Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: August 24, 1911 - Durward Kirby


Kirby in 1962

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
(Accessed on August 15, 2016)

Homer Durward Kirby (August 24, 1911 – March 15, 2000), known professionally as Durward Kirby (sometimes misspelled Durwood Kirby), was an American television host and announcer. He is best remembered for The Garry Moore Show in the 1950s and Candid Camera, which he co-hosted with Allen Funt from 1961 through 1966.

Early life
Kirby was born in Covington, Kentucky.[1] His family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, when he was 15. Kirby graduated from Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, then entered Purdue University to study engineering. However, he dropped out to become a radio announcer.

By 1936, Kirby was an announcer for WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio.[2] In 1937, an Associated Press news story reported that Kirby "made a name for himself" with his reporting on the Ohio River flood of 1937.[3] He also worked at radio stations in Chicago and Indianapolis before the war.[1]

He served in the United States Navy during World War II.

Following the war, Kirby hosted Club Matinee in Chicago with Garry Moore on the NBC Blue radio network before moving to television in 1949 as an announcer.[4] He also worked on Meet Your Navy and Honeymoon in New York on network radio.[5]

Kirby was a regular on Moore's television shows from 1950 to 1968. (The Associated Press's obituary for Kirby gives his years of working with Moore's television show as 1950-1951, 1958-1964, and 1966-1967.)[1] Kirby also appeared as a host, announcer, or guest on other television programs, including serving as one of NBC Radio's Monitor "Communicators".[6][7]

Kirby did some acting in summer stock theatre, including three years' appearances in productions at the Cherry County Playhouse in Michigan.[8]

Other information
Kirby stood 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall and had a mellow personality that served well as a foil for the stars with whom he worked. A versatile performer, he acted in sketches, sang, and danced. He moved with ease from slapstick to suave sales pitches for the sponsor's product. Critic John Crosby called him "one of the most versatile muggers and comedians on the air."[1]



Some of Kirby's comedic roles. Top from left: "Jennie", Old Southern Colonel, Prince Charming. Bottom from left: "Joe Dribble", "Whistler's Mother, a Japanese movie star.

His most embarrassing moment came during a Polaroid commercial, during which he forgot to pull the tab after taking a picture of Garry Moore holding his Christmas list. After nearly a minute of a Polaroid representative yelling, "Pull the tab!" from the audience, Kirby gave a mighty yank with his long arms and pulled all seven remaining pictures out of the camera. This required a fair amount of strength, not only to burst the developer pods but to rip through the stops on the film roll.[9]

Kirby wrote three books: My Life, Those Wonderful Years; Bits and Pieces of This and That; and a children's book, Dooley Wilson.[1]

Personal life
Kirby married Mary Paxton Young on June 15, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois.[10] Paxton was a singer and actress on radio[11] who died in 1994. They had two sons.[1]

Kirby died of congestive heart failure in Fort Myers, Florida, on March 15, 2000,[1] at the age of 88. He was buried next to his wife, Mary Paxton Young Kirby, in Coburn Cemetery in Fairfield County, Connecticut, where he had a summer home. He was survived by his two sons[6] and three grandsons.[1]

Cultural references
Kirby's name was spoofed in the animated series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, wherein a man's hat (size 7-5/32) was called the "Kirward Derby". It supposedly had magic powers that made its wearer the smartest person in the world. Kirby considered suing, but his business manager pointed out that it would only bring more attention to the show. Jay Ward, producer of The Bullwinkle Show, even offered to pay Kirby to sue him; however, he did not pursue any further action.[12]

A button reading "Durward Kirby for President in '64" appears in the January 1964 edition of Mad.

In the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Phyllis Whips Inflation" (season 5, episode 114; aired 18 January 1975),[13] the character Phyllis Lindstrom explains that the drop in the price of her Polaroid stock is because the company hired Laurence Olivier to do its television commercials. She says they should have saved money and hired Kirby (a reference to his Polaroid commercial incident).

In the movie Pulp Fiction (1994), the character Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) orders a "Durward Kirby" burger.

The eponymous title track on the album Scraps by the band NRBQ includes the line: "I know a Melarooney boy named Durward Kirby; I yelled in his ear and wondered if he heard me."

"Age is just a number, and mine is unlisted."

1.    Leisner, Pat (March 17, 2000). "Durward Kirby, TV funnyman, Garry Moore sidekick, dead at 88". Standard-Speaker. Pennsylvania, Hazleton. Associated Press. p. 2. Retrieved July 7, 2016 – via 
2.    "New Series in Estate Program". The Journal News. Ohio, Hamilton. August 6, 1936. p. 10. Retrieved July 6, 2016 – via 
3.    "Kirby to Announce Log Rolling Event". Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. Wisconsin, Oshkosh. Associated Press. August 11, 1937. p. 3. Retrieved July 6, 2016 – via 
4.    Rayburn, John, ed. (2008). Cat Whiskers and Talking Furniture: Memoir of Radio and Television Broadcasting. McFarland. p. 256. ISBN 0-7864-3697-2. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
5.    DeLong, Thomas A. (1996). Radio Stars: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953 Performers, 1920 through 1960. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-2834-2. P. 153.
6.    "Durward Kirby". Find a Grave. 15 July 2000. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
7.    "Monitor Promotional Material". Monitor Beacon. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
8.    "Durward Kirby Opens Season At Cherry County Playhouse". Ludington Daily News. July 2, 1971. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
9.    Wensberg, Peter (September 1987). Land's Polaroid. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 115–117. ISBN 978-0395421147. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
10. "Miss Young Weds Durward Kirby". The Delta Democrat-Times. Mississippi, Greenville. June 15, 1941. p. 3. Retrieved July 7, 2016 – via 
11. Fidler, Jimmy (December 12, 1942). "Hollywood Roundup". The Evening Standard. Pennsylvania, Uniontown. McNaught Syndicate, Inc. p. 6. Retrieved July 7, 2016 – via 
12. Scott, Keith (2000). The Moose that Roared. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 181–182. ISBN 0-312-28383-0. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
13. ""Mary Tyler Moore" Phyllis Whips Inflation (1975)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
Selected Sources from UK Libraries: 

Carroll, Mary. "Radio Live! Television Live! Those Golden Days When Horses Were Coconuts." The Booklist 97.1 (2000): 56. Web.
Full Text Available.

Dean, Adam. "Pulp Fiction." (2011): 404-05. Web.
Gale Cengage Virtual Reference Library

Schlipp, John. "REVIEW AND CRITICISM: BOOK REVIEWS: Crosley and WLW: A Broadcasting Legacy in Review." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 51.4 (2007): 690-91. Web.
Full text available

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: August 23, 1901 - John Sherman Cooper

Image from

From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -   

John Sherman Cooper, U.S. senator and diplomat, was born on August 23, 1901, at Somerset, Kentucky, to John and Helen (Tartar) Cooper. His father, a prominent lawyer, farmer, and businessman, served as Pulaski County judge, a position also held by Cooper's maternal grandfather. Educated first in a private school but mainly in the Somerset public schools, Cooper in the fall of 1918 enrolled at Centre College . After one academic year, he transferred to Yale University, where he received an A.B. in 1923. Cooper entered Harvard Law School in the fall of 1923, but after his father's death the following summer he returned to Somerset to head the family.
Passing the Kentucky bar examination in 1928, Cooper began the practice of law in Somerset. In the same year he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he was one of only three Republicans to oppose Gov. Flem Sampson 's (1927-31) unsuccessful effort to politicize the state's Health Department. Cooper supported the governor's bill to provide free textbooks, and he introduced a bill to prohibit injunctions against labor strikes. After serving two terms as judge of Pulaski County (1930-38), he made a bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1939. Defeated by King Swope , he resumed the practice of law in Somerset. He had been appointed to the University of Kentucky board of trustees in 1935, a position he held until 1946.
At the age of forty-one, Cooper enlisted in the U.S. army as a private and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943. He served with Gen. George Patton's 3d Army in France, Luxembourg, and Germany. After the war, Captain Cooper headed the reorganization of the German judicial system in Bavaria and served as legal adviser for the repatriation of displaced persons in the 3d Army occupation zone.
While still in Germany, Cooper was elected circuit judge for Kentucky's 28th Judicial District. During his tenure, blacks were allowed to serve on trial juries for the first time in that judicial district. In 1946 Cooper was elected to the U.S. Senate to fill the unexpired term of A.B. Chandler, who had resigned to become commissioner of baseball. He won over John Y. Brown, Sr. , by 42,000 votes, the largest majority given a Republican in Kentucky up to that time. As a freshman senator (November 6, 1946 to January 3, 1949), Cooper sponsored the first bill to provide 90 percent parity support for tobacco, and he quickly established a reputation for independence. His bid for reelection was thwarted by Democrat Virgil Chapman. In 1949 Cooper affiliated with the Washington law firm of Gardner, Morison and Rogers. President Harry S. Truman appointed him a delegate to the U.N. General Assembly in 1949, and he served as an alternate delegate in 1950 and 1951 and again in 1968 and 1981. He was an adviser to Secretary of State Dean Acheson at the London and Brussels meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Council of Ministers in 1950.
Cooper was again elected to the Senate over Thomas R. Underwood , to fill the vacancy created by the death of Virgil Chapman , starting November 5, 1952. However, in 1954 his bid for reelection was defeated by his good friend, former Senate majority leader and Vice-President Alben Barkley, and his term ended on January 3, 1955. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Cooper ambassador to India and Nepal in January 1955; U.S.-Indian relations demonstrated a marked improvement during Cooper's tenure.
Cooper was elected over the Democratic candidate, Lawrence Wetherby, to fill the unexpired U.S. Senate term created by the death of Alben Barkley. In the senatorial election of 1960, Cooper won his first full six-year term, defeating Keen Johnson by 199,000 votes. In 1966 he won over John Y. Brown, Sr. , by 217,000 votes. Cooper, who did not seek reelection in 1972, served from November 7, 1956, to January 3, 1973. He cosponsored with Sen. Jennings Randolph the Appalachian Regional Development Act. He vigorously opposed deployment of the antiballistic missile system ( Cooper-Hart Amendment), and attempts to weaken the Tennessee Valley Authority. From his position on the Foreign Relations Committee, he was one of the earliest, most persistent, and influential critics of the Vietnam War.
A 1960 Newsweek poll of fifty Washington news correspondents named Cooper the ablest Republican in the Senate. President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963 appointed him to the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. From 1973 to 1989 Cooper was a member of the law firm of Covington and Burling in Washington, D.C. He took leave from the firm in 1974 to accept President Gerald Ford's appointment as the first U.S. ambassador to the German Democratic Republic, serving in that post until late 1976.
In 1944 Cooper married Evelyn Pfaff. They were divorced in 1947. Cooper was married to Lorraine Rowan Shevlin from March 17, 1955, until her death on February 3, 1985. Cooper died on February 21, 1991, in Washington, D.C., and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Clarice James Mitchener, Senator John Sherman Cooper: Consummate Statesman (New York 1982)
Robert Schulman, John Sherman Cooper: The Global Kentuckian (Lexington, Ky., 1976).
Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Cooper, J. (1927). John Sherman Cooper Papers, 1927-1979.
Storage Off Campus Retrieval Special Collections (Ask at Desk) 80M1

Cooper, W., Birdwhistell, T., Smoot, R., Merritt, H., & Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. (1976). John Sherman Cooper Oral History Project.
Special Collections Research Center Spec Coll Research Center - Oral History Collection OHCoop

Smoot, R. (1988). John Sherman Cooper : The paradox of a liberal republican in Kentucky politics. Lexington, Ky.: [s.n.].
Young Library Theses 5th Floor Stacks Theses 1988

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: August 21, 1941 - Jackie DeShannon

Image from

From Wikipedia (accessed August 20, 2015)

Jackie DeShannon (born August 21, 1941)[1][2] is an American singer-songwriter with a string of hit song credits from the 1960s onwards. She was one of the first female singer-songwriters of the rock 'n' roll period. DeShannon is currently an entertainment broadcast correspondent reporting historical anecdotes and current Beatles band members' news for Breakfast with the Beatles on Sirius XM Satellite Radio on the weekends.

Early life and education
DeShannon was born Sharon Lee Myers in Hazel, Kentucky,[3] the daughter of musically inclined farming parents, Sandra Jean and James Erwin Myers. By age six, she was singing country tunes on a local radio show. By age 11, she was hosting her own radio program. When life on the farm became too difficult, the family moved to her mother's hometown, Aurora, Illinois, where her father resumed his other career as a barber.[citation needed]
After a year, they moved to nearby Batavia, Illinois, where she attended high school.In Batavia, the Myers family lived at 713 East Wilson Street. In May 1955, while in 8th grade, Sharon Lee Myers, then 13 years old, was featured in the local newspaper for her vocal talents and personal appearances at community gatherings, the local hospitals, and for assorted organizations.[1] According to the Batavia Herald, she had her own Saturday morning radio show Breakfast Melodies on radio station WMRO. Further:

Though only 13, the youngster can boast almost 11 years of voice training and experience and in the past she has toured most of the south making personal appearances. Also she has sung on radio with a rhythm band for 2 years and has appeared on television 3 times.[1]

In March 1956, "Sherry Lee Myers" made "another guest appearance on Pee Wee King's popular Country and Western Television Show" on Saturday evening, March 3, on Channel 2[2]—the CBS network affiliate in Chicago, Illinois. According to the Batavia Herald:

Sherry Lee is a busy young lady. Each Saturday morning at 9:30 she is on the WMRO radio show, Saturday nights she is the vocalist with the valley's Square Dance Band, Don Lee and his Fox Valley Boys. She had made appearances with the Pee Wee King Show at Ottawa, Rockford and LaSalle in recent weeks. Following her television appearance this Saturday night, the young Batavia artist will appear at the West Aurora Junior High School auditorium on Sunday, March 4th for three shows, 2, 4, and 8 P.M.[2]

She attended Batavia High School for two years (1955–1957), leaving school after her sophomore year.[4]

Early recording career
She began to record under various names such as Sherry Lee, Jackie Dee, and Jackie Shannon, with mixed success. Billboard noted (10 June 1957) that Sherry Lee Myers, "16-year old C&W singer of Batavia, Illinois," had recently signed to George Goldner's Gone label in New York as a rockabilly artist, and that her "handlers" (Irving Schacht and Paul Kallett) had changed her name to Jackie Dee. Her only release on Gone included "I'll Be True" (A) and "How Wrong I Was" (B), which appeared in both 78 rpm and 45 rpm versions. Jackie almost certainly sang these songs at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia on 3 July 1957, and at the Paramount Theater in New York, two weeks later, with Alan Freed's Big Rock 'n' Roll Show.[5]
However, her interpretations of country songs "Buddy" (as Jackie Dee) and "Trouble" (as Jackie Shannon) gained the attention of Rock 'n' Roll star Eddie Cochran, who arranged for her to travel to California to meet his girlfriend, singer-songwriter Sharon Sheeley, who formed a writing partnership with DeShannon in 1960. Their partnership produced Brenda Lee's hit Dum Dum.[6]

In 1960, DeShannon signed with Liberty Records, adopting the name Jackie DeShannon, believed to be the name of an Irish ancestor, after executives at Liberty thought the name Sharon Myers would not help sell records. In a Fresh Air interview (June 14, 2010),[7] DeShannon said that she chose "Jackie" as a cross-gender name. Since she had a low singing voice, she could be heard as either male or female.When she found that "Jackie Dee" was too similar to Brenda Lee, Sandra Dee, et al., she changed it to Jackie Dee Shannon, which people heard as DeShannon. The name stuck.

Armed with her new name, she made the WLS Chicago radio survey with the single "Lonely Girl" in late 1960. A string of mostly flop singles followed, although "The Prince" bubbled under at No. 108 in the United States in early 1962, and "Faded Love" became her first US Billboard Top 100 entry, squeaking in at No. 97 in February 1963.[8]

She fared better with the Sonny Bono-Jack Nitzsche song "Needles and Pins" and the self-penned "When You Walk in the Room" later in 1963. Both reached the lower rungs of the US pop charts, but were Top 40 hits in Canada, where "Needles and Pins" made it all the way to No. 1. "Needles and Pins" and "When You Walk in the Room" later became US and UK hits for The Searchers.

DeShannon recorded many other singles that encompassed teen pop, country ballads, rockabilly, gospel, and Ray Charles-style soul that didn't fare as well on the charts. During these years it was her songwriting and public profile rather than her recording career that kept her contracted to Liberty. DeShannon dated Elvis Presley and formed friendships with The Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson. She also co-starred and sang with Bobby Vinton in the teen surf movie Surf Party.

DeShannon's biggest break came in February 1964 when she supported The Beatles on their first US tour, and formed a touring band with guitarist Ry Cooder. DeShannon also wrote "Don't Doubt Yourself Babe" for the debut album of The Byrds. Her music at this stage was heavily influenced by the American West Coast sounds and folk music. Staying briefly in England in 1965, DeShannon formed a songwriting partnership with Jimmy Page, which resulted in the hit singles "Dream Boy" and "Don't Turn Your Back on Me". DeShannon also wrote material for singer Marianne Faithfull, including her Top Ten UK and US hit "Come and Stay With Me", which became Faithfull's biggest UK hit, peaking at #4 in 1965. It would be three years before Jackie DeShannon would record the song for herself, on her 'Laurel Canyon' album in 1968. She also appeared on the television show Ready Steady Go!

Hit love songs
Moving to New York, DeShannon co-wrote with Randy Newman, producing such songs as "She Don't Understand Him" and "Did He Call Today Mama?", as well as writing "You Have No Choice" for Delaney Bramlett. In March 1965, DeShannon recorded Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love",[9] which led to club tours and regular appearances on television and went to No. 7 on the US charts and No. 1 in Canada. (DeShannon's recording of the song was subsequently used in the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.) She appeared in the 1967 film C'mon Let's Live a Little, with Bobby Vee, as a folk singer.

DeShannon continued writing and recording, but it was not until 1969 that she scored her next smash single and album, both entitled "Put a Little Love in Your Heart". The self-penned single sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[10]

The single "Love Will Find A Way" from the same album was also a moderate hit. Switching to Atlantic Records in 1970 and moving to Los Angeles, DeShannon recorded the critically acclaimed albums Jackie and Your Baby Is A Lady, but they failed to produce the same commercial success as previous releases. In 1973, she was invited by Van Morrison to sing on his album, Hard Nose the Highway. "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" was performed as the closing number at the Music for UNICEF Concert, broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly in 1979.[citation needed]

Later career
While DeShannon has not produced any further Top Ten singles of her own, her songs have been covered by other artists who have converted them into hits. In 1974, she co-wrote "Queen of the Rodeo" and "Bette Davis Eyes" with Donna Weiss for her album New Arrangement.[11] "Bette Davis Eyes" went on to become a worldwide No. 1 single for Kim Carnes in 1981, earning Weiss and DeShannon the 1982 Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

DeShannon co-wrote "Break-A-Way", recorded by Irma Thomas in 1964, and by Tracey Ullman in 1983. "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" reached Billboard No. 9 in 1989 as a duet by Annie Lennox and Al Green and was also covered by Dolly Parton in 1993. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Stevie Nicks had a Top 40 US hit in 1986 with a cover of "Needles and Pins", which DeShannon originally recorded but did not write. A version of "When You Walk in the Room" by Pam Tillis in 1994 topped the country charts. Another recent cover of "When You Walk in the Room" was in 2004 by ex-ABBA vocalist Agnetha Fältskog, both in her comeback album My Colouring Book and as a UK (No. 34) and European (No. 53) hit single. Chris Hillman, one of the original members of The Byrds, also did a cover of "When You Walk in the Room" on his solo 1998 album "Like a Hurricane".

DeShannon was portrayed by singer Liz Phair in an episode of American Dreams. On June 17, 2010, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Using her continuing access and friendship with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, DeShannon currently appears as a contributing entertainment broadcast correspondent regarding planned and current touring and personal news and publicity pertaining to the two surviving Beatles.[citation needed] In 2012 Jackie wrote and recorded "For Africa, In Africa," a song inspired by the urgent need for action to provide clean water for the African Continent.

Personal life
She has a brother, Randy James Myers, with whom she has sometimes written songs. In the mid 1960s, she dated Jimmy Page and Love guitarist Bryan MacLean. It is likely that Page wrote the song "Tangerine" (which appeared on the third Led Zeppelin album) after the breakup of his relationship with DeShannon in early 1965.[citation needed]

Her first husband was Liberty Records executive Irving "Bud" Dain, whom she married on January 29, 1966 (annulled in 1967).[12] DeShannon has been married to singer/songwriter and film composer Randy Edelman since 1977. They have one son, Noah (born 1978).[12]

1.    "Sharon Lee Myers, Only 13, Is Talented Batavia Vocalist", Batavia Herald [Batavia, Ill.], May 5, 1955, p. 1.
2.    "Batavia Banter: On Television Show." Batavia Herald [Batavia, Ill.], 1 March 1956, p. 12
3.    Biography at; accessed August 19, 2014.
4.    DeShannon's photograph appears in the Echo, the Batavia High School yearbook, for 1956 and 1957.
5.    Lerner, Peter. "Sweet Sherry: The Early Recording Career of Jackie DeShannon"
6.    BMI Repertoire Search Tool, "Dum Dum"
7.    "June 14, 2010 show". Fresh Air. National Public Radio. 2010-06-14. 
8.    Nite, Norm N. Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock n' Roll (The Solid Gold Years). Thomas Y. Crowell (1974), p. 180. ISBN 0-690-00583-0.
9.    Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 24 - The Music Men. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. 
10.  Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London, UK: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 258. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
11.  "Jackie DeShannon 'New Arrangement' 1975". 1980-01-01. Retrieved 2012-03-25. 
12.  Sheff, David. "Jackie Deshannon Wrote the Tune but Randy Edelman Put a Little Love in Her Heart", People, May 5, 1980; accessed August 19, 2014.

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Time-Life Music. 1965, Shakin' All over. Chicago]: Time-Life Music, 1989. Classic Rock.

CD319, Fine Arts-Media Center

One Kiss Can Lead to Another Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found. Burbank, CA: Rhino, 2005.

BCD68, Fine Arts-Media Center

Time-Life Music. 1969. Chicago, Ill.]: Time Life Music, 1988. Classic Rock.

CD211, Fine Arts-Media Center

Monday, August 15, 2016

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: August 17, 1929 - Francis Gary Powers


Powers wearing special
pressure suit for stratospheric flying, 1960
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
(Accessed August 3, 2016)

Francis Gary Powers (17 August 1929 – 1 August 1977) – often referred to as simply Gary Powers – was an American pilot whose Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)[1] U-2 spy plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission in Soviet Union airspace, causing the 1960 U-2 incident.
Early life
Powers was born August 17, 1929, in either Jenkins, Kentucky, or Burdine, Kentucky, the son of Oliver Winfield Powers (1904–1970), a coal miner, and his wife Ida Melinda Powers (née Ford; 1905–1991).[2] His family eventually moved to Pound, Virginia, just across the state border. He was the second born and only male of six children. His family lived in a mining town, and because of the hardships associated with the life in such a town, his father wanted Powers to become a doctor. He hoped his son would achieve the higher earnings of such a profession and felt the life of a doctor would involve less hardship than any job in his hometown.[3]
Education and service
Graduating from Milligan College in Tennessee in June 1950, he enlisted in the Air Force in October. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force in December 1952 after completing his advanced training with USAF Pilot Training Class 52-H[4] at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. Powers was then assigned to the 468th Strategic Fighter Squadron at Turner Air Force Base, Georgia, as an F-84 Thunderjet pilot. In January 1956 he was recruited by the CIA. He married Barbara Gay Moore in April 1956. In May 1956 he began U-2 training at Watertown Strip. His training was complete by August 1956 and his unit, the Second Weather Observational Squadron (Provisional) or Detachment 10-10, was deployed to Incirlik Air Base, in Turkey. By 1960, Powers was already a veteran of many covert aerial reconnaissance missions.[3]:6–9,14–15,24,50–51,55–56,95


A Soviet photograph of Powers while he was in Soviet custody

Wooden U-2 model – one of two used by Powers when he testified to the Senate Committee. The wings and tail are detached to demonstrate the aircraft's breakup upon impact.

The U-2 incident
Main article: 1960 U-2 incident
Powers was discharged from the Air Force in 1956 with the rank of captain. He then joined the CIA's U-2 program at the civilian grade of GS-12. U-2 pilots flew espionage missions at altitudes above 70,000 feet (21 km),[5][6][7] above the reach of Soviet air defenses.[8] The U-2 was equipped with a state-of-the-art camera[8] designed to take high-resolution photos from the edge of the stratosphere over hostile countries, including the Soviet Union. U-2 missions systematically photographed military installations and other important sites.[3]:41
"The primary mission of the U-2s was overflying Russia. The border surveillance and atomic sampling, though vital, were secondary." Additionally, the U-2 flew "special missions". "If there was a trouble spot in the Middle East, the U-2s observed it." Beginning on 27 September 1956 and continuing until 1960, "the United States was spying not only on most of the countries in the Middle East but also on her own allies." These included France, Great Britain, and Israel during the Suez Crisis.[3]:260–263
Soviet intelligence had been aware of encroaching U-2 flights at least since 1958, if not sooner, after they started in 1956.[3]:47,59 but lacked effective countermeasures until 1960.[9] On 1 May 1960, Powers' U-2 departed from a military airbase in Peshawar, Pakistan[3]:53 with support from the U.S. Air Station at Badaber (Peshawar Air Station).
This was to be the first attempt "to fly all the way across the Soviet Union...but it was considered worth the gamble. The planned route would take us deeper into Russia than we had ever gone, while traversing important targets never before photographed."[3]:53–54 He was shot down by an S-75 Dvina (SA-2 Guideline) surface-to-air missile[10] over Sverdlovsk. "What was left of the plane began spinning, only upside down, the nose pointing upward toward the sky, the tail down toward the ground." Powers was unable to activate the plane's self-destruct mechanism before he was thrown out of the plane after releasing the canopy and his seat belt. While descending under his parachute, Powers had time to scatter his escape map, and rid himself of the US dollar coin, keeping the poison pin. "Yet I was still hopeful of escape." He hit the ground hard, was immediately captured, and taken to Lubyanka Prison in Moscow.[3]:61–63,67–71,76
Powers' U-2 plane was hit by the first missile fired. A total of eight were launched,[11] one of which hit a MiG-19 jet fighter which was sent to intercept the U-2 but could not reach a high enough altitude. Its pilot, Sergei Safronov, ejected but died of his injuries. Another Soviet aircraft, a newly manufactured Su-9 in transit flight, also attempted to intercept Powers' U-2. The unarmed Su-9 was directed to ram the U-2 but missed because of the large differences in speed (the Su-9 flew above Mach 1.1, while the U-2 flew at approximately Mach 0.6).
Powers did note a second chute after landing on the ground, "some distance away and very high, a lone red and white parachute".[3]:69,148–149,274,278[12]:159–160
When the U.S. government learned of Powers' disappearance over the Soviet Union, they issued a cover statement claiming a "weather plane" had strayed off course after its pilot had "difficulties with his oxygen equipment". What CIA officials did not realize was that the plane crashed almost fully intact, and the Soviets recovered its equipment. Powers was interrogated extensively by the KGB for months before he made a confession and a public apology for his part in espionage.[13]
Powers tried to limit the information he shared with the KGB to that which could be determined from the remains of his plane's wreckage. He was hampered by information appearing in the western press. A KGB major stated "there's no reason for you to withhold information. We'll find it out anyway. Your press will give it to us." However, he limited his divulging of CIA contacts to one individual, with a pseudonym of "Collins". At the same time, he repeatedly stated the maximum altitude for the U-2 was 68,000 feet (21 km), significantly lower than its actual flight ceiling.[3]:xii,78,91,128,135,137,139,145,165–166,256
The incident set back talks between Khrushchev and Eisenhower. Powers' interrogations ended on 30 June, and his solitary confinement on 9 July. On 17 August 1960, his trial for espionage began before the military division of the Supreme Court of the USSR. Three generals, Lieutenant General Borisoglebsky, Major General Vorobyev, and Major General Zakharov presided. Roman Rudenko acted as prosecutor in his capacity of Procurator General of the Soviet Union. Mikhail I. Grinev served as Powers' defense counsel. In attendance were Gary's parents and sister, plus Barbara and her mother. Gary's father brought along his local attorney, Carl McAfee, while the CIA provided two additional attorneys.[3]:110,114,119,120,142–143,148,157–158,162,188,220
On 19 August 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage, "a grave crime covered by Article 2 of the Soviet Union's law 'On Criminality Responsibility for State Crimes'". His sentence consisted of ten years confinement, three of which in a prison, the remainder in a labor camp. The US Embassy "News Bulletin" stated, according to Powers, "as far as the government was concerned, I had acted in accordance with the instructions given me and would receive my full salary while imprisoned".[3]:157–161
He was held in Vladimir Central Prison, about 150 miles (240 km) east of Moscow, in building number 2 from 9 September 1960 until 8 February 1962. His cell mate was Zigurd Kruminsh, a Latvian political prisoner. Gary kept a diary and a journal while confined. Additionally he took up carpet weaving from his cell mate to pass the time. He could send and receive a limited number of letters from his family. However, Gary was distracted by his wife Barbara's drinking and infidelities. In fact, at one time, Barbara was hospitalized and treated by Corbett Thigpen.[3]:167–172,194,222–223,228–232,236,327
The prison now contains a small museum with an exhibit on Powers, who allegedly developed a good rapport with Russian prisoners there. Some pieces of the plane and Powers' uniform are on display at the Monino Airbase museum near Moscow.[citation needed]
On 10 February 1962, Powers was exchanged, along with American student Frederic Pryor, in a well-publicized spy swap at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin. The exchange was for Soviet KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher, known as "Rudolf Abel", who had been caught by the FBI and tried and jailed for espionage.[14] Powers credited his father with the swap idea. When released, Powers' total time in captivity was 1 year, 9 months and 10 days.[3]:237–240
In 2010, CIA documents were released indicating that American officials did not believe Powers' account of the incident at the time, because it was contradicted by a classified National Security Agency (NSA) report which alleged that the U-2 had descended from 65,000 to 34,000 feet (20 to 10 km) before changing course and disappearing from radar. However, newly released declassified CIA documents confirm the accuracy of Powers' report. [clarification needed] The NSA report remains classified.[15]
Powers initially received a cold reception on his return home. He was criticized for having failed to activate his aircraft's self-destruct charge to destroy the camera, photographic film, and related classified parts of his aircraft before his capture. He was also criticized for not using an optional CIA-issued "suicide pill" (later revealed, during CIA testimony to the Church Committee in 1975 to be a coin with shellfish toxin embedded in its grooves) to kill himself.[16]
After being debriefed extensively by the CIA,[17] Lockheed, and the Air Force, a statement was issued stating, "Mr. Powers lived up to the terms of his employment and instructions in connection with his mission and in his obligations as an American." On 6 March 1962, Powers appeared before a Senate Armed Services Select Committee hearing chaired by Senator Richard Russell and including Senators Prescott Bush, Leverett Saltonstall, Robert Byrd, Margaret Chase Smith, John Stennis, Strom Thurmond, and Barry Goldwater Sr. During the hearing, Senator Saltonstall stated, "I commend you as a courageous, fine young American citizen who lived up to your instructions and who did the best you could under very difficult circumstances." While Senator Bush declared, "I am satisfied he has conducted himself in exemplary fashion and in accordance with the highest traditions of service to one's country, and I congratulate him upon his conduct in captivity..." Finally, Senator Goldwater sent Powers a handwritten note stating, "You did a good job for your country."[3]:264,270–280

Kelly Johnson and Francis Gary Powers in front of a U-2

In January 1963, he divorced his wife Barbara. He started a relationship with Claudia Edwards "Sue" Downey, whom he had met while working briefly at CIA Headquarters. They were married on 21 October 1963. Their son Francis Gary Powers, II, was born on 5 June 1965.[3]:287,292–293,323
During a speech in March 1964, CIA Director Allen Dulles said of Powers, "He performed his duty in a very dangerous mission and he performed it well, and I think I know more about that than some of his detractors and critics know, and I am glad to say that to him tonight."[3]:295–296
Powers worked for Lockheed as a test pilot from 1962 to 1970, though the CIA paid his salary. In 1970, he published Operation Overflight. Lockheed fired him, because "the book's publication had ruffled some feathers at Langley." Powers became a helicopter traffic pilot reporter for KNBC News Channel 4. "On August 1, 1977, while conducting a traffic report over Los Angeles, his helicopter crashed, killing him and George Spears, his cameraman."[3]:251,289–290,324
Ben Rich states that Kelly Johnson thought the electronic counter-measure black box installed in the U-2 tail, called Granger, may have acted as a homing device for the Russian missile. The same Granger system was used on Taiwanese U-2s flying over China. "One day three of four U-2s were shot down, and the sole survivor told CIA debriefers that he was amazed to be alive because he forgot to turn on his black box. To Kelly, that clinched the case."[12]
Main article: 1977 Gary Powers helicopter crash
On 1 August 1977, Powers had been covering bush fires in Santa Barbara County in the KNBC helicopter and was heading back from flying over them. As he returned, his Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter, registered N4TV, ran out of fuel and crashed at the Sepulveda Dam recreational area in nearby Encino, several miles short of its intended landing site at Burbank Airport, killing Powers instantly. The National Transportation Safety Board report attributed the probable cause of the crash to pilot error (poor fuel management).[18] According to Powers' son, an aviation mechanic had repaired a faulty fuel gauge without telling Powers, who misread it.[19] At the last moment he noticed children playing in the area, and directed the helicopter elsewhere to avoid landing on them.[18] If not for the last-second deviation, which compromised his autorotative descent, he might have landed safely.[19]
Powers was survived by his wife, two children, Dee and Francis Gary Powers Jr., and five sisters. Powers is buried in Arlington National Cemetery as an Air Force veteran.[18][20]
Powers received the CIA's Intelligence Star in 1965 after his return from the Soviet Union. Powers was originally scheduled to receive it in 1963 along with other pilots involved in the CIA's U-2 program, but the award was postponed for political reasons. In 1970, Powers published his first – and only – book review, on a work about aerial reconnaissance, Unarmed and Unafraid by Glenn Infield, in the monthly magazine Business & Commercial Aviation. "The subject has great interest to me," he said, in submitting his review.[21]
In 1998, newly declassified information revealed that Powers's mission had been a joint USAF/CIA operation. In 2000, on the 40th anniversary of the U-2 Incident, his family was presented with his posthumously awarded Prisoner of War Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and National Defense Service Medal. In addition, CIA Director George Tenet authorized Powers to posthumously receive the CIA's coveted Director's Medal for extreme fidelity and extraordinary courage in the line of duty.[22]
On 15 June 2012, Powers was posthumously awarded the Silver Star medal for "demonstrating 'exceptional loyalty' while enduring harsh interrogation in the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow for almost two years."[23] Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz presented the decoration to Powers's grandchildren, Trey Powers, 9, and Lindsey Berry, 29, in a Pentagon ceremony.[24][25]
Powers' son, Francis Gary Powers Jr., founded the Cold War Museum in 1996. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, it was essentially a traveling exhibit until it found a permanent home in 2011 on a former Army communications base outside Washington.[26]
In popular culture
  • In the 1976 telemovie Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident, Powers was played by Lee Majors.
  • In 1999, the History Channel aired Mystery of the U2, hosted by Arthur Kent as part of their History Undercover series. The program was produced by Indigo Films.
  • In the 2015 movie Bridge of Spies, dramatizing the negotiations to repatriate Powers, he is portrayed by Austin Stowell, with Tom Hanks starring as negotiator James Donovan.[27]

1.    "CIA FOIA – Francis Gary Powers: U-2 Spy Pilot Shot Down by the Soviets". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
2.    "Francis Gary Powers (1929 - 1977) - Find A Grave Memorial".
3.    Powers, Francis (2004). Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident. Potomac Books, Inc. p. 3. ISBN 9781574884227.
4.    [1]
5.    "U-2 Specifications". Lockheed Martin. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
6.    "Lockheed Martin U-2 Dragon Lady - Development and Operational History, Performance Specifications and Picture Gallery". Retrieved 16 November 2015.
7.    Harper, John. "U-2 Dragon Lady". Retrieved 16 November 2015.
8.    "American U-2 spy plane shot down - May 01, 1960 -". Retrieved 16 November 2015.
9.    Abarinov, Vladimir (30 April 2010). "Fifty Years Later, Gary Powers and U-2 Spy Plane Incident Remembered". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
10. "S-75". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
11. "Таким образом, всего по Lockheed U-2 и двум МиГ было выпущено семь ракет. Еще одну (восьмую) ракету выпустил зенитный ракетный дивизион соседнего полка под командованием полковника Ф. Савинова." Юрий Кнутов, Олег Фаличев. Бой в небе над Уралом Retrieved 13 January 2012
12. Rich, Ben (1994). Skunk Works. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 162–163. ISBN 0316743305.
13. "This Day in History — — What Happened Today in History". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
14. Famous Cases: Rudolph Ivanovich Abel (Hollow Nickel Case). Federal Bureau of Investigation.
15. "CIA documents show US never believed Gary Powers was shot down". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
16. "The 1962 Spy Exchange of Powers for Abel". Francis Gary Powers, Jr. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
17. "Report of the board of inquiry into the case of francis gary powers (sanitized copy)" (PDF). Central Intelligence Agency. 27 February 1962. p. 1. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
18. "The Francis Gary Powers Helicopter Crash". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
19. "Powers Helicopter Crash". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
20. Michael Robert Patterson. "Francis Gary Powers, Captain, United States Air Force". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
21. Letter to G. Haber, Managing Editor, Business & Commercial Aviation
22. Traitor or Patriot? Boghardt, Thomas. International Spy Museum. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
23. "Press Advisory: Silver Star to be Posthumously Presented to Capt. Francis Gary Powers". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
24. "U-2 Pilot Gary Powers Receives Silver Star – ABC News". 15 June 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
25. "Cold War pilot Francis Gary Powers to get Silver Star". Retrieved 31 August 2012.
26. "Cold War Museum". Retrieved 13 July 2014.
27. Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg Cold War Thriller Set for Oct. 16, 2015,, access date 5 June 2014
  • Khrushchev, Sergei N. Nikita Khrushchev and the Creation of a Superpower. State College, PA: Penn State Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-271-01927-7.
  • Powers, Francis Gary with Gentry, Curt. Operation Overflight. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1971 (hard cover) ISBN 978-0-340-14823-5. Potomac Book, 2002 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-57488-422-7.
  • West, Nigel. Seven Spies Who Changed the World. London: Secker & Warburg, 1992 (hard cover). London: Mandarin, 1992 (paperback).
  • The Trial of the U2: Exclusive Authorized Account of the Court Proceedings of the Case of Francis Gary Powers, Heard before the Military Division of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R., Moscow, 17 August 18, 19, 1960. Translation World Publishers, Chicago: 1960.
  • Powers, F.G., Gentry, C. (1970) "Operation Overflight – A Memoir of the U-2 Incident"

Selected Sources from UK Libraries: 

Powers, Francis Gary, and Curt Gentry. Operation Overflight : A Memoir of the U-2 Incident. 1st ed. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2004. Print. Aviation Classics Ser.
Young Library Scott/Greenslade Coll 2nd Floor Rotunda (DK266.3 .P64 2004 )

United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. Francis Gary Powers Hearings before the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, Eighty-Seventh Congress, Second Session, on Mar. 6, 1962. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1973. Print.
Young Library Periodicals Desk Microfiche (CIS Hrgs MF Gp 3--(87) S1470-14 )

Spielberg, Steven, Marc Platt, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Hanks, Tom Rylance, Mark Ryan, Amy Magnussen, Billy Alda, Alan Stowell, Austin Hewson, Eve Plemons, Jesse Shepherd, Scott Koch, Sebastian Kamiński, Janusz Newman, Thomas Kahn, Michael Maimone, Coen, Joel, Hanks, Tom, Rylance, Mark, Ryan, Amy, Magnussen, Billy, Alda, Alan, Stowell, Austin, Hewson, Eve, Plemons, Jesse, Shepherd, Scott, Koch, Sebastian, Kamiński, Janusz, Newman, Thomas, Kahn, Michael, Maimone, Kasia Walicka, Touchstone Pictures, Production Company, Afterworks, and Buena Vista Home Entertainment , Publisher. Bridge of Spies. 2016. Young Library Closed Media Stacks - Ask at Media Library Desk in B-67 Young Library AV-D10417