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Texas writer confronts SMU isolationists
November 20, 1941

On this day in 1941, after a speech at Southern Methodist University, writer Hubert Renfro Knickerbocker exchanged heated remarks with students who opposed United States entry into World War II. Knickerbocker was born in Yoakum, Texas, in 1898. In 1919, after graduation from Southwestern University, he went to New York and began a distinguished career in journalism. He went to Munich, Germany, with the intention of studying psychiatry, but witnessed Adolf Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923 and eventually became chief Berlin correspondent for the New York Evening Post and the Philadelphia Public Ledger. In 1931 Knickerbocker won the Pulitzer Prize for his articles describing and analyzing the Soviet Five-Year Plan. With the Nazi takeover in 1933, however, due to his strong opposition to Hitler and the Nazi movement, Knickerbocker was deported and forced to report on Germany from beyond the frontiers of the Third Reich. In his book Will War Come to Europe? (1934) he forecast a general European war. He spent the rest of his life witnessing, reporting, and interpreting the events foreshadowing World War II, and in 1940 and 1941 he toured the United States advocating American participation in the war. He was with a team of journalists touring Southeast Asia when they were all killed in a plane crash near Bombay, India, in July 1949.

Texas heroes at Tarawa
November 20, 1943

On this day in 1943, two marines from Texas earned the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions in the desperate battle for the Pacific island of Tarawa. Staff Sgt. William James Bordelon of San Antonio landed under enemy fire that killed all but four men in his tractor and remained in action even after he was hit. He provided cover fire for a group scaling a seawall and, disregarding his own injuries, went to the aid of two wounded men in the water. He was killed while singelhandedly attacking a Japanese machine-gun position. First Lt. William Dean Hawkins of El Paso, commanding a scout-sniper platoon, moved forward under heavy enemy fire and neutralized the enemy troops assaulting the main beach positions. During that day and night he repeatedly risked his life to direct and lead attacks on pillboxes and enemy installations. At dawn on the twenty-first he resumed the dangerous task of clearing the beachhead of enemy resistance. Though seriously wounded in the chest, he refused to withdraw and continued to carry the fight to the enemy until mortally wounded by a burst of enemy shell fire. After the island was secured, the airstrip was named Hawkins Field in his honor. Yet another notable Texan, Cpl. Criss Cole of Avery, was also in the battle, and was blinded by a Japanese grenade. He returned to Texas and became a state legislator, judge, and advocate for the blind. In 1969 the legislature voted to name Austin's rehabilitation center for the blind in his honor.

Secretary of State recommends republic grant copyrights
November 20, 1837

On this day in 1837, Robert A. Irion, secretary of state for the Republic of Texas, recommended in his annual report to the Congress that the republic grant copyrights. This was not the first discussion of copyrights in the Republic of Texas. On March 15, 1836, the delegates to the Convention of 1836 voted to add to the Constitution Article II, Section 3, authorizing patents and copyrights, but provided for a three-year delay before implementation. In 1838 Congress made an attempt to pass a special law authorizing copyright of a map for five years, but this failed to pass. Finally, on January 28, 1839, President Mirabeau B. Lamar approved an act that provided "patent" rights, running for fourteen years, on "composition of matter, liberal arts, sciences or literature, books, maps or charts," to citizens and those who had filed intentions of becoming citizens, upon payment of a thirty-dollar fee. Only three copyrights were issued, and of the copyrighted works only one was published, George William Bonnell's Topographical Description of Texas, to Which Is Added an Account of the Indian Tribes (Austin: Clark, Wing, and Brown, 1840). The imprint of this small volume is unique in that it states the copyright was secured in the Republic of Texas. Inasmuch as two of the three works registered in the republic were never published and the third was registered in the United States as well as in Texas, when Texas was admitted into the Union, there was no necessity for Texas copyrights to be incorporated into the United States copyright system, and no action was taken.

Alleged attack on Fort Ringgold draws machine-gun fire
November 20, 1899

On this date in 1899, U.S. troops fired on civilians at Rio Grande City, Texas. Black soldiers of Troop D of the Ninth United States Cavalry, sent to garrison nearby Fort Ringgold after returning triumphantly from the Cuban campaign, grew impatient at racial restrictions and harassment. Tensions heightened amid conflicting reports of impending attacks on the fort and town. On the night of November 20 post commander 2d Lt. E. H. Rubottom responded to a presumed assault on the garrison by ordering Gatling gunfire on the area between the post and town. Only one minor injury resulted, but Rubottom's action succeeded in quelling the disturbance. Ensuing federal, state, and grand jury investigations failed to specify culpability or motivation. Military authorities concluded that Rubottom had acted unwisely but recommended no charges against him or others. Governor Joseph Sayers favored the locals' demand that the Ninth Cavalry be moved, and the residents requested that a white garrison be retained.