Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Charles P. Henderson

I grew up hearing that he was one of the best mayors Youngstown ever had up to that point. He was the grandson of William Henderson, an iron worker at Brown-Bonnell Iron Works. Charles P. Henderson was born March 3, 1911. He graduated from Princeton in the class of ’32. He went on to receive his law degree from the University of Michigan and returned to practice law. He was elected a municipal court judge in 1941. His political career was interrupted by World War 2. He served four years in the army then returned to Youngstown.

He found a city rife with crime and racketeering and decided to run for Mayor on an anti-corruption platform. In 1947, he defeated incumbent Ralph O’Neill by 3671 votes. Some think he won because voters were fed up with three City Council members who stayed away from meetings to block appointment of a councilman for the third ward. One of his first acts was to appoint FBI trained J. Edward Allen as police chief with a mission to clear out organized vice and crime. He appointed a new, ten man vice squad. Operators of the “bug,” and bookies were arrested. Much of the action shifted over the county line centered on the Jungle Inn, in Liberty Township.

Henderson worked to reduce smoke and smog, eliminate dumps, and improve housing. His efforts won him national attention and in 1950 he won the American All-City award for progressive attention. He won his 1951 campaign by 7,000 votes. However, resistance to his anti-corruption measures was growing and he was defeated in 1953 in his attempt to win a fourth term by Frank X. Kryzan. Meanwhile, Henderson was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a member of the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, an effort to coordinate federal and state government efforts.

In 1965, he was appointed by Governor James Rhodes as a Probate Court judge. He participated in a number of organizations related to the practice of law: Mahoning County. and Ohio State Bar Associations, Ohio State Municipal League, the Association of Probate judges the Judicial Conference, and Judicial College. He also participated on the boards of the Public Library of Youngstown, and the county Boards of Mental Health and Elections. In the late 1960’s, after a series of failed school levies threatened to, Henderson headed up a citizens committee spearhead an effort for the levy passage. It failed but the seventh try finally passed.

Henderson retired in 1985 and passed after a sudden heart attack on September 15, 1990. He was survived by his wife, the former Margaret Arms. Henderson was probably one of the most trusted people in Youngstown. While the city didn’t always want its politicians to be good, Henderson was one of those people came to when the public trust was important. I’ll leave others to decide who was Youngstown’s best mayor. But it’s clear to me he was one of the good ones.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Review: Mother of Modern Evangelicalism

Mother of Modern Evangelicalism: The Life and Legacy of Henrietta Mears, Arlin C. Migliazzo, Foreword by Kristen Kobes Du Mez. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020.

Summary: The first comprehensive biography on Henrietta Mears that focuses on her early life, her Christian Education ministry at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, and her national impact on a nascent evangelical network of leaders, on Christian publishing and retreat ministry.

She had been dead for almost a decade when I received a copy of What the Bible is All About. I was a young Christian, still in high school, trying to read the Bible. The book started me on a lifelong habit of reading scripture through its clear explanations of the layout of the Bible, the world of the Bible, and the central figure of scripture, the Lord Jesus. In a small way at least, I was one more person in whose life Henrietta Mears had an impact. I had no notion of the breadth of impact the grandmotherly woman on the back cover had during her life on American evangelicalism.

The edition of What the Bible is All About that helped me begin reading the Bible.

Mears established the largest Sunday School in the country and headed up the National Sunday School Association, raising the standards of Christian education throughout the country. She hosted a ministry to some of the leading men and women in Hollywood during the 1950’s. She was a catalyst in the ministries of Bill Bright, Dawson Trotman, and Billy Graham as well as many others. The need for Christ-centered and biblically sound Sunday School materials led to establish Gospel Light Publishing, which she headed up for many years. She purchased a Christian conference center, Forest Home. Her college class turned out a generation of leaders who became pastors, missionaries, and leaders in a number of professions across the country, creating a network that served for the expansion of a theologically conservative but culturally engaging evangelicalism.

All this in spite of a very obvious fact. Mears was a woman in an era where gender roles were very well defined and men preached and led. She never challenged this gender framework. She simply led with excellence and expected that of those around her. She sought out men especially for her college ministry who would be leaders, mentored them, sometimes in demanding terms. She poured herself into others with a kind of tough and yet utterly supportive love that led to their blossoming.

Working at the intersection of the entertainment industry and a center of education, she both hued to theological orthodoxy and adopted an open and generous stance to the intellectual and entertainment world of her day, establishing a model for a culturally winsome evangelicalism that contrasted with the fortress mentality of some fundamentalists (though not all, as Migliazzo notes).

While the work of Mears between 1928 and her death in 1963 was fairly well known, Arlin Migliazzo draws on various archival materials and interviews to show the depth and breadth of that work. He also introduces us to the young Henrietta Mears, growing up in the upper Midwest. She grew up in a devout Baptist family. Her father traveled extensively for his business and so her mother Margaret played a significant role in her upbringing, imparting her faith, as well as a keen work ethic, and high standards of responsibility.

He also traces her college training in education and early teaching experience, where almost immediately, she was made principal of a small rural Minnesota high school. Returning to Minneapolis, she took up leadership of the Sunday School under leading fundamentalist pastor William Bell Riley. She built a girls ministry called Fidelis that reached over 500 in number. She turned her back on marriage. After almost ten years came the call to Hollywood Presbyterian Church.

She had a husky voice, weak eyes, and was described as “built like a fireplug.” She could be demanding. When she felt betrayed, she could be unforgiving. She liked the finer things, including fur collars. Migliazzo notes her weak record on issues of race. Yet when she began to speak in a class or convention, she commanded attention for the clarity of her teaching and passion for Christ. How else to account for her influence on the likes of Graham, Bright, and others?

Migliazzo’s outstanding biography not only helps us to take the measure of her life in full but also sets her in the larger framework of the emergence of evangelicalism from its fundamentalist roots. She played a vital role in that emergence, and “showed” the capabilities of women given over to Christ in a time when “telling” wasn’t possible.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Unstoppable

Unstoppable, Joshua M. Greene. San Rafael, CA: Insight Editions, 2021.

Summary: The biography of Siggi Wilzig, an Auschwitz Holocaust survivor who arrived in the U.S. with $240 and built a fortune in both the oil and banking industries while speaking out against the Holocaust.

His mother immediately went to the gas chamber. His father was beaten to death. In all, he lost 57 extended family members in the Holocaust. He survived by his wits, and he believes, the hand of God. This biography tells the story of Siggi Wilzig, who was not stopped by the brutalities of Auschwitz and a forced march to Mauthausen. Starvation did not stop him. He was not stopped by having only a couple of hundred dollars to his name and sweatshop labor. Nor was he stopped by the anti-Semitic character of both the oil and banking industries through which he made his fortune. He did not let the Fed stop him.

He made three vows. This biography describes how he fulfilled them. He vowed never again to starve. He vowed to raise healthy, productive Jewish children and help his people. And he vowed to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

When he arrived, his first job was to shovel snow in front of a Jewish store front. In the late 40’s and 1950’s he worked in sweatshops and various traveling sales jobs. He figured out how to sell anything. He started investing in stocks, including Wilshire Oil. At a party, he met Sol Diamond, another Wilshire investor, and together they hatched a plan to take over the company with Siggi as president. They eventually acquired a significant enough share to influence the board, which accepted Siggi’s proposals to turn around the company. This began the company’s meteoric rise and a subsequent purchase of an East coast electronics firm. The challenge was to find adequate cash without exorbitant loans to fund the continued growth of the oil company.

The solution that presented itself was to acquire a bank and “upstream” the profits. His chosen target was the Trust Company of New Jersey (TCNJ). It was a small but profitable bank in which Wilshire eventually acquired an 87 percent interest. Some of the most fascinating aspects of this book are the accounts of how Wilzig ran the bank. He personally courted customers alternately wooing and cudgeling them to bring all their business to him. Much was highly unconventional, and woe to the person, even a family member, who crossed him! A portrait develops of a highly driven man relentlessly pursuing success, unwilling to take no for an answer. He eventually built a bank with $100 million in assets to one with $4 billion. When the Fed tells him that Wilshire must divest of the bank, he takes them to court. Forced to divest, he develops a scheme where his daughter runs the oil company with his “advice” and he runs the bank.

This brings us to family, and particularly his three children. Sherry is most like him in business savvy, and at 23 runs the oil company. Ivan, who Siggi wants to become a lawyer for the bank, and heir apparent, wants nothing of it, but submerges his desire for a music career for twenty years in the bank. Eventually he achieves his dream with a Billboard hit and second career on Broadway, finally making his peace with his father. Third son Alan eventually takes over the bank. Naomi never breaks with Siggi, although she is distant from a man married first to his work. What all understand and struggle with is the survivor who is never truly free of Auschwitz, plagued with nightmares and traumatic memories.

Finally, Wilzig was devoted to perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust. He was the first survivor to speak to West Point Cadets. He was named to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Council during Jimmy Carter’s presidency and helped the Council work through a thicket of issues before the Museum was finally opened in 1993. He spoke forcefully against Reagan’s visit to the SS cemetery at Bitburg and Reagan’s unintended equating of the German soldiers there with the Jews who died in the Holocaust. Dying of multiple myeloma, through the special efforts of Ivan, he records testimony of his Holocaust experience.

Nothing stopped him from keeping his vows. Joshua Greene renders a complex, multi-faceted person. His genuine interest in customers, his ability to crack one liners one minute, only to launch into a tirade the next, his shrewd ability to assess a balance sheet, his love of his children and grandchildren, his loyalty to friends and employees like partner in survival Larry Martel, and his effort to utterly control their destinies, and his undying commitment to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust all combine in this man who was small of stature, with thick, coiffed hair. This is a fascinating biography of a man I’d never heard of who carried the trauma of the Holocaust but was never stopped by it. Greene’s biography also succeeds in doing what Siggi himself sought to do, keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust as the survivors pass into blessed memory.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Notorious RBG

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Irin Cardmon & Shana Knizhnik. New York: Dey StreetBooks, 2015.

Summary: A profile of the Supreme Court Justice, centered around her dissenting opinions read from the bench but also tracing her career, her marriage, work out routines and more, liberally illustrated with photos and images.

In the 2012-2013 session of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read five of her dissents orally from the bench, a record, and perhaps a commentary of sorts on the court’s majority. She attracted the attention of feminists and one of the authors, Shana Knizhnik, whose Tumblr account, named after the deceased rapper Notorious B.I.G., Notorious RBG. This spawned a cottage industry of T-shirts, posters, and memes celebrating the diminutive yet formidable Justice.

The authors chronicle her rise, and contend that it was not always an icon of feminism. Yes, she was a pathbreaker in the legal profession, teaching at Rutgers and Columbia and co-founding the Women’s Rights Project, an analogue to the NAACP’s strategy of making incremental progress through legal precedents. This led to her appointment to the DC District Court of Appeals, and then to the Supreme Court under Bill Clinton. Throughout the time, she and others characterized her as a moderate. Only late in life, through the influence of her clerks, her senior status as a liberal on the court, and the rightward movement of the court did she become a fierce representative of the resistance.

The authors include excerpts from her dissents, striking for their readability, something she believed in. But this is not all work and no play, although RBG had a Herculean work ethic, often working late into the night on opinions. She had a storybook marriage to Marty, who she met at Harvard Law. It was a truly egalitarian marriage and one in which Marty often arranged his work around Ginsburg’s court work. He also happened to be the better cook (there is even a recipe of Marty’s in the appendix).

Then there were her relationships with other Justices, the deep respect she had for Rehnquist, despite their differences, as “the Chief,” the support she gave younger women including Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, and the unusual friendship with Antonin “Nino” Scalia. They shared a love of opera, and there is even a picture of the two riding an elephant together!

Finally, part of her endurance had to do with her physical workout routines. She could do twenty pushups! The book, which ends during the Obama administration, details her determination to keep working, particularly in a brief window of time when she was in a majority and wasn’t making her mark with her dissents. No doubt, there will be many questions about the wisdom of her choice.

What this book makes clear is that there will be no questions about the distinctive character and contribution of Justice Ginsburg on the bench, from her opinions to her jabots! While not a full-fledged biography, and clearly an account by those who liked their subject, this book, liberally illustrated with photographs and illustrations from throughout her life, demonstrate that “notorious” is not a bad word to describe RBG.

The Month in Reviews: May 2021

I just finished a book edited by Marita Golden of interviews with Black writers discussing the transformative power of both reading and writing. That is what sustains reading and writing in my own life–to share what has been good and even transformative, and to hope I might connect you with writing that will have that effect in your life. That was certainly the case with the books I read this month whether it was a comprehensive study of the doctrine (indeed the wonder) of creation, the theme of rest in the Bible or a classic Octavia Butler work that explores the dynamics of colonization at the level of alien life. Reading Mary Wells Lawrence’s memoir of her life in advertising, which began in my home town of Youngstown was a walk down the memory lane of all those ad slogans that will forever be etched in my mind, and finally, I know who to blame! Walter Isaacson’s The Code Breaker on Jennifer Doudna and CRISPR is essential reading for understanding the coming biotech revolution. Contemporary issues were amply covered in works on sexual abuse in the church, whether we can have a redemptive presence on social media, and how Christians might faithfully engage the news. In the realm of fiction, in addition to the Octavia Butler, I enjoyed a historical fiction account of J.D. Salinger’s war experience and the first volume of a new fantasy series and continued reading my way through the works of golden age mystery by Ngaio Marsh. Take a look through this list and you just might find a few summer reads!

Reimagining ApologeticsJustin Ariel Bailey. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. A case for an apologetics appealing to beauty and to the imagination that points toward a better picture of what life might be. Full review

Sergeant SalingerJerome Charyn. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2021. A fictional account of J.D. Salinger’s early adult life, centered around his wartime service with the CIC including the landing at Utah Beach, fighting in Normandy’s Hedgerows, the interrogation of German captives, the harrowing fighting of Huertgen Forest during the Battle of the Bulge, and the discovery of a Nazi death camp. Full review

Prayer in the NightTish Harrison Warren. Downers Grove: IVP Formatio, 2021. Both an introduction to Compline and a phrase by phrase reflection using one of the loveliest of Compline prayers. Full review

#ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing, Emily Joy Allison. Minneapolis: Broadleaf Books, 2021. An argument connecting sexual abuse and other sexually dysfunctional teaching to the purity teaching upholding an ideal of abstinence until marriage between a man and a woman. Full review

Posting Peace: Why Social Media Divides Us and What We Can Do About ItDouglas S. Bursch. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. A discussion of the nature of online media, why it divides us, and how Christians can have a reconciling and redemptive presence. Full review

Candles in the DarkRowan Williams. London: SPCK, 2020. Weekly meditations by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, written for his parish church from March to September 2020, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Full review

A Big Life (in advertising)Mary Wells Lawrence. New York, Simon & Schuster, 2003. A memoir of the first woman to head up a Madison Avenue advertising firm, producing some of the most memorable advertising campaigns of the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Full review

Waiting for the Rest That Still RemainsArie C. Leder. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2021. A consideration of the theology of the former prophets, including the Book of Ruth, considered through the lens of rest. Full review

The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles #1), Mike Brooks. New York: Solaris, 2021. Former enemies seek refuge with the people of Black Keep against a backdrop of political infighting, intrigue around the succession of the God-King, and the rise of a sinister power. Full review

The Code BreakerWalter Isaacson. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021. The story of the 2020 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, Jennifer Doudna, and the discovery of ways to use CRISPR enzymes to edit genomes, and her subsequent efforts to establish ethical standards for the use of this breakthrough discovery. Full review

Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the NewsJeffrey Bilbro. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A discussion of what Christian faithfulness looks like as we engage the news, focusing on our practices of attention, our awareness of the time we are in, and the communities of which we are part. Full review

Death in Ecstasy (Roderick Alleyn #4), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2012 (originally published in 1936). Nigel Bathgate happens upon the strange religious rites at the House of the Sacred Flame just in time to witness the death of Cara Quayne, the Chosen Vessel, when she imbibes a chalice of wine laced with cyanide. Full review

Adulthood Rites (Exogenesis #2), Octavia Butler. New York: Popular Library, 1988. (Out of print. Link is to a different edition) Lilith’s son Akin, a human “construct,” is kidnapped by resisters and raised in one of their settlements, and realizes his own unique and risky calling. Full review

The Doctrine of Creation: A Constructive Kuyperian Approach, Bruce Riley Ashford and Craig G. Bartholomew. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. A study of the doctrine of creation, demonstrating how this doctrine is foundational and related to everything else in Christian theology. Full review

The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and WritingEdited by Marita Golden. New York: Broadway Paperbacks, 2011. Interviews with notable Black writers about formative influences on their reading and writing, significant books and their particular writing callings. Full review

Best Book of the Month. I give the nod this month to Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night. She introduces the unfamiliar to the practice of Compline prayers and reflects chapter by chapter on one of the most beautiful of these and how God meets us in the night in every circumstance of our lives from our joys to our dying. This is exquisitely beautiful and vulnerable writing.

Quote of the Month: I love quotes on reading. Edwidge Danticat, in Marita Golden’s The Word made this striking observation about the importance of both reading and writing, one to which I fully subscribe:

“Reading is important–although we can so easily go into platitudes here–because it expands your mind, your life. It extends your world. It’s traveling without a passport. I feel like there are people in my life I will never know as well as the people in the books that I’ve read. I believe that it’s the duty of every truly free citizen to read, especially to read beyond your borders, to read and read extensively. Writing is our footmark in the world. We’re still looking at cave writings of centuries ago and are asking, what are they saying? It’s one of the most important gifts we leave the world” (p. 72)

What I’m Reading. I just finished Notorious RBG, a somewhat light-hearted biographical sketch of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg written while she was still alive. It ranges the gamut from her legal career and cases involving women’s rights and her dissents on the bench to her jabots, who did the cooking in her household, and the love of opera she shared with “Nino” Scalia. Tons of pictures! I’m into a couple other biographies at present, one of Henrietta Mears, whose What the Bible is all About was a guidebook to me in my early Christian life, and one of Siggi Wilzig, a holocaust survivor who arrived here with a grade school education and $240 and became a Wall Street legend. The book is titled Unstoppable and it strikes me as a somewhat tragic tale of a driven and psychologically scarred man. I’ve just begun Chandra Crane’s Mixed Blessing, on embracing a bi- or multi-racial identity, something true of nine million Americans, and which will only grow in the years ahead. And I’ve just opened Wendell Berry’s The Hidden Wound. I can’t go a year without reading something of his. In my continuing quest to read through all the Chief Inspector Gamache stories, I anticipate reading #8, A Beautiful Mystery, this month. Her books helped me get through the pandemic, so I’m not giving up now!

Review: The Word

The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing, Edited by Marita Golden. New York: Broadway Paperbacks, 2011.

Summary: Interviews with notable Black writers about formative influences on their reading and writing, significant books and their particular writing callings.

This is a wonderful gateway book into the world of Black authors. Marita Golden engages in interviews with some of the foremost black authors filled with discussion of books that influenced their lives and of the books they have written. Each interview concludes with the interviewed author’s recommended books.

As if this were not enough, this is a work on reading and writing and the integral relation between the two. In many cases, parents were a significant influence in fostering a love of reading through reading aloud, through having books in the home and encouraging regular trips to the library. Columbus native Wil Haygood said, “I read my way into opportunity. The more I read, the more I realized the world was big and I could find a place in it.”

That was not always the case. Nathan McCall did not read until he went to prison and discovered Richard Wright on the prison book cart. He said:

“I had never been pulled into a book like that before. It just made me cry. I remember I finished it at about three o’clock in the morning and I was just weeping. After I read [Native Son] it was like, damn, I didn’t know somebody had written something like this” (p. 114).

He went on to read Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, and George Jackson among others and started thinking about his own life and began writing down his thoughts in a notebook, the beginning of his life as a writer.

In the case of Edwidge Danticat, it was reading Ludwig Bemelmans Madeline that opened her eyes to the possibility of telling stories by writing them down. For Chimamanda N. Adichie, it was the experience of reading Chinua Achebe that opened her mind to the possibility of being a Nigerian writer. In fact, for so many, it was the model of another Black writer, of many Black writers that gave them the courage to write as well as expanding their cultural literacy and vision of the world.

For some, a book set them directly on their own writing career as was the case with David Levering Lewis, who has written Pulitzer Prize winning works on W. E. B. DuBois. Reading The Souls of Black Folk was transformative for him. J. California Cooper, the playwright, spoke of how Isaac Bashevis Singer taught him how to “take life and make it a great story.” We also learn about the journeys of these writers in becoming writers and some of their process, such as young Wil Haygood working for a pittance at the Columbus Call and Post and discovering how much he loved journalistic writing.

What all seem to agree upon is the importance of reading and books to enriching one’s writing life and that the two are inextricably bound together. This leads to a discussion in the book about the purported decline in reading, which Golden asks about in her interviews. While some decry this, some question whether younger readers are reading in different ways or simply have yet to find the books that answer to them. Nikki Giovanni presents the counterfactual that kids wanted to read the Harry Potter books (and at one point her own) so badly that they stole them if they couldn’t afford to buy them.

Book lovers love talking about or even overhearing conversations about books and how writers come to write the books we love. Reading this book is to overhear thirteen rich conversations that speak of the transformative power of both reading and writing. I will conclude by leaving you with this gem from Edwidge Danticat:

“Reading is important–although we can so easily go into platitudes here–because it expands your mind, your life. It extends your world. It’s traveling without a passport. I feel like there are people in my life I will never know as well as the people in the books that I’ve read. I believe that it’s the duty of every truly free citizen to read, especially to read beyond your borders, to read and read extensively. Writing is our footmark in the world. We’re still looking at cave writings of centuries ago and are asking, what are they saying? It’s one of the most important gifts we leave the world” (p. 72)

A Million Views Later

Screen capture of part of my WordPress stats page, 3:30 pm ET, 5-30-2021.

I don’t usually post on Sundays, but thought I’d share a milestone for Bob on Books, the blog, today. About 3:30 pm today. I passed the one million view mark.

One one hand, that is not a particularly remarkable accomplishment. It has taken nearly eight years and over 2500 posts to reach that mark, There are some bloggers who reach that mark with a single blog post! In my case, it was a matter of perseverance.

What is remarkable is all the people who helped make that possible and the real intent of this post is not so much to brag as to say “thank you” for all those who visited, over 683,000! Then there are all the authors whose books I reviewed, the publicists who sent many of those for review, and the loyal followers from Youngstown who not only visited but often suggested ideas for posts, and sometimes materials I could not otherwise have found. I’ve been blessed to be able to post in a number of Facebook groups that have helped grow the audience and I appreciate all the admins who have put up with me! I’m also grateful for the Bob on Books Facebook page and its 11,000+ followers and the nearly 1100 who follow on WordPress. I’ve appreciated all those who commented, and am grateful that for the most part, I’ve been free of “trolls.”

One of the pieces of counsel I came across early was not to pay attention to views or worry about audience and simply do the work:

  • Post consistently
  • Make an effort to write good material
  • Engage with those who comment
  • Post in groups appropriate to content and engage and always abide by group rules.

The audience has grown over the years from 3,281 in 2013 to 102,054 in 2015, my first year over 100,000 views, to 223,837 in 2020. This year looks on track to reach 275,000 to 280,000 views. The highest single day I’ve had on the blog was 8196 views on December 27, 2015 , a list of the Top Ten Youngstown posts for that year. It was my all time leading post at over 20,000 views, again, pretty modest by most standards.

I write six posts a week, and that nearly daily routine keeps me sharp, and hopefully over the years, has made me a better writer. I admit that it has been a constant learning curve on everything from grammar to understanding SEO. I’ve also learned that a rich archive of posts is like savings in the bank that keep yielding dividends. On many days, old posts account for 50 to 75 percent of the traffic.

As for the future? One never knows, but I have to admit that I still enjoy the writing and all the interactions on the blog, so, Lord willing I’ll be around to write again when I reach the two million mark, which I could reach in a bit less than four years at the current pace.

I also have to say thanks to the team at WordPress, which hosts this site. They have been helpful on a number of occasions when I’ve run into technical problems beyond my expertise.

Above all, I appreciate you, whoever is reading this. I wondered when I started out on this in August of 2013 whether anyone would read what I wrote. I still am amazed when someone tells me they bought a book because of a review, or liked one of my Youngstown stories. I’m both humbled and grateful!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty

Life magazine, on June 27, 1969, ran a feature story titled  “The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll.” The article ran ten pages and simply featured face after face, 242 in all, of Americans who died “in connection with the conflict in Vietnam” in one week. One of those faces was listed as “Patrick M. Hagerty, 19, Army, SP4, Youngstown, Ohio.” He was a field wireman and the picture in Life shows him on a pole, with safety belt and protective gloves, doing his work.

I came across the Life article searching for a story of one of those from Youngstown who died in Vietnam to remember on Memorial Day, the day this country sets aside to remember those who died in uniform in service to our country. According to the Virtual Wall, he is one of sixty-four from Youngstown who died in Vietnam.

Patrick Michael Hagerty was born on July 27, 1949 to Mr. and Mrs. Harold Hagerty who lived on N. Garland Avenue. He was a member of Immaculate Conception Church and attended East High School. He enlisted in the Army in September of 1966. He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on August 11, 1968 as a field wireman. He was attached to the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, B Company.

On May 31, 1969 his unit was about 10 kilometers south of Kontum City, located in the central highlands of what was then South Vietnam, not too far from the borders of Laos and Cambodia. During a hostile action, he suffered multiple fragmentation wounds (wounds resulting from the fragments of an explosive device) which he did not survive.

He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. The Purple Heart is awarded for “Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces” Sadly, Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty, qualified. His name is engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial Panel W23 Line 27. At the Virtual Wall entry for PVT Patrick Michael Hagerty, you can see a virtual rubbing of his name on the memorial.

[After posting this article Patrick’s nephew pointed me to this comment about Patrick which may be found at The Wall of Faces under his name, possibly written by his Platoon Sergeant]:

I’ve tried to track down all of our Platoon, Patrick, and to post some small note of Remembrance…

You’re one of the last for me, although I visited you once again down in DC last month, for Veterans Day. I remember that you were assigned to my Platoon from another outfit, and that you were VERY ‘short’, possibly within two weeks of going back to The World. I recall that I asked if you wanted to become an RTO for awhile, and perhaps ‘coast’ a little, until we could get you sent back to the Rear…

You wanted no part of that, Patrick, and you took your assignment as part of Bravo’s flank security during our movement… When the contact ensued, you were in the middle of it all…

Everyone who reads this should know what a brave young man you were, Patrick, and a damned fine soldier as well.

See you soon,
Murph

He was 19 when he died. He enlisted and so chose to answer his country’s call. He represents both what is noble and tragic in war. His is only one of sixty-four Youngstown stories of those who died in Vietnam, and one of many more from Youngstown who died in America’s wars. Each one is worth remembering. I chose this Memorial Day weekend to remember Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty. Who do you remember?

We remember.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Review: The Doctrine of Creation

The Doctrine of Creation: A Constructive Kuyperian Approach, Bruce Riley Ashford and Craig G. Bartholomew. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study of the doctrine of creation, demonstrating how this doctrine is foundational and related to everything else in Christian theology.

The doctrine of creation has often been eclipsed in various ways in recent years. It has come under attack by some scientists and the arguments about the timing and efforts to harmonize biblical and scientific accounts have overshadowed the broader implications of this doctrine. The ongoing struggle of Christianity with gnostic tendencies have led to de-emphasis on the physical creation for some spiritualized, disembodied version of Christianity. For others, a Christocentric or cross-centric approach to theology also has led to de-emphasis on the doctrine of creation.

Ashford and Bartholomew draw upon the Kuyperian tradition in which the doctrine of creation is foundational and has implications for everything else while engaging other theologians and differing viewpoints in a constructive theological approach to this doctrine. This is one of those cases where they show as well as tell, not only making the argument, but showing the connections of this crucial doctrine to our understanding of culture, of God’s providence, of redemption and our eschatological hope, centered in the new creation.

They begin by outlining the doctrine of creation as an article of faith and how this relates to our doctrine of scripture and doctrine of God, and the fundamental idea of the goodness of creation, shaping our relationship with the physical world. They then engage in historical theology, surveying all the important theologians from the church fathers up through the modern period in two chapters. Before exegeting the early chapters of Genesis, a chapter is devoted to the omnipotence of God, the nature of evil, and the implications the idea of ex nihilo creation, which the authors support.

The next four chapters (5-8) walk through Genesis 1-3. They observe that from Genesis 1 alone we learn:

  • the existence of light;
  • the reality of time, days, seasons, years, and history;
  • the three great places of our world: sky, sea, and land;
  • the distinction between birds, sea creatures, and land animals;
  • the extraordinary world of flora and fruit trees and their importance in the food chain;
  • humankind as similar to and yet distinct from the other creatures and with unique capacities;
  • humankind as called to responsible stewardship of the creation;
  • humankind as gendered and inherently relational; and
  • humankind as inherently religious–that is, made for God. (p. 171)

The subsequent chapters explore Genesis 2, a discussion of the “heaven” in “heaven and earth” and the fall.

The authors then turn to other doctrines and the influence of the doctrine of creation. First is the influence of creation on our understanding of culture. A highlight of this chapter included a vocational focus on the rise of modern science, the art of Makoto Fujimura, and philospher Alvin Plantinga. The chapter on providence, “Creatio Continua,” was the highlight for me in a book full of treasures. In particular, they delineate the threefold providence of God as preservation, accompanying, and ruling. They even throw in a striking insight of the providence of God in the Septuagint, which gave a whole dictionary of Greek theological terms on which the early Christian movement could draw. Creation and the new creation are vitally intertwined, not simply as the beginning and end of the story. To what degree will the new creation restore, repristinate, or replace the old? And how should what is coming shape the way the church lives as disciples in the present.

The last chapter on “Creation And…” is a tour de force as the authors offer some of the best delineations I have seen in a few pages each of creation and…philosophy, the table (thinking about the implications of creation for how we eat), time, science, the self, and human dignity. An appendix follows in which Bartholomew and Michael Goheen outline in enumerated points the contours of a missional neo-Calvinism that shows in concise form how creation and the redemptive mission of God are integral to one another.

As noted, this work shows the richness of the doctrine of creation in its implications for all of life. The insets in the text may seem distracting at first but offer crucial theological elaboration of the discussion in each chapter. This is a work to be read slowly and reflectively. In the tradition of Calvin and Kuyper, one will be rewarded with deepening wonder in the greatness of God and delight in God’s creation and its implications for all of life.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Adulthood Rites

Adulthood Rites (Exogenesis #2), Octavia Butler. New York: Popular Library, 1988. (Out of print. Link is to a different edition)

Summary: Lilith’s son Akin, a human “construct,” is kidnapped by resisters and raised in one of their settlements, and realizes his own unique and risky calling.

Akin was a male child born of Lilith, the main character of the first volume in this series. He is the first male “construct,” He is the fruit of a human-alien union–a human father and an Oankali mother and father, and a Ooloi, neither male nor female. Outwardly he looks human, except for his tongue, through which he senses the world, and can also kill. He is also unlike any human in language and intelligence. In months, he can speak like an adult. One day a refugee from a resister settlement, Tino shows up and is accepted into the community of Lo. Over time, Akin and Tino develop a special bond, the beginning of an unanticipated connection with the resisters, humans unwilling to bond with the Oankali, and therefore sterile.

One day, Akin and Tino are out when kidnappers seize Akin, leaving Tino for dead. After a harrowing journey, he ends up in Phoenix, a resister settlement hungry to acquire children if they cannot conceive their own. He becomes the child of Gabe and Taft, developing bonds with them even as he grieves the severed bonds with his own siblings in Lo, bonds he can never fully regain. Over time, he recognizes the contradiction of the drive to live, and the drive to kill in humans, and that they are a dying race on a dying planet, with or without the Oankali. He also grasps that there is another possibility, one only possible if he becomes an Akjai, a kind of go-between.

It is risky. Though rescued at last by Lilith and his family, he must give up Lo, embrace training with the Oankali, and then risk return to a Phoenix, even as he transitions to adulthood. And there is no guarantee they will accept the way to a new life he will propose, or even survive the attempt.

This is such an imaginative series. Butler continues to explore the implication of the “trade” the Oankali engage in with humans, and what human-alien progeny might be like. It also parses out the implications of the miscalculation that many humans would refuse the trade the Oankali offered. It strikes me that this is analogous to the blindness of earthly colonizers who cannot grasp why native peoples would refuse the “blessings” of civilization, even when this meant inevitable extinction. But Butler also sees another side to this, that humans faced with the struggle to survive will resort to suspicion and violence and killing, even at the continual diminishment of their numbers.

Can this dying race in a post-nuclear world be saved? Will Akin’s desperate effort work, even with a remnant? And what of us–a people at each others’ throats when faced with a global pandemic, a rapidly warming climate, rising lawlessness and violence in many quarters, and the shadow of thermo-nuclear destruction under which I’ve lived since childhood? Why do we both love life and seem committed to self-destruction? What hope is there for us?