Yeah, we’re starting to wind down here. For those asking me why I had the Wright brothers together and the Perry brothers listed separately. Allow me to explain that. You see, the reason why I have the Wright brothers listed together is because they accomplished controlled heavier than air flight together and were practically inseparable. By contrast, while the Perry brothers were both naval officers, they both achieved distinction separately and are known for doing different things. Maybe it’s best we get down to business. Now in this penultimate selection, I intend to bring you some more Mount Rushmores I compiled from South Dakota to Vermont. First, it’s to the Mount Rushmore state South Dakota where we’ll get to know a holy man who inspired his people to win Little Bighorn, a scientist with his own element named after him, and two Native American women with one who advocated for grave protection and another who wrote an opera. Second, we find ourselves in Tennessee where we’ll meet a man called Old Hickory, a king of the wild frontier who hated him, a man he had evicted, and a woman who might be a descendant of someone he owned who started one of the first “Black Lives Matter” campaigns. After that, it’s down to the Lone Star State of Texas where you’ll find bigger than life personalities like a president known for his Great Society and eccentric ways, a leader in the Texas Revolution who couldn’t catch a break, a teenage boy who went to hell and back, and a germaphobic billionaire. Next, we’re on to Utah where we’ll encounter a Mormon Moses, a wrongly convicted left-wing songwriter, a legendary companion of Sundance, and a dean of Western writers. And finally, we make it up the Green Mountains of Vermont where you’ll meet president with walrus whiskers, a Green Mountain boy, the only black guy to get elected in the antebellum period, and a founder of a major religion in Utah.
41. South Dakota
Figure 1: Sitting Bull– Hunkpapa Lakota holy man who led his people during years of resistance to United States government policies. Best known for having a vision in which he saw many soldiers, “as thick as grasshoppers,” falling upside down into the Lakota camp, which his people took as a foreshadowing of a major victory in which a large number of soldiers would be killed which inspired his people to a major victory in the Battle of Little Bighorn, a battle where the confederated Lakota tribes and the North Cheyenne annihilated Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his battalion. After the battle, he and his people left the US for Wood Mountain Canada’s Northwest Territories where he remained until 1881 when he and most of his band returned to US territory and surrendered to U.S. forces. Was killed by Indian agency police on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation during an attempt to arrest him, at a time when authorities feared that he would join the Ghost Dance movement.
Figure 2: Maria Pearson– Yankton Dakota activist who successfully challenged the legal treatment of Native American human remains. Was one of the primary catalysts for the creation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) with her actions leading her being called “the Founding Mother of the modern Indian repatriation movement.” When asked what the Iowa governor could do for her she replied, “You can give me back my people’s bones and you can quit digging them up.”
Figure 3: Ernest Lawrence– pioneering American nuclear scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939 for his invention of the cyclotron. Known for his work on uranium-isotope separation for the Manhattan Project, for founding the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. After the war, Lawrence campaigned extensively for government sponsorship of large scientific programs, and was a forceful advocate of “Big Science”, with its requirements for big machines and big money. Strongly backed Edward Teller’s campaign for a second nuclear weapons laboratory, which Lawrence located in Livermore, California. Chemical element 103 was named lawrencium in his honor after its discovery at Berkeley in 1961.
Figure 4: Zitkala-Ša (a.k.a. Gertrude Simmons Bonnin)– Yankton Dakota writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist who wrote several works chronicling her identity struggles and pulls between mainstream culture and her Native American heritage. Her later books in English were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white readership. Wrote a libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera which was the first American Indian opera which was composed in romantic style based on Sioux and Ute themes. Co-founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926 to lobby for rights to United States citizenship and civil rights where she served as its president until her death in 1938.
Figure 1: Andrew Jackson– president from 1829-1837 who gained national fame through his role in the War of 1812, most famously when he won a decisive victory over the main British army at the Battle of New Orleans albeit some weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed which had no bearing on the New Orleans crisis as the British government considered the Louisiana Purchase illegitimate. Had the British forces captured the city, then the Louisiana Purchase would’ve been declared a dead letter and the North America political map would’ve looked very different today since the fate of the US or the Western world as we know it may well have hung on this battle’s outcome. Invaded Florida in 1818 which led to the First Seminole War and the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, which formally transferred Florida from Spain to the US. As president, he denied the right of a state to secede from the union or to nullify federal law during the Nullification Crisis as well as threatened the use of military force if South Carolina (or any other state) attempted to do so. Administration marked the ascendency of the spoils system, a practice in which a political party gives government jobs to its supporters, friends and relatives as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party and one which eventually led to a presidential assassination in 1881. Vetoed to recharter the Second Bank of the United States which would lead to the Panic of 1837 which caused a 7 year recession. Signed the Indian Removal Act which relocated a number of native tribes in the South to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and gave rise to the Trail of Tears. Was the main founder of the modern Democratic Party as well as remains its iconic hero but was always a fierce partisan, with many friends and many enemies. Though seen as a champion of the common man in his day, he remains one of the most studied and most controversial Americans of the 19th century.
Figure 2: Davy Crockett– folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician commonly referred to as “King of the Wild Frontier” who represented Tennessee in the US Congress and served in the Texas Revolution where he died during the Battle of the Alamo. Gained a reputation for hunting and storytelling while growing up in East Tennessee becoming famous in his own lifetime for larger-than-life exploits popularized by stage plays and almanacs. As a congressman, he vehemently opposed many of Jackson’s policies, most notably the Indian Removal Act which led to his defeat in the 1831 elections, though he’d win another term 2 years later before losing for good in 1835. His loss in 1835 prompted his angry departure to Texas shortly thereafter. After his death at the Alamo, he continues to be credited with acts of mythic proportion and is one of the best known American folk heroes. Trademark is his coonskin cap and his saying, “Always be sure you are right, then go ahead.”
Figure 3: Sequoyah– Cherokee silversmith who in 1821 completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible marking one of the few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people independently created an effective writing system. After seeing its worth, the Cherokee nation quickly began using his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825 with their literacy rate quickly surpassing that of the surrounding European-American settlers.
Figure 4: Ida B. Wells– journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement as well as one of the founders of the NAACP. Born into slavery, she’s best known for documenting lynching in the US in the 1890s as well as showing that it was often used as a way to control and punish blacks who competed with whites or try to exercise their political rights like voting, rather than being based on black criminal acts as whites usually claimed particularly when it came to sexual relationships pertaining to black men and white women (which she found were mostly consensual). Organized a black boycott of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago with Frederick Douglass and other leaders over its failure to collaborate with the black community on exhibits to represent African-American life. Was active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. Was skilled and persuasive rhetorician and traveled internationally on lecture tours.
Figure 1: Lyndon B. Johnson– president from 1963-1969 who assumed office following John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Designed the “Great Society” legislation upholding civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services, and his “War on Poverty.” Along with a growing economy, his War on Poverty helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during his presidency. His civil rights legislation banned racial discrimination in in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing, while his Voting Rights Act outlawed certain requirements in southern states used to disenfranchise African Americans. In 1965, he signed the Immigration and Nationality Act which reformed the country’s immigration system and removed all racial and national origin quotas. Was renowned for his domineering, sometimes abrasive, personality and the “Johnson treatment”—his aggressive coercion of powerful politicians to advance legislation. Though he escalated the Vietnam War in 1964 which led to his eventual political downfall, most experts believe that it would’ve happened anyway no matter who was in charge. While he began his presidency with widespread approval, his support declined as the public became upset with both war and the growing violence at home. His civil rights legislation led to a mass exodus of the white Democratic South to the Republican Party as well as the collapse of the New Deal coalition (though he knew this would happen but supported civil rights anyway which is a very admirable thing for a politician to do). Presidency was said to be the peak of modern US liberalism after the New Deal era. His domestic policies and the passage of many major laws, affecting civil rights, gun control, wilderness preservation, and Social Security have led some historians to rank him favorably.
Figure 2: Sam Houston– politician and soldier best known for his role in bringing Texas into the US. Prior to his Texas years, spent time with the Cherokee Nation, fought in the War of 1812, and was a Tennessee politician who seen by many as Andrew Jackson’s protégé (despite their differing views on the treatment of Native Americans) and was eventually elected governor. But he later resigned after his first wife left him shortly after their wedding and made public statements embarrassing to him where he went in exile with the Cherokee to the Arkansas Territory where he became an honorary member of the tribe. While he was in Washington D. C. to expose government agent fraud against the Cherokee, he beat an Ohio congressman with a hickory cane on Pennsylvania Avenue which resulted in a high profile trial. Secured Texan independence from Mexico with his victory at San Jacinto and was twice elected president of the Texas Republic before annexation. Was the only governor within a Confederate state to oppose secession and refuse an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, which resulted in his removal from office by the Texas secession convention. However, to avoid bloodshed, he refused a Union army offer to put down the Confederate rebellion and decided to retire to Huntsville, Texas where he died before the American Civil War was over. Was the only person to have become the governor of two different U.S. states through popular election as well as the only state governor to have been a foreign head of state.
Figure 3: Audie Murphy– one of the most decorated combat soldiers in WWII who received every military combat award for valor available from the US Army as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism. Received a Medal of Honor for valor demonstrated at age 19 for single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour at Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition. Born into a sharecropper family with an absent father and a 5th grade education, he lied about his age to enlist in the Army where he saw action in the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Battle of Anzio, and in 1944 was part of the liberation of Rome and invasion of southern France. Also fought at Montélimar, and led his men on a successful assault at the L’Omet quarry near Cleurie in northeastern France in October. After the war, he enjoyed a 21 year acting career, playing himself in a movie adaptation of his 1949 memoirs To Hell and Back. Was also a fairly accomplished songwriter and bred quarter horses. His suffering from PTSD led him to sleep with a loaded handgun under his pillow and look for solace in addictive sleeping pills but he only spoke candidly about it in an effort to draw attention to the problems of returning veterans from Korea and Vietnam. And called on the government to give increased consideration and study to the emotional impact of combat experiences and to extend health care benefits to veterans. As a result, legislation pertaining to PTSD was introduced 5 months after his death in a plane crash in 1971. Was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors and a plain headstone of an ordinary soldier just like he wanted.
Figure 4: Howard Hughes– business tycoon, entrepreneur, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, inventor, filmmaker and philanthropist who was known as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world. As a maverick film tycoon, he gained prominence in Hollywood from the late 1920s, making big-budget and often controversial films like The Racket, Hell’s Angels, Scarface, and The Outlaw. Formed the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932, hiring numerous engineers and designers and spent the rest of the 1930s setting multiple world air speed records and building the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 Hercules (now better known as the “Spruce Goose”). Also acquired and expanded Trans World Airlines (TWA) and later acquired Air West, renaming it Hughes Airwest. However, he’s best remembered for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle in later life, caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and chronic pain. Also known for dating famous women such as Billie Dove, Faith Domergue, Bette Davis, Ava Gardner, Olivia de Havilland, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney. Launched the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that was formed for biomedical research in 1953 which still stands and continues his legacy. When he died, his reclusive activities (and possibly his drug use) made him practically unrecognizable with his hair, beard, fingernails, and toenails long, his tall 6ft 4in frame at 90lbs, and the FBI having to use fingerprints to conclusively identify his body. His estate has been contested ever since for his original will has never been found.
Figure 1: Brigham Young– Mormon leader and settler of the western US who was second President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1847 until his death in 1877 who founded Salt Lake City and served as Utah’s first governor. Also founded the precursors to the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. Best referred to as “American Moses” for leading his Mormon pioneer followers in an exodus through a desert to what they saw was the promised land. Dubbed by followers as the “Lion of the Lord” for his bold personality and was also commonly called “Brother Brigham.” Was a polygamist and was involved in controversies regarding black people and the Priesthood, the Utah War, and the Mountain Meadows massacre where his followers killed an Arkansas party comprising over 120 men, women, and children over 6.
Figure 2: Joe Hill– labor activist, songwriter, cartoonist, and IWW member whose most famous songs include “The Preacher and the Slave,” “The Tramp,” “There is Power in a Union,” “The Rebel Girl,” and “Casey Jones—the Union Scab,” which express the harsh and combative life of itinerant workers, and call for them to organize their efforts to improve working conditions. Coined the phrase, “pie in the sky.” In 1914, he was accused of murdering 2 guys in a Salt Lake City grocery store on the basis of gunshot injury that he claimed he got in a fight over a woman (which didn’t check out until nearly a century later). Nevertheless, he was convicted in a controversial trial. After an unsuccessful appeal, political debates, and international calls for clemency from high-profile figures and workers’ organizations, he was executed anyway by firing squad. He’s been memorialized in several folk songs while his life and death have inspired books and poetry.
Figure 3: Butch Cassidy– notorious train robber, bank robber, and leader of the Wild Bunch gang in the American Old West who, after pursuing a career in crime for several years in the US, was forced to flee with the Sundance Kid and his girlfriend Etta Place due to pressures being pursued by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. They first fled to Argentina and the Bolivia, where he and the Sundance Kid were most likely killed in a shootout in November 1908.
Figure 4: Wallace Stegner– novelist, short story writer, environmentalist, and historian who’s often called “The Dean of Western Writers” as well as won a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and a National Book Award in 1977. Most famous novel is Angle of Repose that was based on the letters of Mary Hallock Foote. Though he explained his use of unpublished archival letters briefly in the beginning, his use of uncredited passages taken directly from Foote’s letters caused a continuing controversy. Served as a government scientist and was an advocate of water conservation in the west and wrote a forward in a Sierra Club book that was used in the campaign to prevent dams in Dinosaur National Monument and helped launch the modern environmental movement. Co-founded the Committee for Green Foothills, an environmental organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the hills, forests, creeks, wetlands and coastal lands of the San Francisco Peninsula.
Figure 1: Chester A. Arthur– president from 1881-1885 who succeeded James A. Garfield upon the latter’s assassination. While his early career in politics earned him a negative reputation as a stooge for New York’s political machine as member of the Stalwart faction, he surprised his critics by embracing the cause of civil service reform by advocating and later enforcing the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act which was the centerpiece of his administration. This legislation brought an end to the spoils system which corrupted American political system for decades and eventually led to the Garfield assassination in the first place. Though forced to retire at the close of his term because of ill health, he earned praise among contemporaries for his solid performance in office. Also presided over the rebirth of the US Navy, banned polygamy, yet signed the Chinese Exclusion Act which effectively banned Chinese immigration and the Dawes Act which called for an allotment system that proved detrimental to Native Americans. Journalist Alexander McClure later wrote, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired … more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe.”
Figure 2: Ethan Allen– farmer, businessman, land speculator, philosopher, writer, lay theologian, soldier, and politician who’s best known as one of the founders of Vermont and for the capture of Fort Ticonderoga early in the American Revolution along with Benedict Arnold. His land speculation involving the New Hampshire Grants (present day Vermont) during the late 1760s got him embroiled in legal disputes which led him to form the Green Mountain Boys whom he led in a campaign of intimidation and property destruction to drive New York settlers from the Grants. After the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, he led the Boys in a failed attempt on Montreal that resulted in his capture by British authorities. Was released in a prisoner exchange in 1778 and returned to his previous business as usual (like driving New York settlers out of Vermont). While he was active in efforts by Vermont’s leadership for recognition by Congress, he also participated in controversial negotiations with the British over the possibility of Vermont becoming a separate British province. Wrote accounts of his exploits in the war that were widely read in the 19th century, as well as philosophical treatises and documents relating to the politics of Vermont’s formation. Business dealings included successful farming operations, one of Connecticut’s early iron works, and land speculation in the Vermont territory. The land he and his brothers purchased include tracts that eventually became Burlington, Vermont.
Figure 3: Alexander Twilight– educator, Congregational minister and politician who is best known as first African American known to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an American college or university which he received from Middlebury College in 1823. Became the principal of the Orleans County Grammar School in 1829 where he designed and built Athenian Hall which was the first granite public building in Vermont. In 1836, he was elected to the Vermont General Assembly becoming the first African American legislator and the only one ever elected to a state legislature before the American Civil War.
Figure 4: Joseph Smith– religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement who, at 24 published the Book of Mormon. By the time of his death 14 years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religious culture that continues to the present. In western New York that was said to be the site of intense religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening, he said to have experience a series of visions including one in which he saw “two personages” (presumably God the Father and Jesus Christ) and others in which an angel named Moroni directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization. His book of Mormon is what he said was an English translation of what was on those plates in 1830. That same year, he organized the Church of Christ, calling it a restoration of the early Christian church with members later being called either “Latter-Day Saints” or “Mormons.” The next year he and his followers moved west, planning to build a communalistic American Zion, first gathering in Kirtland, Ohio and establishing an outpost in Independence, Missouri intended to be Zion’s “center place.” However, the collapse of the church-sponsored Kirtland Society and violent skirmishes with non-Mormon Missourians caused him and his followers to establish a new settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois, where he became a spiritual and political leader. However, in 1844, he and the Nauvoo city council angered non-Mormon by destroying a newspaper criticizing his power and practice of polygamy. While imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois, he was killed by a mob storming the jailhouse. Published many revelations and other texts that his followers regard as scripture. Teachings include unique views about the nature of God, cosmology, family structures, political organization, and religious collectivism. Followers regard him as a prophet comparable to Moses and Elijah and is considered the founder of several religious denominations, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ.