis, Tennessee, WHBQ becomes the first radio station to air an Elvis Presley record. (1954) — If that’s not history, I don’t know what is.  And being that I live in Memphis now, I figure I need to point out the accomplishments of this fine city (aside from the political scandals which seem to keep the FBI coming here a lot recently, that is).
  • Some cowardly maggots blew up bombs on three trains and a bus in London, killing 52 innocent people.

[tags]Today in history[/tags]