July 4th, 2007

carole lombard 02
  • vp19

Carole Lombard, American patriot

For July 4, the 231st birthday of this country, it seems appropriate that we look at what turned out to be Carole Lombard's last public appearance -- in Indianapolis, the capital of her home state of Indiana, to stage the first bond rally during World War II. The date was Jan. 15, 1942, only 39 days after Pearl Harbor. Barely 24 hours after this triumphant engagement, which raised two million dollars for the war effort, Carole Lombard would be gone, dead in a Nevada plane crash that also claimed her mother Bess Peters and MGM publicist Otto Winkler.

Lombard's husband, Clark Gable, was supposed to have been the first celebrity to sell bonds, in Columbus, Ohio, capital of his native state. But Gable, never comfortable with public appearances, declined and his more gregarious wife said she'd do it in his stead. Lombard, her mother and Winkler took a train from Los Angeles to Chicago, with Carole making an impromptu speech on behalf of the war effort in Salt Lake City. Once in Chicago, Lombard and Winkler took part in meetings on bond sales, while Bess headed to Fort Wayne to see old friends. She then headed to Indianapolis, where Carole and Otto had flown from Chicago.

Lombard sold bonds in the afternoon at the Indiana state capitol building and that evening appeared before 12,000 at the Cadle Tabernacle, urging people to buy bonds and leading the throng in an a cappella singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." For Carole, who several years before had said she didn't mind having much of her huge salary go to taxes because they helped provide parks, schools and other things people needed, it was an opportunity to display her genuine patriotism. Here are some photos from that historic day, the next-to-last one of her life:

Finally, if you're reading this on July 4, a suggestion: Celebrate the holiday with America's greatest jazz musician, Louis Armstrong, a man who influenced many genres of pop music, both as an instrumentalist and vocalist. After all, July 4, 1900 was Armstrong's birthday, or so he thought; not until 1987, some 16 years after his death, did New Orleans baptismal records show Armstrong was actually born Aug. 4, 1901. WKCR-FM, Columbia University's station, celebrates both dates with 24-hour Armstrong marathons, covering all facets of his amazing career. If you're in the New York metro area, you can hear it at 89.9 FM. The world can hear the music online at http://www.wkcr.org. Enjoy!