George Washington Carver  (1864-1943)

     In 1890 George was in Winterset, Iowa. He was a high school graduate. He was an authority on plants. He crocheted fancywork. He painted with artistry and accuracy. He played the accordion. He sang. He was well read. He acted in plays. He debated. But he considered himself a grim joke. In spite of all his talents, he washed and ironed clothes for a living, his career a success only by the low standards forced on African Americans in those days. In fact, he was more than a joke. He was a failure. In Minneapolis George had bought property in 1882 and believed the seller when he said he could miss a payment or two. The man lied and took his property from him. In 1885 when George showed up at Highland College in a brand new suit they slammed the door in his face. He had failed to realize they wanted no blacks. In 1887 he had failed to insist that his homestead out in Ness County, Kansas, was not suited for corn. The only crop that could be dry-land farmed for money there was wheat. His head had told him that. He knew all about grasses. Wheat was a grass. But he had listened to men who knew no better and planted corn too. Then the summer heat and dryness burned up his corn crop. He did that not one year but two!
     Now here he was in Winterset scrubbing clothes on a washboard.
     He was 26 years old maybe. He didn't even know his birth year. He always figured he didn't know because he was a slave, born to a slave. But back in 1885 he had paid his respects at his older brother Jim's grave in Seneca, Missouri. Poor Jim had died a big strapping man from smallpox. And right on the tombstone it said Jim was born October 10, 1859! The very day!
     Where had George gone so wrong?

George Washington Carver: An American Biography by Rackham Holt, 1943, and George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol by Linda McMurry, 1981]

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George had no running water on his homestead - and every well he dug was dry!

George Washington Carver

George liked to 'versify', especially on long winter evenings inside his windowless sodhouse on the Kansas high plains.
      The rich and poor, the great and small,
      By this same sickle all must fall.
      Each moment is golden and none to waste.
      Arouse thee then, to duty haste!
The four-line stanza on using time wisely was just one of more than 40 in George's poem! Did the stanza mean he was already thinking of leaving his failing homestead?

Christopher Columbus  (1451-1506)

     In 1485 Columbus had been a respected sea captain, so esteemed and well-connected he was allowed to present to Portugal's King John II his scheme to reach China by sailing west. But King John had rejected him, causing him to go to Spain with his proposal. In 1486 he met a kindred spirit in Queen Isabella but King Ferdinand was interested in using the Spanish Crown's money to wage war against the Muslims in Granada. However Ferdinand put Columbus 'on ice' with a modest retainer. In the meantime Columbus' brother Bartholomew presented the proposal to England's King Henry VII. It was rejected. And the long wait continued. Columbus was miserable when he was not at sea. A second attempt in Portugal failed. A second try at the Spanish royalty in 1489 failed. By then he no longer had a retainer. Brother Bartholomew's proposal to France's King Charles VII failed. Meanwhile Columbus' prestige fell. At first the Spaniards whispered about him, but finally sensing the royalty had deserted him they made fun of him to his face. To them he was map-toting crackpot, a captain with no ship. Ridicule stung Columbus almost as much as idling his life away ashore. Yet still he waited. Then in 1491 Ferdinand and Isabella not only summoned him but sent money so he could buy suitable clothes first. Everyone in Spain by now knew the crazy sea captain was miserably poor. Still, this third attempt seemed to go very well with the royalty. And when Spain concluded its war against Grenada January 1492 Columbus was sure he was going to get his voyage.
     Then - after six and a half long years of waiting - the answer came: 'NO!'
     In a daze he packed his few belongings, including his beloved maps, and loaded them on a mule. Somehow he would get to France and try the king there - again. But how much failure and ridicule could he endure?...

Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus by Samuel Eliot Morison, 1942]

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Frederick the Wise (1463-1525)

The anecdote for Frederick the Wise is available HERE.

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Billy Graham (1918-alive)

     In 1937 Billy enrolled at the Florida Bible Institute near Tampa. Students were urged to practice preaching. The word was out: a student had to be ever ready to preach when the 'opportunity' came.  Billy polished four sermons he memorized from a book, a common practice.  He had in his head what he figured were at least two hours of preaching. Who knew when he would be called?  Sure enough, Billy soon got his call: he preached one night at a small church near Palatka. He raged on the pulpit. In fact he blasted out
all four of his sermons in less than ten minutes! The wide-eyed congregation looked like they had been machine-gunned.
     Billy felt miserable.  Why couldn't he slow down and speak like a real preacher? Night after night he agonized over doubts. For the first time in his life he could not sleep. He developed back aches and took to lying on the floor to ease the pain. Sometimes he had to leave his dorm room and wander the grounds. Maybe he shouldn't be a preacher at all. Once on a sidewalk in downtown Tampa he stood at the door of a sleazy bar haranguing the people inside about their certain steps to hell. The bartender whacked him sprawling into the street. When he went home to Charlotte his own family heard him preach. His parents were stupefied. His sisters were embarrassed.
     Ministers in the Tampa area had doubts too. Billy heard the rumors. Oh, he was powerful at praying. More than anyone they had ever heard he seemed to actually talk to God. But his preaching was so frenetic, said the whispers. Billy flailed the air with his pipe-stem arms, pounced around the pulpit like a man swatting flies, boomed his raw North Carolina twang to the far pews. Somehow that skinny throat bellowed like a freight train. And yet his message was plain vanilla. The pointy finger: 'You are a sinner. Christ died to pay for your sins.  But you must accept Christ to be saved.' Many whispered that only the most backward hick would respond to Billy's loud, frenzied messageā€¦
     He seemed such a loser.

Billy Graham: The Authorized Biography by John Pollock, 1966, and A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story by William Martin, 1991]

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Christopher Columbus Explorer

For many years Billy's rapid-fire preaching was maligned as a 'machine gun'.




Sam Wellman's

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