Losing Lincoln, the Titanic, and a Murder in Belize

Two historic events which took place on April 15 had their beginnings on the evening of April 14. The RMS Titanic’s collision with an iceberg happened at 11:40 p.m. on Sunday April 14, 1914. The ship sank in the early morning hours of April 15.

President Abraham Lincoln was shot a little after 10 p.m. on Friday April 14, 1865. John Wilkes Booth shot the President in the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. At 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, the 56-year-old the President died. Lincoln did not attend college and was not a fraternity man.

I can’t help thinking of Lincoln assassination without hearing the lyrics to Stephen Sondheim’s (Beta Theta Pi, Williams College) Ballad of Booth from Assassins. Below is the introduction to the song, the part being sung by a balladeer.

Someone tell the story,
Someone sing the song.
Every now and then
The country
Goes a little wrong.
Every now and then
A madman’s
Bound to come along.
Doesn’t stop the story-
Story’s pretty strong.
Doesn’t change the song…
Johnny Booth was a handsome devil,
Got up in his rings and fancy silks.
Had him a temper but kept it level.
Everybody called him Wilkes.
Why did you do it, Johnny?
Nobody agrees.
You who had everything,
What made you bring
A nation to its knees?
Some say it was your voice had gone,
Some say it was booze.
They say you killed a coutry, John,
Because of bad reviews.
Johnny lived with a grace and glitter.
Kind of like the lives he lived on stage.
Died in a barn in pain and bitter
Twenty-seven years of age.
Why did you do it, Johnny,
Throw it all away?
Why did you do it, boy,
Not just destroy
The pride and joy
Of Illinois,
But all the U.S.A.?
Your brother made you jealous, John,
You couldn’t fill his shoes.
Was that the reason, tell us, John-
Along with bad reviews.

The Titanic’s maiden voyage turned out to be her last. More than 1,500 passengers and crew perished. Only 705 of the people who boarded the ship survived. Among the fraternity men who perished on the Titanic were:

John Jacob Astor IV, Lieutenant Colonel in the Spanish-American War, businessman, real estate developer, investor, inventor, and author (Delta Phi, Harvard University).

Major Archibald Willingham Butt, journalist, and military aide to U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (Delta Tau Delta, University of the South).

George Dennick Wick (Kappa Alpha Society, Williams College)

Major Archibald Butt

Major Archibald Butt


My thanks to Nora Ten Broeck, Alpha Sigma Alpha, for her tenacious efforts to see justice brought forth in Anne Swaney’s murder. Swaney, a news producer for ABC in Chicago, was a member of the Illinois Epsilon Chapter of Pi Beta Phi at Northwestern University. She was murdered in January 2016 while vacationing in Belize. Little progress has been made in the murder investigation.

Nora – ASA ‏@ASAalumna

#justice #AnneSwaney #American #murder #Belize #January2016 @FBI @POTUS @USMissionBelize @StateDept @ABC7Chicago


It’s also Founders’ Day for FarmHouse and Triangle Fraternities. See http://wp.me/p20I1i-Lh for a post about those organizations. 

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory.

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