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Obituaries in the News

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Occasionally, I come across the obituary of a person who has had an impact on the road culture of the US. Perhaps they were an engineer, inventor, restaurant founder, or involved in the resurrection of our old roads. I know that others die and I don't get to read about their accomplishments. This would be a good place for their obituaries.

 

Co-Founder of In-N-Out Burgers and the Drive-up Window

 

 

Esther Snyder had died at age 86. Along with her late husband Harry, she founded In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park, Ca. in 1948. They started their chain at the same time as McDonald's (the original), Carl's Jr., and Jack-in-the-Box.

 

The Snyders always favored a slow-growth approach, and even today, there are only 202 In-N-Out stores across California, Arizona, and Nevada. Estimated sales in 2002 were $260 million. They are very loyal to their employees.

 

She grew up in Sorrento, Illinois, and was a member of the WAVES during WWII. This is how she ended up out west where she met her future husband while working as the day manager of a restaurant where Harry sold baked goods.

 

In 1948, they opened the first In-N-Out store in Baldwin Park, right across the street from the house where Harry grew up. They sold 47 burgers their first day.

 

INTRODUCED THE DRIVE-UP WINDOW

 

Most burger joints in the post WWII had carhops and then McDonald's and Carl's Jr. added walkup windows. Harry, who had no seating and little parking, took a different approach. He "capitalized on the emerging twin cultures of cars and fast food" and introduced a two-way speaker where a driver could order his meal and pick it up and never get out of his car. As we know today, that has had a major impact on fast food.

 

I found it interesting that there are different ways of ordering items at In-N-Out. "Animal style" is a burger with pickles, grilled onions, mustard with extra sauce. A "Flying Dutchman" is two meat patties, cheese and no bun. A "4 by 4" is four patties and four pieces of cheese.

 

The next time I'm out west, I will definitely check out this chain.

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OWNER OF WHITE FENCE FARM DIES

 

On August 14th, Doris Mae Hastert, 93, died of natural causes. Along with her husband, she took a one room bankrupt restaurant in 1954 and turned it into one of the biggest and best-known chicken places in the US, especially to fans of Route 66

 

From that small beginning, White Fence Farm, in Lemont, Illinois, today has 11 dining rooms and can seat 1100. There are three offsite carryout places around Chicagoland, a museum, and petting zoo.

 

She and her husband married in the early 30s and opened a poultry market in Aurora, which eventually became the Harmony House restaurant. They sold it to buy White Fence Farm.

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LAS VEGAS TOURISM CHIEF- 'WHAT HAPPENS HERE..." DIES

 

Manny Cortez, 67, died of a heart attack on June 18th. He was the longtime president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

 

Las Vegas' attempt to turn itself into a family-friendly destination in the 90s had failed, and tourism was way down in the wake of 9-11. Mr. Cortez had the R&R Partners advertising agency come up with what, since its 2002 debut, is regarded as one of the most effective tourism slogans of all time. "What happens here stays here."

 

He started in Las Vegas as a parking attendant at the Stardust Hotel and Casino.

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PHOTOGRAPHER JAMES FEE DIES

 

Photographer James Fee, 57, died September 4. He was known for his sad pictures of an America that has been passed by. Topics such as abandoned factories, lonesome highways, crumbling drive-in theaters rusting cars abounded in his work. Another series of pictures was called "Four Days in New York" where he photographed tourist attractions from interesting angles.

 

His photography dealer said, "He was disappointed in what America had become as opposed to what it could be."

 

I went to his site and, if you've never seen his work, it's worth a look.

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"ROCKY MOUNTAIN OYSTER" MAN DIES

 

Bruce Ruth, 73

 

The man many say brought this "delicacy" to the masses, well at least the masses around Severance, Colorado, died August 23rd after a stroke.

 

His place "Bruce's Bar" in Severance served as much as 4000 pounds of the stuff a month. He liked to say Severance was "Where the geese fly and the bulls cry."

 

He first got the idea when a friend served him turkey oysters in the late 50s. His bar/restaurant was struggling at the time and he hit upon the idea of serving sliced up, breaded, deep-fried meat with dipping sauce. This very well have been what saved him.

 

His place became a big tourist and biker destination. Such notables as John Wayne, Julia Roberts, and George W. Bush , have eaten there. Each September, thousands of bikers descend for an annual rally.

 

In case you were wondering, Rocky Mountain Oysters are bull or calf testicles. Calves have theirs cut off to increase beef production and there are several beef packing plants in the area.

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"ROCKY MOUNTAIN OYSTER" MAN DIES

 

In case you were wondering, Rocky Mountain Oysters are bull or calf testicles. Calves have theirs cut off to increase beef production and there are several beef packing plants in the area.

 

Well, fortunately I know what Rocky Mountain oysters so I can avoid them...on the other hand, if they were actually oysters of the common variety, I'd avoid those too, since I don't like them. I do like fried clams, but I digress.

 

So, the area of Colorado was called Severance...seems appropriate!! :lol:

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CONTIBUTED TO AIRBAG DEVELOPMENT

 

CARL CYRUS CLARK, 82

 

Carl Cyrus Clark died August 24th. He was an international expert in human acceleration and crash protection. His research contributed significantly to the development of the automobile and airplane airbags.

 

Ralph Nader said this about him, "He did more for humanity than 99.9 percent of the world's scientists." Mr. Clark did not believe there was a technical problem that he couldn't figure out.

 

In 1955 he headed up the biophysics division of the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory in Johnsville, Pa. He provided centrifuge training for X-15 pilots and the original seven Project Mercury astronauts.

 

Evidently, he conducted hydroplane sled experiments on himself. He first intended to use airbags with the astronauts, but soon concluded that it would be useful with civilians in automobiles. He met opposition from the automobile industry, but through his involvement with the National Highway traffic Safety Administration and National Bureau of Standards, he was able to prevail

 

Since retirement, he had been active as a consultant on highway safety and was often called by lawyers in court cases.

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HELPED DEVELOP UNLEADED GASOLINE AND SYNTHETIC RUBBER

 

ERVING ARUNDALE, 91, DIES

 

Mr. Arundale was the holder of 68 US patents in chemical research, including the development of synthetic rubber for tires and unleaded gasooline. He spent most of his 35 year career in the chemicals division of Exxon Research and Engineering Co. He died in Woodstock, Illinois on August 12th.

 

He graduated first in his high school class and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. During WWII there was a shortage of natural rubber needed for the tires on military vehicles. The US government recognized his talents and he came up with a synthetic rubber.

 

In the early 1950s, he was a member of a team that developed unleaded gasoline which has had a huge impact on the quality of earth's environment.

 

His family said he had a very sharp mind and quick sense of humor. He could finish a crossword puzzle in two minutes.

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TV Producer of "Route 66"

 

Herbert Leonard Died at age 84

 

Herbert Leonard was the executive producer and creator of such famous TV shows as "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" 1954-1959, "Naked City" 1958-1963 and of course its great introduction, and "Route 66" which the obituary regarded as his most memorable series, 1960-1964.

 

This show featured Martin Milner and George Maharis (replaced by Glenn Corbett in the last season) as a pair of young men going across America in that great old car. This series was shot on location in about 40 states.

 

He was born in NY City. played college football at New York University and was a navy pilot during WWII.

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GLEN LEONHARDT Dies- 93

 

Glen Leonhardt, of San Bernardino, Ca., who spent a lot of his life on and around Route 66, died September 18th at the age of 93.

 

He was born in 1913 in Guthrie Center, Iowa and then his family moved to South Dakota where he became a mechanic.

 

In 1937, he drove a 1936 Chevy to San Bernardino at 35 mph most of the way. He ended up going by way of El Paso as the Rockies were too high. In California, he managed to get his car stuck in the sand at a beach.

 

During the Depression, he worked in the CCC in the Texas Panhandle and, while working on Route 66 around Vega, met Maxine Jackson and later married her in Tucumcari in 1939. During WWII he worked at army bases in San Antonio and was transferred to Norton AFB in 1944 He settled in San Bernardino where he lived the rest of his life and raised four children. He was master mechanic at Joe Lazaar Cadillac for 33 years.

 

He bought a 1965 Cadillac and made numerous roadtrips throughout the southwest.

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Russell Buchanon-106- One of last World War I Vets

 

Russell Buchanon died December 6th in Watertown, Massachusetts.

 

He joined the Navy in the last few months of WWI after being turned down by the Marines because he did not meet the minimum 118 pound weight restriction.

 

He was actice even into his hundreds and regularly walked his local mall. He also participated in this past November's Veterans Day ceremonies.

 

In a Veterans Day ceremony in 2001, he said, "Stand up for the USA and give all you can, even if it hurts."

 

I imagine he had some memories of the early days of the US highway system.

 

With his passing, there only remain 14 confirmed US veterans of the War to End All wars. Sad to see his generation passing away.

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DOT BEATRICE LEAVITT

 

Owner of Dot's Mini Museum in Vega. Texas

 

Dot Leavitt died September 11, 2006 at age 89. She opened and ran the popular Dot's Mini Museum in Vega and was a must-stop for Route 66ers. Her establishment is marked in the Hampton Inn Landmark series.

 

She was always more than happy to show visitors the contents of her museum and would spend hours talking with them. A true friend to all.

 

We were fortunate enough to get to visit with her at length back in September. Her daughter awakened her from her nap and she came out to give us a tour.

 

She was a classic on the Mother Road and will be greatly missed.

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Del Reeves

 

60s Country Singer- "The Girl on the Billboard"

 

Del Reeves died New Years Day. He is a member of the Grand Ol' Opry and scored many big hits back in the 60s. His biggest hit was 1965's "The Girl on the Billboard" about a provacative billboard on Route 66 between Chicago and St. Louis. He mentioned that it was by a truckstop (perhaps the Dixie?). He also had several other trucker songs.

 

He was born in 1932 and named Franklin Delano Reeves by his parents as they were big admirers of President Roosevelt. He later dropped the Franklin and shortened Delano.

 

He was often called the "Doodle-Oo-Doo-Doo Kid" for his nonsense syllables in his songs. His shows also consisted of impressions, some of the better ones of Jimmy Stewart, Walter Brennan, and Johnny Cash.

 

He helped the "Achy Breaky Heart" man, Billy Ray Cyrus, in the early part of his career.

 

"Da Da Doo Dah Dah"

 

 

 

If any of you come across an obituary that has something to do with the road, please post them. I'm sure that I miss some that would be of interest.

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Don Edgren 1923-2006

 

Engineering Whiz for Disney

 

Created the Matterhorn and Pirates of the Caribbean

 

 

Disneyland is still a top tourist draw in California. The man who made some of its, and Walt Disney World's, attractions has died at age 83 of a hemorrhagic stroke.

 

He was working with an engineering firm that was involved with the construction of the Matterhorn back in the 50s. It was generally believed that it would be impossible to put tobaggans, a skyride, and waterfalls inside it. Mr. Edgren figured out a way to do it. This so impressed Walt Disney, that he hired him and Mr. Edgren remained with the company for 33 years.

 

The Pirates of the Caribbean was originally planned as a walk through attraction, but Mr. Edgren decided it would be best as a boat ride and had it built.

 

Last fall, he was named a Disney Legend, which honors those who have had a lasting influence of Walt Disney Co.

 

He was a Los Angeles native and served as an aviator in WWII, flying 45 combat missions in the Pacific.

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CHARLES RUDOLPH WALGREEN dies

 

Ran Walgreens for almost 40 years. Son of founder

 

This past week, Charles Walgreen died at age 100, just three weeks short of his 101st birthday.

 

He had many memories of the early days of Walgreen's. He remembers driving his father from store to store in Chicago at age ten because his father was afraid of the new-fangled contraptions called automobiles. He had to tie blocks of wood to his feet in order to reach the pedals. He remembered going from gas lighting to electricity and the old soda fountains.

 

He took over the chain in 1939 upon his father's death, and ran it for almost forty years. The first Walgreen's opened on Chicago's south side back in 1901 and by 1921, there were 500 stores.

 

He oversaw the company's change to the new concept of self-service retailing where customers chose their own products off the shelves instead of having a clerk get it for them. He was also a leader in getting the work week of pharmacists down from 66 hours to 40.

 

It was under his tenure that Walgreen's began locating in shopping centers, the first one at Evergreen Plaza in Chicagoland in 1952. This was one of the first major shopping center built east of the Mississippi.

 

Of course, some of us have a problem with the current leadership of the company with their penchant for tearing down historical and architecturally significant buildins in their pursuit for corners locations, but Charles Walgreen was no longer in charge of operations at the time.

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ROBERT ADLER 1913-2007

 

Co-inventor of the Remote Control

 

That NECESSARY item to be found by TVs in motels and hotels all over the US, the remote control, has lost its father. How many times have you checked into a motel and were unhappy to find the remote either gone, broken, or without batteries (nasty battery steallers)? Definitely not a happy camper, were you?

 

Robert Adler, who along with Eugene Polley, developed the Space Command for Zenith in 1956, died February 15, 2007. He worked for Zenith for 60 years and held 180 US patents.

 

Strangely, he wouldn't have even chosen it as his favorite invention as he only very rarely watched TV. When someone would question him about it and the rise of "couch potatoes", his response would be, "It seem reasonable and rational to control the TV from where you normally sit and watch TV."

 

Thank you very much robert Adler, from a major couch potato and bane of my wife when I have one in my hand.

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JOHN T TRUTTER

 

Chicago Tourism Chief

 

John T. Trutter died Feb. 2nd. He was a long-time resident of Evanston, Illinois and a career employee with Illinois Bell.

 

He was very active in the Canal Corridor Association which was set up to promote tourism along and around the path of the Illinois & Michigan Canal. The association's founder, Gerald Adelmann said, "he had a deep love of history. And he realized we need to protect and enhance our historical resources."

 

After leaving Illinois Bell, Mr. Trutter headed the Chicago Convention and Tourism Council and had offices at the old Water Tower on Michigan Avenue where his daughter said he'd often have to rouse vagrants sleeping in the small park and pick up trash.

 

 

 

He was 86.

 

 

JOHN T TRUTTER

 

Chicago Tourism Chief

 

John T. Trutter died Feb. 2nd. He was a long-time resident of Evanston, Illinois and a career employee with Illinois Bell.

 

He was very active in the Canal Corridor Association which was set up to promote tourism along and around the path of the Illinois & Michigan Canal. The association's founder, Gerald Adelmann said, "he had a deep love of history. And he realized we need to protect and enhance our historical resources."

 

After leaving Illinois Bell, Mr. Trutter headed the Chicago Convention and Tourism Council and had offices at the old Water Tower on Michigan Avenue where his daughter said he'd often have to rouse vagrants sleeping in the small park and pick up trash.

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TIM ONOSKO 1947-2007

 

Disney Futurist Helped With Epcot

 

 

Tim Onosko died in Madison, Wi., at age 60 on March 6, 2007.

 

He was known in the Disney empire as the man to go to for the future, and his ideas largely went into the shaping of the popular Epcot Center in Orlando.'

 

Walt Disney had made some basic plans for Epcot, but died in 1966 before he could get very far with them. Enter Mr. Onosko, who, along with the Imagineers brought the dream to reality.

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LIVED OUT BOYHOOD DREAMS

 

Robert C. Beatty 1930-2007

 

You can call him the man that made growing up so much better for kids. He was a man who got to live out a boy's childhood dreams. He made his life's business out of selling ice cream and going to the circus.

 

For some 60 years he was "Bob the Ice Cream Man" to children growing up on Chicago's North Side. He died April 7th.

 

He started selling ice cream around his home in Chicago's Albany Park at age 14. Over the years, he expanded from pushcarts, to three-wheeled bicycles, motorized carts, and finally, in 1973, his first full-sized ice cream truck.

 

He considered himself a traditionalist and refused to use prerecorded music, instead, relying on had-operated bells.

 

His son said that Mr. Beatty, "partook freely of his inventory. A section of the truck's freezer was set aside for his lunch and other personal uses. We were always finding half-eaten ice cream bars in there."

 

In the 1980s, he owned a store called "Simply Ice Cream" on Sheridan Road, and since 1989, he and his family operated lakefront concessions in Evanston.

 

As a youngster, he spent several years working in a circus, a love he never lost. He was a longtime member of the Circus Fans Association of America.

 

He was buried in his white uniform, with an old-fashioned change-maker, filled with coins and strapped to his side.

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I just heard the sad news that Skip Curtis - good friend to US Route 66 - passed away last night. I'm sure more news will be posted as details are unveiled.

 

Becky Repp

becky@americanroadmagazine.com

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I just heard the sad news that Skip Curtis - good friend to US Route 66 - passed away last night. I'm sure more news will be posted as details are unveiled.

 

Becky Repp

becky@americanroadmagazine.com

 

 

 

Here's Skip's obit as received from Tommy and Glenda Pike of Springfield, MO....Bliss

 

 

C.H. Skip Curtis

 

Skip Curtis died April 21, 2007, of cancer at the age of 63 at Old No.3.

 

Skip was born November 22, 1943, in Springfield, Missouri, the son of EC and Eula Mae (Sence) Curtis. He attended Drury University and Missouri State University in Springfield, and Washington University in St. Louis.

 

He headed his own advertising company for over 30 years. He was an author, artist and historian. He wrote a series of books on Route 66. He served on boards of several associations, including the Route 66 Association. He greatly enjoyed directing family and friends down parts of old Route 66 and retelling historical stories he had uncovered in his research.

 

In his childhood, Skip dreamed of living in the local firehouse. In 1999, he and his wife Karla made that dream come true. Skip took great pride in his self-designed renovations of Old No.3 and the memorabilia which covers the walls and tells many tales of history.

 

Skip served in the United States Marine Corps, was affiliated with Kappa Alpha fraternity, and was an avid outdoorsman and sportsman. As a youth, Skip was a champion swimmer, diver and golfer.

 

Skip was preceded in death by his beloved "Pop," EC Curtis, his mother Eula Mae, sister Beckey, and brother Art. He is survived by his wife Karla, step-daughter Susan Wilkerson, brother Steve and wife Susan of Tamarindo, Costa Rica; seven nieces, two nephews, and four cousins who grew up together, Karla’s family and his faithful friend to the end, Trey.

 

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First and Calvary Presbeterian Church, with Reverend Alf Halvorson officiating. Private interment will be in Hazelwood Cemetery under the direction of Gorman-Scharpf Brentwood Chapel.

 

The family requests memorial contributions be made to Greene County Public Library or the History Museum for Springfield-Greene County.

 

"Uncle Skip" is remembered for his love and devotion toward family and friends and for his great sense of humor.

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Sorry to hear of Skip's passing. His Missouri Route 66 tour book made our trip across the state that much more enjoyable.

 

 

 

Here's Skip's obit as received from Tommy and Glenda Pike of Springfield, MO....Bliss

C.H. Skip Curtis

 

Skip Curtis died April 21, 2007, of cancer at the age of 63 at Old No.3.

 

Skip was born November 22, 1943, in Springfield, Missouri, the son of EC and Eula Mae (Sence) Curtis. He attended Drury University and Missouri State University in Springfield, and Washington University in St. Louis.

 

 

WILLIAM BLAKE 'BILL' SCHMIDT

 

Owner of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia in Elizabethtown, Ky.

 

One of the stops on our recent Dixie Tour was this excellent museum in Elizabethtown. This traces the whole history of Coke and its advertising and is well worth the $5 admission. We were saddened to hear that the founder and owner had just died on April 4, 2007, just one year after seeing his dreams come to be at the museum. He was 79.

 

He was a native of Hardin County and a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as a pilot during the Korean War.

 

He was the owner of Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Elizabethtown.

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WARREN AVIS- 1915-2007

 

Founded Avis Rent A Car

 

Warren Avis died April 24, 2007 at the age of 92 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was a decorated Army Air Corps bomber pilot during WWII.

 

He said he had gotten the idea of the car rental business while still a pilot and he often found that he couldn't find ground transportation once he arrived in airports. In 1946, he started Avis Rent A Car at airports in Miami and Ypsilanti, Michigan, with an investment of $85,000, two employees and fewer than 200 cars. It grew to be the nation's largest car rental company until it was overtaken by Hertz. He sold his interest in the company in 1954 for $8 million.

 

He stayed busy in the years after it. He headed Avis Enterprises, Avis Sports, and there is still a Ford dealership in Southfield, Mi., that bears his name.

 

So, the next time you're in an airport and rent a car, you have Warren Avis to thank.

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DR. ROBERT F. BETZ 1923-2007

 

Friend of Illinois Prairies

 

Dr. Robert F. Betz, of Clarendon Hills, died April 5, 2007. Throughout his life, he had a passion for prairies. When he found out in 1975 that the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia was looking for ideas as to what to do with the thousands of acres it owned, Dr. Betz immediately had an idea. That same year, 10 acres were cultivated into a prairie. Today, the Robert F. Betz Prairie has grown to bearly 1200 acres and is home to hundreds of native prairie plants.

 

He was born and raised in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood and graduated from De La Salle High School. He attended IIT but left to fight in WWII. He graduated from IIT after the war and became a professor at Northeastern University in 1961 where he taught biology until his retirement in 1991.

 

No doubt, his efforts and success with prairies has led to IDOT making prairies along Illinois highways as well as Midewin Tallgrass Pririe on the site of the old Joliet Arsenal on Route 66.

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ROBERT DeFORREST 1935-2007

 

Preservationist Located Black American Landmarks

 

Robert DeForrest died February 23, 2007, at age 72. In 1970, he and his brother Vincent established what became the Afro-American Institute for Historic Preservation and Community Development. Operating out of a three story Washington DC mansion, they were able to track down and identify more than 60 sites in 23 states and DC that had notable African-American ties. These were put on the list of national historic landmarks.

 

In 1978, he completed a study that resulted in the Richmond, Va., home of Maggie Walker (1867-1935) becoming a national landmark. She was a pioneering black banker and civic leader. She was the first woman of any race to receive a banking charter in the US. In later years she became paralyzed and an advocate for persons with disabilities.

 

Robert DeForrest once said, "The history we were taught in school always came from a Eurocentric perspective. But the presence of blacks in American history is very significant from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam."

 

We need more people like Robert DeForrest.

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