5. Father, Son Are First, Last Deaths in Hoover Dam Construction
Almost 80 years after its completion, the Hoover Dam is still regarded as an engineering marvel. Around 100 people died during the dam’s construction, a figure that varies depending upon whether you count only deaths during construction, or if you include related fatalities, such as deaths in the worker’s camps. By one measure, the first fatality occurred when a federal surveyor named J.G. Tierney fell into the Colorado River and drowned while surveying the dam site in 1922. The final fatality in the Hoover Dam project came 13 years to the day later, when the man’s son, Patrick Tierney, fell from an intake tower and drowned.
4. John F. Kennedy’s Last Words
Dallas, Texas, rolled out the red carpet for President John F. Kennedy during his visit on Nov. 22, 1963. During the motorcade through town, Texas Gov. John Connally’s wife, Nellie, told him, “Mr. President, you can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you.” The president replied, “No, you certainly can't.” He was shot seconds later.
3. Scientist Pioneers Tornado Research … Without Seeing One
Ted Fujita knew tornadoes like no one else before or since, even earning the nickname “Mr. Tornado.” Born in Japan in 1920, Fujita studied tornados almost his entire life. He meticulously charted outbreaks, flew over damage paths and developed theories that helped explain tornado formation. He developed the eponymous Fujita Scale that measures the power of tornadoes (F-1, F-2, etc.) Fujita correctly predicted the bizarre conditions inside a tornado (multiple vortices) that explain why a tornado can pass over one house without damage yet destroy the house next door. Yet as Fujita entered his 60s, he’d never actually seen a tornado. That irony might be lost on the amateur storm chasers today who probably see several tornadoes in a year, but for Fujita, it was a source of great disappointment. According to the book Storm Warning: The Story of a Killer Tornado, by Nancy Mathis, Fujita even had a vanity license plate, TTF0000, standing for Tetsuya Theodore Fujita, the zeros marking the number of tornadoes he’d seen. Finally, in June 1982, the 61-year-old Fujita was watching a storm near Denver when he spied two weak tornadoes. They would be the only tornadoes he ever witnessed.
2. Presidents Adams, Jefferson Die the Same Day … July 4
This coincidence is fairly well known to serious students of United States history, but that makes it no less strange. John Adams, the second U.S. President, and Thomas Jefferson, the third president, occupied the same corridors of power during America’s early days. They began as friends, but evolved into bitter political rivals. The 1800 presidential election, in which Jefferson defeated Adams, is regarded as one of the most divisive in history. Somehow, the men later renewed their friendship. On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of America's Declaration of Independence — a document both Adams and Jefferson were instrumental in creating — both men died within hours of each other. Adams’ last words were supposedly, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” although Adams did not realize Jefferson had died hours before.
1. Virginia Man Sees Civil War Begin, End at His House
As noted in a Listosaur story in April 2011, the first Battle of Bull Run — the war’s first major conflict — began near the home of Virginia businessman Wilmer McLean. Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the Southern forces, was using McLean’s house as his headquarters. As McLean and Beauregard had breakfast, Northern artillery shells crashed into the house. Beauregard immediately ordered counterattacks, escalating the war’s first major battle. A couple of years later, in 1863, McLean and his family moved about 100 miles away to a little hamlet called Appomattox Courthouse. On April 9, 1865, the decisive battle of the war was fought there, a quick victory for the North. Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the parlor of McLean’s house that afternoon. McLean would later note, “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.”
One More: Confederates Win Last Battle of the Civil War
One month after Lee surrendered at Appomattox, on May 12, 1865, Union Col. Theodore Barrett ignored orders and attacked a Confederate outpost at Palmito Ranch, Texas, on the banks of the Rio Grande. Despite the Union troops outnumbering the Confederate forces almost 2-1, the Confederate troops prevailed, thus winning the final battle in a war the South had already lost.