World leaders come and go. On this date in 1762 Catherine the Great became Empress of Russia after a coup toppled her late husband Peter III. She had no royal blood but ruled well. In 1850 Zachary Taylor, who had much military experience was elected US President despite having no electoral office experience, only to die after just over one year in office due to what is thought to have been a stomach virus. And three-time Presidential candidate and famed orator William Jennings Bryan is best remembered for his “Cross of Gold” speech that he delivered in 1896. He served a term as US Secretary of State but could not seem to get over the hump and into the White House. He did participate in another notable episode in 1925 – he was the prosecuting attorney in the infamous Scopes Trial, where he faced off against another noted orator Clarence Darrow.

Today marks the birthdate of Italian composer and conductor Ottorino Respighi (1879), former UK prime minister Edward Heath (1916), thriller writer Dean Koontz (1945), easy listening composer- and one-time Olympic gymnastics commentator John Tesh (1952), and multiple Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks (1956) whose movies I almost universally love.

This date marks the passing of three eminent legal minds. British conservative and French-Revolution critic Edmund Burke (1797), Supreme Court associate Justice Benjamin Cardozo (1938), and US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (1974) whose leadership revolutionized the preservation of civil liberties. It also marked the death of American suffragette activist Alice Paul (1977) who helped lead the fight to secure women’s right to vote, and the most successful (19% of the vote) third-party presidential candidate Ross Perot (2019).