July 31: TODAY in Irish History:
Today in Irish History: Curated by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks
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July 31: TODAY in Irish History:
1874: Patrick Francis Healy (1834-1910) becomes the first colored President of Georgetown University. Healy was was born to a mulatto slave mother in Georgia. His father Michael Healy, was an Irish slave owner. The Healy family biography states the parents lived “faithfully as a married couple” although not legally married.
Patrick was sent to school in New York where he adopted a white identity. Healy entered the Jesuit order in 1850. In 1866, as part of his Jesuit duties, he was sent to Georgetown College to teach philosophy. He became acting president in 1873. Within a year, he became president of Georgetown, the largest Catholic institution in the country and Washington, DC’s first college, founded in 1789. Healy transformed Georgetown into a modern university and retired in 1881. According to historian James O’Toole, it was not until the 1960s that Patrick Healy’s racial history was revealed. Since then he has been declared the first African American Jesuit and the first African American president of a predominantly white university.
Healy is buried in the Jesuit cemetery on the Georgetown University campus.
1875: Death of Andrew Johnson , 17th President of the United States whose grandfather came from County Antrim. Johnson took office following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson was an interesting, pugnacious character who did not suffer fools gladly. He also had a fondness for alcohol. An article on him at Senate.gov reports he was drunk during his inauguration as Vice-President on the day Lincoln took office for the second time.
“After (former VP) Hamlin delivered a brief and stately valedictory, Johnson rose unsteadily to harangue the distinguished crowd about his humble origins and his triumph over the rebel aristocracy. In the shocked and silent audience, President Abraham Lincoln showed an expression of “unutterable sorrow.” Johnson was apparently so drunk he could not swear in incoming Senators. Michigan Senator Chandler wrote his wife “”The inauguration went off very well except that the Vice President Elect was too drunk to perform his duties & disgraced himself & the Senate by making a drunken foolish speech.”
Despite this performance, Johnson was not afraid to take on the might and patronage of his Republican Party which took umbrage when he fired Stanton. He was the first President of the United States to be impeached (in 1868) because he sacked Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Johnson was acquitted by the Senate, falling one vote short of the necessary 2/3 needed to remove him from office, voting 35-19 to remove him. He is the only President to win election to the Senate after his stint in the White House.
1918: Death of Dublin born Captain George McElroy, one of the most successful and decorated pilots of World War I.
Initially McElroy fought in the infantry, fighting with the Royal Irish Regiment at Ypres where he was seriously injured by mustard gas. Recuperating in Dublin at the time of the 1916 Easter Rising, McElroy Refused to fire on fellow Irishman, an action for which he received surprisingly little admonishment.
Some months later, he joined the Royal Flying Corps (later Royal Air Force) and became an immensely accomplished fighter. He was credited with 47 aerial victories which makes him the most successful Irish fighter pilot of the war. He was killed by ground fire while flying over enemy lines. He is buried in at the Laventie Military Cemetery in northern France.
McElroy’s awards include: Military Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross.
1975: Three members of the Miami Showband are by Ulster Volunteer Force members posing as members of the security forces. (Four of the killers were actually members of the Ulster Defence Regiment UDR, an official reserve force for the British army.) At the time, the Miami Showband were one of the most popular musical acts in Ireland. The original plan was that the killers, dressed in security uniform, would plant a bomb on the band’s bus which would have gone off as they returned to Dublin, thus portraying them as explosive carriers. Two UVF men Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville were blown to pieces when placing the bomb. In the carnage that followed, the UVF killed Miami band members Fran O’Toole, Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty. Two band members survived.
Three UVF members were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. There is strong circumstantial evidence that there was collusion between the killers and some senior members of the security forces.
Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish
For the Love of Being Irish written by Chicago based Corkman Conor Cunneen and illustrated by Mark Anderson is an A-Z of all things Irish. This is a book that contains History, Horror, Humor, Passion, Pathos and Lyrical Limericks that will have you giving thanks (or wishing you were) For the Love of Being Irish
This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humoristIrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.
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