Legendary jazz trumpeter John Birks Gillespie, who was born in 1917 and died on January 6, 1993, was instantly recognizable by his beret and horn-rimmed glasses, his bent horn and puffed cheeks. “Dizzy” Gillespie was known for his bebop improvisation and scat singing. What he wasn’t known for was being President of the United States, although he might have had things gone a little differently back in 1964.
“Dizzy for President” badges began to appear in 1963 although Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater didn’t feel all that threatened by a Dizzy candidacy. What started as a joke and a bit of fundraising for CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) gathered a pretty good head of steam before the money ran out. But what a presidency he offered.
He wrote and performed his own campaign song: “Your politics ought to be a groovier thing, so get a good president who’s willing to swing. Vote Dizzy! Vote Dizzy!” He promised, if elected, to work for civil rights and equal opportunity in the workplace. To make certain employers were blind to race, he would have job applicants where sheets over their heads to hide their skin color.
He planned to change the name of the White House to the Blues House.
He even went so far as to name his dream cabinet. Miles Davis would be director the the CIA, Louis Armstrong Minister of Agriculture. Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Woody Herman, Peggy Lee, and Count Basie would all have positions in his administration. Drummer Max Roach wanted to be Secretary of War, but Dizzy said no, because there wouldn’t be one.
If Only He’d Carried a Trumpet Up San Juan Hill
Although he was not a swinging prez, Teddy Roosevelt who died on January 6, 1919, was a president of many firsts – and mosts and onlys. Taking office in 1901 at the age of 42, he was our youngest president. (In 1904, he became the first president elected to a term in his own right after having ascended to the presidency from the Vice-Presidency upon the death of his predecessor.) In 1902, he became the first president to ride in an automobile, and in 1905, the first to submerge in a submarine. He was also the first to fly in an airplane. He was the first American to win a Nobel Peace Prize (1906) and one of only three Presidents to ever win it.
Roosevelt was probably the only president to carry a big stick, which may have given him the confidence to be the only president never to use the word “I” in an inaugural address. He was the only one-eyed president, after losing the sight in one eye in a 1904 boxing match with a professional fighter. Though not the only military hero who became president, he was the only one to lead a charge up San Juan Hill.
And he was the only president named after an animal – the teddy bear – although two later presidents were named after plants.
Presidential Encounters of the Third Kind
“It was the darndest thing I’ve ever seen. It was big, it was very bright, it changed colors and it was about the size of the moon. We watched it for ten minutes, but none of us could figure out what it was. If I become president, I’ll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public and the scientists.”
January 6, 1969 was a banner day for ufologists: The guy who spotted a UFO that day did go on to become president. And chances are Jimmy Carter was the only president ever to spot a UFO. Not even Teddy Roosevelt did that.
Th-th-that’s All Folks
On January 6, 1936, Warner Brothers introduced the cartoon, Gold Diggers of ’49, providing a platform for a new character name of Porky Pig. Next day on his dressing room, they hung a star, and Porky went on with the show for another 153 cartoon appearances, Warner’s longest running character.